Soteriology 032Matthew 12:31-32 • Dr. Andy Woods • September 18, 2016 • Soteriology - The Doctrine of Salvation
Soteriology 32, Matthew 12:31-32
September 18, 2016
If you could open your Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 12, and taking a look at verses 31 and 32. Of course, as you know we’ve been inching our way through the doctrine of eternal security. Eternal security, as you know, means the grace that saved you is the grace that keeps you so there really is nothing you can do to lose your salvation, as we’ve tried to argue. I’ve given you about thirteen arguments why once saved always saved. And then from there we moved into a discussion of passages that seem to contradict the idea that once saved always saved. So how do we learn how to harmonize these passages with the clear ones that say you can never lose your salvation?
We’ve looked at a bunch of passages from the Old Testament, you recall, and then the last few Sundays we’ve moved into looking at the various passages from Matthew and we’ve looked at Matthew 6:14-15 last week; Matthew 7:21-23, I guess the prior week, Matthew 11:8, 12 last week, Matthew 10:32-33 last week, we skipped Matthew 12, not because we’re trying to avoid tough subjects but it was just too big a topic to get into last week so we finished off with Matthew 24:13 and Matthew 25:41. None of those passages, as we’ve looked at them, teach that you can lose your salvation.
So now we’re going to circle back this morning and look at the passage that’s probably the most difficult to understand. It’s a passage that if you just read these verses with no background they would cause you fear and terror all your days. And those are the passages, verses that talk about the so-called unpardonable sin.
So here is Matthew 12:31-32, here are the verses. No doubt as a Christian you’ve run into these or someone has pointed them out to you. Jesus says, “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.”
So people look at that verse, or these verses and this is where you get this idea, the unpardonable sin, and people live in terror, have they committed the unpardonable sin because it says if you do it, whatever it is, you can’t be forgiven today or forever. So when someone asks me, have I committed the unpardonable sin, or do you think in my life that I’ve ever committed the unpardonable sin I usually like to ask them, well, what is the unpardonable sin? And they never can give you an answer, they just know it’s really bad, whatever it is, because the text in these verses doesn’t define the unpardonable sin. So unless you have some background in these verses these verses will just run rampant in your mind, putting you into a state of fear because it speaks of some kind of sin that can’t be forgiven and it never defines it, which opens the door to people wondering their whole lives, have I committed it. So we’re going to try to look at these verses this morning and we’re going to basically look at it in four angles.
Number 1, I want to give you the context of these verses. Number 2 we’re going to ask and answer five key questions which will help us understand what the unpardonable sin is. And then there’ll be so much information I’ll have to do a summary at the end. And if time permits, maybe next week, in fact next week the Sunday School class is not meeting because we have a congregational meeting and you say boring, I’m not going to that. Well, I would encourage you to come to that because it’s a great opportunity to get to know what this church is doing as the different ministry leaders are giving reports but we won’t be formally meeting on the 25th but we’ll come back the following Sunday and what we don’t finish today we’ll finish then.
So at the end of this presentation I also want to talk about the whole issue of suicide because when people think of the unpardonable sin they connect in their mind suicide which obviously is something we don’t advocate, it’s a terrible thing when someone takes their own life. But they want to know if so and so commits suicide as a Christian are they really going to heaven. And so for some reason people in their minds have this idea that if you commit suicide that’s what the unpardonable sin is, and I’ll try to show you that that’s not true.
But let’s go ahead and start off with the context of Matthew 12:31-32. Look back at verse 22 for just a minute. It says, “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.” So Jesus has performed a miracle of healing; it’s a miracle that’s so conspicuous it can’t be denied by Christ’s friends and foes. And then as you go down to verse 23 it says, “All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, ‘This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?’” So the masses are starting to get wind of the fact that Jesus is not an ordinary guy; maybe He’s the long-awaited Messiah.
Christ’s enemies didn’t want that popularity to get too far so they immediately tried to discredit the miracle which they do there in verse 24, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.” So you’ll notice that the Pharisees can’t deny the miracle that’s happened. They can’t say it’s a parlor trick or something so they attribute it to the devil. And then as you go down to verses 25-26 you see Christ refuting that silly idea. He says in verse 25-26, “And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, ‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.” And you say I thought Abraham Lincoln said that. He did but he got it from Jesus; Jesus is the original of that statement. Even honest Abe had to plagiarize a little bit.
Verse 26, it says, “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?” Jesus says of course the devil did not cast out the devil, or the demon, from this man or else Satan’s kingdom is divided and we all know that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.
And then down in verse 27 Jesus said, “If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out?” So they were involved in exorcisms as well; the Pharisees had the ability to perform exorcisms in first century Israel, and so Jesus says if I’m doing this by Satanic power then who are you guys doing it by; you must be doing it by Satanic power also. These are just logical proofs that He’s using to discredit this idea that He’s operating under Satanic power. The rest of verse 27 says, “For this reason they will be your judges.” And then in verse 28 he says, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” So I’m doing this by My authority as the representative of the kingdom and I’m also doing this by the Spirit’s power. In other words, I’m not doing it by satanic powers. And then in verse 29 he says, “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.” Jesus says I’m able to do this because I, through My power, am overpowering Satan because I’m the representative of the King, I’m working by kingdom authority, and if you simply enthrone Me then all this power that you see, first century Israel, will be established upon the whole earth.
And then verse 30 He said, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” So He’s saying if you accept what I’m doing then you’re on my side. If you deny what I’m doing or if you attribute it to Satanic powers then you’re working against Me, and He’s showing here that the people have the chance of getting on the right side of the issue whereas the Pharisees, of course, are on the wrong side of the issue.
So it’s in that context, verses 31-32, that He starts to talk about this unpardonable sin.  “Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” That’s the whole context of the statement.
So now we move into five key questions; number 1, What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Number 2, Who committed the blasphemy of this sin? Number 3, What did this sin reveal in the hearts of those who uttered these words and attributed Christ’s miracles to the devil. Number 4, Why can’t this sin be forgiven? And then finally number 5, the question everybody asks is can this sin be committed today?
So here we go! What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Well, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, if you look up the word “blasphemy” you’ll see that it means to speak against or to slander. Slander, of course, is a spoken lie. So the reason Jesus uses the expression, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is they attributed to the devil what the Holy Spirit, through Christ, did and they were slandering Christ, they were telling lies about Him. They were saying He is not the long awaited Messiah when it should have been obvious to everybody who saw this miracle happen that Jesus, in fact, is the long awaited Messiah. So that’s what he means by blasphemy; it means to speak against, to insult, to slander, to lie, to misrepresent. So that’s why the word blasphemy is used here.
Question number 2, who committed the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Well, it’s very obvious here that the people that committed this were the Pharisees. So these are the unbelieving Pharisees; those that spoke this lie that attributed Christ’s miracles to Satan’s power were those that did not have a right relationship with the Lord. So when you understand that background you automatically understand that this verse can’t be a loss of salvation verse because these words were spoken by those who never had a right relationship with God to begin with. Everything we know about the Pharisees in the New Testament indicates that they were a group of people who essentially believed that they were made right with God through self-righteousness. And this is why Jesus, in Matthew 5:20 says, “that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteous of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven.”
So the Pharisees were, as we’ve described them in prior lessons, a group of people that were unregenerate, they were unsaved, they thought they had right standing before God through human effort, particularly their own ability to keep the Law. And beyond that all of the extra Biblical regulations promulgated by the Mishnah and the Talmud, this is what Paul, the apostle, was before he got saved while he was still Saul.
So this obviously, if you understand this, it can’t be a loss of salvation verse because the sin is not committed by those who are saved to begin with. This sin is committed by those who are unregenerate.
This takes us to question number 3, what did this sin reveal exactly? It revealed several things; number 1, it revealed their unbelief. I mean, these Pharisees were so determined not to believe or trust in Christ as their Messiah that when they saw an obvious miracle they just decided we deny the miracle, deny, deny, deny the con, if that doesn’t work, which they couldn’t deny this one, then you attribute it to another source of power. They knew about Satan, they had the knowledge of the Old Testament. They knew about Satanic miracles, they knew the book of Exodus (most likely), when Moses and Aaron performed miracles, Pharaoh’s magicians to a certain level, up until the multiplication of the gnats or the flies, (if I’m not mistaken) could replicate a lot of the things Moses and Aaron were doing and so these Pharisees just said this man Jesus, this carpenter, is obviously doing these things through satanic power.
So the moment they said that they were revealing their unbelief. They’re also revealing their self-righteousness; they’re acknowledging that they don’t need the transferred righteousness of Christ to be saved. They don’t need to be saved by faith alone as a free gift; our self-righteousness saves us. And that’s why Jesus, if you drop down to verses 34-35 says “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” In other words, what comes up in the bucket was down in the well. There’s nothing but self-righteousness and unbelief in you so you’re speaking those things. And then he says in verse 35, “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.” So their statement reveals their character, which was a character of unbelief and of self-righteousness.
And now we get to the fourth question, why can’t this sin be forgiven. I mean, why did Jesus make such a harsh statement, if you speak against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven but if you speak against the Holy Spirit it will never be forgiven in this age or the age to come? You have to look at this sin at two different levels. There’s first of all the personal level, dealing with the personal salvation of the Pharisees, and most people analyze this statement totally at that level. But you also have to look at this sin at a national level, something strategic, something key, something pivotal was taking place, not just revealing the unbelieving state of the Pharisees but in God’s dealings with the nation of Israel. Something just shifted here in a monumental way. So the national aspect of it is what most people don’t factor in when they use this in their own life, thinking they can lose salvation.
So let’s look at these two issues: why can’t this sin be forgiven, first of all answering the question personally, and secondly, I think even more important trying to understand this issue nationally. First of all, personally. Why can’t this sin be forgiven? Because these people would not believe in Jesus as their Savior who could save them. And I think Jesus, when He made this statement understood the unbelieving nature of the Pharisees and He understood that if this miracle was not going to change their mind nothing will. And these people are basically going to go to their graves in unbelief. The only sin that sends a person into hell is unbelief. In fact, if a person today has not believed in Jesus Christ then according to John 3:18 they are already under the condemnation of God. [John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”]
So they are already condemned. In fact, we are already condemned in the first Adam, we’re just waiting for the condemnation to fall. It’s like the sword of Damocles hanging over somebody ready to fall at any minute. That’s the state of the unsaved. So John 3:18 says, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” This was the condition of these Pharisees, and Jesus, in John 8:24, talking to the same crowd really, but on a different occasion, says this in John 8:24, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” So there was the great I AM in their presence, they saw the evidence of it and they refused to embrace it by faith. Jesus knew what their character was, that that would never change because if this miracle is not going to change them then nothing will. So he’s really making a statement about their eternity as unbelievers.
Keep your finger in Matthew 10, we’ll be going back to that in just a second, but over in Acts 10:43 it says, “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” Belief or faith in the Messiah is the only condition that’s necessary to alter one’s eternal destiny, to move someone away from condemnation, which is what they’re under, to having a relationship with God and having that judgment removed.
So going back to Matthew 12 that’s why this sin could not be forgiven at a personal level. If this miracle is not going to change your mind nothing will and you’re just going to go off into the end of your life in a state of unbelief. And that’s, I think what Jesus is saying to this crowd at a personal level. So you’ll notice that He’s not making a statement here about people that are saved and maybe they’re going to commit some kind of sin and God is going to rip the carpet out from under him. To use this as a loss of salvation passage is to totally ignore the context.
But there’s something much bigger happening here than at the personal level and this is the part of the equation that most people have not considered or know very little about and it’s nationally what’s happening. Nationally this sin could not be forgiven because these people rejected what we call the offer of the Kingdom. Now you say what is this “offer of the Kingdom” stuff? It relates to God’s dealings with the nation of Israel, you remember Abram, the first Hebrew, or who would become the first Hebrew, was an idolater. He was called out of the Ur of the Chaldeans there on the east of the map. He was told to walk by faith and God would take him to a land that he had never seen before and knew nothing of, called the Promised Land. And this is the beginning of the Hebrew nation. The Hebrew nation as we’ve studied even in our sermons on Sunday morning is very significant because that’s going to be the vehicle through which the redemptive blessings are going to be mediated to planet earth.
So along the way God gives to Abram (his name later became Abraham) a covenant called the Abrahamic Covenant, unconditionally promising the Jewish people three things: land, seed (or descendants) and personal blessing. And that’s the foundation of everything God does with Israel. All of the work that He does with Israel in subsequent chapters of the Bible He’s reaffirming these Abrahamic promises. And these promises are what we call unconditional meaning that they are not conditioned upon Abraham’s performance.
And when you study Genesis 15 that’s the whole significance of God taking animal parts and aligning them in two parallel rows. And when you study Genesis 15 you’ll see that played out because in that day when you entered into a covenant both parties passed through the two parallel rows of severed animal pieces because they were saying to themselves if I don’t fulfill my obligations under the covenant then let me be cut asunder as these animals have been cut asunder.
And what’s interesting in Genesis 15 is Abram never passed through the animal pieces because he was put asleep, just like God put Adam to sleep in Eden to bring forth woman from his side. And God alone, in Genesis 15, as represented by the oven and the torch, passed through these animal pieces. So that covenant ceremony is all there to explain to us that this is an unconditional covenant, that’s why it’s called eternal, immutable, that’s why there’s no conditions stated for Abram of his descendants to perform. And that’s why the covenant keeps getting reaffirmed to Israel, no matter how wicked she becomes. The covenant is alive and well today even though Israel, by and large, is a Christ rejecting nation, because this is an unconditional covenant.
Now where it gets a little confusing, and by the way, the covenant has never been fulfilled; you can’t point to a specific part of biblical history where God has done everything He said He was going to do. He’s maybe fulfilled parts of it but not the promises in totality and God can never what? Lie! It’s impossible for God to lie.
Now where it gets confusing is then the nation of Israel is 400 years in Egypt, they come out of Egypt, the Red Sea is parted, the Egyptian army is drowned, and they travel down south to a place called Mount Sinai, and it’s at Mount Sinai they receive another covenant, called the Mosaic Covenant, which says this, this is what God said to Israel through His agent, Moses, as they were camped at Mount Sinai and about to enter into this brand new covenant which is given 600 years after the Abrahamic Covenant. “Now if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom” see that word “kingdom,” that word kingdom is a big deal, “you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
Now notice this covenant is conditional. How do I know that? Because it says “if…then,” if you do this God says then I will do that. So the form critics… a form critic is someone who tries to recognize the form that the Bible was written in, the form critics all tell us (and I believe them) that this is what’s called a suzerain vassal treaty, this Mosaic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant is what’s called a royal grant, which is an unconditional covenant where someone just decides to do something for someone else. But not the Mosaic Covenant which is a suzerain vassal treaty. Suzerain… just substitute the word “superior” and vassal, just substitute the word “inferior.” So it’s a covenant whereby if the inferior agrees to the terms of the superior then the superior is going to bless the inferior. If the inferior disagrees with the terms of the superior then the superior is going to curse the inferior.
So in a suzerain vassal treaty in all of our knowledge of Ancient Near East demonstrates that these were the kind of treaties which were common in the time of Moses when this was entered into. There’s a preamble, then there’s a tracing of the historical relationship between the two parties before the suzerain vassal treaty is entered into. And then there’s what’s called the covenant obligations; this is what the vassal or the inferior is to do to gain the blessings of the suzerain or the superior. Then there’s storage instructions, then witnesses are called and then there’s always blessings and curses. Here’s what’s going to happen to you if you obey the terms of the covenant text; here’s what’s going to happen if you disobey the terms of the covenant text. And I have the chapter divisions there. [Preamble (1:1-5); Prologue (1:6–4:40); Covenant obligations (5–26) Deuteronomy 17:15 John 5:39, 46; Storage and reading instructions (27:2-3; 31:9, 24, 26); Witnesses (32:1); Blessings and curses (28)]
But the whole book of Deuteronomy is set up exactly like a suzerain vassal treaty. So remember Deuteronomy basically means second law. So the first generation didn’t obey the terms of the covenant text and so they wandered around in the wilderness for forty years before they died, and so then God worked with the kids and He restated the Mosaic Covenant to them in the book of Deuteronomy, Second Law, and the whole thing is shaped like a Suzerain Vassal treaty.
So Deuteronomy 17:15 is a big deal because what the nation really needs to do to obey the covenant text is to enthrone the king of God’s choosing. That’s when the blessings will come. And Deuteronomy 17:15 says, “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.” So in the ministry of Christ He stands right in front of the Pharisees and He says I’m the guy! In fact, in John 5:39 and then verse 46 he says if you had read Moses you would be reading about Me, for He spoke about Me. [John 5:39, “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.” Verse 46, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.”]
So here’s how the whole thing works. If the nation of Israel complies with the Mosaic Covenant they are not just the owner of land, seed and blessing, but they are the possessor and there’s a big difference between ownership and possession. You can own something but not enjoy it; you can own a beach house but you’re so busy working you can never enter it and enjoy it. The Abrahamic Covenant has given to the nation of Israel ownership of these three blessings. They’re theirs and they will always be theirs but whether a given nation enters into possession of those blessings is totally dependent upon whether that nation responds to the terms of the Mosaic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant points to who? Jesus! So if the nation of Israel accepts Jesus as their King on His terms (not their terms, His terms) Israel is not just the owner but also the what? Possessor. And once you have an intersection of ownership and possession you have the millennial kingdom. The millennial kingdom exists on the earth at that point.
But as long as Israel rejects the King of God’s choosing, who is Jesus, which is their condition even today, is it not? And Israel today remains the owner but not the what? The possessor. And as long as she’s the owner but not the possessor then the kingdom remains in a state of what? Not cancellation but what? It starts with a P… postponement. And what you need to understand about this is you could literally have every Gentile in the world come to Christ but if tiny Israel remains in a state of unbelief towards Messiah, Jesus, who they will call Yeshua, the kingdom will remain in a state of postponement. But the opposite is true, the whole world could reject Christ, the whole Gentile world, but if tiny Israel responds then the kingdom materializes. So whether the kingdom is going to come or not come is waiting completely on the response of national Israel.
And that’s why all these ministries that are trying to bring in the kingdom today, it’s a waste of their time. You’re not going to bring in the kingdom until Israel responds to the King. Until Israel responds to the King the kingdom is in postponement and God is working through a totally different man, with a totally different responsibility, called the what? The church, which is us, but we’re not here to bring in the kingdom; we’re here to reach and teach, evangelize and disciple, fulfill the great commission. The whole kingdom program is going to take place once Israel is in repentance eschatologically after the church has been removed from the earth and it’s going to take the events of the great tribulation period to get them into that position.
So what you have in the meantime is blessings and cursings. In Deuteronomy 28:49-50, actually Deuteronomy 28:15-68 are the cycles of discipline that the nation is going to go through while she is rejecting her king and in a position of unbelief.
The blessings will come when she acknowledges her Messiah because at that point she’ll be not just the owner but the possessor, leading to the manifestation of the kingdom. And this is all background that most people aren’t given to understanding the unpardonable sin. So this gives way to what we call the offer of the kingdom. The kingdom is very well sketched out by the Old Testament prophets. If you were just to read Isaiah 11:6-9 and Isaiah 2:1-4 you would see what this kingdom is going to be like.
[Isaiah 11:6-9, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.  Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.  They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 2:1-4, “The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.  Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.  And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples;
and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.”]
Jerusalem is going to be the center of world and spiritual authority; there’s going to be perfect justice. And this is my problem with so much of the social justice mentality that you see in Christianity today. They talk about social justice as if they can bring it in. You’re not going to have social justice in this world until the kingdom comes; then you’re going to get your social justice. So what people have done is they have transferred on the church a responsibility that God never gave the church. Social justice, as God defines it… and by the way, do you know what social justice is as God defines it? It means you can produce on your own property without the government coming and taking it all away. You’ll see that in Isaiah 65:21-23.
[Isaiah 65:21-23, “They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  They will not build and another inhabit, They will not plant and another eat; For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people, And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.  They will not labor in vain, Or bear children for calamity; For they are the offspring of those blessed by the LORD, And their descendants with them.”]
Today everybody else is defining social justice as the government needs to come in and redistribute the wealth; that’s not how God defines social justice. But social justice, whatever it is, is coming when the kingdom comes. It’s not going to happen until then. And the world will be in peace when the kingdom comes, they’ll beat their swords into plowshares. By the way, the United Nations has that verse written on their building in New York, “they will beat their swords into plowshares” which comes from Isaiah 2:11. [Isaiah 2:11, “And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.”]
When the United Nations puts that on their building what are they saying? They are assuming a Messianic role; they’re saying to themselves we’re going to bring this in. And biblically what we’re saying is you’re not going to bring it in, nothing will bring it in other than the conversion of Israel. There will even be peace in the animal kingdom, wolf and lamb will lie down together. And there will even come a period of time where they won’t be kicking the Bible and prayer out of the public schools because it says “the earth will be filled with the know of the LORD.” [Isaiah 11:9, “They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea.”]
And so the prophets painted a beautiful picture of the kingdom and what it could be and will be once Israel conforms to the Mosaic Covenant. So when John the Baptist shows up in Matthew 3:2 and says, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand,” what he is saying is the King is here, Israel, and if you enthrone Him on His terms then the kingdom, which is “at hand” because he is present, will come. And Jesus preaches the exact same message, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Why is it called “the kingdom of heaven”? Because it’s the rule of God from heaven coming to the earth in the millennial kingdom.
And then Jesus sends out the apostles and tells them to go out and repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand in Matthew 10, and when He does that He says, “Do not go the way of the Gentiles, do not enter any city of the city of the Samaritans,  but rather go” only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And the reason He tells them to only go to Israel is because this is an offer to the nation only. Only Israel’s response to the King will bring in the kingdom. So the kingdom could have come to the world in the first century if Israel had fulfilled her requirement under the condition under the Mosaic Covenant. She would have not been just the owner but the possessor if she had enthroned the King of God’s choosing.
But we know the tragic story, don’t we? The Gospels explain that Israel rejected this offer and that’s what’s happening in Matthew 12:24. [Matthew 12:24, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”] When they attribute Christ’s miracles to the devil they are rejecting the offer of the kingdom. And that’s the real turning point in Matthew’s Gospel.
So what Jesus begins to describe at this point is the discipline, the cycles of discipline found where? Deuteronomy 28:15-68, that’s coming upon national Israel because of their rejection of the offer of the kingdom. And one of those cycles of discipline, going back to Deuteronomy 28:49-50 is it says there, “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand,  a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young.” Part of the cycles of discipline involves a foreign power coming against Israel and dispossessing them from their land.
Now the cycles of discipline were announced by Moses 1500 years ago and God has made good on these cycles, over and over again in Israel’s history, as the northern kingdom was scattered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.; the southern kingdom was taken captive by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and then Israel goes back into the land as recorded by the books of Ezra and Nehemiah; about 400 years elapse and then Jesus shows up. And God says here’s your chance, Israel, to have the kingdom. We know from the Gospels, we know even from our passage, Matthew 12:24, that they turned down that offer.
So what does Jesus start talking about? He starts talking about judgment that is coming upon this generation. Which generation? The generation of first century Jews that rejected the offer of the kingdom. That’s why “this generation” becomes such a big deal in Matthew’s writings. So for example over in Matthew 23:34-37, it says, “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city,  so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.  Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” All right gang, you turned down the offer of the kingdom, you know the Mosaic Covenant, get ready for the cycles of discipline to start repeating.
Over in Luke 19:41-44, Jesus starts re-articulating. See, Jesus is not inventing anything new, He’s just rehearsing what they already knew from the book of Deuteronomy, the Suzerain vassal treaty. Luke 19:41-43 “When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city had wept over it.  saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” You could have had the peace of God and the kingdom.  “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side,  and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
So you remember what the Assyrians did to you; you remember what the Babylonians did to you. Jesus says the same thing is about to happen to this generation through Rome. And of course that happened very accurately just as Jesus said it would happen about forty years later in the horrific events; of which era am I thinking of? A.D. 70, the cycles of discipline; over a million Jews were killed in A.D. 70.
So when God starts the age of the church in Acts 2 and Peter preaches that opening sermon on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, Peter says to the Jews save yourselves from this perverse generation. What generation is he talking about? The generation that’s about ready to move off into discipline, having rejected the offer of the kingdom so come out of that and be part of this new man called the church is what Peter, in essence is saying there.
And fortunately 3,000 responded to the message which is pretty small potatoes compared to probably a million Jews in Israel at that time; a large number of them being in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost to hear Peter’s message.
So judgment is coming upon first century Israel and once you get beyond Matthew 12, which is the key turning point, the kingdom is postponed. And that’s why Jesus begins to articulate the course of the present age that we’ve been in for the last two thousand years, through eight parables. And that’s why He begins to talk about something totally new that He’s never talked about before… the church. It’s in that section he says in Matthew 16:18, first of all He starts talking about His death, which He’s never spoken of before because see, what’s going to happen is God is going to take lemons and turn them into what? Lemonade, which is what God does. He’s going to take something tragic, the Jewish rejection of their King, and turn it into Israel turning Christ over to Rome for execution and God is not surprised by these events, He’s going to use that transaction to pay the sin debt of the world.
So at this point Jesus starts talking about His death and the coming church which will consist of those that have accepted by faith in the Jewish King that national Israel rejected. It’s a new man made up of all nations, which we’re a part of. And the church’s mission is not to preach the offer of the kingdom, that’s an offer given only to Israel, but it is to go reach and teach, fulfill the great commission. That’s why the whole language starts changing in Matthew 28:18-20.
[Matthew 28:18-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”]
So what I want you to see about Matthew 12 is it’s a switch in the ministry of Christ. It’s a transition from public to private ministry. Christ’s public ministry is in Matthew 1-12 and then everything shifts in Matthew 13-28. The focus of Matthew 1-12 is all about Israel. The focus of the second half of Matthew’s Gospel is the believing remnant who will become the foundations of the church. The miracles in Matthew 1-12, even including the miracle that he performed of the healing, is to prove who He is to the nation but once they say the devil did that miracle the whole shift begins where Jesus starts to do miracles to train the remnant because Israel is off the table at that point. It’s obvious what’s going to happen to Israel. So Jesus starts to train the remnant like Peter, He has Peter walk out on the Sea of Galilee and Peter begins to sink and Jesus is using that to prepare Peter’s faith because he’s part of the remnant and he’s going to be one of the foundation stones in this coming church age.
That’s why in Matthew 1-12 it keeps saying, three times, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” And you get in the second part of Matthew’s Gospel and that language disappears until the very, very end, after the church is gone. Matthew 1-12, Jesus doesn’t even talk in parables. You get to the second half of Matthew’s Gospel suddenly He’s talking in parables. I mean, He never gave the Sermon on the Mount in parables. Why is He talking in parables? Because the purpose of a parable is to conceal and reveal; He is deliberately concealing truth from the nation and its leadership that just rejected Him and the offer of the kingdom and He’s disclosing it to those that He calls the babes, that have eyes to see because He’s preparing them for the church age in those various parables.
The interim program about this new age of time, called the interadvent age or the church is not spoken of at all in Matthew 1-12 but once you get into the second half of Matthew’s Gospel suddenly that new age of time, the mention of the church and so forth, becomes prominent and the hinge of the whole thing is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. What shifts the whole thing is when they took His obvious miracle and they attributed it to Satan. At that point it was very clear what their decision was. The offer of the kingdom is withdrawn at that point and Jesus begins to work in preparation for a new man called the age of the church.
So Matthew’s Gospel as I’ve got it organized here, the hinge of the whole thing is Matthew 12. Once you hit Matthew 12 the whole ministry of Jesus Christ shifts. But Matthew fortunately doesn’t leave the Jews completely in the dust because once you get into Matthew 23:38-39 He says Israel, you’ll not see Me again until you say what? “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” [Matthew 23:38-39, “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!  “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’”]
So He’s offering hope for a distant generation, not this generation but a distant generation who is going to receive the offer of the kingdom. And we know from Matthew 24:14 and the Tribulation period itself after the church is gone the offer is re-extended once again and this time Israel will receive it, after great distress. It’s going to take the abomination of desolation, the desecration of their own temple by the antichrist himself to get them to recognize their need for this offer. But they will receive it and then Jesus will return, Matthew 25:31, and reign from His glorious throne which is David’s throne. [Matthew 25:31, ““But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.”]
So do not expect the Davidic enthronement of Christ until after the Tribulation period is what he’s saying. And today I have all of these theologians trying to tell me that Jesus is on David’s throne right now. That totally violates every contextual normal reading of Matthew’s Gospel.
So that is the history that people really are never given when they get into this subject of the unpardonable sin. This sin could not be forgiven, number 4, because it was a unique opportunity for Israel to have the kingdom and they made their decision and now that kingdom is not going to come through that generation. That’s the context of the unpardonable sin. And it’s very similar to God cutting off the generation that came out of Egypt when they saw the spies in the land and He said I’m done with that generation (with a few exceptions, like Joshua and Caleb) and I’m going to work with the next generation. That’s what’s happening here in Matthew’s Gospel. It’s over for first century Israel. And God is going to make good on His promises through a distant generation that will respond to Israel’s responsibility.
So all of this leads us to number 5, can this sin be committed today? No if you define it as a loss of salvation because it’s not a loss of salvation passage. In fact, over and over again in the epistles to the church we’re told to not lie to the Spirit, don’t grieve the Spirit, don’t quench the Spirit, walk according to the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit. What are we never warned against in the epistles? We are never warned against blasphemy of the Spirit, ever. So that must have been something that first century Israel did which was unique to them, not to us.
Can this sin be committed today? No, if you mean loss of salvation; but yes if you define it as dying in unbelief. That’s the closest parallel that I would know of where this sin could be committed because that’s the condition of the Pharisees; they died in unbelief at a personal level. So if a person is convicted of their need to trust Christ and they go throughout their life and say no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no and die in that condition then that’s the closest parallel you can come to in committing the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
And having said all that I’m not even sure that’s even the point that Christ was getting at here. I think He was not speaking so much personally, I’ve given you the personal application, but I think he was speaking nationally and there are many very fine Bible scholars, like my professor, Dwight Pentecost, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, I’ll show you a quote from him in just a minute, who never defined this personally but defined it nationally.
So Arnold Fruchtenbaum, in his book, Israelology, on page 617 comments on the unpardonable sin, and he says in verses 30-37, that’s Matthew 12, “He” that’s Jesus, “pronounced a judgment on the Jewish generation of that day. That generation had committed the unpardonable sin: the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The unpardonable sin” look at this, “was not an individual sin but a national sin.” I’ve given you what I think is the personal application but Fruchtenbaum’s point is it’s not even talking about personal salvation here; this is all national. “It was committed by that generation of Israel in Jesus’ day and cannot be applied to subsequent Jewish generations. The content and definition of the unpardonable sin is the national rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus by Israel while He was physically present on the basis that He was demon possessed. This sin was unpardonable, and judgment was set.”
You see, you have the King present, the offer of the kingdom is on the table. The miracles are happening. The opportunity to enthrone the King and not just become the owner but the possessor and therefore to have the full possession of the kingdom was right then and there. That was the unique opportunity that first century Israel had, which has never been repeated in subsequent history. Fruchtenbaum goes on and he says, ““The judgment came in the year A.D. 70” that’s the covenant curses, “ with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and the world-wide dispersion of the Jewish people. It was a national sin committed by the generation of Jesus’ day, and for that generation the sin was unpardonable. From this point on a special emphasis is placed on this generation” first century Israel, “in the gospels, for it was guilty of a very unique sin.” That’s what I’m trying to communicate. The unpardonable sin is a unique sin nationally. “At this point, His offer of the Messianic Kingdom was rescinded. It will not now be established in their day because of the unpardonableness of that sin.”
And how many people, when they think about the unpardonable sin understand this offer of the kingdom background? Very few. That’s why everybody is confused about it, because pastors are not in front of their congregations helping people with these things; they are too busy talking about five ways to improve your life or whatever they’re talking about. And people are basically left to their own devices to try and interpret these things, and they’re in this state of fear all the time.
So in summary, here’s sort of what we learned: the Pharisees attributed Christ’s miracles to Satan. Number 2, the Pharisees did not believe in Christ as their Messiah. If you want to apply this personally that’s the personal application. Number 3, a person must believe in Jesus to be saved. Number 4, the sin committed by the unbelieving Pharisees marks the nation’s official rejection of the kingdom offer. Next, the sin is a one-time sin that cannot be replicated in subsequent generations or today. The offer of the kingdom is withdrawn as now Christ announces His soon death and the coming church. And last, there is no loss of salvation here because the Pharisees were never saved to begin with.
Now is suicide the unpardonable sin? You already know the answer to that, right? No, but I won’t be able to get into that until not next week but the following week. I hope this helps a little bit unpacking a difficult verse. Once again I elapsed my time but are there any quick questions. Just ruminate on it, think about it.