WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO DIE HAVING NEVER HEARD THE GOSPEL?
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"
This is an age old question. There are many who have given logical answers that make good sense. However there are three boundaries that we must not cross in answering this. First, is the boundary of God’s wrath. Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;" God had stated His wrath against all mankind. Rom. 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The bloodhounds of God’s wrath are nipping at the heels of all the unsaved and He will not call off the dogs. If we tell a man that he will not have to face God’s wrath because he never heard the gospel, we will put ourselves in opposition to the Word of God.
The second great boundary is that God has declared that man is without excuse. Romans 1:20, "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:" If God says he is without excuse, we would be doing violence to the Scriptures if we claim that he did have an excuse, that excuse being, he never heard the gospel. Many thinks because those who die without hearing the gospel will have another chance. He will not have another chance.
The invisible things are clearly seen by the things that are seen. Inspiration goes so far as to say that, “His eternal power and Godhead,” are evident in God’s revelation of Himself to man. The conclusion is that “they are without excuse.” This means they are completely responsible. Let me state it again. Man is responsible to God for his sins and will suffer the wrath of God if he never hears the gospel. Many cannot accept this. Their point is that God would not be fair to let a man go to hell without a chance.
1. First of all he has a chance. Reread Romans one. While a man cannot be saved without the gospel, he can and does know there is a Creator and that in his breast he knows he is responsible and accountable for his sins.
2. Second, the truth of inward revelation. Romans 1:19, "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them." The first step in salvation is to know there is a God and that we are accountable to Him for our sins. God has revealed Himself to the conscience. A missionary who goes to the field will find that God beat him there. He has already worked in the conscience of the unsaved. Some will respond and some won’t.
Now these things are not enough to save a man but they are enough to make a man consider the truth declared in these verses. The man who wants to be saved after having God reveal Himself in the conscience, God will send a missionary or a Christian with a testimony of the grace of God to him. He gives the one the gospel and in most cases he will be saved. This principle is applied in the case of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:27-39.
I heard J. Vernon McGee say that there would not be a man come before God in the judgment that never heard the gospel, who would have responded in repentance and faith, if they had heard. I think that is a good conclusion. But none of this neutralizes our responsibility to preach the gospel to every creature.
THE THIRD BOUNDARY
The third boundary that we must not cross in our preaching and teaching the Word of God is that, once a man dies, he will never have another chance. Hebrews 9:26‑28, "For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." If God says, “but after this the judgment,” He means exactly that.
WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE THE CHURCH
Ezekiel 33:8‑9, "When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul."
It is our responsibility to preach the gospel to the entire world. It is not our responsibility to save them. Only the Lord Jesus can save. But it is our job to give them the good news. There is a harvest out there. It may be hard to find at times. On other occasions it will be easy. Adoniram Judson preached for 9 years before he had his first convert. But then the Lord led him to a tribe that was ready to hear and thousands were saved.
May the Lord bless these words to our hearts.