Bible Basics (5th edition): A study manual revealing the joy and peace of true Christianity

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4.8 Responsibility to God

If humanity had an ‘immortal soul’ naturally, logically he would have an eternal destiny somewhere - either in a place of reward or of punishment. This implies that everyone is responsible to God. By contrast, we have shown how the Bible teaches that by nature man is like the animals, without any inherent immortality. However, some men have been offered the prospect of eternal life in God’s Kingdom. It should be apparent that not everyone who has ever lived will be raised; like the animals, man lives and dies, to decompose into dust. Yet because there will be a judgment, with some being condemned and others rewarded with eternal life, we have to conclude that there will be a certain category amongst mankind who will be raised in order to be judged and rewarded.

Whether or not someone will be raised depends on whether they are responsible to the judgment. The basis of our judgment will be how we have responded to our knowledge of God’s word. Christ explained: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him - the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (Jn. 12:48). Those who have not known or understood the word of Christ, and therefore had no opportunity to accept or reject him, will not be accountable to the judgment. “As many as have sinned without (knowing God’s) law, will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law (i.e. knowing it), will be judged by the law” (Rom. 2:12). Thus those who have not known God’s requirements will perish like the animals; whilst those who knowingly break God’s law need to be judged, and therefore raised to face that judgment.

In God’s sight “sin is not imputed when there is no law”; “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 5:13; Rom. 3:20). Without being aware of God’s laws as revealed in His Word, “sin is not imputed” to a person, and therefore they will not be raised or judged. Those who do not know God’s Word will therefore remain dead, as will animals and plants, seeing they are in the same position. “Man who...does not understand, is like the beasts that perish” (Ps. 49:20). “Like sheep they are laid in the grave” (Ps. 49:14).

It is the knowledge of God’s ways that makes us responsible to Him for our actions and therefore necessitates our resurrection and appearance at the judgment seat. It should therefore be understood that it is not only the righteous or those baptised who will be raised, but also all who are responsible to God by reason of their knowledge of Him. This is an oft-repeated Scriptural theme.

§         Jn. 15:22 shows that knowledge of the Word brings responsibility: “If I (Jesus) had not come and spoken to them, they have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin”. Rom. 1:20,21 likewise says that knowing God leaves men “without excuse”.

§         “Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father...I (Christ) will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:44,45).

§         The Lord’s attitude at the judgment seat to those who rejected Him in the first century will be: “Bring here those enemies of mine (out of the grave), and slay them before me” (Lk. 19:27).

§          “Whoever will not hear (i.e. obey) my words…I will require it of him” (Dt. 18:19).

§         God only “overlooked” the actions of those who are genuinely ignorant of His ways. Those who know His ways, He watches and expects a response (Acts 17:30).

§         In the final judgment of the world, it will be “the nations that did not obey” who are condemned (Mic. 5:15 NRSV). Their hearing but not obeying God’s word will be the basis of their punishment.

§         Because Belshazzar knew he ought to submit to God’s superiority, but refused, therefore he was punished (Dan. 5:22).

§         “That servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. (e.g. by remaining dead). For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Lk. 12:47,48) - so how much more God?

§         “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

§         Israel’s special responsibility to God was on account of His revelations to them concerning Himself (Am. 3:2). “Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities ...” “and you shall all bow down to the slaughter; because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not hear, but did evil” (Is. 65:12).

§         Because of this doctrine of responsibility, “it would have been better for them (who later turn back from God) not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Pet. 2:21). Other relevant passages include: Jn. 9:41; 3:19; 1 Tim. 1:13; Hos. 4:14; Deut. 1:39.

Knowledge of God making us responsible to the judgment seat, it follows that those without this knowledge will not be raised, seeing that they do not need to be judged, and that their lack of knowledge makes them “like the beasts that perish” (Ps. 49:20). There are ample indications that not all who have ever lived will be raised.

§          The people of the ancient nation of Babylon “will ... sleep a perpetual sleep and not awake” after their death because they were ignorant of the true God (Jer. 51:39; Is. 43:17).

§         Isaiah encouraged himself: “O Lord our (Israel’s) God, other masters besides You have had dominion over us (e.g. the Philistines and Babylonians)...They are dead, they will not live (again); they are deceased, they will not rise...all their memory to perish” (Is. 26:13,14). Note the triple emphasis here on their not being raised: “will not live (again)...will not rise...all their memory to perish”. By contrast, Israel had the prospect of resurrection on account of their knowledge of the true God: “Your (Israel’s) dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise” (Is. 26:19).

§         Speaking about God’s people Israel, we are told that at Christ’s return, “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). Thus “many”, but not all, of the Jews will be raised, due to their responsibility to God as His chosen people. Those of them who are totally ignorant of their true God “shall fall, and never rise again”, seeing they are unable to find “the word of the Lord” (Am. 8:12,14).

We have now learnt that

1. Knowledge of God’s Word brings responsibility to Him

2. Only the responsible will be raised and judged

3. Those adults who do not know the true God will therefore remain dead like the animals

The implications of these conclusions make a hard hit on human pride and what we would naturally prefer to believe. Our questioning of God’s ways in these matters is grossly out of order: “O man, who are you to reply against God?” (Rom. 9:20). We may admit incomprehension, but never must we accuse God of injustice or unrighteousness. The implication that God can be in any way unloving or in error opens up the horrific prospect of an all-powerful God, Father and Creator who treats His creatures in an unreasonable and unjust way.

Finally, it has to be said that many people, on grasping this principle of responsibility to God, feel that they do not wish to gain any more knowledge of Him in case they become responsible to Him and the judgment. Yet to some degree it is likely that such people are already responsible to God, seeing their knowledge of God’s Word has made them aware of the fact that God is working in their lives, offering them a real relationship with Him. It must ever be remembered that “God IS love”, He is “not willing that any should perish”, and “gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (1 Jn. 4:8; 2 Pet. 3:9; Jn. 3:16). God wants us to be in His Kingdom.

Such an honour and privilege inevitably bring responsibilities. Yet these are not designed to be too heavy or onerous for us; if we truly love God, we will appreciate that His offer of salvation is not an automatic reward for certain works, but a loving desire on His part to do all that He can for His children, to grant them an eternal life of happiness, through their appreciation of His marvellous character.

As we come to appreciate and hear the call of God to us through His Word, we will realise that as we walk through the crowds, God is watching us with a special intensity, eagerly seeking signs of our response to His love, rather than waiting for us to fail to live up to our responsibilities. Never is that loving eye off us; never can we forget or undo our knowledge of Him in order to indulge the flesh, free of responsibility to God. Instead, we can and should rejoice in the special closeness we have to God, and so trust in the greatness of His love, that we ever seek to know more of Him rather than less. Our love of God’s ways and desire to know them, so that we might more accurately copy Him, should outweigh our natural fear of His supreme holiness.

Bible Basics: Contents

Part 1: "The things concerning the Kingdom of God" Study 1: God 1.1  The Existence Of God || 1.2  The Personality Of God || Belief In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3  God's Name And Character || Belief In Practice 2: Grace (John Parkes) || Belief In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Belief In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Belief In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4     The Angels || Belief In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2:  Why The Trinity Was Accepted || Study 1: Questions Study 2: The Spirit Of God 2.1  Definition || 2.2  Inspiration || 2.3  Gifts Of The Holy Spirit || 2.4  The Withdrawal Of The Gifts || 2.5  The Bible The Only Authority || Digression 3: Is The Holy Spirit A Person? || Digression 4: The Principle Of Personification || Belief In Practice 7: The Implications Of Inspiration || Study 2: Questions Study 3: The Promises Of God 3.1  Introduction || 3.2  The Promise In Eden || 3.3  The Promise To Noah || 3.4  The Promise To Abraham || 3.5  The Promise To David || Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God || Study 3: Questions Study 4: God And Death 4.1  The Nature Of Man || 4.2  The Soul || 4.3  The Spirit || 4.4  Death Is Unconsciousness || 4.5  The Resurrection || 4.6  The Judgment || Belief In Practice 9: Judgment Now || 4.7  The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?|| 4.8  Responsibility To God || 4.9  Hell || Digression 5: Purgatory || Digression 6: Ghosts And Reincarnation || Digression 7: The 'Rapture' || Belief In Practice 10: The Motivational Power Of Understanding Death || Study 4: Questions Study 5: The Kingdom Of God 5.1  Defining The Kingdom || 5.2  The Kingdom Is Not Now Established || 5.3  The Kingdom Of God In The Past || 5.4  The Kingdom Of God In The Future || 5.5  The Millennium || Digression 8: The Kingdom Of God Now (Graham Bacon) || Belief In Practice 11: What The Kingdom Of God Means Today || Study 5: QuestionsStudy 6: God And Evil 6.1  God And Evil || 6.2  The Devil And Satan || 6.3  Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Belief In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind || Study 6: Questions

Part 2: "The things concerning...the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus. 7.1  Old Testament Prophecies Of Jesus || 7.2  The Virgin Birth || 7.3  Christ's Place In God's Plan || 7.4  "In the beginning was the word" || Digression 13: Jesus The Son Of God (Michael Gates) || Digression 14: Did Jesus Create The Earth? || Belief In Practice 13: Jesus Didn’t Pre-exist: And So What? || Study 7: Questions Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus 8.1  Introduction || 8.2  Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3  The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4  The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5  The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Belief In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus || Study 8: Questions Study 9: The Work Of Jesus 9.1  The Victory Of Jesus || 9.2  The Blood Of Jesus || 9.3  Jesus As Our Representative || 9.4  Jesus And The Law Of Moses || 9.5  The Sabbath || Digression 17 The Crucifix || Digression 18: Was Jesus Born On Dec. 25th? || Belief In Practice 15: The Meaning Of Christ’s Resurrection For Us || Belief In Practice 16: Christ Died For Me- So What Should I Do? || Belief In Practice 17: The Real Cross || Belief In Practice 18: The Inspiration Of The Cross || Study 9: Questions || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus 10.1  The Vital Importance Of Baptism || 10.2  How Should We Be Baptized? || 10.3  The Meaning Of Baptism || 10.4  Baptism And Salvation || Digression 19: Re-baptism || Digression 20 The Thief On The Cross || Belief In Practice 19: The Certainty Of Salvation || Study 10: Questions Study 11: Life In Christ 11.1  Introduction || 11.2  Holiness || 11.2.1  The Use Of Force || 11.2.2  Politics || 11.2.3  Worldly Pleasures || 11.3  Practical Christian Life || 11.3.1  Bible Study || 11.3.2  Prayer || 11.3.3  Preaching || 11.3.4  Ecclesial Life || 11.3.5  The Breaking Of Bread || 11.4  Marriage || 11.5  Fellowship || Study 11: Questions ||