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Will the “unreached” go to heaven? – Part One, an evangelical answer

Will the “unreached” go to heaven? – Part One, an evangelical answer November 9, 2021

As an evangelical, I was taught that, come Judgment Day, the billions of people who never heard about Jesus will need to throw themselves on God’s mercy and just see what happens. My teachers were reluctant to guess the outcome. They always shrugged and said, “God will know what to do.”

In the next couple of posts, we’ll spend some time on the subject of the “unreached” – today we’ll see what is apparently the conventional evangelical position. (Full disclosure: I’m a dropout from the evangelical world.)

I wondered whether all evangelical leaders are, like my teachers, hesitant to take a stand on the issue. I did a Google search the other day on “people that never heard about Jesus will they go to hell,” expecting to find more fence-sitting – because who would have the audacity to declare billions of souls lost (other than God himself)? This is billions of people we’re talking about. Billions of souls.

Turns out, plenty of folks are willing to declare billions of souls lost.

Most of the evangelical preachers and theologians I found in my search didn’t even leave the door open a crack for non-Christians – even those who’d never heard of Jesus – to be saved. No hesitancy whatsoever.

Their reasoning is based on so-called “proof texts.” The Bible says clearly that only – ONLY – believers in Jesus will be saved. For example:

  • “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
  • For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
  • “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

It doesn’t get much clearer than this – which is why we’re taught that those who “reject Jesus” will not be saved.

It seems to me that those who have never heard of Jesus ought to be in a different category, to get some kind of special consideration, but to most theologians, they’re not.

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go to heaven
“Kilauea Volcano at Mauna Ulu” by Image Editor is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For example, David Platt, Baptist pastor and leader of megachurch McLean Bible Church in Washington DC, lays out his position clearly, starting with a quote from Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  (Romans 1:18–20).

Platt explains:

“According to these verses, a basic knowledge of God is universal. Regardless of whether it’s people in North America, the guy in the jungle in Africa, the person in the village in Asia, or anywhere in between, all people have some knowledge of God. We know that God exists because we see His handiwork around us when we look at creation…

“Every one of us has rejected the knowledge of God, so we are not innocent. We get this idea from our culture that the default is heaven, and it’s not biblical. The default, apart from God’s grace, is hell. We have sinned against God and we deserve separation from him forever.

“All of us are accountable to God for our sin and deserving of separation from him. So the question about whether God would send someone to hell for rejecting a Jesus they had never heard of misses the point. People are already condemned—apart from whether they’ve heard of Jesus—for rejecting what they know about God.

“So when people ask what happens to the innocent guy in Africa who dies without ever hearing the gospel, I would say, beyond a shadow of a doubt,…there is no innocent guy in Africa or Asia.” (The low-key racism behind this type of statement is a topic for another day.)

Pastor Platt seems quite confident in his position, and he has biblical proof to back him up.

This would have satisfied me a few years ago. “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

But since I walked away from evangelicalism, I’ve come to see that the Bible has much, much more to say about the so-called unsaved – as it does on many subjects that I assumed were indisputable (see below for some of my previous posts).

If you’re a lifelong progressive Christian, you probably won’t be surprised by what I have to say in the next couple of posts (but please share with your evangelical friends). If you’re evangelical, fasten your seatbelt.

(If you are energized by challenges to the evangelical status quo like this, you’d enjoy my blog. Sign up for my free newsletter here!)

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OTHER POSTS ON WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS THAT EVANGELICALISM DIDN’T TELL US:

The “Narrow Gate” isn’t what they said it was

“Evangelicavision”: the ability to see in Scripture what’s not actually there

The salvation “formula” doesn’t work in the real world

Easy, eye-opening Bible quiz that evangelicals won’t want to take


FEATURED IMAGE: “Kilauea Volcano at Mauna Ulu” by Image Editor is licensed under CC BY 2.0


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