Apologeet.nlWhat About Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?
Part 1 – Basic Truths
As missionary among the un-reached Antanala-people of Madagascar, I have heard this question a million times… Well, maybe not a million but many times. Mostly these questions are hidden in presuppositions. Among Christians some think that nobody will be saved, except those who’ve heard and believed the Gospel. While others, say that there are people who will be saved, even if they never heard about Jesus.
Then, there is this group that actually think that I am a big party pooper. They say that I should have left these people alone. Why? Well, among some unbelievers there is this idea that the Gospel spoils the native culture. But really, I am not very worried about this opinion. I already answered this criticism in an essay. You’ll find the link in the description of this video. No, the biggest concern for me is that some Christians tend to think that the un-reached are better off without ever hearing the Gospel. Because, they say, hearing the Gospel amounts to their damnation.
So, the big question here is: What will happen to those who never heard the Gospel? Where do they go when they die?
Okay, what I am going to do is trying to tackle all the different issues one by one. It would be easy to say this are that issue is wrong, but I like to try, and put them in truth statements. Okay, that’s what we are going to do in this first part. Let’s just name three basic truths and expound them a little.
Truth number 1. People are lost for eternity not because they did not hear the Gospel, but because of their own sin.
You might think so, but it is just not what the Bible teaches. No, people go to hell because of their own sin, their faulty behaviour. What does Romans 3:23 say? “All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God”
The Bible clearly says that God’s wrath is upon us because of our sin. Yes, some would say that the only sin that brings us to hell, is the sin of unbelief. In other words: Unbelief is the only punishable sin. But, if that is true, we couldn’t say that rape, plundering, hatred etcetera is bad. No, let’s get this straight. All sin, including the sin of unbelief, is punishable by death. All sin lead to the eternal separation of God. Why? I’ll give a little analogy, which I sometimes tell the people in the villages I visit. In these villages they have elders which they call ‘king’. The king is the important person when it comes to traditional life.
Now I tell the people that the king wants to give a huge party. So he starts to clean his house single-handedly (which is really weird to suggest in these villages. The king would never do that himself). Anyway, it takes him a lot of time and effort to prepare his house, but in the end, the house is sparkling clean. Now the king sends his son and helpers out to invite people. Everybody is welcome. From the high government official to the low and smelly shepherds. There is this one requirement though. The king wants them to be clean. So before they can enter the party, he sends his son again. This time with clean water, a towel, and beautiful white clothes. The son willingly starts to help everybody to become clean and dressed up for the party. Now, the party can really begin. No smelly business in the house. No dirty hands touching the food. Wonderful! But hold on! Here comes a man who is rather insulted by the whole affair. How dare the king, to look at him as being filthy! How dare the king to offer him clean clothes! This man wants to come in on his own terms. Alas! This will not happen. He would spoil the cleanliness of the company and of the house of the king himself.
When we talk about filth we’re not only talking about ‘big’ sins. The filth and smelliness in the analogy narrates about all sin. What to think of love. Not loving is pretty problematic, to say it mildly. Love is the biggest commandment. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbour as yourself. Most of us are very selective when it comes to love, and we don’t consider it to be such a big deal… Well, apparently God looks at it differently. You could say that ‘love’ is His thing… And we decided it not to be important? Thinking like that leads to damnation because not loving makes us fall short big time.
I could go on and name all sort of sins, but you can look them up yourself. The truth is that before people even hear about salvation through Christ, they already fall short of the glory of God. The wrath of God is upon us because of sin. This wrath stays upon us because of unbelief. We cannot come in on our own terms. This is a very important difference to know and to remember while dealing with our actual question.
The fact of the matter is that people don’t go to hell because of God. We are to blame ourselves. Let me give you another analogy which I heard from a very smart man called Mike Winger, who has his own YouTube channel.
Imagen you sitting in a huge house, secretly playing with matches and paper. Although people told you not to do it because it is dangerous you hid away in the attic and tried it anyway. Oh what fun! You’ve got a nice fire going. But now the fire gets out of control and spreads rapidly. It blocks the only way out, you’re trapped. Good thing the fire department is nearby. Within minutes, they arrive and raise a ladder to the roof. They smash a big hole in the roof to reach you. The man on the ladder shouts at you: “Hurry! This is the only way out. Come I’ll help you.” But hold on! You look at this firefighter and say: “I am really offended by the idea that the ‘only’ way out of this fire is down your ladder! It is very rude to even suggest that.” And so you burn to death and die. Probably feeling very justified about your position. You see, if the firefighter had caused the fire, you would have a point. But it was you yourself who caused the fire in the first place.
This is what’s really going on. We caused the wrath ourselves, through our sin, through our own evil deeds. So we should not blame God for the situation we’re in.
Truth number 2. Condemnation increases when one hears the Gospel but rejects it.
Jesus was pretty clear about this when he spoke to the cities in Matthew 11:20-22
“Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.”
So yes, the one who never heard the Gospel is better off than the one who heard it but rejected it. However, never hearing it does not cause someone to be lost as I said earlier.
Truth number 3. God is honest and just.
Sometimes you hear people ask whether it is honest of God to let some people go lost for eternity. Actually I’ve come across people who say this all the time. I normally turn the question around, and I ask them whether they think God should intervene in this world to make an end to all misery. Mostly they answer that with a ‘yes’. I continue. So do you think that God should punish evildoers. Again, ‘yes’. You see where I am going? In the end they start to realise that nobody is perfect and if God would only punish some of us—and thus not cleaning this world from wickedness—we soon enough end up in the same bad situation again. In other words: It would be more honest to let everyone perish.
Or look at it this way. If you have 1000 thieves on trail, would it not be honest to punish all 1000 of them? They are all thieves right? Now, if some are going to be pardoned I actually believe the judge needs to have a very good excuse to rule that way.
As we have said, all have sinned and fall short. Nobody deserves it to be pardoned. God is just and honest when He decides to deal with our sins by punishing us.
The thing is that when we are pardoned, it is not because we deserve it, but it is pure grace. Grace is a gift and cannot be earned. Going back to the question whether God is just, we can conclude that He is. The fact that He offers grace to those who put their trust in His son Jesus Christ doesn’t make Him less just. It makes Him merciful. And mercy cannot be demanded by those who want to receive it, the can only humble themselves and pray to get it.
So the question ‘what about the people who never heard the Gospel’ seems to come forth out of this presupposition that they have the right to be saved, or at least a certain percentage of them have the right to be saved. But in reality, no human being has the right of his or her own to be saved.
End part 1
Oh boy! That’s a little sobering, isn’t it? The conclusion seems to be that people are lost because of their sinful nature and attitude. Their situation worsens when they have knowledge of the Gospel but reject it. Punishing humans for their sins is a just action as nobody has the right to be saved. In this situation we no longer talk about rights, but we should plead for mercy.
No worries! God is merciful and good. So even when this episode is a little depressing, I want you to keep that in mind: God is good and merciful. But more about that in the next part.
Do take a look in the description of this video. I’ll put the link to the aforementioned essay in there. Also, you’ll find ways to support me and an invitation to Odysee.com. My videos can also be watched on Bitchute and YouTube, but I am mostly active on Odysee. So, if you want to comment on the video, I would like to suggest doing so on Odysee. To comment you’ll need an account and if you use my invitation we both get some LBC for free.
Thank you for watching, and I wish you God’s blessing for the rest of your day… or week.
We’ll see each other in the next one!