A letter to a friend.
After I went on my rant about the Love of God, you asked a question, and I responded with, "there is an answer for that", but I never got to answer the question. I would even say that you developed the question a little more specifically as the shouting went on.
First, let me say that I do not function well in an atmosphere of shouting. Secondly, I have had similar questions myself, and I have spent years looking at scripture, asking questions of what it said, and what I found is a God, more merciful than I had ever thought possible.
Because I had my bible open, 1John chapter 3 caught my attention. Verse 10 had already jumped off the page at me before you even asked your question, and I thought this answers the question of what becomes of the "non-Christian" dead.
Before we can answer the question, I think we have to adjust our thinking about whom God considers the non-believer, because we use parameters that are entrenched with faulty traditions and judgmental attitudes. God looks at the heart, while we judge things externally. Therefore, the person that makes a big scene at the front of the church, make be doing just that, making a big scene. While the person that says simply, God remember me, has more intentionality to their heart, even though they may not meet some criteria that religion establishes.
I took this out of the NIV because it states it clearly. I will tell you that I was looking at the NKJV this AM, and it said it plainly also.
1John 3:10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God's child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
Many versions emphasize loving the Christian Brother, but doesn’t that kind of go against the grain of God, seeing as we are to love our neighbor (and in my case, at least one of them is a Jehovah Witness.)
1 John 3:10 ESV By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
As you read something like this, apply it to the world, many of which have died and of course, have no other options.
Here in 1John 3:10, we have a clear definition. Many will refuse to see it that way, but that is the beauty of revelation. You can be reading something and suddenly God's spirit reveals to you how it can, and most likely does apply to the world in general. This makes a lot of sense when you consider the statement, "for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son." He had, and still has, a love for the world. There will be a day that his wrath is poured out on the earth, but that is not yet. Further more, God's wrath has been against His own, Israel, and the nations that rise against His people. We, who are followers of Christ, are in Him, and we have been spared from wrath.
This passage in Romans is one example where it talks about us being spared God’s wrath.
Romans 5:9 ESV Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is another example. In this one, the context is the wrath coming upon the earth during the seven years called the tribulation. Because we have salvation through Christ, we have are to be spared from the generalized wrath.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 ESV (9) For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
"This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:”
If I give you a solid definition of what God deems someone who He considers a child of God, do I really need to define what the devil’s children do? To simply understand that anything outside of the definition are operating under a different principle, and will follow their leader to his destruction.
"Anyone who does not do what is right is not God's child,”
The NKJV used the phrase "anyone who does not do righteousness"
Whether it is right or righteousness is irrelevant and implies the same thing.
Now, you must ask yourself what determines right and who sets the standard. The standard is God, but the standard existed long before the law came. God makes that clear when talks about the righteousness of Abraham.
Romans 4:3 ESV For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness."
What did he believe?
That eventually God, this person who showed up in his dream, would do what he said by making him a father, and the father of many nations.
Having been married for a while, and not producing children, you begin to think you will have none, ever, and that is exactly the mindset that we find with Abram. That is also one of the reasons that God's promise of making Abram the father of many nations is such a big deal. I do not know why we make such huge assumptions and give our founders of faith ridiculous super human characteristics, which none of them had.
Was Abram that much different from the man next door, not really. Every follower of Christ eventually comes to understand that Adam and Eve, by eating the forbidden fruit, gained, not only, the knowledge of good, something they already had, but of evil also. As a young couple, full of energy, everything they did and explored, not only in the world around them, but with each other, was all good; having the knowledge of evil put a different spin on things, which is why they suddenly, were not only trying to hide from God, but each other as well.
If understanding “good”, gives me the comprehension that there is a God and he wants a voluntary relationship with me, then what would my judgment of what is evil be based upon? How others or I acted toward the creator and whether I acted anything like my understanding of the creator.
Warfare seems to give us one of the prime examples of this love, a love that most do not understand, for we have countless versions of guys that dive on hand grenades, or take a bullet to save a friend. Moreover, it is possible that never once did they say, I love the unknown God I serve. Without training, they may not have had any idea.
However, this takes us back to Abram again, for without the guidance and direction of the law, he lived a decent life, motivated by a belief in a God that he had not previously known.
God is a God of mercy.
“Nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister."
I suspect that many will read this and say, it is an additional mandate, I do not agree. I believe that our brother could easily be our neighbor, but there is an implication of someone with which you have relationship. As we talked a little bit more, a situation was described where a person, hiking the same trail, slips over the side of a mountain trail. The right thing to do is to offer assistance. Does that have to have anything to do with their relationship to Christ? No, it is just the right thing to do, and nothing less than you would want.
Why did I say any of this? Because, there is that possibility that God sees a pattern of behavior that demonstrates His character, and that is all that He really demanded of those who died “without” Christ.
I heard a theology come out of one mouth today that demonstrated an angry God that is looking for people to punish in a final judgment. All it takes is an honest, open-minded read of scripture to see that this is not the case. (I say be open minded because the closed mind will refuse to consider any options outside of their traditional mindset.) I think that it is good to be firm about some aspects of our belief. Since Jesus said, “I am the way, truth, and the light, and no one comes to the Father but through me.” I am sticking with that concept. The other is the love of God toward me, and I am not moving off that.
The judgment seat that was spoken of is no secret affair; we can find it in Matthew 25.
One of the first things you need to notice is who is doing the judging. Now ask the question, if Christ was willing to lay down his life for us, those that accept Him, why would there be even the remote possibility of any of those standing before this throne?
Matthew 25:31-46 ESV "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. (32) Before him will be gathered all the nations,
In scripture, there are only three kinds of people groups: The Jews, the nations, and the church. He is not talking to the church. Although most of us came out of the nations, when we came to Him, He came into us and therefore we are one with Him, and considered the bride of Christ.
and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33) And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (34) Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (35) For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, (36) I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
It is their response to his kindness that catches my attention.
(37) Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? (38) And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? (39) And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' (40) And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' (41) "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (42) For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, (43) I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' (44) Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' (45) Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' (46) And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Even here, God’s mercy keeps showing up.
I have had this argument/discussion on several occasions and I am not backing down from it, because it has the character of God written all over it, and I am not the one who wrote this, Holy men of God wrote as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. We have come to validate these scriptures as real, and from God himself.
Therefore, if you were to ask me, what happens to all those who died without Christ, I would have to say that God judges them based upon their good works and shows many of them mercy.
We all know or knew people like that, and this does not excuse my laziness, but shows me that God is more merciful than I, contrary to traditional thinking.