What About the Heathen?

“What about the person who has never heard of Jesus Christ? Will he or she be condemned to hell?” Certain things are known to God alone (Deuteronomy 29:29). On some things God has not fully revealed His plan.  This is one instance. The Scripture does offer some very clear points for us to keep in mind.

  • God is just. Whatever He does with those who have never heard of Jesus Christ will be fair.
  • No person will be condemned for rejecting Jesus Christ of whom he or she has never heard; instead such a person will be condemned for violating his or her own moral standard, however high or low it has been. The whole world—every person, whether having heard of the Ten Commandments or not—is in sin. Romans 2 clearly tells us that every person has a standard of some kind, and that in every culture, people knowingly violate the standard they have (Romans 2:12–16).
  • Scripture indicates that every person has enough information from creation to know that God exists (Romans 1:20, “. . . so that they are without excuse”). Psalm 19 confirms this fact. Matthew 7:7–11 and Jeremiah 29:13 relate that if anyone responds to the light he or she has and seeks God, God will give him or her a chance to hear the truth about Jesus Christ.
  • There is no indication in the Bible that a person can be saved apart from Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Only He atoned for our sins. He is the only bridge across the chasm that separates the highest possible human achievement from the infinitely holy standard of God (Acts 4:12). We, who call ourselves Christians, must see to it that those who have not heard, hear the Gospel.
  • The Bible is perfectly clear concerning the judgment which awaits the individual who has heard the Gospel. When that person faces God, the issue will not be the heathen. That one person will have to account for what he or she, personally, has done with Jesus Christ.

Usually someone will raise the question of the heathen as a smoke screen in an effort to evade personal responsibility. We need to answer the question. But then, as we terminate the discussion, we should focus on the person and on his or her responsibility. What is he or she going to do with Jesus Christ? For a fuller discussion of the moral law inherent in the universe, see Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.

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