If belief in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, what about people who never heard about him - what happened to them when they died?

If people who do not accept Christ as Savior are doomed, that doesn't seem fair to people who never had the chance to know about Jesus.  God is always fair, and here's what I've found:

In Romans 1 & 2, the apostle Paul states that they are judged by their actions & motives: Rom. 1:17-20 "As the scriptures say, it is through faith that a righteous person has life. But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth & sky & all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature. So, they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God. (21)

 

Yes they knew God but they wouldn't worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was their minds became dark and confused. (25) They worshipped the things God made but not the Creator himself. (32) They are fully aware of God's death penalty for those who do these things, yet they go right ahead and do them."

(*So see, people then & now can be misled by others, or let their own selfish desires twist the evidence God has put before them. Although people can know about God thru their conscience & by observing nature, even today so many start worshipping nature or turning inwards to worship the 'god' they think is within them.)

Romans 2:2-9 "But we are sure the judgement of God is according to truth against them who commit such things... For there is going to come a day of judgement when God, the last judge of all the world, will judge all people according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who persist in doing what is good, seeking after the glory & honor & immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth, and practice evil deeds." (/9 & 10/) "There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil... but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, first for the Jew then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism..."

Rom. 2:11-15 "For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned without the Law (those who never heard) will also perish without the Law; and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for not the hearers of the Law are righteous before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these not having the Law are a law to themselves in that they show the work of the Law is written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or defending them."

(See? It is not merely knowing the law that brings God's approval - those who

obey

they law will be declared right before God. Even when Gentiles who didn't have God's written law - the 10 commandments - instinctively followed what the law said, they showed that in their hearts they knew right from wrong. They demonstrated that God's law was written within them, for their own consciences either accused them or told them they were doing what was right.) So... A person's response to God's prompting thru their conscience can be counted unto them as righteousness just like it was for Abraham and Noah who existed before Christ. Therefore we don't have to worry or grieve about those who came before us; God is fair and will deal with them according to what they knew.

Hebrews 11:13 says "These all died in faith, not having received the promises (they didn't actually see Christ the Messiah) but having seen them afar off & were persuaded of them & embraced them..." This is speaking of the Jewish forefathers, about their belief in a future Messiah. I'll get into this more later, but there are scriptures that speak of judgement that everyone will be at.

2 Corinthians 5:10 says "We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad

." This means everyone! A person's actions reveal what is in their heart.  And you can read in Revelations 20:11 and following, where it describes the judgement of all humanity, where all the dead stand before the throne of God, books are opened, and the dead are judged according to what is written in the books.