But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:14,15
The other evening CDS asked an interesting question. He asked if there was a Ravi Zacharias video or something that explains why people from places such as China should follow a religion from the Middle East, and if Jesus ever revealed Himself to people there as He has in other places. (Also mentioned the Mormon belief that Jesus appeared to American Indians, but that’s a whole other topic…)
This could be a loaded subject, and I’ve had his question working in my mind since he asked. I don’t know if I can answer the way he needs to know or wants to know, but I’ve got a few things that first popped into my mind about it.
The first thing- The Heavenly Man.
Most people have never heard of him, but his story is still being written and it’s an incredible story! His name is Brother Yun. I first read his story, the Heavenly Man, years ago and it was then when I began to really be interested in the underground church, persecution and the fact that when Christians are heavily persecuted, the Gospel (the simple message of Christ’s love, sacrifice for our sins, resurrection and victory over death and sin) is spread and received like a wild fire of the Holy Spirit.
If you really want to read an easy, yet incredible story, you need to read “The Heavenly Man” by Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway.
Short version, Liu Zhenying (Yun) was born in a poor isolated village in the southern part of the most populated part of China, Henan Province. As a child he didn’t attend school as much as working along with family and neighbors in the crop fields.
In the latter part of the 1800’s and earliest part of 1900 there was what was called the Boxer Rebellion, where Chinese nationalists brutally murdered hundreds of Christian missionaries and thousands of Chinese Christians. The country was closed to most missionaries for a few decades after, but still some braved the dangers and made their way to the interior of China, including one lady from Norway, Marie Monsen. For a time she lived in the county in which Brother Yun was later born, and encountered a few Christian believers. She preached the gospel message and emphasized on heart change vs. head knowledge, and that one must be born again in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
Years later another missionary visited the same region, and Brother Yun’s mother became a believer at 20 years old. Soon after, the Communists took control of the government and again missionaries were ordered out of China, churches closed and pastors imprisoned.
Brother Yun’s story relates the incredible dream/vision which led him to learn more about Jesus, and even how he was able to get his hands on a Bible, which was incredibly rare.
This leads me to the next thing that I thought of when I was pondering CDS’s questions. How will they know, and how does God reveal Himself to the world?
The Bible makes it clear that God is known, One of the ways is through the world he has made. Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” And in Romans 1:19-20 Paul adds, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.“
Let’s stop there for a minute. Many times in discussions with non believers, one of the things they say is how unfair a passage like that is, “without excuse” when still many people haven’t ever heard of God or Jesus? I usually ask them first, what have they done with the information about God and Jesus that they have heard?
Jesus is described in John 1, as “The Word”. In the very beginning, creation of the heavens and earth were spoken into existence. Jesus tells his disciples to go to the ends of the earth and share the good news of His salvation. The Christian message has been one of spoken word rather than visions because it is the Word that is most effective and what cuts as a double edged sword with the truth. “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations…” Revelation 19:15 (a)
The Bible does talk about a time when He will make Himself known through dreams and visions, but for the most part, He has been made known already by His Word. In the last century alone the spreading of the Gospel has not only gone out to almost all known tribes and languages, but the Bible is the most translated work and as of October 2017 the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament alone into 1521 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1121 other languages.
In many places people are coming to the truth of Jesus through dreams and visions, and this is most evident now in the Middle East where many Muslims are turning away from Islam to Jesus. It may be, as described in the Heavenly Man, that dreams and visions happen in other places like remote villages in China, or Africa or isolated tribes throughout the world as well, but we just haven’t had accounts available because they are so isolated.
Consider someone like Ravi Zacharias’s testimony now. He was born in India, his parents were considered Christian, but they never practiced or really followed any of Jesus’s teachings. He grew up in a nation and society which worshiped literally hundreds if not thousands of gods and deities. And yet as Ravi, as a teen lay in a hospital bed after attempting to commit suicide, was read scriptures which included Thomas, who was the first missionary to India some 2000 years ago.
Missionaries have been going out and following the command of Christ since the first disciples gathered in the upper room awaiting the promised “Comforter and Counselor” the Holy Spirit. It’s no mistake that Jerusalem was full of ‘out of towners’ at the time either, or that when the apostles received the Spirit, they immediately went out and spoke in tongues- that which the locals believed the men were drunk and speaking nonsense. Yet the foreigners understood the Gospel spoken by these men in their own languages!
If you ever have a chance to read other accounts throughout history, or even more modern accounts of missionaries and the amazing works of God, another book which is a must read is Through the Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot, wife of Missionary Jim Elliot who along with 4 others were martyred in the jungles of the Amazon by the Waodoni (Auca) tribe of Ecuador back in the 1950’s. And it’s worth reading the continuation in the “End of the Spear” by Steve Saint, whose dad was one of those murdered for their faith. Those two stories, two and three generations and two different worlds were touched by God and changed in ways that can only show His work and purpose- that all tribes and tongues shall know Him.
Last bit. There are thousands of religions, offshoots, cults, ideologies, and philosophies from around the world which try and explain the meaning of life, the universe, the natural and supernatural. Only one can be true. Even many who claim the “Christian” title have to have the core doctrine and belief of Jesus- Who He is, How He came, Where He is, When He came and is coming again, and Why He came.
All of that is known only by reading His Word.
I hope this helped some, and really enjoyed thinking about this. Thank you CDS. If folks want to discuss things more, I’d be happy to try and write more about it if you have more questions.
These are a bit long, especially the one with Brother Yun, but well worth watching! Both are testimony mixed in with Truth about how a couple of the most influential ‘missionaries’ of our time came to a real relationship with Christ and how their faith has transcended cultures, languages and still impacts our world.