What about those that never hear the Gospel?

Question
Will those that have never heard the Gospel receive an opportunity to accept Christ on the Last Day? For instance, the man on an isolated island, will he receive a chance to hear the Gospel and believe?
Answer
"The Judge of all the Earth" will "do right" (Gen 18:25). While God is loving (1 John 4:7) he is also holy and just (Heb 10:31; 1 Pet 1:16). When people are lost, it is due to the fact that they have sinned against God. Isaiah wrote:

Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear, but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

So, there are no innocent people in the world. All have received general revelation and are "without excuse" (Rom 1:18-32). All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). People aren't condemned to Hell because they haven't heard the Gospel, but because of the rebellion in their own heart (Jer 17:9).

There is a riveting story in Acts 10. God hears the prayers of a devout, but "unsaved" Gentile named Cornelius. He was a "man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God" (Acts 10:2). God instructs him to send for a man who is named Peter (Acts 10:5). He was advised that Peter, "will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household" (Acts 11:14). When Peter arrives we hear the words, "Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord" (Acts 10:33). This was a message ordained by God, without which Cornelius and his entire household would have remained, despite all of his religious works and devotion, eternally lost.

From this story, we take it that there isn't a need of second "opportunities," but rather God is holy, just, and good (Rom 7:12) and will always deliver the Gospel and Spirit to those whom will be saved (Acts 10:44-48; Eph 1:13; cf. John 3:1-8) before the Last Day (John 6:39; cf. John 6:40; 10:28). In actuality, this wasn't even an "opportunity," but an effectual call (Rom 8:29-30) which always accomplishes what it is sent to do (Isa 55:11; John 6:37; Acts 16:11-15).

Jesus is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6; 10:7, 9). For all those that are "called" in Christ (John 6:44; Rom 1:6-7; 1 Cor 1:9; 1 Pet 2:9; cf. Matt 24:22; Luke 18:7; John 6:37; 17:6; Acts 13:48; Rom 8:33; 9:11-12; Eph 1:4; 1 Thess 1:4; 2 Thess 2:13-15; 2 Tim 2:10; 1 Pet 2:4, 6, 9), in his time God will provide his way. What is God's way? (John 3:1-8; Rom 10:13-15, 17):

  • (1) the Holy Spirit issues his effectual call
  • (2) the Gospel messenger is sent
  • (3) the Gospel is preached
  • (4) the sinner will hear the Gospel
  • (5) the sinner will believe the Gospel
  • (6) the sinner will call upon the name of the Lord

These six general categories are repeated over and over again in Scripture: (1) in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-47); (2) in Samaria (Acts 8:5-15); (3) of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-38); (4) of Paul (Acts 9:1-19; 22:6-16); (5) of Cornelius (Acts 10:30-48); (6) of the Proconsul (Acts 13:12); (7) of the Gentiles (Acts 13:47-48); (8) of Lydia (Acts 16:11-15); (9) of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-34), and (10) of Crispus (Acts 18:8), etc. Scripture says, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Note, that Peter doesn't just say that there isn't any other savior under heaven, but also that there is no other name. To all those whom are called they will have a continuous personal encounter with Christ. They will not just know "of him," but they will know him personally. They are his children (Gal 3:26); his friend (Jas 2:23). They will know him, and he them (John 10:14). God will lose absolutely none that are his (John 6:39).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).