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Is the whole world forgiven?

Quick Answer: Is the whole world forgiven? No, the whole world is not forgiven of their sins. Forgiveness is found only in Christ, not in Adam. A person must admit their sinfulness and their need for a Savior in order to be forgiven and cleansed of all their sins (1 John 1:9; Acts 26:17-18).

Diving Deeper: John 1:29 says, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” From this statement, some have concluded that the whole world is forgiven of their sins and that they are only in need of new life now (not forgiveness). However, it is important to note that John uses the present tense “takes away” here. John is simply referring to the fact that Jesus is the propitiation (satisfying sacrifice) for the sins of the Gentile world, not just the Jews.

In Acts 26:17-18, we see further evidence that the world needs to receive forgiveness which is only found in Christ: “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Notice that people (here, the Gentiles) need to turn from darkness to light in order to receive forgiveness. This means that, without turning from unbelief to belief, they do not possess forgiveness in Christ.

Next, the apostle John writes in Revelation 20:12: And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.” Twice in this passage, we see the expression “according to what they had done.” Clearly, this means their deeds were judged and therefore not forgiven.

Finally, 1 John 1:9 spells out a condition necessary to get forgiven and cleansed. John writes: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Here, John includes the conditional “if” to state that a person must recognize their sinfulness and need for a Savior in order to be forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness. Otherwise, they remain unforgiven and uncleansed of their sins.

Perhaps 2 Corinthians 5 summarizes the situation best as it states that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them, but then it continues on to say “we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). God desires everyone to be forgiven, and Jesus’ sacrifice was enough for the sins of the whole world. But there’s a decision to be made. People have to turn from Satan to God, and turn from darkness to light, so they can receive forgiveness and be cleansed of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9; Acts 26:17-18).

Let’s Make It a Conversation!
1. React to this false statement: There will be many forgiven sinners in Hell.
2. Is it possible to be forgiven but not saved? Why or why not?
3. Every spiritual blessing is in Christ, not in Adam (Ephesians 1:3). How does this factor into the discussion?
4. React to this true statement based on Revelation 20:12-13: If the whole world were forgiven, they wouldn’t be judged for their deeds.


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