Every Knee Shall Bow
There is a belief held in certain religious circles that the presence of God beyond death is restricted to a select few, given only to special ones chosen from among the living to inhabit a blissful eternity, while the vast bulk of God's humanity in turn face some form of calamity beyond the grave in the form of either 'eternal conscious torment' or 'annihilation'. Yet how do such propositions actually stack up with what we find in the Bible?
Phil 2:10-11 …that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Nowhere in this passage is there any indication that this is in any way shape or form is forced worship [can there be such a thing]. Those "under the earth" can be none other than the departed, and this category of the departed makes up part of the "every knee" and "every tongue" – without distinction.
Next we have the account from the apostle John:
Rev 5:13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honour and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!"
Again we have those under the earth, and all in this scene consist of the "every creature" – thus no distinction. So, we have confession and worship by all before the throne of God. Now in these verses above, how could those under the earth NOT be speaking of those deceased – and these then having bowed and confessed? One might object that those mentioned are the elect only, the saints; but that would be a far stretch considering that heaven, earth, under the earth, and those in the sea all make it fairly conclusive, or should I say inclusive. And not only that, but Phil 2:10-11 is usually a favourite verse with 'eternal conscious torment' folk that supposedly shows a forced submission and confession of all unbelievers in the "hereafter" etc.
Some may react to the idea of any meaningful confession occurring post death, but there is no Scripture that indicates such cannot be the case – in fact as seen above these verses actually states the opposite. Thus in these passages we have the dead confessing Christ, and if we are to be consistent, and that means anything, then what does Paul say about such confession?
1Cor 12:3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
Rom 10:9 …that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Now if "confession" which reflects a heart belief, be the requirement for peace with God, as some understand it, then why cannot those deceased under the earth who make such confession by the power of the Spirit as per the Scriptures above, also be heard and thus receive God's mercy? Especially so when we consider the following:
1Pt 3:18-20 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
1Pt 4:5-6 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, BUT live according to God in the spirit.
Being judged according to the flesh was indicative of life according to the Old Covenant mode of existence; but being made alive according to God in the spirit was the comprehensive result of the New Covenant that God made with Israel in Christ, of which the entire world then became the beneficiaries of [Rom 11:15].
And reflect on this – who in all their prideful arrogance or blind ignorance would not respond in worshipful contrition post death, in kind, before the presence of God as is reflected in these Scriptures below:
Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"
Isa 6:5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."
Job 42:5-6 "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
Now obviously we take such scriptures as Phil 2:10-11; 1Cor 12:3; Rom 10:9-10 as "this life" realities – and rightly so, but where in the Bible are we told that such does not or cannot apply beyond the grave? Why is this not plausible, what Scriptures challenge this thought? Some might decry "2nd chance-ism" – but where in Scripture does it anywhere indicate a "1st chance-ism?" – well actually, NOWHERE!!
Some say that "seeing is believing" [Jn 20:25], and others that confession and belief are prerequisites to avoiding a post-mortem wrath of God, and avow most vehemently that "death seals man's eternal destiny because there can be NO turning back beyond the grave" etc; but I repeat, that IF "confession" which but reflects a believing heart [and who doesn't believe what they can see] be the requirement for peace with God beyond this life, as some understand it, THEN why cannot those deceased under the earth who make such confession by the power of the Spirit as per the Scriptures already noted, ALSO be heard and thus receive God's mercy?
Rom 3:3-4a For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not.
Rom 11:23 And they ALSO, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in AGAIN. [Mt 19:26]
Rom 11:32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.