Will everyone have a FULL CHANCE at Salvation?
The Bible shows that God intends to raise up everyone in one of the resurrections, in His good time, and in their proper order. Briefly, in Revelation chapter 20 we find a description of the 1,000 year period we often call "the Millennium." At the beginning of the Millennium, Satan is bound and locked in a deep pit, to be released briefly following the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-3). At this same time, the time of Christ's return at the beginning of the Millennium, the faithful who have died come back to life in a resurrection:
"Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus, for proclaiming the word of God. And I saw the souls of those who had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) " (Revelation 20:4-5, New Living Translation).
This is the time of the resurrection of the saints to immortality, spoken of by so many scriptures. Following the Millennium, Satan is loosed from his prison. He immediately gathers an army together to march against God's people, but ends up in the lake of fire, while his armies are destroyed (verses 7-10).
Following this is the time of the second resurrection and a time of judgment for the rest of the dead:
"And I saw a great white throne, and I saw the one who was sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God's throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to the things written in the books, according to what they had done . . . And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:11-12, 15, NLT).
The resurrected dead -- including the Jews who rejected Jesus without realizing who He really was -- have the books of the Bible opened to them, at long last. Some time after that, the Book of Life is opened, and a search is made for the names of these people. If they lived their lives in the resurrection according to the things written in the books, there's every reason to believe their names will be found in the Book of Life. There is real hope for the BILLIONS of people who lived and died without ever hearing about God, Jesus, salvation, or living forever as children of God. That includes your friends and family members who may have died but who were not at all religious during their lifetimes. There's hope for them in the second resurrection. Isn't that wonderful?
Most people will be in the SECOND resurrection. Those relatively few people God has called into the faith in this life, today, are often called the Body of Christ, but are also referred to in the Bible as firstfruits:
"He [God] chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created" (James 1:18).
As a whole, humans are cut off from God. Why? Isaiah answers,
"Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things" (Isaiah 59:1-3).
A growing number of people are becoming aware that this is the pattern in the world throughout history. The world loves to sin -- sometimes in the supposed name of God! God sees the rejection, and like a gentleman, He doesn't poke His nose in where He is not welcome. He leaves people pretty much alone to go their own way, make their own decisions and mistakes, and reap the rewards for their incredible misbehavior and disobedience.
However, God has reserved the right to raise up a body of firstfruits and call whoever He wishes into it, while the rest of humankind remains temporarily blinded. As noted earlier, Jesus said,
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day" (John 6:44).
What IS God's Plan for Man?
The plan of God is to leave the majority of mankind uncalled and in the dark until the time is right for them to be called. When is the time right? When God says it is -- it's God's timetable! God is working out His plan of salvation, involving the calling out of what the Bible terms the firstfruits now, in this age, and then calling the rest of mankind later, in the general resurrection following the Millennium. Ultimately, all humans will be given the opportunity to be saved. But it must happen according to God's timetable.
Knowing this can help us understand why the majority of people throughout history and today haven't shown any interest in Jesus Christ at all. We know it's God's will for people to be blinded and not be able to understand the message, even when Jesus Himself was standing there, in the flesh, telling them! The responsibility is God's. He chooses whom He will call, and when He will call them.
We can see that the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day often reviled Him, and the Jewish people often followed Him only because they wanted to be fed with physical food (John 6:26-27) or to be healed of physical infirmities (Matthew 14:35-36). But most of them were not ready to follow Christ the way we understand following Christ - a total commitment of our lives to living His way of life. They simply hadn't been invited yet. Once again, it's God's responsibility.
God is working out a plan of salvation among the human race. As part of that plan, God brings some people to repentance now, and others He'll call later. The firstfruits are called ahead of the rest, not instead of the rest. There's nothing special about the firstfruits, except that God chose them before the rest of the world, and they had enough sense to listen to God and respond to His invitation.
We find references in the Bible that the heart is evil above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). We find that the carnal mind is antagonistic toward God, and can't even be subject to the laws of God (Romans 8:7). We find that it's not in the heart of man to direct his own steps (Jeremiah 10:23). But we also see that the devil has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9), that he's the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), and that we need to put on the armor of God to stand up against the devil (Ephesians 6:11).
And the Good News for Jews and heaven is . . . ?
The GOOD NEWS is that those who are Jewish who rejected Jesus didn't know what they were doing. They were not willfully, knowingly rejecting their Savior and Messiah. They just didn't recognize Him, (John 1:10-11)! Jesus assured us,
"And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men [including the sins that nailed Jesus to the tree!], but the blasphemy against the Spirit [rejecting Christ with full knowledge of what they are doing] will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven [and there have been a lot of people doing that throughout history], but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matthew 12:31-32).
In Jesus' day, the eyes of the Jews were blinded. Even when Jesus was going around preaching and teaching, He often hid His meanings by telling stories and speaking in riddles and parables:
"The disciples came, and said to him, 'Why do you speak to them in parables?' He answered them, 'To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, BUT IT IS NOT GIVEN TO THEM.'" (Matthew 13:10-11).
A lot of the responsibility for this blindness and deafness falls right on the people themselves - or should I say "ourselves." We hardly hear with our ears; we have closed our eyes. We have all participated in our own ignorance, as a volitional act! I can only hope we who do see and hear and understand always keep in mind that we are being judged now.
"For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, if it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" (1Peter 4:17-18).
The second resurrection, following the Millennium, will be when the vast hordes of mankind (including the Jews who initially rejected Jesus) who have died over the thousands of years of human history come back to life in a physical resurrection. This incredible scene, almost too astounding to grasp, is described in vision by the prophet Ezekiel, in his famous "dry bones" vision (Ezekiel 37:1-14).
These resurrected mortals will be given the opportunity to understand God's way and follow Him - the same opportunity that Christians in this life currently have, but with one important difference: Satan will not be there to deceive them or tempt them! In that future time, those who choose to pursue the goal of being sons in the family of God will be changed into immortal spirit sons of God, just as those in the first resurrection had been either resurrected or changed to immortal spirit when Christ returned at the beginning of the Millennium. And so the world will be filled with happy, peaceful, loving sons of God.