The Problem of EVIL and The Judgments of GOD
Chapter 15 - The Unpardonable Sin

by A.E. Knoch

"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 whoever might say a word against the Son of Mankind, it will be pardoned him, yet whoever might say aught against the holy spirit, it shall not be pardoned him, neither in this eon nor in that which is future"

"Verily, I am saying to you that the penalty of all the sins shall be pardoned the sons of mankind, and the blasphemies, whatever they should be blaspheming, yet whoever should be blaspheming the holy spirit is having no pardon for the eon, but is liable to the penalty of an eonian sin"--seeing that they said, "He has an unclean spirit" (Mark 3:28-30).

"Now I am saying to you, that everyone whoever shall be avowing Me in front of men, him shall the Son of Mankind also be avowing in front of the messengers of God. Now he who is disowning Me before men will be renounced before the messengers of God. And everyone who shall be declaring a word against the Son of Mankind, it shall be pardoned him, yet the one who blasphemes the holy spirit shall not be pardoned" (Luke 12:8-10).

TWO STATEMENTS in the passages quoted above have been seized upon to prove that there is no salvation for those who blaspheme the holy spirit. These are, "the blasphemy of the spirit shall not be pardoned" (Matthew 12:31), and "the one who blasphemes the holy spirit shall not be pardoned" (Luke 12:10). These passages, we are told, utterly disprove the salvation of all (1 Tim.4:10) and universal reconciliation (Col.1:20). We are told that here are passages which we refuse to believe. To the superficial reader this seems to be true. But one who carefully examines the Greek, or even a concordant sublinear, will find that these passages do not by any means deny other portions of our God's infallible revelation.

First of all, anyone reading all of the passages attentively will see that the time of action is circumscribed. It is confined within the boundaries of only two eons. With considerable circumstance we are informed that the pardon is not possible-- neither in this eon nor in that which is future. This is in exact accord with the facts in other scriptures. Pardon has its place in the millennial kingdom and in its proclamation. The question of pardon does not arise at any other time. After that time is the great white throne judgment, when all unbelievers will enter the second death. Pardon can have no place in the new earth. At the consummation men are not pardoned, but justified. An intelligent study of the Scriptures will confirm the limiting of pardon, in this passage, to this eon and that which is future. There is no pardon in these for those who blaspheme the holy spirit.

The question now arises, Do the two statements which are not specifically confined to these eons contradict this limitation, or are they in harmony with it? The negative used is absolute, not relative. How shall we understand "shall not be pardoned?" In ordinary English, apart from any context, we must admit that there seems no possibility of such a thing. We might argue that, as a matter of fact, they will never be pardoned, because they will be justified (Rom.5:18) and reconciled (Col.1:20), which is infinitely more. But this would not entirely satisfy, for those not accustomed to the accuracy of Holy Writ would mistake it for quibbling.

The real solution lies in the form of the Greek verb used, which we will now seek to make plain to all, even though they know nothing of Greek. The verb, in Greek, is divided into three great classes, as shown on page 19 of THE GREEK ELEMENTS, companion volume to the CONCORDANT VERSION. These are the Indefinite, the Incomplete, and the Complete. The first simply states a fact, as "the Son of Mankind has authority on earth to pardon sins" (Matt.9:6). Here there is no question of time, for the verb is indefinite. The last form, the Complete, tells of the state resulting from an action, as, "Child, your sins have been pardoned you" (Mark 2:5). The second form, however, the Incomplete, deals with an action in progress, as, "we ourselves, also, are pardoning every one who is owing us" (Luke 11:4).

The complete re-analysis of the Greek verb in the course of compiling the Concordant Version brought to light several facts which are not to be found in the usual grammars and lexicons. Among other things, it was observed that the future forms, which have the endings of the incomplete, partake of the nature of this form, and speak of an action in progress, and limited to the time of the context. All of these forms are distinguished by the ending --ING in the Sublinear of the Concordant Version. Therefore the passages which we are considering should really be rendered "shall not be being pardoned," as it is in the Sublinear. It is a pity that this cannot be readily carried over into the version. Yet all who have the sublinear, which should always be consulted in such cases, will have no difficulty in recognizing the incomplete forms, for they are always in --ING.

That the future form of the verb may be limited is evident from the fact that the very same form (aphetheesetai) is used in Matthew 12:31 and 32. Much patient investigation, and years of experience since this fact was first observed, have convinced the compiler of the CONCORDANT VERSION that the Greek future with a negative is always limited to the time of action. It does not deny at all times. If the reader will cheek this by the Greek or by the sublinear of the Concordant Version he will arrive at the same conclusion, and it will be a source of much satisfaction to him, for it really settles, and that conclusively, some most important questions. Above all, it allows us to believe all that God has said, and does not make us array one part of His Word against another.

How instructive and important this fact is may be seen from another passage. In John 3:36 we read, "He who is believing into the Son has eonian life, yet he who is stubborn as to the Son shall not be seeing life, but the indignation of God is remaining on him." The phrase "shall not see life," wrenched out of its context, has hindered many from an acceptance of God's glorious goal. This has its root in the mistranslation "everlasting," for, if eternal life is in question in one part of the sentence, then "shall not see life" can have no limits. But if eonian life is promised to the believer, an intelligent reader will see that it is eonian life also which the stubborn shall not see. And this is made absolutely sure by the form of the Greek future. It deals not with a fact but an incomplete, limited action. The context, the form of the verb, and definite declarations of God in other portions of His Word are in delightful agreement. If we take "shall not see life" as a fact for all time, we must clash with the context, we must ignore the form of the verb, and we must deny God's great assertions that death shall be abolished (1 Cor.15: 26) and that, in Christ, all shall be made alive (1 Cor.15:22).

It is glorious to be able to revel in all that God has revealed! We do not need to worry about contradictory passages. They do not exist! Only in our ignorance of the exactitude of Holy Writ will we bring up texts to bolster up our unbelief in God's glorious ultimate. To test such facts as these, let us not fall back upon traditional scholarship. It has long been stereotyped and dares not acknowledge its own deficiencies. I have never seen a Greek grammar which clearly distinguishes between verb forms which are indefinite and those which are incomplete, or, in process. Nor do we ask anyone to rely upon our statement that this is so. With the Concordant Sublinear anyone can test it for himself, and rest his faith on the irrefutable facts.

Let each one who has the spirit of God judge: Shall we listen to learning which rests on its own reputation and refuses the facts, when this course brings God's revelation into hopeless internal conflict? Or shall we quietly consult that Word itself, as we are now able to do as never before, when such a course reveals to us the most exquisite harmony and complete accord? Were the Word of God a great hymn, as indeed it is, my ear could never bear the jazz that theology has made of it. But now that my heart has heard its heavenly harmony, and my spirit is inspired by its sweet symphony, it is torture to hear the jangling discords of hard and stubborn hearts, which, selfishly satisfied with their own safety, hope to make it more secure by condemning others to eternal damnation, thereby filling God's Word and His ways and His world with unbearable discord.

Therefore, we conclude that the sin against the holy spirit will not be pardoned in the time specified, the only time when pardon is offered, in this eon and in the next, according as it is written. (Moreover, it is concerned with the proclamation of the kingdom to Israel, and not with the present grace). The statements where this time limit is not directly included imply the same thing in the form of the verb. Consequently, the fate, after the next eon, of those who commit this sin, is not determined by these passages, but by other explicit declarations.

The sin against the holy spirit shall not be pardoned (Luke 12:10). It will be judged. Those who commit it will stand before the great white throne and will suffer the penalty imposed by our Lord for this sin. They will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. Thereafter, when death is abolished, and all are made alive at the consummation, they, with all the rest of mankind, will be justified and reconciled to God through the blood of Christ's cross.

The crude reasoning that concludes that those who are never forgiven will never be saved is a good example of how reasoning from ignorance breeds unbelief and enslaves men in fear and utter despair. How many have morbidly imagined that they had committed this sin and spoiled their whole career! Those who bring it up as a proof that Colossians 1:20 is not true convict themselves of two crimes, the most devastating that men can commit--ignorance and unbelief so stubborn that it dares to pit one passage of God's Word against another and make Him a liar.

Forward to Chapter 16

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