Sunday Lunch at Applebee’s – Gotta Love It!
I enjoyed this last Sunday lunch at Applebee’s with my family and several other FBC members and prospects. During the morning service I had asked a couple who have been serving as missionaries in Central Asia to share with FBC how things were going, what God was doing, etc. In their talk, one of them shared how where they live, there are 79,000,000 people. Of that number, around 4,000 are followers of Jesus. That’s less than 1% Christian.
Over lunch I was asked, “What happens to those millions who have never heard when they die?” Great question. A hard question. But a great question, nonetheless, that I think Christians MUST come to terms with. My answer? Well, if they have no access to Jesus and you cannot get to heaven without Jesus – then they will die and spend an eternity in hell because they have never heard God’s means of saving people (the Gospel). This, of course, spawned a very important – yet deep – discussion that continues into today between this gentleman and myself.
I highly recommend David Platt’s treatment of this in his bestselling work Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Chapter 7, entitled “There is No Plan B” is more than worth the price of the book. You can also listen to him teach this chapter here. In it, using the book of Romans, he walks the reader through this very issue. At one point, Platt writes:
“Many professing Christians have come to the conclusion that if certain people around the world don’t have the opportunity to hear about Jesus, then this automatically excuses them from God’s condemnation. Such people will go to heaven because, after all, they never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus.
“This line of thinking reflects the intensely emotional nature of this question. We want people to to be okay when they haven’t had the opportunity to hear the gospel. But think with me about the logic of this conclusion. It asserts that people will be with God in heaven for all eternity precisely because they never heard of Christ. Their not hearing about Christ gives them a pass into heaven.
“In addition to the lack of biblical evidence for such a pass, consider the practical implications of this idea. If people will go to heaven precisely because they never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus, then the worst thing we could do for their eternal state would be to go to them and tell them about Jesus. That would only increase their chances of going to hell! Before we got there, they were going to heaven; now that we’ve told them about Jesus, they might go to hell. Thanks a lot!”
There is no biblical ‘pass’ for thinking those who have never heard will somehow end up in heaven.
Believing this is true (that one cannot get to heaven apart from Christ and faith in the Gospel of Christ) explains the urgency of some missionary friends of mine who sent out an email last week. They are serving in one of the hardest places in the world. Consider their thinking of why they are there:
“. . . rarely does much time pass before God provides a stark reminder of our reason for being here. The face of an orphan with HIV. Sounds of chanting to false gods. The call to prayer for Muslims. Rickshaw driver after rickshaw driver who have never heard the message of Jesus. There’s always something to bring to perspective. . .
“According to statistics, everyday approximately 1,8000 people die where we live (total population of more than 100 million). With the most generous of estimates, 2% of our state is Christian. So of the 1,800 who die every day, 36 are Christian. And 1,764 are not. If we believe the Bible, then we know there is no hope after death for those without Christ. In other words, there are more than 73 people in our state, who die every hour and spend an eternity separated from God.
“What do we do with those kind of numbers? Well, we can’t ignore them.”
So why are there so many who have never heard and why are they going to spend an eternity in hell when they die?
When was the last time you got on a plane to go?