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WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DEATH? PART FOUR

 

       In Part Three of this series, we showed how Apostle Paul taught there would be a resurrection of both the righteous and wicked dead (Acts 24:15). Jesus taught the same thing by His reference to the judgement of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre, Sidon and Nineveh (Matthew 10:15, 11:22, Matthew 12:41).

        In Luke 11:31, Jesus is quoting as saying "The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here." As can be seen, Jesus definitely taught that those who had died in past centuries would be resurrected and face a judgement. Paul wrote in a letter to Timothy that Christ Jesus "will judge the living and the dead" (2 Timothy 4:1). Solomon wrote that "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

        Let's look at several additional Scriptures that teach all humans will face judgement.

Judgement of all humans:

       Hebrews 9:27: Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Greek κρίσεως (krisis).

       Romans 14:10b-12: For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: As surely as I live,' says the Lord, `every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. 

       2 Corinthians 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

       Matthew 12:36-37: But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" The Greek word rendered "condemned" is  καταδικασθήσῃ (katadikasthēsē).  Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines this word as "to give judgment against (one), to pronounce guilty; to condemn." 

       Revelation 20:11-12: Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

       John 5:28-30a: Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment (Greek κρίσεως (krisis). "I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment (Greek κρίσεως (krisis) is just" (RSV).

       Some English translations of the passage in John 5 render κρίσεως (krisis) as "condemnation" or "damnation" (See NIV, KJV NET).  Kρίσις (krisis) appears in various tenses some 48 time in the NT Scriptures. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines this Greek word as “a separating, a selection or an opinion or decision given concerning anything, especially concerning justice and injustice, right and wrong. The Arndt, Gingrich, Bauer Greek Lexicon defines it as the act of making a judgement. Strong's Greek Lexicon defines it as "decision (subjectively or objectively, for or against); by extension, a tribunal; by implication, justice (especially, divine law)"

       In keeping with the definition of this word found in Greek Lexicons and the contexts in which it is found in its 48 occurrences in the NT, it appears that when this word is used, it is used to describe the decision making process that leads up to a sentencing but not used to describe or define the nature of the sentencing itself.  Therefore, to render κρίσις (krisis) as condemnation or damnation, as found in some translations, appears inappropriate as condemnation/damnation is a sentencing that results from the judging process. Condemnation/damnation is the result of a judgement that is made.   

        For example, in the Matthew 12 passage cited above, κρίσις (krisis) results in condemnation (katadikasthēsē). That there is a difference in meaning between judging and condemning is seen in Luke 6:37 where the two are distinguished from each other.

       Luke 6:37a: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned

       The judgement passages in the NT tell us that all humans who have ever lived will be judged. What will be the outcome of such judgement?  Since judgement is seen as occurring subsequent to physical death, it is apparent that an afterlife is a given for everyone. Staying dead subsequent to physical death is not an option. What is the nature of this afterlife?

       All Scripture that bears on the issue of life after physical death and the judgement that follows such death indicates that such afterlife is facilitated through resurrection.  Resurrection is seen as the restoration of life to those who have physically died. When and how does this occur?     

      What is the nature of such restored life? Is it an eternal life?  Is it an eternal life for some and a temporal life for others?  If it is a temporal life for some, what is the nature of such life and what is its duration?  Since Scripture teaches that all humans will be judged, it would appear that all deceased humans will have life restored to them through resurrection and in resurrection humans will be if a different composition. When the Sadducees challenged Jesus as to the reality of the resurrection of the dead, here is what He said.

       Luke 20:34-36 "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.  But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection.

       This is very instructive as to the whole issue of resurrection. Jesus is teaching that those who are resurrected are like the angels and can no longer die. This tells us that angels are of an immortal composition and when humans are resurrected, they are transformed into having this same kind of composition.  Jesus also speaks of "this age" compared to "that age."  He associates "that age" with the resurrection. He also speaks of being considered worthy of taking part in "that age" and the resurrection.  How does one become worthy of taking part in "that age"?  What is "that age"?  Jesus then makes a very profound statement.

       Luke 20:37-38: But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord `the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."

       Jesus explains that even Moses showed that the dead rise and goes on to indicate that to God all are alive. Is Jesus teaching that all who ever lived and will live will be made alive through resurrection?

       When Paul and others speak of judgement, it appears to be a judgement that will apply to all humans who have ever lived. Paul wrote that every knee will bow before God. He appears to be reflecting on what Isaiah wrote in 45:23.  Here God is quoted as saying "By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear."

       Since it is obvious that every knee does not bow before God in this physical life, statements about appearing before the judgement seat of God where every knee will bow must pertain to life after physical death.  Paul makes several statements that indicate that all humans who have ever lived are made alive because of the Christ event.

       1 Corinthians 15:21-22: For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

       Romans 5:18:  Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.

 Made alive in Christ:

       Paul appears to be saying that all humans experience physical/biological death that began with Adam and all humans are made alive because of the resurrection of Christ. These statements by Paul are in perfect harmony with what Scripture teaches about there being a judgement for all humans subsequent to their physical death. 

       It appears from the Scriptures that our death would be permanent (eternal) if it wasn’t for the Christ event.  Paul is saying that because of what Christ did, all are made alive. The all being made alive in Christ is contrasted with all dying in Adam. Since all humans die in Adam, it would stand to reason that the same all are made alive in Christ. This would appear to mean all humans who have lived in the past, are presently living and will live in the future.

       What does it mean for all to be made alive in Christ?  Are some made alive to forever live with God in the heavenly realm while others are made alive to suffer eternal conscious punishment as is commonly taught in evangelical Christian Churches. Are some made alive    to die again and remain dead forever? (The doctrine of annihilation of the wicked that is taught by some) 

       Scripture shows the sinless life Christ lived is applied to us humans so we can be reconciled to God.  This is clearly spelled out in the Scriptures as the pathway to eternal life. 

       Romans 5:8-10: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

       2 Corinthians 5:18: All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

       Colossians 1:22:  But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

        This reconciliation is seen in Scripture as deliverance from the eternal death penalty for sin. It is seen as eternal death being replaced with eternal life.  This gift of eternal life is seen as occurring independent of anything we do or don't do. It is offered as a free gift of God through the Christ event.

       Yet, Scripture also shows what appear to be conditions that must be met for this free gift to be efficacious. We must express faith in what Christ did in order to receive this gift of eternal life. This faith includes recognition of His lordship over our lives which means we are submissive and obedient to His will and the will of God the Father, in other words, repentance.

       Many Scriptures show that faith in Christ is defined by obedience to what He taught. Faith is not simply the acknowledgement that Christ’s sacrifice pays the eternal death penalty associated with sin.  Faith in Christ Jesus is characterized by submission and obedience to His will and the will of the Father.  Loving Christ and behaving according to what He taught is what defines faith in Christ. Loving God is defined by the keeping of His commandants.  Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15).  John wrote, "This is love for God: to obey his commands" (John 5:3a).   

       In James 2:14, the Apostle asks the question, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can faith save him?”  Verse 17: “Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.”  Verse 24: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”  Verse 26b: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."

        James appears to be saying that if there is no obedience, there is no faith and if there is no faith there is no salvation. It is faith that facilitates salvation.  What does James mean by saying a man is justified by what he does and not by faith alone? Doesn't Scripture teach that justification before God is to have the death penalty for sin removed because of the Christ event?  Isn’t justification the result of God applying Christ’s sacrifice to us so we don’t have to pay the eternal death penalty for sin?  Isn’t justification the process of being made righteous before God because of what Jesus did on the cross and not what we do?  Isn’t being made righteous a free gift from God through Christ?  How can it be free if there is something we have to do?  Didn’t Paul teach the Galatians that we are justified by faith in Christ and not by keeping the Law? 

        Galatians 2:15-16: A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

        Paul is clearing saying that we are not justified by observing the law but by faith in Jesus Christ.  James is saying that faith is defined by deeds. Faith presupposes the doing of good works. 

      Faith and grace play different roles in the salvation process.  To have faith in Christ is to know, believe and practice what He taught.  Apostle John wrote, "We know that we have come to know him (Jesus) if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4). Scriptures as these define faith in Christ as doing what he says. Therefore, faith in Christ involves works. Paul says the same thing.

        Ephesians 2:8-9:  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.        

         Many Scriptures show repentance to be a prerequisite to receiving salvation.  Repentance means to change.  When we express faith in Christ we are essentially saying that we want to change from being a sinner (lawless) to being obedient (righteous).  Faith in Christ does not grant us salvation.  Faith facilitates salvation.  

       Faith in Christ brings us to want to change our behavior and have the penalty for past bad behavior (sin) removed.  God acknowledges our faith and reconciles us to himself by the gracious act of forgiving the penalty of eternal death that our sin incurred.  That is why Paul says that it is by grace we are saved through faith.  Faith doesn’t save us; God’s grace saves us.  God’s grace is made available because of what Christ did on the cross.

        God removes the death penalty as a favor.  This is what the word grace means.  It means favor.  Once this favor is granted, we appear perfectly righteous before God even though our human behavior will still be less than perfectly righteous.  As long as we continue to express faith in Christ, we continue to be the recipient of God’s grace.  However, that faith involves obedience to the teachings of Christ.  Continuing to express faith in Christ is to continue to be obedient to what He taught and when we fall short of that we repent.

        1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

          When we express faith in Christ, God grants us salvation.  We pass from death unto life. We come to have eternal life abiding within us. We must understand, however, that our faith in Christ is more than just acknowledging Christ as Savior.  Faith in Christ is defined by changed behavior. God expects us to continue expressing our faith in Christ by living our lives in response to His teachings.  John the Baptist told the religious leaders of his day to show the fruit of their expression of repentance.

        Matthew 3:7-8: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

         When Paul was defending himself before King Agrippa, he told the King how in his ministry he not only taught repentance, but taught that repentance must be verified by a change in behavior.

         Acts 26:20: First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.

         It is not enough to say “I repent.”  A proclamation of repentance must be demonstrated by changed behavior.  That is what James is saying when he concludes that faith without works is dead.  Paul taught that repentance is what leads to salvation.

        2 Corinthians 7:10:  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation.

       This all being said, it must be reiterated that changed behavior does not impart  salvation.  Salvation is a gift from God.  Our demonstration of faith in Christ through changed behavior brings us to God and facilitates reconciliation with God which results in God granting us salvation as a gift.  Salvation demands perfect righteousness. Only the perfect righteousness of Christ applied to us can bring about our salvation.  Our salvation is guaranteed if we remain faithful to Christ. 

       However, the vast majority of humans who have ever lived (multiple billions) have not met the above discussed conditions for receiving the gift of eternal life. Yet it is evident they will be resurrected to life to face judgement.  So to what kind of life are these billions resurrected?  What kind of judgement do they face and what is the result of such judgement?

       Some believe they are resurrected to a temporal physical life and given opportunity to be saved and given the gift of eternal life?  If this is the case, will some fail to respond to the salvation message when resurrected to such a life and be permanently destroyed or worse yet, be consigned to everlasting punishing?

       In Hebrews 9:27 it is written that "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." Yet we see people resurrected to physical life in Scripture who assumedly physically died a second time. Such people physically died twice. It is apparent the writer to the Hebrews was saying that it is appointed to man to once die an eternal death due to sin.  We all die once in that we all sin and are subject to the penalty for sin which is eternal death. Jesus came to erase that penalty and provide for eternal life through reconciliation with God.  The giant question before us is whether such reconciliation is for all humans who have ever lived or is it limited reconciliation?

       Those who subscribe to Calvinistic theology will argue reconciliation with God is limited to those God arbitrarily predestines to be saved.  It is taught that God in His sovereignty can save whom He pleases and not save whom He pleases. While it is true God is sovereign and can do anything He wants to do, is the Calvinistic approach really reflective of what the Scriptures reveal God wants to do as to the salvation of mankind? 

       Those who subscribe to Arminian theology teach reconciliation with God is limited to those who of their own free will choose Christ as opposed to being predestined to be saved as taught by Calvinists.  Under either of these theologies it is unclear whether the "unsaved" are consigned to eternal conscious punishment or simply annihilated. For a comprehensive discussion of predestination and free will, go to "Predestination and Freewill."

       Paul wrote to Timothy that "God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1Timothy 2:4) and that "God, is the Savior of all men" (1Timothy 4:10). Apostle John wrote to his first century audience that "He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). John also wrote that "the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world" (John 4:14).

       There are OT passages that teach that all humans will be blessed. In Genesis 12:3 God is recorded as telling Abraham that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."  In Genesis 22:18 God tells Abraham that "through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed."  It is apparent from Scripture that Jesus is the offspring of Abraham through whom all peoples and nations will be blessed and such blessing is Jesus' sacrificial atonement which allows for the granting of eternal life to all peoples as indicated in Genesis 12:3.

       Are these passages of Scripture telling us that salvation is a given for all humans or are they only telling us that salvation is available to all humans?  How are the following Scriptures to be understood in contrast to the foregoing passages that appear to teach that salvation is intended for all of humanity? 

       John 3:35-36: The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

       John 5:28-29: Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment

       Romans 2:7-8: To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

       Daniel 12:2: Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

       These Scriptures appear to say that only those who believe in Jesus and are persistent in doing good will be given eternal life and for all others there is judgement, wrath, anger, shame and everlasting contempt.  What is meant here by judgement, wrath and anger, etc?  Does this mean the absence of eternal life for those in this category?  If so, this would limit the number of those who receive eternal life to a small fraction of all the billions of humans who have been born and died and are presently living and dying.  This appears quite contrary to the many Scriptures we have cited that indicate salvation is intended for all people.         

        It is historically evident that the vast majority of humans who have lived and died and are presently living and dying have not believed in the Son or persistently followed the mandates for being granted the gift of eternal life seen in the foregoing Scriptures.  Therefore, it would appear the vast majority of the human race faces annihilation, eternal conscious punishing or some other state of separation from the presence of God.

       Yet as already discussed, Scripture teaches that all humans, subsequent to physical death, will face judgement and this judgement appears to be associated with how they conducted themselves while in the flesh. God is not here judging dead people. God is judging people who have died and have had life restored. This means there is an afterlife for all humans. What kind of afterlife will this be?  Let's begin answering this question by examining how the believer in Christ moves from death unto life. 

Moving from death to life for the believer:

       Scripture reveals that those who express faith in Christ and submit to his will during this physical life experience an actual passage from death unto life while yet physical.  Jesus said those who believe in Him, even through they die, they will never die. 

       John 11:25-26:  "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die

        At first glance this appears as a contradiction. How can one die and never die at the same time?  It is apparent that when Jesus speaks of dying, He is speaking of our physical death in contrast to not staying dead if one lives and believes in Him. It is apparent Jesus is referring to never dying an eternal death. It is dying an eternal death that sin produces. For those who place faith in Jesus, physical death appears to simply be a transition to an eternal existence, an existence that is already resident within a born again believer. 

       Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus one must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. Such rebirth is described as being of the spirit as opposed to being of the flesh. The result of being born of the spirit is described by Jesus as a non-physical state of being.

       John 3:5-6: Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

       Some believe that when Jesus says "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit" He is talking about water baptism and spiritual regeneration.  However, Jesus immediately goes on to say "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." Jesus appears to be contrasting the physical birth process that involves the breaking of the watery placenta that gives way to flesh giving birth to flesh and the spiritual birth process which involves a change in composition from having a physical body to having a spirit body, a body compared to the invisibility of the  wind.

       Paul speaks of this rebirth in his letter to the Romans. While he doesn't call it a rebirth, he shows that the giving of life to the mortal body involves having the Spirit of God uniting with our human spirit. This is seen as having resident life abiding in us even through our mortal body is dead (will die) because of sin.

       Romans 8:10-11:  But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. 

       A mortal body is a body that is destined to physically/biologically die.  Sin makes that death permanent. Sin makes eternal death to be resident in the body.  Because of what Jesus did, human mortality and sin death can be reversed. Even though the mortal body dies, life is seen as being restored to the mortal body through the life giving Spirit of God uniting with our human spirit.

       Paul shows in his letter to the Corinthians that resurrection to life is all about moving from being a natural (physical) body to being a spiritual body.  Entering the Kingdom, which is commensurate with entering eternal life, is accomplished through moving from being flesh to being spirit, from having a mortal body to having an immortal body.         

       1 Corinthians 15:42-44:  So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

       1 Corinthians 15:50: I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

      It is apparent we must be transformed from having a flesh and blood body to having a body of spirit composition in order to enter eternal life in the Kingdom of God.  It is also apparent that this transformation (being born again) can begin while still being a flesh and blood physical Being. We can have the seed of eternal life dwelling within the physical mortal body.  Apostle Peter wrote of being born again of imperishable seed which is congruent with having immortality which is imperishable.

       1 Peter 1:23: For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 

       What about the billions that die not having the seed of eternal life abiding in them?  To repeat, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:22 that all will be made alive in Christ. Since Paul contrasts all being made alive in Christ with all dying in Adam, it would certainly appear that all humans will be made alive in Christ in contrast to all humans dying in Adam.

       In discussing the fate of Israel, Paul wrote that "all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:26).  Did Paul mean all Israelites who have ever lived?  Isaiah writes that "in the LORD all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult" (Isaiah 45:25).  Does Isaiah  mean all Israelites who have ever lived?  Paul follows his statement about all Israel being saved by writing that "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all (Romans 11:32). Here a contrast is made similar to 1st Corinthians 15:22 All men are said to be bound over to disobedience but God will have mercy on all men. It would appear that for God to have mercy on all men equates with the granting of salvation to all men which is to replace death with life for all men.       

       Ephesians 2:1a and 2:4-5: As for you, you were (being) dead in your transgressions and sins...But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were (being) dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. The Greek word rendered "were" is ὄντας (ontas) which means "in a state of being." Young's Literal Translation renders it as "Also you -- being dead in the trespasses and the sins."  Paul is speaking of being in a present state of death but being made alive through the Christ event. This is consistent with Paul saying "the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). It also is consistent with what Peter said about having the seed of immortal life resident within one while still in a physical body of death.  We see Paul saying the same thing in his letter to the Colossians.

       Colossians 2:11-13: In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were (Greek ὄντας [ontas] which means "in a state of being") dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.

       In his letter to Titus, Paul speaks of experiencing a rebirth by means of the Holy Spirit as a consequence of the love of God expressed through Jesus.

       Titus 3:4-5: But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

       Paul wrote the Romans that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).   Paul wrote to Timothy that Jesus "has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2nd Timothy 1:10).

Moving from death to life for the unbeliever:

        Did Jesus destroy death only for some or did He do so for all?  If all humans who have ever lived are to face a judgement subsequent to physical/biological death, then the  unbelieving dead are also made alive.  Is this making alive a temporal making alive or is it an eternal making alive?

       Since Scripture reveals that Jesus has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light, it would seem to follow that to be made alive in Christ is to be made alive forever (eternal life). In Revelation 1:18 Jesus is quoted as saying, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" Paul wrote "since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him" (Romans 6:10).

       Paul taught that "as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" (! Corinthians 15:22).  Paul wrote also that "just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men" (Romans 5:18:  Jesus has been made alive forever and ever (eternal life). He cannot die again. The question before us is simply this: Does being made alive in Christ mean to be made alive forever just as Christ has been made alive forever or does it mean to be made alive but not necessarily forever? 

       The Scriptures equate the receiving of eternal life with being saved from eternal death. Salvation appears to equate with release from eternal death. To be saved is to be released from the penalty of eternal death due to sin. Will all humans be saved from dying eternally?  If that should be the case, there ultimately will be no such thing as unsaved dead.  All humans will at some point be saved from the wages of sin that Scripture teaches is death.  All humans will move from being mortal to being immortal. All humans will live forever.  Is there reason to believe this could be the case? 

Universal Salvation:

       The belief that all humans who have ever lived and will ever live are reconciled to God through the Christ event and granted immortality (eternal life) is usually referred to as universal salvation.  This view is also referred to as universal reconciliation or the doctrine of comprehensive grace.  Those taking this view do not see salvation limited to only those who come to understand and accept the Gospel message. It is believed the sacrifice of Christ is applied to all humans and therefore all humans are reconciled to God and will be granted eternal life.   

       Some who take this view believe there will be temporary remedial punishment in the afterlife for wicked behavior done while a resident of planet earth. This belief is based on the Scriptural teaching that all humans will appear before the judgement seat of God and be judged as to their earthly behavior, whether good or bad.

        As covered above, life after physical death is not an option. Scripture teaches there is resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked (John 5:28-30, Acts 24:15, Daniel 12:2). Scripture teaches that all humans will be judged subsequent to physical death (Matthew 10:15, 11:22, 12:36, 12:41, Luke 11:31, Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 9:27). This requires that all humans who have died and will die be restored to life. Paul teaches that in Adam all die but in Christ all are made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22, Romans 5:22:18). 

       Paul said “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).  Some believe the "we all" Paul is addressing are only those who are considered the redeemed and all that is being said here is that the "saved" will appear before Christ to be judged to determine the level of reward or lack of reward for their behavior while human? 

       However, the statements found in Matthew 10:15, 11:22, 12:36, 12:41, Luke 11:31 Romans 14:10-12 and Hebrews 9:27, as covered above, clearly reveal that all humans and not just the so-called saved will appear before God and Christ to be judged as to their behavior while in the flesh. In Ephesians 6:8, Paul writes that slaves should obey their earthly masters just as they would obey Christ because “the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he has done whether he is slave or free.”  In order to determine reward there must be judgement.  

       While it is apparent that all humans are resurrected to life, Jesus appears to teach that those who reject him will not see life (John 3:35-36) and while those who have done good will be resurrected to eternal life, those who have done evil will be resurrected to judgement (John 5:28-30a). Paul teaches the same (Romans 2:7-8).

       In view of the foregoing Scriptural teachings, It appears that those who have done good are resurrected to eternal life but will face judgement as to what was done while in the flesh.  On the other hand, it appears that evil doers are resurrected to a temporal life solely for the purpose of being judged and then either sentenced to some kind of punishment or simply be annihilated. 

       Since the saved dead are granted immortality by virtue of being saved and yet still having to face judgement, it would appear that such judgement is not to determine whether they have eternal life but to determine their level of reward in the afterlife. However, Jesus said those who have expressed faith in Him will not be judged.

       John 5:24:  I tell you the truth; whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned (come into judgement {RSV}); he has crossed over from death to life.

       The Greek word translated “condemned” (NIV) in John 5:24 is κρίσιν (krisis). As discussed above, the basic meaning of this word is to render a decision. Christ said that those who hear His word and believe in Him who sent Jesus will not be judged.  Since, as we have seen, all humans will be judged, It is apparent that what Jesus is saying here is that those who believe Him will not face a decision as to the granting of eternal life.  That decision will have already been made based on a positive response to the Gospel message.

       If this is the case, in what manner are the saved being judged?  What purpose is served in the saved standing before God’s judgement seat?  The answer to this question may be found in what Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church.

       I Corinthians 3:9-15:  “For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 

        Paul is talking about building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. The implication is that we build upon this foundation by how we conduct ourselves as Christians.  We all do this with various levels of success and failure.  Our success and failure does not determine our salvation. Salvation is guaranteed through faith in Christ.  There apparently is, however, reward associated with salvation.  Such reward will vary according to our works.  This is made evident in a number of Scriptures.  Here are just a few.

       Matthew 5:11-12: Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

       Matthew 16:27: For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

       Luke 6:35: But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

       Luke 14:13-14: But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

       While salvation is clearly seen in Scripture as an unmerited gift from God and not based on anything we do or don’t do, there appears to be reward connected with what we do and judgement, at least for the "saved," appears to be for the purpose of determining level of reward.

       So what about the unbelieving who constitute the great majority of all those who have lived and died and are living and dying?  We are talking here about many multiple billions of humans.  In view of the Scriptures we have reviewed, these billions of people will be resurrected to be judged as to what they did while in the flesh (Matthew 10:15, 11:22, 12:36, 12:41, Luke 11:31 Romans 14:10-12 and Hebrews 9:27).

       Jesus said God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35). While this statement appears to pertain to the physical realm, does it extend to life beyond physical death?  It appears all humans are to be made alive in Christ and appear before God and be judged.  If those saved in this life are going to be judged as to rewards for how they conducted themselves while physical, what kind of judgement are the so-called unsaved facing?  Is judgement of the unsaved dead a judgement to determine whether they remain alive or is remaining alive a given and their judgement pertains to level of reward as well?      

      Salvation is seen in Scripture as an unmerited gift of God and does not depend on what we do or don't do in this human life. Yet as already discussed, the granting of this free gift appears to be conditioned on our expression of belief in the sacrifice of Christ and repentance which is to turn from sin and behave righteously.  This is something the great majority of humans (past, present and future) have not done.  Yet, to deny salvation to anyone appears to be contrary to what we read in Scripture about the Christ event being efficacious for all.  Let’s review what Paul wrote to the Roman Church.

       Romans 5:12-21: Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-- for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.   Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

       But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment (Greek krisis: "making of a decision"), followed one sin and brought condemnation (Greek κατάκριμα (katakrima), but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines κατάκριμα (katakrima) as "damnatory sentence, condemnation."  A decision (krisis) is made which leads to the pronouncement of a punishment (katakrima).

       For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation (Greek katakrima) for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

       Because Paul says " For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ" it is believed by some that only those who choose to receive or are predestined to receive God's grace will be saved.  However, if this were true, it makes the efficacy of God's grace very limited in nature.  All indications are that God's grace has been extended to all of mankind as seen in the many Scriptures we have already considered that bear on this issue.

        It would appear Paul is simply contrasting the death that reigns for everyone through the one man Adam with the life that reigns for everyone through the provision of God's grace and the gift of righteousness facilitated through the one man Jesus.

       Paul says because sin entered the world through the actions of Adam, death came to all men because all men have sinned.  This one trespass and the subsequent sinning of all humanity, brought condemnation to all men.  The sinless life of Christ and His righteous act of sacrifice results in justification that brings life for all men.  Paul goes on to say that the law (codified law) was added so sin would increase making grace that much more apparent.

      To reiterate what we already discussed, when Paul speaks of "all men" He certainly appears to mean "all men."  We know that all men have sinned, beginning with Adam.  So here “all men” means all men.  Since Paul is paralleling the “all men” who have sinned because of what began with Adam with the bringing of life to "all men" because of what Christ did, it certainly appears “life for all men” means life for all men.

       Some feel Paul’s use of “many” limits the number of individuals being considered.  The word “many,” however, is used within the context of all sinning in Adam and all being made alive in Christ.  Paul saying many were made sinners through the disobedience that began with Adam and many will be made righteous through Christ does not reduce the “all men” to less than all men. The context is all men. The actions of both Adam and Jesus stand in relationship to all men, not just many (some) men.  

       Death is seen as being inevitable for all men because all men have sinned beginning with Adam. Life is seen as inevitable for all men because all men are made righteous (sinless) because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is seen as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Paul wrote that "just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men" (Romans 5:18).  Paul told the Corinthians that "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them" (2 Corinthians 5:19). Apostle John wrote that He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). John also wrote that "the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world" (John 4:14).  To Timothy, Paul wrote the following:

       1 Timothy 2:3-6: This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time.

       This passage is very instructive.  In God saying He wants all men to be saved, is God just wishing and hoping that all men are saved or is He saying something much more emphatic?   The Greek word rendered "wants" is thelo. This word is used by NT writers 209 times and can be seen by context to over and over again relate to something actually happening and not just somebody hoping or wishing something will happen.  Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines this word as "to will, have in mind, intend, to be resolved or determined, to purpose." 

       Paul writes that God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. What is the "truth" Paul is speaking of?  Paul appears to define the truth he is speaking of with his next sentence. The truth is that there is one God and one mediator between that one God and men who is the man Christ Jesus who gave Himself as a ransom for all men. The truth is that Jesus is the savior of all men.

       God is sovereign and whatever He wants He gets. It would appear that God is more than hoping and wishing that all men be saved. It is his will, purpose and intention that all men be saved.  John wrote that "the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world" (John 4:14). I submit that this has been accomplished.                       

Resurrection revisited:

       In view of all the Scriptural passages we have covered so far in this series, it appears evident that all humans are resurrected. Staying dead after physically/biologically dying doesn't appear to be an option.  Resurrection is being returned to life after having been dead (cessation of life). To be resurrected is to have life restored. We all physically die. That death is an eternal death. Jesus taught we pass from death unto life when we express faith in Him and abide in His word.  This passing from death to life can occur while we are still physically alive in that we can have eternal life abiding in us.                

       The judgement passages in Scripture indicate everyone will be resurrected and judged as to their conduct while they were physical and be rewarded or not rewarded commensurate with what they did while in the flesh. Paul makes it very plain that as we all die in Adam we will all be made alive in Christ.  Since eternal death is what we all experience in Adam, it would appear eternal life is what we all experience in Christ. Paul clearly says that sin brought death to all because all have sinned and the grace of God brings life to all.       

       Some believe the wicked will be made alive in Christ to be judged and then annihilated.  This position is problematic in that it is tantamount to saying the wicked will ultimately be made dead in Christ. The whole force of the Gospel message is that Christ has defeated death and brought immortality to light and in Christ life reigns and not death. Humans being annihilated after resurrection to life would necessitate a resurrection to temporal life.  All indications are that resurrection to life is resurrection to eternal life and since the granting of eternal life is based on the forgiveness of the eternal death penalty for sin, the sins of all humanity are forgiven which is what the many Scriptures we have studied in this series indicate.    

       In view of what we have discussed to this point, salvation appears as a given for all humans who have ever lived and will live. This being the case, conditions such as belief in Christ and repentance for sin would appear to be conditions that will be met for the many after physical/biological death.  Since Scripture reveals that all humans will be judged, It would appear that such judgement is for the purpose of determining reward/penalty for how we conducted ourselves while human and this judgement will apply to all humans irrespective of whether they are "saved" while physical or come to salvation after physical death.  

       Salvation in Scripture is seen as deliverance from the penalty of eternal death due to sin.  Salvation does not necessarily mean deliverance from all penalty or punishment for sin. The fact that all humans, "saved" or "unsaved," will be judged as to how they conducted themselves while in the flesh tells us that while the sacrifice of Christ delivers us humans from the penalty of eternal death, it doesn't deliver us from all consequences of our behavior while in the flesh.  This is no different than what occurs in the human realm.

       A man can commit and be found guilty of murder and be condemned to death and be pardoned by a governor and not be sent to the electric chair.  While such pardon delivers the man from the death penalty, it does not free him of punishment for the crime he committed. In lieu of being put to death, he is given life in prison or some other punishment. 

       This being said, I see no Scriptural reason to believe that any punishment administered in the afterlife will be eternal in nature. The whole concept of eternal conscious torment is rather ludicrous. Compared to eternity, our physical sojourn on this earth is less than a drop in a bucket. To postulate humans are to be punished for eternity (trillions upon trillions of years) for sins committed during this infinitesimally short physical life span is to postulate extreme injustice. This would be the most extreme example of the punishment not fitting the crime. This would virtually negate the perspective of a loving and just God. The idea of eternal conscious punishment is extremely problematic as this would necessitate God granting immortality to the unsaved dead for the sole purpose of consigning them to eternal torment. 

        However, while the Scriptures do not identify a specific protocol of afterlife punishment for sin, the judgement passages we have identified in Scripture appear to suggest there will be both reward and loss of reward associated with the judgement we face in the afterlife. Whether loss of reward will be punishment enough or there will be additional penalty for sins committed while in the flesh is uncertain.

       Please review the judgement passages found in Matthew 12:36, John 5:28-29, Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Hebrews 9:27).  Also review the reward passages found in 1 Corinthians 3:9-15, Matthew 5:11-12, 16:27 and Luke 6:35.          

       In part five of this series, we will examine objections to the proposition that all will be saved and granted immortality.

PART FIVE