God’s Plan for the Lost

What is God’s plan for the lost? Unknown Billions have died without Christ. Estimates of the pre-flood population range from 750 million to four billion. Could be higher. Add the population before Christ. Only in recent centuries did statistics become better than guessing. About 31.5% of the 6 billion people alive now self-identify as Christian, so we can add another four billion or so to the unknown total of those who died unsaved. The best we can state for certain is: “unknown billions have died without Christ–the vast majority of mankind who ever lived. Their total number cannot be known.”

Are they lost forever? What is God’s Plan for them? The answer is hidden in God’s work of predestination, His election of certain individuals to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. [1] Evidently, even “dying lost” cannot separate those whom He foreknew in love, from Him:

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)

While we must infer much from the data of scripture, and some of these inferences are without doubt “speculative”, the elegance manifest by so many “divine paradoxes” of scripture being resolved, logically dictates the following hypothesis is God’s truth:

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 with God in love. Knowing how they loved God after He loved them first (1 John 4:19), He loved them even more.

But God realized the Fall of creation would corrupt many of these He foreknew. A sinful world would cause many to die unsaved rebels against God, or ignorant of the glorious gospel of salvation in His Son Jesus Christ. That was intolerable. Losing even one of these would result in God eternally mourning their absence, their loving fellowship.

God’s solution was elegantly simple, lest any of these God foreknew be lost because of a sinful world, God predestined those He Foreknew be conformed to the image of His Son, even if they must endure hell first whose refining fire removes the dross of sin (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)

However, this is no open door for the wicked. Our Holy God cannot abide with sin. Scripture is very clear and forthright, the unrighteous will not inherit God’s Kingdom:

9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10 KJV)

The fires of Hell will purge the dross of sin from the Elect who died unsaved and sinful. That is the teaching of “Dives and Lazarus” in Luke 16:19-31. In the “intermediate state” (Hades) contrary to what the Hillelite Pharisees believed about divorcing their wives for any reason, or that there was no purgatory awaiting them in Hades-Gehenna[2], the Rabbinic Shammaite School was right on both points, and their love of money would cause them to sorrow greatly as the torment of God’s inspection burns the sin out of them.

Why Bible exegetes don’t acknowledge the Jewish cultural context and interpret “Dives and Lazarus” as Jesus and His audience would, is unknown:

“In the Hereafter Abraham will sit at the entrance of Gehinnom and will not allow any circumcised Israelite to descend into it.”- Genesis Rabbah XLVIII. 8

“‘Passing through the valley of weeping’ (Ps. lxxxiv. 6), i.e. they who are sentenced for a time in Gehinnom; and Abraham our father comes and takes them out and receives them…”-Erubin 19a.-Abraham Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud (Schocken Books, NY, 1995), pp 381, 382

Rabbinic Views
The view of purgatory is still more clearly expressed in rabbinical passages, as in the teaching of the Shammaites: “In the last judgment day there shall be three classes of souls: the righteous shall at once be written down for the life everlasting; the wicked, for Gehenna; but those whose virtues and sins counterbalance one another shall go down to Gehenna and float up and down until they rise purified; for of them it is said: ‘I will bring the third part into the fire and refine them as silver is refined, and try them as gold is tried’ [Zech. xiii. 9]; also, ‘He [the Lord] bringeth down to Sheol and bringeth up again’ ” (1 Sam. 2:6). The Hillelites seem to have had no purgatory; for they said: “He who is ‘plenteous in mercy’ [Ex. 34:6] inclines the balance toward mercy, and consequently the intermediates do not descend into Gehenna” (Tosef., Sanh. xiii. 3; R. H. 16b; Bacher, “Ag. Tan.” i. 18)

Singer, I. (Ed.). (1901–1906). In The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (Vol. 10, p. 274). New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls.

When the Pharisees derided Christ’s teaching about money, Christ responded with the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:13-14, 19). Confirming the parable was directed at them, Jesus cites their traditions that make the word of God of none effect, proving their hearts are far removed from serving God. Jesus illustrates His point alluding to their liberal view on divorce which created adulterous relationships (Matt. 19:3-9). While outwardly they followed the Law, they ignored the spirit of it, especially its implicit condemnation of divorce for any reason[4]:

A. The House of Shammai say, “A man should divorce his wife only because he has found grounds for it in unchastity,
B. “since it is said, ‘Because he has found in her indecency in anything’ (Deut. 24:1).”
C. And the House of Hillel say, “Even if she spoiled his dish,
D. “since it is said, ‘Because he has found in her indecency in anything.’ ”
E. R. Aqiba says, “Even if he found someone else prettier than she, since it is said, ‘And it shall be if she find no favor in his eyes’ (Deut. 24:1).”-Neusner, J. (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Vol. 11b, p. 404). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.
15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
16 “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.
17 “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.
18 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.
19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. (Lk. 16:13-19 NKJ)

Christ alludes to the controversy that raged among the Pharisees, about divorce and Hades. The Hillelite Pharisees permitted divorce for any reason, and believed Abraham prevented circumcised Israelites from descending into Hades even if sins outweighed virtues. The sterner Shammaite Pharisees rejected divorce for any reason, and believed Hades was purgatory that purges the dross of sin from the sinner and then circumcised Israelites would be rescued from it.

The Pharisees justified rebellion against the Law through their traditions, even the commandment to love parents and care for them was contradicted by their traditions, for the sake of money (Mk. 7:7-13 cp. 1 Tim. 5:8). But unlike men, God is not fooled by sophistry, He knows their idolatrous hearts and what they love is detestable in His sight.

Christ cites the crowd earnestly striving to enter the Kingdom as proof the Messiah has come, the One Moses said all must obey (Deut. 18:15). Now is the time. A paraphrase of our LORD’s argument follows:

“I am He Moses said would come, yet you reject my authority, but the Law you claim to believe judges you. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass than your rebellion against God go unpunished.

Not only will your idolatrous love of Mammon be judged, your adulterous practice of divorcing wives for any reason will land you in hell. Contrary to your traditions, Abraham will receive the poor you despise while you descend into the refining fire of Hades, until the dross of sin is purged from you.”

It is implied by the conversation Abraham and Dives had, the rich man is one of God’s Elect who will be eventually saved. Nothing in Dives statements suggests he faced eternity in fire. His pleas are not terrified screams of hopelessness. That Jesus did not deny these Pharisees were among God’s Elect, is implied by Dives calling Abraham his “father”, and Abraham Dives “his child”. Moreover, the redeemed want to cross over into Hades to comfort Dives, which concern would be out of place if Dives were a child of Satan, wicked to the core (Deut. 13:6-10). Finally, Hades will be emptied of all its souls, and only those not found written in the book of life are eternally lost: [3]

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:13-21:1 NKJ)

Repentance in Hades-Sheol 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]

There are six main features involved in election.18 (1) Election is a sovereign, eternal decree of God (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4, 5, 11). (2) Election is necessary because of man’s fall and total depravity. It therefore reflects the grace of God, not human effort (Rom. 9:11). (3) Election is “in Christ.” From eternity past God chose believers to be united to Christ (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4, 5, 11). In election God effects salvation through sending the Savior and effectually calling certain ones to salvation. (4) Election involves the salvation of the elect and the provision for their salvation. God determined to predestine, call, justify, and glorify certain ones (Rom. 8:29–30). This was planned and effected in eternity past. (5) Election and reprobation are individual, personal, specific, and particular. The pronouns in Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 emphasize the individual nature of election. (6) The goal of election is the glory and praise of God (Eph. 1:6, 12). Everything is to ascribe glory and praise to God.-Enns, P. P. (1989). The Moody Handbook Of Theology (pp. 482–483). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

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, the unsaved billions who survived Armageddon are separated as a shepherd would sheep and goats. These survivors are judged during the Millennial reign of Christ. Those who vicariously received Christ by coming to the aid of His brethren during the Great Tribulation will enter life, while those who despised Him will be cast body and soul into Gehenna fire (Matt. 25:31-46; 10:28). The timing of this judgment may span the entire 1,000-year reign of Christ. Many “goats” appear in the explosive growth in earth’s population during this time (Isa. 65:20). Once again, many join Satan after his release from prison attacking 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.

Ponder the fact Jesus turned water into wine so people could party. God’s Kingdom will be a blast, fun! (John 2:7-10) Get on board for the big win! Believe in the LORD Jesus Christ and be saved!

Souls are not immortal (1 Tim. 6:15-16), it is the resurrection body that communicates incorruption or corruption to the soul within it (1 Cor. 15:53-54; Gal. 6:8).

In ancient Jewish NT cosmology, Gehenna is a sub compartment in Hades-Sheol, “the unseen realm”. In the teachings of Christ, Gehenna is the place of post-resurrection physical torment (Matt. 5:29-30; 10:28; 18:9; Mark 9:43, 45, 47).

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.

That some are lost forever is the unavoidable consequence of gifting creatures with truly free will. Some would choose evil. If none did, then it would be manifest they truly weren’t free to choose. For the joy of having vessels of mercy in loving fellowship who truly wanted to live with God in Holiness, God had to endure the vessels of wrath who “prepared themselves” (2675 καταρτίζω katartizo, middle voice) unto destruction:

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
(Rom. 9:22-24 KJV)

[3]
James Boyer might argue the implication some were found written in the book of life, is not real because:

If the first class condition states or implies the actual truth, then it could not possibly be used by Christ to say, “If [or according to this view, since] I by Beelzebub cast out demons…(Matt 12:27), nor “Since I do not do the deeds of my father…” (John 10:37), nor “Since I have spoken evil…” (John 18:23). Paul could not have written “Since there is no resurrection…” (1 Cor 15:13), nor “Since Christ is not raised…” (1 Cor 15:14). These are not isolated, peculiar examples; they represent 12% of all the first class conditions in the NT. It is simply not true that first conditions indicate the external objective truth or reality of the condition.-First Class Conditions: What Do They Mean?”(Grace Theological Journal Vol 2, p.75)

He would be wrong if he did because this is NOT a conditional argument, its a statement of Fact, divine revelation. Therefore, “Only those not written” implies “some raised from Hades were written in the book of life”, and therefore not cast into the lake of fire

28 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice
29 “and come forth– those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (Jn. 5:28-29 NKJ)

[4]

According to the Law, a man who divorced his wife wrote her a certificate of divorce; and if another man married her and then divorced her or died, her former husband couldn’t remarry her, “since she has been defiled” by the second marriage (Deuteronomy 24:1–4). Jesus doesn’t abrogate this law. He has just said that the Law will stand forever. But he extends the Old Testament law of divorce and remarriage by inferring from a woman’s defilement in a second marriage that it’s adulterous for a man, whether or not he has been married before, to marry a divorced woman. Despite her divorce, she’ll always belong sexually to her former husband. And adultery defiles. Strikingly, Jesus also infers that a man who divorces his wife and marries another woman, whether or not she has been divorced, commits adultery. For he’ll always belong sexually to his former wife. Thus Jesus dots the i’s and crosses the t’s of the Law. Such is his adherence to and affirmation of the Old Testament, and such is his high standard of morality—a standard that Luke repeatedly holds up as an attraction to prospective converts of moral sensibility.

Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 305). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.