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From GN Radio: The Good News and the Bad News

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The Good News and the Bad News

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How can a loving God allow the suffering we see around us every day? According to common Christian teaching, the ultimate end of all this suffering is for people to die and arrive in either a place called heaven or a place of eternal torment called hell. It is thought that most end up in hell. How could God condemn the majority of mankind who aren't Christians to everlasting punishment in hell?

Many have agonized over a relative or friend who died an agnostic. Is that person forever damned to indescribable torment? What about children who die from malnutrition, war and disease in remote areas of the world where they've never even heard of Jesus Christ? Are they forever trapped in Satanic inflicted torture?

One of the most quoted verses in the Bible is John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×
, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." But isn't God being unfair to untold billions of people who never heard of Jesus Christ? Yet, the Bible claims that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12 Acts 4:12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
American King James Version×
).

In the Middle Ages Christian zeal to save lost souls launched the Crusades and the use of torture and killing in order to force Muslims and Jews to accept Jesus. Over the centuries, missionaries suffered and died to bring the message of Christ to primitive tribes. But the harsh reality is that in spite of all efforts, the majority of mankind is non-Christian.

The question remains: What about the billions of people who throughout history have never heard of Jesus Christ? Couldn't Jesus miraculously appear to people in China, Japan and Africa and convert hundreds of millions? If God and Satan are in a war over the souls of men it seems God is losing.

The Biblical Reward of the Saved

This begs another question: What is the reward of the true followers of Jesus Christ? The most common teaching is that the saved go to heaven upon death. But this isn't what Jesus taught. He proclaimed, as recorded in John 6:40 John 6:40And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×
: "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

Wait a minute! Jesus Christ says that the reward of His followers is a resurrection from the dead "at the last day," not going to heaven immediately after death.

The apostle John was inspired to write about this resurrection in Revelation 20:1-6 Revelation 20:1-6 [1] And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. [2] And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, [3] And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. [4] And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. [5] But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. [6] Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on 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.
American King James Version×
: "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 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.

"And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

"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."

Notice that the Bible reveals a resurrection of the saints at the return of Christ to the earth. The apostle John clearly calls this the first resurrection. The rest of the dead are not resurrected until the end of Christ's one thousand year reign on earth.

Paul warns Christians to take their great calling seriously so as not to jeopardize the grace God offers. He writes in 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 [9] Why we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. [10] For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad. [11] Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest to God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
American King James Version×
: "Therefore, we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good and bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men..."

If the resurrection of the saints is called the first resurrection, what is the second resurrection?

The Hope for Mankind

John reveals in Revelation that the Father will send Jesus Christ back to this earth to establish His Kingdom and reign for a thousand years. After the thousand years there will be a second resurrection called the Great White Throne Judgment.

Let's return to Revelation 20:11 Revelation 20:11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
American King James Version×
. "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and 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."

The Bible clearly reveals a second resurrection in addition to the resurrection of the saints at Christ's second coming. Unlike the first resurrection, those in the second resurrection are restored to physical life.

The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of a valley filled with dry bones in Ezekiel 37. God tells Ezekiel that these bones will come together, be covered with flesh and come back to life. The purpose is so that these people may know the real God (verse 13). God says to those whom He resurrects, "I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live..." (verse 14).

Revelation 20:12 Revelation 20:12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
American King James Version×
states the "books were opened" followed by the opening of the "Book of Life." The first "books" are the Scriptures, God's Holy Bible, the instruction book for mankind. God will reveal Himself to all peoples who never knew Him.

Here is an incredible truth that most Christians don't understand! Paul teaches that where there is no knowledge of sin, there is no "imputing" or putting to one's account (Romans 5:12-15 Romans 5:12-15 [12] Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned: [13] (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. [14] Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. [15] But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded to many.
American King James Version×
). Although each person suffers the immediate consequences of sin, including physical death, God is not yet passing eternal judgment on the majority of mankind! All who ever lived without a chance of salvation will be resurrected and given an opportunity to choose the real God. This is the second resurrection.

Jesus warned religious leaders of His day that they would be resurrected along with those God destroyed in Sodom (Matthew 11:20-24 Matthew 11:20-24 [20] Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: [21] 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. [22] But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. [23] And you, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. [24] But I say to you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.
American King James Version×
). He told the Pharisees that the people of Ninevah from Jonah's time and the queen of the South from the time of Solomon "will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it" (Matthew 12:38-42 Matthew 12:38-42 [38] Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from you. [39] But he answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: [40] For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. [41] The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. [42] The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
American King James Version×
). These people will be resurrected together at the second resurrection.

This doesn't mean that everyone gets a "second chance." Those called by God in this age, who have received the Holy Spirit, are now under judgment. The second resurrection is for all those who never had a chance for salvation in this world dominated by Satan.

God's Judgment

What, then, is to be the final judgment for the incorrigibly wicked? Let's go back and pick up Revelation 20:13-15 Revelation 20:13-15 [13] And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. [14] And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. [15] And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
American King James Version×
: "The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."

This "second death" is complete annihilation of life. This is what Jesus spoke of in Matthew 10:28-31 Matthew 10:28-31 [28] And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. [29] Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. [30] But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. [31] Fear you not therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.
American King James Version×
, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

The fact that God punishes the wicked means that there must be personal responsibility in responding to God's grace. A gospel message without a call to repentance and declaration of Christ's coming judgment becomes a message based on an unbiblical assumption that accepting the name of Jesus is all God requires.

The encouraging news is that God doesn't call anyone to fail. True Christianity is a relationship with God as His sons and daughters. Judgment is now upon the house of God, but members of His family have direct access to the Father, the leadership of Jesus Christ, and the power of the indwelling Spirit to insure victory. The only way true followers can lose salvation is to willingly return to the previous unconverted state (Hebrews 12:12-24 Hebrews 12:12-24 [12] Why lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; [13] And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. [14] Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: [15] Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; [16] Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. [17] For you know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. [18] For you are not come to the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor to blackness, and darkness, and tempest, [19] And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: [20] (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: [21] And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) [22] But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, [23] To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, [24] And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things that that of Abel.
American King James Version×
).

Christians need to be mindful of the grace God offers through His Son. We celebrate the fact that our sins are forgiven and the Holy Spirit is made available so that God's righteousness is developed in us. Christians can take a positive view of the judgment by looking forward to the first resurrection.

Proclaiming the Gospel

Some may ask, "If the majority of mankind is going to receive an opportunity for salvation in the future, then why should the Church work at preaching the gospel to the world now?" The real question should be, if we understand this great message of hope, how can we not preach it with every fiber of our being? Anyone who truly understands the gospel desires to share it with others.

It's easy for Christians to become so involved in daily troubles that we miss the grandeur of God's great plan of salvation that reaches across time to all humanity. Remember Peter's admonishment to the early Church, "But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 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" (2 Peter 3:7-9 2 Peter 3:7-9 [7] But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved to fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. [8] But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×
).

Kevin Carter, the photojournalist mentioned earlier, took many snapshots of humanities' evil. He was disturbed by what he said were "vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain...of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen" (Capture the Moment—The Pulitzer Prize Photographs, 2001, edited by Cyma Rubin and Eric Newton). Kevin Carter was overwhelmed by the suffering he witnessed. He committed suicide at age 33.

There is hope for this sick and dying world. The majority of humanity who never had an opportunity to know the true Creator will have a chance to choose salvation through Christ in the Great White Throne Judgment. This seldom known truth is the great hope for billions of the living and the dead. UN