Firstly it must be made clear that regardless of the answer to this question, it is not sin that will ultimately condemn people to hell, it’s unbelief in Christ that will. If a person somehow managed to live a perfectly sinless life and yet rejected Jesus, they would still go to hell. A person must receive God’s gift of forgiveness and righteousness and be made alive in Christ through faith in Him in order to have eternal life.

 

However, even though people won’t technically go to hell because of their sins, the reality is they will have no defense on the Day of Judgment if they are still dead in their sins and will be held accountable to them, be condemned by them and receive their due penalty for them. Even though Christ was offered for them, in not receiving Christ they failed to receive the gift of forgiveness and therefore the means by which their sins and God’s wrath could be removed from their life.

Now some will argue that the Cross removed all sins and wrath from all mankind and therefore God is not counting sins against anyone regardless of being in Christ or not. But is this what Scripture really teaches, or is it a deduction and perhaps an over extension of grace that people have made based on a few misunderstood Scriptures? We will look at those specific scriptures at the end of this article but the question I first want to answer right now using Scripture is, “Will God still hold those not in Christ accountable for their sins even though Jesus died for their sins on the Cross?”

 

I believe that Scripture, as I will show you, is abundantly clear that only those who have received the gift of forgiveness are set free from their sins and therefore from the wrath of God. In rejecting Christ people are rejecting the means by which they can be forgiven of their sins and the means by which the wrath of God is removed from their lives. Those who have not received Christ and consequently the forgiveness of sins are still, as the Bible declares, dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13) and will face the wrath and punishment of God for their sins, unless they receive Christ and His gift of the forgiveness of sins.

 

Here is a list of prominent New Testament scriptures that clearly show God will hold people accountable for their sins and judge them according to their sins since they have not received Christ and his gift of forgiveness:

 

Revelation 20:12-15 “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. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

 

There are two kinds of books that will be opened on the Day of Judgement. One is the record of the names of believers written in the Book of Life. The other books refer to the record of the deeds of unbelievers recorded against them during their life. They will be judged specifically according to this record of deeds according to this scripture. Receiving Jesus is what gets us written in the Book of Life and all those other books of records are cancelled and taken away. If you don’t receive Jesus you will ultimately be held accountable for what is written in the books against you. Only in Christ are those books taken away.

 

Revelation 21:8 "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

 

In this scripture, the people that will go to hell are named according to their sins. They were not in Christ and therefore their sins are still counted against them. Only in Christ is God not counting people’s sins against them.

 

Ephesians 5:5-8 “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

 

Those who will face wrath are named according to their sins. It says that because of these things the wrath of God comes upon them. It doesn’t say because of unbelief in Jesus but because of their actions and position of sin that the wrath of God comes upon them! It even goes so far as to warn us not to believe otherwise, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” There are many who try to argue away the wrath of God against sin towards unbelievers but we are not supposed to believe them according to this instruction in the Word. Their words are empty and not inline with Scripture.

 

Colossians 3:5-7 “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.”

 

Believers are encouraged to put to death in themselves all the sins that unbelievers walk in. These sins are the very reason that the wrath of God will come upon unbelievers. “Because of these things the wrath of God is coming…”. It doesn’t say unbelief in Christ is the reason the wrath of God comes upon them. It says “because of these things”, these "sins”. We once walked in these ways and deserved wrath but have been saved through Christ and walk in forgiveness and are now free from wrath. But not so for unbelievers according to this scripture. This is not twisting this scripture. It’s reading it straight forward and in context.

 

Ephesians 2:1-3 "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others."

 

All of mankind who are not in Christ are sons of disobedience, under the control of the devil, conducting themselves in the flesh and therefore because of this are children of wrath.

 

Galatians 3:22 “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”

 

All are under sin or confined to sin until they receive the promise of righteousness and the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ.

 

Hebrews 9:27 - 28 “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”

 

Those who are waiting for him (believers) he will appear to bring them salvation and not hold them accountable for their sins. Those not in Christ he will return to hold them accountable for their sins.

 

Romans 2:12 "For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.”

 

This scripture links people perishing and being judged with their sins. Obviously referring to Jews (in the law) and Gentiles (without the law). But why refer to sin if perishing and judgement has nothing to do with sin but everything to do with rejecting Christ. Apparently and according to this scripture it has everything to do with people’s sins.

 

Jude vs 14,15 "Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."

 

Jesus comes to execute judgement on all and convict all of their ungodly deeds and the harsh things these ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. Right now in this dispensation of grace we are currently in, the Holy Spirit is convicting the world of the sin of unbelief in Christ and not their sins. Yet when Christ returns, those who have not believed in Him, will be convicted for their sins according to the scripture.

 

Romans 2:1-11 “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God."

 

This is clearly speaking about the end of the age judgments of God towards those who are still in their sins. They will be held accountable for their sins and judged according to them. You really have to do a lot of clever word gymnastics to try and get around what Scripture is plainly saying here.

 

Scriptures on the need to receive forgiveness of sins:

Luke 24:46-48 “He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.'"

 

Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”

 

Acts 10:43 “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

 

Those who don’t believe in Him don’t receive forgiveness of sins. What is the point of saying someone needs to receive forgiveness of sins if everyone is already forgiven of sins. If someone must receive forgiveness and they don’t, there is no other conclusion other than they are not forgiven of sins and their sins still have consequence in their life.

 

Acts 13:38-39 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”

 

Does that mean that those who don’t believe are not set free from every sin? Being set free from sin is linked to believing in Christ. Those who don’t believe in Christ are not set free from their sins. The Gospel call is “Christ sets us free from our sins therefore believe in Him and be set free from your sins!” It doesn’t say “believe you are already set free from every sin”. No, it says “everyone who believes is set free from every sin”.

 

Acts 22:16 “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.”

 

How can we wash our sins away if Christ has already washed everyone’s sins away? No, there is a need to have your sins washed away. If you don’t then your sins are not washed away! Receiving Christ is what appropriates what he did for us. In other words you have to believe in Christ in order to have your sins washed away. There is no work involved in us washing our sins away. It’s all through Christ but we must receive Him in order to have our sins washed away. If we don’t then our sins are not washed away. We “wash our sins away” by receiving Christ who has washed our sins away! We receive Christ by having faith in Him. If we don’t receive Christ our sins are not washed away even through Christ fully provided for their washing away at the Cross.

 

Acts 26:18 “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

 

Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace...”

 

It’s only in Christ that we have forgiveness of sins. Outside of Christ there is no forgiveness of sins. If people are not forgiven of their sins then they are still accountable for their sins.

 

1 John 1:8-10 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

 

Unbelievers are told to acknowledge their sins before God and if they do then their sins will be forgiven and removed from their life. So what if people don’t acknowledge their sins? Then they are not forgiven and purified from all unrighteousness.This means they are still in their sins and will be judged according to them? Why confess our sins, be forgiven of them and purified of them if Christ has removed everyone’s sins at the Cross and they are no longer an issue for God? It’s clear and obvious, sin is an issue until a person believes in Christ and then sin is no longer an issue. Those who die outside of Christ will be held accountable for their sin and receive wrath. Ultimately they rejected Christ who is the means whereby their sins are dealt with, forgiven and removed. Having rejected him they missed their opportunity to have their sins and the wrath of God removed. Now they will face judgement outside of Christ for their sins.

 

What about Scriptures that speak about Jesus dealing with the sins of the whole world?

 

1 John 2:2 “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

 

This doesn’t mean that the whole world has automatically been forgiven and purified of their sins. No, forgiveness must still be received through faith in Christ even though Jesus is the propitiation for everyone’s sins. Jesus’ sacrifice satisfies the wrath of God against sin but we must be in Christ to receive the benefit of this in our life. John just made that point clear a few verses before in 1 John 1:9 that each person must confess their sins so that God will forgiven them and purify them of all unrighteousness. So John wasn’t contradicting himself here.

 

John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

 

John’s exclamation is true. Jesus does take away the sin of the world. But someone must be in the Lamb in order to be forgiven and have their sins taken away. Otherwise they are still in their sins and under the judgements of God. Similarly when the Bible says “For God so loved the world that He sent His Son…” it never meant  that the whole world would automatically be saved, but only those who believe in Christ. It’s only in the Lamb that the sins of the world are forgiven and taken away.

 

2 Corinthians 5:19 “...that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

 

This is very simply. It’s only in Christ that people are reconciled to God and don’t have their sins imputed or counted against them. Those not in Christ are not reconciled to God and their sins are imputed to them or are still counted against them. That’s why over and over again the Scriptures are calling mankind to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ and receive the forgiveness of their sins! Those who don’t are still under the wrath of God and will be held accountable on the day of Judgement for rejecting Christ and therefore judged according to their deeds.

 

Closing comments:

God is patient and holding back His wrath in this dispensation of grace, desiring and allowing time for all mankind to repent and be saved. God is not pouring out wrath on mankind but extending His mercy towards humanity because of Christ. Our mission is to partner with God as He, through us, implores mankind to be reconciled back to Himself by having faith in Christ. This faith comes through hearing the Word of Jesus. But how will they hear if we do not go and preach the Gospel to all mankind who is lost and on their way to a hellish eternity?

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