Romans 10:9

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

John 14:6

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Combining the passages of Romans 10:9 and John 14:6 it can be interpreted that the only way to heaven is by knowing of Christ Jesus, confessing that He is Lord and believing in the Resurrection. If this is indeed the case, what of all those who have never heard of Jesus or simply don't understand who Christ really is? Without first knowing a Christ has indeed lived, died and been resurrected, how can someone make such a confession and believe in something they haven't first heard of or truly understood. I know the year we live in, and I understand how it might, to some, seem unlikely that there are actually people who have never heard anything about Christianity. But there really are people who haven't heard the whole Gospel and some who wouldn't know what the word Gospel meant. What is to be of these people? Some of "these" people rake the neighbors leaves in the fall just to be nice, call you up to watch a game when your dog dies, talk you up when you didn't think you had it in you to meet your future wife etc etc.

  • I need help with this question. I truly want to be a extension of God's Love. I am beginning to see that my thoughts circling about in regards to this question are holding me back.
    – E1Suave
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 21:29
  • I'm pretty sure this has been asked (and answered) already on here, but I can't find the question just now...
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 21:30
  • I know. The topic was similar but a bit different. The question was however very much the same. "What happens to all those people who have never heard." Unfortunately it didn't help me. Nor did it ease my mind. If this isn't the right place that is OK. I was just hoping someone I never met might just be able to give me a push in the right direction.
    – E1Suave
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 21:32
  • 2
    It was asked here, and later closed: What happens to people who have never heard about Jesus?
    – user971
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 21:58
  • The only question where Caleb asked and closed his own question. I have some biblical verses about those people right outside my realm of memory... racking my brain right now. Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 22:00

6 Answers 6


Not my personal position, but the Catholic position is "yes, they're OK as long as they behave", recorded in Lumen Gentium (Second Vatican Council, 1964) - emphasis is mine:

Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.

  • This answer is very interesting. I really appreciate your research. Thanks for your time as well as all of your other contributions in regards to other answers/comments you a have posted. +1
    – E1Suave
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 12:17

Billy Graham told a story about a minister friend of his. This minister spoke to a Chinese man who had just emigrated to the USA. He had never heard of Jesus. The minister told him the whole story. At the end of the story, the Chinese man began to cry. "Why are you crying?" said the minister... "Because all of my life I have known HIM inside me but I didn't know his name...Now I know his name!" "Jesus! Sweet Jesus!" The Chinese man got to know HIM even better now. He always HAD known Him but now he knew Him even better....

When Helen Keller learned to communicate, her teacher Ann Sullivan wondered how she would tell Helen about God. She just did the best she could and Helen's response was "I have always known Him".....

We should always witness to people of course, so they have an even better chance to know Him. Of course people who love God want to get to know him better.

Where does it say in the Bible that you simply CANNOT come to the Father unless you've actually HEARD of Jesus? Jesus isn't even his name anyway.....


Yes, this is Christian teaching. According to the Bible, Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6b) Is this tough on people who have never heard the Gospel? Absolutely. That's why Christians send missionaries all over the world.

This could simply be the harsh reality of life. My son was born with a deformed kidney that would have been fatal without surgery. Fortunately for him, the doctor had noticed the problem on an ultrasound when he was still in the womb, and after he was born he had a series of operations that saved his life. Well, what if we had lived in some poor country where they don't have ultrasound machines? What if the doctor had not noticed the problem? My son would have died. Is that "fair", that some children live and others die just because some doctors have more knowledge or skill than others? Maybe not, but that's reality. Again, that's why Christians send out missionaries: because we don't want people to die without Christ.

Christians often debate exactly what "believing in Christ" means in this sense. We routinely talk about "general revelation" -- what you can learn about God by looking at his creation -- versus "special revelation" -- the Bible. Is it possible for someone who has never heard the Gospel to "figure it out" based on what he sees in creation, his own conscience, etc? It's hard to imagine that they could somehow deduce that there must have been a man named Jesus who was born in Bethlehem and died on a cross in AD 33, etc etc. But they could deduce that there must be a God, that he created the universe, that people are sinners, etc. Is that enough? Even if it's theoretically possible, how many people have actually managed to do it? Any?

I've often heard Christians say that people who have never heard about Christ must go to Heaven because it wouldn't be fair for God to send them to Hell when they never had a chance. That might be pleasant to believe, but nothing in the Bible backs it up. If that's true, then Christians are doing active harm by telling people about Christ. After all, if someone who hears about Christ and rejects him goes to Hell, while someone who never hears goes to Heaven, then a person would be far better off to never hear. But then why did Jesus command us to "go into all the world and preach the gospel"?

Maybe God has some plan for those who never heard the Gospel. But if so, there is no mention of it in the Bible.

  • Jay, I appreciate your thoughts on this. I am also glad that your son was able to have the needed operations. However, I must say that life on earth is much different than eternal life or eternal damnation. As for the Bible backing up heaven or hell. Well, I am not a Biblical scholar and thus I ask the question to begin with, but it does seem to me that before Christ there were select people who were not eternally damned. Why would it be unreasonable to suggest that this is still true. Purely for discussion and not as debate. Again I appreciate your thoughts. Thanks again.
    – E1Suave
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 4:39
  • I'm sorry, but I even if you reject opinion of holy martyr Justing, I put a fragment from Romans that backs up the idea that even heathen have natural law that comes from God. You said nothing about it. Of course the opinion, that everyone who didn't know Christ must be saved is wrong. But that's not a thing anyone here tries to support.
    – zefciu
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 6:16
  • @e1suave Yes, people were saved before Jesus Christ walked the Earth. Christians generally offer two theories on how this fits with Christ as the only way. One: Just as today we are saved by looking back, before Chrint lived people were saved by looking forward. Under this theory, the Old Testament system of sacrifices were all symbols or foreshadowings of Christ. Two: Before Christ people were saved through faith in God and by performing the sacrfices and other rituals he commanded. The Christian would say that Christ is still the ultimate reality or mechanism behind these.
    – Jay
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 20:07
  • 1
    +1. Nicely explained. I think it is important to remember that salvation is a gift being offered to those who hear, rather than a right being denied to those who don't. I also discussed this in my answer here: christianity.stackexchange.com/a/5033/971
    – user971
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 16:02
  • 1
    @Eric Exactly, I'll have to upvote your answer over there. :-) Suppose you and I are both convicted of breaking a (human) law for which the penalty is a large fine. Assume the law is reasonable and just and we both really are guilty. But you have a rich friend who pays your fine for you. Does the fact that someone helped you but no one helped me mean that I am being cheated? I am no worse off than I would have been if your friend didn't exist or didn't help you. Your friend has no obligation to help me or anyone else.
    – Jay
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 4:58

Saint Paul says that when heathen follow the natural law they are law to themselves.

Saint Justin the martyr even goes as far as to call the philosophers that believed in Logos "christians".

And what to say about e.g. Melchizedech or Balaam which knew God despite not being part of Israel?

So Chistians always believed in natural law and that one can know God without being preached Gospel. This of course doesn't mean that Gospel is unnecessary.


I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father, except through me. John 14:6.

If you were unaware that murder is a crime and you committed it, would you still be guilty of murder? Ignorance of the law does is not an excuse for disobedience from the law. God allows us to choose to ignore His presence revealed through Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and the existence of nature.

Being "nice" is not the same as having salvation. "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." James 2:10. The only thing that brings salvation and removes the total guilt is the acceptance of Christ's sacrifice.

  • "God allows us to choose to ignore His presence revealed through Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and the existence of nature." So you are saying that we can come to salvation through the existence of nature, apart from Christ?
    – Steve
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 15:47
  • The existence of nature alone is enough to prove the existence of God the creator, but even Satan believes that God created the universe. God is love, and to see love is to see God, but without faith that Jesus died for our sins, we are still dead to them and blind to see that the love we see is an extension of God. Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 2:24

If this is indeed the case, what of all those who have never heard of Jesus or simply don't understand who Christ really is?

Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

In Romans we find a verse that declares that those who reject the revelation of Jesus through creation can be held accountable for their rejection.

While no mention is made positively saying that this same revelation is sufficient for people to be saved, it does leave the door open to that possibility.

Another possibility is that there is a huge infant mortality rate among tribal peoples. It may be that those who the Lord desires from those people groups, he takes early.

Part of faith is trusting that the God who gave us salvation is not cruel, capricious, or indifferent to suffering. We may not understand or even be able to understand, but we should be able to be certain that our God is both loving and just.

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