DOES MAJOR SIN PROVE A PERSON IS UNSAVED?
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.Some contend that this verse is teaching something about the present behavior of the unsaved. It is viewed as being given to help us determine if we or others are headed toward hell or not.
One group holding this view suggests that the verse concerns those who have never been saved. Anyone who is guilty of major sins shows he is unregenerate. Of course, they usually qualify this by saying that the verse concerns people habitually caught up in sins like immorality and lying. And what does habitually mean? That's hard to pin down, they say. They suggest that the more a person sins, the more likely it is that he or she is unsaved.
Another group suggests that this verse is teaching that anyone who is guilty of major sins loses his or her salvation. According to this view only those who regularly confess and repent of their sins can enter God's kingdom. A failure to confess and repent results in loss of eternal salvation.
Neither of these views, however, is consistent with Scripture.
believers sin and sin repeatedly (e.g., 1 John 1:8, 10). Some believers
actually wallow in sin (1 Cor 3:1-3; 6:18-20; 11:30; Gal 6:1; James
5:19-20; 2 Pet 2:18-22; 3:14-18). So the view that this verse is
teaching that habitual sinners must never have been saved in the first
place is untenable. For that would leave no one saved out of all
mankind throughout the ages.
And, the Bible also teaches that believers can't lose their salvation (cf. John 4:14; 6:35; 10:28-29; Rom 8:38-39). Once a person is born again, they can never be un-born. Thus the Arminian loss-of-salvation view is also unscriptural.
It is a mistake to think that this verse is describing the way the unsaved behave here and now. The verse says nothing about the current behavior of believers or unbelievers. Rather, it concerns the eternal sinfulness of unbelievers.
[In the sense of the condition of unbelievers after they have died and have been resurrected]
A parallel passage is John
8:24: "If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."
Unbelievers die in a state of sinfulness. Forever they remain sinners.
Believers, however, do not remain in a state of sinfulness because they
are justified by faith: "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not
impute sin" (Rom 4:8; see also vv 1-7 and Rom 8:33-34). Hence they are
resurrected to a perfect resurrection body which cannot sin as follows
[Compare Phil 3:20-21]:
(Phil 3:20 NASB) "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;
(Phil 3:21 NASB) Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself."
Revelation 21:8 says nothing
about whether believers actually sin prior to death or not. Of course we
know that they do. However, that is not in view in Rev 21:8. What is
actually in view is the continued unregenerate and unjustified state of
the lost. Because unbelievers upon death are sealed permanently as those
who are unjustified. So at resurrection they remain sinners in God's sight forever.
There will be no sinners and
no sin in the new heavens and the new earth. For all believers will be sinless:
[Compare 1 Jn 3:2]:
(1 Jn 3:2 NASB) "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is."
It is interesting to note
that this basic message is found three times in Revelation 21-22 (Rev
21:8, 27; and 22:15), the section of the book dealing with the eternal
kingdom. A comparison of these three passages, and particularly the first
and last, supports the conclusion that the sinful state of those in hell
is what is in view.
If we look closely at Rev 21:6-8, we will discover that ... there are two groups of people in view:
[Compare Rev 21:6-8]:
(Rev 21:6 NASB) "Then He said to me, 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
(Rev 21:7 NASB) He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son."
Believers are in view because all believers - faithful to unfaithful - are defined in Scripture as overcomers:
[Compare 1 Jn 5:4-5]:
(v. 4) "for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
(v. 5) Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."]
(Rev 21:8 NASB) But for
the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral
persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be
in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second
Unbelievers are in view because the time is the eternal state of those who never believed - after their mortal lives.
It is unbiblical to conclude that all believers live victorious
overcoming lives. Certainly nothing in Rev 21:6-8 gives that impression
(cf. Rev 2:13:22; 22:14-17). So those that contend that only those who
live victorious lives will enter into the Eternal Kingdom of God, is
unbiblical; for no believer can claim even for a moment to have not sinned, (1 Jn 1:8, 10).
If the kingdom contained those still in a sinful state, it would not be as glorious as God intends. That would put an eternal damper on the joy the Lord Himself and we, His subjects, could experience.
Revelation 21:8 should be a joyous verse for us. Those who interpret it to mean that we need to examine our behavior to see if we are saved (or if we are still saved) have robbed it of its joy and replaced it with works-salvation gloom.
The kingdom will be truly joyful because everyone in it will be holy and sinless, because all believers in their mortal lives will continue to sin; but all will have perfect, sinless bodies at resurrection.