Can a Christian Go to Hell? Examining the Consequences of Unrepentant Sin
If this question shocks you or bothers you, it shouldn’t. The biblical answer is clear. Yet we currently live in an age when distinguishing Christians from the secular population is increasingly difficult, and the Church has become very tolerant of what the Bible condemns for fear of offending man. The result has been a lukewarm Church that has offended God in an effort to please the world and appease itself. Therefore, the answer to this question is found only in the scriptural consequences of such actions, attitudes, and spiritual behaviors which are contrary to the Gospel — all which can account for unrepentant sin.
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, (Hebrews 10: 26-31, KJV).
The answer to the question is, yes. The scriptures are clear.
For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:7-16, KJV).
Understanding Sin & the Motivations of the Heart
Sin has always been a heart issue.
Sin is a very broad term. It’s scope encompasses everything from iniquity to transgression, each which have very different scriptural meanings. Below we find the biblical definition of sin:
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law, (1 John 3:4, KJV).
Iniquity in the Greek is “anomia” which means to be in a condition without the law. It represents those who are ignorant of it, as well as those who are in contempt of it. This is the sin we inherit. We are born into it (see Psalm 51:5). It’s what I call our “spiritual default”. Yet the LORD makes it clear that those who call Him “Lord, Lord” yet work iniquity will suffer eternal damnation from Him (see Matthew 7:20-23). In other words, the iniquity they were born into was that which they continued to live in — over which Jesus Christ clearly gave victory. The true Lordship of Christ in a believer’s life will bear good fruit.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity, (Matthew 7:20-23, KJV).
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity, (2 Timothy 2:19, KJV).
What’s important to understand is that God looks not merely at what we do, but at the heart’s motivation and intention. We can do very good things with the wrong motive or intention, which may be effectively masked from others in deceit. We can also do wrong things very ignorantly, while having pure hearts and good motives (children often give us excellent examples of this type of behavior). Therefore, God does not judge us solely based on our behavior, or lack thereof. He looks at our hearts. This is why He tells us not to judge others, lest we be judged (see Matthew 7:1). Note that He did not say we cannot judge the act. He said we are not to judge the individual. And there is a distinct difference. We are obligated to know and discern right from wrong; good from evil; and truth from error and deception. However, the heart of the individual from which that behavior originates is something only God can rightly judge.
With that said, there are scriptural instances where we see the Apostles pronouncing judgments upon individuals, whose hearts were disclosed to them by the Spirit of God for the purpose of judgment. This is a ministry entrusted to apostles and prophets. And therefore, we need to fear God lest we judge outside our spiritual jurisdiction. Some examples would be Ananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5:1-5), and the unnamed individual whom Paul turned over to the devil for the destruction of his flesh and the salvation of his soul (see 1 Corinthians 5:5).
Let’s take a look at the account of Ananias & Sapphira:
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things, (Acts 5:1-11, KJV, emphasis mine).
Many wonder why the judgment of God fell so severely upon Ananias and Sapphira. Peter makes it clear: they lied to the Holy Spirit. It’s evident they were guilty of blasphemy of the Holy Ghost, which is an unpardonable sin. I think it’s safe to say they did not inherit salvation, although they were considered believers.
Again, these are rare and infrequent accounts, which are reserved for the office of an Apostle or Prophet, and can only come by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Pronouncing God’s judgment — which is always final — is very serious business. This is not a task we should covet from Him. Yet these accounts serve us just as well today as they did the early Church. God does indeed judge His people — sometimes swiftly, and we are to fear Him and obey Him. Sin is not something we can wink at or play with, or consider a trite matter. God takes our sin very seriously. When we consider what Jesus truly suffered for our sin, it reveals God’s hatred and intolerance for sin. So yes, God does take sin seriously. Therefore, when He confronts it, we need to take heed immediately.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need, (see Hebrews 4:12-16, KJV).
God desires truth in the innermost being (see Psalm 51 and 139). That means He desires to achieve His truth within us which is then measured appropriately according to His word. That is a work only the Holy Spirit can accomplish within a human soul that is fully surrendered.
The Lord’s Discipline
God’s desire is to keep us free from sin — not merely for our sake, so we can live blessed and abundantly fruitful lives, but also for His sake so that we bring Him the glory He deserves. We are to be holy, for He is holy. The scriptures plainly tell us: without holiness, no one will see the LORD (see Hebrews 12:14). Discipline is a very real part of belonging to Christ. We should adopt a heart attitude that readily invites God to examine us, correct us, and show us His ways of righteousness.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons, (Hebrews 12:1-5, KJV).
Those who are God’s true sons and daughters will experience the Lord’s loving discipline, correction, and chastisement, which keep us holy. It is promised. Those who do not experience this are said to be spiritual “bastards”, meaning they are not legitimate sons of God.
Once we receive the Lord’s rebuke or discipline, our sin has been officially confronted by Him, and we have an obligation to repent and receive the gift of cleansing He is offering us. He never confronts sin He is not willing to redeem and cleanse. Therefore, when we refuse Him, we put our souls at risk for His judgment. We also grieve His Holy Spirit, sear our conscience, and harden our hearts — all of which are very spiritually dangerous.
We are never promised a second opportunity to repent. Therefore, when God confronts us on any issue, it is always wise to obey as quickly as possible.
Wanting A Savior Who is Not Lord
The “once saved; always saved” doctrine is not biblical. In fact, it’s one of the greatest deceptions to ever infiltrate the Church. It’s very unbalanced, leaving out numerous New Testament teachings that prove otherwise. Many who have believed that doctrine — and lived like it — are sadly in hell today.
Let’s talk about the kind of salvation this doctrine preaches.
The “once saved; always saved” doctrine indeed preaches Christ as a Savior. However it does not emphasize His Lordship. Grace is something that makes sin very comfortable and permissible. Because of that, sin is rarely addressed, and repentance is not effectively preached.
Many confessing Christians have a fundamental understanding of accepting Jesus as their Savior, yet they fail to realize that His Lordship is preemptive to fulfilling that role. Unless Jesus Christ is LORD, He wouldn’t be able to save anyone. Therefore, those who want His salvation without His Lordship are going to be very surprised to discover they are not receiving genuine salvation, because genuine salvation is always accompanied by repentance.
Many of those who live their lives without any thought to the consequences of unrepentant sin or its detrimental effects are often those who received Christ for reasons that were fear-based, perhaps false teachings that cater to their flesh, or even obligations to family. Fear-based conversions are very rarely genuine. Instead, Christ desires a loving relationship whereby He can effectively disciple us. Although we are to fear God with due reverence even as Jesus teaches, in no way are we to be afraid of Him in a manner that keeps us from Him in cowardice, which is what Adam and Eve experienced following their fall. God always invites us to come to Him — even in our grossest and darkest sin. His desire is for our salvation and redemption in Him.
With that said, the lack of Christ’s Lordship in the Body of Christ is a widespread and prominent problem which accounts for many ungodly lifestyles and a lack of spiritual fruit or evidence of faith in the believer’s life.
Christians who have accepted Jesus as their Savior, yet have never surrendered to Him as their LORD, have failed to grasp who He really is, and what He’s actually accomplished for them. Being saved is easy. But living a life that is truly surrendered to Jesus Christ as LORD is not easy. It requires a ready will, humble heart, and fully surrendered life. This does not happen by accident. It’s a daily decision to take up our cross daily, deny ourselves, and follow Him — precisely as He commanded.
To receive Christ as your Savior, you become the recipient of His lavish gift.
To make Christ your LORD, you become the sacrificial gift given back to Him.
This exchange is something every believer should fundamentally understand. Christ does not offer salvation without repentance. Jesus Christ came preaching repentance in the very stead of John the Baptist who vehemently preached repentance in preparing the way of the LORD. We need to understand, the message of repentance predicates all Jesus did for us, and that message fills the Gospel cover to cover — from the bold preaching of John the Baptist to Christ’s seven letters in Revelation.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent, (Acts 17:30, KJV).
When Paul was confronted by the risen Christ, He gave him the following commission:
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance, (Acts 26:18-20, KJV, emphasis mine).
Repentance will always accompany genuine salvation, whereby Christ becomes our LORD.
A Word to Those Struggling with Sin
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting, (Psalm 139:23-24, KJV).
God does not treat us as our sins deserve (see Psalm 103). He is is full of mercy, loving-kindness, compassion, and love. He is patient with us, and long-suffering, being slow to anger, and generous in mercy. He is gentle and kind, and He desires to help us overcome those areas of weakness where we struggle. There is a drastic and distinct difference between the individual who has a repentant heart toward God in their active struggle with sin, and those who continue in willful unrepentant sin without any care, conviction, or fear of the LORD.
You may be struggling with sin issues in your life. We all do. That is why a genuine and intimate relationship with Christ is so vitally important. He was tempted in all points even as we are, yet was without sin. He is the only one who can lead us victoriously through times of temptation.
Sometimes those struggles can be vicious and violent. Seasons of temptation in our lives can last for months, or even years. They are real battles with intense spiritual warfare that involves not only our flesh, but the enemy as well as the world. I want to give you hope and comfort in knowing that God recognizes a repentant heart that is seeking righteousness, holiness, and the liberty He promises.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled, (Matthew 5:6, KJV).
He can set you free. For those who are fighting the fight of faith, He will be faithful to lead you in triumph! He will not leave you in your sin!
Those who are struggling with addictions of various kinds and other internal sins, these are very delicate areas that need tender care. Christ is able to both heal and deliver you, setting you completely free! For help with issues requiring repentance please visit us by CLICKING HERE.
The Conclusive Answer
Yes, a Christian can go to hell.
God will always confront your sin, offering you an opportunity to repent. He is faithful and just to do that. When God convicts us, reveals to us our wrongdoing, or confronts our sin, we have an obligation to obey Him. Receive His gift that brings an opportunity for cleansing, healing, righteousness, holiness and freedom. If He confronts any area in your life, you can know with all assurance that He’s ready to disciple you, deal with you, and give you victory in that particular area. He does not confront issues of sin in vain. He does so with the intention of forgiving, redeeming, and fully liberating us from the powers of hell and the bondage of this world and the flesh.
His desire is that you know Him intimately. Where there is genuine intimacy, nothing is hidden. We are free to come to Him naked and unashamed, where we can be fully known and restored to Him in perfect unbroken fellowship. When nothing is hidden, God has ready access. Out of that transparent relationship the fruit of righteousness is brought forth, producing an abundant life.
The consequences of unrepentant sin are very clear, they are very real, and they are eternally permanent apart from the finished work of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to seek the LORD by asking Him to search you, that He might examine you and bring opportunities for genuine repentance that bears lasting fruit. He is our awesome LORD to whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess, and to whom all the powers of heaven and earth are subject.
God bless you!
Cheers & Shalom,