How does God judge the unreached people?

Hi everyone, I had a discussion with my sister recently and she asked me about unreached people.

The question is this; 1. How are unreached people judged?
2. and how are people judged who lived before Jesus?

I think Romans talks about this topic, but I would love some clarity on this subject.

Thank you.


@oneillmarais Generally I address this question from two angles. The first is that God has a plan for the nations and has been working through history to draw all people to Himself. The second is that on the day of judgment God will judge people according to the truth they had and the Judge of all the earth will surely do what is right!

People Who Lived Before Jesus

The below article from CARM also points out that even Abraham was saved by faith. People have always been saved by trusting in God. We must remember that from the earliest history of mankind all the way back to Adam and Eve, people have been aware of God. God walked with people back in those days and God is evident through creation (Romans 1).

Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,” (Romans 4:1-5).

Any additional questions or thoughts?


Hi @SeanO, thank you for the insightful response. I appreciate the thoughtfulness in your response. So there has been the natural revelation from the beginning of the universe which is revealed through God’s creation (Psalm 19:4), and by this people either believed in God or rejected Him and this is how righteousness and salvation came to them?

And when we move forward in time to when God’s Word is revealed through special revelation by the prophets and the old testament writers, faith in both natural and special revelation is counted to them as justification and salvation, like it was the case for Abraham?

Then thirdly, when the Word became flesh there is the final revelation which is Jesus and faith in Him leads to salvation.

So to try and sum it up, whatever time you lived in God was revealed and the people in those times could accept or reject (faith or no faith) Him. And for people living today, the principle holds that they will be judged by what they know and believe about God?

Is my view of it accurate, how would you advise me to make it more understandable? Thank you in advance for your input.


@oneillmarais Wow, that is a nice timeline summary :slight_smile: One thing I would change in terms of wording is that it is not ‘faith in both natural and special revelation’ but rather ‘faith in the God who is revealed through natural and special revelation’. It may seem like a small change and I am sure that is what you meant - but I think it is a very important point. Even the demons believe in God and tremble (James 2:19). What makes us different is that we choose to trust the God who is revealed with our whole selves - to enter into covenant with Him. So belief and faith are actually different - we can believe in God without having faith in Him. To know God is not only to believe in Him but also to trust ourselves wholly to Him.

I would also replace the phrase ‘judged by what they know and believe about God’ to ‘judged according to their knowledge of God and their response to that knowledge’. Perhaps the best succinct summary is that ‘God judges the secrets of men’s hearts’.

Another note regarding your timeline. Even before the law of Moses or Abraham, God walked with mankind - people made sacrifices to God - they were aware of Him. So in a sense knowledge of God was passed down from Adam and Eve through the godly line of Seth - and even Cain’s line were aware of God to some degree (perhaps until they sinned so much that they forsook God entirely). So God has never been without a witness - think of Noah. God communicated with righteous men and through them with the world even before the giving of the law - perhaps in ways that we are not even aware of…

Hope those thoughts are helpful - I like how you summarized it according to era.


Fantastic thanks @SeanO. That is an important distinction I need to make between mere believe that God exists, because there are lot’s of people with that believe, and putting your faith and trust in God, which is something different.

What can I use to reference the statement “God Judges the secrets of men’s hearts”? Does it come from Romans 2:15-16? “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” and earlier in the passage, “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts”.

I love your one liner “God has never been without a witness”! It is such a reassuring truth!


@oneillmarais Here are a few references from Scripture about how God will judge the secret things on the last day. Yes - the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalms 19) and all those who seek will find (Matthew 7:7)!

Romans 2:14-16 - (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 - For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Hebrews 4:13 - Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Luke 8:17 - For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.


Thank you @SeanO, your input is of great value to me. I will lock these verses in my memory so that I can answer the question with more grace and better understanding the next time it comes around.


@oneillmarais Glad it was helpful. It is always such a joy to learn more about the Word of the Lord and I am honored to have the chance to share. I agree memorizing Scripture is a great way to renew our minds and be prepared to give a defense to anyone who ask for a reason for the hope that is in us. Christ be with you.


@oneillmarais & @SeanO Thanks for the great discussion.

It brought to mind something I heard long ago and have never forgotten. That there is a vast difference between “believing in” God and “believing” God.

As you said Sean, even the demons believe in God. But to believe God we have to come to know Him, and with that knowledge we’ll discover His commands and desires for us. As we come to know Him we will know His holiness and goodness and believe that His word is true and worthy of following.


Hi @Jennifer_Judson, thank you for your comments. I agree completely with what you said. I come across it often in my conversations with secular friends, when I speak about God and what Jesus did for us. Their response is usually, "well yes I know about Jesus and all that, but what else you got?..

How do you break through to someone who doesn’t seem to grasp what it means to believe God as true for their own life? My conversations always seem to end on the wall of relativism, when there is no absolute truth anything and all things can be true.


@oneillmarais I think Os Guiness’ point in his book ‘Fool’s Talk’ about seekers vs non-seekers is very helpful. Many people have not even thought about their beliefs deeply and merely assume that they are obviously true. When trying to reach someone who is already satisfied where they are at, we are facing a terribly difficult challenge. It is much easier to reach the seeker, the person who has seen a signal of transcendence and is beginning to question whether their view of reality is really sufficient or not.

I recommend the following book and article if you are interested in learning more.

Almost all our witnessing and Christian communication assumes that people are open to what we have to say, or at least are interested, if not in need of what we are saying. Yet most people quite simply are not open, not interested and not needy, and in much of the advanced modern world fewer people are open today than even a generation ago. Indeed, many are more hostile, and their hostility is greater than the Western church has faced for centuries.


To be sure, seekers want to look for a satisfying answer to their question, but they also want to protect the point at which they now feel vulnerable. Once bitten, twice shy is their immediate concern, so they send out the mind ahead by itself to do the searching.

Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is


I think a lot depends on the person. Are they a thinker? or a feeler?

With the thinker you may need to start with a discussion about what is “truth.” Can it be relative and still be truth? Abdu Murray’s book called “Saving Truth” is a good resource.

If they are a feeler, then what do they feel? Do they have a sense of something larger than themselves? If so, what might that be? How do they feel personally…inside? Do they ever feel like if people really knew them then no one would ever love them? That can be a great opening to the love of Christ.

If they believe in a higher power or intelligent source then what might be implied with that belief? If there’s a creator, then is it reasonable to expect that the creator might have expectations of them? Are they qualified to judge their creator? Is anything due to the creator? What if they created something, would they want to just sit it on a shelf and then ignore it…or would they want to interact with it? How? What would they want?

There’s many ways to take a discussion. Sometimes we need to discover where our ideas and feelings come from and how they might not really be rational when you shine a light on them.

When a person is negative about who God is, then there’s likely a source for that negativity. Have they really ever looked into what a Christian believes about the character of God?

Are they willing to understand that a perspective from within may be entirely different from an external perspective? C.S. Lewis contrasts viewing a beam of light from outside it and viewing the source of the light from within it–the viewers are seeing entirely different things. This kind of thing can be common ground where a discussion can bear fruit.

Be relational. Value them and their opinions and build a friendship. Be consistent and let them see you reflecting a set of values that is consistent with your beliefs. Give it time. Pray. Have fun with the person. Delight in them. Let them see the love of Christ through you.

Sometimes it takes a lot of work to go from an ambivalence to the truth to caring about the truth and then to seeking the truth and hopefully, ultimately, knowing the truth.


Hello @SeanO, thank you for the great resources I will definitely read them.

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Hello @Jennifer_Judson, thank you for your reply. The person I had in mind when I asked the question is in my view a feeler. Although she does in some sense think about her believes and whether they are true or not, there is a deep underlying predisposition against the Christian faith. I think that there was an event in her past that hardened her heart against the Church and against Christ.

So in light of what you said I feel that the best way to show Christ to her is not through rational argument but rather through a relationship that showcases the grace of Jesus and His steadfast love. Would you agree or add anything?


That is always a wise tactic, no matter the pre-disposition. As she comes to trust you, perhaps one day she will share something that will give you a glimpse as to why she mistrusts Christianity. Continue to pray, and pray for discernment as to how to begin to rebuild that trust.

She’s already blessed by knowing you.