The Hope of the “Unsaved” Dead

 

In a few days from this writing, September 10 this year will be celebrated by some remnants and former members of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) as their seventh annual festival called the “Last Great Day” (LGD). This day – which this year also happens to be both a weekly and an annual Sabbath – is equivalent, in the Hebrew calendar, to the 23rd day of their seventh month, Tishri. Jews call this day their Shemini Atzeret, meaning “Eighth-day assembly.” [See: God’s Feasts and the Jews – Part 3, especially the section titled “The Last Great Day and the Jews.”]

The former WCG had believed that, at Christ’s return, only the “elect” of God – the “saints” [those “sanctified” by God’s Holy Spirit] or those who are “in Christ” will be saved while all others will perish when He comes to “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18) – which will include most of the earth’s population (Isaiah 24:6). Those who have died “in Christ” will rise [be resurrected] to receive immortality ahead of those still alive “in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-55). [See: God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 2, and turn to the section on “The Feast of Trumpets and the Jews.”]

The key Scripture passage that supports the belief that there is yet hope for all those who have died without the saving knowledge of Christ is Revelation 20:5, 6, 11-12 –

“But the rest of the dead [who are not blessed to be among the “elect” who have part in the “first resurrection”] did not live again until the thousand years [of Christ’s reign on earth with His saints] are finished….Then I saw a great white throne and Him [Christ] who sat in it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books [from the Greek biblia] were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”

 That vast number includes all  who are yet “unsaved”of mankind since Adam and Eve, and perhaps even those after Christ sets up God’s kingdom here. [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation, The Book of Life, God’s “Book of Remembrance,”  and  Two Goats Together, the section on “A possible scenario.”]

So that I won’t be repeating myself here, I would like to share with my dear readers some words of hope for the dead – words which I have shared with bereaved folks during funeral services at chapels or gravesides. The following, then, are excerpts from such messages or “homilies,” with insertions of relevant website links, for the benefit of my present readers. I trust that this message brings comfort and consolation to you as it did to several who came to me after the service to express their appreciation for such an effect on them.

Why flowers at funerals?

It has been the custom or practice in the Philippines, as it is in other countries, to bring flowers to the casket of a dead family member or friend at funeral chapels and gravesides. Flowers express our love and tender feelings to those dear to us, as a young man offers flowers to a maiden he fancies. With their colors, shapes and fragrance, flowers somehow help blunt the pain, sorrow, and ugliness of the death of a loved one.

But perhaps one benefit to our souls that such flowers bring, which we should ponder with sobriety and hope, is that flowers should remind us of our fleeting status as mortals in God’s eyes. Quoting Isaiah 40:6-8, the apostle Peter declared in his epistle (1 Peter1:24) —

“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever.”

Like grass or a flower, all of us human beings die sooner or later – we “dry up” and our “glory fades away.” Whatever glory or beauty, strength, position, place or possession – all these we will leave behind; we cannot carry them to our grave. Like dried grass or flowers, we end up as ashes burned in the fire, or soil (“humus,” from which we derive the word “human”) in a compost pile. The wise King Solomon observed: “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing. And they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6). [See: What Happens to Man After Death?]

In stark contrast to grass and flowers, the passage from Peter’s letter (latter part) declares: But “the word of the LORD endures forever.” Of that word, Jesus said: “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

Speaking of life, we all understand that we mortal creatures remain alive as long is as we have proper food to eat. But what most of us don’t realize is that there is food (“bread”) more important for our permanent survival. Quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, Jesus said: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Many fail to partake of that “bread” (Word), and so find themselves spiritually “malnourished,” dying, if not already dead!

That is why God invites everyone: “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; and you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your heart delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 55:1-3).

The “waters” that God speaks of represent His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), which He will give to all who will repent of their sin, believe in Christ as their Savior, and are baptized in His name (Acts 2:39). These believers also constitute God’s and Christ’s spiritual “flock of sheep,” whom He, as their “Good Shepherd,” will feed with spiritual food from God’s word to sustain them to everlasting life (John 10:11; Isaiah 40:11). Jesus established His church and His ministry to help Him in this feeding (1 Peter 5:1-4).

The sad reality, however, is that today there are many churches and many preachers that claim to be Christ’s own, but are actually fakes (Matthew 24:23-24)! [See: Beware of False Prophets and Fake News.] It behooves every serious seeker to find the Biblical answer to the question Where Is God’s Church Today?– and be properly spiritually fed there with God’s enduring word through Christ’s faithful ministers. As 1 John 5:12 promises: “He who has the Son [Christ] has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

As we have Christ in us through His Spirit, we are assured that at His return we will receive everlasting life. [See: “I Never Knew You!” and God’s Spirit and Obedience.] We will no longer be like grass and flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow.

We will become true children of God, and brothers and sisters of His Son Jesus, enjoying everlasting life and joy as He does, in the coming “new heavens and new earth,” where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away … Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:4-5). [See: Are we All God’s Children?]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
07102020

When He Rules the World

 

As I recall, it was in the 1980s when I first knew about the song “If I Ruled the World,” composed by Larry Secombe and sung by Tony Bennett [see: https://www.google.com/search?q=if+i+ruled+the+world+lyrics+tony+bennett]. The rather lilting and sweet melody melded well with the sunny lyrics, which went:

If I ruled the world
Every day would be the first day of spring.
Every heart would have a new song to sing,
And we’d sing of the joy every morning would bring.

If I ruled the world
Every man would be as free as a bird,
Every voice would be a voice to be heard,
Take my word, we would treasure each day that occurred.

My world would be a beautiful place,
Where we would weave such wonderful dreams;
My world would wear a smile on its face,
Like the man on the moon has when the moon beams.

If I ruled the world
Every man would say the world was his friend,
There’d be happiness that no man could end,
No, my friend, not if I ruled the world.
Every head would be held up high,
There’d be sunshine in everyone’s sky,
If the day ever dawned when I ruled the world.

The lyrics ooze with high optimism, if with a tinge of braggadocio. Knowing mankind’s failed attempts to bring about a bright, new world which the song eloquently waxes about, we may look at it as an expression of the deep longing and wishes of men – the kind of stuff that many a Miss Universe contestant offer as the hope they want to pursue if given the chance to wear the crown.

Actually, I got to know about the song in a rather round-about way.

In the 1980s, as in previous and later times, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) headquarters at Pasadena, Calif., U.S.A. would help the choirs of WCG local churches acquire appropriate choral music material to provide special music during their weekly Sabbath worship services and, especially, during the “festivals” or “holydays” which the churches observed locally or as combined congregations.

The highlight of these festivals has been the sixth and the seventh – the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles [often shortened as FOT] and the “Last Great Day” [LGD] — the very season we are in right now. [See: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere Time Markers – or to Be Observed?]

These festivals particularly look forward to the establishing of God’s kingdom here on earth after Jesus Christ returns in glory to take over the reins of government of the earth’s nations. Powerful and positive sermons usually detail the “Wonderful World Tomorrow” when Christ transforms the world – as only He can – into a utopia that has eluded humanity these past millennia.

Along this vein, the WCG headquarters’ music department provided music scores of a choral arrangement of Secombe’s song, but with modified lyrics [to fit the church’s theology], in order to enhance festival worship. That’s how, as choirmaster of the WCG’s Manila congregation for several years, I got acquainted with the song. This is how the WCG revised the song and re-titled it “When He Rules the World” –

When He rules the world
Every day will be the first day of Spring,
Every heart will have a new song to sing,
And we’ll sing of the joy every morning will bring.

When He rules the world
Every man will be as free as a bird,
Every voice will be a voice to be heard,
Take my word, we will treasure each day that occurs.

His world will be a beautiful place
Where we will weave such wonderful dreams;
His world will wear a smile on its face,
Like the man on the moon when the moon beams.

When He rules the world
Every man will say the world is his friend,
There’ll be happiness that no man can end,
No, my friend, not when He rules the world.
Every head will be held up high.
There’ll be sunshine in everyone’s sky,
As the day surely dawns when He rules the world.

There are no “ifs” and “woulds” in the WCG version of the song, befitting Christ’s title as the “Amen” [“So be it”] (Revelation 3:14). Christ will surely right every wrong there is in the world today when He rules the world for an initial one thousand years – referred to by Bible students as “the Millennium” [Latin for 1,000 years] (Revelation 20:4) — and beyond (Isaiah 9:7; Revelation 11:15).

Non-transformed mankind not able to rule

On our own accounts and resources, we human beings are incapable of truly ruling ourselves, let alone the world! Jeremiah 10:23, under God’s divine inspiration, affirms: “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps!” Even more seriously, Jeremiah 17:9 declares: “The heart [of man] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Isaiah 59:8 adds: “The way of peace they have not known, and there is no judgment in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths.”

Only as each person submits himself or herself to the transforming power of Christ will they be able to really rule themselves and, others as well.  [See: Is There Ever Any Good in Man?  A Law-abiding Universe – But Man! “The Next Chapter of  History,” God’s Spirit and Obedience, and “When He Cometh to Make up His Jewels.”]

When, finally, Christ makes mankind fit to rule with Him in His kingdom, then will Secombe’s boast – and more – come true! [See: World Peace – At Last! and https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklet titled “The Wonderful World Tomorrow –What it Will Be Like” or the book titled Tomorrow, What it Will Be Like.]

May God hasten that wonderful day!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
03102020