Monday, September 14, 2015

Will God Send People to Hell, If They've Never Heard the Gospel?

An atheist asked me, “So, the people in India, who don’t get the gospel, are doomed, because that’s part of [God’s] plan?” Though an atheist asked the question in an effort to shake my faith, it’s a question that many Christians have asked as well. What about those who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel?

Paul seems to address it in Romans 2. In Romans 2:12 he declares, “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” He goes on to say in Romans 2:13, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” He also explains that even the Gentiles do the things contained within the law, proving that the law of God is written in their hearts.

The lie of Satan is that if a person sins without knowing it is a sin, then they shouldn’t be held accountable. We get this idea that these people in India or Africa or South America or New York City or Fort Worth, Texas, who have never had an opportunity to hear the gospel shouldn’t go to hell, because they didn’t know. When we think that way, out thinking is all messed up. First, it isn’t the fact that we haven’t heard the gospel that makes us worthy of hell, it is the fact that we’ve sinned. Second, even the person who has never seen the Ten Commandments has enough law to realize they’ve broken the law.

Imagine a little Hindu child growing up in India. Whatever beliefs this child might have, he realizes that it is wrong to kill, to steal, and to lie. He knows that he should respect his parents. He also knows that he has stolen, lied, or been disrespectful to his parents.

Even atheists have documented some laws that they believe people should follow. Christopher Hitchens includes such things as “Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or their color.” And, “Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations.” Also, “Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child.” Richard Dawkins included, “Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” He also included, “In all things, strive to cause no harm.” And, “Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.”

I wonder how well they think they are doing with that. Of course, these guys have read the Bible, but I wonder if at the Great White Throne some of the books that will be opened to be used to judge these guys will be the books they wrote. “Here’s what you said people shouldn’t do. How well did you do with that?”

Whoever we are and wherever we live, we all know that we aren’t perfect. That is what will condemn people to hell, not the fact that they heard the gospel and rejected it. We’ve sometimes said, “No man deserves to hear the gospel twice until every man has heard the gospel once.” But that isn’t true. The truth is that none of us deserve to hear the gospel, at all. While it should burden us that there are people who have never heard the good news that Jesus died to pay the debt of their sins, there isn’t a single person who deserves to hear that message. We didn’t deserve to hear it either. That should cause us to share the gospel with even more people, but those who don’t hear are still without excuse, because it's the fact that they have broken God’s law that condemns them, not that they haven’t heard the gospel.