My understanding of Mankind’s Rescue comes from an honest and accepting view of all Scriptural themes, especially those regarding salvation. There are many themes that seem to overshadow others in common theologies in our day and I hope in my understanding to allow all themes to work togehter without the need of explaining any away.
What is it? Resurrection and eternal life on the New Earth
How will it come? Well it was promised to the fathers long ago and it was eventually fulfilled and made ready by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Now we wait for God to resurrect all mankind, exercise judgment on the wicked, and live out our new life.
A variable; the judgment? Now because of the refusal of some to repent and live in obedience there will be a great judgment at the end. The wicked will be punished for their deeds with eternal punishment while the righteous and repentant will be blessed with entrance into God’s kingdom.
The First Promise; Death:
One of humanity’s greatest plagues is death. Our family dies, our friends die, we ourselves die–everybody dies. Death is something humanity dreads the most, but there is no escape from it. In the beginning when God created Adam and Eve, He gave them a commandment not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were both eventually persuaded to eat from the tree. As a result both were punished with the promise of death. God’s promise eventually came upon them as it does with all of their descendents. Humanity has been cursed by God with death and apart from His will there is no way of returning to life. Fortunately by His mercy He has promised humanity forgiveness of sin and eternal life through Jesus of Nazareth.
The Other Promise; Resurrection and Eternal Life:
God decided that He would use the Son of Man, Jesus, to accomplish His promise of Eternal Life. God sent Jesus into the world as a human to be martyred by sinners and to be the first person to resurrect to eternal life. The death that humanity undergoes and endures without end will be taken away. When Jesus returns He will resurrect all who have ever lived and no one will ever have to die again. Following the resurrection all mankind will undergo divine decision and Jesus will determine what people should get for what they have done. The faithful and righteous will be rewarded with living forever with God on the New Earth. They will co rule with Jesus as God had before ordained for the righteous to enjoy. The unfaithful and wicked will be tormented in eternal punishment as they serve as a spectacle of God’s punishment for unfaithfulness. The righteous will never have to worry about death nor will they ever have to worry about any kind of rebellion ever again. All mankind will be rescued from death and the faithful will enjoy the gracious blessings that God gives to those who are faithful to Him.
Concerning Death as Humanity’s Problem:
In the beginning when God first promised, and then executed death for Adam and Eve as a punishment for their rebellion, He did so in a way that causes their offspring to undergo the same judgment they did. Death has obviously been something that no one can escape and apart from the specific cases of Enoch, Elijah, and those whom Scripture witnesses as having undergone temporary resurrection there has been no escape from death. Now death is the separation of one’s life and control from their body. The authors of Scripture believed that a person’s soul goes to death, which in Hebrew and Greek are called Sheol and Hades respectively. In older English usage death would be understood by the term hell. In death there is a believed to be a separation of the righteous and unrighteous, but it is always understood that no matter the character of a man he still will end up in death.
Concerning God’s Promise of Humanity’s Resurrection:
It is unknown when God first promised mankind the resurrection from the dead. Genesis records a prophecy of a child from Eve squashing the head of death’s progenitor, the Serpent. The Apocalypse of Moses, a text that covers the supposed content of Adam and Eve’s interaction with God, claims God first promised the resurrection to Adam. 1 Enoch, a text believed by Jude and some of the early church to have been written by Enoch himself, claims that God revealed to Enoch the resurrection from the dead. In regard to the Protocanon, or Protestant canon of Scripture, the resurrection of the dead is seemingly understood by David. He writes that God “will not leave my soul in Sheol/Death” and the sons of Korah say the same thing in the 49th psalm. Daniel prophecies of the resurrection of the dead when at that time the righteous and unrighteous will be given what they deserved for what they done in their lives. 1st and 2nd Maccabees give witness of those who would rather be slaughtered in righteousness rather than obey the wickedness of Antiochus. They did this in order that they might attain to the resurrection and reward for the righteous. Jesus witnesses at various times His own involvement in the future resurrection including Him being the one who resurrects the dead. He even argues from the burning bush experience that Moses had that God had always witnessed to the resurrection from the dead. He is witnessed as saying this various times in the Gospel accounts. Paul understands that the resurrection is the hope of the fathers fulfilled in Jesus as he is witnessed various times in the book of Acts as having believed. Throughout Paul’s Epistles he reminds those of the resurrection and rebukes those who didn’t believe it. The Apostle John eventually receives ‘the Revelation” in which he receives a vision as to what the end and resurrection will be like. It’s my understanding that the entirety of Scripture speaks of a future and promised resurrection.
Concerning God’s chosen prerequisite for the Resurrection:
The resurrection of the dead is presented as being possible only first by God’s grace in wanting to give it. Secondly the resurrection from the dead is presented as being fulfilled in Jesus. The first concept is understood by the Apostle’s use of God’s “grace” and “mercy” as they relate to eternal life and the resurrection. The second concept is understood by the Apostle’s usage of the concept of “the promise through Jesus” and Jesus’ own teachings concerning Himself as being the giver of life. Also concerning this second concept it has been revealed that God would not resurrect mankind unless His chosen prerequisite was fulfilled. This prerequisite is the martyrdom and resurrection of Jesus. God decided that the prerequisite for lifting death off humanity would be this. It would be after this that God would decide that He would give mankind resurrection and eternal life. Jesus was given as atonement for mankind and in His resurrection He sits seated beside God ready to resurrect at the time God appoints. The prerequisite can be summed up simply as the faithfulness of Jesus.
Concerning the good things predestined; The Gospel
- King (Son of Man revealed)
- Co-heirs in the kingdom (Meek inheriting the Earth/ Righteous Vindicated)
- Forgiveness of Sins (Adamic for all and individual for the repentant)
- Eternal Life
Kingdom: The Kingdom of God is a universal rulership that is run by God through Jesus on Earth. Its citizens are those who have done good deeds, been persecuted, and have been faithful to God.
King: The office of king is the blessing for God’s greatest beloved Jesus. The Son of Man will rule over all at His coming, judge the wicked, and hand the kingdom over to the Father. God has put Jesus in charge and made Him the ruler over all.
Co-heirs and Co-rulership: Jesus allows His brothers and sisters to take part in having authority on the earth in God’s kingdom.
Forgiveness of sins: The first man, Adam, is regarded as the progenitor of human sin and because all humanity descends from him they share in his punishment; death. This sin will be forgiven and the punishment will be lifted.
The great promises that God had given to the fathers are listed above. Now mainly what is emphasized by the authors of Scripture in this list of promises is the resurrection and giving of eternal life. The rest of the promises kind of center around these or stem from these.
To start out all these things are happening on the earth and for a person to experience it they must first be alive. Death is done away with at the time when these promises are fulfilled and the life of that person goes on forever. Now in order for there to be a resurrection there must be someone who revives. As time has gone on and God revealed more and more of what He would do He revealed that the Son of Man would be the one who revives. Jesus came as the Son of Man and taught that God had given Him the power to give life just as the Father gives life from within Himself. Now when the righteous are resurrected they will find themselves within a new kingdom or community. In this community, God and Jesus are king and are the center of both all authority and life. The fellow residents within the kingdom are those who share a like character. That character trait is righteousness and obedience to God. The residents are the brethren who have lived in righteousness from all generations. These residents will enjoy a multiplicity of gifts and blessings which God will give according to His grace. These gifts have yet to be seen or known. One thing that Jesus has revealed is that He will share His ruling of the Earth with His brethren. Humanity awaits the sure mercy and grace of its God and the righteous do so in faithfulness both in word and deed.
Concerning the Judgment
Before these great gifts are given to the faithful there is one other promised event. This event is the final judgment of God. At the final judgment the faithless, rebellious, and persecutors of the faithful from all generations will be punished on account of their deeds. They will be made into an eternal spectacle and undergo eternal punishment according to the promise of God which He is faithful to fulfill. Amen and let it not be interceded against. The righteous will be vindicated as their persecutors along with their symbolic father, Satan are visited by God. The martyrdom of the martyrs and hatred received by the righteous will be rewarded and will be shown to not be for nothing.
Concerning Why Some Receive Blessing and Others Punishment:
The blessings listed above are the things predestined by God before the creation of the world according to His infinite wisdom and knowledge. These things find themselves to each individual according to God’s choosing of course. When God promised death for mankind it was for all, so also is the resurrection for all of humanity. As rebellion and unrepentant lifestyles were committed by people God added mankind to enter the great judgment which was originally planned only for the wicked angels and Satan. From this point on there would no longer be a universal resurrection leading to a universal blessing of the glorious kingdom. Now one group of people will find themselves entering the blessing while the other will be cast away into the judgment. The wicked were on the same trajectory as the righteous, but ended up forfeiting their place by being unfaithful and unrepentant. Take note that everyone has a course. The grace and mercy are on those who are loyal and faithful to God according to their understanding. The forfeit of the blessing and reward of punishment is upon those who are loyal to themselves and to all kinds of evil deeds. God’s faithfulness is to the righteous and in that regard they are His elect to the promises. Individual and unconditional election of a person are not the election of God. His choosing is to those whom He wills and no one is able to obstruct it. He has revealed through His prophets and Apostles throughout time that He chooses the righteous and the unrighteous He bears with and even hardens until the day of their judgment. No one can change God’s mind to whom He chooses and in this sense He chooses whom He wills, but He has revealed that He chooses all who do His will according to their faithfulness. So to conclude this subject the predestined things were originally planned to be for all but because of the unrighteousness of some they forfeited them. Now the righteous and repentant are the sole elect to receive the blessings.
The authors of Scripture use a term which conveys the idea of God giving His righteousness to people. The term in many English translations is “justification”. The Greek word reflects this English word as it also is one word made up of two. As we look at the English word we see the noun “just” or “Right” and the action “ification”. The way I interpret the word is by understanding that God gives us His right or righteousness in the sense that He gives us the promise. In other words He made a promise long ago and now we see Him being righteous in the fulfilling of the promise to us. In other words it simply means Him keeping His word to us. In context of God’s promise and rescue for mankind I say that the righteousness of God and justification have to do with God’s blessing of promise for the righteous.
Concerning Variables and Other Questions
What do Righteousness and Unrighteousness look like?
This group of people comprises of those who have always generally obeyed the will of God, those who have repented and remained obedient, or those who have even been martyred for God’s will. These people are the faithful who will receive the reward, grace, and vindication on the day Jesus returns.
Those who by fidelity to God abstain from actions contrary to God’s will and carry out the actions God commands are those whom God considers righteous. Commands by God throughout time have taken different forms and some people were held to a form that others were not. An example would be the Mosaic Law for Israel. The commands and desires of God which can be known by each individual person are the standard by which God will take into account when considering a person righteous. While all people of healthy mental capabilities can understand the general differences of what is often called today right and wrong, not all can know specific actions. An example of a specific action that others wouldn’t be penalized for not knowing would be showing allegiance to a man named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in the first century A.D. The righteous acts of mankind can be summed up in loving God above all and loving your neighbor as yourself. Those who are considered righteous are those who were faithful in what they knew. God will bless them according to His grace and their good works, which made them faithful. These aren’t perfect people but these are people who do not continue to live in a constant state of disobedience. In others people who don’t continually practice unrighteousness and people who repent.
This group of people comprises those whom without repentance in their lives continued a constant life of wickedness and disobedience to God. These people are the unfaithful and will receive the payment of their deeds in the form of eternal punishment.
Those whom have selfishly lived for themselves and their own desires, which are contrary to God, are those considered unrighteous. They substitute living for God with living for themselves. In other words what can be known about God and His desires are substituted at will for anything that makes the unrighteous person pleased. This person follows God’s directives in nature only when it is convenient and good for his own desires. This person by his rebellious actions symbolically makes himself a son of the Devil and is continuously in the state of Adam when he ate from the tree. These are the unfaithful that live in a continual state of rebellion towards God. Their future is to be judged by God with fire and torment. The greater knowledge a person was given and rejected by their works the greater his judgment will be at the resurrection of humanity. They will be judged by their wicked works, which made them unfaithful.
What about those who have never heard?
The Scriptures are clear that all people will be resurrected and that all will be judged on the basis of their works/ faithfulness to God. Since the standard is a person’s deeds he will not be condemned for never knowing something. A person will be judged on what they did with what they know. Paul in Romans chapter one argues that God’s existence and eternal power are seen in the creation and therefore people are not exempt from not knowing these things. So in general a person can know about God and some of His unspecific grace. If that person will glorify God and give Him thanks and live a life in which he does right with what he knows then that person will not be condemned. In Romans chapter two Paul gives an example of a gentile who doesn’t have the Mosaic Law, but fulfils the Law by his deeds. This person is said to be accepted by God. Peter says that any man that does His will is accepted by Him in the Book of Acts. Therefore I say a man will be judged according to his deeds, but in accordance to what he knows.
I’d say that the most helpful illustrations for these concepts are the ones given in Scripture. However if I was to give my own pictured illustrations about this topic of mankind’s recue this is what they would be.
The Promise for the Righteous:
Peace –> Problem –> Promise –> Prerequisite accomplished –> Direct fulfillment
The arrows not only represent the next subsequent step, but also a passing of time. This passing of time could be brief or long.
Creation and communion with Adam and Eve –> Promise of resurrection to the forefathers –> Jesus faithfully comes, dies, and resurrects –>God and Jesus resurrect the dead
To conclude my understanding on this grand topic I leave off with reminding the reader of God’s gracious gift of resurrection. As Jesus was raised so will all mankind at His coming. He will reward each person according to His deeds and the righteous will experience His amazing faithfulness. Take the time to study and reflect upon God’s promise of eternal life and never let the fear of temporary death overcome you.