Q. Isn’t God unjust to send the non-elect, those who never heard the gospel, to hell? They did not have a chance to believe, so it’s not fair to punish them for all eternity.
A. No, God is not unjust:
Rom 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
The non-elect are sent to eternal punishment NOT because God is not fair and never gave them a chance to hear the gospel. They are sent to hell because of their sin – ungodliness and unrighteousness. God gave ALL men, including the non-elect, general revelation to know Him through nature, His creation. The elect, those predestined to adoption as sons, received the general revelation and responded to God’s calling. The non-elect received the same revelation but suppressed the truth.
Let me use an example to illustrate. A group of people have swallowed poison (sin) and are dying. A doctor has the antidote and tries to reach everyone to save them. He reached some who took the antidote and were saved (the elect). However, some never heard of him and perished (the non-elect). Now, what is the cause of the non-elect’s death? Is it because they never heard of the good doctor? No, it is the poison that killed them. Was the doctor unjust in saving some but not others? No, all who had swallowed poison would have died. He was gracious in saving as many as he could. That’s a crude analogy but we need to see clearly what’s the cause (sin) and what’s the effect (eternal punishment). God gave grace to the elect, but the non-elect died from their own sin.
Q. How would God judge those who have never heard of the gospel before they died, or those who cannot comprehend i.e. infants, mentally incapable people?
A. When you’ve answered hundreds of Bible questions over the last decade, some of the same queries are bound to be raised by other inquirers. The one above is usually expressed in one of the following forms:
• What about the heathen? Those who have not heard the gospel. God did not give them a chance. It’s not fair if He sends them to hell.
• What about babies who died in infancy? They’re innocent! They haven’t done anything wrong. God wouldn’t send them to hell, would He?
Rather than repeat what I wrote earlier, let me refer you to the previous posts:
I would add the following comments not mentioned in the articles.
There is a concept in theology called the “age of accountability“. The term is not found in the Bible, but refers to the age when a child understands the implications of his actions and becomes responsible for their consequences. The Jews take this to be age 13, the “bar mitzvah” for boys when they become “sons of commandment” accountable for their actions. Obviously, each child matures differently. Some understand right from wrong, good and evil, as young as three or even two. Personally I believe there is no fixed age. God knows the heart. He knows when a child is “ready” or not to understand the gospel, and judges accordingly. But we don’t know, so it is the responsibility of the parents to teach their children the gospel at an early age to establish their relationship with the Lord.
My second comment concerns the mentally challenged. I assume you are referring to those born that way, not those who became incompetent as a result of an accident or illness and had prior chances to accept or reject the gospel. Again, there is no defined “intelligent quotient” (IQ) below which a person could not understand the gospel. Most individuals with Down syndrome (DS) have mild (IQ 50-70) or moderate (IQ 35-50) mental disability. The average IQ of a young adult with DS is 50, equivalent to the mental age of an 8-9 year-old child. They can understand the gospel. I would say the same reasoning for the age of accountability applies to those with low IQ. God knows whether they are capable of understanding the gospel or not. He is always fair.
Don’t worry about those too young or too disabled to understand. Worry about those who can understand but are rejecting the Lord because of pride or other reasons. Pray and reach out to them before it’s too late.