by Matt Slick
Email: What happens to those who have never heard the gospel? I find it difficult to believe that a so called a loving God would send people to hell just because they didn't hear about him.
Response: This is a very commonly asked question. There are two possible responses. First, it could be that those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ will go to hell. Second, it could be that those who have never heard of Jesus Christ and the gospel will be judged in a different way from those who have heard of Jesus.
The Bible does not tell us specifically about what happens to those who have never heard. But it does say that Jesus is the only way to salvation (Acts 4:12). If it is possible that someone who has not heard the gospel can be saved, it must be through Jesus Christ and him alone (John 14:6). But, it could not be that a person who is not heard of Jesus can make it to heaven based upon being good since that would violate the scriptural teaching that no one is good (Rom. 3:10-12).
If all people who have never heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ end up in hell, then that would be right because God would never do anything that is improper. On the other hand, if any of them end up in heaven, then it would be the right thing to do for the same reason.
But, if righteousness before God can be achieved through being good, or sincere, or by following various laws, then Jesus died needlessly: "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." (Gal. 2:21).
Because the Scripture does not specifically address this issue, we cannot make an absolute statement concerning it. However, since the Bible does state that salvation is only through Jesus and that a person must receive Christ, then logically we conclude that those who have not heard the gospel are lost. This is all the more reason to preach the gospel to everyone.
"for Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. 14 How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?" (Rom. 10:13-14).
Following are some verses that relate to this topic:
- John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
- John 14:6, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.
- Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”
- Rom. 10:12-15 "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD will be saved.” 14 How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!”
- 1 Tim. 2:5-6, "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time."
- 1 John 5:11-12, "And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."
- Rev. 20:15, "And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."