If humanity had an ‘immortal soul’ naturally, logically he would have an eternal destiny somewhere - either in a place of reward or of punishment. This implies that everyone is responsible to God. By contrast, we have shown how the Bible teaches that by nature man is like the animals, without any inherent immortality. However, some men have been offered the prospect of eternal life in God’s Kingdom. It should be apparent that not everyone who has ever lived will be raised; like the animals, man lives and dies, to decompose into dust. Yet because there will be a judgment, with some being condemned and others rewarded with eternal life, we have to conclude that there will be a certain category amongst mankind who will be raised in order to be judged and rewarded.
Whether or not someone will be raised depends on whether they are responsible to the judgment. The basis of our judgment will be how we have responded to our knowledge of God’s word. Christ explained: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him - the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (Jn. 12:48). Those who have not known or understood the word of Christ, and therefore had no opportunity to accept or reject him, will not be accountable to the judgment. “As many as have sinned without (knowing God’s) law, will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law (i.e. knowing it), will be judged by the law” (Rom. 2:12). Thus those who have not known God’s requirements will perish like the animals; whilst those who knowingly break God’s law need to be judged, and therefore raised to face that judgment.
In God’s sight “sin is not imputed when there is no law”; “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 5:13; Rom. 3:20). Without being aware of God’s laws as revealed in His Word, “sin is not imputed” to a person, and therefore they will not be raised or judged. Those who do not know God’s Word will therefore remain dead, as will animals and plants, seeing they are in the same position. “Man who...does not understand, is like the beasts that perish” (Ps. 49:20). “Like sheep they are laid in the grave” (Ps. 49:14).
It is the knowledge of God’s ways that makes us responsible to Him for our actions and therefore necessitates our resurrection and appearance at the judgment seat. It should therefore be understood that it is not only the righteous or those baptised who will be raised, but also all who are responsible to God by reason of their knowledge of Him. This is an oft-repeated Scriptural theme.
have now learnt that:
1. Knowledge of God’s Word brings responsibility to Him
2. Only the responsible will be raised and judged
3. Those adults who do not know the true God will therefore remain dead like the animals
The implications of these conclusions make a hard hit on human pride and what we would naturally prefer to believe. Our questioning of God’s ways in these matters is grossly out of order: “O man, who are you to reply against God?” (Rom. 9:20). We may admit incomprehension, but never must we accuse God of injustice or unrighteousness. The implication that God can be in any way unloving or in error opens up the horrific prospect of an all-powerful God, Father and Creator who treats His creatures in an unreasonable and unjust way.
Finally, it has to be said that many people, on grasping this principle of responsibility to God, feel that they do not wish to gain any more knowledge of Him in case they become responsible to Him and the judgment. Yet to some degree it is likely that such people are already responsible to God, seeing their knowledge of God’s Word has made them aware of the fact that God is working in their lives, offering them a real relationship with Him. It must ever be remembered that “God IS love”, He is “not willing that any should perish”, and “gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (1 Jn. 4:8; 2 Pet. 3:9; Jn. 3:16). God wants us to be in His Kingdom.
Such an honour and privilege inevitably bring responsibilities. Yet these are not designed to be too heavy or onerous for us; if we truly love God, we will appreciate that His offer of salvation is not an automatic reward for certain works, but a loving desire on His part to do all that He can for His children, to grant them an eternal life of happiness, through their appreciation of His marvellous character.
As we come to appreciate and
hear the call of God to us through His Word, we will realise that as we walk
through the crowds, God is watching us with a special intensity, eagerly
seeking signs of our response to His love, rather than waiting for us to
fail to live up to our responsibilities. Never is that loving eye off us;
never can we forget or undo our knowledge of Him in order to indulge the
flesh, free of responsibility to God. Instead, we can and should rejoice in
the special closeness we have to God, and so trust in the greatness of His
love, that we ever seek to know more of Him rather than less. Our love of
God’s ways and desire to know them, so that we might more accurately copy
Him, should outweigh our natural fear of His supreme holiness.