The “Unpardonable Sin”
By Ken Eckerty
A sister in Christ recently mentioned on
the Savior-of-All Community Forum that a man at her church had committed
suicide because he thought he had committed the “unpardonable sin.” This is not the first time I have heard of
something like this happening. I have
been personally asked about my opinions on this subject in written emails, and
even my own wife struggled with this very thing when she was a new Christian. There is no doubt in my mind that my wife’s
fear, along with others who have believed that they have committed “this sin,”
is based on the lie that God cannot forgive forever. Therefore, I felt it necessary to put together a short, little
article on this subject for anyone who might be struggling themselves with this
idea of the “unpardonable sin.”
most important thing we must remember as we look at this “unpardonable sin”
is that man was formed from the dust of the earth. (Gen. 2:7) This was not man’s doing, but God’s, and so
because of this earthly (sinful) condition, man has a natural bent toward
sin. Paul calls this the “natural” man.
(1 Cor. 2:14; 1 Cor. 15:46, 47) Even
after becoming a Christian, one is still heavily influenced by this “earthy”
nature, which is why Paul tells us that we must mortify the deeds of the body
and die daily. (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5; 1 Cor. 15:31)
Wicked thoughts and deeds will inevitably come as a result of having this natural, carnal nature. Subsequent guilt will follow because of sin, and if allowed to dominate, can lead a person to anxiety, deep depression, and even thoughts of suicide. I’m not only talking about those who are outside of Christ—I’m also talking about believers. My wife was a new believer in Christ and had great joy for a few months. Then the wicked thoughts started. She didn’t know where they came from and these thoughts literally tormented her for months to the point where she thought that maybe she wasn’t even saved. Fortunately, she received assurance from God that she was indeed a child of God and did not have to worry that somehow she was going to lose her salvation and spend an “eternity” in “hell” fire.
It is very important to understand that each man is born with a propensity to sin—and this by no choice of his own. God knows the frail condition of man; He knows we are but dust; He knows we are born carnal, and He has pity on our condition. On top of all that, God knows that we have an accuser who is “seeking whom he may devour” and who continually accuses us day and night. (1 Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:10)
So as we look at the texts that refer to this particular sin, let us keep in mind the fact that we are but dust, and that God more than understands our frail frame. He is a compassionate Creator who was in all points tempted as we, and therefore, we have the comforting assurance that God is more than able (and willing) to help those who are being tried. (Heb. 2:18)
Note: For more information on how man was created, go to: http://www.savior-of-all.com/immortal.html
First of all, the phrase “unpardonable sin” is not found anywhere in the Bible. If we are going to seek to find the truth it is important that we use proper terminology. This false term used by evangelicals is actually called “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” and it is used twice in the gospels. (Mt. 12:31, 32; Mk. 3:28, 29) I will use both the King James Version and Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible as a comparison. (Pay particular attention to the words that are underlined.)
31. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
32. And whosoever speaketh a word against the
Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy
Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in
the world to come. (KJV)
31: Wherefore, I say unto you, All sin and profane speaking, shall be forgiven unto men, but, the speaking profanely of the Spirit, shall not be forgiven;
32: And, whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him, but, whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or the coming. (Rotherham’s Emphasized Version)
The problem in this verse is the way the KJV (and other modern versions) have translated the Greek word “aion.” The KJV translates it as “world,” but the more accurate rendition is given to us by Rotherham. The Bible has a specific word for “world” and that is the Greek word “cosmos.” However, Paul uses the word “aion” which clearly means a “period of time.” It is not referring to a place (world), but a period of time (age). This is significant. In this particular passage, the King James translators are giving us the impression that there are two worlds—one on earth and the next one, which is in heaven. While we do not argue that there are two realms (heaven and earth), is this really what the text is saying? If we believe their translation, it certainly seems that whatever this sin is, it can never be forgiven—either on earth or in heaven. But this couldn’t be further from the truth of Jesus’ words. Jesus is not speaking of heaven and earth, but two consecutive periods of time. Weymouth’s New Testament translates verse 32 this way:
And whoever shall speak against the Son of Man may obtain forgiveness; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, neither in this nor the coming age shall he obtain forgiveness.
Clearly, this is a much different meaning than that given to us by the King James translators. Jesus is not saying that men will not receive forgiveness in the next “world,” but rather, in the next “age.” Interpreting this passage properly, one can only conclude that this unforgiveness goes only into the next age.
Of course, if our supposition that God’s unforgiveness is only temporary, we must find, in the scriptures, exactly how many ages there are? Is there only one future age as many theologians believe? Listen to the words of Paul.
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:7)
We certainly know that there are past ages such as the “age of law,” and we know that we are currently in the Pentecostal or Church age, but Paul clearly speaks of “ages to come” in which God will show His grace toward men. All theologians agree that the next age will be the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, but Paul tells us that there is at least one more additional age after that. So according to Jesus, the sin of the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” would not be forgiven in the current age in which He spoke these words, and the very next age (the thousand year reign). Paul, who was in the same period of time (age) as Christ, spoke of plural periods of time (at least two) in which God will be working with men. This opens the door for at least one additional age beyond the two in which Christ spoke. He is telling us that this particular sin has limits on how long the unforgiveness will last. This fits very nicely with all the passages in the Bible that speak of God’s mercy enduring “for the ages.”
We must differentiate between time and
eternity. Time periods (ages) have a
beginning (1 Cor. 2:7) and an end (Heb. 9:26)—eternity does not. Time periods were created by God (Heb.
1:2)—eternity has always existed.
Because of the exact terminology Paul uses in the Greek, he cannot be
referring to heaven and earth, but to the realm of time (the ages).
Let’s now look at the second passage. (Again, pay attention to the underlined words).
28: Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:
29: But he that
shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in
danger of eternal damnation: (KJV)
28: Verily, I say unto you All things shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, the sins and the profanities wherewithal they shall profane;
29: But, whosoever shall revile against the Holy Spirit, hath no forgiveness, unto times age-abiding, but is guilty of an age-abiding sin: (Rotherham)
Now take a look at the differences
here. In verse 29, the KJV says, “never
hath forgiveness.” Amazingly, the King James translators didn’t even bother to
include the Greek word “aion” in their translation of this verse, which is most
assuredly found in the Greek text.
Rotherham (and many other literal translations) accurately translates
this. Check out any Greek Interlinear
to prove if this is correct. The word
“aion” is in the Greek text, but is completely omitted by the King James translators. Why is this? Well, either they were imperfect translators (which they were) or
they understood that the word “aion” would put a limit on this unforgiveness,
which would contradict their strong belief in the doctrine of never-ending
punishment. This verse should be
translated, “….hath no forgiveness unto times age-abiding” (YLT). Just as in the first passage we looked at,
the unforgiveness spoken of here will only last for a two distinct period of
ages—“this age" and “the age to come.”
There are two other mistranslations in verse 29. The first is the word “eternal.” The Greek word used is “aionios” which comes directly from the noun “aion.” Like the noun, this adjective simple means “lasting for an indeterminate period of time.” Rotherham translates this as “age-abiding” and Young’s Literal uses the phrase “age-during.” (See http://www.savior-of-all.com/aionian.html) The second inaccuracy is the word “damnation.” Most good Bible versions more accurately translate the Greek word “krisis” to mean “judgment” or “condemnation” not “damnation.” This word “damnation” should not be in our Bibles, period! This was an invention of the dark ages in which fear was used to keep the masses under the authority of the Roman Church. In fact, I believe the KJV is the only modern version today that still uses that word in its pages.
Modern Bible translations such as the King James Bible have become the standard in which Christians have come to measure text accuracy. This is quite unfortunate. The KJV in particular has caused more false doctrines than any other Bible translation. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that the KJV is a worthless or unprofitable version. I use it often in my studies. The translators did a very good job despite their shortfalls—and up until that point, it was the best work available. Its language is beautiful, quite poetic, and is a very good English translation. However, the theology of the day and the authority of the Roman Church greatly influenced the words they chose when translating the scriptures. Many of the words that were culturally common to them are no longer in use by us today. Also, the translators used the Latin language instead of the Greek to translate the New Testament. This has been a major factor in our misapplication of both the noun “aion” and its adjective, “aionios.”
Other versions such as the New American Standard are better, but still make many of the same mistakes as the KJV. The only way to determine the true meaning of a Bible passage is to define the word in original language, and then more importantly, see how that word is used throughout the Bible. Simply reading text from an English Bible translation is a terribly inaccurate way to study the Bible and will not result in accurate interpretations. Yet this is how the majority of Christians study their Bible. It is no wonder the (false) idea that a loving God can eternally torment His creatures has continued to thrive.
Seeing then that this unforgiveness is limited and not eternal, let’s now see just what this blasphemy is.
As to what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is, theologians tell us it is rejecting the Person and work of Jesus Christ. The evangelical conclusion then is to say that if a man rejects the gospel in this life, he is damned forever. Yet Jesus’ own words were…
...And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him…. (Mt. 12:32)
Evangelical preachers with their pleading and sobbing for the sinner to come to Christ lest he be rejected forever totally ignore these words. It’s ironic that I have never once heard any preacher explain what Jesus meant when He said that a word spoken against the Son of Man would be forgiven. Also why did Jesus choose to use the term “Son of Man” in this passage? The term “Son of Man” (not “Son of God”) is the title Jesus most often chose to refer to Himself. He used this title because He wanted to emphasize His identification to the human race. While we do not deny that the Son of God died on the Cross, it is the phrase “Son of Man” that is used to identify Christ IN THE FLESH. Christ emptied Himself as God’s glorified Son and became flesh (Son of Man). It was the Son of Man in all His weakness that died on the Cross. How comforting it is to know that God’s forgiveness applies even to those who speak a word against the SON OF MAN.
It is clear to
me that the rejection of Jesus Christ is not being spoken of here, and while
evangelicals may ignore the context, let’s not be guilty of the same
thing. Instead, let’s look to whom Jesus was speaking so we can get the true
meaning of His words.
Just prior to His pronouncement of (temporary) unforgiveness, it recorded in both accounts,
But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. (Mt. 12:24)
And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He hath Beelzubub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. (Mk. 3:22)
Jesus had just miraculously delivered a
blind and dumb man who was possessed of a devil (Mt. 12:22), and instead of
recognizing the power of God through the Holy Spirit, the Pharisees and the
Scribes chose rather to attribute this miracle to the devil himself. These men were so hardened in their hearts
that they chose not to acknowledge God, but accuse Christ of being of the
devil. What blasphemy! This was not a matter of sincere unbelief;
this was a deliberate blasphemy against One who threatened their power and
authority. How could any such good deed
be attributed to someone as bad as the devil?
Yet this is exactly what they did.
It is no wonder that Christ condemned their deeds and immediately
pronounced judgment upon them. As in
other passages where Jesus uses words of condemnation, He has the Pharisees in
mind here. Jesus rightly condemns their
behavior as “blasphemy” and tells them exactly what the consequence of this sin
It then should come as no surprise that the Jews later cried out “Let His blood by on our hands and the hands of our children...Crucify Him!” So because they recognized the power of God, and yet attributed it to the devil, Israel would receive God’s unforgiveness for that age and the next. God would take the kingdom of God from religious Israel and give it to another. (Mt. 21:43) Israel is now experiencing the unforgiveness of God in the age in which she lives. She has now been cut off from the promises and blessings of God, (Rom. 11:25) and so this same unforgiveness she is experiencing (in this current age) will also be experienced during the millennial reign (“the age to come”). It is not until after “Sodom and her daughters” are restored that Israel will be granted access to God’s kingdom. (Ez. 16:55) It will be at this time that the unforgiveness she has experienced for rejecting God’s anointed (Jesus) will finally be forgiven for Paul says, “all of Israel will be saved.” (Rom. 11:26) Paul’s bold assertion makes it clear that one day the great sin of Israel’s blasphemy will be forgiven.
Is it possible for a man today to “blaspheme the Holy Spirit?” Indeed it is, but it is not in the manner as is taught by most evangelicals. To understand how this blasphemy affects us, we must understand that the Pharisees are the “type” of the religious church system today. The spirit of the Pharisees is the same religious spirit that has existed in man since the days of backsliding Israel. Let us not think that we are better than the Pharisees lest we be guilty of the very same sin. (Rom. 2:1, 3) The sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit does not apply to the unbeliever who rejects the Son of Man, but applies to those who are religious and who have tasted of the power of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us,
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
The above is not referring to unbelievers because they never have been a “partaker of the Holy Ghost.” This can only apply to believers. What the writer of Hebrews is saying is clear: those who have received and have tasted the word of God in their own lives and have seen the manifestation of the power of His Spirit, yet reject that power by falling away, it would be impossible for them to be renewed back to God through repentance. And just like religious Israel, those in the Church who see this supernatural power of God and yet turn away from it can be guilty of the very same sin of blasphemy.
It is the nature of the carnal man to think more highly of himself than he ought. We cannot ignore the numerous passages that speak of the greater judgment coming to those who have been given more. Is there any question that the Christian has been given much more than an unbeliever? Can there be any argument that it is the Christian that has tasted of the good word of God and have been made a partaker of the Holy Spirit? The Bible clearly warns, “to whom much is given much is required” (Lk. 12:48), and “do not be many teachers, knowing that we will receive greater judgment.” (Ja. 3:1) The nation of Israel was given much. They were entrusted the very “oracles of God” and were blessed by God to be a blessing to other nations, yet they squandered those blessings through arrogance and presumption. They thought they were better than other men. Is this not a picture of the apostate church? She have been entrusted the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ and instead of walking in the light of His power, she concerns herself with her own little empires of denominationalism. She is carnal, a hater of the truth, and has a form of godliness, but denies the power of God. (2 Tim. 3:5) It is to this whore that John says, “…come out of her, my people, that you be not a partaker of her sins.” (Rev. 18:4)
Certainly, there are consequences for rejecting the Son of Man—we are not teaching otherwise. However, which is worse: not being able to believe in the Cross because of the weakness and frailty of one’s own flesh (and the religious hypocrisy of the Church), or to see and taste of the miraculous working power of God’s Spirit and attribute it to the devil? The answer is clear. There are those pious Pharisees who say that those who teach the universal salvation of all men are of the devil. Those of us who believe in this doctrine boast only in the power of God working through the Cross of Christ. We believe that the victory of Christ’s death and resurrection will eventually reach each and every last soul. For those of you who yet cannot believe this doctrine, we receive you in Jesus’ name. However, those of you who would attribute this doctrine to the devil, I would be very careful lest you become guilty of the same sin of blasphemy as the Pharisees and experience the very same unforgiveness as they are now tasting. There will be many Christians who will miss out on the 1st resurrection who will not be allowed to rule and reign with Jesus Christ during the 1000-year millennial reign. (See http://www.savior-of-all.com/presson.html) God’s election is according to His own sovereign will, but this is a warning to all believers—let us not be guilty of attributing the mighty power of the Cross of God to the devil, lest we be found lacking and miss out on the glorious calling of the overcomer.
Jesus tells us that a word spoken against the Son of Man will
be forgiven. The whole testimony of the scriptures declare that God’s
mercy endures forever (Ps. 136), His anger is but for a moment (Ps. 30:5), He
will not cast off forever (Lam. 3:31), He retains not His anger forever, but
delights in mercy (Mic. 7:18), and that His love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8) Nowhere in the
two verses we looked at does it say that a person who rejects the gospel
message is guilty of the “unpardonable sin.”
This is an invention of the apostate church. These passages, like many others, have been taken out of context
and totally misapplied, and consequently, the enemy has used this twisting of
the word of God to instill fear into millions of sincere people.
Do I make light of the rejection of the Cross? Nay, God forbid! Men who die in their sins will not receive the benefit of God’s forgiveness in this age, but as we’ve talked about in other writings, there will be a resurrection for all men, and accordingly, “in Adam, all die; and so in Christ, all will be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22)
God has reserved a day to judge all men,
not to forever damn men as taught by the evangelical church, but to teach men
His righteousness. (Is. 26:9)
So for those who are reading this and have been held captive their whole life with tormenting thoughts and blasphemies against God, know that God has sent forth His Son, not to condemn you, but that through Him you might be saved and have life. (Jn. 3:17)