555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

546. Will the Heathen Be Lost? What does Scripture teach on the Subject?




The greatest minds in religion and philosophy have discussed the fate of the un-evangelized heathen. Justin Martyr and Clement held that they were called justified and saved by their philosophy and their virtuous lives under natural law. Zwingle contended that the heathen who had never been evangelized would be forgiven through the merits of Christ, although they had never heard of him. Christ himself said (Matt 11 -.20-24) that the wicked but ignorant people of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah (who lived long before the Gospel age) would be more tolerantly dealt with than those who had heard the Gospel and rejected it Paul (Rom. 2:14, 26, 27) shows that those not having either the law or the Gospel "may be a law unto themselves." We cannot therefore assert that the heathen who died in ignorance of Christ are beyond the reach of the Divine mercy, although we may not know in what form that mercy may be extended. In every age and every land God had his witnesses in the person of good men and women, whose upright lives, even under, natural law, were a blessing to those around them. Who shall say that such are not acceptable to him? (See Acts 10:35.) The whole question of heathen salvation is one concerning which no one has a right to dogmatize. It should be left in God's hands. John Wesley wrote on this subject: "We have no authority from the Word of God to judge 'those that are without," and he also wrote, toward the close of his ministry, "He that feareth God and worketh righteousness according to the light he has, is acceptable to God." (See Rom. 4:9.) God, who will judge all, will not judge unjustly. Every person will be judged according to the light he has had. There is no explicit statement as to the condition of the heathen who died without hearing the Gospel, and there was no reason why God should tell us what he does in respect to them. As, however, we are told that there is no way of attaining eternal life except through Christ, there is abundant and urgent reason for the church to make earnest effort to carry the Gospel to those who have not heard it. The heathen are in God's hand; it would be presumption on our part to say what he will do with them. It is sufficient for us to know that it is our duty to preach the word of salvation "to every creature." We can see no way in which salvation can come to those who died without the Gospel; but that does not prove that, in the infinite resources of God's compassion, there is no way.