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Long ago King David pondered the significance of man and asked: "What is man that you are mindful of him…For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and… crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands…[and]... put all things under his feet" (Psalms 8:4-6).
God's Word plainly tells us that man's destiny is to become the children of God, divine members of His immortal spirit family. This is what Paul meant when he spoke of us as God's children. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:16-17).
This passage succinctly summarizes the purpose of human life—the ultimate reason for our existence. God is creating His family, in His image and bearing His name, to eventually appear in His glory (1 John 3:2 and Hebrew 2:10-11). Every human being will eventually have the opportunity to become a member of that eternal family!
The Scriptures clearly reveal God is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9), and He has a master plan to give everyone this opportunity. Yet a great many believe that unless you confess faith in Jesus as your personal Savior in this lifetime there will be no further opportunity for salvation. So, as belief in and acceptance of Christ is essential for salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), what happens to those who have been deceived about God’s way of life or have lived and died without ever so much as hearing the name of Jesus Christ?
The Bible reveals that the "first resurrection" of Christ's followers at His return is not the end of the story, and teaches "the rest of the dead ... small and great" are also to be resurrected from the grave at a later time. They are to stand before God and for the first time, and have the full truth of the Scriptures opened to their understanding (Revelation 20:4-6,11-12). Most will then willingly reject their sinful ways, committed mostly in ignorance.
In Matthew 11:21-24 Jesus explained that many godless people who lived and died in ages long before His time would have repented if only they had experienced Christ's preaching and miracles. He explained it would be "more tolerable" in the coming last judgment for the men, women and children who lived and died in ignorance than for those of His day who openly rejected Him.
God has made provision for all who have ever lived to ultimately have an opportunity to enter into a relationship with Him that can lead to eternal life. Jesus explained: "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment" (John 5:28-29).
Judgment in the preceding passage refers to an opportunity to understand and then undergo evaluation as opposed to the act of sentencing. This time of judging or deciding the future of those who have not yet had an opportunity to understand God's plan and purpose, whether they be small or great, is mentioned in Revelation 20:11-12, (also cited above). Ezekiel 37 provides a vivid description of this event. (See next article: Ezekiel’s Vision Of The Valley Of Dry Bones What Does It Mean?)