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The Sin unto Death, the Unpardonable Sin

Lyn Mize

(1 John 5:16 KJV)  If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 

It is very important to note in this verse of Scripture that it is the Christian Brother who commits the sin unto death, and not the unsaved reprobate. The sin unto death is greatly misunderstood by the great majority of Christians because they do not understand the difference between spirit and soul salvation. The sin unto death always refers to a believer, and the death is that of the soul at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The sin unto death is called the unpardonable sin, since a Christian who commits this sin cannot be brought back to repentance in this life. He will still be present in heaven, and he will still be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, but he will forfeit his reward in the kingdom of heaven. His life will perish at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The sin unto death is a serious transgression and cannot be committed accidentally. The sin unto death is a deliberate choice by the Christian who has progressed to a significant level of maturity, and then falls away from the faith. The following passage of Scripture describes the Christian who commits the sin unto death: 

(Heb 6:1-12 KJV)  Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, {2} Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. {3} And this will we do, if God permit. {4} (a) For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, (b) and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, {5} And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world (i.e., age) to come, {6} If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. {7} For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: {8} But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. {9} But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. {10} For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. {11} And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: {12} That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 6:1-12 is one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. Christian scholars misunderstand this passage because they misapply it to spiritual rebirth rather than maturity in the faith and soul salvation. The passage has nothing to do with salvation in the evangelical sense. It is not addressing the loss of spirit salvation, but the loss of soul salvation. Spirit salvation is eternally secure and cannot be lost through the actions of the believer. However, a Christian’s life can become so rebellious that God will cease working through him with no chance of repentance in this life. This situation occurs when a Christian has repented, attained to a level of spiritual maturity, and then falls away from the faith.

The Christian who commits the sin unto death is set aside in this life, and God will deal with him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. 

In verse 1 above, “perfection” refers to spiritual maturity, and “repentance from dead works” is the first step in going on to spiritual maturity. The phrase “faith toward God” means faithfulness to God. In verse 2, the “doctrines of baptisms” refers to the washing of water by the Word, or spiritual growth from the study of God’s word.  “Laying on of hands” refers to spiritual help for the younger Christian from the mature Christian. “Resurrection of the dead” refers to the rapture of the Church, and “eternal judgment” is the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Christian’s life (i.e., soul) will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and the Christian will either realize eternal life, or his life (i.e., soul) will perish in the judgment fire of God.  The perishing of the soul at the Judgment Seat of Christ means the life of the Christian consists of “wood, hay, stubble” and will be consumed in the fire. The realization of eternal life means the life of the Christian consists of “gold, silver, precious stones” and will result in glory, honor and immortality (1 Cor. 3:12). 

As long as a Christian is alive in his flesh and blood body, there is opportunity for him to go on into spiritual maturity. There is one exception to this rule described in verses 4-6 above. In verse 4, the “enlightened” one is the one imbued with saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. “Tasted of the heavenly gift” means he has been born again spiritually by faith in Jesus Christ. Being “made a partaker of the Holy Spirit” means the Christian has experienced the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. He has crucified the flesh nature and allowed the Holy Spirit to work in his life. “Tasted the good word of God” means this Christian has studied the Bible and experienced the washing of water by the Word. He has matured in the faith to a significant degree. He has also experienced the powers of the age to come. This means he has experienced moral power and excellence of soul in preparation for the coming kingdom age. This Christian has greatly matured in the faith. Verse 4a confirms spirit salvation for this Christian. Verses 4b and 5 confirm spiritual maturity. Verse 6 confirms that if mature Christians like this fall away from the faith, then it is impossible for them to be renewed again unto repentance.

If the spiritually mature Christian turns his back on Jesus Christ, it is as if he has crucified Jesus Christ all over again, and he has brought public shame to Jesus. An unsaved reprobate cannot cause public shame for Jesus Christ, but a rebellious son who has reached maturity can cause great public shame to Jesus by disavowing his faith. If a Christian does this, then he has committed the sin unto death, and God will not allow him to be renewed again unto repentance, which is the first step to salvation of the soul. The sin that leads to death is the repudiation of the faith by a mature Christian. The death is that of the soul at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and the consequences are serious.

The sin unto death is not simply the stumbling of a mature Christian into sin. All mature Christians stumble from time to time, but they get up and continue to advance in their Christian walk. The Christian committing this sin deliberately turns away from the faith after becoming a mature Christian.

Summary: The sin unto death is the sin that leads to death at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The death is that of the soul and not the spirit. The Christian still goes to heaven, and he is still transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. His life has been a total waste, and he loses his inheritance in the kingdom of heaven. Only a mature Christian can commit this sin.