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What About All the People Who’ve Never Heard the Name Jesus?

This is a common question—and for good reason. It’s disturbing to think that people can be condemned to Hell because, through no fault of their own, they had never been exposed to the saving power of Jesus. This seems eternally unfair and cruel. And it would be—if it were true. But it’s not. This view doesn’t accurately represent humans or God.

Let’s start with humans. Sadly, we are all are born corrupted, each in our own ways. Everyone has performed a series of wrongs and have, consequently, separated ourselves from God. Our hearts, left to their own, are often selfish, greedy, lustful, prideful, deceitful, etc. That’s not God’s fault—it’s ours. So the fact that he sacrificed his son—the only human ever to have committed no wrong—to save any of us from our corruption is miraculous and a testament to his great love for the broken.

Beyond that, the idea that God would condemn people who’ve never heard of Jesus represents a small view of God—one that assumes he is uncaring and weak, with little control over the universe and people he created to inhabit it. The true God, however, reigns from Heaven with all power, wisdom, and love, directly interacting in the lives of his people. Not only is he all-powerful, he is also all-knowing, from the beginning of time to the end—and everything in between. He knows the hearts of everyone and the decisions they will make—before they make them. Including whether they would accept or reject the savior son of God.

If they will accept him, no matter where on the planet they live, God will reveal Christ to them in some form, whether by a missionary, a dream, a vision, etc., giving them that opportunity to accept him and receive eternal forgiveness. In fact, God controls where everyone is born anyway (Acts 17:25-27), and he can easily place someone who will at some point respond to Christ in an area where they will be exposed to his name.

The Bible demonstrates time and again that God doesn’t just reveal himself to those who are seeking him (e.g., Deut. 4:29, 1 Chr. 28:9, Prov. 8:17), but even to those who aren’t seeking him. One striking example of this is when he sent his prophet Jonah to preach to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria and the archenemy of God’s people at the time. Guess what happened when they heard the message? The entire city humbled themselves before God, turned from their evil ways, and he accepted them (Jonah 3:5-10). This is the great love and grace of God: that he gives even the “vilest” people a chance to accept his promise of forgiveness.

Now, maybe this answer satisfies you, and maybe it doesn’t. But you know what? It actually doesn’t matter. While this is a valid question worthy of careful consideration, it is totally irrelevant to your eternal destination. Because in the end, every person will have to stand before God and give an account for their lives, explaining how they responded to the knowledge they’d been given. Whether or not a couple billion other people have ever heard the name Christ will mean absolutely nothing, because you have heard his name. You are not accepted based on God’s relationship with other people—only with yours.

So the question now becomes, “How will you respond, having heard the name Jesus?”