What About Those Who Have Never Heard?
Sid Litke, Th.M.
What the Bible says about eternal life and judgment.
1. All people are sinners (Romans 3:23).
2. The penalty of sin is death – eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).
3. Christ died to pay the penalty for the sin of the whole world (John 4:42; 1 John 2:2; etc.).
4. People are saved from eternal judgment when they put their trust (“believe”) in Christ’s death on the cross for their sin (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; Acts 16:30,31; Ephesians 7:8,9; etc.).
5. Not all are saved; those who reject Christ’s payment for sin will eternally endure God’s wrath on sin in hell (John 3:18,36; Revelation 20:15).
Can a person have his sins forgiven and have eternal life apart from knowledge of Christ?
1. No, a person must hear the gospel of Christ and place his or her faith in Christ (Romans 10:13,14)
2. “Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
3. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
4. “There is salvation in no one else…no other name under heaven…by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Is God fair if He sends people to hell who have never heard about Christ?
1. God is just (Genesis 18:25; Romans 2:11).
2. Since all are sinners, God would have been just to send all people to hell. He was gracious to provide salvation through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-9).
3. God has put within people a basic awareness of Himself and of the requirement to do right (Romans 1:19,32; 2:15).
4. God has revealed Himself (as eternal, as all-powerful, as good, etc.) to all by means of the created world (Romans 1:20).
5. Man willfully can ignore that revelation.
a. They “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).
b. They refuse to “honor God” (Romans 1:21).
c. They choose to worship idols of men or beasts instead (Romans 1:23).
d. They choose to ignore God’s standard of righteousness (Romans 1:24-32).
6. So when God has revealed himself and some have willfully rejected Him, He is fair to judge them.
If an isolated person responded to God’s revelation in his heart and in nature, how would he ever hear about Christ?
1. God desires that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
2. God seeks for those who acknowledge their spiritual need and seek Him (Ezekiel 34:11; Luke 19:10).
3. When people are seeking the true God two things happen:
a. God brings the message to them by prompting a Christian to go to them (Acts 16:6-10).
b. The person hearing the message will respond in faith (Acts 16:13,14).
An illustration: Suppose a person was lost underground in a dark cave and suddenly found a little lighted arrow pointed a certain direction. Whose fault would it be if he failed to follow it? Obviously his own. God’s “little arrows” are His revelation in man’s heart and nature. We can trust the good and loving Savior to bring the message of salvation to the one who seeks Him.
A final evidence.
If the yet unreached people of the world are not lost, why did Jesus tell His disciples to “proclaim His name to all the nations (Luke 24:47), “to Go, and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19), and to be witnesses “even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8)? Why did He tell them to tell others if that knowledge would only condemn most of them? Then it would actually be best if they didn’t hear. Did Christ mislead His disciples? Was Paul misguided to go throughout Asia Minor and Europe? No, the reason Christ sent them, the reason they went and the reason why many should go today is because Christ is the only way to be saved.
Sid Litke, Th.M., a 1984 graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, is currently pastoring the Open Door Bible Church in Port Washington, Wisconsin.