What about the Pagan?
This manuscript is copyrighted ã 1999 by Tony Capoccia. All rights reserved.
If there is one question that is most frequently asked of those who shared the Good News of the Gospel, it is, “What about the pagan on the deserted island who has never heard of Jesus Christ or God and has never even seen a Bible, is he condemned to the fires of Hell for his unbelief?” And the next obvious question, “How could a loving God condemn a person who never had a chance to hear the Gospel message?”
Those are fair questions. I too asked them after I was a Christian. I wondered how a pagan could have the same chance of being “saved” that I had since I lived where Bible Churches were in abundance. The answer comes from the sole source of truth—the Bible. In the Book of Romans, Chapter 1, verses 18-32, we find God speaking about the pagan and his own responsibility for his unbelief and resulting judgment.
To begin with, in verse 18, we find that the wrath of God is being revealed against the pagan (referred as those who are godless and wicked). Verse 19 tells why God is pouring out His wrath on them, “since what may be known about God is plain to them.” (Rom 1:19). God holds the pagan responsible for his unbelief because the truth of God is “plain” to him! In other words the pagan does have the truth available to him and is therefore accountable for what he does with it. When we think of the pagan on some island without missionaries or anyone who knows the Gospel we can become confused when the Bible says that the truth about God is “plain” to them. Verse 20 settles our questioning hearts, “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 men are without excuse.”
The pagan is accountable for his sins because of his rejection of God, who is revealed in creation. Let me try to illustrate this to you. Imagine an island where a primitive tribe lives and the Christian Gospel has not yet been introduced. There are no missionaries and no one who knows about God, the Bible, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. Remember, God said the pagan is without excuse, since the truth of God has been made known to them. Now the pagan on the island is without God in his life and is a sinner condemned to Hell. (Rom 3:23 “all have sinned. . .”). Each pagan on the island will at some point in his life come to the realization that God exists. Picture the pagan coming out of his hut and looking up into the night sky at the myriad of stars and the moon, or during the day, when he sees the sun, the mountains, the flowers, the animals or even his own hand. That pagan comes to a simple conclusion—someone made all this! He does not know that the someone is named Jesus Christ.(Colossians 1:15-17).
Now at this point, the pagan (unbeliever) realizes that there is someone “out there” responsible for creation and all it's power. I believe that every person on the face of the earth, will someday (after the age of reason) come to the same conclusion that there is someone who is mighty and powerful, who is responsible for creation. Now what happens next is critical, for the pagan will do one of two things. First, he may say to himself, “There is someone out there, but I don't care.” What happens here is the act of rejection of God. He knows that God exists (not by name). He has seen God's invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature . . . being understood from what has been made (creation); therefore, he has no excuse for his rejection. (Rom 1:20). He ceases the search for truth and will go his own way and will worship man and creatures instead of the Immortal God. (Romans 1:23).
The other choice that he could make is to say, “There is someone out there, and I want to know more about him.” Now, at this point he is not saved, but he is desiring more information about God. The Scriptures show that those who seek the truth will find it, “If you seek Him (God/Jesus), He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9). Therefore, the pagan who desires to know more about God will find the truth. In other words, a pagan isolated from the Christian world is promised by God that, “If you seek God, God will be found.” Now, how will God do this? I really don't know, but I do know that God is faithful to his promises. He will bring the truth to the pagan, and that will be the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “for salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
God's ways are not our ways, yet we can see in the past how God brought the message to the lost. Missionaries are a primary vehicle, carrying the Gospel message to the people. Radio broadcasts of the Gospel are sometimes used; also personal testimony of another person is possible. That pagan will hear the message, and it will be from the Bible and will not be broadcast by angels, but by men. God is responsible to get the truth to all who seek it. But note that just desiring to hear the truth does not save anyone. There are only two kinds of people in Hell; one kind are those who realized that “someone” (God) was out there but didn't care to seek after Him, the other
kind of person in Hell are those who realized that “someone” was out there and sought after Him, then heard the Gospel message and then rejected it.
The pagan who seeks after God will hear the truth and then can either accept the Gospel or reject it. If he accepts it then he is forever saved and will walk dressed in white for all eternity in Heaven. But the pagan who rejects the truth will be cast into the fires of torment and will be without excuse.
So, it makes no difference if you live on an isolated island or next door to a Baptist Church in America, the chances for finding the truth of the Gospel is the same. God guarantees that all persons will be located at exactly the right place for them to find the truth, “ . . . He (God) determined the times set for them (time period) and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him . . . ” (Acts 17:26-27). In other words, I was placed in Kokomo, Indiana, as the best place for me to find Jesus Christ. A person living in Africa is there because it is the best place for him and his personality to seek and find God.
God is so gracious and kind to man. We all deserve to live forever in the fires of Hell, but His love provides salvation through the shed Blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. Oh, what a great and Glorious God we have, Blessed be His Name forever.