What happens to people with no access to the gospel?

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There’s always concern for the man on the island.  Whether a person believes in Jesus or not, this question is always used as either a concern for the lost, or an argument against the existence of a good and loving God. Of course, this doesn’t make it a question not worth finding an answer to. After all, the cold, hard reality is, there are people in this world who’ve had no access to the saving power of the gospel message. Is this fair? Shouldn’t people have equal opportunity to hear of God’s saving grace? It can be pretty easy to come to the conclusion that they would get a “free pass” into heaven because they were neither for or against Jesus. But what does the Bible say about this topic? Do these people really get a free pass?


One of many things that all people on this earth have in common is we all see creation. Even if a person is locked away in a room their whole life with nothing in it, they can still see themselves as a created being. Even if a person is born blind and can’t see the stars in the sky or the trees of the forest, they can still see creation, though in perhaps a different way. There’s no escaping it. Thunderstorms attest to God’s mighty power, giraffes point to God’s sense of humour, butterflies show God’s detailed creativeness, honeycombs display God’s value of order, and children make known to us God’s love. All of this points to a Creator; that is, God (Psalm 19:1). In fact, creation points to God so much so, that to think otherwise would be considered foolish “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 1:20).


The Bible says over and over that there is no one who is good. Not even one (Romans 3:10). The only person who is good is God alone (Luke 18:19). This makes it pretty clear that there is no one who is going to heaven on their own strength (Ephesians 2:8). The only thing left for us is the gospel; by having faith in Jesus, in who’s name alone do we find salvation (Acts 4:12). But the question remains; how does someone get the gospel message by simply observing a bunch of trees and stars? The short answer is…they can’t.


When it’s all said and done, we are accountable to the One who created us, whether we acknowledge this or not. Every ill-thought thing we say and do in this short moment we call a lifetime will be counted against us on the Day of Judgement (2 Corinthians 5:10). The man on the island is no exception. Though we in our fallen state may think this is unfair for someone to go to hell, without having heard the gospel, God in His sovereignty thinks otherwise. Often times we don’t realize how revolting and disgusting sin really is towards a completely pure, righteous, and holy God (James 4:4). To us it doesn’t seem all that bad, but we are far from perfection. To people who have lived in mud their whole lives, they never think fellow filthy people are really all that dirty.  But imagine someone who has never known sin, and then sits beside someone who has only known sin. How dirty do you think the righteous person sees the sinful person? The contrast is both immeasurable, and unfathomable for our human minds to grasp.


Therefore, since all are accountable, and all have sinned, we can conclude that an indecisive mind, is a repudiate mind in the eyes of God. With the sin that non-believers carry, its as if they said “God, I hate everything you stand for, and I will die with my bag of sin before I turn to you.” God shows Himself to every person on the planet, and yet there are many who make a decision to not seek Him out. Full out indecision = full out rejection.


So if indecision equals rejection, what does this do to us as Christians? Does it make us desire to help the man on the island? For if it were true that people who’ve never heard the gospel went to heaven, then what would be the point of evangelism? In fact, it would be better for us not to share the gospel so as to avoid forcing people to make a decision about Jesus and possibly condemning themselves. The reality is they need the gospel just as much as the adamant atheist, and it’s Christians who’ve been given the mission to go out and tell it to them (Matthew 28:19-20).


What if we don’t get to the man on the island? Is there any hope for him to receive salvation? If he sees all the creation around him and decides to seek the One who made all of it with all his heart, soul, and mind, then God will make Himself known to Him. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). There are countless verses of God saying He will let those who seek Him earnestly, find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29; Proverbs 8:17; Isaiah 55:6-7; Matthew 7:7-8; Acts 17:27; Hebrews 11:6; James 4:8). Though God can reveal the gospel to the man on the island, He instead chose His Church as the primary way of spreading the good news. We may not be called to preach to people living on some remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but we can certainly try and reach the ones living right next to us. After all, eternal life is at stake.

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