Have you ever wondered how God will judge those who died before Jesus came? Especially the people who never had the opportunity to hear about Him at all?
Today we will see how God being a just God, in his wisdom made plans for those who never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. If you are ready, get your Bible, note and pen and let’s dive into the Word together.
Let me start by stating categorically clear that JESUS is the ONLY way to God. No man at any time anywhere, can come to God except through Him. By coming to God here I mean no man can be saved from sin and it’s penalty (Hell) except through faith in Him and His sacrifice for sin.
Knowing this, we do not relent in our efforts to see the whole earth covered with the knowledge of the Gospel of Christ even as water covers the sea. We take the gospel to all kinds of people everywhere, proclaiming “Jesus their salvation, is here!”
Having made that clear, let us address the question, “what will happen to those who died without hearing about Jesus?” (I will like you to pay a careful attention here as we see this from the Bible together)
“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one anotherwink In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” (Rom 2:12-16)
From the scriptures we just read, we see that those who died before the coming of Christ shall be judged by Jesus on the last day. And they will be judged for the following reasons:
1.They Had The Demands Of The Law By Nature Written In Their Hearts As a Witness
Even though they may never have heard the name Jesus directly spelt out to them, they had the righteous demands of the Law of God which was supposed to produce Faith towards God and His Salvation written in their hearts.
“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal 3:23-24)
With this Law written in their hearts, their conscience ruled their actions and inactions. By condemning them almost everytime, their consciences completely exposed their weakness as man to them to the end they might reach out to God by Faith alone for help (Salvation). And since God has no other salvation to offer man than His Son Jesus, by exercising Faith in God for Salvation, they have also exercised faith in Jesus though without having a full knowledge of Him.
[i]Does this mean those who never heard of Jesus will be saved if they lived according to the dictates of the Law, following their conscience? [/i]Not at all. If they ever get saved by obeying their conscience’s rules and regulations 100%, then salvation by works is possible. However, the Bible is clear that salvation can only be gotten by faith and not by works.
The essence of the human conscience is actually not to help us achieve salvation by our works. It is rather there to judge our actions and point our glaring weaknesses and need for a saviour outside of us to us. It is from this need that Faith was supposed to rise up from our hearts towards that Saviour who in this case is God.
Again, the human conscience just like the Law, was given to point out our need for a Saviour to us. On it’s own, following our consciences cannot justify us before God. Only faith in the one our consciences point to can justify us.
2. Natural Things Witnessed To Them About God
[b]“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” (Rom 1:18-25)[/b]
“Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Rom 1:32)
Natural things, the whole of creations, testify of the existence of a creator who only have the power to save the world from death. This creator apostle John tells us, is the Word who Himself is also the Christ.
God in Christ (the creator) left these created things as witnesses to point to Himself. Man was supposed to look at them and learn of His existence. Having known of Him from the works of His hands (creations), they were to put Faith in Him (not the creations now) for justification.
“Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Act 14:14-17)
From the above scriptures, we see that God being a just God, never left Himself without a witness on the earth. So on the day of judgement, no man would claim to have never known of His existence as God and the saviour of the world. Although they may never have had a full understanding of the gospel like we have today, they cannot claim to be completely ignorant of Him.
In Acts 17, we see Paul in Athens explaining this powerful truth to the Athenians.
“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” (Act 17:22-23)
In the place we just read, Paul acknowledged that even without having heard of the Gospel fully, the Athenians worshipped God. Although in a very wrong way. So they were not saved, even though they worshipped God. And the reason for them not being saved is because they did not worship Him by Faith alone but by various rituals and works of their flesh (including idolatry)
It was from this ignorance (their wrong way of worship) that Paul encouraged them to turn from to Faith alone in God’s Salvation (Christ)
“Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Act 17:29-31)
What if they had followed after God completely by Faith alone, then they would have been like Enoch, Abel, Noah and lots of Old Testament folks who despite the fact they never heard about Christ in full not met Him physically, sought after Him by complete faith in God. Hebrews tells us that by that faith they had in God for salvation, they were said to have believed in His Christ and were righteous before Him.
3. God Have Always Had A Man Tell Others About Him In Almost Every Generation
In almost every generation of men, God have always had at least one man who had a little glimpse of Him and told others the same. Even before the Law was given and before the birth of Jesus. He has never left Himself without a human witness also regardless of how little light that person may have had of Him.
Now while we may not be able to trace who it was in all the generations of our forefathers that had a little knowledge of God, we can always look at the scripture and see this principle at work. For instance, in the first generation of men it was Adam, then Abel, Enoch, Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and his brothers, Moses, Joshua, the Judges, Samuel, David, the prophets and so on till John the baptist.
There was always a man who either went around talking about God or stayed in one place and had kings and people from different nations come from far to hear about God from their lips. These people always go back to where they came from with the news of the God who made the heavens and the earth.
God is so just He never left Himself without a witness in almost every generation. So those who did not believe in Him from ages past will actually have no excuse before Him.
Before ever the Law came, men like Enoch, Noah, Lot, Abraham and the rest have in one way or the other, spoken about God to individuals and kings of their generations. See below scriptures.
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jud 1:14-15)
“And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.” (2Pe 2:5)
“And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.” (Gen 19:14)
From this study in the scriptures, we see that God is going to judge all men including those who died before the coming of Christ by Jesus. Those who through the witnesses that God has left for Himself on the earth trusted in Him for Salvation, will be saved. Those who did not exercise Faith in Him regardless of how good and sincere their actions were, will be condemned.
Seeing that God has left us as His witnesses today on the earth, we do everything within our power to let the whole world know of this Gospel which is the power of God to save even the greatest sinner.
Those who trusted in God for salvation before the coming of Christ shall be saved because the blood of Jesus also took care of their sins. But those who did not, will perish alongside those who rejects the Gospel today.
I hope this blesses you.
Glory to God!