The first heathen—Being the first natural born man, and being conceived after Adam and Eve had sinned, like all of Adam’s offspring, sin and death passed upon Cain (Romans 5:12; Psalm 51:5). Cain “knew God,” but he “glorified him not as God” (Romans 1:19-23). Cain refused to bring to God the only acceptable sin offering: the offering which God commanded. Instead he brought the work of his own hands (Genesis 4:3). By faith in the word of God (Romans 10:17), Cain’s brother “Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain…” (Hebrews 11:4-6) When the LORD encouraged Cain to do right, Cain continued to rebel against God. Then Cain, who “was of that wicked one…slew his brother…Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” (1John 3:12; Genesis 4:8) The history of “this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4) abounds with similar examples.
The last heathen—One the great number of heathen who will follow Satan in his final rebellion against God after the thousand year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:2-10).
Unique historical period—The scripture says: “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression…” (Romans 5:12-14) Adam sinned by disobeying the commandment God gave to him (Genesis 2:17). Over sixteen hundred years after Adam, and immediately after the flood, the LORD commanded Noah: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:6) Approximately 2500 years after the creation, “the law was given by Moses” (John 1:17). Therefore, since “sin is the transgression of the law” (1John 3:4), and the heathen knew no law except the law against murder given after the flood to Noah (Genesis 9:6), all heathen—with the exception of murderers, died without having their sins imputed [charged] to them!
The spirits in prison—By his Spirit Jesus Christ “went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (1Peter 3:18-20). These spirits, who lived between the time of Adam and the time of Noah, were disobedient, but not after the similitude of Adam’s transgression (Romans 5:14). In chapter four the apostle Peter goes on to say that the gospel was“preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (1Peter 4:1-6) It is important to notice that these men “are dead.” Therefore they are not “in the flesh.” Christ preached to them that they might “live according to God in the spirit.” (1Peter 4:6) When Jesus died he went to the “paradise” side of hell (Luke 23:43). It appears that the Lord preached to the spirits of these heathen between the time of his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection (Matthew 12:40), during the three days and three nights that he was in the heart of the earth. And when he arose from the dead he moved “paradise” to “the third heaven” (2Corinthians 12:2-4; Ephesians 4:8). Among that number would have been the “spirits in prison” who repented and believed.
The earthly ministry of Christ—During his ministry on earth—the time between his baptism and his crucifixion, when Jesus sent forth his twelve apostles, he “commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5) This does not mean that heathen Gentiles could not receive his blessings and be saved through faith. The scripture declares: “He [Jesus] came unto his own [the Jews], and his own [the Jews] received him not. But as many [Jews and Gentiles] as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13) For example, when a woman of Canaan asked the Lord for mercy because her daughter was vexed with a devil, he answered her, saying, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) When the woman received his words of truth and acknowledged that she was indeed a “dog,” the Lord declared her faith to be great and made her daughter whole from that very hour (Matthew 15:25-28).
Condemned already—Before he went to the cross the Lord Jesus declared: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:17-19, 36; 8:42-44) When any heathen rejects the counsel of God (Proverbs 1:24-25), he brings God’s eternal condemnation upon himself!
The most blessed period of heathen history—To be “in Christ” is the greatest and most wonderful blessing any heathen during any time in the history of the world could possibly receive! At this present time (2021 AD) we are still living in the age of the church, which began at the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and will end when the Lord himself descends from heaven to resurrect the “dead in Christ” (1Thessalonians 4:16), at which time the vile bodies (Philippians 3:21) of the resurrected dead in Christ, and those in Christ who are still living, will be changed and “fashioned like unto his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:21; 1Corinthians 15:51-53) With great expectation (Psalm 62:5; Proverbs 23:18; 24:14; Romans 8:19), I am “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). When the Lord Jesus testified, “Surely I come quickly,” John responded and said “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20-21).
The exclusive church—The church is the greatest of all called out assemblies. God is still calling all heathen “by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Thessalonians 2:14; Matthew 11:28) During the age of the church individual Jews and Gentiles “must be born again” (John 3:7). And when they enter through “the door” (John 10:9), through “the strait gate” (Matthew 7:13-14), Jesus Christ himself, they are “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). By their faith in the new covenant [testament] the Lord Jesus makes both Jews and Gentiles one in himself: where “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:13-22) The church is exclusive because none of the redeemed heathen who died before the resurrection of Christ could have been members; and none of the heathen which shall be redeemed after “the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5-6; John 5:29; 1Thessalonians 4:16-18) can be members of his church.
Good tidings for all heathen—At the time of the birth of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13) the angel of the Lord said unto the shepherds: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people [all heathen].” (Luke 2:10; 19:10). The apostle Paul said that it pleased God, “To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:” (Galatians 1:15-16; 2:9) The justification of the heathen was prophesied: “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations [heathen] be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8; Acts 26:17-18; 28:28) When any heathen hears and believes with all his heart (Romans 10:9) “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (1Corinthians 15:3-4), he will be “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). He will receive “the gift of God [which] is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23)! Every born again believer has “everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24)! At the very time of his salvation
the Lord Jesus will baptize him “with the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 3:11): “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body [the church], whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1Corinthians 12:13) By these things the believer is made a member of Jesus Christ’s “body, the church” (Colossians 1:18).
The “time of the heathen”—The scripture warns: “For the day is near, even the day of the LORD is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen.” (Ezekiel 30:3) The day of the LORD is also called, “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Ezekiel 30:7). Some brief period after the church has been caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1Corinthians 15:51-53), “the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Malachi 4:5) will begin. Referring to this particular time Jesus said, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:21) “And then shall that Wicked [“that man of sin…the son of perdition” (2Thessalonians 2:3)] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:” (2Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:20).
The second coming—The word of God contains a great number of prophecies concerning the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will include only a few of the outstanding ones. At his second coming, “the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them [the heathen] that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2Thessalonians 1:7-9; Revelation 6:14-17; Isaiah 34:8; Jeremiah 46:10). “And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.” (Micah 5:15) “The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.” (Psalm 110:5-6; Obadiah 1:15; Habakkuk 3:12; Haggai 2:22; Isaiah 13:9)
The thousand year reign of Christ—After his great victory over the heathen at his second coming, the kingdoms of this world will “become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15; Revelation 19:15) The Lord shall reign for a thousand years on this present earth, and he will reign for ever over his new creation: New Jerusalem, and the new heavens and earth. The following scriptures prophesy of some of the conditions during the glorious reign of the Lord Jesus Christ on this present earth:
God will be exalted—The inspired psalmist prophesied: “The LORD of hosts is with us…Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth…Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:1-11; 47:6-9; Jeremiah 3:17) “Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people…Say among the heathen that the LORD reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously.” (Psalm 96:3-10) The LORD’S “name shall be great among the heathen.” (Malachi 1:11): “…So the heathen shall fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth thy glory” (Psalm 102:13-17; Micah 7:16-17) The LORD “shall speak peace unto the heathen” (Zechariah 9:10-11). Nevertheless “the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.” (Zechariah 14:18)
THE ETERNAL END OF THE HEATHEN
Second death unto the heathen—“Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever…The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God…Arise, O LORD; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight.” (Psalm 9:5-20): “The LORD is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.” (Psalm 10:16)
BANISHED FOR EVER
All during the entire seven thousand year history of “the first heaven and the first earth” (Revelation 21:1), our good, merciful, kind, longsuffering, and gracious God has made faith in his word, without works (Ephesians 2:8-9), the only way any heathen could be delivered from eternal torment. But when this present heaven and earth “pass away” (2Peter 3:10), and God makes “all things new” (Revelation 21:5). No heathen will be found in God’s eternal kingdom.
New Jerusalem—The apostle John declared: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:1-2, 5, 24-27)
New heavens and a new earth—The LORD declared in the old testament: “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17) The new testament scripture declares: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up…the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. [God the Father made his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, “to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2Corinthians 5:21)] Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” (2Peter 3:10-14) If you are still an heathen, your only hope trust the Son (Psalm 2:12): “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31)