What is your opinion on what happens to people who haven’t heard the gospel when they die, do they go to heaven? Do young children/babies who die, that are to young to make a decision on becoming a Christian, go to heaven?
This is one you’ll regularly meet when talking to non-Christians, so it’s a good idea to have your own thoughts clear on it.
The non-Christians’ objections come from a (usually unacknowledged) desire to “catch God out” being UNjust.
They say, “how about this situation”, then when we give them a satisfactory answer, they then say, “OK then how about that situation?”
If they can keep alive the idea that God might be UNfair, that gives them an excuse not to listen to his voice.
Remember also that “Going to Heaven” is a Folk-Religion concept. The Bible talks about entering the Kingdom of God. We can do that while on this earth, and if we do, then we experience the presence of God right here, and (as we remain in the Kingdom when our earthly body “drops off”) we remain in God’s presence after this life. It is the consequence of what we have chosen. We choose to be in His presence.
The subject has lots of aspects, some of them quite complex. However, there are certain things we can say for sure:
1. God is a Just God
This means that he will never do an Injustice.
Romans 2 11 says he does not show favouritism.
So we can trust him about the way he administers his Kingdom.
2. We are judged by the light we have (Rom 2 12-16)
When Gentiles, who do not have the Law, (says Paul) do by nature what the Law requires, they show that the requirements of the Law are written on their hearts.
This isn’t necessarily a guarantee of salvation; their thoughts will one day be judged, and may accuse them on that day, or “even may defend them” says Paul (Rom 2 15)
3. All mankind can see the Glory of God, so there is no excuse (Rom 1 19-21)
So those Gentiles (and all others) have no excuse for not acknowledging God.
And there are plenty of instances of the “wonder of the Universe” being the catalyst of someone coming to faith.
4. Jesus said “I am the way”, “No one comes to the Father except by me” and similar phrases.
Peter preached “Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name…by which we must be saved” (Acts 4 12).
John says, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life, He who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5 11, 12)
Some objectors are offended that God would require them to fulfil a condition before he accepts them.
They think that they should be allowed to believe in whatever THEY want, and still obtain all the benefits of the commitment to the Saviour Jesus whom they reject.
Society brings people up to think that they have “a right to choose”, and they think that goes for EVERY aspect of life.
Well it does and it doesn’t.
Generally when we choose, we have to take the consequences of that choice. People don’t like this, but it’s true.
They usually want to choose one thing, and have the consequences of another.
They want the convenience of an easy choice and the benefits of a harder one.
I call this “This train is going to London”. This is how it works:
This train is going to London.
It’s free to get on.
You’re on the platform.
If you don’t get on the train, you won’t get a train ride to London.
Why is that surprising?
But people still stand round on the platform shouting “They won’t let me go to London on the train, JUST because I don’t want to get on!
Like it or not, the Bible is quite clear, Jesus is the only way. John’s statement above is one of my favourites because it is so clear.
5. Children below the “Age of Accountability”
All are agreed that there is an age below which it is impossible for a child to consciously reject God. The exact age will vary, but the principle remains.
Jesus taught that children can give quite a few lessons to adults about trusting God (Mt 18 3-4). He always accepted children (Mk 10 13-16).
King David, whose baby died, was certain that they would meet again in a future life. (2 Sam 12 22-23).
God judges Israel for sacrificing children to the Canaanite god, Moloch, calling this an abomination, yet calls the children “My Children” (Ezek 16 21).
In the prophecy about the children slaughtered by Herod after the birth of Jesus (Jer 31 15-17), God promises that they will “come back”.
The exact mechanism is unclear; trust in God’s Justice is appropriate here, but the general principle for children who die young is that they are destined to be among God’s people after they die.
6. What if God made some “pots” for destruction? Rom (9 14-24)
Is God Unjust? “Not at all!”, says Paul.
This likens God to a potter, with complete rule over how he makes his pots.
The pot has no right to question the judgement of the potter about what it is made into.
7. There is an onus on us to preach the Gospel
Having said all this just brings home yet again what a responsibility we have.
How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Rom 10 14)
Some Christians object to this teaching because they are too lazy to preach the Gospel to people.
We need to be ready to speak out for Jesus at every opportunity.