All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
What about those who have never heard about Jesus? Do they end up in hell? The first basic understanding you have to have to answer this question is this: everyone is guilty before God.
To the secularist who believes that people are basically good, the idea of anybody going to hell is preposterous. “Well,” they say, “maybe mass murderers and child rapists deserve to go to hell, but most people don’t deserve hell.” That is not the starting place of the gospel. The gospel begins by saying everyone is guilty before God. There is no good news of salvation unless you understand the bad news, and that is our guilt before God.
Paul spent the first three chapters of the book of Romans declaring mankind’s guilt before God. He said the Jew is guilty. The Gentile is guilty. The religious person is guilty. The pagan is guilty. Then he closed in Romans 3:9-10 with these words: “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one.’” Then verse 23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” No one is righteous. No one is in a right standing before God. How can that be true? The answer to how we all became estranged from God is found in Romans 5:12. Paul said, “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” When Adam sinned, his sin virus was passed on to every man, woman, boy, and girl who has ever lived. And the proof that you and I inherited that sin virus is demonstrated in the fact that we all die physically.
Every one of us has inherited the sin virus. We inherited not only Adam’s inclination to sin, but we have also inherited Adam’s guilt. A lot of people have trouble with that. They say, “Wait a minute. Are you saying we are held responsible for what Adam did?” Absolutely. Then you hear the protest: “It’s not fair that I would be held guilty for what another person did!” Even though every hour of every day, you and I confirm Adam’s choice when we sin against God, don’t we? But people say, “It’s not fair that I would be held guilty for what Adam did.”
Paul anticipated that argument. He said in Romans 5:17, “For if by the transgression of the one [Adam], death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” Paul was saying, “Yes, we are all held guilty because of Adam’s sin, but here’s something even more unfair–that you and I can be declared righteous before God by what one person, Jesus Christ, did for us. That is unfair too!” Aren’t you glad God is unfair in that He credits us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, even though we don’t deserve it? That is the essence of the gospel message.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “What about Those Who Have Never Heard about Jesus?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.