EZEKIEL 18:4 – What the Bible Teaches About SOUL and SPIRIT

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“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).

This brief text expresses a simple truth. Souls die. Against the speculations of some that there is something within a man, a “soul,” which remains alive after death, lingering as a disembodied spirit, the scriptures affirm to the contrary. Death is what it seems to be — death.

When a dog dies, what happens to the dog? It stops breathing, its body decays and returns to the elements. Thought and consciousness immediately terminate. There is no more dog. It does not go to some place prepared for old dogs, to chew bones in bliss, for there simply is no more dog. It is dead, it is gone, it is no more.

Death is the same for human beings. Death is the cessation of life. Psalm 146:4 describes what happens when a man dies. “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.”

“That which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other … they have all one breath … all go unto one place, all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. (Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20).

The Resurrection

However, unlike the animals, man has the hope of a resurrection from the dead. Animals were made to live for a limited period of time, procreate, age, and pass away as part of the cycle of nature. But man, the height of God’s physical creation, was created with the capacity to live forever. They appreciate life, plan for the future, and cherish the hope for continued life. Accordingly, the prospect of living forever was offered to Adam in the Garden of Eden, by God who created him.

This offer was contingent upon obedience, a test which Adam and Eve failed. But even after being expelled from the Garden, so robust was the human frame that Adam lived 930 years before death claimed his life (Genesis 5:5). Almost 4000 years after Adam sinned, Jesus died as a ransom for father Adam (1 Timothy 2:6), which allows Adam and his posterity a release from the death penalty — in other words, a resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:22). For the world, this will come during the Millennium so near at hand.

In the meantime, where are all the dead of past ages? They are simply dead. They silently await the resurrection, when they will be reconstituted as the persons they were before they died, to learn the lessons God has for them during the Kingdom on earth.

What is a Soul?

From our opening text, it is apparent that souls do die. The expression “immortal soul,” sometimes used among Christians, is not found in the Bible.

A soul is a living being, whether animal or human, and neither animals nor humans are immortal.

The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, word number 5315 in Strong’s Concordance, which gives this definition: “A breathing creature, i.e. animal or (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense.”

Genesis 2:7 uses the word “soul” for Adam.

“The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Here the word nephesh, or soul, is defined as a living being, a body combined with the breathe of life. Thus we learn, that man does not possess a soul, but that he IS a soul, which means simply that man, when alive, is a living being.” Adam subsequently died, and he with all the others silently awaits the resurrection.

Animals as Souls

The “breath of life” which animates the human organism is no different than the breath of life given to the lower animals. In reference to the “beasts and every creeping thing” which perished in the Flood, we read, “All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died” (Genesis 7:21,22). Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 informs us that both man and beast “have all one breath, so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast.”

As Strong’s Concordance notes, animals are also souls — living beings. However, in the common English version this is hidden by the translation, which confuses the subject to many readers. When the word nephesh, soul, refers to an animal, the translators rendered it with some other word, such as creature or beast.

For example, Genesis 1:20 says “let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature [nephesh, soul]…”

Verse 21, God created great whales, and every living creature [nephesh, soul] that moveth…”

Verse 24, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature [nephesh, soul] after his kind, cattle, and creeping things, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”

Here are other texts of the same sort: Genesis 1:30, 2:14, 9:3, 4, 9, 10, 12, 18. And Isaiah 19:10, “… all that make sluices and ponds for fish [nephesh, souls].

This method of translating hides the fact that animals are souls. Were this fact more open and apparent, it would assist people to recognize that souls are not immortal, for no one supposes that animals are in any sense immortal.

Only once in the Old Testament did the translators render the word nephesh “soul” when it applied to animals, namely Numbers 31:28, where the word applies at one time both to people and animals: “one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep.”

The Difference Between the Human Soul and the Animal Soul

The difference between the soul of a human and an animal is in the construction of the organism, particularly in the formation of the brain. Although some organisms of some of the lower animals may seem to be superior to man’s (such as a dog’s keen sense of smell and hearing and an eagle’s eyesight), God in his great wisdom created man in his own image, thus giving man the ability to reason, and to have a moral sense of right and wrong — possessing a conscience (1 John 3:20-22). Man has the ability to love and obey Jehovah-God as well as to love (agape) his enemies or those who do or wish him wrong through, striving to see all things through the eyes of their Bridegroom — Christ Jesus. He died as a “ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6) because of his great love of the Heavenly Father — stemming from a love for righteousness which comes from a knowledge, understanding and experience of the results of obeying the Heavenly Father, which permits the highest and purest form of joy to be felt, that joy that is felt through the eyes of faith, that joy that our Lord Jesus had in bringing the Heavenly Father joy, as reflected in his words: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34, ESV).

Other Hidden References

There are other important places where the translators also obscured the use of nephesh. “There were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body [nephesh, soul] of a man … those men said unto him, We are defiled by the dead body [nephesh, soul] of a man … If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body [nephesh, soul] …” (Numbers 9:6, 7, 10). If the translation use “soul” in these places, it would be apparent to the reader that souls simply die. When Samson toppled the house of Dagon, he prayed to God: “Let me [my nephesh, soul] die with the Philistines” (Judges 16:30).

Expanded Use

The texts above give us the proper meaning of the word soul, namely any living being. However, Strong’s Concordance shows that nephesh is sometimes used figuratively for one’s life, being, or vitality. Here are two examples of this. (1) When Rachel was dying at the birth of Benjamin, Genesis 35:18 says “As her soul was in departing (for she died) … she called his name Benomi: but his father called him Benjamin.” (2) 1 Kings 17:21, speaking of the raisin of a young boy by Elijah, says he cried to God “let this child’s soul come into him again.” In both of these cases the word “life” or “being” is the meaning intended.

Sometimes the word is used of one’s deepest thoughts or feelings, distinguished from the mere body. Thus 2 Kings 4:27 says of a troubled woman, “her soul is vexed in her.” Language is flexible, and the word nephesh is used flexibly. But none of these cases are any predicate for believing some conscious force called “soul” mysteriously lingers after death. Death is death. It is the cessation of life.

Soul in the New Testament

The New Testament Greek word for soul is psuche. Whenever the word “soul” appears in the common English version of the New Testament, it is from this word (Strong’s number 5590).

1 Corinthians 15:45 uses psuche as the counterpart of the Hebrew nephesh, which serves to equate the two words. “The first man Adam was made a living soul [psuche].” This expression clearly draws from Genesis 2:7, where nephesh is used. This word is frequently rendered life. “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it” (Mark 8:35). “I lay down my life (John 10:17). “They seek my life (Romans 11:3), and many other examples. In these cases “life” refers to the being, the person. The same meaning attaches when the word is rendered “soul,” as in Acts 2:43, “fear came upon every soul” — every person, or being.

Revelation 8:9 and 16:3 apply the word to sea creatures. Revelation 6:9 and 20:4 use the term metaphorically of the spent life of the saints, awaiting the resurrection. John 12:27 says of Jesus “now is my soul troubled.” Thus there is a breadth in this Greek word that matches the breadth of its Hebrew counterpart.

In the Old Testament the condition of death is expressed by the Hebrew sheol, and its Greek counterpart in the New Testament is hades. This was the condition into which Jesus’ “soul,” psuche, passed for three days until his resurrection, for a soul, psuche, dies and is later raised from the dead.

The Soul Is Not Immortal

If the soul were truly immortal, the soul would be indestructible, yet it is not, because each human born under the curse of Adamic condemnation, dies until the curse shall be lifted up from humanity once Christ’s ransom price has been applied to all mankind. By then the Bride of Christ will have completed their share in the sin offering — and the antityical “atonement day” sin offering thus completed. The High Priest in Leviticus 16 made atonement for  himself, his sons, and then, finally, for the sins of the people (the world of mankind). God warned Adam that if he disobeyed God’s rule, then as a living soul Adam would cease to exist. We read about this in Genesis 2:17, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” In Ezekiel 18:4 God said, “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth it shall die.” This means that the person who sins shall die, and since all are born in sin, the entire human race has been dying for nearly 6000 years. Here are two examples of Scriptures about death being the consequence of sin:

“So death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12, NASV).

Every soul [person] sins and, as a consequence, every soul dies (Romans 6:16,23).

But God in his great love provided redemption from death for all sinful souls, or persons, through the gift of his beloved Son, Christ Jesus, who died as a corresponding ransom price to free mankind from the prison house of death. All of Adam’s progeny lost life through Adamic transgression and thus have inherited sin and imperfection. The Apostle Paul wrote that “in Adam all die,” adding to this, “even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” And again, “Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:21,22). The Prophet Isaiah wrote that Christ’s “soul” was made an offering for sin, and also that he “poured out his soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:10,12).

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Adam and all past generations of his children have fallen asleep in death, but they have not “perished,” because through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, and by the exercise of divine power, they are to be awakened in the resurrection and given an opportunity to believe. Then, upon the basis of their belief and obedience, they may live forever.

Those called to discipleship in the present life are given an opportunity to inherit eternal life by accepting Jesus as their personal Redeemer and responding to the invitation to take up their cross and follow him, gladly lay down their lives with him, and be planted together in the likeness of his death (Roman 6:3-6). These are referred to in Revelation 20:4 as the “souls” which are “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God.”

The Apostle Paul wrote, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (1 Corinthians 15:17,18). Thus, Paul speaks of Christians who die as merely being “asleep,” and not in any sense perishing in death.

Genesis 12:11-13 (NASB) says Abraham was afraid that his soul would not live, and thus, that he would die. “It came about when he [Abram] came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, This is his wife; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I (“my soul,” nephesh) may live on account of you.” If the Hebrew word nephesh meant an indestructible immortal soul, Abram’s soul could not have died (Br. Peter Karavas, 2011).

Jesus emphasized this same important truth in an admonition to his disciples to meet courageously any and all opposition against them and any persecuted unto death, saying, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna] (Matthew 10:28). Jesus here refers to the possibility of permanent cessation of life by God for the incorrigible, which the Bible terms as “second death.”

“This does not imply that the soul can live apart from the body, for actually the body is the organism of the soul. Rather, Jesus is speaking from the standpoint of the divine plan to awaken the dead in the resurrection. It was from this standpoint that Paul could say that Christians who fell asleep in death had not ‘perished.’ If an enemy puts a Christian to death, he has not perished as a soul. The body dies, but the person, the soul, merely ‘sleeps’ until the resurrection. But if a Christian becomes a willful sinner and is not worthy of a resurrection, then death means extinction of that person, or soul, forever.

“Jesus explained this from another standpoint, as recorded in Luke 20:37,38 ‘Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.’ Jesus did not say that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had gone to heaven to live with God. He simply explained that because there is to be a resurrection of the dead, and these faithful servants will be restored to life, God does not consider them as having gone out of existence — they ‘live unto him,’ or, to him they are alive.

“So it is with all God’s faithful servants of the past. They may have been ‘sawn asunder’ by their enemies; they may have been thrown to the lions, or beheaded, or burned at the stake, but to God they still live, they have not ‘perished,’ for he has the power and will use that power to awaken them from the sleep of death.

“The ‘souls’ which are ‘beheaded,’ as mentioned in Revelation 20:4, are brought forth in the ‘first resurrection’ to live and reign with Christ a thousand years. The ‘souls’ that died serving God during the ages preceding Jesus’ first advent will come forth to a ‘better resurrection,’ to serve as ‘princes in all the earth’ Hebrews 11:35; Psalm 45:16” (The Dawn – and Herald of Christ’s Kingdom Magazine, January 1959 issue).

Lazarus – An Example that the Soul is not immortal

In John 11:11 Jesus said “Lazarus sleepeth.” Lazarus was dead for four days (John 11:39). Surely Jesus would not have retrieved Lazarus from the bliss of heaven. For those four days Lazarus did not go anywhere, nor did he see anyone, nor did he speak, eat, feel, or think. He was simply dead. When he was raised to life he began again to do all those things. In this respect the whole world sleeps in death, waiting for the resurrection — unaware of what is transpiring in the meantime, because the dead do not sense, feel or think anything. “The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

In John 5:28,29 Jesus said that the hour is coming when all in their graves will come forth. If their souls were already in heaven, then there would be no need for Jesus to say that he would bring them forth from the grave? If physical bodies were needed in heaven, how have these presumably immortal souls survived without them? Scripture also tells us that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50).

Seeking After Immortality

The Bible never equates immortality with the soul of common man, only with the saints, and then only as a gift for faithfulness (Romans 2:7, 1 Corinthians 15:53-54). The sleeping, unconscious dead will one day be awakened from their graves (John 5:28,29; Job 14:11-15; Psalm 17:15; Acts 24:15,16). At that time, ‘the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea’ (Isaiah 11:9). ‘Many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths’ (Micah 4:2). In God’s kingdom on earth, mankind will be raised from the dead and have their first real opportunity to learn God’s ways of righteousness because Satan will be bound and will no longer be able to deceive the world (Revelation 20:3) (Br. Peter Karavas, 2011).

The Dead Raised To Life In the Resurrection Age

“Possibly the spirit that returns to God contains the unique ‘data’ of each individual can be compared to computer information on a removable disk. The resurrection of an individual could be a recreation after the pattern of Adam. The original body had passed to dust so a new one, either spiritual or fleshly, would be created. The individual again comes to life when the (unique?) spirit is returned to the body and he becomes a living soul again. Whatever the exact process is, we know the resurrected fleshly body will be in its intended perfected state. Job intimates that the flesh will be fresher than a child’s and will have the beauty and vitality of youth (Job 33:25)” (Robert Davis, The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom article.)

Spirit

The word “spirit” in the Old Testament is usually from the Hebrew ruach, and in the New Testament it is usually from the Greek pneuma. Both terms refer to breath, inhalation, or the movement of air, whether gentle or forceful. But as these are invisible forces, the words are applied by extension to the “spirit” of a person which is the invisible mental force, personality, influence, or disposition of a person.

Thus the Old Testament uses ruach when speaking of the “spirit” of Jacob, Elijah, Cyrus, Zerubbabel, Joshua, God, and others. The New Testament uses pneuma when speaking of the “spirit” of Paul, Christ, and God.

These words are also used to describe the influence of various non-personal but good “spirits” — the spirit of Truth, Holiness, Life, Faith, Wisdom, Grace and Glory and of an opposite spirit of Jealousy, Judgment, Burning, Heaviness, Infirmity, Divination, Bondage, Slumber, Fear and Error.

Ruach also refers to the “spirit of life” which we receive from God, which figuratively “returns” to him when we die. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). This does not imply a transport of persons. It applies to the motivating force of life, of both good and bad people alike.

Both words sometimes refer to the essence of a person, that is, their identity, character, personality. In this sense Jesus commended his “spirit” to God when he died, which was restored on the third day when God raised Jesus from the dead (Luke 23:46, Psalms 31:5).

In this sense also Paul speaks of the “spirits of just men,” the faithful Ancient Worthies of the Old Testament, who were matured by the things they suffered, and await their resurrection reward in the Kingdom (Hebrews 12:23, 11:40).

None of these cases teach that any conscious entity persists after the death of a person, except metaphorically, in the memory of God. Not until the resurrection does a person who has died live again as a conscious, sentient being. The great hope for the world lies in such a Resurrection from the Dead. “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15). “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth” (John 5:28,29).

This assurance was secured for us at great cost, both by God who gave His dearest treasure, his son Jesus, and by Jesus who labored in his ministry for 3 ½ years, suffered accusation from the religious leaders of his day, and died for our sins on the cross.

“Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust … [to] bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh” (1 Peter 3:18). “By man [Adam] came death, by man [Jesus] came also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:21).

For the saints of the Gospel Age, this resurrection occurs during the present “Harvest” period. For the remainder of the world, the resurrection will occur during the coming Millennium.

Do Angels Have a Soul?

As with human being, angels are souls, for they are the union of the spirit of life, together with a body, in this case a spiritual body. “The first man Adam was made a living soul…” (1 Corinthians 15:45). It would be the same with the angelic hosts, but on a higher scale. “There are also celestial bodies … but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another” (1 Corinthians 15:40).

——-

Acknowledgment & References

We are thankful for the permission of sharing content from a study titled “Soul and Spirit,” drawn from a study by Br. Gilbert Rice, featured in the “Faithbuilders Fellowship” Journal.
http://www.2043ad.com/journal/2006/01_jan_06.pdf

“Immortality and the Human Soul,” The Bible versus Tradition—Article IV, April 1959 in The Dawn – A Herald of Christ’s Presence (Monthly Magazine) Rutherford, NJ, USA.
http://www.dawnbible.com/1959/5904tbs1.htm

“Immortality of the Soul” by Br. Peter Karavas. The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom Magazine, May-June 2011.
http://www.heraldmag.org/2011/11mj_3.htm

“The Resurrection of the Dead” by Br. Robert Davis. The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom.
http://www.heraldmag.org/literature/doc_14.htm

Suggested Further Reading

Volume 5 of “Studies in the Scriptures” — “The Atonement Between God and Man” by Br. Charles Taze Russell, pages 383-404, Study 13, “Hopes For Life Everlasting and Immortality Secured by the Atonement.”

“What Is the Soul?” by Br. Robert Seklemian
http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/contents/treatises/seklemians%20discourses.htm

ACTS 23:6 — HOPE & RESURRECTION. Part A: What Is Jesus All About?https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/11/03/acts-236-hope-resurrection-part-a-what-is-jesus-all-about/

ACTS 23:6 — HOPE & RESURRECTION. Part B: Will Mankind Resurrect With the Same Mind?
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/11/05/acts-236-hope-resurrection-part-b-will-mankind-resurrect-with-the-same-mind/

ACTS 23:6 — HOPE & RESURRECTION. Part C: The Order of the Resurrection Process
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/11/11/acts-236-hope-resurrection-part-c-the-order-of-the-resurrection-process/

This post’s URL:
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2018/07/14/ezekiel-184-what-the-bible-teaches-about-soul-and-spirit/

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ACTS 3:19-21 – The Restitution of All Things

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The King of kings has come! We are even now in the parousia (presence) of the Son of Man! Soon the last members of his “elect” body, the Bride of Christ, will be gathered to him—glorified and invisible to men,—and then he will begin the rule of the iron rod which shall break the world’s vaunted institutions as potters’ vessels (Revelation 2:27).

He declares, I will “gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. And then will I turn unto the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:8,9).

This symbolic burning and breaking will be the new missionary method, by which the glorified Bride of Christ and Church, will, after 2043, under and with her glorious Head, “bring in everlasting righteousness.”

“When the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).

“The glory [majesty] of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5).

Through the words of the Apostle Paul in Acts 3:19-21, Christ Jesus, intended his disciples to understand that for some purpose, in some manner, and at some time, he would return. True, Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and by his spirit and by his Word he has been with the Church continually, guiding, directing, comforting and sustaining his saints, and cheering them in the midst of all their afflictions. But though the Church has been blessedly conscious of the Lord’s knowledge of all her ways and of his constant care and love, yet she longs for his promised personal return; for, when he said, “If I go, I will come again” (John 14:3), he certainly referred to a second personal coming.

Some think he referred to the descent of the holy Spirit at Pentecost; others, to the destruction of Jerusalem, etc.; but these apparently overlook the fact that in the last book of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation—written by the Apostle John some sixty years after Pentecost, and twenty-six years after Jerusalem’s destruction, he that was dead and is alive speaks of the event as yet future, saying:

“Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me.” And the inspired John replies, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:12,20).

Quite a number think that when sinners are converted that forms a part of the coming of Christ, and that so he will continue coming until all the world is converted. Then, say they, he will have fully come.

These evidently forget the testimony of the Scriptures on the subject, which declares the reverse of their expectation: that at the time of our Lord’s second coming the world will be far from converted to God; that “In the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4); that “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (Verse 13). They forget the Master’s special warning to his little flock:

“Take heed to yourselves lest that day come upon you unawares, for as a snare shall it come on all them [not taking heed] that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:34,35).

When it is said, “All kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him,” when they see him coming (Revelation 1:7), no reference is made to the conversion of sinners.

Do all men wail because of the conversion of sinners?

On the contrary, if this passage refers, as almost all admit, to Christ’s presence on earth, it teaches that all on earth will not love his appearing, as they certainly would do if all were converted.

Some expect an actual coming and presence of the Lord in the future, claiming that through the efforts of the Church in its present condition the world must be converted, and thus the Millennial age be introduced. They claim that when the world has been converted, and Satan bound, and the knowledge of the Lord caused to fill the whole earth, and when the nations learn war no more, then the work of the Church in her present condition will be ended; and that when she has accomplished this great and difficult task, the Lord will come to wind up earthly affairs, reward believers and condemn sinners.

However, when God’s Word and plan are viewed as a whole, we learn that Christ comes before the conversion of the world, and reigns for the purpose of converting the world; that the Church is now being tried, and that the reward promised the overcomers is that after being glorified they shall share with the Lord Jesus in that reign, which is God’s appointed means of blessing the world and causing the knowledge of the Lord to come to every creature. The Lord’s special promises include:

  • “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne” (Revelation 3:21).
  • “And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).

There are two texts chiefly relied upon by those who claim that the Lord will not come until after the Millennium (the 1000 years of Christ’s reign with his 144,000 Bride “body” members):

1. “This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

They claim this as having reference to the conversion of the world before the end of the Gospel age (the 6000 years of permission of evil). But witnessing to the world does not imply the conversion of the world. 

The Apostle (Acts 15:14) tells that the main object during the gospel age is “to take out a people” for Christ’s name—”the Church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23) which, at his second advent, will be united to him and receive his name. The witnessing to the world during this age is a secondary object.

2. “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Psalm 110:1)

The vague, indefinite idea regarding this text seems to be that Christ sits on a material throne somewhere in the heavens until the work of subduing all things is accomplished for him through the Church, and that then he comes to reign. This is misconception. The throne of God referred to is not a material one, but refers to his supreme authority and rulership; and the Lord Jesus has been exalted to a share in that rulership.

Paul declares, “God [Jehovah] hath highly exalted him [Jesus] and given him a name above every name.” He hath given him authority above every other, next to the Father.

If Christ sits upon a material throne until his enemies are made his footstool [all subdued], then of course he cannot come until all things are subdued. But if “right hand” in this text refers, not to a fixed locality and bench, but, as we claim, to power, authority, rulership, it follows that the text under consideration would in no wise conflict with the other scripture which teaches that he comes to “subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:21), by virtue of the power vested in him.

Right hand—signifies the chief place, position of excellence or favor, next to the chief ruler. Thus Joseph was at the right hand of Pharaoh in the kingdom of Egypt—not literally, but after the customary figure of speech. Jesus’ words to Caiaphas agree with this thought: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64) He will be on the right hand when coming, and will remain on the right hand during the Millennial age, and forever.

The specific work of :

(a) the first adventwas to redeem men. In Hosea 6:3, this period is referred to as the time of the “former rain.”

(b) the second advent—is to restore, bless, and liberate the redeemed. In Hosea 6:3, this period is referred to as the “latter” rain. Having given his life a ransom FOR ALL (1 Timothy 2:6), our Savior ascended to present that sacrifice to the Father, thus making reconciliation for man’s iniquity. He tarries and permits “the prince of this world” to continue the rule of evil, until after the selection of “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” who, to be accounted worthy of such honor, must overcome the influences of the present evil world. Then the work of giving to the world of mankind the great blessings secured to them by his sacrifice will be due to commence, and he will come forth to bless all the families of the earth.

True, the restoring and blessing could have commenced at once, when the ransom price was paid by the Redeemer, and then the coming of Messiah would have been but one event, the reign and blessing beginning at once, as the apostles at first expected (Acts 1:6). But God had provided “some better thing for us”—the Christian Church (Hebrews 11:40); hence it is in our interest that the reign of Christ is separated from the sufferings of the Head by this 2000 years of waiting since Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary in 33 A.D.

The period between the first and second advents, between the ransom for all and the blessing of all, is for the trial and selection of the Church, which is the body of Christ; the “little flock” and “joint-heirs”; otherwise there would have been only the one advent, and the work which will be done during the period of his second presence, in the Millennium, would have followed the resurrection of Jesus. God has designed the permission of evil for six thousand years, as well as that the cleansing and restitution of all shall be accomplished during the seventh thousand.

Jesus has been absent from earth—in the heaven—during all the intervening time from his ascension to the beginning of the times of restitution—”whom the heaven must retain until the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21).

We find the Scriptures teaching a further step in the divine plan—a RESTITUTION for the world, to be accomplished through the elect Church, when completed and glorified. The “little flock,” the overcomers, of this Gospel age, are only the body of “The Seed” (Galatians 3:16, Romans 4:13) in or by whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed. The fact that the world has not yet been converted, and that the knowledge of the Lord has not yet filled the earth, is a proof that it has not yet been sent on that mission.

Election and Free Grace 

While an election has been in progress during the present and past ages, what is by way of distinction designated free grace is God’s gracious provision for the world in general during the Millennial age.

Election—as taught in the Bible, is not the arbitrary coercion, or fatalism, but a selection according to fitness and adaptability to the end God has in view, during the Gospel Age.

God’s grace or favor in Christ is ever free, in the sense of being unmerited; but since the fall of man into sin, to the present time, certain of God’s favors have been restricted to special individuals, nations and classes, while in the next age all the world will be invited to share the favors then offered, on the conditions then made known to all, and whosoever will may come and drink at life’s fountain freely (Revelation 22:17).

Glancing backward, we notice the selection or election of Abraham and certain of his offspring as the channels through which the promised Seed, should come (Galatians 3:29).

The selection of Israel from among all nations, as the one in whom, typically, God illustrated how the great work for the world should be accomplished—their deliverance from Egypt, their Canaan, their covenants, their laws, their sacrifices for sins, for the blotting out of guilt and for the sprinkling of the people, and their priesthood for the accomplishment of all this, being a miniature and typical representation of the real priesthood and sacrifices for the purifying of the world of mankind.

God, speaking to the people, said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2).

This people alone was recognized until Christ came.

Afterwards, Christ’s ministry was confined to the Jewish people, and he would not permit his disciples to go to others—saying, as he sent them out, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.”

Why so, Lord?

Because, he explains, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5,6; 15:24).

All his time was devoted to them until his death, and there was done his first work for the world, the first display of his free and all-abounding grace, which in “due time” shall indeed be a blessing to all. However, God’s grandest gift was not limited to nation or class. It was not for Israel only, but for all the world; for Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9).

When the called-out company (called to be sons of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord—who have made their calling and election sure) is complete, then the plan of God for the world’s salvation, will be only beginning.

Not until it is selected, developed, and exalted to power, will the Seed (Christ—”head” and “body” in glory) bruise the serpent’s head (Romans 16:20Genesis 3:15). The Gospel age makes ready the chaste virgin, the faithful Church, for the coming Bridegroom.

In the end of the age—when she is made “ready” (Revelation 19:7), the Bridegroom comes, and they that are ready go in with him to the marriage—the second Adam and the second Eve become one, and then the glorious work of restitution begins.

In the next dispensation—the new heaven and the new earth, “the Spirit and the Bride say, Come! And let him that heareth say, Come! And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

For this promised and coming blessing, the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, waiting for “the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:22,19).

Thus, free grace in fullest measure, not merely for the living but for those who have died as well, is provided in our Father’s plan as the blessed opportunity of the coming age because Jesus died for all. 

The United Nations expects the global population to reach 9 billion in the year 2043. (www.thoughtco.com/most-populous-countries-in-2050-1435117) What then will happen to the vast multitude who have not heard about nor accepted Jesus as their personal savior and redeemer? Did God make a wretched and merciless provision for their hopeless, eternal torment, as many of his children claim? Not at all. The opposite is true. God has yet in store for mankind an opportunity for all to come to the knowledge of that only name, and, by becoming obedient to the conditions, to enjoy everlasting life. When the Bride class is complete, then they, together with Jesus Christ, will regenerate the world.

Satan will be bound so that he cannot intrude his deceptions upon mankind.

In Revelation 20:1-3 (ESV) we read,

(1) Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. (2) And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, (3) and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

The saints will reign with Christ for a thousand years, as priests, to bring mankind back to God (Revelation 20:6). The whole creation “shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).

To Be Testified In Due Time

For those who will be of the “Church of the firstborn,” the bride of Christ, and share the kingdom honors, the present is the “due time” to hear; and whosoever now has an ear to hear, let him hear and heed, and he will be blessed accordingly. Though Jesus paid our ransom before we were born, it was not our “due time” to hear of it for long years afterward, and only the appreciation of it brought responsibility; and this, only to the extent of our ability and appreciation. The same principle applies to all: in God’s due time it will be testified to all, and all will then have opportunity to believe and to be blessed by it.

Since God does not propose to save men on account of ignorance,  but “will have all men to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4); and since the masses of mankind have died in ignorance; and since “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave” (Ecclesiastes 9:10); therefore God has prepared for the awakening of the dead, in order to knowledge, faith and salvation. Hence God’s plan is, that “as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive, but each one in his own order”—the Gospel Church, the Bride, the body of Christ, first; afterward, during the Millennial age, all who shall follow Godly righteousness during that thousand years of Christ’s reign with his Bride.

Everything and Everyone To Be Restored To Perfection

As death came by the first Adam, so life comes by Christ, the second Adam. Everything that mankind lost through being in the first Adam is to be restored to those who believe into the second Adam. When awakened, with the advantage of experience with evil, which Adam lacked, those who thankfully accept the redemption as God’s gift may continue to live everlastingly on the original condition of perfect obedience, and the perfect ability to obey will be given under the righteous reign of the Prince of Peace (Pastor Charles Russell, Volume 1 of “Studies In The Scriptures”, p.107).

All mankind shall be fully released from the slavery of sin, and the corruption of death, into the glorious liberty of children of God. But attainment to all these blessings will depend upon hearty compliance with the laws of Christ’s Kingdomthe rapidity of the attainment to perfection indicating the degree of love for the King and for his law of love. If any, enlightened by the Truth, and brought to a knowledge of the love of God, and restored (either actually or reckonedly) to human perfection, become “fearful,” and “draw back” (Hebrews 10:38,39), they, with the unbelievers (Revelation 21:8), will be destroyed from among the people (Acts 3:23). This is the second death.

Restitution Concerning Typical and Antitypical ISRAEL

Peter tells us that this restitution is spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets (Acts 3:19-21). They do all teach it. Ezekiel says of the valley of dry bones, “These bones are the whole house of Israel.”

And God says to Israel, “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I …shall put my spirit in you, and I shall place you in your own land; then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:11-14).

To this Paul’s words agree (Romans 11:25,26)—”Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles [the elect company, the bride of Christ] be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved,” or brought back from their cast-off condition; for “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew” (Verse 2). They were cast off from his favor while the bride of Christ was being selected, but will be reinstated when that work is accomplished (Verses 28-33).

The prophets are full of statements of how God will plant Israel again, and they shall be no more plucked up (Jeremiah 24:5-7; 31:28; Jeremiah 32:40-42; 33:6-16).

“In those days, they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge, but every one [who dies] shall die for his own iniquity” (Jeremiah 31:29,30).

This is not the case now. Each does not now die for his own sin, but for Adam’s sin—”In Adam all die.” The day in which “every man [who dies] shall die for his own sin,” only, is the Millennial or Restitution day.

While Israel as a nation was typical of the whole world, its priesthood was typical of the elect “little flock,” the head and body of Christ, the “Royal Priesthood”; and the sacrifices, cleansings and atonements made for Israel typified the “better sacrifices,” fuller cleansings and real atonement “for the sins of the whole world,” of which they are sharers in, by God’s grace.

After comparing Israel with Sodom and Samaria, and pronouncing Israel the most blameworthy (Ezekiel 16:48-54), the Lord says, “When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them.” In death all are captives; and Christ comes to open the doors of the grave, and to set at liberty the captives. (Isaiah 61:1Zechariah 9:11) In verse 55 this is called a “return to their former estate”a restitution, when Jehovah says to Israel:

“(60) I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. (61) Then, thou shalt remember thy ways and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters…. (62) And I will establish my covenant with thee, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; (63) that thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, SAITH THE LORD GOD” (Ezekiel 16:60-63).

To this Paul adds his testimony, saying, “And so all Israel [living and dead] shall be saved [recovered from blindness], as it is written, ‘There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins.’…They are beloved for the fathers’ sakes; because the gracious gifts and callings of God are not things to be repented of” (Romans 11:26-29).

A Summarized Explanation of Acts 3:19-21

Acts 3:19speaks of the “refreshing” that comes from the face of Jehovah (“presence” is not the Greek word parousia here, but prosopon, Strongs 4383) whenever they would convert and come to Jesus.

Acts 3:20The sending mentioned in verse 20 means sending Jesus not at his second advent, but sending him to bless them in their repentance. (As in verse 26, “Unto you first God, having raised up his son Jesus [by the resurrection] sent him to bless you [early Gospel Age work, not the second advent], in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.”)

Acts 3:21This verse explains that Jesus will remain in heaven until the times of
restoration, and then he will return. We understand those times of restoration have begun as evidenced in the restoration of Israel, which is what these Jewish hearers of Peter were interested in. Since Christ’s second presence (“parousia”), the saints here who are still living, continue on here for some time, before their service here is complete as we read about in Luke 12:36-37. Here it speaks of a time when Jesus returns, knocks, and asks those saints the living to “open unto him.”  Further explanation about the Second Presence of Christ is provided in the “Further Reading” links, below.

As we continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), may we rejoice in knowing that “great joy shall be TO ALL people” (Luke 2:10“in due time.”

Acknowledgement

Br. Charles Taze Russell. The above post was based on content from Study 6 of Volume 1 of “Studies In the Scriptures.” The series of six volumes by Br. Russell can be read at http://www.htdbv8.com

Br. David Rice. Editing and content.

Further Reading

Christ’s Parousia (Second Presence) In 1874.
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/11/10/christs-parousia-second-presence-in-1874/

“Where Is The Promise Of His Advent. The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom Magazine. Sept/Oct. 2014 issue.
URL: https://herald-magazine.com/2014/09/01/where-is-the-promise-of-his-presence/

The Prophetic Date, 1874. The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom Magazine. March/April 2003 issue.
URL: http://www.heraldmag.org/2003/03nd_5.htm

Signs of Christ’s Presence. Beauties of the Truth. Volume 3, Number 1, February 1992
URL: http://www.beautiesofthetruth.org/Archive/Library/Doctrine/Mags/Bot/90s/BOTFEB92.PDF

A chapter by chapter studies of the Book of Daniel in the “Journal” section at www.2043ad.com

Free Booklet titled: “I Will Come Again – John 14:3”
https://chicagobible.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/I-WILL-COME-AGAIN.pdf

Jesus – The Name. BIBLE Students DAILY website.
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/07/05/jesus-the-name/

Time and Prophecy by Br. David Rice.
http://2043ad.com/timeandprophecy.pdf

 

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https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/08/02/acts-319-21-the-restitution-of-all-things/

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