The Unpardonable Sin?
By Jonathan Mitchell

If you have been around evangelical or fundamentalist Christianity for any length of time, you have probably heard the term, "the unpardonable sin." Although not a Scriptural term, it is what seems to be the logical conclusion of what Jesus said in Mat. 12:31-32. So let us examine this verse, in a literal, expanded translation:

31. "For this reason, I continue saying to you folks, Every failure (mistake; error; failure to attain the goal or hit the target; sin) and blasphemy (vilifying, abusive and slanderous speech; light-hindrance) will be caused to flow away from (will be divorced and sent off for; will be pardoned and forgiven) humanity (mankind). Yet, the blasphemy pertaining to (vilifying, abusive, slanderous speech about) the Spirit (the Breath-effect; the Attitude) will not be caused to flow away (not be divorced and sent off; not be pardoned or forgiven) in mankind.

32. "And further, whoever may say a word (should speak a thought or message) [directed] down against the Son of the Man (the son of humanity; = Adam's son), it will continue caused to flow away for him (will be progressively divorced and sent off in him; or: he will continue pardoned and forgiven by Him). Yet [for] whoever may speak down against the Set-apart Spirit (the Breath-effect of the Holy One; the Sacred Attitude), it will not proceed to be caused to flow away from him (or: he will not continue pardoned and forgiven by Him; it will not progress to be released and sent off in him) - neither within this age, nor within the one being about to be (the impending one).

These verses are a part of a response to what the Pharisees had said in vs. 24:

24. Now upon hearing, the Pharisees said, "This person is not casting (or: throwing) out the demons except in union with Beelzebub [other MSS: Beelzebul; Beezeboul], the ruler (or: chief; originator) of the demons (Hellenistic concept and term: = animistic influences)." [comment: Beelzebub, is the NT spelling for Baal-zebub, a Philistine deity (2 King 1:2). So here we have the Pharisees validating the existence of a pagan god! And yet, we are told in Ps. 95:5 that "all the gods of the peoples (= people groups) are mere idols (nobodies; things of naught)." The LXX (Greek OT) renders this: "all the gods of the ethnic multitudes (nations; non-Israelites) {are} demons." But Isaiah says in 65:3 (LXX), "This is a people that ... offer{s} sacrifices in gardens, and burn{s} incense on bricks to the demons - which things DO NOT EXIST!"; JM]

So we can conclude that in vss. 31-32, above, Jesus was speaking about the Pharisees, who had just slandered the Holy Spirit, in vs. 24. Thus, they would not be forgiven for doing this, and would have to pay the penalty. Where do we find Jesus assessing to them a corresponding recompense for speaking down against the Set-apart Spirit? I suggest that Mat. 21:42-43 gives one answer:

42. Jesus is then saying to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'A stone which the builders rejected as the result of a test - this one is birthed into (or: comes to be for) a head of a corner (= a keystone; a capstone; a cornerstone). This [head] was birthed (came into existence) from [the] Lord's [=Yahweh's] side (or: presence), and it is wonderful and marvelous in our eyes'? [Ps. 118:22-23]

43. "Because of this, I am now saying to you men that God's reign (or: the kingdom of God; the influence and activity of God's sovereignty) will be progressively lifted up away from you folks, and it (or: she) will proceed being given to an ethnic multitude (or: nation; people group; swarm of people) consistently producing its (or: her) fruit!"

The penalty that would "not be caused to flow away (not be divorced and sent off; not be pardoned or forgiven)" was that they would lose their place of leadership in God's kingdom. Further evidence of this judgment which they would have to endure was the destruction of their temple and of Jerusalem, which was finalized in AD 70. As with all of God's judgments during Israel's history, it happened then and there, and usually came through being conquered by a foreign nation.

So this "unpardonable" offence stayed with them, and they had to go through God's judgment. History records what happened. Jesus was speaking during the old covenant age, the age of the Law. They suffered the effects of that sin in that age, as it was drawing to a close, and the results continued on into the next age, the Age of the Messiah in which we now live. Leadership in His reign has not been restored to political or religious Israel.

But this is not the only example. Heb. 6:4-8 gives us another example of failure that is not "forgiven." Heb. 6:6 gives the situation:
"and yet then falling by the side (or: falling aside along the way), [are] powerless and unable to be repeatedly renewing again into a change of mind: [they are] continuously suspending back up (or: hanging on a pole; crucifying) again in, with, to, for and by themselves the Son of God, and [are] constantly exposing [Him] to public shame/disgrace."

The next two verses are a metaphorical restatement of vss. 4-6:

7. For you see, a piece of land (or: ground; soil; = a field; or: a territory) which is drinking (= soaking in) the rain often coming upon it, and producing vegetation (pasture; produce) fit for and useful to them through whom it is habitually being cultivated, [is] also continuously sharing in and partaking of a blessing from God;

8. but when repeatedly and progressively bearing forth thorns and thistles [it is] disqualified (worthless; unable to stand the test [for planting a new crop]) and [is] close to (or: near) [the] curse (or: a down-prayer and a corresponding wish against [the situation] is at hand), the end (the resultant situation) of which [the thorns, briars, thistles and the field is] into [a time of] burning (or: = the field ends up being burned off). [comment: this is a time-honored agricultural practice for preparing a field for planting a crop - the competition has been removed and the ground has been enriched by the ash]

Those of vss. 4-6 had to go through the cleansing fires of God's judgment. They are represented by "a piece of land (or: ground; soil; = a field; or: a territory)" in vs. 7; they (figured by the field) are the subject of the metaphor. But God does not leave the field (or the person) in the useless state as metaphorically described in vs. 8. No, like a wise Farmer, he burns off the ground to rid it of briars, etc., and all the weed seeds, as well. Now it is ready to once again receive the Seed of the Word of Life. It was rich soil: it had produced useful vegetation, and then a lot of thorns and thistles. But it needed the decision, the judgment, which was: "bring on the Fire of God;" baptize it in the Holy Spirit and Fire, as John the immerser predicted (Mat. 3:11). God does not throw away the land (or, by implication, the people) after He has burned it off; He replants it.

Israel's history as recorded in the OT should instruct us. God often brought judgment, instead of pardon. This, like for the overgrown field, was the cure that was needed. So Jesus' words to the Pharisees was a prediction of a tragedy that they would have to experience, but it was not their final destiny. Paul spoke of this same thing in Rom. 11:17 where he described the judgment as the unbelieving leadership of Israel being broken out of their olive tree. But Rom. 11:26 forecasts their destiny: "all Israel shall be saved."

You see,

"When [God's] judgments are in the Land (or: earth), the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (Isa. 26:9).

When something is not pardoned, the penalty, or the corrective action, must be experienced. Jesus gave a parable about the Christian that does not forgive the debts of his or her fellow. We find it in Mat. 18:23-35. The decision for his offense was recorded in vs. 34,

"So, internally swelling with indignation and anger, his owner handed him over (committed him) to 'the men who to test folks' (those who apply the touchstone to determine the grade and to show the quality of fine metals) until where [the occasion or situation develops that] he could (or: would) pay back all that continued being owed."

And then Jesus said to Peter,

"My heavenly Father (or: My Father, Who inhabits, and can be compared to, the atmosphere) will be progressively dealing with you folks in this same way (or: will continue doing to you men in like manner), too, if each person does not release and forgive his brother (and let things flow away for him), from your hearts" (vs. 35).

Even though Jesus used hyperbole in that parable of the kingdom, notice that in vs. 34 He put the word UNTIL in the sentence for the one who had not pardoned his fellow. Humanity is storied as having committed an "unpardonable sin" in the Garden of Eden. Notice that part of that penalty was that the land (ground; soil; territory) would now bring forth "thorns and thistles" to humanity (Gen. 3:18). Heb. 6:8, above, reprises this condition. We all paid the price (the penalty) of death (Rom. 5:12). It was an "unpardoned" mistake that Adam and Eve both made. We have all suffered the consequences. But that is not the end of the story: God gave humanity a Savior, to deliver us from captivity and death, to cleanse us and purify us with His Fire (Mal. 3:2-3), and then return us into Himself (Rom. 11:32, 36).


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