What About Those Who Have Never Heard?
Forms The Objection/Question Takes:
What about the heathen in Africa, the baby who dies, the mentally impaired?
Question in Response:
I will answer your question but let me remind you that this does not apply to you. The question you need to consider is, “What about people who have heard about Christ and reject him?”
One Minute Response:
- No one claims to know God exhaustively. If they did they would be God.
- What we do know about God (what is clearly revealed in the Bible) is that God reveals himself to every man and that the only way that any of us can get to heaven is through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
- What is not as clearly revealed is how the work of Christ on the cross is applied to every person. Because He is just we can be sure that He will treat fairly those who have not heard about Christ.
- One final thing that the Bible is clear on is that for those who have heard about Christ and reject him they are choosing to reject God and pay the penalty for their own sins.
1. What is clearly revealed in the Bible about this issue?
- Christ is the only way to God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
- God desires everyone to be saved and is not willing that anyone perish (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet.3:9).
- God is just and will judge people fairly (1 Pet. 2:23).
- God reveals Himself (general revelation) to people everywhere through creation and their moral conscience (Rom. 1:20, 2:6-15; Ps. 19:1-4).
- Those who have heard about Christ and reject Him (whether by rebellion or indifference) will be given over to their choice to live apart from Him forever in hell (2 Thes. 1:9; Matt. 25:46; Rev. 21:8).
2. What is implied (but in some cases not as clear) in the Bible?
Although it is clear that no man will get to heaven apart from the work of Jesus Christ the Messiah, it is not as clear just how the work of Christ (i.e., His blood) is applied to every person (including infants, fetuses, mentally disabled, heathen in remote villages, those who lived prior to Christ, etc.).
Here is what seems to be implied or stated about this.
a. Prior to Christ people were saved on the basis of Christ’s yet to be realized work. They were saved without knowing fully about the work of the Messiah/the gospel. The gospel was, however, still the basis of salvation and faith was the means. They demonstrated faith by casting themselves on the mercy of God as evidenced by practicing sacrifices (Rom. 4).
b. Children and people born without their mental faculties will likely be saved on the following basis:
1. The rule of the game is faith and they cannot play by those rules until they develop a moral conscience.
2. When they develop that moral conscience is not clear. It is interesting that in the Scripture children are pictured as objects of God’s favor, care, compassion and love–as inheritors of the kingdom of God. Adults, on the other hand, are pictured as wicked and as objects of perdition.
3. There is evidence of an age of accountability (a point in time when a person becomes accountable to God for their moral decisions) in 2 Sam. 12:23 and Numb. 14:29.
c. How is the blood applied to those who never hear? There is no explicit teaching probably because God does not give a plan B if you don’t follow plan A, (e.g., “If you decide not to take the gospel to the world I will do this…”) He could send angels or judge on the basis of response to light they do have. It appears in the Scripture that whenever someone rejected the light they had, God did not give more light (Rom 1:18ff.; Matt 13:11ff.), but, when they responded to the light they had, He brought more light (Matt. 7:7-11; Jer. 29:13): He brought a messenger to them (Act 8:26-40) or them to a messenger (Acts 10; Matt 2:1-12).