WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO NEVER HEAR THE GOSPEL?
By Nana Yaw Aidoo
In the Bay of Bengal in India is an island known as the North Sentinel Island. Considered “one of the world’s last uncontacted people,” the inhabitants of this island, some years ago, murdered a young would-be American missionary by name John Allen Chau who wanted to take the Bible to the island. What this means is that, the Sentinelese have neither heard the gospel preached, nor, even as much as heard whether there is a gospel. This leads me to question what the eternal condition of these people would be, if they died in this state. Would these and those who never hear the gospel be lost or would they spend eternity with God in heaven?
While there are some who believe God will give some sort of allowance to the heathen or the untaught, I do not believe that position represents biblical truth and I propose to give the reasons for my stance in this brief article but not before I note somethings.
Some Things to Note
1) I am very sympathetic of the plight of the Sentinelese or the heathen.
2) In answering this question, the only proper answer is a scriptural one and thus human speculations and personal opinions will not do.
3) God’s ways and thoughts are unlike that of men (Isa. 55:8-9).
4) God is both infinitely good and infinitely severe (Rom. 11:22).
5) The heathen will receive a righteous judgment (Acts 17:31).
6) If it is the case that the heathen is lost, then world evangelism is not an option.
7) Not all judgement is sinful (John 7:24).
Now to the query. Would those who never hear the gospel be lost or would they spend eternity with God in heaven? Whereas I believe only one statement from God will settle this issue for all who love the truth, I want to give three reasons why I believe the heathen is lost for all eternity.
REASON ONE: The spiritual condition of the heathen
The spiritual condition of the heathen according to the Scriptures is this: “...without Christ, being aliens...and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). A few chapters later, the apostle affirms that the heathen is “...alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them...” (Eph. 4:18). Considering this is the spiritual condition of the heathen, please forgive me for rejecting the position that the just God will grant the heathen eternal bliss.
REASON TWO: The design of the gospel
The Bible teaches that all (including the heathen) have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Since this is the case, the gospel was revealed for the express purpose of saving sinful man (Rom. 1:16-17). The role of the gospel in the scheme of redemption is like that of a lifesaving boat and the role of Christians is like that of a rescue team. We need to understand that humanity is drowning in the sea of sin and the gospel is our only hope of life.
Now let us suppose the rescue team rushes out a life-saving boat (via the great commission) to save an already drowning man. If this man refuses to be rescued and drowns, what do you think caused his death? If your response is, “because he refused to get on the boat,” you are wrong. The life-saving boat had absolutely nothing to do with his drowning. He drowned because he was in the water and would have drowned just the same had there been no life-saving boat. My friends, the heathen is lost and will be for all eternity, not because he never heard the gospel but because all (including the heathen) have sinned or are drowning in the sea of sin. To suggest that the heathen would receive an allowance is to suggest that we potentially (in the case where he refuses to obey) do him great harm when we send him the gospel, which then makes the gospel not good news but bad news.
REASON THREE: The express statements of Scripture
Here are some passages of Scripture to consider concerning this issue:
a) The Bible teaches that ignorance is no defense. The Jews murdered Christ in ignorance (Acts 3:17) but were charged to repent of the sin nonetheless (Acts 3:19). Consider Acts 17:30-31 also.
b) The Bible teaches that it is Christ or damnation since “no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 NKJV).
c) It is written that those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel will be lost (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Friends, in view of the foregoing, what sayeth thou about the heathen?
While some may disagree, I believe with all my certainty that the position I take in this article cannot be successfully refuted. This conclusion places much responsibility on us as churches of Christ because if the gospel is not taken to every person, every person will be lost but God will not hold us guiltless (Eze. 3:18). The truth is narrow (Matt. 7:13-14) and it is this; the heathen really is lost for all eternity without the gospel.