What is the fate of those who believe in Jesus Christ but who die without repenting of something they never discovered was sinful? Simon (Acts 8) likely represents an example with which I can illustrate. Sometime after becoming a Christian (v. 13), he incorrectly thought "that the gift of God could be purchased with money" (Acts 8:20, NKJV). Despite not knowing this was wrong, Simon was still "poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity" (v. 23, NKJV). As a result, he needed to repent of his sin and ask God for forgiveness (v. 22). Apparently, Simon stood "bound by iniquity" before repenting and praying for forgiveness despite not knowing the sinfulness of purchasing the gift of God with money.

Assuming I understand the account in Acts 8 correctly and that Simon's example would apply in general, does a person stand unsaved if they fail to learn of and pray for even one type of sin they've committed, even if they were unaware of its sinfulness? The answer may carry significant implications for someone who dies before learning something they've done in the past was sinful.

Note: I'd like to know if there are names for differing approaches to this question, which I've asked about here: What are names for different approaches to unintentional sin? Also, while the Catholic doctrine of invincible ignorance pertains to those who don't believe the gospel, I'm wondering about those who believe in Jesus Christ (like Simon, Acts 8:13) but who sin unknowingly. Do they stand unforgiven until they learn their actions were sinful and, as a result, repent and pray for forgiveness?

Related: Can punishment for unintentional sins be reconciled with Christians knowing they have eternal life?

  • The vast majority of everyone dies lost - that's what the resurrections are for and the provision for salvation in the next age. This is not the only day of salvation. And no, this is not a 'second chance'.
    – steveowen
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 22:11
  • You're asking specifically for "Different Approaches" to this, which means a denominational survey, answers just giving an approach should be deleted. Please ask a more specific question so you don't get good answers that we have to delete.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 4:35
  • Edit up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 12:21

1 Answer 1


Query 1) What is the fate of those who believe in Jesus Christ but who die without repenting of something they never discovered was sinful (Simon, Acts 8, given as an example.)

This example is of one who believed and was baptised. Although at the time of his request to buy power he didn't think that was a sin (given his track-record before becoming a Christian, we can see where he was coming from), the apostles outrightly condemned that sin so that Simon was in no doubt that only his repentance, and prayer for forgiveness, would deal with this sin. But the Bible account does not tell us any more. And why should it? What is stated stands for all time, for all believers. We might like to know more, but what has been revealed is sufficient for us. The account of this new convert, Simon, shows they have much to learn, and they need to be diligent in identifying sin and shunning it.

However, this example does not fit the bill of query 1. Simon DID discover his sin and the imperative of repenting of it without delay.

Query 2. "Apparently, Simon stood 'poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity' before repenting and praying for forgiveness despite not knowing [his] sinfulness."

Well, it's the other way around. He did not know his desire was sinful until the apostle rebuked him and told him that he was poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity. Then came the realisation that urgent repentance and prayer was called for. Conviction of sin is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), and here is a case where a new convert was convicted due to Holy Spirit revelation to the apostles of what, exactly, was the problem with Simon.

Query 3. "Does a person stand unsaved if they fail to learn of and pray for even one type of sin they've committed?"

The only people who will stand, and remain, unsaved, are those who never come to saving faith in Christ. They are detailed in the Bible as "them that perish because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved... all might be damned who believe not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12)

It matters not how many sins they have committed, or whether they know those to be sins or are unaware of the unconfessed sin in their life. The gospel of Christ is the good news of truth, life, forgiveness, love and acceptance in the Beloved. All who enter into that blessed relationship with God, through faith in Christ, trust utterly on Christ's finished work on the cross to deal with all their sin. And, once he has liberated them from slavery to sin, he is their master whom they love to obey. This new relationship is based on the grace of God, not the ability of individuals to maintain a perfect standard, for that's an impossibility. Here is how this doctrine (detailed in Colossians 2:2-14) is explained in this book:

"That is the doctrine. When Christ rose, all his elect rose in him. In process of time they are called. That is, called by the voice of the Son of God into this very same gospel. The voice of the Son speaks within of having already obtained eternal redemption for his people; of his having now achieved everlasting reconciliation on their behalf; of unconditional salvation having been effectually outwrought by the blood of his cross in their stead.

And as, within, Christ testifies of all that he had before accomplished in death, the Spirit bears witness with the doctrine taught in the gospel of the grace of Christ, the gospel of God concerning his Son [Romans chapter 8]. Faith, the gift of God within the saints, credits the truth of this gospel in its entirety. Faith stands to the doctrine. Now comes the exhortation: 'If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.'

Christ has taken the saints through death, and up into life from the other side of death. That is the doctrine. Their experience, whom he calls, answers to this: having believed, they have life in his name.

That life is eternal: it is everlasting life. It flows from the resurrection and ascension of the Son of God. ...Everlasting life beyond the reach of death fills the saints and testifies to the truth of the doctrine of Christ: they rose when he rose. 'If ye then be risen with Christ' - then - 'set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth'. 3.2

...Carnality with its corruptions is still active. But faith appropriates the place Christ took at the cross on one's behalf, and reckons all dead, despite the clamour of the flesh for the attention of the soul. ...Neither the flesh nor the things of the earth are dead to us; no, but we are dead to it and to them, and, already, within, are risen in newness of life. In this we dwell, and by this set our affections on the heavenly Son in the glory, his God our God, and his Father our Father.

Of course we are dead: we died when he died. This did not happen to us: it happened to him." Colossians, John Metcalfe, pp55-57

Conclusion: If Simon's new-found faith was, indeed, faith in the doctrine of Christ, he would be enabled to deal with any on-going sins of the flesh by the grace of God, because he would already have died (spiritually) and been raised (spiritually) with Christ. There would be no hope for anybody to avoid dying unsaved for lack of confessing even one sin they either knew of, or did not know of.

Christ delivers repentant sinners from their slavery to sin. He is then their master and he lovingly aids them to walk in his light till they are with him in glory. Having been totally forgiven after initial repentance, the faith they have in him ensures they rush to him for his aid when sin becomes a problem again. And he brings them through that. "Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). The only people who die unsaved are those who never have turned in repentance, putting all their trust in Christ's finished work on the cross. That work of pardon and salvation was perfect.

It was only to people who did not know him or his Father that he warned, "You will die in your sins" (John 8:21). Christians know the Son and the Father. They will not die in their sins.

  • A very apposite quotation from a contemporary author who is, undoubtedly, 'orthodox'. That is to say Protestant Orthodox. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 12:20
  • "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" +1 Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 12:50
  • Thank you for answering, Anne. Regarding Query 2, you say "it's the other way around." To get better clarification on what you mean, are you saying that Simon wasn't "poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity" (Acts 8:23, NKJV) when he offered the money, that he was free from iniquity until he discovered he was wrong? If that's your position--and it may or may not be your position--then do you believe that people who commit a sinful act aren't guilty until after they discover the act is sinful? Before answering, see Leviticus 5:17; Matthew 15:14; Luke 12:48.
    – The Editor
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 17:29
  • @The Editor Sorry for lack of clarity. Simon would never have thought of himself as being full of bitterness and bound by iniquity until the apostle adamantly challenged him with that Holy-Spirit-revealed fact. Then Simon knew what his sin was. My point was that Simon certainly knew his sinfulness. It's comforting to Christians that the Holy Spirit is in the business of revealing our sin, and even chastising us for unrepented-of-sin, which also serves to awaken us to our sin. I've personally experienced the latter, which brought me to repentance after a long time of denial of my sin.
    – Anne
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 17:52
  • @Anne Thanks! To further make sure I understand, would you say Simon was "poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” before the apostle challenged him? It seems to me that he was "poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity" the moment he sinned. Would you agree? If so, can someone be "poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity" (Acts 8:23, NKJV) while also having eternal life abiding in them (1 John 5:13)? That's my difficulty. I'm not sure how we can know we're saved without knowing whether we're "poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." Can we know one without the other?
    – The Editor
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 22:38

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