“If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.” — John 15:22 (KJV)
Because of their unbelief and pride, atheists have had no glimpses of divine glory. It takes faith, humility, and purity to see God (Matthew 5:8). Atheists don’t want to see him. They don’t want heavenly treasures or Jesus Christ, the pearl of great price (13:46). They would rather trade treasure for trash and soak up the mud of this world. They don’t know that they can gain the whole world and yet lose their souls (16:26) – the precious ones that they deny exist.
Atheists want to take the “good” that they see in Christianity and throw the rest away. They don’t know that the “good” in Christianity is exclusive. Other religions aren’t good and can’t make people good. But there’s something else. Atheists don’t know that they’re not good either! Only God is (Matthew 19:17). They don’t know how vile they are in God’s eyes – precious, but vile. They haven’t encountered the holiness and perfection of Jesus Christ. Instead, they have believed the lie of Satan that they can be “good” without God.
“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” — Romans 10:3-4 (NKJV)
Atheists consider judgment, sin, and hell “bad.” But it’s just this “bad” news that is the gospel. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus died for sinners, including Emma and Stephen. Until they submit to the whole counsel of God (both good and bad), they will not be saved. Until they agree with God through his Word (both written and incarnate) that they are sinners deserving of eternal death and that grace comes only through Jesus Christ, then they will not be saved.
Atheists think they are free to stand in judgment over the Word. What they don’t know is that when they’re exposed to the light and truth of the Word and reject it, God then stands in judgment over them. Such exposure is dangerous. It makes them open to deception, lies, and darkness when rejected. This divine exposure also becomes a testimony against them so that they have no excuse. God in his righteousness can destroy them.
This is what happened in Noah’s day. He preached righteousness for 100 years while building the ark (2 Peter 2:5). The sinners who heard the truth of God through Noah and rejected it then died in the flood (Genesis 7:21-23). They had no excuse. God will destroy the earth in fire one day (2 Peter 3:7-10). He is preparing his Noahs and John the Baptists, people who will preach the righteousness of God. Once again, sinners will have no excuse.
If God chooses to give atheists the gifts of repentance and conversion, it will be only through his grace. They will be like brands plucked from the fire (Zechariah 3:2). Until then, their souls are in danger. God can cut them off in righteousness.