I have heard it said that the Biblical terms "all" or "every" [such as, "every person" or "every thing"] do not necessarily have to mean, "without any exception." Is this correct?
In the vast majority of Biblical passages, the terms “all” or “every” are all-inclusive and don’t allow for exceptions, but this is not always the case. The fact that Bible commentaries and interpreters have IGNORED this vital truth, has misled them to reach doctrinally incorrect conclusions. It is also very critical to read passages in context, and in consideration of other passages which might shed more light on a given subject. Failing to do so might lead to wrong concepts.
For example, we read in Daniel 7:27 that “ALL dominions shall serve and obey” Christ, when He establishes the Kingdom of God here on earth. This might give the impression that there won’t be any who will disobey and who will have to be dealt with, accordingly. However, this conclusion would be incorrect, as we read in Isaiah 60:12: “For the nation and kingdom which shall not serve you shall perish, And those nations shall be utterly ruined.” Compare, too, Zechariah 14:16-19, regarding nations who will at first refuse to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
We see, then, that even though we read that “ALL dominions” will serve and obey Christ, some will NOT do so, at first. In fact, some will stubbornly REFUSE to obey at all.
However, we read that God “is the Savior of ALL men, ESPECIALLY of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10). At the same time, we read in 2 Thessalonians 2:12 that “they ALL may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” These passages don’t contradict each other; nor are they all-inclusive. God is the potential Savior of all men who believe now, and who will come to believe later, even though they may not believe now. And those who don’t believe when Christ returns will be “condemned” or “dealt with” at that time, but this is not to say that they will be thrown into the lake of fire because they have committed the unpardonable sin–most of them will be resurrected in the Second Resurrection to be “judged” (Revelation 20:11-12). For more information, please read our free booklets, “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?“, and “God’s Commanded Holy Days.”
Also, the concept that Christ is the Savior of ALL men does not rule out the fact that some will NOT be saved. Here, the word “ALL” is NOT used in an all-inclusive sense. Some WILL commit the unpardonable sin and be destroyed and burned up in the lake of fire (Hebrews 6:4-8; Revelation 20:13-15).
Still, we read that “ALL Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). As stated, this might give the impression that every last Israelite will inherit salvation. But this is not true, as there will be some who will reject salvation. For instance, Christ warned the Pharisees that they were walking on very thin ice, heading towards committing the unpardonable sin (compare Mark 3:28-30 and Matthew 9:34).
Paul continues in Romans 11:32 that God, in His dealings with Israel, “has committed them ALL to disobedience, that He might have mercy on ALL.” In both cases, the word “all” is not used to teach all-inclusiveness, without any exceptions. Not every last Israelite will repent, and not every Israelite–even at the time of Paul–was disobedient. The early Church of God consisted at first exclusively of Israelites who had become obedient to the faith.
We also read in Romans 14:11 that “EVERY tongue shall confess” to God. But again, this does not include every last person, as some will not confess to God, but instead, they will be destroyed in the lake of fire–they will die the second death–in utter rebellion to God.
There are additional examples where the words “all” or “every” are not to be understood in an all-inclusive sense.
In Luke 8:45, a woman touched Christ, in order to be healed, and when Christ asked who had touched Him, it says that “ALL denied it.” Then Peter and other disciples said to Him, “The multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'” We then read that the woman came forward and confessed (verse 47). Therefore, when “ALL” denied that they touched Him, this apparently excluded the woman and most certainly His disciples, who admitted that they and others had “touched” Jesus, without understanding the relevance of His question.
In Matthew 23:3, Christ told the Jews to “obey ALL” (Authorized Version) what the scribes and Pharisees commanded them to do. In Ephesians 5:24, Paul says that women are to be submissive to their husbands in EVERYTHING. And Peter says in 1 Peter 2:13 that we are to submit ourselves to EVERY ordinance of man. However, these passages are not all-inclusive and allow–yes, DEMAND–an exception. This exception is found in Acts 5:27-32, where Peter makes it clear that we must obey God rather than man, and that we must DISOBEY man if we would otherwise disobey God.
We also read that the gospel of the Kingdom of God will be preached in all the world as a witness, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14). This does not mean that every last person on earth will hear the gospel just prior to Christ’s return. There will be those alive at the beginning of the Millennium who never heard Christ’s gospel message (compare Isaiah 66:19). This is why Matthew 24:14 must be read together with Scriptures such as Mark 13:10 and Luke 24:47, stating that the gospel will be preached “among” all nations.
We read in Revelation 1:7 that “every eye” will see Christ when He returns–“even they who pierced Him.” But we know from other Scriptures that only those who are alive at the time of Christ’s return will see Him–in addition to those few (part of the firstfruits) who were alive at the time of Christ’s First Coming, originally consenting to His death, but who then came to repentance and died in the faith, and who will therefore be in the First Resurrection. The overwhelming majority of mankind will NOT see Him at the time of His return; yet, it says that “EVERY EYE” will see Him. What is meant in Revelation 1:7 is that all who are ALIVE at the time of His return will see Him–because we all are responsible for Christ’s death through our sins.
In Luke 17:26-29, Christ says that “all” were destroyed at the time of Noah, except for Noah; and that “all” were destroyed in Sodom, except for Lot. But other Scriptures tell us that Noah’s FAMILY was also spared, and so were Lot’s DAUGHTERS.
In Luke 6:30, Christ tells us that we are to give to EVERYONE who asks of us and wants to borrow from us. Again, this is not an all-inclusive command, as Paul says, for example, that we must work to make a living, and if we are unwilling to work, we should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). So, Christ was not telling us that we must give to just EVERYONE who wants to eat, even though he is unwilling to work.
In Philippians 2:20-21, Paul says about Timothy that he has no one “like-minded,” who sincerely cares for others, continuing that “ALL seek their own.” But surely, Paul did not mean all the other saints who were with him, because he writes in Philippians 4:21-22: “The brethren who are with me greet you. ALL the saints greet you.”
Finally, we read in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 that “EVERY creature of God” is good for food. Some use this passage to claim that we are therefore no longer obligated to refrain from eating UNCLEAN meat. However, we also read in Genesis 9:3 that “EVERY moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you ALL things, even as the green herbs.” It goes without saying that we must not eat POISONOUS green herbs–even though “all things” were given to us for food–and we therefore must not eat meat which was not created for food (Compare again 1 Timothy 4:4, stating that those who believe and know the truth of God’s Word, as revealed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, understand WHICH animals God has created FOR FOOD). We see, therefore, that these passages are not all-inclusive, but must be understood in context. For more information, please read our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound...”
In conclusion, we ALWAYS need to carefully review the context in light of ALL Scriptures relevant to a certain topic, in order to reach a correct understanding.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link