Opportunity and Response The Gospel Message, encapsulated in John 3: 16, makes it crystal clear that it is by believing in the Person (John 8: 24) and in the atoning Work (1John 2: 2) of the Lord Jesus Christ, that one becomes the recipient of eternal life. The born-again believer is forever (Romans 8: 1) saved from otherwise spending all of eternity in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15). Jesus taught that being born again (John 3: 5, 7) is not just “a” way, but the one and ONLY way (John 14: 6) to receive salvation and to secure an eternal relationship with God. When an individual is born again, his or her name is written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Luke 10: 20/Phil. 4: 3). The future significance of having or not having one’s name recorded in the Lamb’s Book of life is made clear in such passages as Rev. 20: 15 and Rev. 21: 27. “And if ANYONE’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15 NASB).” “and nothing unclean, and no one who practices (makes a lifestyle of an) abomination and lying, shall ever come into it (the new Jerusalem – See Rev. 21), but ONLY those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 21: 27 NASB parentheses mine).” Having one’s name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life is one of several things (John 3: 16/Eph. 4: 30/Titus 3: 5/1Cor. 3: 16, etc.) that automatically, being the Work of God (not religious rituals), takes place the split second that one is born again. One is born again, here on Earth, the moment he or she believes in a presentation of the Gospel Message (Romans 10: 17), forever securing (Romans 8: 1) the location of one’s eternal home. Believing only in the existence of God does not, in of itself, save anyone. The devil, demons, and fallen angels all believe in the existence of the one true God, but will still spend all of eternity future in the lake of fire. To believe in the PERSON of the Lord Jesus Christ means to believe that Jesus was (John 1: 1) and is the Second Member of the Triune Godhead, who took on human form at the First Advent (Christmas) to become the Lamb of God in order to atone (pay) for the world’s sin debt (John 1: 29). God the Son, upon taking on His humanity, did not cease to be God, but chose to function within the Self-imposed (Phil. 2: 7) limitations of the humanity He received (Heb. 10: 5). Upon doing so, God the Son became the unique being of the universe in the PERSON of the Lord (God) Jesus (Human) Christ (anointed One). Unlike God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, God the Son took on the form of natural humanity at the First Advent, and took it back again from the tomb in resurrected form, upon returning from the Paradise of Hades (Luke 23: 43), at His resurrection. In His humanity, He was like Adam had been before the Fall. That is, without having a sin nature. In His humanity, Jesus could have, but did not sin (Heb. 4: 15). By remaining without sin, He preserved His humanity as the unblemished, sacrificial Lamb of God. In His deity, Jesus could not be tempted and could not have sinned, but in His humanity, He was tempted and could have sinned. If He had sinned, He would have been disqualified as the unblemished (without sin) Lamb of God sent to save Fallen Man by atoning for the sins of the world. Preserving the sinless integrity of His humanity throughout all His time here on Earth, was an ongoing part of the work that He came to do. Most of us can’t make it through a single day without committing some sin via our thoughts, words, or actions (1John 1: 8), let alone 30-33 years, as Jesus did. Baptism is always about identification. At His baptism, Jesus was publicly identified as the Lamb of God, and with the Work that He was sent to do. The time for Jesus’ public ministry had come, prompting the devil to impose great temptations that would follow when He went out in the wilderness (Luke 4). Note that in both the Matthew and Luke accounts, we are told that it was the Spirit of God that led Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted. I believe that this horrific experience was what prompted Jesus to later make the issue of temptation an ongoing matter of prayer for His disciples (Matt. 6: 13 NASB). “And lead us not into temptation… (Matt. 6: 13 NASB).” God promises us that we will not be tempted beyond our ability to resist without Him providing us with the means of escape (1Cor.10: 13). The problem is that many of us choose not to learn (2Pet.3: 18) His means of escape (Bible Doctrine), and or choose not to apply what we do know with His enabling power (John 15:5). In each one of the devil’s temptations in the wilderness, Jesus responded by quoting and then acting on the appropriate principle of Scripture (Matt.4/Luke 4). Engaging in spiritual combat ill-prepared (1Pet. 3: 15) and ill-equipped (Eph. 4:12) is a recipe for disaster. In the wilderness, the devil tempted Jesus to use his divine power independently of the plan of God, on the pretense of proving His deity, an action that would appeal to a hungered man, by turning the stone to bread (Luke 4: 3). There in the wilderness, the devil tried to destroy His humanity through physical trauma (Luke 4: 9), by challenging Him to demonstrate God’s desire to protect Him. There in the wilderness, the devil tried to disqualify His humanity by tempting Him to sin (Luke 4: 7), promising the same future (an earthly kingdom), as did the plan of God but without the cross. The devil has a history of concealing his true objectives while offering something that would appeal to his intended targets (Gen. 3: 6). The devil chose to strike when Jesus, in His humanity, would be in a weakened physical condition (Luke 4: 2). We can develop a greater appreciation for the success of Jesus in the wilderness when we acknowledge that He resisted the devil despite the inherent limitations of His humanity. He was victorious by accurately quoting and applying the Word of God. . . . To believe in the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ means to believe God the Father accepted the shedding of His blood during the hours of His spiritual death (separation from God) on the cross, as full payment for the world’s sin debt. This Atoning work provided every human soul with the means of salvation. This means provides salvation when one, in an act of faith, chooses to believe in a presentation of the Gospel Message. It is what theologians have come to refer to as the Gospel Message that conveys this information to the individual soul, providing each individual soul with the opportunity to BELIEVE it. Being presented with the Gospel Message brings with it the assurance of either going to Heaven (John 3: 16) or Hell (John 3: 18), depending on one’s chosen response to it. Being born again and saved in the spiritual realm is like being pregnant in the natural realm, in that you either are, or you are not. God commissioned (Matt. 28: 19, 20) the Church, consisting of every born-again believer in each generation of the Church Age to proclaim the Gospel Message to the ends of the world. These ends encompass the entire world, regardless of race, gender, nationality, political, or socio-economic categories. Being convicted of the significance of the Gospel Message, those with the heart of an evangelist desire to share the Gospel Message with as many people as he or she can. On the one hand, there is great joy when an advancing disciple sees God (1Cor. 3: 7) using them to save the souls of others. But on the other hand, it pains the evangelist to know that by having presented the Gospel Message, those who hear it and do not believe it can no longer claim ignorance as a defense when they meet their Maker. Scripture is clear about what the eternal destiny, be it Heaven or Hell, will be, concerning everyone that is given the opportunity to be presented with the Gospel Message. But what about the soul, through no fault of his or her own, never reaches the age or stage of moral accountability before departing this world, or that for one reason or another, is never presented with the Gospel Message during his or her time here on Earth? Scripture (e.g., Proverbs 30: 6) warns us not to go beyond what His Word has to say by adding to it our own opinions, conclusions, and assumptions. Accordingly, I want to make it clear that the answer I offer to this question (concerning those who are never presented with the Gospel Message) is my personal interpretation and application of the Scripture I cite. Others may have different interpretations. There is a divine answer for every question that the human mind can generate, but God decides when the defining answer to some questions is going to be made known, be it in time or eternity. Man discovers nothing that God didn’t already know. Some of the things that Man discovers will cause Man to rethink how religious men have traditionally interpreted some passages of Scripture. There is some disagreement among the different religious groups WITHIN the Christian Community, concerning what parts of some Bibles are inspired Scripture, and which writings are the products of men. The inspired (2Tim3: 16) Word of God took 3500 years (1500 BC to 96 AD) to complete. It was originally written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages, and contains expressions that could be understood by the people of each dispensation during each period of human history. For example, Scripture speaks of the rising and the setting of the sun, when in fact it is the rotating of the earth that is in view. The inspired Word of God will, in time or in eternity, prove to be true, but it has a long history of being misinterpreted, misapplied, twisted, and distorted by human assumptions and conclusions. What God has to say has been denied and or distorted by the devil (Luke 4) and his spokespersons (Gen 3/Matt. 7: 15) since the very beginning in the Garden of Eden. The truth is not dependent on human approval or confirmation. The truth is still the truth, even if no one believes it. A lie or error is still a lie or error if everyone believes it. What was, is, and will be “undisputable” scientific “facts” are subject to ongoing changes when new or more accurate information is developed. The inspired Word of God does not change, but its correct interpretation does. The work of the Reformers has not been completed. The battle to keep false doctrine and practices out of the Church, and removing the ones that exist, has been a challenge since the beginning of the Church Age (e.g. Gal. 3), and will only increase during the end times (2Tim.4: 1). There are dogmatic principles of Scripture (e.g., John 3: 16, 18/Romans 8: 1) that are not open for debate. But there are some questions to which specific answers can not be found in Scripture. The answers to these questions are under the umbrella of the Deut. 29: 29 secret things of God. By divine design, The Bible tells us ALL that we need to know, but not all that we may want to know. God uses these secret things to generate faith in Him in order to close the gap between how far verifiable facts can take us and where He wants us to be. Satan will use these gaps to generate doubt and fear. What is the end result of either believing or disbelieving in a presentation of the Gospel Message is made crystal clear in Scripture. But what Scripture is not as clear about, is what becomes of those who leave this world who never were presented with the Gospel Message. To some degree, I believe the answer, to this question can be found by examining Scripture principles that were in view before the completed plan of salvation became known to the world at large and or to the individuals involved. I believe that until one is presented with the Gospel Message, he or she will be judged on the basis of his or her response to whatever accurate information he or she is or was provided with during his or her time here on Earth. This information begins with the knowledge of eternity that God places in the heart of EVERY soul that He creates (Eccl. 3: 11). Satan is well aware of the powerful pressure that our hostile sin nature, parents, spouses, family, society, and friends can have on one’s spiritual choices. Adam was the first, but certainly not the last, to be brought down spiritually by listening to the voice of family Gen.3: 12 or friends. After first being deceived (Gen. 3: 13), people unwittingly become powerful tools in the hands of the devil. The false concepts and information that such sources of influence can promote have the full endorsement of the devil. It matters not (to the devil) if one embraces atheism or any one of the religions of the world (Psalms 96: 5), as any one of them will produce the same end result (Rev. 20: 15). It matters not to the devil if one attends a “Christian” Church if it is one that does not promote the unadulterated Gospel Message and or accurate post salvation doctrine and practices. Satan, and those who knowingly or unwittingly promote false doctrines, practices, and precepts of men have a long history WITHIN the Christian Community. But this is another lesson, for another day. . . . God’s plan of salvation was not a knee-jerking reaction to the Fall of Man. God’s plan of salvation was in the mind of God before the creation of the earth (Eph. 1: 4), let alone the creation of Man that came along afterwards. God’s overall plan of salvation began to be revealed as early as Genesis 3: 15, whereas more specific details of the plan were announced in stages throughout the course of human history. Old Testament believers, for example, NEVER knew that the Savior’s name was going to be Jesus, whereas now there is no other name that one can call upon to be saved (Acts 4: 12). “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4: 12 NASB.)" The individual members of each dispensation were and are held accountable in keeping with the extent that the unfolding details of the plan were presented to them (Gen 15: 6). Here in the Church Age, that began at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost a few weeks after Christ’s Ascension, everything that Man needs to know and do to be saved has been made known, in the Gospel Message that is encapsulated in John 3: 16, 18. One’s chosen response to the unadulterated Gospel Message clearly determines Heaven or Hell for those who are presented with it. Preserving and proclaiming the Gospel Message to a lost and dying world was and is the primary work that the Lord commissioned His Church to do (Matt.28: 19). In summary, the location of where every soul that God creates will spend eternity, be it in Heaven or Hell, is assured by one’s chosen response to being presented with the Gospel Message. As for those who depart this world before reaching the age or stage of moral accountability (2Sam. 12: 23/Matt. 2: 16), I do not believe they are automatically prevented from entering Heaven, as they never committed the one unpardonable sin of chosen disbelief. Unless insane or deceived, people instinctively know when they have done, are doing, and will do wrong. Accordingly, I believe that those who are never presented with the Gospel Message will be judged by God based on their chosen response to their God-given, Eccl. 3: 11 knowledge of eternity, their Rom. 1: 20 observations, and whatever accurate information with which they were provided (Luke 12: 48), keeping in mind that the sins of the whole world were paid for on the cross (1John 2::2). It is comforting for the advancing disciples to know that there is NO condemnation for those who ARE in Christ Jesus (Romans 8: 1), and that there can be a great reward awaiting them in Heaven for having participated in post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. The question of what becomes of those who are never presented with the Gospel Message is taken off the table when the Gospel Message is presented. This is why the Great Commission was made the primary work of the Church. Sad to say, but in many divisions within the Christian Community, the Great Commission has been placed on the back burner, being replaced with religious traditions of men, humanitarian projects, environmental projects, and political activism (2Tim. 2: 4). None of which can save the souls of the people involved. The devil is well-pleased when Christians prioritize trying to making his world (Luke 4: 6) a better place to live while neglecting the primary work that their Lord gave them to do.