Aug 28

What is Worship? How can we approach God?

What is worship?

(Scriptural quotes are from the New King James Version (NKJV) Bible.)

what is worshipOne way to answer the question, “What is worship?” is to view how it is done at the throne of God. It goes without saying that the angels, elders and living beings that stand before God’s throne would not worship God in a way that displeased the Father. Their acts will show us how worship SHOULD be done.

Worship at God’s Throne in Heaven

We get a glimpse of that worship in several Scriptures in the book of Revelation:

In chapter four, John (the writer of Revelation) attempts to describe something that is impossible for a human to describe – the throne of God. Beyond the lightnings, thunderings, voices, lamps of fire, and a sea of glass, near the throne, John saw four living creatures who gave “glory and honor and thanks” (v.9) to God who was sitting on His throne. John watched as the 24 elders (who represent the redeemed saints from both the Old and New Testament eras) place their crowns, which had been given them, before God’s thrown saying, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power” (v.11).

In chapter five, after the Father gave the seven sealed scroll to the Lamb of God (Jesus), the 4 living beings and the 24 elders “sang a new song” (v.9) giving God the glory for man’s redemption. Then the innumerable angels joined them, “saying with a loud voice; Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and blessing!” (v.12) After that, every creature on earth, under the earth, and under the see said, “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever!” (v.13)

Chapter six describes events (on the earth) at the opening of the first six seals of the scroll. But, in chapter seven, John continued his description of the scene of events before the throne of God. After the appearance of the innumerable host of redeemed souls, the multitudes of angels, the 4 living beings and the 24 elders joined together and WORSHIPED God, saying:

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
Amen.” (vv.11,12)

Components of Worship

Several words seem to be significant in these Scriptures; a) Blessing, b) Glory, c) wisdom, d) Thanksgiving, e) Honor, f) Power, and g) Might. From these words, we can surmise the real nature of worship.

It is a simple thing to understand how the word “Blessing” is involved in the act of worship. The New International Version (NIV) uses the word “praise” in its place. When we heap our BLESSINGS upon our God, we give Him praise. It is the same with “Glory” and “Thanksgiving” and “Honor.” We offer to God all the glory for any productive acts that we may have done; we give Him thanks for allowing us to be counted as sons and daughters, and honor Him above all others – for who He is and for what He has done.

But the other terms are not so easy to comprehend. How can a mere human give WISDOM to God? Or POWER, or MIGHT? We cannot.

What we can do is to ascribe to God all Wisdom, Power, and Might. We can regard that each of those qualities belong – exclusively – to our Father, God.

Contemporary Worship – Application

Mirriam-Webster defines worship as: “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power; or, to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion” to such a being. That agrees with the words that John used to describe the actions that happen around the Throne of God.

One word that is absent – but assumed – in these Scriptures: Love. Reverence is related but it is significant that our relationship with God is one based (both ways) on love rather than any sense of fear or obligation.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God’s love was revealed among us: God sent His one and only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.…” (1 John 4:7-9 NIV)

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5 NIV)

Here is an example of how we could express these ideals:Oh God, You alone are worthy to receive all my praise; all the glory that I have been given; to You – I offer all of my thanks; and I love and honor You above any and all others – in heaven and on the earth. I am comforted by the fact that you possess all wisdom, power, and might.

But worship is not confined to just our words. Worship includes our actions, whether in a church setting or in the public arena. At home or at work. At school or a burger joint. At a recital or at the lake. Where ever we are, our action speak loudly.

Likewise, worship is not entirely in our words or actions. It originates in each person’s heart and is expressed in our outward speech and actions.

Summation of Worship

There is no magic in any set of words, as if they could be memorized and repeated in order to please God. There is no intrinsic value in just speaking a particular set of words or phrases.

Instead, the miraculous part occurs in our hearts and minds as we recognize the awesomeness of our God and His amazing grace that was poured out on us so that we can approach Him as our Father – rather than our Judge. In that state of heart and mind, and with the love that God has poured into our hearts, practically anything that we might do, would will be recognized as worship. (Being led by God’s Spirit, it would not occur to us to do anything inappropriate.)

Questions about Worship

  • What is the most significant effect when you are truly in a state of worship?
  • How would another person recognize that you (or anyone else) were worshiping God?
  • How do you know whether God is pleased with your worship?
Nov 05

Knowing vs Believing – on being Jesus’ disciple

Knowing vs Believing 

knowing vs. believing

Knowing vs Believing: What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Let us look at the (sometimes dissimilar) terms: Knowing vs Believing. What is faith? (Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the KJV Bible.)

Sometimes I hear Christians talking about faith and they make statements like, “Faith is not just believing that God can do such and such but rather, knowing that God will do it.” This sounds pious but we should test whether it is a valid assumption. Is faith a matter of believing – or of knowing?

The speakers likely base that statement on their understanding of Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” However, the jump from “substance” to “knowing” is not an absolute. Could the word substance mean something different? Let us read the entire chapter for context and a better understanding.

Some thoughts from a further reading of Hebrews 11:

  • Faith allows us to understand the unseen: Verse 3, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
  • Faith helps us make proper decisions: Verse 4, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain
  • Faith enables us to accept God’s grace – and to please Him: Verses 5,6 (and 16), “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
  • Faith puts us in God’s plan: Verse 7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
  • Faith directs our path through the unknown: Verse 8, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
  • Faith can make the impossible, possible: Verse 11, “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
  • Faith is not swayed when the answer or knowledge is not forthcoming in our time: Verse 13: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Although this is a shortened list – there are many more in this chapter, and in everyday life – I will stop before the listing becomes too boring. But remember, always consider the entire context – not just a single verse when you want to establish God’s truth.

Faith is composed of many elements. Verse 13 lists some of those elements: People of faith see promises in the future, are persuaded of them, have embraced them, and have confessed them. But nowhere does it suggest that they KNEW them. Instead, verse 8 clearly states that Abraham did NOT know where he was going.  There are many other instances in the Bible where men and women of faith were blind of their future. In particular, verse 13 (above) states that ALL of those faithful people DIED before the object of their faith was fulfilled or their prayers answered!

The New International Version (NIV) translates Hebrews 11:1 as, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” This version places the concept of faith in a more appropriate light. “Faith is confidence” is a far more accurate definition than “faith is knowing.” In faith, we have the “assurance” of the things that we may never see.

Knowledge or “seeing” something diminishes true faith. Romans 8:24 (NIV), “For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see?” And even though Jesus’ half brothers (Joseph’s sons with Mary) lived with Jesus for over 30 years and KNEW him well, the Scripture declares that their knowledge did not translate to faith. “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:5 NIV)

Knowing vs Believing

Believing in Jesus is like trusting in Him. We trust (have faith) that what He said, He will do – even if we don’t see it in our own lifetime. That is clearly not the same as knowing. Disciples of Jesus follow Him in faith, trust, hope, and love – but often without seeing or knowing.

Allow me to close with the words of Peter (1 Peter 1:7,8):

[S]o that the authenticity of your faith—more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious joy.

Oct 15

Praise or Worship – Why People Skip Church Services

Praise or Worship – Why People Skip Church Services

Praise or Worship - Why People Skip Church Services

Most churches today have a time during their services called Praise and Worship. Is that an appropriate phrase to describe what happens? What is the difference between the two? Can you have one without the other: Praise or Worship? All good questions that I want to explore in this article.

Worship is The Acknowledgment of God’s Existence and Worth

In order to deal with these issues properly, let us define the words. (All definitions thanks to Google Dictionary Search.)

Noun definitions of worship:
• the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity
• the acts or rites that make up a formal expression of reverence for a deity; a religious ceremony or ceremonies.
Verb definitions:
• show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites.
• ‎take part in a religious ceremony.
The word “worship” is taken from the Old English weorthscipe meaning ‘worthiness, acknowledgment of worth’.
Whether as a noun (describing a feeling or act) or as a verb (showing action), worship is all about our acknowledgment of the worth of God. It can be expressed internally as feelings or externally as actions but unless the purpose is to glorify and bless God, it is not worship.

Praise is To Set a Price Upon

as a verb: express one’s respect and gratitude toward (a deity), especially in song
• ‎as a noun: the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something.
The word “praise” comes from the Middle English (also in the sense ‘set a price on, attach value to’): from Old French preisier ‘to prize, praise,’ from late Latin pretiare, from Latin pretium ‘price.’ Compare with prize or appraise.

Again, whether as a noun or a verb, praise relates to our expression of God’s value – to us personally. Although the definitions of Biblical words are not always in agreement with present day dictionaries, these Old English definitions are similar to the King James English that many associate with the Bible.

Why People Attend Church Services

In the title, I mentioned church attendance. Let me now deal with that a bit:

Traditional churches used the fear of hell as a means to secure membership and to enforce attendance. Many people were intimidated and obeyed the leaders of the church solely out of fear. Church leaders felt justified in the use of such tactics because they saw common people as unlearned – and any means of their salvation was warranted.

Today, churches are dealing with people who (intentionally or unintentionally) compare the local church services with the high-intensity (and visually perfect) services broadcast from a few mega churches. These same people also have access to the written Word of God (in an almost unlimited number of versions), they are (in general) extremely well educated, and there are a multitude of teachers who (via brick and mortar churches, cable TV, and/or the internet) are more than willing to provide people with their interpretation of the Scriptures in return for their donations. Due to these – and many other factors – the fear of hell – indeed the fear of God – is no longer a compelling reason for many young people to attend church.

That fact has forced churches to rethink what worship is all about and to factor in the concept of praise. In case you are considerably younger than me, I will inject some perspective. As a child in the ’50s, I sometimes attended a nominal church. “Worship” services were very regulated. No one in the congregation was allowed to speak (or even whisper) unless it was included in the “program” (a printed copy of the order of events). The only musical instruments allowed were an organ and a piano. Raising your hand was not acceptable – even if you needed to go to the restroom. Praying for someone who was sick or needy was something you would do in private – if at all, since many churches did not believe praying for the sick to be appropriate in any venue. And, the only people who had the audacity to “lay hands” on those sick folk were those “outlandish pentecostal preachers.”

My, have things changed in the church! It is a rare church that does not endorse – and practice – most or all of those “outlandish” actions today. And consequently, most of those churches are also having to deal with the “music wars” (trying to define which style of music is acceptable) and how to keep up attendance when all the numbers are declining. Church “splits” and closed doors are sometimes the norm, rather than the exception.

So, what about “worship OR praise”?

How is this related to worship and praise? Are worship and praise different, exclusive, are they co-dependent, or what? The answer is “yes, depending upon the individual case.”

Worship can be a simple ritualistic ceremony. This is inferred in the statement “they worshipped quietly.” In which case, you might have “acknowledged God’s existence and general worth” in your heart, but your feelings of reverence for God likely produced no outward praise.

Worship is more internal (concerned with one’s motives and feelings) while praise is more external (concerned with one’s actions).

Praise is giving God the glory for something. Someone on Facebook may write a post thanking God for sparing them or their loved ones from some tragic event. Technically, that is praise. But depending upon their internal motivation, there may – or may not – have been worship involved. It could be hollow and lacking in sincerity. (Imagine: a post on Facebook that is not true!)

In each of the previous illustrations, worship and praise could have been exclusive of the other. But the kind of worship and praise that God approves is such that the two are co-dependent on each other. Our internal feelings of the existence and worth of God are expressed in our external acts of gratitude for Jesus’ death in ransom for our eternal soul.

To summarize and answer the question about church attendance: 

There are times when – even though our love of God is real – our worship may stem from a sense of duty or obligation (similar to the old “fear”). This translates into accepting relatively minor problems as valid excuses for skipping church services. (Is that insightful, or what?) On the other hand, when churches experience true worship expressed in real joy and praise, people look for opportunities to return – rather than excuses to skip.

Which is true in your church?

P.S. A little extra about Psalms 150:

Six elements of praise from Psalms 150:
• True praise is not restricted to church (in the sanctuary and throughout the heavens)
• ‎Praise results from what God has done (acts of power)
• ‎Praise results from who God is (surpassing greatness)
• ‎Praise can take many forms (dancing, singing, instruments)
• ‎Praise is generally loud (cymbals)
• ‎Praise should be universal (all that have breath)
Sep 24

Too much stress – How to survive overwhelming stress

Too much stressToo much stress

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 2 Corinthians 1:8‭-‬10 NIV

Most of us complain about having too much stress in our job, family, and even church. And much of the complaining is warranted. However, we have managed to get through it – so far. But how much stress does it take to really qualify as “too much stress?”

In this portion of Scripture, Paul explained that his imprisonment in Asia was such that he had pretty much determined that they were going to kill him. That is surely too much stress. He even said that the pressure was “far beyond (his) ability to endure.”

So what is the takeaway from Paul’s experience?

First, that God has a purpose for each trial that we face.  Paul had experienced some tremendous results while ministering in the name of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:17) but God wanted to keep Paul focused on Christ – and not become proud and possibly stop depending on God. So, this trial was to show Paul that he was not self sufficient. Self-sufficiency is a malignant problem in our society.

The second takeaway is that regardless how difficult our situation is (even if we “despair of life”), when we put our trust in God, He will continue to deliver us! And He will do it again and again.

So, when we feel that we “just can’t take it anymore,” remember – we are not alone. And what is overwhelming to us does not even cause our Heavenly Father to break into a sweat! In fact, He was aware of your situation before it occurred. He is just waiting for you (and me) to stop relying on ourselves and start putting our hope in His loving care and strength.

Sep 17

Do everything in love – cost and benefit

Do everything in love

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13‭-‬14 NIV

Do everything in love

Difficulty brings out the best and the worst in people. It is so sad to see reports of looters stealing from the victims of the recent hurricanes. But a more powerful image is that of the thousands volunteers who – out of love – left jobs and families to give their time and money to help strangers. They don’t check race, religion, or any other demographic – they just help! That is the definition of “Do everything in love.”

There have been two unimaginable tragedies in the past couple of weeks. Hurricane Harvey flooded much of Texas and Hurricane Irma destroyed a large segment of the Caribbean and Florida – and even up the Atlantic coast. Thousands of families were forced to evacuate their homes. Some estimates place the total cost of these two storms at nearly $300 billion! It is impossible to comprehend the cost to the victims.

I do not have the financial solution to such a problem. The individual costs to the volunteers will also be substantial. But love (of any type) costs you something. Love without personal sacrifice is not true love.

What I do know is that true love is worth the cost. Matthew 19:29 NIV says, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

In acts of human compassion and love, the result is that we will receive love and compassion on a far greater level. And when Christians obey the command to do everything in love, we are simply paying forward the love that Christ first showed us when He – in love – sacrificed his life for us.

Sep 12

Consider the Lilies – a Devotional

Jesus said that we should “Consider the Lilies” when we are concerned about our circumstances (Luke 12:27,28 KJV). 

“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?”

Consider the Lilies

Asiatic Lily from our Gardens (5/14/14)

Consider the Lilies

Jesus spoke these words to comfort his followers – many of whom were likely destitute and homeless. He assured them that their Heavenly Father cared for them and was aware of their needs. He also reminded them that they should “consider the lilies” and keep things in perspective.

Coupled with the assurance of God’s love and care, Jesus mentioned two very significant issues about these beautiful flowers:

  • They did nothing to deserve their beauty
  • Their beauty is temporary

If the lily did nothing to deserve its beauty, why is it so arrayed and other plants are not so pretty? Or, to be more specific, WHY does God allow some people to amass great riches while others are starving? Or, why did God make me so homely while others have the physical appearance that makes everyone jealous?

These complaints are common in children who frequently say, “It’s not fair!” But adults are also prone to make such judgments about the disparity of wealth, beauty, or other things of this life. Too often, we say to ourselves, “it just is not fair!” Which really suggests that God is not fair.

Jesus said that our physical assets are not the most important things to consider. Matthew chapter six is the parallel Scripture where Jesus told his followers to first seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness and these things would be added to them. (Matthew 6:33)

Clearly, Jesus was telling them, and us to get our priorities sorted. Find out what is important and eternal and focus on those things. And when it comes to the rest of the “stuff,” the contemporary phrase is correct,  “Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff!” Just remember, if it is seen with our eyes, it is only temporary while the eternal things remain unseen. (Compare 2 Corinthians 4:18)

Sep 06

Gain friends and lose character?

Gain friends and lose character?

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV

Some, like the Pharisees, have suggested that a “Christian” should not have contact with anyone who does not also believe. However, the very next verse (1Co 15:34) faults the Corinthians for NOT reaching out to their neighbors, “there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.”

Gain friends and lose character?

What the verse says is that, although we can be a true friend to non believers, we cannot allow their companionship to erode our beliefs and morality. We can – and should – listen to, pray for, and help our unbelieving friends to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

When Jesus walked on earth, He visited with sinners and prostitutes, but He did so with the intention of lifting them up – rather than allowing them to bring Him down to their level of sin. He generally did not criticise or censure them – instead, He gave them an opportunity to find redemption and eternal life.

Never allow a misunderstanding of this verse to limit your contact with others. Whether a person is a believer or not, Christians should be the best neighbors/co-workers/friends that anyone could ask for.

Gain friends and lose character? Never! Instead, let them see our love and give glory to the God that we serve!

Sep 05

Mystery solved! The Rapture and the Future

Mystery solvedMystery solved

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51‭-‬52 NIV

Everyone likes a good mystery now and then. The thing about mysteries of God is that to us, they seem to be clearly spoken. But to those whose eyes are blinded, such insights are just “nonsense.”

That is the case with the coming “end times.” Christians may disagree about the details but all evangelical Christians are agreed to the basics:

  • There is a time coming (soon) where the order of things will be dramatically changed.
  • There will be a resurrection of the bodies of the children of God who have previously died
  • Living saints will be “changed” into immortal beings
  • It will all take place in an instant

This “change” is commonly referred to as the “rapture” but that is not a Biblical phrase – it is an estimation of the elation felt by those who are changed.

The focus of this Scripture is not on details but on comfort to God’s children (c.f. 1 Thes 4:18). First, the assurance that our deceased loved ones (who died as believers) will be resurrected. Second, that the then-living Christians will be changed from this mortal body into immortal (never dying) bodies. All will be recipients of eternal glory and unending joy in the presence of God Himself!

That is a mystery with a happy ending!

Oct 11

The Heart of God

The Heart of God

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” Acts 13:22 NIVHeart of God

This verse is more profound than one might recognize at first reading. It is (in context), only a small part of the connection that the Apostle Paul showed between the prophets of old and the present day of grace. That amazing grace, of course, is the result of Jesus’ death on the cross. Continue reading

Sep 26

What if You Do Not Believe in God

What if You Do Not Believe in God

Don't Do not believe in God

Photo adapted from Marian Beck some rights reserved

Recently, Pope Francis made this statement which suggests that belief in God is optional to get to heaven :

“You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.
“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.” Note1

I agree with Francis that God’s mercy is far greater than we can imagine (Lamentations 3:22,23). It is also true that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8,9) and we cannot grasp them fully. And, I must say that our God is sovereign and can make decisions without consulting any other. Finally, it is possible that, in the larger context of his words, the Pope’s words may have been taken out of context.

But, taken as read, I have a deep disagreement with Francis about whether a non-believer can go to heaven by simply following his or her conscience.

  1. Our conscience is a result of our value system. Depending upon the society in which we live, one’s conscience may excuse practically everything that is considered sin in the Bible. An example of this is the US World Report of an Islamic Fundamentalist whose Sharia beliefs led him to rape a 13-year-old girl because (in his words), “Women are no more worthy than a lollipop that has been dropped on the ground.” 
  2. The Bible declares that the heart (Biblical term for conscience) is deceitful & desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) and out of the heart “come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). Although some may claim to have a clear conscience, it is no comfort for eternity because their conscience may have been seared (ironed over) (1Timothy 4:2). Unless it has been led by the Spirit of God, one’s conscience is not trustworthy, instead it is deceitful and wicked.
  3. Jesus said that there is just one way to our heavenly Father, and Jesus is the way (John 14:6). Even if one tries to keep up a clear conscience in the present, their past sins must be accounted for. Anyone who claims to be free of sin is a liar (1John 1:8). But when we confess our sin, “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins (1John 1:9).

Although I am saddened to say, it seems to me that the statement by Francis is diabolically opposed to Scripture.

When we offer alternative “gospels” (good news, a means of salvation), we are attempting to make Christ a liar when He said (John 14:6) that He was “THE” (one an only) way to the Father.  Romans 3:3,4 states, “If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” 

According to the Bible (John 3:16-18), unless and until, we believe on Christ, we are condemned:

“16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 1

The reward for the “unbelieving” is determined at the Great White Throne judgment:for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

It may be that sovereign God may make some allowances for those who have not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel of Christ and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior in their life. Although the Bible is unclear about such, it may fit with God’s sense of justice. However, it *IS* clear in the Bible that those who know of the Gospel and still disbelieve, are guilty before God (John 15:22) and (Hebrews 10:26) plus many others. So, how many of these “unbelievers” have never heard about Jesus Christ?

Note1 The full text of the Pope’s letter can be found here:

A rebuttal argument can be found here: