How can we reconcile God’s love for humanity, and His requirement to accept His Son for salvation when, let’s face it, most people throughout history have never heard of Jesus Christ?
Let’s begin our search for answers with the Apostle John’s vision of Christ’s return recorded in the book of Revelation. In chapter 19 John describes the dramatic appearance of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to save humanity from self-destruction. In chapter 20 he describes a resurrection of the dead.
“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
John calls this the first resurrection. Then he continues: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
In this passage John also writes, now listen to this: “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” Who are the rest of the dead? Few people understand what appears to be a second resurrection. (Revelation 20:4-6).
We’ll come back to this in a minute.
So in this first resurrection the people who awaken from the sleep of death are all those who followed God both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament Church. They will reign on earth with Jesus Christ for 1000 years. Now this is a time that is commonly called the millennium.
We find more details about this resurrection from the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. A passage that is often called the Resurrection Chapter. The apostle Paul describes a resurrection from the dead at the sound of the last trumpet. Those awakened from death will experience a new, eternal life. Paul describes a spirit body of eternal energy, a life without the corrupting effects of sin, a life where we can see God as He is.
This is the same resurrection John writes about in Revelation, that he calls the first resurrection. But when we go back to Revelation 20 we read this important statement, “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.”
Who are the rest of the dead? This is critical to understand.
So let’s think about it. We’ve seen that the first resurrection is of the saints to receive a spiritual body and the rest of the dead don’t live again until the end of the millennium. So to understand we have to pick up the story again in Revelation 20 towards the end of the chapter where John writes about what happens after the millennium. He says this, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:11-16).
These are the billions of people who have lived throughout history, brought back to life! People of salvation through Jesus Christ. Now they have the Scriptures opened to their understanding.
This series of events is commonly called the Great White Throne Judgment. Most people, most Christians, don’t understand this time of judgment. Do you?
Beyond Today Television transcript "Hard Questions: Does God Condemn Non-Christians?"