“Some who can see something of the blessings due at the second advent, and who appreciate in some measure the fact that the Lord comes to bestow the grand blessing purchased by his death, fail to see this last proposition, viz.: that those in their graves have as much interest in that glorious reign of Messiah as those who at that time will be less completely under the bondage of corruption–death. But as surely as Jesus died for all, they all must have the blessings and opportunities which he purchased with his own precious blood. Hence we should expect blessings in the Millennial age upon all those in their graves as well as upon those not in them; and of this we will find abundant proof, as we look further into the Lord’s testimony on the subject. It is because of God’s plan for their release that those in the tomb are called “prisoners of hope.”
It is estimated that about one hundred and fifty billion human beings have lived on the earth in the six thousand years since Adam’s creation. Of these, the very broadest estimate that could be made with reason would be that less than a billion of these were believers, professed Christians. This broad estimate would leave the immense aggregate of one hundred and forty-nine billions (149,000,000,000) who went down into death without faith and hope in the only name given under heaven or among men whereby we must be saved. Indeed, the vast majority of these never knew or even heard of Jesus, and therefore could not believe in him of whom they had not heard.
What, we ask, has become of this vast multitude, of which figures give a wholly inadequate idea? What is, and is to be, their condition? Did God make no provision for these, whose condition and circumstances he must have foreseen? Or did he, from the foundation of the world, make a wretched and merciless provision for their hopeless, eternal torment, as many of his children claim? Or has he yet in store for them, in the heights and depths and lengths and breadths of his plan, an opportunity for all to come to the knowledge of the only name whereby we might be saved, and by becoming obedient to the conditions, to enjoy everlasting life?
To these questions, which every thinking Christian asks himself, and yearns to see answered truthfully, and in harmony with the character of Jehovah, comes a variety of answers:
Atheism answers, they are eternally dead: there is no hereafter: they will never live again.
Calvinism answers, they were not elected to be saved. God foreordained and predestined them to be lost–to go to hell–and they are there now, writhing in agony, where they will ever remain, without hope.
Armenians answer, we believe that God excuses many of them on account of ignorance. Those who did the best they knew how will be sure of being a part of the “Church of the First-born,” even though they never heard of Jesus.
To this last view the majority of Christians of all denominations assent (notwithstanding the creeds of some to the contrary), from a feeling that any other view would be irreconcilable with justice on God’s part. But do the Scriptures support this last view? Do they teach that ignorance is a ground of salvation? No; the only ground of salvation mentioned in the Scriptures is faith in Christ as our Redeemer and Lord. “By grace are ye saved, through faith.” (Eph. 2:8) Justification by faith is the underlying principle of the whole system of Christianity. When asked, what must I do to be saved? The apostles answered, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12); and “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Rom. 10:13
But Paul reasons that a man must hear the gospel before he can believe, saying, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” Rom. 10:14
Some claim that Paul teaches that ignorance will save men, when he says that “The Gentiles, which have not the law, are a law unto themselves.” (Rom. 2:14) They gather from this that the law which their conscience furnishes is sufficient to justify them. But such persons misunderstand Paul. His argument is that the whole world is guilty before God (Rom. 3:19); that the Gentiles, who had not the written law, were condemned, not justified, by the light of conscience, which, whether it excused them or accused them, proved that they were short of perfection and unworthy of life, even as the Jews who had the written law were condemned by it; “For by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20) The law given to the Jew revealed his weakness, and was intended to show him that he was unable to justify himself before God; for “By the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in his [God’s] sight.” The written law condemned the Jews, and the Gentiles had light enough of conscience to condemn them; and thus every mouth is stopped from claiming the right of life, and all the world stands guilty before God.
Remembering the statement of James (2:10), that whosoever shall keep the whole law, except to offend in one point, is guilty, and cannot claim any blessing promised by the Law Covenant, we realize that indeed “there is none righteous; no, not one.” (Rom. 3:10) And thus the Scriptures close every door of hope save one, showing that not one of the condemned is able to secure eternal life by meritorious works, and that it is equally useless to plead ignorance as a ground of salvation. Ignorance cannot entitle any one to the reward of faith and obedience.
Many Christians, unwilling to believe that so many millions of ignorant infants and heathen will be eternally lost (which they have been taught means to be sent to a place of eternal and hopeless torment), insist, notwithstanding these Bible statements, that God will not condemn the ignorant. We admire their liberality of heart and their appreciation of God’s goodness, but urge them not to be too hasty about discarding or ignoring Bible statements. God has a blessing for all, in a better way than through ignorance.
But do these act in accordance with their stated belief? No: though they profess to believe that the ignorant will be saved on account of their ignorance, they continue to send missionaries to the heathen at the cost of thousands of valuable lives and millions of money. If they all, or even half of them, could be saved through ignorance, it would be doing them a positive injury to send missionaries to teach them of Christ; for only about one in a thousand believes, when the missionaries do go to them. If this idea be correct, it would be much better to let them remain in ignorance; for then a much larger proportion would be saved. Continuing the same line of argument, might we not reason that if God had left all men in ignorance, all would have been saved? If so, the coming and death of Jesus were useless, the preaching and suffering of apostles and saints were vain, and the so-called gospel, instead of being good news, is very bad news. The sending of missionaries to the heathen by those who believe the Calvinistic or fatalistic view of election, that the eternal destiny of each individual was unalterably fixed before he had an existence, is even more absurd and unreasonable.
But the Bible, which is full of the missionary spirit, does not teach that there are several ways of salvation–one way by faith, another by works, and another by ignorance. Neither does it teach the God-dishonoring doctrine of fatalism. While it shows every other door of hope closed against the race, it throws wide open the one, only door, and proclaims that whosoever will may enter into life; and it shows that all who do not now see or appreciate the blessed privilege of entering shall in due time be brought to a full knowledge and appreciation. The only way, by which any and all of the condemned race may come to God, is not by meritorious works, neither by ignorance, but by faith in the precious blood of Christ, which takes away the sin of the world. (1 Peter 1:19; John 1:29) This is the Gospel, the good tidings of great joy, “which shall be unto ALL PEOPLE.” (A99-103)
Continued with next post.