Does God have a plan for the billions who have died without ever hearing His true Gospel? Many "mainstream" preachers teach that there is a burning Hell filled with those who have never even heard of Jesus Christ. But what does your Bible really say?
Everyone wants to know what happens after death. Preachers offer many different theories about the fate of unsaved children, and of those who never heard the Gospel. But the truth of the matter is in the pages of the Bible—where very few seem to look for it!
What happens to those who die "unsaved"? Are billions of Muslims, Hindus and other non-Christians lost forever?
Most of us have friends or relatives who died without believing in any form of Christianity. Where are they now? And what will be their ultimate fate?
Frankly, mainstream Christianity does not have the answers!
Most preachers give the impression that God is now "trying" to get everyone "saved." He is pictured almost like a sad hound dog trying to track down and "save" the billions of people who do not believe in any form of Christianity. Most old-fashioned, self-described "Bible-believing" churches have taught this idea for centuries. The modern "liberal" churches, which do not take the Bible literally, bypass the problem by saying, in effect, that God will save all those whose "heart is right" or who practice their religion (whatever it is!) with "sincerity."
But will He really do what they expect?
If you want the real answer about what will happen, you need to believe what the Bible—the inspired revelation from the Creator God—actually says. Of course, if you do not believe the Bible, then one person's "idea" or "theory" is about as good as another's. But are you willing to open your mind and believe what the Bible truly says?
The old-fashioned preachers tell people that they immediately go either to heaven or hell when they die. But the Bible says no such thing! Jesus Christ said: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). Further, Jesus also stated: "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven" (John 3:13).
And the Bible makes it exceedingly clear that true Christians who have died are now awaiting the resurrection at Christ's Second Coming. 1 Corinthians 15 is called the "resurrection chapter" because it describes this thoroughly! Notice 1 Corinthians 15:21–23: "For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming."
And Jesus directly stated: "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.… Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:25, 28–29).
The above scriptures should make it exceedingly clear that the "dead" are actually dead—not floating around in heaven or burning in hell! And that even the dead that "have done good" are awaiting the "resurrection of life" (v. 29). Any other explanation directly contradicts literally dozens of other plain, clear scriptures. And, as Jesus said, "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).
But, what about the many billions of human beings, made in God's image, who never really had a genuine opportunity to hear about the Christ of the Bible and accept Him as their Savior? Does God have a double standard? Does He have some "other way" to gain eternal life? Or for those billions of human beings, is it simply "tough luck" bestowed by a harsh God who "plays favorites" and gives some people a "chance" while giving others no opportunity whatsoever?
The answer is definitely not what you have been taught by mainstream "Christianity." Yet it is wonderful and meaningful to those who understand. And it is not found in an extra-biblical book or theory cooked up by some self-made prophet. It has been right there in your own Bible all the time. It is the Truth that almost nobody knows!
Your Bible makes it very clear that this is not God's world. This is not the system or society which the Creator God established. Rather, God has given man 6,000 years—under the sway of Satan—to go his own way, to try out his own ideas, and to learn hard lessons through human suffering. The Apostle Paul wrote: "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:3–4).
Later, the Apostle John was inspired to write: "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). Was John correct? Is the "whole world" really deceived? Obviously, a truly "deceived" person does not know that he is deceived. Otherwise, he would not be deceived!
Remember Jesus' statement to His disciples: "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me" (John 14:30). And, as the Apostle John wrote the true Christians of his day: "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19).
So, if the whole world is "blinded" as Paul wrote, and the whole world is "deceived" as the Apostle John wrote, that certainly explains why untold billions of people have never heard the true Gospel! But is a just and fair God going to leave them in the grave or burn them up in an everlasting fire?
Of course not!
Please understand that it is just a matter of when God chooses to "call" each individual to genuine knowledge of the Truth and a real opportunity for salvation. All will eventually be called. Notice that when some of the Gentiles were first being called, the Apostle Peter stated: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:34–35). And Paul stated: "For there is no partiality with God" (Romans 2:11).
That is why Jesus spoke entirely in parables to all but His inner group of disciples: "And He said to them, 'To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that "Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them"'" (Mark 4:11–12). This truth of the Bible is directly contrary to what most of us were taught in Sunday school or church—that Jesus spoke in parables "so everyone would understand." In fact, the exact opposite is true! Jesus spoke in parables so the general public would not understand! Jesus was not trying to convert the world at that time.
So we see that God is not "trying" to convert the world now—in this age. Otherwise, He would do it! For one of God's names is El Shaddai—God Almighty. So nothing could stop the true God from converting the world now—if that were His real intention!
The Apostle Peter was inspired to tell us: "But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:8–9).
Do you see?
In working out His supreme purpose, God is in "no hurry"! In His time—not our time—God wants "all" to come to repentance. He indicates that His plan will be accomplished over thousands of years! Again, remember that God is not trying to save the whole world now. Yet He is not condemning those who have been deceived by Satan, the "god of this age" whom the Creator God has allowed to influence and rule this world during this present time.
Remember how God "condemned" the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, turning them "into ashes" and "making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly" (2 Peter 2:6). Yet, when you understand, you quickly realize that those perverted people were blinded to the Truth and did not know the true God. So how will God eventually deal with those blinded human beings who never had a genuine opportunity for salvation?
In Matthew 11, Jesus describes how the cities of His day refused to hear the Truth: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you" (vv. 21–22). Then Jesus made a remarkable statement: "But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you" (v. 24). So there is a "day of judgment" coming in which it will be "more tolerable" for Sodom and Gomorrah than for the cities of Jesus' time. Jesus here clearly recognizes that those ancient cities were never presented with the Truth. They had no opportunity at all!
God inspired the Apostle Paul to state the following about the Gentiles in Ephesus: "Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:11–12). The absolute truth is that God has "allowed" most people to go their own way for the last 6,000 years under Satan's influence. The Almighty God has not even tried to "save" them. Otherwise, they would be saved! But He has planned a "day of judgment"—not a "day of condemnation"—so that those billions of human beings may have a genuine opportunity for salvation and then be "judged" according to what they do at that time when their eyes are really "opened" to the Truth!
How will they be saved? The Bible is very clear in stating that the only way to eternal life is through Jesus Christ! Jesus Himself stated: "'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber'.… Then Jesus said to them again, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them'" (John 10:1, 7–8). Here Jesus clearly condemns any "other way" to eternal life! For God alone can give us everlasting life. He sets the conditions—not misguided human beings who may have sentimental thoughts about false Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, "New Age" theories or any other ideas or theories of men!
The Apostle Peter was inspired to state emphatically: "Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This [Christ] is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10–12).
We read earlier that in the prophesied \day of judgment\ it will be "more tolerable" for the Sodomites than for the men of Jesus' day who rejected Him in person. The inspired gospel of Luke adds details to Matthew's account. In Luke 10:13–14, Jesus Christ said: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you."
The plain indication is that since ancient Tyre, Sidon and Sodom were not given a genuine opportunity to learn the Truth, they will not be held responsible for being blinded. In fact, Jesus stated that He knew they "would have repented" (v. 13) if they had seen Jesus' mighty works.
Since God is no respecter of persons, you may wonder: when and how will the people of these ancient Gentile cities, and the other billions of similarly blinded human beings, be given a genuine opportunity to understand God's purpose in life, and to attain salvation? Does the Bible ever speak of such a time?
Yes, it does! The book of Revelation gives the time sequence of prophetic events more clearly than any other book in the Bible. Revelation 19:11–21 describes Christ's return in full glory as King of kings (vv. 14–16). Then, after crushing the armies of the coming European dictator called "the Beast," Christ casts him and the coming false religious leader into the "Lake of Fire" (v. 20).
Then God describes a mighty angel coming down to the earth: "He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while" (Revelation 20:2–3). Note that these verses also tell us that Satan has been deceiving the nations of this earth!
After Satan is bound, the glorious millennial rule of Christ on the earth begins. Speaking of that time, Revelation 20 shows that the true saints "lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (v. 4). Then we are told: "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (v. 6).
True Christians who have been genuinely "called" by God understand His purpose. They know that they are now "in training" to become kings and priests in the coming reign of Christ on Earth—that they will rule even over angels (1 Corinthians 6:1–3)! The coming millennial rule of Christ and the saints (Daniel 7:26–27) will be a magnificent opportunity to help, to encourage and to teach the confused multitudes about God's true ways.
But what happens to the untold billions of "blinded" people who die before the Millennium—who have never known the true God and His Plan? And realize that this includes many millions of professing Christians now living who have never been genuinely converted! It includes millions of young people who never lived long enough to understand, truly repent and grow in grace and in knowledge of God's Truth. It includes millions of well-meaning but weak people, with all their problems, who may have called themselves "Christians" but who never truly understood and surrendered to God.
After describing a relatively brief time when Satan is loosed from his prison and, once again, quickly deceives a multitude of people (Revelation 20:7–10), God's word begins to tell us about the Great White Throne Judgment period. But look back for a moment at verse 5. Here, inserted as a parenthetical comment after describing the thousand-year rule of the saints, God's word says: "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished."
The "rest" of the dead? Yes! Those billions of people from ages past who were never "called" to salvation and, therefore, obviously had no opportunity to be in the first resurrection.
Notice Revelation 20:11–12: "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books."
Here we find described perhaps the most awesome event in human history, a time when all people—the unknown, the famous and the infamous—will truly come to understand why they were born! These formerly dead people are seen "standing before God"—obviously in a resurrection. Then the "books" are opened. The term "books" here is translated from the Greek word biblion, which is the same word translated "Bible"—meaning the books of the Bible!
Revelation 20 then describes the opening of another book—the Book of Life. What is this book's purpose? Paul explains that the saints' names are written in the "Book of Life" (Philippians 4:3). Revelation 21:27 describes the New Jerusalem as inhabited by "only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life."
The opportunity for eternal life is at last presented to these multitudes of people "small and great." They are resurrected back to physical life for perhaps a period of 100 years—long enough for a thorough opportunity for them to learn, grow and be tried and tested as to their willingness to live eternal life God's way (Isaiah 65:20). They will be called and have the opportunity to study and to understand the Bible. Then—and only then—God says that these resurrected people will be "judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books" (Revelation 20:12). Finally, after being given a genuine opportunity to know and to act upon the Truth, these people are judged by how they respond to and obey the teachings of the books of the Bible. As James was inspired to tell us, "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20).
Make no mistake; if these untold billions of formerly blinded individuals are merely judged by the works they did in their former lifetimes—many of them as thieves, prostitutes, sexual deviants, dictators and false prophets—then they will all surely perish in the Lake of Fire! For in their past lives they did not accept the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved. They did not truly "repent" (Acts 2:38) of their wrong ways and surrender their lives to Christ and allow Him—through the Holy Spirit—to fashion and mold them and help them to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
God does not have a double standard! These countless billions of individuals deserve to have a real opportunity—and to be judged on what they do after they have known the Truth of God! Yet countless theologians and ministers—who themselves are deceived—try to imagine that God will somehow save many of our unrepentant friends and relatives, and multitudes from ages past, even though they never came to real repentance and true surrender to the living Christ. These theologians could not be more wrong!
May God help you, however, to understand the truth about the "unsaved" billions who never had a real opportunity to accept Jesus Christ, and about all the additional billions of people from both the present and past who may only have known about a false Christ (2 Corinthians 11:4), and so never really surrendered to let the Christ of the Bible rule their lives!
The truth is that God is not now "calling" most people to real understanding and salvation. But unless they knowingly and deliberately reject God (Hebrews 10:26–27), they will be given the opportunity to understand—to really repent of their sins and to become truly "converted"—in the Great White Throne Judgment.
In His word, the Eternal God tells us: "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isaiah 55:8–9). Often, God does work out His plans in a way we humans would never do. As we have seen, the Bible makes it very clear that God is not trying desperately to "save" all human beings at this time. Rather—after Christ's thousand-year reign on the earth during the Millennium—a magnificent event will occur, when all who have ever lived and died without understanding God's purpose and the real Truth will be resurrected and given a genuine opportunity to surrender their lives to Christ, and so be qualified to become full sons of God and members of His eternal Kingdom. That is truly Good News to all of us who have loved ones who lived and died without ever truly understanding God and His supreme purpose.