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The Unforgivable Sin

Jack Ryan

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I am not sure if this is an official JW teaching or not but it was drilled into me as a child. I was taught that not accepting the GB as Gods sole channel was not just a sin but an unforgivable sin. So if you went there you were guaranteed destruction, even if later you repented and came back.

Any one else taught this? Is this implied in the literature or maybe my Mom got this from a talk in the 70s or 80s.

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This is pretty astute. Personal extrapolation is at the root of much of what is "kooky" about the notions held by some Jehovah's Witnesses. I had to persuade one recently that it is unlikely that anim

I think we have always pretty much stated what the Insight Book states: *** it-2 p. 969 Sin, I *** Jesus said they had “no excuse for their sin” because they were witnesses of the powerful

hMMMMmmmm ... I thought there was only ONE unforgivable sin ..... Telling a racially offensive joke to white people ... that was NOT outrageously funny !

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I think we have always pretty much stated what the Insight Book states:

*** it-2 p. 969 Sin, I ***

  • Jesus said they had “no excuse for their sin” because they were witnesses of the powerful words and works proceeding from him as the result of God’s spirit on him. (Joh 15:22-24; Lu 4:18) Those who, either in word or by their course of action, willfully and knowingly blasphemed God’s spirit thus manifested would be “guilty of everlasting sin,” with no forgiveness possible. (Mt 12:31, 32; Mr 3:28-30; compare Joh 15:26; 16:7, 8.) This could be the case with some who came to be Christians and then deliberately turned from God’s pure worship. Hebrews 10:26, 27 states that “if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition.”

And this from the early 1950's:

*** w52 2/15 p. 126 Questions From Readers ***

  • What is the unforgivable sin against the holy spirit that Jesus spoke about?—B. E., New York.
  • Jesus had just cured a demon-possessed man who was blind and dumb. The crowds marveled, but the Pharisees scoffed and said Jesus did it by means of Beelzebub. Jesus refuted their claim by showing that if Satan expelled Satan he would be divided against himself and his kingdom could not stand. Also, if Jesus expelled demons by means of Beelzebub, by whose means did their sons expel them? Then he said: “Every kind of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven. For example, whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in the present system of things nor in that to come.”—Matt. 12:22-32, NW.


Therefore, the clearest example would be seeing Jesus perform a miracle, know for sure that such a good evidence of the holy spirit could only have come from the power of God, and then claiming that his power must have come from Satan or his demons. When we think about the only possible motivations for anyone saying such a thing when they KNOW otherwise, we get a sense of how serious the "unforgivable sin" would be.

One could try to extrapolate that the GB are direct proof of the miraculous power and evidence of God's holy spirit. If someone truly believed this and then claimed that the GB's "power" actually comes from Satan or his demons, then I suppose you could stretch the analogy. But since there is no claimed miraculous power, and no claims of direct inspiration from Jehovah's holy spirit, the entire idea seems non-applicable to me. 

Still, I have heard it. It's part of fear of apostates. Some are in mortal fear of learning what an apostate might be thinking or accidentally seeing one of their publications or websites. Pretty much the Witness definition of an apostate is that they are persons who no longer accept what the GB says, and are therefore rejecting the GB as God's only appointed channel. Of course, for some reason Geoffrey Jackson himself said it would be presumptuous if the GB were to claim to be Jehovah's only channel of communication for Christians today. Similar things have been said more recently in Watchtower articles that followed up on this idea. Therefore, by that same definition, if it were true, then a current member of the GB may have just committed the unforgivable sin. The irony is that this was said under circumstances that were quite similar to the following:

  • (Matthew 10:19, 20) 19 However, when they hand you over, do not become anxious about how or what you are to speak, for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour; 20 for the ones speaking are not just you, but it is the spirit of your Father that speaks by you.

So, if we believed that way, we might have to accept that it was the holy spirit that made it clear the GB are not always led by holy spirit.

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On 6/4/2018 at 12:09 AM, JW Insider said:

One could try to extrapolate

This is pretty astute. Personal extrapolation is at the root of much of what is "kooky" about the notions held by some Jehovah's Witnesses. I had to persuade one recently that it is unlikely that animals will be included in the resurrection. I thought this was an unusual idea until I met an Anglican clergyman even more recently who believed the same thing, citing Romans 8:22 as scriptural basis for this. My queries about the possibility of being knee-deep in gerbils met with quizzical looks in both cases, but I felt it wasn't something we needed to fall out over.

This idea of commiting the "unforgivable sin" is also subject to personal extrapolation, but with more serious implications than the possibility of a resurrection for one's favourite pet.

@Jack Ryan seems to have been subjected to the idea as a kind of "bogeyman" threat.

@JWInsider has provided some good references on the matter, but forgive me if I say that they still seem to rather skirt than define it.

1 John 5:16 provides food for thought here when saying "There is a sin that does incur death".

Scriptural examples provide the best guide in determining what this "(unforgivable) sin" might be. We can contrast David, Mannaseh, the apostle Peter, and Saul who became Paul with Adam and Eve, the 1st century religious leaders (as a class), Judas, to discern the reasons why some were forgiven and some not.

Paul gets to the heart of it in the letter to the Hebrews at Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26, 27. The key expressions here are:

"For it is impossible......................... to revive them again to repentance,"  Heb 6:4-6

"For if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left" Heb.10:26

So "willfull practice of sin" , and, particularly, "no repentance" seem to be the key qualifiers here. These descriptors refer to a state rather than a particular action, determination of which is firmly in the hands of "the Judge of all the earth" (Gen 18:25), and "a man who he has appointed" (Acts 17:31).

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I remember something very similar, if you didn't obey the watchtower and governing body, Jehovah was going to kill you, which was basically not being forgiven by the governing body since the governing body considers themselves to be Jehovah.

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