A number of years ago, I was part of a drama that was really a hellfire and brimstone (or “turn or burn”) presentation. As my theology has deepened, and my wrestlings with the Scriptures have continued, the over-simplification of it bothers me. Much of everything around it now bothers me.
Despite my misgivings, there was a prevailing Truth that it conveyed. We will all be standing before Jesus at some point, either having made a decision or needing to make a decision.
There will be some that question the doors that this statement opens. Noah and his family, for example, did not know Jesus (as we understand Jesus). They did experience God’s miraculous rescue from the Flood (that some call a prefiguring of Baptism). Noah’s faith and trust were enough to carry his family beyond the Flood, but what happens after is something different.
One of the biggest claims against Jesus Christ being the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and Jesus being the only way to God (and the everlasting life) is this apparent conflict between the unending grace, mercy, and love God and this restriction.
Thus, it is not a small thing to seek to understand what about those who don’t have the chance to accept or deny Jesus.
We have some foretaste of things with the story of Noah. It is, however, the knowledge shared 1 Peter 3 that provides the greatest hint. It is of such significance that the church has alluded to it for over 1600 years in the Apostle’s Creed.
The Spirit of Christ “preached” to the souls in the realm of the dead. The dead (in case that didn’t hit home…the dead) met Jesus Christ face-to-face. The dead had the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior after they died!
This is not to say that we should just let everyone die to meet Jesus then. Absolutely not! It is, however, an answer to those who question the mercy, grace, and love of God’s salvation.
Does this give a perfect answer? Probably not. Those who look for any reason not to believe…will not believe. We are only expected to be faithful with and to the Word.
- Have you ever had anyone question the “truth” of Jesus when it comes to those who hadn’t had the chance to hear the Gospel? What was your response? Was it helpful to them or you?
- Why does an understanding of the Gospel and salvation have an important part of our Lenten journey?
Lord, there is no one that you do not want to turn to you for salvation. May we be the vessels of grace and mercy that draw people to the Gospel. Amen.