by Dennis Michelson
Introduction: Universalism has reared its ugly head - again. The pages of church history are replete with attempts to pack heaven and empty hell by twisting Scripture. No one really likes to think about this subject and Satan will send plenty of distractions to keep your mind away from it.
Stated simply - To deny the fact that billions of souls are lost in hell REQUIRES that we deny the holy character of God and/or deny the sinful nature of man. Most are reluctant to do the former but many find the latter more palatable and fashionable.
I respect someone who will admit that they deny the truth of the Word of God and reject it as a myth. I have less respect for those who confess they believe the Bible is the Word of God but cherry pick texts to support the heresy of universalism.
Please do not beat a hasty retreat to the "that's just your interpretation" position. Please consider the following before appealing to the Bible to comfort you as you "whistle by the graveyard."
1. THE CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH IS IMMENSE
Some estimates put the population of the earth around six billion at the turn of the century. Of course it is far beyond that now. Others tell us that around three billion have never heard of Christ. I am informed that less then 10% of the total missionary force is involved in cross-cultural evangelistic work among three major blocks of unreached people - Chinese, Hindus and Muslims.
Could this come down to a simple theological question - "Are they really lost?" Consider this - a child goes missing(in America) and an "Amber Alert" is issued and people are mobilized immediately. These "first responders" move into action because they assume the child is lost and possibly in danger. Is it that we assume the unsaved are not lost and in no real danger?
2. THE CONTROVERSY WITHIN THE CHURCH IS REAL
The following question was posed to a large evangelical missions conference - "Are the heathen really lost?"
37% believed "A person who does not hear the gospel is eternally lost"
42% believed "Unbelievers will be punished in a literal hell fire"
25% believed "Man will be saved or lost on the basis of how well he follows what he did know"
3. THE CENTRALITY OF THE QUESTION IS VITAL - "ARE THE HEATHEN LOST?"
How one responds to this question reveals what they really believe in seven key doctrinal areas:
Theology - The character of God is questioned - Is He just?
Christology - The sufficiency of Christ is questioned - Is Christ the only way?
Soteriology - The necessity of the Cross is questioned - Did Christ have to die?
Anthropology - The depravity of man is questioned - Is man inherently sinful?
Hamartiology - The judgment of sin is questioned - Is not evil a relative matter?
Ecclesiology - The role of the Church is questioned - Is the Church God's unique witness?
Eschatology - The culmination of history is questioned - Is there a future judgment?
4. THE CONFUSION REGARDING THE QUESTION IS REAL
E.O James - "To discover the reality of Christ in all other religions is the essence of the ecumenical approach"
Pannikan - "God does not condemn anybody . . .He is at work in pagan religions"
Clark Pinnock - He cites I Peter 3:19-20 as a "Second chance after death . . .an occasion when the unevangelized have an opportunity to make a decision." He goes on to say "Of one thing we can be certain: God will not abandon in hell those who have not known and therefore have not declined his offer of grace. Though he has not told us the nature of His arrangement, we cannot doubt the existence and goodness of them."
5. THE RESOLUTION OF THE QUESTION CAN ONLY BE FOUND IN SCRIPTURE
Note: To say that God sends people to hell because they have not trusted a person of whom they have never heard seems unjust but Paul makes it clear in Romans - God neither sends people to hell, nor does he judge them on the basis of their response to Christ of whom they have not heard.
(A) God's Judgment is Based Upon God's Revelation
The Judgment is based not on their reponse to unrevealed truth but to revelation they received.
(1)God's truth is revealed to every person's conscience (Romans 1:19)
(2)God's power and divinity is revealed to every person in Creation (Romans 1:20)
(B) Man's Destruction is Based Upon Man's Rebellion
(1) God gave them up (Romans 1:24) heart
(2) God gave them up (Romans 1:26) soul
(3) God gave them over (Romans 1:28) mind
This progression is the antithesis of Matthew 22:37
Conclusion: Only Jesus Christ can bridge the gap between reprobate sinners and a holy God. God has judged millions and billions based upon revelation clearly received and willfully refused. If you can read this and have not come to Christ for salvation then stop worrying about the heathen and look in the mirror.
"Therefore thou are inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things." (Romans 2:1)
Those who see and read this have received the revelation of God to the conscience; in creation; and now the clear Word of God. All one can do with God's revelation is accept it or reject it. I accept it and am willing to live (and die) with those consequences - are you?
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