by Bobby L. Graham
When we appear before the Lord at the final judgment, will our sins already have been forgiven or will He then forgive us?
This question, I surmise, represents more people than we might think. Just a day or so after receiving this question, I heard another person in a Bible class wondering aloud whether our sins have already been remitted or will they accompany us to the judgment. What does the Bible teach us concerning divine forgiveness?
First, the Bible teaches that God is willing to forgive completely. Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those coming to God through Him, ever living to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25). He "is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). For this purpose, Jesus died for all, not just for some elected group (Heb. 2:9).
Second, our forgiveness comes from the Lord when we obey the gospel of Christ and when we repent of our sins after conversion to Christ. Initial forgiveness comes upon our willingness to put our faith in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, and be baptized upon confession of our faith (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Subsequent forgiveness comes upon our penitent prayer to the Lord to forgive us when we have confessed our sins to those knowing of them (Acts 8:22-24).
Third, God never calls up our sins again after forgiving us of them. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Heb. 8:12). "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust" (Ps. 103:8-14). "He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19).
At the final judgment, God will not have to consider or deal with our sins already forgiven. Rather, He will pronounce His saints justified. His work on the day of judgment will not consist of conducting a trial to ascertain our guilt or innocence; rather, it will be a time for the announcing of verdicts—guilty or innocent/forgiven. Consider the fact that every scriptural account of judgment indicates it to be for announcement of verdicts, not determination of guilt or innocence (Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6, 16; 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:6-10; Rev. 20:11-15).
From the foregoing evidence, I believe it is safe to conclude that sins once forgiven during our lifetime will not again face us in the judgment. That will be the day when the righteous will hear "Well done, good and faithful servant" or "Come, you blessed of my Father."
Author Bio: Bobby actively participates in fill-in preaching, Belize trips, teaching an hour each day at Athens Bible School (ASB), and in gospel meeting work. He and his wife, Karen, have three children: Richard, Mary Katherine Winland (Darren), and Laura Paschall (Jeremy). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.