Do People Go To Hell If They Don’t Know Jesus? What about Those Who Never Heard of Him?

This blog is meant for both Christians and non-Christians. Christians need to know they vastly underestimate God’s grace and love for those who don’t know Jesus. God bends over backwards to save the lost sheep and to reach those who reject Him. He is far more compassionate and zealous for them than we can ever fathom.

Jesus is not only bigger than us. He’s also far better, far more tender, and far more moral. He is the one who told us to love our enemies and forgive not just 7 times, but seventy seven times. So we should never be ashamed of telling people about Him. Or secretly feel in our hearts that maybe the non-Christians are right about God being too harsh.

This blog is also for non-believers who know of Jesus but still reject Him. Often because in their hearts, they have no desire to know the truth. And so they seize on whatever excuse they can to dismiss Jesus and His followers. That was me in 1994 when Jesus met me in the shower. The fact that He did so reminds me of His love for even the most hateful and narrow minded of us.

God Is Not Morally Inferior: Responding To Honest & Not So Honest Skeptics
Many Christians feel embarrassed when a non-Christian demands to know “Why would a good God ever condemn me to Hell simply because I never knew Jesus?” The question is often asked to prove that God is unjust. Or to show that the “Christian” God is somehow morally inferior to even the most basic notions of decency and fair play.

To prove that Christianity is bunk, the examples usually involve extremes. For instance, the person may state that Christians unfairly condemn people who never heard of Jesus. They’ll ask: “What about all the “innocent” babies, the mentally retarded, the blind and deaf, the noble savages and the hoards of people in ancient times who died before Jesus was born? What about the good non-Christians in the US or other countries who by ignorance or choice simply don’t care about Jesus?”

As I’ll explain below, God does not unfairly condemn people. He gives everyone a meaningful and morally fair opportunity to know Him. But there’s a catch. The more you know of Him, the more you will be held accountable for rejecting Him.

And so if a non-Christian wants to talk about babies and savages, it’s time to bring it back to their own situation. They need to know that “unlike the people you refer to, you are hearing about Jesus now. You are not in the same boat as them because you know far more about Jesus than they did. Gently remind them: It is you who are in the greatest danger. Please honestly go to Jesus and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. What have you got to lose?

Does The Bible Actually Say Jesus Is The Only Way?
Scripture makes it clear that all roads lead to God. But equally clear is that only one road leads to salvation. So whether you’re an athiest, Buddhist or Christian, rich, poor, do gooder or noble savage, or even a tiny baby, we will all stand and be judged by the creator of the cosmos.

But the Bible takes it a step further. One cannot be saved without knowing Jesus.

In John 14:6 Jesus Himself says: I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Likewise in John 10:9 He says I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Other Scriptures that Say Jesus Is The Only Way

Acts 4:12
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 10:9
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

John 3:36 ESV
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 3:18
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
John 1:1

John 8:24
I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 2:23
No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

When Can People Be Saved? Can It Be in Purgatory After They Die or from Reincarnation?
Many Christians wrestle with when a person can be saved. Some even pray for the dead to be saved. However, if we’re basing our beliefs on the Bible, we need to know what the Bible says about these things.

Scripture says people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. Further, we know from the rich man and Lazarus that after death, Lazarus was carried away to paradise while the rich man was sent to Hell. There was no mention of a celestial waiting room or an opportunity for a second chance. In fact, the rich man was worried that his brothers faced the same fate. But he was told by father Abraham that they could avoid this fate if they listen to Moses and the prophets. (Something they could only do while living.)

Likewise in Daniel 12:2 we know that multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Finally, in 2 Corinthians 5:10 we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

So this rules out purgatory and reincarnation. Scripture says we live, we die and we are judged. This means that to be saved, Jesus must almost certainly meet us in this life. For there is no other life. And from 2 Corinthians 5:10, we know that after death we’re judged based on whether or not we knew Jesus while in the body. Clearly, our present day actions have eternal consequences.

The good news is that there is no shortage of space in Heaven.  Indeed, some of his disciples must have been curious about this. For Jesus assures them in John 14:2 that “in My Father’s house are many rooms.” And that if it were otherwise, He would have told them so. Yes, we don’t miss out on Heaven because of overcrowding. There’s plenty of room for everyone.

So What about Babies and Noble Savages and People Who Reject Jesus Because of Rape or Abuse by So Called Christians? Does God Condemn Them For Not Knowing Jesus?
We need to make a distinction between someone who does not know anything about Jesus, versus people who hear about Jesus and reject Him. And even then, in His Wisdom, God treats different people and different situations differently.

Where sin abounds, grace abound more. I know from personal experience, that the more sinful and off track we are, the more Jesus comes after us. Indeed, Jesus went out of His way to forgive thieves, prostitutes and even his own killers. He healed the lame, the sick, 10 lepers and spared the life of an adulteress. Even at His death, He cried out in defense of His murderers, “Please forgive them. They do not know what they do.”

Jesus is a God of compassion. A God of second and third and fourth chances. There is documented evidence of Him sending Muslims dreams that were so vivid and real, that these Muslims embraced Him in spite of being in a hostile place where they would otherwise never hear of Him. Even in America, there are people who reject Him, and while flat-lining and near death in the hospital, these people are shown Hell and rescued by Jesus Himself. God always goes the extra mile to reach those who don’t know Him.

In Psalm 145:17-19, King David, writes about God’s amazing kindness. David, a man after God’s own heart, proclaims: The LORD is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds. The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call out to Him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them.

This is the God who said love your neighbor. This is the God who loved Judas, even though He knew Judas would betray Him. Jesus knows every hair on our head. Every circumstance, every burden and every obstacle we face. And so we can rest in the fact that no one goes to Hell because they were born in the wrong country or in the wrong time, or in the wrong family.

People go to Hell, because they want the benefits of God but are unwilling to submit to Him. People go to Hell, because they reject Jesus, even when He bends over backwards to meet them in their pain and their unique circumstances. 

It is a stubborn heart that puts people into hell. It’s not their geographical birthplace or the fact that they’ve been hurt in life. God knows our hearts. He knows those who truly seek Him. And He knows those who simply want to go their own stubborn way.

Some will get more mercy. Some will get less. But all who reject Him will have no excuse. So here’s the bottom line: You cannot depend on Jesus to save you at the last second. You do not want to play Russian roulette with your own salvation. The time to go to Jesus is NOW. NOW is the only time you can depend on.

So If God Is So Merciful He Can Save People Who Never Heard about Jesus, Why Should We Tell The World about Jesus at All?
Christians assume that people won’t be saved unless they spread the Gospel. And yet, that’s not always true. However, the Lord in His love for us, allows us to be part of the process in leading people to know our Jesus. But the main reason we share the Gospel is because God tells us to!

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus commands us to go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Likewise in Mark 16:15 Jesus tells His disciples to go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

In Acts 1:8 His disciples are told they will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Further guidance is provided in the Gospel of Luke. In Luke 24:47 after Jesus reappears to His disciples, He opens their minds and says that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations beginning with Jerusalem.

For as Jesus says in John 6:40, my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

Finally, there appears to be spiritual protection for those ready and willing to share the Gospel. In Ephesians 6 we are told to put on the whole armor of God. And “as shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”

So yes, God can save anyone including those who never hear the gospel from another human being. But we are to tell people about Jesus, anyway. And this includes the importance of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in His name.

Note that even if Jesus will save them without us, we can still be a key point in their lives. We can help them love God and love their neighbor. We can embrace them as they find unmerited grace and favor. We can stand by them as they discover just how Loving, Holy and amazing our God really is. This too is a gift from God.

Other Blogs

Does God Send Good People To Hell? Are Christians Just Mean Spirited?
Who is God? Are we really good? Should God just accept us as we are?

Why Good People Go To Hell (For Non Christians)
Explains sin and why we need forgiveness and atonement apart from our good works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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