If a Christian dies with unconfessed sin, will they go to heaven?
Although sin separates us from a holy and sinless God, we can be grateful that our sins can be forgiven and forgotten (Ps. 32:5; 130:3-4; Heb. 10:17). Before answering the question, we should realise that there are two main types of confession and forgiveness in Scripture. One is when an unbeliever comes into faith in Christ and the other is when they confess sins committed subsequently as a believer.
In the first case, we face Jesus Christ as the judge and the penalty of our sins is spiritual death, which leads to hell. When this person confesses their sins they are forgiven by God because Christ’s death paid the penalty for their sins – past, present and future. Their destiny changes from hell to heaven and they can enjoy daily fellowship with God. This can be called judicial, unconditional or positional forgiveness, which happens once in a believer’s life (Rom. 8:1-2; Heb. 10:14).
In the second case, the person has sinned, but is spiritually alive. This is the situation in the case of the question. As part of God’s family on earth, they are separated from God the Father in terms of daily fellowship, but they are not separated from going to heaven as the penalty for their sin has already been paid. When this person confesses their sins they are forgiven by God because Christ’s death paid the penalty for all their sins and their daily fellowship with God our Father is restored. This can be called parental, conditional or practical forgiveness, which should occur regularly in a believer’s life (1 Jn. 1:5-2:2). This is the kind of forgiveness that the Lord’s disciples were to practise: “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt. 6:12, 14-15NIV). It includes forgiving others: God cannot forgive us when we are unwilling to forgive one another (Mk. 11:25; Lk. 6:37). If we fail to forgive one another, we will miss being rewarded when we get to heaven (Mt. 18:35).
The two types of forgiveness were illustrated when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:2-10). As they wore open sandals, the disciples needed to wash their feet regularly after walking on dusty roads even though they may have bathed recently. The bath was like judicial forgiveness and the feet washing was like parental forgiveness.
William MacDonald summarized the differences between the two types of forgiveness as follows:
|Judicial forgiveness||Parental forgiveness|
|Person’s status||Sinner (unbeliever)
|Child of God (believer) (1 Jn. 3:2)|
|RelationshipTo God||Judge (Ps. 96:13)||Father (Gal. 4:6)|
|Result of sin||Eternal death (Rom. 6:23)||Broken fellowship (1 Jn. 1:6)
Prayers hindered (Ps. 66:18)
|Role of Christ||Savior (1 Tim. 1:15)||High Priest (Heb. 4:4-16)
Advocate (1 Jn. 2:1)
|Means of forgiveness||Faith (Acts 16:31)||Confession (1 Jn. 1:9)|
|Consequence averted||Hell (Jn. 5:24)||Discipline (1 Cor. 11:31-32)
Loss of reward (1 Cor. 3:15)
|Outcome||New relationship (Jn. 1:12)||Renewed fellowship (Ps. 32:5)|
|Frequency||Once (Jn. 13:10)||Many times (Jn. 13:8)|
Therefore, although a Christian’s unconfessed sins affects their relationship with God, they are still a child of God whose ultimate destiny is heaven.
Written, February 2012
Also see: What about unconfessed trespasses?
Hi, I just read your post about if a Christian dies with an unconfessed sin, and was wondering if this applied with trespasses too? I know all trespasses are sins but not all sins are trespasses. And I fear this because God said that if we don’t forgive others, He won’t forgive us. I have also heard forgiveness (from human to human) could take years! What if I or someone I love dies with an unresolved trespass? How do murderer victims’ families ever forgive the murderer? Will God reject someone for not forgiving someone? I have read that our unresolved sins will be burned away because no one in Heaven carries sin with them and that Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness when a Christian dies. Is that true? Thank you and God bless.
June 20, 2014 at 4:38 pm
Thanks Danielle. See my reply at “What about unconfessed trespasses?”
July 6, 2014 at 6:56 am
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And thus the balance between the two:
No you cannot lose your salvation
Yes you can fail to inherit the kingdom of God!
September 16, 2014 at 2:17 am
Thanks George, for allowing the Lord use you to bless me in this manner.
It’s so sweet to know that Once, Only once, and once for all did my Saviour save me when I first believed (Rom 10:9); and that each moment afterwards My High Priest advocates for me whenever I ask (confess a fault) 1John 2:1-2.
it has earned me victory over sin, not out of fear for hell fire, but out of love for the Lord and craving for unbroken fellowship with Him.
October 14, 2014 at 10:10 pm
what about ezekiel 3:20
October 12, 2015 at 7:15 am
Thanks for the comment Alinaitwe.
Ezekiel 3:20 is part of a description of the role of the prophet Ezekiel as a watchman to warn the Jews of danger. It is addressed to Jews living in the 6th century BC, well before the first Christians in the first century AD. So it wasn’t written about or to Christians.
October 19, 2015 at 7:41 pm
False teaching and dangerous straight from the mouth of Satan to deceive even more with this treacherous rubbish coming from a false teacher conjuring up Satan’s clever lies.
If you die with mortal sin on your soul which has not been confessed with a contrite heart to a Catholic Priest and then absolved, you will go straight to Hell.
October 26, 2022 at 6:34 am