What about those who Never Heard the Gospel?

Posted on December 18, 2012 in Featured, Theology, zAll
light-darkness

One of the greatest objections to Christianity is its teaching of exclusivism regardless of the person having never heard the Gospel message. Many people cannot understand how a loving God could send someone to Hell for all of eternity for rejecting a message that they never heard.

Many Christians struggle to provide an adequate answer to this question, and often struggle with this question themselves, and sometimes reconcile it not with Scripture but with human reasoning. This human reasoning is found in the following popular teachings:

  • All people will go to Heaven
  • Those who sincerely follow any type of religion will go to Heaven
  • We are only judged with the light we are given, meaning if we never heard the Gospel message then we will not be held accountable for it.

According to Scripture all three of these positions are wrong.

The Bible teaches that only those who believe in Christ will gain entrance into Heaven and have eternal life.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. - John 3:36

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:16

Similarly, the Bible teaches that those who do not believe or reject Jesus Christ will be cast into the lake of fire to suffer for all of eternity.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. - John 3:36

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. - Revelation 20:15

The question still remains about those who have “never heard”, what happens to these people? To best answer this question we must turn to the authority of Scripture.

First we must understand that God does not want anyone to go to Hell.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. - 2 Peter 3:9

Second we must understand that salvation is offered to all of mankind

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. - Titus 2:11

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:16

Third we must understand that God reveals Himself to mankind through His creation. This is also known as general revelation.

because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. – Romans 1:19-20

While general revelation is not sufficient enough to lead someone to salvation it is sufficient to cause them to seek after God. The Bible teaches

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. - Matthew 7:7-8

The Bible also teaches that those who sincerely seek after God will be given an opportunity to hear the Gospel message. We read this truth in the Bible in the following passage:

Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, [2] a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. [3] About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” [4] And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. [5] Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; [6] he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.”- Acts 10:1-6

In this passage we read about a man named Cornelius who was not a follower of Jesus Christ. However, through general revelation Cornelius was a man who realized there was a God, feared God, and even prayed to God. While the Scriptures do not list everything Cornelius prayed for we do know that he prayed for God to reveal Himself to him, and that he was seeking after the True God. We know this because in verse 4 the Angel of the Lord told him that his prayers had been answered and he was to send for a man (that he did know know) named Peter, and the apostle Peter came and brought the good news – the Gospel message.

In Acts 10:34-48 (read) we read about the Apostle Paul preaching the Gospel message, and that as a result of this preaching Cornelius and others were saved and baptized.

Therefore, there are not people who have never heard, only people who have rejected the truth they have been given. According to the teaching of God’s Word, God will send someone to a person who is genuinely seeking and searching for the True God. May we all be willing to be the person that God sends.

Grace and Peace

Comments ( 7 )

  1. ReplyNaz-Rev

    Bjerke, I am glad you are no longer permitted to preach this 'fundamental' view in our nazarene churches. It is very arrogant of you to think that your position is the "biblical position" and then present it like it is. please explain how a loving and just God will send someone to Hell who never heard the gospel message. It doesnt matter if you agree with the me or not, but the biblical truth is that God will only hold us accountable for the light we have. Those who never heard the Gospel will be evaluated differently then those who did hear the gospel.

    • ReplyJ.R. Bjerke

      Naz-Rev, It is very sad that you are glad that the truth of the Gospel message is being restricted in your denomination. As for my alleged "arrogance" it is interesting that you believe your position is correct, and yet you do not label yourself as arrogant - why is this? I would like to note that you are not disagreeing with my position, but rather the Bible. If my position is not accurate, please demonstrate this with the use of the Bible. Your question

      Please explain how a loving and just God will send someone to Hell who never heard the gospel message.
      I did explain this - it was the purpose of the blog post. Please re-read it. You make the statement,
      It doesnt matter if you agree with the me or not, but the biblical truth is that God will only hold us accountable for the light we have. Those who never heard the Gospel will be evaluated differently then those who did hear the gospel.
      However, you do not provide any biblical evidence for this would you please provide some. If your position is the 'biblical' position, it should be quite easy for you to find verses that explicitly make this statement. Grace and Peace,

  2. ReplyA Gerrard

    Naz-Rev... Your posts on here not only sadden me, but infuriate me! I have grown up Nazarene and have left the denomination! I would love you to break some of these newer stands in the denomination to be broken open in front of your followers and preach it from the pulpit... You would lose a lot of your congregation! Thank you J.R. Bjerke for continuing to stand for truth!!

    • ReplyJ.R. Bjerke

      A. Gerrard, Thank you for taking a stand as well, leaving a denomination is never easy. You are correct, if the true beliefs and theology of the Church of the Nazarene were clearly explained from the pulpit there would be many who left. Sadly there would be many who stayed as well. Grace and Peace

  3. ReplyA Gerrard

    Meant to say would love for some of these newer stands to be broken open in front of your congregations! Especially the main one that you now hold to the Bible not being completely true! Very scary place!

  4. ReplyA Gerrard

    Yes that is true... But because they are not being clear with their beliefs... Not only are they leading people astray, but they are being deceptive and elusive in their teaching and it makes me so angry! Not only were we made to feel ridiculous and stupid by the Pastor, but called liars by friends who didn't make the effort to confront the pastors themselves and say that is not what they preach so it must not be what they believe. So disheartening! Makes me want to shout it from the rooftops until they come clean!!

    • ReplyJ.R. Bjerke

      A. Gerrard, I can completely relate to your situation. I showed people emails from the General Superintendents that clearly state "We do not believe inerrancy extends to all areas of the Bible" and they still did not believe me. When this happens it is a clear case of people caring more about their denomination than the Word of God. The Church of the Nazarene is very deceptive in presenting what their official position is on many issues, and they will be held accountable for it. We will be held accountable for who's authority we submit to (we submit when we join a church/denomination) and we will be held accountable for not speaking the truth against false teachers. Grace and Peace

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