The Bible makes it clear that the gospel is for everyone (Galatians 3:28). While the gospel is for everyone, that doesn't mean that everyone will receive and believe its message. Not everyone who hears the gospel responds immediately, and some do not hear the gospel until later in life. The good news is that Jesus still guarantees all who turn to Him a place in heaven, no matter when they turn. He teaches this in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, found in Matthew 20:1–16.
Why do some people not turn to God until later in life?
Some people hear the gospel and purposefully wait to respond. They plan to turn to God at a later time for the sake of "enjoying" living their lives in the sinful ways they wish now, building a career and hoping to have time for God later, or any other number of reasons. This is a dangerous strategy, for tomorrow is never guaranteed (Luke 12:20; Hebrews 9:27). Also, salvation is about much more than the afterlife. The thought of living apart from God might appeal to our fleshly natures, but such a life is ultimately empty. True life is found in Christ alone (John 10:10).
Others fail to recognize their need for salvation, believing themselves to be a "good person." Some may be so busy attempting to earn their way to heaven through their own efforts that they don't place their faith in Christ. They may hear the gospel, but fail to understand the true gospel message and their own need for salvation in Christ.
There are several things that need to happen in order for a person to turn to God. First, the Father has to draw them. Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44). When God draws one's heart, it is difficult to resist. Speaking of the heart, in order to fully turn to God, one must have an open heart. Lydia, in the book of Acts, is an example of such a person. She already believed in God, but it was her open heart which drew her to be baptized along with her whole family (Acts 16:14–15).
People need to hear the word of God in order to be saved. This does not mean they have to be in a church building. Hearing the word of God can come from a church, a friend, a small group, or even a video, audio, or written message. The Word of God transcends the method by which it is communicated. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Finally, in order to respond to God's drawing, people need to have spiritual discernment. The Spirit of God enables all people to respond to the drawing of and the Word of God (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Some people are very stubborn. You may have been praying for a loved one's salvation for years without any apparent progress, but continue to press on and do not give up (Luke 18:1). Use the above points as strategies for how to pray for them: 1) pray that the Father would draw them; 2) pray that they would have an open heart; 3) pray that they would hear the Word of God; 4) pray that the Spirit would give them discernment to understand the Word. Pray for the soil of their hearts to be good soil, so that they would be ready to receive the Word and become Christ followers (Matthew 13:1–23).
Perhaps you have been stalling on giving your life to Christ. Tomorrow is not a guarantee. The time to choose is now: "For he says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). May you surrender your will and your life to God today and experience the love and eternal salvation He has for you.
Is salvation about more than just the afterlife?
Are some children too young to ask for salvation? Can a 3 or 4 year old truly believe?
Is salvation possible after death? Is there a second chance for salvation?
Does a person have to fully understand the gospel to go to heaven?
How can I be saved?
Truth about Salvation