Are there Consequences for Sins?
Sin is described in 1 John 3:4 as being the transgression of the law or lawlessness. Note how different translations render this verse:
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (Authorized Version).
“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (New King James Bible).
“Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness” (Revised Standard Version).
There are different kinds of sin—sins of commission, omission and neglect; and also, whatever is not of faith is sin, as Romans 14:23 says: “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”
A further definition of sin can be found in 1 John 5:17, where we read: “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to [the second] death [that is, when sin is being repented of].”
Sin can be very deceptive in that a person may go through life sinning and seemingly getting away with it. This was reflected on by Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 7:15: “I have seen everything in my days of vanity: There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, And there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness.”
He also observed this in Ecclesiastes 8:11: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
In some cases we might not observe immediate visible consequences. Therefore, some people think that they are getting away with sin or bad habits. This is a deception because we cannot escape the consequences of sin, like the saying goes: “You can pay me now or you can pay me later but you will pay.”
We may have a tendency to forget about the seriousness of sin, but God does not, when sin is not repented of. When Israel came out of Egypt, they were attacked by the Amalekites, as we read in Exodus 17:8: “Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.”
God did not forget this and ordered Saul hundreds of years later to destroy Amalek. 1 Samuel 15:2-3 reports this: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ”
This was the consequence for attacking Israel hundreds of years earlier. Even though one might say that this was a harsh punishment, including for those who did not personally participate in the attack on Israel, God looked at the heart and determined that all Amalekites still possessed the same attitude as their forefathers, and children growing up would also develop the same hatred and lust for murder. God knew of course that He would resurrect them to physical life later, in the Second Resurrection, when there would be a much better environment for them. Animals had to be destroyed too because there would have been no one left to tend to and look after them. In addition, the implication might be that animals had also been used for terrible sexual abominations, which DOES change the nature of animals. We also might add that God had never intended to have Israel fight, but since they chose to, He used them as His tool for punishment.
In some cases, consequences are more immediate. David is an example. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and she got pregnant which complicated the matter. Trying to cover up his sinful conduct, David brought her husband home from the war, wanting him to go into his wife so that she could claim he was the father, but he refused to do so. 2 Samuel 11:8-9 reads: “And David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house and wash your feet.’ So Uriah departed from the king’s house, and a gift of food from the king followed him. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.”
The plot thickened so David devised another “solution.” He sent Uriah back to the battle with a message to Joab, the commander of the army, to place Uriah in a location where the battle would be fierce and he was consequently killed (2 Samuel 11:14-16). David’s “problem” seemed to be solved. But were there no consequences for David’s evil actions?
God sent the prophet Nathan to David to let him know what would transpire because of his conduct. 2 Samuel 12:10-14 describes God’s pronouncements of the consequences in vivid and frightening terms:
“‘Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’” So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.’”
Even though David repented of his evil conduct, as shown in Psalm 51, and even though he fasted for his son’s life, God had determined that his son would have to die (The same rationale applies, as mentioned before, in that the innocent son would be resurrected in the Second Resurrection, in a much better and friendly environment; after all, illegitimate children were in no way accepted in Israel at the time and mostly treated as “outcasts”).
These were serious consequences for David’s sins. Even though he repented, he still had to pay the price for his sins, because God wanted him to understand deeply how wicked and abominable his conduct was.
This is an extremely good lesson for us: Before we get involved in sin, we must be aware that there are consequences. Some may be immediately seen, and some may manifest themselves later. Revelation 20:13, in speaking about the Second Resurrection, addresses judgment: “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.” This judgment includes acts which will be committed then, but it also may include acts committed in their prior lives which had not been repented of. Note what it says in Luke 12:47-48: “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
In addition, those who refuse to repent and who commit the unpardonable sin will be burnt up in the lake of fire. Revelation 20:14-15 says: “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
What about those in the Church who have been called in this day and age? 1 Peter 4:17 states: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
Converted Christians are being judged now. When we sin, we can go to God and ask for the blood of Christ to wash us clean and put us in the good graces of God. But there still may be consequences for our sins even though they are repented of and forgiven, as we saw in the case of David. For instance, after a person may have caused a terrible car accident because of drunk driving and might have suffered the loss of a limb as a consequence, he or she might be called and his or her sins might be repented of and forgiven, but this will not suddenly give him or her the missing limb back. The converted Christian will be in the First Resurrection and won’t have to suffer additional stripes since he or she was being judged in this life and had to live now with the consequences of sin. But there is still the aspect of the converted Christian having to “give account” of his prior conduct to those whom he or she will meet in the resurrections, whom he or she might have wronged in this life (for instance, if the accident he caused due to drunk driving resulted in the death of an innocent person whom he or she will meet in the resurrection.)
We must understand that all sins have consequences. Some may fool themselves in thinking they may be getting away with sin because, sometimes, there are no visible immediate consequences; but the consequences are there and might manifest themselves in the future.
For more information, please read our free booklet, “Punishment for Our Sins.”
Lead Writers: Rene Messier (Canada) and Norbert Link