Does God Always Give Second Chances? John Says “No.”


It’s a common myth that God will always bring us back to repentance. This myth is debunked in the first letter of John. While John writes that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), he also tells us that sometimes God never gives us another chance to confess our sins and be forgiven.

In 1 John 5:16–17, the apostle gives us the other side of the sin-confession-forgiveness coin:

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

Put simply, there are sins that Christians commit that don’t lead to death—but there are some that do. Is John talking about a divine law of cause and effect, where a specific sin irrevocably results in death? Not exactly.

We can be certain that John has no specific sin in mind because he never names a sin in this passage. John is saying there may come a time when God has had enough of our sin, and then our time on earth is up. We cannot know when such a time might come—so we shouldn’t be in the habit of sinning with impunity.

When sin literally led to death

John had actually seen this happen. In Acts 5:1–11, Luke relates the incident of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied to Peter (and to God) about the proceeds from a piece of property they had sold. They were under no obligation to give any of it to the church but pretended that they had given all the money to the Lord’s work. When confronted by Peter, both of them collapsed and died on the spot. Luke writes that “great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:11). No kidding.

No doubt this incident left an imprint on John’s mind. But John would have also known that there was Old Testament precedent for “sin unto death” as well. In Numbers 11, in response to the latest wave of complaining about their circumstances, the Lord sent the people of Israel meat to eat in the form of quails. “While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague” (Num 11:33). John’s message to believers wasn’t: “God doesn’t judge like that today.” Rather, it was: “Stop sinning, because there is a sin that leads to death.”

Lest we think God is horrible and negative, we would do well to remember that it was John who penned “God is love”—in this same letter (1 John 4:8). As with Ananias and Sapphira, removing a sinning believer from the church was (very) tough love. But the fledgling church was all the stronger and more committed for it.

***

why is the bible hard to understandDr. Michael S. Heiser is a scholar-in-residence for Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible Software. He is the author of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible and has taught many Mobile Ed courses, including Problems in Biblical Interpretation: Difficult Passages I.

This article is excerpted from Dr. Heiser’s book I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible.

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* Header image: Death of Ananias, by Raphael.

Comments

  1. Alex O. Sellman says:

    A sobering reminder and warning, thank you for posting it.

    Henry Blackaby in his well-known study “Experiencing God”, also points out that sometimes God does not give second chances, e.g., the sin of Achan mentioned in Joshua 7.

    • The answers here, including my own and possibly the original post seem to be “melging” (melding/merging) questions of eternal security with that of judging of dying which are (and I think all would agree, can be) different and should be considered separately.

  2. Alex O. Sellman says:

    (I’ll try this again)

    A sobering reminder and warning, thank you for posting it.

    Henry Blackaby in his well-known study “Experiencing God”, also points out that sometimes God does not give second chances, e.g., the sin of Achan mentioned in Joshua 7.

  3. Jesus had taught the disciples not to judge (Matthew 7:1) and to allow the tares to grow along with the wheat (Matthew 13:30). However, he also told the Twelve that they would would sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28) “in the regeneration”. So the resurrection of Israel (Ezek 37) and the regeneration occurred in the outpouring of the spirit on all flesh in the last days of temple-centric Judaism (Joel 2, Acts 2). And as Malachi predicted, judgment would be swift (Malachi 3:5). The ministry of the apostles in Acts 1-15 is NOT normative for the assemblies today. For the Christian there is always a second chance, per the Davidic covenant and the “sure mercies of David” (Psalm 89).

    • Jeffrey Towell says:

      @Bill Ross, I’ve carefully read your words but cannot see how you arrive at the conclusion that what started at Acts 2 is the fulfillment of the “regeneration” Jesus refers to in Matt 7. I also cannot see how your argument discounts the point made in the article (and more importantly by John) that there is sin leading to death. I’m guessing (with respect) that you see the writing of John to be in a different dispensation and hence not applicable today.

      • My point about the regeneration was that the regeneration had not begun or taken place in Matthew 7:1 when Jesus was teaching Torah to Jews but it was expected imminently:

        Act 1:6 KJV – 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

        So Jesus is unable to tell them *when* but he does tell them what and how:

        Act 1:7-8 KJV – 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

        It was on the day of Pentecost that “the regeration” and “restoration of Israel” began. So too did the “judgeship”:

        Mat 19:28 NASB – 28 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

        Notice that there is no mention of the gentile nations. The “regeneration” is the “restoration of Israel” mentioned in Acts 1:6. This is because through all its history the Jews were violating the covenant, despising the sacrificial system and eating “Baconaters” so they spent all their time in captivity, etc. But God took his commitment seriously:

        Isa 62:1-12 KJV – 1 For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. 2 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. 3 Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. 4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee. 6 I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, 7 And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. 8 The LORD hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength, Surely I will no more give thy corn to be meat for thine enemies; and the sons of the stranger shall not drink thy wine, for the which thou hast laboured: 9 But they that have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the LORD; and they that have brought it together shall drink it in the courts of my holiness. 10 Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. 11 Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 12 And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.

        So in the messianic age from the time of John the Baptist until circa 73ad God was fulfilling his commitments to make the Jews and Jerusalem to be his city on a hill and a joy to the whole earth.

        During this period and to this People were Peter and the Twelve judges judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Malachi 3 and other places speak of this as a time when judgment would be immediate.

        But God raised up Paul independently with a mission to the gentiles. He was the architect of the new humanity. His epistles (unlike those of the Twelve) are directed to gentiles (and Jews also of course but not on the basis of their being Jews). He provides a pattern and example for the conduct of the saints.

        * Paul judges quickly
        * he does not predict the man’s fate
        * his aim is redemptive (restoration)
        * the man is later restored

        1Co 5:3-5 KJV – 3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

        We learn in the next letter that the man was restored and everyone lived happily ever after.

        So my point is that Matthew 7:1 is a different context from that of Acts 5 and from that of Corinthians. While there are differences between that of Corinth and here, now, they were a largely or perhaps predominantly gentile assembly and Paul was the apostle to the gentiles. So what you read in the Torah, the prophets, the writings, the gospels, Acts, the Jewish letters, Revelation… that’s all about the last days of the Jewish theocracy, Jerusalem and the temple and the raising up of the Israel of God, the New Jerusalem, the new covenant, etc.

        But Paul’s writings are for the current dispensation:

        Eph 3:2 KJV – 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
        Col 1:25 KJV – 25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

        The neglect of Paul in favor of Peter and the Twelve has created a world of confusion and attempting to model a modern day “Church” after the first 15 chapters of Acts has led to phony prophecies, fake healings, false apostles, fake languages, fake interpretations, etc.

  4. Dean Poulos says:

    Alex, I certainty agree the OT is replete with examples of “no second chances.” Michael provides the example from Num 11.33. Let’s remember the sin of Achan (I wonder if Akan is a play on words, akor, i.e., trouble) is an Old Testament “Type.”

    One man’s sin was bestowed corporately. The entire camp of Israel was held responsible. God revealed Himself much differently in that age, while at the same time He is also revealing a Type for the age of Grace. The sin of Achon is one of the most obvious. It is not only a Type, it provides crystal clarity on how God administers His purpose differently through the ages in how He interacts with man. [any emphasis is mine]

    1 Cor 10:1-12

    “1. For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. [5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.] [6 Now these things took place as EXAMPLES for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8. We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and [twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.] 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for OUR instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

    Paul dwells on the “Examples” (Types) from the age of the Law, then quickly ends his message with a single verse in the age of Grace.

    1 Cor 10:13

    “13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

  5. So you are saying that blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is not the only unforgivable sin? Correct me if I am wrong, but does not scripture say this is the only unforgivable win…

    • B. Huff – Ananias and Sephira committed blasphemy (lying) to the Holy Spirit. They committed the unforgivable sin.

      Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit takes many forms, and we can see several warnings of them in the New and Old Testament.

      for example, 2 Peter 2 and Jude both warn against the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that turns the grace of God into a license to sin, this is known today as Once Saved Always Saved or Eternal Security. Eternal Security teachers will tell you that even though God took the Holy Spirit (ekpsycho) from Ananias and Sephira, they still got to go to Heaven. Sin all you want and die, and end up in heaven early.

      Or as some of these blasphemers state;

      “You can sin like the Devil and still get in!”

      This is _literally_ blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and they are condemned for it. read the text of Jude and 2 peter 2.

      [Jde 1:4 KJV] 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

      Those that do this were _ordained_ of old to receive condemnation. This is the same language Peter uses.

      [2Pe 2:1-3, 14-17 KJV] 1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. … 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam [the son] of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

      Eternal Security is and always has been a damnable heresy, it’s blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

      BUT – so is the prosperity gospel, that Ananias and Sephira were practicing. You can see from Jude and 2 Peter 2, that these two doctrines intermingle. Those that pursue unrighteousness, pursue it’s wages.

    • Hey, any relation to Jim & Kathy, New Orleans?

  6. So I wonder what this might mean in today’s church? How would John respond to the 700 alleged sex offenders from the southern Baptist convention? It’s so sickening. A new set of clients for Discovering Mercy. I’m crying for all those affected.

  7. I believe King Saul and the Incestuous Believer are 2 more examples.