Daar word op die oomblik in die kerk meer gepraat oor self-ontplooiing as oor self-opoffering.-Anon.......As ‘n kerk haar woorde begin devalueer, dan word die kerk ‘n ramp vir die volk. - K Schilder


The unevangelized - what happens to them?

With this term I mean those people who died before Christ was born, or who died before they heard the Good News, or those who died so young (even before birth) that they could'nt understand or those who will never have the priveledge of understanding.

Every believer-parent who lost a child to death who could'nt understand the Gospel may wonder where that child will spend eternity, because in order to get to heaven, one needs to confess Christ as your personal Saviour, which of course, these children could not do. In their cases this proviso seems so unfair, and one wonders if there isn't an answer in Scripture to these questions.

I think there is.

In search of the answer, one can either persue doctrine or Scripture. Scripture of course, is reliable, whereas doctrine is a fallible human construct.

One's point of departure determines one's answers, so here are a few pointers to the answer:

- God is Love, Mercy and Grace
- Christ died so that every human who ever lived can be saved.
- God's mercy is bigger that our own judgement (Jonah 3:1 - 10; 4:10,11)
- His mercy is bigger than His own judgement Rig. 3:9 -11
- Therefore, no person can make any kind of judgement on the eternal future of any other person.

The Bible does not address this question extensively, which in itself is an indication of whom the believer should entrust the answer to this matte to - God or humanity

However, there are some verses that may provide some insight into this matter (From the NIV):

Acts 14:16: In the past, he let all nations go their own way.
Acts. 17:30, 31: In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
Rom. 3:25,26: God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — He did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Rev. 20:12,13: And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
Phil 2:10,11: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

These verses show that we do not need to be concerned about the eternal future of these children and other persons, because God has everything under control.

May this be a word of encouragement to every parent who ever lost an "un-understanding" child to death, even before birth. They will one day rise and have an opportunity to confess Jesus as Lord.


Henrietta said...

There are no easy answers on this one, Yf! God is the only one who really knows...

One of the few places that does mention people who have not heard the gospel, is Romans 1, especially verse 20. I think it is called "general revelation" - God's handiwork that can be seen in nature. Ps 19 also talks about how nature proclaims the works of God.

Gideon said...

Yf, I agree with your distinction between Scripture and doctrine, and that the latter is only a human construct. Of course we can look at doctrine, but always with the tongue in the cheek, sceptic and critical at every turn. Scripture is the only real authority.

I also agree that we do not have to wonder what will happen to those who did not know. I fully trust that, in God’s hands, they will be as well off as they ever can be.

Rom.2:14-16 is also relevant:
“For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law - these having not the law, are a law to themselves - who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing testimony, (and their thoughts the mean while accusing, or else excusing one another), in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”

We might also take note of Gal.3:23-24:
“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up to the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our school-master [to bring us] to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Also take note of v.8: “And the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith,…”).
This tells me again:God knows what He is doing!

I would add the following to this train of thought (about the babies of believing parents):
In 1Cor.7:14 we read that, if even only one of the parents is a believer, their children are “holy” (God’s property), sanctified, otherwise they would be “unclean”, i.e. (as the Amplified Bible phrases it), “unblessed heathen”. Many people, on taking note of this, tend to ask: “Does that mean that heathen children are unsaved / all going to hell?” This, of course, is an illegitimate conclusion – a very human way of thinking. As we agreed: We may safely leave that issue in God’s hands. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?” (Rom.11:33-34).

There is, of course, also the matter of divine election (Eph.1:4 etc.).


Henrietta said...

Well said, thank you Reverend Gideon!

Yf said...

Thank you Gideon. As is so aptly and ably demonstrated by you Scripture supports Scripture - most superior to doctrine. And thank you for developing my initial thought more fully!

Called or not called, God is present!

Danie Loots said...

My vrou se gereeld: "As jou vaatjie leeg is, hou jou kraantjie toe". Miskien moet ek na haar woorde geluister het, veral as ek die wel deurdagte en ingeligte antwoorde hierbo sien.

If you'll allow me to mention some thoughts. I do agree fully that Scripture is untouchable, but Doctrine is always open to questioning and scritiny. I look forward to the day that the majority of the Church realises this fact.

I think one day when we go to heaven, we'll be surprised who we're going to find there and who not. I think God is the one that decides who gets saved and who not. He does give us some very clear indications, but it still remains His choice, His rules, His mercy.

I defintely have no right to even try to judge someone, neither do I believe any man (except Jesus Christ), has the right to try to decide if someone was saved or not.

I still remains my duty to ensure as many people as possible are saved because they heard the Gospel of Jesus's Redemption.

Having said that, I think the people that lived before Jesus's dead and ressurection were probably saved by different means than we do. They might have been saved after they died or something, but I do want to believe they also had a fair chance to choose.

As for children and mentally incapable persons, I would like to believe that all of them will be saved. What I have come to know about the Heart of our Father tends to make me believe that He will not judge any child that did not have the mental capability to choose Jesus Christ.

As for mentally capable people, I know this. No good deads, no amount of keeping to the Law can get me saved. No bad deads, not amount of breaking the Law can get me out of heaven once I accepted Jesus as my Saviour. That is my understanding any way.

An open question, which I'm pondering quite a bit, is if we're all start out at the same place in Heaven once we die. Do we continue where we left off on Earth, or do we all arrive completely saved and sanctified in Heaven? If Adolf Hitler met Jesus 5 minutes before his death and accepted Jesus as his Saviour, I believe he will be in Heaven today. The question however is, will he have been at the same place than father Abraham or saints like Paul, Peter, Martin Luther, etc?

I am also not sure about people that has not heard about God at all. Are there enough evidence or revelation of God in the World to confict any person that has not heard the Gospel from other people? Will Jesus reveal Himself to such people in person in order to get them saved? Perhaps some of them?

I don't think we will ever have all these answers while until we die or Jesus comes to save us all.

In the meanwhile I can only thank God for the Grace and Mercy He has given me. To even allow me to enter His precence one day, is way beyond my capability to understand His Love.