If someone who lives in Africa doesn’t know about God or his word and he dies will the man go to hell?
The question that many people often ask is how could God be so unjust as to send someone who has never heard His word to hell? We are very quick to point the finger at God and say that it is God who is responsible for sending someone to hell when such is not true at all. If any one person ends up in the place of eternal punishment known as hell, it will be because of the choice that they have made to go there. One might ask, how do we choose to spend eternity in hell? The answer is we choose to go to hell when we sin against God. Isaiah 59:2 says that our sins and our iniquities separate us from God. 1 John 1:8 and 10 say that if we say we have no sin we make God a liar and the truth is not in us. Indeed we must agree with the conclusion at which Paul arrived in Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. As a result of our sin we will receive exactly what we are owed, eternal death and separation from God (Romans 6:23). Eternal separation from God and the place called hell are situations in which we will be if we sin against God. This is not because of God’s choice, it is because of our choice and we must always recognize that this is the case first and foremost.
Now, to follow the line of reasoning further, a person might ask, “Well, how can God hold someone accountable for their sin when they don’t know they are sinning?” This question is a more reasonable question to ask, but it assumes something that the Bible teaches is just plainly false–the idea that a person can sin without knowing it is sin. The Bible teaches that God has inherently equipped man with several things to aid in man’s journey to be faithful to God. One of the things that God has done is made man in His image. In Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” All men are created in the image of God. Now while I don’t know what all this entails, it involves a few things about man that we can understand to aid man in doing what is right. First, all men have the capacity to love and all men have the capacity to hate. Which one of those is right and which one is wrong? I believe that God has endowed us with the ability to understand which one is right and which one is wrong merely from being His human creation. There are other things that we can know are right and are wrong as well. Second, God has created us with a conscience. This is the ability that a person has to understand that one has done something that is either right or wrong. If one thinks about the fact that one has a conscience, one will come to the conclusion that something must be done about one’s sin in one’s life. Our conscience will also indicate to us when we have sinned. Third, man naturally seeks to do certain evil things in private or without the knowledge of someone who is in authority over us. When you committed your first sin that you can remember, was it in the presence of your parents? Was it committed in the presence of your preacher or teachers? Or was it committed someone in a dark place among the companions of fellow sinners? When man sins, he tends to want to cover it up so that persons in authority will not know about it. This is universal. I am sure that there are more things that could be brought out, but these should be sufficient enough for a person to come to the conclusion that God does not want him to sin and that so doing is a violation of God’s will.
Moreover, the Bible teaches that God has created us in such a way so as to seek Him. We read in Acts 17:26 and 27 that God, “�hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” God has made man in such a way so as to seek Him. He has also made it relatively simple for man to find Him. Paul declares in Romans 1:18-20, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” There are a few things in this passage that bear upon this subject. First, we see the statement, “that which may be known of God is manifest in them.” That is exactly what we were discussing earlier. There are some things that can be known of God that are shown within the creation of man himself. Second, we see the statement that “the invisible things of him are clearly seen.” He has also made the creation in such a way so as to give honor and glory to Him as God. Here is another avenue in which a man can reason correctly about the creation and come to the conclusion regarding God. We then read that due to these things that God has given man, God can hold man without excuse in the Day of Judgment.
So, there is no reason why any man upon the face of the earth should fail to come to knowledge about God. God can hold man accountable for his sin because God has made man in such a way so as to know that 1) God exists, 2) Man can understand that he has sinned against God and, 3) Man can seek and find God. Suppose I offered those three pieces of information in a court of law to a judge or jury. Your honor, this man who is accused of this crime knew that he committed this crime, knew that he was going to be held accountable for this crime, and knew that he was supposed to live in such a way so as not to commit this crime. What judge or jury in the world would not convict him of the crime?
Now, to be fair, there are some who exist upon the face of the earth today who do not have this capacity. They do not understand the difference between right and wrong. They do not understand what it means to be accountable for their actions. They do not understand that God will hold them in judgment one day and I know of no faithful gospel preacher alive who would argue that these would be sent to hell. In fact, just the opposite is the case for those who do not understand these things. God will spare their soul and take them to heaven. Who are these individuals? They are infants and children who have not matured to the appropriate age to understand what is right and wrong and they are individuals who through physical or mental defect cannot properly make decisions in their life. These God will tenderly keep in His care, but the man from Africa, who has all of his faculties about him, will undoubtedly stand before God in judgment.
Finally, what is the real problem with these types of situations? The problem is that although man knows what is right and wrong, he deceives himself into thinking that wrong things are not wrong.
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” (Romans 1:19-25).
Notice that Paul says that it took an active decision on these individuals parts to reject God and to NOT have him in their knowledge. An individual who worships animals should recognize that those things are merely inferior creations to the One who created them and while there are some things that I have not seen, I have never seen a group of people who exist in a society with no gods whatsoever. This means that they have had to reason that some god exists and that therefore, they should understand that God exists. Once a person understands that God exists, then they should go about the business of trying to find God’s word. And God’s word is not far from any one of us.
So to repeat the question, “If someone who lives in Africa doesn’t know about God or his word and he dies, will the man go to hell?” According to the Bible, this question cannot be true of anyone except infants, children, and folks who have mental defects. The Bible teaches that it is not possible for one single individual who lives on the earth to not know certain things about God and for these things, God will bring every man into judgment.