Q&A: Die without Hearing the Gospel

Die without Hearing the Gospel

Question

What happens to the people who die without hearing the Gospel? What happens to the Jews who reject Jesus in this very day and age?

Answer

Unbelievers who die without having heard the gospel go to hell, and so do Jews who reject Christ. Paul made both these points explcitly in Romans 1-3 (e.g. Rom. 2:12). They are all sinners (Rom. 3:9), and thus they earn the wages of sin, namely death (Rom. 6:23).

As Paul taught in Romans 10, this is why missions and evangelism are so important. People cannot be saved unless they believe the gospel, and they cannot believe the gospel unless they hear it, and they cannot hear it unless someone proclaims it to them. This is one reason that Paul declared himself innocent of all blood by virtue of the fact that he had preached the gospel everywhere (Acts 20:26-27). His point was that if he had failed to preach the gospel to everyone, then these people would have perished without Christ and would have gone to hell. Because it was his job to preach, their blood would have been on his head. By "blood," Paul meant that they would have perished. By speaking of his potential guilt in their perishing, Paul indicated that they would have been hopelessly lost. When we die, there is no longer any hope of salvation, but only judgment (Heb. 9:27).

This was also why Paul was so distraught over the Jews who rejected Christ (e.g. Rom. 9:1ff.) -- he knew they were going to hell. But Paul also recognized that God had made certain promises to the Israel, and that these promises could not fail. He explained this apparent disparity by saying that not everyone who was part of the nation of Israel was really a Jew in God's eyes (Rom. 9:6-13). The lack of faith of those Jews who rejected Christ indicated that they were not part of true Israel. To prove this, he used the typological examples of Isaac and Ishmael, and of Jacob and Esau. In both these generations, one brother was part of the true people of God and the other was not, even though they were both descended from a father who was in explicit covenant with God. In the same way, the descendants of Jacob (i.e. the nation of Israel) were divided between those who were chosen to receive the covenant blessings (such as the gospel) and those who were not chosen to receive them. Those who were not chosen to receive them were not truly part of Israel in God's eyes -- at least insofar as receiving mercy, salvation and other covenant blessings were concerned -- even though they were physical descendants of Israel. Rather, God preserved only a remnant of Jews as believers, and only that remnant was saved (Rom. 9:27-28).


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.