Written Word

What About Those Who Never Heard the Gospel?

by Edward Fudge (gracEmail)

What about those who, through no fault of their own, never hear the gospel during this life? Must we assume that all such people will finally perish?

It is absolutely true that no one will be saved except through the atonement which Jesus has accomplished. (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim 2:5-6) It is also true that many people will be saved by Jesus’ atonement who, in this life, never understood that Jesus’ atonement had taken place. Christians historically place in that category all faithful people who lived before Jesus, both Jew and Gentile. (Rom 3:23-30) Many Christians would also consider saved all who die in infancy whether before Christ or after. Who are we to deny that God, if he sees fit, might also by the atonement of Jesus Christ save adults who are “A.D.” in birthdate but “B.C.” in their ignorance of Jesus?

Whatever God might do in showing mercy, we may be quite sure that all who are finally saved: (1) will be saved by the undeserved favour and kindness of God; (2) based on the atonement which Jesus has accomplished; (3) to the glory of God’s grace and the praise of his beloved Son; and (4) through saving faith — reverencing God and trusting him in response to whatever knowledge of God they might possess. (See Rom 4:9-12; Eph 1:7-10; 2:8-10.)

It is our responsibility to proclaim the Good News to every person. It is not our place to pronounce judgement on anyone. We may promise salvation and eternal life to all who trust in Jesus Christ. (John 3:16; Mark 16:15-16) For a thorough biblical study of the question of God’s judgement of those who never hear the gospel, I recommend “No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized” by John Sanders (Eerdmans, 1992). I reviewed this book for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, and that review is on my website (http://www.edwardfudge.com/). See also my article, What Calvinism and Arminianism Have in Common, on the same website under “Written Ministry.”

© 2001 Edward Fudge – Unlimited permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.