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Does every human being, at least once in their lifetime, have a genuine chance to repent of their sins, turn away from them and start living a righteous life? If so, does this also include people who never hear the Gospel? What does repentance of sins look like for a non-Christian who dies never having the Gospel preached to them?

I would be interested in an overview of main Christian viewpoints regarding these questions.

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Is repentance of sins possible outside the gospel?

Yes, since God plants conscience in every person's heart. But see next paragraph below.

What does repentance of sins look like for a non-Christian who dies never having the gospel preached to them?

Since they haven't heard a proper presentation of the Gospel, their repentance will be far from what is needed for Christian conversion. They may simply repent from being lazy, or even as trivial as repenting from a habit of driving over the speed limit. I did both when I was young, but those repentance didn't save me because that's NOT the kind of repentance needed for salvation. Even a self-serving atheist can repent from that kind of "sin".

Does every human being, at least once in their lifetime, have a genuine chance to repent of their sins, turn away from them and start living a righteous life? If so, does this also include people who never hear the gospel?

Again, without proper gospel presentation, it depends on what "righteous life" means. Every religion has their own version. It can simply mean living a decent life following the ethical standard that either myself or my preferred society defines for me. That is NOT what righteous life means to Christianity, which is living according to God's standard, not my own standard. Genuine chance requires genuine understanding of the magnitude & character of the offense, which in Christianity means:

  • realizing that we have been following our human made standard, even though it can be very decent and sacrificial
  • realizing that the main aggrieved party is God our creator, not only our fellow human beings
  • realizing that the main offense is our failure to center our whole life to honor and love God instead of ourselves, not merely the failure to follow some moral code, even if the moral code is already one of the best (such as the OT code)

So the answer is: Yes, to those who understood properly the gospel message, No to everyone else.

Concluding thoughts

Proper Christian repentance is intimately linked to faith in Jesus Christ (see this article). But the object of our faith (Jesus Christ) needs to be communicated FIRST by the gospel presentation, which in turn genuinely informs the challenge for proper repentance that leads to faith, which in turn leads to salvation. So this question is masking an underlying question: Will everyone who has not heard the gospel before they die have a genuine chance to hear it? which has been answered in your other question: What is an overview of Christian viewpoints on the eternal destiny of individuals who die never hearing the Gospel?

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  • Obviously non-Christians are not under the same set of moral rules that those who believe in the Gospels are bound to observe! We could also note that the Patriarchs of the Old Testament were allowed to have more than one wife. Even Buddhism does not regard marriage as a sacrament; it is purely a secular affair, and normally Buddhist monks do not participate in it (though in some sects priests and monks do marry). Hence marriage receives no religious sanction. Good answer +1. – Ken Graham May 26 at 15:40
  • I like the idea of this answer, however God puts his LAWS in every mans mind and on every mans heart (not his conscience). Hebrews 8:10 (which references both Jeremiah 24:27 and 31:33) "For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord. I will put My laws in their minds and inscribe them on their hearts." – Adam May 27 at 9:47
  • @KenGraham I'll have to disagree that it is "obvious" that non-Christians will not be judged the same as Christians. On the contrary, it appears clear to me that all will be judged by one standard: "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day" (John 12:48). – Caleb George May 27 at 20:52
  • @CalebGeorge I am talking about those who have not heard the Good News! The question is asking for an overview and not simply a biblical based interpretation answer. – Ken Graham May 27 at 20:55
  • @KenGraham I could not tell from your comment. But even in that case, is it really so obvious? I have never read that in the Bible. – Caleb George May 27 at 21:01
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Does every human being, at least once in their lifetime, have a genuine chance to repent of their sins, turn away from them and start living a righteous life?

  • "So having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now proclaiming to mankind that all people everywhere are to repent" (Acts 17:30). If God expects all people everywhere to repent, then it must of necessity be possible because God is a just God.

If so, does this also include people who never hear the Gospel?

  • Who do you know that has never heard the gospel? God is proclaiming to all people everywhere to repent, so we probably need to reach out to that person.

What does repentance of sins look like for a non-Christian who dies never having the Gospel preached to them?

  • Believing in the gospel is a crucial part of full NT repentance (Mark 1:15).
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  • The question as it stands, asks for an overview of main Christian viewpoints regarding the points made by the OP. It requires more than simply a biblically based response. – Ken Graham May 28 at 16:15

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