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1 John 5:16-17, A Sin Unto Death???
1 John 5:16-17 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.  All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. [KJV]
There are many opinions in regard to the meaning of this Passage. I will simply state what it says to me. The big question is: what does John mean by by the "sin unto death." Compare John 11:4.
John 11:4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. (KJV)
John is speaking to believers in 1 John 5:16-17. Go back and read from the beginning of the chapter. John is NOT talking to unbelievers. So, we must take this into consideration if we want to understand what he means.
Death here refers to physical death. It is NOT referring to spiritual death (separation from God), or eternal death (eternal separation from God) because the child of God HAS eternal life (John 5:24). I think that John is saying that believers (TRUE children of God) ARE capable of committing a sin for which their heavenly Father will call them home, or in other words, He will remove them from this life physically, quite possibly because they are disgracing Him.
Consider some people in the Bible who have committed a sin unto death. Moses and Aaron committed a sin unto death. You will recall that Moses got angry when the children of Israel kept begging for water and, instead of speaking to the rock as God commanded him, he HIT the rock twice (Num.20:7-12). Moses shouldn’t even have TOUCHED that rock. The rock was to be an example and a type of Christ. Paul wrote: 1 Cor. 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. [KJV]
Christ died ONLY once, and Moses spoiled the type by striking the rock TWICE. Numbers 20:7-12 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,  Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.  And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him.  And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?  And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.  And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. [KJV] Moses was restored in that he could continue leading, but, even though he pleaded with God to forgive him and to permit him to enter the land, the Lord kept His word. Deut. 3:26 But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter. [KJV] Moses and Aaron both had sinned a sin unto death . . . physical death. I am absolutely certain that Moses was a child of God! (Mat.17:1-6). And even though Aaron did some bad things, I know that he too was a child of God.
In the New Testament we have Ananias and Sapphira. He was guilty of lying to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3). They had been willing to give a false impression to the early church; they were willing to live a lie. Because of that, God removed them from this earthly scene.
There is an incident mentioned in 1 Corinthians, where some of the people had actually been getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper, and were missing the holy
meaning of it completely. 1 Cor. 11:30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. [KJV] Paul wrote to them, warning, "many sleep” meaning that they were dead, physically. Paul is saying that they had committed a sin unto death that John speaks of in 1 John 5:16-17.
So . . . just exactly what is a sin unto death? I am certain that John was NOT speaking of the unpardonable sin (Mat.12:31; Mk.3:29; Luke 12:10). As I stated above, John was speaking to believers! The unpardonable sin was eternal death (eternal separation from God). John is talking about premature physical death in 1 John 5:16. He was talking about a sin unto physical death, not spiritual or eternal death. These people were God’s children. He would never have taken them home if they had not been His children. The Lord does NOT whip the devil’s children . . . God only whips His own children! When God's children sin a sin unto death, He will simply take them home prematurely.
What is this sin? What is it specifically? It could be many different things. For Moses and Aaron, they lost their tempers, and they destroyed a type of the Lord Jesus. Ananias and Sapphira were living like hypocrites. And in the city of Corinth, there were believers who were getting drunk and were disorderly at the Lord’s Table. A sin unto death is NOT one specific thing. It probably would be different for you, than it would be for me. But I do think that EVERY believer is capable of committing the sin unto death . . . whatever it is for him/her. You can continue on in that sin until God will remove you from the scene. This does NOT mean that every Christian who dies has committed the sin unto death.
A pastor friend told us once of a woman who had a wayward son. He was getting into all kinds of trouble. He had accepted Jesus. He was born again. This woman went to the Lord in prayer one night. Her petition was: “Either straighten him up or take him home.” That very night her son was killed in a car wreck. God took him home.
1 John 5:17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. [KJV]
ALL believers who are alive today have sinned (Rom.3:10, 23) . . . every one of us . . . BUT we have NOT sinned a sin unto death or we would not be here. We ALL do something that is wrong, daily if you are like me . . . it WAS unrighteousness, but God did NOT take us home. If He were taking home every believer who sinned, I’d have been gone a long time ago. Thank You Jesus!
A person sinning unto eternal death is someone who has NEVER been a child of God. This person was NEVER truly a brother in Christ (1 John 2:19), even though they probably said many times: "I'm a Christian." God the Righteous Judge shall inflict and carry out His righteous judgments. Our Lord Jesus intercedes, NOT for the world which hardens itself in doubt and unbelief, but only for those given to Him out of the world (John 6:37).
Different Deaths in the Bible
Death is simply separation.
- #1 Physical death = separation of body and soul. Gen. 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (KJV)
Ecc. 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (KJV)
Psalm 104:29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. (KJV)
- #2 Spiritual death = separation from God, an unbeliever. Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (KJV) James 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (KJV) James 5:20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (KJV)
- #3 Eternal death = eternal separation from God. 2 Thes. 1:8-9 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:  Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (KJV)
Passages mentioned above.
John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (KJV)
Matthew 17:1-6 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,  And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.  And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.  Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.  While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. (KJV)
Acts 5:3 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? (KJV)
Matthew 12:31 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. (KJV)
Mark 3:29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: (KJV)
Luke 12:10 And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. (KJV)
Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (KJV) See: Psalm 14:1-3
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (KJV)
1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (KJV)
John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (KJV)
Difficult or Confusing Bible Verses
1 Cor.3:13-15, What Motivates Us?
1 Cor.chapter 5, Should the Church Judge?
1 John 3:9, God's Child Cannot Sin . . . ???
1 John 5:4-5, Overcoming By Faith
1 John 5:16 . . . A Sin Unto Death???
1 John 5:18-20, Those Born of God Sinneth Not
1 Thes.5:23, Man's Trinity
2 Cor.2:14-17, Savour of Death, Savour of Life?
2 Thes.2:10-12, Those Left Behind
Col.3:12-17, How Believers Are To Live
Daniel 7:13-14, Christ in His Glory
Daniel 9:24-27, Daniel's 70 Weeks
Ecclesiastes 9:5-10, NO Soul Sleep
Genesis 3:15, Seed of the Woman
Genesis 6:1-2, Sons of God
Hebrews 6:4-9, Can a TRUE Christian Fall from Grace?
Hebrews 10:26, Do NOT Reject Christ!
Isaiah 53:4-5, By His Stripes We Are Healed!
John 6:47-58, Eating the Flesh and Blood of Jesus
John 15:1-6, Unfruitful Branches Burned?
Mark 3:28-29, The Unpardonable Sin?
Matthew Chapter 13, Mystery Parables of Jesus
Matthew 16:19, Keys to Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 5:48, Being Perfect?
Matthew 7:21-23, Not Every One Goes to Heaven
Matthew 7:6, Cast Not Your Pearls before Swine!
* * * * Matthew 22:36-40, Believers' TWO Commandments * * * *
Matthew 23:13-30, Woes of Hypocrites