It is important that we should see, clearly, that in God's arrangement for the reconciling to himself of the world, i.e., of such of the world as do or shall, after fuller knowledge of the Lord, earnestly desire a reconciliation, he in no degree compromises the matter of sin; he in no way lifts one particle of the penalty first pronounced against sin. His proposition, first and last, is to "save HIS PEOPLE from their sins," not in them. And it is only "his people" that he will save (deliver, clear, release) from the power and consequences of their sins. While all are released from the condemnation of Adam's sin, each has a varying quantity and variety of sins and imperfections of his own, only partially the results of inherited weaknesses, to be gotten rid of before he can be perfected and fit for the favors and covenant-relationship of Jehovah. This is the work which Christ Jesus now does for his church, the consecrated, and this is the work which, in a little different form, Christ and his church, his Bride, are to do for "whosoever wills" of all the race, during the Millennial age.
The Lord's method in dealing with his Church, the "little flock" of the Gospel age, is as follows: He assures us that if we fully accept of him, first as our Redeemer who bought us with his own precious blood, and secondly, if we desire to avail ourselves of the privileges, thus afforded us, of returning to obedience and harmony and fellowship with God, and to the lasting life and blessings which these conditions secure, he will own us as [R1178 : page 6] friends of God, for whom the New Covenant was made; and that under the conditions of that covenant all such may reckon forgiven all the sins of the past (and all the sins and errors of future days which they may unwillingly commit). And this state of reckoned forgiveness, reckoned purity, reckoned soundness and sinlessness, is termed "justification by faith," because it is not an actual righting and perfecting of the sinner. If he abides in covenant-relationship with God, that is, if he continues to trust in the redeeming blood of Christ, and continues to despise sin and to desire and seek fellowship with God—so long he is reckoned and treated as "justified freely from all things." And if he should ignorantly and unintentionally do a wrong, which knowingly and realizingly he would not have done, his justification continues; such a transgression is not reckoned to be a sin under the favorable conditions of the New Covenant. Even though, under strong temptation, such an one should stumble and commit a sin, yet his heart remain true to the Lord, so that reflection upon the act or word shall cause sorrow and contrite repentance and so far as possible a correction of the wrong—this shall not be treated as a violation and cancellation of his justification under the New Covenant (though he may receive "stripes," "chastisements," for his correction); because his heart, his will, is still loyal toward God, so that he would not have committed the transgression had he been strong and able to resist the temptation. The corrective dealings of the Lord with such will, however, teach them that they must go to him for strength for every weakness, that his strength may be perfectly manifested, even through their weaknesses.
But if the individual should turn from righteousness to love sin, or if he should reject the precious blood (sacrifice) of Christ, by which the New Covenant came into operation, and by which he had once been sanctified (Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-31), his justification is canceled, he is no longer reckoned justified, perfect, but his sin remains. He is yet in his sins; in the very gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. To such the special favors of God are closed, though with the whole world they share the general bounties—rain, sunshine, food, etc., and perhaps may prosper beyond many of the Lord's "friends," the covenant-keepers, during the present time, while evil is permitted to rule the earth.
We would have it clearly seen that earnest desire after righteousness and reconciliation with God, and the recognition of Christ's ransom-sacrifice as the only way by which this desire can be accomplished, are the only conditions upon which the Lord God will enter into any covenant with the condemned and imperfect children of Adam, now or in the coming age. And the moment these conditions are complied with by any, that moment they are reckoned and treated as though they were perfect and sinless, as the happy objects of divine love and favor, except that they are not released at once from the aches and pains and imperfections which sin brought on them.
But, why are not all such "friends" of righteousness at once released from the encumbrances and penalties of sin? Because divine wisdom (which, as we grow in grace, we are more and more able to appreciate) sees best to test and prove the sincerity of our professed love and promised obedience to his arrangements. Our everlasting fidelity must be assured; it must be demonstrated that our turning to God is more than a fancy, a whim, an experiment on our part. All experimenting must all be done in the present or in the Millennial age, and the real, final, fixed preference of each must be ascertained; whether he chooses righteousness (and thus chooses everlasting life, its reward) or whether he prefers sin (and thus chooses [R1179 : page 6] everlasting destruction, extinction—its reward). Because, God's purpose, as he declares it, is that sin and imperfection shall not be permitted to go beyond the close of the Millennium; that all who do not prefer and rejoice in righteousness shall be cut off; and that sin and its consequences, pain, sorrow and dying, shall never more be permitted to mar the perfect bliss of eternity among any of his creatures. So, then, it is for our everlasting good as well as for the good of all God's creatures that he does not at once actually justify (make perfect) all who profess to accept the New Covenant conditions. The reckoned justification, or justification by faith, answers every purpose best; it permits the return to favor and fellowship and introduces the sin-sick soul to the great Physician and Life-giver, who sees to it that the wounds do not heal merely on the surface to break out afresh, but keeps them open at the surface until they heal thoroughly from the heart outward.
In general, as thus far considered, the New Covenant has the same effects upon the contrite believers of the Gospel age that it will have upon the same class of the coming Millennial age. But now we will notice some differences. During the Millennium, while each one who desires reconciliation and accepts of the Redeemer as the way, the truth, and the life, will thereby come under the conditions of the New Covenant and by faith may instantly realize his justification, his pardon, and his at-one-ment with God, though still actually imperfect (just as the same class now do), he will not, as we do, continue on in imperfection down to the tomb, but will gradually (more or less rapidly, in proportion to his love of righteousness and trust in the Redeemer, who will then also be his King) make progress toward perfection—mentally, morally and physically, until at the close of that age of trial ("judgment") all mankind shall have had fullest knowledge of the wages of sin and of the wages of righteousness, and under fullest opportunity each will have made his choice (as well all who will have fallen into the Adamic death, which Christ's ransom-sacrifice has changed into a limited "sleep," as those who will be awake at the time that reign of righteousness begins); and each one worthy of everlasting life will by that time have attained perfection. Thus, the general perfecting of God's "friends," "his people," Christ's followers or "sheep," will be gradual. This is the general resurrection [raising up] which shall, inch by inch, during Christ's reign, lift up, up, up, out of death and all its imperfections, all whom the Lord, their Judge, shall find worthy of life; so that all that was lost in Adam shall be restored by Christ, the Second Adam—perfection of organism and perfection of life (vitality) and perfection of joy in fellowship with God.
This difference, however, in the method of dealing with them and with us, is not owing to a difference in the operation of the New Covenant, as might at first appear, but to the change of administration—to the fact that the development of another feature of the divine plan makes the change of dealing expedient.
The New Covenant relates not to the method, by which restitution will come to those who come into this covenant-relationship, but to the restoration of harmony or at-one-ment between God and "his people." His people, being degraded in sin, and imperfect, are unfit for at-one-ment with their holy Creator, and the New Covenant is the name of the new arrangement God is willing to enter into with these, through the merit of Christ's death, reckoning them and treating with them as though perfect, until the Great Teacher and Restorer shall have perfected them actually. Then, the New Covenant will be at an end; and there will be no further use for it, since there will no longer be any creature to bring into harmony with God, all then being in a condition of fullest harmony and obedience. And then, too, the special work of Christ as Mediator of the New Covenant will be at an end, for the same reasons.—1 Cor. 15:25-28.
The Millennial period is the proper time in God's arrangement for the Lord Jesus, as Judge and Law-giver, to try or judge the world, to prove which are worthy of life and to raise them up to it; and to prove which are unworthy, and to cut them off forever in the second death, as unworthy cumberers of the ground. So, then, the offer of the New Covenant conditions and privileges to any is the offer of life everlasting upon God's conditions; it is the offer of a resurrection; for, as we have heretofore shown, the mere awakening of mankind from the sleep of the tomb is not, by a great deal, all that is meant by the word resurrection (Greek, anastasis). The awakening is merely the first or preliminary step which, under the beneficent arrangement of the New Covenant, will furnish opportunity to all to come to a full knowledge of God's love and gracious provision. Then, by coming into willing harmony with the provisions and conditions of the New Covenant, Life, in the full, true sense of the word, may be gradually attained by whosoever wills.
But let us not for one moment lose sight of the one fact, made so prominent in God's Word, that all of God's provisions for future blessing are in and through the terms and conditions of the New Covenant, which contains no hope, or blessing, or provision, for any who love unrighteousness, when they see its character and results fully. Its provisions are all and only for the friends of God, the lovers of righteousness. No provision is made for the everlasting life of wilful sinners, but, as it is written: "He that believeth into the Son hath life [Provision has been made through Christ, whereby all such shall, by resurrection, attain to perfect LIFE. At present, like all other New Covenant favors, this LIFE is possessed by faith and hope only;—it is hid with Christ in God.—Rom. 8:24; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3]; but he that disobeyeth the Son [when he and the New Covenant are made fully known—1 Tim. 2:4; Isa. 11:9; Acts 3:22,23] shall not see LIFE; but the wrath of God abideth on him."—1 John 3:36.
All that are in their graves shall come forth to consciousness, to a measure of life as at present (which, however, is really a dying condition); but none shall ever see LIFE, in the true, proper, full sense of the term, except upon hearty compliance with all the conditions of the New Covenant. Thus the friends of God, the lovers of righteousness, will be manifested and raised up, while all others shall be cut off in the second death, without ever having really and fully experienced perfect life;—having, however, possessed and understood and wilfully rejected the conditions upon which they might have attained to that life.
"The wrath of God," his condemnation to extinction, will abide or continue upon all who, when fully aware of its blessed provisions, reject the New Covenant conditions of reconciliation with him. As already shown, it was not for such that the Lord provided redemption and salvation; and had divine wisdom, seeing the hearts of men, foreseen that all would reject the New Covenant opportunity for reconciliation, we cannot doubt that no such covenant of salvation would have been provided; on the contrary, infinite wisdom and love would long ago have blotted out the race as a brood of vipers. The New Covenant is the city of refuge to which all who hate their sins and who would escape the avenging sword of justice may flee and be saved from destruction. We who are under its protection can sing of our deliverance, "We have escaped the condemnation that is on the world." Many, very many more, thank God, will similarly escape by coming within the gates of the same covenant—under the influence and control of the great Mediator of that New Covenant who bridged the chasm of condemnation and opened the way into it, at the cost of the sacrifice of himself. But whoever, knowing all, shall refuse and neglect to come under this refuge provided, continues in condemnation still; is still under the wrath of God; still deserves the wages of sin—death, extinction.
We have heretofore shown that the "little flock" of the Gospel age is to constitute the First Resurrection, i.e., the chief or choice resurrection; it is thus designated, because it is to be not only a raising up to perfect life but to perfect life on a higher plane or nature—to the divine instead of the human nature. For the same reason the Apostle Paul calls it the out-resurrection (exanastasis), or the resurrection of the selected-out ones. (See Phil. 3:11.) However, the word first is appropriate also as describing the order; for the resurrection of the "little flock" comes first in order, too. It began with Christ the head—it will be finished at his second advent in the perfecting of "the church, which is his body."
We have seen, too, that in the past ages some valiantly overcame obstacles, and would not compromise their conscience to procure deliverance, that they might obtain a better, more favorable, resurrection. (Heb. 11:35.) And we have seen, too, that the "better" or favorable feature of their resurrection (though they will not have part in the First Resurrection, which will include none but the Bride, the Lamb's wife, whose call and selection did not begin until our Lord came to redeem and to call them) consists in the fact that they will not be obliged to come to perfection slowly, step by step during the Millennial age of trial. Their trial was completed under severely trying conditions; and this is evident, for "they had this testimony, that they pleased God and that God is not ashamed to be called their God." Hence they, like the Gospel age little flock, are counted as having passed from condemnation to death into justification of life. And when God's due time shall come, both of these classes will get the reward of Life—perfect life—instantly; though not in the same instant, because the Gospel church as the body of Christ will have precedence, "God having provided a still better thing [a still [R1180 : page 6] better resurrection] for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."—Heb. 11:40.
They who see clearly how the justified ones of the Gospel age, the "Bride," and the justified ones of the preceding time, [R1180 : page 7] whom the Christ shall "make princes [rulers] in all the earth," are to have each a resurrection to LIFE [the one to spiritual and the other to human perfection], can see, as no others can see, the meaning of the Prophet's words (Dan. 12:2) that some shall awake to everlasting Life and some awake still in the same condition of condemnation, imperfection and shame, in which they fell asleep in death. Some (two small classes) will come forth already acquitted, justified to life; while the many who will come up to perfection, will come during the age of trial and be of the resurrection of trial or resurrection of condemnation. And some—we have every reason to believe they will be few—shall never come up to life at all, shall never escape the condemnation or "wrath," and "shall not see LIFE;" because of wilful, intelligent opposition to God. Such adversaries of God and of righteousness are called the servants [angels] of Satan (Matt. 25:41), the children of the devil (1 John 3:10), and such like names, because they pattern after his character and partake willingly of his spirit. And such shall be destroyed with Satan in the second death, symbolized by the lake of fire. (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:14.) And this their punishment (extinction in second death) is to be an everlasting punishment. There will be no ransom and restitution from the second death, because it will be inflicted only upon the wilfully evil, who first will have had and rejected all the abundant opportunity of reconciliation afforded by the New Covenant. The rewards and punishments at the close of the Millennial age are, both, final and everlasting. The one class the Judge decides to be worthy of life everlasting and the other worthy of death everlasting—extinction.—Matt. 25:46.
So, also, is the statement that there shall be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. The just are those of the Gospel age and of the preceding times who are justified to life and rise perfect, in "the resurrection of the just." The resurrection (raising up, up to perfection) of the unjust should not be understood to mean that unjust persons will reach perfection (for the Lord's words, and the New Covenant's conditions, forbid the thought that any except the just shall ever see LIFE); but should be understood to mean that not only the few, who now through faith and obedience are recognized by God as the just, but others, many others, now unjust, shall have the opportunity of being lifted up to perfection. And, indeed, it might be said, truly, that any who have the means or opportunity of resurrection placed within their grasp, really receive a resurrection.
The Apostle Peter expressed a general truth when he said: "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted of him." (Acts 10:34.) Of a truth we see, too, that all not of this character described will be rejected. But, as God for a time recognized only Israel, his typically holy people, and left others unrecognized, treating them as strangers and aliens until the Gospel age opened a door of favors to the few who have ears to hear the present call; so there are throughout the world to-day millions whom God regards as his "friends," though he has not yet revealed himself and his plan of salvation, under the New Covenant, to them. These, as yet, are blinded by Satan with false representations of God's character and plan and often deluded as to what is right and what is wrong, and are thus hindered now by weaknesses within and by errors without. They reverence the Creator and ignorantly worship him, and prefer and make some effort for righteousness, as far as they can appreciate it. These all, of every age, among them such noble, shining heathen lights as Aristotle, Plato, Confucius and others, are the "sheep" whom our Lord came to seek and to save; such are the "friends" for whom he laid down his life; such are "his people" whom he came to save from their sins (John 10:16; 15:13,14; Matt. 1:21); though as yet the vast majority know not of the Redeemer or the precious ransom-price he gave or of the gracious conditions of the New Covenant sealed and ratified by his blood.
Nor can even such "friends" ever be saved, ever reach everlasting life, except under the conditions of that New Covenant—faith and obedience. That is God's way and his only way. Therefore, the Millennial age is appointed to be the period in which these who constitute the vast majority of God's "friends" shall be raised to perfection; and it is called the resurrection of the [now] unjustified, because they are as yet unbelievers who have not yet come to a sufficiency of knowledge. How could they become believers without hearing of Christ—without a full, clear understanding of God's character and plan and covenant? And how could such as have fallen into the Adamic sleep come to a knowledge of the truth (Eccl. 9:10) without being awakened? Therefore it is appointed of God that all that are in their graves shall hear the summons of the Son of man and come forth. And the ransom and its precious opportunities for reconciliation shall be testified to all; all shall come to an accurate knowledge of the Truth; the blinded eyes shall be opened and the deaf ears shall be unstopped; "and they that hear [obey] shall LIVE," and the soul that shall not hear [obey] that Teacher shall be cut off from among his people, shall die the second death.—1 Tim. 2:4,6; Isa. 35:5; John 5:25; Acts 3:23.
The fact that the New Covenant is spoken of as being made only with God's people has confused many; because (1) they have failed to note that God recognizes as "his people" all who fear him and work righteousness, including all who under fuller light than they now have would do so; and because (2) in reading the Old Testament prophecies, which promise the New Covenant, they apply all its promises to the Jews or to the Gospel church, or to both of these exclusively; and failing to see the true lengths and breadths of the expression, "God's people," fail also to see that Israel and its Covenant were largely typical of the New Covenant and the millions on millions, who shall ultimately come unto God under its provisions, more ample than that of the Jewish Covenant, and under its Mediator, more powerful than Moses, and able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him. In order that they may come, all shall be called, "all shall hear his voice." In order that they may come, he "will draw all;" all shall be drawn by the fullest, clearest presentation of the truth. Yet "if any man [thus drawn] draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him;" the soul [being] that will not hear [obey] that Teacher shall be cut off as unworthy of LIFE. But all such as hear and come to an appreciation of the truth and love it and enter a covenant of obedience then, shall sing, with spirit and with the understanding also, as we do now—
Hallelujah! What a Savior! And what a grand, glorious, comprehensive and yet exclusive salvation he is working out: comprehensive in that none are debarred from its privileges in any sense or degree; exclusive in that it will exclude all that would tend to mar true joy and pleasure and will admit only such as will possess the mental and moral likeness of God—his people, his children. Verily, God will "call those his people who were not his people, and her beloved who was not beloved." Israel not only represented the beloved, the true Bride, the "little flock," the "royal priesthood," in her typical priesthood, but also represented typically all of God's people as they shall all yet be blessed under the grand antitypical priesthood of Christ and the Gospel church, who not only render "better sacrifices, but by and by shall be established as a kingdom of priests after the order of Melchizedeck. But as the sacrifices for sin under Israel's covenant and by her High Priest were for Israel only, and yet only typical of the true High Priest's mediatorial sacrifice of atonement, for the sins of the whole world, so it is evident that the New Covenant ratified by his blood [death] applies not to Israel only but to all whom Israel represented, viz., all who ever shall become God's covenant people under the New Covenant.
How grievously, then, they err who misunderstand us to teach that the just and the unjust, the holy and the evil disposed, shall be compelled to keep each other's distasteful company throughout eternity. Above we have shown that God's plan is to give eternal life to none but the righteous, but that he has made the most abundant provision, through Christ and the New Covenant, for all to become righteous.
And how foolish and unscriptural is the view of those ("orthodox"?) Christian friends, who, stumbling over the New Covenant, narrowly see only the selection of the present (really only a work preliminary to the coming work of blessing). This leads some on the one hand to so narrow down their ideas of the provisions of the New Covenant that they see only the very few saints of the present time blessed under it, and the masses entirely ignored and not even brought to a knowledge of its provisions that they might accept or reject them. And it leads others to the other extreme, of holding that all the ignorant heathen, and the "so-so" majority of mankind (including all except the foulest murderers, and even such of them as shall breathe a prayer for mercy before they die), will all, though still morally filthy, untaught of God, undisciplined and untried, be hustled together into the society of the Lord, the saints and the holy angels, to constitute the family of God. Surely, sane Christian people who have no love for such companionship now can only picture it for the future from two causes: (1) their false ideas of the divine [R1181 : page 7] plan, which they suppose has provided only heaven or eternal torture for all at the close of the present life, and (2) they are too generous of heart to consign the vast majority, or any but the vilest of the vile, to such a penalty as eternal torment, and would rather spend a portion of eternity in such uncongenial society and trust to improving them, than to think of their agonies. Such generous souls should learn the way of the Lord more perfectly. They should see that their plan of saving the masses is, to say the least, very crude and imperfect. They should see that their view of results would make it appear that the New Covenant is really a compromise with sin on God's part, instead of an arrangement by which sinners might be saved from their sins and brought into harmony with God and to perfection. It would be strange, indeed, if divine wisdom could not devise a better plan.
On the other hand, our views of the divine plan should not be confounded with those of Universalists, which represent God as so unjustly weak and loving that he cannot execute the laws of his kingdom; or so untruthful as to have declared a falsehood, which he never meant to execute, when he said, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." What wonder, if these find no place for the New Covenant and no use for "the blood of the New Covenant," nor for "the Mediator of the Covenant," in their theory touching the World's Hope.
Their hope, built upon the assumed weakness of God's character and his inability to execute the penalty he prescribed against sin, or upon his change of mind, or his deception of mankind in naming a penalty which he never intended to execute against any, is surely a hope built upon a sandy foundation and not upon the rock foundation of the New Covenant, sealed with the precious blood.
Neither should the views we present be confounded with the views of what we might term Irresponsible -Universalism, which claims that man has no responsibility, and merely acts and thinks as acted upon by divine power and providence, which places the responsibility for sin all upon God, and which, consistently with that false premise, holds that a ransom for man's sin, and a New Covenant based upon it, would be but a farce; since, if man is not responsible for sin, he needed no atonement to be made for him, and since God caused the sin, he alone is responsible and is bound by his own justice to release all men from the penalties of sin (which, according to their view, are undeserved) and bring all to everlasting life and joy.
This view is a shamefully weak, unreasonable and unjust one. It is a calumny upon man as well as a blasphemy against the great Creator. It is a calumny upon men in that it represents them as so many living machines without will for evil or for good; which, therefore, no amount of experience could either benefit or injure; and which would be as unworthy of reward for right-doing as undeserving of punishment for evil-doing. It is a blasphemy against God in that it represents him as using his power for evil. Worse than that, it represents him as using his power to produce an unmitigated evil, in bringing sin, pain and death upon a creature which, it claims, was not only not responsible, but by nature incapable of being in any way benefited or exercised by the evil; having no will of his own to be exercised, but being merely a tool, and a toy, in the hands of the Creator. And, still worse, this view would make it appear that, after doing all these great wrongs to man, God had added insult to injury by charging his own sin to the man, and calling man a sinner when he was not; and providing typical sacrifices for sin first and then pretending to love the sinners so as to give his Son to be their Redeemer, making a farce of the death of Christ and keeping up the delusion and deception through the apostles and the Gospel church since, until some of these wise men found out the fraud God was perpetrating, and exposed him—calling the exposition The Spirit of the Word.
The spirit of a very unsound reason, much rather, are such teachings. The spirit of a heart going about to establish [R1181 : page 8] its own uprightness and sinlessness at the expense of slandering the character of the great Creator. The spirit of a man who is seeking hopelessly, vainly, for a firm footing upon his own reasonings, and who has not submitted his reasonings to the divine testimony. We have no use for such a spirit: it is not worthy even to be called the spirit of the world; for that is more true, more noble, more reasonable.
But the weakness of this latter, irrational, "Irresponsible-Universalism" is shown in its claim, that God will save all men, eternally, because his justice demands that his wrong against man shall be righted. The reasoning, here, is on a par with the rest; it is unreasonable nonsense to claim that justice would demand anything or be a moving consideration at all in such a being as this theory would make out God to be. If so unjust as to perpetrate all this wrong for six thousand years, there certainly is no ground for any faith in his justice. If he has lied and deceived in the past, as this theory would imply, there could be no better reason asked for rejecting and disbelieving any and all promises for the future. This theory builds upon the shifting sands of human speculation only (and very poor sand even), and not upon the New Covenant, sealed with the precious blood of Christ.
On the contrary, the view we here present is harmonious; it is consistent with reason and with all that God has revealed of his own character. It recognizes man's responsibility for his own will. It recognizes God's justice and man's guilt. It does not excuse sin but applies God's remedy for its healing. It does not offer to heal wilful sinners, but repentant ones. It does not heal ignorant ones, because of ignorance, nor wiser ones on account of knowledge, but provides that all must come to a clear, full knowledge of the truth, and that then, only such as fully and heartily accept of Christ's atoning work, and make use of it, to obtain access to God, and restoration to harmony with him, and shall prove themselves willingly so, under a trial, shall ever see LIFE in its fulness, or go beyond the Millennial age to enter the portals of that blessed eternity beyond, which God hath provided only for those who love him.