Unbelief is a concept that appears frequently throughout the Bible. In a world where faith can be hard to find, what guidance does the Word of God offer regarding those who lack faith or belief in God?
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible makes it clear that unbelievers stand condemned before God because of their sin and unbelief. However, it also offers hope in that unbelievers can still come to saving faith if they hear and respond to the gospel message.
In this comprehensive article, we will examine several key Bible passages that reveal important truths about unbelievers and the fate of those who persist in unbelief. We will also look at how believers should relate to unbelievers, focusing on the need to faithfully preach the gospel while also loving unbelievers and praying for their salvation.
The Perilous State of Unbelievers Before God
Unbelievers Are Condemned Already
The Bible makes it clear that those who do not believe in Jesus Christ stand condemned before God. John 3:18 states, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Unbelievers remain under God’s wrath due to their sin and rebellion against Him (John 3:36). Though God patiently endures unbelievers with the desire that they would repent (2 Peter 3:9), the Bible warns that “the wrath of God remains” on those who do not obey Jesus Christ (John 3:36).
Tragically, unbelievers are “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them” (Ephesians 4:18). Though unbelievers may seem content in their unbelief, the Bible makes it clear that they are utterly lost, trapped in the kingdom of darkness, deprived of the light and life found only in Christ (Colossians 1:13).
As Charles Spurgeon said, “Out of Christ, alienation is a positive fact; in Christ we are reconciled.”
Unbelievers Face God’s Wrath and Judgement
The Bible repeatedly warns that those who reject Christ face God’s coming wrath and judgement. John 3:36 warns that “the wrath of God remains” on unbelievers. Romans 1:18 likewise states, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
Revelation 20:11-15 describes the terrifying Great White Throne judgement before which all unbelievers will stand and face eternal condemnation. Jesus himself warns, “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).
Tragically, for those who persist in unbelief, a day is coming when they will cry out for the mountains to fall on them to shield them from facing the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16-17). While God patiently endured their rebellion in this life, giving them opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3:9), the day of grace will end.
As Abraham told the rich man in Hades, “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (Luke 16:26). The peril facing unbelievers is great indeed.
Reasons for Unbelief According to the Bible
Unbelievers Are Spiritually Blind
The Bible teaches that unbelievers lack spiritual sight and are unable to perceive God’s truth (2 Corinthians 4:4). Just as a physically blind person cannot see the light, unbelievers are blind to spiritual realities. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers.
Why are unbelievers spiritually blind? Because of sin. Sin distorts people’s perception of God and His truth. It’s like wearing darkened glasses – you end up seeing everything through a distorted lens. Only through faith in Christ can this spiritual blindness be removed (2 Corinthians 3:14-16).
Unbelievers Are Enslaved to Sin and Satan
Unbelievers are slaves to sin (John 8:34), trapped in patterns of wrongdoing. They are unable to consistently do what is right or good in God’s eyes. Even when unbelievers do perform righteous acts, their motives are often tainted by selfishness or pride.
In addition, Satan has unbelievers captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26). The devil blinds unbelievers from seeing the light of the gospel and traps them in his web of lies and deception (2 Corinthians 4:4). Only Christ can set people free from their enslavement to sin and Satan.
Unbelievers Reject God’s Self-Revelation
Unbelievers reject the truth about God that He has clearly revealed in nature, conscience, and Scripture (Romans 1:18-23). Although God’s invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature are clearly displayed in creation, unbelievers suppress this truth and reject the evidence.
God has also set eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11), giving people an innate knowledge or awareness of Himself. Yet unbelievers reject what their conscience and heart tell them to be true about God. They are without excuse for their unbelief (Romans 1:20).
Finally, God revealed Himself fully through His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3). Yet many people reject Jesus despite seeing His life, miracles, teachings, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead. They reject God’s ultimate self-revelation and choose unbelief.
Hope for the Salvation of Unbelievers
The Bible makes clear that unbelievers are in a dire spiritual condition. However, it also offers hope that they can still come to saving faith through hearing and responding to the gospel message. As believers, we should earnestly pray for and witness to those who are currently lost in the darkness of unbelief.
The Gospel Still Offers Salvation
Even those who are presently unbelievers are not beyond the reach of God’s salvation. The apostle Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). No one is too far gone to be saved if they repent and believe.
Jesus Christ himself said, “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” (John 3:16). The offer of salvation through Jesus is open to all people in all times and places if they will place their faith in Him.
God Desires All to Be Saved
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul clarifies that God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Unbelievers continue to draw breath each day because God is patient, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
So we need not despair for the salvation of unbelievers, even those most hostile to the gospel, because God loves them and offers them redemption. As the Lord told Paul regarding those opposed to the faith, “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light” (Acts 26:17-18).
The light of Christ can reach even the most determined unbelievers and lead them to salvation.
Believers Should Pray for the Lost
Because God desires all people everywhere to know him and be saved, believers should consistently pray for unbelievers to hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:2-3).
We should specifically pray for open doors and opportunities to share the good news with unbelievers we know, whether family, friends, coworkers, neighbors or strangers. God can use our loving prayers and witness to draw unbelievers to Himself in saving faith.
|of evangelical leaders say they pray for unbelievers daily or weekly
|of born again Christians say they pray for friends or family to accept Christ as Savior
So while unbelievers are in spiritual darkness and danger, God offers light and hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by loving, praying believers. We can confidently pray and share with gentleness and respect, trusting God to open eyes, change hearts and bring salvation to those currently lost in unbelief.
How Believers Should Relate to Unbelievers
Share the Gospel Message With Clarity and Compassion
When engaging with unbelievers, believers should share the gospel message with clarity, conviction, and compassion. Avoid Christian jargon and speak in simple terms about God’s love demonstrated through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Invite dialogue and answer honest questions without judgement.
Recognize that unbelievers may have intellectual or emotional barriers, so patience and understanding are vital. As 1 Peter 3:15 states, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Treat Unbelievers With Christlike Love
Jesus set the standard for how to treat unbelievers by loving them unconditionally. Believers should follow His example by showing kindness, patience, generosity, and selflessness to unbelievers. Offer to help meet practical needs when appropriate. Listen with an open heart. Build genuine friendships.
Avoid an “us versus them” mentality. Adapt to connect with different personalities and backgrounds. Look for common ground and shared interests. As Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Maintain Identity as Believers Without Compromise
When building relationships with unbelievers, believers should stay rooted in their faith and not compromise Biblical principles. Be authentic and transparent about your beliefs, values, and worldview. At the same time, avoid hostility, defensiveness, or judging others.
Do not participate in activities that contradict Scripture. Find thoughtful ways to set loving boundaries if unbelievers pressure you to act against your conscience. Be prayerful about how to navigate these situations wisely.
As 2 Corinthians 6:14 reminds believers, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
In closing, while the Bible contains grave warnings about the lost state of unbelievers, it also offers great hope. No one is beyond the reach of God’s redeeming grace if they will hear and believe the gospel.
As believers, we must faithfully proclaim this good news while also loving the lost, just as God does. With persistent prayer and Christlike compassion, we can play a role in seeing many unbelievers come to salvation.