What About Those Who Have Never Heard Or Will Never Hear About Jesus, Will They Go To Heaven?
Let’s Explore the Answer
Everyone in the world wants to be treated fairly. We want to believe our chance of success in life is equal to that of everyone around us; that’s essentially the American dream. We hate hearing about someone spending decades in jail for something they didn’t do. But, we also like justice. We want to know that, in the end, the good guys win and the bad guys lose. The movie industry makes billions of dollars on this winning concept year after year.
In Christianity, people’s need for fairness and justice comes to a crossroads in one particular question. We want to know what will happen to the person in a far-off land who has never heard about Jesus – will they go to heaven? This is a challenging question and skeptics, atheists, and Christians will respond differently.
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What Skeptics & Atheists Say
Responding to this question begins with a person’s concept of heaven and how one gets there. Skeptics may believe in heaven, or at least believe something does happen to a person after they die. If they do believe there’s a heaven, they may not understand how one actually “gets in”. Therefore, they consider their goal to live a generally good life and hope that’s sufficient for God. If good and bad are like two sides of a large scale, they hope their good will outweigh their bad, and considering most people believe they’re “above average”, they may feel strongly that they should end up ok in the end.
Atheists may reject the concept of heaven all together, but they might still believe in trying to be good people, even accepting a good and bad scale. Even without believing in God, they may accept that the universe has a way of balancing itself out, and so therefore, their goal is to do more good than bad.
Atheists and skeptics may not accept that Jesus is the only way to heaven – if they believe heaven exists at all. Therefore, they are unconcerned for the soul of the individual who has never heard about Jesus. If God exists, then they would believe God would grant that person the same grace they’d expect to receive themselves.
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What The Bible Says
The Bible explains that everyone on the planet has a problem called sin (Rom. 3:23). Like a disease, it’s passed from parent to child and infects every human who has ever lived. The Bible is clear that the cost of our sin is death, meaning if we don’t take care of this problem while we’re alive, we’ll have an even bigger problem when we die (Rom. 6:23). However, God sent his son Jesus to take care of our problem called sin so that we can be with God both now and forever. This is a gift from God to all who will believe in Him (Rom. 10:9). Everyone who believes has a responsibility to share this good news with those who do not know (Matt. 28:16-20). Everyone who hears this good news has a responsibility to respond. But, what about those who haven’t ever heard?
This is a difficult question and some Christians even disagree on the answer. The Bible explains that the nature of God is evident to all – even those who have never heard about Jesus (Rom. 1:19-20; Ps. 19:1). But, general knowledge about God doesn’t specify whether or not they’ll go to heaven. When questions are complicated, the best place to start is with what we do know about God. We know that God is fair and just, gracious, and loving.
God is fair and just. The Bible says that God is a just judge who treats people with equity (Ps. 9:8). God treats people the same no matter who they are so no one will ever leave his throne feeling as if they were treated unfairly.
God is gracious. The Bible says that God is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Ps. 103:8-12). He will always act according to his nature.
The fact that God is fair, just, gracious, and loving doesn’t mean people get to do whatever they want and God’s ok with it. Parents try to be fair, just, and loving and it doesn’t mean children get to eat candy all day while watching endless hours of television. Parents try to do what’s best for their children through rules, boundaries, and consequences, while enforcing rules with grace and love.
We know that God loves the person who has never heard about Jesus more than we will ever understand. We also understand that the nature of God is clear to them through creation. They have a responsibility to respond to what they know and understand. God’s love will ensure they are treated fairly so that they will one day leave God’s presence feeling that they were treated with grace and justice.
There are some things we may need to ask God to explain when we stand before Him. We may never be able to fully solve this challenging question here on earth. It’s one reason why Jesus sent his disciples to share the good news across the globe; He wanted to make sure everyone knew about God’s love. But, what about you? We can’t speak for the person on the other side of the world, but how will you respond to God’s good news?
What would happen if you embraced the possibility that the God of the Bible really did create the world and really does care for you?
In the seventeenth century, a famous philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal, encouraged people to make a wager when it came to belief in God. If a person chose to believe in God and God did exist, that person would gain everything (eternal life). If a person chose to believe in God and God did not exist, that person would lose nothing. On the other hand, if a person chose not to believe in God and he was right, he would lose nothing. But if that person did not believe in God and he was wrong- he would lose everything (lose eternal life).
This wager can be said another way:
Based on this logic, Pascal suggested the rational person would choose to believe in God as believing offers a person everything (eternal life) while losing nothing. Wherever you are in your faith journey, would you consider taking Pascal’s wager? If the good God of the Bible exists, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by believing in Him today.
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Life can feel truly overwhelming for everyone at times, which is why people so often use prayer - or simply put, a conversation with God - to ask for hope, strength, guidance, or circumstantial change in difficult times. "Putting it in God’s hands" when we’re facing any number of obstacles can provide great comfort and peace in a world that we know is out of our own control.
The Bible teaches us that prayer is powerful and effective, both in communicating with God and in bringing peace to those who pray. We consider it an honor to be able to talk personally with the God who created us, with confidence that He listens and cares. No matter your faith background, and whatever the challenges you’re facing, we’re eager to pray for you, your family members, or any of your loved ones. There’s nothing we’d love more than to present your requests to God and pray with you.