Questions and Answers
Question 1: Who are the heathen?
When the subject of the "heathen" is brought up, it is usually considered one of those theological questions that is fun to discuss, but there is no real answer. While it may be true that no one can dogmatically say what will happen to the heathen, this subject is only a stepping stone to an even larger problem. This problem does concern you, and you can do something about it.
Studying the heathen requires you take a close look at the Biblical plan of salvation. This intimate understanding of the gospel message is essential. This concept of how God can make a sinner holy will increase your understanding of how God will deal with the world. You will soon realize the dilemma of the heathen (a person who is without the gospel) is not limited to a small group of natives living in a remote jungle.
Most the world’s population is still "without the gospel," thus God must deal with them the same way He deals with the heathen. Since the destiny of the world is the same as that of the heathen, it is important to understand how God will deal with the heathen. It is not important if you define most of the world as heathen. It is important though, for you to understand that most of the world is without the gospel just as the native in a remote jungle, and just as lost.
The sun would be setting in a couple of hours, so Keven decided to end his hunt and head back to his car. He had always been proud of his heritage as part Apache Indian. The memories of his grandfather taking him out hunting were treasures. Keven’s "Indian blood" made him feel secure in his tracking abilities no matter where he went. This 7000 acre forest was no exception.
As Keven headed back, he ran across another hunter and they began talking. "Where are you heading?" the hunter asked. "I parked south of here by Highway 38 and Haggered Road," Keven said pointing North. "I don’t know," the hunter said. "I think south is that way," pointing in the opposite direction. Keven bristled. Sensing Keven’s stubborn pride, the hunter placed his compass on a stump. Sure enough, the hunter was correct, Keven had been heading in the wrong direction. Keven was lost and did not even know it.
Many people in this world are lost spiritually and do not even know it. A person living in deep sin usually realizes his unworthiness and understands his probable condemnation. There are many people, though, who pride themselves in being good and moral. They feel because they are "better than most people," they should be allowed into Heaven. These "good" people are the hardest to reach for Christ. Before they can be directed to Christ, you must first convince them they are lost.
Question 2: Is it necessary for those people who have never heard the gospel to personally accept it?
If God is going to make a special exception and allow the heathen into Heaven, it would be better not to send missionaries. If these people are already going to Heaven, we would be doing them a disservice by giving them the opportunity to reject Christ, thus sending them to Hell. The Bible is clear and straight forward on the fact that all humans are sinners and are responsible for their actions. The book of Romans teaches that a person who sins without the law will be judged without the law. A heathen will not be responsible for the light that he does not have, but he will be held accountable for the moral standard he does have.
Every person, even if he does not have a Bible, has a "moral standard" written in his heart, a basic knowledge of right and wrong. Though this standard is lower than God’s perfect standard, the Bible, man still cannot maintain it. Although it may vary from person to person, everybody has a standard they try to uphold, and all men violate this standard. James teaches if you know you should do something and you do not do it, it is sin. When God does judge the heathen, it will be according to the standard they have. Therefore, being without the law (the Bible) does not exclude the heathen from being judged. He will still have to give an account for sins committed against his moral standard and the Bible says that the penalty for this sin is eternal damnation.
The book of Ephesians states that the gentiles before Christ were isolated from the Jewish salvation, "having no hope" and "without God." Thus, the present day heathen are not the only group of people going to hell even though they have never heard the salvation message. These "Old Testament heathen" also went to hell. (For more information, refer to chapter Breakdown of View 1, Implication A.)
Question 3: How much of the world has not heard a clear presentation of the gospel?
Approximately 7% of the world’s population has accepted the gospel message. It is estimated that 50% of the world’s population does not know of Jesus Christ, and 75% of the world does not have a clear understanding of the gospel message. (For more information, refer to the chapter "Most of the World has not Heard the Gospel.")
Question 4: How much of the world speaks English?
Looking at the geographic size and influence of countries such as the United States, Canada, England and Australia, it is easy to feel that a vast majority of the world speaks English. In contrast, though, only 8.5% of the world speaks English.
SOURCE: Book of Facts 2000, World Almanac, and Ethnologue
Question 5: If a person is "seeking" (living up to the light that he has) will God continue to send him more light until either he accepts Christ or stops seeking?
We must ask ourselves if there are actually a few cases when a person in an isolated location has a pure heart in his search for God? The Bible says, "no one seeks after God." Does that mean no one has a longing and desire for God? No, God has created a God-size vacuum inside everyone. This is why no matter where you go in the world you will find religions. Obviously, the phrase "no one seeks after God" does not mean man lacks a longing or desire for God. Yet, man also has a natural tendency, or desire, to move toward things that are contrary to God. It appears that these verses which say no one seeks God are actually saying man’s desire to want God is over-powered by his desire to fulfill his selfish pleasures. According to the Bible, the natural man does not seek God, at least not in the sense of God becoming "obligated" to send him the gospel. (For more information, refer to chapter "What about the Seeking and Sincere," and the Chapter "Breakdown of View 2", Implication C.)
Question 6: Is it true that all of the people who have stayed in their religion are not sincere and were not living up to the light they have?
There are over 5,000 different religions in the world today. Most of these people have lived their entire lives never knowing anything but their religion and sincerely feel they have the correct religion. In fact, some of these people appear to be much more sincere and devout than most of us Christians. Are these people not living up to the light they have?
Cults, especially, thrive on attracting "sincere" people. They appeal especially to those who are looking for more, and have not found it in the churches they are attending. Yet, when cult members do leave their cults, they usually do not join another church. This indicates they did not leave their cults because God was leading them out, at least in the sense that they were seeking and God pointed them to the true gospel. Instead, they usually leave as a result of disillusionment, or feelings of betrayal. (For more information, refer to the chapter "Breakdown of View 2," Implication H.)
Question 7: Why are there some places in the world with a higher concentration of Christians and other places with few or no Christians?
This is a very good question and one of the strongest arguments supporting the fact that the heathen are going to hell. If hearing the gospel was dependent on a sincere heart and seeking spirit, then God would send the gospel to everyone who was sincere and seeking. Thus, we would expect to find an even proportion of Christians throughout the world since the distribution of people who are seeking and sincere should be even. Yet, this is not what we find. The places with a strong Christian witness and more opportunity to hear the gospel have a higher concentration of Christians, and vice versa. The only reason for this uneven proportion is because the availability of the gospel increases the number of Christians in that given area, not the sincerity of the people. (For more information, refer to the chapter "Breakdown of View 2," Implication G.)
Question 8: How many languages have the Bible?
Out of the 6703 languages known, only 320 (5%) have the whole Bible. 2327 (35%) have at least one verse of the Bible. (For more information, look at the chart on "translation needs" in the chapter "Why Study the Heathen.")
SOURCE: Bible Translation Needs, Bulletin 3, 1996, and Ethnologue 1996
Question 9: Has anyone ever died and gone to Hell that could have gone to Heaven if he had been given a clear presentation of the heart-melting gospel?
This is another important question because, if the answer were yes, it would mean that people are needlessly going to hell. The fact that the distribution of Christians throughout the world is so disproportionate indicates that a great multitude of people remain non-Christians only because the gospel has not been presented to them. There seems to be several prominent factors limiting people from becoming Christians. The first factor, which has already been discussed, is that Christians are not taking the gospel message to the rest of the world. Another factor is that much of the "gospel message" being preached today is being watered down with works or other false doctrines. Last, many people are turned off to Christianity because of hypocritical Christians who are stumbling blocks. Once a person has been turned off to Christianity it is very hard to reach him with the gospel. The Bible says that a person offended is harder to reach than a fortified city.
Thus, people are going to hell needlessly. Hosea says that for a "lack of knowledge my people perish." Ezekiel states if we do not go and warn the wicked, they "will die in [their] iniquities." In Ephesians, the Old Testament gentiles who did not have a chance to be a part of the Jewish religion are spoken of as being "without God" and "having no hope." 1 Corinthians states that some have no knowledge of God and this is to our shame. What does it mean when Jesus states the "harvest is past and the laborers are few"? Could it mean people are needlessly going to Hell because the job of reaching the world is not being accomplished? Could it mean if there were enough Christians willing to do the job, there would be fewer people going to Hell? (For more information, refer to the chapter Breakdown of View 1, Implication C.)
Question 10: If a person in a remote and hard-to-reach area is seeking the true God, will God use some supernatural means (such as an angel or voice from heaven) to reach him with the gospel?
We are not aware of any passages in the Bible that say God will use methods other than humans preaching the gospel to spread the salvation message. God has used supernatural methods (i.e., angels, visions, etc.) to do other tasks, but when it comes to sharing the gospel message it appears God has chosen to use the human element. It pleases God to use the "foolishness of preaching" by people like ourselves to deliver the salvation message. Throughout the Bible, God has used angels and even animals to perform various duties, yet these have never included preaching the salvation message. For example, Balaam’s ass was used to warn Balaam, but not to present the salvation message.
We are not downplaying the power of God or saying He does not do supernatural things in this present age. He will use His supernatural powers to enable us to spread the gospel message. He will alter circumstances to bring opportunities that we would not normally have. However, these miracles do not come automatically. James 5:16,17 states we can do the same mighty things that Elijah did, but it requires fervent prayer. Mark 9:29 says certain things can only be done by "prayer and fasting." The lives through which God’s mighty Spirit flows are those that are sanctified and dedicated to fervent prayer. When reaching those who are without the gospel, again, God chooses to channel His power through humans. As Christians move into new frontiers, God prepares the way. The prayers of missionaries and their supporters can cause dynamic miracles to take place.
There are places in the Bible that talk about God reaching out to the non-believer. However, these people had already been exposed to the Word of God or some believer. A couple of examples are Cornelius and the Ethiopian eunuch. The written Word, the Bible, and the living Word, Christians, are the major tools used by the Spirit. (For more information, refer to "Breakdown of View 1," Implication B.)
Question 11: Does the person who has more exposure to the gospel have a greater chance of becoming a Christian than the person who has little or no exposure?
As discussed earlier, exposure to the gospel seems to play a major role in whether a group of people will become Christians. The more a person is exposed to the heart-melting message of the gospel, the greater the chance he will become a Christian. Our physical world demonstrates the power and influence of exposure. An example of this power is the disease, malaria. The more you are exposed to the protozoan parasite called sporozoite, the higher your chances will be of coming down with malaria. If exposure did not increase a person’s chance of becoming a Christian, we would expect to find the same percentage of Christian children in Christian homes as we do in atheist homes (or Buddhist homes, etc.). This, however, is not what we find. The Bible speaks of it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to Heaven. Is the Bible saying money plays a part in a person’s spiritual destiny? Is it possible that this same rich man may have gone to Heaven if he were not rich? (For more information, refer to the chapter "Breakdown of View 2," Implication F.)
Question 12: If I do not go and reach the lost, will God send someone else in my place?
Luke states that the harvest is great, but the laborers are few. Thus, it appears there are not enough willing Christians to get the job done. Most of the world has not heard the gospel message only because not enough people have gone. Hosea says that because of a "lack of knowledge, my people perish." And, Ezekiel states that if we do not warn the wicked, they will perish. The Bible seems to state clearly if we do not go, neither will anyone else and the job will not get done. (For more information, refer to the chapter "Breakdown of View 1," Implication C, and the chapter "Breakdown of View 2," Implication I.)
Question 13: If the heathen does go to Hell, how does God justify sending him there?
God is just in sending anyone who has sinned to Hell. In fact, His holy and righteous nature requires that all sin be punished to its fullest extent. God cannot overlook sin. The only people allowed into Heaven are those who have had their sins washed away by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus Christ). If a person dies without ever personally accepting Jesus Christ, he will go to Hell, despite where he lives, whether in the USA or the darkest jungle.
Some people have questioned the "fairness" of God for condemning the heathen to Hell. They say, "How can God send a person to Hell who has not heard of Him, let alone ever rejected Him? How can a heathen be held accountable for something he has never heard?" First, a person is not condemned to Hell for "rejecting Christ," he is condemned to Hell for his sin. If the heathen was sent to Hell only because he rejected Christ, it would be better to call all missionaries home and stop all evangelism. If a person is going to Heaven until he rejects Christ, sending him a missionary only allows him the opportunity to reject Christ and go to Hell.
Romans states that they who live without the law will be judged without the law. In other words, a person will not be held responsible for keeping a standard of which he is unaware. However, each person does have a standard he tries to live by and because he has violated even this standard, he will go to Hell. These sins are the ones for which he will be held accountable. (For more information, refer to the chapter "Breakdown of View 1," Implication A.)
Question 14: If the heathen goes to Hell, will he receive the same punishment as the person who has heard a clear gospel presentation and rejected it? In other words, are there degrees of punishment in Hell?
Just as there are levels of rewards in Heaven, there seems to be degrees of punishment in Hell. The severity of a person’s punishment depends on how much "light" he had and what he did with it. In Romans, it says if a person does not have the law (the Bible) he will be "judged without the law." As stated in question #13, if a person has the Bible, he will be responsible for living up to its moral standards. If he does not have the law, he will not be judged by the moral standard that it contains. However, he will be judged for not living up to the moral standards etched in his heart, and the standards shown to him through nature. There will be two judgments for the world: The "Judgment Seat of Christ" and the "White Throne Judgment." The Judgment Seat of Christ is for Christians. Once a person accepts the gospel of Christ, his eternal destiny is no longer in question. Therefore, this judgment is for the distribution of rewards. The White Throne Judgment is for non-believers. After this judgment they will be sent to Hell. This judgment will probably determine the degree of punishment. (For more information, refer to the chapter "Breakdown of View 1," Implication D.)
Question 15: Are there any examples of God exercising His holiness above His love?
Yes, there are examples. The Bible clearly states that God loves all the world and He desires that no one should perish. Yet, despite His love for the world, God still must uphold His righteousness. Ephesians 2:12 says that during Old Testament times, everyone who was not part of the Jewish religion went to Hell. Many of these people never had a chance to hear the salvation message. The story of Noah is another good example. God hates the sins that man commits, but He still loves the sinner. Yet, in the days of Noah, God was forced to exercise His holiness above His love.
Question 16: Are there any examples that portray a "religious" person going to Hell because he has not personally accepted Jesus Christ as his savior?
Yes, there are several examples. "Religion," in and of itself, does not bring a person any closer to God. In John 3, Jesus told Nicodemus, a religious leader of the Jews, if he was not born again, he would not enter Heaven. Matthew 7:1 says, that, "not everyone who saith unto me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven." These verses illustrate religion does not get a person into heaven. Genesis 4 contains the story of Cain and Abel. Although God loved them both, He rejected Cain’s sacrifice and accepted Abel’s. The reason God accepted one sacrifice and rejected the other is extremely important. Abel’s sacrifice was a blood sacrifice that was symbolic of the death of Christ, the blood covering and cleansing our sins. Cain’s sacrifice was an offering of fruit, symbolic of man using works to cover his sins and to reach out to God. No matter how good our religion may be, if salvation is not completely based on the blood of Christ, it is worthless.
Other Chapters in this Section
Quick Visual Aid of View 1
Quick Visual Aid of View 2
Quick Visual Aid of View 3
Quick Visual Aid of View 4
Quick Visual Aid of View 5
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