Question: Are people who have never heard of Jesus going to hell?
Answer: In Part 1 I covered the first false assumption a person makes in asking this question. No one goes to hell for not accepting Jesus; they go to hell for breaking God’s law. Here is the second false assumption. There is such a thing as a noble savage; that there exist people in the most remote parts of the world who are truly seeking after God but can’t find Him. No one was there to tell them about Jesus. Are you saying God holds them responsible?
God has not hid himself. He has revealed himself to everyone. Acts 17:27, “God did this [created the world and gave all men life] so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” God is close to this “noble savage” no matter where he is living. Psalm 19:1-4 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Here we see the heavens reveal God’s existence; they pour forth speech. Everyone can look to creation and see God’s handiwork.
Romans 10:18 the Apostle Paul is speaking about the unbelieving Israelites and quotes Psalm 19:4, “But I ask: Did they (Israelites) not hear? Of course they did: ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.’” God did not leave us without a witness of His existence. When people go out to the desert and in the evening look into a cloudless sky they blurt out the words, “Oh my God.” They see the massive number of stars. All creation shows the truth of God.
The clearest Biblical evidence about God’s judgment and revelation is Paul’s writings to the church in Rome. He was addressing all mankind. Romans 1:18-20 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 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.” Man says I never knew about you and God says yes you did. The noble savage is without excuse because he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. He doesn’t want the God of the universe to exist.
Who should we believe? Do we believe God or people who claim they are looking but cannot find Him? Yet we look at the cross and read the Gospel narratives to see what it cost God to rescue man. You realize God is not going to all that trouble to save people through the death of His Son Jesus Christ only to hide eternal life from us. All that pain, humiliation and then go out and trick people. Romans 1:19 says God has made his presence known within all of us. How do people respond to this God that reveals himself to them? They run away!
What is God’s response to those who reject Him? God will hold them accountable for their sins. Psalm 5:5 “. . . You [God] hate all who do wrong.” Psalm 11:5 “The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.” God is going to judge men who break his laws and reject him. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Everyone on earth has broken God’s moral laws and earns judgment and spiritual death. We deserve only punishment.
But God actively pursues us. 1 Tim. 2:4 “. . . who [God] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God wants ALL to be saved. However, men reject this salvation, so God has to act. And He does. John 6:44 “No one can come to me [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws him.” The word draw in the Greek literally means to throw a net over the top and drag them. We are not looking for God, we are running from God. He pursues us.
People say, “I thought God didn’t tamper with our free will.” This type of statement is not found in the Bible. When we pray for non-Christians, what do we pray for? We say, “God change the heart of my brother or my parents.” We are asking God to interfere with their free will. This is not to say we don’t have free will. But if God doesn’t tamper with it nobody would believe in Him.
Paul was on the road to Damascus minding his own business. God blinds him and he falls to the ground. Do you think God tampered with his free will? God seeks guilty people because He loves them. God’s love is an act of mercy when nothing is deserved but hatred, condemnation and punishment. God’s love cost him something. God pays for what he loves. God sent his Son to die on the cross to pay the penalty we deserved.
When it comes to the noble savages, God always responds to the seeking heathen with revelation. If anyone is seeking the true God, He will always respond. Why? God has already been working in that person’s life to draw him to Himself. God wouldn’t pull the person to the door of salvation then slam the door in his face. The heathen that seeks Him, God may respond by sending a missionary or by direct revelation of Himself in the form of a vision. In the book by Don Richardson, “Eternity in Their Hearts,” he gives many modern day experiences where God reached natives in extremely remote areas. If people anywhere in the world want to know the one true God of the universe, He will make Himself known to them. However, most don’t want to know Him. Unless God moves first they will not respond. And He has moved.