Listen Part 1
RANSOM AND RESTITUTION
The Restitution Guaranteed by the Ransom--Not Everlasting Life, but a Trial for it, Secured by the Ransom--The Conditions and Advantages of the Trial--Christ's Sacrifice Necessary--How the Race Could be and was Redeemed by the Death of One--Faith and Works Still Necessary --The Wages of Wilful Sin Certain--Will there be Room on the Earth for the Resurrected Millions?--Restitution versus Evolution.
FROM the outline of God's revealed plan, as thus far sketched, it is evident that his design for mankind is a restitution or restoration to the perfection and glory lost in Eden. The strongest, and the conclusive, evidence on this subject is most clearly seen when the extent and nature of the ransom are fully appreciated. The restitution foretold by the apostles and prophets must follow the ransom as the just and logical sequence. According to God's arrangement in providing a ransom, all mankind, unless they wilfully resist the saving power of the Great Deliverer, must be delivered from the original penalty, "the bondage of corruption," death, else the ransom does not avail for all.
Paul's reasoning on the subject is most clear and emphatic. He says (Rom. 14:9), "For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord [ruler, controller] of both the dead and the living." That is to say, the object of our Lord's death and resurrection was not merely to bless and rule over and restore the living of mankind, but to give him authority over, or full control of, the dead as well as the living, insuring the benefits of his ransom as much to the [A150] one as to the other.* He "gave himself a ransom [a corresponding price] for all," in order that he might bless all, and give to every man an individual trial for life. To claim that he gave "ransom for all," and yet to claim that only a mere handful of the ransomed ones will ever receive any benefit from it, is absurd; for it would imply either that God accepted the ransom-price and then unjustly refused to grant the release of the redeemed, or else that the Lord, after redeeming all, was either unable or unwilling to carry out the original benevolent design. The unchangeableness of the divine plans, no less than the perfection of the divine justice and love, repels and contradicts such a thought, and gives us assurance that the original and benevolent plan, of which the "ransom for all" was the basis, will be fully carried out in God's "due time," and will bring to faithful believers the blessing of release from the Adamic condemnation and an opportunity to return to the rights and liberties of sons of God, as enjoyed before sin and the curse.
*We may properly recognize an additional and a still broader meaning in the Apostle's words; namely, that the entire human family was included in the expression "the dead." From God's standpoint the entire race, under sentence of death, is treated as though already dead (Matt. 8:22); hence the expression "the living" would apply beyond the human family to some whose lives had not been forfeited--the angels.
Let the actual benefits and results of the ransom be clearly seen, and all objections to its being of universal application must vanish. The "ransom for all" given by "the man Christ Jesus" does not give or guarantee everlasting life or blessing to any man; but it does guarantee to every man another opportunity or trial for life everlasting. The first trial of man, which resulted in the loss of the blessings at first conferred, is really turned into a blessing of experience to the loyal-hearted, by reason of the ransom which God has provided. But the fact that men are ransomed from the first [A151] penalty does not guarantee that they may not, when individually tried for everlasting life, fail to render the obedience without which none will be permitted to live everlastingly. Man, by reason of present experience with sin and its bitter penalty, will be fully forewarned; and when, as a result of the ransom, he is granted another, an individual trial, under the eye and control of him who so loved him as to give his life for him, and who would not that any should perish, but that all should turn to God and live, we may be sure that only the wilfully disobedient will receive the penalty of the second trial. That penalty will be the second death, from which there will be no ransom, no release, because there would be no object for another ransom or a further trial. All will have fully seen and tasted both good and evil; all will have witnessed and experienced the goodness and love of God; all will have had a full, fair, individual trial for life, under most favorable conditions. More could not be asked, and more will not be given. That trial will decide forever who would be righteous and holy under a thousand trials; and it will determine also who would be unjust, and unholy and filthy still, under a thousand trials.
It would be useless to grant another trial for life under exactly the same circumstances; but though the circumstances of the tried ones will be different, more favorable, the terms or conditions of their individual trial for life will be the same as in the Adamic trial. The law of God will remain the same--it changes not. It will still say, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die"; and the condition of man will be no more favorable, so far as surroundings are concerned, than the conditions and surroundings in Eden; but the great difference will be the increased knowledge. The experience with evil, contrasted with the experience with good, which will accrue to each during the trial of the coming age, will constitute the advantage by reason of which the results of the second trial will differ so widely from the results [A152] of the first, and on account of which divine Wisdom and Love provided the "ransom for all," and thus guaranteed to all the blessing of a new trial. No more favorable trial, no more favorable law, no more favorable conditions or circumstances, can in any way be conceived of as reasons for another ransom or a further trial for any beyond the Millennial age.
The ransom given does not excuse sin in any; it does not propose to count sinners as saints, and usher them thus into everlasting bliss. It merely releases the accepting sinner from the first condemnation and its results, both direct and indirect, and places him again on trial for life, in which trial his own wilful obedience or wilful disobedience will decide whether he may or may not have life everlasting.
Nor should it be assumed, as so many seem disposed to assume, that all those who live in a state of civilization, and see or possess a Bible, have thus a full opportunity or trial for life. It must be remembered that the fall has not injured all of Adam's children alike. Some have come into the world so weak and depraved as to be easily blinded by the god of this world, Satan, and led captive by besetting and surrounding sin; and all are more or less under this influence, so that, even when they would do good, evil is present and more powerful through surroundings, etc., and the good which they would do is almost impossible, while the evil which they would not do is almost unavoidable.
Small indeed is the number of those who in the present time truly and experimentally learn of the liberty wherewith Christ makes free those who accept of his ransom, and put themselves under his control for future guidance. Yet only these few, the Church, called out and tried beforehand for the special purpose of being co-workers with God in blessing the world--witnessing now, and ruling, blessing and judging the world in its age of trial--yet enjoy to any extent the benefits of the ransom, or are now on trial for life. [A153] These few have reckoned to them (and they receive by faith) all the blessings of restitution which will be provided for the world during the coming age. These, though not perfect, not restored to Adam's condition actually, are treated in such a manner as to compensate for the difference. Through faith in Christ they are reckoned perfect, and hence are restored to perfection and to divine favor, as though no longer sinners. Their imperfections and unavoidable weaknesses, being offset by the ransom, are not imputed to them, but are covered by the Redeemer's perfection. Hence the Church's trial, because of her reckoned standing in Christ, is as fair as that which the world will have in its time of trial. The world will all be brought to a full knowledge of the truth, and each one, as he accepts of its provisions and conditions, will be treated no longer as a sinner, but as a son, for whom all the blessings of restitution are intended.
One difference between the experiences of the world under trial and the experiences of the Church during her trial will be that the obedient of the world will begin at once to receive the blessings of restitution by a gradual removal of their weaknesses--mental and physical; whereas the Gospel Church, consecrated to the Lord's service even unto death, goes down into death and gets her perfection instantaneously in the first resurrection. Another difference between the two trials is in the more favorable surroundings of the next age as compared with this, in that then society, government, etc., will be favorable to righteousness, rewarding faith and obedience, and punishing sin; whereas now, under the prince of this world, the Church's trial is under circumstances unfavorable to righteousness, faith, etc. But this, we have seen, is to be compensated for in the prize of the glory and honor of the divine nature offered to the Church, in addition to the gift of everlasting life.
Adam's death was sure, though it was reached by nine hundred and thirty years of dying. Since he was himself [A154] dying, all his children were born in the same dying condition and without right to life; and, like their parents, they all die after a more or less lingering process. It should be remembered, however, that it is not the pain and suffering in dying, but death--the extinction of life--in which the dying culminates, that is the penalty of sin. The suffering is only incidental to it, and the penalty falls on many with but little or no suffering. It should further be remembered that when Adam forfeited life, he forfeited it forever; and not one of his posterity has ever been able to expiate his guilt or to regain the lost inheritance. All the race are either dead or dying. And if they could not expiate their guilt before death, they certainly could not do it when dead--when not in existence. The penalty of sin was not simply to die, with the privilege and right thereafter of returning to life. In the penalty pronounced there was no intimation of release. (Gen. 2:17) The restitution, therefore, is an act of free grace or favor on God's part. And as soon as the penalty had been incurred, even while it was being pronounced, the free favor of God was intimated, which, when realized, will so fully declare his love.
Had it not been for the gleam of hope, afforded by the statement that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, the race would have been in utter despair; but this promise indicated that God had some plan for their benefit. When to Abraham God swore that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, it implied a resurrection or restitution of all; for many were then dead, and others have since died, unblessed. Nevertheless, the promise is still sure: all shall be blessed when the times of restitution or refreshing shall come. (Acts 3:19) Moreover, since blessing indicates favor, and since God's favor was withdrawn and his curse came instead because of sin, this [A155] promise of a future blessing implied the removal of the curse, and consequently a return of his favor. It also implied either that God would relent, change his decree and clear the guilty race, or else that he had some plan by which it could be redeemed, by having man's penalty paid by another.
God did not leave Abraham in doubt as to which was his plan, but showed, by various typical sacrifices which all who approached him had to bring, that he could not and did not relent, nor excuse the sin; and that the only way to blot it out and abolish its penalty would be by a sufficiency of sacrifice to meet that penalty. This was shown to Abraham in a very significant type: Abraham's son, in whom the promised blessing centered, had first to be a sacrifice before he could bless, and Abraham received him from the dead in a figure. (Heb. 11:19) In that figure Isaac typified the true seed, Christ Jesus, who died to redeem men, in order that the redeemed might all receive the promised blessing. Had Abraham thought that the Lord would excuse and clear the guilty, he would have felt that God was changeable, and therefore could not have had full confidence in the promise made to him. He might have reasoned, If God has changed his mind once, why may he not change it again? If he relents concerning the curse of death, may he not again relent concerning the promised favor and blessing? But God leaves us in no such uncertainty. He gives us ample assurance of both his justice and his unchangeableness. He could not clear the guilty, even though he loved them so much that "he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up [to death] for us all."
As the entire race was in Adam when he was condemned, and lost life through him, so when Jesus "gave himself a ransom for all" his death involved the possibility of an unborn race in his loins. A full satisfaction, or corresponding [A156] price, for all men was thus put into the hands of Justice--to be applied "in due time," and he who thus bought all has full authority to restore all who come unto God by him.
"As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." (Rom. 5:18,19) The proposition is a plain one: As many as have shared death on account of Adam's sin will have life-privileges offered to them by our Lord Jesus, who died for them and sacrificially became Adam's substitute before the broken law, and thus "gave himself a ransom for all." He died, "the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." (1 Peter 3:18) It should never be overlooked, however, that all of God's provisions for our race recognize the human will as a factor in the securing of the divine favors so abundantly provided. Some have overlooked this feature in examining the text just quoted--Rom. 5:18,19. The Apostle's statement, however, is that, as the sentence of condemnation extended to all the seed of Adam, even so, through the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Father's plan, by the sacrifice of himself on our behalf, a free gift is extended to all--a gift of forgiveness, which, if accepted, will constitute a justification or basis for life everlasting. And "as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one many shall be [not were] made righteous." If the ransom alone, without our acceptance of it, made us righteous, then it would have read, by the obedience of one many were made righteous.
But though the ransom-price has been given by the Redeemer only a few during the Gospel age have been made righteous--justified--"through faith in his blood." But since Christ is the propitiation (satisfaction) for the sins [A157] of the whole world, all men may on this account be absolved and released from the penalty of Adam's sin by him--under the New Covenant.
There is no unrighteousness with God; hence "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) As he would have been unjust to have allowed us to escape the pronounced penalty before satisfaction was rendered, so also he here gives us to understand that it would be unjust were he to forbid our restitution, since by his own arrangement our penalty has been paid for us. The same unswerving justice that once condemned man to death now stands pledged for the release of all who, confessing their sins, apply for life through Christ. "It is God that justifieth--who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Rom. 8:33,34
The completeness of the ransom is the very strongest possible argument for the restitution of all mankind who will accept it on the proffered terms. (Rev. 22:17) The very character of God for justice and honor stands pledged to it; every promise which he has made implies it; and every typical sacrifice pointed to the great and sufficient sacrifice-- "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the SIN OF THE WORLD"--who is "the propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins [the Church's], and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2) Since death is the penalty or wages of sin, when the sin is canceled the wages must in due time cease. Any other view would be both unreasonable and unjust. The fact that no recovery from the Adamic loss is yet accomplished, though nearly two thousand years have elapsed since our Lord died, is no more an argument against restitution than is the fact that four thousand years elapsed before his death a proof that [A158] God had not planned the redemption before the foundation of the world. Both the two thousand years since and the four thousand years before the death of Christ were appointed times for other parts of the work, preparatory to "the times of restitution of all things."
Let no one hastily suppose that there is in this view anything in conflict with the teaching of the Scriptures that faith toward God, repentance for sin and reformation of character are indispensable to salvation. This feature will be treated more at length hereafter, but we now suggest that only the few have ever had a sufficiency of light to produce full faith, repentance and reformation. Some have been blinded in part, and some completely, by the god of this world, and they must be recovered from blindness as well as from death, that they, each for himself, may have a full chance to prove, by obedience or disobedience, their worthiness or unworthiness of life everlasting. Then those who prove themselves unworthy of life will die again--the second death--from which there will be no redemption, and consequently no resurrection. The death which comes on account of Adam's sin, and all the imperfections which follow in its wake, will be removed because of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; but the death which comes as a result of individual, wilful apostasy is final. This sin hath never forgiveness, and its penalty, the second death, will be everlasting--not everlasting dying, but everlasting death--a death unbroken by a resurrection.
The philosophy of the plan of redemption will be treated in a succeeding volume. Here we merely establish the fact that the redemption through Christ Jesus is to be as far-reaching in its blessed results and opportunities as was the sin of Adam in its blight and ruin--that all who were condemned and who suffered on account of the one may as surely, "in due time," be set free from all those ills on account of the other. However, none can appreciate this [A159] Scriptural argument who do not admit the Scriptural statement that death--extinction of being--is the wages of sin. Those who think of death as life in torment not only disregard the meaning of the words death and life, which are opposites, but involve themselves in two absurdities. It is absurd to suppose that God would perpetuate Adam's existence forever in torment for any kind of a sin which he could commit, but especially for the comparatively small offence of eating forbidden fruit. Then, again, if our Lord Jesus redeemed mankind, died in our stead, became our ransom, went into death that we might be set free from it, is it not evident that the death which he suffered for the unjust was of exactly the same kind as that to which all mankind were condemned? Is he, then, suffering eternal torture for our sins? If not, then so surely as he died for our sins, the punishment for our sins was death, and not life in any sense or condition.
But, strange to say, finding that the theory of eternal torture is inconsistent with the statements that "the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all," and that Christ "died for our sins," and seeing that one or the other must be dropped as inconsistent, some are so wedded to the idea of eternal torture, and so prize it as a sweet morsel, that they hold to it regardless of the Scriptures, and deliberately deny that Jesus paid the world's ransom-price, though this truth is taught on every leaf of the Bible.
Is Restitution Practicable?
Some have supposed that if the billions of the dead were resurrected, there would not be room for them on the earth; and that if there should be room for them, the earth would not be capable of sustaining so large a population. It is even claimed by some that the earth is one vast graveyard, and that if all the dead were awakened they would trample one upon another for want of room. [A160]
This is an important point. How strange it would be if we should find that while the Bible declares a resurrection for all men, yet, by actual measurement, they could not find a footing on the earth! Now let us see: figure it out and you will find this an unfounded fear. You will find that there is an abundance of room for the "restitution of all," as "God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets."
Let us assume that it is six thousand years since the creation of man, and that there are fourteen hundred millions of people now living on the earth. Our race began with one pair, but let us make a very liberal estimate and suppose that there were as many at the beginning as there are now; and, further, that there never were fewer than that number at any time, though actually the flood reduced the population to eight persons. Again, let us be liberal, and estimate three generations to a century, or thirty-three years to a generation, though, according to Gen. 5, there were but eleven generations from Adam to the flood, a period of one thousand six hundred and fifty-six years, or about one hundred and fifty years to each generation. Now let us see: six thousand years are sixty centuries; three generations to each century would give us one hundred and eighty generations since Adam; and fourteen hundred millions to a generation would give two hundred and fifty-two billions (252,000,000,000) as the total number of our race from creation to the present time, according to this liberal estimate, which is probably more than twice the actual number.
Where shall we find room enough for this great multitude? Let us measure the land, and see. The State of Texas, United States, contains two hundred and thirty-seven thousand square miles. There are twenty-seven million eight hundred and seventy-eight thousand four hundred square feet in a square mile, and, therefore, six trillion six hundred and seven billion one hundred and eighty million eight [A161] hundred thousand (6,607,180,800,000) square feet in Texas. Allowing ten square feet as the surface covered by each dead body, we find that Texas, as a cemetery, would at this rate hold six hundred and sixty billion seven hundred and eighteen million and eighty thousand (660,718,080,000) bodies, or nearly three times as many as our exaggerated estimate of the numbers of our race who have lived on the earth.
A person standing occupies about one and two-thirds square feet of space. At this rate the present population of the earth (one billion four hundred million persons) could stand on an area of eighty-six square miles--an area much less than that of the city of London or of Philadelphia. And the island of Ireland (area, thirty-two thousand square miles) would furnish standing room for more than twice the number of people who have ever lived on the earth, even at our exaggerated estimate.
There is not much difficulty, then, in settling this objection. And when we call to mind the prophecy of Isaiah (35:1-6), that the earth shall yield her increase; that the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; that in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert, we see that God indicates that he has foreseen all the necessities of his plan, and will make ample provision for the needs of his creatures in what will seem a very natural way.