Blasphemy Against The Holy Spirit
'Sin Unto Death'
Mk 3:28-30 YLT
Verily I say to you, that all the sins shall be forgiven to the sons
of men, and evil speakings with which they might speak evil, but whoever
may speak evil in regard to the Holy Spirit hath not forgiveness
to the age, but is in danger of an age-enduring
trespass; because they said, 'He hath an unclean spirit.'
The "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" what was it? Mk 3:30
defines it specifically as the utterly reprehensible sin of
attributing or ascribing the pre-Cross ministry of Christ [Jn 5:17,
36; 10:32; 14:10] to that of demonic origins [Mt 9:34; 12:24; Jn
7:20; 8:48, 52; 10:20] in effect insulting the Spirit of grace [Heb
10:29], as it was the Spirit that testified of Christ through his
works [Jn 16:15].
Many of the religious ruling elite along with some of the people were in
the precarious position of such blasphemy, so audience relevance
is a determining factor in a proper understanding of this sin. Quite
literally, the consequences of this blasphemous action were sheeted home
to those of that generation. It was a generational sin AD30-70,
and carried overtones of Isa 5:18-21 and thus the Pharisaic woes
of Jesus in Mt 23. Again, nothing of the old age would find life
[forgiveness] in the consummated new age but suffer the consequence of
eternal [totality of] judgment.
the literal Greek text Jesus shows HOW "blasphemy against the Spirit"
WAS A GERERATIONAL SIN ALONE, something committed by the Pharisees [Mt
12:24]. When referring back to THEM Jesus says: "Therefore
I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven those men
[τοις ανθρωποις], but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be
forgiven those men
words "tois antropois" [τοις ανθρωποις] SPECIFICALLY means "those
men" i.e., the Pharisees. It is a translational
oversight to not include this specific variant of the definite article
[the] in this passage, elsewhere
normally translated as either "those" or "these". Thus Jesus'
pronouncement WAS NOT A GENERIC for-all-time judgment, no; but
rather a specific prophetic warning and sentence against that end-time
generation of Pharisees and ANY who would likewise join in their sin.
committed, transgressions or "sinful actions" cannot be undone e.g., if
I hit you it is done and cannot be taken back or undone. So the
unforgivable nature of this transgression indicates the severity
with which God held and would so judge this action, thus becoming part
of the malediction [Mt 27:25] that came home to roost on Christ's
generation in His AD70 Parousia fulfilling Christ's own words [Mt
23:35-36]. And nothing of the Old Covenant economy, in this instance
blasphemy, would survive through it hence not even into eis
the age [Mk 3:29]
Speaking of this blasphemous sin and error of Jesus' opponents Tom
to say: 'This is the work of the devil.' To say such a thing was to
paint oneself into a corner from which there was no escape. Once define
the battle for your liberation as the work of the enemy, and you will
never be free.
N. T. Wright: Jesus And The Victory Of God p. 454
"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.
Matthew's account "it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or
in the age about to mello
come" [audience relevance] suggests the nearness and permanency
of such actions as touching even through the soon to be Parousia. There
were those of the "this generation" who lived through the
Parousia [Rev 22:11], yet they simply died in their blasphemous
Old Covenant standing, not experiencing forgiveness in life "into
the age to come" from that grievous old covenant sin.
We find Paul in 1Cor 3:15 describing as loss such works
that will not survive the AD70 refining fire, but will deliver [purge]
those passing through it. Mark demonstrates loss in terms of "eternal
condemnation" [Mk 3:29], which was the judgment on dead
works i.e., works of self-righteous, the same that John
references in Jn 5:29. "Eternal" is to be understood in terms of
totality or entirety, not the longevity of endlessness. Such an
example is found in Jude 1:7 where Sodom and Gomorrah are
described as languishing in flames of "eternal fire" though in
that day, long since extinguished and not literally still
burning; it speaking rather of the totality of Divine judgment
that had a literal fulfillment for a specific or predetermined period
It is also interesting to note that Mark says "never has forgiveness"
which in the Greek is in the "present indicative tense." This is similar
to the intent of Jesus' words in Jn 3:18 where "he who does
not believe is condemned already" rendering the person who
being in a position of continued unbelief or in this instance,
constant blasphemy, as not being able to change as long as that
position was being held. This thought is further strengthened as
blasphemes being in the "aorist tense" means the action as having
occurred at some juncture, and being in the "subjunctive mood" meaning
the possibility of it reoccurring i.e., as long as they remained in that
condition of heart such an action was still possible. Not dissimilar to
Esau, who through many tears sought remorse worldly
sorrow, but not unto repentance Godly sorrow [Heb
12:17; 2Cor 7:10]. So Jesus' words could well have been in this
sense a warning to his nation to be careful as to where they found
themselves positioned in regards to casting aspersions against him, or
more importantly whom he represented i.e., their God. This indeed was
Israel's great sin as represented by her leadership that was not repented of,
and thus in the end of age would suffer judgment [Lk 19:42-44],
and so, as God's covenanted people, not survive into the coming
new age. Thus in this sense their position was totally unforgivable as it was the blasphemous
and unrighteous work of the old covenant economy in decrying the prophet
of God [Psa
"And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be
forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it
will not be forgiven.
to an oft related issue of
a more limited and subjective nature. There may be some scope for
considering this "sin of blasphemy" in terms of, or being paralleled
with the post-Cross "sin
of 1Jn 5:16. There are a number of different options to look at
when considering this, as opposed to just consigning this to the same
category as the blaspheme of the Holy Spirit carte blanche.
This 'sin unto death' in context could be applicable to
the "antichrists" of whom John writes those who had gone out from
among the believers [1Jn 2:19] denying Christ's having "come
in the flesh" [1Jn 4:1-3; 2Jn 1:7; Rom 9:5]
i.e., as Israel's Messiah. So this again puts this sin in
the context of the "this
scenario. Paul calls them "false brethren" Judaizers [Gal
2:4]. Luke describes the same in Act 15:1, 5, 24. This sin
leading to death does not appear to be directly related to the
covenantal position of separation as found in Paul's "the
though indirectly in reversion to Judaism, it is.
Another possible and perhaps more directly related aspect of this "sin
unto death" however hits closer to home where Scripture speaks of
those brethren perpetually caught in sin, those entrapped in a
persistent and undisciplined besetting sin [Heb 12:1]
i.e., a transgression that is wilfully not repented of, thus
becoming somewhat of a millstone.
Understood in this setting the "
unto death" nature of
be seen as a divinely orchestrated judgment whose end consequence is
literal physical death, period. It is worth noting that John is
only speaking of a "sin unto death" NOT a sin unto
eternal conscious torment or annihilation as is often times read
into this verse John is NOT speaking of post death calamity. Thus the
"sin unto death" is to be understood as physical death.
Paul further speaks of those at Corinth who are "weak" and "sick"
and some who have even fallen "asleep" literally died; terms
that in context point to possible divine discipline toward wayward
brethren [1Cor 11:30-32; Prov 29:1]. Those who slept had persisted
and so perished in their sin to the point where God deemed it more
expedient that the wayward one be removed than for them to remain and
wreak more havoc and ruin more lives around them. It is possible that
Ananias and Sapphira potentially had fallen into this category [Act
5:1-10] thus the link with blasphemy [lying]
against the Spirit, i.e., it had a temporal consequence that could not
be undone, in that age or the one coming. Which means such
actions were more irreversible than unforgivable as
with the likes of Hymenaeus and Alexander who were to "learn not to
blaspheme" [1Tim 1:20], which shows that such "discipline"
was remedial and restorative, NOT punitive and permanent, as we likewise
find in 1Cor 5:5 and 2Cor 2:6-10 thus "salvation" was
found, i.e., deliverance from toxic ways.
Finally, it could well be simply this: that John's "sin unto death" referenced
a known criminal offence under Jewish law for which literal death was the
penalty, i.e., a capital offence as per
Deut 21:22 If a man has committed a sin deserving of death,
and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree
Now when all's said and done this
above could well have been all that John had in mind.
Either way, whatever this "sin unto death" was we have James'
injunction to his fellow believers concerning such things, that even if
should one fail and fall, no one was irretrievable:
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the
truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a
sinner [a believer] from the error of his way will save a
soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
So even though it was possible to commit such sin unto death
in that age, such
biological demise was not "the end", for as has already been
shown in these Scriptures above [1Cor
5:1-5; 2Cor 2:3-8; 1Tim 1:20; 1Cor 3:13-15], such removal in the long
term was again both remedial and restorative, being neither punitive nor perpetual
nor permanent such is the grace of God.
David G. Embury
© Copyright 2004ΰ