The story of Jonah is an interesting one. God's word is spoken, that the people of Nineveh shall be destroyed for their rebellion and wickedness (paralleling how many interpret Scripture relating to the end times judgment). But when Jonah goes to Nineviah, every single person, from the beggar to the king, bows down in authentic repentance to God (every knee bows and every tongue confesses God's way is right), and then God does not do what he originally said he would and condemn them with destruction; rather, his mercy triumphs over judgment, and he saves every single person from condemnation and pours out his grace upon them.
Instead of rejoicing at the salvation of all, Jonah is furious. He is so mad he leaves the city and gnashes his teeth under a tree, deeply angry that God did not keep his word and do what he said he would and destroy them; instead, God actually saved every one of them, even though he originally said he would destroy them!
Though God did say he would destroy them for their wickedness, Jonah was shocked to then witness God instead extending his mercy to all of them; at the last moment God turned all their hearts to authentic repentance, so that their hearts were opened to the error of their ways, and they all freely believed. In doing so, instead of being judged and destroyed, they were saved from punishment completely, and all this by God's grace.
So here's my question: Do you think God will do the same thing at the end of time? By that I mean, however God moved the hearts of all the people in Nineveh to authentic repentance, is it possible he plans to do the same to all of mankind before his throne of judgement (also called his throne of grace, which is very significant), and in doing so fulfilling the scripture, "Every knee will bow down and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God". If that is how it plays out, how would you feel about it?
Would you rejoice that God has done something more merciful and gracious than any of us could have imagined possible or will you walk outside the gates of heaven, sit under a tree like Jonah and gnash your teeth that God has not destroyed those whom he said he would? Would you accept that although God's original written word found in Scripture spoke of judgement and separation, God's final living word may end up declaring mercy and inclusion of all into salvation?
Would such an event overwhelm you with joy or would it be too painful to witness? Would you rejoice over the abundance of God's grace or, like Jonah, be disgusted by it?
Jonah's underlying problem was that his belief system expected (and demanded) that God's grace be limited. No doubt he loved and desired this grace for himself and those inside 'his group', but surely not for his enemies! He had good reason to despise the people of Nineveh for the evil actions they did against his people and nation, but this didn't make his anger at the abundance of God's grace in redeeming them right. At the end of the story, Jonah is forced to search his own heart by God, who asked him why he was bitter that the people were saved instead of destroyed.
That is the real question: If one's heart is bitter and angry at the 'unfairness' of God's grace for those who clearly don't deserve it, why is that?
The Apostle Paul, while he was still the unbeliever who went by the name Saul, represented the very worst of sinners: the kind of man who not only refused to believe in Jesus, but also violently opposed anything connected to the name of Jesus. Yet God managed to do something -- we commonly call it the 'Damascus Road Experience' that overrode all his hatred and determination to not believe, causing something like scales fall off his eyes, allowing him to see clearly and enter into belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Is it possible that God has a 'Damascus Road experience' ready to give to all mankind before his throne, like he also gave to the Ninevites in Jonah's story? What if unbelief falls from the eyes of all mankind, causing them to see clearly for the first time in their lives, and then all mankind comes to faith through a divine act of grace?
As I've pointed out, God has shown us in Scripture that his mercy can save an entire nation, every single person, even though he had previously announced judgment. Scripture testifies that God will overcome the hardest heart, exemplified in Paul (who called himself the worst of sinners), saving us from our unbelief and drawing us into a living and active faith in Christ. In Colossians, Scripture explains about this cosmic-sized Eternal Plan that God is outworking through Christ, that includes the redemption of all things in heaven and earth.
That truly is a cosmic, universal-sized redemption he is outworking, isn't it. Surely, if it includes all things in the heavens and the earth, it includes all of mankind, too? And why not? What would bring God more glory than to save and draw all of mankind intimately to himself, not by our efforts, but through the triumph of our Messiah's sacrifice and by the working of God's grace on our behalf?
What could possibly give our great God of all grace more glory than that?