OPRAH—What happens to people who die without ever having heard about Jesus? Do they go to hell?

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OPRAH—What happens to people who die without ever having heard about Jesus? Do they go to hell?

Post by Admin on Tue Jan 26, 2016 1:36 am

No; Oprah Winfrey did not attend one of our Q&A nights that you somehow missed, but this question did come out of a clip of her show that was shown in our high school Sunday School class in which the topic was the “tough questions,” especially one that would appear to be, at least on the surface, so “unfair.” Almost all sources consider this one of the toughest questions for Christians to deal with, because the Bible really doesn’t specifically address it. However, the Scriptures do make one thing clear—that God does understand the question; He Himself asked through the apostle Paul, [F]or, “EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?—Paul, Romans 10:13-15a. Certainly we have heard these claims: I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again—Jesus Christ, John 3:3; I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me—Jesus Christ, John 14:6; Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved—Peter, Acts 4:12; [I]f you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved—Paul, Romans 10:9; and, one of my all-time favorites, [A]t the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father—Paul, Philippians 2:10-11. That being said, maybe the way to approach it is to understand what the Bible does say regarding God and His ways: (1) God is absolutely holy, but He is also absolutely just and fair. God would never condemn someone to an eternity in hell without an opportunity to hear the gospel message that could change that eternal outcome. God is fair; as Abraham said when expressing his concerns about God’s imminent judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”—Abraham, Genesis 18:25b. (2) God is all-powerful (omnipotent) and all-knowing (omniscient). As Creator of the entire universe, God has complete and absolute authority over and knowledge of the whereabouts and activities of all people—everyone, everywhere. No one is outside His awareness of them. In the same way, no one is outside His power to reach and save. As David marveled, Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there—David, Psalm 139:7-8. (3) God has revealed Himself in the physical world He created for us. David remarked about this: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun—David, Psalm 19:1-4a. Paul took notice of this also; he said, The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse—Paul, Romans 1:18-20. This is what is known theologically as “natural revelation”—God revealing Himself through the nature He created. But then Paul takes it even further; he points out later in his letter to the Romans, [T]he requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness—Paul, Romans 2:15a. We by design have a gyroscope of right and wrong that the Manufacturer inscribed on our hearts. And even beyond that, according to King Solomon, God has also set eternity in the hearts of men—Solomon, Ecclesiastes 3:11a. God has made Himself known to us. (4) God has also revealed Himself through His Word, the Bible (special revelation) and commands all people to respond to that revelation; as Paul said when speaking in Athens, [N]ow [God] commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead—Paul, Acts 17:30b-31. Clearly He has righteous expectations that He has made Himself satisfactorily known because He will righteously judge the response to all of Himself that He has revealed. (5) Jesus Himself made it very clear that He is the only way to God. In fact, it is important to point out to people who call us on the exclusivity claim (“You Christians think you have the only way to heaven”) that we didn’t say that; Jesus did. Put it back on them by asking them, “Why do you think He was wrong?” Jesus said, I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. . . . I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture—Jesus Christ, John 10:1, 9. What’s more, the Bible makes it equally clear that, apart from Christ, no one can be saved: Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. . . . Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him—John 3:18, 36. Paul supports this, telling the church at Thessalonica, He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power—II Thessalonians 1:8-9. No one is sent to hell without having opportunity (choosing) to reject the gift of salvation offered through Jesus Christ. (6) The Bible makes it clear that all those who seek God will find him. From as long ago as the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah (six centuries before Christ), Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you . . . and will bring you back—God speaking, Jeremiah 29:12-14a.

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