God Wants More For You. So Do We.

What Happens to Those Who Never Hear the Gospel?

Ask Pastor Alex, Episode. 48

This is the Ask Pastor Alex podcast with your host, Pastor Alex. All right, everyone, welcome back. We’re here with another episode and another question. And the question for this episode is, what happens to those who never hear the gospel? Now this is a really good question, and it’s one that I’ve been asked many times. And I do think that this question really comes part from curiosity and part from concern. Christians are, on the one hand, curious about what’s going to happen to those who never have the opportunity to hear the gospel. And I think they’re equally as concerned about what’s going to happen to those who never have the opportunity to hear the gospel. And so it is right and appropriate to take the time to consider this question and really think through all the aspects that are involved with this question. Because I think when most people consider this question, they’re thinking about someone in a third world country or someone on a remote island somewhere who has no contact with the outside world. And the Christians are wondering, well, since those people have never even been contacted, never heard the gospel or the name of Jesus, what’s going to happen to them? It’s a good question. So it’s time for us to get right to it and dive in.

And at the start, we really need to establish a few things right here at the get go. So first thing I want to establish and help us to understand is that the default position or the nature of all people everywhere is that of a fallen, sinful person. All right, we need to get that right here at the start because it means that every person is born with a sin nature, which leads them to sin more and more throughout their lives. All people everywhere are guilty before God. The Bible tells us in Romans chapter five that Adam’s guilt, his sin nature was passed down to all people and it spread throughout all of humanity. So all humans are born bearing the stain of original sin. And what this does is this nature, this fallen nature, this sin nature, it leads people to desire sin and act on that impulse. There’s an old saying that goes, you don’t have to teach children how to sin. And if you’re a parent, if you have kids, you know that that’s true. They start sinning and rebelling at a young age. You never taught them how to do it. It comes natural to them. You didn’t have to teach them how to do it. It just comes naturally to them because they have that sin nature. And you can thank Adam and Eve for that. No one on earth is exempt from this. The Bible says in Romans 3, 23, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This means that all people in their natural state, apart from salvation in Christ, have sinned because they are sinners. In other words, don’t get it twisted. They’re not sinners because they sin. They sin because they are sinners. It flows from who they are. What they do doesn’t make them who they are. Who they are determines what they do. They are sinners, therefore they sin.

The Bible goes on to say in Romans 6, 23, that the wages of sin is death. And so you put all this together and it means that all people everywhere, from those in developed countries to those in underdeveloped countries to those in populated areas to those in remote areas, every single person has sinned and therefore deserves the punishment for sin, which is death and damnation. Don’t get that twisted, okay? Don’t miss that. Every person has sinned. Every person is guilty of it, which means every person rightly deserves the punishment for sin, which the Bible says is death and damnation. Now you might not like hearing that. It may bother you, but it does nothing to undermine the truthfulness of the fact. If we are going to say that some sinners don’t deserve the punishment for sin because they are on a remote island or because they’re in an uncontacted area or something like that, if we’re going to say that some sinners don’t actually deserve the punishment for sin, then it means we’re actually downplaying the severity of sin. And it’s also essentially saying that the death of Christ was not necessary since he died in our place, taking the punishment we deserve so that through faith in him, we could be reconciled to God and saved from his wrath. And so we need to be very careful in this conversation not to downplay the severity of sin, and we also need to be very careful not to inadvertently make the claim that the death of Christ was unnecessary. All sin deserves to be punished, and every person who is guilty of sin deserves the punishment, and rightly so. And so if all of this is true, and it is because it comes directly from the Bible, then it means that every person who does not repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ for salvation deserves death and damnation because all people have sinned, and the wages of sin is death. And this leads to the next thing that I want us to understand in this episode, and that’s the fact that people are not passive. You see, we have this unfortunate idea that people are passive with regard to God today, but that’s not biblical. The Bible portrays all of humanity as being an active rebellion against the Lord. In other words, we aren’t neutral. That’s why the Bible says in Romans chapter 5 that we are enemies of God. That’s how the Bible literally describes us in our fallen state. In Romans chapter 5, it says that we are enemies of God. That’s why in Ephesians chapter 2, the Bible refers to humanity in their fallen state as the sons of disobedience.

So the reason this question in particular pulls at our heartstrings is because we imagine these people who have never heard the gospel as being innocent. Why should they deserve death and damnation? They’re on a remote island. They’re in a third world country. They’re in an uncontacted tribe or something like that. They’re basically innocent, so why do they deserve death and damnation? But the Bible says actually they’re not innocent. They’re guilty just as we all are guilty. They’re enemies of God just as we all once were. They’re in active rebellion against God just as we were too. They are not passive. They are not innocent. They deserve the punishment for their sin just as we all do. Right, so here’s what I want you to do. I want you to imagine a ship with a large crew. The crew decides that they hate the captain. And so what they do is they stage a mutiny. They try to overthrow the captain and take the ship for themselves. However, the captain proves to be too wise and too powerful, and so the mutiny fails. And the punishment for mutiny is death. Here’s my question to you. Should the entire crew be put to death? And the answer, of course, is yes, because they were all complicit. They all rebelled. They’re all guilty, and so they all deserve the punishment. Well, the Bible says that we are like that crew who staged a mutiny against God and tried to dethrone Him and take this world for ourselves. And since we all took part in that rebellion, we are all guilty and deserve the punishment for our sin. And so we’re not passive. We’re not innocent. All people are not only guilty, but all people are in active rebellion against God.

The other thing I think we need to understand is that everyone knows God. I’ve said to my church before, there’s no such thing as an atheist, and atheists hate hearing that, but the Bible says there’s actually no such thing as an atheist. The Bible says that all people everywhere know that God exists. God has revealed enough of Himself in creation for all people to know that there is a God in heaven. The Bible makes this very clear in Romans chapter 1 verses 18 through 20. The Bible says, for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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. Now that passage clearly explains that all people everywhere know that there is a God in heaven, but the majority of people today deny His existence. They suppress the truth of His existence, and so they are without excuse and will be without excuse on Judgment Day. Now it should be said that they don’t have enough information for salvation. They can look to creation and see clear evidence of an eternal, all-powerful deity, but they can’t look to creation and know that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and that by turning from their sins and trusting in Christ, they will be saved. They don’t have all that information, but they have enough that they should be seeking out answers or have the answers provided to them, which leads me to my last point in this discussion. And the last point is this. The fault is on Christians.

You see, what bothers me most is as I have conversations with people about this question in particular, is that people try to make God out to be evil. They say it’s not fair for God to send people to hell who never knew about Jesus or the gospel, even though we’ve already established that the punishment is fitting. But still, they will say it’s not fair. God is evil. God is unjust to do something like this. And this is our big problem, Christians. We want to fault God for our own laziness and disobedience. Now why would I say that? It’s because God has already provided a solution and a way for those who have never heard to hear and that’s through Christians. Jesus literally in His great commission said to His disciples, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. That’s our commission. That’s what we’re called to do. And if we actually obeyed that calling, we would have already reached the entire world with the gospel. There would be no people left who hadn’t heard of Jesus or the gospel. You know why there still are so many people in our world today who have never heard the name of Jesus or never heard the good news of Jesus? It’s because Christians are not doing what God has called us to do. God’s not evil. Christians are disobedient. God’s not unjust. Christians are lazy. We have to stop blaming God for something that’s our fault. So if you’re burdened or heartbroken thinking about what’s going to happen to all those who never hear the gospel, then do something about it. You, Christian, you are God’s solution. So pack up your stuff and move to an unreached area. Go on a mission trip. Hey, one of the best and most effective things you can do is support Bible translation. Give money to organizations that are actively in the process of translating the Bible into languages that do not have one. There’s all sorts of things you can do to get involved, but if you’re not doing anything, don’t place the blame on God for your own disobedience. So put very simply, the answer is all those who die without ever hearing the gospel will die in their sins apart from Christ and will therefore have to suffer death and damnation, which is the punishment for sin. If that burdens you, that breaks your heart, then as a Christian, you should do something about it because you are God’s solution to the unreached.

So I hope this answer has helped you understand the situation better, and I hope it inspires you to actually get involved and do what Jesus has called you today. Thanks for the question. I look forward to answering more in the future.