When asking yourself if your faith makes sense, "What Happens When You Die" would be a great subject to test that on. Many people believe that if you don't believe in Jesus now before you die, you will be condemned to death, or worse, for eternity. Being that recent polls show Christianity occupies about 42% of the population, that would imply that at least 58% "head south" for eternity. Of course, when you factor in that at least half of those people are only "Sunday Christians", now we're down to 21%. If you are of the understanding that not only do you have to be Christian, but your particular beliefs matter, knock off at least another 5%. So, a gracious realistic percentage of the earth's population would be 16% that go to heaven, and the other 84% are in trouble. If that were true, and God were omnipotent, one cannot reason that it is a priority of God's to save all mankind, and I Timothy 2:4 that states God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" would be in serious question. If God planned this from the beginning, could you still say that God is a loving God? One thing would be certain: Whether it be that God is not omnipotent, or whether God would not be loving; your faith would have to budge somewhere.
We believe we have a better explanation.
It has been said that there are four attributes of God: Wisdom, Love, Justice, and Power. (I'm not sure where this subject began, but let us just say that we can all agree God would have those attributes.) Now, let us also say that before anything ever actually happened, God planned a result that He wanted first, and then planned out the way to get there. This thought is given in Isaiah 46:10 - "Declaring the end from the beginning..."
So, here is the question:
What kind of plan do you think He would put in place? If God is all-loving, then wouldn't He create a result that ends in happiness for just about everyone? If He can do whatever He wants, would He not create a result that ends in happiness for, again, just about everyone? If the Bible alludes to some perishing eternally, would it not make sense that those who do are a very small number? We believe that not only is the case for this made with good old fashion common sense, we believe that the scriptures teach exactly this concept.
So far, in Parts 1 & 2 of this study, we have shown that the Bible gives strong evidence against the traditionally held view of heaven vs. hell, and we have shown that man simply goes to sleep upon death. Now what we will discuss is how this all fits together - what is the plan of God? What is it exactly that He planned out when he "declared the end from the beginning"?
Part 3: The Resurrection & The Kingdom
From the beginning, our loving God has had a loving plan. The scriptures speak of times to come, of prophecies, giving us evidence that our Father in Heaven has planned our future well in advance. The scriptures we discussed in the previous two studies have shown that there is no place of torture awaiting us right after death, but that instead we fall asleep until a later time, in which God has something else in store. What the scriptures teach is that God has in store for mankind a time in which all shall be resurrected, that the truth shall no longer be a debate, that all mankind shall be lead to God and taught His ways for the first time in all of existence. God has planned for us a resurrection of all mankind, and a Kingdom that will restore mankind back to God.
From the beginning, God has been describing His plan, and giving promises to some of His faithful followers. In Genesis 3:15 when God curses Adam, Eve, and the serpent for eating of the tree of good and knowledge, He makes the first promise of an event to come in the future concerning our Lord Jesus Christ. He says to the serpent, who is the devil, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." This is a universally understood concept, that Jesus will be the one to defeat the devil, also spoken of in Hebrews 2:14. "...that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." Can we see a plan in this? The next promise is in Genesis 8:21, where after the flood God says "...and I will never again destroy every living thing as I have done." Again, in Genesis 12:3, God says to Abraham "...And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed", and again in 22:18 "And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed..." Obviously we do not have enough time or space to write out all of the promises of God; but we wish to observe all of the prophetic promises made just within the first few chapters of the first book of the Bible. Here we learn that God has been discussing His plan from the early stages of recorded existence. We see His plan to "bless all the families of the earth." Have we seen all of the families of the earth blessed up to this point? No we have not. Let us then assume that it is a promise to be fulfilled in the future.
Step 1: The Resurrection.
In order for God to bless all of the families of the earth, all of the families of the earth would have to be resurrected. Why is this? Well, it is clear that God did not deal with everyone previous to the death of Jesus, but instead only had a relationship with the Jewish people. Amos 3:2 - "You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth." When Jesus told the disciplines to preach to the nations in Matt. 10:5-6, he said "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Why? Because at this point, God did not deal with the world at large, but only the Israelites. So, the point is that if God were to bless all of the families of the earth, and He did not deal with anyone except for the Jewish people up until Christ was crucified, then they would have to be resurrected in order for this to happen. Otherwise the scripture would have to read "In thee and thy seed shall all of the families of the earth be blessed, except for everyone who was not Jewish during that minor four-thousand-year period before Jesus was born." Because that does not seem to make any sense, we will then assume that there is a resurrection coming, and we will now discuss other key scriptures that prove this point. And let us remember that they are not only to be resurrected, but resurrected to a blessing.
I Cor. 15:21-22 "For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive."
Romans 5:18 - "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men."
This subject is referred to as the "Ransom." When Adam sinned, he condemned all men also to die through his sinful nature. Because we are all inherently sinful, we die. Romans 6:23 states that "the wages of sin is death", meaning that the simple punishment for sin is death. Because we were born from Adam we naturally sin, and therefore naturally are condemned to die, and there is nothing we can do about it. (Another scripture we will discuss later in Jeremiah 31:29-30 states that we will die for our own iniquity in the future, which relates to this topic.) Likewise, on the other side of the coin, because Christ died and paid the price (ransomed) that initial sin from Adam, we are all going to be resurrected, and there is nothing we can do about it.
Also, let us note that there are at least two resurrections.
Revelation 20:6 - "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years."
1) Why would they mention "first resurrection" if there were not at least a second?
2) This also leads us to believe that some will be resurrected who the second death will have power over.
3) Hold this thought of being priests of God for a thousand years. We will come back to this later.
John 5:28-29 - "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, (:29) and shall come forth; those who did good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment."
Again, let's note two things:
1) "all who are in the tombs". This is a resurrection for all mankind.
2) Just like the scripture in Rev. 20:6, hold this thought - we are going to discuss what a "resurrection of judgment" is later.
Step 2: The Kingdom; Informing the World
There will come a day in the Kingdom of the Lord in which the truth, what God's word really means, will no longer be a debated subject.
Jeremiah 31:34 - "And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'know the Lord', for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, declares the Lord. 'For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'"
Is. 11:9 - "They will not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
Hab. 2:14 - "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
Do we see this occurring now? Today we see the Bible being preached all over the world, that is true. However, how many different messages are being preached? Also, let's see the comparison: is the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth "as the waters cover the sea"? Please understand, "as the waters cover the sea" gives us a picture that the knowledge of the Lord encompasses everything and everyone. Also, do these following scriptures gives us the picture that right now the Lord is allowing everyone to know the truth?
Ephesians 2:2 - "in which you formerly walked according to the curse of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."
1 John 5:19 - "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one."
Obviously, we see that this is not the time in which the Lord has said the earth will know His word. This is still the time for the "chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and people for God's own possession" (I Pet. 2:9) to understand the knowledge of the Lord.
During the time spoken of in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Habakkuk, there will be no doubt like there is today, and nothing misunderstood like there is today. There will no longer be the question of "is there a God?" Or "what is the right religion?" We simply wish to show that in the future age, "with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of times" (Eph. 1:10), there will be a major shift moving from what we see today, into a world in which the knowledge of the Lord is no longer a mystery to mankind.
Why do we discuss this? Again, we are showing the Lord has had a loving plan from the beginning. When discussing the topic of our eternal opportunity for life, it of course would only be fair for everyone to have the same opportunity for understanding God and His plan. If everyone is to be judged on their actions, and some peoples action's are based on a loving knowledge of God, and others' actions are based on an upbringing in horribly sinful environments, who would have the advantage for a better sentence after judgment? We do not believe that God is expecting everyone to figure it out on their own. We expect that God has a loving plan, and that part of His loving plan is to allow His word to be understood by all at some point, to give everyone the opportunity to know Him, and then choose to live within His loving ways.
I Timothy 2:3 - "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; (:4) who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth... (:6) [Jesus] gave himself as a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."
Isaiah 40:5 - "Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. "
Step 3: Bringing mankind back into harmony with God
Revelation 21:1 - And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
:2 - And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
:3 - And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,
:4 - and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
1. There is a new "heaven" and a new "earth." We don't believe this means that God has rearranged His literal dwelling place of heaven, nor are we living on a new planet. The means that the governing systems, the high places, the "heavens", are new. Instead of living in a world where everyone "is in the power of the evil one", the devil is now bound (Rev. 20:1-2) and cannot deceive the nations, while Christ and his Church are now in power. The current corrupt governing bodies of the world are no longer in power. Also, there is a "New Earth", a new people dwelling on it; a resurrected mankind now living for the first time with an understanding of God, and an opportunity to have a relationship with Him.
2. The "New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." If you are looking up and seeing this "new Jerusalem" coming down from heaven, where are you? Most likely on earth.
3. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people..." When we discuss the "gospel", the "good news", this is it.
4. Just re-read verse 4. What a beautiful scripture.
So, why then do we have these other scriptures that warn us of a resurrection of judgment and condemnation? Great question. Here is how we understand that to be absolutely true, and still fit into the plan of God that results in the wonderful result of man being back in harmony with God, living forever in this wonderful existence that He has created for us.
Let's look at a few verses with the intention of proving that judgment simply refers to the process of bringing mankind back into harmony with God.
Isaiah 26:9 - "For when the earth experiences thy judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness."
Let's compare this to John 5:29 - "...those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment."
Initially, John 5:29 sounds very foreboding. However, when explained correctly, its fits perfectly into the appropriate understanding of the Kingdom of God. The reasonable explanation is that those who are resurrected to judgment are those who will learn righteousness as explained in Isaiah 26:9.
Let us share some other scriptures that discuss the people either being lead back to God, or God simply ruling over the earth with all mankind in accordance with Him.
Psalms 98:9 - "...He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity."
Isaish 45:23 - "I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back. That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance."
Isaiah 65:17 - "For behold, I create a new heavens, and a new earth. And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. (:19) ...and there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying."
Isaiah 49:22 - "and set up My standards to the peoples... (:26) ...And all flesh will know that I, the Lord, am your savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."
Isaiah 25:6 - "And the Lord of Hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all people on this mountain... (:7)...and on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations, (:8) He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces... (:9) And it will be said in that day, 'Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.'"
Revelation 22:2 - "...and on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."
This is a perfect scripture concerning the Church of God assisting in the rehabilitation of mankind. First of all, 144,000 is a number that represents the Church of God. We will not discuss whether this is a literal or figurative number, but simply that the number seems to represent this special class of faithful followers. (Rev. 21:10 discusses the new Jerusalem city, spoken of in Rev. 21:2; (:12) it has 12 gates with 12 angels [12x12=144]; (:14) it has 12 foundation stones which contain the names of the 12 apostles [12x12=144]. This is a definitely a picture of the Church, who had 12 kinds of fruit that yielded its fruit every month [12 months in a year; 12x12=144; There are 144,000 in Revelation 7:4 with the seal of God on their foreheads.]
Note that the leaves on the tree, representing the Church, "were for the healing of the nations." The Church is there to help heal the nations, as well as be "priests of God" and "reign with Him" (Rev. 20:6)
Now, let us discuss another few scriptures that seem to be either hard to understand, or perhaps on the contrary to what we have been stating.
Revelation 20:12 - "And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. (:13) And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. (:14) And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. (:15) And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
So, this is what one of the traditional explanations would be: if you do not repent in this life, you will resurrected to stand before the Lord. If your name is not found in the book of life, you will be thrown into hell eternally to be punished.
Right off the bat we would disagree, being that the scripture describes hell as being destroyed in the lake of fire, but nonetheless, let us discuss the meaning that we would recommend as being more feasible and in tune with a loving God.
Let us note the scriptures in this chapter.
Rev. 20:1 - Angel comes from heaven with a key to the abyss, and a chain in his hand.
20:2 - he binds Satan for 1,000 years.
20:3 - throws Satan into the abyss so that he "should not deceive the nations any longer" (both proving that he has been deceiving the nations, and that a time is coming in which the truth will be known to all mankind) until the 1000 years were completed.
20:4-6 - Judgment was given to those who were beheaded on behalf of Jesus (Church class); they shall "reign" with Jesus and be "priests" for 1,000 years. (Note the duty of a priest: to bring one closer to God)
20:7 - After 1,000 years, Satan is released.
20:12 - Book of life was opened, the dead judged according to their works
20:13 - Hades gives up the dead; then they were judged according to their deeds
20:14 - Death and Hades thrown into lake of fire
20:15 - Those not found in the book of life are thrown into lake of fire.
So, how is this for a better explanation:
The world at large, now, is deceived by the devil. It is not the time God has chosen to intervene. At the right time, Satan will be bound for a period in which the world will be a) resurrected, and then b) taught the truth for the first time. After being taught the truth and rehabilitated for what seems to be 1,000 years, Satan is released. Those who go back to the old ways of sin and evil at the return of the devil, after having seen the wonder and glory and beauty of God, will not be found in the book of life. Those who are faithful will live forever.
This thought is also presented in the following book, Revelation 21. We quoted the first four very beautiful scriptures earlier, how God wipes away all tears from our eyes, and makes all things new. He sets the stage for the beginning of His Kingdom. Now read verse 7: "He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (:8) But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Again, here is the idea: after everyone is resurrected back to life, and understands the wonder and the beauty of God and His plan, and then, in full knowledge of what he is doing, decides to go back and live a sinful existence, that person will be simply removed from existence forever. As God's eyes are "too pure to approve evil" (Hab. 1:13), He simply cannot allow someone to exist in His eternal Kingdom who chooses to do evil. We all know this phrase: you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink it.
This concludes our three part study. We hope that we have shared an uncommon view of the scriptures that not only makes sense, but leads one to question traditionally held views of Christianity, and helps others to better understand the scriptures and the plan of God. We also hope continuously that this leads us all into a closer relationship with God, and helps us to spend more time considering Him and His word as opposed to things of the world. Please feel free to comment below or email me privately, whichever your preference, if you wish to discuss anything in particular or point out your own interpretation.
Numbers 6:24 - " The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."