Is general revelation enough to get a person into heaven? And what does this say about the fairness of God? This week, Pastor Lutzer begins our discussion about God’s justice.
“For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.”
- Psalm 37:28
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Transcript: Welcome to Five Minutes With Pastor Lutzer. I’m so glad that you have joined us. Today we’re beginning a series of sessions on the justice of God. We’re going to have to be talking about the doctrine of hell, and next time, in fact, I’m going to speak about the salvation of children.
How does God’s justice play itself out in our lives and in our destinies? The passage of Scripture I’m reading from is Psalm 37, verse 28: “For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.” God loves justice.
Today, I want to discuss the issue of, how does God judge those who have never heard the Gospel, or even those in false religions? But before I get there, I have to have a different discussion. Is God fair?
Well, if you define fairness as God treating everyone alike, the answer obviously is no. God did not treat Hammurabi like he did Abraham. God did not treat Esau like he did Jacob, who inherited the promises. You look around the world today and you can see that there are people in grinding poverty, and then those who are supremely rich. Is life fair? No. Is God fair? No. But God is always just. Always just.
But the question then before us is, how does He judge those who have never heard of Christ? Well the answer, of course, is that He judges them on the basis of they did with what they knew. Romans chapter one—the apostle Paul is talking about the wicked, the pagan, and he says that from creation they should understand God’s power; God’s god-hood, if I can put it that way. Natural law itself teaches them certain things. And then the apostle Paul goes into that litany of sexual sin, and says that everyone knows that there are certain sins that are contrary to nature; so nature itself should tell us about the existence of God, and the assurance that some things are right and some things are wrong.
In chapter two he even becomes more specific. He says that the Gentiles do not have the law. The Jews are gonna be judged by the law because they were given the law. But the Gentiles are going to be judged by their own consciences, which either accuse or excuse them in the day, he says, when God will judge the world. So God’s judgement is going to be completely fair. God is not gonna say to anyone, “Now, you are going to hell because you never heard of Jesus.” They’re going to be judged on the basis of light that was available, not light that was unavailable to them. That is a very important principle of justice.
Luke 12:38: Those who knew God’s will will be judged more severely than those who didn’t know God’s will. God’s justice is going to be meticulous. You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, does that mean that those who belong to pagan religions or false religions, if they quote ‘live up to the light that they have,’ are they going to be saved?” The Bible gives us no assurance that they will be saved. They will be judged justly. But everyone will be proven to be a sinner.
Let me put it to you this way. Let’s suppose that you need a thousand dollars, or ten thousand dollars to go to college. Actually, you need more than that, but let’s make it ten thousand. If I give you a thousand dollars, it is not enough for you to go to college. But it is an encouragement to you to seek me for more light and more gifts.
I guess I want to put it this way, and put it very clearly: General revelation is not enough to get people to heaven. But general revelation is enough to judge them. What did they do with what God did give them? Even if they come up short, they will be judged justly and righteously.
Now you and I can wrestle with these issues. We can talk about how God should do things differently, but I’m reminded of the words of William Cooper who said, regarding people who don’t like the way God judges—who don’t like the way God judges the world, Cooper wrote these words: “They take from God’s hand the balance and the rod; They rejudge His justice and become the judge of God.”
My dear friend, today God has the attributes that he has. He is God. We aren’t. We bow humbly and accept what He has revealed to us, and are very very glad that we can find refuge in Jesus from the wrath to come. Thanks so much for joining us. Next time, I am going to speak about the salvation of children. Today, go with God.