In the last couple years, some of my longer Gospel conversations ended up with this question at one point or another. I’m not sure why, but it seemed to come up very often, especially when talking with practicing Roman Catholics.
It is a very good question, because it just doesn’t seem fair to us as human beings that so many people all over the world never get the chance to hear about Jesus.
The best way to answer this question is by answering a different one.
Why do people go to Hell?
Some people answer with, “Because they rejected Jesus Christ.” Though I do understand that answer, I think that it is, at the very least, incomplete, because you can only reject things you know about. If rejecting Jesus was the reason, then those who have never heard of Jesus would be off the hook.
Our church sends out short term mission teams all the time. If culpability came after hearing about Jesus, then the worst thing we could do is send missionaries all over the world. We should send fence building teams instead. We should build huge walls around these tribes to keep them from ever hearing the name Jesus and what He did for them.
The reason why people go to hell is because they sin. And though general revelation isn’t enough to save, it is enough to damn. Romans 1:18-20 says it clearly,
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Paul tells us that man is without excuse, and the reason why they don’t humble themselves to believe in the God they know exists, is because they have an insurmountable wall they can’t climb over, namely, their love for their sin.
For some reason some Christians get hung up on this question. A lot of Christians shy away from this question. Maybe it is because in our flesh it is hard for us to believe that we actually deserve an eternity in hell for our sin. It is a truth that we acknowledge, but that we struggle to embrace. It is imperative, though, that you do embrace this truth and that you let this truth permeate your walk with Christ.
The truth about the fact that one sin you commit against a perfect eternal God deserves an eternity in Hell (James 2:10) is a truth that, once embraced, will make a huge difference in your life. It will cause you to fight sin with a greater zeal, and it will cause you to share the Gospel like never before.
Ezekiel learned this at the beginning of his prophetic ministry. God told him in Ezekiel 3:18-19,
“When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.”
Notice that the outcome for the person in sin is the same. Whether Ezekiel warns them or not, they will still die in their sin. Ezekiel had no power in himself to be able to convince any Israelite to turn from his sin; in fact, he had already been told that none would ever turn (Ezekiel 3:7)! That was entirely God’s job, Ezekiel was simply called to faithfulness.
When we think about those around the world who have yet to hear the Gospel, our reaction should be two-fold. We should remind ourselves about the perfect holiness and justice of God, who will be perfectly righteous to cast every unregenerate human being into Hell. And at the very same time, our hearts should break in compassion over these souls, and we should pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers(Matt. 9:38), and we should strategize on how to reach them, support missionaries, and even go ourselves to tell them about the only Advocate (1 John 2:1) who qualifies to represent them one day when they stand at the judgment.
People who never hear of Jesus go to Hell. That’s why those who hear and accept the Gospel sing, “how beautiful are the feet of those who brought us the good news!” (Rom. 10:15)