TWO DISTINCT SALVATIONS
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” (Heb. 2:3)
In the past many of us misunderstood these words – “so great salvation” – and have thought them to apply merely to an “elect” few of the saintly followers of our great Redeemer. Surely it should not be thought strange if a closer examination of God’s Word would demonstrate to us that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways and plans higher than ours. (Isa. 55:9) It should not surprise us to find that our forefathers were generally in considerable darkness in respect to “what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” (Eph. 3:18,19) It should not surprise us to find that our Savior will yet see the fruitage of the travail of His soul and be satisfied (Isa. 53:11), and that this satisfaction will result from the salvation of more than the Gospel Age “Little Flock,” who walk in His steps and who, like Him, present their bodies living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God in the service of Truth and Righteousness. (Rom. 12:1)
There are several viewpoints for treating this thought that more than an “elect” few are eventually to reach eternal life through the Redeemer of mankind. One way, which many adopt, is to claim that our Lord and the Apostles did not really mean to establish so high a standard of sainthood as their words imply, and then to conclude that the unsaintly will gain eternal life as well as the saintly – all except the degenerately wicked. This view of matters, which is a common one, is undoubtedly prompted by sentiment and sympathy for friends, relatives, neighbors and the heathen; but it is wholly contrary to God’s Word.
Another view still held by some is that everybody but the saintly will suffer torture eternally and hopelessly. This second view is certainly in violent conflict with Gen. 1:31: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” We believe all of us will agree that it requires a very warped and heinous imagination to discern anything “very good” in a God of love who by design brings into existence billions of human beings who would eventually be consigned to everlasting and hopeless torment.
The third view is the one we believe to be in accord with every text of Scripture, in accord with the Divine attributes of Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power, and in accord with sanctified common sense. This Plan is most comprehensive, but we will give a brief outline as follows:
Salvation in no sense began before the Redeemer’s birth 4,125 years after the fall of our first parents in Eden. In all that long period nobody was saved. The Apostle declares in our text that salvation began to be preached by Jesus. Again we read that Jesus brought life and immortality to light through His Gospel. (2 Tim. 1:10) So then, life and immortality and the Gospel Message began to be preached by our Lord and was not preached before His day. Indeed we can see that if “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), then it could not have been preached; nothing could be preached previously except the Divine declaration that God purposed in due time to redeem mankind from sin and death through a Savior and a great One – One able to save unto the uttermost all that would come unto the Father through Him.
This reasoning is surely true to the facts. Search all through the Old Testament, and you will find no promise of eternal life set forth except by the Law given to the little nation of Israel. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” is the clear declaration of Amos 3:2. That Law declared that he that doeth these things shall live by his obedience thereto (Rom. 10:5); and the Apostle assures us that Jews died because none of them kept the Law – because no imperfect human being could meet the requirements of God’s perfect Law. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” (Rom. 3:20) The Apostle, further explaining the matter, says, “Wherefore then serveth the law?” He replies to his own question: “It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” (Gal. 3:19)
THE ELECTIVE SALVATION
The Apostle’s words direct our thought back to Eden, when God declared that the Seed of the woman would at some future time bruise the Serpent’s head. (Gen. 3:15) But that Seed did not begin to exist for over four thousand years after, and has not yet crushed the Serpent’s head – destroyed the works of Satan and Satan himself. The Apostle’s words again remind us of God’s promise to Abraham, “In thee [thy Seed] shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3) This “seed of Abraham” is designated the “elect” (1 Pet. 1:2); they are those of this Gospel Age who partake of the “great salvation.”
Since our Lord appeared, there has been only a “call” to accept Him; none have been forced to obey. Those who responded to that call have covenanted to offer the “better sacrifices” (Heb. 9:23), which will truly atone once and for all for “the sins of many.” (Heb. 9:28)
But the Scripture is clear and forceful that “every knee should bow . . . that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10,11) Surely, none will contend that this condition exists now on earth, or ever has existed in human history since Eden. Little wonder our Lord instructed us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” – where every knee does now bow to the Lord of Glory. Abraham was not thus blessed, nor were any others thus blessed, however faithful they were. All the blessing was to come through Abraham’s Seed, and could not be dispensed before His coming. Hence the Apostle, referring to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the faithful of past time, declared, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises” (Heb. 11:13), the blessing, reconciliation to God and eternal life.
And when Jesus came He did not attempt to bless the world, but on the contrary, in His prayer, declared, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me” (John 17:9) – the saintly, the Very Elect. (Matt. 24:24) These He called; these He taught – “Israelites indeed.” These He directed to give the same message to others, not for conversion of the world, but for the calling, instruction and edification of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. The message to these from first to last was that they were called to suffer with Him, that they might also reign with Him.
In the past many of us have overlooked the fact that the Church is, figuratively, “the Body of Christ,” to be hereafter, as the Apostle declares, “the Church which is His Body.” And again, “Now ye are the Body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Cor. 12:27) In a word, the entire Christ includes the members of the Body with the glorious head of the Body. This glorious Christ, which will be completed by the close of this Gospel Age, will be the promised Seed of Abraham. (Gal. 3:8,16,29)
From this viewpoint we can see why God’s long promised blessing has not yet reached the world, but furthermore we can also see that He is merely selecting or electing the Church, the Seed of Abraham. The promise to Abraham is, “In thee [thy Seed] shall all families of the earth be blessed” and, as we have seen, the Seed of Abraham is Jesus the Head and the Church His Body. In a word, our previous view of the Divine Plan was too narrow. We saw the election of the Church, but did not see God’s gracious purposes for all the families of the earth.
The Church, as the Scriptures declare, is merely a “first-fruits” unto God of His creatures and is not, by any means, the entire harvest. Let us here remember St. Paul’s explanation of this matter. He declares, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” (Gal. 4:28) They are the heirs of the promise, through whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed. (Gen. 26:1-4)
It might be said in one sense of the word that any chance of eternal life coming to Father Adam or to any member of his race would be a second chance, since Adam was placed on trial in Eden with a reward of eternal life or a penalty of death, and he lost his chance of eternal life by disobedience. This is undoubtedly true of him individually. From this standpoint, in lesser degree, however, every member of the human family must eventually have a second chance for eternal life, because it was for this very purpose that our Redeemer left the Heavenly glory, was made flesh and dwelt amongst us and died, “the just for the unjust.” (1 Pet. 3:18) Whoever enjoys this second chance must expect no more, because “Christ dieth no more.” (Rom. 6:9) But, as we have already seen, nobody had a second chance for eternal life prior to the coming of our Redeemer into the world. He “brought life and immortality to light.” (2 Tim. 1:10) He died, the Just for the unjust, to make reconciliation for iniquity – and this message of “so great salvation” began to be spoken by our Lord.
Comparatively few have heard the Gospel since Jesus’ day, the “good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people.” (Luke 2:10) Comparatively few have heard of the only “name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) These few are the only ones who in any sense of the word have had their second chance. Indeed we might, Scripturally, limit the matter much further and say that the Gospel has been hidden from the majority of those who heard it; their mental eyes and ears being blind and deaf, they did not comprehend the Message, and therefore could not reject it.
The high calling, the “so great salvation” which so few have really heard and seen is referred to by our great Redeemer, saying, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (Matt. 13:16) “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God . . . neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14) “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:10) In other words, only the spirit-begotten ones have been on trial for life everlasting or death everlasting. And only the faithful footstep followers will gain the glory, honor, immortality and joint-heirship with Him in His Kingdom.
These are the “Elect,” the “Very Elect.” These are such as make their calling and election sure by so running as to obtain this great prize of membership in the Body of Christ. These elect ones experience a change of nature, and in the future will not be human beings, but partakers of the Divine nature. (2 Pet. 1:4) They will be inducted into the perfection of the Divine nature in the First Resurrection, the chief Resurrection, in which they will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.
HUMAN SALVATION IS “RESTITUTION”
(The “Common” Salvation)
Many of us experienced great emotional distress at the thought that the heathen and everybody except saints (which would include some of our dear friends and relatives) would be consigned to an eternity of torture, yet we all recognized that Heaven is not a place of development but a condition of perfection. We were perplexed, mystified. We did not follow our Bibles with sufficient care. Many of us twisted the Scriptures, wrested them from their plainly obvious significance, and always to our own injury. Some went in the direction of Universalism, and others abandoned the Holy Book.
Now we see where we erred. God has two salvations; one for the Church of this Gospel Age and a totally different one for the remainder of mankind. The salvation for the Church is to the Heavenly nature, spirit bodies, and joint heirship with the Master in His Kingdom, the “great salvation” – which flesh and blood cannot inherit, as we have already seen. The other salvation, for mankind is an earthly one, called in the Scriptures “Restitution,” the “common salvation.” (Jude 3) Man was not an angel originally, not a spirit being; but, as the Scriptures declare, “The first man is of the earth, earthy.” (1 Cor. 15:47)
It was that earthy man, perfect in the image of his Creator, for whose happiness Eden was specially prepared. By obedience to God he might have continued to enjoy his Eden home everlastingly. By disobedience he first lost his fellowship with God, then his Eden home, and after nearly nine hundred and thirty years of toiling with thorns and thistles in sweat of face, the death penalty upon him reached completion – he died. Adam’s race, sharing his weakness by laws of heredity, has also shared death with him.
The Scriptures tell us that God’s real purpose in sending Jesus into the world was that “the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17) It was not the salvation of the Church; that was an incidental and prior feature. The Church (the Ecclesia – the “called out” ones) is selected so that as the Bride or Queen during the Kingdom she may be associated with her Lord, the King, as the Seed of Abraham in the blessing, the saving of the willing of Adam and his family from sin and death conditions. We remember the Master’s words to the effect that He came “to seek and to save [recover] that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
We have just seen that it was a human life, human perfection and an earthly home that were lost. It is these then that Jesus proposes in due time to recover for Adam and his family. The Messianic reign of Jesus and His Body – the Anointed, the Christ, the Messiah – will be for the purpose of blessing Adam and all of his race with glorious opportunities of an earthly salvation. The uplifting, restoring influences of Messiah’s Kingdom will affect not only Adam and his race, but also the earth itself. Gradually Paradise Lost, as a little Garden of Eden will become Paradise Regained, as the entire world becomes beautiful. Then the wilderness shall blossom as a rose and the solitary place shall be glad. (Isa. 35)
At our Lord’s First Advent the “acceptable time” (Isa. 49:8; 2 Cor. 6:2) began – the time when God, having accepted the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, became willing through Him to accept the sacrifices of all who desire to become His disciples – to take up their cross and follow Him through evil report and good report even unto death. The entire Gospel Age antitypes the sacrificing time of Israel’s Day of Atonement, and the sacrifices of our Lord and the Church, His Body, are the “better sacrifices” foreshadowed by the bullock and the goat offered typically by the Jews. This is the acceptable year of the Lord which Jesus declared. (Isa. 61:2; Luke 4:19) God’s faithful people of this acceptable day are glad to be invited to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” (Rom. 12:1) In the end of this acceptable day will come the end of all opportunity to thus sacrifice the human nature and become joint-heirs with Christ and partakers of the Heavenly nature.
Then will be introduced a new period, styled in the Scriptures, “Times [or years] of Restitution.” (Acts 3:21) The “acceptable day” for the Church’s sacrifice has been the Gospel Age, and is now just about completed. And we know how long the “Times of Restitution” will last – a thousand years. St. Peter tells us when these “Restitution Times” will begin. They did not begin in his day. They will begin as a result of the Second Advent of Jesus, the Messiah, and the establishment of His Kingdom and righteousness: “Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive [retain] until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet [of whom I am but a type or figure] shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear [obey] that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:19-23)
Those who do not obey will be destroyed in the second death, from which there is no recovery. This great Prophet has been in the process of raising up throughout the Gospel Age, and when the last member of His Body shall have passed beyond the veil, He will stand forth in the glories of His Kingdom to rule, judge, instruct, restore and bless all the families of the earth with opportunity for restoration to all that was lost in Eden and redeemed at Calvary.
We offer also our Lord’s words in Mark 4:11,12: “And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery [secret] of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without [the great mass of unbelievers], all these things are done in parables [in a parable the words used are symbolic, not literal]: 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.”
Certainly the words of this Scripture can mean but one thing: Our Lord did not wish His language to be so plain that all human beings could understand it; therefore, it was only for the “few chosen ones.” And, if eternal torment be the everlasting future of the great mass, it would label our Lord Himself with the guilt of their deplorable and unending agony – and His assurance of “Good Tidings” to all would be not only misleading, but completely false.
Consideration of His words in John 5:28,29, however, harmonizes all very clearly and beautifully: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life [this refers to the few chosen ones – the elect – who properly heard and understood the secret of the Kingdom of God – Mark 4:11]; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.”
ALL MEN TO BE SAVED
Note that those that have done evil in the text quoted above are to have a resurrection to judgment, and not to damnation as offered in the King James version. The word translated damnation is from the Greek word “krisis,” which really means a “separation by trial time.” All of us realize that a trial in our local courts requires that there must first be a hearing and judicial inquiry before any just verdict can be reached – but in connection with both salvations it means we are daily approved or disapproved in accordance with our efforts to obey, or our failure so to do.
Our Lord is impressing this fact upon us with respect to the unsaved billions – they must first have a hearing, a trial time before the sentence of Matt. 25:46 could justly be executed: “And these [the Goats of this parable] shall go away into everlasting punishment [diaglott: cutting-off – as with undesirable limbs from a fruitful tree]: but the righteous [the Sheep] into eternal life” – to Paradise Restored, to dominion over the beasts of the field, back to fellowship and harmony with the Lord of Heaven – just as Father Adam enjoyed all these in the Paradise that God planted “eastward in Eden.” (Gen. 2:8) All which was lost through disobedience will be restored by full obedience, as taught in 1 Cor. 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
An exact word-for-word translation from the Greek of 1 Tim. 2:4-6 reads like this: “God desires all men to be saved, and come to an accurate knowledge of the truth . . . to be testified in due time.” Surely, all of us will agree that all men have not yet “come to an accurate knowledge of the truth”; indeed, at best we may find one here and there – truly, a very small minority – who has such knowledge. This is because the Bible is a very intricate book, written in “parables and dark sayings,” beyond the grasp of many even of the well-educated. Yet the statement of St. Paul, just quoted, is sure that ALL will eventually come to such understanding.
By this we do not mean to propose Universalism. It is stated in Rom. 5:12 that “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men.” Since all of us have inherited a sentence of death through no fault of our own, God wills that all of us shall be saved from that sentence through the “seed of Abraham” and brought to an “accurate knowledge of the Truth” so that each may have the ability to choose for himself whether he will live by doing right, or die by doing wrong. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:19) This salvation, to come during the thousand-year reign of the “seed of Abraham” (the Christ), is the non-elective salvation, the free-grace salvation. It is in contrast to the elective salvation, the salvation by “call” offered to those few who have had “an ear to hear” the invitation that “began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” (Heb. 2:3)
Let us always bear in mind that all of us are dying because of inherited frailty. The ignorance and superstition of the past rest upon the vast majority even in these enlightened times. Many justly complain that they do not know what to believe because the present-day teachings of various religions are in such conflict with each other. Note, however, the promise of Jer. 31:31-34: “Behold the days come . . . they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me . . . and I will remember their sin no more.” And to the same point in Ezek. 18:2,3: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes [imbibed false teachings and committed sins], and the children’s teeth are set on edge [death passed upon all men] . . . As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb.” The accurate knowledge of the Truth, which is the sure inheritance of all men, will eliminate all error, and enable all who are willing to gain restitution by understanding and obeying God’s righteous laws.
Those of us who have the privilege of understanding these things now can heartily join with David in saying, “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice Before the Lord: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” (Psa. 96:11-13)