Christians have long asked the question of, “What happens to those who have never heard the gospel?” Paul answered this question by quoting an old prophetic Psalm to make the point that, “The Heavens have already told everyone about Jesus.”
And all God’s people said, “What?”
Bible scholar Michael Heiser blends this passage with a few others to make a sensible proposal as to what Paul means here. First off, we need to understand that in ancient culture, stars were thought to be spiritual beings (angels and the like). They lived up in Heaven and moved around each night, which illustrated sentience. Their movements, therefore, must have been communication of some sort–like bees dancing out instructions to one another. In this light, astronomical oddities were an extra important kind of communication.
This being said, the heavens have quite a bit to do with the birth of Jesus. The wisemen knew the King of the Jews had been born because a star of some sort had drawn their attention to it—or again, as Paul says, “The Heavens have already told everyone about Jesus.” All you had to do was look up to see the message. The stars had even come down to earth to make it crystal clear via angelic messages to Mary and Joseph and a whole group of angels appeared to some shepherds.
This theory continues forward like this: Jesus told John to take care of his mother after he passed. What if the wisemen explained to Mary what they saw the stars doing? And what if Mary explained this to John as he took care of her? And what if John then incorporated that into his Book of Revelation? After all, there’s a whole story in Revelation 12 about how various constellations lined up perfectly to tell the birth, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus.
So back to our question, “What happens to those who never heard the gospel?” Paul would say, “We all saw the news communicated as clearly as the sky itself! Don’t you all remember the star of Bethlehem?” But Paul also expected Jesus to come back any day, and we are no longer of the generation that saw the Heavens bear m the same witness. So can we still use Paul’s reasoning?
Maybe. But I’m more apt to just say this: God, by definition is justice. He is also love and truth. There is no real justice, love or truth outside of him. So whatever decisions he decides to make on confusing judgment questions such as these, we can rest assured that he cannot be unjust, unloving, or untruthful. He will judge correctly and we will agree when we see it, for it will make sense to us. We can trust his character to handle the grey areas correctly.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Romans 10 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net. Below are the various AI-created pictures I typed into existence via Mid Journey to mock up artwork for today’s post.