What About Those Who Never Heard the Gospel?

Jude 14–15 (KJV 1900)

14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

God has always had a witness to the unbelieving world-all of it. Beginning with Abel and here, in the 7th generation from Adam, Enoch. These witnesses were no doubt worldwide, for example, Noah was a witness to the whole world. There is no reason to limit God’s ability to provide witnesses like Abel, Enoch, and Noah to the world. The spread of the gospel of a coming Savior [Gen 3.15], typified in the sacrifices that God required since the beginning [Gen 4.4-7], was not dependent upon a printing press, but upon God calling individuals all over the world to proclaim His message.

God can save in any nation and any historical period just as he saved the apostle Paul on his way to Damascus, Syria [Gen 9.3-8]. He uses witnesses, but He does not need witnesses to save the lost.

Acts 9:3–6 (KJV 1900)

3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

If one insists upon the theory that there are persons who have never heard the gospel, then the spiritual status of such theoretical persons is still clear from scripture:

Romans 3:9–18 (KJV 1900)

9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

These persons are lost.

The issue of fairness always comes up at this point. The condemnation of the unrighteous is God’s prerogative, as indicated clearly in scripture [Rom 9.14-24]. God is under no obligation to evangelize the world, though he commands the Church to do so [Mk 16.15]. Even so, the successful evangelization of the entire world will not result in fairness as man sees fairness, because only the elect will be saved.

Acts 13:46–49 (KJV 1900)

46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.

Not only does this passage demonstrate God’s willingness to evangelize the world [v47] and his provision of people assigned this very task; the text also indicates that only those “ordained to eternal life” would believe the message. Therefore, even when universal evangelization is achieved, salvation would be limited to those predetermined by God.

The Bible shows that God can save anyone, anywhere and in any historical context, with or without a human witness.

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