What Happens to People who have Never Heard the Gospel?

Transcript of the video

If everyone must believe in Jesus to be saved, what happens to those who have never heard about Jesus?

Jesus says to those He preached to that they must believe in Him in order to be saved.

(John 3:16-18 NIV)  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. {17} For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. {18} Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

If the person has heard about the specific gospel message about salvation through Jesus, then the requirement for salvation will be that he believes in that message. But what happens to those who have not heard of the gospel message?

The Bible assures us that God will judge fairly. No one will be condemned for something that is beyond his control.

Acts 17:31 (NIV) For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.

The Bible also tells us how these people may be saved.

(Rom 1:18-20 NIV)  The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, {19} since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. {20} For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

The verses above refer to people who have never heard of the gospel. We know that because it appeals to the evidence of God’s creation as proof. God is angry with these people who suppress the truth that He exists even though one can believe in the existence of God by looking at the evidence in creation.

Therefore God expects those who have not heard about Jesus to deduce from the evidence of creation and come to the conclusion that God exists. *

In Acts 10 we have an example of a man Cornelius who was saved even before he heard about the specific details about Jesus.

1At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”  4Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.

It was only later that Peter went to tell him the specifics about Christ.

34Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. 39″We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

If Jesus’ death is essential for our salvation, what happens to those who are born before Jesus?

Jesus’ death is essential for our salvation. Yet it does not mean that those who are born before Jesus are not saved. Some of these early believers do not have knowledge of Jesus Christ. But they are saved because of their faith in God.

(Rom 4:3 NIV)  What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

But Jesus’ death is still necessary. The penalty of sin is death for mankind. Jesus came down to pay the penalty so that we can be reconciled to God through our faith.