What happens to those who die without ever hearing about Jesus?

Possibly one of the most difficult questions for a caring Christian to consider and answer is the fate of those who have never had the chance to hear the gospel. To many it seems an unthinkable unfairness that God would send people to hell who never had the chance to be saved. Walking carefully through the Bible’s teaching is not always easy. Despite the great emotional tensions associated with this question it can only be answered by a thorough consideration of what God has said about man, sin and salvation.

The Bible’s answer can be summed up in a very straightforward fashion. Those who die without turning to Jesus for forgiveness of sin are not forgiven and remain under the judgment of God. Only when one starts with a Biblical perspective can this answer begin to make sense. Many imagine that condemnation happens after death based upon one’s sin or refusal to believe Jesus.

Condemnation does not happen after death. Men are not sentenced to hell for rejecting Jesus or for committing an excessive number of bad deeds. Men are sentenced to hell because they are born sinners who are already condemned by God. “He that believeth not is condemned already.” (John 3:18) “You were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) The first chapter of Colossians describes all men as separated from God and enemies against Him. The third chapter of Romans describes all men as wicked, refusing to seek after God, having no good in them and filled with all manner of wickedness. The Bible consistently teaches that all people are currently guilty before God. Romans 3:19 says all the world is guilty before God. Everyone is already condemned for sin. Men are not waiting for judgment to find out if they are guilty or not. The conviction has been handed down. Sentencing is delayed to give opportunity for salvation.

The fate of those who die in their guilt is eternal separation from God in hell. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9 says Jesus will exact vengeance on those that do not know God and have not obeyed the gospel. Jesus’ vengeance will be unending destruction apart from the presence of God and His glory. In other places in the Bible this everlasting destruction is described as a place of fire and intense suffering. Those who do not know God will be sentenced to eternal hell.

Wrong ideas about Divine judgment are abundant. Most seem to believe that if they are better people than a lot of others then they will make it to heaven. Some believe there is no hell. A growing number believe that God will not send anyone to hell (or maybe only send the really, really bad people to hell). The Biblical truth is that hell is real and only those who have turned to Jesus for forgiveness will escape hell. Those who do not do so, whether it be because of stubbornness, rebellion, ignorance or some other reason will be punished with everlasting destruction. Into this bleak assessment shines the good news of the gospel. Salvation from hell has been purchased by Jesus and is freely given to those who will turn to Him for forgiveness.

What does it mean to be spiritual but not religious?

Many today make the claim that they are spiritual but not religious. The one claiming this usually has a good opinion about God, tries to do good works and be kind people. He may pray or read the Bible but does not attend church and doesn’t care to be around people who think you should go to church. The spiritual but not religious tend to pick and choose from many different religions to craft a personalized spiritual experience. They are not people of no faith, but people with their own custom built faith. They have typically rejected Christian institutions and denominations. They refuse to be defined by the beliefs of a religion or restricted by the rules of any particular religious institution. The title “nones” has been applied to this group because when asked on religious surveys what their religion is they select the option “none of the above”.

Spirituality as defined by the nones is the private practice of faith and the personal experience of something greater. Religiousness is associated with the public expression of faith through religious institutions, strictures, rituals, gatherings and official systems of belief. For some of the spiritual Jesus is a guide or a personal guru but is not God. For some being spiritual is about understanding a person’s role in the cosmic scheme of things. The nones cannot be pinned down to any set of beliefs or core tenets, but they do have some things in common. First, and the defining feature, is the personalized crafting of a system of belief that works for the individual. Closely associated with this personalized belief system is a desire for personal improvement that is sought after by means of the spiritual person’s belief system. Often the spiritual accepts some form of mysticism. Mysticism seeks to evoke deep spiritual feeling through a transcendent experience. Mystical experiences can take place while wathcing a sunset, walking on the beach, praying, singing in church, practicing yogic meditation, painting, dancing or drinking a really good cup of coffee. Despite the desire for a spiritual experience the nones are unlikely to participate in any organized form of religion. They will participate in activities with a strong religious undertone, but will not join themselves to any religious system. The spiritual is very tolerant of other religious beliefs.

The nones are the religious embodiment of today’s post-modernism and critical realism. They have rejected any sense of absolute truth and believe the individual is the sole determiner of what is true for himself. The spiritual sees his spirituality as a means of personal development not reconciliation with the Divine, atonement for sin or a means to reach eternal bliss. Much about the spiritual bears strong similarity to the practices of Buddhism and Confucianism. I would describe the spiritual as a particularly American form of Buddhism. The nones try to be good people, seek a spiritual connection, and reject a strict definition of God and of Biblical doctrine.

How do Christians explain the genocide passages in the Bible?

I want to answer a follow up question to last week’s article about Christianity and violence. If the Bible teaches all men should love one another then why do Deuteronomy 7:1-6 and Deuteronomy 20:17-18 tell us that God commanded the Israelites to wipe out entire groups of people? This is a significant question. Some have attempted to get around these difficult passages by saying they mean something else. That is a tempting but unacceptable solution to the problem. If the passages in question do not mean God commanded utter destruction of entire tribes, then it is impossible to determine any real meaning from those passages. A natural reading leads to one inevitable conclusion. God commanded the nation of Israel to eradicate entire tribes of people.

God is not evil for decreeing the destruction of a people or nation. As the Creator, Kign and Judge of all humanity, God has the authority to execute judgment how and when He wishes. When God created Adam and Eve, He warned them the consequence of disobedience would be death (Genesis 2:17). On the day man sinned God condemned all humanity to death. Everyone who dies does so because God has decreed the destruction of all humanity. Later in human history, God destroyed all but eight people. In the flood God put to death millions, possibly hundreds of millions, of men, women, children and infants. Still later God destroyed two major cities and their surrounding villages. He wiped Sodom and Gomorrah off the map, killing all but three people. In the days to come God will once again pour out His judgment on humanity. During the time of the Tribulation, billions of people will be killed by the catastrophic judgments of God. God is the Creator, King and Judge of all humanity. He is righteous in executing judgment on men. Though it is disconcerting to consider the justice and wrath of God, we cannot attribute evil to God for exercising His just wrath.

We are disturbed by the commands for Israel to destroy the tribes of Canaan because God is commanding a nation, an army and its individual soldiers to put to death women and children, even infants. The troubling question is how can a loving God command His people to kill non-combatants and to annihilate a whole group of people? Though the command to the Israelites is extreme, it is not out of keeping with the character of God. Since the days of Noah God has used men as His instruments of justice. He appointed governments to be ministers of the sword. He gave to governments the responsibility of executing capital punishment.

Israel was a nation uniquely set apart by God. They were a holy people unto the Lord. They were a nation governed by unique laws, given a unique territory and holding a genuine national identity. God’s use of a nation to bring judgment upon another nation is not contrary to His character. Passages like Isaiah 45 shows that God uses nations as a means of bringing punishment upon other nations. To begin to understand these passages, one must consider the nations under God’s condemnation. The nations inhabiting Canaan were extremely wicked. They were idolaters routinely practicing a wide variety of immoral sex acts as part of their worship of false gods. They offered human sacrifices and even killed their children at the altars of their false gods. They were demon worshipers serving devils that they imagined to be real gods. God in His justice determined to destroy these nations because of their awful depravity.

In the end we must be content to trust the justice of God. Israel was not acting out of malice or a mistaken sense of racial superiority. No megalomaniacal tyrant decreed Israel destroy the nations so he could elevate his prestige. No self-declared superman demanded Israel exterminate all those he deemed inferior. Israel did not devise this course on her own. The nation was following the command of an all wise, just God. Israel was acting under the command of God as the agent of God’s justice. We naturally cringe at the thought of the death of so many. The wages of sin are terrible and passages like this bring home the enormity of sin’s hideousness. We must let the truths of God’s holiness, justice, goodness and wisdom give comfort to our troubled hearts. We must remember that the Judge of all the earth will always do right.

Does the Bible talk about blood moons?

On the evening of September 27, the last of four “blood moons” in a will occur. The term blood moon is relatively modern and used by some to describe a full lunar eclipse. During a full lunar eclipse the moon takes on a deep orange color which has prompted the creative designation “blood moon”. Much attention has been given recently to the lunar eclipses, and especially the phrase blood moon, due to the conjunction of four lunar eclipses in a row, called a tetrad. Each of these four eclipses also coincide with a Jewish festival day. Since the death of Jesus a series of eclipses that also coincides with Jewish feasts has happened a handful of times.

The unique series of eclipses has prompted several men of different Christian denominations to publish books about the prophetic significance of these blood moons. The authors claim that the blood moons of 2014-2015 are significant signs regarding the end of this age and portend major, possibly catastrophic events that probably also indicate the soon return of Jesus. These teachers make such claims because of the uncommon occurrence of a sequence of lunar eclipses each falling on Jewish feast days and because several prophetic passages refer to the moon being turned to blood as a key event taking place shortly before the return of Jesus.

The original Biblical passage is Joel 2:31 which says, “The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord.” Just before the Messiah comes as King to judge the earth, the moon will be turned to blood. In Acts 2 Peter quotes the prophecy of Joel and proclaims it was partially fulfilled in Jesus. The fulfillment was partial because Jesus is the promised Messiah who sent His Spirit upon men as He promised and Joel prophesied. The entire prophecy of Joel has not yet been fulfilled because Jesus has not yet come as a conquering king to establish His worldwide kingdom. Revelation 6 contains the last prophecy about the blood moon. Revelation 6 prophesies that the moon will be turned to blood during the final judgments just before Jesus returns. Because this is an event has not yet happened, some men are seeing great significance in the current series of lunar eclipses.

The Bible does not use the phrase blood moon, but it does describe the moon being turned to blood. To understand the Bible’s teaching on this subject, two questions have to be answered. First, is a lunar eclipse what the Bible is talking about when it says the moon will be turned to blood? Second, can we learn anything about when Jesus will return from normal astronomical events? The next article will attempt to address these two questions.

Where did the different races come from?

The one year anniversary of the shooting in Ferguson has just passed. In the twelve months since Michael Brown was shot, there have been numerous racially themed conflicts. Racial issues have been a regular theme of major news outlets. As a result, race is a topic on a lot of minds right now. The answers to racial tensions are not simple, but the Bible gives the sound foundation on which to develop a comprehensive response to racial conflicts. Whether it be an exchange of insults on a street corner or an exchange of gunfire in a crowded building the Bible gives the framework by which we can make sense of these difficult issues. One of the crucial Biblical teachings for a proper understanding of the races is what the Bible says about the origins of the races.

Race as we describe it is not something addressed often in the Bible. Most often Scriptures refers to nations, languages, tribes and cultures. In fact, the term races is a misnomer. Humanity is a single race with members possessing a wide variety of variations, most easily seen in skin coloring and distinctive faical features. These variations are relatively minor and do not divide the peoples of the world into distinct races. The Biblical terminology is “kindred (tribe or family group), tongue (language group), people (community group) and nation (ethnic group)”. These groups, though each possesses clearly defined features, are all comprised of descendants from Adam and Eve. Whether black, brown, white or yellow, all nations and peoples are members of the same family who descended from the same parents.

If all humanity is one race that originated with Adam and Eve, where did the different ethnicities come from? The Bible offers a very clear answer to the origins of the nations which are the source of the major races of the world today. That answer is found in Genesis 10 and 11. Genesis 10 lists the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham and Japheth. This chapter has been described as the table of nations because many of the people mentioned are the founders of the major nations of the world. Genesis 11 is the account of the Tower of Babel. At the Tower of Babel God punished mankind for its continued rebellion against Him. That punishment included the confusion of languages. Before Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Babel God miraculously caused different groups to speak different languages. The punishment at Babel also included the scattering of the people across the world. The individual language groups traveled from Babel to the settle in lands all across the Middle East and eventually the entire world. The family leaders mentioned in chapter 10 seem to mark the language groups created by God at Babel. As groups spread out, married and reproduced, the distinctive characteristics of the parents became more pronounced. The unique languages and hardships faced produced people groups who developed their own culture and nations. The combinations of these events caused the formation of the ethnicities we see today.

How should Christians respond to the legalization of same sex marriage?

The recent Supreme Court decision does not bode well for Christians who intend to remain true to the Bible. The implications are far reaching and have yet to be fully considered. Most conservative Christian observers recognize that churches and Christian institutions will have to accept homosexual marriage or face legal censure. The fact that America’s Supreme Court has even made such a decision speaks volumes about the spiritual and moral condition of this nation. If anyone was holding onto the notion that most Americans are Christian, the recent decision should banish such folly. The days ahead demand Christians think rightly. This right thinking will be careful to avoid several potential pitfalls.

Though many are deeply concerned, believers must not fear. Those who are students of history and Scripture rightly expect the folly of our day to end in chaos and wrath. The natural consequences of sin hint that the current linguistic and sexual anarchy will necessarily be brief. At the same time, the cultural climate seems poised for great hostility towards those who refuse to bow before the new sexual tyranny. Many warn that Christians are in danger of finding themselves “on the wrong side of history”. In response, the heart cry of the believer must be, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6)

Christians must never forget that God is in complete control of all things and is accomplishing all His purposes in the nations. Remember two crucial truths from the Old Testament. The judge of all the earth will do right, no matter how vile the wickedness and powerful the rebellion of man. God “doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What does thou?” (Daniel 4:35) No decision made by the Supreme Court, no law passed by Congress, no decree of the President and no conspiracies of nations will hinder or prevent the plan of God from being accomplished. “I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

Do not allow the present darkness to lead to despair for the progress of the gospel and the future of the church. The New Testament declares that things will get worse and worse. Wickedness will run riot, depravity will surround and saturate the church and if it were possible even the saved would be swept away by the immoral tsunami. When things reach their worst, Christ will return. Despite all that, the church will continue, the gospel will go forward, souls will be saved and God will be glorified. Remember, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” and “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Beware of building, even unintentionally, a theology or sense of security based on the popular news outlets, talk show hosts or political experts. The news is never an accurate reflection of what is going on in the world. Besides the bias of every news station and the agenda of every talk show host the unsaved are never able to understand God’s sovereignty over every event, every political decision, every up and every down. Consequently, even the most expert investigative journalism will miss crucial facts of the story. The rest of the story is only glimpsed in the promises of the Bible. Let the Word of God define all belief about God, this world and things to come. Find all comfort and security in the God of the Bible. Learn from the Psalms to look through circumstances to the Almighty God who protects His children and accomplishes all His purposes.

Do not bow before the cultural mandate and support or promote immoral behavior. Do not fall into the trap of confusing immoral cohabitation with the God created institution desigend to reflect His love for His church. The pressure to forsake the Biblical truth will increase, but no matter what the cost or consequences, Christians must refuse to accede to the depraved demands of the new sexual rebellion.

In the end, refuse base confidence, joy, peace, security or comfort on the circumstances. Learn to say with Paul, “We are troubled on every side, but not distressed.” Keep focused on “the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary: but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4)

Why did Jesus do miracles?

The ministry of Jesus was filled with many miracles. The New Testament gospels record 37 distinct miracles performed by Jesus. His first miracle was turning water into wine and the ones that followed included healing incurable disease, raising the dead, driving out demons, walking on water and feeding thousands from a small meal. Besides the miracles detailed in the Bible, John’s gospel states “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book.” (John 20:30) We don’t know how many miracles Jesus performed, but we do know He did many in almost every place He went.

Some have speculated that Jesus did miracles to show God’s love for mankind and His desire to heal men. Some have speculated that Jesus did miracles as an example of good works for His disciples to follow. Such conclusions have a ring of truth, but they fail to consider the most important source of information. The Bible does not leave us to wonder why Jesus did miracles. Scriptures states in clear terms the exact reason for Jesus’ miraculous deeds.

Two verses make very clear statements on this point. “Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you.” (Acts 2:22) “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles.” (Hebrews 2:3-4)

These verses teach that Jesus did His miracles as testimony and proof that He is who He claimed to be and that the message He preached is true. Jesus’ miracles are God’s testimony that Jesus is His Son, the Messiah and the Savior. Specifically, Jesus miracles are signs to the Jews that He is their Messiah. The miracles were not signs to the Gentiles. In fact, the Bible only mentions a couple of miracles involving Gentiles and both are a rebuke of the unbelief of the Jews. While Jesus’ miracles are acts of great compassion that shew the mercy of God on humanity, those benefits are not the purpose of the miracles. Jesus did miracles as proof that He is God, He is the Messiah and He is the Savior just as He said. His miracles are the Divine stamp of approval on His ministry and His message.

Did Jesus claim to be God?

Many cults and false religions attempt to disprove Christianity’s claim that Jesus is God by declaring that Jesus never claimed to be God. Some religious scholars assert that Jesus never claimed to be God. Is this true? Are Jesus’ words empty of any claim to be Divine? Does the Bible tell us that Jesus believed He was God? The easiest way to answer this is to read any of the four gospels, but especially Mark and John. In those two gospels the claims of Jesus’ deity are repeated over and over again in many different ways. The disciples claimed Jesus is God, the demons who opposed Jesus claimed He is God, some of those Jesus healed claimed He is God and God claimed Jesus is God. Jesus Himself claimed to be God.

Two of the most frequent claims to be God made by Jesus are not well understood by people today because of a misunderstanding of the meaning of the phrases Jesus used. Jesus claimed God is His Father and to be equal with His Father. This is no claim of parentage or familial relationship. This is a theological statement that declares the speaker to be God. When Jesus said to the Jews, “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30), they began picking up rocks to stone Him to death. Jesus asked them why they wanted to stone Him. The answer given by the Jews show they understood exactly what Jesus was saying. They knew Jesus was claiming to be God and they wanted to stone Him “for blasphemy, and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” (John 10:33)

Jesus claimed for Himself the name I Am. The name I Am is not a mere statement of one’s current existence, as it is used in Descartes’ famous assertion, “I think, therefore I am.” The name I Am is the key name of God given in the Old Testament. I Am is the name of God given to Moses to tell the Israelites who was leading them out of Egypt. It is the source of the name Jehovah, or Yahweh, found throughout the Old Testament. When Jesus told the Jews, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58), He was claiming to be God. The Jews responded by attempting to stone Jesus. They understood His claim, and because they did not believe Jesus to be God they wanted to put Him to death for blasphemy.

These are just two examples of Jesus’ claims to be God. They are not isolated examples, but could be joined with many other statements in the Bible in which Jesus made explicit claims to be God. Added to these claims are the many times Jesus claimed to do that which only God can do. The person who would consider who Jesus is must confront these claims. He can disregard Jesus’ claims or to accept Jesus as the God He claims to be. One cannot brush Jesus aside a great teacher or a moral example. If Jesus is not God as He claimed, Jesus is not good. He may be a charlatan perpetuating a fraud on millions. He may be a maniac believing the delusions of an addled mind. Jesus claimed to be God. Do you believe Him?

Were the Crusades Christian?

Last week when making a point about the distortion of religions, our President claimed the crusades were undertaken in the name of Christ. The claim repeated by Mr. Obama is one that has been repeated many times by many people and will be repeated many times over again. Were the crusades Christian?

The crusades were an ostensibly Christian undertaking, claiming to be in the name of Christ. The crusades did not take place in a religious vacuum. The crusades took place in a socio-political environment in which the Roman Catholic church was tightly interwoven with numerous national governments. Church and state were not separated and were, in fact, nearly inseparable. Despite the claims, to say the crusades were Christian has as much merit as saying the Seattle Seahawks NFC victory was Christian. Christian claims and Christian participation do not a Christian event make.

Yes, the Crusades claimed Christianity for their support. No, the Crusades were not at all a Christian undertaking. Historically, nations have long claimed Biblical and Divine support of their cause in war. During the Civil War the Union and Confederacy both claimed God was supporting their cause. In the World Wars Americans claimed Divine support. In First Gulf War and the war on terror, America claimed Divine support. These claims do not prove any of those wars were Christian undertakings. Nothing in the Bible teaches an army of church men are to march into Palestine and drive out its conquerors, just as nothing in the Bible teaches America was to drive Al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan.

At this point someone will protest that God told Moses, Joshua, Saul and David to conquer the land of Canaan and to wipe out entire populations. This claim is true, but Israel is not the church. The scope of this article does not allow time to go into the specifics of the Old Testament, God’s commands to Israel and God’s working in the world during that time. One recognition is vitally important to understanding how God’s command to Israel have no bearing on the crusades. The church and Israel are not the same in function, purpose, relationship to the world or governance. Israel in the Old Testament was a nation, acting as an autonomous government among the many nations of the world. The church is not and never has been a nation. The church is not a federal agency with its own army, justices and legislatures that imposes its will by force and fiat on those who resist. The church is something very different and distinct from a nation. The church has no authority to declare war. No true church will claim Jesus’ support of violence, murder and barbarism and no genuine Christian can claim Christ’s example for brutality, assault and bloodshed.

The crusades were not Christian in any way. They may or may not have been just (that’s a separate discussion), but they were not Christian. Christian is that which follows the teachings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. Anything contrary to the New Testament is not Christian. Anything not built on the clear teaching of the New Testament cannot claim to be Christian. Only that which is defined in the New Testament as Christian behavior can legitimately be called a Christian endeavor.