OUR LORD'S RETURN--ITS OBJECT,
THE RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS
Whatever may have become of them, we may be sure they are not now in a condition of suffering; because, not only do the Scriptures teach that full and complete reward is not given to the Church until Christ comes, when he shall reward every man (Matt. 16:27), but that the unjust are to receive their punishment then also. Whatever may be their present condition, it cannot be their full reward; for Peter says, "The Lord knoweth how to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished" (2 Peter 2:9); and he will do so.
But the thought that so many of our fellow creatures should at any time be lost from lack of having had the knowledge which is necessary to salvation would be sad indeed to all who have a spark of love or pity. Then, too, there are numerous scriptures which it seems impossible to harmonize with all this. Let us see: In the light of the past and the present as the only opportunities, laying aside all hope [A104] through a restitution in the coming age, how shall we understand the statements, "God is love," and "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish"? (1 John 4:8; John 3:16) Would it not seem that if God loved the world so much he might have made provision, not only that believers might be saved, but also that all might hear in order to believe?
Again, when we read, "That was the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9), our observation says, Not so; every man has not been enlightened; we cannot see that our Lord has lighted more than a few of earth's billions. Even in this comparatively enlightened day, millions of heathen give no evidence of such enlightenment; neither did the Sodomites, nor multitudes of others in past ages.
We read that Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death "for every man." (Heb. 2:9) But if he tasted death for the one hundred and forty-three billions, and from any cause that sacrifice becomes efficacious to only one billion, was not the redemption comparatively a failure? And in that case, is not the Apostle's statement too broad? When again we read, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL PEOPLE" (Luke 2:10), and, looking about us, see that it is only to a "little flock" that it has been good tidings, and not to all people, we would be compelled to wonder whether the angels had not overstated the goodness and breadth of their message, and overrated the importance of the work to be accomplished by the Messiah whom they announced.
Another statement is, "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all." (1 Tim. 2:5,6) A ransom for all? [A105] Then why should not all involved have some benefit from Christ's death? Why should not all come to a knowledge of the truth, that they may believe?
Without the key, how dark, how inconsistent, these statements appear; but when we find the key to God's plan, these texts all declare with one voice, "God is love." This key is found in the latter part of the text last quoted--"Who gave himself a ransom for all, TO BE TESTIFIED IN DUE TIME." God has a due time for everything. He could have testified it to these in their past lifetime; but since he did not, it proves that their due time must be future. For those who will be of the Church, the bride of Christ, and share the kingdom honors, the present is the "due time" to hear; and whosoever now has an ear to hear, let him hear and heed, and he will be blessed accordingly. Though Jesus paid our ransom before we were born, it was not our "due time" to hear of it for long years afterward, and only the appreciation of it brought responsibility; and this, only to the extent of our ability and appreciation. The same principle applies to all: in God's due time it will be testified to all, and all will then have opportunity to believe and to be blessed by it.
The prevailing opinion is that death ends all probation; but there is no scripture which so teaches; and all the above, and many more scriptures, would be meaningless, or worse, if death ends all hope for the ignorant masses of the world. The one scripture quoted to prove this generally entertained view is, "Where the tree falleth, there it shall be." (Eccl. 11:3) If this has any relation to man's future, it indicates that whatever his condition when he enters the tomb, no change takes place until he is awakened out of it. And this is the uniform teaching of all scriptures bearing on the subject, as will be shown in succeeding chapters. Since God does not propose to save men on account of ignorance, [A106] but "will have all men to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4); and since the masses of mankind have died in ignorance; and since "there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave" (Eccl. 9:10); therefore God has prepared for the awakening of the dead, in order to knowledge, faith and salvation. Hence his plan is, that "as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive, but each one in his own order"--the Gospel Church, the Bride, the body of Christ, first; afterward, during the Millennial age, all who shall become his during that thousand years of his presence (mistranslated coming), the Lord's due time for all to know him, from the least to the greatest. 1 Cor. 15:22
As death came by the first Adam, so life comes by Christ, the second Adam. Everything that mankind lost through being in the first Adam is to be restored to those who believe into the second Adam. When awakened, with the advantage of experience with evil, which Adam lacked, those who thankfully accept the redemption as God's gift may continue to live everlastingly on the original condition of obedience. Perfect obedience will be required, and perfect ability to obey will be given, under the righteous reign of the Prince of Peace. Here is the salvation offered to the world.
Let us now consider another text which is generally ignored except by Universalists; for, although we are not Universalists, we claim the right to use, and believe, and rejoice in, every testimony of God's Word. It reads, "We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe." (1 Tim. 4:10) God will save all men, but will not specially ("to the uttermost") save any except those who come unto him through Christ. God's arbitrary salvation of all men is not such as will conflict with their freedom of will, or their liberty of choice, to give them life against their wills: "I have set before you, this day, life and death; choose life, that ye may live." [A107]
Simeon contrasted these two salvations, saying, "Mine eyes have seen thy salvation,...a light to lighten the nations, and the glory of thy people, Israel[ites indeed]." This is in harmony with the declaration of the Apostle, that the fact that Jesus Christ, the Mediator, gave himself a ransom for all is to be testified to all IN DUE TIME. This is that which shall come to all men, regardless of faith or will on their part. This good tidings of a Savior shall be to all people (Luke 2:10,11), but the special salvation from sin and death will come only to his people (Matt. 1:21)--those who believe into him--for we read that the wrath of God continues to abide on the unbeliever. John 3:36
We see, then, that the general salvation, which will come to every individual, consists of light from the true light, and an opportunity to choose life; and, as the great majority of the race is in the tomb, it will be necessary to bring them forth from the grave in order to testify to them the good tidings of a Savior; also that the special salvation which believers now enjoy in hope (Rom. 8:24), and the reality of which will, in the Millennial age, be revealed, also, to those who "believe in that day," is a full release from the thraldom of sin, and the corruption of death, into the glorious liberty of children of God. But attainment to all these blessings will depend upon hearty compliance with the laws of Christ's Kingdom--the rapidity of the attainment to perfection indicating the degree of love for the King and for his law of love. If any, enlightened by the Truth, and brought to a knowledge of the love of God, and restored (either actually or reckonedly) to human perfection, become "fearful," and "draw back" (Heb. 10:38,39), they, with the unbelievers (Rev. 21:8), will be destroyed from among the people. (Acts 3:23) This is the second death.
Thus we see that all these hitherto difficult texts are explained by the statement--"to be testified in due time." In due time, that true light shall lighten every man that has [A108] come into the world. In due time, it shall be "good tidings of great joy to all people." And in no other way can these scriptures be used without wresting. Paul carries out this line of argument with emphasis in Rom. 5:18,19. He reasons that, as all men were condemned to death because of Adam's transgression, so also, Christ's righteousness, and obedience even unto death, have become a ground of justification; and that, as all lost life in the first Adam, so all, aside from personal demerit, may receive life by accepting the second Adam.
Peter tells us that this restitution is spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets. (Acts 3:19-21) They do all teach it. Ezekiel says of the valley of dry bones, "These bones are the whole house of Israel." And God says to Israel, "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. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I ...shall put my spirit in you, and I shall place you in your own land; then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord." Ezek. 37:11-14
To this Paul's words agree (Rom. 11:25,26)--"Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles [the elect company, the bride of Christ] be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved," or brought back from their cast-off condition; for "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew." (Verse 2) They were cast off from his favor while the bride of Christ was being selected, but will be reinstated when that work is accomplished. (Verses 28-33) The prophets are full of statements of how God will plant them again, and they shall be no more plucked up. "Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel,...I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. And I will give [A109] them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, for they shall return unto me with their whole heart." (Jer. 24:5-7; 31:28; Jer. 32:40-42; 33:6-16) These cannot merely refer to restorations from former captivities in Babylon, Syria, etc., for they have since been plucked up.
Furthermore, the Lord says, "In those days, they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge, but every one [who dies] shall die for his own iniquity." (Jer. 31:29,30) This is not the case now. Each does not now die for his own sin, but for Adam's sin--"In Adam all die." He ate the sour grape of sin, and our fathers continued to eat them, entailing further sickness and misery upon their children, thus hastening the penalty, death. The day in which "every man [who dies] shall die for his own sin," only, is the Millennial or Restitution day.
Though many of the prophecies and promises of future blessing seem to apply to Israel only, it must be remembered that they were a typical people, and hence the promises made to them, while sometimes having a special application to themselves, generally have also a wider application to the whole world of mankind which that nation typified. While Israel as a nation was typical of the whole world, its priesthood was typical of the elect "little flock," the head and body of Christ, the "Royal Priesthood"; and the sacrifices, cleansings and atonements made for Israel typified the "better sacrifices," fuller cleansings and real atonement "for the sins of the whole world," of which they are a part.
And not only so, but God mentions by name other nations and promises their restoration. As a forcible illustration we mention the Sodomites. Surely, if we shall find the restitution of the Sodomites clearly taught, we may feel satisfied of the truth of this glorious doctrine of Restitution for [A110] all mankind, spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets. And why should not the Sodomites have an opportunity to reach perfection and everlasting life as well as Israel, or as any of us? True, they were not righteous, but neither was Israel, nor were we who now hear the gospel. "There is none righteous; no, not one," aside from the imputed righteousness of Christ, who died for all. Our Lord's own words tell us that although God rained down fire from heaven and destroyed them all because of their wickedness, yet the Sodomites were not so great sinners in his sight as were the Jews, who had more knowledge. (Gen. 19:24; Luke 17:29) Unto the Jews of Capernaum he said, "If the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day." Matt. 11:23
Thus our Lord teaches that the Sodomites did not have a full opportunity; and he guarantees them such opportunity when he adds (verse 24), "But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment, than for thee." The character of the Day of Judgment and its work will be shown in succeeding pages. Here we merely call attention to the fact that it will be a tolerable time for Capernaum, and yet more tolerable for Sodom; because, though neither had yet had full knowledge, nor all the blessings designed to come through the "Seed," yet Capernaum had sinned against more light.
And if Capernaum and all Israel are to be remembered and blessed under the "New Covenant," sealed by the blood of Jesus, why should not the Sodomites also be blessed among "all the families of the earth"? They assuredly will be. And let it be remembered that since God "rained down fire from heaven and destroyed them all" many centuries before Jesus' day, when their restoration is spoken of, it implies their awakening, their coming from the tomb. [A111]
Let us now examine the prophecy of Ezekiel 16:48-63. Read it carefully. God here speaks of Israel, and compares her with her neighbor, Samaria, and also with the Sodomites, of whom he says, "I took them away as I saw good." Neither Jesus nor the Prophet offers any explanation of the seeming inequality of God's dealings in destroying Sodom and permitting others more guilty than Sodom to go unpunished. That will all be made clear when, in "due time," his great designs are made manifest. The Prophet simply states that God "saw good" to do so, and Jesus adds that it will be more tolerable for them in the day of judgment than for others more guilty. But upon the supposition that death ends all probation, and that thereafter none may have opportunity to come to a knowledge of the truth and to obey it, we may well inquire, Why did God see good to take away these people without giving them a chance of salvation through the knowledge of the only name whereby they can be saved? The answer is, because it was not yet their due time. In "due time" they will be awakened from death and brought to a knowledge of the truth, and thus blessed together with all the families of the earth, by the promised "Seed." They will then be on trial for everlasting life.
With this thought, and with no other, can we understand the dealings of the God of love with those Amalekites and other nations whom he not only permitted but commanded Israel to destroy, saying, "Go, smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." (1 Sam. 15:3) This apparently reckless destruction of life seems irreconcilable with the character of love attributed to God, and with the teaching of Jesus, "Love your enemies," etc., until we come to recognize the systematic order of God's plan, the "due time" for the accomplishment [A112] of every feature of it, and the fact that every member of the human race has a place in it.
We can now see that those Amalekites, Sodomites and others were set forth as examples of God's just indignation, and of his determination to destroy finally and utterly evildoers: examples which will be of service not only to others, but also to themselves, when their day of judgment or trial comes. Those people might just as well die in that way as from disease and plague. It mattered little to them, as they were merely learning to know evil, that when on trial, in due time, they might learn righteousness, and be able to discriminate and choose the good and have life.
But let us examine the prophecy further. After comparing Israel with Sodom and Samaria, and pronouncing Israel the most blameworthy (Ezek. 16:48-54), the Lord says, "When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them." The captivity referred to can be no other than their captivity in death; for those mentioned were then dead. In death all are captives; and Christ comes to open the doors of the grave, and to set at liberty the captives. (Isa. 61:1; Zech. 9:11) In verse 55 this is called a "return to their former estate"--a restitution.
Some, who are willing enough to accept of God's mercy through Christ in the forgiveness of their own trespasses and weaknesses under greater light and knowledge, cannot conceive of the same favor being applicable under the New Covenant to others; though they seem to admit the Apostle's statement that Jesus Christ, by the favor of God, tasted death for every man. Some of these suggest that the Lord must, in this prophecy, be speaking ironically to the Jews, implying that he would just as willingly bring back the Sodomites as them, but had no intention of restoring [A113] either. But let us see how the succeeding verses agree with this idea. The Lord says, "Nevertheless, I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. Then, thou shalt remember thy ways and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters....And I will establish my covenant with thee, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; that thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, SAITH THE LORD GOD." When a promise is thus signed by the Great Jehovah, all who have set to their seal that God is true may rejoice in its certainty with confidence; especially those who realize that these New Covenant blessings have been confirmed of God in Christ, whose precious blood is to seal the covenant.
To this Paul adds his testimony, saying, "And so all Israel [living and dead] shall be saved [recovered from blindness], as it is written, 'There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins.'... They are beloved for the fathers' sakes; because the gracious gifts and callings of God are not things to be repented of." Rom. 11:26-29
We need not wonder that Jews, Sodomites, Samaritans, and all mankind, will be ashamed and confounded when in his own "due time" God shows forth the riches of his favor. Yea, many of those who are now God's children will be confounded and amazed when they see how God so loved THE WORLD, and how much his thoughts and plans were above their own.
Christian people generally believe that God's blessings are all and only for the selected Church, but now we begin to see that God's plan is wider than we had supposed, and that though he has given the Church "exceeding great and [A114] precious promises," he has also made bountiful provision for the world which he so loved as to redeem. The Jews made a very similar mistake in supposing that all the promises of God were to and for them alone; but when the "due time" came and the Gentiles were favored, the remnant of Israel, whose hearts were large enough to rejoice in this wider evidence of God's grace, shared that increased favor, while the rest were blinded by prejudice and human tradition. Let those of the Church who now see the dawning light of the Millennial age, with its gracious advantages for all the world, take heed lest they be found in opposition to the advancing light, and so for a time be blinded to its glory and blessings.
How different is this glorious plan of God for the selection of a few now, in order to the blessing of the many hereafter, from the distortions of these truths, as represented by the two opposing views--Calvinism and Arminianism. The former both denies the Bible doctrine of Free Grace and miserably distorts the glorious doctrine of Election; the latter denies the doctrine of Election and fails to comprehend the blessed fulness of God's Free Grace.
Calvinism says: God is all-wise; he knew the end from the beginning; and as all his purposes shall be accomplished, he never could have intended to save any but a few, the Church. These he elected and foreordained to be eternally saved; all others were equally foreordained and elected to go to eternal torment; for "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world."
This view has its good features. It recognizes God's omniscience. This would be our ideal of a great God, were it not that two essential qualities of greatness are lacking, namely, love and justice, neither of which is exemplified in bringing into the world one hundred and forty-two billions of creatures doomed to eternal torture before they were born, and [A115] mocked with protestations of his love. Since God is love, and justice is the foundation of his throne, such cannot be his character.
Arminianism says: Yes, God is love; and in bringing humanity into the world he meant them no harm--only good. But Satan succeeded in tempting the first pair, and thus sin entered into the world, and death by sin. And ever since, God has been doing all he can to deliver man from his enemy, even to the giving of his Son. And though now, six thousand years after, the gospel has reached only a very small proportion of mankind, yet we do hope and trust that within six thousand years more, through the energy and liberality of the church, God will so far have remedied the evil introduced by Satan that all then living may at least know of his love, and have an opportunity to believe and be saved.
While this view presents God as a being full of loving and benevolent designs for his creatures, it implies that he lacks ability and foreknowledge adequate to the accomplishment of his benevolent designs: that he is deficient in wisdom and power. From this view it would appear that while God was engaged in arranging and devising for the good of his newly-created children, Satan slipped in and by one master-stroke upset all God's plans to such an extent that, even by exhausting all his power, God must spend twelve thousand years to reinstate righteousness, even to such a degree that the remainder of the race who still live will have an opportunity to choose good as readily as evil. But the one hundred and forty-two billions of the past six thousand years, and as many more of the next, are, according to this view, lost to all eternity, in spite of God's love for them, because Satan interfered with his plans. Thus Satan would get thousands into eternal torment to one that God saves to glory. [A116]
This view must exalt men's ideas of the wisdom and power of Satan, and lower their estimation of these attributes in God, of whom the Psalmist to the contrary declares that, "He spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast." But no: God was not surprised nor overtaken by the adversary; neither has Satan in any measure thwarted his plans. God is, and always has been, perfect master of the situation, and in the end it will be seen that all has been working together to the accomplishment of his purposes.
While the doctrines of election and free grace, as taught by Calvinism and Arminianism, could never be harmonized with each other, with reason, or with the Bible, yet these two glorious Bible doctrines are perfectly harmonious and beautiful, seen from the standpoint of the plan of the ages.
Seeing, then, that so many of the great and glorious features of God's plan for human salvation from sin and death lie in the future, and that the second advent of our Lord Jesus is the designed first step in the accomplishment of those long promised and long expected blessings, shall we not even more earnestly long for the time of his second advent than the less informed Jew looked and longed for his first advent? Seeing that the time of evil, injustice and death is to be brought to an end by the dominion of power which he will then exercise, and that righteousness, truth and peace are to be universal, who should not rejoice to see his day? And who that is now suffering with Christ, inspired by the precious promise that "if we suffer with him we shall also reign with him," will not lift up his head and rejoice at any evidence of the approach of the Master, knowing thereby that our deliverance and our glorification with him draw nigh? Surely all in sympathy with his mission of blessing and his spirit of love will hail every evidence of his coming as the approach of the "great joy which shall be to all people."