Don't we all have good friends; friends who are just plain good people but who don't follow Jesus?

Is it conceivable they would be denied the same heaven promised to those whom Jesus died for; people who are perhaps no better?




"If a non-believer dies, and they're a good person, are they going to hell?"





This common question posits the fate of a good non-believer in the hands of what must certainly be a fair God and suggests "Why not?" "Why let good non-believers into heaven?"

There are several curious presuppositions in the question, worded as it is. It might presuppose there are clearly good people in the world and they simply deserve to go to heaven. It might presuppose that heaven is a reward given out by God for whom he judges to be good, or at least good enough. It might presuppose that heaven is an accomplishment that God merely observes individuals to either fail or succeed at making on their own. But worst of all, it presupposes that Jesus Christ is peripheral or secondary to our own selves: "Regardless of who Jesus was or why he came, I am good - why not let me in?"

Well, how does anyone get into heaven? Through faith in the provision of God; first that we are sinful, horribly imperfect, and in need of provision, and second that only God can, will, and has provided that provision; namely God's own substitutionary death on the cross in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. The unbeliever's sin debt still remains. God's wrath still rests upon such a person regardless of their behavior; only Christ's death can propitiate or remove sin and rescue one from God's coming wrath.

"What about our goodness?" No one is good - truly good - but God alone (Luke 18:19). All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). God is holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3), and as such anything except of equal holiness is anathema to his presence. Remember that it was only Jesus about whom God said he was well pleased (Matthew 17:5). Only by receiving Jesus' righteousness can an individual be looked upon by God and accepted into heaven (Matthew 5:20, Romans 3:21).

Also consider the parable of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-23 -

A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"

"All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.

Here was a "good" person that wanted into heaven. His latter comments betray the fact he thought his life to be "good", which Christ (in my opinion) nails him on right at the get-go. What Christ did by suggesting he sell everything is not lay down a heretofore new requirement to enter heaven, but make obvious to this man that he was not truly good like he judged himself to be. "I'm good - I obey all that God says!" "Okay, super, glad to hear it, so then obey this…" And he wouldn't do it. So much for his goodness.

So-called good non-believers are going to be cast into hell by the boat loads and I, for one, hope I am in such a state that it seems less sickening than it does now. There will be more former murderers in heaven who GENUINELY repented in their last minutes than there will be lifelong do-gooders who were never committed to obeying or believing the Lord; never concerned with dealing with their sin (Matthew 7:17-23). The fate of hell is tragic and it's tragic for at least that reason.

I know for a fact that Christ died to save all who will believe. I can't imagine how God felt, after being united with Christ for all eternity, when he turned away from him on the cross while he bore our penalty for sin. But he did, and I believe that if there had been any other way to accomplish our salvation then Jesus would not have gone through the sacrifice and pain that he did. Jesus prayed as much in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39). But for the joy set before him, Scripture tells us, he endured the cross…(Hebrews 12:2). If only I was better at letting this motivate me to reach so many unsaved friends. So much for my own pitiful goodness.


(top of page)

next objection

See also:

What is the Gospel?

What is righteousness?

Printing Tips, Contact, Search,
Links & Bibles,
The Gospel