“What happens to people that never hear the Gospel?”


 Recently my Sunday School teacher informed that of the six billion people on earth some 1.5 billion were Christians and that of the 4.5 billion people who were not, about one billion of these have never heard the Gospel.  There was interesting discussion on what happens to these people.  It is true that millions of people in the history of civilization never heard the Gospel.  What happens to their souls?

1. THE CALVINISTIC POINT OF VIEW

The Calvinist believes that people who never hear the Gospel go to hell because they simply were not one of the elect (chosen to be saved by God).  They cite many verses of Scripture to warrant their conclusion.  One example of this is:  “For he said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”  (Rom. 9:15)

Of the four viewpoints being considered, this seems to be the most consistent with their overall interpretation of the Bible.  They are not constrained to make their their theology jump through hoops to be systematic with the problem of those who never hear the Gospel.

Critique:  Many Bible students/scholars do not subscribe the Calvinistic interpretation of the Bible.  They believe that man has a free will and may choose God to be their Father rather than God choosing them to be His child.  They also have many verses of Scripture to sustain their persuasion.  One example of this is:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16)

2. THE PRAGMATIC FOREKNOWLEDGE POINT OF VIEW

Those who embrace this viewpoint believe that God foreknows those that will accept Christ as Savior if they hear the Gospel and those who will not accept Him if they hear the Gospel.  They then pragmatically conclude those that would accept the Gospel will be born in a place where they hear the Gospel.  They affirm that those who never hear the Gospel are people who would reject it if they hear it every day of their life.

This viewpoint contends that man has a free will to accept or reject Christ.  God does not force man to be saved.  They conclude that, while God does not force man to be saved, He knows how each person will respond to the Gospel.  Those born in a place where they never hear the Gospel would have rejected it.

One verse of Scripture used to advocate this point of view is:  “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father . . .”  (I Peter 1:2)

Critique:  This viewpoint has some merits, but is as much philosophical as theological.  It seems to soften the Calvinistic point of view with the end result being the same.  It attempts to combine the exclusivity of Jesus and the Calvinistic points of view.

3. SALVATION THROUGH GENERAL REVELATION POINT OF VIEW

This viewpoint holds that people who never hear the Gospel can be saved by accepting the general revelation of God provided by nature.  They contend that when a person who never hear the Gospel, accepts the fact of God by viewing what He has created, he will be saved and go to Heaven.

One verse of Scripture used to promote this point of view is:  “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”  (Rom. 1:20)

Critique:  Believing that God exists takes very little faith.  The evidence of nature and logic conclude this.  Jews and Muslims believe in God.  The faith to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is a gift from God.  (Eph. 2:8-9)

If people that never hear the Gospel are saved because of general revelation, it would be a mistake to ever preach the Gospel to them in that then they would be accountable to God for their accepting or rejecting it.

This viewpoint presents two plans of salvation:  Ignorance (never heard the Gospel) and Information (have heard the Gospel).  Of course, the plan of salvation through ignorance would be much more successful than that of information.

4. THE EXCLUSIVITY OF CHRIST POINT OF VIEW

This viewpoint teaches that believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the only way anyone can go to Heaven.  People who embrace this interpretation of Scripture point out that after Adam sinned an innocent animal was slain (it’s blood was shed) so that Adam could be clothes.  According to them, this was a picture of Jesus shedding blood on the cross that we might be clothed in His righteousness.  This picture is then seen throughout the Old Testament with blood sacrifices.  They cite Job saying, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.”  (Job 19:25)

Proponents of this view point out the fact that the Jews believed in and were looking for the Messiah.  In a nutshell, this persuasion holds that, those in the Old Testament were saved by looking forward to Calvary and those since Christ are saved by looking back to Calvary.

One verse of Scripture used to support this view is:  “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

Critique:  This point of view is difficult to refute using the Bible.  The prophets told of the birth and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  It leaves no room for salvation through general revelation or any other way.  This persuasion teaches that those who never hear the Gospel will not go to Heaven.  I have noticed that when it comes to the question about those who never hear the Gospel, they seem to waffle and invoke some of the arguments from one or more of the other three views given.

My personal belief:  I have studied the four points of view above at great length.  They provoke much thought and questions.  Many verses of Scripture confirm that Jesus Christ is the only way to Haven.  These assertions about Christ are absolute and not relative.  I believe this.  I am humbly grateful that I got to hear the Gospel; was convicted and drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit; and was saved by the grace of God.

We should be motivated to be faithful in sharing the Gospel with others around the world.  We can not understand the mind of God.  He would be a puny God if mortals could understand His thoughts and ways.  We can understand His Word.  We are to share the Gospel with the world.  (Matt. 28:19-20)  That is crystal clear, which leads to the question,  “What in the world are we doing for Heaven’s sake?”

About Dr. Mike Harmon

Dr. Harmon began preaching at the age of 15 while living in southern California. He has conducted over 600 revivals and evangelistic campaigns nationwide, and has served as Senior Pastor at seven churches. Dr. Harmon has degrees from Central Baptist College, the University of Central Arkansas, and a Ph.D. From the Christian Bible College and Seminary. He has served as trustee for Southeastern Baptist College and Chairman of the trustees for the BMA Theological Seminary. He also served as Chaplain for the Mississippi Highway Patrol, the Arkansas State Police and the Arkansas State Senate. His many sermons and articles on Christian Apologetics are widely published. He is married to one wife of 43 years; has two sons, and seven grandchildren. He considers the simple pleasures of cooking, dining with family and friends, and liesurely rides on his Harley through the Texas Hill Country to be some of the most enjoyable blessings from the Lord.
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