The New Testament makes a lot out of how Jesus and John were close.  It is implied that Jesus taught him the religious mysteries and truths sooner than he taught the others.  This beloved disciple wrote every evil things.  Scholars doubt that John really wrote but he might have done and that is what we will concentrate on here.  It does not cast Jesus in a good light.

The text we are thinking about says that you lose life with God by sin but there is sin that does not lead to death and sin that does.  So death here would mean physical death or some kind of permanent spiritual death.  Or both.  The Church tellingly permits you to think this is suicide or apostasy where you leave the Christian faith.  It is clearly a sin that you see.  It refutes the current virtue signalling lie told by the Church that you cannot see how God is working in a person so you cannot look at somebody and know they are lost forever.  Jesus notably never ever when he confronted the Jewish leaders told people to pray for them.  He accused them of a permanent sin remember for saying the exorcisms he did were satanic tricks.  There are no examples at all of him praying for their conversion.

The First Letter of John 5:16:

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

The passage is twisted by Christians to mean, "You can pray for such sinners.  I am just not going to tell you to."  But this is clearly distortion.  Why NOT TELL THEM TO?  It's clearly a soft way of saying one must not pray for them.

So it says that there are some sinners you should not pray for for there is no point. But who are those sinners? And why is there no point?

The Bible is clear that there is no salvation or reconciliation with God without sincere committed repentance from sin and taking on the duty to do better in the future.  Unrepentance is the first thing we think of when we see that text.

But the sin is not clearly not the sin of unrepentance as such.  The Bible says you must pray for those who will not repent that they might do so and be forgiven.  Why does he not just say unrepentance?  Why be so obscure and write "sin that leads to death"?

Some say that John means a sinner who is already dead and showed no sign of repentance. They feel the passage is saying that once you are dead, prayers cannot help you get back with God.  It would bolster the notion that death is the moment where it is decided if you are going to head to eternal salvation or eternal loss. 

 If the passage meant somebody physically dead then it would read,

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that has not killed them yet you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not kill them. There is a sin that kills the sinner I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not kill.

The passage says you can judge if a person is committing a sin that will or will not lead them to death. It is talking about people who are physically alive.

The word used for sinning is hamartanein. It is present tense. The passage is not about people who have died yet.

It speaks of a sin - and a sin that you can see.

The usual interpretation that the text is about a refusal to repent that has been ingrained for a long time.  This interpretation implies that rather than a single act of sin the person drifts so far away from God over time that his sin becomes everlasting.

But a sin you can see can be a long-term sin or just a single act.  A single act sounds better.  You cannot see a murderer slowly poisoning the victim as good as you see them slaying them with a knife.  In fact you do not really see the former at all.

You do not write:

"All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death" unless you mean that there are some deeds that put you beyond salvation and redemption.

By the way why is it all wrongdoing is sin and not all sin is wrongdoing?  Wrongdoing is not necessarily deliberately wrong.  Surely we are not to think that your intentions do not count?  If you can sin without knowing or intending then nobody can go to Heaven.

If the sin is impenitence then he would have written,

"All wrongdoing is sin, and will lead to death if not repented."

Distinguishing between wrongdoing that leads to death and wrongdoing that does not is pointless.  That is too confusing.  Just say the unrepentant will not be forgiven.  Simple. 

Believers say that John means that God is taking the sinner's life for he won't repent just like how Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 stated that anybody who takes the bread and cup "without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died." But Paul is only speaking generally while John is specific. John is saying you can look at an individual and know that there is no point in praying for him for his sin is killing him. His sin has sealed his fate.

The passage is ignored by Christianity for it wants to imagine that people can convert to God in the last moments of life after being godless profligates all their days.

Will a person repent in time before they die? Some deal with this by thinking there is always a surprise. But for many there is no surprise. Jesus was clear that the surprise salvation doctrine can be true in some cases.  Generally, those who lose their salvation failed to prepare themselves when they had had the chance.  His parables warn about being ready always.

The text says that if you see that somebody commits a sin that does not lead to death, then to pray that God will give them life.  Mortal sin in Catholic doctrine is a sin that puts God's presence out of your soul.  God is present everywhere but here we mean presence as in union between your heart and the heart of God.  That is what life means.  It is life with God.  Are they mortal sinners?  If so then you are praying for God to restore spiritual life with him.  Or are you praying that their sin does not lead to permanent death? Many hold that you have to pray in case their sin though it does not lead to final death, permanent loss of God, might soon start doing so.  So here you have the mortal sin killing the relationship with God but a specific type killing the relationship forever.

Admittedly John is very confusing.  But that seems to explain it. What else can?

And if God can dramatically change somebody who is dying and does in most or all cases why didn't he try harder with Herod or Hitler before they wreaked so much suffering and destruction? The argument is an insult to their victims and really about whitewashing.

We conclude that the text is saying that there is such a thing as an unpardonable sin and if you see a person committing it their loss of salvation is guaranteed no matter how long they live in the future.  This fits in with Jesus telling the Jewish leaders they had committed an eternal sin by saying Satan was doing the works of the Holy Spirit in him.    Even if the text meant that if somebody is dying and seemed to have never repented of sin you can judge them as past all hope it would be horrid and ethically repugnant. The text is even worse than that for it opposes death bed conversions at least for some.


Back to how the text forbids you to pray for a brother who is committing a sin that leads to death.  Let us assume that the Church is right that the reason the person is not forgiven is that death ends the possibility of reconciliation with God.

The Old Testament God says that you must have no pity for anybody sentenced to death by stoning. By implication, it is a sin to pray for them. John is usually taken to mean the person who is dying or and won't repent but if so then it could mean the person who is dying as in waiting for execution too. Spiritual death means you are cut off from God and make yourself dead to him. The only possible interpretation is that the text means physical death for nobody can see if somebody is really opposing God any more. You cannot see into anybody else's heart to judge them as spiritually dead to God.

Death is certain which means the sinner is up for the death penalty either from God or man. The sinner is blamed for committing the sin that leads to this death.

John makes perfect sense if you see that the Old Testament laws about murdering certain sinners as still in force in the apostolic Church.  The early Church might not have participated in public murders where sinners were stoned but nobody is sure.  As Jews they would have had to lift stones with everybody else.

A strong Christian tradition holds that the "sin unto death" is suicide. 

The text definitely teaches that conversions, perhaps in some cases, at the point of death will not be honoured by God.


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