After the second resurrection, all unbelievers will be "cast into the lake of fire." We have already shown that they will NOT be subjected to literal torture. But we need to focus our attention on the more positive question of what their condition will be.
The State of Resurrected Flesh
In 1 Corinthians 15:35 Paul expresses some very typical Epicurean banter which Paul had to answer:
The Bible only points to Jesus as the Example of how the dead are raised. We read in Romans 8:11 that the Spirit of God raised Him from the dead. The Bible, however, does NOT reveal how this is accomplished.
As to the type of body the dead will manifest at the resurrection, the example is again seen in Jesus' resurrected body. In Luke 24:36-39 Jesus appeared to his disciples after His resurrection. We read here:
36 And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst.
37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have."
From this we see that Jesus was not a spirit, at least not in the usual sense. We read in other places that after His resurrection Jesus also ate with His disciples (Luke 24:30; John 21:13). Spirits cannot eat food, nor do they have marks upon their bodies as Jesus did.
On the other hand, Jesus did not have ordinary flesh either, for He was able to walk through walls (John 20:26) and to vanish into thin air (Luke 24:31). In Luke 24:39 (quoted above) Jesus said He had "flesh and bones," but no mention is made of having blood. Why? Because the soul is in the blood (Lev. 17:11, translated properly). Men are buried in a soulish state, but raised in a spiritual state, as we read in 1 Cor. 15:44.
The soulish body has flesh and blood; the spiritual body has flesh and bones. There are some who believe that in this present life we have a physical body, but in the next life we will be spirits, no longer having bodies. Jesus' example shows that this view is incorrect. While the resurrected body is not limited by the flesh as we are today, it is yet physical and tangible in some way.
Perhaps the best explanation of the resurrected body is found in Ezekiel 44. The sons of Zadok, we are told, will have a reward different from the ordinary Levitical priesthood. In New Testament terms, the sons of Zadok represent the Melchizedek Order, those who inherit the first resurrection. These are differentiated from the Levites, who represent the rest of the Church. God tells Ezekiel that the "Levites" in that day will be allowed to minister to the people in the "outer court" (the flesh), but only the "sons of Zadock" will be allowed to minister to God as well as to men.
We are told that the "sons of Zadock" will wear their linen garments when ministering to God; but then they must change into woolen garments when ministering to the people (Ez. 44:19). Linen here represents the spiritual state; while wool, which comes from animals, represents the physical state. In other words, the sons of Zadok, those who inherit the first resurrection, will be able to move from the spiritual dimension into the physical at will, even as Jesus did. The rest of the Church will not be allowed this privilege until they are transformed at the second resurrection a thousand years later.
Jesus was the product of a heavenly Father and an earthly mother. Before His incarnation, he had authority in heaven. He was born of a woman as the Son of man in order to receive authority in the earthly, physical realm as well. When His work was completed, He could say in Matt. 28:18,"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."
The goal of resurrection and transformation into His Image is to become like Jesus. We too have a heavenly Father and an earthly mother. Jesus is our Pattern Son, and we follow in His footsteps. As men are raised from the dead in the three resurrections, they will be given authority in both the heavenly (spiritual) dimension and the earthly (physical) dimension. Both are important in the plan of God, at least until such time as the Restoration of All Things is completed.
The Nations in the Final Age
In both the age to come and the Final Age after it, there will be many unbelievers who will learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9). It is the purpose of God's judgments to teach men the divine law and to enforce their practice. This enforcement of restitution to all victims of injustice also finally results in the restoration of all things. When the lawful order is fully restored, then all judgment ceases and God's forgiveness covers the whole earth and its inhabitants.
God's method of teaching is by putting the principles into practice during that Age and by righting all wrongs of the past ages which men "got away with" at the time. By these means all the nations of people outside the new Jerusalem will begin to learn His laws, even as prophesied in Isaiah 2:2-4.
This prophecy is repeated in Micah 4:1-5. This is the nature of Jesus' JUDGMENT called "the lake of fire." It is when the nations are purified. It is when the nations of all past ages, many of whom never heard the name of Jesus, will be able to learn of Him. As a result, they will accept Him as King and as their Savior sooner or later. When they do, "they may enter by the gates into the city" (Rev. 22:14) and thus have access to the tree of life.
And so, the unbelievers raised at the last judgment will not have "spiritual flesh" as will the believers. They are raised to judgment, not to immortal life (John 5:29). They will not be immortal, nor will they be incorruptible, as will the believers (1 Cor. 15:53). They will still be "flesh and blood" which "cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50). When they turn to Christ in repentance for their sins, they will be much like Christians today, although the world will be vastly different politically.
Some will gladly recognize Jesus as the King of kings, submitting to the refiner's fire; others will only do so by constraint of law. Some will be refined in short order; others will need a very long time to pay all the restitution for their crimes against God and men.
Perhaps their life spans will be divinely set in order to accommodate these differences in time needed for each to restore the lawful order. We are not told in Scripture. But at the end of it all, when all enemies have been put under His feet, then death itself shall be destroyed, and God will be "all in all." That is, the fullness of the Holy Spirit will be in all men, NOT some in all, or all in some, but all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).
Jesus said that the wicked would be cast into "outer darkness" (Matt. 8:12). This is the part of the earth that is outside the new Jerusalem, which is the kingdom of Light. It is NOT a literal darkness, for the sun and moon will continue to shine on them even as today. In Revelation 21:23 and 22:5 we are told that "the city" alone has no need for the sun and moon, since Jesus was there as its Light. But is does NOT say that the sun and moon will stop shining upon the rest of the earth. And so this "outer darkness" is comparable to the spiritual darkness in the world today (Matt. 4:16).
There are many "nations" living outside the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24-27) who will begin to walk in the light (that is, follow its laws in obedience to its King). These "nations" are the unsaved peoples of the earth from all past ages. They are not allowed to LIVE in the city, for this is reserved only for the citizens of the Kingdom, who have been given bodies of "spiritual flesh." Yet there will be people of these other nations who WILL have access to the city, for we read in Rev. 21:26:
John also says in chapter 22:
The citizens are already IN the city. The implication here is that the rest of the people-those in the "outer darkness," or "the lake of fire"-may "enter" the city from the outside, if they qualify.
In the book of Zechariah, the prophet also tells us that these other nations of people will be able to come into the city. In fact, they will be REQUIRED by divine decree to come to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Some will obey and some will not. If they do not, God will keep the "rain" from falling upon those nations. We read of this in Zechariah 14:16-19. We begin with verse 9:
9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one. . . . 16Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 17 And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. 18 And if the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the LORD smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 19 This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.
We will deal with the feast of Booths, or Tabernacles, more fully in our next chapter. For now we simply point out that there will be nations outside the Kingdom such as "Egypt," who will be required to observe the feast. If they refuse, the "rain" of the Holy Spirit will not be poured out upon them.
When the people of these nations that are outside the new Jerusalem see the blessings of God poured out upon others, they will want to learn and obey the divine law. They will learn righteousness. And at the end of that final Age, all of creation will be restored to God. All authority and powers and kingdoms will be in obedience to Him, for He will put all enemies under His feet. Only then will that last enemy (death) be destroyed. Jesus will present the full Kingdom, all of creation, to His Father, and God will be all in all.
All Shall Be Made Alive
This message of the restoration of all things was taught by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:22-28.
Most of this passage is self-explanatory. Yet I should draw the reader's attention to a few critical details.
Verse 22: It is evident that all mankind died in Adam-with no exceptions. In the same manner also shall all be made alive in Christ-with no exceptions. The "all" in both cases parallel each other and are equal in scope. However, they will NOT all be raised and saved at the same time.
Verse 23: Each class shall be raised in its own order (tagma, "squadron"), for there is more than one resurrection ahead. Keep in mind that Paul is here dealing with the various resurrections of mankind. He has already dealt with Jesus' resurrection in verses 1-21. That is the foundation of the resurrections that follow.
The first "squadron" to be raised, according to most translations, is "Christ the firstfruits." This rendering hardly makes sense, since Christ is not a "squadron," but a single Person. This could have been "anointed firstfruits" (see above). The word "Christ" in the Greek is the word for "anointed." When speaking of Jesus, it is preceded by the definite article the, making it "THE Anointed (One)," or "THE Christ."
For example, in verse 22 (above) the original Greek has the definite article before "Christ," because Paul is referring to Jesus, "the Christ" in whom all shall be made alive. At the end of verse 23 the same is true when Paul says, "afterward those that are (the) Christ's at His coming." Between these two examples, however, we find a case where the definite article is NOT used: "Christ the firstfruits." It is therefore likely that "Christ" is NOT referring to "the Christ" (Jesus), but rather to a more general squadron of anointed ones.
And so, verse 22 is better understood to mean, "anointed firstfruits." This is the first squadron of believers; those who are to inherit the first resurrection. Paul carefully chose this phrase to describe the firstfruits of the barley harvest, which was to be anointed with oil, as we read in Leviticus 23:13.
This was in direct contrast with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, the figure of the second resurrection of the Church in general. Those firstfruits were to be baked with leaven, rather than anointed with oil, as we read in Leviticus 23:17.
We will discuss the firstfruits in more detail in our next chapter on the three harvest festivals.
The second squadron of resurrected ones are "those who are Christ's at His coming," or presence. Christ's "presence" here is when He comes as Judge at the Great White Throne. This is most clearly portrayed in Daniel 7, where the prophet saw "the Ancient of Days" coming to sit upon the throne of judgment (Daniel 7:9 and 22). We have already shown that this is the second resurrection and includes both believers and unbelievers.
Verse 24: "Then comes the end" refers to the end of all things, i.e., after the Ages of Ages. This is the third and final time where a squadron of people will enter into God's rest. It is not quite accurate to call this occasion a resurrection, because it appears that the sinners being judged during that final age will be kept alive to serve out their sentence. We read about this in Revelation 20 where "death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire." If death itself, and hades with it, are cast into the lake of fire, it appears that the first death will be abolished at the Great White Throne Judgment to make way for the second death, or the lake of fire.
The second death is a second TYPE of death. It is defined simply as the lake of fire, which, as we have seen, is the judgment of the law. This second death is the final enemy that must be abolished at the Creation's Jubilee of the earth at the end of the final age. Paul says clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:26 that "the last enemy that will be abolished is death."
Only then, Paul says, will all earthly authorities have been made subject to His authority. Only then will all enemies have been subdued. Once all enemies are fully under His feet, then will come the abolition of death itself. This can only be accomplished by giving life in Creation's Jubilee.
Even as the first squadron represents the barley harvest, and the second the wheat harvest, so also this third squadron represents the grape harvest. In order for God to obtain the wine, He must tread out the grapes, that is, He must "put all enemies under His feet." Paul again has chosen His words carefully with the harvest theme in mind.
It is Jesus' responsibility-indeed, His calling-to rule His Kingdom on earth during the final Ages of the Ages, until the purpose of His reign has been fulfilled. Jesus will NOT reign forever as the Son. He will reign only as long as it takes to subject the whole earth under His feet. It will take BOTH of the coming ages to do this. His purpose is to conquer the whole earth by the power of His Love, for He said in John 12:32,
In other words, Jesus said, "If I am crucified, I will draw ALL MEN to Myself." Was Jesus "lifted up" on the cross? Of course He was. Then He will indeed draw ALL MEN unto Himself. He died for the salvation of the whole world, not just a few, and His blood has never lost its power.
When all men have accepted Christ as Savior and King, even as believers in past ages have done, then He will present a perfected and completed Kingdom to His Father.
Verses 27, 28: Paul here quotes from Psalm 8:6, as he does so often to prove the point. All things (ta panta, "the All") will be put in subjection to Christ, with the single exception of the Father Himself, who will not, of course, be put under the headship of the Son. And when the all is indeed subjected to the Son, then Christ will present the entire perfected creation to the Father as a present and be subject to the Father also. This is truly a glorious destiny for the earth. This is the Creation's Jubilee.
The Witness of Hebrews
Hebrews 2:6-9 continues this same teaching:
Here the author defines "all" as "everyone." Not all are in subjection to Christ at the present time, but the day is coming when all men everywhere WILL be subject to Him. Meanwhile, the Scripture says, we see that Jesus tasted death for EVERYONE. "He left nothing that is NOT subject to Him.
Paul refers to Psalm 8 again in Philippians 3:20 and 21.
Many Christians today have never really thought about whether Jesus really has this power or not. They assume that He is essentially powerless to save any but the firstfruits, a tiny portion of the harvest, because Jesus will not go against the will of man. But Jesus Himself said in John 12:32 that if He would die upon the cross, He would "draw" all men to Himself. The word "draw" is the Greek word, helkuo, which means "to drag." As used in the New Testament, it always indicates that the one doing the dragging is imposing his will upon the ones being dragged.
John 6:44 says no man can come to the Father except the Father DRAG him. John 12:32 says that Jesus will DRAG all men to Himself. John 21:6 speaks of dragging the net to bring the fish to shore. James 2:6 speaks of the civil magistrates, who, in persecuting the Christians, would DRAG them to court.
It is apparent, then, that the day will come when God's will is going to be imposed upon all men. He will drag all them to Himself by means of judgment, that is, the lake of fire. He has both the power and the will to do this.
In Philippians 2:10,11, Paul says:
John saw the fulfillment of this in a vision recorded in Revelation 5:13.
John well knew that the purpose of Christ's rulership in His Kingdom was to draw all men to Himself. He wrote in 1 John 2:2,
Of this verse, Clement of Alexandria gives us a commentary on its meaning and scope in his Commentary on 1 John:
What a marvelous thing that Jesus would die not only for our sins (that is, for us as Christians), but also for the sins of the entire world! Surely the blood has not lost its power since then. Paul told Timothy (1 Tim. 4:10,11) to preach this as well.
10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
11 Prescribe and teach these things.
Believers are especially singled out, because their salvation comes first. Theirs will be a greater honor, because they will inherit Life in the Kingdom. But yet, God is the Savior of ALL MEN. No doubt Timothy and others like him did indeed teach this in Asia Minor, for the early Church leaders in the next centuries were faithful to teach these things, as their writings prove.
And today we are likewise exhorted to teach these things. Why? Because it is important to understand that God is truly righteous in His judgments. The usual teaching of endless torment makes God unjust. By what standard? By God's standard, as revealed in His law. That is the only righteous standard in the earth. And for this reason we must know of the restoration of all things.
What Paul told the Colossians
Paul's doctrine was clearly spelled out in Colossians 1:16-20.
In this passage, Paul first defines "the all" as the created universe, both in heaven and on earth, including not only visible things like people, but even the invisible things like authority itself. Then Paul says that it was THE FATHER'S GOOD PLEASURE to reconcile all these things to Himself by the blood of Jesus. Can anything be clearer? This is not a hidden doctrine. No one needs to twist Paul's words to understand this plain teaching. God hid it in plain sight.
The Theology of Paul in Romans 5
The book of Romans is really Paul's course in theology. In his fifth chapter he shows the comparison between Adam and Christ in the process of justifying all men.
This tells us that through Adam, sin entered the world, along with its penalty, death. Adam's sin was then imputed to all of us, not only to His descendants, but indeed to all of creation, which groans in travail because of it (Rom. 8:22).
Adam's sin was imputed to us. That simply means, we were blamed for his sin, though it was an act done outside of ourselves. And thus, we all had to pay the penalty for Adam's sin, which is death. This is why we are all mortal. We are not mortal because WE sinned; we are mortal because Adam sinned, and his sin was imputed to us.
By the same process, the righteousness of Jesus is an act done outside of ourselves, but which is imputed to us. Thus, we benefit from its effect-life, or immortality. We may illustrate the principle like this:
The trouble is, no one in the class has any cookies, nor do they know how to make them. But suddenly a smart new kid named Ricky comes to class. What a break! He knows how to make cookies! So . . .
Johnny and Ricky have something in common. By one bad deed Johnny brought guilt upon the whole class, and so they all had to pay the penalty. On the other hand, by one good act Ricky brought justification to the whole class, and so they all benefited.
This is what Adam's sin did TO us; and this is what Jesus righteous act did FOR us. But what is the SCOPE of this? Was Paul talking about only a few people? Or was he talking about equal numbers of people affected? Romans 5:18 and 19 gives us the summarized answer
It is self-evident that all men (NO EXCEPTIONS) were affected by Adam's sin. All men were born mortal. In the same way, Jesus' act of righteousness results in the justification of all those who died in Adam. Paul is talking about the same group of people.
If Adam's sin affected all men, and Jesus' righteous act affected only a tiny fraction of men, then Jesus could hardly be compared to Adam. Surely Adam's power is not greater than Jesus' power! The early Church did not think so, and it is time this teaching were restored to the body of Christ. It is time we restored this teaching to the Bible-believing Church. It is time we get a plain view of the power and will of God to be the Savior of all men, a God who loses nothing, but gathers up all the fragments of men throughout history, that none be lost (John 6:12).
This is the great Mystery of the Gospel, what Paul calls "the secret of His will" in Ephesians 1:9.
This is the secret; this is the "intention which He purposed in Him." It is the plan for the created universe, "The All." He will be King of kings and will subject all things under His headship. Clement of Alexandria summarized it all 1800 years ago (Stromata VII, 2:5-12) by saying:
The Ministry of Restoration
The fourth chapter of Malachi tells us that "Elijah" will come to prepare the way before the Messiah. Jesus said that John the Baptist had that calling, which was to "restore all things." We read in Matthew 17:11-13,
What John did was only a small fulfillment of the work that was to be done at Christ's second appearance. How do we know? Because Malachi prophesied it would be done before "the great and terrible day of the LORD." That day is yet future, for 2 Peter 3:10 says that "the day of the Lord will come like a thief."
It is plain that this ministry of restoring all things is to precede the second appearance of Christ, when He comes to rule His Kingdom. Thus, the company of people who are called to help fulfill the prophesied Elijah ministry must know about this restoration. They themselves are called to "restore" in the sense of calling people to repentance. But they are also called to bear witness to the great Restorer who comes afterward and to prepare the people's hearts for that divine plan of Restoration. Peter summarizes that message in Acts 3:19-21.
The purpose of this book is to reveal the secret of His will. This secret is that God will reconcile "The All" of creation, as Paul told the Colossians. It is to be the Savior of "all men," as Paul told Timothy. It is to justify "all men," as Paul told the Romans. It is to make "all men" alive and to subject "The All" to Himself, as Paul told the Corinthians. It is that "every knee" will bow and "every tongue" will confess, as Paul told the Philippians. This is the mystery, the secret, which Jesus revealed to Paul in the three years he spent in the desert. It is now time for the world to rediscover it.
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