Posted by: Michael Stevenson on Wed, Oct 3, 2012
WITHIN the pages of the Bible, we find “there is no other name under heaven” that of Jesus Christ by which mankind can be saved (Acts 4:12). So then with this understanding, we find that salvation has been given to mankind through Jesus Christ—our Savior and the Author of salvation.
This passage in Acts has raised troubling questions for anyone who believes that God is now seeking in this present age to save the whole world. If this is the only time for salvation, then we need to conclude that the mission of Jesus Christ to save mankind has largely failed. After all, over all the centuries, there have been billions upon billions who have lived and died without even a small chance of hearing the Gospel. Even now, thousands have died every day without a chance to hear of Christ.
Regardless of all the missionary efforts now underway, far more human souls have been “lost” than “saved.” If God then is truly all powerful, why has so many not even heard the gospel of salvation? The traditional portrayal of conflict between God and Satan over man leaves God on the losing side of this issue if this is truth.
So then, just what is the fate of these people? What does God really purpose for them who have never before believed in Jesus or understood any of God’s laws and truth? Just how is it that the Creator plans to provide for them within His awesome plan of redemption? Are they lost forever to have no real hope for salvation?
Would it be fair for God to leave out of His plan those who have never had a chance to hear? Does it make sense that they would die and not ever have hope in the future? We should never doubt God’s awesome power to save! Let’s therefore examine and see some common assumptions and then come to understand what God has in mind in the real solution!
Resolving the Problem
Paul has said that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”—1 Timothy 2:4. Peter then has added that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”—2 Peter 3:9. This therefore is God’s goal, he is desiring to save as many as whom will repent, come to the knowledge of the truth and who will receive His awesome gift of salvation.
Jesus had said just how this will come to pass. We read that “if anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”—John 7:37-38.
This message of Christ that is recorded here was most likely given on the seventh and the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Scholars vary on whether this was he seventh day or the Last Great Day. This is due to Leviticus 23 telling to us that the Feast of Tabernacles lasts for seven days and then is followed by the final annual Holy Day immediately after on the “eighth day”—vs. 33-36, 39. But, the evidence and the series of events which had taken place in John 7 tells us that there where incidents which took place on the seventh day while the setting moves to the eighth day in John 8 and 9.
The Eighth Day, the only name the Bible gives to the Last Great day, has, based on the words of John 7, come to be known to us as the Last Great Day today. Yet, it is not actually “the last day, that great day of the feast” on which Jesus had spoken.
It should be realized that the Eighth Day is a separate festival of its own! Nevertheless, its attachment to the end of the Feast of Tabernacles shows to us that the themes of this weeklong observance carries over into it. And then the words of Jesus spoke at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles anticipated not only what will take place during the Millennium, but also what will take place on an even much greater scale that will come about immediately after!
Symbolism of the Teachings of Jesus
What was the very significance of Christ’s teaching about “living water”? In His time on earth, and in accord to traditions, during the Feast of Tabernacles the priests would bring golden vessels of water from the Pool of Siloam on the south side of Jerusalem and they would then pour it over the altar. There was a great time of celebrating along with the sound of trumpets which marked this ceremony while the people had sung the words of Isaiah “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation”—Isaiah 12:3. They had been looking toward God to provide for them needed rains for their crops and, in an ultimate sense, for Him to give to them His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 44:33).
Jesus had stood just where all could hear Him and drew a real lesson from the water, thus revealing that all those who were thirsty could now come to Him and they would be given refreshing water forever. In His statement, the water also represented the Holy Spirit, which those who would thus believe in Jesus would then be able to receive (John 7:39). He had showed that the very basic wants of spiritual thirst and hunger could then only be satisfied through Him because He is the “bread of life”—John 6:48 and the real and true source of living water that lasts forever.
With this in mind, then we need to be asking ourselves, “Just when would God’s Spirit actually be made available to all those who are spiritually thirsty?” Let us then consider that even through thousands came to believe in Jesus Christ soon after, the majority of the ancient pagan world of His day still has been in darkness—just as most of those today—even with the Jews, there is great spiritual darkness which exists. Not much has changed over the many centuries since, as even as many of those who profess Christianity do not really at all understand the teachings of Christ—most due to the fact that their ministers don’t understand!
Mankind still is hungry and thirsty for the message that Jesus Christ had brought—the very message of the coming Kingdom of God—a Message of real hope, peace and joy in the future world tomorrow. For this reason, we find that this is the means to live as we ought—through the wonderful Message of which Jesus Christ brought to us—teaching us how to live and how to cope with problems facing mankind. God’s promise to “pour out My Spirit on all flesh”—Joel 2:28 has not yet been fulfilled, except in a small measure among those whom He is now calling out—those few whom are being called into His Church in this present age. Only when Jesus Christ returns will this be fulfilled on a global and awesome scale—for then will the Holy Spirit be poured out upon all flesh. Right now, there are billions who have died with their deepest spiritual needs having been met. When will they then be given a refreshing by the life-giving power of God’s Holy Spirit?
There Will Be A Physical Resurrection to Have an Opportunity for Salvation
Many Scriptures speak of a restored and very reunited nation of Israel. On one plain this will be fulfilled when Jesus Christ returns to rule over Israel and all nations in the Millennium.
But yet, there is another prophecy in Ezekiel. This passage describes for us Ezekiel’s awesome vision in which he had seen a valley that was full of dry bones. “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel then said “O Lord God, You know.” Yet God then says to the bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 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.”—Ezekiel 37:3-6.
In this vision, we find that this is a physical resurrection. Unlike the first resurrection which takes place at the moment Jesus returns, this resurrection is at the end of the Millennium. The first resurrection is reserved for those who had been called out and lived righteous lives in this present age (for more information, read our free article “The Plain Truth about the Three Resurrections). This physical resurrection is for all those who died and never had an opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ or to be called into His Church during this present age. This account tells us the hopeless situation in which these people found themselves in “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!”—v.11.
However, the Creator offers to them hope of a resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit in the setting of a reunited nation. In this awesome vision, ancient Israel had served as the model for all people, whom God is going to raise from the dead and bring back to physical life. God has told us that “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves…I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live”—vs. 12, 14. At this future time, God is going to freely make available to all people His Spirit. For God is going to “make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them…My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people”—vs. 26-27.
Paul had also referred to this physical resurrection when he wrote that “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin, God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew”—Romans 11:1-2. Paul further went on to say that “all Israel will be saved”—v.26.
Yet, just not only Israel, but all those who have never been given a real opportunity to receive of the living waters of God’s Word and His Holy Spirit are going to be able to finally do so (Romans 9:22-26). God is going to freely offer them the opportunity to receive real eternal life.
The Great White Throne Judgment
There is yet another amazing prophecy which shows to us that there is a judgment which will take place. We read that “the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.”—Revelation 20:5. Here, John has made it very clear that those that had died without knowing the truth will be resurrected—unlike the first resurrection which is the resurrection of the righteous and which takes place at the return of Jesus Christ (vs. 4, 6), and then the second resurrection to physical life will then take place at the end of Jesus’ millennial reign as King of kings. Remember that this first resurrection will be to eternal life. By contrast, God raises those in the second resurrection to a physical flesh-and-blood reality while those in the first resurrection are raised to spirit.
John further discusses this resurrection to physical life that Ezekiel talked of. “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 which 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. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades (grave) delivered up the dad who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works”—vs. 11:13.
The dead who stand before the Great White Throne are all those that had died without ever receiving a true knowledge of the Eternal. Like Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones which came back to life, these people come out of their graves and they begin to know their God. The books (biblia in Greek, from which we get the world Bible) are apparently the Scriptures, the only source of true knowledge of eternal life. Then finally all those people will then have an opportunity to understand God’s plan of Redemption.
This physical resurrection is not a second chance for salvation. For these people never had a first opportunity to come to know the Creator. The resurrected are “judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books”—v. 12. Therefore, it is obvious that this judgment will involve a real period during which they will enjoy the chance to hear, understand and grow in God’s way of living, having an opportunity to have their names written in the Book of Life (v.15). During this time, there will be billions of people who will gain true access to God’s gift of eternal life.
This final festival of the year thus shows to us, just how deep are far reaching are the awesome judgments of God. Jesus further spoke of the wonderful truth that is shown to us through this when He had compared three cities that failed to respond to His works with three cities of the ancient world.
“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 [ancient pagan cities], 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. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted from heaven, will be brought down to Hades [the grave]; for if the might 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”—Matthew 11:21-24.
The inhabitants of these cities of ancient Tyre, Sidon and Sodom—cities which had brought upon themselves the wrath of God for their sins and misdeeds—will eventually receive mercy in the day of judgment. Unlike Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum of Christ’s day, these cities of old had very little chance to know the Gospel. Yet, God will still resurrect these people just after the Millennium so that they might be able to stand at the Great White Throne Judgment and gain an opportunity to know the Gospel.
In very similar examples, Jesus had referred to the people of Nineveh, the ancient pagan city, to the queen of the South (of Sheba) of Solomon’s tie period and again to ancient Sodom along with Gomorrah, these serving as the epitome of great wickedness (Matthew 10:14-15, 12:41-42). God does not at all tolerate perversion and sin, but it is apparent that He has not yet finished working either in the lives of the people of these ancient time periods. This requires then that they will need to be resurrected in order that they might receive the same opportunity as though others—and finally be instructed in God’s ways of righteous living.
Jesus had spoken plainly of a time that which people from all past ages—the long-dead of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh and the biblical Queen of Sheba from Solomon’s time will all rise along with His generation and live at the same time period. Together, they will all come to be taught and to understand the truth about Jesus Christ and the purpose of life along with the Good News of which Jesus taught. It will be a time of universal knowledge. From the least to the greatest, all will finally come to know Him (Hebrews 8:11). Those whom Jesus had specifically mentioned and all the many others will all have this same chance for salvation.
The final period of judgment completes God’s plan of redemption for the world. It is going to be a great time of love, deep mercy and the most awesome judgment of God. The chance to finally drink of the living waters of the Holy Spirit will finally be a chance to quench even the very deepest thirst of mankind. This time of righteous judgment will then finally bring back to life those long forgotten by man, but never at all forgotten by God.
What is the fate to those who have died with no real knowledge of Jesus Christ? What hope is there then for the billions who have lived and died without knowing God’s purpose? The Scriptures clearly have shown to us that these are not cut off without hope. He will resurrect them back to life and give them the opportunity for eternal salvation!
God will see to it that His plan will be accomplished and He will bring many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10). His promise to fully pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28) will then be made known. The thirst-quenching waters of the Holy Spirit will be made available freely to all people in the time which shown to us by the Eighth Day which immediately follows the Feast of Tabernacles—that day which wraps up the annual festivals of which God has commanded.
What an awesome opportunity for God’s people to keep the Holy Days as they are commanded—for they give us true understanding of God’s real divine purpose—His eternal plan of redemption!
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