Subject: A question about continued sin and universal forgiveness.
Content: Hi Mr. Hazelden,
I just finished reading your article on Unconfessed Sin and the argument of universal forgiveness ('What About Unconfessed Sin?'). [A person] came to our house last evening for the first time. He [...] confessed to us all of the wretched things he had done with his life so far, drugs, prostitution, etc.
We were talking to him about Jesus and why he is not a Christian, and he told us that he is a big fan of Christ, but is not a follower. He is of the opinion that since Jesus dies for ALL sins for ALL people, that there is no reason to try and become a better person or enter into a relationship with God because, in the end, he will be just as forgiven as the next person.
I found that I did not have much of an answer and that I had to agree with him that his argument was logical. I was wondering if you might be able to go into a little more detail about how to defend this argument, to show him that forgiveness does not equal heaven. I appreciated your article and look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for your message. On re-reading the article, I find it is not as clear as I remember. The trouble is, I have been talking with so many people about this subject over the years, I have come to assume it says the things I say...
I think the key part of my answer is found in two parts of the article. It says:
"The forgiveness of sins is a means, not an end in itself. God's purpose is not to forgive us, but to restore us.
"Yes, we could refuse to repent and confess. Our sins would be just as forgiven. But we would be continuing to live outside the relationship of love and obedience our Heavenly Father desires for us to have with Him.
"The problem with sins is not that it needs to be forgiven (since this has already been done), but that it gets in the way of our relationship with our Father."
"There is no problem with unconfessed sin, because our sins have been forgiven. If we choose to hold onto sin, that choice makes a barrier between us and God. If we choose to reject Him and turn away from Him, the fellowship is broken"
As I see it, the Bible is all about relationship. God desires a living, loving relationship with us. In the end, that is the only sort of relationship it is possible to have with a God Who is both Truth and Love. You cannot have that sort of relationship with Him and, at the same time, be rejecting Him, fighting Him, abusing Him.
The bottom line is this: you either want to live in a relationship with the God of Love, or you don't. If you reject His will, you reject His love - Jesus makes that quite clear. And when we die, those who have chosen to live in a relationship with God, will continue to enjoy that relationship for all eternity; those who have chosen to reject that relationship will also have their choice confirmed.
To put it another way, people do not end up in Hell because of their sin. They end up in Hell because that is what they have chosen by rejecting the love and the presence of God. Yes, your friend is forgiven. But Hell will be full of forgiven people.
I think there is another vital aspect of Biblical teaching your friend needs to be clear about. The Bible talks about relationship, but it also talks about reward.
Jesus talks a great deal about reward; the whole Bible is full of this teaching. If we do good, we will not only be blessed, we will be rewarded. If we fail to do good, we will miss out on the reward God wishes to give us. It is in our own best interest, not only to respond to the love of God, but to respond as quickly and as fully as possible. Some people may be given the luxury of the option of a deathbed conversion, but those people will enter eternal life with nothing - they will come "as through fire", having saved their life, but bringing nothing of value into the new life. I don't know exactly what this symbolism means, but I know God considers it important enough to press the point over and over again.
I hope this helps.
This article is one of a group of three, each of which should be read in the light of the other two, as together they deal with a set of inter-related issues. The three articles are: