Good Question—isn't Jesus admitting that the Unpardonable sin could be committed today?
Date: April 12/2004
I got this question about my earlier pieces on the Unpardonable sin (one, two):
I have an objection-question to one of your responses concerning the unforgivable sin. You said that you don't think the circumstances exist anymore to commit the sin but Jesus said the sin will not be forgiven in this age or THE AGE TO COME. If he knew the sin could only be committed when he was alive then why would he say that?
I replied with this email:
“Bless you too, ABC--
There are two things which I consider decisive:
1. The AGE TO COME is always referring to the time when NO SIN WHATSOEVER will be created (the New Age, the New World, Heaven, etc.). Since this is a period of perfection, no sin however large or small will be COMMITTED. This is true both for the Jews of the day ["Isaiah had already predicted the new heavens and new earth (Is 65:17; 66:22); the focus of attention in this new creation would be the new Jerusalem (Is 65:18). Many Jewish depictions of the age to come (e.g., in 1 Enoch, Jubilees and Pseudo-Philo) emphasized the new heavens and earth. Some Jewish texts spoke of the renewal of the first creation; others spoke of its replacement by a new creation; Revelation holds to the latter position. Many texts described the end time in terms of the beginning, as a renewal of paradise (see comment on 22:1–5); so here the new creation recalls the goodness of the first creation before sin marred it (Gen 1:1)."; Keener, C. S. (1997, c1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (Revelation 21:1). Downers Grove: InterVarsity. ] and for Paul ["The notion of the coming age, explicit in Ephesians 1:21; 2:7 and implicit in Romans 8:18–25 and 1 Corinthians 15:20–28, implies the fulfillment of God’s purpose in creation when evil and corruption will be overcome."; Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (1997, c1993). Dictionary of Paul and his letters (electronic ed.). Logos Library Systems. Downers Grove: InterVarsity.]
BTW, this is common usage in Matthew: "this two-age language is common in Judaism and in Matthew; e.g., 13:22, 39, 40; 24:3"; Hagner, D. A. (2002). Vol. 33A: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13. Word Biblical Commentary (Page 347). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.]
2. The passage is talking about the sin being 'forgiven' NOT about the sin being 'committed. This can be seen from the parallel passages, which do NOT use the 'age to come' image:
"And everyone who will speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him"; [New American Standard Bible. 1986; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996 (electronic edition.) (Lk 12:10). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.; NOTICE THE POINT IS about the never-ending guilt--the focus is on this]
"but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"; [New American Standard Bible. 1986; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996 (electronic edition.) (Mk 3:29). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.; NOTICE: the emphasis is on the eternal LACK OF FORGIVENESS]
What this basically means is this: Since sin will NOT be committed AT ALL in the age to come, the passage can only be referring to the eternal EFFECTS of a sin committed in THIS AGE.
Does that clear it up any? [I am assuming you were under the impression that "AGE TO COME" meant the time AFTER the death of Jesus, but still BEFORE He remakes the universe--i.e., this present time? ]
But I received another reply, and I replied in 'interlinear' fashion (ABC's comments in BOLD, mine in [understated]--smile):
Hey Glenn, thanks for putting so much time and effort into answering my emails. That means a lot to me.
[I probably wont be able to do much more, friend...busy, busy week ahead...hopefully this will give you some more stuff to pray over...
It clears some stuff up but I'm still worried. My life would be so much easier if that passage was not in the Bible. However, I'm never interested in hearing stuff just to make me feel better and am not someone that's capable capable of accepting something just because it's said by someone smarter than me and does not logically make sense to me. :(
First of all I read something in one of your responses to a minister's email about this and you told him that because he didn't do what the Pharisees did, he didn't commit the sin. But why are we supposed to take that verse into exact context and assume that the only way to commit the sin is to do exactly what the Pharisees did?
[There are a number of reasons why we don't go beyond what the biblical text says...
[1. When the text is that specific "because they said he had a demon", you leave it with that! We do NOT add to the Word of God. Had it been JUST a reference to 'blasphemy', that MIGHT have left an open door for multiple understandings (given the wide range of ‘blasphemous’ things)...but God was merciful to us here(!) and made it explicit in the text: "blasphemy of the Spirit" = "saying that the miracles done by the pre-risen Messiah Jesus were done by a demon, possessing Jesus" That’s very, very specific. [For example, when Jesus says “Go not unto the Gentiles”—we do NOT make that into a global contextless command! One always starts with the historical context, and if there are other textural indications that it is applicable ELSEWHERE, then and ONLY THEN do we make it into a ‘generic’ or a ‘principle’ (and even there we try to find the boundary conditions, in which it is overridden by some other principle—e.g., the prohibition against killing is not extended to rulers, warfare, and self-protection in the OT).
[2. This can also be seen from the fact that many other sins against the Holy Spirit are either (a) tolerated; or (b) disciplined by sickness or death a la I Cor 11.30-31; but NEVER referred to as 'unforgivable'. For example, people (including believers, in some cases) can grieve the Spirit (no hint of even discipline here!), quench the spirit, and resist the spirit –like the Jews in the OT (Acts 7.51)—yet none of these seem to carry the ‘unforgivable’ tag. If we would have generalized from ‘blaspheme’ to THESE sins, we would have been WRONG.
[3. And this obviously cannot be generalized to ALL blasphemy, since (a) Jesus specifically excludes blasphemy against himself; and (b) Paul was a blasphemer [1 Tim 1.13], probably calling Jesus a false messiah before His conversion; (c) two of Paul’s associates are obviously blasphemers, who are temporarily excommunicated so they learn to STOP [1 Tim 1.20—notice that this blasphemy was OBVIOUSLY 'recoverable from'...]
[What this means is that the burden of proof falls upon YOU to show—from the BIBLICAL text-- that it can be, should be, or WAS generalized—when all the data indicates contrariwise that it was VERY specific.
Also, with the age to come deal, I'm still unclear with that. Yea the passage is about the sin being forgiven, but it doesn't say it won't be committed in the next age; it just says it won't be forgiven.
[It doesn’t say either way—the passage is not about that…its about the eternal consequences of a specific type of sin.
Once again, to me, it seems that the fact that Jesus even mentioned that it won't be forgiven could mean it will be committed. Just because the other gospels don't mention the age to come doesn't mean Jesus didn't say it right?
[Actually, it’s the opposite. The other passages are PARALLEL—meaning that they all basically say the SAME THING. They are sorta paraphrases of each other. The ‘age to come’ reference would make perfect sense to the Jew (who KNEW no SIN would be done in the Age to Come; it was one of PERFECTION—see my article on finaltorah.html), but the other passages have to explain it for less-Jewish readers. Its not that the other passages DO NOT mention the ‘age to come’, but rather that THEY DO — its just the ‘unforgiven in the age to come’ MEANS ‘eternally unforgiven’. They are all in agreement, expressing the same point for different audiences/readership.
Just like only one says that Jesus healed the soldier's ear that Peter cut off when he was arrested. There is hardly anything that all four gospels record exactly the same. But I don't think that's what you were trying to say.
[Right—I am saying that they all DO agree, and that since the other passages are very clear that its about ‘eternal unforgiveness’ instead of ‘commission in some future era’, this is our biblical guideline as to how to deal with the ambiguity you see in that passage.
This isn't a hugely important deal with my concern about the UF sin because the main thing I'm concerned about is my first question (the one about doing what the Pharisees did being the only way) but only if you have some spare time..
[I hope the additional points up above help—just remember:
(a) There is NO BIBLICAL DATA to support the notion that ANY OTHER SIN can be called ‘the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit’
(b) There IS BIBLICAL DATA to support the notion that MANY other sins against the Spirit ARE forgivable (or at least not ‘eternally unforgivable’).
(c) ALL MANNER of sin occurs in the scripture, relative to believers, and it is difficult to believe (esp given I cor 10.13—look it up) that some sin in the PRESENT is truly NEW--that it is not included in the horrible sins listed in the NT which ARE Forgivable—blasphemy against Jesus, murder, idolatry, deceit, even nailing Jesus to a Cross, incest, adultery, frustrating / resisting / quenching the Spirit! But instead, this new sin (under this theory) would supposedly really be one very specific ‘old’ sin—that done by the Pharisees before the death of Jesus.
(d) For anyone to equate ANY OTHER SIN with that specific sin is therefore:
(1) going BEYOND what the text says,
(2) going AGAINST what other references to sin/blasphemy seem to indicate, and
(3) is therefore literally, “groundless” speculation—and not something of sound, revealed truth…there is not even any reason to actually be ‘skeptical’ in this case—there is enough data about this to warrant a judgment that you simply could NOT have done this personally…almost ANYTHING you could have done wrong, was done by someone else ALREADY in the New Testament. And most, if not all, of them were documented as forgiven and the leader/believer reinstated: the incest guy, Mark who abandoned Paul, Paul the messiah-fighter and blasphemer, peter the betrayer, Thomas the doubter, Nathaniel the Nazareth-disparager, the many sorcerers/spellcasters of Ephesus—with tons of demonic interactions and witchcraft associates—but still believers and forgiven!, the cowardly of Thessalonians, even those who lapsed briefly into ‘legalism’ and hypocrisy—Peter and Barnabas in Galatians…
[I think you are going to have a VERY tough time (read: “impossible”!...smile) making a case that whatever YOU personally did, is so DIFFERENT from all the forgivable sins of the NT, yet is so ALIKE that specific sin of the Pharisees – and if you cannot make such a case, then you need to drop this issue and start thanking God for forgiveness for your past—and start claiming that forgiveness whenever your ‘inner self’ wants to drag you back through the mud…”I stand forgiven—end of statement”
[in His grace, forgiveness, and patience for me, glenn
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