Forgiving the Unforgivable


by Bill Steidtman

Matt 12:32 (KJV) "And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."

This verse has haunted many people who can't help but wonder if they might have slipped up somewhere and become "unforgivable". I remember asking a pastor or two about this and the most common response was: "If you are afraid of losing your salvation it proves you haven't". At the time that seemed like a relief, but it really isn't because it effectively says: If you are filled with an unbelief driven fear, you are a normal healthy Christian - your sick faith proves it. What it really proved was that I had yet to apprehend God's true character:

1 John 4:18 (KJV) "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."

Now it turns out there is a simple solution to the "unforgivable sin" puzzle, but it's not found in traditional Christian theology. There is a word in Greek: "aion", which is commonly translated with various words like "ever", "world", and "age". It's adjective form "aionion" is similarly translated "forever", "eternal", or "everlasting". The key is to realize that an "aion" is not forever, and thus most of these English words are mistranslations. An "aion" is an indefinite length of time (meaning we do not know how long it will be), yet a finite one (meaning it is not forever). Here's what Matt 12:32 is really saying:

Matt 12:32 (YLT) "And whoever may speak a word against the Son of Man it shall be forgiven to him, but whoever may speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is coming."

From this we can now see that there are at least two ages, "this age" and "that which is coming", but we still need to ask: How many ages are there? Can those who are not forgiven in this age, or the one that is coming, be forgiven in an age after the one that is coming? Is there one age coming, or is there more than one? The answer can easily been seen in Eph 2:7 where the same word "aion", but in the plural, is the Greek behind the word "ages":

Eph 2:7 (KJV) "That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."

Plural "ages" to come! In fact I believe there are exactly two more ages coming, and that at the conclusion of the ages God will reconcile with all His creatures (Col 1:20) and become "all in all" of them (1 Cor 15:28). There is no "unforgivable sin", regardless of how many people spend the next age unforgiven. The next age is not the last one, nor is it forever. Now consider this verse:

Mark 3:29 (KJV) "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:"

This time the "aion" noun and adjective forms are both present in the verse. The word "eternal" is the obvious one, but there is another. The word "never" is actually attempting to translate 4 different Greek words, essentially reading "not ... for the age". Putting the pieces together we get: "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath not forgiveness for the eon, but is in danger of eonian damnation:". I used the word "eon" instead of "age" to make the adjective easier to form, because age-ian, or age-during, is awkward, but I do not mean anything different by "eon". Thus "eonian damnation" is within the time frame of the ages, and not forever.

Hopefully we can begin to see that God's character and His ultimate plan have been horribly maligned and misrepresented by these errors. And for those who live in fear of the "unforgivable sin", may God's perfect love in Christ Jesus cast it out of your life.


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