Until a person has believed and obeyed Jesus Christ, he is lost in his sin. The question often arises concerning the fate of those people who have not been exposed to the Gospel of Christ: will they be eternally lost and go to hell? If you think about it, that is exactly the fate of the world before Jesus came into it. The same question could have been asked then and the answer would have been the same: the world without Jesus Christ was lost. But Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). Otherwise, if ignorance would mean salvation, then it would have been better that Jesus never come! But He did come because it was necessary.
Because sin separates man from God, the consequence is the condition of being spiritually lost. In Romans 1, Paul says everyone is “without excuse” and to the Thessalonians Paul said that God’s wrath will be against those that “do not know God….” (2 Thess. 1:7,8) God is knowable and not far from each sinner. So if a person is lost, such a person cannot claim ignorance on judgment day.
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse – Rom. 1:19,20
All men are accountable for their sin, and the good news is that this separation can be repaired by an obedient faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 1:5; 16:26). Paul said in Romans 2:4 that God’s kindness leads people to repentance. God’s kindness is shown to all because God is not a “respecter of persons” (Rom. 2:11), and the person who stays lost has rejected His kindness. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians concerning the second coming of Christ and the punishment of eternal fire for those who do not know God and those who do not obey the Gospel of Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).
As we saw earlier in the Romans, God is knowable. But some choose not to honor Him and they turn to the vain things of the world. Still, God calls for all people to repent that times of refreshing might come (Acts 3:19). Recall how Paul addressed the Athenians and said to them,
30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17:30,31
According to Paul, the time of overlooking ignorance has passed. God is patient and desires that all men be saved, but all men won’t be saved (2 Peter 3:9). That all men are accountable for their sin and will be eternally lost is the only conclusion we can come to. Otherwise, who would be lost? Would God save those who never heard the Gospel, but condemn those who heard the Gospel but refused it? If that were the case, the world would be better off if the ignorance persisted. Such a conclusion would then become a reason not to spread the Gospel, if those who never heard it could not be condemned.
Our mission is to spread the Gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15). Those who believe and are baptized will be saved. We get the sense from Scripture that the providential hand of God is active to make sure that those who want to hear the truth will be united with the truth. Jesus said, “ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you.” And Paul said, “He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). And the situation with Cornelius also gives us hope that the true seekers will find. It is not our job to question the things God has revealed to us. All men sin and their sin separates them from God. Jesus is the only way to salvation and those who do not believe in Jesus will be lost. There are many people in the world who need to hear the Gospel and Jesus has commanded His followers to proclaim the Gospel to them. Unless these lost people hear or read it, and obey it, they remain lost in their sin.
Eternal life is for the obedient
Repentance is Real change beyond believing only