2001-07-30 - Accounting for Sin
Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
THE QUESTION: "Even as Christians, we can do some really stupid things. Once we ask for forgiveness from God, are we still held accountable at Judgment Day for that sin? I know once we ask for forgiveness, the slate is "wiped" clean. But at Judgment Day, we will have to account for all our sins. Do we account for ones we have already received forgiveness for?"
There will be two sorts of people at Judgment Day, those who are forgiven in Christ and those who will stand by themselves in sin and account for their lives. Those who stand in the righteousness of Christ have nothing to be accountable for because Christ has accounted for all their sins. "So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." Hebrews 9:28
However, this question also hits on a topic that we have covered before but one that can be a great help to us as we struggle with temptation and sin. The question, in academic theological circles, is know as, "Will the sins of the righteous be published in heaven?" It is a question upon which there are really two views.
The first view is based upon the verse above and says that not only are we forgiven for our sins, but that when God forgives our sins He also remembers them no more. This idea is also found in Jeremiah 31:34, "And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, declares the Lord, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
So if God has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (which never meet), and has promised to not remember our sins anymore, then the conclusion is that when we are forgiven in Christ, our sins are also forgotten. So people who argue this view say that our sins will not be made known in heaven. We will not stand before the judgment seat of God and have our life reviewed. We will simply stand before the judgment seat of God clothed in the righteousness of Christ and declared forgiven and clean in God's eyes.
The second view, which is more popular today, is that our sins will become know in heaven and that we will have our life reviewed for all to see, even though through the righteousness of Christ we will be forgiven ultimately. A verse such as 1 Corinthians 13:12, which clearly seems to be talking of our state in glory, says, "...but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known." This seems to indicate that our sins will become known in heaven.
Another passage that seems to back up this belief is found in Matthew 12:36, 37, "And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned. It is hard to believe that we will render account for our idle words in the day of judgment if they will never come up. There is, lastly, the intellectual question to ponder, "Is it really possible for an all knowing God to forget?" We know that He can forgive, but is it possible for God to really forget?
You will notice, I hope, that I have not advocated one view above another. Both views have their merit and while I do hold to one over the other, I also think that this is one of those questions that we can't know for sure until we reach heaven.
There is great comfort in believing that our sins will not become known to everyone. There is also a great encouragement not to sin if you believe that your sins will become known in heaven. However, in the end, I don't think that Scripture is clear on this topic. Since this question is not related to salvation or issues of essential doctrine I think Christians can agree to disagree on this and many other questions. The fact is that we all hold to views from a mind, heart, understanding, and body that suffer the effects of sin and a world marred by the fall. We all must keep this in mind when we discuss or think about anything, but especially in those things we discuss among the household of faith.
Soli Deo Gloria,