Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel

What's going to happen to people who have never had an opportunity to believe in Jesus? Will they simply be condemned? All my life I've been taught that faith in Christ is the only path to a saving relationship with God. I still believe this, but the older I get the harder it becomes to dismiss troubling questions about the many wonderful people I've known who don't believe in Christ. And then there's the issue of the millions who have never even heard or understood the Gospel. Is it really possible that God will simply send all of them to hell? Isn't there some way of getting around this disturbing conclusion? I'm beginning to wonder if hell is even real.

Where hell is concerned, Jesus Himself leaves us with very little “wiggle room.” Anyone who has carefully read the Gospels knows that Christ was in earnest when He warned his disciples about the reality of what He called “Gehenna.” He spoke often and in dire terms about the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” of those who will be “cast into outer darkness” (see Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30).

The Bible is equally clear about those who are doomed to inhabit this “outer darkness.” Either one’s name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life or it isn’t (Revelation 20:12). There’s only one way to be sure that it is – namely, by placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

You may think this message is narrow and exclusive. But it’s central to the Christian Gospel. “Nor is there salvation in any other,” says Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “There is one God,” writes the apostle Paul, “and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all …” (I Timothy 2:5, 6). Jesus Himself made the following astonishing claim: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

But what about those who have never heard the name of Jesus? This is where we have to cling to the idea that God is infinitely merciful and loving. He is kind and compassionate as well as holy and just. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” asks Abraham in Genesis 18:25. We can answer without the slightest hesitation: yes, He most certainly will.

We must also keep in mind one unpleasant fact. The Bible says that each one of us has sinned (Romans 3:23) or rebelled against our Creator. Because of this we all deserve eternal separation from Him (Romans 6:23). It’s not the doctrine of hell that should shock us. It’s the astounding thought that anybody at all can expect to be saved. That’s what makes the offer of the Gospel so incredibly amazing. That’s why we should be diligent in sharing the Good News with our neighbors next door as well as with those halfway around the world (Romans 10: 14-15).

If you’d like to discuss this subject at greater length, call us. Focus on the Family has a staff of pastoral counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone.


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