If God wanted to save people from evil, why did he wait for so long before sending Jesus? If the Gospel is better than the Torah, why send the Law of Moses?
Why didn’t God send Jesus at the beginning to show love if He already knew the people that live in the world would be so evil…? If He knew that Jesus’s teaching of love will make people become better today…why did he make the Torah rules to Moses…which is so cruel (killing a woman if she has sex with a man she is not married to), while in Jesus’ times we are taught to forgive? It sounds like two different Gods. It almost seems like it is trial and error on God’s part. Why does Deuteronomy 23:1 happen, for example? How about the people that live in an obscure part of China that never heard of christianity or someone born into a budhist family who does good things and are good people. If an evangelist came there it would be very hard for them to accept. How should they believe that Christianity is the right religion? What happen when they die? Would they go to hell?
I understand the emotion that drives us to question God’s timing, but the Bible says that God sent his Son Jesus “at just the right time.” (Galatians 4:4) I am sure all of us can second-guess God on his timing, but I believe God when he tells us that he chose the best possible time to send his Son to die for us. God created us to know him and to be known by him and to love one another. In order for this love to be real, God gave us free will. He gave us a choice. We chose selfishness and pride, and rebelled against God. The Bible is the story of God “solving” the problem of sin and separation. God’s plan was to choose a man of faith (Abraham), and, through him, to create a people and a nation which he chose and to whom he sent a Law in order to prepare for the coming of the Savior. He sent the prophets and he gave us prophecies of the Messiah. God waited until a historical time when there was relative peace under the Romans (known as the Pax Romana), at a time when there was a common language across massive areas–Greek. If God had come to save us earlier, there would have been no written language and no nearly world-wide political system (Rome), and the gospel would not have spread across the world. Also, the gospel came to Judea, which was literally at the crossroads of Africa, Europe and Asia. Noone could have created a more auspicirous time or place to send the saviour of mankind. If Jesus had come earlier, almost noone would have even heard of him. We would do well to trust God’s wisdom and timing on sending his Son.
About the Torah, again, we would do well to trust God’s wisdom there. Paul explains the wisdom of God sending the Law to the Jews in Romans. He tells us in Romans 5:20 that he gave the Law “that sin might increase.” In other words, that we might more fully understand our sinfulness and our desparate need for God. The way Paul put it, through the Law of Moses and our inability to save ourselves it revealed, it made sin utterly sinful (Romans 7:13. We are prideful and are totally out of touch with our need for grace. Therefore, God sent the Law of Moses to Israel as part of his plan to send a saviour “at just the right time.” The Law of Moses was not cruel. There was no mutilation or torture or abuse tolerated in this Law. The Law of Moses obviously took sin very seriously. That was the whole point. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. We can find God’s love, mercy, patience and compassion saturating the Old Testament. Psalm 145 describes Jehovah in the following way: “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. This is the same God as is found in the New Testament. The God of the New Testament takes sin very seriously. Jesus talked about hell as much as he talked about heaven. In the New Testament, it is still “a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31) The Torah did include capital punishment, but there was no cruelty or torture and, besides, the thing to fear is hell, not physical death.
Deuteronomy 23:1 is about the holiness and purity of God. People who were physically imperfect were not allowed in worship at the temple. The message here is the holiness and perfection of God. It is not because God judged these people or valued them less than others, but in the Old Testament God uses physical things to represent spiritual realities–in this case the holiness and perfection of God.
The question of people who have never heard the gospel is one I get often. I am copying and pasting from an article at my web site on that. But before I do this, let me say that, according to the Bible, no one is good (Romans 3:9-18). There is no such thing as a “good” Buddhist or Hindu or Christian, for that matter and no one will be saved and go to heaven because they were good. We need to be cautious about letting our sentimentality cause us to forget that, outside of the blood of Jesus, no one is holy or good on their own merits. This is what the Bible teaches.
About salvation for those who have never heard of Jesus, this was a real issue fifty or five hundred years ago as in former times, many had not heard of Jesus, but today, I suppose that more than 99.5% of all humans have heard of Jesus of Nazareth and have at least some sort of access to the Bible and to the truth about him. Nevertheless, this is a legitimate question. One can also ask about those born before Jesus came and died. In Revelation 13:8 we find that, from God’s perspective, Jesus is a “lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.” Jesus can vicariously save anyone who puts their faith in God. Peter told us that Jesus is the only name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). This is true. Only those who put their faith in Jesus, repent of their sins, and are baptized into Christ are saved, which means that they are forgiven of their sins and have the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:36-38) which is a deposit, guaranteeing our salvation until the redemption of those who are Gods possession (Ephesians 1:14).
Will others be forgiven in the end and accepted into heaven, even though they were not baptized into Christ? Yes. I believe that Moses and David and Rachel and Sarah and Abraham will be there. Ultimate salvation always has and always will be based on faith in God. Like it says in Genesis 15, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Was Abraham “saved” in the sense that a Christian is saved? No. He did not have the Holy Spirit living in him. Might someone who believes in the one God somewhere in Outer Mongolia, who has never heard of Jesus somehow make it into heaven? This is God’s business and not mine, but I suppose it is possible. That person would not have been saved in the New Testament sense of that word, as mentioned by Peter, the means by which it occurs having been taught by him in Acts 2:36-38, but perhaps God will forgive such a person in the end.
I suppose this is possible, as even hinted at in Romans 2:12-16. In this passage wer are told that those who have never heard of Jesus might ultimately make it to heaven based on having obeyed their conscience. However, I would not hold out a lot of hope for such people. It was not Paul’s purpose in Romans 2:12-16 to hold out hope for these people. In fact, the purpose of Romans chapters 1-3 is to show that all are lost based on their works. And besides, this has nothing to do with us, as we have heard of Jesus and all we meet in our daily lives have also heard of Jesus. It is our job, not to worry about special cases, but to share the gospel with everyone, as clearly their best “shot” to make it to heaven is to be saved by Jesus through faith, repentance and baptism.