They are without excuse.
When witnessing to people in the United States, this question often comes up. The question is not raised because the person to whom we are talking is all that interested in the heathen in other parts of the world. The question is raised in defense of his self-righteousness. It’s as if he is thinking, “God must have mercy on those who are ignorant of the gospel; thus, he will certainly have mercy on me because I am not a heathen.”
This thinking is flawed for several reasons. First, the heathen in the United States are just as lost as the heathen in any other part of the world. When a man rejects the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is lost. And the Bible asks, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb 2:3). You can’t whether you are a tribal warrior in Africa or a church going lawyer in Chicago.
Second, a self-righteous sinner cannot hide behind the supposed ignorance of someone he thinks has never “heard” the gospel. No matter what God does with people in other parts of the world, each of us has to stand before God in judgment. He will judge each of us individually, without regard to what anyone else has done with Jesus Christ. And Rev 20:15 says plainly, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Third, there is an assumption on the part of self-righteous sinners that God has to somehow have mercy on “the heathen” since they could not possibly have heard the gospel “preached.” But this assumption is wrong. There is not a place in this world that the Lord Jesus Christ has not been manifest to people either by the work of missionaries and preachers or by the work of God’s creation.
God set up his creation so that it can preach and declare God all over the world. Look at Ps 19:1-4 and you will see that “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” A man anywhere in the world can look up and the heavens will declare God’s glory. They even speak to him and give him the knowledge of God. “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.”
There is not one single place in the world where this does not happen. “There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” And to the seeking sinner, those sights preach with the speech and voice of a preacher using words in his own language. “Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
When Paul wrote the Romans, he explained this phenomenon to them in the first chapter. He said, “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 showed 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,” (Rom 1:18-20).
When a sinner desires eternal life (immortality), and doesn’t know where to find it, God is obligated to reveal to him Jesus Christ so that he can make a fair decision whether to receive him or not. Rom 2:6-7 says, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.” God is not willing that any should perish, and they certainly won’t, no matter what part of the world they are in.
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder