Warning: Today’s question is deep. Real deep. Like just learning how to swim and gettin’ scared looking at the deep end kind of deep. It’s a question I get asked a lot. It’s a question – if I am being honest – I don’t get warm fuzzies when I talk about it. But it’s a really good question that deserves and demands a very biblical answer. Here it is – an email (word for word quote) I received last week:
“Hey Dr. Matt how’s it going? I have a question I have been asking a few pastors and deacons. I know the people that accept Christ go to heaven. But what about the people that never hear about him? Like the people that live in Jamaica that haven’t even heard his name. Do they go to hell?”
See what I mean? Deep. Do *people who’ve never heard of Jesus go to hell?
My answer? YES.
1. Jesus doesn’t lie.
In John 14:6 Jesus said that He is the Way and there is no other way to the Father. Either that is true, or Jesus was just blowin’ smoke.
2. People in ‘Jamaica’ aren’t innocent.
Those who have never heard of Jesus – whether in Jamaica or Africa or El Dorado or Turkey or Siberia or Bald Knob – don’t deserve hell because they’ve ‘never heard the name.’ Rather, they – like us – deserve hell because they are sinners and have willfully rejected God.
[For a very detailed and extensive treatment of this, see chapter 7 in David Platt’s Radical.]
3. Jesus’ last words weren’t ‘Stay and Shush.’
Jesus made it clear what His followers were to do when He ascended and sent His Spirit: make other disciples by being His witnesses. If someone could get to heaven without hearing about Jesus, He would have told us to stay home and keep our mouths shut. But that’s not what He said. He said to get out there and talk about Him. . . a lot.
4. Early Church Cues.
If we really want to know what those who actually walked and talked with Jesus thought they should do after He left, we need to observe what they did. It doesn’t take a thorough reading of Acts to see they lived with a burden to get the Gospel to as many people as possible. Why? Because no one can escape God’s wrath apart from hearing and believing it.
5. The essence of the Gospel.
Gospel means ‘good news.’ It means though we were dead in our sins and transgressions, God made us alive by faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross. We all – due to sin – deserve eternal punishment. Those who believe – due to grace – are made right with God because of what the Son did for the sinner. Hearing and believing this ‘Good News’ is the only power for salvation. For those who don’t believe, deserved punishment remains. If one can get to heaven without Jesus, there really is no need to tell this news.
The implication of this is so obvious I don’t even have to mention it, do I?
Been looking for a reason to go to Jamaica? I just gave you 5.
[*By ‘people’ I am referring to those who have reached the ‘Age of Accountability.’ The topic and issue of babies and young children – in my mind – a separate discussion altogether.]