Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Stumbling Block - The Fate of the Billions Who Never Heard of Christ

A stumbling block many people have in their faith towards God has to do with the question of the fate of the billions who have lived without having an opportunity to know God or to learn about Jesus Christ. Many people have been taught that the billions who have lived and died without having the opportunity to become Christians are doomed to condemnation and will never be saved. This idea makes it seem to many that God is either unfair or is powerless to prevent this.

The Bible is clear that salvation is possible only through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:9-12). And it is clear from history that most of the billions of people on the earth have never had the opportunity to learn the truth about Christ, both those who have lived before Christ was born, and those who are alive today in countries where true Christian teaching is not widely available.

Are these people condemned to the permanent loss of salvation?

Many people think this is the case. And if true, this seems to indicate to the minds of many that either God is unfair to allow this, or that God is not powerful enough to prevent it.

But God is not unfair or powerless. Every human being who has ever lived will have the opportunity for salvation. No one will be left out.

Part of the answer is given in Ezekiel chapter 37. This is also the time known as the great white throne judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15. This is a time, yet future, when all who have ever lived without an opportunity for salvation in this life will be resurrected back to physical life. At that time, they will have their first real opportunity for salvation. Everyone will be given time to live and make their choice. Those who repent and have faith in God and Christ will be given immortality in the Kingdom of God. Those who reject God and Christ will not be saved. See The Last Great Day - the White Throne Judgment for more details.


karin said...

Thank you for the comment on my blog, i am coming back to download your book, i would love to read PTG.
I totally agree with you, that the Word of God should be our guide in life, and only the Word of God.
take care
K said...

Thank you Karin.

I hope you read my book. I think you will find it interesting. It covers a number of Bible topics including what prophecy predicts for the United States, the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa in the next few years.

If you read my book, feel free to send me your thoughts about it. My email address is in the book.

josiah said...

Perhaps Paul did not know what he was talking about in II Thessalonians 1:8-9? said...


Paul knew what he was talking about. After Christ returns, those who refuse to repent will be destroyed in fire. This is a process that will continue through the third resurrection after the white throne judgement. Those who had a chance to understand and obey the truth but had already rejected it and died before Christ returns will be in the third resurrection, the resurrection to condemnation, and will then be thrown into the lake of fire and be destroyed forever.

Christian said...

Dear Author,

You refer to a "third ressurrection". May I enquire as to where you find this third ressurrection in Scripture?

I believe that when the Bible states "and they went forth and preached every where . . . " (Mark 16:20) and "And they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word." (Acts 8:4), the Word was preached every where. and still it is our responsibility to continue preaching every where (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).

I also believe that Paul was speaking the truth when he said in Acts 17:30 "These times of ignorance, God winked at, but now commands all men every where to repent." I firmly believe that God, who is not bound by the limitations of time as you and I are, knows what will happen and sends a guide to those who seek him just like He did to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.

Notice also the very verbage of II Thessalonians 1:7-9 when the inspired writer, Paul, wrote that Jesus would take vengeance upon those that KNOW NOT God and obey not His gospel. That is very clear that there will be those that are not going to make it to heaven because they sought not.

People actually tend to confuse a Loving God with touchy-feelie emotion-driven God. The God that is revealed to us in the Bible is indeed a loving God "not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). But He has appointed a day wherein He shall judge the world In Righteousness (not in love) by that man whom HE ordained . . ." Acts 17:31. Therein is the God of the Bible, my God and Father, a Just God and a Loving God who created me with a free will and allows me to exercise that will to my profit and/or my detriment. It will be no one's fault but mine should I be sentenced to Hell on that great and terrible day of judgement.

Those that resided under the Mosaical Law and believed in God were justified by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9). This means that there is not a need for further instruction about Christ.

Finally, Paul also described in Romans 1:18-32, that God has showed Himself to all even those who are unrighteous and that they are therefore without excuse(v. 20).

Christian said...

Hi Christian, and thank you for your questions.

The third resurrection. Revelation 20:5 refers to a "first" resurrection, showing there is more than one resurrection. The first resurrection is the resurrection of the saints at the second coming of Christ just prior to the millenium (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). Christ and the resurrected saints will rule the world for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4-6).
Then you have the second resurrection in Revelation 20:11-14. This is a general resurrection of the dead, the second resurrection. It seems to match the description of ancient Israel being resurrected back to physical life and receiving God's Spirit given in Ezekiel 37:1-14. This is a time when all those who have lived and died without the opportunity to accept Christ and be saved, including ancient Israel, will be resurrected back to physical life. They will be judged according to what they have done and according to the Bible ("books were opened"). See also Matthew 12:41-42. Everyone will be judged "guilty" and the death penalty will be pronounced (Romans 3:23, 6:23). But then they will learn that Christ paid the penalty so they can be forgiven if they repent. That conversion and salvation will be opened at that time is evidenced by the fact that Israel will be given the gift of the Holy Spirit at that time (Ezekiel 37:14) and God does not show partiality (Acts 10:34-35) so the same opportunity will be open to everyone, and it is evidenced by the fact that the book of life will be open so that people's names can be written in them (Revelation 20:12). That these people will be resurrected back to physical life, flesh and blood, needing air to breath, not immortality, is evidenced by the description in Ezekiel 37:4-10.

There is a time coming when the surface of the earth will be consumed by fire (2 Peter 3:10-13). At this time, the wicked will be burnt up (Malachi 4:1-3). This comes after the white throne judgement, that is, the general resurrection (Revelation 21:1). There must be a time when those who have have had the opportunity for salvation in this life and reject God's calling will face condemnation and the second death. They will not be in the first resurrection of the saints. The second resurrection will be a resurrection of those who still have a chance for salvation, as evidenced by the open book of life. But those who have lost their chance for salvation in this life, those who heard and understood the gospel and could have obeyed but chose not to, will not have a second chance in the general resurrection when the book of life is open. Apparently they will be in a resurrection prior to the melting of the surface of the earth that follows the white throne judgement and die the second death in the fire that engulfs the earth at that time.

You will not find the term, "third resurrection" in the Bible, so scriptural proof for this may not be strong. But I also know of nothing that says there will not be a third resurrection, and it seems logical that those who have had their chance for salvation and rejected it and waiting in the grave for the death sentence would be resurrected after those in the white throne judgment, who still have a chance for salvation, not before or at the same time. Personally, I believe there will be a third resurrection after the white throne judgment.

I agree that it is our duty to preach the gospel to the public and reach as many people as we can.

God does command men everywhere to repent. The command does not reach everyone at the same time. People in China did not hear Paul speak at that time. Also, God will grant repentence in His time. Repentance is a command, but also a gift. Notice 2 Timothy 2:24-26. Paul is talking about someone who is in opposition to the gospel, saying that God may grant (give) the gift of repentance so that they MAY know the truth.

God certainly commands repentance. God commanded Pharoah to let Israel go, but Pharoah was not able to obey that command until the death of the firstborn because God had hardened his heart to that time (Exodus 4:21-23). This shows that though God gives the command, He sometimes delays giving the ability to obey it. Eventually, Pharoah let the people go, but not until it was God's time for him to do it.

God commands repentance, and everyone will have a time when they are able to obey that command, not not always in this age. In this age, the veil is removed for only a few.

In regards to II Thessalonians 1:7-9, I definitely agree that there will be some that lose out on salvation and not make it into the Kingdom of God. I do not teach universal salvation. But there is an order to things. God will take vengence with destruction upon everyone who has had the opportunity to understand the gospel, believe it, and repent, but rejects that opportunity. For some that opportunity comes in this age, and for others it will come in the general resurrection.

If a man hears the gospel, has a genuine opportunity to respond to it, but chooses not to believe and obey it, and that man dies, he's had it. He will have his part in the lake of fire. Many in Paul's day who opposed the gospel and persecuted the Church of God no doubt fell into that catagory. But if a man never hears the gospel, or he hears it but Satan clouds his mind so he can't understand it, and then he dies, he will have his opportunity in the general resurrection. If he still rejects it at that time, he too will face what Paul talked about - eternal destruction. II Thessalonians 1:7-9 applies to both situations, but at different times.

Can you show me where Hebrews 9 says that those who lived under Mosaic law and believed in God will be justified by the blood of Christ without further instruction? Except for a small few such as the prophets, they did not have God's Holy Spirit, else there would be no need for God to promise them His Holy Spirit in the future in Ezekiel 37:14. And without God's Spirit, we are not Christ's (Romans 8:9). And it is not their fault they do not have God's Spirit, because Moses wrote, "Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day" (Deuteronomy 29:4).

Romans 1:18-32. People are without excuse for not believing in God, because His existance and power are evidenced by the creation. They face punishment for rejecting God, and some of that punishment is described in verses 24-32. Every person who is not a converted Christian is under God's wrath because all have sinned, and some sin more than others. Paul himself opposed Christ and persecuted the Church of God before God called him and dealt with him, but when he repented, God applied the sacrifice of Christ to pay the death penalty Paul deserved, and God forgave him. Had God not dealt with Paul, intervened one way or another, Paul (then named Saul) would no doubt have continued to persecute the Church.

I am not saying the world is not guilty. I am saying that God, in His mercy, will give everyone a chance to come under the blood of Christ and be forgiven at some time. Until then, each person who is not a converted Christian is under the death penalty with God's wrath hanging over his head. When that person has a chance to repent, and chooses to repent and believe the gospel, and he become a converted Christian, then the wrath is removed.

There is nothing in II Thessalonians 1:7-9 that indicates that none of those described cannot yet repent and be saved. Some people who are Christians today may have fallen into that catagory at one time in their lives, but they repented.

I am not making excuses for the billions of people in the world for their sins. We have all been guilty. We all deserve to die in the lake of fire. But God has provided a way of escape for those who are willing to repent and believe the gospel, and that way of escape will be provided for every man, even the billions who never heard of Christ.

One minister I heard defined "grace" as "unmerited pardon". We don't deserve to be forgiven, but we can be forgiven. No one is worthy of that grace or it wouldn't be grace, but it will be offered equally to everyone. And it can only come through the gospel and through Christ.