This thoughtful post is written by Jason Ackerman who is volunteering on staff in a leadership internship.
Question: If people are never given the opportunity to learn about God, do they go to heaven or hell?
This question comes directly from our own sense of fairness, which at times can feel at odds with God’s perfect righteousness. So the first thing to remember is that God does not operate under human parameters. Consider:
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
That can be tough to swallow, but it’s the reality of being imperfect people serving a perfect God. Not only are God’s ways higher, He sees the things we cannot see:
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)
The New Testament tells us that from the beginning of time, God’s nature and presence have been made known.
20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
So God is God – His ways greater than ours, His view of people flawless and true, and His nature so powerful that His imprint is on everything we see. The Bible is also very clear that there is only one way to salvation:
John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
It’s difficult to find the common thread here – it’s clear that calling on the name of Jesus is the only way to be saved. But it is also obvious that today and throughout the course of history, there are and have been billions who have not heard the name of Jesus.
As Christ-followers, we cannot deny the importance of preaching the Gospel to the furthest corners of the world. Paul even asks the rhetorical question in Romans 10 “How will they hear without a preacher?”. Because as humans we do not have the capacity to determine one’s state of salvation, it is our responsibility to make the name of Jesus known.
How great is it that God makes this decision, and not us? Imagine having to stand before a panel of human judges to determine your salvation – that scares me infinitely more than standing before the God of the universe! In the end, I rest comfortably in the fact that what we know that God is a God of righteousness and mercy, and His way – including His final judgment of each of us – is perfect.