Never Heard Gospel?

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Q. How would God judge those who have never heard of the gospel before they died, or those who cannot comprehend i.e. infants, mentally incapable people?

A. When you’ve answered hundreds of Bible questions over the last decade, some of the same queries are bound to be raised by other inquirers. The one above is usually expressed in one of the following forms:
• What about the heathen? Those who have not heard the gospel. God did not give them a chance. It’s not fair if He sends them to hell.
• What about babies who died in infancy? They’re innocent! They haven’t done anything wrong. God wouldn’t send them to hell, would He?

Rather than repeat what I wrote earlier, let me refer you to the previous posts:
I would add the following comments not mentioned in the articles.

There is a concept in theology called the “age of accountability“. The term is not found in the Bible, but refers to the age when a child understands the implications of his actions and becomes responsible for their consequences. The Jews take this to be age 13, the “bar mitzvah” for boys when they become “sons of commandment” accountable for their actions. Obviously, each child matures differently. Some understand right from wrong, good and evil, as young as three or even two. Personally I believe there is no fixed age. God knows the heart. He knows when a child is “ready” or not to understand the gospel, and judges accordingly. But we don’t know, so it is the responsibility of the parents to teach their children the gospel at an early age to establish their relationship with the Lord.

My second comment concerns the mentally challenged. I assume you are referring to those born that way, not those who became incompetent as a result of an accident or illness and had prior chances to accept or reject the gospel. Again, there is no defined “intelligent quotient” (IQ) below which a person could not understand the gospel. Most individuals with Down syndrome (DS) have mild (IQ 50-70) or moderate (IQ 35-50) mental disability. The average IQ of a young adult with DS is 50, equivalent to the mental age of an 8-9 year-old child. They can understand the gospel. I would say the same reasoning for the age of accountability applies to those with low IQ. God knows whether they are capable of understanding the gospel or not. He is always fair.

Don’t worry about those too young or too disabled to understand. Worry about those who can understand but are rejecting the Lord because of pride or other reasons. Pray and reach out to them before it’s too late.

Jesus’ Threefold Office and His Age (5 of 6)

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(Continued from yesterday)

iii) the strange 3 references to Jesus’ ages in the bible, e.g. in the temple at 12 debating with the teachers which was very strange in view of so many people attending the temple at that time, there seemed to be little chance for a 12-year-old to debate with the teachers unless He was questioned by these teachers to confirm His adulthood, His waiting until reaching 30 years old to preach (why need to wait so long?), and not reaching 50 (will He see Abraham if He reached 50?):
• Age 0 at birth The visit of the Magi (Kingship)
• Age 12 Confirmation of adulthood (Mishnah Niddah 5:6) so that He could be held responsible for his vows / prophecies (Prophethood)
• Age about 30 (Lk 3:23, & Historically born in 4 BC and commence ministry in AD 27, hence aged 30, crucified 3 years later in AD 30) but not up to 50 (Jn 8:57) to fulfill the 30-50 age requirements of a Priest / High Priest (Num 4:23, 30, 35, 39, 43) (Priesthood)

Again, let’s begin with observation:
• Mt 2:16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.
• Mishnah Niddah 5:6 Regarding a boy of twelve years and one day, his vows are examined [to determine if they are valid]. At thirteen years and one day, his vows stand. And we examine [his vows] for the entire thirteenth [year]. Prior to this time [i.e. eleven years and one day for a girl and twelve years and one day for a boy], even if they said, “We know in whose name we vowed, and in whose name we sanctified,” their vows are not vows and their sanctifications are not sanctified property. After this time, even if they say, “We do not know in whose name we vowed, and in whose name we sanctified,” their vows are vows and their sanctifications are sanctified property.
• Lk 3:23 When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,
• Jn 8:57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
• Num 4:23 from thirty years and upward to fifty years old, you shall number them; all who enter to perform the service to do the work in the tent of meeting. (See also v 30, 35, 39, 43)

I feel connecting the 3 references to Jesus’ age to His 3 offices to be strained. First everyone, king or no king, is age 0 at birth. Jesus was born in a manger (Lk 2:12, 16). When the magi visited the child Jesus and Mary, they were living in a house (Mt 2:11). So commentators deduced that Jesus may have been up to 2 years old by that time (Mt 2:16). To equate birth to kingship is a stretch.

Secondly Mishnah is Jewish oral tradition, and Niddah is Hebrew for a woman during menstruation. The chapter quoted gives the oral tradition for women (and men) at different ages. For a boy, he becomes a “son of commandment” (Bar mitzvah) at age 13. Could the teachers be confirming His adulthood to hold Him responsible for His vows? It’s unlikely given the text said He went to Jerusalem at the Feast of the Passover when He became 12 (Lk 2:42). He was listening to the teachers and asking them questions, and they were amazed at His understanding and His answers (Lk 2:46-47). Asking a person’s age does not take a lot of debating, and He was the one asking, even though He gave answers too. Nothing is mentioned about prophecies, so there is no evidence supporting the incident as prophethood.

Thirdly, we know Jesus began His ministry at about age thirty (Lk 3:23) and was crucified at age 33. Thirty is also the age when priests start serving at the tabernacle or temple. But 50 years old in Jn 8:57 is only an incidental mention in Jesus’ confrontation with the Jews. It has nothing to do with the retirement age of priests. So to correlate this to the Jesus’ priesthood is far-fetched.

(To be continued)