Q.

Is the unpardonable sin the same as the “sin unto death”?

A.
The unpardonable sin and the sin unto death cannot be the same. To answer this question we need to use the tools for rightly dividing the Word of truth, which include carefully studying the context of the passages involved. By the contexts we see that the unpardonable sin deals with unbelievers, and the sin unto death involves believers. So there is a vast different in the two “sins.”

The apostle John wrote of the sin unto death (1 John 5:16), and the context reveals he was speaking to and about believers. A believer cannot lose his or her salvation. The New Testament makes this abundantly clear through repeated passages concerning the eternality of a believer’s salvation and the sealing by the Holy Spirit at the moment of the new birth (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13).

However the Word also makes it abundantly clear that a believer can become out of fellowship with other Christians and that the Lord chastens that wayward believer. We often call becoming out of fellowship backsliding. This backsliding, which involves deliberate disobedience, can extend to the point where the Lord, in essence, has to yank the erring believer out of this life “before his or her time.” At the Judgment Seat of Christ, this believer will suffer loss of rewards and shame (1 Corinthians 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:15; 1 John 2:28.) A good illustration of this condition is found in 1 Corinthians 11:30, where the apostle Paul told of some believers in the carnal Corinthian church who had died physically (“many sleep”) because they had partaken of the Lord’s Table backslidden, out-of-fellowship believers.

In contrast, the only “unpardonable sin” in the Church Age is the rejection of Jesus Christ. That sin of rejecting Christ cannot be pardoned, and won’t be, as the unbeliever stands before the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:15). In essence, every person who leaves this life as an unbeliever has committed the unpardonable sin—rejecting Jesus Christ. After a person dies, he or she has no further chance to accept Christ. At that point, God will not pardon the unbeliever. Obviously, then, a believer cannot commit the unpardonable sin.

In this matter of the unpardonable sin, we must consider the occasion when Jesus cast out demons and the Jewish religious leaders attributed Hs power to Satan. Jesus strongly rebuked the rulers. So some people today have concluded that attributing Jesus’ power to Satan is an unpardonable sin that can be reproduced today.

However we need to study the context here. The Jewish leaders rejected Jesus Christ, and in so doing they blasphemed the Holy Spirit. That sin led to serious results for the whole nation (Matthew 23:37, 38; Luke 19:11–27). The Jews’ continual rejection of Christ and the Holy Spirit was unpardonable. And the whole nation, represented by the religious leaders, suffered the consequences. In rejecting Jesus Christ, they rejected the Kingdom.

The unique circumstances (Jesus’ bodily presence, His offer of the Kingdom, etc.) necessary to repeat this sin do not exist today. An unbeliever or even a believer might—ignorantly or knowledgeably—criticize a genuine movement or servant of God and then recognize the sin, repent, and be forgiven. That sin is not unpardonable.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (June 2004).
© 2004 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.