What Happens To People Who Never Heard The Gospel?
What happens to people who have never heard about Jesus or who have never heard the gospel? Will God send them straight to hell? Is God morally just and fair in sending people to hell even if they have never heard the gospel?
The Grace and Providence of God Is Available To All Who Genuinely Seek The Truth of God’s Word
People who don’t know the gospel but yet seek the truth will discover Christ so that they can be saved. God knows the hearts of all those who are genuinely seeking His truth even whilst they are not yet saved.
If someone does not know the gospel or has never heard about Jesus Christ but yet is seeking the truth, then God in His providence will lead that person to the truth and to the knowledge of the gospel.
An example is the story of Cornelius in Acts 10:1-48. Cornelius was a Gentile, a centurion commander in the Italian Regiment of the Roman military.
Though he was a Roman, Cornelius was a believer in the existence of God but he had not yet heard the gospel.
God therefore orchestrated events which led the apostle Peter to meet Cornelius and have Peter share the gospel so that Cornelius and the other Gentiles could be saved because of the gospel message (Acts 10:34-48).
Therefore even though Cornelius did not have knowledge of the gospel, he was genuinely seeking to worship and honour God. So God sent someone to Cornelius who would share the gospel message to him so that he could be saved.
Another example of God’s providence to those who have not heard the gospel is the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-39.
Philip was led by the Holy Spirit to the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch who happened to be reading a passage of Scripture from the prophet Isaiah (Acts 8:30-33).
When the eunuch did not understand the meaning of the Isaiah passage he was reading, Philip then explains to the eunuch that the scripture he was reading spoke about Jesus Christ and His crucifixion. Philip then further explains the gospel message to the Ethiopian so that he could be saved (Acts 8:34-39).
So we should notice in these 2 examples that both Cornelius and the Ethiopian eunuch were Gentiles who by virtue of their natural upbringing did not initially grow up knowing about God or Jesus Christ. They both originally came from nationalities, cultures and religious backgrounds where there was idolatry but yet God’s grace and providence led them to believe in God and eventually to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were both seeking to know God in their hearts and so when the gospel was presented, they accepted it with joy and were saved.
Therefore just as God used Peter and Philip and many other Christians throughout history, God is at work today to ensure that those who have never heard about Jesus or heard about the gospel will hear and hopefully be saved.
Through the preaching of the true gospel and the work of missionaries and evangelists and many faithful Christians, God is reaching out to many who have never heard about the gospel or about Jesus so that people can be saved.
What About Those Who Die Without Hearing The Gospel or About Jesus Christ?
There is another dimension to this issue which remains to be answered: Is God fair for condemning to hell all those who die without coming into contact with the gospel? Is God morally just or unmerciful in condemning people to hell if they die without ever hearing about Jesus Christ?
To answer these questions, it’s important to understand man’s nature and man’s accountability to God in relation to sin irrespective of an individual’s background, culture or location.
It’s also imperative to understand the nature and character of God and what He has done to deal with the issue of sin for mankind and how God’s plan extends to those who have not yet heard the gospel.
Man’s Sin Problem, Man’s Accountability and God’s Response
All people are accountable to God for violating His commands. Romans 3:23 says: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
God’s grace and forgiveness of sins is only possible because of the sacrifice for sin which Jesus made for the world on the cross (Ephesians 1:7). Without Christ there is no salvation. If we were to try to be inclusive and assume that God gives exemptions to humans who are of accountable age, then we would risk falling into deception and make light of Christ’s death on the cross.
So whether or not we have heard about God or about the gospel, we are all guilty of committing sin. This includes the person who has never read the Bible or the person who lives in a remote area in the world where the gospel has not been reached.
Therefore sin condemns a person to hell and there are no exceptions. God does not violate or contradict His own redemption plan.
For example, a person who practices sorcery, tells lies or even steals from others whilst living in a far remote village will still be accountable to God for his sins even if that person has never heard the gospel.
Another example: A person who worships many gods / idols but has never heard the gospel or about Christ is also accountable to God, and will still suffer the eternal consequences of idolatry even though he/she has never heard the gospel.
The Bible tells us that the idolater and even the atheist suppresses the existence of the one true God.
According to Scripture, the existence of God is revealed through nature (Romans 1:20) and in the hearts of people (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Therefore everybody knows God exists through nature and conscience – including the atheist, the agnostic or the idolater.
However in spite of this truth, man still chooses to reject God and either suppresses His existence or chooses to worship something else in instead of the one true God.
Romans 1:19-23 says: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles
The problem is “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). People reject the knowledge of God that is present in nature and in their own hearts, and instead they decide to worship a “god” or idol of their own creation.
So it’s very important to note that there are many people who hear the gospel but they continue to stubbornly decide to reject Jesus Christ and the gospel message. Therefore even after hearing the gospel many continue to follow after false idols or false teachings and false gospels.
There are many atheists and many people from different backgrounds and religions who have heard the gospel or something about Jesus but yet they will stubbornly refuse to follow Christ.
There are many who by their own freewill still choose to follow darkness even when light is presented to them.
John 3:19 says: And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.
Therefore in God’s foreknowledge and providence, if there are people who have died without ever hearing the gospel message or hearing about Christ, it could be possible that God has ordered the world that those who never hear the gospel wouldn’t have believed it anyway (Acts 17:26-27).
Acts 17:26-27 says: From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
If we believe that God is just and fair, then we must believe that God will not treat anybody unfairly.
We know according to 2 Peter 3:9 that it’s not God’s desire for anyone to perish. God does not take pleasure in seeing any of His creation going to hell. This is why He exercises patience with the desire that many would repent and follow Him.
2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”
If we believe that God is all-knowing and perfect in all His judgments, and that He does not wish that any should perish, then we must believe that God would not allow anyone to enter hell if there was the smallest possibility that the person could be saved.
However man has been given freewill and so it is possible that just as there are people today who hear the gospel but still continue to deny the gospel anyway – that if some people have died without hearing the gospel – then they may have not believed it anyway.
God was motivated by His love for mankind to send Jesus Christ to die on the cross (Romans 5:8). So God will do whatever He can do to ensure that as many people as possible get saved through Jesus Christ because He paid for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16).
The Importance of Sharing The Gospel To The Whole World
One of the most tragic things Jesus says will happen is found in Matthew 7:13-14 where He says “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
The road to God or Heaven is very narrow and Jesus Christ alone is the gate. According to Christ, a few people will enter through the narrow gate. Jesus Christ alone is the only way to salvation (Acts 4:12)
The tragedy is that many will go through the wide gate which leads to destruction or hell.
In John 10:9 Jesus says: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture”
In John 14:6 Jesus says He is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.
This is why the preaching and teaching of the gospel is so important in our world. Jesus Christ alone is central to salvation and to having a relationship with God.
Jesus Christ gave Christians the mandate to share the gospel and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 23:19-20).
The gospel is meant to be preached to all nations and to people of all cultures and backgrounds without fear or shame (Romans 1:16).
Indeed it is not everyone who hears the gospel message who will be converted to Christianity. However this should not stop Christians from sharing the gospel anyway. Where possible, the true gospel must be shared to anyone and to everyone.
It’s also important to note that the work of salvation, including the conversion of souls is all the work of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is not because of the wisdom or intelligence of man. Instead salvation in Christ is through the Holy Spirit and for the glory of Jesus Christ alone.
Just as Paul, Peter, Philip and many others were guided by the Holy Spirit as they shared the gospel, then it is also necessary for every Christian believer to be led by the Holy Spirit when sharing the word of God to others.
Throughout the Scriptures we see that sharing the gospel is necessary for people to be saved because the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).
Salvation is only through Jesus Christ alone and so to people who have reached the age of accountability there are no exceptions (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Therefore as Christians (and non-Christians too) we must not undermine the preaching of the true gospel message which must be proclaimed to the whole world.
Romans 10:14-15 – But how are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
DO YOU WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN or A FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST???
1. ACKNOWLEDGE: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
This means that we have all broken God’s laws and God’s 10 Commandments like those mentioned in Exodus 20:1-17. For example, if you have told a lie; if you have stolen something; if you have lusted after somebody or if you have coveted. This means you are guilty of breaking at least one or more of God’s 10 Commandments. Breaking God’s commandments makes us sinners. The fact that we are sinners who have broken God’s law means that we are accountable to God who is the Lawgiver. Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”
You must acknowledge that you are a sinner who has broken God’s commandments and that you therefore need Jesus in your life.
2. REPENT: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3), “Repent therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19)
Repenting means: to change your mind; a sincere turning away, in heart, mind and action;
Therefore God wants you to change your mind about sinful values and of sinful living. God wants you to decide to follow Him and to make Jesus the Lord of your life.
3. CONFESSION: “If we confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9)
God is a forgiving God. God will forgive any sin that you have done because Jesus died for ALL your sins and to set you free from the bondage of all types of sin in your life.
4. BELIEVE: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
You must believe that ONLY Jesus can save you and restore your relationship with God. You must believe that Jesus is the ONLY way by which you can have everlasting life and escape from eternal separation from God. You must believe that Jesus died on the cross for you and resurrected from the grave.
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive him, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:11-12)
By faith, You must receive Jesus as Your Lord & Savior and therefore; you become a child of God; you become born again; you become a Christian; you restore your broken relationship with God
Why Not Make Your Eternal Decision NOW?
We become born again Christians by GRACE through FAITH or TOTAL TRUST in Jesus Christ as our Lord & Savior (Galatians 3:26) & (Ephesians 2:8,9). Salvation is a FREE gift received through FAITH in Christ.
PLEASE NOTE: You can choose to pray in your own words. This prayer is a sample prayer and it is only an EXPRESSION of your faith, belief & trust in Jesus. Salvation is by GRACE through FAITH or BELIEVING in Christ Jesus as your Lord & Saviour.
“Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your love. I thank You that You died on the cross for me and resurrected so that I may have life through You.
I confess Lord that I have sinned against You and today I ask You to forgive me of all of my sins, past present and future.
Today I repent and have decided to follow you. Thank you for forgiving all my sins.
From this moment, come into my life Lord Jesus & take full control of my life. I want to follow You Jesus and I want to follow Your ways. Save me and from today, make me the person You want me to be.
I receive You Lord Jesus right now by faith. I trust You as my Lord and Savior – Amen”
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