Many often refer to what they call the “sin against the Holy Spirit”, [or as some prefer, “sin against the Holy Ghost”] and often make many unfounded claims concerning such. Many believe anyone, once he has ‘sinned against the spirit’, has already come under an eternal condemnation from which they cannot repent. Actually, the expression “sin against the holy spirit”, as such, is not in the Bible. The “sin” that is often spoken of is actually blaspheming [railing, speaking abusively] against the holy spirit.
Matthew 12:31 – Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.
Matthew 12:32 – 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, neither in this [age], nor in that which is to come.
Mark 3:29 – but whoever may speak evil in regard to the Holy Spirit hath not forgiveness — to the age, but is in danger of age-during judgment. – Young’s Literal
Luke 12:10 – Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
As already mentioned, some read into Jesus’ words that those who speak against the holy spirit are eternally lost, that there is no more hope for them at all. This, however, is not what Jesus said. Directly, Jesus was speaking of the Pharisees, who had just witnessed the power of the holy spirit through Jesus, in the healing of a demon-possessed blind and mute man. (Matthew 12:22) The question was raised as to whether Jesus was the Son of David. (Matthew 12:23) Evidently, these religious men did to some extent recognize the power of the holy spirit in Jesus, and that Jesus was indeed the Son of David, the long-promised Messiah. The scripture says that Jesus knew their thoughts. (Matthew 12:25) These Pharisees were not regenerated sons of God, but rather they were offspring of vipers. (Matthew 23:33) They certainly did not have God’s holy spirit, and thus did not have the truth. (1 Corinthians 2:6-8,14) Yet they did have some understanding that Jesus was indeed the promised one, but they did not wish to accept it. That they understood Jesus to be the promised heir is indicated in the parable that Jesus spoke. (Matthew 21:38; Mark 12:7,8; Luke 20:14) Caiaphas spoke the truth to them, but they did not understand the truth, and evidently Caiaphas himself did not understand the truth concerning his own words. Their desire was not that Jesus be the savior, but that through his death, they thought Israel would not be troubled by him anymore. They took counsel and began to seek some way to kill Jesus. (John 11:47-53) Caiaphas evidently did have some knowledge that Jesus was the Messiah, but did not want to accept it, as can be seen by his words at Matthew 26:63-65.
The general penalty of sin through Adam was still upon these Jewish leaders. Unlike the sons of God, who become regenerated to a new life by means of the holy spirit, these Jewish leaders had not had any such experience. Not being made alive, they could not, at that point, come under the condemnation of a second death. Nevertheless, seeing that they were at least partly knowledgeable of who Jesus was, in that they did realize that Jesus was the promised Son of David, their sin was also partially willful in their words against the operation of the holy spirit as demonstrated through the works of Jesus.
Jesus, in his above words, is not speaking of the penalty of death, or the second death, but he is speaking of giving account in the day of judgment, that is, in the age to come. (Matthew 12:36) Jesus is not saying that these religious leaders have no opportunity to repent, for we know that some of them did. Most translations speak of “idle words” said by men that will need to be accounted for in the day of judgment. Our English word “idle” may fall short of what Jesus was speaking about, since the Greek word he used carries a thought of shunning of responsibility. This was what these religious leaders were doing in speaking words against the visible operation of the holy spirit. Jesus did not say that they would not come back in the general resurrection for judgment in the last day, for he plainly speaks of their giving an accounting in the day of judgment. What he is saying is that their words were spoke so willfully against what they knew to the contrary, that they could not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come (thus they will be there in the age to come), but they must be accounted for.
This harmonizes with Jesus’ statement that he came to save, deliver, the world, not to judge the world in this age, but that judgment would come in the last day. Jesus did not judge or pronounce an eternal condemnation upon these religious leaders, for he declared that he had not come to judge the world, or to condemn it and those who did not accept him, but quite to the contrary, to die for the world, including those who heard but did not obey, to redeem them, to purchase them at the cost of His life. — John 3:16,17; 12:47,48.
In a parable, Jesus also demonstrated this principle when speaking of his true servants, that there must be some accounting for partially willful sins. He spoke of this correction as the giving of “stripes”.
Luke 12:47 That servant, who knew his lord’s will, and didn’t prepare, nor do what he wanted, will be beaten with many stripes,
Luke 12:48 but he who didn’t know, and did things worthy of stripes, will be beaten with few stripes.
This same kind of principle will be applied in the day of judgment. Thus Jesus said of those who rejected him and his disciples in his day, because their rejection was partially willful, especially in light of the many miracles performed:
Matthew 10:15 – Most assuredly I tell you, It will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Matthew 11:21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
Matthew 11:22 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.
Matthew 11:23 You, Capernaum, who are exalted to Heaven, you will go down to Hades. For if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in you, it would have remained until this day.
Matthew 11:24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment, than for you.”
It should be noted that these were not condemned to the second death, represented by Gehenna, but to Hades. Thus, they they are included in the salvation of the whole world and will be raised for judgment in the last day, as can be seen from John 12:47,48; 1 Timothy 2:5,6; 1 John 2:2; Revelation 20:13.
Although not expressly stated, the actual basis for forgiveness in this present evil world is though faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, since it is through his blood that one is forgiven of sin. — Acts 2:38; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:17.
Forgiveness by God before Jesus’ sacrifice was also due to faith, especially in the promises; in effect, Jesus’ sacrifice was evidently prospectively applied to various ones of faith, justifying them in the sight of God. — Luke 20:38; Acts 4:3,6-8,13,17,18,20-25.
Notwithstanding, Jesus, in his words recorded at Matthew 12:32,33 and elsewhere, does give a warning reproof to the religious leaders who opposed him that those who could thus see the righteousness of his teachings, and how He made use of the holy spirit to glorify God in his words and actions, and who could then impute all of this to Satan, must be to a considerable extent perverse in their hearts, and if so, they would be in great danger in the judgment day to be condemned to Gehenna, the second death, since they had hardened their hearts to such great truths and works of God that Jesus had done by means of the holy spirit in him. — Luke 4:1,14; Matthew 12:28; Mark 23:33.
The Bible teaches that the penalty of Adam’s sin was death — cutting off from life — but that under divine providence the work of Jesus is to release all mankind from that death sentence, and give to all an opportunity of returning to harmony with God by bringing all to a clearer knowledge of the Truth. (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; 2 Timothy 2:5,6) To some this knowledge comes now, with the privilege of becoming sons of God, the seed of Abraham (by faith) that is to judge and bless all the heathen. (Genesis 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Romans 4:13; 1 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 3:29; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Obadiah 21; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:29,30; Romans 8:16-21; 2 Timothy 2:11,12; Revelation 3:21; 5:9,10; 20:4,6; 22:17) To such as accept this privilege and receive the begetting of the Holy Spirit, a judgment begins now to qualify them for their reward in the kingdom. — 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:20-22; 4:12-15; 2 Thessalonians 1:4,5; 1 Peter 4:17; James 1:18.
But with the world, including those religious leaders Jesus spoke to, this is not the time of judgment respecting life or death everlasting, for they have already been judged in the sin of Adam in this respect. (John 3:18; Romans 5:12-17; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22) For them the next Age, the period of Messiah’s Kingdom, will be the time of judgment, when the books are opened for their understanding when Satan is not around to deceive, and their privilege will be to attain human perfection, otherwise to be cut off in the Second Death. (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:9,10; 25:6-9; 40:5; 52:10: Jeremiah 31:34; Habakkuk 2:14; Revelation 20:1-4,12) Meantime, whatever light they may be enjoying will be either helpful or injurious, depending on how they deal with it. If they allow it to have an uplifting influence in their lives they will be that much more advantaged when they shall come under the Kingdom influences and tests; and their trial will be more tolerable, or easier, in that day of judgment than those who sinned against greater light. — Matthew 10:15; 11:22,24; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:12,14.
See our study:
The Restoration of All Things
On the other hand, even those of the world who violate clear opportunities and ignore the light which they have opportunity to see and sin against it, will find themselves proportionately degraded when they shall come under the Kingdom influences and tests. The scribes of this lesson had so misused their education and opportunities as to be in great danger of becoming so degraded that even the Kingdom influences would not bring them to a condition worthy of everlasting life.
Now regarding those who have been, by faith, made alive, and have partaken of the powers of the age to come, who persist in sinning, these, we believe, are of two classes: those who have not committed the sin to death, and those who have committed the sin to death. (1 John 5:16,17) Once a spirit-begotten Christian crosses the line in their practice of sin so that they fall into the class spoken of in Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-29, in his heart, he “who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace”, for such their ‘blaspheming of the holy spirit’ becomes a sin for which there is no more sacrifice for sin. Such have, in effect, willfully and fully rejected their sanctification through the holy spirit. They cannot return to the condemnation in Adam, but having been made clean by means of the powers of the age come, they would then, due to their rejection of their sanctification, also come under the adverse condemnation of the age to come, that is, the second death.
At what point can we determine that such a person has reached this point of no return? We have not found a scriptural answer to that question by which we today could determine. We do believe the apostles, having received special power of the holy spirit, could so determine such. (Acts 5:3; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:5,7; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:6; 2 Timothy 2:2) Additionally, the Bible was written directly mostly for and concerning Christians in the first century, most of whom had received, not just the holy spirit, but additional gifts, powers, of the holy spirit, powers of the age to come, that we today do not have. Thus, it would appear that there may have been a greater responsibility upon those Christians in the first century than Christians here at the end of the age. Today, as foretold, Satan is working all kinds of miracles so as to deceive, if possible, the elect. (Matthew 24:24) And Jesus spoke of his servants as though fulfilling several roles, none of which he expressly condemns to the second death. (Luke 12:42-48) So, we doubt that one will find many who have been sanctified today who would come under the judgment of the second death. Such a determination we have to leave in the hands of Yahweh.
See our study:
Parable of the Four Servants
See also (we do not necessarily agree with all conclusions presented by others):
“Some Sins Forgivable and Some Unforgivable”
“Fogivable and Unpardonable Sins”