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What about those who have never heard the Gospel?
Thank you for your question about what happens to those who have never heard the gospel. The Bible tells us much about this and can encourage us greatly.
To answer this question, we can look at the example of the people in the Old Testament.
How was Abraham saved? Abraham did not know Jesus, he had never heard the gospel or that Jesus died for him, and yet the Bible tells us that Abraham was saved. What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." (Romans 4:1-3).
This is to say that even though Abraham did not know how he would be saved, he still trusted that God would save him
Throughout the Old Testament God gave signs that He will save His people and they had faith in God and the promise of the Messiah. This can be seen when Noah was saved by the ark, Isaac was saved by the ram, the firstborn were saved by the sheep, the temple sacrifices etc. They were all pointing forward to Jesus.
In the New Testament we can read this:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. (Hebrews 11:1-9)
All of these people were made right with God by faith, just as we are made right with God by faith.
However, what about today? What about people who have never heard the gospel?
Speaking of people who have not accepted the gospel, Paul says that what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20).
In the Psalms we see a shorter version of this answer: the heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims His handiwork (Psalm 19:1). Both of these verses say the same thing: whether we look at the stars across the galaxy, or if we look at the cell structure of our skin, we are seeing the handiwork of God.
This is to say that even if someone has never heard the gospel, yet trusts that God will save them, then God will look on them with mercy and forgiveness.
However, this does not mean that everyone who trusts in 'a god' will get a free pass into eternity. The reason why Abraham was saved was not because he trusted in a god, such as Baal, but because he trusted in the one, true, living God to save him.
Even today, God has put eternity into man’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and people are searching for the truth, but 'a truth' is not enough. This is why it is important for us to tell others about Jesus, fulfilling the Great Commission given to us by Jesus, where He says to us "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
This is the reason why the leaders of the early church told as many people as possible about Jesus. It's why today churches send people on mission and do evangelistic work in their communities: it is so that we can reveal God and tell them the Good News of Jesus. In Acts 17:22-34, Paul addresses the people of Athens who have been worshipping 'the unknown God'. Paul uses this opportunity to explain to them who this unknown God is, and that they can know him through the person of Jesus Christ, that they would receive with certainty the Good News of the Gospel.
It may be that you ask this question because you have a heart for evangelism; that you want to tell others about Jesus. I encourage you to speak to your church leadership about this desire. They may have opportunities within your local community or they may know of courses or trips that can help you with your desire.
In summary, the people in the Old Testament were saved because they trusted in God, who had made himself known in many ways. Today, even if a person has not heard of Jesus but trusts in God, it is possible that God will save them. However, there is a personal call on us to tell others about the Good News of Jesus.
I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video
I encourage you to attend a local Bible believing church and speak to the leader about your question. If you want to find a local church, our Church Finder may help you: Find a Church
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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