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Ezekiel, along with other Jewish captives, was taken to Babylon when King Nebuchanezzar invaded Judah around 597 BC. When he was 30 years old, he began to experience visions from God. One of these visions would encourage all who have ever lived.
Ezekiel describes this vision: "The hand of the Lord came upon me and carried me out…and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones…And He said unto me….Thus says the Lord God to these bones: 'Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live’ ….and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army" (Ezekiel 37:1-10).
God then identifies this vast group: “ …these bones are the whole house of Israel…'Behold, O My people, I will open your graves…and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord…" (Ezekiel 37:11-13). These people are those who never had a chance to know God or understand the Scriptures during their lifetime. The closing verse of this vision reveals why God has resurrected all these people: "I will put My [Holy] Spirit in you, and you shall live" (Ezekiel 37:14). At that time all of these people will have an opportunity to repent of their sins, be forgiven and receive God's Holy Spirit.
Relatively few are being called now to have their minds opened to the truth of the Bible. When Christ returns, they will be resurrected to everlasting life (1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Philippians 3:20-21). This is referred to as the ‘first resurrection’ in the Bible (Revelation 20:4-6 referenced in the previous article of this issue: God’s Great Purpose For All Mankind).
Our loving Creator is "the God of all flesh" (Jeremiah 32:27), and this great, second resurrection is not exclusively for Israel. Other peoples and nations will also be included. Several passages in the Gospels show non-Israelite rulers and peoples are to be resurrected at this time. The queen of the South (Sheba), the peoples of Tyre, Sidon and Nineveh (ancient nations and city-states), and even the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah will also be resurrected to physical life (Matthew 11:20-24 and 12:41-42; Luke 10:12-14).
Jesus plainly stated: "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice" (John 5:28), and later revealed in Revelation 20:5 that "the rest of the dead"—referring to those not raised to life in the first resurrection —"did not live again until the thousand year were finished" (Revelation 20:5). This tells us that the timing of this second resurrection is after the thousand-year period known as the Millennium.
Most in mainstream Christendom erroneously believe that today is the only day of salvation, but this belief is not biblically supported. In fact the vast majority of mankind will receive their opportunity for salvation during the great resurrection described in in Ezekiel 37:1-14.
The Apostle John also refers to this resurrection to temporary physical life in Revelation 20:11-13: "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it...And I saw the dead, small and great [now resurrected], 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 [plural, the books of the Bible]."
Those resurrected to life in what is known as "great white throne" judgment will not be judged in an instant, as many assume. God will judge them over a considerable period of time, just as those called to salvation today are judged over time during this present age by this very same standard, the books of the Bible (1 Peter 4:17; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
Many misunderstand the nature and meaning of judgment, nearly always associating the term with sentencing to condemnation—not realizing that God is a merciful judge who patiently evaluates human existence with righteous discernment. He earnestly desires to see the blood of His Son Jesus blot out the sins of as many as possible. Christ Himself firmly stated, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth [by crucifixion], will draw all peoples to Myself" (John 12:32).
Paul writes that it is God’s will that all should find salvation and “come to know the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). And in Ezekiel 18:32 we read, "'For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,' says the Lord God. 'Therefore turn [to righteousness] and live!'" This coming time of judgment will give those who never really knew God during their previous lifetime a just and fair opportunity for salvation—not a second chance.
The Good News magazine (Sep-Oct 2010)