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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : What happens to those who have never heard the gospel or grew up knowing only another religion?

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Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7511


I believe everyone has a chance to be saved, and Jesus can redeem even those who have never heard of Him.

And I have heard of Jesus revealing Himself supernaturally to those who never heard of Him via dreams, visions and in person. God knows who will be saved and will work to facilitate that process. Joel talks about this as does Romans 1, like another poster said.

My understanding...

Sandra Miller

 2011/2/25 19:35Profile


Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Revelation 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Revelation 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

 2011/2/25 20:42

Joined: 2008/10/30
Posts: 2145

 Re: What happens to those who have never heard the gospel or grew up knowing only ano

Is the Bible silent about the salvation of those who never hear the Gospel?

It has been said that we should tolerate inclusivistic views of salvation because the Bible does not address the issue of those who never hear the gospel. According to some, ruling out the possibility of salvation for those who never hear would be putting God in a box. I agree that we can't put God in a box, but we can hold Him to His Word. And He has spoken quite clearly regarding the fate of those who have never heard the gospel.

The Bible is God's Word; it is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." It is our authority. We affirm this. We must each ask ourselves, however, "Does our understanding of Scripture mold our view of culture around us, or do we allow the whims of our culture to mold our understanding of Scripture? Do we go to the Scriptures to determine the truth of a matter, or do we prefer to first seek the opinions of those we respect regarding what is right and just?"

Since the Bible is our authority, I encourage you to search the Scriptures. A concordance or a Bible computer program with search function will help answer your questions regarding the salvation of those who never hear the gospel. Following are several points to assist in our studies of this issue.

1. The Faith in Christ Motif

One point to consider is the "faith in Christ" motif. If you search the word "faith," and the variations of the word "believe," you will find about 200 verses that stipulate faith in Christ or believing the gospel message as a necessary condition for salvation. Except in Old Testament references and in references to John the Baptist, saving faith is always linked to Christ or to the gospel message. In contrast to those who might suggest that salvation is possible by believing in God as He has revealed Himself in natural revelation, there are no references in the New Testament to suggest that believing in God can save anyone apart from believing the gospel.

2. The In Christ Motif

Second, you can search the "in Christ," "in Jesus Christ," "in Christ Jesus," "in Him," "in Whom" motif. More than 100 verses spell out the importance of, and conditions for, being in Christ, and the consequences of not being in Christ.

3. The Repentance Motif

A third valuable word study would be one on the words "repent" and "repentance." Forty-one verses stipulate the necessity of repenting to be saved or to enter into or to remain in God's covenant.

4. The Covenant Motif

Fourth, search the word "covenant" throughout the Bible. Besides the 40 references to the "ark of the covenant, you will find 340 verses stipulating the conditions and terms of God's covenant with His people, and the dire consequences for those not in, or not following the terms of, His covenant.

5. The Obedience Motif

Fifth, I suggest you study words such as "works," "obey, obedience," "fruit," and "continue," as in "continue in the faith" (Col. 1:23). The faith by which we are justified is more than intellectual assent to the gospel. It proves itself in the fruit of obedience and good works; it endures to the end. Fruit-bearing faith is impossible without the gospel, the indwelling Christ, and His word.

6. The Love of God Motif

Sixth, it would also be instructive to study the New Testament references to God's love in their contexts. By doing so you will discern the differences between God's unconditional and His conditional love. God's love is unconditional, but the eternal benefits are undeniably conditional (Jn. 3:16-18). The belief that those who never hear the gospel can be saved through natural revelation ignores the stipulations of God's conditional love.

Contrary to the views of our culture, it should also be observed that God's love is not the predominant theme of evangelism in the New Testament. The Church was birthed with 5,000 converts at Pentecost, but Peter's sermon did not focus on the love of God. According to Luke's account Peter didn't even use the word "love;" nor did Paul, Stephen or any other evangelists. The word "love" does not even appear in the book of Acts. Christ's one-on-one personal evangelism with Nicodemus in John 3:16 is the only passage in the New Testament where God's love is mentioned in an evangelistic context, and there it is specifically conditional and worthless to those who do not believe in Christ (3:18). According to New Testament usage, God's love is arguably a family secret. (The rare mention of God's love in an evangelistic context can be confirmed by an exhustive concordance or by searching a Bible program for all words containing the root "lov.")

7. Natural Revelation in Context

Seventh, I urge you to examine Paul's discussion of natural revelation (Rom. 1:20-21) in its context. You will find that is sandwiched between the clearest statement in Scripture that the power of salvation is the Gospel (1:16) and the longest litany of sins in the Bible (1:22-32), which is man's best response to natural revelation.

There are no indications in the entire Bible that anyone has ever been saved through natural revelation. It is adequate to condemn, but it is not sufficient to save. God's self-revelation in nature exposes man's sin so that he is without excuse (1:20). Only in Christ is the condemnation removed (Rom. 8:1). Residents at Mars Hill acknowledged the unknown God, but they were not saved until they heard and believed the Gospel (Acts 17:23-34). To conclude from Romans 1:20-21 that anyone can be saved by natural revelation is like proclaiming that a seedling in the middle of a pine forest is an apple tree before it has grown any identifiable features.

The absolute necessity of believing the Gospel for salvation was stated more succinctly by no other than Christ Himself in John 3:18: "He who believes in Him (Christ) is not condemned; he who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

The urgency to proclaim the gospel to those who have never heard presses upon us with a stewardship for which each of us will one day give an account.

by Dan Musick

 2011/2/25 23:27Profile


Jesus-IS-God mentioned Acts 10, and that's very important. The Lord has certainly given us the story of Cornelius to show He considers the ways of all men and will send His servants great lengths to preach the gospel to those who truly fear God from the revelation they have, like Cornelius did. The story he shared illustrates that and I'm sure there are many others too.

Acts 10:1-6:

1There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
2A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
3He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
4And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
5And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
6He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

Yet Romans 10 also shows that people must actually have Jesus preached to them to be saved.

Romans 10:13-15:

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15A And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Ultimately I am encouraged that the Judge of all the earth will do right and nobody will ever be able to accuse Him of injustice. Though I would never want to just brush this question off, it's right to say that God loves everyone more than any person does and is absolutely righteous and wise in all His judgments (Romans 11:33-36). Therefore, since it's clear that nobody loves people like God does, is as righteous as God is, and has the wisdom and knowledge God does, it is absurd for anyone to accuse Him of anything. I would focus on showing those who honestly ask this the love, righteousness, and wisdom of God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible.

I also think of the following scripture with this topic. Romans 3:4-6:

4God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
5But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)
6God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

 2011/2/26 2:25

Joined: 2009/4/5
Posts: 2012
Joplin, Missouri

 Re: What happens to those who have never heard the gospel or grew up knowing only ano

1Pe 3:18-20
(18) For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
(19) By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
(20) Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Jesus, in the spirit, went to preach to those who had died prior to the Genesis flood. I have heard estimates that there was a population on the earth at that time that might have been not too far below that of our present day population. Certainly with a high birth rate and longevity that people had prior to the flood this would be entirely possible. This is a lot of people, and Jesus went to share the gospel with them and they had a chance to accept or reject Christ.

I am not sure that Mr. Comfort has it right when speaking of Romans 2:12. If you put that verse in the context of the entirety of Rom 1-4 you find that Paul is making the point that we are all born with an innate knowledge of God. The Jews of course have the written law that is the explicit law of God, but the Gentiles show or demonstrate their knowledge of God when they make their own laws by which they accuse or excuse one another. You see, a man without a knowledge of God has no basis for law at all. All actions are acceptable to this man just as dogs and cows have not moral compass and do all that they do without regard for right or wrong. This is the point of Romans 2:14-15.

I do not know what happens to a person born between Babel and the Law, during the covenant of law before grace. I am afraid the Bible is not as explicit about these time periods. But, I do know that however God deals with them it will be just.


 2011/2/26 10:59Profile

Joined: 2009/2/20
Posts: 494
Celina, Texas

 Re: questions

These are mere questions and they are in earnest so please don't think me trying to stir up doubt. Just curious?

Is there another possible interpretation for the spirits in prison? Were there spirits not in prison that heard this outside of Noah and some of those in the line of Seth? Abel must have heard it as we know of his heart for God. How is it different today? Do those who have never heard Christ's name get a visit after the fact given they too have an innate knowlege like those who suffered prior to the flood and had no knowlege of Christ on the cross?

 2011/2/26 17:27Profile

Joined: 2005/1/6
Posts: 1910
Hemel Hempstead


I think it was in one of J P Moorelands debates in which this question was bought up and he bought the fact that many Muslim Villages have come to christ by simply having Visions of God and being convicted of sin!

I still have question to do with those pre-new testament as someone said earlier on that Creation (Romans 1) is enough of a general revelation to convict sinners who have never heard but this issue is filled with many questions as the previous person that has posted is answering

What is the biblical evidence concerning this matter?

Dominic Shiells

 2011/2/26 19:42Profile

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