How does God judge people raised in non-Christian cultures?
Many question how God can send a person to hell who was raised in another religion or has never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the question assumes that God can only reveal Himself in certain ways and not others. Scripture offers another alternative.
First, Scripture is clear that no one deserves salvation. Romans 3:22-24 teaches, "For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Apart from the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we would all perish (John 3:16, 18; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Yet God has revealed Himself to all people. Romans 1:20 teaches, "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." God clearly speaks to all people through the created universe. Because of this, God's Word teaches that those who ignore God are without excuse.
In addition, God reveals Himself to those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 notes that "he rewards those who seek him." An example of this is found in Acts 10. "At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God" (Acts 10:1-2). Cornelius sought God, and the Lord responded by sending Peter to him (Acts 10:19-20). The seeker prayed, and the missionary was on the way. The result was that Cornelius and those in his house came to faith in Christ.
There are many accounts from around the world of God revealing Himself in miraculous ways. Formerly unreached people have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and embraced Him as Savior. God reveals Himself to those who seek Him.
Further, God is perfect in all His ways (Deuteronomy 32:4). He decides how and when to reveal Himself. We are not called to question His ways, but to trust Him (John 3:16). "Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure" (Psalm 147:5).
Heaven will include people who have come to faith in Jesus from "every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9). Believers are called to take the message of Christ to all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). The fact that many die apart from Christ should motivate us to urgently take the gospel to those who have yet to hear, asking God to send more workers into fields ripe for harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).
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