Timely Messenger  —  February  2004

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The Unpardonable Sin (Part 1)

"Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who 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, either in this age or in the age to come." (Matt. 12:31-32)

The "sin and blasphemy against the (Holy) Spirit" that Jesus speaks of here is what is commonly referred to as the "unpardonable sin." Many people worry about committing such a sin, even today during this present age of grace. Can a person commit such a sin today? In order to answer this question, we need to determine just what this sin against the Holy Spirit is, and we need to look carefully at the context in which Jesus made this statement to see whether or not this passage of Scripture is even applicable to us today.

The first word in verse 31 is "therefore," a word that forces us to look back at the previous verses, for they form the basis for Jesus' statement in verses 31-32. In verse 22, we find Jesus healing a man who was demon-possessed, blind and mute. As the multitudes watched this miracle, they were amazed and asked, "Could this be the Son of David?" Why would they ask this question? When we look back at Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of Israel's Messiah, the One anointed by God to be their King, we find that when He comes to save Israel, He will perform wonderful miracles of healing.

"Say to those who are fearful-hearted, 'Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.' Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing ..." (Isa. 35:4-6)

When the multitudes saw Jesus heal the blind and the mute, they wondered if He could be the Son of David, their Messiah and King.

The Pharisees, who were the strictest sect of the Jew's religion, disputed this question posed by the multitudes and offered their own explanation for Jesus' miracles.

"This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons." (Matt. 12:24)

Jesus, knowing their thoughts, responded to this false statement. He reasoned with them saying, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation." Therefore, it would make no sense for Satan to cast out his own demons, for "How then will his kingdom stand?" (Matt. 12:25-26). Jesus also pointed out,

"If I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?" (Matt. 12:27).

Not only was Jesus able to cast out demons, He had also given authority to His twelve apostles to do so as well, therefore, He told the Pharisees, "They shall be your judges" (Matt. 12:27 cf. Luke 22:28-30).

Then, Jesus declared,

"But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house." (Matt. 12:28-29)

The kingdoms of the world, even the world itself, are presently under the control and authority of Satan. At one point during Satan's temptations of Jesus, Satan took Him up on a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, saying, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish" (Luke 4:6). While Jesus rebuked Satan for demanding worship that is due to God and God alone, He did not dispute Satan's claim regarding his authority over the kingdoms of the world. Later, we find Jesus referring to Satan as "the prince of this world" on at least three different occasions (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11).

One day, the Lord Jesus Christ will completely fulfill what is found in Matthew 12:29. He will enter the strong man's house, returning to the earth and entering this world which is currently ruled by Satan; He will bind the strong man, casting Satan into the bottomless pit and imprisoning him there for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3); and He will plunder the strong man's goods, for all "the kingdoms of this world" will become "the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Rev. 11:15).

In casting out demons by the Spirit of God, Jesus clearly demonstrated His power and His authority to take the kingdoms of this world from Satan's control and establish His own rule over all the earth. The presence of their King, living and working in their midst, should have been proof to Israel that the kingdom of God had come upon them.

Jesus then dealt with the position of the Pharisees, who, even at that time, were already plotting against Jesus to destroy Him (Matt. 12:14).

"He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad." (Matt. 12:30).

The Pharisees had already rejected Jesus as their King and refused to confess that He was the Christ, the Son of God. Instead of working with Him to lead the children of Israel into the kingdom of heaven, their opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ caused others in Israel to be scattered abroad. Later, Jesus pronounced woe upon this very same group of self-righteous religious leaders.

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." (Matt. 23:13)

As we can see from the context, there is certainly nothing that would lead us to try and apply Matthew 12:31-32 in this present dispensation of grace. This passage centers on the question of Jesus' authority as Israel's King, a fact that was clearly demonstrated through His power to cast out demons by the Holy Spirit. The people who are being dealt with are Jews, in particular the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Israel. The key issue is their response to Jesus' ability to cast out demons. Instead of acknowledging this to be the power of the Holy Spirit, they attributed this miracle, instead, to Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons; that is to Satan himself.

To be continued next month.


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