I asked all my readers recently to provide me with any questions you may have that perhaps you have struggled with or wondered about as you have read the bible and I would do my best to bring an answer.
The title of this blog is the condensed version of one of these questions.
To expand it a little, the question was; “Given that God is a just God, it would seem unjust if someone died who had actually not rejected Jesus because they had never understood whilst alive. Surely they must have a chance to choose to accept or reject Him, so would they be given a chance to make that decision after death?”
A similar question would be “What happens to the people who have never heard the gospel?
That’s a great question! As you will have noticed in nearly all my blogs, I have used scripture a lot to back up what I am saying. This can be quite an emotive subject and so rather than give my own opinion, as best I can, I want to answer this question with the unchanging, eternal, word of God, whether I particularly like the answer or not. Remember as I said last week we want to get past our own opinions and hear what God really wants to say.
I know that some will disagree with me on the next point, but let’s start with the issue of salvation. Who is responsible for it? Is it God or ourselves? Some would say that it is only our choice, we are the ones who see our need to be saved and so when we realise this we repent and are saved. God provided it but the decision belongs to us. This is commonly referred to as the Arminian position.
The bible states that before we are Christians we are ‘dead’ in our sins (Colossians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:1) and the last time I noticed, dead people are incapable of making decisions! I believe that it is God who is the ‘Founder and perfector’ of our salvation as it says in Hebrews 12:2.
Ephesians 1:4 also makes it clear that God chose us. “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
Jesus makes this even clearer when He said;
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide (John 15:16)
So point number one is that salvation is dependent on who God chooses, not on our own decision, even though it feels like our decision when we do receive him. We were drawn to make that decision by The Holy Spirit
So what about the question of God being unjust to people who don’t even get to choose?
The bible is clear that actually no-one is without excuse;
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)
Also that no-one has an inclination to seek after God either;
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)
The natural state of everyone is rebellion towards God, we are all the same. Even if we were given a second chance we wouldn’t take it. Many people have received amazing miracles & still rejected God. Even Jesus when He walked this earth, after performing amazing miracles and seeing the dead raised was still rejected. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 The rich man asked for warnings to be given for his 5 brothers who are still alive and Abraham responded;
He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. (Luke 16:31)
The hope of a second chance is completely extinguished by the verse in Hebrews 9:27
it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.
So the answer is that when we die, everyone receives justice, we all get what we deserve. For some of us though who have put our trust in Him and who God has called, we receive the most amazing mercy. We who were once God’s enemies are declared righteous and welcomed into the family of God as His own children for all time.
If you have any other questions about the bible you would like me to look at, please let me know in the comments below. I will be looking at a few more bible difficulties in the coming weeks.