What happens to a Christian who dies in sin?

A young man meets an attractive girl. He asks her out but before she will go on a date with him he must attend church with her. He agrees and the next Sunday morning is seated next to her in church. He hears the gospel, believes and is saved. He is crazy about her, but after a couple dates she spurns any further advances from him. Filled with rage and disappointment he kills her and then takes his own life. Does he go to heaven?

A young man professed salvation at church youth group. One night a couple years later he prepares to go party with his friends. On the way out the door, he tells his parents he is going to the library. On the way to the party he is hit by a drunk driver and killed. Does he go to heaven?

The drunk driver had spent most of his adult life battling alcoholism. After his fourth DUI he entered rehab, sobered up and began attending church. Several months later he walked down the aisle and asked Jesus to be His Savior. One day he learns he has cancer and is given a few months left to live. In despair he leaves the doctor’s office to go to his favorite bar. Hours later he staggers out of bar, gets in his car and on his way home careens into the oncoming lane. He kills a teenager and is killed in the crash. Does he go to heaven?

The same question could be posed in many different ways and with many different scenarios. The real question revolves around passages like Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

What happens when a person who professes Christ dies in sin? Whether it be murder, drunkenness, adultery, lying or theft the Bible says that none who do those things can enter heaven. If a professing believer commits one of those sins and dies before confessing his sin, is he forgiven? Does he go to heaven?

The genuineness of someone’s salvation cannot be determined with absolute certainty by others. God knows those who are His. Those who are His are to depart from sin, but no one, Christian or otherwise, is without sin. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) The authenticity of someone’s salvation is not measured by a complete absence of sin. Neither is salvation dependent on the person’s ability to not sin.

Those who have been saved are transferred out of the bondage of sin and are now the children of God. The Bible describes two categories of people. Those who are dead in sin and those who are alive in Christ. (Ephesians 2) At salvation the one who was dead in sin is made alive with Christ by the active working of God’s grace. Life in Christ is always and only by the grace of God received through faith.

No part of salvation is dependent on the deeds of men. Salvation is entirely the grace of God. If it can be won or lost based upon something a person does, it is of works. “If it be of works, then it is no more grace.” (Romans 11:6) God’s grace saves and saves completely. “He is able to save them to the uttermost that cometh unto God by Him.” This is one of the most crucial doctrines of the Bible.

If salvation is achieved by any thing the person does, then Jesus died needlessly. (Galatians 2:21) If you can do something, anything, to be saved, then you do not need a Savior.

If a person is truly saved, then he cannot die in sin. He may commit murder, but he is not counted by God as a murderer. He may lie, but he is not counted by God as a liar. When a person is saved he is declared righteous by God. The righteousness of the Christian is the righteousness of Jesus transfered onto the believer. No sin can ever mar or remove the righteousness of Christ.

“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” and all those who believe have been made righteous by the free grace of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24) Nothing the Christian does or fails to do will ever remove the grace of God and the righteousness of Jesus. If the murderer, liar or drunkard is truly saved then yes, he is in heaven.

Can the fallen angels be saved?

The righteous angels have no need of salvation because they never sinned against God. Satan and the angels that followed his rebellion have sinned. Can they be saved?

The Bible only speaks about the salvation of man. Scripture does not teach of pardon for the evil angels. The purpose of the Bible is not to answer every question we may have about spiritual beings so it says very little about angels. When God’s Word speaks of the fate of Satan and the fallen angels it points to an inescapable judgment.

The Bible is most specific about the fate of Satan. He has no chance of redemption. Revelation 20 describes Satan’s final judgment. After Satan is released from his thousand year imprisonment, he will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Satan will be eternally tormented in the lake of fire. If Satan were saved the prophecies of God would be untrue and God would be a liar.

Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. In the second letter from the apostle Peter God says He did not refrain from bringing judgment on the fallen angels. He cast them down from their position in heaven and holds them captive under condemnation. (2 Peter 2:4) The letter from Jude speaks of certain angels reserved for everlasting judgment. (Jude 1:6) The two passages are parallel. They both speak of the same subject using very similar language. Peter and Jude are speaking of all angels who sinned. They were all cast out of their position in heaven and are being kept by God for everlasting judgment. God does not offer salvation to the fallen angels.

Other passages in Scripture lead to the conclusion that the rebellious angels are confirmed in their unrighteousness. The fallen angels have no chance of redemption because Jesus did not become an angel and die in their place. Salvation is only possible through another bearing the consequences of sin in place of the sinner.

The nature of man’s sin allows for a single substitute to act in place of all mankind. Essential to the Biblical doctrine of salvation is the truth that all men sinned in Adam. Because all mankind was found guilty Adam it is possible for men to be justified by Christ. Jesus is able to stand in the place of each man because He stands in the place of the human race.

The fallen angels sinned individually in themselves. They sinned with Satan but not in Satan. An angelic forefather did not commit the first sin and corrupt all his descendants. Every fallen angel chose to reject his perfect nature and rebel against God. Jesus did not take on the nature of angels. (Hebrews 1:5-8) Jesus was not made the substitute to bear the angels judgment in stead of them, consequently no angel can be saved.

The angels knew the glory of God. They saw His perfection and holiness in all His heavenly glory. Those who rejected God to pursue their own proud desires will not be forgiven.

Are Angels Saved?

The Bible teaches the existence of righteous angels and fallen angels. Fallen angels are those which followed Satan in his rebellion against God and fell under the condemnation of God. The righteous angels are those who continued to faithfully serve God. The Bible says much about salvation, but all of it is about the salvation of men.

Salvation is necessary for every person. All the unsaved are under God’s condemnation and will find themselves sentenced to eternal punishment in the place prepared for Satan and his angels. (Matthew 25:41) Being saved does not mean getting to go to heaven. Entrance into heaven after death is the result of salvation but it is not salvation. Salvation is reconciliation to God, forgiveness from sin, deliverance from the bondage of Satan and transformation of the heart that results in eternal life. Those who are saved will enter heaven when they die but going to heaven is not the same as being saved. Satan and the rebel angels have access to heaven right now, but they are not “saved”.

Since salvation relates to forgiveness of sin those angels who never sinned are not saved because they do not need to be saved. Man needs salvation because he carries within him the taint of Adam’s sin and continues to sin against God. Angels are not descended from a small group of parent angels. They are not inheritors of their forefather’s disobedience. Each angel was created directly by God. Every angel was created without sin. Those angels which did not join Satan in rebellion against God still retain their righteousness. The righteous angels never fell into sin and do not ever disobey God. The righteous angels are not under God’s judgment and thus have no need of salvation.

Though they do not need salvation, the righteous angels desire to know more about it. The angels watched the means of salvation with great interest. They looked on as God the Son became man, died on the cross, bore the wrath of God, was buried, restored to life, ascended back to heaven and regained all His previous glory.

Some of the angels have played a part in announcing the message of salvation. Angels announced the birth of Jesus. In the book of Acts an angel told Philip to go speak to the Ethiopian eunuch and an angel told Cornelius to send men to find Peter. In the book of Revelation an angel preaches the gospel to every nation on the earth. Though God does not normally use angels to preach the gospel, He does at times give them a role to play in announcing the message of salvation.

They do not experience salvation for themselves but the righteous angels are deeply interested in God’s redemption of men.

Were the Old Testament Israelites saved by keeping the Law?

A recent answer stated that the people who lived before Jesus was born were saved by looking ahead to the promised Savior and trusting Him for their salvation. Some may wonder about the law of Moses. If people before Jesus were saved by trusting God’s promises to save, why did God give the law to the Israelites?

Historically, many Israelites believed they could be saved by obeying the Mosaic law. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day believed they were righteous because they were the children of Abraham who kept the law of Moses and the traditions of their fathers. All throughout the Old Testament the Israelites seemed frequently to misunderstand the role of the law. Even today many people look at the Old Testament and think the Israelites gained eternal life by being devout keepers of all the commands, rituals and sacrifices given through Moses. Is this true? Were the Israelites saved by obeying the law of Moses?

No Israelite was ever saved by his obedience to the law. The major theme of Romans and Galatians is the inability of the law to save. Galatians 2:16 says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” No one was ever justified- made righteous before God- by keeping the law. Old Testament Israelites were saved by trusting God for forgiveness of sin. Habakkuk 2:4 says, “the just shall live by his faith.” In Psalm 32 David rejoices in the blessings of being forgiven. He does not associate forgiveness with his keeping of the law but with the grace and mercy of God. David acknowledged his sin to God. He cried out in confession of his guilt and God gave forgiveness. Throughout the Psalms David declares that God is his salvation. The salvation that David describes is always based upon the compassion of God, not the obedience of the individual. He that could be righteous enough to earn salvation would have no need of forgiveness. In the Old Testament God never forgave because men earned His salvation. God forgave because of His great compassion. God poured out mercy on those who sought it from him.

The book of Isaiah is full of promises about the coming Jewish King and Savior. The Messiah and His kingdom are described at length. Isaiah ends with a great confession of sin and a plea for God to pardon the Israelites. Isaiah 64 recognizes the righteousness of men is no righteousness at all. The only answer, the only hope for Old Testament Israel, was to be pardoned by God. Isaiah 53 describes the work of the Messiah to gain that pardon and the eleventh verse says, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Old Testament Israelites were saved by Jesus’ bearing their sin on the cross. God’s judgment was satisfied by the suffering of His Son. Jesus makes men righteous, whether those men live now or 3,000 years ago, by carrying on His shoulders the consequences of their sin. Salvation is always, and only, by Jesus. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

How were people saved before Jesus?

Since Christian’s believe that only those who trust Jesus for salvation will have eternal life how were people saved who lived before Jesus? Since the earth is between 6,000-10,000 years old most of history happened before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This includes quite a few of the great saints in the Bible. Abraham, Moses and David, to name a few, lived before Jesus. Alexander the Great, Guatama Buddha, Confucius, Julius Caesar, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and many other greats of history lived before Jesus. Billions of people lived before Jesus’ time. The question of their salvation is an urgent one.

The answer to this question is, in one sense, very simple. The people who lived before Jesus were saved the same way as the people living after Jesus. Everyone who has ever been saved has been saved by trusting Him for salvation. Understanding the the answer is a little more complicated. Those who were saved before Jesus were saved by believing God’s promise to send a Savior and by trusting that promised Savior for salvation. As soon as man sinned, God began to tell humanity about the Savior. He promised Adam and Eve to give one who would crush Satan and defeat the curse of sin. Though the Bible doesn’t record the specific promises given in the time between Adam and Abraham we know that those living during that time knew of God and some believed Him. Hebrews 11:4 says that Abel was declared righteous (he was saved) because of his faith. Enoch and Noah believed God and were saved.

Through the story of Abraham more is recorded of God’s promise to save men. God promised Abraham that through his Seed all the earth would be blessed. That promised Seed is Jesus (Galatians 3:16). Abraham believed God and was made righteous. (Genesis 15:6) The same promise was made to Abraham’s son, grandson and great-grandson. Through Moses God announced the promises of salvation to all of Israel. Through Israel God made the whole world know that He is God. Through Israel God repeatedly showed pictures of salvation. God placed Israel at the crossroads of the ancient world so all the world would know He is God.

God did not just make Himself known through mighty deeds of deliverance and judgment. God spoke to the world through His faithful servants. In the years before Jesus was born God spoke to men of His promise to save. Though we do not have many examples recorded in the Bible, the testimony of men like Abel and Enoch let us know that God spoke to men in the earliest years of human history. Hebrews 11:6 declares that only by faith is anyone made pleasing to God. Romans 10 says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Throughout all human history the truth of God’s promised salvation has been available. Men knew the commands of God and knew the promise of God to give a Savior. In the days of Abraham God gave the first written Scripture. Through Moses and many others the Old Testament came into existence. Though the name Jesus was not known before the angel spoke to Mary salvation has always been through faith in Him. He is the Savior of the world promised to mankind since the day man first sinned. He is the only means of salvation. God spoke of salvation to humanity thousands of years before Jesus and those who believed God’s promises were saved.

How does God show goodness to those who never hear the gospel?

Recent articles have dealth with justice and goodness of God in sending people to hell. Though one can understand the necessity of hell and even admit eternal punishment in hell is good act by a good God. A small nagging thought remains that God is not really good to those who are condemned to hell. If God is really good and if Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient to forgive every sin of every person why wouldn’t God make sure that every one believed the gospel? Yet God is good. He shows His goodness to all men. None are condemned to hell because of a lack in the goodness of God but because the wickedness of men moves them to reject God’s obvious goodness. How is God good to all men, even those who never hear the gospel?

God is good in giving and sustaining life. None come into this world only because of biological processes. God’s goodness is the ultimate source of life men and His goodness sustains their life. “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) More than the granting of life to men God’s goodness is daily evident by His delaying judgment on individuals and the whole world. “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3:22)

God is good in giving the blessings of daily provision to all men. In His goodness God sends rain and sun on the just and the unjust alike. “He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.”(Matthew 5:34) God could send only fair weather on the just and send torment only to the unsaved. He could mark out the unsaved to be victims of horrible plagues like He did the Egytpians. In His gracious goodness God does not do these things. He gives to men what is necessary for life and what is good for happiness. “He causeth the grass to grow fro the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine , and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.” In their sin men turn the good gifts of God into replacements for God yet God is still good and continues to He makes testimony of Him clear through nature.

God is good in giving a daily declaration of His greatness. Every day every one sees and hears testimony of God. Through the rising of the sun, the passing of the seasons, the growing of flowers, the running of streams and the granting of food God declares Himself to be God. All creation is a reminder that men are contigent creatures. Every person is dependent on something outside himself to sustain his existence. Every person is dependent on things beyond his control for his continued life. God gives those things that man needs to live. The continued operation of the universe in its accustomed fashion is testimony to the majesty of God. In His goodness He has given mankind this constant reminder of Him.

In His goodness to the world God has sent out His servants to preach the gospel. God could have chosen to limit the gospel message to only one family of people. He could have locked the gospel behind closed doors restricted only to the select few. He did none of these things. Since the very beginning God has made salvation known to the whole world. Today God is making the gospel known to the world through Christians going taking the gospel across the globe. Even this blog and it’s accompanying radio broadcast is an evidence of the goodness of God. Christians are using a myriad of means to proclaim the gospel in every corner of world. This ever expanding missionary effort is the direct result of the goodness of God. God has sent out His children as ambassadors to tell every person on earth of the saving grace of God. He knows most will reject, some will scorn and some will assault the messengers of salvation, but God continues to show His goodness to the world by sending His children out as “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16).

The greatest evidence of the goodness of God is His promise to all men. God promises any who seek Him will find Him. God does not hide Himself from those who wish to know the truth. Those who are thirsty are invited to come and to those who desire the water of life it will be freely given.

Read Psalm 104 for further reflection on this theme.

Will those in heaven ever turn away from God?

The classic doctrine of eternal security gives great comfort to the children of God. The assurance that once received salvation can never be lost brings peace to many believers. Those Christians who honestly examine their own heart and life recognize how far we fall short of the perfection required by God. Despite the great gift of salvation, the ministry of the Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian believers often find themselves crying out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) The comforting answer to that heartbroken cry is, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ.” (Romans 8:1)

Eternity is a very long time. The conscientious Christian may fear that at sometime in the far off future he will so completely reject God that he is cast out of heaven. Did not Adam and Eve chose the elusive promise of being like God over a daily walk with Him? Did not Satan rebel against God despite being constantly in the presence of the infinite glory of God? Will there not be an army of people who rebel against Jesus at the end of the millennium even though they have enjoyed the great bliss of His perfect reign? Who is to say that believers in heaven will never rebel against God?

The doctrine of eternal security promises those who are truly saved they will remain saved no matter what. God promises to keep His children by His mighty power. Not only does God keep His children, He transforms them inside and out. God keeps His children despite their sin and He keeps His children from sin. The transformation accomplished by God begins on earth and is finished in heaven. God’s transforming work is an entire transformation that the person’s behavior, attitudes and desires. Not only can no man pluck the redeemed out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29), the redeemed will never desire to jump out of His hand (Hebrews 10:39).

The nation of Israel is an excellent of the transformation God will do in every one who is saved. In the Old Testament the people of Israel shows the absolute impossibility of any one obeying God. Despite their constant failure and rebellion God promises He will make them His eternal people who will serve Him in righteousness and perfect obedience. God will accomplish this by giving His people a new heart. The commands of God will no longer be inscribed on tablets of stone but will be written on the heart of the man. (Ezekiel 36:25-27; Jeremiah 31:32-34) Obedience will no longer be by external compulsion but by a new internal desire. The Israelites will be able to obey God perfectly and will desire nothing less than perfect obedience. When believers are given a glorified body they are not just given a body freed from the pain and sorrow of sin. They are given a body and a being in which all longings for sin are forever removed. The possibility does not exist that any Christian in heaven will turn from God. No believer in heaven will ever want to do anything but what that which pleases and exalts God. Christians will be eternally confirmed in righteousness, kept in that righteous condition by the mighty power of God. Eternal security is just what it claims to be, a salvation secured by God for eternity.

Why do Christians think a prayer is all it takes to get to heaven?

Some have complained that Christianity promises that just by saying a prayer anyone gets a free trip to heaven. A mass murderer can do horrible things all his life and go to heaven when dies because he said the correct words right before being strapped into the electric chair. A loving mother who worked hard all her life to raise good kids will go to hell if she doesn’t ask Jesus for forgiveness. This seems unfair, unjust and just plain wrong. Why do Christian’s teach that all it takes for even the worst person to go to heaven is saying the right words any time before dying?

This objection fails to understand two vital truths about the Bible’s teaching about salvation. Salvation is not received by saying the right words. The prayer of salvation is not a magic incantation which opens heaven’s door at the persons whim. The prayer of salvation is the outward response of saving faith. Praying the right words without saving faith will not bring salvation. The words alone have no power to give a person entrance to heaven. What brings salvation is Biblical faith.

Biblical faith is a personal conviction of the truth of God’s Word particularly the truths about sin, man’s inability to do anything to save himself, the deity of Jesus, the death of Jesus for sin and the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is the conviction that these truths are true about yourself. This goes beyond a general acceptance of a broad truth. This is the personal acceptance as fact your own guilt before God, your inability to remove your guilt and bring salvation, that Jesus died to pay the punishment of your sin, Jesus is alive forever and Jesus offers you salvation. Biblical faith obeys the commands of the gospel. Saving faith turns to Jesus trusting Him, and Him alone, for salvation. A prayer for salvation is the visible expression of that last element of saving faith. Asking for salvation is only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath is the massive internal conviction of that brings salvation to those who believe.

Salvation has nothing to do with anything the person does. The murderer is not going to hell for his murder. The loving mother is not going to heaven for her selflessness. Salvation is never determine by measuring a persons good against his bad. Salvation cannot be achieved by any actions of men because the standard for entrance into heaven is absolute perfection. To enter heaven one must be completely righteous without the least taint of sin. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) God’s standard of perfection is impossible for any person to achieve. Eternal life is given to those who realize their failure to measure up to God’s standard. Those who trust Jesus are promised heaven because Jesus’ perfect righteousness is transferred to the sinner. This is exactly why salvation is so difficult for many to understand. The work has been done. The one who is saved must do nothing. Salvation has been earned, in its entirety, by Jesus. Anyone who relies on Jesus to save them will be saved and have eternal life. Anyone who relies on his own goodness will not be saved.

God’s salvation has nothing to do with how much a person deserves to be saved. God justly saves the worst of men at the very last moment because He applies the infinite righteousness of Jesus to their great guilt. God justly saves the best of men any time they turn to Him for salvation because He applies the righteousness of Jesus to their great guilt. God saves all who will rely only on Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life.

How could a good God send to hell people who have never heard the gospel?

Eternal punishment of humans in a place of fire, darkness and extreme torment may be accepted as a necessity of justice but can it really be a good thing? More importantly, can one be good who would condemn a person to unending torture? This issue has been offered by some skeptics as conclusive proof the God of the Bible is not real. This issue has resulted in Christians suggesting varieties of universal salvation (Recently seen in the book, “Love Wins”), views of mitigated judgment that results in a near universal salvation (purgatory), and pithy statements declaring it’s really men who choose to go to hell (“God doesn’t send anyone to hell, people choose to go there”). Variants of these themes abound attempting to show that God is not the bad guy.

Understanding this difficult question begins with the reality of justice. Justice is not a social construct that institutionalizes or rationalizes revenge. Justice is the proper moral response to evil. Justice measures the moral weight of the wrong done and responds with an equally weighty consequence. Justice is based on an absolute standard of morality- God’s character. God’s justice is always a reflection of God’s character. If God’s justice is capricious, excessive or petty then God Himself is capricious, excessive or petty.

Since all justice is based on the character of God and God’s justice is a reflection of His character none can argue that God’s punishment of sin is arbitrary or excessive. When God created people He warned Adam and Eve they would die if they sinned against Him. The death foretold begins with separation from God. Separation from God is the natural result of sin because God is holy to such a degree that He cannot possibly have any fellowship, friendship or relationship with that which is tainted by sin. (Leviticus 20:7; Psalm 5:4-5; Habakkuk 1:13; Revelation 21:27) The infinite holiness of God demands His wrath be leveled against all who commit sin. (Psalm 11:4-7; Psalm 34:15-16) Eternal suffering is the inevitable result of separation from God and falling under the wrath of God. God’s justice is not an arbitrary determination but the logical consequence of sin against the infinitely holy God. For God to change these consequences would be to violate His own justice. If God is in any way unjust then He cannot in any way be good.

Some will concede that God is just for punishing sin but it would be better if He were merciful to all men. The assertion effectively becomes that God is not good because He insists on justice. God would be good if He overlooked what is just to do what is loving. This argument falls down on the premise that something can be unjust and good. Injustice is never a good thing. Injustice may have a show of kindness to some, but it is inherently cruel to others. The response to recent officer involved shootings of children and adolescents illustrates this very well. Supposing an officer of the law carelessly caused the death of an innocent child, it would be evil to allow him to escape the legitimate consequence of his actions. The parents, the community and the police force would all be harmed by the denial of justice. If there are no consequences for ones actions and no retribution for the great wrongs done in this world then a persons actions in life are ultimately meaningless and God is the most evil being imaginable. For God to be good, He must also be unfailingly just.

Some believe that in making the promise of salvation God is promising to be unjust. A famous preacher recently said that God “broke the law for love”. Salvation in not unjust. The justice of God is in no way compromised by His promise of salvation. Salvation is not God’s promise to ignore a person’s sin if that person asks for forgiveness. God has never offered to forget about evil. God always punishes evil. The justice of God that always punishes sin and the mercy of God that offers salvation to men has provided a substitute to bear the punishment of sin so that sinful men will not have to bear that punishment themselves. The cross is the place where God’s mercy and justice are perfectly mingled. At the cross, God’s justice was satisfied and God’s mercy overflowed to all who would believe. At the cross mankind sees the full extent of the goodness of God goodness that is in no way contradictory to justice. A God who does not always punish evil is not the god of the Bible. A God who would not send men to hell would be unjust and evil.

What happens to those who die without ever hearing about Jesus?

Possibly one of the most difficult questions for a caring Christian to consider and answer is the fate of those who have never had the chance to hear the gospel. To many it seems an unthinkable unfairness that God would send people to hell who never had the chance to be saved. Walking carefully through the Bible’s teaching is not always easy. Despite the great emotional tensions associated with this question it can only be answered by a thorough consideration of what God has said about man, sin and salvation.

The Bible’s answer can be summed up in a very straightforward fashion. Those who die without turning to Jesus for forgiveness of sin are not forgiven and remain under the judgment of God. Only when one starts with a Biblical perspective can this answer begin to make sense. Many imagine that condemnation happens after death based upon one’s sin or refusal to believe Jesus.

Condemnation does not happen after death. Men are not sentenced to hell for rejecting Jesus or for committing an excessive number of bad deeds. Men are sentenced to hell because they are born sinners who are already condemned by God. “He that believeth not is condemned already.” (John 3:18) “You were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) The first chapter of Colossians describes all men as separated from God and enemies against Him. The third chapter of Romans describes all men as wicked, refusing to seek after God, having no good in them and filled with all manner of wickedness. The Bible consistently teaches that all people are currently guilty before God. Romans 3:19 says all the world is guilty before God. Everyone is already condemned for sin. Men are not waiting for judgment to find out if they are guilty or not. The conviction has been handed down. Sentencing is delayed to give opportunity for salvation.

The fate of those who die in their guilt is eternal separation from God in hell. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9 says Jesus will exact vengeance on those that do not know God and have not obeyed the gospel. Jesus’ vengeance will be unending destruction apart from the presence of God and His glory. In other places in the Bible this everlasting destruction is described as a place of fire and intense suffering. Those who do not know God will be sentenced to eternal hell.

Wrong ideas about Divine judgment are abundant. Most seem to believe that if they are better people than a lot of others then they will make it to heaven. Some believe there is no hell. A growing number believe that God will not send anyone to hell (or maybe only send the really, really bad people to hell). The Biblical truth is that hell is real and only those who have turned to Jesus for forgiveness will escape hell. Those who do not do so, whether it be because of stubbornness, rebellion, ignorance or some other reason will be punished with everlasting destruction. Into this bleak assessment shines the good news of the gospel. Salvation from hell has been purchased by Jesus and is freely given to those who will turn to Him for forgiveness.