QUESTION: If a Christian dies before confessing his sins, does 1 John 1:9 mean his sins are not forgiven and he is not cleansed from all unrighteousness? ANSWER: No, thank God, 1 John 1:9 does not mean this at all. The subject being considered in this portion of 1 John is fellowship. This letter is written to Christians to enable them to enjoy fellowship with the writer (and with the other apostles, who had already died and gone to be with the Lord) and with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. The Apostle John’s great desire in verse 4 is for the joy of those he is addressing to be full. According to 1 John 2:12, a Christian’s sins have been forgiven for Christ’s sake. We may refer to this as judicial forgiveness. Many verses show us that this forgiveness can never be reversed. Once we have believed in the Son of God, 1 John 5:13 assures us, we can know that we have eternal life. The Lord Jesus and God the Father are united in “keeping” the believer (Jn. 10:28-30). A believer can never perish, no matter what! Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 8:35-39). Unconfessed sin, however, can hinder the enjoyment of fellowship for a Christian. God is light. There is no darkness in Him. To enjoy fellowship with Him we must walk in the light. Denying that we sin, rather than confessing our sin to Him, is an indication that we are walking in darkness rather than light. Because of the perfect finished work of Christ on the cross, God forgives a Christian the sins he commits in his daily life when he confesses them to Him. Then the Christian can enjoy unhindered the fellowship with the Lord. The context of 1 John 1:9 makes it clear that the question is not what happens after a Christian dies, but how he can remain in the enjoyment of fellowship with the Lord.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org