What is the eternal fate of “morally good,” but unsaved people?

1 Peter 4:6, Who are dead. (See also Rom 2:12–16; 1 Cor 5:5; Heb 12:23.) This verse seems to indicate that certain categories of dead and unsaved humans will stand before YHVH’s judgment seat (the white throne judgment of Rev 20:11–15), and will be accepted into his eternal kingdom at some basic level. Perhaps if their hearts showed a willing disposition toward YHVH while they lived, but they hadn’t gone all the way in choosing him for one reason or another, they will be rewarded for the good that they did in their lifetime and will be given an opportunity to accept Yeshua on judgment day. 

It is possible that these are the ones that Yeshua declared who would be least in his kingdom (Matt 5:19). Moreover, was Paul making a reference to these people in Romans 2:12–16 when he talks about those Gentiles who sinned without the law, and who will be judged based on whether they lived up to the basic law of Elohim written in their consciences? Will these people, who lived according to the basic tenets of the Torah (e.g. not stealing, lying, committing adultery, murdering, coveting, honoring parents, living according to the golden rule and, in their own way, and adhered to a concept of a Supreme Being before whom they walked in fear without worshiping idols) be given an opportunity on judgment day to make their faith complete by accepting Yeshua’s sacrifice for their sins? Possibly so. Perhaps this explanation would help us to understand Hebrews 12:23, which speaks of the spirits of just men made perfect, as well as the salvation of the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43).

With regard to the thief on the cross who professed faith in Yeshua (Luke 23:43), let’s go one step further. Next to this thief was another thief whose heart remained obdurate toward Yeshua. It appears that on Golgatha (or Calgary), we have three categories of people, even as Peter describes three categories of people in 1 Peter 4:18: the righteous, the ungodly and sinners. The first category is self-evident. The second category seems to imply those who lived a decent life, but who never professed faith in Yeshua the Messiah, while the latter category were unrepentant and hard-hearted individuals who made no effort to live up to even the most basic standards of right and wrong (called the moral law) that was written in their conscience. This verse seems to describe these three categories of people on earth, which are the same three categories of people who were crucified on Golgatha: Yeshua the righteous, the repentant and ungodly thief, and the unrepentant second sinful thief.

With regard to those who never came to faith in the God of the Bible, different biblical-based religions treat these “morally good” but unsaved folks differently by pronouncing different fates on them. For example…

  • The Roman Catholic Church deals with these folks by consigning them to a non-biblical purgatory where, apparently, they can work out their salvation.
  • Rabbinic Judaism consigns these folks to the so-called Book of the Undecided as opposed to the Book of Life and the Book of the Dead. What happens to those in the middle book, is not clear in my mind, but I assume that they get a second chance.
  • The Protestants consign everyone to everlasting torture in hellfire who never accepted Yeshua while alive physically. There is no second chance for them.
  • Armstrongism (a small side branch of Protestantism) had these folks resurrected at the end of the Millennium where they were given “a hundred year period” to come to faith. 
  • My theory, on the other hand, proposes a middle of the road approach where the wholly wicked will be destroyed in the lake of fire, while those who lived faithfully according to whatever light of spiritual truth they had will eventually be given an opportunity to accept Yeshua. This seems to square with Paul’s statements in Romans 2:12–16 and the view of YHVH’s Elohim as being a more merciful and just Being.

13 thoughts on “What is the eternal fate of “morally good,” but unsaved people?

  1. It seems plausible that the dead being referred to was all of us before being converted. Notice Ephesians 2 : 1 – 3, also Ephesians 2: verse 5 ; as well as Colossians 2: 13. We were in fact the walking dead before we were saved.

    • This is very true, but there seems to be more to these verses than this, in my mind. I puzzled over these verses for decades, as did some of my spiritual mentors. One day a few years ago, this understanding came to me. Though undoubtedly not a perfect understanding, to my mind and to this point in my understanding, my theory, although perhaps “a little out there” in that it flies in the face of much conventional thought on the subject, makes the most sense at this point. I reserve the right to be corrected if someone has a better theory that reconciles all of the verses pertaining to the subject while at the same time preserving the righteous justice of YHVH Elohim.

    • With regard to Rom 9:15, yes, YHVH will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, but, as you know, he’s not capricious in his righteous judgments. He has bound himself to rule on the basis of his law or his word, which is above his name or reputation (Ps 138:2). In the case of Pharaoh to whom Paul makes reference in this verse, YHVH judged that wicked king because in his rebellious arrogance he had already predisposed himself to defy the commands of Elohim. Even though Elohim gave him ample time to repent, he still defied Yah’s orders, so Yah hardened his heart further to fulfill his grander purposes. But the Scripture is clear that Pharaoh, a picture of Satan, exercised his free will and initially chose to defy the Almighty.

  2. Really need to look at this more Natan.
    My heart gets so saddened ….I block out the emotion when I think about family & friends especially. The majority of whom have lived far more Righteous lives than I did but have not turned back from their own perception of the extent of rightousness to accept the righteousness of Yeshua & seemingly have no place to deposit their sin & guilt burden to be written in the sepher chaim…not removed from it.
    Honestly I don’t profess to know the depths of their hearts & in most instances the rejection of Christ seems to be informed by the insufficiency of men’s ‘representation’ in their carnal minds of who Christ is and the gospel message being twisted because of that.
    I always wondered why there is a list of the people who do not have access to the New Jerusalem…outside are the murderers thieves liars & adulterers.
    If that is the case and all thieves liars etc have a place in the lake of fire why is there an outside for those who apparently are in the Lake of Fire?

    Lots to ponder…
    Shalom to All

    • Please consider this: Those wicked people outside the New Jerusalem aren’t living but are dead. They are the remains—the ashes under the feet of the righteous (Mal 4:3)—of those who were burned up in the lake of fire that consumed the whole physical earth after the white throne judgment of Rev 20 to make way for the New Heavens and New Earth. This is my best explanation of this of Rev 22:15.

  3. Shalom, Nathan! This is my perception about this:
    Those people who will be resurrected after the Millenium are called “the other dead”. That would mean physically dead, but might also mean spiritually dead, meaning not knowing God and certainly not Jeshua, the only person that can bring salvation to people. To these people “books will be opened”. I believe that are the “books” of the Bible, God’s Word. I believe they are going to be taught God’s Truth for the first time and having their first real opportunity to learn all about him and his plan of salvation (through Jeshua). They will in the same way as people in the Millenium get God’s Spirit inside so they can decide, with his insight, if they want to follow Jeshua. Just like we have.

    God says that he as a basic ground wants all, people, that is ALL people, to repent and come to know the Truth. So many billions have never heard about him and especially not Jeshua in their life through the ages. Now they have their first chance (with the help of The Spirit inside) to know and repent and be saved. God is fair and just and I cannot believe that he has created most people to be cast into the Gehenna if they have not known him and Jeshua, his living Torah! God’s plan of salvation goes in stages. He is not offering salvation to all people at the same time. Remember Jeshua and his followers until his return are called “the first (small, chosen) crop or fruit”. So he must have a main crop too, like Israel has a small firsts crop of grain in the spring and a main ingathering around succot (picture of the Millenium) 🙂

    • I like what you have said and agree. Yeshua is the early spring first of the first fruits, we are the spring first fruits, and then there is the great late summer harvest that is yet to come and an early fall harvest as well. I had never thought of the books that were opened at the white throne judgment as being the books of the Bible. Thanks for planting that thought into my mind. I like it!

  4. Thanks Natan will have a big think too. It is a very big subject that needs correct division to be honouring Abba’s holiness in judgments..not just my emotional needs.

  5. One final thought. Samuel Bacchiocccihi wrote a book on the fall festivals in which he goes into great detail on the Last Great Day. He discredits the theory of a middle ground of salvation, noting there are two resurrections only. Also, Luke 9: 60 which I was once confused by now makes perfect sense.

  6. Rom 9:21 “Or has the potter no right to make from a given lump of clay this pot for honorable use and that one for dishonorable? ”

  7. Exodus 20:5-6 “……I, Adonai your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but displaying grace to the thousandth generation of those who love me and obey my mitzvot.”
    (The Complete Jewish Study Bible)
    Elohim’s grace might save our children, because of our love for Him! I take comfort in this statement of the Lord. Of course, the children of the sinful parents have the opportunity to accept Elohim’s laws and therefore avoid the punishment, I believe.
    Blessings to all,

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