The Man on the Island and the Game of Monopoly
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:18-20
If a man lives in the depths of the amazon jungle separated from the rest of the populated world and is unaware of the gospel message of Jesus Christ, is he spiritually accountable for the condition of his soul? What about the man on the island isolated from society who has never heard the gospel message of Christ? Because of his unique circumstance, does he get a free pass when it comes to matters of eternal life? This question has been posed in many theological circles throughout the centuries. We would like to think that because of their unique circumstances, they are not held spiritually responsible, and that when it comes to the subject of Hell, they receive some sort of a “get out of jail free” card.
But if this were true, it would mean that sharing the gospel of Christ with someone would be equivalent to taking away their free pass to heaven because they would now be held accountable. If that were the case, why should we even take the time to share Jesus with others in the first place? At least if we kept the gospel to ourselves, we would be shielding them from the opportunity to reject the gospel. And if this was really true, it would make more sense for us not to tell people about Jesus so that more people could stay ignorant of the gospel and thus not be held spiritually responsible.
Yet this is an erroneous position on the matter. We can be rest assured that such a man is in fact held spiritually accountable. If he was not, why did our Lord Jesus give us the great commission in the first place? The fact that Jesus commanded His followers to go and tell is proof that the man on the island does not get a free pass into heaven. A free pass would suggest that the man on the island is innocent and free of any sin debt. Yet the Bible says that there is no one righteous (Romans 3:10). Therefore ignorance does not equal innocence. It is a hard truth for many to swallow. We ask ourselves, “How can a loving God hold the man on the island who has never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ accountable for his actions?”
The answer is simply this; He is held accountable for his actions because deep down inside, whether he wants to admit it or not, he knows right from wrong…at least in large measure. Within the heart of man is a general understanding of right and wrong, even if it is denied or ignored. Paul makes this clear in Romans 2:14-16 when he writes, “Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” Paul penned those words after making the statement in our passage above where he had explained that creation speaks of God’s glory, and that the earth itself testifies of His existence. Because of all of these things, man is without excuse.
In the end, all men will be held accountable, whether living in the jungle, or on an island. Man’s guilty status cannot be ignored, overlooked, or excused. Nor can man be saved apart from hearing and responding to the gospel of Christ. With these truths in mind, isn’t it appropriate that later in the letter to the Romans, Paul says that faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17)? Oh how this ought to fan the flame of your heart to see lost people saved! Pray today that God will give you a passion for people to come to know Christ personally through hearing and receiving the gospel!
(P.S. – Obviously the man in the amazon pictured above is not alone; he keeps a cameraman with him…Haha!)