THE JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD.
But some will say, "Has the Deity then made all men in vain?" Nay, verily, His purpose is to evolve a righteous and immortal world out of the world of mortal sinners, and to lay the foundation of this great work in their scriptural intelligence and the obedience of faith. This being His purpose, knowledge, belief, and obedience are made the basis of accountability and responsibility. By the former is meant liability to give an account, and to receive reward or punishment for the same; and, by the latter, the state of being answerable for something entrusted to one's care. Now, Christ Jesus says in John iii. 19, "this is the κρισις or ground of judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. "The light shining into the darkness and divinely attested, makes sinners accountable and saints responsible; but into that region of the shadow of death where the light has not shone with divine attestation, the inhabitants of that region, who do not attain to the comprehension of the light, are not accountable to the resurrection and judgment it reveals. "The whole world lieth in the wicked one,"—εν τω πονηρω—in sin; and, therefore, in the shadow of death; for the wages of sin is death. When Paul appeared in Athens upon Mars Hill, he shone as a bright light into the darkness of death's shadow. The polished and learned Athenians he addressed, were the sons of a superstition inherited from a remote ancestry. They had been made subject to it by circumstances they could not control, or, as Paul expresses it, "made subject to vanity not willingly." Of the God of Israel manifested in flesh, His purposes, promises, and commands, they knew no more than their ancestors knew for ages; and had not Paul, or someone else divinely commissioned, visited them, they would never have discovered the truth concerning these things. Who by searching can find out the Deity?" No one; yet He "was found of them who sought Him not;" for to a nation not called by His name He said, by Paul, "Behold me, behold me!"
Thus they were under "times of ignorance" when Paul appeared in their midst. They were not liable to be called.upon to give an account for not doing what they were helplessly ignorant of. "In times past, the Deity had suffered all nations to walk in their own ways" (Acts xiv. 16). This was winking at times of ignorance. Their own ways were the ways of death, in which they were hopeless and atheistic (Eph. ii. 12). To them there were neither rewards nor punishments beyond the grave. By their wisdom, of which they boasted, they knew not God. "Professing to be wise, they became fools," and, being left to themselves as devoid of understanding, they died and perished like the beasts (Ps. xlix. 12, 20).