What Happens to Those Who Never Hear the Gospel?

by Christian Townson

People who do not hear the Gospel will be separated from God forever. There is no exception. However, we've been given the game plan to reach the world- go and preach the Good News so they may hear.

The Titanic stood as the largest ship in world history when it set sail in 1912. A luxury liner,the press claimed it was a ship “even God himself could not sink.” Then, after five days, it crashed into an iceberg, leading to a disaster as the deadliest peacetime sinking of a ship of all time.

The crew had only prepared 20 lifeboats, which could hold half of the 2400 passengers. People snatched any space on a boat or piece of wood they could as they plunged into the cold water. Some jumped off the ship, trying to save themselves. They struggled to stay above water and to keep warm. There was no hope. Unless someone sent a rescue team, they would freeze and perish. They didn’t know the way out, even as they were trying to save themselves. Eventually, rescue teams were sent and carried the 706 survivors home.

It is the same with the Gospel. There are millions of people around the world who are drowning without the Gospel. They don’t know that they are sinking to their death. They are just paddling aimlessly in a frenzy as they try to rescue themselves. But they don’t know that they are in an ocean of sin.

Christians, it is our job to be the rescue team. We have the Gospel. We know the way out of our sin and into redemption through Jesus Christ. We have the ability to drive the boats and hold out the life preserver of the Gospel. We can’t expect people to save themselves out of this ocean of sin. We must bring them the Gospel because it is their only hope.

But if the rescue team never comes, what will they do?

With over 8 billion people on the planet, most have never heard a whisper about the One True God. How can we expect people who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ to place their faith and trust in Him? How can they respond to the Gospel if they do not know what it is? 

If they do not respond, they will spend their everlasting life in everlasting death. If you do not believe this, let us look at the Bible for the answers. 

Romans 10:14-15 stands as a well-known passage regarding the condemnation on those who do not respond to the Gospel because they have not heard it. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”

Paul lays out the argument clearly. Christians must be sent to preach the Gospel so others can hear. When others hear, they can believe in Jesus and call on Him, for “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). Paul is not saying that anyone who cries out to an abstract spirit-being in the sky will be saved. He is not saying that anyone who calls to Buddha, Allah, Krishna, or any spirit will be saved. He is not saying that a person’s good intentions and desire to be in Heaven will be saved. No. He says those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Calling on Christ relies on the condition of hearing about Jesus and knowing who He is and what He did. 

The one who believes and trusts in Jesus Christ will be rescued from eternal damnation and united into a redemptive relationship with God the Father. Jesus said he is the exclusive way to the Father. No one will have access to the Father except through him. Apart from Jesus, every person will spend eternity separated from the love of God and condemned for their sins. The Bible combats any notion of universalism. This is the differentiator between evangelical Christianity and every other religion. Jesus is the only way. It is not about your good work, behavior, or family. It relies solely upon the grace of God flowing through the life, death, and resurrection of the Incarnate Savior King. 

Many will attempt to claim, “if God loved the world, then why would anyone go to Hell?” or “Isn’t it unfair that people go to Hell when they didn’t even get a chance to hear?” 

The answer is an emphatic no because we cannot dictate right and wrong based on our judgment. Many non-Christians will throw “Judge not, that you be not judged” at you to throw you off, but they often leave out the next verse. “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-2). If we judge others harshly by our own standards, then God will judge us harshly by His standards. Honestly, we deserve a harsh judgment from God because we have all rebelled against Him. No one is without excuse. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Not some. All. God is a perfect and holy God. We are the complete antithesis of perfection and holiness. Yet God sent His Son to make a way when there was no way. He opened the door of salvation to both Jews and Gentiles. Why do you think Paul worked to preach the Gospel where “Christ had never been named” (Rom. 15:20)? Because Christ is the only way! No one will sneak through the backdoor into Heaven because Heaven is not about a utopian, spiritual realm for eternity. The result of salvation is not focused on a location but a relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We will live with God forever in His presence. 

How can people who have never heard the Gospel have a relationship with Jesus? To build a relationship with a friend, coworker, or spouse, you must know them, spend time with them, trust them, and even learn to love them. I can’t say that I am part of the Tennessee Titans football team because I watch football. In the same way, a person cannot live in the presence of God forever unless they have a relationship with Jesus. 

157,690 people die daily without a relationship with Jesus. Over two-thirds of the world live in hard-to-reach areas where the Gospel is non-existent. This number is not decreasing. There must be something done about it. 

In Acts 17:24-27, Paul preaches to the Greek philosophers in the Areopagus. He says, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

God made man to “feel their way toward him and find him,” but rather than leaving the nations in the dark to search for an unknown God, He commissioned His children to carry the Gospel as ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). God blessed Abram to be a blessing to the nations (Gen. 12:1-3). He calls us to flip on the light switch of the Gospel amid a dark world. We are equipped with the Message, manpower, and means to make disciples of all nations. 

People who do not hear the Gospel will be separated from God forever. There is no exception. However, as Paul tells us, we have been given the game plan to reach the world- go and preach the Good News so others can hear, believe, and call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Photo Credit: IMB

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Christian serves as the Director of Mobilization/Missions as he leads the For the Nations ministry for The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN. He will be married to Danyel as of September 2022. 


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