In predominantly Christian nations,such as the United States,this is,of course,no excuse.The Gospel is more plenteous here than anywhere else on earth.
But what about people who live in remote jungles,on desert islands,or other places where the Gospel has not been preached?How will God deal with them?
The usual conclusion that is drawn is that since God is loving and merciful,He will make an exception and allow them into Heaven.At first glance,this would seem to be the most logical conclusion.
It is certainly true that God is loving and merciful.However,Jesus' statements are very conclusive.He clearly said "Unless a man be Born Again,he cannot see the Kingdom of God"not "Unless a man is Born Again,he will not see the Kingdom of God,unless he has never heard the Gospel."As we discussed in our last message,"Why the New Birth is Necessary," God cannot allow people who are still in their fallen,sinful nature into Heaven because that nature would pervert the peace and security of Heaven.That is why a person must have their nature changed through the New Birth.If simply not knowing were enough to save,then all we would have to do to evangelize the world is not tell anyone!
Let's look at a few basic facts about the human race,regardless of where they may live,or what exposure they may have had to the Gospel:
1.ALL have sinned and fall short of God's glory.(Romans 3:23)
2.The penalty for this sin is death(Romans 6:23,)both physical(Ezekiel 18:20) and spiritual(Revelation 21:8.)
3.The only way to escape this penalty is through Christ.(John 14:6;Acts 4:12;1 John 5:12)
The reason people go to hell is not because they have never heard of Jesus,it is because of sin.It is true that;
1.In areas where a person's knowledge of God is unclear,that God does take the person's conscience into consideration(Romans 2:14-16.)However,this in itself cannot get anyone "off the hook",because we have all sinned,even against our own consciences.
2The severity of punishment will vary depending on the amount of light a person has.Some will be beaten with "many stripes"and others with "few stripes."(Luke 12:47- 48.)Nonetheless,all outside of Christ will be eternally lost(2 Thessalonians 1:7-10;Revelation 20:15.).
So how then does God,in His infinite wisdom,mercy,and love deal with people in this situation?Does He have a plan?The Scriptures answer an emphatic "YES!"
GOD'S TESTIMONY OF CREATION:In Romans 1:20,Paul states that God has plainly revealed His existence through His creation,so that all people are without excuse for not believing in Him.I live near the Great Smokey Mountains.I have been through them many times.Every time,I ask myself "How can anyone look at this.and say there is no God?"Even if I had never looked at a Bible,or set foot inside a church,I would have enough sense to see that God's creation testifies of Him.
Will simply having a revelation of God's existence,in and of itself, save someone?No,remember,even the devil believes in God(James 2:19.)
GOD'S LAW AND HUMAN CONSCIENCE:As we briefly touched on above,God also gives light through the conscience of a person.Where does the knowledge of right and wrong come from? We all have consciences,and we have all sinned against them.The conscience shows that God has given all people light of right and wrong,and that He is perfectly just in judging all people.We have all been guilty.
What the testimonies of creation and conscience will do is stimulate the person to seek God further.If a person takes what light they have and seeks more light,God will give it to Him.God promises that those who genuinely seek Him will find Him.(See Deuteronomy 4:29;Matthew 7:7;Hebrews 11:6.)
How does God do this?We see a number of examples of this in Scripture;
The Ethiopian eunuch sought God,and in response,God sent him Phillip to teach him(Acts 8:26-39.)
Saul of Tarsus,wanted to know the Truth,so God sent him Ananias(Acts 9:10-18.)
Cornelius wanted to know the Truth,so God sent him Peter(Acts 10.)
Just like these people,if a person genuinely wants to know the Truth,God will see to it that he gets it.There is no space limitations with God.He can reach those who seek Him no matter where they are.There is no jungle so remote that He cannot reach it.That is why a Christian must always be ready to share the Good News of Jesus Christ at every opportunity.The person at the check-out counter,the fast food window,or anywhere else may be calling out to God to reveal Himself to them.As Keith Green put it,"This generation of believers is responsible for this generation of souls."
God has entrusted His church with an awesome responsibility.As I write this,I am convicted myself of not taking this responsibility seriously enough.The good news of Jesus Christ is extended to all people.If you have not responded to it by giving your life to Jesus,please,do so now.If you have given your life to Him,lets make a fresh commitment together to be diligent witnesses for Him.Heaven is counting on us!
© 1999 JHB
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