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What Sin Unto Death 1 John 5:16

Updated on July 12, 2011

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1 Peter 1:23  Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
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Understanding the Sin Unto Death

One of the more difficult Scriptures to understand is 1 John 5:16.

1Jn 5:14-17 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: (15) And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. (16) 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. (17) All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. (KJV Bible)

I was asked recently by one of the elders in our church, “What do you think is this ‘Sin Unto death.’?” To be perfectly honest I had never explored this wonderful passage. I thought I would share some of these recent notes with my hub readers. I hope these annotations will help you, and maybe you would like to add to my remarks. Please understand that my perspective is that of a dedicated, born again, Bible believing, completely justified by grace Christian. If you don’t believe in being saved by grace, or the veracity of Scriptures, we disagree on a much higher level, and this hub will do you no good. However, if you enjoy studying the Scriptures and those passages that discuss our salvation, I invite your participation.

The Biblical term, ‘Sin unto death”, is somewhat difficult to interpret because there is not a lot of context in which John further defines and explains what he means by the term. I studied at least ten commentaries, Bible dictionaries and sermon resources on it, and the nearest to the text that I can discern is, “There comes a day when God signs your death warrant!” The emphasis of John is that we are to pray before that day because after that, it is too late.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The word ‘Sin’ basically means “missing the mark.” It speaks of a willful offence against God. There are also transgressions of failing to do good, bad decisions, bad attitudes, etc. . All sins can be forgiven and covered, cleansed by the Blood of Christ. All unforgiven sins end in death. So, in a sense, all unforgiven sins are “sins unto death.”

“Unto” means “that which leads to”. There are sins which lead to death. The word “death” could mean physical or spiritual death, or both! For the most part John uses the word in his writings to mean spiritual death or separation from God. Eternal separation from fellowship with God is final death. There are sins which lead or ultimately yield final death. If a man dies physically with unforgiven sins, spiritual death follows and final eternal death is the result.

What does the term “sin unto death” mean? – My best response is …

First possibility: All unforgiven sins are sins unto death!

This Scripture begins by addressing the subjects of sin and death to “brothers” or believers. He is not talking to pagans but to Christians.

Then, I add to this that we know that we all sin (Rom 3:23)… And that “wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). … And that there is a “sin not unto death” (1 John 5:16).

Therefore, I believe these verses together teach that God judges a Christian differently from a sinner. When a Christian sins God gives him/her a space of time to repent. However, all unforgiven sin is eventually a sin unto death. The way in which a sin does not lead to death is for it to be covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Eph 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

All sin separates us from God and starts the death process.

Ecc 7:17 Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?

God has a time when He says, that is enough! After this our prayers do no good.

Possibility Two: The Sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a “Sin Unto Death.”

I also note Matthew 12:31 that every sin can be forgiven but the Sin of blaspheme against the Holy Ghost. This sin cannot be forgiven and therefore is a sin unto death!

Mat 12:31-32 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. (32) And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary states, “Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is regarded by some as a continued and obstinate rejection of the gospel, and hence is an unpardonable sin, simply because as long as a sinner remains in unbelief he voluntarily excludes himself from pardon.”

I agree with this but I also believe that someone can knowingly utterly disavow the movement of God and commit this sin unto death. I believe … That is what Ananias did in Acts 5:1-10.

Act 5:3-5 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? (4) Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. (5) And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

Possibility Three: Those who choose the way of apostasy are committing a “sin unto death.”

Heb 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, (5) And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world 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.

Only God knows when this level of perdition has happened, but it is a “sin unto death.”

What is the main emphasis of this verse?

  1. Prayer – We are to pray for all fellow believers, realizing how deadly sin is. We must intercede for each other NOW. There comes a time when it is too late.
  2. Prayer – We are to pray for the unbeliever because their sins can be forgiven and lives can be changed.
  3. Prayer – We are to pray for all because there comes a time when God signs the death warrant, and He doesn’t will for any to perish!

Mat 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Another point of view - J Vernon McGhee


So, as you can see, there are several ways to look at this text.  One thing I love about the Bible is that the more I study its precious words, the more I desire to know about him and my salvation.  The way to be born again is simple, but discipleship is lifelong occupation.

My best advice is to ask Him into your heart as LORD and savior and you will not have to worry about the sin unto death.  Serve Hum with all zeal, pray for all, and rejoice that your name is written the Lamb's book of life!



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    • profile image

      Paul Murray 

      5 years ago

      Too much scripture taken out of context. The sin unto death is definitive statement and since salvation guarantees eternal life for the believer then no Christian can lose in any form or fashion "the gift of God" which is eternal life. 1John 5 and Romans are both written to churches of Jews and Gentiles so this truth is relevant to the modern day person. God knows the true state of each human heart and the final moment of rejection of the gospel is the sin unto death... Its a decision made by an individual to reject the grace of God. And the message to the Christian is prayer. To alter the eternity of a soul it takes prayer and compassion and that's the message to the saved and the unsaved.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank u. This really helped me to understand 1John5:16

    • davidlaw2 profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank yor for this post.

      I think it is important to clarify if the sin unto death is referring to spiritual death, losing eternal life, or physical death. Also are we referring to a sin under the old testament law or under grace? Next is salvation temperorary because it is contingent upon our behavior? If it is contingent upon us never sinning or asking forgivess within a time limit, what happens to salvation by grace?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I believe the sin unto death is to reject Christ the bible says we were dead in our trespasses and sin so the rejection of Christ would be a sin unto death.

    • profile image

      banke jesse 

      6 years ago

      These explanations agree so much with my spirit. Thank you, Pastor, more revelations and great grace will be opened to you daily in Jesus' name.

    • flpalermo profile image


      7 years ago

      The point was well put.

    • Rakan Mahamudu profile image

      Rakan Mahamudu 

      7 years ago

      Great msg pastor.i prayed concerning this and i had é ananias story as an answer.

    • Gicky Soriano profile image

      Gicky Soriano 

      9 years ago from California

      Thanks for the three viable possibilities in interpreting "the sin unto death." It's a great study to look further into to.

    • Pastor_Walt profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Jefferson City, Tennessee

      Thanks for the visit Melody!

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 

      9 years ago from Philippines

      Truth explained well, thanks Pastor Walt.


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