How will God judge people that didn’t know the truth?

SHARE

By BibleAsk Team


The question of how God will judge people who didn’t know the truth touches on God’s justice, mercy, and the nature of human responsibility. The Bible provides principles that help us understand how God might judge those who haven’t had explicit knowledge of the gospel.

The Nature of God’s Judgment

1. God’s Righteousness and Justice

The Bible consistently portrays God as a righteous and just judge who is fair in His judgments.

Psalm 9:7-8: “But the LORD shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.” (NKJV)

This passage affirms that God’s judgment is based on righteousness and uprightness. God’s decisions are rooted in His perfect moral character, ensuring that His judgments are fair and just.

Acts 17:31: “Because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (NKJV)

Paul’s message in Athens underscores that God’s judgment will be carried out through Jesus Christ and will be based on righteousness.

Romans 2:5-6: “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds.’” (NKJV)

This passage highlights that God’s judgment will be based on individuals’ deeds, reflecting His righteousness and justice.

2. God’s Knowledge and Omniscience

God’s omniscience means that He knows everything about every person, including their actions, thoughts, and intentions. This knowledge ensures that His judgment is perfectly informed and just.

Psalm 139:1-4: “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.” (NKJV)

God’s intimate knowledge of each person’s life means that His judgment will consider all relevant factors, including their understanding and circumstances.

Hebrews 4:13: “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (NKJV)

This verse reinforces the idea that God sees and knows everything, ensuring that His judgment is thorough and just.

Judgment According to Knowledge

1. Accountability Based on Revelation Received

The Bible suggests that people are judged according to the knowledge and the opportunities to know the truth that they have received and their response to it.

Romans 1:18-20: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (NKJV)

This passage indicates that God has revealed Himself through creation, making His existence and attributes evident to all people. Thus, people are without excuse for their ungodliness and unrighteousness.

Romans 2:12-16: “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (NKJV)

Paul explains that those without the law (Gentiles) will be judged based on their response to the law written in their hearts, while those with the law (Jews) will be judged by their adherence to it. This suggests that God’s judgment takes into account the revelation people have received.

2. The Parable of the Talents

Jesus’ parable of the talents illustrates the principle that people are judged based on the opportunities and resources entrusted to them.

Matthew 25:14-30: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (NKJV)

This parable teaches that God expects people to use what they have been given faithfully, and they will be judged accordingly. This principle can be applied to the knowledge and revelation people have received.

The Role of Conscience and Natural Law

1. The Witness of Conscience

The Bible teaches that even those without explicit knowledge of God’s law have a conscience that bears witness to right and wrong.

Romans 2:14-15: “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.” (NKJV)

Paul indicates that Gentiles, who do not have the Mosaic Law, still have a sense of right and wrong written in their hearts. Their conscience acts as a guide, holding them accountable for their actions.

2. General Revelation through Creation

God’s general revelation through creation provides evidence of His existence and attributes, making people responsible for their response to this knowledge.

Psalm 19:1-4: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun.” (NKJV)

This passage highlights that creation itself declares the glory of God, providing knowledge of Him to all people.

Romans 1:19-20: “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (NKJV)

Paul reinforces that God’s attributes are evident in creation, leaving people without excuse for failing to acknowledge and honor Him.

The Justice and Mercy of God

1. God’s Desire for All to Be Saved

The Bible affirms that God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:3-4: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (NKJV)

God’s desire for universal salvation reflects His love and mercy, indicating that He will judge people with a view to their ultimate redemption.

2. The Role of Jesus Christ in Judgment

Jesus Christ, as the appointed judge, embodies both God’s justice and mercy. His sacrificial death on the cross provides the basis for the forgiveness of sins and the hope of salvation.

John 5:22-27: “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” (NKJV)

Jesus’ role as judge ensures that God’s judgment is administered with the perfect balance of justice and mercy.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the New Testament provides several principles that help us understand how God will judge people who didn’t know the truth. These principles include God’s righteousness and justice, His omniscience, and the accountability of individuals based on the revelation they have received. The Bible suggests that people are judged according to their response to general revelation through creation, the witness of their conscience, and the opportunities to know the truth and resources entrusted to them.

God’s desire for all to be saved and His provision of Jesus Christ as the ultimate judge ensure that His judgment is both just and merciful. While the New Testament does not provide a detailed account of how every individual will be judged, it affirms that God’s judgments are fair and based on a comprehensive understanding of each person’s circumstances and response to His revelation.

Ultimately, these insights remind us of the importance of seeking and responding to the truth, living faithfully according to the knowledge we have received, and trusting in the justice and mercy of God.

Check out the Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics. 

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

Categories God

We'd love your feedback, so leave a comment!

If you feel an answer is not 100% Bible based, then leave a comment, and we'll be sure to review it.
Our aim is to share the Word and be true to it.