If Jesus Christ of Nazareth came today to "Face the Nation" or "Meet the Press," what would He say in response to the question: "Aren't you trying to get this world saved"?
How far have we really come down the road of solving the huge problems of all of mankind? Not just the age-old problems of food, clothing and shelter plaguing the squalid, underdeveloped countries, but also the giant headaches of our burgeoning Western technocracies: polluting the earth, gobbling up the remaining nonrenewable resources at a prodigious rate, feeding our monstrous energy slaves. What about the solving of our great crises of the spirit? How far have we come, in the Western world, toward giving this sick and starving world even a material salvation? Haven't we exported our way of life to the four corners of the earth? (Or don't we see the disease of hippieism — even long after it virtually died in America — in whatever nation you would care to hop into a 747 and fly to?)
The American Dream — Exported?
Aren't we trying to save the rest of the world — Communists from communism, atheists from atheism, Hindus from Hinduism? Haven't we tried to enlighten the world, teach and educate the world, clothe and mobilize the world? Haven't we dreamed of seeing nations even in the fourth world bursting with our technology, gleaming with the glittering artifices and devices of our man-made, modern, industrialized assembly lines and teeming with luxury cars at about two per person? Is God really — now, at this time — using the Western nations to forge out some sort of last-ditch opening to the manifold and many-sided box canyons into which this world has gotten itself? Has He ever? In the past hundred years or so, we have gone about the business of desperately trying to convince other nations of the multiple benefits inherent in the American (and Western) way of life. But now our almost religious fervor is beginning to wane. Watergate, the South Vietnam debacle, the worst inflation and unemployment rates in over three decades, the giving away of billions of dollars to fair-weather friends, the CIA investigations, our sliding confidence in public servants — all have taken their toll on our will. It was President Lyndon Baines Johnson who said in the heat of the Vietnam war: "It is our will that is being tried." It is highly questionable whether or not we indeed do have the will to police this world any longer. Now we are scurrying about our land on an unbelievable quest of "blame-placing" and "scape-goating." We are beginning (and perhaps rightly so in a sense) to come to grips with some of our embarrassments, failures, flaws and mistakes — both now and in the past. But what should our real mission to this world have been in the first place? To send technocrats to teach others how to build massive mass-production assembly lines so they too could eventually choke in their own smog? To send missionaries to convict and persuade them of our brand of "Christianity"? What did God Almighty want us to do — as a nation — for the rest of this world?
Our Real National Mission
This is what the nations of the world should be able to say about the United States of America (and the former British Commonwealth of nations): "... For this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?" (Deut. 4:6-8.) But just as ancient Israel proceeded to fail miserably in their gigantic calling, so have we followed in their footsteps. Our actions and our words cry out as with one voice: "No! We don't keep the Ten Commandments." Yes, our nation, just on the verge of its 200th birthday, planning a whopping bicentennial celebration, has been given the greatest material blessings given to any nation in all of history! Yes, we are number one in GNP, and in so many material quantifications. Quantitatively speaking, we are it and have been for these many, many years. But let's not claim we are number one in spreading Christianity when we lead the world in divorce, crime, murder, pornography, the hideous misuse and abuse of the land in which we live and the voracious devouring of our ecological resources. Being number one brings with it the responsibility of not setting a pattern of every assorted form of evil for the entirety of the rest of the world. Some of us still seem to think that we are the greatest Christian nation that this world has ever known. After all, don't we print, publish and export more Bibles in more languages than any other nation under the sun? Don't at least two-thirds of our peoples possess a copy of the King James Version, and many others of our populace more modern translations? Haven't we sent more missionaries to more countries than any other national collection of peoples? Haven't we diligently gone about the business of desperately trying to save this world spiritually, as well as economically, politically and socially? Why then have we so utterly failed? Is it because we haven't done what King David said and did? "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.... Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee" (Ps. 51:1-3, 12-13). Yes, that's part of it. But the true answer is more fundamental than even that. Look about you at the world of religion and ask yourself this basic question: "Does the entire endeavor of Christian evangelism represent God's best efforts to get this world saved?" If it does, then we can all honestly say that this world is in deep trouble.
The Shocking Truth About Universal Salvation
I posed the question earlier in this article: If Jesus came to "Face the Nation" today, how would He respond to a reporter asking, "Aren't you trying to get this world saved"? The astonishing, astounding answer would be a resounding "No!" Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). Over 1900 years ago He was asked virtually the same question. Jesus frequently spoke to the general public of that day in parables — all sorts of similes, analogies and interesting stories mainly based on the agriculture of His generation. But neither those Jewish people nor even His disciples seemed to have the faintest idea of what He was talking about when He was conversing in parables. His disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables. They wondered why He was confusing those poor people. Notice it in Matthew's account: "And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered ... Because it is given unto you [the disciples and future apostles] to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven ['kingdom of God' in Mark, Luke and John], but to them [the general public] it is not given" (Matt. 13:10-11). Conventional "Christianity" has always taught its Sunday-school children that Jesus spoke in parables because He wanted people to better understand the gospel message. But Christ continued in verse 13: "Therefore speak I unto them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." Jesus then added: "And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of. Esaias [Isaiah], which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's [Jesus' generation — and it is no different today] heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them" (verses 14-15). And then Jesus went on to explain and expound the meaning of a parable to His disciples in the very plainest of language. Does this sound like Jesus Christ of Nazareth was desperately on a "soul-saving" campaign to the people of His generation? Or didn't He say in another place: "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom"? (Luke 12:32.) Later on in Luke's account someone asked Jesus: "Lord, are there few that be saved?" (Luke 13:23.) Jesus' straight-from-the-shoulder answer was: "Strive to enter in at the strait [narrow] gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (verse 14).
The Strait Gate
Jesus Christ did not neglect to comment on this vital subject in the Sermon on the Mount. "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:13-14). These and other scriptures represent a little bit of Christian theology that is just not being taught in the pulpits and under the steeples of this world's "Christianity." But they are as plain as day! A little earlier in. the same account Jesus had said: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" (verse 6). I will leave it to you, the reader, to figure out what Jesus was telling His disciples in that verse! Now come to a couple of crucial verses that John adds to the story. "And he [Jesus] said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father" (John 6:65). And the famous (to God's people) parallel verse: "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him... " (verse 44). And God the Father is simply not drawing very many people today! The chaotic conditions troubling every nation in this world today ought to be mute testimony to that fact. There is too little salt on this earth! The Father wasn't drawing many in Jesus' day either! Even many who appeared to have a modicum of understanding stumbled at Jesus' exposition of the true meaning of the Passover in John 6. Notice verse 66 in particular. "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."
Do These Scriptures Contradict?
Many fundamentalists are perhaps more familiar with verses like God being "...longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9); or "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:4); and "... all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26). What about it? Do these two sets of scriptures contradict and fight with one another? Or, since the Bible does not contradict itself (John 10:35; II Tim. 3:16; II Peter 1:20, 21), is there a more logical, plausible explanation? God has a great plan and purpose He is working out with human beings on this earth below — and that plan has an orderly timetable. God has never locked Himself into any effort solely aimed at saving this world today. He is only calling a relative few now in order to further His future plans. Those few are called now to get back of His Work today so the whole world, at a future time, may be saved! My father, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, has repeatedly said over the years that the things that God does through human instruments must start the smallest. This is a great principle of God borne out by a few analogies Jesus gave about the Kingdom of God. "Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof" (Matt. 13:31-32). "Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid [the leaven would have to be in very small portions] in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened" (verse 33). God is not the author of the babylonish confusion we see about us today; He will do things decently and in order (I Cor. 14:33, 40). His work with human beings is proceeding and growing according t6 an overall pattern that has been carefully planned in advance. God is not a failure: when He sets out to really save this world, He will save it!
"Every Man in His Own Order"
The resurrection chapter (I Corinthians 15) explains something of how God is going to go about saving all of humanity in general. Beginning in verse 22, the apostle Paul tells how we all die in Adam, but we (Christians) are to be made alive in Christ. Then verse 23: "But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." Continuing in verse 24: "Then cometh the end, when he [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power." That last summary verse was not augmented with any written detail until John wrote the book of Revelation in the 90's A.D. He wrote, in chapter 20, of a thousand-year reign of Christ involving "they that are Christ's at his coming." These saints, the few called and chosen in this age, are to rule and reign with Christ throughout that utopian, millennial period (verses 3-6). All who remain alive into that time (those not having been drawn of the Father previously), and those who are born in the millennium, will receive a full chance at salvation. The earth will be as full of the knowledge of God then as the waters cover the sea now (Isa. 11:9). But that doesn't help those who have lived and died in the past (or who will be killed in future calamities), who maybe never even heard the name of Jesus Christ — which is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). I've spoken before of the proverbial missionary who had a flat tire that prevented him from reaching a dying pagan in time with the name of Jesus Christ.
"The Rest of the Dead"
John was inspired to put in a parenthetical statement in verse 5 of Revelation 20 that clarifies this problem: "But the rest of the dead [those not included in the first resurrection to eternal life] lived not again until the thousand years were finished." The words following this parenthetical sentence then refer back to the first resurrection. But "the rest of the dead" are those who never grasped the true gospel of the Kingdom of God even if they heard it with their physical ears, plus the many millions and billions who have never even heard the name of Christ. Verses 11 through 15 input these vital details. "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God [a dead person could never stand before anybody unless he or she were truly revived, or "resurrected" in theological language]; 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." Millions have assumed this event was a great "assembly line" of miserable human beings, marching endlessly past a great "courtroom" — each being told in his turn: "You go to heaven," "You go to hell." But that isn't what these verses really say. In truth this great multitude of humanity will be judged by how well they live by the books of the Bible (the word "Bible" simply means "books"). (There isn't sufficient space in this article to explain and expound all these exegetical technicalities, but I wrote an article on the subject shortly after my mother died that does go into that kind of detail. You can have it in booklet form. Simply write for our free publication titled After Death... then What?) This great resurrection pictured here is, as it were, acted out symbolically by the observance of one of God's annual holy days: fittingly termed "the Last Great Day." More information on that subject can be obtained by writing for another booklet titled Pagan Holidays - or God's Holy Days - Which? I know many of you readers are new subscribers to the GN and aren't very familiar with many of these subjects we mention in these articles from time to time. So feel free to write for the booklets mentioned in the pages of this magazine. The tithe-paying members of the Worldwide Church of God, plus our co-workers and donors, feel very privileged to be able to help give the vital information contained in these easy-to-read, digest-size booklets we mail out by the many, many tons every single year. That gets me back to the subject of the mission of the Church. If God's Church is not to be about the business of saving this sick and dying world today, then what is the real reason for its existence?
The Great Commission
The twenty-fourth chapter of the book of Matthew is the focal point of all Bible prophecy. Instead of a prophetic picture of this world in the process of being saved, you get a pretty grim and dire scenario of a crush of deadly, end-time events that climax in the second coming of Christ. Matthew 24 talks about many false prophets coming into the world actually preaching in Christ's name (verses 4-5), wars and world wars (verses-6-7), severe religious martyrdom (verse 9), and perhaps even an allusion to problems within the true Church itself (verse 10). Then Jesus gives the great commission to the Church (in the form of a prophecy if some insist on it being worded that way): "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness [not necessarily to convert people, although a few are almost always converted as an automatic spinoff] unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (verse 14; see also Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:6-8). This is really the only verse that technically and specifically dates this whole prophecy. When the great commission is truly finished, God will then permit all of the problems (which I've been talking about on radio and writing about in our publications for over twenty years now, and my father before me another twenty years prior to that — he has been doing God's Work for over 40 years now) to intensify to the point where if Christ did not return, all human life would be erased from off the face of this earth (verses 21-22). You simply don't get a picture, in Matthew 24, of all of Christianity uniting and by a tremendously energetic human effort saving the world; but precisely and diametrically the opposite picture. The purpose of this Work is to give this world not only a warning and a witness of the future disorder, violence, bewilderment and disintegration of this present society, but also of the good news (gospel) of the coming wonderful world of tomorrow. Then — and only then — will this world ever be saved!