This question has also been asked in this way: “Will God judge those who had never heard of or read the Bible, since they never had a chance of believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior?” Before we look at some scriptures, let me say emphatically that “men will be NOT be judged by God for things they never knew, but by their rejection of the truth that God did reveal to them.” You may be thinking, “But I asked about those who never learned about God’s Word.” True, but Scripture teaches us that there are other ways in which God speaks to men, and they are accountable to act on the light God gives to them.

God speaks to all men through THE LIGHT OF CREATION. In Romans 1:18-20 we read, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, WHO SUPPRESS THE TRUTH in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that THEY ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE” (NKJV). These verses are clear; God has revealed Himself in creation yet many “suppress the truth” that God has revealed by refusing to believe in God as their Creator. Psalm 19:1-2 declares, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.” If men look up into the heavens and still refuse to believe in God, they are accountable and will be judged for rejecting this knowledge of God. On the Day of Judgment God will say to them, “They are without excuse.”

God also speaks to all men through the LIGHT OF CONSCIENCE. Romans 2:14-15 speak to this: “For when Gentiles, WHO DO NOT HAVE THE LAW, BY NATURE DO THE THINGS IN THE LAW, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, THEIR CONSCIENCE ALSO BEARING WITNESS, AND BETWEEN THEMSELVES THEIR THOUGHTS ACCUSING OR ELSE EXCUSING THEM.” Though the conscience was given to man at the time of the fall in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6-7), it gave men the “knowledge of good and evil” from God’s perspective. So, the conscience also gives men the knowledge of God, yet the masses refuse this light too and continue to live in sin and degradation. Listen to Paul’s words in Romans 2:1-3, “Therefore YOU ARE INEXCUSABLE, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in WHATEVER YOU JUDGE ANOTHER YOU CONDEMN YOURSELF; FOR YOU WHO JUDGE PRACTICE THE SAME THINGS. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” Again, this passage (in Romans 2:1-16) is speaking of those who had never heard or read the Word of God, yet they were responsible to act on their God-given conscience by not practicing sin. On the Day of Judgment they too will hear those fateful words, “They are without excuse.”

Regarding your specific question, it would seem that if men will be judged for NOT acting on the light God gives them, then there may be hope for those who do. We said at the beginning that men are accountable to act on the light God gives to them, and thus if one truly bows to the LIGHT OF CREATION (by confessing that there must be a God Who created all things) and the LIGHT OF CONSCIENCE (by turning away from a sinful lifestyle), there is indeed hope for them. I should mention that there are those who firmly believe that if men do act on the light of creation and the light of conscience, that God will give them the LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL before they die. They would point to Cornelius in Acts 10 as an example of this, for he was a “God-fearing man” who had never heard the gospel and God sent the apostle Peter to preach the gospel to him and to all in his house.

Though we may not be able to answer your question with any assurance, there is a verse that has always comforted me regarding questions like this. I’m speaking of Genesis 18:25: “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! SHALL NOT THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH DO RIGHT?” We can rest assured that on the Day of Judgment the Judge of all the earth will do right. (254.9) (DO)