What About Those Who Have Not Heard the Gospel?

Paul Derengowski, ThM


Sometimes during the course of a discussion about salvation the question is asked, “But, what about the pigmy in the Australian Outback who has never had the chance to hear about Jesus?  Is he going to hell because of no fault of his own?  If so, I don’t want any part of such a God who would be so unloving, unfair, and unjust.”  Such questions are comments are typically disingenuous to begin with, since they are asked in an effort to impose guilt upon the discussion, rather than to ask out of sincerity.  Nevertheless, what should a response look like to such questions and assertions?

Chance or Plan?

Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.  For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those that find it.”  According to Jesus the way to eternal life is narrow.  In fact, there would be very few who would find it.  The reason why is before one can find Jesus, one must be found by God, first.  Found in the sense of being drawn by God (Jn. 6:44) and then spiritually regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3:8).  Later on Jesus would claim to be the way to the Father (Jn. 14:6), hence anyone not found in Jesus and the Spirit residing in the redeemed, does not belong to God (Rom. 8:9).

On the other hand, a great number of people will travel the road to destruction, meaning that there are all kinds of spiritual roads that people are on, none of which having anything to do with Jesus, except for maybe paying him lip service (Matt. 15:8).  These are the inherently religious who are in abject rebellion against God, have no desire for the things of God (Rom. 3:11), but are well aware of what God has revealed about himself, even though they have chosen to suppress that truth (Rom. 1:18-19).  Every human being who has ever lived will enter either the wide or the narrow gate, meaning that all humans are on either one of two spiritual roads.  There are no exceptions, there is no middle ground to travel, and there will be no do-overs or second chances once one has arrived at one’s predestined gate.

Predestination, which is taught in the Bible (Eph. 1:5), precludes any ideas about “chance.”  Salvation is not a chance proposition, in other words, but is a preordained event orchestrated by God himself (Ps. 3:8; Isa. 43:11).  If salvation was about chance, then even God would be kept in the dark as to the salvific future about anyone, and God would no longer be God: chance would be.  Therefore, ever since mankind’s fall into sin, God has predestined those whom he would choose to redeem, with the remainder being left in their fallen condition to receive the rewards of their choice as passed on through Adam (Rom. 5:12).  God’s choice cannot be thwarted (Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Dan. 4:35) otherwise, once again, God would no longer be God: the sinner would be, as he capriciously keeps God on hold waiting for the sinner’s decision.

Destination Hell

Since all men, prior to spiritual regeneration, are in a state of rebellion against God, then all men are guilty before God.  There is nothing inherently “good” in any man or woman, boy or girl, that would lead to their exoneration, despite the human capacity to do good deeds (Matt. 7:11).  Such evil is only deserving of the separation that God promised would occur when Adam chose to disobey God at the beginning of human history.  It is only because of God’s grace that anyone is saved at all, which is why the apostle Paul would write, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9 cf. Tit. 3:5-6).  Often those arguing for the inclusion of works in one’s salvation will turn to the Book of James to either try to drive a wedge between Paul and James, but such an effort only reflects the natural man’s wantonness to subject God to his misguided autonomy, rather than accept the fact that unless God moves in a person’s life to redeem him, he will be forever lost.  Indeed, faith without works is dead (James 2:26), but those works are the result of belief that have been preceded by God’s gracious willingness to regenerate in the first place.  “We love, because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19), not “We love, in order that God might love us.”

Therefore, those in the Australian Outback or who have never heard the name of Jesus are destined for hell, should not God intervene somewhere along the line.  It is what all lost sinners in willful rebellion against God deserve.  Many will argue, like the many on the road to destruction, that condemning someone to hell before they had the chance to decide is not fair.  Yet, such a contention is part of the willful ignorance of what God has said on the subject.  They would rather have their cake and eat it too, so to speak.  They want the luxury of sinning against God, but then expect God to absolve them of the punishment, based on their capricious whims.  Their “free will” or human autonomy is all that matters to them, not God’s just decision based on his person.  The reality is, they are neither free, nor autonomous, otherwise they would not have to be freed at all.

To add insult to injury, the same people who clamor that it is unfair or unjust for God to send anyone to hell without giving them the chance to choose are the same people who believe it to be “just” and “fair” to rebel against God all over again.  In other words, all people have already rebelled against God, in Adam, which is why God calls them “lost” and “sinners.”  To the “free will” exponent, though, it would be fair, just, and deserving to reject God’s offer of salvation, just like Adam rejected God’s commandment to abstain from eating the fruit, than for God to take the reins of man’s destiny and redeem a remnant after his own perfect plan and purpose.  To those subscribing to the myth of human autonomy salvation is about them, not God.  To those who believe “God is in control” or sovereign, salvation is about God, not about human “free will.”

“I Don’t Want Any Part of Your God!”

Usually a final slap of rebellion comes forth in the form of a statement along the lines of, “Well, if that’s the kind of God you worship, then I don’t want to have any part of it.  My god is loving, compassionate, and fair, and wouldn’t condemn anyone to hell without at least giving them a chance to accept his offer of salvation.”  Such unbiblical and nonsensical reasoning is, once again, a fallacy, as they proponent is appealing to guilt to make his argument, rather that God’s revelation and holiness.  First of all, it is not the sinner’s choice whether he will have a part of God or not.  As already seen, he has already made his choice to rebel, in Adam.  Since all men are “dead in trespasses and sins” until God moves to grant him life, then he will continue to make rebellious decisions, and commentary, consistent with that deadness.  Moreover, it is presumptuous that God dangles salvation in front of the sinner like a farmer or rancher would dangle a carrot in front of his donkey to get him to move.  God’s salvation is not about dangling carrots in hopes that the sinner will bite.  God’s salvation is about his mercy and grace to redeem some for the express purpose of honoring and glorifying God.

Second, any “god” that is at the mercy of his rebellious creatures to decide whatever it is that they wish to do, which includes being saved, is not a god at all.  It is an idol; an idol that can be manipulated after the image of the sinner.  An idol that could no more save a person than could a lead-filled parachute save a falling skydiver.  Such idols are not loving, compassionate, or fair, simply because they are as “dead” as the persons who created them.  Instead, they are intolerable, unsympathetic, and undiscerning, because they don’t exist in reality.  They are futile speculations created by equally futile minds, who only wish to serve one’s impulsive, carnal desires until all the self-refutations finally destroy the idol’s creators.  It is because of the vanity of such idols that those who know the only true God of the Bible are warned to stay away from them and idolatry (1 Cor. 10:7, 14; 1 Jn. 5:21).


Those who die outside of Christ are destined for hell.  That includes those who have never heard the name of Jesus.  While some might find that unfair, those who jump to such conclusions only want to see things their way and refuse to look at things from God’s perspective.  God, in other words, has been revealing the consequences of sin and his expectations from humans from the beginning.  No one, therefore, is in any position to charge God with unfairness or unjustness, given that he has made himself quite clear what the consequences are for disobedience, as well as the prescription for redemption, should it be needed.  And all need redemption, even though only a few will enjoy it.

Therefore, the whole question about hearing and salvation actually involves a willful ignorance of what God has said.  By that is meant, those asking the question already know the answer, because God has revealed to them.  It is that they refuse to accept it that the disingenuous questioning begins.  And since they cannot get at God directly, they choose a more indirect route, just like Satan has always done, by attacking God’s own either verbally or physically.  Such attacks, though, only serve to expose their true natures; natures full of vitriol, hatred, and contempt for God and his people, while putting on a pretense of standing for God.  Of such people one can only hope and pray that God will draw and redeem them as well.  Otherwise, instead of simply joining the pigmy in the Outback, in a long list of those adjudged to be already “dead in trespasses and sin,” they will be joining them in “outer darkness,” which is end result of entering the broad gate leading to destruction.

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