A Living City
Abraham was promised that his family would be blessed. And much has been written about those blessings. But Abraham could see the bigger picture. He knew it wasn’t just about his family. He looked forward to what God had promised for all families including yours!
Abraham was promised that his descendents would be very numerous and prosper on the land stretching as far as he could see in every direction, “And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 28:13-14). He was also promised that through one of his descendents all families of the world would be blessed. Abraham knew that God’s purpose and plan did not just involve his own family but the whole of humanity.
No doubt Abraham was very pleased about the blessing his family would receive. He was standing on the very land they were to be given. No doubt he was extremely happy for them and could probably envisage the cities they would build. But he knew that he was only a sojourner in the land and would not live long enough to see his family prosper there. Instead he focused on what he believed to be the more significant part of the promise, “By faith he (Abraham) sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10). Believing what God said Abraham looked forward to the city that God would build for all families of the earth, “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” (James 2:23).
A City Built by God
The English word ‘city’ is translated from the Greek word ‘polis’ which is used to describe the structure of a community in ancient Greece. It can refer to a body of citizens, or an urban complex usually centered around a religious site such as a temple, or cluster of temples. The structure was often referred to as a ‘city-state’ and originated much earlier in Mesopotamia. City-states, or kingdoms as they were known were often combined, voluntarily or through force, to form empires. Ur of Chaldees, from where Abraham originated was a ‘city-state’ of the Chaldean (Babylonian) empire.
Having come from Ur it would have been easy for Abraham to envisage a ‘city-state’, (kingdom) built not by man, but by God Himself. Perhaps he was shown the same vision that the Apostle John saw when he was on the Island of Patmos, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” (Revelation 21:1-3). A holy city prepared and adorned like a bride. A city in which all families of the earth will dwell with God.
The city seen by John was a massive complex covering an area twelve thousand furlongs long, by twelve thousand furlongs wide, and twelve thousand furlongs high (Revelation 21:16). One furlong is about 220 yards, or 201 metres. The number twelve in the Bible symbolises perfection. And a structure of these proportions can only symbolise infinite, or eternal, perfection which is what should be expected with a city built by God Himself. Specific mention is made in Revelation that there is no need for a ‘Temple’ because of God’s presence (Revelation 21:22). It should be noted that the word translated as ‘temple’ from the Greek word ‘naos’ refers here to the inner sanctuary and ‘Holy of Holies’ as opposed to the temple precincts. The city itself is a temple complex in which there is no need for a Holy of Holies because God, who is the Holiest of Holies, dwells in it with His people (Rev 21:3).
God said that all families of the world will be blessed through one of Abraham’s descendents. “…and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 28:14). That descendent whom Luke confirmed to be Jesus Christ (Luke 3:23-38) is a descendant of Abraham, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16).
The city which is the temple of God is built on a foundation that no one else but Jesus Christ the Son of God could lay, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 3:11). It is a spiritual foundation for a spiritual city/temple complex that no man can lay.
First the prophets were sent to break the ground and prepare the way, then Christ came to train the Apostles who completed the foundation after He laid down His own life as the chief cornerstone, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Christ the stone whom Israel had rejected was the chief cornerstone of the foundation of the city that is the temple of God, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12).
He was building a spiritual Temple constructed from living stones, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house,” (I Peter 2:5). Those who are called to salvation in this age become part of the temple, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God,” (Revelation 3:12). Paul said, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” (I Corinthians 3:9). The living stones who form the temple pillars are those in whom God’s Spirit dwells, “for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (II Corinthians 6:16) And,"…know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19). Individually and collectively they are the temple of God.
Each living stone will be perfected after a pattern set by the chief cornerstone, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:13). Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone to which the whole foundation of this living temple is aligned.
This has been the plan from the beginning. God the Father said to the one who later became Christ, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:” (Genesis 1:26 and also John 1:1-3 and 14). Mankind was created in physical form from the dust of the ground to be later transformed into spirit, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body… … And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (I Corinthians 15:44, 49). To be raised as spirit beings who are the living stones of the temple.
It is a spiritual temple complex depicted not only as a spiritual city and temple, but also as a spiritual nation comprised of God’s own children, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” (Romans 9:6-8). And, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29).
The city to which Abraham looked is not a city built of granite and marble, it is a living city-state, or kingdom of spirit beings at the core of which is God. It is the Kingdom of God. It is the blessing that all families of the earth were promised. It is a blessing far greater than land, wealth and prosperity on this earth which is only temporary. We will be blessed with things beyond our imagination, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9). And this blessing is for all eternity. This is what Abraham looked toward. We will be that city, "...and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 60:14).
The blessing that is to come to all families through a descendent of Abraham is the Holy Spirit that we receive through Jesus Christ, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:4). The Holy Spirit is an assurance of eternal life in the city that Abraham looked toward, which is the spiritual city/temple that John saw in his vision. It is a spiritual city comprised of spiritual beings in to which we will be resurrected. It is a living city!
Did Christ tell us anything about the state of these lively stones and the blessing they will receive? Yes He did! He painted a very vivid picture in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’ that depicts exactly what those living stones will be like and he elaborated on the blessings they will receive.
He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12).
This is not a list of individual rewards for those who display one or two aspects of a Godly nature. No! This is an accumulative list of all the attributes and blessings that will apply to all who are perfected with God’s Holy Spirit. They will all be perfected in mercy, meekness, purity and righteousness to become the living stones from which the city of God is built. And they will receive all of the blessings He described. Their reward will be in heaven where they shall see God for they will be His children. His Kingdom shall be theirs and they shall also inherit the earth. This is what Christ has revealed about the promise to all families of the earth. The sermon on the mount formed the basis of his teaching throughout his whole ministry.
Each and every one of us will have the opportunity to become God’s children and joint heirs with Christ of His Kingdom and this earth, “…ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint–heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:15-18).
This is the incredible blessing that God promised for all families of the earth. It is what Abraham looked toward and what John saw in his vision.
Attributes and Blessings
If we are to be living stones in this magnificent spiritual city then we need to understand more about the attributes and blessing we are to receive.
Poor in Spirit
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3).
The Greek word translated as ‘poor in spirit’ implies the absolute and abject poverty of one who has nothing. The wealth, power and status of this world has no true value and cannot save man from death, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Romans 5:12). All of mankind has sinned and come short of God’s spiritual richness (Romans 3:23).
To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to understand our own spiritual poverty. Then we can turn to God who is willing to enrich us with His Spirit, “…be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NKJV). The Holy Spirit is the essential ingredient in the living stones that Christ is perfecting. It is the very essence, mind and nature of God. It is the same nature that is found in both the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:9). Having this Spirit enables us to be perfected to the fullness of Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:13). The Holy Spirit is the promise that comes through a descendent of Abraham’s (Christ) and is a down payment of eternal life which will be fulfilled if we yield to God and see the process of being perfected as living stones through to the end, “…ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession…” (Ephesians1:13-14).
By acknowledging our own spiritual poverty and turning in heartfelt repentance to God we are blessed with the very Spirit of God which is a down payment on eternal life in God’s Kingdom.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4).
When we mourn for the rest of humanity we will in turn be comforted, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:8-10). With God’s Spirit we can, like Abraham, see what God has planned for all families of the world, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (I Corinthians 2:9-10). And like Abraham we will look forward to the completion of the spiritual city of God.
Christ came, “…to preach good tidings unto the meek… …to comfort all that mourn… …to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3). Understanding that God plans to bless all humanity is a source of great joy and comfort.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5).
Do not confuse meekness with weakness. Meekness is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus Christ said, “learn of me for I am meek and lowly of heart:” (Matthew 11:29). He was not weak. He was prepared to suffer an undignified and painful death so that the will of God would be accomplished, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7). He was prepared to forego His own power and glory to accomplish His Father’s will, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39). He was unjustly treated and falsely accused by those for whom He sacrificed His life, which He did without resentment, bitterness, or complaint. Putting God’s will before our own takes great strength of character and courage - it is true meekness.
The meek are teachable, “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” (Psalm 25:9). It is a trait that is highly valued by God, “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (I Peter 3:4). It is a strength that brings us into God’s grace (favour), “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” (Psalm 149:4). Meekness is a strength of a living stone.
Those who put God’s will first in their lives shall inherit the earth.
To Hunger and Thirst after Righteousness
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6).
We are not righteous by nature, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10). We may think that keeping the law makes us righteous but that is not the sort of righteousness God requires, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20). We can only become righteous through God’s Spirit dwelling in us, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior:” (Titus 3:5-6 NKJV).
The Holy Spirit is the very essence of God’s divine nature and righteousness. Having God’s Spirit produces godly righteousness in man, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9). It converts the human mind to become like God’s, “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
When we seek God’s righteousness we will be blessed with a mind and nature that is righteous like God’s.
To be Merciful
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7).
God is rich in mercy, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,” (Ephesians 2:4). He invites us to seek His mercy, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). He is willing to forgive those who turn to Him, “…shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:6). And in return He expects us to show mercy to others, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:36-38).
The mercy we receive is to be extended to others so they too can obtain God’s mercy, “For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.” (Romans 11:30-31).
It is a great blessing to receive God’s mercy.
Pure in Heart
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8).
To be pure in heart is to have a mind like God’s. To live by His every word, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” (Psalm 12:6). Also, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” (Proverbs 30:5). His word is the law. The law is an expression of the very nature in which we are being perfected, “The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (Psalm 19:8). The law expresses the love that comes from a pure heart, “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:” (I Timothy 1:5).
Purity comes through obedience by those who have God’s Holy Spirit to the law, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:” (I Peter 1:22).
Human nature is a mixture of good and evil that must be replaced by God’s divine nature which is pure in righteousness and goodness. What may seem pure to man’s way of thinking is not pure to God, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” (Proverbs 30:12). Man’s thoughts are not like God’s, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The Holy Spirit gives man spiritual understanding, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (I Corinthians 2:9-11).
As that pure divine nature develops within us it gives us the power to control our thoughts. Evil thoughts can be brought into captivity and cast out, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5). Thoughts can be focused on things that are pure, good and pleasing to God, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9).
Those who strive after these things will stand before God without blame when they are resurrected to spirit.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9).
The divine nature of God promotes peace, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:17-18).
In this world peace is defined by the absence of war and contention. Man does not know true peace because man does not know God who is the author of peace, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace,” (I Corinthians 14:33). The human mind is not at peace with the “God of peace” (Romans 15:33), “…the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8). Because we do not seek after God we do not know true peace, “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God…" - "And the way of peace have they not known:” (Romans 3:10 and 17). True peace is beyond human understanding, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7).
True peace is a fruit of God’s Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Knowing the truth about God and His purpose brings peace of mind, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6).
All this comes to believers from God through Jesus Christ, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” (Romans 5:1). His sacrifice paid the penalty of the law for man’s sins so they can be reconciled to God the Father and experience true peace, “For he (Christ) is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (Ephesians 2:14-18).
Christ did not abolish the law as many teach – He abolished the enmity that existed between man and God so that reconciliation can take place and man can become the epitome of what God expressed by the law. The law is an expression of the divine nature and peace comes through fulfilling the law, “Great peace have they which love thy law:” (Psalm 119:165 and Galatians 5:22). Those who truly know God are reconciled to Him in peace. As true peacemakers we will become children of God.
Persecution and Joy
Christ warns that in this world persecution is likely to come from those who do not yet understand, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” (Matthew 5:11). It comes through them from the one who corrupted mankind in the first place, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (I Peter 5:8).
Despite the persecution we should rejoice, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12). And let nothing in this world deter us from receiving our blessings,
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:14-18).
When elaborating on the teachings of Christ Paul called these attributes fruit of the Spirit, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,” (Galatians 5:22). Also, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;” (Ephesians 5:9).
Peter said that if these attributes are added to faith we shall not fail to enter the Kingdom of God, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ… …for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:4-11).
God promised Abraham that all families of the earth would be blessed. The Bible reveals how this will be done.
Paul indicated that all who have died will be made alive again in a specific order,“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (I Corinthians 15:22-23).
There are those who have been called by God in this age and those who have not been called, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44). Those who have been called to Christ and have been perfected by God’s Spirit in this age will be resurrected as spirit beings when Christ returns,“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”(I Thessalonians 4:13-17).
They will rule the earth as Christ indicated, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4). What about the rest of mankind?
The Rest of Humanity
What about those who were not called to Christ in this age? Have those who died without knowing Christ been lost forever? No! The promise was made to all families of the earth implying all who have ever lived. God has made provision for those who have died from all ages without being called to Christ. They will be resurrected after the thousand years have been completed, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” (Revelation 20: 5).
These people who have not previously been called and have not received God’s Spirit will be raised back to a physical existence so they can be called by God and given the opportunity to receive the Spirit of God, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 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. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12-15). Because these people have never been called by God and given His Spirit they cannot be resurrected to eternal life but are raised back to a physical existence. This passage indicates that it is still possible for them to be recorded in the ‘book of life’ which is opened at that time.
Previously their minds were never opened to truly understand the Bible. When resurrected they will receive their calling from God and have the opportunity to receive eternal life. This is what is meant in Revelation 20:12 where it says, “and the books were opened”. The Greek word translated ‘books’ is ‘biblion’ from which comes the word Bible. The Bible is the Word of God by which we must live and the resurrected will be judged by how they continue to live by God’s Word once their minds are opened to the truth. After a period of judgment in which they will have the opportunity to live by God’s word they can be recorded in the Lamb’s book of life.
The ‘book of life’ is for those who overcome, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5). It is Christ the Lamb’s book of those who will enter the New Jerusalem, “And there shall in no wise enter into it (New Jerusalem) any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27).
Those who reject this opportunity and choose to remain in a state of sin will not inherit eternal life, instead they will be consigned to the lake of fire, “…the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8). They will die a second time, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14).
Contrary to the belief of many the second death is irreversibly permanent. Many believe that sinners are condemned to a place called Hell where they are subjected to the tortures of unbearable heat and discomfort forever. This erroneous concept taught by many churches today is believed to have originated from a religion called Zoroastrianism that existed about the 6th century BC in Babylonia. It was described as ‘Dante’s inferno’ in the 14th century epic poem - the ‘Divine Comedy’ by Dante Alighieri. The Greek words ‘hades’ and ‘gehenna’ both translated as ‘hell’ in English simply mean the grave, or a place of everlasting punishment. Everlasting punishment does not mean everlasting torture, it simply means that the punishment of death is permanent - i.e. eternal death.
Anyone cast into the lake of fire will be burnt to ashes, “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch…" - "…And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 4:1and 3). And all memory of them will be erased, “The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” (Psalm 34:16).
Then Comes the End
After Christ has offered the blessings to all families of the earth and set in place the last of the living stones (Ephesians 4:13) he will then offer what He has completed up to God the Father, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (I Corinthians 15:24-28).
When God said that all families of the earth would be blessed through one of his descendents, Abraham knew what He was talking about. He knew that God was talking about something far greater than the blessings promised for his (Abraham’s) own family. He was talking about the blessings promised to all families of the earth who will have the opportunity to become sons and daughters of God’s for all eternity. That was what Abraham looked forward to, it is what Christ preached about in his Sermon on the Mount and what John saw in his vision.
They all looked forward to the time when each and every one of us having been offered salvation will be reconciled to God, receive His Spirit and be resurrected to become part of that living city that is the Kingdom of God.