When it comes to entering into eternity it is possible to categorise people into 5 types:
- Those who never heard the gospel;
- Those who heard but didn’t understand it;
- Those who heard, received it and when the going got rough, gave up;
- Those who heard, received it and got worn down or deceived;
- Those who heard, received it and produced multiplied fruit.
This categorisation is based on the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8 as well as other Scriptures.
Category 1: Never Heard
The first category is those billions through the ages that never heard the gospel during their lifetime. Scripture says this about them (Romans 2:14-16, NLT):
“Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. 16 And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.”
Evangelicals can hold some strange positions when it comes to those who haven’t heard the Gospel. They often categorise them as the “unsaved” which makes no sense in the context of 1 John 2:2 (see also John 3:16-18, 1 Peter 3:18):
“He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”
According to Matthew 25:31-46, God and the saints (1 Cor. 6:2) will judge them according to their works and their relationship to the saints and God in their hearts (inasmuch as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me). Some will be shown to be sheep destined for eternal life and some will be revealed as goats destined to the second death.