Do unbelievers experience the same process that believers do with God’s grace and judgment?
For unbelievers, it is a different process. But it has the same goal. God’s goal is that every human being comes to know, love, and serve him with every fiber of their being. To that end, we are familiar with God’s treatment of his children.
For believers in Christ who know God, the process is to draw us closer to him. Through conformity to Christ’s image (Romans 8:29) and imitating Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), we draw closer to him. We seek to honor and please him and all of our actions and speech, as well as in the inner life of our thoughts and heart.
We’ve already discussed the discipline of the Lord and the road that leads away from him in another question. This specifically involves believers who are on their way to falling away from Christ. But it is the hope that Christians will run toward him.
Unbelievers have a different experience and path. The same goal of knowing Christ and following him is in view. But the approach is completely different than what a believer experiences.
Unbelievers must be wooed by the Holy Spirit toward Christ and his teachings. They must be drawn by the Spirit into a desire to know about Christ and to hear the gospel. This is the first step out of spiritual death.
The next step is that the Holy Spirit prepares their hearts through a process called regeneration. This is where they become open to hearing the gospel, ready to receive the message of the good news of Christ of freedom for the captive.
Once they experience regeneration, they must hear the good news of Christ’s gospel. That’s where we come in as believers. The Holy Spirit must do his work first. And he does the work of salvation itself. But we do the work of proclaiming the gospel.
This is the process for an unbeliever. Both are moving toward Christ. Both will experience the intimacy of his embrace and presence. But each is on a separate path toward him. Each experience is a little different but all when followed will lead to the same goal.
When anyone, believer or unbeliever, begins to go the opposite way and run from Christ, his judgment and wrath are not far behind. But we hope for better things in both circumstances. We hope that every person comes to know Christ (2 Peter 3:9).