Today, the word heathen means pagan or unbeliever. It is used to describe sinful or irreligious activity implying certain moral distinctions – impurity, falsehood, violence, idolatry (which is worshipping other gods rather than the true God). It originally referred to any person or nation that was not Jewish and therefore uncircumcised; they were unbelievers or Gentiles (Mt 18:17; 1 Cor 10:20).
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them and show God’s love that they too might be saved and blessed. It is being salt and light, influencing the world around us for Christ (Mt 5:13-16; 1 Cor 5:9,10; Gal 1:16, 3:8). Jesus, who was even called a friend of sinners, mixed with those outside the Kingdom and presented them with a better way of living (Mt 11:19). He related to the people, but didn’t enter into their sinful practices.
God doesn’t wish any to perish but all to go to heaven. However, if the heathen remain unrepentant they will be banished from heaven, while there will be believers there, redeemed from all the heathen people groups because they honoured Him and endeavoured to right while on earth (Act 10:35; Rom 15:16; 1 Cor 1:21; 2 Pet 3:9; Rev 7:9,10).
Sometimes God uses the heathen nations to bring about His purposes and even discipline His own people, although He doesn’t approve of their ways; “They [do] what His power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Prov 21:1; Isa 10:5-12; Jn 19:10,11; Act 4:28).
Every culture has their own customs; some are harmless social traditions, while others are evil and incompatible with Christianity. Intimate friendship with the ungodly and learning about their evil practices is to become an enemy of God as it will create divided loyalties, with the possibility of subtly being led astray (Deut 12:13,14; 2 Kgs 17:15; Jer 10:2; Jas 4:4).