1 Peter 4:6, Who are dead. (See also Rom 2:12–16; 1 Cor 5:5; Heb 12:23.) This verse seems to indicate that certain categories of dead and unsaved humans will stand before YHVH’s judgment seat (the white throne judgment of Rev 20:11–15), and will be accepted into his eternal kingdom at some basic level.
Perhaps if their hearts showed a willing disposition toward YHVH while they lived, but they didn’t go all the way in choosing him for one reason or another, they will be rewarded for the good that they did in their lifetime and will be given an opportunity to accept Yeshua on judgment day. Perhaps these are the ones Yeshua declared would be least in his kingdom (Matt 5:19).
Was Paul making reference to this in Romans 2:12–16 when he talks about those Gentiles who sinned without the law, and who will be judged based on whether they lived up to the basic law of Elohim written in their consciences?
Will these people, who lived according to the basic tenets of the Torah (e.g. not stealing, lying, committing adultery, murdering, coveting, honoring parents, and, in their own way, and adhered to a concept of a Supreme Being before whom they walked in fear without worshiping idols) be given an opportunity on judgment day to make their faith complete by accepting Yeshua’s sacrifice for their sins?
Perhaps this explanation would help us to understand Hebrews 12:23, which speaks of the spirits of just men made perfect, as well as the salvation of the thief on the cross.