There are two types of people: Those who have heard the gospel and those who have not. Both are judged according to how they respond to what they know. In other words, they will be judged on the amount of “light” which they have received.
Those who have heard the gospel have seen the “light” and by receiving Christ are living up to the level of the light they have received. But there are many people who hear the gospel and reject it. They have not lived up to the light and therefore stand condemned for God.
Of course, this begs the question regarding the natives in Africa who will never be exposed to, or hear, the gospel during their lifetimes. This is certainly unfair to send people to hell and have never had the chance, and most likely never will have the chance, to hear the gospel and respond positively to Christ.
Paul teaches us that these folks will be judged according to how well they live up to what they know and they know much more than we realize. They have an internal conscience which guides him as to what is right and wrong behavior. They can look at the stars at night and see the universe and know that there must be a God who created all.
In a startling way, Paul seems to be teaching us that salvation is available to those who never heard the gospel if they live up to the light they’ve received.
“To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” (Romans 2:7-8).
This idea of living up to the light brings up some intriguing thoughts. Do you know anyone who’s lived up to the light they have received? Is it possible that God accepts for salvation those who have lived up to the light received, then, perhaps, it’s best that we not share the gospel because those who hear it may reject it and be lost. They might have a better chance to live up to the light that you have received.
I’m sharing these thoughts above with you because people have asked me questions like these many times over the years. I’m not declaring any sort of theological statement. I’m just illustrating some of the things with which people wrestle.
People who have greater “light” have more responsibility to live up to the “light” (Matthew 11:23-24).
The key is — are we living up to what we know? The answer is a resounding “No!” No person performs up to the level of what they know. We all fall short.
7. God will evaluate according to the inner secrets of the heart (Romans 2:16).
At the Great White Throne, God will open the closet doors and reveal the secrets of the people who stand there. Jesus spoke of this often (Matthew 10:26-27). Skeletons will come out of closets then. Deeds long buried in the depths of memory will be brought up. Unsolved crimes will find their solutions. These are the secrets of men.
As a Christian, I know with absolute assurance that I will never stand before this Judgment Bar. “There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
(Anyway, I’ve already settled my case out of court!)
The way to avoid The Judgment Seat of Christ is to settle your case before it comes to trial.
Christ said, “If you meet your adversary in the roadway, you had better settle with him, lest he drag you into court and you have to pay to the uttermost penny!” (Matthew 5:25-26).
In this passage, the adversary will be God. He will be Judge, Jury, and Prosecuting Attorney.
Christ died on the cross to offer us a chance to accept him now and settle our sin issue before Judgment Day comes. If we die without Christ, our case will come to trial and God has enough evidence to condemn every person to Hell — and he will. There is mercy now — settle out of court. The days of mercy are not without end. When we die, our choice is sealed for eternity.
Well, Kelly, I hope that my answer is helpful to you and your friends. As far as I’m concerned, this subject is hard to swallow. But it shows us very clearly how devastating is sin and how much God loved us to let his son die to save us.
**Content taken from the article, “How to Understand Why “Good” People Go to Hell,” written by Dr. Roger Barrier. Used with permission.