I was recently asked an interesting question that I think is a challenging one, and I thought it would make a good sermon that will cause you to think.
The question is will one un-repented sin make you lose your salvation if you die before you get to repent of it? I began to do some research on this question, but to my dismay, I could not find anyone in all my resources that dealt with this specific question. Now, I am sure others have answered this question before, but I could not find many thoughts on the matter. So, I will do my best to answer this question to best of my ability, and I would love to hear what you think about my conclusion. If you believe I have missed some crucial information from the Scriptures, please let me know so that my answer will match what the Bible teaches.
Questions like these are not always easy to answer but as Peter said:
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
The first thing I would say is that I am not in the position of God, and He will determine who goes to heaven and hell, not me. Now I could stop here, but I believe we can gain much insight from the Scriptures that will help us make a righteous judgment (Jn. 7:24) in regards to what sin can do to us and what God will do about it. Jesus said:
John 12:48 "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him -- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
These verses teach us that on the Day of Judgment Jesus will judge us by the Word of God and how we kept it. Since Godís Word fully equips us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17) and gives us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), this means that if we study Godís Word, we can be prepared for the Day of Judgment. It also means that we can learn everything we need to know about being saved and about the consequences of sin.
Some denominations teach the idea that once you are saved you are always saved, but we can know that this extreme is not true because the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that we can lose our salvation, which means un-repented sin can cause a Christian to miss heaven. Let me give you a small sample of the verses that prove once saved always saved is not true:
John 15:6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
If we choose not to abide in Christ, we will be cast out.
Hebrews 6:4- For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,† 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,† 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.†
The writer is clearly talking about Christians who have fallen away because of sin.
Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,† 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
Those who continue to sin willfully and do not repent will face the judgment of God. Again, the writer is talking about a Christian who is sinning.
Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.†
If we do not take heed to Godís Word and make it part of our life, we can find ourselves drifting away from God because of sin.
2 Peter 2:20 †For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.
Notice, those who were saved, were in a worse position before they became saved if they entangle themselves in sin. So, un-repented sin can cause a Christian to miss heaven.
1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
Hebrews 12:15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
Galatians 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
These last three verses prove that we can fall from Godís grace, and sin is what brings about spiritual death/separation from God as:
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death,
Some have the idea that grace is like an umbrella that bounces sin off like it does rain drops, but that is not how Godís grace works. Of course, Godís grace means unmerited favor, which we received through Jesus. Godís grace is embodied in Jesusí death, burial, and resurrection and everything that goes with it. But as Paul said:
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith,
We are saved by Godís grace, but not by grace alone. We accept His saving grace by having an obedient faith by obeying Godís commands. Grace is Godís part, an obedient faith is our part. Our obedient faith in no way merits or salvation, it simply how we accept it. †Even though we do not deserve to have our past sins forgiven or our future sins, Godís grace has made this possible and has given us power over sin.
James tells us how sin happens:
James 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.† 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.†
James is describing the kind of sin that is caused by a temptation we have a desire for, and when we indulge in it, it is sin and when it has reached it final stage, it brings forth death. While sin can cause physical death, the idea here is spiritual death/separation from God.
We also sin when we do not do that which is right (James 4:17). Sometimes we sin and we are not even aware of it. So, it is easy for sin to enter into our life.
Now notice what John says:
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.† 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.† 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.† 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Notice the conditional word ďifĒ. We must walk in the light, which means we are striving to live our life for God in accordance with His Word. We cannot be half-hearted Christians who live like the world and expect to be considered as walking in the light. For those who have obeyed the gospel and are living faithfully to God has the promise that Jesusí blood will continue to cleanse us.
Part of walking in the light is to admit when you sin and to confess those sins to God. We can know when we confess our sins to God, that Jesusí blood will continue to cleanse us. To show the importance of confessing your sins note the example of Simon who had just been baptized, but wanted to buy the ability to pass on the Holy Spirit from the apostles.
Acts 8:18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,† 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit."† 20 But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!† 21 "You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.† 22 "Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.† 23 "For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity."† 24 Then Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me."
Simon was a brand new Christian, but it did not take him long to revert to his old ways and he sinned. Peter did not say, donít worry about it because once your saved your always saved. No, he told him to repent of his wickedness so that he might be forgiven. This it is why it is important for us to ask Godís forgiveness for our sins every day. We can take confidence in knowing that God will forgive us of all our sins when we repent.
Part of the difficulty in answering our question if one would be lost for one un-repented sin is that we do have a specific example or answer to this questions that I aware of. What we do know is that God is just and merciful. We know that He will punish the wicked and that we will all have to give an account to God for what have done. We also know that Jesus will have compassion for us because He knows what it feels like to be human.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.†
I also like what Psalm 103 says:
Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.† 9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.† 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.† 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;† 12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.† 13 As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.† 14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.† 15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.† 16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.† 17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children,† 18 To such as keep His covenant, And to those who remember His commandments to do them.
While there are always consequences to sin, God does not always give us what we deserve because of His mercy. But, we should never have the attitude that God is going ignore our sins because He will not. We must never forget that He knows our hearts and we cannot hide anything from Him.
I want to stress the point of how powerful one sin can be:
So, let us never underestimate the power of sin. As Paul said, let us test ourselves daily to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Also Paul said:
1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.† 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.† 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.† 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.†
We should do our best to keep our eyes on our goal of heaven and keep pressing forward and not allow sin to ensnare us as:
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,† 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
One last thought. Since the Bible teaches that we can be sure of our salvation (1 Jn. 5:13), and Jesus tells us not worry, and we are taught how joyful it is to be a Christian, I do not think that God wants us to wake up every day as nervous wrecks wondering and worrying about every single sin we might have committed unaware and did not repent of. Yes, He wants us to be aware of our sin, and He wants to confess our sins. Also, we must realize there will always be consequences to our sin, but it would be difficult to be full of joy and confidence and not be full of worry if we continually have the fear that one un-repented sin will shut the door of heaven and will undo all our faithfulness to the Lord.
I wish I could draw a line in the sand and say if you cross this line by committing a certain number of un-repented sins, you will not go to heaven, but I cannot because I cannot point you to a specific Scripture that tells us this. †All I know for sure is that un-repented sin has its consequences and it can keep you out of heaven, but our God is merciful and just, and whatever judgment He renders will be a righteous judgment. God knows that we struggle with sin (Rom. 3:23), and He knows that we are not sinless. But, as long as we are striving to serve God faithfully and our heart is pure, I personally feel that one un-repented sin will not shut the doors of heaven. Of course, I believe that we will have to give account for it, but that it will not keep us out of heaven. I base my personal opinion on how merciful our God is and the many examples of how He has shown mercy on those who were striving to be faithful. As:
Psalm 147:11 The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, In those who hope in His mercy.
Also James says:
James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
This idea given here is that if you have shown mercy to others, you will also receive mercy at the Day of Judgment and that mercy will cause you to triumph, that is to overcome judgment. No wonder Jesus said:
Luke 6:36 "Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
Matthew 5:7 †Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
While verses like these do not specially mention un-repented sin, I believe it is implied because what else would we need mercy for other than sin? Now I will admit, I could be wrong in my personal thought, but in the end, God will make the right judgment call regardless of what my personal thoughts are.
In conclusion, the Bible clearly teaches that un-repented willful sin can and will separate us from God, and if we continue to sin, we will fall from Godís grace and not make it to heaven. But, if we obey the gospel, and we are faithful to God by walking in the light as He is the light, we can be confident that all our sins will continue to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus when we confess them to the Lord. I personally believe that if we are faithful to God and we have a weak moment and sin, and then we die before we get to confess that sin that it will not keep us out of heaven. However, we will have to give an account for that sin to God. Of course, the finally decision of our fate belongs to God and not me. I am thankful for that because Godís wisdom surpasses all understanding.
While our original question is a very challenging and is one that requires much thought and study. One thing I hope this lesson has brought out is what sin can do us and how it can cause us to miss heaven. We should remind ourselves daily how important it is for us to live our lives to the best of our ability in accordance with Godís Word. If we see that we are not worshiping God or living our lives as the Bible tells us to, then we must make the necessary changes so that we will not miss out on heaven. When we choose to endure and remain faithful to the day we die, we can die with confidence knowing what our destination will be. As Paul said:
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.† 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
So, let us never make light of the power of sin, or lose the joy of being a Christian by knowing that our faithfulness, not sinless perfection, will cause us to receive the crown of righteousness as promised by Jesus:
Revelation 2:10 "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.