cup of wrath

What is the Unpardonable Sin?

What is the unpardonable sin? I know that the unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, but can anyone commit it, and does it still happen nowadays?

The unpardonable sin is a subject that comes up now and then, and is often misunderstood. The unpardonable sin is a sin that is so egregious that it will never be forgiven. The one who commits it loses all hope of receiving eternal life, and will be condemned to the Lake of Fire on Judgment Day. So then what horrendous act(s) rises to the level of being the unpardonable sin?

The unpardonable sin is generally articulated as being blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. However, the confusion sets in when we start considering what is meant by that statement, and whether a particular act of blasphemy fits the definition of the unpardonable sin.

The unpardonable sin is referred to a few times in scripture, but it is only really elaborated upon in Matthew 12, and its parallel account in Mark 3, "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matthew 12.32 NASB bible). This statement is the key verse to identifying the unpardonable sin as being a sin that will never be forgiven, neither in this age, nor when God judges mankind in the age to come. However, to fully understand this statement we must look closely at the context surrounding it.

By this point in Jesus' ministry he has done many miraculous acts of healing, and some of them are even in front of his enemies, "And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"--so that they might accuse Him...Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him" (Matthew 12.10,13-14 KJV bible). The Pharisees are so prideful in their own self-righteousness and pretense, that they accuse Jesus of sinning because he is healing people on the Sabbath. In their ignorance of the Law, they argue that doing any work (including God's work) is illegal on the Sabbath. It's important to understand, that they aren't denying the miracle itself, but instead of being in awe at what has just occurred, they respond to it with hatred.

We see a pattern similar to this after Jesus heals a certain demon possessed man, "Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw...But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons" (Matthew 12.22,24 NASB bible). Notice again, how they aren't denying that a miracle has happened, because at this point it's too late for that. Instead, they take the work of the Holy Spirit in healing this man, and setting him free from his bondage, and ascribe it to being the work of Satan.

Then Jesus says, "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?...But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12.26,28 NASB bible). This meaning of this passage is pretty easy to understand if you think about it. A house divided against itself cannot stand; because if something is warring against itself, then it is destroying itself. This doesn't mean that there is never infighting within the kingdom of darkness, or that a non-Christian can never get a demon to leave someone. What it does mean is that Satan does not go to war against his own house.

By this time, Jesus is laying siege, and on a spiritual rampage against the house of Satan, which is to say the kingdom of darkness. This is why the devil is so desperate to turn people against Christ, and to destroy him, because the devil's stranglehold upon the world is under assault by Jesus. Thus, we can understand that the glory of the Kingdom of God is present, and the Holy Spirit is at work in Christ performing these miracles, because Satan would not be destroying his own house.

Jesus goes on to say, "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matthew 12.31-32 KJV bible). This brings us to the point of understanding the true nature of the unpardonable sin. Jesus' enemies are so defiant against the truth, and unwilling to confess their own unrighteousness, that they would rather call the work of the Holy Spirit "evil", than to give glory to God.

There are many in Judea who do not have eyes to see who Christ is, or ears to hear what he is saying, but they are at least willing to recognize that these miracles are the workings of God. However, these hypocrites are so deep in Satan's clutches, and have such hardness of heart, that they resort to naming the Spirit that is manifest within Christ "beelzeboul", which is to say the devil, rather than confess their own wickedness. Thus, we can better understand the unpardonable sin as not being just hasty words said in ignorance, but a complete defiance and rebellion against the unveiled presence and glory of God.

So can and does the unpardonable sin still happen? That's something of a difficult question. It really depends on whether someone is witnessing the genuine presence and power of the Holy Spirit, or something else. Most people are never in a position to commit the unpardonable sin. Still it's wise to be careful about judging acts or displays of faith, even if discern that they aren't genuine.

During the tribulation, when Christians are delivered up and the Holy Spirit speaks through them, some might charge that it is the voice and power of evil manifesting in them, "And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say" (Luke 12.10-12 NASB bible). So while the unpardonable sin can only happen under certain circumstances, there is a time coming in the future when it can happen again.

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