How does God judge people raised in other religions or non-Christian cultures?
Many question how God can send a person to hell who was raised in another religion or has never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. The question assumes that God can only reveal Himself in certain ways. Scripture offers a deeper perspective.
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Basic to our understanding of sin is the scriptural teaching that no one deserves salvation. Romans 3:23-24 says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Apart from the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we would all perish (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
God, the Master Communicator, has revealed Himself to all people. "His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). All people can know of God through what God has made. Those who ignore God's witness in creation are without excuse.
God promises to reveal Himself to those who seek Him (Deuteronomy 4:29). Hebrews 11:6 says, "he rewards those who seek him." An example of someone who sought God and found Him is Cornelius in Acts 10. Cornelius was a Roman centurion in Caesarea, described as "a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God" (Acts 10:1-2). God heard his prayers and sent Peter to bring the gospel to Cornelius (Acts 10:19-20). The result was that Cornelius and those in his house came to faith in Christ. The principle illustrated in Cornelius's story is this: if a person is truly seeking the truth of God, God will ensure the gospel message comes to that person. God reveals Himself to those who seek Him.
God is perfect in all His ways (Deuteronomy 32:4). He decides how to reveal Himself and when, and whatever He decides is right. "Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure" (Psalm 147:5).
God's Word reveals that heaven will include people who have come to faith in Jesus from "every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9). Believers are called to take the message of Christ to all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). The fact that many die apart from Christ is a call to urgently take the gospel to those who have yet to hear, asking God to send more workers into fields ripe for harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).
A person's non-Christian religious background is not an obstacle to the omnipotent God. Through the working of the Holy Spirit and the faithful witness of God's people and the power of the Word, people from every culture have come to faith and Christ, with many more to come.
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