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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, July 27 2023

Does God condemn non-christians?

Will those who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ, often because of when or where they were born, miss out on the opportunity of salvation?

by Gary Petty

The Apostle John’ described his vision of Christ’s return as King of Kings to save humanity from self-destruction in Revelation chapter 19. Then in chapter 20 he describes a resurrection of the dead: “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” (Revelation 20:4- 6).

These people who are raised to a spiritual existence followed God during their physical lives. They will reign on earth with Jesus Christ for 1000 years. This is the time known as the millennium. Additional details about this resurrection can be found in 1 Corinthians 15.

But in Revelation 20:5 we are told: “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” The Apostle John tells us who these people are in Revelation 20:11-12: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away…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.”

These are the billions of people who have lived throughout history, brought back to a physical life, and having the Scriptures opened to their understanding. This is commonly called the Great White Throne Judgment. Ezekiel chapter 37 describes Ezekiel’s vision of this event.

This isn’t like the first resurrection described by John at Christ’s Second Coming. Those awakened in the first resurrection are changed to spirit life, because they turned to God during their physical life, repented, and received His Spirit. Ezekiel’s prophecy is about people who are resurrected to a physical life so that they can have their first chance to repent and receive the Holy Spirit in order to obtain salvation.

Jesus also prophesied of this future resurrection, which isn’t the resurrection that occurs at His Second Coming: “Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent…if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago…I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the Day of Judgment than for you’” (Matthew 11:20-24).

The people of Tyre and Sodom aren’t going to be in the first resurrection, because they did not know the true God during their physical life. Christ is here referring to the resurrection to physical life described in Ezekiel 37 – the Great White Throne Judgment. The people of Sodom aren’t in a fiery hell. They, and others who did not know God in this physical life are in the grave, awaiting this resurrection when they will have a chance to know and obey God.

Until God pours out His grace on a person no one can truly know God, repent, choose God and receive salvation (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). It is only through God’s mercy that we can be reconciled to Him through the life, death, and resurrection and work of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10). God’s love is such that He doesn’t pass eternal judgment on anyone who never knew Him, or even those who knew of God, but were blinded by the “god of this age” (II Corinthians 4:4). Only when God reveals Himself and Satan’s deception is exposed can a person really have the free choice to actually choose or reject God.

People who never really knew God are resurrected to physical life to experience their opportunity to repent: ‘Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves…and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live…Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,’ says the Lord" (Ezekiel 37:11-16). This is not a second chance at salvation. They will be taught the truths of the Bible for the first time and have the opportunity to decide whether or not they will obey.

After fully understanding God’s way the few who decide to reject it will suffer the consequence of the ‘second death’ in the lake of fire, also mentioned in Revelation 20. But it will not be eternal, agony and torture in a ever-burning hell, as so often falsely portrayed. (Be sure to read our free brochure: Heaven And Hell: What Does The Bible Really Teach?).

This little understood, great biblical truth demonstrates God’s love and fairness, providing hope for this sick and dying world and for the billions who have ever lived.