An unrepentant person knows that he or she has sinned and refuses to ask God for forgiveness or turn away from the sin. The unrepentant show no remorse for their wrongdoing and don’t feel the need to change. Unrepentance is the sin of willfully remaining sinful.
Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action. Repentance leads to life (Acts 11:18), and it is a necessary part of salvation. God commands everyone to repent and have faith in Christ (Acts 2:38; 17:30; 20:21). Unrepentance is therefore a serious sin with dire consequences. The unrepentant live in a state of disobedience to God, unheeding of His gracious call. The unrepentant remain unsaved until they turn from their sin and embrace Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). To be stiff-necked is to have a stubborn, obstinate spirit that makes one unresponsive to God’s guidance or correction. The stiff-necked are, by definition, unrepentant.
The apostle Paul warned of the consequences of unrepentance: “Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil” (Romans 2:5–9; cf. Psalm 62:12). There is a judgment coming. The results of righteousness will be beautiful, but the consequences of unrepentance will be harsh.
The book of Revelation shows how inured to sin the sinner can be. During the tribulation, after three different judgments of God, the wicked will remain unrepentant, despite their great suffering (Revelation 9:20–21; 16:8–11). The tragedy is that, even as some people are experiencing the horrendous consequences of their sin, they will continue in their state of unrepentance.
Is there such a thing as an unrepentant Christian? Biblically, to become a Christian, one must repent and believe; a believer in Christ is one who has repented of sin. What, then, of professed believers who live in unrepentant sin? Most likely, they are not saved; they are mere professors, with no work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. The apostle John states it bluntly: “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth” (1 John 1:6). The other possibility is that people claiming to be saved yet living in unrepentant sin are saved but acting in disobedience—in which case their unrepentance is a temporary hardness of heart, and God will discipline them (Hebrews 12:4–13). There is a sin unto death for the believer (1 John 5:16; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:29–31), but, barring that extreme circumstance, God will eventually restore His disobedient child to fellowship (see 1 Corinthians 5:1–5).
The unrepentant sinner needs to hear the good news of God’s salvation. God’s goodness leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4), and He is a God of forbearance and longsuffering. Christians should confess their own sins, pray for the unrepentant, and evangelize the unsaved: “Opponents [of the truth] must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:25–26).