- 30th October 2018
- Doctrine, The Afterlife
What will happen to the billions of human beings who have never known the true God—who have never accepted any form of Christianity? Are they forever doomed to a burning Hell or an eternity in outer darkness? What is the real answer to these questions?
You, through no fault of your own, may be blinded to the information this booklet contains.
But you can understand if you are genuinely willing to believe what God says in His inspired word, the Holy Bible. The real answers have been there all along. But Satan the Devil is the “god” of this present world or society (2 Corinthians 4:3–4). Satan is described in your Bible as the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).
Satan the Devil “broadcasts” wrong ideas and attitudes in this world’s atmosphere. As seen above, he is the “prince” of this world’s atmosphere and influences human society and human behavior far more than most people even begin to realize. Satan confuses people about the plan and purpose of the Great God. The Apostle John was inspired to write: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:9).
And so even the professing Christian world—all divided into more than 400 sects and denominations—has been deceivedabout the very nature of salvation, and about when God is truly going to convert the vast majority of humanity.
Think of it!
Think of the billions of humans—all made in God’s image— who have never believed in any form of Christianity. Today, only a tiny handful of the 1.4 billion people living in China profess to believe in Christianity. The same goes for the more than 1 billion people of India. Then consider the 240 million people of Indonesia and the people of Japan, Pakistan and other heavily populated nations who are all in roughly the same situation! And in the Arab world, extremely few people claim Christianity as their religion.
Then consider the untold billions of people who lived and died in these and in other nations in earlier centuries who never even heard the name “Jesus Christ” during their human lifetimes!
Of course, liberal, modernist preachers and theologians— many of whom do not really believe that Christ was truly God anyway—reason their way around the problem with all kinds of human and philosophical arguments about God “saving” these people some other way. But they cannot quote the direct words of the Bible to back up their human reasoning, because the Bible itself is very clear about who will be granted salvation and eternal life.
God’s Word is CLEAR
Speaking about the dramatic healing of a lame man, the Apostle Peter stated: “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”(Acts 4:10–12). Now would you not call that a pretty clear statement? Does that leave a lot of room for theologians to reason around and say: “Well, if these people from past ages were basically good people who practiced their religion sincerely, then surely a loving God would grant them eternal life”?
But that bypasses the whole point made by the Apostles and Christ Himself, that eternal life is granted only to those who have come to the true God of creation through a unique relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Through that understanding and that relationship, they come to understand who the true God is and what He requires of humans who wish to enter His everlasting Kingdom. Without that unique understanding and relationship, the people of this world are wandering around in utter blindness and confusion and are not at this time fulfilling their ultimate purpose at all. They may be sincere pagans or heathens, but they are definitely pagans nonetheless!
Again, notice Paul’s inspired instruction to the Ephesian Christians, most of whom may have been sincere worshippers of the local goddess, Diana of the Ephesians. Here is what Paul bluntly told these people: “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11–13).
Since the inspired Apostle Paul told the sincere pagans that they had “no hope,” why should we assume that others who have practiced non-Christian religions would have any real hope for eternal life and salvation? Why?
Notice now what Jesus Christ Himself said in John 10:1–2: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” Clearly, any who try to obtain salvation some other way are in big trouble! Now read verses 7–8: “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.'” These words of the Son of God make it very clear that— according to Christ’s teaching—”all” who came before Christ claiming to be saviors or enlightened ones were frauds or imposters!
Again, notice John 6:44. “No one CAN come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Only those whom God expressly calls are able to understand and respond to the true message of Jesus Christ! And Jesus repeats essentially the same teaching in John 6:65. “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
With all these straightforward scriptures in mind, how dare any self-respecting minister or theologian teach otherwise? How could they dare to imply or indicate that there is some other way to eternal life besides being called by God and surrendering oneself to the God of creation through the true Jesus Christ of the Bible?
What Is God Doing NOW?
“Well,” you may ask: “if God is not trying to save all peoples of the earth now, then just what is His plan and purpose in all of this delay?” Why are the multitudes of the earth not being called now?
The answer is that God is working out His plan in dealing with humanity over a 7,000-year period. For the first 6,000 years, God is allowing humanity to experiment with various forms of religion, education, government and culture. Through spiritual emptiness and physical and emotional agony, humanity is now writing the lesson in human suffering that man’s ways always turn out to be wrong. Having learned this lesson, humanity will be far more ready to listen genuinely when God does open their minds and hearts to His Truth.
“How cruel!” some may say. “Why didn’t God just send a perfect teacher, and show us the right ways in a positive and loving manner?”
My friends, He did do just that!
God did send His Son to this earth as a kind, merciful, loving Teacher who healed the sick, comforted the downtrodden and taught the way to eternal life. Did humanity embrace Him, believe Him and joyously follow His teachings?
No. Instead they killed Him in one of the most slow, painful, agonizing forms of death ever devised by a depraved humanity under the influence of Satan the Devil.
Remember, it was the religious leaders who stirred up the masses to ask for Christ’s death. They wanted to preserve the religious establishment of their day. After all, their jobs were on the line! Even Pilate, the secular Roman governor, perceived the real issue: “For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy” (Mark 15:10).
Additionally, God sent prophet after prophet into the world— especially to teach and warn His people, Israel. Were they warmly received? Notice what God said through Jeremiah: “Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers” (Jeremiah 7:25–26).
So—except for calling a comparatively few dedicated individuals in each age to understand His Truth and to do His Work— God is indeed allowing humanity to go its own way. And where does that way lead? “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
Salvation Is Preparation for ETERNITY
The Great Creator, who gives mankind life and breath and all things, wants everyone to be in His Family someday. But being “saved”—and becoming full sons of God in His everlasting Kingdom—goes way beyond what most people understand!
It is not just a matter of “accepting Jesus” in some emotion-filled revival meeting. It is not a matter of just “joining a church.” Rather, it is a matter of being fully surrendered to the God of the Bible through a personal relationship with the true Jesus Christ. It is a matter of a person genuinely yielding heart, mind and will so that the Living Jesus Christ—as High Priest—can fully live His life inside the individual. As the inspired Apostle Paul tells us: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, KJV).
Through completely surrendering to let the true Christ live within us, we can develop—over time—the very character of God! Through Christ within, the true Christian is enabled to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). In that God-ordained manner, the Christian becomes a genuine “overcomer.” For—through Christ living within—Christians gradually overcome themselves, the world and Satan the Devil. Such Christians are far more prepared for eternal life in Christ’s Kingdom than if they just “got saved” or “joined a church” in the traditional sense of this deceived world!
The living Christ said: “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations; ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’; as I also have received from My Father” (Revelation 2:26–27). Again, Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). And it is clearly God’s revealed will that true Christians are those who overcome and allow Christ—through the Holy Spirit—to live His life within them, the same kind of surrendered, obedient life that He lived while in the human flesh.
In that way God’s Kingdom will be populated—not by selfish, rebellious, disobedient malcontents who would make everyone, including themselves, miserable for all eternity—but by individuals who freely responded to God’s call and have allowed Him to build within them His very nature and character. As the Apostle Peter wrote, God’s promises—including the promised Holy Spirit—enable us to “be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
God does not just metaphorically say that we are His children. Rather, He puts His very nature within us through the Holy Spirit. Then, we can reflect His nature in everything that we think, say and do. He can and will build within us a nature and character fit for eternal life in His soon-coming Kingdom!
Building Holy, Righteous Character
How does God build His character in us? He knows that sometimes we will only learn a lesson if we “suffer.”
If we are tempted to become discouraged by some obstacle that we face, we can keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
We know from history that true Christians have been persecuted since the very first days of the Church. If we “suffer” now, it is as preparation for an eternity of joy and peace and love as a part of God’s family! So we should not be surprised by suffering—we should welcome it as a tool through which God will build our character, and through which we may come to empathize, and even understand in some small measure, what Jesus Christ went through when He suffered for us. The Apostle Peter was aware of this very important point. He wrote: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (1 Peter 4:12–14).
Yes, we know that we may face many tribulations on our way to God’s Kingdom (Acts 14:22), but we can welcome these tribulations as opportunities to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord (2 Peter 3:18).
God Desires EVERYONE to be Saved
Again, God desires every human being—all made in His image—to be in His Kingdom some day. God created mankind “in His image” (Genesis 1:26). He made us free moral agents—able to choose between life and death and between good and evil. God tells us in His word: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
In the New Testament, 1 Timothy 2:4 tells us that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth.” God does not force all men to be saved. Free moral agency is involved, and there are plenty of scriptures to show that some few, at least, will be cast into the “Lake of Fire” (Revelation 19:20), which is the second death” (Revelation 20:14).
Yes, some few will choose to be extinguished for eternity rather than to love and serve God. How can God reconcile His perfect love with His perfect justice? He cannot allow a rebellious spirit into His family, but neither is He a sadist who delights in the torment of His creation. He will not condemn to destruction someone who never was given a chance to hear His Truth, but He expects much of those who have accepted the Truth and the sacrifice made by His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. We read in the book of Hebrews: “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26–27).
Yes, if we sin willfully after God has revealed His Truth to us, then unless we repent we become His “adversaries” deserving of judgment and “fiery indignation.” What is that fiery indignation? It is the Lake of Fire, described in the book of Malachi: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, ‘That will leave them neither root nor branch'” (Malachi 4:1).
Those who reject God will become “stubble.” They will be burned up forever. They will cease to exist! Who will suffer this fate? The Apostle John tells us in the book of Revelation: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
Everyone Will Come To UNDERSTANDING
God will not allow anyone to suffer such a fate without having made a deliberate choice. He will see to it that every individual who was ever born has a chance to be faced with the real truth of God’s will and His purpose. For the word “knowledge” used in 1 Timothy 2:4 is translated from the Greek epignosis, which means “an overview” of the Truth. So, again, every human who has ever lived must be clearly presented with this fundamental knowledge about God and His plan. Each one must have a chance to either accept or reject eternal life on God’s terms. Otherwise, God would indeed be a respecter of persons by allowing billions of humans to live and die without ever learning about the plan of the Creator God and His Son Jesus Christ.
We learn more about God’s will in 2 Peter 3:8–9. “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
God counts time in thousands of years. So He is not in a hurry to save everyone until mankind has written indelible lessons in human suffering by going the wrong way. So even though countless preachers have implored their revival crowds to “give your heart to the Lord tonight! This may be your last chance!” —the very preachers uttering these words are showing that they have no idea about the real plan and purpose the Creator God is working out here below.
One scripture that ministers have misused in this way for generations is found in 2 Corinthians 6:2, where God says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Does the above scripture mean that this is “the” day of salvation and that there is no other? The answer is simply a matter of correct translation! Scholars acknowledge that the first part of this passage is an exact quote from Isaiah 49:8. This is correctly translated: “In an acceptable time I have answered thee, and in a day of salvation I have helped thee” (The Holy Scriptures, The Jewish Publication Society of America; emphasis ours). Applying the principle of Isaiah 49, Paul is, in fact, urging the Corinthian Church members not to receive God’s grace in vain (v. 1). These people were already called—already in God’s Church. So this passage is certainly not telling us that this is the only day of salvation for all mankind. Rather, even as many Bible commentaries acknowledge, it is urging the already converted believers to “work out” their salvation to the end (see A Commentary on the Pauline Epistles, Charles B. Williams, Moody, 1953).
As we have seen, God wants “all” to come to the knowledge of salvation. But He is definitely not trying to save everyone now. Otherwise, since most humans have never believed in any form of “Christianity,” we would have to assume that God is somehow helpless—unable to accomplish what He intends to do!
Did Jesus Try to “Save” People?
A very common misconception—based on a misunderstanding of the very subject of this booklet—is that Jesus Christ came to “save” people during His ministry on earth. But He did not! Rather, Jesus—through His atoning death—made it possible for those whom the Father “calls” to be reconciled to God after His death and resurrection.
Near the end of His life in the human flesh, Jesus told His disciples, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). Even Jesus’ disciples did not yet have the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. They were not yet converted! As Jesus told Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32, KJV). And, speaking of Jesus’ lifetime, John was inspired to write, “The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).
So, in a technical sense, no one was “converted” during Jesus’ human ministry. No one received the Holy Spirit until the Day of Pentecost after Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 2). And, surprising to some, Jesus did not even try to convert the multitudes during His ministry. Jesus was not “trying” to save all humanity back then anymore than God is trying to save all humanity now!
Many were taught in Sunday School—just as I was— that Jesus spoke in parables to “make the meaning more clear.” To this day I can clearly remember my Sunday School class being taught that since most of Jesus’ listeners were farmers, fishermen or shepherds, He taught in parables using agricultural illustrations so that these common working folks would be able to understand better.
But, what does the Bible actually say? Exactly the opposite! For Jesus told His Apostles, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them'” (Mark 4:11–12). Again, Jesus was not trying to “save” these people—at that time!
That is hard for many professing Christians to understand. For they have been taught over and over that Christ, the Apostles and all true Christians are engaged in a sort of “soul-saving” mission! And it is at least implied that if people do not “get saved” in this present lifetime then they are “lost” forever.
Yet, if you carefully read the four Gospels and the book of Acts, it becomes obvious that the vast majority of people alive during the lifetimes of Jesus and the Apostles were never converted to any form of Christianity! Were they all mean and nasty people? Were they all in direct rebellion against God? Are they all “doomed” forever? Was the Work of Jesus and the Apostles a total failure?
Of course not!
Just like most of the philosophers with whom Paul reasoned at the Areopagus (Acts 17:18–34), most people of that time never had any idea about the true Creator God. They just did not know. And God did not try to “call” them—at that time. Again, it is all a matter of timing—a matter of when God decides to call these billions of people who have lived apart from the true God for these past 6,000 years.
Even Israel Has Been BLINDED
As we have seen, God uses Israel as a type of all humanity. In several different passages God’s Word reveals the principle: “First to the Jews, then to the Gentiles” (John 4:22; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; 2:9). So Christ and the Apostles first preached to the Jews. Later, in Acts 10, we find the story of how God led Peter to open up salvation to the Gentiles—beginning with the household of Cornelius.
So why are the Jewish people—and the vast majority of those descended from the “lost ten tribes”—not all converted Christians? Because—as with the rest of humanity—God has absolutely blinded them so they cannot understand!
In the book of Romans, Paul was inspired to explain this about the people of Israel: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). Notice, however, that these people were and are “ignorant” of the righteousness of God. For God has not yet “called” them.
Notice Paul’s explanation: “What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day'” (Romans 11:7–8). The King James Version has verse 7 translated this way: “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”
But has God “blinded” these people forever? Of course not. As we have explained, God is a just God. He will call each class of people in His own time. That is precisely what mainstream Christianity does not understand. Here is God’s answer to this puzzle: “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob'” (vv. 25–26).
So “all” Israel will be saved! As we will show you in a moment, there is a time coming—a “day of judgment”—when all human beings who have been blinded down through the ages will have the scales removed from their eyes. The old prejudices and old falsehoods will finally be banished. Then they will see. They will see and understand clearly, at last, the great purpose God has been working out here on earth. They will understand why God has let mankind, as a whole, go its own way in spiritual “blindness” these past 6,000 years.
A Time of JUDGMENT
Remember that Jesus said: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). And the Apostle Paul was inspired to write: “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Does this mean that the “great” men and women of this world down through the ages have been doomed? That they are not to be given a chance for salvation?
Of course not!
Again, what about the arrogant leaders of past worldly kingdoms who killed, raped and abused untold millions of people? Yet they never heard of the true Jesus Christ or His Message. Interestingly, Jesus Himself gives us the answer: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:21–22). The “day of judgment”—as we shall see—is not merely a time of sentencing. Rather, it is a coming time or age when God will resurrect from the dead these billions of people and open their minds and hearts to His purpose. They will then be judged by how they respond—once they have a genuine opportunity to really understand!
Continuing in Matthew 11:23–24, notice Jesus’ startling statement: “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” Think about it! Even the sexual perverts of ancient Sodom will find it “tolerable in the day of judgment” compared with those Capernians who personally knew Jesus and rejected Him!
How can this be?
Again, the answer is that these ancient peoples—sinful though they were—had no knowledge of the true God or His ways. Christ was not to appear as Savior for hundreds of years. Yet, as we have seen, there is no other name whereby we must be saved.
As we have also seen, Satan—the “god” of this age—has blinded those who do not believe! Most people in this age cannot understand the Bible or God’s plan. They have not yet been called.
Again, Satan the Devil is the powerful spirit being “who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). In His prophecies, God speaks about the veil of spiritual blindness that is upon the vast majority of human beings. Then He speaks about a time when He will destroy this veil of blindness after Christ’s return to earth. “And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 25:7–8).
When will that veil be destroyed? When will the “day of judgment” come for the billions over the centuries who never had a genuine opportunity to know God’s will and to accept the true Jesus Christ of the Bible as their Savior?
The “White Throne Judgment”
The book of Revelation gives the time sequence of prophetic events more clearly than any other book in the Bible. Revelation 19:11–21 describes Christ’s return in full glory as King of kings (vv. 14–16). Then, after crushing the armies of the coming European dictator called “the Beast,” Christ casts him and the coming false religious leader into the “Lake of Fire” (v. 20).
Then, in Revelation 20:1, God describes a mighty angel coming down to earth: “He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while” (vv. 2–3). Note that these verses also tell us that Satan has been deceiving the nations of this earth!
After Satan is bound, the glorious Millennial rule of Christ on earth will begin. Speaking of that time, Revelation shows that the true saints “lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (v. 4). Then we are told: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (v. 6).
True Christians who have been genuinely called by God understand His purpose. They know that they are now in training to become kings and priests in the coming reign of Christ on earth—that they will rule even over angels! (1 Corinthians 6:1–3). The coming Millennial rule of Christ and the saints (Daniel 7:26–27) will be a magnificent opportunity to help, to encourage and to teach the confused multitudes of people on earth God’s true ways.
But, again, what happens to the untold billions of “blinded” people who do not live on over into the Millennium—who have never known the true God and His plan?
Keep right on reading Revelation 20! After describing a relatively brief time when Satan is loosed from his prison and—once again—quickly deceives a multitude of people (vv. 7–10), God’s Word begins to tell us about the Great White Throne Judgment period. But before reading this, jump for a moment back to verse 5. Here, inserted as a parenthetical comment after describing the thousand-year rule of the saints, God’s word says: “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.”
The “rest” of the dead? Yes! Those billions of people from ages past who were never called to salvation and therefore obviously had no chance to be in the first resurrection.
Notice Revelation 20:11–12: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”
A Truly AWESOME Event
Here we find described perhaps the most awesome event in human history, a time when all people—the unknown, the famous and the infamous—will really come to understand why they were born! These formerly dead people, certainly including many of your own ancestors, are seen “standing before God”—obviously in a resurrection. Then the “books” are opened. The term “books” here is translated from the Greek word biblion, which is the same word translated “Bible”—meaning the books of the Bible!
So finally these formerly blinded people from all ages past— including our own time—have the books of the Bible “opened” to their understanding. The veil which had been over them in the past is now destroyed. Now, at last, these people have their first genuine opportunity to know God, and to decide whether to repent and accept the true Christ as Lord and Savior, or to go their own way.
“Another book is opened”—the “book of life.” Paul describes the saints as having their names written in the “Book of Life” (Philippians 4:3). Revelation 21:27 describes the New Jerusalem as inhabited by “only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”
The opportunity for eternal life is at last presented to these multitudes of people “small and great.” They are resurrected back to physical life for perhaps a period of 100 years—long enough for a thorough opportunity for them to learn, grow and be tried and tested as to their willingness to live eternal life God’s way (Isaiah 65:20). They will be called and have a chance to study and to understand the Bible. Then—and only then—God says that these resurrected people will be “judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12). Now, after being given a genuine chance to know and to act upon the Truth, these people are judged by how they respond to and obey the teachings of the books of the Bible. James was inspired to tell us: “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17–26).
Make no mistake: if these untold billions of formerly blinded individuals are merely judged by the works they did in their former lifetimes—many of them as thieves, prostitutes, dictators and false prophets—then they will all surely perish in the Lake of Fire! For in their past lives they did not accept the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved. They did not truly repent (Acts 2:38) of their wrong ways and surrender their life to Christ and allow Him—through the Holy Spirit—to fashion and mold them and help them to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
God does not have a double standard! These countless individuals deserve to have a real chance—and to be judged on what they do after they have known the Truth of God! Yet countless theologians and ministers—deceived themselves—try to imagine that God will somehow save many of our unrepentant friends and relatives, and multitudes from ages past, without them ever coming to real repentance and true surrender to the Living Christ. These theologians could not be more wrong!
May God help you, however, to understand the truth about the “unsaved” billions this age and of ages past. They never had a real opportunity to accept Jesus Christ. Nor did all the additional billions of people from both the present and past who may only have known about a false Christ (2 Corinthians 11:4), but who never really surrendered to let the Christ of the Bible rule their lives!
No other explanation for this religious dilemma truly makes sense! And the answer has been in your own Bible all along. This is not talking about a second chance. Again, we are only talking about a genuine opportunity to learn about and obey the Truth that a fair and just God is going to reveal to these multitudes of peoples in His time.
The Valley of Dry Bones
Another key scripture that explains this part of God’s plan is found in Ezekiel 37. Here we read the famous story of the “dry bones.” But—wait just a minute!—this is not just a “story.” Rather, this is describing one of the most moving and awesome events in human history.
Let us understand.
Although this passage of scripture is no doubt referring typically to the lost ten tribes of Israel being restored and later reunited with Judah (vv. 15–22), it is also speaking literally about what is going to happen to the untold millions of people of the house of Israel. Realize it or not, these modern-day descendants of the lost ten tribes are now the American and British-descended peoples and the peace-loving, democratic nations of Northwestern Europe. Be sure to study our eye-opening booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy, for proof of their national origins.
What happens to these people—most of whom have been deceived down through the ages?
First of all, remember a key principle defining the way God works. It is mentioned several times—in different ways in the Bible. Notice Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Note also Romans 2:9–10, which says the same thing. And read verse 11 carefully: “For there is no partiality with God.” The King James Version translates this verse: “For there is no respect of persons with God.” Therefore, in His time, God must give everyone a genuine opportunity for salvation if He is to be fair and is to be no respecter of persons. It is only a matter of timing.
In Ezekiel 37, God reveals that the countless millions of Israelites, formerly blinded to His Truth, will be in a special resurrection—not to condemnation—but to receive God’s Holy Spirit and then be able to understand and obey the Truth. Study Ezekiel 37 carefully, verse by verse. Note that God gives Ezekiel a vision of a massive valley of “dry bones.” He is asked: “Can these bones live?” (v. 3). God then begins to answer this rhetorical question by stating to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live” (v. 5). Then God continues: “I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD” (v. 6).
God deals first with the Israelites—His chosen people—as a type of how He will deal with all humanity. For, again, God is not a respecter of persons! God is obviously planning to resurrect the blinded Israelites and give them a real chance to know Him and His great plan for humanity.
As these vast multitudes are resurrected in this momentous vision, they are described as “an exceeding great army” (v. 10). And who are they? God Himself tells us: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” (v. 11). So this army of dry bones must include not only those formerly blinded people of the lost ten tribes of Israel, but also the Jewish people who have also been blinded to the message of the true Messiah, and the magnificent plan that He and God the Father have for all mankind.
All these Israelites have been sinners—as has all humanity (Romans 3:23). So, in this resurrection, they are at first afraid and feel guilty: “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off” (v. 11). But God says: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it” (vv. 12–14). As a type of all humanity, these uncounted billions of people will then be given a real chance to understand, to obey their God and be converted and be filled with His Spirit.
Awesome BLESSINGS Through God’s PLAN
Most of us have a loved one, a friend or an “old Uncle Joe” who perhaps was an alcoholic, regularly took God’s name in vain and seldom went to Church. Yet “Uncle Joe” or “Aunt Millie” were often very “nice” people, friendly and helpful. But perhaps they made no profession whatever of Christianity. Are they doomed forever?
Think about it!
As you come to a full understanding of God’s Truth, you will increasingly grasp the fact that even most professing Christians have very little idea of what true Christianity is all about. Along with the rest of humanity, they are simply writing the lessons of human experience during their lifetimes. They will truly need this special resurrection during the Great White Throne Judgment to actually learn these lessons they have been writing in human suffering and experience.
Perhaps you have heard the joke about the religious fellow who called his friend who had “dropped out” of church: “Come on back to church, George. Everyone still likes you and you might even enjoy some of Pastor Boring’s sermons.” But George makes excuses and then says, “I don’t want to go back and fellowship with all of those hypocrites!”
“Oh, that’s all right,” his friend answers him, “there’s always room for one more!”
We may laugh at the truth of this story. But, deep down, most of us know that a whole lot of churchgoers and professing Christians are, in fact, hypocrites. They just attend church as a social convenience, or because it is another tool to help them get ahead in their business or profession, or for some other non-religious reason. And their lives do not reflect the “fruits” of the Holy Spirit at all.
Yet, as we have seen, God’s inspired Word tells us, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9). Such a person is not a true Christian!
Are all of these “backsliders,” or weak and often hypocritical individuals, “lost” forever? The only way most religionists can try to think their way around this dilemma is to come up with a solution that directly contradicts the plain words of Scripture. But an understanding of the awesome plan of God—involving this Truth about the Great White Throne Judgment—is the only solution that makes sense both logically and biblically. That is because it happens to be the Truth.
Perhaps most touching of all, think about the countless millions of people down through the ages whose lives were cut short by senseless tragedy—never having fully understood the Gospel of Christ or having a genuine opportunity to learn the Truth of God’s Word, to repent of their sins and accept the real Jesus Christ of the Bible both as Savior and Master. Are all of these darling little children, mentally impaired individuals or others with various handicaps or mitigating circumstances cut off from eternal life?
These people will be granted a genuine opportunity for salvation in the Great White Throne Judgment period. They will then be given real understanding of God and His awesome plan. The vast majority of them will no doubt choose to obey their Creator and accept eternal life on His terms when they have this opportunity.
Senseless Tragedies or Learning Experiences?
Again my friends, we need to be realistic. The Word of God makes it clear that most people have never been “called” during this age—even most people in so-called “Christian” societies. Millions may know about God. But they do not truly “know” God. For God tells us, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). And again, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
Millions of people in the United States, Canada, Britain and Europe talk about God. But they do not remotely do what God commands. Jesus Christ commands, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43–44). Yet most of the horrifying wars and butcheries have been launched in Europe over the past several hundred years. Why? Because—even in the “heart” of so-called “Christendom”—people really do not “know” the true God of the Bible.
Literally hundreds of illustrations could be used to prove this point. But one very memorable one comes to mind. It is in the form of a personal letter which was later made public and verified to be authentic. Some of you may have seen it before. This letter was written by a German soldier to his clergyman father during the Battle of Stalingrad, in which 91,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner by the Russians (only 5,000 survived to return to Germany) in January 1943:
“…In Stalingrad to question God means to deny Him. I must tell you that, dear Father, and I am doubly sorry for it. You brought me up, because I had no mother, and you always kept God before my eyes and my soul. And I doubly regret my words, for they will be my last. After this I will be able to speak no others which could compensate or reconcile.
You are a clergyman, Father. In one’s last letter one says only what is true or what he believes to be true. I have looked for God in every shell crater, in every destroyed house, in every corner, among all my comrades when I lay in my hole, and in the sky. God did not show Himself, when my heart cried out for Him. Houses were destroyed. My comrades were as brave or as cowardly as I. Hunger and murder were on the earth. Bombs and fire came from the heavens. But God was not there. No, Father, there is no God. I write it again, and know that it is terrible and that I cannot make amends for it. And if in spite of all there should be a God, then it will be only with you, in the hymn-books and prayers, the pious sayings of priests and pastors, the ringing of chimes, and the smell of incense. But not in Stalingrad. (Letter 17, Last Letters from Stalingrad, Translated by John E. Vetter, Coronet Press, 1955.)
What profound hurt that professing Christian minister must have felt when he read his son’s letter: “But God was not there. No, Father, there is no God” [Emphasis ours]. If that young man had understood the Truth about God’s Plan, he would at least have realized that all those around him butchering one another were spiritually blinded. The professing ministers and priests who blessed them and sent them into battle were also probably blinded. Later on, in a special resurrection, they will be given a genuine chance—their first real chance—to know God and to do His will!
As we think of the billions of men and women down through the ages who died tragic, seemingly senseless deaths, it should be extremely comforting and even inspiring to realize that those tragic deaths at Stalingrad, in Hitler’s concentration camps, on the “killing fields” of Cambodia, in the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami and in millions of other gruesome situations—those deaths were not the “end” for those involved.
For the God of total love and understanding has awesome plans for those countless millions of human beings made in His image. He is not going to forget them. But, again, He is not going to “sneak” them into His Kingdom through some “side door” apart from real repentance and a genuine acceptance of the true Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. Rather, in the magnificent Great White Throne Judgment they will have their eyes opened to the transcendent purpose God has in mind for all of humanity.
The suffering these people have gone through, the experiences that have broadened their vision, the lessons they have “written” through those sometimes traumatic experiences—all of this will not have been in vain. For they will live again. They will love again. If their hearts are right, they will experience joy again. An inspiring scripture comes to mind which certainly applies to this “special” resurrection just as surely as it does to the first resurrection: “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54–57).
God’s Purpose STANDS
If Hollywood and the music industry would truly portray the enormous wave of joy and exaltation felt by these multitudes as they finally come to life again and come to know their God, it would really “knock your socks off” as is said in the vernacular! Songwriters could write absolutely thrilling songs of praise and rejoicing about this most stupendous event in the long saga of mankind. And someday, perhaps, in the Kingdom of God, they will!
So there you have it!
God Almighty is not trying to save everyone now. Rather, God is allowing humanity to go its own way for this 6,000 years of human history—under the evil influence of Satan the Devil (Ephesians 2:2). God now intervenes occasionally, when He wishes to, in order to bring about His major purposes in the rise and fall of nations and kingdoms. He also intervenes to call certain individuals to be part of His Church—the “little flock” (Luke 12:32) and to prepare them to be the kings and priests under Christ in the coming Kingdom of God on earth (Revelation 2:26–27; 5:9–10).
But the vast majority of all humanity has been blinded by God Himself. They need the opportunity to learn by human suffering that their ways do not turn out well at all!
Then, in His time, in the transcendent Great White Throne Judgment, God will bring them back to physical life, call them to spiritual understanding and will fill those who are willing with His Holy Spirit. Finally, He will grant them salvation in the Kingdom of God. Yes, I suppose God could have done it another way. But most people must learn by hard human experience that man’s ways are wrong Then, when the opportunity for true understanding comes, they can appreciate God’s ways infinitely more.
After describing how God is going to finally convert “all Israel” in His time (Romans 11:26), the Apostle Paul was inspired by our Creator to tell us: “For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (vv. 32–36).