09.01.03 Mt. 12:25-28; Lk. 11:20; Mt. 12:29-32 (Mk 3:28-30)
THE UNPARDONABLE SIN
Mt. 25 Knowing their thoughts, He told them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, who is it your sons drive them out by? For this reason they will be your judges. 28 If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.
Lk. 20 If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.
Mt. 29 How can someone enter a strong man’s house and steal his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house. 30 Anyone who is not with Me is against Me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters.
31 Because of this, I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Whoever 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 one to come.
In this narrative Jesus identifies Beelzubel as Satan. This was common knowledge and is also found in the Jewish writings of Testament of Solomon 2.8-35 and 6.1-11. Therefore, Jesus did not introduce new knowledge into this discussion, but quickly got to the point of identifying Himself as the One who introduced the Kingdom of God to them by the performance of miracles. Therefore, it was the Kingdom of God and not Satan that performed the powerful miracle. Obviously, this idea was not accepted very well.
When the Jews accused Jesus of being demonically possessed, and that He performed miracles by the power of Beelzebub (Satan), they not only committed blasphemy but also the unpardonable sin. The leading Pharisees did not deny that Jesus performed mighty miracles; rather, they concluded that He was using demonic powers. Therefore, He offered them four proofs to verify that His identity was not of a demonic nature:
- His first argument was that if Jesus was of Satan and used His power against the evil one, He would in effect be using His power against himself.
- There was a common belief that the ability and power to cast out demons was a gift of God. When the Jewish leaders suggested that Jesus cast out demons by using demonic powers, they obviously brought into question the source of their own power to perform exorcisms.
- The Jews had always recognized that certain individuals functioned with a divine gift to cast out demons. To this situation Jesus said that since He spoke of the Kingdom of God, then He too was functioning with some divine gift to cast out demons. Conversely, if Jesus really was of Satan, He would not be teaching and preaching the Kingdom of God. Therefore, He must be who He said He was.
- Finally, Jesus presented an allegory of a robber who desires to rob someone of his possessions. Clearly, the robber would have to first overpower the guard (strong man) and tie him up before he could begin his theft. The inference here is that Jesus entered the demonic domain and freed people who were under Satan’s bondage and control. Jesus is obviously stronger than Satan since Jesus described Himself as the robber who tied up the guard (Satan) and freed captured people.
“If Satan drives out Satan.” Today there is a controversy by some theologians concerning the ability of non-Christians and non-Jews who performed exorcisms: How did they accomplish it without the power of Christ? Is it possible to cast out demons with an authority other than the power of Jesus? This is a theological issue that is beyond the scope of this writing. However, a brief response is that some non-believers think they have the power to cast out demonic forces. It has been suggested that in some cases, demons are not cast out, but they simply relocate or remain quiet, thereby giving the illusion of having been removed. Evil men giving the appearance of casting out demons will be among the “great signs and wonders” of Matthew 24:24. It is only by the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that one can effectively and permanently deal with demonic forces. On the other hand, at the three temptations, Jesus had victory over Satan by citing only Old Testament Scriptures. The question then is why were some Jewish exorcists not successful in casting out demons using only the name of God? The answer is unknown, but what is known is that some apparently were successful in performing exorcisms.
“Who is it your sons drive them out by?” This question clearly indicates that Jesus knew the Pharisees were successful in their exorcisms. Likewise, Luke gave them credit for successful exorcisms (Acts 19:13) as did other writers. The procedure was to:
- Communicate with the demon,
- Determine his name, and
- Cast him out of his victim.
However, the source of power the Jews used is questionable. Jesus suggests that it was by the power of Beelzebul. Satanic miracles and healings were possible and led many astray (Ex. 7:22; 8:7; Mt. 24:24). It should be noted that among the Jewish people, there were those who had a reputation of healing and casting out demons. Two examples are these: 
- In the year 63 B.C., the popular miracle worker by the name of Onias, also known as “Honi, the circle-drawer,” was killed. He was believed to have the divine power to cause the clouds to rain (see 03.05.14).
- Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa was known for performing many miracles, especially healing.
Jesus never denied that these men performed miracles; He did not even question their source of power. Jesus did, however, question the source of the power your sons, meaning, your students, of the Pharisees used. Amazingly, the Pharisees accused Jesus of performing exorcisms by using demonic powers. However, they believed that the ability to perform exorcisms was a gift of God – a direct violation of their accusations against Jesus.
“Finger of God.” The same phrase was used by Matthew in the parallel verse as “the Spirit of God” (cf. Mt. 12:28). Everyone was aware how weak a single finger (Gk. daktulos 1147)  is, and Luke used this figure of speech to demonstrate the incredible strength of God that is visible to man. He stated that God is so powerful that demons were expelled by His finger and, furthermore, the Kingdom of God was now in their presence meaning the Hebrew prophecies of the Messiah were being fulfilled in their presence.
However, there is another aspect to this passage. The fact that Jesus referred to the finger of God also is reflective of the hardness of heart the Pharaoh had at the time of the Exodus. The Jewish leaders would have clearly understood that Jesus was connecting the Pharaoh’s attitude with theirs. Little wonder then, that they grew increasingly angry at Him.
“Kingdom of God.” This phrase is synonymous with “Kingdom of Heaven,” and both terms have three elements of definition.
- A king reigns over the realm.
- It is the people over which He reigns, as in Revelation 5:10 where the people are clearly the kingdom. In fact, in this passage, Luke 13:29 and Revelation 1:6 the people share the reign.
- The actual reign is both in a present state and in one of the future. Jesus offered the kingdom first to national Judaea (Israel) because the Jewish people were the rightful heirs to the promises of God (Mt. 8:12). However, the religious leaders rejected Him and encouraged others to do likewise (Mt. 23:13). At the same time many Jews, including the destitute of society, accepted the words of Jesus and became the first century church. But the nation was doomed to destruction because of the rejection of Jesus by her leaders and those who followed them. In a future sense, the kingdom will be introduced when Christ returns to reign over the world.
The phrase “Kingdom of God” had come into common usage in the two centuries preceding Jesus as is evident in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. However, the popular Jewish understanding of this kingdom was different from Jesus’ idea, as the people and their rabbis believed the following,
- The tiny nation of Israel would triumph over her enemies with the help of the Messiah, and
- The kingdom was one of ethics and wisdom, clearly the influence of Hellenism in the latter part.
- Finally, the understanding of the kingdom was one of universal expanse, not just control of the nation of Israel.
The “Kingdom of God” issue was the most important teaching of Jesus, with an emphasis much greater in the gospels than in the Old Testament, extra-biblical books, or in the balance of the New Testament. The kingdom is often the subject of parables because Jesus not only had to teach what the kingdom was about, but He also had to teach what it wasn’t. He had to change their concept of His kingdom because He certainly was not going to overthrow the Roman Empire at His first coming. This paradigmatic shift was accomplished, in part, by His demonstration of miracles, teaching, and explicit fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Add to the theological chaotic mix the ideas promoted by those with a nationalistic passion, and the challenges Jesus faced become clearer. The revolutionary Zealots followed the Maccabean tradition and believed that the kingdom would come through their heroic endeavors and military might. They expected God to fight for them as He did during the Maccabean Revolt. They believed at some point during this freedom fight against Rome, the messiah would appear and lead them to victory. On the other hand, there were the apocalyptists who believed the present age was about to end, they taught that the kingdom would come in accordance with God’s timing, and the Romans would be destroyed by thousands of angels and archangels (i.e. book of Enoch). The Pharisees, Essenes, and Apocalyptic writers held to this position. Ironically, they did not believe the kingdom would be won by human intervention, but by the son of man, that is, a “son of man” according to their definition of the phrase.
09.01.03.A. A PEACEFUL SEA OF GALILEE AT SUNSET. The natural lake was a major source for fish and fresh water throughout history. To ancient pagans it was also a mystical body of water because of the sudden storms. They believed that (1) only the gods could control the winds and waves, (2) that demons lived in its depths, and (3) the bottom of the lake was one of the three entrances to hell. Photograph by the author.
“How can someone enter a strong man’s house?” This phrase is problematic to today’s readers because it suggests that Jesus approves the entering of someone’s home for the purpose of theft. He specifically said that one must overcome and tie up the owner, meaning the strong man, and only then can the theft be successful as stated in the next sentence.
However, the context of this statement is that the owner, or “strong man,” is none other than Satan himself. All that the evil one has was stolen from others. Therefore, Jesus said that in spiritual warfare, one must “bind up” up Satan and then the stolen goods can be returned to their rightful owners.
At this point it is good to have a brief understanding of houses. They had essentially three areas, one of which was the bedroom where everyone slept on a mat, usually over a bed of hay. The husband/father of the family slept by the door, so if anyone entered, they would have to struggle with him first before doing any harm to the family. This is further explained by Majd Shufani in the video filmed at the reconstructed Nazareth Village (see 04.07.01.V1 and V2):
“Anyone who is not with Me is against Me.” With Jesus, there is no middle ground. One must decide whether to follow Him. In the mind of Jesus, either one is totally committed to Him, or one is against Him, but there is no room for indifference to His message. Here Jesus called upon His listeners to make a decision to be either for or against Him. Those who rejected Him and chose to side with the Pharisees eventually suffered horrible consequences. They never changed their minds as to where Jesus obtained His power to cast out demons. They believed He was demonically possessed and, therefore, they rejected of the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. They said Satan was responsible for the miracles performed by Jesus!
The English word blasphemy or blaspheme is from the Greek term blasphemia, meaning to insult. But it also suggests that the one who blasphemes has placed himself in the place of God and thereby, degrades Him. That includes insulting Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit as well. Hence, it is an incredibly serious charge.
“But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit.” The warning about speaking against the Holy Spirit is emphasized by the repeated theme in Matthew 12:32-33. Often the significance of an idea is repeated in poetic parallelism, but this case is an exeption. The example of one who blasphemed is the Egyptian Pharaoh who deliberately hardened his heart and would not listen to God (Ex. 8:19). He was eventually destroyed because of his continuous opposition to God. Those who blaspheme against God do what the Pharaoh did – continually harden their hearts against the voice of God, and the results do not change. Man makes the choices, but the consequences have been established by God from the foundations of the earth. Therefore, decisions determine destiny.
In the New Testament era, the term Holy Spirit, is derived from the Greek Paraclete, and Parakletos means someone who stands by to help. This is a classic example of where the passage must be understood in the Jewish cultural context, and not with a Christian understanding of the Holy Spirit (which is much broader).
- The Holy Spirit enlightens mankind to God’s truth.
- The Holy Spirit enables mankind to recognize and understand Divine truth.
Therefore, the reason Jesus was condemning the leading Pharisees and their co-conspirators, is that they clearly recognized and understood Him, His ministry, and His message. The Holy Spirit enlightened them, yet they rejected Him and the Kingdom of God.
As stated previously, the Pharisees willfully decided that Jesus was demonically possessed and, therefore, they rejected of the work of the Holy Spirit. That was their unpardonable sin. However, generally speaking, throughout history all men and women have spoken out against God at some point in their lives. Yet God, in His divine grace and mercy, is patient with His human subjects until repentance comes by the call of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who constantly reject that call and the day finally comes when God decides that they had sufficient opportunity to accept Jesus and that door of opportunity is closed. That final rejection is also known as the “unpardonable sin.” It is the sin of refusing the gift of salvation so frequently that it is no longer offered.
Sometimes people ponder if they are guilty of the unpardonable sin. The answer lies in the simple fact if there is a concern for having committed this sin, it is inherent proof that it was not committed. Once the Holy Spirit has been grieved numerous times and no longer invites one to salvation, all concern of committing sin is gone and the truly reprobate person feels no remorse. Those who desire forgiveness from God will always find it. However, for those who reject the final calling of the Holy Spirit to come to Christ, there will be no forgiveness. They are the ones who have no concern for any kind of sin and God, who is gracious, will give them what they want – a life of sin – but the final consequence will be theirs as well.
09.01.03.Q1 What was the significance of the Beelzebub discussion (Mt. 12:25-32)?
At this point the religious leaders clearly recognized that Jesus had supernatural powers, and they attributed His miracles to the demonic forces of Beelzebub – and that was the point of their official rejection of Jesus. It was the proverbial “line in the sand,” a turning point in His ministry of how He would respond to various individuals. The trials and crucifixion that came later would be the consequence of this rejection. Note the differences in the chart below.
Their accusation was clearly a rejection of their Messiah which was a major turning point in the ministry of Jesus. After this rejection He healed only individuals, not groups or multitudes, and only on the basis of faith. Furthermore, when He healed someone, if that person was a Jew He told him not to tell anyone, but if he was a Gentile this command was not given.
Before His Rejection After His Rejection
Persons & groups Only individuals
Not needed Required
Purpose of miracles (signs)
Reveal Jesus to Israel Train future apostles
To tell others of the Miracle
Go tell everyone Jews told not to tell anyone
Plain instruction Taught with parables
09.01.03.B CHART OF COMPARATIVE ACCEPTANCE – REJECTION ATTITUDES OF JEWISH LEADERSHIP TOWARD JESUS
It must be noted that if this eBook was written in a chronological order, it would be easier to discern the time of His rejection.
Finally, the matter of miracles in the name of Beelzebub, or Beelzebul, would come up again during the trials of Jesus. It was the most damning accusation they leveled at Jesus. Furthermore, witchcraft was not appreciated by the Romans any more than it was by the Jews. In fact, Emperor Tiberias had a hundred and thirty sorcerers and sorceresses executed in the years A.D. 16 and 17. That was about a decade before Jesus began His ministry. So the accusation of Jesus of being Beelzebub or using Beelzebub’s power was just as damaging politically as it was spiritually.
. Tobit 8:1-5; Josephus, War 7.6.3 (185) and Antiquities 8.2.5 (45-49; see quotation 09.01.05.X2).
. Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 9, Session 1.
. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 121.
. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 121.
. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 121.
. Vine, “Finger.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:239.
. Gilbrant, “Luke.” 357.
. Evans, “Exorcisms and the Kingdom.” 171-73.
. Ladd, “Kingdom of God.” 9:1123-24.
. Quotations from the Apocrypha are from the New Revised Standard Version, Bruce M. Metzger, ed. Quotations from the Pseudepigrapha, James A. Charlesworth, ed.
. Saucy, “Miracles and Jesus Proclamation of the Kingdom of God.” 285.
. It appears that the term “Son of Man,” was believed to be a heavenly being of some kind, but not necessarily a being associated with Deity. Therefore, the phrase is not capitalized.
. See additional comments on 10.01.29 “Bind on earth … loose on earth” and 11.02.09 on “Binding and Loosing.”
. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture. 259.
. Barclay, A New Testament Wordbook. 51; See Appendix 26.
. Barclay, “Luke.” 162.
. Isa. 45:22; Mt. 11:28; Jn. 3:16.
. Jenney, “The Holy Spirit and Sanctification.” 413; Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 207.
. Adapted from Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 10, page 17.
. Adapted from Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 10, pages 16-17 and Class 12, page 8.
. Welch, “Miracles, Maleficium, and Maiestas in the Trial of Jesus.” 373. See also 16.01.05.