“If a person never heard the Gospel, does God send them to hell?”
Thank you for this very important question.
First of all, let us know some truths abut God and us.
We understand God is fair and just, merciful, gracious, compassionate and love. In addition, God is the true judge, he fairly and righteously judges. Several examples in the Bible shows God hates sins because He is holy and at the same time He loves sinners because He is our creator. Besides, God is holy and no man can keep His moral laws on a going basis.
When we break His moral laws, big or small, then we become transgressors or simply sinners.
This is why the Bible says about all people, “ THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” (Romans 3:10-12).
This is the spiritual lesson 101 the Bible teaches us. No one can say I am not a sinner. I have come across people who claim they are not sinners. But you see, the truth is all people broke the moral laws of God in their actions, thoughts, and words. So there is no-one righteous, not even one. You can travel all around the world, and you can look at the history, the Bible declares you will not find one person who is righteous, not even one. All have turned aside and broke the moral laws of God. Bible also says, if any claim to be without sin, he or she is just deceiving themselves, and there is no truth in their claims. Moreover, it says, if anyone claims they have not sinned, then they make God a liar, and His word is not in them. (1 John 1:8-10). Why? Because God says all are sinners and no one is righteous, not even one.
This is why we need a savior. When we come to His Son, Jesus Christ, God applies His shed blood to cover our sins. Also, God gives His righteousness as a garment for us. This is not our righteousness based on works or deeds. This is the righteousness of God gives to us when we come to Christ and accept Him as our savior. Bible says this,” Gospel is the power of God for everyone who believes, to the Jews first and also to the Greek (gentiles). Then it says there, “For in it (in the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” God gives His righteousness or right standing before Him in spite of our unrighteous standing before God in and through the blood of Christ that paid for all our sins.
Now, let me come back to the question. Does God send people to hell?
Remember Abraham asked this question to the LORD, “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25). The question “Shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?” is a rhetorical question which immediately demands an answer. Yes, He deals justly and fairly. Now this question in the first book of the Bible is answered in the last book of the Bible called Revelation. Revelation 16:7 says, “And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” You see this is the announcement from God’s temple in heaven that affirms the Lord God, the Almighty is true and righteous in His judgments.
The Romans 1:18-20 says this- God’s wrath comes from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men because they suppress the truth about God in their unrighteousness. It means God revealed Himself or God is evident within them. God made it apparent to them. It says since they have clearly witnessed in the creation of this world, God’s invisible attributes and divine nature and power, by looking at the marvelous creation around them. Because God revealed Himself to all people, they do not have any excuse. The real issue is this – Even though they knew God when they looked at the sky, stars and heaven and all the beautiful creation around them, instead of wanting to know more about him, people suppresses the truth about Him. They know God created all in their inner hearts as well, but they suppress that truth and continues in their darkness because they love darkness instead of the light.
This is called the general revelation of God. It is internal and external. The general revelation of God is this- God made Himself known to all people in their hearts by His stamp of God awareness in each one of us. Bible says in Romans 2:14-15 God placed his moral law within human hearts and that is why all nations have moral codes or laws that says lie, murder, cheating, stealing, etc. are condemned. The verse also tells people’s conscience bear witness of God. God placed His GPS inside people. Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:11 God also set eternity in the hearts of men. All man-made religions are the result of this God awareness in man’s hearts.
The external revelation of God is this -He revealed himself through the creation around us. Psalms 19 says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God, And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Also, nights and days reveal God. There is no speech from these creations, but all of it declares the wonder-working hands of the Lord God. Therefore people have no excuse because they know God because God made known Him to all men everywhere. However, the sad truth is they realize God’s existence and turn around and suppress that truth because they like the works of darkness and do not want to come to the light of God. No thankfulness to God, no honor to God, no prayer to God, no desire to know the truth about God after witnessing all these convincing proves around them. No one can deny the truth of God after looking at the nature around them and heavens above them. No one can deny the stamp of God in his or her conscience either.
The truth is this – If someone realizes the truth about God and do not suppress that truth based on the general revelation, God is ready to save them and take them to heaven and would not send them to hell. Why? God will respond if anyone prays I want to know more about you Lord and please reveal you to me. God loves that prayer. Bible incidents prove God will send His Gospel to that person wherever that person may be. Cornelious and Ethiopian high official are examples of God dispatching His servants somehow to the person who wishes to know more about God based on the internal and external general revelations.
What is the conclusion? People end up in hell after their death because of their sins, wickedness and unrighteous life. However, if we acknowledge God’s revelation that makes all of us clearly evident God’s divine nature and divine power and then if we respond accordingly, God will make sure we hear the opportunity to listen to the Gospel of His Son Jesus Christ. Gospel or good news is Jesus died for our sins and that he was buried and rose again for the remission and forgiveness of all of our sins and shortcomings and by accepting His Son Jesus as our savior and Lord we can have intimate fellowship with God and live eternally in heaven with God forever and ever. Isn’t it the good news?
We discussed the general revelation of God. Now the Bible, the Word of God, and Jesus Christ the Son of God are the special revelations. I heard many instances in recent years that many sincerely seeking Muslims friends had dreams about Jesus Christ. Due to their dreams about Jesus, some of them started searching on the internet and came to accept Christ as their savior and Lord. This is also called special revelation. God can do miraculous work to guide you to know the truth about Jesus Christ so that we do not need to go to hell. However, the basic question is what did we do with the general revelation God gave to us regarding His existence, divine nature, and power?
A very high official of the queen of Ethiopia who was in charge of her treasure was traveling back to his home town from Jerusalem on his chariot; he was reading a book called the book of Isaiah from the Bible. He had a deep desire to know more about the passages in the book of Isiah in the Bible. Philip an itinerary preacher was preaching Gospel in a city called Samaria and had big revival because of his preaching there. Many came and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior and Lord. However, God asked him to leave the revival meetings and immediately go to a lonely place in the wilderness to meet this high official and talk to him and share the good news about Jesus Christ. You can read about this God’s intervention in Philip and this senior official’s life in Acts 8 in the Bible.
Another example is Cornelius. He feared God, and he prayed to God, and he wanted to know the truth about God and prayed continually to God. God specially intervene in his life by sending Apostle Peter to him through a dream. God gave a dream to Cornelius and gave another dream to Peter so that they both can meet. You can read about it in Acts 10. You see Cornelius and high official of the queen of Ethiopia responded to the general revelation and God helped them to find the truth about Him and saved them by forgiving their sins and granting them eternal life in heaven.
Jesus himself said the final verdict. Listen to what he said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. However, whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:19-21).
My answer is people are going to hell because they want to continue in darkness and do not want to come to light. Whenever the light of God and truth about God is presented to them from internal and external sources, people suppress and ignore the prompting in their mind and continue to stay in darkness thereby they determine their future destiny in hell.
Then there is a second group of people. They heard the good news that God loves them, and they understood God sent His only begotten Son to die in their place for their sins. They also heard by believing in Christ they can get forgiveness and eternal life in heaven. They heard it many times, and still, they do not want to do anything even with the special revelation granted to them. Then what else God wants to do with such people? Jesus Christ came into this world as a fulfillment of over 300 old testament prophecies. God allowed His own Son, Jesus, to die for our sins on the cross, and then they ignore and neglect the greatest gift ever given to them, what else a fair and just God can do other than allowing them to go with their disobedient and stubborn hearts and end up in hell? They choose their own destiny. This is why the Bible is asking this question in Hebrews 2:3-4, “how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders, and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
My conclusion is if a person never heard the good news of the Gospel, which is the special revelation, they will be judged with what they knew about God and how they responded to that general revelation. If a person in a remote area who never heard the good news about Jesus Christ pray to God and say Lord, please show me the truth and I want to obey you, Bible gives several examples that God would reach out to them somehow so that they can hear the good news about His Son Jesus Christ died for their sins. He will do it.
Now, how tragic is the condition of a person who had the general revelation of the creation around them, conscience inside them and moreover was presented with the special revelation of the good news of Jesus Christ? Like the Bible say, “How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation” fully and completely revealed to them? God was just, fair and loving to reveal them the full truth but still, they decided to walk away and live in their darkness because they loved darkness more than the light of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus said such people will die in their sins. He said, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24). If and when a person dies in sin without the Savior Jesus Christ, then there is no way they can live in the presence of the holy God in their sinful state after their death, because they died in their sins with no forgiveness and solution for their sin. The death seals people’s eternal destiny. Bible provides no saving option after death, though people in some belief system pray and do things for the dead. Bible does not reveal anything we can do after the death of a person. Deaths seals the final destiny.
Beloved, you do not need to die in your sins and face eternity with no presence of the loving God. That place is called the hell. Bible explains how horrible hell is. I do not have time to explain the horrible place called hell in this article. Jesus talked about hell more than any one else because He does not want us to end up there. With a small prayer, you can change your eternal address from hell to a beautiful and loving place called heaven now.
Prayer time: “Father in heaven, I know you loves me and allowed your Son, Jesus Christ, to die in my place for all of my sins. I believe Jesus died and rose again and I accept Him as my savior and Lord. Please forgive my sins and give me eternal life in heaven with you. Thank you for saving me now. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.”