What Happens to Good People Who Never Hear About Jesus?

July 30, 2023

Lead Pastor Dr. Timothy Melton

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According to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life (Pew Research), more than eight in ten people, or about 85 percent of the world’s population, identify with a religious group.”[1]

According to other researchers there are over 4,000 different religions or faith groups, and the number continues to grow.[2]

More countless small religions are out there and being created every day. While it brings much confusion it does testify to the fact that many people in our world are trying to find a way to fill, a “God-shaped hole” in their hearts.

Some believe that all religions are just different ways to the same God. In a post-modern, politically correct world, that sounds nice and inclusive but it is not true.  This belief just exposes that one has not spent enough time understanding the differences between world religions. They are drastically different. These different religions are ideas created by man to somehow explain the world around them, but only God can define the way to God and only God can draw us to Himself. 

God´s Word is our source for answers

As Christians we are people of God´s Word. It alone is our authority for life and godliness. If we have not set the lordship of God´s Word over our lives, then we will be like those described in James 1:5-8 who, because of their doubt, were “like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. . .  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

When faced with topics such as today´s we must not turn to our own logic or the ideas of the world to answer our questions. As we read in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We must turn to God´s Word to find the true perspective of God, of our lives and of the world around us. As we prepare to answer the question, “What Happens to Good People Who Never Hear About Jesus?” we first must understand that it is only through Jesus Christ that mankind can be brought into a right relationship with God.

Jesus is the Only Way

As we read in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  As we read in Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Our sin has separated us from God. It is impossible for us to reach up to God, so He reached down to us by sending Jesus. In Romans 6:23 we read that “the wages of sin is death.”

Jesus came to bring God glory. He would do this by reconciling us to God, so that we would not die in our sins and spend an eternity in hell, separated from God forever. . . 

So he was not crucified so that we could have the life we always dreamed of. It was not so our life would be pain free. It was not to secure our financial success or to improve your physical health. It was not so we could be nicer people or have better manners. It was not so we could be happy and blessed. It was not so we could be successful or even respected. It was not so we could feel less guilty or be more religious. It was not so we could have good self-esteem or see ourselves as significant. Jesus was crucified so that the holiness of God and the grace of God could be on display to a sinful world. Our sin and rebellion has separated us from a holy God and justice demands death and separation. We each have been found guilty and the judgment of death and eternal condemnation have been passed upon us all. 

Jesus died on the cross to save us, but from whom? Jesus died to save us from. . . God. The holiness and justice of God demands that a price be paid for our sin. Just like a judge cannot let a murder go unpunished, a holy God must respond to sin. We all have sinned, so what is a holy God supposed to do with us?

Scripture shows us that if we die in our sin we will be shut out from the presence of the Lord and spend forever in hell, a place of everlasting destruction and suffering.  (Matthew 10:28; Matthew 13:42; Matthew 18:8; Philippians 1:28; Matthew 7:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)

It seems like a dead end where there is no way out, but then God made a way where there was no way. 

Romans 5:8 tells how “God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ came to die in our place. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

With God’s hand of wrath and justice drawn and us cowering on the ground in our sin, Jesus draped Himself over us and received the full force of the wrath of God that had to be paid.

Some may hear these words and picture a vengeful God seeking to punish the disobedient, but He is the same God who sent His own Son to die in our place. He had to be holy, be He was also love. 

That is the story of cross. Jesus was dying in our place so that we could be reconciled to God. “So that all who receive him, who believe in his name, will become children of God” (John 1:12) and spend eternity in heaven. That is why Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”(John 14:6)

Only Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life (Hebrews 4:15). Only Jesus was worthy to die on the cross as the unblemished lamb of God and take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Only Jesus has died in our place as the sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2; Hebrews 10:26). Through His death and resurrection, Only Jesus has conquered sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Timothy 1:10; Isaiah 25:8; Hebrews 2:14). Only Jesus is the Son of God, Emmanuel, God with us, the exact Representation of God the Father. 

Therefore “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).  There is none like Jesus.

Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Some will reject these truths of scripture. They will argue that since many religions include Jesus they should be accepted. We must be careful with this way of thinking. Some religions believe Christ is not God, that He was just a man who was a prophet or a popular teacher. Some believe that He did not die on the cross or that he was not raised from the dead. Others see him as a symbol of what humans can be, but not a true historical person. Some see him as one who gradually became good enough to become a god. One religion actually believes that he was the brother of Satan. And the list goes on, but these changes deny His divinity, His sinlessness, and His teachings in such a way that it disqualifies Him from being our Savior and Redeemer.

Jesus Christ, as revealed in scripture, is mankind´s only way to be reconciled to God. 

Now, back to today´s question. Since Jesus is the only way to salvation, “What Happens to Good People Who Never Hear About Jesus?”

“Good” People don´t exist. 

We now must examine the phrase “good people.” What is meant by that term, good? I don´t think we are meaning a perfect person, because we would all agree that no one is perfect.

So, then what are we meaning by good? Better than the murderer? Better than the thief? Better than the adulterer? But did Jesus not say, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Did Jesus not say that ‘anyone who murders will be subject to judgment´ but also “that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will also be subject to judgment.” Have we not each at sometime coveted, lied, gossipped, bragged, been guilty of pride and selfishness, and disobeyed God?

Our tendency is to consider a person good because their sins seem lest blatant when they are compared to someone “worse.” The problem with this kind of thinking is that other sinful humans are not our standard. Jesus Christ is our holy, sinless standard. In comparison to Christ  even our good works are shown to be no better than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

The Bible clearly states that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Romans 3:10-12 tells us None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

We all were dead in our sin, slaves to sin, enemies of God, rebellious, foreigners, strangers. This is the starting place of every person. We were sinful not only in our deeds but also in our nature that has been passed down to all mankind since the first sin of Adam and Eve. Our guilt makes it impossible to draw near to the holiness of God. 

All of us have sinned. No one is good. Our sin had separated all of us from God. Whether one be born into a Christian family or a Muslim family. Whether one be rich or poor. Whether one be educated or uneducated, all have sinned and the wages of sin is death. . . but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23).

With this in mind we once again return to the question at hand with one slight change, What Happens to GoodPeople Who Never Hear About Jesus?”

General Revelation - through creation

At this point it is helpful to visit the concept known as General Revelation. 

Scripture tells us of how God has made Himself known to all man by what has been created. Through nature God has given us proof that there is a God. This is called General Revelation.  

Romans 1:18-26 puts it in these words, 

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.


From these verses we see that God has made Himself available to all mankind. “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.”

We get a glimpse of the greatness of God in the order of nature. In the power of an earthquake, the beauty of a sunset, the vastness of the universe, the complexity of the human body. The glimpses of God are limitless as we look at His creation. His invisible attributes are there for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Mankind has no excuse. They cannot claim they have not heard, because God has shown Himself to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. 

They have refused to acknowledge the signs that God has given to lead us to Himself. They have not honored God or given Him thanks and because of this their thinking has become futile and their hearts have been darkened. In their rejection of God they claim to be wise when in reality they have become fools.

General Revelation, God showing Himself to all mankind through creation, leaves each person at a crossroads. They can either harden their hearts and not acknowledge the presence of God, or they can allow the General Revelation that God exists to quicken their hearts, stirring in them a desire to know more. 

Those who choose to seek God are promised that God will reveal to them more of Himself. We see this common theme in different situations throughout scripture.

Deuteronomy 4:29 proclaims, “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

In Matthew 7:7-8 we read, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

Jeremiah 29:13-14 states clearly, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” 

In this same way, to those who respond to God´s General Revelation with a heart that seeks Him more, God will make sure that He is found by them. 

It reminds me of a parent playing Hide-and-Seek with their daughter when she is little. The parent counts and the child goes and hides. The parent counts out loud and then starts looking for her. They intentionally act like they cannot find her. After a while the child starts making sounds to “help” the parent find her. That is God´s promise. For those who seek Him with all of their hearts He promises to be found by them. That is the challenge that we can even give to non-believers who are seeking God. With full confidence encourage them just to seek the truth of God for themselves. Our confidence is that if they are truly seeking, God will make sure that He is found by them. 

This is one of the reasons that Jesus came. It is often referred to as Special Revelation through Jesus Christ.

Special Revelation through Jesus Christ

It is in Christ that we see what the Father is like. We are no longer limited by the General Revelation of God that we find in the creation. In Jesus we see how the character of God relates to man as He works in our world. We see the love of God, the wisdom of God, the kindness of God, the patience of God, the mercy of God, the justice of God, the compassion of God in action through the person of Jesus Christ. 

In John 14 we read this conversation. Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “. . . Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Talking about Jesus, John 1:1,14,18 say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . No one has ever seen God; the only God (Jesus), who is at the Father's side, he (Jesus) has made him (the Father) known. As Paul writes in Colossians 1:15, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God.”

God reveals Himself in generalities through creation. To those who respond by seeking Him more, He then shows Himself fully to them in the specifics through the person of Jesus Christ. 

We see examples of this in scripture. In Acts 10 we read of Cornelius, who was a centurion. It says that he was, “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” At this point in the story Cornelius feared God but new nothing of the gospel. As Cornelius sought God, God came to Cornelius in a vision that resulted in Cornelius sending for the apostle Peter to come to Cornelius´ house. Peter preached the gospel of Jesus Christ and everyone in the household putting their faith in Him and were saved. 

Another example is in the life of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. The Ethiopian Eunuch had been to Jerusalem to worship and now was returning home by chariot to his country. The Eunuch was seeking God, reading the scroll of Isaiah as he rode along in the chariot. God responded by bringing Philip to the exact place and time so that he would cross paths with the Eunuch. Philip was invited to join the Eunuch in the chariot and Philip explained the passages of Isaiah that confirmed Jesus as the prophesied Messiah. The Eunuch then put his faith in Jesus and was baptized. 

Again we see God´s Special Revelation, in Acts 16, in the story of Lydia, in Philippi, who had gone down by the river to a place of prayer. They were seeking God but did not yet know his salvation. As she and others were seeking God, Paul and his companions encountered them. It says that Lydia was a worshiper of God. Then as Paul and the others shared the gospel, “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” And she was baptized. She had a heart that sought after God, and in response God made sure He was found by her through the witness of Paul.

We hear testimonies of this same principle in our world today. In John 6:44 Jesus tells how, “no one can come to Jesus unless God the Father draws him.” God uses various methods to draw people to Jesus and to reveal Jesus to them. Some have friends or family members whom God used to tell them about Jesus. Others were impacted by Christians who ministered to them in the midst of sickness or tragedy. Others had access to books or online testimonies that they watched and heard about Jesus. Some who have no Christian witness in their lives and in their city were drawn to Jesus through a dream or a vision. 

I know a young man from Iran. He tells the story that even as a young man he had a heart that sought after God even though he knew nothing about Jesus. He told how on a school trip, through an airport in Turkey, an unknown woman came up to him and gave him a Bible. He returned home and began to read it and this was the beginning of the seeds that were planted in his life that resulted in salvation years later. 

For those who have a heart for God, He will make sure that as they seek Him, that He will be found by Him.

In light of all of these scriptures that we have looked at today let´s now return to the original question and the truths we need to remember. “What Happens to Good People Who Never Hear About Jesus?”

No one is "good". We all have sinned, are separated from God and deserve condemnation.


Through creation God has made a basic knowledge of His existence and His characteristics known to all mankind.


In response to His General Revelation some reject it leading to futility of thinking and hardness of hearts.

They will stay separated from God and will be held responsible for their sins, spending eternity separated from God in hell.    


For those who respond to the General Revelation of God by seeking to know Him more, God will make Himself known by somehow revealing the person of Jesus Christ to them.

Those who hear and put their faith in Jesus Christ will be forgiven and reconciled to God.


In light of all of this we are indebted to a holy and loving God, who had to bring justice but found a way to also give grace.


In closing may we each consider the truths that have been discussed today. 

For those who are not yet followers of Jesus Christ, will you seek God with your whole heart, and commit to believe in Him if He shows Himself to be true?

For those of you who are followers of Christ may this reminder of God´s grace rekindle in us a gratitude for the mercy of God that we have received. 

In return may we be His ambassadors, the speakers of the Special Revelation, always ready to live and speak the good news of Jesus, as He seeks to make Himself known to the people in our world. 

As written in Romans 10:13-16, For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 

Discussion Questions:

What from this sermon did you find interesting?

What did you think about the discussion of “good people”?

How would you explain General Revelation in your own words?

What is the purpose of Special Revelation?

If you are a Christian, how did you hear about Jesus?

What do you need to remember from this sermon?

What do you think God wants yo to do in response to this sermon?

How can we help you and pray for you in regards to that?

[1] How Many Religions Are There in the World? (learnreligions.com)

[2] "World Religions Religion Statistics Geography Church Statistics". Archived from the original on April 22, 1999. Retrieved 5 March 2015.