Most of the news we read in the papers or see on television is not good news. What do we see? We see constant war, bloodshed, famine, poverty, starvation, disease, suffering, murder, crime, corruption, dishonesty, insanity, fear, wretchedness, woe, unhappiness, and death! What a world in which we live! How could a loving God allow such things? Why is civilization in danger of total destruction? Why does God allow such evil to run amuck? Surely, some say, “If God is all-powerful, He could put a stop to all this, and mankind could live in peace, harmony, and happiness.” But because these things happen, many believe God is not fair.
Does God Have a Plan?
Many Christians are convinced that the weekly cycle is a type of the plan God is working out here below-that is, as men have been given six days of labor followed by a day of rest, God is allowing men to experience 6000 years of sin and suffering, followed by 1000 years of peace and joy. This time period of peace and joy is often called the Millennium. God has given over to Satan one week, that is, 6000 years, during which he is allowed to deceive the nations. Under the influence of Satan, humans are now experiencing the bitter lesson that falsehood and rebellion against God’s way of life can lead only to sorrow, suffering, and death. So, for 6000 years men have been left free to accept the philosophy of Satan-that of self-seeking and competition-or the way of life revealed in the Bible. A look at the world today quickly reveals that mankind, as a whole, has fallen for the deception of Satan.
God could have prevented all the evil in the world. But, this carnage could not be prevented without forcing men to act according to God’s will. Men could have been denied free wills of their own. But God made man a free-moral agent. He has the freedom of choice. It is the way of man, under the influence of Satan, that has led to all the sorrow and anguish in the world today. Had God’s way been followed, the world would be an entirely different world than the one we have today. But, suppose God had forced men against their wills to live according to His law. Those who believe God is not fair because He could stop the evil in the world, would now be accusing God of cramming His religion down their throats. More than ever men would be shouting, “God is not fair!” The fact is: God has allowed men the right to be wrong. Had He not done so, God would be accused of injustice, and men would demand the freedom to follow their own ways.
God’s plan for man calls for the building of holy, righteous, character. Character is the ability to know right from wrong, and then to always choose the right in opposition to the wrong. This requires free choice. Character cannot be instilled by making men into robots. To achieve God’s purpose, men, of their own free volition, must come to recognize that God’s Law is just, and good-the true way to follow. This can be gained only by experience. This law defines love for God and love for neighbor and is the exact opposite of the way of Satan. Christ taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Satan teaches that man must take advantage in order to get all he can from others. Self-indulgence, competition, and greed are the hallmarks of Satan’s philosophy. Our present civilization has been built on these. Vanity is what spurs men to action. Getting is the way to success. Had God not permitted man to experience this selfish way of greed and competition-the cause of war (James 4:1-2)-men would argue that they had been denied a better way than the Way of God.
God has never left mankind without a witness. Enoch and Noah were in the pre-Flood world. Later, God raised up a nation-Israel-to be a beacon to the world. Later yet, Christ and the Apostles carried the message of God’s love to the world. But men, as a whole, have rejected that message. All that is taking place in the world today is the result of rejecting the true way of God. The present god of this world is Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). He is the invisible influence behind what is taking place. The Bible plainly tells us that all nations have been deceived (Rev. 12:9). The fruits of Satan’s way are found in all the misery and suffering rampant in today’s civilization.
Christ Did Not Try to Save
the World in His Day
A look at the Gospels reveals that Christ did not try to save the world in His day. Had this been His mission, He would have succeeded. Christ did not try to remove the spiritual blindness prevalent at that time. He told His disciples, “. . . Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them” (Mark 4:11-12). Christ did not speak in parables to make the meaning clear to the people. It was just the opposite. He spoke in parables to hide what He was saying. The disciples asked Him:
. . . Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them: Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. . . . Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear (Matt. 13:10-11, 13-16).
Later, in private, Christ took the time to explain the meaning of the parables to His disciples (Matt. 13:18, Luke 8:10-11).
Christ came to give Himself as a sacrifice for mankind. He came to preach the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God. He came to call a few-just a minority-to a knowledge of the Truth. He came to raise up His Church. He did not come to save the world at that time, though He gave His life so that all eventually can be saved (1 Tim. 2:6). Man is now being forced to see and to experience the fruits of his own way. As a result of spiritual blindness, and the freedom of choice, man is having the opportunity to witness the consequences of human behavior. When men have suffered enough, and when mankind is on the verge of total destruction, Christ will return (Matt. 24:21-22). Then, and only then, will men be willing to yield to the will of God.
Our Chance Now?
Today many believe that since the time of Christ, salvation is open to everyone, and all one has to do is join a church and be saved. But, how much truth is there to this view? What are the real facts? The real facts are: (1) Salvation was not made available to ancient Israel; (2) Christ did not come to convert the world in His day; (3) Neither did He come to convert the world in our day. Let us understand why.
The promises to Israel under the Old Covenant were not spiritual. They were comprised of physical blessings and God’s protection for obedience. People were not offered salvation during the Old Testament period. The Old Testament tells us that Israel was not given spiritual understanding. “And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day” (Deut. 29:2-4). Israel was blinded spiritually, and would not have known they were blind except they had been told. They could not even understand their own Scriptures. Notice: “But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken” (Isa. 28:13). They could not understand the importance of keeping God’s commandments. They treated His law with contempt (Hos. 8:12). Ezekiel tells us: “Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols. Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live” (Ezek. 20:24-25). Instead of God’s blessings, Israel experienced curses. They were finally driven from the land and lost from sight historically. But the lessons and experiences they went through are indelibly inscribed in the pages of the Old Testament. Throughout that inspired record we find that the reason for the sufferings of the nation of Israel was “. . . to the end that they might know that I am the LORD” (Ezek. 20:26). Israel had to experience the lesson of human suffering in order to be convinced that God alone possesses the only true way of peace and happiness.
The same is true today. We are all born with carnal minds. In reality, our minds are hostile toward God’s true way. Paul writes: “. . . The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:6-7). Just as Israel of old was spiritually blinded, so are we. Christ is not trying to save the world today. Not yet. At the present time most of the world has not even heard the name of Jesus Christ. In many countries it is a criminal offense to preach Christ. Not until Christ returns will the truth be make known to the entire world (Isa. 66:19). Until called of God and given spiritual understanding, we remain spiritually blind-a veil over our eyes. God made our natural minds so that we want to do things that are contrary to His law (Rom. 3:9-18). It is perfectly natural for the carnal mind to reject truth and to do what is right in one’s own eyes. It is by this carnal mind that God has blinded all men-not to destroy them, but to bring them to repentance. “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32). The mind remains hostile toward God until that person comes to realize the results of his own way. When he repents and calls on God to change him, God gives him the gift of the Holy Spirit. His life is changed, and he is then on a new course.
Like Israel of old, we have all done that which is right in our own eyes (Judges 17:6, Prov. 14:12). God has allowed this, so we may learn that human customs and practices are wrong, that they lead us into a morass of unhappiness and sorrow, and that by living according to the Law of God-the Ten Commandments-we can achieve the joy and happiness we all seek.
The Majority Are Blinded Today
Notice Paul’s epistle to the Romans. Regarding the ancients he wrote: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. . . . And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Rom.1:21, 28). The whole world was blinded then, and it is blinded today. All nations have been blinded to the Truth of God. All nations have been deceived (Rev. 12:9). Without God’s help they are unable to comprehend the Truth.
Throughout history only a minority have been called of God and given spiritual understanding. Witness the prophets and servants of God in the Old Testament. Witness the Apostles and Christian brethren in the New Testament. Paul wrote of those who have been able to understand and obey God: “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). But how did he view the rest? “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. . . . For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all” (Romans 11:7, 32). Like Israel of old, the vast majority of human beings today think their way is better than the Way of God. Jesus never once said that mankind, as a whole, would be called and converted during this dispensation. In fact, He said that only those drawn to God by means of the Holy Spirit could truly approach Him (John 6:44). Paul adds: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Cor. 1:26).
What God Desires for Man
God desires that all men be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). But men have been made free moral agents. They must choose. Peter tells us: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). It is God’s desire that men come to see the fruits of their own way and turn wholeheartedly to God. But the Bible reveals some will refuse to repent. They will spurn the conditions required for eternal salvation and will eventually be destroyed in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15, Mal. 4:1-3). But what about those who died in the past without saving knowledge? Are they lost? Of course not! God indeed would not be fair if He did not, at some future time, make salvation available to those who lived during the Old Testament period. This He will do (Rom. 11). Their time of salvation is yet coming. There is a great spiritual harvest yet ahead when countless numbers will be resurrected and given their opportunity for salvation. This plan is made clear by understanding the meaning of God’s Holy Days. God is long-suffering, not quick to judge. He is desirous that all men repent and come to a full knowledge of the Truth. But we have a choice. We must choose which way we will follow.
Character Building Takes Time
Nothing is more unique than man. Nothing created begins to compare with the purpose God is working out for mankind. God is creating character in man-perfect, holy, character. To repeat: Character is the ability to recognize right from wrong and to always choose the right in opposition to the wrong. But human nature stands in the way of this achievement. Human nature must first be overcome. No one knows this better than God. Notice what He said in Deuteronomy 5:29: “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” And in Psalm 81:13: “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!” And again, “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isa. 48:18). Character is defined by God’s commandments. The Bible tells us:
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward (Ps. 19:7-11).
God is allowing 6000 years for man to learn the lessons from rebellion against His true way. Various forms of human government, as well as various economic schemes, have failed to solve man’s problems. Kings, democracies, and dictatorships have been unable to bring happiness. Only by the return of Jesus Christ and a change in human nature will peace and happiness be achieved. But this will not take place until God’s plan is complete.
What the Future Holds
for Those Blinded
It is a just God who has allowed the majority of men to be spiritually blinded. When that blindness is removed, they will have their first chance for salvation. Isaiah tells us: “And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations” (Isa. 25:7). There is no stigma on those not called during this dispensation. The gifts and the calling are of God (Rom. 11:29). God’s plan calls for the removal of this blindness from only a few during this time period. This a responsibility that belongs to God alone. The long-awaited Millennium is just ahead. This is the time when God will really set His hand to save the world. Christ will come with “ten thousands” of His saints. He will execute judgment upon the ungodly (Jude 14, 15). Satan will be chained and the world will no longer be deceived (Rev. 20:2). God’s Spirit will be poured out upon all flesh (Acts 2:17). Spiritual blindness will be removed from all men, who will then clearly see the significance of God’s Law and His great mercy. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9). God will give the nations a new heart and a new mind (Ezek. 36:25-27). See also Isaiah 11 and Zechariah 14.
The resurrection of the just will take place when Christ returns (1 Cor. 15:23). But there is another resurrection that follows. Read it in Revelation 20:4-6. These passages describe two resurrections-one when Christ returns and one that takes place 1,000 years later.
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Revelation 20:11-12 also speaks of a second resurrection.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that 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, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
The resurrected dead will be judged by what they did in this life, and what they will do when they are again given mortal life.
Revelation 20 depicts the climax of God’s plan of salvation. It pictures what takes place after the Millennium-the Great White Throne Judgment-when the vast majority who died without saving knowledge will be resurrected and given their first chance for salvation. This includes all from the time of Adam down through our age. This will not be their second chance, for if they formerly lived in a state of spiritual blindness, they never had a first chance. God is fair. He does not give preferential treatment. Those called during this age are having their opportunity for salvation now. They will not receive a second chance. Those not called in the past will have their opportunity when they are resurrected in the future. They will, at that time, be given their first chance.
Today, the world is largely blinded to the spiritual Truth of God. Few understand God’s plan and purpose for man. By the call God gives, and through the character building process, God is making those called members of his very own family. This family will constitute the Kingdom of God and will rule with Christ when He returns. Only by a life of sad experience can men come to realize that their ways lead only to sorrow, suffering, and death. When the blindness has been removed from mankind, all will come to see how much better God’s way really is and will then truly understand the righteousness and fairness of God. They will then surely understand that God is fair!