Are We Really Forgiven? (ATP)
The Bible says when we go to Heaven our tears will be wiped away and our sins are forgiven but it also says we have to give an account for every word or deed on judgement day. If we are forgiven and our sins washed away then why will we still have to given an account on judgement day? And what about our errors and mistakes before we were born again? And our mistakes and errors after done in a moment of weakness and frustration? Even though I try and I know we are all sinners I feel frustration and frustration of when I keep falling short and messing up and I worry about my judgement day. In the Bible it says Jesus will wipe our tears away when we reach heaven, with knowing loved ones may not be there when we get there how is this possible knowing where they might be spending eternity?
There is a lot to this question, or really questions, so I will attempt to squeeze it all in. The first thing we always have to keep in mind when understanding scripture is context. Who, what, where, when and why is something we need to continually ask ourselves concerning the Bible. Although all scripture is for our understanding, not all applies specifically in every circumstance. The scripture you are referring to is Revelation 21:4 which reads, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
The first thing about this scripture is where it appears which, is in the end of the book of Revelation. Specifically, if you look in chapter 20:11-13, we see that it is talking about what we refer to as the “Great White Throne Judgement”. This is where God judges all people according to their works. A mistake that Christians often make is that once you are saved, you are off the hook. The Bible very clearly tells us that we are “saved for good works” Ephesians 2:10). The sad thing is, many Christians continue to live for themselves. We will give account for how we lived after receiving salvation and this should be sobering to us. Our works will be judged and we will answer for those times we acted wrong, or failed to fulfill God’s plan. I am convinced we will see those that didn’t get reached because we didn’t reach them. I believe there will even be Christian parents that will see their children go to hell because the parents refused to live right and so their children never took “that God stuff” seriously. Those things, even seeing what God intended for them, will bring many tears to their eyes.
“Well what about God forgiving our sins?” He does forgive them, however this does not mean that we are free from consequence. What we have to understand about sin is what it does. The Bible is very clear, sin causes death. Not just dying death (though that is certainly not excluded), but most importantly, spiritual death or eternal death. Sin separates humans from God and is what puts them in hell. Jesus came, in part, so that we could be broken free from that future. A murderer in jail for example, can confess his sin and God will forgive him, however he may still spend his life in jail or even face the death penalty even though he gets to go to Heaven. Though he’s forgiven, he still has consequence. For a Christian to think that a loving God will just over look their refusal to reach people, have those people go to hell, and not hold them accountable is foolish and lacks understanding of a just God. He is loving but He is also just!
As far as mistakes we make before we are born again or even before we come to knowledge of God’s plan for us, God is also a God of mercy. Scripture tells us we are also judged according to what we know (Romans 2:13-16). That doesn’t mean we can be willfully ignorant and be ok either. Now, if we make a mistake when we know better, as in a moment of weakness, God is still merciful.
What about those we love that don’t make it? You need to understand that when we get in His presence the Bible says we will be changed (Psalm 16:11, 1 Corinthians 15:51). Our emotions will be perfected and our thoughts will not be corrupted like they are now. We will think right about all things, so I have to believe this will factor into our ability to be aware of things of this nature but still be in peace. I also think of this scripture: Isaiah 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.”
We cannot live this life in fear, however we do need to live in reverence. We can’t be afraid of our future but live life like ones who will answer for it. If we make mistakes, we confess them (1 John 1:19) and God forgives us. We need to be aware that our mistakes can cause us trial that God can’t always or won’t always get us out of, though we are forgiven. We need to also know not all consequences are a matter of His judgement either.
All this said, a Christian who does their best to follow God and is faithful to do what they know AND to continually seek Him will stand before God with confidence (1 John 2:28). This is His will and it is not just possible, it’s probable. Make it your goal to live for Him, and you will find confidence now in this life and when you stand before Him.
Note: Next week I will address the idea, “we are all just sinners.”