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10 Questions That Skeptics Ask

Part 10: What Will Happen to Those Who Have Never Heard of Jesus?

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

Part 9: What About Good Works, Donít People Have to be Good to Go to Heaven?
 

(3/18) 

The Conclusions

For the last nine weeks we have been answering questions that skeptics ask concerning God and the Bible. Our purpose has been to enable you to be able to answer these questions when someone asks you why you believe or what you believe, or if they should present challenges to your faith. We have stated from the beginning that our faith is not based on blind faith, but on good solid evidence and we can rest confidently that what we believe is truth.

We have concluded that there is a God and the Bible is His Word. Jesus is God that has come in the flesh to rescue sinners from condemnation in a literal hell. We have concluded that there is only one means of being rescued and that is by personal repentance and faith in Jesus and what He did on the cross. Last week we noticed that good people donít go to heaven, only forgiven people do Ė ask the thief on the cross next to Jesus. This brings us to the last question in this series. What will happen to those who have never heard of Jesus? If the Bible is true and there is only one way to be saved and go to heaven, what will happen to the person in some jungle, or remote island, or isolated nation that doesnít know about Jesus and His death on the cross, will he be condemned to hell forever?

The Conundrum

Over the last 20 years or so, we have been personally enthralled with stories of people trapped in perilous situations. We joined our prayers with those around the globe hoping for the safe rescue of The Chilean miners; the crew of a Russian Submarine; Ground Zero victims, a little girl in a well, road workers in a collapsed ditch; West Virginia or Kentucky coal miners; the Haitian earthquake victims and many more. We grieve when we hear of those who perish but we rejoice and cheer and tell others when we hear of a rescue. By the way, that is exactly what our Lord Jesus says happens in heaven whenever a lost person is rescued (Lu. 15:5-10). Heaven is on the edge of their seats to see if we are going to be part of a search and rescue operation waiting to cheer and celebrate.

Jesus came on a rescue mission. He said that His mission was to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10; John 3:16). His last words before ascending to heaven were a Command that those of us who have been rescued would make it our mission to rescue the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8). Yet, 2000 years later there are still nearly 4000 people groups with less than 2% of the population being Christian and hundreds of people groups totaling nearly 2 billion people that have never even heard the name Jesus. What will happen to those people? Would it be fair or just to send those people to hell? What do you think? On average:

  • Per minute: 267 born, 108 die, (net population increase: 159)
  • Per day: 384 thousand born, 156 thousand die, (net increase 229 thousand)
  • Per year: 140.4 million born, 56.7 million die, (net increase 83.6 million)

The Condition of All People

There is an old hymn called The Light of The World is Jesus. The opening line says, "The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin.Ö" Is that true? Open your Bibles again to Romans 3, and notice once again verses 9-23.

  • V. 9, "all are under sin"
  • V. 10, "none Righteous, no not one."
  • V. 19, "the whole world is guilty"
  • V. 20, "All are under sin."
  • V. 23, "all have sinned and fall short of Godís glory"
  • Rom. 5:12, "through one man, sin entered the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because all sinned."
  • Eccl. 7:20, "There is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin."

Every human being in the world, regardless of where they are, has the same chronic condition. All of us were born with it. We inherited it from our parents (Rom. 5:12), much like an HIV infected baby, or one with fetal alcohol syndrome, or a crack baby. We were all born with a nature bent on sin and selfishness. Call it original sin or a sin nature, we all have it, and there are no exceptions. That nature is revealed in small children who learn to say no and throw temper tantrums and want to take the toys away from others selfishly. Few parents try to teach their children to be selfish, so where do they get it? They have inherited it. That sin nature has led us to sin willfully as we matured and placed us all, regardless of where we live under the same condemnation of death (Ez. 18:4; Rom. 6:23).

The Cause

Is Godís Holy Character. He cannot approve of sin nor over look sin; He must judge sin, because He is a just and Holy God. Neither sincerity nor any means of good works can atone for oneís sins. This is what He warned Adam and Eve about (Gen. 2:17). No sinner can come into Godís presence unless his sins are covered by Jesusí atoning death for us.

The Cure

The Bible tells us that there is but one cure for the condition that we all suffer from and that is personal faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. For example:

  • John 14:6, Our Lord said, "I am the Way, The Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father, except through me."
  • Acts 4:12, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
  • 1 Tim. 2:5, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."
  • John 3:16-18; "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned but he who does not believe is condemned already."

Now listen carefully, people die because of sickness, not because of ignorance of the cure (repeat). Suppose that you were on a dessert island and became sick with a deadly disease. There is an antibiotic in the states for that disease but you never heard of it and no one is bringing you any. Will you survive because of your ignorance? I think not. Is that fair? Is God being unjust? People will be separated from God because they have the disease not because they havenít heard of the cure.

Now letís pause and think for a moment. If people who have never heard the gospel were to be saved through their ignorance, then the best evangelistic method in the world would be to hide all Bibles, recall all missionaries, close all churches, and never speak about Jesus to anyone again, that way no one will ever hear and all will be saved.

Turn in your Bibles to Romans 10:9-10 and notice several things. First, Paul says that salvation is acquired when anyone repents; that is turns around or turns away from, has a change of mind that leads to a change of action. It could be turning from a sinful and self-centered life to God, or turning from a religious to do list to personal faith in who Jesus is and what He did on Calvary. Second, and perhaps instantly when one turns around he or she confesses Jesus as not only the Lord of creation but the Lord of his or her life. The word, confess, means to say the same thing as or to agree. It is a confession based on the certainty that Jesus is who He says He is and that he did what He says He did; that is, He died on the cross for our sins and rose again as evidence that He is who He is the Lord God and our sins are indeed paid for. These actions initiate faith.

Paul goes on to say that these steps are the exact same for anyone in the world whether they are Jew or Gentile (vv.11-13), "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved," (Isa. 49:23; Joel 2:32).

The Lord God also promises that anyone who sincerely seeks Him will find Him as He says in Jeremiah 29:13; Lam. 3:25; Ps. 9:10 and 1 Chro. 28:9. In fact, God is looking for people who are looking for Him as 2 Chro. 16:9 and Eze. 34:11 tells us. The story of Cornelieus in Acts 10 and the Ethiopian in Acts 8 reminds us of those truths. Missionaries like David Livingston also record such incidents like this one from Livingstonís journal:

Livingston writes of coming upon a strange tribe gathered in a field in Africa. One man seemed to be praying while the rest listened. Through his interpreter, Livingston discovered what was happening. The chief had come to a conclusion that idols that had been carved out of wood or stone could not really be gods, and with the tribal elders he began to pray to the unknown God to reveal Himself to them. They were in the very act of prayer when Livingston came upon them. Anyone who honestly seeks after God will find Him.

However, in verses 14-17, Paul also points out that in order for people to repent and call on the name of the Lord they have to hear the Word of God, the Good News of Jesus; but in order to hear the Good News of Jesus there must be a preacher or one who shares good news; and preachers, or missionaries, have to go or be sent.

Thatís why Jesus gave us the command or:

The Commission

To take the cure into the whole world. Jesus is recorded by Matthew (28:19-20) as saying.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen

Luke says in Luke 24:46-48

Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.

Again Luke Records in Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Remember, that it was because God so loved the World, that He sent His only begotten Son; that God is not wanting anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9); and that God wants all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:5).

He wants us to want them to be saved as well. He has given us the Good News of Salvation to give away. Of primary concern in our church meetings and our budget planning ought to be how to communicate the message of Jesus to lost people. Every church should exist for the purpose of non members. Sadly, many of us are only concerned with what we want and what we want to get out of Church. We think Church should be designed for our comfort and felt needs but Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and one of the top commands of the New Testament is that we do that as well.

If you knew that a flood was going to sweep away your neighbors house while they were sleeping, would you not warn them, or if a fire was burning would you not try to rescue them. We pray for miners trapped by a cave in, or people in buildings collapsed by an earthquake and our God wants us to be concerned about those who will perish forever without the Good News of Jesus from Emmitsburg to Siberia. So where do we begin? We Begin with:

A. Pray

  • Pray for your community and ideas of how to present the Good News of Jesus.
  • Pray for the world Ė Use the book Operation World to pray for a different country every day.
  • Pray for laborers Ė people who will dedicate themselves to go to share the Gospel (Matt. 9:38)

B. Ė Give Ė Dedicate part of your tithes and offerings to missions like our Annie Armstrong or Lottie Moon offerings, or to support people Like Christians Cole or Justin Hanneken.

C. Ė Go Ė

  • Walk across the street
  • Look for opportunities to show the love of Christ. Many people in America are gun shy of the gospel and they need to see the love of Christ before they will hear the words.
  • Plan a cookout, do a Bible study for your neighbors, show a movie like the Blind Side, Soul Surfer, Courageous, Facing the Giants, Fire-Proof. Plan some servant evangelism events.
  • Go on a short term mission trip
  • Volunteer with Child Bible Clubs, CEF, The Detention Center, a Nursing Home or Hospital.
  • Be an angel Ė an angel is a messenger sent from God. Remember the show, Touched by an Angel, they came to be involved in peopleís lives so they could show and tell people that God loved them.
  • Consider dedicating your life to the propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, because God doesnít want anyone to perish.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman