The Heathen - Where do they go when they die?
Primitive people may be in Africa or they may be celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Some of the heathen are not in the jungle!
What happens to people who never hear the gospel? Are they saved or lost? Does God send them all to hell? That seems so unfair. Is it true that only a few will be saved and everyone else goes to hell?
“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;” Revelation 5:9
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;” Revelation 7:9.
God assures us that a great multitude will be saved from all nations, so many people that no one can number them. The way God presents it, so many people get saved they are without number. Jesus taught His disciples the same wonderful truth.
God loves the heathen!
“And I say unto you, Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 8:11.
“And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:31.
It's important to keep a Biblical view about this question. Psalm 145:8-9 tells us “the LORD is good to all.” So we should never say that God is unfair, unkind or unjust in His dealings with anyone.
Here’s what we know about God
God will be absolutely fair when dealing with the lost folks. We can always trust God to do the right thing.
“Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25.
God is no respecter of persons.
“For there is no respect of persons with God.” Romans 2:11
God wants unbelievers to find Him and get saved.
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:” Acts 17:26-27.
Will you tell the heathen about Jesus?
God wants to save the heathen - which includes everyone who has never heard about Jesus.
God "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:4
Indigenous people in Papua, New Guinea
We are responsible for getting the gospel to those who have never heard about Jesus.
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
God takes no pleasure when lost people die.
“For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” Ezekiel 18:32, 23
God wants everyone to be saved.
If all the people who’ve never heard about Jesus will be saved anyway, Jesus’ command to preach the gospel to everyone is unnecessary. Think about it.
If we say that people who never heard the Gospel will be saved anyway, the most merciful thing we could do is NEVER tell the heathen about Jesus.
By keeping silent, we could make sure that no one ever hears the Gospel so that they will all be saved. If we believe that everyone who never heard will be saved, then the worst thing we could do would be to share the Gospel with them because they might reject it.
If we keep silent and the heathen never hear the gospel, according to the popular false teaching among Christians, they will all surely be saved because God won’t send anyone to hell who has never heard.
People in the Old Testament got saved a little differently than people after the resurrection of Christ. In the Old Testament, they had to trust God and believe what God said, Psalm 2:12, Genesis 15:6, but they didn't believe on Jesus Christ to get saved.
This revelation of God in the human conscience is found throughout the Bible, beginning in Genesis.
We know good and evil through the leading of our God-given conscience. These verses explain it more fully. Exodus 20:6, Acts 10:35, Matthew 7:21, Romans 2:14-15, Psalm 50:23, 97:11, 103:17-18, Prov 28:18.
When a heathen person who has never heard of Jesus obeys his conscience, God will get the truth of salvation to that individual, John 6:45, 7:17. Biblical examples are the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40, Saul in Acts 9 and Cornelius in Acts 10.
“All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.” Romans 2:12.
“From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth - He who forms the hearts of all, considers everything they do.” Psalm 33:13-15
“God knows your hearts.” Luke 16:15
"But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;" Romans 2:5-7.
Do you care about the heathen who have never heard or is this just an intellectual argument for you? When a lost person obeys his conscience, God will get the message of truth to him as He did for the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 and Paul in Acts 9 and Cornelius in Acts 10.
The conscience of an honest man, a heathen in a South American jungle or a heathen in the middle of New York City, leads him to trust Jesus Christ. When a lost person does not obey his God-given conscience, God is under no obligation to do anything more for him.
We often reject God’s leading to go our own way. God could send all of us to hell and be perfectly right in doing so. We don’t keep our own moral standards and we certainly don’t keep God’s moral standards. Getting saved is all about receiving the gift of God's grace in Jesus Christ.
In Romans 1:18-32 (please look it up and read it), we learn that people who never read a word of Scripture have a basic knowledge of God as Creator. God created the heathen and everything around them.
God judged the heathen, not for rejecting a Gospel they never heard but because they rejected the revelation God gave them.
God makes it clear in Rom 2:14-15 that conscience conveys God’s law to human hearts even when they haven’t heard, even when they don’t have a Bible. Abimelech is an example of this in Genesis 20:1-12, before any books of scripture had been written.
Abimelech had the law of God written on his heart and God also spoke to him in a dream. In a similar way, God’s law is a schoolmaster to lead any heathen anywhere on earth to Christ if that heathen will obey his conscience, Gal 3:24-25.
The fact that God sent His son to redeem us and pay for our sins demonstrates God’s grace and good intentions toward the human race. God is willing to give us what we do not deserve and He has already paid the price so that we can have what we do not deserve IF we will receive salvation as a free gift in this life. Remember:
Yes, the Bible is absolutely clear about that.
Rom 3:10, 3:23, Psalm 51:5, Rom 5:12
No, the Bible is absolutely clear about that. Since the resurrection of Jesus, salvation is only through Christ, Acts 4:12, John 14:6.
We have already seen that God is absolutely fair in His dealings with the human race. The answer is Yes, if God condemns anyone (including the heathen), He is absolutely fair in doing that. Remember that they are not condemned for what they didn't know. They are condemned for rejecting whatever truth they had.
Rom 1:20, Act 14:15, 14:17, Rom 2:12-15, John 3:19
Linking to the Christian Think-Tank website does not mean that we agree with everything they teach.
This page updated September 23, 2017