Everyone (Who Has Ever Lived) Will Hear The Gospel

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The following excerpt is from the essay entitled: Will God Ensure that Everyone gets a Chance to Hear the Gospel—Even the Aborted Baby?

Everyone Will Hear the Gospel

…the Bible gives us reasons to believe that no one will stand before God on the day of judgment without having actually heard the Gospel. After all, if Christ really died for all and is the Savior of every single descendant of Adam as we are told (in Isaiah 45:21-22; Luke 2:10; John 1:29; John 3:16; John 4:42; John 6:51; John 12:47; John 12:32; Romans 3:21-23; Romans 5:18; Romans 11:32; 2 Corinthians 5:14-19; Hebrews 2:9, 1 Timothy 2:4,6; 1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:14 etc.) then why wouldn’t He tell everyone for whom He died about the good news of the Gospel? I mean, who would die on behalf of a condemned man in order to secure his freedom (Romans 5:7-8) but then neglect to inform the condemned man that this free gift had come upon him (Romans 5:18)? No merciful person would do so, yet in their flawed attempts to explain what the Scriptures says about the Gospel, many Bible teachers have ended up accusing God of doing this very thing! Isn’t it understood from reading Psalms 98:9 that God will judge the world with equity? Yet, by refusing to affirm the claim that all souls will hear the Gospel, many Christian leaders are effectively accusing God of being inequitable. They are telling the world that the biblical God condemns to the Lake of Fire those who have never heard nor rejected the Gospel in spite of the fact that several Scriptures actually militate against such a premise. For example, the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:23 says,

… be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister

According to the 19th century Methodist theologian Dr. Adam Clarke, the Colossians 1:23 phrase “every creature which is under heaven” is a Hebraism for “the whole human race.” If Clarke is right then this Hebraism must include those who (due to some unfortunate circumstance) never made it out of the womb but are still descendants of Adam and are therefore human. Moreover, Colossians 1:23‘s use of the past tense “was preached” is an indication that Paul here is speaking  prophetically—i.e. he envisions a time when it will be true that the Gospel was preached to every member of the human race. The Gospel of Luke asserts a similar proposition in its summary of Isaiah 40:5, & Isaiah 52:10. For Luke 3:6 declares that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” and partially ascribes this prophecy to John’s ministry of repentance. If “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” then how can it be maintained that there are some who may never hear the Gospel? Or if “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” then how can there be men on Judgment day who will have never encountered “the Gospel of the grace of God” (Titus 2:11, Acts 20:24)? And if as Romans 5:18 claims, the free gift of salvation has truly come upon all men, then how can it be maintained that there are some who will face God in judgment without ever hearing of this free gift? Like Colossians 1:23, Psalm 98:2-3 also employs the past tense when asserting that “the LORD hath made known His salvation” and that “all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” These verses are not to be taken as hyperbole; they are literal promises which God intends to fulfill. We are told that God in Romans 11:32 & Galatians 3:22has concluded all under sin and in unbelief” so “that He might have mercy upon all” and so “that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” This is why Christ promised in John 12:32 that after He was lifted up from the earth (i.e. crucified) He would “draw all men” unto Himself. Since Romans 1:16 tells us that “the power of God unto salvation” is the Gospel of Christ, then we can surmise that it is through the preaching of the Gospel that Christ draws men unto himself. So, when Paul in Romans 2:16 speaks of a day (i.e. Judgment Day) when God will use the Gospel to “judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ,” we thereby understand why it is one’s belief in the Gospel which is used as the basis for either accusing or excusing the sinner. But if some have never heard the Gospel then how can the Gospel be a legitimate prerequisite for Judgment? Won’t the fact that some have never heard the Gospel call into question the seriousness of God’s desire to “have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth?” (1 Timothy 2:4) Thankfully, the bible makes it is clear that the unbeliever will be inexcusable precisely because he has rejected the Gospel with which he was confronted (John 3:19, Romans 2:7-8; 10:14; 16:26, Hebrews 2:2-3, 12:25, 2 Thessalonians 2:12, 1 Peter 4:17)

This then means that it is a logical certainty that every descendant of Adam will have an opportunity to hear the life-saving Gospel. This even includes all those living before the New Testament era. In fact, many who lived and died during Old Testament times (e.g. children of Israel) had already heard the Gospel in one form or another “but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Hebrews 4:2, Romans 10:19-21, Psalm 78:21-22, Jude 1:5). However for those who have not heard, they shall hear, “for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider” (Isaiah 52:15, Romans 15:19-21). Otherwise, on Judgment Day, how can the Judge insist that the ignorant have “neglected so great a salvation” if it was all the while inaccessible (Hebrews 2:3)? In fact, so certain is God’s intention to preach the Gospel “to every creature which is under heaven” that He plainly reveals this plan through His teachings. For example, one important conclusion from the parable of the Sower and the seed (Mathew 13:3-23, Mark 4:3-20, Luke 8:5-18) is that every person will be exposed to the Gospel’s message. For though the Scriptures do not directly identify the parable’s Sower, it is clear that the Sower is God. For only God is able to communicate “in any manner to the minds of people—by the Scriptures, by preaching, by acts of Providence, or by the direct influences of the Holy Spirit.”[1] Furthermore, according to Mark 4:14 & Luke 8:11, the seed which the Sower sows is the word of God. In fact, Matthew 13:19 calls it “the Word of the Kingdom” which further identifies the seed as the Gospel. There are four types of ground (i.e. people) upon which the seeds fall and these four grounds clearly and collectively represent all of mankind. Yet, only one of these four groups of people will believe the Gospel unto salvation. Incidentally, assuming that each ground type is proportional, then this parable also becomes a sad confirmation of Christ’s claim in Matthew 7:13-14 that most people (i.e. wayside-ground people, stony-ground people, thorn-infested-ground people) are on the wide road which leads to Hell. However, the key point to grasp in this parable is that all ground types were recipients of the Sower’s seeds. In other words, there was no ground in the parable upon which the seed did not fall. Therefore, of the three different types of unbelievers mentioned, no one in any of these categories is ignorant of the Gospel. Because all people (i.e grounds) receive the Gospel (i.e. seed), this parable then becomes a resounding confirmation of Colossians 1:23 and it reminds us that the biblical record does not anticipate the judgment of men who have never heard the Gospel.

Otherwise, how can it be said in John 3:18-19 that the hell-bound (i.e. those who are not elect) were condemned for loving “darkness rather than light” if the condemned have never actually seen the light? Isn’t this the same reason why Matthew 24:14 and Mark 13:10 tell us that the Gospel “must be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations?” Isn’t it this witness that the light has indeed come and the witness of the sinner’s conscience in Romans 2:15 which God will use to condemn those who reject the light? But this condemnation will be meaningless to one who has never heard the Gospel. This is why it is crucial to understand that according to John 3:17-18 the light which is rejected in John 3:19 is not just the innate knowledge of God which John 1:9 and Romans 1:18-20 talk about, but is actually the “great” light of the Gospel (see Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 4:12-17 & Romans 2:16). This point is important because within the highest levels of Christian leadership there exists a surprising confusion about why the condemned are sentenced to the Lake of Fire. For instance, the pioneering Christian ministry, Focus on the Family, employed the writings of Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson in order to assert that those condemned to Hell are there because they were born sinners.[4] In their book Faith Comes by Hearing, Morgan and Peterson contend that it is a “faulty assumption” to maintain “that our condemnation is based on a rejection of the Gospel.” According to their understanding: “Scripture teaches that our condemnation is based on the fact that we are sinners, not because at some point in time we rejected the gospel.”[5] Yet, we can be certain that this idea is not based upon a careful examination of Scripture. For as we have seen in Bible verses such as Mark 16:16John 3:18-19, 3:36, 5:24, 8:24, 12:46-48, Acts 3:23, 13:46, Romans 2:8, 2:16: 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, 2:12, Hebrews 2:3; 3:19; 4:11: 1 Peter 4:17, etc. the only thing which separates the heaven-bound from those who are condemned to Hell is whether or not they have obeyed the Gospel. The First Death’s condemnation of which we must all partake is indeed due to the fact that we are sinners. However, the condemnation of the Second Death (i.e. the Lake of Fire) is solely based upon the answer to one question: Have you obeyed (i.e. believed) the Gospel? So, while it is correct to say that the particular punishment of each Lake of Fire participant will be commensurate to his or her sins (i.e. works in Revelation 20:12-15) it is important to realize that these condemned unbelievers are only partakers of the Second Death because they have chosen to neglect God’s great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). To understand more about the First and Second Death see Though he were dead” – A Controversial Understanding of John 11:25-26

Therefore, based upon the Bible’s clear teaching that the sinner’s salvation is predicated upon his or her obedience of the Gospel (1 Peter 4:17, Hebrews 5:9, 2 Thessalonians 1:8), it seems to go against the teaching of Scripture for an aborted baby’s name to appear in the Lamb’s Book of Life since that infant has never heard nor had a chance to believe the Gospel (See Is He BIASED). Of course, God’s foreknowledge of whether or not the dead infant would have believed (if given the chance) could alone justify the entry or omission of the infant’s name in the Book of Life. But a divine provision which somehow enables the aborted sinner to be confronted with the Gospel seems far more likely in light of the many passages of Scripture which we have examined thus far. For the culmination of all these verses is that all children of Adam must (and actually will) hear the Gospel. This same conclusion is reached in Romans 10:14 where Paul asks: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” Incidentally, by “they, it is apparent that Paul has all of mankind in mind, for in Romans 10:13 he says that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The obvious answer then to Romans 10:14‘s rhetorical question is that one can’t believe in Christ if one hasn’t heard the Gospel! This is the predicament of the aborted baby or of anyone else who like the dead infant has not yet heard the Gospel. Yet, Paul’s answer to this predicament matches what we have just read in Colossians 1:23. For in Romans 10:18 he says:

But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their [i.e. the preachers] sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

The question is: Haven’t they heard the Gospel? God’s reply is: Yes, they have heard, in fact, “their sound (i.e. the voices of the sent preachers) went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” As in Colossians 1:23, Paul here also seems to put forth the notion that everyone has “heard” (paste tense) the Gospel. The language used here (i.e. “went into all the earth” & “the ends of the world”) seems to indicate that the preaching of the Gospel is both universal and exhaustive. The “beautiful feet” (Romans 10:15) of the preachers sent by God to proclaim the Gospel are not just limited to those of the apostles or other members of Christ’s church but also includes the feet of angels. For Revelation 14:6 describes an angelic messenger sent to preach the “everlasting Gospel” to all of mankind. In that verse we read:

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.

Revelation 14:6’s assertion that the Gospel is to be preached to “every nation, kindred, tongue (i.e. language) and people” is also in harmony with the message of Colossians 1:23. This remarkable claim (of exhaustive gospel-preaching) therefore occurs at least thrice in the Scriptures and is the necessary consequence of verses like John 3:19, Hebrews 2:2-3 and 1 Peter 4:17.

 

 

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