God’s Plan for the Lost

jesus preached to the dead

What is God’s plan for the lost? Everyone has relatives and friends who died without Christ. The vast majority of everyone who ever lived are among them. Are they lost forever?

The answer is hidden in God’s work of predestination, election of individuals to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. [1] Even “dying lost” cannot separate these God foreknew would have loved Him if the Fall never happened (Rom. 8:28-29):

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39 KJV)

Are some of the billions who died without Christ (in this life) among those God foreknew and foreloved?

According to scripture, before creating the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1) God knew all (Isa. 46:9-10) who would come into existence (Rom. 4:17), both angels and men. In His Omniscient knowledge, a special group rose above the rest like “bolded text” stands out in a paragraph. God foreknew these before all others, experiencing their communion in love. God loved them first (1 John 4:19) and then He loved them even more.

God realized the Fall with its seductive power of sin would corrupt these He foreknew. In this sinful world billions die unsaved rebels against God, ignorant of the glorious life in God they had in His Omniscience. Most of the earth would miss the salvation in His Son Jesus Christ. That was intolerable. Losing even one Beloved human would cause God eternal mourning their absence. He would miss their loving fellowship.

God’s solution was elegantly simple, God made sure all things work together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28-29), predestining these be conformed to the image of His Son, even if they must endure Hades first (Ps. 51:7; 65:3; 79:9; Isa. 1:25; Mal. 3:3; Heb. 9:14; Compare Dan. 11:35; Zech. 13:9; 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Pet. 4:6).

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:28-32 KJV)

Only then will all written in the Lamb’s book of life be saved (Rev. 20:12-15). Only then can all Israel be saved (Rom. 11:26-36).

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Rom. 11:33-36 KJV)

The torment in Hades is not from fire [See Lazarus and the Rich Man. Its purpose is to restore a sinners Free Will, liberate it from all bondage to sin so an absolutely Fee Will choice can be made. Souls that choose Jesus (Heb. 9:27-28) live in the Spirit eagerly waiting for their resurrection (John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:13):

For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. (1 Pet. 4:6 NAS)

Many in the early Christian Church believed similarly. For example, Clement of Alexandria writing about 195 A.D. said:

The Saviour also exerts His might because it is His work to save; which accordingly He also did by drawing to salvation those who became willing, by the preaching [of the Gospel], to believe on Him, wherever they were. If, then, the Lord descended to Hades for no other end but to preach the Gospel, as He did descend; it was either to preach the Gospel to all or to the Hebrews only. If, accordingly, to all, then all who believe shall be saved, although they may be of the Gentiles, on making their profession there; since God’s punishments are saving and disciplinary, leading to conversion, and choosing rather the repentance than the death of a sinner; and especially since souls, although darkened by passions, when released from their bodies, are able to perceive more clearly, because of their being no longer obstructed by the paltry flesh.-Clement of Alexandria. (1885). The Stromata, or Miscellanies. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire) (Vol. 2, pp. 490–491). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

Repentance in Hades-Sheol is implicitly taught in the Old Testament. Compare the imagery in:

1Sam. 2:6-10; 2Sam. 22:5-7; Ps. 16:10-11; 30:3; 49:15; 56:14; 71:19-24; 88:1-18; 107:10-15; 116:3-9; 118:17-18; Isa. 4:4; 26:19-21; Lam. 3:25; Hos. 13:14; Jon. 2:2-6; Mic. 7:7-9; Zec. 9:11;

For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Psa 16:10 KJV)

For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. Psa 86:13 KJV)

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. (Psa 139:8 KJV)

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. (Hos 13:14 KJV)

As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. (Zec. 9:11 KJV) Compare Luke 16:24

And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. (Jon. 2:2 KJV)

Preaching to the Dead (Postmortem Evangelism)

END NOTES
[1]
God’s Election was both “conditional” based on His foreknowledge: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate” (Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 1:1-2) and “unconditional” “not according to our works” (2 Tim. 1:9) as it occurred before creation of “the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13).

The paradox is easily resolved. Before God created, without “foreknowledge” He already knew all things, both versions” of angels and men, the unfallen and fallen. He knew which among them loved Him, and would freely choose life with Him over everything else. He also knew those who did not, who freely chose evil over good. In God’s Omniscience those who loved Him stood out, He “foreknew them before” the rest, and in that special knowledge He loved them.

Therefore, lest any of these He foreknew be lost because of a fallen world, He predestined them unto salvation. What these became in this fallen world is irrelevant to God’s Election, it was done before the foundation of the world and therefore not based upon any merit in them now. The version that exists now is not what they were in God’s Omniscience when their ability to choose was truly free. In God’s Omniscience everyone was who they truly are God knew all who were His.

So God’s Election, while predicated upon His “foreknowing = loving before”, is not based upon what we are now in this fallen world, for then no one would be saved. That disconnect permits both aspects of Election be true without contradiction. It is both “conditional” and “unconditional”.

All things were created to effect their ultimate salvation, including hell itself. The “non-elected” have equal opportunity to be saved, their free will restored to them in Hades where they suffer punishment for sin just as do the Elect who died sinners unsaved by the Gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Pet. 4:6; Rom. 11:26-29).

Both can choose to “live according to God in the spirit”, but only the Elect will:

13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:13-15 KJV)

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (Jn. 5:28-29 KJV)

[2]
We can conclude from Abraham and Lazarus being in paradise after they died (Luke 16:22) that the righteous dead of all nations enter paradise when they die (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:6-16). They participate in the first resurrection. Among them would be aborted babies and all who are guiltless. The efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice is not limited by space and time (1 John 2:2; Rev. 13:8).

Those saved by the gospel of Christ in this life do not come into the Great White Throne Judgment, they have passed from death into life while yet alive (John 5:24-25). They are raised in the first resurrection to reign as Kings and Priests with Christ (Rev. 20:4-5). This happens when Christ brings them with Him as He arrives with His Holy Myriads (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18), in a twinkling of an eye they will be raised up incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; John 5:24; Mat 24:29-31; Rev 14:14-16).

At Christ’s Arrival, unsaved billions survive Armageddon. These survivors populate the Millennial reign of Christ. After a 1,000 years of utopia, once again many join Satan after his release from prison and attack God’s people (Rev. 20:7-10). They simply could not endure a life of Holiness in God’s light.

That is their defect, not God’s. If we extrapolate from the 2/3rds of God’s angels who did not sin (Rev. 12:4), it is clear the majority of mankind will love living righteously in holiness in the paradise of God (1 Cor. 2:9; Rev. 21:1-5). Confirming this, God wouldn’t have created us and such a big universe for us to play in, if most humans wouldn’t choose Him over evil. Then He would have created something else.

This explains how Gog and Magog hyperbolically cover “the breadth of the earth” (Rev. 20:9) after the 1,000 years of Utopia has ended. A 1,000 years of procreation without death would result in additional billions in population. Extrapolating from the analogy of free will angels to man, where 1/3 of the angels rebel against God (Rev. 12:4), the number of Gog and Magog attacking Jerusalem would easily cover “the breadth of the earth” if watching from surrounded Jerusalem. The actual number of those who simply could not bear living with God will likely be much less.

The billions of people who did NOT join Gog and Magog’s rebellion are not mentioned in the text because they played no role in the rebellion.

7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (Rev. 20:7-9 KJV)

On Judgment Day souls rise from Hades in physical bodies that reflect whether they heeded the Gospel of Christ they heard (=obeyed) while yet in the graves. Those who done good rise to a resurrection of life, those who persisted in evil to a resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:11-15; Dan. 12:2; 1 Pet. 4:6; 1 Cor. 5:5).

Incorrigibly wicked souls rise from Hades imprisoned in abominable resurrection bodies that communicate God’s wrath to the souls imprisoned within them. They are judged according to their works and the souls imprisoned in these abominable “living-dead corpses” are cast into the Gehenna furnace of fire (Matt. 10:28; Rev. 20:13-15 prefigured in Luke 8:33).

Those who committed eternal sins for which there is no forgiveness (Matt. 12:32; Mark 9:42-48; Rev. 14:9-11) suffer eternally (Rev. 14:11; 19:20; 20:10), the corrupting worm feasting on their bodies dies not (Isa. 66:24; Mark 9:42-48). But those who did less than eternal sins suffer no more than they deserve and then cease to exist, their resurrection body and soul burnt up (Mal. 4:3).

God did everything possible to save all who did not commit eternal sins, even torment in Hades could not dissuade some of them. Their destruction is on their own head. God could not take back the gift of free will, nor would it be love or right to force them to live righteously in holiness.

Scroll to Top