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What is the “blasphemy against the holy spirit”?

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the holy spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Matthew 12:31-32 

It is important to put the above Scriptures in the context of Jesus’ rebuttal to the Pharisees regarding their accusation that he received his power to heal from Satan.  Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed blind and mute man.  The people observing this miracle were astonished and wondered if Jesus could actually be the “Son of David” (a popular Jewish title for the Messiah, see Matthew 12:22-23).  

When the Pharisees heard the people, they said it was only by Beelzebub (Satan), the prince of demons, that Jesus was able to drive out the demons (Matthew 12:24).  Jesus then asked the Pharisees, 

“If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself.  How can his kingdom stand?  And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do you people drive them out?  So then, they will be your judges.  But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:26-28)  

Then Jesus proceeds to tell the Pharisees that every kind of sin and blasphemy can be forgiven except the sin against the holy spirit.

In order to sin against the holy spirit one must first possess the holy spirit.  Only Jesus had the holy spirit.  He received it in full measure from his Father when John the Baptist immersed him at Jordan (John 1:29-34).  Later, his disciples would receive the holy spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven.  

Therefore, Jesus’ pronouncement was not a final judgment on the Pharisees but rather a dire warning.  This warning was to apply to his followers seeking a heavenly reward as well as to the world of mankind in “the age to come” (Christ’s 1000-year kingdom on earth).  

The Apostle Paul warns followers of Jesus who have received the Holy Spirit,

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the holy spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” Hebrews 6:4-6  

How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:29-31

Just as the followers of Jesus who possess the holy spirit are being judged now in order to become joint heirs with Christ in heaven, in the age to come (Christ’s peaceable kingdom on earth) the holy spirit will be poured out on all members of the human family (Joel 2:28-29) and they shall be judged after a period of instruction. Those who fail their test will be taken away (Isaiah 65:20) in what the Bible calls “the second death,” from which there is no resurrection.  

They will simply cease to exist.  

You asked us to explain the meaning of the blasphemy of the holy spirit.  We believe it has two applications as Jesus indicated in his answer to the Pharisees.  The first application is directed to Christians now who have received the holy spirit in full knowledge and who have made a covenant of sacrifice and knowingly reject Jesus.  The second application applies to members of the resurrected human race on earth during the Millennial Age. 

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