The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is There an Unforgivable Sin?
IS THERE a punishment worse than death? Yes, death without the hope of a resurrection because one has committed an unforgivable sin. Jesus said that there is a type of sin that “will not be forgiven.”—Matthew 12:31.
The Bible, however, describes God as being forgiving. Although men can be prone to hold a grudge and withhold forgiveness, God ‘forgives in a large way.’ (Isaiah 55:7-9) In fact, at great cost to himself, God sent his dear Son to earth to be a propitiatory, or covering, sacrifice so valuable that it could blot out our sins.—John 3:16, 17; Acts 3:19; 1 John 2:1, 2.
In due time God will resurrect many who have been guilty of serious sins but who will no longer be accountable for their past actions. (Acts 24:15; Romans 6:23) In fact, Jesus said that with the exception of the unforgivable sin, “every sort of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:31) So you may wonder, ‘What could be so terrible that it is unforgivable by God?’
Past the Point of Repentance
Jesus’ warning referred to willful and deliberate “blasphemy against the spirit.” There is no acquittal for this type of sin. “No, not in this system of things nor in that to come,” he added. (Matthew 12:31, 32) Those guilty of such sin will not be resurrected.
What is blasphemy against the spirit? It emanates from the heart, revealing a malicious attitude and intent. The purposeful intent to oppose God’s holy spirit intensifies the seriousness of this sin. To illustrate: In some parts of the world, the law distinguishes between murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree on the basis of intent and the way the murder was committed, and it limits capital punishment (death) to intentional or premeditated murder.
The apostle Paul was formerly a blasphemer but said: “I was shown mercy, because I was ignorant.” (1 Timothy 1:13) To sin against the holy spirit is to oppose it willfully. It involves a wicked heart condition that reaches the point of no return.
Paul was evidently referring to this kind of sin when he wrote: “It is impossible as regards those who have once for all been enlightened, and who have tasted the heavenly free gift, and who have become partakers of holy spirit, and who have tasted the fine word of God and powers of the coming system of things, but who have fallen away, to revive them again to repentance.” (Hebrews 6:4-6) The apostle also said: “If we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left.”—Hebrews 10:26.
It was the conduct of some religious leaders in his day that prompted Jesus to warn against the unforgivable sin. But they did not heed his warning. In fact, they had him killed. Later they heard undeniable evidence that the holy spirit had done something miraculous. They were told that Jesus had been brought back from the dead! It was clear that Jesus was the Christ! Still, they acted wickedly against the holy spirit by paying the Roman soldiers to lie about Jesus’ resurrection.—Matthew 28:11-15.
Warning to True Christians
Why do true Christians take the warning of the unforgivable sin to heart? Because although we have accurate knowledge of God and of the activity of his spirit, a wicked heart could develop. (Hebrews 3:12) We should be careful not to think that this could never happen to us. Consider Judas Iscariot. He was once a faithful follower of Jesus. He was chosen as one of the 12 apostles, so he must have had good qualities. But at some point he began to let wicked thoughts and desires grow, and they eventually overtook him. During the period of time he was an eyewitness of Jesus’ incredible miracles, he was stealing money. Then, for money, he knowingly betrayed the Son of God.
Some people who were once faithful Christians have purposely drawn away from God, perhaps because of bitterness, pride, or greed, and are now apostate fighters against God’s spirit. They willfully oppose what the spirit is clearly accomplishing. Have these individuals committed the unforgivable sin? Jehovah is the final Judge.—Romans 14:12.
Rather than judging others, we do well personally to guard against committing secret sins that can gradually harden our hearts. (Ephesians 4:30) And we take comfort in the fact that Jehovah will forgive us in a large way, even of serious sins that we have committed, if we are repentant.—Isaiah 1:18, 19.
[Picture on page 12, 13]
Some Pharisees committed the unforgivable sin