Thoughts from Sunday’s Service: Difficult Questions about Hell

On Sunday, Perry preached on a difficult subject, but one that people need to hear about and understand…the subject of what Scripture says about Hell. It was a very well designed and delivered sermon, and one of the clearest explanations of what Scripture teaches about the existence of Hell. If you were not able to be at NewSpring to hear the message you can watch it later this week on our website.

One of the questions that Perry brought up and addressed was “What about the people who have never heard the Gospel…Does God send them to Hell?” This is a question that struck a cord with me because it is one that I have wrestled with.

This is also one of the most common questions I get asked on the subject of Hell, so I wanted to devote a post to talking about it. The best answer I have ever seen on this subject was presented by Ravi Zacharias when he was interviewed on this topic in the book The Case for Faith, in a chapter entitled “It’s Offensive to Claim Jesus is the Only Way to God.” Here is a summary of what God has taught me about this issue through this resource and others.

Why does God send people who have never heard the Gospel to Hell?

First of all, we need to understand that nobody is sent to Hell. People go to Hell by refusing to accept the truth and power of God’s grace. God does not send anyone to Hell; He simply honors their choice to live separate from Him. God desires that everyone be saved. God does not want anyone to perish and be separated from Him. God’s is Holy, He is without sin. To act within his sinless, righteous character; God must punish sin and rebellion because He stands apposed to it. God is also a merciful God. If anyone wants to avoid separation from God, He has provided that opportunity. Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross, became our substitute, paying the penalty of sin that we deserved to pay. The only way that anyone goes to Hell is by rejecting the payment that God provided and stepping into eternity without a relationship with Jesus. In essence, Hell is the culmination of a life lived refusing the gift of Jesus. God does not force himself on us. Hell is the end result of someone being in rebellion to the truth and power of God that can set them free.

So what about the people who haven’t heard about Jesus?

We are extremely blessed to live in a country where people freely talk about Jesus and Christianity. The message is available in our society to almost anyone that would choose to listen. But there are people in our world that live in places where the gospel is not freely discussed. So what about the people that have not heard the gospel?

We must first understand that nobody is saved apart from the work of Jesus at the cross on our behalf. The Apostle Paul says something very profound about this in the book of Acts.

Acts 17:26-27 from one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Here is what Dr. Zacharias said about this passage of scripture…

“This is important”, he said, “Because he’s pointing out that there’s a sovereign plan in creation, where each person is assigned a place of birth. God knows where we will be born and raised, and he puts us in a position where we might seek him. We are clearly told that wherever we live – in whatever culture, in whatever nation – he is within reach of every one of us. There is always the possibility of a person crying out on their knees, ‘God help me,’ and if that happens there are ways in which God can minister to them that are beyond our understanding.” (Lee Strobel. The Case for Faith. Zondervan, 2000. pp. 160-163)

In other words, I believe with all of my heart that no matter where someone lives, or what culture they are raised in, anyone who responds to the general revelation of God and sincerely seeks God will be given an opportunity to hear the truth.

I have read many stories from reputable sources people that sincerely cried out for the truth of God and God responded by sending them missionaries, access to Christian teachings, or revealed himself in supernatural ways to these people.

Here is the main thing that God has revealed to me about this question as I have wrestled with it. Throughout the Old and New Testament, whenever someone has repented, God has been willing to save. Here is the comfort I find in dealing with this question. God is all knowing and God is completely righteous and good. Will the Lord of Heaven not do what is right? God will always make the right judgment. No one comes to God unless the Lord draws them. God has uncountable ways to reach someone and get their attention and draw them to Himself. In the end, the question that comes back to us is, Are we doing what God has called us to do to reach people with the truth? God is going to do what is right. Do we trust his faithfulness? Will we be open to his spirit and share his truth with others that do not have a personal relationship with Him?

Dr. Zacharias summed it up this way, “The Bible says, ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’ Think about that – that’s an amazing promise…I have traveled the world. I have searched high and low. I have found nothing that satisfies my mind, my heart, and the deepest longings of my soul like Jesus does. He is not only the way, the truth, and the life; he is personal to me. He is my way, my truth, and my life – just as he can be for anyone who reaches out to him. Because remember what Paul told the Athenians: ‘He is not far,’ he said, ‘from each one of us.’” (Lee Strobel. The Case for Faith. Zondervan, 2000. pp. 165-166)

If you want to study more on this subject, I found a very good article on the website www.gotquestions.org Here is the first part of the article…

Question: “What happens to those who have never heard about Jesus?”

Answer: All people are accountable to God whether they have “heard about Him” or not. The Bible tells us that God has clearly revealed Himself in nature (Romans 1:20) and in the hearts of people (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The problem is that the human race is sinful; we all reject this knowledge of God and rebel against Him (Romans 1:21-23). Apart from God’s grace, God would give us over to the sinful desires of our hearts, allowing us to discover how useless and miserable life is apart from Him. This He does for those who reject Him (Romans 1:24-32).

In reality, it is not that some people have not heard about God. Rather, the problem is that they have rejected what they have heard and what is readily seen in nature. Deuteronomy 4:29 proclaims, “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This verse teaches an important principle: everyone who truly seeks after God will find Him. If a person truly desires to know God, God will make Himself known.

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