This seems like such an obviously crucial Christian concept, especially coming from an impartial and just God who claims to judge justly (Deuteronomy 32:4, 10:17, 1 Peter 2:23). One cannot judge justly, be he God or not, if he automatically saves or damns particular people or if he uses differing standards to judge the same imperfection. Either we all need Jesus’ justification or none of us do. Either we all need to understand and accept the gospel for salvation or none of us do. God cannot judge justly by requiring from one person a belief in salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection while only requiring from another a general belief in God or no belief at all.
And yet, a surprising number of people believe that he does. Some say he can define justice however he wants, but if justice to him means partiality to us, God’s justice becomes an absolutely meaningless and unreliable trait (as would his other traits, as love to him might mean hate to us!). Others believe God does justly offer the gospel—understandably and meaningfully—to everyone before their physical death, but how he accomplishes this is very problematic, especially for those who die very young or with lifelong mental disability, not to mention may others. Chapter 10 of Healing Hereafter demonstrates why God must give us all equal access to the gospel and how that doesn’t necessarily occur before some of us die. Here’s a quick peek…
We’ve seen that giving folks an automatic pass to either Hell or Heaven is problematic for many reasons, but some claim that a postmortem chance to demonstrate faith and learn about the gospel is still unnecessary, as God could reach everyone with his solution of Jesus before they die. While this could plausibly occur for some unreached individuals through divine earthly evangelism like dreams or angels, it’s all but certain that millions of folks who didn’t have physical access to the gospel could very honestly claim on their deathbed that God had not explained it to them through supernatural means. Some address these people—as well as children and the mentally handicapped—by expanding the scope of general revelation. Instead of only making us aware enough of God and morality to be guilty when we sin, they claim that what all humans can learn from creation and our conscience explains the gospel enough to make us guilty of rejecting Jesus’ message as well. We evaluate this argument and dismiss it biblically and logically, explaining that only a comprehensible presentation of the gospel (special revelation) can provide enough information for a person to be able to freely and truly reject God’s universal invitation to Heaven through his solution of Jesus. A final way God could reach everyone with his solution of Jesus before their physical death is to evangelize to their spirits directly, even if they inhabit baby bodies or brain-damaged bodies. Because there’s no biblical evidence of such a spiritual transfer of specific information and because both physical presentations of the gospel and every human’s physical existence would become completely unnecessary, we decide against universal premortem evangelism and accept the Bible’s teaching that God gets the message out to the unreached on both sides of physical death.