Church of God, New World Ministries

What Is The Hope Of Mankind?

Have you ever wondered what happens after this life?  Does death end it all? Here is "good news" from the pages of your own Bible.

Today's modern Christianity is divided into literally hundreds of sects with many interpretations about life, death, and the hereafter. But why should there be so many different ideas regarding man's afterlife?  Why should there be such a state of confusion regarding what the reward of the Christian life is? Why do so many believe they have an immortal soul which survives death and resides in heaven, limbo, paradise or hell?

The biblical teaching of this subject of man, what he is, his purpose in this life, his destiny, and how to reach that destiny, is very clear. Don't you think it's about time we cleared away the cobwebs of denominational and sectarian confusion and looked into the Bible to see what it says about mankind's ultimate destiny, and how he or she is to attain it?

Before we go to the Bible, let us briefly see what some of the ancients taught on this subject.   Notice what the famous historian Edward Gibbon, in his The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, has to say about the development of the idea of man's immortal soul. "The writings of Cicero represent in the most lively colours the ignorance, the errors, and the uncertainty of the ancient philosophers with regard to the immortality of the soul. The philosophers who trod in the footsteps of Plato deduced a very unjustifiable conclusion, since they asserted not only the future immorality, but the past eternity of the human soul" (The Modern Library Series, New York Random House, I, 15, 2, pp. 398-399).

Then Gibbon shows how the belief in an immortal soul came to be looked upon as "truth."  The important truth of the immortality of the soul was inculcated with more diligence as well as success in India, in Assyria, in Egypt, and in Gaul.  It is incumbent on us to adore the mysterious dispensations of Providence, when we discover that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is omitted in the Law of Moses (ibid. pp.400-401).

Just how did this belief affect the Jewish people?  Gibbon says that the Sadducees "rejected the immortality of the soul as an opinion that received no countenance from the divine book" (ibid., pp. 402).  He then adds that "the immortality of the soul became the prevailing sentiment of the synagogue under the reign of the Asmonaean princes and pontiffs.

"Their (the Jews) zeal, however, added nothing to its evidence, or even probability; and it was still necessary that the doctrine of life and immortality, which had been dictated by nature, approved by reason, and received by superstition, should obtain the sanction of divine truth from the (so called) authority and example of Jesus Christ" (ibid).

The fact is that the teaching of Jesus Christ and his example, never gave creedence to the spurious doctrine of the immortality of the soul!

What about the Greeks?  They and other ancient peoples did not believe in a resurrection.  They believed man had an immortal soul within himself, and when he died this soul went off to place of afterlife.  It was this Hellenistic idea of an immortal soul which later influenced the beliefs of some of the Jewish people, and many professing Christians.

Remember, this idea of man being immortal, or having an immortal soul, did not come from God or His Word.  It came directly from the pagans. For proof of this, look up this subject in any good encyclopedia.  For example check the article "Eschatology" in any of the later editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Just what does the Bible teach on the subject of man?  What happens to him at death?  Is man an immortal soul?  The Bible tells us, "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7).

Man was created a "living soul" (Hebrew is nephesh), but it does not say that man was created an immortal soul.  Rather, it goes on to show that man was mortal, that he would die.  (Gen. 2:17).

The word "nephesh" (translated as soul) is also used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to the lower creatures God had created. Can the soul die?  (Ezek. 18:4, 20) "The soul that sinneth, it shall die."

In many instances the Bible speaks of souls being killed, of them dying and perishing.  

Now when the New Testament writers quoted from the Old Testament passages where the word nephesh (soul) was used, they used the Greek equivalent, psuche, meaning "a living being," identical in meaning to the Hebrew word nephesh.

Notice what Jesus Christ said regarding the soul (psuche): "Fear him (God) which is able to destroy both the soul and body in hell (Gehenna, the Lake of Fire)" (Matt. 10:28).

Job, quoting Eliphaz, wrote: "Shall mortal man be more just than God? (Job 4: 17). And in Deuteronomy we are told that it was possible for a man to "smite him (his neighbor) mortally that he die" (Deut. 19:11). "Mortal" means that which can die.

Paul taught that a Christian should not let sin rule in his "mortal body" (Rom. 6:12).  He also spoke of a Christian's "mortal body" being quickened or made alive ( Rom. 8:11).

At the resurrection "this mortal must put on immortality" (I Corth. 15:53-54). As you can see, Paul spoke of Christian's bodies as "our mortal flesh" (II Corth. 4:11).  But also added that the time is coming (In the future) when our "mortality" will be "swallowed up of life" (II Corth. 4:11).

Notice what the apostle Paul was inspired to write: "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality. (Rom. 2:7).  Now, did you notice that man must seek, as a gift from God, immortality?  Why? Only the Great God has immortality to give (I Tim. 6:15-16).

If man is mortal, not immortal, then what happens to him at death?  Does his soul immediately waft off to heaven, hell, or some place where he is conscious, or does man go to the grave to "sleep" until the time of the resurrection?

King David was inspired to write: "His (man's) breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (Ps. 146:4). David says a man's ceases to think at the time of his death.

Solomon wrote: "there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave (sheol), whither thou goest" (Eccl. 9:10).

Does science have the answers to explain what man is, what happens at death, what man's ultimate destiny is to be, or how man can reach that destiny? No, they do not! Only God can reveal the answers to these vital questions; and He has made known this truth only in the Bible.

What is man's hope?  According to the Bible, the resurrection is man's only hope.

THE RESURRECTION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

Far from being a "New Testament" doctrine, the resurrection of the dead was anticipated and foretold by many who lived in Old Testament times.

Did the Old Testament prophets speak of man's resurrection back to life?

(Ps. 16: 9-10) "My flesh also shall rest in hope.  For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol, the grave): neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (The Holy One was Christ).

The apostle Peter, commenting on this very scripture, said: "Let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption" (Acts 2:29,31).

Christ's soul was not left in hell (Greek, Hades, the grave), and His body did not decompose.  It was buried in a rock-hewn tomb at a cool time of the year, and it was resurrected before decomposition set in, before it began to decay or putrefy.

Christ's resurrection was, in fact, a type of the resurrection which God promises to all those who faithfully obey Him.  The apostle Paul was inspired to write: "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken (enliven) your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom. 8:11).

Long before the time of David, God's servant Job clearly revealed his faith in a coming resurrection.  He asked: "If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou (God) shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands" (Job 14: 14-15).

As you can see, Job knew the time was coming when his Creator would call him from the grave and clothe him with "Eternal Life" (Job 19: 25-26). "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh (Hebrew, without or apart from my flesh) shall I see God."

The prophet Isaiah believed in the resurrection:  "Thy dead men shall live; together with my dead body shall they arise.  Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead" (Isa. 26:19).

Also the prophet Ezekiel prophesied of the coming resurrection when the "whole house of Israel" will be restored back to life.  (Ezek. 37: 4-6). Also notice (verse 12) "Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel."

What about the prophet Daniel? (Dan. 12:2) "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." An angel appeared unto Daniel and told him: "But go thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest (in your grave), and stand (stand up in a resurrection) in thy lot at the end of the days."

The primary definition of the word "resurrect" is "to rise from the dead: In other words, restore to life.  In the Arndt-Gingrich Greek Lexicon, the Greek word translated "resurrection" is anatasis, which means to "rise" or to be "resurrected" from the dead.

The prophet Hosea also believed in the resurrection: "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction" (Hosea 13: 14).

In the Book of Hebrews chapter eleven, it gives a long list of faithful names (servants) of God who, during Old Testament times, obeyed God and often would not accept deliverance from a horrible death "that they might (through their martyrdom) obtain a better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35).

Many of today's modern Christianity have failed to realize that even Moses prophesied of the saints being glorified in a resurrection at the second coming of Jesus Christ when they will be united with Him.  "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints; from his right hand went a fiery law for them.  Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall (in the future) receive of thy words" (Deut. 33: 2-3).

There were not "ten thousands of saints" with Moses at the time when God gave Israel the Ten Commandments at Sinai.  Only Joshua and Caleb were permitted to enter the Promised Land.  Moses, Aaron and Miriam were also saints, but the vast majority of the Israelites were carnal, faithless, and totally rebellious.  They were anything but saints.

The afore-quoted prophecy refers to the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ, when many thousands of saints will be resurrected from their graves (Israelites and Gentiles) and will be joined unto Christ, as His Bride.  Then Christ will give them His law to teach all nations in the wonderful utopian "The World Tomorrow." in the Kingdom of God.

The Encyclopedia Britannica, commenting on Daniel 12:2, says: "It should be noted that it is not the immortality of the soul that is spoken of but the resurrection of the dead, who have remained dead (sleep in the dust) until the end-time (when your people shall be delivered).  This remains this hope and expectation normative in Judaism and Christianity ("Eschatology," 14th edition, 1973, VIII, p. 696).

You can search the Bible in vain to find any other teaching.  The Bible teaches the resurrection, not the immortality of the soul.

IS THERE MORE THAN ONE RESURRECTION?

The Bible states "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection" (Rev. 20:6). Why? What will make this event so special?

Do your really understand what the real hope of a true Christian is?  Will he or she spend eternity lounging in idleness and ease?  Or will the resurrected, newborn Christian spend eternity in happy, but productive, activity, faithfully serving his Creator?

Most professing Christians have a rather foggy idea of what future life in the Kingdom of God will be like.  They know very little about biblical teachings concerning the "resurrection of the dead." yet this is one of the basic doctrines of the Bible (Heb. 6:2).

The prophet Isaiah wrote: "Since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him" ( Isa. 64:4).

The apostle Paul explained that a Christian can comprehend what God has prepared for those that love Him. (I Corth. 2:9-10; Rom. 16:25: Eph. 3: 3, 5, &9).

Satan has deceived the whole world on this all-important subject of the resurrection of the dead (Rev. 12:9).  Many scriptures reveal that the whole world is in darkness, ignorance and superstition.

The apostle Paul, when he was speaking before Felix, the governor of Judea, said that he had "hope toward God" of a resurrection, in which, affirmed Paul, the Jews also believed. He plainly told Felix "that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust" (Acts 24:15). As Paul "reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come," the unjust Felix trembled (verse 25).  Now Paul did not say that the just and the unjust would rise up at the same time.

This same apostle wrote at length regarding the resurrection(s) in I Corinthians chapter 15, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive, but every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his (second) coming. Then cometh the end."

In the Book of Revelation the twentieth chapter what is meant by "the end" can be seen. Paul was referring to the end of the one-thousand-year reign of Christ and the saints on this earth.  It will not be until sometime after the thousand years are over that the second resurrection will occur (Rev. 20:7-12).

The resurrected saints (joined by the living saints) will be caught up to meet Christ in the air at His second coming, and they as kings and priests will "reign" on the earth (Rev. 5:10). To these saints Christ promises: "He that overcometh, and keepeth my works, to him will I give power over the nations and he shall rule them (under Christ) with a rod of iron" (Rev. 2:26-27).

John shows that those who had been martyred will be raised to life and to a position of rulership during the thousand year rule of Christ.  But the unjust dead will not be resurrected until the end of this period: (Rev. 20:5-6). Then, after the thousand years are expired, Satan goes out to stir up more trouble on this earth. After the millennium comes The Great White Throne Judgment described in verses 11-12.  Those who are still dead are made to "stand before God" in the second resurrection, when they will have their first chance for salvation.

What is your guarantee that you will be resurrected when Christ returns to this earth? How can you make sure you will be in the first resurrection to immortality?  It is "they who are Christ's at his coming" who will be in the first resurrection  (I Corth. 15:23).

But who are "Christ's"?  Paul said: "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8: 9). It is only those who are filled and led by the Spirit of God who will be in the first resurrection.  God's Spirit in us is like a seed that is developing into Godly character.

Paul continues: "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken (make alive) your mortal bodies by (the power of) his Spirit that dwelleth in you"

What kind of bodies will we have in the resurrection? We will be divested of our "natural" bodies and will put on "spiritual" bodies.  "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body (I Corth. 15:44). But what will a spiritual body look like?

Now if we can know what kind of body Jesus Christ had after His resurrection, then we can also know what kind of a spiritual body we will have in the resurrection. Read (I John 3:2).  What kind of body did Jesus have after His resurrection?  (Rev. 1:13-16).  Now after His resurrection, Christ could manifest Himself in a physical form, as He did for forty days after His resurrection.

We should strive to be in the "first resurrection" (Rev. 20:6). It is spoken of as a "better resurrection" (Heb. 11:35).  Those who rise in that resurrection will be wonderfully blessed of God!

THE SECOND RESURRECTION

The vast majority of humans have lived and died never hearing the message that Jesus Christ brought from His Father.  What about them?  Are they doomed forever?  Would that be fair?

What is going to happen to all those who are not resurrected at the second coming of Christ?  Will they remain forever dead, or will God also resurrected them at a later time?  And will they be raised back to life just to be flung into the lake of fire?  What about all the unsaved multitudes reared under atheism, who have no Bibles, and have never heard the name of Jesus Christ or understood the gospel?

The Book of Revelation gives us the answer.  "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" This is the first resurrection" (Rev. 20:5).  The expression "this is the first resurrection" refers back to those in verse four who are raised to immortality at Christ's coming to become rulers with Him as kings and priests on the earth during the millennium.

Since all the "just" or righteous dead are resurrected at the second coming of Christ, leaving the "unjust" dead in their graves, are all these unjust dead eternally lost, without any hope of ever having an opportunity to live again and obtain immortality?

What did Jesus Christ mean when He said that "they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment? (John 5:29)  Astounding as it may seem to people who do not really know the scriptural teaching regarding the resurrections, countless billions are yet to be brought back to a mortal life to have their "first chance" to receive salvation.

Think for a moment.  Could the untold billions who have lived and died possibly have received salvation?  Have the vast majority ever had a chance to understand the Bible?  Have they, then, really rejected salvation? No!  Many individuals have lived their entire life-times without ever seeing a Bible or even hearing the name of Jesus Christ.

Are they forever doomed simply because they did not have the Word of God, and did not know that Christ is the Savior of all mankind? Could countless billions of Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, Taoists, animists and others who have not known about Christ and salvation be held guilty or accountable to God for not having received that vital knowledge? Is it possible that they could receive salvation through some other person, or by a different way?  The apostle Peter emphatically says: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts. 4:12).

Someone may ask: "Do you mean to say that God will resurrect men back to a mortal life, and give them a second chance?" No, this is not what the Bible teaches at all.  The scriptures plainly reveal that the time is coming when God will raise the "unjust" dead, those who through no fault of their own were deceived and never understood the way of salvation, and will at that time reveal His plan of salvation to them. (If you have not yet sent for our FREE article, “God’s Master Plan of Salvation, please do so for a complete explanation of God’s Plan of Salvation for mankind.)

Don't forget this basic truth: It is "impossible for God to lie" (Heb.6:18). And "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35): therefore, whatever God promises in His Word, He must do.

God's Word plainly states: "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" ( II Peter 3:9). It is not God's will that heathen animists, pagan idolaters or other sincere people who may practice a false religion, should perish.  A loving Creator wills that "all should come to repentance," in His own time and way.  Also read (I Timothy 2:4).

Human beings can only be saved if and when they learn of Jesus Christ as their Savior who died for them, and then accept that supreme sacrifice in payment for their personal sins.  But the vast majorities who have lived and died were, through no fault of their own, deprived of this knowledge which would have made salvation possible in their first life time.  It, therefore, becomes imperative that God give them their first real chance to hear, to understand and follow God's way of salvation.  But how?  By raising them from the dead to renewed physical life in a second resurrection.

Millions of professing Christians erroneously believe that when one dies in sin he is lost forever.  That is why many feel under a burden to see that Christ is preached to the non-Christians in Africa, Asia and other parts of the earth. They think that if these people die in sin, they will miss out on salvation forever!

In John 5:29, Jesus Christ spoke of "the resurrection of damnation." Nearly all modern translations correctly render this last word as judgment rather than damnation.  But what does it mean to be resurrected to judgment?  Most Christians woefully misunderstand. They think of judgment as only a time when a sentence is passed, rewarding the righteous or condemning the guilty. But this is a false concept.

Now, notice what the apostle Peter wrote: "For the time (beginning nearly 2,000 years ago) is come that judgment must begin at the house of God" (I Peter 4:17).  What did he mean by this?  He did not just mean condemnation had begun at God's house, the Church.  Rather he referred to the fact that God is now judging Christians.  We who are true Christians are now having our chance, and we will never have another. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation" (Heb. 2:3). 

God holds every Christian strictly accountable for their actions.  He is now judging every believer according to His Word.  But the vast majority of mankind, to this very day, does not understand or believe the truth of God.  They have been deceived by Satan the devil.

What did Christ mean when He spoke of certain people like the Queen of Sheba, the people of Nineveh, and the people of Tyre and Sidon and also the people of Sodom and Gomorrah would rise up in judgment and find repentance easier in their day of judgment, than will those who rejected Christ and His gospel message? Just that, they rejected the message of Jesus Christ that was sent by His Father.

Just what is the Great White Throne Judgment?  "The resurrection of the righteous will take place at the coming of Christ" (I Thess. 4:13-18). The resurrection of the unsaved at the Great White Throne Judgment, after the Millennium (Rev. 20: 11-15).  God is great, merciful, loving, not willing that any should perish.  He wills that all come to the knowledge of the truth and to true repentance.  He also knows that it is better that most people come to this knowledge of the truth in a better world than ours.  That is why these people will be raised up in the second resurrection--a resurrection to a mortal, fleshly, earthly existence.

How thrilling to understand God's master plan which He is working out here below among mortal men.

THE THIRD RESURRECTION

What will finally happen to those who hate God and His ways?  Here is the surprising truth understood by so very few.

How many professing Christians really know what the Bible says about the resurrections?  Most Christians who profess to believe in the resurrection think the "just" and the "unjust" will all be raised to life at the same time, either to be rewarded or punished.

How many professing Christians know that according to God's master plan there will actually be three resurrections, not just one or two?  The twentieth chapter of the Book of Revelations clearly speaks of three resurrections. 

Revelation 20:4 and I Thessalonians 4:13-17, talk about the first resurrection. Revelation 20: 5and Revelation 20: 11-12 talk about the second resurrection. But notice what verse 13 says “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. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”

Here is pictured another resurrection period. Who are these dead?  What resurrection is this?  Notice that there is no statement that the "book of life" is opened up to them.  Why is the "book of life" not "opened" in connection with those who rise up in this final resurrection? Simply because they must have already had their chance for salvation and rejected it. God is not willing that any perish, yet it is not His will to force the truth on anyone.  He will not force salvation down anyone's throat.

God offers salvation freely to all those who will receive it (Acts 2:21). And He has made every man a free mortal agent, with the power of volition, the power to choose. Those who do not voluntarily accept God's offer and follow that way of life necessary to receive life eternal will not receive it.  Those who will come up in this third resurrection are the incorrigibly wicked.  They are the last human beings to be resurrected from their graves.

These miserable human beings will be sentenced by God, and executed: "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire."

When the time for the third resurrection arrives, everyone will have had his chance.  Everyone's ultimate destiny will have been "fixed" eternally. It will be forever too late for anyone who, after receiving his chance for salvation, sins willfully, thereby rejecting their opportunity for eternal life.  Those who reject God and His way must them reap the consequences of that decision, THE SECOND—ETERNAL--DEATH, from which there will be no resurrection.  How awful! How tragic!

Your eternal destiny, your future, is up to you!  You can choose the way of God and eternal life, or you can choose Satan's way of lust, greed and strife and sin, which will lead to total perdition, to the second death, in the LAKE OF FIRE.

Based upon what you have just read, can you not see why THE RESURRECTION is THE HOPE OF MANKIND?  When your time for salvation comes, what choice will you make?  May God lead you to choose life!

 
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