What Happens to Persons Who Never Hear the Name Jesus Christ? 11/1/98

John 3:16-21
Page 1554 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST is living proof that God loves you AND the whole world. Jesus, Himself said, “God so loved the WORLD He gave His only begotten Son…”

Why did God do that? Two quick answers are deserved.

One, God is love (I John 4:8). The very nature of love is to give. He being the personification of love fulfilled His nature and gave.

Second, He had to give because there was no other way to have a restored relationship with us. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:23).

The expression “wages of sin” refers to the big pay off made by sin. In today’s carnal world market the wages of sin can be quite high but there are no benefits and retirement is pure hell.

Likewise, the “free gift of God” means the free gift given us by God. It is without cost to us but it costs Christ dearly.

Both “death” and the “gift” are earned.

Death is earned by the sinner. The gift is earned for the sinner.

The person who in faith trusts Christ receives the most for the least. Such a person receives everlasting life for nothing.

“Everlasting life” means fellowship with God through Jesus Christ through all eternity.

On one recent Sunday I was asked by three unrelated persons about what happens to the person who never hears the name of Jesus Christ. That is a legitimate question. Often as in these cases the question is posed hoping for a simple one sentence answer. There is an answer but it is neither one sentence or simple.

We have so much and know so much; but how about others in far away places like Zaire, Sri Lanka, and Guyana? What happens to those who never know the name of Jesus: the Hottentot, Inue, and Lapplander? What about those of previous generations who never heard the gospel?

There has always been and there is more evangelism than the world recognizes and reports. For example, after Christ’s resurrection, a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit happened at the celebration of a feast called Pentecost. Acts 2: 5-11 lists the languages of 18 different languages spoken there. Years before Alexander the Great laid siege to Jerusalem. The priest came out of the city to greet him with the Book of Daniel and convinced him Daniel wrote of him. Thereafter he carried a large contingency of Jews with him in his world conquest. They were scattered over most of the known world. They learned the languages of their adopted countries but returned to the land of their ancestors to celebrate Pentecost. Many of these were saved when they heard of the resurrection of Christ. Extra-Biblical sources tell of a great wave of evangelism that swept the world in the first century as these people carried the gospel back to their adopted lands.

A letter from Pleny the Elder to Emperor Trajan referred to the large number of believers throughout the area.

Peter and Thaddaeus worked in Persia where King Agbar became a zealous follower of Christ and many people in his realm were converted.

Pontius of Alexandria went to India in 190 AD where he found many Christians resulting from the work of Matthew in that region.

In the 6th Century the Nestorians went to China as evangelists. For years there were more believers than non-believers in China. This continued to be true until the emergence of the Khans.

Globally our Lord has been at work throughout the ages. He is presently.

Traditional mission fields are experiencing marvelous growth. These are countries where there are between 15,000 and 100,000 converts a year with 75 to 200 new churches being started a year. Some of these are in Korea, the Philippines, India, Mexico, and Brazil.

Some traditional mission fields in which there is great revival going on are Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Uganda.

There are people groups being reached as never before in non-traditional mission areas. In Cambodia large numbers are being saved and churches started.

In one people group in India amid great persecution 400 new churches were started last year.

In China similar growth is being experienced among certain people groups.

In North Africa there is a house church in every town and village.

In Kazakhstan there is a bright movement of God in spite of efforts to stifle and disrupt the work.

In the Middle East, in Iran particularly, there is a great movement of the spirit currently.

This is a sampling of what the Lord is doing all over the world which He loves.

Today as in those days more people are saved than the world cares to report. Still the question lingers; how about those who have never heard the gospel. Those who live in areas where we have not exported the gospel. In the next few moments a Biblical answer will be offered. Five points are needed to answer the question. Note them please.

This point of beginning is the highest level possible. It is the character of God. One characteristic of God is absolute righteousness. That means God cannot sin. He never has an improper motive. Our human righteousness conduct is relative; that is, sometimes we act righteously and sometimes we don’t. God is consistently absolute righteous. That means He has never been nor can He ever be unfair or unjust to anyone. He is incapable of being unfair. All people of all ages are in the hands of a just and righteous loving God.

Install it on the hard drive of your mental mainframe and store it in permanent memory: God can not be unfair, and God can not be wrong.

God wanted to get so intimately involved in opening the door to heaven that He manifested Himself on earth in the person of Jesus Christ. He is defined and described as “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Get the message. He is identified as “our great God and Savior.” This answers the question as to who Jesus Christ was.

Romans 9:5 defines Jesus as “Christ…who is over all, the eternally blessed God.”

Atonement is not a word in the working vocabulary of most moderns. The word means reconciliation or to make peace between two parties. It refers to a sacrificial offering to remove the effect of sin. In the New Testament it refers to reconciliation between God and humanity achieved by the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The purpose of Christ coming to earth was “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

“When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10).

The way in which the way of salvation was made possible is clearly spelled out. The body of believers is depicted as “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). This raises the question: when did God shed His own blood? Jesus Christ, God in flesh and blood, did it on Calvary.

It can be understood by way of illustration. Formerly native Americans thought a drought was caused by the gods being angry. They went through ritualistic dances to make the gods happy in hopes they would be rewarded with rain.

The Biblical reference to the principle of atonement refers to what Christ did to satisfy the righteous demands of God the Father. After sin entered the world God saw all persons as the sinners they were. In love He devised a plan to solve this sin problem. Let’s call it “Operation Grace.” The plan called for God the Son to come into the world and remove the sin barrier that existed between God and mankind. This barrier could not be removed by any human effort. The purpose of the virgin birth was to provide the sinless Son of God to die on the cross to do what no mere mortal man could do. That is, remove the sin barrier.

Get this! On Calvary He bore EVERY sin of EVERY person who has ever lived.

This made forgiveness available to the “whosoever” of John 3:16. Don’t leave me at this point. That does not mean every person is saved. It means any person can be saved. The individual must personally appropriate this forgiveness by faith.

The fact Christ died for all sin of all persons means God wants to save all persons. Observe these texts:

II Cor. 5: 14, 15 “…one died for all…”

I Tim. 4:10 speaks of Christ “who gave Himself for all.”

I Tim. 4:10 also speaks of Christ “who is the Savior of all men.”

Again I say this does not mean all persons are saved. It means salvation is open to all. Each person must personally receive it by faith.

Hebrews 2:9 says, “…He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”

I John 2:2, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”

In love God extended Himself on the cross on behalf of every person. God in love has exhausted His every effort to make salvation available to every person.

Through the prophet Ezekial God spoke: “‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ … says the Lord God, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live.’” (Ezekial 18:23). The clear answer is that God desires all to turn and be saved.

II Peter 3:9 states God’s will clearly. He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Thus, God has stated He wants everyone saved. For any person not to go to heaven they have to violate God will which is for them to be there. To accomplish this from His vantage point Christ died for all.

Again the will of God is noted in I Timothy 2:4. Therein He is described as the God “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth.” That is His will. What is yours.

The determining issue is what do people think.

In the life of every person there is a time when they become God-conscious. That is, the Holy Spirit convicts them there is a loving God. No matter when or where a person lives, there is a point in their life when they are convinced by the Holy Spirit of their being a loving God.

Acts 2: 17 God said, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”

I Cor. 7:17, “God hath called everyone …”

John 7:17, “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know…”

At a point in the life of every person they are made God-conscious by the Holy Spirit. That is, they become aware there is a loving God.

Romans 1 tells us of the reaction of many at the point of God-consciousness.

This brings us to the fifth point.

At the point of God-consciousness every person responds in one of two ways:
a. I want to know more about this God, or
b. I don’t want to know more about this God.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man; and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1: 20 – 23).

It is at the point of God-consciousness that most people reject. At the point of God- consciousness they respond negatively and in their heart say: “I don’t want to know more about this God. I want to make my own god of wood, stone, or metal.”

This shouts this fact:


However, there are those who send up positive signals at the point of God-consciousness indicating they do want to know more about this loving God. Then God takes it upon Himself to get the gospel to them through His obedient people.

No matter WHO, WHEN, or WHERE any person wants to know the gospel message, God gets it to that person through a human instrument.

God can tell who has said “no” and who has said “yes” at the point of God-consciousness. We can’t. We must assume all have said, “Yes, I want to know more.” Therefore, we must evangelistically reach out to them. That means we are to export the gospel. Have you said “Yes” to Jesus?

For any person to be saved, they must “accept Jesus Christ.” What does this involve? It involves:
1. An attachment which is: a) intellectual, b) emotional (God never intended for you to be a plaything of your emotions), c) willful.

It is as though three little people are sitting on a bench under the dome of your cranium. One is named Mr. Intellect, one Mr. Emotions, and the third Mr. Will. Each is to give a testimony.

Mr. Intellect stands to say, “I believe the Bible to be the sole authority for faith and practice. I believe Jesus Christ the only begotten son of God was born of a virgin to be the Savior who died for the sins of the world.

This intellectual ascent is wonderful but at this point the person isn’t saved.

Mr. Emotion speaks with great depth of feelings. Emotion is evident in his every word as he shares how deeply he feels about Jesus Christ. Poignantly with passion he tells of his sensitive regard for Jesus. He speaks in terms of chill bumps, thrills, a tingling spine, and tears of joy.

Now Mr. Emotion and Mr. Intellect have joined in testifying of their regard for Jesus, but the person still isn’t saved. The devil believes and trembles. He has intellectual knowledge with which he agrees about Jesus as the Son of God and is emotional about it, but he isn’t saved.

Next, Mr. Will stands to testify saying, “I ‘Will,’ will that my will be thy will. Not my will but thy will be done. Knowing the will of the Father to be to trust Jesus Christ as Savior I join with Mr. Intellect and Mr. Emotion in declaring my will is for Christ to forgive and give me new life.”

When the three join as one then the person is saved.

2. This attachment is: All-inclusive. We don’t accept his Saviorhood today and wait until tomorrow to decide on His Lordship. Our life orbits around Him.

3. This attachment is: All-exclusive.