Today I will continue with the Jesus Who? series. Last time, in Without Excuse! we saw that every individual is without excuse regarding the knowledge of God and moral responsibility for one’s actions, and that no one deserves salvation.
So whereas it may be unfortunate, there may be some who have no basis for a faith in Jesus and will live and die having never made a decision on the position Jesus holds in their lives. Such individuals are destined for an eternity separated from God in hell. I believe, however, that God, as reveled to us in the Bible, would minimize the actual manifestation of such individuals. It seems to me that a world with minimal human loss coupled with the largest possible saved souls would maximize the glory that God receives.
I believe that there are two similar but distinct categories of people who may have never heard the name of Jesus. The first are those who lived before the birth of Jesus, including all of the Old Testament saints. The second includes all who live in locations where the message of the gospel has not reached.
Even before the birth of Jesus, salvation has always been by faith. The central theme running throughout the Old Testament is the suffering, resurrection, and glorification of the coming Messiah. Old Testament believers are saved the same way as New Testament believers, by faith, but their faith was in the then unseen work of the Messiah as foretold by the prophets.
The second group includes all those before and after the resurrection of Christ who live in locations where the message of the gospel may not have reached.
To address this problem, we must change the focus of our discussion and look at the attributes and personality of God as pertains to His desire to save every person. Throughout scripture, God is repeatedly referred to as Father. What loving father would not want to save all of his children? Why would God be any different?
The Bible attributes to God the qualities of love, mercy, kindness, goodness, patience, and graciousness. He is all-knowing, all-wise, and all powerful. He is everywhere present and in control over all situations and circumstances. He never changes, and His desires and expectations remain constant
We learn from scripture that God is unwaveringly just, so He cannot let sin go unpunished. But the Bible also teaches that He is patient and does not want anyone to perish.
9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
God’s patience and forbearance enable Him to take His time and create earth history such that the vastest number of individuals reach repentance. Because God sees every moment in time simultaneously, one minute to Him is no different than a thousand years. From God’s perspective, the entire timeline of our universe was a single act of creation.
Whereas we perceive the passage of time, God exists outside of time and space and sees everything as a unified whole. So when God gives a prophet a glimpse of future events, as is recorded in the Old Testament, God is speaking from the perspective of one who is simultaneously watching its fulfillment.
From what I read in scripture and observe in the world, I am convinced that we have free will. I also believe that God is in control of all things, and nothing happens that He does not explicitly allow. Next time, we will look at how these seemingly incompatible concepts fit together, in light of who God is, and how it relates to those who have never heard the name of Jesus.