One of the hardest problems for many to grasp is the Bible teaching on just who will be lost. True Christians readily recognize that for one to be saved he must hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17), believe it (John 3:16 f; Heb. 11:6), confess his faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9-10, ff; 1 Tim. 6: 12, 1 John 4:15), repent of his sins (Luke 13:3 f; Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30), be buried with his Lord in baptism for the remission of sins (Rom. 6:3,4 f; Col. 2:12), and then live faithfully till death (James 1:12 f; Rev. 2 :10). However, what about the others, will they all be lost?
It would logically follow that if the Lord requires the above conditions for one to become a follower of his (recognizing that these apply to those who have reached the age of accountability), then all those who have not met these qualifications would be lost (Heb. 5:9). While realizing that most of the world has not met these qualifications, this still does not change the fact the Lord Himself foretold that the “many” would be those who would be lost (Matt. 7:13-14), and that salvation has only been promised to those who obey Him (Matt. 7:21-23, Heb. 5:9).
I know of many people in various denominations who have lived as good a Christian life as they possible. Will they be lost? In Acts 10, we have the case of the life of Cornelius, a centurion, who at that time lived what many of us would no doubt term a “Christian life”. Yet, he was told by the angel that appeared to him to send to Joppa for Peter, “who shall speak unto thee words whereby you shall be saved” (Acts 11:14) . He was religious, he did good deeds, he lived a spotless life in the eyes of his fellowman, but he was not a Christian nor was he saved because of his good life. Christians are not made by the good works of men, but rather by the works of God (e.g. Hear, Belief, Confession, Repentance, Baptism, Faithfulness).
Again, in the case of the rich young ruler who came to Christ, we find another religious man who had lived a good life. This point is made manifest for us in Mark’s statement, “Jesus looking upon him loved him” (Mark 9: 21) . Here was a man who spoke the truth and was truly near to the kingdom of heaven, but yet even he lacked complete surrender to the will of God.
But, someone objects further, what about those who have never even had a chance to hear the gospel? What about those who don’t even know about God? Will all of these be lost just because they haven’t heard the gospel? There is a vast difference between having the ability and having the opportunity. The Bible is quite clear that those who lack the ability (Babies or little children, the severely mentally challenged, etc) are not fit subjects for the gospel. These don’t need to be saved because they are innocent. However, any who has the ability, if the proper opportunity were presented, are subject to sin and in need of the saving gospel of Christ. If one never hears the gospel it is evident they will be lost (Mk 13:9,43). Anyone who fails to teach someone who has never heard the gospel, stand responsible for their soul. “When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand. Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul (Ezek 33:8,9).
In the reverse, let us suppose that those who have never heard the gospel were not lost, then we would be defeating our very purpose in preaching the gospel (Mk 16:16 f; Mt 28:19,20). God commands all to come to repentance, and does not wink at their ignorance of the gospel (Acts 17:30).
Some argue what if one was on their way to be baptized and died on the way: Were they sent to hell? Now tell me true, have you ever heard of anyone who fell under this scenario? Even so, if it ever did occur, he delayed too long. God gives us all the warning that today is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2). He tells us not to harden our hearts (Heb 3:7,8). Yes, anyone can wait too long and die in their sins. Even Christians can wait too long about repenting of their sins and lose their eternal soul. The answer to this scenario is: DON’T DELAY YOUR SALVATION!
Conclusion: Unless you are a child or have a child like mind, you are subject to the gospel of Christ. All who fail to obey the gospel or those who know not God will be eternally lost in hell (2 Thess 1:7-9)!