It has long been our understanding that if someone is destroyed by Jehovah God at Armageddon, there is no hope of a resurrection. This teaching is partly based on the interpretation of a couple of texts, and partly on a line of deductive reasoning. The Scriptures in question are 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 and Matthew 25:31-46. As for the line of deductive reasoning, it was long understood that if someone were killed by Jehovah, then a resurrection would be inconsistent with God’s righteous judgment. It didn’t seem logical that God would destroy someone directly only to resurrect him later. However, this line of reasoning has been quietly abandoned in light of our understanding of the account of Korah’s destruction. Korah was killed by Jehovah, yet went into Sheol from which all will be resurrected. (w05 5/1 p. 15 Par. 10; John 5:28)
The fact is that no line of deductive reasoning, whether it brings us to condemn all those who die at Armageddon to eternal death, or permits us to believe some might be resurrected, is the basis for anything other than speculation. We can form no doctrine nor belief on such a theoretical foundation; for how can we presume to know the mind of God on the matter? There are just far too many variables in our limited understanding of human nature and divine justice for us to be sure about anything regarding the judgment of God.
Therefore, we can only speak categorically on the subject if we have some clear instruction from God’s inspired Word. That is where 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 and Matthew 25:31-46 come in, supposedly.
2 Thessalonians 1:6-10
This one seems fairly conclusive if we are trying to prove that those killed at Armageddon will never be resurrected, for it says:
(2 Thessalonians 1:9) “. . .These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength,”
It is clear from this text that there will be those who die the second death, “everlasting destruction”, at Armageddon. However, does this mean that everyone who dies at Armageddon gets this punishment?
Who are these “very ones”? Verse 6 says:
(2 Thessalonians 1:6-8) . . .This takes into account that it is righteous on God’s part to repay tribulation to those who make tribulation for YOU, 7 but, to YOU who suffer tribulation, relief along with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels 8 in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.
To help us clarify who these ones are, there is an additional clue in the context.
(2 Thessalonians 2:9-12) 9 But the lawless one’s presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents 10 and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved. 11 So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie, 12 in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.
It is clear from this—and our publications concur—that the lawless one originates within the congregation. In the first century, much of the persecution came from the Jews. Paul’s letters make this clear. The Jews were Jehovah’s flock. In our day, it comes principally from Christendom. Christendom, like apostate Jerusalem, is still Jehovah’s flock. (We say “not any more”, because they were judged back in 1918 and rejected, but we can’t prove that happened then, neither from historical evidence, nor from Scripture.) This follows in line with what Paul wrote the Thessalonians, for the ones receiving this divine retribution do not ‘obey the good news about the Christ.’ One has to be in the congregation of God to know the good news in the first place. One cannot be accused of disobeying a command one has never heard nor been given. Some poor shepherd in Tibet can hardly be accused of disobeying the good news and therefore condemned to eternal death, can he? There are so many segments of society that have never even heard the good news.
In addition, this death sentence is an act of justified vengeance upon those making tribulation on us. It is payment in kind. Unless the Tibetan shepherd has made tribulation on us, it would be so unjust to kill him eternally in retribution.
We have come out with the idea of “community responsibility” to help explain away what would otherwise be considered an injustice, but it hasn’t helped. Why? Because that is man’s reasoning, not God’s.
It would therefore appear that this text is referring to a subset of humanity, not all the billions who currently walk the earth.
This is the parable of the sheep and the goats. Since only two groups are mentioned, it is easy to assume this is talking about everyone alive on earth at Armageddon. However, that may be looking at the problem simplistically.
Consider, the parable is of a shepherd separating his flock. Why would Jesus use this analogy if he were wanting to explain something about the judgment on the whole world? Are the Hindus, Shintos, Buddhists or Muslims, his flock?
In the parable, the goats are condemned to everlasting destruction because they failed to offer any succor to ‘the least of Jesus’ brothers’.
(Matthew 25:46) . . .And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.”
Initially, he condemns them for failing to come to his aid, but they counter with the objection that they never saw him in need, implying that his judgment is unjust because it requires something of them they were never given the opportunity to provide. He counters with the idea that his brothers’ need was his need. A valid counter as long as they cannot come back to him and say the same about his brothers. What if they never saw any of them in need? Could he still justly hold them responsible for not helping out? Of course not. So we return to our Tibetan shepherd who’s never even seen one of Jesus’ brothers in his life. Should he die eternally—no hope of a resurrection—because he happened to be born in the wrong place? From a human point of view, we’d have to consider him an acceptable loss—collateral damage, if you will. But Jehovah isn’t limited in power as we are. His mercies are over all his works. (Ps 145:9)
There is one other thing about the parable of the sheep and goats. When does it apply? We say just before Armageddon. Perhaps that is true. But we also understand there is a thousand-year-long day of judgment. Jesus is the judge of that day. Is he referring to Judgment Day in his parable or to a period of time just prior to Armageddon?
Things are not clear enough for us to get all dogmatic about this. One would think that if eternal destruction were the result of dying at Armageddon, the Bible would have been clear about that. It is a matter of life and death, after all; so why leave us in the dark about it?
Will the unrighteous die at Armageddon? Yes, the Bible is clear on that. Will the righteous survive? Again, yes, because the Bible is clear on that too. Will there be a resurrection of the unrighteous? Yes, the Bible clearly says so. Will those killed at Armageddon be part of that resurrection? Here, the Scriptures are unclear. This must be so for a reason. Something to do with human frailty I would imagine, but that’s only a guess.
In short, let’s just worry about getting the preaching work done and caring for the spirituality of those near and dear and not pretend to know about things Jehovah has kept in his own jurisdiction.
If as an ex JW If still see the need to get the preaching work done, how would this be achieved globally unless organised and to some extent controlled?
I’m working on videos on Matthew 24 to explain that. Check out Beroean Pickets channel on YouTube.
Dear Eric, Armageddon is the great tribulation Rev.3:10, caused by the islamic jihadists since the days of “the false prophet” Muhammed. Rev.13 It has already become history. There will never be “the thousand year kingdom”, because it has been in Heaven since the eleventh century. 2Kor.5:10 If the unrightious will go to the “second Death” after the thousand years, it would be of no need to resurrect them in the first place. The second Death means; everyone who isn´t saved in front of the Court in Heaven will be thrown back to the Earth, the Lake which is burning with… Read more »
The Ransom that the Organization teaches is a contradiction… Jesus gave his life as a “Ransom for All” or the “many”, which means ALL see Romans 5:15, 19… 1) Ransom was free gift, by grace or undeserved kindness. 2) Ransom did not require faith or works, but instead saves every man out of death in Adam and to a resurrection in Christ (Rom 5:18, 1Tim 2:4-6) 3) Ransom met Jehovah’s Righteous justice in that it was perfect life for perfect life and therefore covers all Adams offspring of all times. If Jehovah removes Ransom from any sinful descendant of Adam… Read more »
Is “Second Death” possible in this age? All men receive a resurrection and Judgment due to the “Ransom for all” 1Co 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall “All” be made alive. Here it is that “ALL” shall be made alive. Paul brings out same thought at Romans 5:18, That “ALL men receive a justification to life. Notice Benjamin Wilson Diaglott Romans 5:18 Therefore, indeed, as through One Offense, sentence came on ALL men to Condemnation ; so also,… Read more »
This article is based on a couple false premises.. First of all brothers should go back and consider what Russell and the early Bible Students taught about Armageddon, the real Armageddon… Daniel 2:44 says nothing about the destruction of the wicked but it does indicate a takedown of the world rulers both governmental and ecclesiatical. In Russell’s volume on the “Atonement” he made clear the understanding of the “Ransom for ALL” not “all sorts of”. Russell also explains the 2 Thes 1:6-10 verses indicating this is in reference to the mellinium not Armegeddon… First who was Paul speaking of? Those… Read more »
you say Christendom were judged in 1918, but judgement comes first to the house of God ….1918 is a date the governing body claimed this was when the bible students were inspected and made acceptable to God
Welcome and thanks for the comment. You are quite right and even in 2012 I didn’t believe that Christendom had been judged in 1918. I acknowledged that Jehovah’s Witnesses say that, but it can’t be proved historically nor scripturally.
From the article:
(I apologize for the typo at the end of the prior comment – please disregard) I submit an alternate application of 2 Thess 1:6-10…. I am personally unclear if the persecution and hardship mentioned in verse 6 comes from within or from outside the congregation. No matter, in that Paul’s letter was written to a specific audience (though it certainly can have broader application) and about a specific problem existing in the Thessalonian congregation (around 50 CE), of particular interest is the “timing” of when (a) the faithful are given relief, and (b) when those persecutors would receive their final… Read more »
Good article. I wanted to throw out another possibility in harmony with 2 Thes 1:6-8. This account seems to parallel Jesus words in Matthew 24 and similar accounts. He will come after the tribulation to save his chosen ones and destroy the wicked namely those who subjected his chosen ones to tribulation. Rev 19 speaks of this war and those killed in it receive the second death. However in chapter 20 we see that the “nations” are still in existence immediately following this war. Satan is abyssed so that he can no longer mislead the nations. Are these nations unrighteous… Read more »
I have to agree with you Meleti, and with Urbanus in that last comment. We simply cannot know who will be resurrected. Personally I find it logical that Gehenna did not exist until after Jesus Christ gave his life. No one before that had the chance to make a decision based upon that sacrifice until it had been carried out. That is why I believe there are two destinations talked of in the Greek scriptures, but only one in the Hebrew scriptures. i.e. hades = sheol, but gehenna did not have a Hebrew equivalent. Also the unforgivable sin was not… Read more »
We can add a thousand speculations about what the Bible doesn’t clearly yet reveal. Unborn babies, limbs or body parts that were never formed in the womb, faithful brothers who die in the chaos of the final days, etc. But the “Day of Jehovah” has a clear purpose. Since scripture states that Satan and his wicked demons will again be released to afflict mankind, (Rev 20:7-9) who and how the 1000 year Judgement Day admits to life by a resurrection remains to be revealed. Your point is well taken.
The point I was trying to make using the account of Korah was that our old argument was invalid. That line of reasoning was that those destroyed at Armageddon don’t go to the memorial tombs (i.e., Sheol) and therefore cannot expect a resurrection because they are destroyed by God directly. Korah was destroyed by God directly, yet he went down into Sheol, the memorial tombs. I really wasn’t trying to establish whether or not Korah will be resurrected. Likewise, I’m not saying that some of those destroyed at Armageddon will be resurrected. My only point is that given the lack… Read more »
Korah and the 250 rebels with him when down alive into Sheol according to the scriptural account at Numbers 16:29,30: “…the ground has to open its mouth and swallow up them and everything that belongs to them and they have to go down alive into Sheol…”
Is it possible that you are over-thinking this? In the words of Jesus at John 5:28: “all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice (29) and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.