What happens to that innocent guy on some remote island who dies without ever hearing the gospel? And what about the rest of the unreached, are they in good standing before God? If they died, would they go to heaven or to hell?
What The Unreached Know
Biblically, to be unreached means that you have knowledge of God. This is what Paul says in Romans 1:18-20,
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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.
So if you’re unreached, no matter where you are in the world, you have knowledge of God.
How the Unreached Respond
Although the unreached have knowledge of God, the Bible also teaches that they have rejected God. We see this in Romans 1:21-25:
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. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 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.
Like every other person on the planet, the unreached have an inherently sinful nature that rebels against the knowledge of God. It looks different in different places—whether worshiping the Buddha, reciting prayers toward Mecca, or denying that God exists altogether—but it’s universally true. You have turned aside from the one true God.
How the Unreached Stand
Back to the question of the innocent guy on the remote island—Does he go to heaven? Yes, absolutely, no question, he goes to heaven! But there’s a problem.
The problem is that the “innocent” guy doesn’t exist. The question is biased from the start. There are no innocent people in the world waiting to hear the gospel. Instead, there are guilty people all over the world. That’s why they need to hear the gospel. We all too often view heaven as the default eternal state for unreached people, as if God owes it to them.
But this is not true. They are guilty and condemned. Why? For rejecting God. That’s the message of Romans 1:18-3:20.
As a result of turning aside from the one true God, the unreached stand condemned before Him. As Romans 3:10 says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” The unreached will face God’s judgment, just like every other individual who sins against God.
How the Reached Respond
So what should we do in the light of this? How do we respond to the desperate plight of the unreached? We do whatever it takes to get the gospel to them. As Carl F.H. Henry said, “The gospel is only good news if it gets there on time.”
Here’s the gospel that Paul lays out in Romans 3:21-26:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
When anyone hears this gospel, even for the first time, they can be saved by turning from their sin and putting their trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and the hope of eternal life. This is the good news, and it’s available for all: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).
This is why we go.
Ask God to raise up men and women to take this Good News to those who have not yet had the opportunity to hear it.
Pray that men, women, and children from every people group will respond to the gospel through repentance and belief and will lead others to do the same.
* If you missed the previous posts in this series, you can read them here: Who Are the Unreached?, How Many People Are Unreached?, What Does It Mean To Be Unreached?, What's the Difference Between "Lost" and "Unreached"?