Bible Question:

How will God reward a person who is not a Christian but is an atheist who leads a honest life, loves others, and helps the poor? I know such persons personally. They are healthy even in their very old age.

Bible Answer:

Instead of using my own words to answer your question, here are some passages from the Bible which will provide you with the answer. Then we will follow with a few comments.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life . . . He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (NASB) John 3:16, 18

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (NASB) John 3:36

. . . that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (NASB) Rom. 10:9-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (NASB) Eph. 2:8-9

Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness . . (NASB) Rom. 4:4-5

These New Testament passages reveal that our eternal destiny is not determined by how good or how bad we are. God does not look at our good deeds or good works and then determine if we will go to heaven. He only wants to know if we believed in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. That is, did we believe Jesus was God and that He died for our sins? Did we trust or depend upon Him to forgive our sins? If so, God will forgive our sins and take over our lives.

There are some passages in the New Testament that would seem to imply God does evaluate our good and bad deeds. One such passage is as follows:

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds . . . And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (NASB) Rev. 20:12, 15

Our eternal destiny is determined by whether our names are written in the book of Life – not by what type of people we are or our deeds. That is the message of this passage. The key to understanding this passage is that only Christians can perform good works acceptable to God according to Eph. 2:10.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (NASB) Eph. 2:10

Only Christians or those who already believe in Jesus Christ can perform works or deeds which God calls “good.” It is God who actually performs those good works through the one who believes, according to Phil. 2:12-13. The good works are proof that they believe in Jesus Christ and are already forgiven. Their good works do not obtain for them forgiveness or eternal life.

Conclusion:

The “loving, honest atheist” who does not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior is bound to spend eternity in hell or separated from God. We would encourage you to read, “Peace With God.” May God bless you.

Reference Links:

Peace With God