AS GOD is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of those who believe (1 Tim.4:10), we
may confidently rest on one grand and glorious foundation truth--that all salvation is
of God, and neither believer nor unbeliever has any part in it. On the one hand this
assures us of the possibility of saving all men, for God alone is able, and, on the other,
it bars out all human schemes for their restoration, whether by works, or suffering, by
giving them a second chance, or by any cause whatever which originates in man. Those who
believe are saved by His grace (Rom.4:16), those who do not believe are saved through His
judgments, but in both it is He alone Who is Saviour. Faith is but the channel of grace;
it plays no efficient part in salvation. Judgment is but the means He uses, the process
which leads to the salvation of the unbeliever. It does not remove his guilt or cleanse a
single sin. That is done wholly and solely by the blood of Christ. Every effort to bring
about the ultimate salvation of all through the purgatorial or penitential sufferings of
the sinner is a denial of this great truth. Judgments do not save, but the God Who judges
is also the Saviour and all His dealings with mankind are governed by the grand goal which
He has set before Him--to become All in all His creatures.
|The Unbeliever is Saved
by Tangible Evidence
In setting forth the process by means of which God brings the unbeliever back to
Himself we must remember that few believers are able to analyze the method used in their
own salvation. Now, if we are not able to explain our own experience, how shall we
understand His method with others? Yet, strange as it may seem, God's dealings with the
unbeliever are much more easily apprehended than His way with us. The very simplicity of
faith baffles us. Most theological systems seek to base belief on evidence, and speak of
"Christian evidences" as the foundation of the believer's salvation. This is,
rather, the method He uses in the deliverance of the unbeliever.
When we reflect how few of those who actually heard our Lord and
His apostles, who saw Him and perceived the signs and miracles and powers which He
performed, and had ample opportunity to test their genuineness, how few of those actually
believed, we are tempted to lose confidence in the efficacy of "Christian
evidences." Yet they had their place and were used in the proclamation of the
kingdom. They produced a hybrid sort of faith, generated partly by tangible evidence, and
partly by confidence in those who wrought them. The case of Thomas is an example of the
overpowering force of evidence where faith is wanting. No man can long withstand the
testimony of his senses, even when his interests are opposed. But today the doubting
Thomases are offered no proof to correct their credulous questions. It is either sheer
unfounded faith or fatal unbelief.
The tangible proofs given to support the proclamation of the
kingdom affords a rich field for the study of the effect of evidence on the human heart.
The unbeliever will be saved by sight. He will yield to the force of facts. He will be
convinced by logic. What evidence is most suited for this purpose? In our Lord's ministry
we can see both the helps and the hindrances offered by the senses. The consideration of a
few cases will reveal what most moves men and what makes them obstinate.
The rich young man was hindered by his possessions. The
Samaritans were helped by the Lord's words. The resurrection of Lazarus led many Jews to
rely on His acts. These illustrate God's method in the judgment of the unbeliever. He
removes hindrances- -no earthly acquisitions interfere with the decisions of the heart,
for both heaven and earth flee from the face of Him Who sits on the throne. He works the
greatest possible miracle, by raising them from the dead. He reads the inmost secret of
their hearts. He appears in their very presence in soul-dismaying splendor. They cannot
doubt His power or His perfections, and no motive remains to lead them to deceive
The judgment of unbelievers takes place in the interval between
the passing of this present earth and the creation of the new. Every tie which bound them
to the earth has been burned up. They are the subjects of the most astounding miracle ever
wrought, having been raised from the dead. They are in the presence of the Divine Majesty.
Their secrets are bared to His awful gaze. The character of their judgment, being adjusted
to their acts, not simply as to severity but so as to correct them, will reveal God's
purpose to save and reconcile them to Himself. This, followed by their death in the lake
of fire and subsequent vivification at the consummation, is the basis of their
First, we will consider the hindrances which have held many from
becoming followers of Christ. The rich young ruler (Matt.19: 16; Luke 18:18) desired
eonian life but was kept from it by his acquisitions. Will this hinder him in the
judgment? No. For then all his riches will have vanished; not only through his own death,
but by the fires which have engulfed the world.
Examples abound. The excuses offered by those who were bidden to
the great supper (Luke 14:18) are all removed before the great white throne. No fields or
oxen or wives will intrude between the spirit and the great Judge.
|Resurrection and Vivification
will Save the Unbeliever
In the judgment day God will judge the hidden things of humanity (Rom.2:16). We are
prone to consider this a mere exhibition of His omniscience, to facilitate the trial of
the sinner and to insure his condemnation. But more than this, it cannot but have a most
powerful effect on the unbeliever's attitude toward Christ. What was it that impressed the
woman of Samaria? It was His knowledge of her hidden secrets. When she left her water and
went into the city she bore witness: "Come hither! Lo there is a Man Who told me all
that I do. Is not this the Christ" (John 4:29). As a result we read that many of the
Samaritans of that city believe in Him because of the woman's word that He told her all
that she did (John 4:39).
But more believe on Him through His own word. The Lord bared only
a few facts in the woman's life. In the judgment all of men's secrets will be exposed. If
men could be moved to believe through the word of a dissolute woman, how much more readily
will they bow when all their own secrets are brought to view! And not only so, but when
the lives of all their fellow creatures are subjected to the same superhuman scrutiny, the
overwhelming evidence will banish all doubt of the identity of the One before Whom they
The blessed results achieved by His exposure of the woman at
Sychar's spring will be multiplied by many millions at the great white throne. There is
nothing hidden that shall not be manifested (Matt.10:26). As in Corinth, the hidden things
of the unbeliever's heart become apparent, and falling on his face, he will worship God (1
Perhaps no miracle wrought by our Lord and His apostles created a
stronger conviction than that of raising the dead. When Lazarus was raised many of the
rulers believed, and the chief priests were concerned lest all should believe on Him
because of this sign (John 11:45,48). When Peter raised Dorcas it also was used to
convince many who believed on the Lord. Can we imagine what conviction it must have
brought to Lazarus and to Dorcas themselves, if they should have had the slightest
tendency to doubt? Could there have been any stronger proof of divine power than that
their very life had come back to them at the bidding of One Who is stronger than death? In
the process of winning the unbeliever we judge their resurrection and final vivification
to be ample to account for their salvation and reconciliation.
The salvation of the unbeliever will be by sight, not by faith.
Otherwise it is effected in the same way as that of the believer, by the word and power
and presence of God. The means which proved most effective in the past are repeated, but
accompanied with unparalleled power and under circumstances infinitely more impressive.
The apostle Paul's case is of surpassing significance in its
bearing on the salvation of unbelievers. He was the foremost of sinners, and it cannot be
denied that, among men, there was no case quite as desperate as his. All question as to
God's ability to save vanishes in the light of his call on the Damascus road. The
miraculous means employed in his case surely would suffice for every one of God's enemies.
And who will deny, on sober reflection, that the appalling power and glory of the august
judgment session into which the unbeliever is ushered by his resurrection will be
unutterably more impressive?
The apostle's vision passed. He came back to a scene where all
was as before. He alone had changed. But the unbeliever sees the power and presence of God
not only in his own deliverance from death, but in all around him. The vision does not
vanish. The divine presence abides.
One of the leading lights on eternal torment crystallizes the
prevailing insensibility to the mighty dealings of God with the unbeliever in the
following question and answer. "Is there going to be any tremendous power in the
moral sense in eternity to change a character that it could not change here?"
"There is no hint in the Bible of a change of character beyond this world."
These very leaders would shudder if we should suggest that
salvation is based on character. Yet they do not hesitate to damn mankind for lack of it!
But we will let that pass. Unbelief in the saint is just as irrational as in the infidel.
the Precursor of
The appalling nature of the blindness which lies on Christendom with reference to God's
great ultimate can hardly find a better illustration than in the question and answer we
have quoted. So far as they read their Bible, the unbeliever is not raised from
the dead at the judgment, nor vivified at the consummation. They contend for the
genuineness of miracles, yet ignore the most tremendous and stupendous of all
miracles--the resurrection of all mankind. They are making a firm stand for a whole Bible,
yet practically expunge the great truth that "all who are in the grave shall
hear His voice, and shall come forth." All the significance and power of the
resurrection of the unbeliever is totally ignored and denied by many who consider
themselves defenders of the faith and supporters of the Bible.
We consider, and rightly too, that our resurrection and
vivification will be an essential part of our salvation. It will be the crowning glory of
our deliverance. Yet when the same mighty power of God acts on behalf of the unbeliever,
resurrection becomes damnation and vivification death! These, we are told, will have no
effect on the character of the unbeliever at all! Since that is so it logically follows
that character is not affected by resurrection or vivification, and, as a result, the
saints will have just the same character in glory which they have today. The
transformation will be entirely physical, not moral or spiritual. Our likeness to Christ
will be limited to the brilliancy of our appearance. All the heartbreaking defects in our
characters will be with us still, only unutterably more apparent and painful in His
But enough! It is not true! Every experience through which we
pass affects our characters, even in the present life. And we may rest assured that our
character (how I hate to use a non- scriptural term!) will accord with the presence of His
Our resurrection and vivification are simultaneous, but the
unbeliever will be raised long before he is vivified. The change which eventuates in the
ultimate salvation of the unbeliever is wrought, not only by his resurrection, but by the
august judgment session, when he stands in the presence of Christ, with all his unbelief
swept away by the awful realization of His power and the justice of His throne. We are
asked, Is it possible for them to repent? Rather, we would like to know, Is it possible
for them not to repent, or change their minds? We cannot conceive an unrepentant
sinner before the great white throne.
God's thoughts and man's imaginations are nowhere more at
variance than on the subject of judgment, or punishment. God is love: man is hate. David
was wise when he was given the choice of fleeing before his enemies or falling before the
hand of Jehovah. He uttered a great truth when he exclaimed "Let us fall now into the
hand of Jehovah, for His mercies are many: and let me not fall into the hand of man!"
And surely his choice was vindicated, for, when the angel stretched out his hand upon
Jerusalem to destroy it, Jehovah repented Him of the evil, and said to the angel that
destroyed the people: "It is enough! Stay now thine hand" (2 Sam. 24).
Jonah went through the streets of Nineveh, crying: "Yet
forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" "But God saw their works, that they
turned from their evil way; and God repented concerning the evil that He said He would do
unto them. And He did it not" (Jonah 3). And what did Jonah do? Was he not pleased at
the success of his mission? Did he not glory in the character of His God? Alas! he was
like the majority of the Lord's people today. Like Jonah, they imagine that God has a
streak of hate in His character and that He wanted to destroy Nineveh to give it exercise.
But He had an object in threatening its destruction. Now that they repented and the object
was attained, why should He belie His character and destroy them from sheer
vindictiveness? Jonah thought He ought: and so think those today whose prototype he was.
|God's Glory Demands
the Salvation of All
Is it not too bad that Jonah's God was a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and
of great, kindness, and repenting of the evil which He had threatened (Jonah 4:2). What
did Jonah care for Nineveh? What pains had it cost him? What comfort did it bring to him?
But God looked at it from His standpoint. In it there were sixty thousand souls more in
tune with Him than sulky Jonah. He was their Creator, and He had not created them for
The thought that the resurrection and judgment of the unbeliever
is only a prelude to his final "destruction" in the lake of fire must be judged
by its moral effect, for it has no support whatever in the Scriptures. In the first place
"destruction" (by which annihilation or extinction of being is intended), is never
used of the lake of fire or of the second death. It is always used of the sinner
before his resurrection at the great white throne. Those who are "destroyed" in
Gehenna will be there. Those who "perished" in the wilderness and at the flood
will be raised. "Destruction" is never annihilation. It never precludes
resurrection and salvation. Indeed, it is a necessary precursor of salvation. The
Lord came to seek and to save the "destroyed" (lost). So that, even if there
were a single passage telling us that the unbeliever is "destroyed" in the
second death (which there is not) we would still have every reason to believe God when He
assures us that all who are dying in Adam shall be made alive in Christ.
Let no one suppose that we plead for the repeal of God's word
regarding the doom of the unbeliever. Far from it. But we do plead for the removal of
those harsh, human perversions of His word, which seek to make Him a man like ourselves,
hateful and hating one another vindictive and vicious in our views of the so-called
"penalties" of sin. We plead for a revision of our vocabulary on this important
theme. Many of our words and expressions are not only unscriptural but positively
Let those who constantly refer to the lake of fire as a place of punishment,
chastening, destruction, apollumi, extermination olethros,
and the like, reflect on the fact that these terms are not used specifically of the
burning lake. With the possible exception of the destruction of the wild beast
(Rev.17:8,11) all refer to previous judgments, and none of them preclude the resurrection
of those to whom they are applied. In other words, the strongest terms to be found in the
Scriptures are avoided when speaking of this final infliction. The true
scriptural phrase to use when we desire to describe its action is "the second
The terms destroy and destruction are so often
used of irrecoverable ruin that a few examples will be given to show how far this is from
the truth. The rendering "lost" is always the translation of the word for
destroy. It would be the utmost folly for the Son of Mankind to seek, much less to save
those who are annihilated. The lost sheep and the lost coin and the lost prodigal all had
been destroyed, yet all were found and saved. Were the whole world lost, or destroyed in
the lake of fire, that would be no hindrance to salvation. Rather, it would be the very
sphere in which alone salvation can operate. Christ cannot save anyone unless first he is
destroyed, or lost.
Such is the salvation of the unbeliever. It is not only in
absolute accord with every passage in the word of God, but in utmost harmony with the God
Who is revealed through that word. How can anyone who truly loves Him rest satisfied with
less than this, the only true, the only scriptural solution? How infinitely it lifts Him
above the defeated, vindictive deity of Christendom! How grandly it accords with all those
attributes which theology gives Him with its left hand and fiches from Him with its right!
Is He love? Then how can He bear the very thought of eternal torment for a single one of
His creatures, much less for myriads of millions? Is He omnipotent? Then why is He unable
to rescue them? The Buddha of Christendom is great in name, but small in deed. He makes
great claims but does not live up to his reputation.
|The Second Death is
the Penalty for Sin
Let those who are fond of reasoning about the destiny of the universe adept their own
premises and follow them out logically and the inevitable conclusion will be a universal
reconciliation. Try it and see. All will acknowledge these premises:
|God is love
God is omnipotent
God is not love if He will not do all He can for His creatures, neither
is He omnipotent if He is unable to save them. Hence the God of theology is magnificent
but the god of eschatology is a myth.
Both revelation and reason are arrayed against the false delusion of unending torment for
the unbeliever. It degrades the sacrifice of Christ to a mere attempt to remedy an evil
which it cannot cure. O, my brethren, why do you limit His love, why do you paralyze His
power? Is the Christ Who saved you capable of completing His work by saving all
like you? Or, if He can, why will He not? Would you, if you
Confess that this terrible doctrine cannot but lead you to doubt His perfections. It
brings you up to a blank wall, to a pit of dense darkness. But the blessed truth opens up
a glorious vista flooded with the love light of God.
This leaves the way open to consider the moral effect of this doctrine as it relates to
our conception of God's love. The sinner is dead, and, apart from the power of God in
resurrection, quite as good as annihilated. What possible benefit can accrue to the sinner
to expend unmeasured power in his resurrection and unstinted force in his judgment, only
to return him to oblivion? From the sinner's side it would be unutterably cruel and
But, we are told, God's justice demands it. There is an element of truth in this. But if
God's justice must be displayed at the expense of His love, the extinction of the
unbeliever in the lake of fire, far from forever removing an eyesore from the universe,
places a blot upon His character which eternity itself can never erase. If we do not doubt
His willingness to save them, then we must acknowledge His inability. If we cannot
question His power, then we must limit His love, and then we endanger the very foundation
on which all eternal bliss must be established.
Once more we affirm, without the slightest fear of contradiction, that the judgment of the
unbeliever is confined to the period between the resurrection and the second death. If
this is the end of the unbeliever, if the mighty miracle of resurrection and the awful
judgment session have no other object than the infliction of the pains and penalties each
deserves, we despair--not for the unbeliever, for his fate is not the paramount
consideration--we despair for the character of God, Who uses power unstinted to
satisfy the stern demands of justice, yet outrages every instinct of His love. No amount
of sophistry will ever annihilate the stubborn fact that they are His creatures,
and their final fate is just as much His work as was their creation at the first. As
creatures, they had no more command of their destiny than they had of their birth or their
environment. All was of God. He held the reins. And let us remember that salvation
depends, not on character, or attainments such as might be within the reach of mortals,
but upon the knowledge of the One Whose very name will be unknown to the great majority
who stand before Him in that awful day. They are not saved because God has not saved
them, and for no other reason whatever. If their existence has been futile and a blot
upon the universe, the final disgrace falls upon God, Who was the only One Who could have
averted the disaster.
|The Unbeliever shall
Not be Seeing Life
The resurrection and judgment of unbelievers leaves no reasonable alternative but their
ultimate salvation. Without such an outcome, so great and stupendous an exhibition of
hatred and futile rage would throw a pall of settled gloom across God's glory for all
eternity. Only the wickedest of men are unsatisfied when their enemies are dead, and would
bring them back from the grave to endure still further torment.
But we do not need to rest on reason. At best, it is usually the refuge of unbelief. God
has spoken, and real reason rests on His revelation. He is the Saviour of all mankind,
especially of those who believe. God give us grace to glory in such a God!
In that marvelous revelation concerning the vivification of all found in the fifteenth of
first Corinthians there is a notable omission which has a vital bearing on the
resurrection of judgment which We are considering. The words "And if anyone was not
found written in the scroll of life," has led a few kind hearts into the supposition
that some, perhaps many, are not cast into the lake of fire, but live on with the saints
during the eon of the eons, which follows. This would transform this resurrection into a
But the great outline of vivification sketched by the apostle includes only three classes
at three distinct epochs. After the Firstfruit, Christ, all who are His are made alive at
His presence. The last class is vivified at the consummation. There is no class in
between. The resurrection of judgment, before the great white throne, is ignored
altogether. No one will be vivified, in the full sense of that word, when the
unbelievers are raised from the dead. All die again. All return into the domains of death
during the eons.
The death which comes at the close of this life is the effect of natural law, not of a
divine decision. Sin, in Scripture, is represented as a great Slaveholder. He does not pay
wages, as our version puts it (Rom.6:23). Who ever heard of a slave
getting wages? He deals out rations. Sin's ration is death. The sting of death is
sin. Sin, fully consummated, is bringing forth death (James 1:15). Only in the case of
criminals, is death the result of a judicial decree, yet, even then, it is at the hand of
man and not of God.
The fact that the believer and the unbeliever share alike in the first death ought to be
sufficient proof that it is not, in any sense, a judicial infliction on God's part. The
saint is assured of immunity from all judgment yet he does not escape the first death.
Death as the penalty of sin cannot be inflicted until after judgment has held its
session. If God's decree calls for such a penalty for sin, this is not satisfied with the
death common to all in Adam. Hence judgment is followed by the second death.
In the opening chapters of Romans Paul lays the foundation on which God's just judgment is
based. He closes his indictment of mankind with these words: "...God's just statute,
that such as are committing them are deserving of death..." As the first
death cannot be the effect of any judicial procedure on God's part, it is evident that the
death penalty awaits all who come into the judgment. Whatever may be the variety and
degree of the tribulation and anguish meted out to each, one common end awaits them
all--the second death.
This divine decree is in fullest harmony with the great truth that eonian life is only for
the believer. Only those chosen by His sovereign grace have the privilege of living with
Christ for the eons of the eons and of being associated With Him in His work of
reconciling the universe to God. A result of the unbeliever's judgment consists in
exclusion from these blessings and dignities. "He who is believing into the Son has
eonian life, yet he who is stubborn as to the Son shall not be seeing life, but the
indignation of God is remaining on him."
These words are awful enough in their bearing on the unbeliever without changing the
inspired original, as most or all of our versions do, to the indefinite, thus denying the
great truth that all shall be made alive at the consummation. "Shall not see
life" denotes a fact and is timeless. "Shall not be seeing life" is
definite, and confines the sense to the future eons which are in question. The unbeliever
can have no share in the life of the eons.
|The Unbeliever is Vivified
in Christ, The Saviour
God is light and God is love. The unbeliever learns the first at the great white
throne. He realizes the second at the consummation. Just as, in the epistle to the Romans,
we are first acquainted with the just God, Who justifies us, and later with God the
reconciler, Who invites us into His heart, so the salvation of the unbeliever divides
itself into the judgment session, where he is judged in fact as we are by faith, and the
ultimate vivification, when death is abolished, and God becomes All in all.
But, some will ask, if they were condemned to death, how can they be raised again? What
right have they to the grace and life that will be their portion? We answer, none.
They will have no more claim on the ecstatic bliss of that unending day than or you, or
any believer! What right have we? None at all. But in Christ we have a perfect
title to every favor. So it will be with the unbeliever. It is not written that "As
in Adam all are dying, so all shall be made alive," but "so, in Christ,
all shall be made alive." Adam's death involves all, irrespective of their
deserts. Christ's life extends to all, apart from their personal merits.
And here is where the unbeliever learns to love God. The judgment has exposed his own
unworthiness. The grace of vivification will illumine his heart with the love of God in
Christ. Then shall be fulfilled God's universal goal:
"...to Me will bow every knee,
And every tongue will be acclaiming God."
This is the method He will use to bend the stubborn knees. He will not use physical
force but moral suasion. Neither will He wring out a confession of sin from every
tongue. The word here used means more than that. When our Lord said "I thank
Thee, O Father" (Matt.11:25; Luke 10:21) He used this term. It includes a complete
acknowledgment and acquiescence in the divine will.
This is God's way with the unbeliever. We are fond of recalling God's dealings with us to
bring us to Himself. Some have been driven to Him through the loss of earthly possessions.
Others found Him in the midst of trials. His written word alone has led myriads to see
themselves and the loveliness of His Christ. But no believer today has passed through any
experience which even approaches the stupendous realities which await the unbeliever. With
the very earth swept from beneath his feet, with his sins staring at him and open to every
eye, with the awful Presence on the great white throne, all superimposed on a personal
experience of the greatest of all miracles--what more could possibly be done to turn him
back to God? Who ever doubts that Lazarus or the widow of Nain's son was saved? Others
believed who merely heard and saw, but had none of the personal knowledge, they possessed.
So, who can doubt that such an awful scene and such a stupendous experience will turn the
hearts of all unbelievers toward the God of their salvation?
Some have sneeringly asked whether punishment will reform the sinner, and have pointed out
the hardening effects of judgment. But this rests on the vulgar and unscriptural notion of
punishment apart from resurrection. Others make judgment the end and an end in itself,
little heeding the effect of this on God. But this judgment scene is not the end nor an
end. When we see a sinner, convicted of sin, burdened with fear, we rejoice to behold the
work of God, knowing that it is but the beginning of His operations. So the great white
throne judgment is but the preliminary to God's greater work at the consummation.
The crowning and conclusive exhibition of God's power and love toward the unbeliever
awaits the consummation. The eons are past. All sin is banished. Evil is no more. The Son
of God has nearly completed His mediatorial work. All the living are in perfect accord
with God. Nothing remains but the conquest of death and the reconciliation of its
denizens. It is the only enemy left in all God's universe. Then, and not till then, will
the vast concourse of mankind emerge from the domain of death never to enter it again.
Then that voice for which we wait, that will call His own from the graves, and that once
before had called them back to life, will speak with power, and death will be despoiled,
the last enemy laid low. Then shall all awake to live in the light and love of Him Who
will have become in truth the Saviour of all mankind.