What is the unforgivable sin? Does it oppose the everlasting reconciliation of creation?
And everyone who shall be declaring a word against the Son of Mankind, it shall be pardoned him, yet the one who blasphemes against the holy spirit shall not be pardoned. (Luke 12:10 CLNT)
For many holding onto the doctrine of Infernalism, known in exquisite laymen’s terms as the doctrine of eternal torment, the above is one of the most pressed upon verses in the entire breadth of Scripture. Last year I addressed the proposition that Christ had died for every sin but one that had the weight to damn a soul to eternal hellfire. That sin, passionately wrought in a condescending article directed to no one in particular, was unbelief. It should be declared rather unfortunate then that the Apostle Paul notes that that is the sin all of humanity is guilty of and “useless” to overcome.
What, then? Are we privileged? Undoubtedly not, for we previously charge both Jews and Greeks to be all under sin, according as it is written, that “Not one is just” — not even one. Not one is understanding. Not one is seeking out God. “All avoid Him: at the same time they were useless. (Romans 3:9-12 CLNT)
The conundrum may be puzzling, but a clean divide of the Word and an understanding of what this sin is and what it entails will swipe us right out of it, like snatching us away from the jaws of religion. With problems of mixed messages like this one, the Literal Concordant version provides the clarity we need.
Verily, I am saying to you that all shall be pardoned the sons of mankind, the penalties of the sins and the blasphemies, whatsoever they should be blaspheming, yet whoever should be blaspheming against the holy spirit is having no pardon for the eon, but is liable to the eonian penalty for the sin. (Mark 3:28-29 CLNT)
Therefore I am saying to you, Every sin and blasphemy shall be pardoned men, yet the blasphemy of the spirit shall not be pardoned. And whosoever may be saying a word against the Son of Mankind, it will be pardoned him, yet whoever may be saying aught against the holy spirit, it shall not be pardoned him, neither in this eon nor in that which is impending. (Matthew 12:31-32 CLNT)
With the original Greek translated into literal English (while retaining grammatical coherency) Christ’s words become precise and meaningful. Christ is addressing something specifically relevant to the eons: Biblical periods of time where the Kingdom of God is brought to earth (see my articles Eonian Vs. Eternal Life and The Purpose of the Eons). Practically speaking, those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit in this eon will not have eonian life. This has no bearing on eternity or the Grand Consummation (Ephesians 1:9-10), which is a fact that remains unchanged regardless of anyone’s behaviour within the eons. This allows us to interpret verses like the above in light of verses that state an absolute, in regards to examples like Mark 1:21, without ever compromising the character of God or presenting Him as one who has failed His redemption plan. It also keeps us from inserting arbitrary definitions where they cannot fit in order to avoid undesirable conclusions.
Now she shall be bringing forth a Son, and you shall be calling His name Jesus, for He shall be saving His people from their sins. (bold mine)
Israelites who had blasphemed the Holy Spirit will not then be allotted eonian life, which for them specifically meant a place in the upcoming thousand-year reign (Revelation 20:6). It’s a harrowing warning but a sufficient, reasonable, and thoroughly believable act of judgement. This is opposed to the unbelievable nature of eternal torment, where even the most misshapen and corrupted act of human justice cannot compare.
I want to add a concluding footnote to help dispel the notion that this is the “sin that is above every other sin.” Such an idea leads one to believe that this is the one Christ could not have effectively died for; a blasphemous declaration itself, I should say.
In Mark 3:22, the immediately surrounding context to Jesus’ warning makes it a response to the Pharisee’s claim that Jesus “hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.” Blaspheming the Holy Spirit meant rejecting and/or denying His identity, power, and sovereign hand. In effect, Jesus was stating that if Israel were to blaspheme against Him, they would be forgiven, but if they were to blaspheme the Holy Spirit (that is, God’s power through Him), then they would not be forgiven in this eon or that which is to come. They were, in essence, functional unbelievers.
Christ was not describing how “big” or severe the sin was, as though He was placing it on a moral spectrum. He was telling His audience that the act itself was a sign that one had not acknowledged who Christ was and could not have eonian life. In practical terms, they were effectively unfit to be the gears in His one-thousand-year plan and not because their sin was greater than another’s and therefore found themselves in a place the finished work of the cross could not reach.