Joshua, the great commander of Israel, was “old and stricken in years” when he gave a presentation to his people near the end of his illustrious career (Joshua 23:1ff). It is likely that this was not long before his death at the age of 110 years (24:29).
As he stood before the leaders of his spiritual kinsmen, he gave a magnificent oration, reminding Israel of its glorious past, and challenging the nation regarding its future. One of the things Joshua emphasized was the integrity of Jehovah; one can depend upon the Lord’s word to be faithful. Hear him:
And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing has failed of all the good things which Jehovah your God spoke concerning you: all are come to pass unto you, not one thing thereof has failed (23:14).
What a comforting thing it is to be assured that Heaven’s promises of benevolence will prove trustworthy.
But there is more:
And it shall come to pass, that as all the good things are come upon you of which Jehovah your God spoke unto you, so will Jehovah bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land which Jehovah your God has given you (23:15).
Here is the point: when men rebel against the Creator, his threats of punishment will be just as reliable as his promises of blessing.
Having said that, let me ask this question: what would one think of a man who might stand before a church audience and speculate that even though God has promised eternal salvation to those who obey the truth (cf. Hebrews 5:9), it is just possible that he will surprise some of the faithful, and, on the day of judgment, banish them to hell?
Would we tolerate such reckless disregard of the truth? Would we provide an audience for one who would cast reflection upon the faithfulness of God in this irresponsible way? The answer is all too obvious.
But that raises this question: why are we so willing to tolerate the speculations of those who wonder out loud as to whether or not God will save those who do not obey the gospel of his Son? (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
I have heard how one gentleman, who elicits large audiences whenever he speaks on the lecture tour, made a statement some time back to this effect: “We may be surprised on the day of judgment to find Buddhists, Hindus, and Moslems in heaven.”
Now it is well known that these religious movements wholly disregard the nature and teaching of the Son of God. Did Christ represent the facts when he affirmed that none comes to the Father except by him? (John 14:6). Was he shading the truth? Will he later amend his declaration and crown with glory those who have rejected his very identity?
Others have written books in which they speculate that there may be many in eternal glory who have never rendered obedience to the pure, first-century gospel. Does 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 have any meaning, or was it simply a bluff? It is difficult to understand the effrontery of these speculators.
When Jesus declared that “he who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16), do I have the authority to conjecture that he who believes and will not be baptized might be saved anyhow? If so, what is the authority for this opinion?
To theorize in the face of what God has explicitly said is the epitome of arrogance. We had better take the Lord’s word seriously—both the promises and the warnings. We have no earthly business performing mechanical adjustments upon the sacred Scriptures in order to avoid the charge of religious bigotry.