When it Comes to Salvation, Are Non-Christians Out of Luck?

This has to be the most frequent and fervent question—and often objection—I get.  Christians say that the only way to salvation is through faith in Christ.  But, as a comment I recently received put it, what about those who died before Jesus came to earth, or those through the centuries since who never heard of HIm—through no fault of their own, are they just out of luck?

The way this person framed the question is brilliant: How could God condemn someone if, through no fault of their own, they never had the opportunity to know and believe in Jesus?  What kind of a God would do this?  What kind of God would be so arbitrary, callous, and unfair? 

This is the real sticking point.  The question isn’t really about isn’t who’s “in” and who’s “out”, and how God determines this, and whether it’s reasonable.  The question is really about God’s character

The kind of God who doesn’t save people who never had the chance to know Him isn’t just.  Or good.  Or trustworthy.  This kind of God couldn’t possibly be the true God.  This kind of God is what non-Christians find so unattractive and unbelievable about the Christian God.

Yes, it’s undeniable.  Christianity teaches that no one can be saved except by faith In Jesus.  It is only by His grace, by what He’s done to save us, by His life, death, and resurrection, that we can ever be saved. 

He absolutely is: The.  Only.  Way.

However, it’s just as undeniable that the kind of God Jesus revealed—the character of the God Jesus Himself embodied and IS—is perfectly just, good, and trustworthy.  If there is anything Jesus made clear, it is that God loves each and every one of us unconditionally.  Each and every person He has ever created is infinitely precious to Him. 

This means that, as 1Timothy 2:3 emphatically declares, God desires that ALL people be saved.  And being God, His desire for people to be saved is infinitely greater than any human desire for people to be saved!  So, we can safely say that He would never condemn someone who, through no fault of their own, didn’t know Who He was and then in some way reject Him. 

Let me be perfectly clear: the only way anyone is saved is by what Jesus has done on the Cross to save us.  And the only certainty we have that anyone is saved is by a conscious act of faith in Him.  But, given His character, we have good reason to hope that those who never of knew Him can be saved. 

In fact, Jesus Himself says so.  In Mark 12:18-27, the Sadducees approach Jesus, trying to trip Him up with a question about the afterlife.  In His reply, Jesus talks about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—all long since dead—being alive with God.  In other words, they’ve been saved.

The same Jesus who says that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6), also says that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob found this way eighteen hundred years before He came to earth! 

How does this happen?  We don’t know.  Some call it prevenient grace, others preparation for the Gospel, and still others, the baptism of desire.  But—in ways that are known to God alone—the Spirit makes the saving grace of Christ available to all who are open to it.  Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all who freely receive this grace are exercising an implicit faith in Christ.  When they finally see Jesus face to face in eternity, they will instantly recognize and adore Him as their Lord and Savior. 

Here’s the bottom line: Outside of a conscious decision to put one’s faith in Christ, we can’t know for sure that a person has been saved.  But, given the character of God revealed in Christ, given His unsurpassed desire to save, we have every reason to trust that God will make it possible for anyone who never heard of Jesus through no fault of their own to be saved. 

Jesus will never reject anyone who, if they only knew Who He was, would want Him to be their Lord and Savior.  You can count on that because you can count on His character! 

But, now that you do know His character, the real question is whether you want Him to be your Lord and Savior.

I love receiving your comments and questions—keep them coming!  You can leave them on the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website.  Please “Like” our Facebook page and subscribe to our YouTube Channel if you haven’t had a chance to yet.  Thank you for all the support and for telling your friends about us!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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