"What will happen to those who have never heard the Gospel?"
This is one of the most frequent questions I receive. People believe that God is just, and they cannot reconcile that belief with the idea that He might consign a person to Hell who never was given an opportunity to hear the Gospel.
Therefore, increasingly, many Christians are concluding that there must be many roads to God and that sincere Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and others will make it to Heaven.
What does the Bible have to say about this important issue? Are those who live and die without hearing the Gospel condemned to an eternity in Hell? And what about those who have put their faith in the god of some religion other than Christianity and who strive to live righteous lives? Are they also condemned to Hell? Is it possible that God has revealed Himself in different ways to different peoples, and therefore there are many different roads to God? Could the sign be true that I saw in a Sunday School class at a church that read: "Our God is too big to be confined to one religion"?
What Jesus Had to Say
Let's begin our search for an answer to these questions by taking a look at what Jesus had to say —
Speaking to the Apostle Thomas, Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me." — John 14:6
After appointing His twelve Apostles, Jesus said to them: "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." — Matthew 10:32-33
Speaking to 70 disciples being sent forth to proclaim the kingdom of God, Jesus said: "The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me." — Luke 10:16
Early in His ministry, while in Jerusalem, Jesus delivered a sermon on His relationship with God the Father, and in it He said: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." — John 5:24
At His last supper with the Apostles, Jesus prayed: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." — John 17:3
And then, of course, there is Jesus' most famous statement about the issue of salvation — the words He spoke to Nicodemus, a Jewish spiritual leader who was a member of the Sanhedrin Council: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." — John 3:16
What conclusion can we draw from these statements? I would propose the following:
- Jesus is the one and only way to God.
- Those who put their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior will be saved.
- Those who reject Jesus will be condemned, for those who reject Jesus are guilty of rejecting God.
- The essence of salvation is a personal relationship with Jesus.
In Part 2 of this series answering the question, "Are there many roads to God?", we'll look at how the Apostles answered the question.