What happens to those who don’t come to Jesus?
Well, that’s the question for today, isn’t it? Are they saved, whether they want to be or not? Are they saved already, as long as they don’t deny Jesus? Will there be some kind of second chance for them after death? All of these suggestions center on the desire that more people would go to Heaven. But they also all have to twist the simple assertion of the Scripture. Some people will end up in hell.
Be wary of those who can tell you details about things the Scripture says little about. I don’t intend to be one of them. I believe that the Scripture teaches about hell. I believe that hell will not be empty. But what hell will be like, I don’t know. Not good, though.
I don’t like the idea of hell. It grieves me to think that some people will be there. Annihilation sounds better to me, I suppose. Universal salvation certainly sounds better. But none of this is about me and what I want or think. Hell is real. Jesus taught about hell. He wanted people to avoid it. He believed that some people would be there. Who am I to contradict Him?
The one clear message we get about hell is that people go there because of unbelief. The way to Heaven was available to them and they didn’t want it. I do not believe God sends anyone to hell; I believe that all are already on their way to hell because of sin and unbelief. In some way, God allows them what they want—separation from Him. I don’t know what that would be like, but it can’t be good. The little we are told sounds terrible.
The bottom line is that the Scriptures tell us about something that is very difficult to accept. God allows people to choose and He allows them to choose against Him. Those who are learning to see others through the mind and heart of Jesus find hell disturbing to consider. So disturbing, I suppose, that Jesus was willing to suffer torture and death so that people could avoid it. The heart of God desires for all to be saved–but not all will be saved.
So we tell people about Jesus and the love of God that is available to them. We don’t care who they are or where they have been, we just know they need a Savior and we know that He is strong enough, good enough, to overcome anything they have done.
“He who is not against us is on our side.” That’s what Jesus told His disciples in Luke 9:50. Some have taken this to mean that anyone who has not chosen to deny Christ is with Him. They push this as far as ultimate salvation, suggesting that those who die without ever acknowledging Christ as Lord are still saved as long as they haven’t knowingly denied Him. This, in their minds, allows those who have never heard the gospel to have a chance at salvation. In order to make this work, many of those who believe this idea suggest that there will be an opportunity after death for a decision. (It seems a little unfair to me that those who haven’t heard the gospel would be given the chance to face Jesus personally after death. In fact, some have suggested that we are actually doing a disservice with evangelism and missions if this doctrine is true. How much better would it be not to tell them and make them choose here and now? Let them die without ever hearing and then they can choose, when they have all the facts in front of them.)
But the truth is that the choice has already been made. Whether you and I like the idea of original sin or not, the bottom line is that Adam’s sin affected our relationship with God. And even if I were to claim that I am not guilty in Adam, I still have Dave to contend with. I chose to sin against God. Even if Adam hadn’t, I would have. The Scripture (Romans 1) says that the existence of God is plain in nature and that no one has an excuse for choosing their own way.
So no one really has to choose to deny Christ because all who have sinned have already chosen against God. That’s the current state of the lost. All have sinned—that’s one of the most basic concepts of our faith. The concept that corresponds to that is just as powerful—all need a Savior.
When studying Scripture, context is so important. One of the disciples came to Jesus to tell him about a man who was casting demons in Jesus’ name. But the man was not one of the twelve nor among those who regularly hung out with Jesus. Still, the man acknowledged the power and authority of Jesus. In fact, he came to the hurting in Jesus’s name and successfully faced evil while secure in Jesus. The problem was not this man’s personal faith. The problem, in the minds of the disciples, was that this man didn’t walk with them. So Jesus said, “He who is not against us is on our side.”
You don’t have to think like me to be saved. But you do have to come to the Savior.
Only those who come to the Savior will be saved. It’s as simple as that.