June 28 Bible StudyI brought a question to the table this past week and after the discussion was over... i was asked to present it on here. I'd like to have your feedback as all Godly conversation is good conversation.
This question has been on my mind for quite some time and I have had a few discussions w/ multiple people in regards to “What happens to the man that never hears who Christ is?” It is our Christian belief that the only way to heaven is through Christ Jesus (John 14:6). I have had answers given back to me on both sides. From “well he goes to hell, he’s never accepted Jesus as his Savior” to “God will treat a person of that nature differently.” In having these conversations it confuses me as I am only searching for some type of commonality between believers. In the weeks to come I have prayed, studied, talked, prayed and prayed some more on what might happen to a person that is ignorant to the concept of Jesus Christ.
First of all, I want to say that one of the first things I have come to accept is it’s not my decision and it’s completely out of my control, what happens to them, and if there is a person that no one ever reaches then it is up to God to judge that person on their Day. It is not something for me to dwell on. That being said, I like many Christians of this era, have this uncontrollable desire to find truth, and answers, to the questions that the generation preceding us was afraid to ask. So that’s what I’ve been doing….
First, let’s take the perception of “he’s going to hell because he didn’t accept Christ as his savior”. This same person tells me that he believes in the “age of accountability” where a child will not be judged the same due to their lack of understanding. The same would apply to someone who is mentally handicapped. They may have heard the name of Jesus but are unable to grasp what that means. (This is not true for all people in this situation and I completely believe that there are those who have and will accept Jesus as their savior….this is just an example). My question then is this: “Why, if these two situations are different from what everyone else is judged by, is the man who never hears who Jesus is not judged as a child”? Think of it like this:
Ambrose said that infant baptism opens the kingdom of Heaven to them. Augustine taught in four places that baptized dead infants went to Heaven. Unbaptized ones went to Hell solely due to Adam’s original sin. However in Hell they received only the lightest of punishments. Having a cooler spot in the Lake of Fire does not seem like much consolation, though.
If this were true, imagine two babies who are communicating across the gulf.
1st baby to 2nd: Why are you suffering?
2nd baby: I did not ask to be created, I was not aware of anything I did wrong, I had no opportunity to turn away from God in the slightest degree. I don’t understand why I am being punished. Why are you in Heaven?
1st baby: People I dimly recognized, believing what I did not know, did what I do not remember. Isn’t God’s grace wonderful?
2nd baby to 1st: Yeah... Wonderful...
Does this seem fair to you? This belief is not one for the “age of accountability” but I think it can be related to the man who never hears the word of Christ. He is the second baby, and every person whether they accept Christ or not (because they have had the opportunity to hear) is like the first baby.
My second point of view that I want to look at is this:
It could be that those who have never heard of Jesus Christ and the gospel will be judged in a different way than those who have heard of Jesus. The Bible does not tell us specifically about what happens to those who have never heard. But it does say that Jesus is the only way to salvation (Acts 4:12). If it is possible that someone who has not heard the gospel can be saved, it must be through Jesus Christ and him alone (John 14:6). But, it could NOT be that a person who is not heard of Jesus can make it to heaven based upon being good since that would violate the scriptural teaching that no one is good (Rom. 3:10-12). On the same note, if righteousness before God can be achieved through being good, or sincere, or by following various laws, then Jesus died needlessly: "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly," (Gal. 2:21).
If all people who have NEVER heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ end up in hell, then that would be right because God would never do anything that is improper. On the other hand, if any of them end up in heaven, then it would be the right thing to do for the same reason.
The third “answer” to this question is a little more complex but seems to make the most sense to me. The Bible says in Luke 19:40 that, “the stones will cry out”. So if we look at this in its context, Jesus is telling the Pharisees that even if his disciples are made to be quiet, the good news will spread, people will hear the message, the stones will cry out. Now take this in the context of the man in the remote section of the world. We all know that God is awesome and has the power and ability to do all sorts of magnificent things. I believe that at some time during this man’s life, he is going to have experiences that he just can’t explain. He is going to acknowledge these experiences as “there’s something else going on… something else out there… something bigger than I”. At that moment, he has taken the first step towards coming to know the LORD. From that time on, I believe it to be this man’s responsibility, along with the work of the Holy Spirit, to fill his life with Godly things, day in and day out learning more about the Creator, the Great I AM. In accordance with this idea or theory I think you have to look at Jesus Christ as more than just a name, as someone you accept; and you have to think about what He was and who He was. The ideas and purposes that He was all about. I think that coming to accept Jesus as your Savior means much more than accepting a name.
Finally, I want to leave you with this illustration. Let’s suppose there is a man in Thailand, a rice farmer who lives with his wife and four children in a small village several hundred miles from Bangkok. Rice farming is all he has ever known. That’s his whole life. From morning till night, year round, he works to grow enough rice to take care of his family. He’s Buddhist like his father and grandfather before him. Although he is not particularly observant, Buddhism is the only religion he’s ever known.
One day that farmer gets sick and goes to the local clinic. When they cannot help him, he goes to a hospital in a larger village. Eventually he ends up in a modern hospital in Bangkok. After running some tests, the doctor comes to the farmer and says, “I’ve got some bad news. You’ve contracted incurable cancer. There’s no treatment available that can help you.” And they send him back to his village to die. It happens that during that very week, researchers at the University of Chicago discover a cure for the precise kind of cancer this man has. If he gets the cure, his life will be saved. But the man knows nothing about the researchers in Chicago and the researchers know nothing about the man in Thailand. Several weeks later, he dies. Here is the all-important question: Why did he die? Did he die because he had cancer, or because he didn’t get the cure? Think about it before you answer. That poor rice farmer died because he had cancer, not because he didn’t get the cure. Not getting the cure simply sealed his fate. He was dying before they discovered the cure, and he was dying after they discovered the cure. Either way, he was a dying man. He ends up dead because cancer took over his body. The cure that would have saved him simply didn’t arrive in time. And in this case, it never arrived at all.
In the very same way, the whole world is dying of the cancer of sin. Some people are in very advanced stages while others will live for many more years. But all of them are ultimately terminal: The cancer of sin will kill each and every person. But a cure for sin was discovered 2000 years ago. It’s called the blood of Jesus Christ. It’s so powerful that it cures the cancer of sin in all its ugly forms. The sad part about this story is that even though the cure has been known for 2000 years, there are still over 2 billion people who know nothing about it. What’s worse, most of them don’t even know they are terminally ill with the cancer of sin. They’re dying, and don’t know it. When they die, what will be the cause of their spiritual death? In each and every case, the great Coroner of the Universe will write on the death certificate — “Cancer of Sin.” They don’t die because they’ve never heard the gospel. They die because they are sick with sin. Not hearing the gospel simply seals their fate.
This is a very important question. It is a question that confronts God's very nature.
In light of this, I don't want to be too hasty in formulating, and even sharing, my own opinion. Rather, let's go to the Word and discover what God says in regard to this matter.
As we go to God's word, we must recognize that God is eternal (not limited by space or time). We must also recognize that Jesus Christ (The Word) was responsible for creation before His physical birth. (John 1:3 "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.")
My suggestion is that we start by searching in scripture for verses that speak to the subject. One easy way to do this is go to blueletterbible.org
First, lets gather from God's Word, then we will look for a comprehensive answer. Our responsibility is to reconcile all verses into one perspective.
Here are a few verses on the subject:
Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
2Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Luke 19:40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
Galatians 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, [it is] evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:
Hebrews 11: By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
John 10:9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.
2Thesilonians 2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
1Timothy 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
1Timothy 2:5 For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
2Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
John 4:36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
John 12:25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Romans6:23 For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
2Corinthians 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.
Titus 3:7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Psalms 145:13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made
Let's bring scripture forward before we attempt to reconcile.
Also, to summarize the question, have all men/women had equal opportunity to be united with their Creator?
I think your last question can be taken from two directions. First you can say that no, not every man/woman has had equal oppotunity. Places like the U.S. have given people many more opportunities to "hear". Not just with the internet, libraries, and media; but also with the freedom that we have in religion in this country. On the other hand, one could argue that yes, every man/woman has had the same opportunities because we are all children of God living in His created land.
I'm not sure if that makes sense... but it does in my head.
i like your "third answer" to your question in what you presented in the bible study. That's my vote for the truth
Salvation comes through one identity alone, Jesus Christ. We must give up our own (temporal) identity and take on His eternal identity. We must be born again into His spiritual ancestry.
Throughout history, identities were established not only by ancestry, but also societal contribution, thus the Baker, Miller and yes, Smith. There is an old saying “pretty is as pretty does” and it is from this perspective that most identities were established in the days of Christ. The Israelites were “works-oriented” and the relationship between work and identity was ingrained into their lives.
So who is Jesus Christ? Jesus is the divine worker. His occupational identities are Creator, Judge, Conquering King, and yes, Savior. Jesus is the fulfilled will of God the Father.
He is also ancestrally the Son of God the Father (Jehovah) and it is as a result of His claim to this divine genealogy that He was crucified. The Pharisees called Him a blasphemer, because He identified Himself as being one with Jehovah. If Jesus was not the Son of God, then he was a blasphemer and He died for His own sin. If, as we believe He is, the Son of God, then His sinless death was for our sins (the wages of sin is death).
Concerning Jesus the Savior: Was the work of the Savior eternal (omni-available)? Could one receive the benefit of the Savior’s work without knowing the word Jesus? If someone was not introduced to the word Jesus, yet they trusted in the essence of that name, would they be saved? What is the essence of Jesus Christ?
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:
God identifies Himself as “Love”. Salvation comes by “Grace” through faith. Grace is God’s unmerited Love for all of mankind. God has ever extended His unmerited Love to mankind. His Love is evident in “creation”. The things we need most in life are most available (air, water, sunlight and the raw materials to support and sustain life).
God is life!
Death is separation from God!
God is eternal, and eternal life comes from an oneness- relationship with God.
We enter this life dead unto God.
Only by God’s love can we be one with God!
God’s love is apprehended by “faith”!
God’s love was lost by “faith”! (Eve put her faith in the words of the serpent and Adam put his faith in the words of Eve.)
So does all our knowledge help us or hinder us from an eternal relationship? Does the gospel (good news) save us, or does Jesus Christ? Is Jesus Christ God’s Grace? Could one put their faith in God’s Grace without knowing the word Jesus? And if they did, would it translate them into eternal life? Could a child, or a mentally challenged person, trust in God’s love and be saved?
I believe God gave each of us a measure of “faith”. Faith is a spiritual currency. Faith is to be invested in God’s love (grace). From the distant native of Africa to those that lived prior to the crucifixion, to the mentally challenged, to the over-analytical; faith can simply, or profoundly, be invested in God’s Grace. (See all of Hebrews 11)
Now back to Bangkok where the farmer’s cancer was identified. Did cancer begin when it was identified? Was the cancer cured because it was identified? The cure for sin (grace) must be applied by faith. Jesus is identified as the cure and the “great physician”. Once the cure is administered by faith, the result is eternal hope. When one discovers the source and substance of the cure (Jesus Christ) then it is received as “good news”. So the cure is not hindered because the patient does not know the name of the physician, or have knowledge of the ingredients within the medication. However, once the name of the physician is known, then thanks can be given.
Jesus is the only doorway into eternal life. His work of salvation (Grace) is eternal, ever available to all of mankind. Only man hinders himself from receiving God’s Grace through faith.
We must remember Christianity is not exclusive, however, Jesus Christ has an exclusive relationship with God the Father; which is ever available to all mankind.
Here is another scripture which speaks to the eternal nature of Grace: 2 Timothy 1:8-11
"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher."
Grace was given in Christ before the beginning of time!
We live in a "time" of revelation!