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Salvation in Special Situations
Those who haven't "heard"
Having someone hear the Gospel and reject it is one matter. Those who reject Christ will be condemned(John 3:36). What about those who are unable to hear it or understand it? What about children who die before they can read or talk or die even before they are born? What about an Amazon tribe in some remote jungle that no one knows about? Let's examine both of these situations.
The Bible says we are all conceived and born as sinners(Ps. 51:5; 58:3). There is not one innocent person. Although the Bible doesn't directly say the unborn or infants will go to Heaven when they die, more likely than not they will.
The Bible has a story where King David of Israel was deeply distressed when his newborn son was ill(2 Sam. 12:15-23). David could not eat and did not even get up off the ground. When he found out his son died, he calmed down, much to the surprise of his attendants. King David explained while the child was alive he faced uncertainty about whether the child will live. After his son died, he had certainty and said he will see his dead son in death(2 Sam. 12:23).
Jesus valued children. When people brought children to Jesus, the disciples objected(Mark 10:13). This verse talks about Jesus' reaction:
But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:14 KJV)
Those who come to Jesus with the trust and dependency of a child will be welcomed.
Another point isn't what the Bible says but rather what it doesn't say. Although the Bible doesn't outright say the unborn and infants go to Heaven, it also doesn't say they go to Hell either. Those mentioned in Hell are men(Luke 16:19-31) along with Satan and his demons(Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10). It never says anything about the unborn or very young children.
The unborn may be more aware and cognitive than we realize. Before John the Baptist was born, he was said to have had the Holy Spirit(Luke 1:13-15). A remarkable event occurred when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, visited John's mother, Elizabeth. While John was still in the womb of Elizabeth, he jumped for joy when Mary greeted Elizabeth, knowing who she was and the child she was going to give birth to(Luke 1:39-44). The unborn may be offered salvation or John may have been an exception.
Those who have never "heard" the Gospel
What about people like a tribe in some remote jungle of the world no one knows about? If Jesus is the way to salvation and they've never heard of Jesus, does that mean they will go to Hell? This is a question that has been debated for some time.
First, God's presence is noticeable in nature. His eternal power and divine nature are seen in what He has created(Rom. 1:20). The stars and universe declare the glory of God(Psa. 19:1). In the remote jungle example, the stars in the night sky would be far more visible and beautiful than in a city. One would be in awe at the beauty of God's creation.
God has made His salvation known to all nations(Psa. 98:2-3) and has been made plain to humanity. The Apostle Paul says the wrath of God is visible(Rom. 1:18). All know of God and Jesus, even if not by name. God has also set eternity in the hearts of men(Ecc. 3:11). The problem isn't people having no idea who God is but people suppressing the truth due to wickedness(Rom. 1:18). People can find God if they really want to(Deu. 4:29).
Jesus tells us to go out into the world and make disciples of men in the great commission(Matt. 28:19-20). We are all guilty of sin, that's why the Gospel is spread. We are to make sure everyone receives the Gospel.
We should not be distracted about how God will handle these situations. Before we were born, God knew us(Psa. 139:13-16; Jer. 1:5). God is righteous and just(Psa. 11:7; Heb. 6:10) and judges fairly(Psa. 98:9; Jer. 11:20). There is no better judge.
Last updated 8/26/2011