“Suppose we now look at these things just as God tells us of them, and leave the clearing of his character to himself. Let us inquire, what has become of the one hundred and forty-nine billions?
Whatever may have become of them, we may be sure they are not now in a condition of suffering; because, not only do the Scriptures teach that full and complete reward is not given to the Church until Christ comes, when he shall reward every man (Matt. 16:27), but that the unjust are to receive their punishment then also. Whatever may be their present condition, it cannot be their full reward; for Peter says, “The Lord knows how to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9); and he will do so.
But the thought that so many of our fellow creatures should at any time be lost from lack of having had the knowledge which is necessary to salvation would be sad indeed to all who have a spark of love or pity. Then, too, there are numerous scriptures which it seems impossible to harmonize with all this. Let us see: In the light of the past and the present as the only opportunities, laying aside all hope through a restitution in the coming age, how shall we understand the statements, “God is love,” and “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish“? (1 John 4:8; John 3:16) Would it not seem that if God loved the world so much he might have made provision, not only that believers might be saved, but also that all might hear in order to believe?
Again, when we read, “That was the true light that lights every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9), our observation says, Not so; every man has not been enlightened; we cannot see that our Lord has lighted more than a few of earth’s billions. Even in this comparatively enlightened day, millions of heathen give no evidence of such enlightenment; neither did the Sodomites, nor multitudes of others in past ages.
We read that Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death “for every man.” (Heb. 2:9) But if he tasted death for the one hundred and fifty billions, and from any cause that sacrifice becomes efficacious to only one billion, was not the redemption comparatively a failure? And in that case, is not the Apostle’s statement too broad? When again we read, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL PEOPLE” (Luke 2:10), and, looking about us, see that it is only to a “little flock” that it has been good tidings, and not to all people, we would be compelled to wonder whether the angels had not overstated the goodness and breadth of their message, and overrated the importance of the work to be accomplished by the Messiah whom they announced.
Another statement is, “There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) A ransom for all? Then why should not all involved have some benefit from Christ’s death? Why should not all come to a knowledge of the truth, that they may believe?
Without the key, how dark, how inconsistent, these statements appear; but when we find the key to God’s plan, these texts all declare with one voice, “God is love.” This key is found in the latter part of the text last quoted–“Who gave himself a ransom for all, TO BE TESTIFIED IN DUE TIME.” God has a due time for everything. He could have testified it to these in their past lifetime; but since he did not, it proves that their due time must be future. For those who will be of the Church, the bride of Christ, and share the kingdom honors, the present is the “due time” to hear; and whosoever now has an ear to hear, let him hear and heed, and he will be blessed accordingly. Though Jesus paid our ransom before we were born, it was not our “due time” to hear of it for long years afterward, and only the appreciation of it brought responsibility; and this, only to the extent of our ability and appreciation. The same principle applies to all: in God’s due time it will be testified to all, and all will then have opportunity to believe and to be blessed by it.
The prevailing opinion is that death ends all probation; but there is no scripture which so teaches; and all the above, and many more scriptures, would be meaningless, or worse, if death ends all hope for the ignorant masses of the world. The one scripture quoted to prove this generally entertained view is, “Where the tree falls, there it shall be.” (Eccl. 11:3) If this has any relation to man’s future, it indicates that whatever his condition when he enters the tomb, no change takes place until he is awakened out of it. And this is the uniform teaching of all scriptures bearing upon the subject.
Since God does not propose to save men on account of ignorance, but “will have all men to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4); and since the masses of mankind have died in ignorance; and since “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave” (Eccl. 9:10); therefore God has prepared for the awakening of the dead, in order to knowledge, faith and salvation. Hence his plan is, that “as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive, but each one in his own order”–the Gospel Church, the Bride, the body of Christ, first; afterward, during the Millennial age, all who shall become his during that thousand years of his presence (mistranslated coming), the Lord’s due time for all to know him, from the least to the greatest. 1 Cor. 15:22
As death came by the first Adam, so life comes by Christ, the second Adam. Everything that mankind lost through being in the first Adam is to be restored to those who believe into the second Adam. When awakened, with the advantage of experience with evil, which Adam lacked those who thankfully accept the redemption as God’s gift may continue to live everlastingly on the original condition of obedience. Perfect obedience will be required, and perfect ability to obey will be given, under the righteous reign of the Prince of Peace. Here is the salvation offered to the world.
Let us now consider another text which is generally ignored except by Universalists; for, although we are not Universalists, we claim the right to use, and believe, and rejoice in, every testimony of God’s Word. It reads, “We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe.” (1 Tim. 4:10) God will save all men, but will not especially (“to the uttermost”) save any except those who come unto him through Christ. God’s arbitrary salvation of all men is not such as will conflict with their freedom of will, or their liberty of choice, to give them life against their wills: “I have set before you, this day, life and death; choose life, that ye may live.”
Simeon contrasted these two salvations, saying, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation…a light to lighten the nations, and the glory of thy people, Israel [-ites indeed].” This is in harmony with the declaration of the Apostle, that the fact that Jesus Christ, the Mediator, gave himself a ransom for all is to be testified to all IN DUE TIME. This is that which shall come to all men, irregardless of faith or will on their part. This good tidings of a Savior shall be to all people (Luke 2:10, 11), but the special salvation from sin and death will come only to his people (Matt. 1:21)–those who believe into him–for we read that the wrath of God continues to abide on the unbeliever. John 3:36
We see, then, that the general salvation (or “our common salvation” Jude 3), which will come to every individual, consists of light from the true light, and an opportunity to choose life; and, as the great majority of the race is in the tomb, it will be necessary to bring them forth from the grave in order to testify to them the good tidings of a Savior; also that the special salvation which believers now enjoy in hope (Rom. 8:24), and the reality of which will, in the Millennial age, be revealed, also, to those who “believe in that day,” is a full release from the thralldom of sin, and the corruption of death, into the glorious liberty of children of God. But attainment to all these blessings will depend upon hearty compliance with the laws of Christ’s Kingdom–the rapidity of the attainment to perfection indicating the degree of love for the King and for his law of love. If any, enlightened by the Truth, and brought to a knowledge of the love of God, and restored (either actually or reckonedly) to human perfection, become “fearful,” and “draw back” (Heb. 10:38, 39), they, with the unbelievers (Rev. 21:8), will be destroyed from among the people. (Acts 3:23) This is the second death.
Thus we see that all these hitherto difficult texts are explained by the statement–“to be testified in due time.” In due time, that true light shall lighten every man that has come into the world, in due time, it shall be “good tidings of great joy to all people.” And in no other way can these scriptures be used without wresting. Paul carries out this line of argument with emphasis in Rom. 5:18, 19. He reasons that, as all men were condemned to death because of Adam’s transgression, so also, Christ’s righteousness, and obedience even unto death, has become a ground of justification; and that, as all lost life in the first Adam, so all, aside from personal demerit, may receive life by accepting the second Adam.” (A103-108)
Continued with next post.