What Will Happen To Those Who Have Never Heard The Gospel?

A popular comedian appeared on a talk show a few years back and was discussing current events and politics with the show’s host. The conversation turned to matters of religion, Christianity, and ultimately, T.V. evangelists. When asked by the host how he felt about the Christian Faith being preached on Television, the comedian quipped, “I just don’t agree with the whole idea, I mean, what about all of the people who haven’t had a chance to hear their Message? I refuse to believe that a billion people in China are going to Hell just because they don’t have Cable.”

The dilemma over how God will deal with those who have never had a chance to receive Christ because of the fact that they never heard of Him has been a point of speculation throughout the history of the Church. Many skeptics (such as the comedian mentioned above) have also pointed to this question and have used it as an argument against the reality of the Gospel. How can God send someone to Hell who never had the chance to put their faith in Him?, they ask, What about all of those people living in the wilds of Africa, or Australia, or South America who have never even heard about Jesus?

What Concern Is That To Us?

“Peter seeing [John] saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.” (John 21:21-22)

Before we consider a possible solution to this question, we should understand that the Word of God does not go into great detail concerning how God will handle this, it concerns itself with our fate and destiny, that is, those who have heard the Gospel and have heard about Jesus Christ. The Bible does not spend a lot of time dealing with the what ifs? and speculations that man has come up with. A theme woven throughout Scripture is that God is good, God is fair, and God is just. We are called to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and to trust that He will deal with all people in a fair and appropriate manner. As He told Peter when he asked of Him what would happen to John, “What is that to thee? Follow Me.” The important question for each of us is not What will God do about the man who has never heard about Jesus?, the important question for each of us is What have I done in response to the fact that I HAVE heard of Jesus?

An Answer That Might Seem Harsh

That being said, I would like to offer up what I believe the Word of God does have to say about the matter; but I will warn you ahead of time that you might not like the answer. I personally have not heard a whole lot of Christian leaders address this issue in public, but a preacher under whom I studied was asked in a classroom setting by prospective ministers about this very thing. He drew in a deep breath and, knowing that this can be a touchy topic, even among Christians, said, “Well, it’s hard to give a short answer without a lot of explanation…but if I had to give a short answer, I would say that these people are lost, even those who have never heard the Gospel.” The gasps amongst our group were audible and the tension was palpable. How could a gentle, God-loving pastor say such a thing! Surely he was mistaken. He had wanted to steer away from the subject and keep on the topic at hand, avoiding the lengthy discussion and perhaps debate which would inevitably follow, but even saying what he did, all attention was off the original topic and planted firmly on this peripheral matter. The truth is that when this question is raised, a lot of people who attempt to address it will give some sort of explanation that basically amounts to God giving a free pass to those who have never heard. Entire heretical denominations calling themselves Christian have arisen based on no other principle than the idea that everybody is OK in the eyes of God and everybody is going to make it to Heaven. Concepts like Hell, eternal damnation, and everlasting conscious separation from God are so distasteful and frightening to some people that they would rather create their own Gospel rather than accept them. The idea of God condemning a “noble, innocent” primitive person, disconnected from the rest of the world and ignorant of what the Bible teaches, is appalling to many people and they would rather believe that God will just pat them on the head, tell them they did the best they could, and sneak them in through the back door of Heaven. But Scripture certainly does not seem to support such a position. Let us take a look at what the Bible tells us:

Perishing Without The Law

“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;” (Romans 2:12)

According to Romans 2:12, there are two kinds of sinners: Those condemned apart from the Law, and those condemned in it. What does that mean exactly? It means that whether or not a person had the revelation of the Law of Moses or not, he was a sinner. Whether the person was an Israelite living under the Mosaic system, or a pagan living under his own moral or ethical system, man is a sinner. Romans 2:15 goes on to explain that those to whom the Law of Moses was never given, that is, those who are wholly ignorant of it, are still guilty of sin and their very consciences bear witness to this fact. They may not have the revelation of God’s specific Law as handed down to Moses on Mt. Sinai, but they are guilty of violating the moral and ethical expectations planted in their own hearts. Those living under the Law of Moses are sinners because they failed to keep that Law; those not living under the Law of Moses are sinners because they have failed to keep the Law written in their heart. Either way, all men have failed to live up to the Light that they have been given. We have all failed to abide by whatever sense of right and wrong we have been given, whether it be the written revelation of the Lord as recorded in His Word, or the sense of right and wrong which He has placed inside each one of us.

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT IS CONDEMNED ALREADY, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18, emphasis added)

Ultimately, people do not go to Hell because they have rejected Christ; people go to Hell because they are sinners and they die in their sins. Those who do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (including those who have never heard) stand condemned already, they do not become condemned because of their rejection of the Gospel. Whether living under the Law of Moses or not, we all stand condemned apart from Christ. A person does not drown in the ocean because they were not thrown a life-line, they drown because they sink in the water and cannot breathe! Indeed, a life-line would have certainly saved them from drowning, but that is not really the cause of their drowning.

So How Is It Fair For God To Deny Some People The Chance To Be Saved?

All right, so I realize that the analogy of a person drowning in the ocean is not completely fitting to the topic at hand. After all, we would expect an omnipotent God to at least offer a life-line to every one of us before we do “drown in the ocean”, wouldn’t we? At least then we would agree that everyone has had a fair chance to either receive or reject the Gospel. I believe that the solution to this question is found in the fact that, not only is God certainly omnipotent and able to offer Salvation to every single person, He is omniscient and aware of who will receive it and who will not. God is not limited in His knowledge; He does not need to wait and see if a particular individual will accept Christ or not. He knows ahead of time what decision each of us will make. If God were as limited in His knowledge as we are, then His justice might be questioned concerning those who were never given the chance. But since God already knows (and has known since the foundation of the world) whether or not every single person to ever live upon the face of the Earth would or would not accept Christ, His justice remains indisputable. God knows the hearts and minds of every man and it is not necessary for the Gospel to actually be presented to us in order for Him to know what our response to it would be.  

God Has Set “The Bounds Of Our Habitation”

“And [God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;” (Acts 17:26)

If we truly believe that God is in control of all things, then we must realize that the time and place into which each of us is born is no accident. God has not arbitrarily determined where and when each person would live, but has appointed a time and place to every man. He has set the bounds of our habitation for His own purposes. I do not believe that God would have caused a person to be born in 8th Century South America if that person would have ever been willing to receive the Gospel. Skeptics have painted the picture of a poor, noble, and good native living in a far off land beyond the reach of missionaries who will be condemned to Hell because he never had the chance to hear about Jesus. But this is not the case. God knew every one of us before He ever even made us and has placed each of us who would ultimately accept Christ in the historical and geographical context wherein we live so that we would be presented with the Gospel and introduced to Christ.

There are, in fact, many instances in Scripture where God reached His hand across boundaries that would otherwise prohibit a person to being exposed to the Gospel, simply because that person did have a ready-heart. They had responded to all of the Light that God had given them thus far, and the Lord was willing to give them more. God sent the Roman Centurion Cornelius to Peter to learn of Christ because he was a “devout man who feared God” (Acts 10:1-2). The Lord sent Philip to the Ethiopian Treasurer because he was a man who sincerely desired to understand the Word of God and have someone explain it to him (Acts 8:30-31). God caused the Apostle Paul and Silas to spend a night in a jail in Philippi for no other reason than the fact that the jailer working there had a ready-heart to say unto them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Time and space are not obstacles to God getting the Gospel through to people, the hardness of man’s heart is. If there were a single, willing person living in the most remote section of the world who would come to Christ if only he knew of Him, we can be certain that God would move Heaven and Earth to make it happen.

If They Be Not Lost, Then Why Do We Look For Them?

In the discussion I mentioned above about the pastor giving us his viewpoint in the classroom, he finally concluded his remarks by what was the most crucial reason, in his opinion, for believing the way he did: “If the people who have never heard the Gospel are not lost, then what is the point in going to them?” When we look at all of the missionaries throughout Church history who sacrificed so much to travel at great expense and in great peril to the uttermost parts of the Earth so that they might preach Christ to ears who had never heard of Him, to think that their efforts were in vain is a tragedy of the highest order. For not only would their efforts have been unnecessary if those ignorant of the Gospel are not truly perishing, their efforts would have actually been damaging to the very ones they sought to help! If ignorance alleviates responsibility, then woe to the one who teaches! Would it not be in everyone’s best interest for missionaries to stay home if their prospective converts are Heaven-bound already?

God Is Fair

I recognize that there are other viewpoints and opinions about this topic and that it is certainly controversial. I believe the viewpoint I have given because, to me, it seems to best fit with the record of Scripture. I realize that many people find it offensive and appalling to suggest that there will be those condemned to an eternity in Hell who never even heard the Gospel preached, but this is what the Word of God tells us. I pray that as we ponder this reality it gives us all the greater sense of urgency to get the Message of Christ to as many people as we can. In the end, God is fair and God is just. If He never offered His grace to a single living soul He would still be justified in condemning every last one of us. But praise God, He does offer His grace to as many as will accept it. For those who, like the comedian on the talk show that we mentioned at the beginning of this article, would rely on the objection of what God will do with those who have never heard as a reason for their own unbelief, we should understand that God’s only question to all of us is: “What did YOU do with the Light I gave you?” The question of how God dealt with everyone else will be totally irrelevant when we stand before Him, for each of us will stand alone before Him someday. The only thing that will matter is how WE responded to the grace of God and the Message of the Gospel.

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52 responses

  1. Loren,

    This could not have been said better!….. Thank you for presenting all the various aspects of this subject…. It’s sad how some become so vehement in denying all the biblical support you refered to…. And you know there is a lot more support in God’s word…..

    Years ago, I read a book on doctrine, written by a so-called Christian church, which is nothing but a cult…. One of its church leaders was quoted as saying that he could never, ever believe in a God who would not take every one of his family members into heaven….. What defiance!…. One could say he was actually worshiping his family, instead of God.

    I hope that many will take the time to research God’s word on all that you have said…. Then maybe they might get a glimpse of God’s holiness and righteousness…. The LORD is absolutely perfect in everything He says and does — not just the things that we want to imagine to suit our fancy….. God knows what is best, just, and righteous in every situation.

    Thank you and may God bless your ministry.

    Margaret

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  2. Loren, This is an excellent post. I agree that God is omniscient and knows the heart of each human. If a person has a humble and contrite heart, and responds to the Light and knowledge that He has given them concerning His existence and majesty, then He will do what it takes to draw them to Himself and make Christ known. I used to work for a man who made this very argument about Christianity, though his wife was a strong Christian. Unfortunately, at the time I was not myself well-versed in the Word and did not have an answer for him. Now I would be much better equipped to answer his objection, especially after reading your well-organized and supported post. Peace, Linda

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  3. I am the LORD; there is no other God. I have prepared you, even though you do not know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the LORD, and there is no other. (Isaiah: 45;5-6)
    For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (Rom: 1;20)

    I think we should try and look at the question as God see’s it, after all he is the “author of our salivation” He has the “copy right”. He has the answer.

    Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Prov: 3;5)
    I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; [Even] every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. (Isa: 43;6)

    In Gods creation of man, he has no separation into races. We are all the children of Adam. We are “Adam”.
    By the time Gods plan for this age is over no man shall be without excuse, even from the days of old.

    But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report
    So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
    But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. (Rom: 10;16-18)

    In Christ:
    Rakau

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  4. Loren,

    Thanks much . ( I’m posting tomorrow about the Light and the light He’s given to us. I smiled when I read the related line above.) Thanks for taking the time to research and share with us. The comments made me smile and think at the same time. Our Christian experiences are far more similar than we sometimes think. :-)

    “If we truly believe that God is in control of all things, then we must realize that the time and place into which each of us is born is no accident. God has not arbitrarily determined where and when each person would live, but has appointed a time and place to every man…”

    As you said, there are many views and this is a controversial topic. I don’t ‘know’ what God plans to do about those who ‘have never heard’ let alone not accepted Christ. Truth is. I don’t need to know. My direction is in Acts 2:28 … Go ye therefore … Salvation is His responsibility. We go/tell/teach/share etc … He saves :-)

    Some years ago we had the (heated) discussion in our Bible Study and we were pointed to Exodus 33. ( I wish I knew how to make verse 19 stand out bold or italicized… sorry) I am older and wiser (in Him) now. I’ve learnt to listed to His prompting and politely excuse myself from discussions. Back then I didn’t know better … O how thankful I am for His grace!

    [ ** “Moses said to God, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.”

    14 God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”

    15-16 Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”

    17 God said to Moses: “All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name.”

    18 Moses said, “Please. Let me see your Glory.”

    19 God said, “I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I’ll call out the name, God, right before you. I’ll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I’ll be kind to whomever I want to be kind.”

    20 God continued, “But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live.” **]

    I believe the King James version says in verse 19 “I will have mercy on whomI will have mercy” I have heard of this section being described as the ‘cop out’ … that God is able to do as He pleases, whether or not we’re on board with it. Personally, I can’t say whether this verse grants that or not but the Word does teach that those who die outside of Christ are lost.

    “I pray that as we ponder this reality it gives us all the greater sense of urgency to get the Message of Christ to as many people as we can. In the end, God is fair and God is just. If He never offered His grace to a single living soul He would still be justified in condemning every last one of us. But praise God, He does offer His grace to as many as will accept it.”

    Praying alongside you! [We could spend the rest of our lives ‘proving others wrong’ or we could truly run with the Word. When I listen to the missionary reports at church I am touched at how quickly the Gospel is being shared. Technology has made it easier for us to share His love. True, I’d rather spend time passing the word along than arguing about who’s right. (Proverb’s 20:3 It’s a mark of good character to avert quarrels, but fools love to pick fights.) ]

    The discussions will continue until He returns. There are those who will hear and change and there are those who won’t. The recent posts of Pharoah’s hard heart and Noah’s ark building have taught us much. People will be people. We’re not building arks now but there’s a church ‘on every corner’ where I’m from and still there are those who go and come without hearing the message. Are they pre-destined to a life of damnation? Will they slide under the radar on Exodus 33:19? If He calls and we choose not to answer, we have already chosen. The ‘end times’ will eventually come to an end.

    I remember telling my mother about all the questions I would ask Jesus. She told me “one look at His face and all the questions will be immediately answered. You’ll be so caught up in Him that nothing else will matter” :-)

    Thanks again, Loren. Always great reading your posts – feels like a ‘way back when’ Bible -Study session, technologically enhanced ;-) May God continue to bless the works of your hands and may He put a word on your tongue each time you open your mouth.

    Blessings,
    ann

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  5. Thank you Loren, for tackling the hard questions. I think maybe once in a reply to a question I asked, you touched on this, as far as God knowing who will come to Him, and us sharing Him with everyone we can . . .because we don’t know. I’m pretty naive. Guess I thought that before Jesus returns everyone will actually have had a chance to hear the gospel, in someway, somehow. I don’t want anyone to perish, and neither does He. So I will pray and tell all I can and trust Him because He is God. He’s got this covered . . .even if that means the lost stay lost. God bless you Loren. You do a wonderful job at teaching here. You are so understandable and back up everything with scripture and I appreciate you so much! :)

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  6. […] I decided to post what I had written, only slightly edited, and include here a link to the post at Answers from the Book. The reason I’ve included this link to Loren’s post is because in it he answers the […]

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  7. You did a great job dealing with a difficult subject. I appreciate your willingness to tackle it. “we should understand that God’s only question to all of us is: “What did YOU do with the Light I gave you?” That is going to be a hard enough question for me to deal with. So convicting.
    Thanks,
    Ben

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  8. Thank you so much, Margaret, for the wonderfully encouraging comments :)

    I remember seeing one of those street evangelism encounters a few years back where Ray Comfort was presenting the Gospel to a woman. When he began to talk about Hell, the woman became very angry and said, “I can’t believe in a God Who would ever send someone to Hell just for not believing in Him! My God would NEVER send anyone to Hell, my God loves everyone and will let everyone into Heaven!”

    “That is very true”, Comfort calmly replied, “But YOUR God does not exist. The real God has clearly said in His Word that those who do not come to Him are lost and are going to spend eternity in Hell.”

    The person who wrote the book you mentioned sounds like someone else who is following a god of their own creation. I am curious how this man would interpret Matthew 10:35-37. Definitely sounds like he has put his family members above God.

    “I hope that many will take the time to research God’s word on all that you have said”

    I hope so, too. If anything I write leads anyone to spend more time in God’s Word and leads them to want to know the Lord Jesus better, then this has certainly been time well spent :)

    Thanks again, Margaret, and may God bless your ministry, too.

    Your friend in Christ,

    Loren

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  9. Hi Linda, thanks for the wonderful comments :)

    I read your post yesterday, “When Faith Is About Me.” What a wonderful post! It’s kind of funny because the next post in Romans to come after this one on my own blog covers 2:17-2:29. I actually wrote it a while back and the very first part of it relates to the first group of people you mentioned in yours. “Behold, thou art called a Jew” (2:17) is a perfect picture of those relying on their spiritual heritage to make them right with God. I always love it when several of us are led to write about the same things on our blogs :)

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  10. Thanks, Rakau, for sharing these great comments and tying in the additional Scripture references :)

    I firmly believe that no man will have an excuse before God. That is why these opening chapters in Romans are so crucial; they demonstrate this to be true by systematically toppling any and all excuses that man could offer. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

    Thanks again, Rakau, for sharing these thoughts. God bless you!

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  11. Hi Ann. Thanks for the wonderful comments :)

    Several months ago, I came across a couple of different websites that were focused on dealing with Theological discussions and examinations of Scripture. As I began to read through some of the material, I discovered that they had a slightly different method of looking at the Bible than I do. The emphasis was on etymology and trying to determine what each specific word used in the verses in question was really intending to convey. As I read through the comments, I quickly realized that the message behind the passages of Scripture in question had been all but lost as the participants argued and debated over whose knowledge of New Testament Greek was superior and who had the better translation.

    It seems that there are always those who get caught up in these peripheral issues and want to debate and argue over things that are not really that important in the long run. Like the Medieval clerics who locked themselves away in remote abbeys so that they were free to spend their time arguing about how many angels could fit on the head of a pin while a lost and hurting world died apart from Christ outside of their gates, we have many heated discussions today about things that do little but distract us from the Great Commission of preaching to the lost.

    I honestly don’t believe that it really affects us in one way or the other to know how God will deal with other groups of people, but I do know that this has been a common question/objection about the Bible that I felt was prudent to address. For us who have experienced God’s love, grace, and mercy: there is no question that God will deal fairly and justly with all people. It is understandably difficult for those who have not experienced this by coming to faith in Christ to truly understand anything about God’s nature at all. I agree with you, I would sure rather just “preach the Word” than argue about any of this. I do hope that some who have wrestled with this issue might find the explanations I have presented satisfactory.

    Your mother sounds like a very wise woman. I know that we will be so overwhelmed in the presence of the Lord that nothing else will matter. All of these questions over which people argue will seem so absurd and silly, I am sure.

    Thanks again, Ann, for the thoughtful comments…always a pleasure to read them :)

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  12. Thanks, Deb, for your encouraging thoughts :)

    “I will pray and tell all I can and trust Him because He is God. He’s got this covered”

    That’s exactly what I was trying to say in a much more “wordy” way! Oh, that we would all just trust Him to handle all of these things in His own wisdom.

    Thanks, Deb, again. Your encouragement is such a blessing!

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  13. Thanks, Ben, I appreciate the encouragement.

    That is going to be a hard enough question. I know that I could have and should have done so much more with the Light He has given! Praise God for His wonderful grace and mercy, for these words convict me, as well.

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  14. Loren . . .I hope you don’t mind me asking a question on here . . .off topic? If you can’t answer, that’s okay! I understand!
    I had done a devotion from Luke 5:5-6, where satan is tempting Jesus, has taken Him to the top of the mountain, showing Him all the kingdoms of the world. Satan tells Jesus that all this authority and glory has been delivered to him and he can give it to whoever he wishes.
    Someone asked if what satan said is true . . .have all the kingdoms of the world been delivered to him?
    Thank you for whatever help you can give! Hope I’m not bugging you!

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  15. Hi Loren,

    Matthew 10:35-37 graphically sets forth what we need to know about God’s justice, righteousness, and love…. God’s children have had to stand in opposition to their family members since the beginning — Adam with Cain, Eli’s sons, Samuel’s sons, David with Absolom, and many others….. And then, there were good kings who undid the evil of their fathers….. One can imagine the heartbreak verses the defiance.

    Since the book I read years ago was from the library, I don’t have reference to it now, but Matthew 10 was probably not brought up….. Such a tactic seems to be in use quite often when people want to twist scripture to suit their fancy…. I wonder if they have a clue about how corrupt and unjust their way is in comparison to God’s way.

    The one thing that puzzles me is how to balance Proverbs 22:6 with the biblical family situations mentioned above…..Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”…. This seems like a promise, and yet sincere Christian parents can experience their children abandoning faith in Jesus…. There are so many possible factors, only God knows all and is able to judge rightly…. The pain Christian parents have is heart rending…. They cannot figure out how or why things turned out the way they did…..

    I visit some elderly parents in nursing homes, who are still praying for their grown children and grandchildren, who have gone astray…. They know everything is in the hands of our just and loving God, but still wish they could see their children come to faith…. Their love for their children has not failed, just as God’s love for us does not fail….. It’s hard to put into words.

    What I love about my elderly friends is that they still take comfort in the truths of God’s salvation in Christ and know that all their tears will be wiped away.

    Margaret

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  16. It’s no problem at all, I will gladly share my thoughts about it :)

    In the New Testament, there are three different Greek words that are all translated as World in English. One carries the meaning of an age or eon (the word in Greek actually is aion — eon) and is used in verses like Matt. 12:32, MK. 4:19, and Luke 18:30 and is normally used to distinguish between this life on Earth and the next, eternal life to come. Most of the newer Bible translations use the word age for this term.The second word (oikoumene) refers to the “inhabited Earth” or the physical “world” itself. Finally, we have the third word for “world” which is Kosmos (we get the English Cosmos and cosmopolitan from it). It really refers to the order of things, or the “world order”. It is a political description of how governments and kingdoms are ran. When Jesus says in John 17:16 that neither we nor He is “of this world”, this is what He is talking about. In fact, all of those references to the world throughout John Chapters 14-17 are all references to the Kosmos world. The Kosmos is the sin-stained, corrupted world, it is the “powers that be” which are in rebellion against God.

    It is this world over which Satan has control and it is this world that contains the “kingdoms” that he mentions to Jesus during the temptation. So, in short, yes, Satan was right when he told the Lord Jesus this. It is interesting to note our Lord’s response: He does not dispute that it is within Satan’s power to hand these things over to Him and many have suggested that, were the devil mistaken in this 1.) Our Lord would have certainly known it and probably pointed this out and, 2.) It wouldn’t have really been much of a temptation if Satan did not have the ability to follow through with his enticement.

    Elsewhere, Jesus refers to the devil as the “prince of this world” (John 12:31, 14:30 — again, it is Kosmos referred to in these verses). The Apostle Paul refers to the devil as “The god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) and “The prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). God has given Satan a certain amount of authority and power on this Earth over the political system of the world. The kingdoms of this world are ultimately under his dominion. Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 14:12-17 and Ezekiel 28:13-19 give us a glimpse of the condition in which God originally created the devil before he fell. God has not stripped Satan of all of the authority and power which He endowed him with…yet :)

    I took the time to briefly write what I did in the first paragraph because I always feel that it is important to distinguish what it is exactly that the devil does have a reign over. I have heard some teach that Satan is ultimately in control of everything on this planet and that is simply not true. The Earth belongs to the Lord and the fulness thereof (Ps. 24:1, 1 Cor. 10:26), God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10). Any power that Satan has exists simply because God allows it (see, for example, Job 1:9-12, 2:6-7, and Rev. 13:7, 20:7). As children of God, we should always remember that: while the devil does have a certain amount of authority over things in this world, the One Who indwells us is greater than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4) and Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33)!

    Hope this helped, Deb, God bless you :) I wrote a post way back when I first was in Genesis that compared Eve’s temptation with the Lord Jesus’ (click here). You might find it interesting. Have a great day, talk to you later!

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  17. Loren, I can’t thank you enough for all the time you put into answering me. That really helps and it makes so much more sense. Sometimes I have a “feeling” about what something means, but I don’t want to go telling someone something that’s not right. . .that’s just from what I feel. You truly are answers from the book! :) God bless you and all the ways you serve Him and help us! :)

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  18. Hi Margaret,

    I remember hearing years ago about how Franklin Graham (the son of Billy Graham) came to Christ. He lived in rebellion against God until he was in his early twenties (I think it was around that age that he got saved…I can’t remember for sure — It was definitely after he had moved out of his parents’ house) and had resisted all of his father’s efforts to convert him. Imagine, the son of one of the world’s most successful evangelists who had led crusades where thousands first committed to Christ remaining an atheist into his twenties! Finally, Franklin’s parents met with him and his father said, “Son, we have done all that we can to lead you to the Lord. We have raised you the way that God expected us to, we have witnessed to you, we have prayed for you. Now it’s up to you. You have to decide whether or not you will follow the Lord, we cannot decide that for you.”

    It really does seem like a lot of Christians have children who are unsaved. Some of the most devout ministers are parents of some of the worst behaved kids in their schools. The P.K. (“Preacher’s Kid”) syndrome, I have heard it called. It does seem, however, that a lot of these rebellious children do eventually come around and come to the Lord. Franklin Graham eventually gave his heart to the Lord and now has a prominent ministry of his own (as does his sister, Ann Graham-Lotz). I believe that it is very often this godly foundation laid down by faithful parents that God uses to bring these kids back home to Him. Even so, I do feel for these elderly folks who are praying so fervently to see their kids and grandkids come to faith before they themselves go on to be with the Lord.

    As far as balancing Proverbs with what is written in passages like Matthew 10, I would suggest that the Book of Proverbs is just that: a book of axioms, maxims, or “rules of thumb.” These are wise sayings that are generally true, but certainly not always. Take, for instance, the preceding verse in Proverbs 22:5, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward…” We know that this is very often the case, but what about all of the wicked, heartless people who never seem to have any trouble at all? David himself wrestled with this very thing and wrote in several of his Psalms (Psalm 10, for instance) about how the wicked and unjust so often seemed to go unpunished.

    Solomon writes in the opening verses of Proverbs that the purpose of this book is to give instruction for wisdom, understanding, knowledge and discretion (Prov. 1:1-5). It is the learned and aged father giving words of guidance to the young man. The instructions given in Proverbs are definitely sound and godly advice, but things do not always work out as they should. The child being trained up in a God-fearing home must still make their own decision someday as to whether or not they will make the decision to follow the Lord or not; they still have their own free will. Prayerfully, they will do as Franklin Graham and many others have and find their way back home. It has been rightfully said that God has no “grandchildren”, only children. I pray that the Lord strengthens me and gives me the wisdom to raise my own children in a way that they will not depart from Him when the time comes for them to make their own decision.

    God bless you, Margaret, thanks for sharing these wonderful thoughts :)

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  19. Loren,

    I’ve been thinking about what you have said…. Proverbs was written “to give instruction for wisdom, understanding, knowledge and discretion” (Prov. 1:1-5). … But, in the same breath, it is still inspired by God… “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)….

    On proverbs like you mentioned, Proverbs 22:5, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward…”, we certainly do see the wicked being successful in worldly ways…. Psalm 92:6-7 speaks to those things — “A senseless man has no knowledge; nor does a stupid man understand this: that when the wicked sprouted up like grass, and all who did iniquity flourished, it was only that they might be destroyed forevermore.”

    Looking at both of those scriptures, I gather that these “froward” are senseless and stupid in that they do not understand that they are choosing to go to hell, even though they are seemingly flourishing in this world…. Their riches are their “thorns and snares” because they fool them into thinking they are successful.

    It is a blessing when a “Preacher’s Kid” decides to give his life to the Lord…. They are like the rebellious children of good Christian parents…. Some turn to the Lord and others don’t ever seem to that we know of anyway…. Maybe all that is supposed to be a test of faith, hope, and love…. We still know that God’s love is true and faithful, if they ever choose to turn back to Him.

    Thank you for all your helpfulness on this deep concern of many Christian parents.

    Margaret

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  20. Hey Margaret,

    It certainly was not my intention in my last response to you to downplay the significance of the Book of Proverbs in any way. Indeed, all Scripture is given by inspiration. Yet not all Scripture is intended to be taken as a clear-cut promise from God. We find the Book of Proverbs within the section of Scripture that has been labeled as Wisdom Literature. The intention, I believe, of these books (Job, Ecclesiastes, and portions of Psalms rounding out the section) is to address the practical problems of life and to examine certain spiritual and moral perplexities such as the prosperity of the wicked (as we have used as an example) and the suffering of the righteous (a major theme throughout the Book of Job). Therefore, I would place the bulk of these books into the practical category rather than the doctrinal.

    Are they Scripturally accurate? Absolutely. Do they teach us great and timeless wisdom inspired from the throne of God? Without a doubt. Are they intended to establish incontrovertible doctrines of the Faith? Not necessarily. When we look at some of the more doctrinal books of the New testament, or the writings of the prophets in the Old Testament, the tone is much different as well as the authority with which they are written. We see no “Thus saith the Lord” statements in Proverbs nor do we see what might be seen as a “direct quote” from the mouth of God. When we look at the Book of Proverbs, I think we are looking at a portion of those “3,000 proverbs” that Solomon was known for speaking (1 Kings 4:32) — at least in the portion of Proverbs attributed to him. Again, I do not say all this to undermine the veracity of the Book of Proverbs; I only say all of this to differentiate between the portions of Scripture that I would interpret as an irrevocable promise of God and those which are not. As I mentioned before, I honestly believe that Prov. 22:6 is an axiom that is generally proven true in real-life experience, but as we have both considered, certainly not always so.

    One final thought: I personally feel very adamantly that the Bible does not contain “errors” or “contradictions”, and I often write explanations concerning many of the more prominent allegations as I come to them. But if I were attempting to balance the words of Jesus against the teachings of a Book such as Proverbs, well, as Jesus said: “A greater than Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:42). I believe that the words of Solomon definitely give us some wonderful guidelines for conducting a prudent and godly life, but the Words of Jesus are life. What He has told us can absolutely be taken as a promise from the mouth of God, for that is exactly what they are.

    Anyway, I have written all of this for the purpose of stating how I would personally balance these two sections of Scripture. I am certain that there are many who would disagree. Thanks again, Margaret, for sharing your wonderful thoughts on all of this. May the Lord richly bless you, my friend.

    Loren

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  21. Hi Loren,

    You have explained this so well….. These are all vital facts for everyone to consider….. And, I apologize for seeming to come across as not acknowledging this…. I’m sorry…. I should have written that in a better manner….

    I think Proverbs 22:6 would be an axiom just as you said…. In Proverbs 22:5 I see those “Thorns and snares in the way of the perverse” as something they are clueless about, but they are there…. Somewhere in scripture it talks about how the wicked have it so good in this life, but all their seemingly easy times are nothing but a trap for them….. They have wicked, defiant hearts and God allows them to think they are successful so that they end up condemning themselves for all eternity….. I’m not explaining this well at all…. It’s just that they don’t see their riches as “thorns and snares”, but their riches are leading them to be so self-confident that they have no regard for God….

    I quit…. Any way, Loren, you said it very clearly…. Thank you so much.

    Margaret

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  22. Margaret,

    I’m glad that you said I explained it clearly because I sure didn’t think I had! I know that you and I are usually on the same page with these things, but for some reason I felt obligated to write such a thorough explanation for the benefit of others who might read through these comments later. No matter how I phrased it, it seemed to me that I was coming off as being argumentative; and I certainly did not want to seem so :(

    I’ve mentioned from time to time that I have a background of having been influenced by some really bad teachings; I am familiar with a lot of the Scripture twisting that goes on because I used to believe it! There are those who teach that every single verse of the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is a personal, non-negotiable promise directly from God to the modern Christian. They teach that all one needs to do is thumb through the Word of God like you would a Sears catalog and just “pick out” which verse you want to “claim” for your life and — poof! — it will be done! I know that you do not believe like this, but I took the opportunity to use your comment to expand on why that type of teaching is false. I am truly sorry if I seemed argumentative and “nit-picky” over what you wrote.

    By the way, I think you explained Proverbs 22:5 very well and I totally agree with your take on it. In a nutshell, it seems the summary of the “prosperity of the wicked” problem is that they will all ultimately reap what they have sown — if not in this life, then certainly in the next.

    I thank you so much, Margaret, for taking the time to share your very thought-provoking comments with us and may the Lord continue to bless you as you write your wonderful studies in His Word!

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  23. Hi Loren! Just a note to let you know that I am following a blog that does just what you spoke of, goes through each line, each word, in Greek even at times. I want to support and encourage this person . .. I know he knows his stuff . . .but so glad that you cover it in a manner where I come away with the bigger picture of what God is doing and why! :) Thank you!!!!

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  24. Loren,

    You know what?… I’m sort of thinking that all of this was meant to be, so that some future reader of this post will have a lot of puzzlements cleared up…. :) … We know that God works all things for the good of those who love His name.

    I’m looking forward to your next post…

    Margaret

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  25. Wow, thanks so much Deb. That really means a lot to me, thank you :)

    I definitely think it can be a very valuable thing to break down Scripture word-for-word and look at the original languages, etc. I have learned a great deal from those who sure know a lot more than I do about these things and I recognize that this is what the Lord has called some people to do. But I do believe that the primary goal of spending time in the Word of God is to bring us to know God better. If we get so bogged down in trying to put every single syllable of the text under a microscope that we lose sight of the One Who wrote it, well, we are defeating the purpose. Any study of the Bible that helps us to know the Lord and His will for us better is time well spent.

    There are so many lessons that we can learn from every single passage of the Bible; lessons that help us in our daily walk with the Lord. It is my calling and my privilege to share what I have learned from time spent in His Word….thanks for joining me on this wonderful journey through His Word!

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  26. Many thanks for your article. I enjoyed your exegesis and reasonings/applications. Just a couple of questions the first is on Acts 17:26 You mention Gods control of all things (which I agree with) and Gods foreknowledge of each and every human. However your statement below throws me into some confusion;

    “God has not arbitrarily determined where and when each person would live, but has appointed a time and place to every man”

    Your help would be much appreciated. I have heard Christians talk of “Spirit’s” in heaven lined up waiting for bodies on earth, like some sort of well oiled machine (Matrix style!)

    I find no basis for this view in scripture. Rather I understand our individual “creation” starts from the point of conception. That God can know us before this point does not mean we exist prior to this point. Does that make sense? I hope you follow my drift.

    Thus i cannot see that God places us in any specific place, rather God see’s our heart and leads us to his son no matter where we are born. Consequently even a person stuck in the remotest parts of the world who has never heard of Jesus, if his heart is right surely could be given divine revelation of salvation truth.

    Coming to my second point, eschatology may help unravel the apparent unfairness of God. Many who hold to a literal millennium understand their to be two Judgments. The Bema seat Judgement (2 Cor. 5:10) for believers, and the Great White Throne Judgement for the rest of the dead. (Rev 20:11-15)

    If the Revelation is dealing with Judgement based on Works then this could well include those who have never heard the Gospel. While I fully reject universalism and am not making any excuses for the lost, if we understand this Judgement in relation to similar phraseology in the old testament which speak of books of Works it is feasible that those who lived their lives according to the law of conscience obeyed God even though sinners. They were never officially saved and are thus dead in their sins yet they lived according to the law of conscience.

    For example Pre-Christian Patriarchs, and many pre-flood persons did not know of Jesus or the Gospel, yet the Bible speaks of these men as having had righteousness imputed to them by their faith. (Heb 10:38, Heb Chpt. 11) thus while we are NOT saved by works, God can by our Faith impute righteousness.

    Could it be that some who have never heard the Gospel be seen by God as righteous, as he reads the heart? Could it be that yet while sinners and estranged from Christ by their actions they intrinsically know him afar off?

    If Revelation 20 is dealing with the lost then it implies two destinies. The revelation says “Books were opened and another book was opened…the book of life…and the dead (unrighteous) were judged according to their WORKS/DEEDS…anyone not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”

    This sounds like some have their names in the book of life who have never officially become Christians? (Php. 4:3) This could well include ones from all History. The destiny of those before the Great White Throne appears to be based on Works, and some of these Judged on works have their names are in the book of life and go into eternity. Could these include those who’s hearts were read by God and he imputed to them his righteousness, foreknowing that in their hearts they had accepted his son?

    These are just thoughts but they may help someone struggling with the idea of eternal Judgement. God ultimately knows all hearts, even many professing Christians will not inherit the Kingdom.

    Obviously I am not being dogmatic and all your opinions are most appreciated. looking forward to a reply!

    Blessings to you all in Yeshua our LORD
    Jason

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  27. Hi, Jason, thanks for reading this and taking the time to share your thoughts on it :)

    Whew! You have given me much to chew on, how awesome! I will attempt to work through your comments line-by-line and offer up my own thoughts:

    To your first point, I absolutely agree with you. The idea that Heaven holds a “waiting room” of little baby spirits who have yet to be born on Earth is not supported by Scripture at all. I remember watching a movie years ago (I think it was called “The Seventh Sign”, Demi Moore was in it) in which the events of Revelation commenced because the “holding area” of Heaven had run out of souls and the End Times could now begin. While this might be a springboard for an entertaining story, it is definitely unscriptural.

    If our spirits existed pre-incarnately, then at what point in time were they created? The spirit of man is immortal, that is, it will never perish once it has been created, but it is not eternal, in that it has always existed. At some point, God created each and every individual spirit, and it really only makes sense that He would do so at conception. There is nothing in the Bible that would suggest that anyone was in the presence of God before they were born. When the Word of God says that the Lord “formed man in the womb” (e.g., Is. 44:2), I believe that implies the totality of man: spirit, mind, and body.

    So how could God know us before we were conceived (such as Jeremiah states in Jer. 1:5)? I believe that this speaks of God’s perfect foreknowledge, His omniscience of events that will come. God knew the end of all things from the very beginning (Is. 46:10) and He surely knew everything about each of us before he ever made us. Rather than referring to knowing us in the sense of acquaintance, this indicates God’s knowledge of our personality and actions before He ever created us.

    On this basis, it seems to follow that God would employ this knowledge in determining where and when each individual would live their life. I believe Acts 17:26 is referring to this (though it specifically refers more to nations of people rather than individuals). God has determinded beforehand the boundaries and habitations of each nation and race of people who would ever live, and it follows that He would exercise equal precision in determining the specific individuals who would comprise each nation. If kings and rulers reign by the ordination of God, if the Lord is the One Who determines who will sit on the thrones of government (Prov. 8:15-16, Rom. 13:1), does He not also determine over whom they shall rule?

    Moving on to your second point, you present a very intriguing case for the idea that some may be saved who have not directly known the Lord Jesus Christ. I am reminded of a quote I heard that stated, “Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t mean that all who are saved necessarily know His name.” If we apply this to the faithful living before Christ, then yes, I whole-heartedly agree. Abraham, Moses, David, the Old Testament prophets, these people were all saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, though their faith was credited to them during their lives until the death and resurrection of Jesus actually occurred. These individuals lived before the Lord Jesus’ earthly life, but they were still saved by the same Atonement we are. How? As Hebrews 11 shows us, by faith in God. Their faith was credited to them for righteousness. Whose righteousness? Their own? Certainly not. The same righteousness that is credited to us who have lived after the First Coming: even the impuited righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Now, that covers the folks mentioned in the Old Testament, what about those who were not? Were others saved also through the blood of Christ though they lived long before the Crucifixion? Maybe even living in another country, another continent? I hesitate to answer emphatically. We do know that there were individuals who trusted in the living God of Heaven, though they were not members of the nation Israel. One obvious example is the Gentile king of Salem, Melchizedek (Gen. 14:17-20). This man was a “priest of the Most High God” (v.18), surely he was saved. What other people are we not told of who also followed God? We do not know.

    Before Christ came, it makes sense to me that it was unnecessary for God to bring the Gospel to individuals since the Gospel had yet to be fulfilled. We know that a real faith and trust in the living God was all that was needed and that this faith would be credited toward the coming Crucifixion and Resurrection. But what about afterward? Is God still crediting on this basis?

    “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:29-30)

    While it may not have been important (or really even possible) before Christ came to believe specifically on His name, it certainly seems that now it is. Throughout the Book of Acts, Paul goes out to the Pagan world, imploring them to come to faith in Jesus Christ. No other name has been given whereby we must be saved , Peter declares to the Jewish leaders (Acts 4:12). Faith specifically in Jesus Christ is non-negotiable.

    Finally, in reference to the Great White Throne Judgment, we are told that the lost are judged according to their works. But while we are told in Scripture that men will be judged by their works, we also know that no one will ever be saved by their works (e.g., Rom. 3:20, Gal. 2:16, Eph. 2:8-9). Man is condemned by original sin as well as his own personal sin, and the works and deeds of each individual will stand as a testimony to each person’s guiltiness and to God’s justice.

    The “books” are opened at this Judgment, and out of these “books” (the “books” of each person’s works and deeds) are the lost judged. The Book of Life is there, opened before them, as a witness to the absence of their names in it. No one whose name is in the Book of Life will stand before this Judgment. As you mentioned, the saved will stand before the Bema Seat Judgment where rewards will be determined, not Salvation. I understand the idea that you are suggesting, but it does not seem to corroborate the rest of Scripture that any person would be justified on the basis of works, right?

    That someone who has never heard of Christ might still possess a genuine faith in the Living God, I suppose, is possible. But I honestly believe that God would find a way to get the gospel to them that they might come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. I do not believe that He would leave them ignorant of the Gospel. Except God draws a person to Himself, they cannot really know Him, and if He draws someone, would He not provide a way for them to really know Him, that is, through the Person and work of Jesus? That none are righteous of their own accord, that none are seeking after God, is explicitly declared in passages such as Romans 3:10-20. How God determines who He will and who He will not draw to Himself, I do not know. All I know is that His Word states that His grace comes through faith in Jesus Christ and that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).

    I do not wish to be dogmatic about these things; I honestly hope that there is something I have overlooked. I shudder at the thought of entire civilizations perishing who did not hear the Gospel. Even so, it fills me with an even greater desire to do what I can to spread the Message to as many who will listen. How God deals with every man is between Him and them. I know that He is just and fair.

    Thank you so much for all of the thought and time you put into your comments, and thanks for visiting and reading what I have to say. I really appreciate all that you have given me to think about and consider here :) I welcome you to share your insights, comments, and questions as often as you like.

    May the Lord richly bless you. To Him goes all glory,

    Loren

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  28. Thank you so much for posting this. I have been a Christian for 20 years, and have never felt even the slightest waiver or ever questioned God’s justice until this subject was brought up to me last night. I guess I had always thought that God would give everyone a chance to accept or deny Jesus. So when I really started to think about it, pray, and search the Bible, I didn’t see that anywhere. It kept me up all night. I cried, I pleaded with God, I really struggled with this. Knowing that God is God, and I am merely human helps me to understand, with the help from this article, that God knows ahead of time who will chose Him and who will not. I’m sure I will sleep better tonight. I also am now wondering about innocent people such as babies and people with developmental disabilities, do they come to the full knowledge of Jesus in Heaven and still have to chose, or because they died without sinning, that they never have to make that choice?

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  29. Hi Mary, thank you so much for reading this and taking the time to share your thoughts :)

    I am glad that you found this article helpful. I believe that a lot of Christians have struggled with these questions; I know that I have. It is enough to know that God will do what is right concerning everyone, but I think that it also helps to have at least a vague idea of how it will work out. We know that the Lord is neither cruel nor unjust, and yet we also know that there will be countless multitudes who will never have heard the name of Jesus in this life. The fact that He foreknew each of us before we were ever born and what our ultimate response to the Gospel would be, whether or not we ever actually heard it, seems to make the most sense to me based on what the Bible tells us.

    As far as those incapable of truly trusting in Christ because of youth or disability, I believe that they fall under a covering of grace that the rest of us do not. Throughout Scripture we see a recuring theme of God’s judgments being in direct relation to a person’s capacity to respond to Him. With greater understanding and revelation inevitably comes a greater responsibility. God judges all people based on the light that they have. For those unable to make a cognitive decision or rejection, I believe that they are received into the arms of the Lord without having to make a decision after-the-fact. That is a very interesting question, though!

    Thanks again for reading this and sharing these comments. May the Lord richly bless you :)

    Loren

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  30. Hello, Loren, Paul Richards here. It has been a long time since I introduced myself. Other attentions, including the passing of my dear father, have taken priority.

    I think another factor that needs to be developed further is General Revelation. You and a few of your readers have commented on it. I heard an interesting observation recently that went something like this: If you believe the Bible (special revelation) has no errors and accomplishes its purposes, then why don’t you believe the Creation (general revelation) has the same characteristics? Well, I guess I *do* believe the Word of God spoken through Creation does not return void. Interesting (and I am a long, long way from a Hebrew scholar, just someone who can use e-sword), the Hebrew ‘word’ in Isaiah 55:11 implies ‘to arrange.’

    If General Revelation is inerrant and efficacious, it supports your point about God-appointed lifetimes and Jason’s point about Old Testament saints.

    I received a question similar to yours but did not do nearly as good a job as you did when answering, I modified my answer to include a reference to this page. Thanks for writing it and for administering it. It is a useful page.

    (my article: http://answersfromthebook.com/cgi-bin/aftb/articles?main_article=2)

    In Him,
    Paul R.

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  31. Hi Paul,

    It is good to hear from you again. May the Lord bring you comfort in your loss; my prayers are with you.

    You have brought up some wonderful observations concerning General Revelation. I honestly do believe that General Revelation can be very valuable in that it speaks to the heart of man, implying the existence of Divinity. To borrow the old analogy: the mere existence of the watch reveals that there must be a Watchmaker. I would concede that General Revelation is inerrant and efficacious, that is, the Universe perfectly reveals the reality of God, however General Revelation is incomplete in what it tells us of God’s nature and man’s perception of it is diluted and distorted by the corruption of sin.

    Since we live in a fallen and sin-stained world, the Universe does not, at this time, function as God originally intended it. Romans 8:19-22 tells us that the Creation has been corrupted by the sin of man just as man has been corrupted by the sin of man. A common objection raised against the justice of God suggests that the existence of natural disasters precludes a fair and merciful God since they bring death and destruction in a seemingly arbitrary manner. But Scripture shows that God did not originally intend for the world to be filled with floods and earthquakes and that these are the result of the violence that Nature itself has been subjected to at the Fall of man.

    General Revelation perfectly demonstrates the existence of Divinity, but the conclusions that people have reached in light of that evidence seem to convey more about the subjective bias of the observer rather than the personality of God. The ancient pagans beheld the night sky, with all of its beauty and majesty, and concluded that there must indeed exist a Force and Power behind its creation. However, the grotesque, hideous, and cruel deities that they imagined responsible for Creation had more in common with their own dark hearts than the True and Living God. In more modern times, self-labeled “enlightened” individuals have gazed out into the wonder of Space, observing its intricate and consistent patterns and properties and have concluded that nothing is responsible for its creation.

    According to Romans 1:19-23, General Revelation is sufficient to demonstrate the reality of God. The Godhead and His eternal power are revealed by the wonders of the Universe (v. 20), leaving all men without excuse. This Revelation should be enough to make man want to know more about the Living God, yet it so often seems to have the opposite effect. I believe that many people’s rejection of the clear evidence in the world around them will testify against them in the Day of Judgment and will vindicate the justice and fairness of God’s dealings with those to whom the Gospel was never presented. If a person coldly rejects General Revelation, then why would they be interested in responding to Special Revelation?

    Very interesting discussion, thank you so much for bringing these points up :) I appreciate you sharing your insights; may the Lord bless your service to Him,

    Loren

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  32. Loren, thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, I disagree with them. There is a simple explanation on the status of those who have not had the opportunity of accepting Christ while in this life. All who missed out on the opportunity in this life will have the opportunity in the next.

    “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit (New Testament, 1 Peter, Chapter 4).” AND “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison. (New Testament, 1 Peter, Chapter 3)”.

    The gospel will be preached to them in its fullness by Christ and his emmisaries in paradise while they await the great resurrection. They will be able to reject it or accept it just as they would have done during life on earth. Naturally, the ultimate judgement will take into account their actions in this life according to whatever law under which they lived.

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  33. Thank you so much, David, for reading this article and sharing your point of view :)

    The interpretation you have given from 1 Peter has been the point of view of many Bible commentators and I am glad you brought it up. While it does seem, at least on the surface, that the two verses you referenced could very well be referring to what the expositor Barclay called “a breathtaking glimpse of a gospel of second chance”, this viewpoint finds no other support in Scripture. Before we are too quick to hang our hats on the interpretation of a single verse or two, it is always wise to see what the rest of the Bible has to say about a subject.

    That the Apostle Paul taught nothing of a “second chance” gospel to be received or rejected after death can be conclusively verified throughout his writings. The language of the First Chapter of his epistle to the Romans, for instance, is blunt, direct, and absolutely unambiguous about the fate that awaits those who die in their sins apart from Christ. Jude is very clear in the 15th verse of his epistle about the fate of the wicked and ungodly. The Lord Jesus Himself, telling of Lazarus and the rich man, made it very clear that no second chances exist once we leave this world (Luke 16). As the writer to the Hebrews summarily put it: “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). No passage is found anywhere in the Bible that could possibly be interpreted that the Gospel will be or has been preached to those who are already dead except these two verses in 1 Peter. In fact, the verse immediately preceding 1 Peter 4:6 tells us that God stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

    With this in mind, we should consider the possibility of an alternative interpretation of Peter’s words. We know that the Word of God does not contradict itself, so what exactly is Peter saying if he is not teaching of a gospel to be preached after death? If we look at Verse 19 of Chapter 3 in context, we notice that a single sentence/chain of thought comprises verses 18-20. We see that Christ was made alive/quickened by the Holy Spirit. Verse 19 opens with the words: “By which” (or, really, by Whom) meaning the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit, Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison. OK, so when did Christ preach to the spirits in prison? After His death? After his Resurrection? Verse 20 gives us a time-frame with the word “when.” When would indicate when Christ did the preaching. That when was in the days of Noah, while the Ark was being prepared. Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, preached through Noah to those who would end up perishing in the Flood, that is, the spirits of the wicked who are now in prison.

    That 1 Peter 4:6 would seem to indicate those who are spiritually dead is evidenced by the fact that the opportunity to “live according to God in the spirit” exists for them. I suppose that one could interpret this to indicate that those who have died physically will have a future opportunity to live unto God spiritually, but again, this idea would dramatically contradict much of the rest of the clear teachings of the Bible. A more obvious and sensible interpretation of this verse, in my opinion, would be to read it in the light of the same analogous language Paul employed in Ephesians 2:1-7.

    Thanks again for bringing up this interpretation, this is a fascinating subject to contemplate. May the Lord richly bless you in the study of His Word :)

    To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

    Loren

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  34. Loren, I have come to this page by means of a friend of mine who i asked this question, you are very articulate and clear on what you say and your interpertation of what the bible says. Some of the things that i have read has me wanting to know more, and i will definitely seek more information. But am i wrong for wanting to know what will happen to others, because some the responses seem to say don’t worry about others worrry about yourself. I can’t help who i am in the sence of my concern for others. I do belive(just so that you know) I may not be able to quote scripture like yourself and others on this blog, but my debate was a heated one and that is not my intention. But am i wrong for having this concern. your comments would be appreciated. thank you

    wayne

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  35. Hi Wayne, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts :)

    “My eyes are spent with weeping;
    my stomach churns;
    my bile is poured out to the ground
    because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
    because infants and babies faint
    in the streets of the city.” (Lamentations 2:11 ESV)

    My own personal Bible study has brought me at this time back to the Book of Lamentations. I was listening to Dr. J. Vernon McGee’s commentary a few days ago on Lamentations as he remarked about the need for Christians to feel compassion for the lost to whom we witness. He quoted a prominent skeptic in Nineteenth Century England who once said, “I don’t know of any other preacher than Moody [evangelist Dwight L. Moody] who is qualified to preach on the subject of Hell because he does so with tears in his eyes.”

    Not only is not wrong to care about the fate of others, it would be wrong to care nothing about them. If the love of Jesus Christ indwells us then it absolutely will compel us with His compassion toward the lost. We cannot really love Him and care nothing for those whom He loves. You are not wrong to be concerned about the destiny of others and I believe this is a valid question to ponder. I think that a genuine, sincere concern is natural for the believer. In this article, my focus was more on addressing those who are not really worried about the eternal destiny of others so much as they are in bringing an accusation against God’s justice. I don’t think the comedian I quoted really cared about the people of the remote regions of China; I think he was more interested in ridiculing Christianity and justifying his own rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    I don’t believe that the Lord faults us for wondering about how He will deal with other people so long as, at the end of the day, whether we feel all of our questions have been satisfactorily answered or not, we trust Him to do what is right and deal fairly with all people. I also think that it is possible to become so focused on what God is doing in the lives of others that we begin to lose focus on what He is calling us to do. This is why I believe Jesus told Peter what He did about John.

    I sincerely hope and pray that the Lord will give you peace in your concern about this matter and that you will find the answers that will satisfy you and strengthen your faith. Obviously, as you have no doubt gathered from your own conversations and by reading the comments here, there is a lot of difference in opinion about the fate of those who leave this world without hearing the Gospel. One thing that we can definitely be sure of is the importance and urgency of doing what we can to decrease the amount of those who have never heard. May the Lord bless you in your service to Him.

    Loren

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  36. Thank you so much for your time in answering my question. My heart has been touched by many of the things you have answered here. And in case you didn’t know. I belive you touch more people than you know, please never stop what you are doing.

    Wayne

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  37. Thanks, Wayne, that really means a lot :)

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  38. I was with a friend tonight and as usually happens we got into a religious discussion. He told me that he doesn’t belong to a religion, he’s a Christian. Each Sunday he goes to **** Baptist church. When I asked him he insists he’s not Baptist. I’m a Catholic. I love my friend as he does me and we thoroughly repect each other. Tonight we touched on this topic in which you wrote. He stated all who haven’t read or accepted the gospel is going to hell. I brought the points in which you wrote, such as child in the other side of the world. He boldly said these kids are going to hell, all Jews, all Muslims, all Mormons, guess everyone but Christians. You wrote God doesn’t know the geographical location of an inborn child but the spirit. This child born in say Zimbabwe who was raised another religion and that’s all he’s exposed to and lived an admirable giving life. Knowing the spirit why was a Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh and others born here instead of there. According to him like 80% of population in the world are going to hell. I just can’t accept that. We looked at Southern Bapist theology and then found that all Catholics are also going to hell for other reasons. How can you believe this? Other theology he shared with me shocked me by saying the dead in heaven don’t know their family on earth. I don’t see how someone who is alive on earth can dictate the acceptance of those entering heaven and what happens to one when they are allowed to enter. He then contradicted himself stating that there isn’t anyone in heaven now. No one enters until all are exposed to the gospel. He said my loved ones who have passed are just ‘dead” right now. I feel he came across as antisemetic, predudice, and speaking as though his Christians are the only ones are the only beings on earth that know the way, and are the only chosen ones. I love Jesus but I don’t see Jesus sharing bus views. In your looming am I wrong? Thank you.

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  39. Unfortunately, there is a lot of exclusionary thinking among certain members of many denominations. Some Roman Catholics believe that all Protestants are lost, some Protestants believe that no members of the Roman Catholic Church can possibly be saved. Mormons believe that only members of their Church can reach the “Celestial Kingdom” or highest level of Heaven. It is staggering how many groups believe that only their particular denomination has it right!

    According to the Bible, it is those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book Of Life who will make it to Heaven (Revelation 21:27), not those whose names are in a certain church’s membership roster. It is those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ and are trusting Him for Salvation who will be saved, regardless of the name on the outside of the building where they meet each week.

    As far as exactly how many or what percentage will make it to Heaven, only God knows. Sadly, we know from Jesus’ own words that most will not:

    “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

    It will not be because they attended the wrong church or were born in the wrong place and time, it will be because they are lost sinners. The hypothetical child born in Zimbabwe who leads an outwardly “moral” life will not perish simply because he never heard the Gospel, he will perish because, by God’s holy standards, he is a sinner. A certain young man approached the Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry and boasted of his good and morally upstanding life. When he called Jesus, supposing Him to be merely a human being, “Good Master”, Jesus responded that God alone is good, not man (Luke 18:18-24). The young ruler was hoping to be commended for his impressive morality, but the Lord revealed that his morality was not enough. He, like all of us, needed a Savior. Consider St. Paul’s words in the Book of Romans:

    “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

    Regardless of where a person is born or whether or not they have heard the Gospel, we are all sinners in need of a Savior and, apart from the free gift of Salvation available through faith in Jesus Christ, we are all lost; those of us born here in America, or in Great Britain, or in Zimbabwe. I firmly believe that God would have caused that hypothetical African child to be born in a place and time where he would hear the Gospel if there were any chance he would have accepted it.

    Are there people in Heaven right now? Yes. How do we know? The Apostle Paul writes in another place:

    “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)

    There is never any indication of a “waiting period” or “holding time” between leaving our physical bodies at death and entering into the presence of God. Some groups teach of a “soul sleep” where the spirits of both Christians and non-Christians sleep until the Day of Judgment before entering their eternal destination, but the Bible demonstrates repeatedly that this is not the case. For those going to Heaven, there is no waiting period after they die. They are either here on Earth in their bodies or they are in God’s presence in Heaven.

    I do hope that maybe this information helps your understanding and brings you peace about the matter. May the Lord bless you as you seek to know Him and His Word :)

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  40. If that is so, then why did the original disciples make no attempt to convert anyone outside of the bounds of western civilization?

    Btw, if you bring up the Ethiopian Eunuch and assert that he was “black” I will take you to school about the original occupants and the high culture civilization that once ruled in Ethiopia, but has long passed into the current population there through intermarrying. I have stacks of books documenting all of the high culture civilizations throughout history, and when Ethiopia was a high culture, it was not a black one.

    The original church didn’t even want to convert Ishmaelites and Edomites, and St. Paul demonstrates this in Romans 9.

    Jesus said that the gospel should be preached unto every creature/all creation in Mark 16:15, and yet St. Paul himself before Jerusalem’s destruction said that the gospel HAD been preached into all creation/every creature (Col 1:23).

    So, which is it? Is it possible that the original disciples understood Christ’s message to be limited in scope in a way that we do not understand today? Or was St. Paul confused? Either the modern church world’s theology is confused, or St. Paul was confused. It can’t be that they are both right.

    What do you say?

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  41. Thank you.

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  42. in my search for why people go to heaven,or go to hell,,is not because they did or did not ever hear the gospel,..or was born in sin.it is much deeper then that,yes,they are saved by grace through faith,,eph 2:8,9and hearing the gospel and responding,,in romans but the big picture,,we have missed for so many years,,is we go to heaven,because that is where we came from,,roms chpt 8:28-32,,or we go to hell or back,,because that is where we came from john chapt 8..often times some preach free will,or election,,but as i hold to the election doctrine,,i am learning,,,we come from heaven,,and is born a sinner and getting back, we must have ours sins attoned for..( from adam & eve’s handed down sin nature,,,it is a very complex way of getting back to heaven…the same of going back to hell…you go back a wicked sinner,,of some sort or another,of sinner,,if you go,,is because that is where you came from,,no amount of doctrine,,or the lack of it will change that,,,it changes how much you knew to repent..and thus how hot your hell will be,,just like heaven has rewards,,hell has degrees of tornment.

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  43. I can’t remember where I read it but I believe the bible says jesus will not return until every ear has had the chance to hear the gospel. The gospel also says it is a Christians duty to get off the baby’s milk and spread the message. That means once you have been taught the message you need to get out of your pew and spread the word. So if we all did our part, eventually we wouldn’t have this discussion of what about who hasn’t heard.

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  44. I’d just like to pass on another way to help spread the gospel and it’s simply this:-

    Include a link to an online gospel tract (e.g. http://www.freecartoontract.com/animation) as part of your email signature.

    An email signature is a piece of customizable HTML or text that most email applications will allow you to add to all your outgoing emails. For example, it commonly contains name and contact details – but it could also (of course) contain a link to a gospel tract.

    For example, it might say something like, “p.s. you might like this gospel cartoon …” or “p.s. have you seen this?”.

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  45. wow! Loren really don’t know what to say..this is really awesome, thank God you saved a soul today,I was actually still thinking that the gospel would or must go throughout the ends of the earth before the return of Christ.so now I have to stand up and do something with the light he gave me..thank you so much loren , God continue to bless your ministry.

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  46. Nobody that don’t do extremely serious sins deserve to burn in hell. I feel so because he predestined the fall of man, and he owes us all salvation for causing people who could have been born innocent to be born sinful and/or evil. He also has an elect and predestine people who don’t even do serious sins to hell, just because they’re evil on the inside and just because he wants glory. That’s just wrong.

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  47. My main question is how does Roman’s 1:18 – 20, not negate the necessity of the great commission? (NIV) “18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

    Verse 20 says that God’s eternal power and divine nature are instinctively known to everyone, so they are without excuse (for their sin presumably). Verse 18 says the wrath of God is against those who suppress the truth that has been revealed to them by God. Doesn’t that imply that somehow people can live in a way that is pleasing to God, if they submit to their instinctive God-given knowledge of the truth? What grounds would God have to condemn them and say that they’re were “without excuse” for suppressing this truth, if they couldn’t be made acceptable to Him by accepting the truth He had revealed?

    If God reveals “the truth” to everyone, through nature, in such a way that they are morally culpable for their sin, it only follows that a person could be saved by accepting this God-revealed truth, even if they haven’t heard the gospel. That is, unless the author of this blog is correct, and God placed everyone who He knew would be unwilling to turn to Jesus, in a time and place where they wouldn’t hear the gospel, so that hearing the Gospel could legitimately be considered a prerequisite to receiving eternal life.

    The only problem is, that view necessitates that everyone who lived before Jesus goes to Hell, including all the old testament prophets, even Elijah, (swept up in a chariot that is said to have taken him to heaven), along with those in the OT that God had pronounced righteous. Clearly they hadn’t heard about salvation through Jesus, as it hadn’t happened yet, (from a human perspective). Yet Abraham’s faith and works were credited to him by God “as righteousness”. Isn’t this proof that people who haven’t heard the gospel, yet live in a way that is pleasing to God will inherit eternal life?

    I’ll be honest here, I don’t believe all non Christians who have heard the gospel, and don’t accept it, are going to Hell. I know the bible teaches otherwise, but living in large Canadian Urban Centres for the majority of my life, has given me the opportunity to meet many people, of many different faiths. I don’t believe that Mohammed was anything but a filthy old man, and Buddha was just a deluded guy, but there are some people in these faiths, and some who maybe identify as spiritual, who embody too many fruits of the Spirit to qualify as Godless.

    Jesus said you will know a tree by its fruit. Just as there are many Christians, sadly too often, including myself, who fail to exhibit Christ in their attitude and actions, there are many non-believers that care about the things of God. If evangelicals think that they’re the only ones going to heaven, they’re in for quite a surprise when they reach the other side.

    Also, I agree with the previous poster, anonymous. Each of us, with the exception of Adam and Even, according to Evangelical theology, were born into this world, through no choice of our own, damned, apart from Christ, before we took our first breath. Its not our fault that God’s terms for the payment of sin was the death of His Son. We didn’t ask to be here. What kind of God would He be if He put us here through no choice of our own, and damned us to Hell with no way out? When you look at it logically, he would be an evil monster if He did that, and it would not be within His moral rights as a just God.

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  48. I think a HUGE part of the problem when it comes to this issue is that we evangelicals (who got a LOT of our doctrinal positions from Catholicism which we left in the 1500’s) automatically assume that God is going to burn everyone in hell forever and ever, without mercy if they fail to accept Jesus. Does the Bible actually say this, or is it just a logical but incorrect A to B to C idea that we have had passed to us from one generation to another? When the Bible speaks of “hell”, i.e. the eternal burning of souls in the Lake of Fire, it only says that those who worshiP (present tense) the Beast will burn. The phrase “forever and ever” in Greek literally means from age to age. It could be from age to age, forever as it means in reference to God’s kingdom, or it could mean indefinitely, but not necessarily eternal. There are clearly two judgments in the Book Of Revelation; one of the rank and file sinners, and one of those who worshiP (present tense) the Beast. In the lake of fire, being tormented day and night “forever and ever” are the worshipers of the Beast, The Devil and The False Prophet (and presumably the demons) The ones who were of the great crowd which were not found in the Book Of Life, were simply cast into the fire, which is the second death. We evangelicals have been so conditioned to think like we do, that we miss obvious things, like the words destruction, death and end for instance. To the evangelical theologian, the word destroy/destruction means eternally being destroyed, i.e. tormented in a fire, but the definition of destroy in Greek is just as it is in English, i.e. to bring to an end, to do away with, etc. We have been told and have had it pounded into our head that words like destroy, destruction, destroyed, and death mean perpetual, conscious death, destruction and end, yet that would make no sense given the words used. Why would God say “I am going to utterly destroy all those who do not receive the gospel, and bring them to an end” yet really mean “I am going to torture them for all eternity”? Why not just say For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him will not burn consciously in a lake of fire for all eternity, but live forever”? The fact is, there is only ONE place in the Bible that speaks of people burning day and night, forever and ever, and it is only referring to those who worship the Beast. Unless the American Indians have the mark of The Beast on them, and worship Him, I would say they are not going to be tormented day and night, forever and ever. The concept of the Lake Of Fire comes from Gehenna, which is a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem, which was used to burn among other things, to burn the bodies of dead soldiers. They would put pitch on the bodies and light them afire, and the fire could not be quenched (by water presumably) but would burn UNTIL the bodies were destroyed.In Isaiah 66, we see this final burning of those who rejected God, His enemies, who did not receive the gospel. In that passage, the bodies are said to be “corpses” which the righteous will go out to, and see and will abhor and think of as detestable. I can’t imagine being a saved soul, and going to the edge of the lake of Fire and watching my friends, neighbors and loved ones burning in hell and torment, and simply shaking my head and saying “ewww.. what horrid creatures”. If I were unfortunate enough to see people in hell, I would hope my heart would break, and I would, as Paul is said to have done, wish I could take their place. Does this denature the gospel in any way? No, I don’t think it does, because we still have the facts of all people being born in sin, all people headed to the wrath of God if they don’t get saved, and we have the fact of their punishment in fire for an indefinite amount of time. In my view, we still need to repent of our sins, trust in Jesus and His shed blood on the cross and His subsequent resurrection, and we still need to prove this election by our actions. The only real difference is that I acknowledge God’s eternal mercy and that only those who wholeheartedly reject His love will burn forever. For a more detailed report, send an email and I will go through my thought process with you.

    PS The idea you propose about God not sending the gospel to the people He knew would reject it holds no water, IMO, because in order to reject something, one must have it presented to them. I know God is omniscient, but I don’t think omniscient means God sees all possible futures, just the future that exists. Also, if God truly loves all of the world, He would not deny anyone the opportunity to repent. If we sue your logic here, Jesus would not have needed to die at all, because he could simply have caused all who he knew would accept the gospel to not be born, thus not be under sin, and not need a savior.

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  49. Matthew,

    Thanks for reading this and taking the time to share your thoughts.

    What you are espousing here is a variation of Annihilationism or Conditional Immortality. A lot of very good material has been written refuting this doctrine and demonstrating its problematic nature. I am including a link to a brief article written by J.I. Packer which highlights some of the key areas wherein Annihilationism is Biblically unsustainable:

    http://www.the-highway.com/annihilationism_Packer.html

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  50. Consider the fact of the Scripture that says: Romans 1:16-19

    Rom 1:18

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

    Rom 1:19
    Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

    Rom 1:20

    For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    Rom 1:21

    Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    Rom 1:22

    Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

    Rom 1:23

    And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

    Rom 1:24

    Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

    Rom 1:25

    Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

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  51. I really enjoyed reading this article. It is very informative and enlightening. God is just and right in all he does.

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  52. Think it quite a fair response to the issue. It became a topic of discussion not long ago and and like the writer, I did say that God would certainly know or already knows exactly what HE’d do. It’s just frightening to hear it spelt out like this. God help us be and remain faithful to the end. Thank you

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