Revelation 21.8 is one of the strongest texts in the New Testament concerning people who will ultimately go to hell. John the apostle wrote, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (ESV). Notice how John provides a list of various sins or descriptions of sins, all of which according to this verse, will result in punishment in hell—what a scary thought. Notice, he has murderers in the list as well as those who are sexually immoral—certainly homosexuals would fit in that category! But then notice what is included in the last group: “liars!” Wow! Liars. That’s frightening—what person who calls himself a Christian could say, ‘since becoming a Christian I have never lied.’ Ironically, only a liar could unabashedly proclaim such a lie. And John is not the only apostle who gives us a list like this; Paul does the same.
1 Corinthians 6:9–10 is just about as strong a text as Revelation 21.8. Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” In this text, Paul specifically identifies “men who practice homosexuality.” This is very helpful language in understanding this issue. “Men who practice homosexuality” helps us distinguish from those who battle with SSA. Paul makes it clear that these men (humans) “who practice homosexuality” will not inherit the kingdom of God—but they are not alone in this list. Homosexuals are NOT a special category of sinners. They are included with the greedy, drunkards, swindlers, and adulterers. All guilty of the sins in his list will not be with God when they die. They will all be eternally separated from God. What Christian can say they have never been greedy since becoming a Christian? None. And if they say such a thing, I would suggest they are now guilty of telling a lie.
So then, what is the point of these lists, and how do I reconcile the forgiveness of God that Christ provides through his death, burial, and resurrection? The Apostle John provides us much help in solving this problem. He wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10, ESV). All Christians continue to struggle with sin—no one is without it. Not only does the blood of Christ cleanse us from former sins, but it continues to cleanse us of our present sins. The text says “all unrighteousness,” which would include all imaginable forms of sexually deviant behavior. But John does not stop there. He continues to write about the Christian’s ongoing struggle with sin. He said, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:8-10). The evidence of being a true Christian is victory over sin—not sinless perfection—no one achieves that. Even the great Apostle Paul talked about an ongoing battle with sin (see Romans 7:14-25). It is clear that not everyone who professes to be a Christian is in actuality a Christian (see Matthew 7: 20-23; John 2:24).
Does telling one lie make me a liar? Yes. Does experiencing a moment of lust make me an adulterer? Yes, according to Christ in Matthew 5.28 (And that is why I need Christ’s righteousness so much.) But I don’t’ think that is the point John or Paul is making with their lists. I think each list serves to help us understand that true Christians don’t keep murdering people; they don’t keep lying; they don’t remain greedy all the days of their life. Could a person who practices homosexuality put their faith in the gospel? Yes. Yes, in the same way a person who is characterized by being a liar could put their faith in the gospel; and in the same way we would expect the liar to become an honest person, we would expect the homosexual to stop practicing homosexuality; and in the same way that we would NOT say that a momentary lapse in integrity would prove the person wasn't truly saved, we also would not say that a lapse in SSA or even sexually deviant behavior would demonstrate the person wasn't saved. We can’t have double standards. We can’t say that practicing homosexuality sends me to hell, but when a Christian young person engages in premarital sex, that is a sin that God forgives. The Bible is consistent. All sin sends me to hell. And more importantly, all sin can be forgiven, and true Christians are characterized by experiencing victory over sin in varying degrees throughout their lives by the grace of God, through the LORD Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit (see 1 John 4:4; 5:1-4,13,18).