“Judaism has lost favor with God,” someone writes. “To say that it is still a path to God makes a liar of Jesus and therefore of God.”
* * *
While it is certainly true that no one will be saved except through the atonement Jesus has accomplished, that does not prevent God from saving many people by Jesus’ atonement who lacked personal conscious awareness of that atonement in this life. Most Christians would place in that category all faithful Jews before Jesus, faithful Gentiles before Jesus, and babies and small children who die — both before Christ and since. Can we not allow that a contemporary adult might be “A.D.” in chronology but “B.C.” in knowledge?
Whatever God might do, we may be quite sure that no one will be saved: (1) except by the undeserved favor and kindness of God; (2) except through the atonement which Jesus has accomplished; (3) except to the glory of God’s grace and to the praise of his beloved Son; and (4) except through responding to God in saving faith — of which Abraham was a prototype and of which he remains the model (Rom. 4) — in response to whatever knowledge of God one might possess.
Despite the present unbelief in Christ of most Jews, Paul can affirm that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” and that finally “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26, 29). It is our responsibility to proclaim the Good News of God-in-Christ to every person and to promise eternal life beginning now to all who believe the gospel. It is the place of God, who alone knows all hearts and circumstances, to show mercy as he sees fit.
For a thorough, biblical and exceedingly stimulating study of this question, I recommend No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized, by John Sanders (Eerdmans, 1992), which I have reviewed online.