Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
Jun 14, 2014
In Luke 11:14 (NASB) we read,
14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed.
Panin’s Numeric New Testament reads better:
14 And He was casting out a dumb demon. And it came to pass, when the demon was gone out, the dumb spoke; and the crowds marveled.
In this case, Jesus cast out a demon of dumbness, which was the spiritual cause of the man’s physical inability to speak. In any illness or disability, one must first diagnose the root cause, whether it is physical, mental, or spiritual. In this particular case, the man had no physical or mental reason to be dumb. Casting out this “dumb demon” resolved the problem and restored the man to health.
There are some cases where the spiritual roots cause damage to the mind and also even the body. In such cases, one may be required to seek secondary healings in those areas as well. In this case in Luke 11:14, we are not told any further details, but I have personally witnessed how a woman was healed almost instantly of color blindness and deafness in one ear after I cast out an evil spirit from her. Though she had been afflicted for 27 years, she was healed when the root cause was eliminated by the same method that Jesus used.
Luke 11:15, 16 continues,
15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” 16 And others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven.
In every crowd that witnessed the works and teachings of Jesus, there were detractors looking for ways to discredit Him. Such people had no interest in truth but only had an agenda to pursue. This is common today as well. We read that some of Jesus’ detractors explained His miracle by claiming that He used the power of “Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons” to cast out this dumb demon.
Beelzebul was a rabbinic parody on the proper name, Beelzebub, the god of Ekron (2 Kings 1:2). By Jesus’ time, the Philistine city of Ekron had long been destroyed, but the Greek colony (city) of Cyrene had adopted Beelzebub as its god, translating his name as “Lord of the flies.” This name meant that he had the power to drive away pesky flies.
It appears that Jesus’ answer to His detractors (as we will see shortly) was meant to compare the belief of the Ekronites to that of his detractors. The Ekronites thought that the Lord of the Flies would cast out flies, and Jesus’ detractors thought that Jesus was casting out the demon by the power of “the ruler of the demons.”
The rabbis altered the final letter to show their disdain for Beelzebub, calling him Beelzebul, “Lord of the dunghill.” The Hebrew word zebul means dunghill or filth, and the word was applied to idolatrous worship and sacrificing to false gods. (Flies gather around dunghills.) So Lightfoot tells us,
“Now therefore, when idolatry was denominated zebul amongst the Jews, and indeed reckoned amongst the most grievous of sins they could be guilty of, that devil whom they supposed to preside over this piece of wickedness they named him Beezebub, and esteemed him the prince of the devils…” (Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Vol. III, p. 115).
Hence, Beelzebub was altered to Beelzebul to connect the god of Ekron with idolatry and dung. Jesus’ detractors had this in mind when they accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul. The KJV reads Beelzebub consistently throughout the New Testament, but the text actually reads Beelzebul. (This is confirmed also by Panin’s Numeric New Testament.)
Luke 11:15, 16 records two objections to Jesus’ works. The first, as I said, was to attribute His power to Beelzebul. The second was to ask for a sign to prove that He was of God. Luke then provides answers to each of these objections. The first objection is answered in Luke 11:17-26; the second is answered in Luke 11:27-36.
A Kingdom Divided
Jesus’ answer to the first objection begins in Luke 11:17-19,
17 But He knew their thoughts, and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Consequently they shall be your judges.”
The accusation itself implied that no one could cast out demons except by the power of Satan, or Beelzebul. But in the past, others men had been successful in casting out demons. So by whose power did they cast out demons? Those past successes, which had been accepted by the rabbis, had already proven that it did not require power from Beelzebul to cast out demons. In fact, such an idea was absurd, because “a kingdom divided against itself is laid waste.”
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
Matthew 12:22-33 records the same story, giving further details about Jesus’ answer to His detractors. Matthew 12:25-27 is a virtual repeat of Luke 11:17-19. But in Matthew 12:31, 32 Jesus says,
31 Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.
Jesus concludes His remarks on this topic in Matthew 12:36, 37, saying,
36 And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.
This was a warning to Jesus’ detractors, telling them to be careful what they say, since they will be held accountable for their words on the “day of judgment.” Their claim that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Satan was, in essence, “blasphemy against the Spirit.” Such blasphemy will surely be judged on at the Great White Throne. Such sin “shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.”
The KJV translates it, “neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” The Greek word in question is aion, which means “an eon, age,” that is, an indefinite or unknown period of time. It refers to time, not to a location (“world”). Hence, the NASB is more accurate here than the KJV.
Jesus’ detractors had deliberately blasphemed the Holy Spirit when they knowingly attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to Beelzebul. In their zeal to find fault with Jesus, rather than to seek the truth, they had deliberately twisted their explanation to suit their cause. Hence, they were without excuse.
Jesus said that they would not be forgiven “in this age”—that is, the present age in which they were living—nor again “in the age to come,” by which was meant the Messianic Age—or simply, “The Age,” as they often expressed it. By this term it was understood commonly that it was the Age when the Messiah would rule in His Kingdom on earth during the great Sabbath Millennium. Matthew does not dispute this meaning.
Jesus’ words were limited to the present age and the Messianic Age, which ends with the “day of judgment” at the Great White Throne. Revelation 20:4-6 speaks of the first resurrection, followed by a thousand-year reign of Christ and the overcomers in The Age. At the end of that Age, John “saw a great white throne” (Revelation 20:11) to which the rest of the dead were summoned at the day of judgment.
Those guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will surely be judged by their words at this day of judgment, Jesus says. The “day of judgment” at the Great White Throne marks the full extent of Jesus’ remarks on this topic. To understand the rest of the story, one must understand that they will be judged according to the “fiery law” (Deuteronomy 33:2, KJV) at the Great White Throne. The law of God being administered to the people is pictured in Daniel 7:9, 10 as a “river of fire” flowing out from the throne itself.
The river then forms a “lake of fire” in Revelation 20:14, during the time of judgment in that final Age. This is not to be seen as a literal fire, nor does the divine law prescribe torture for all sinners as a matter of course. Even a beating, when administered according to the law in Deuteronomy 25:3, is pictured as a “fire” (Luke 12:48, 49).
In the end, the law also mandates a Jubilee, by which all men are set free, all debt (sin) is cancelled, and every man returns to his original inheritance that God intended from the beginning of time. It is important to understand that even blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot prevent the law of Jubilee from being implemented at the end of time. For this reason, Jesus did NOT declare that blasphemy was an “unpardonable sin,” as so many have taught. It was only “unpardonable” in this age and in The Age to come.
Plundering the Possessions of Evil Spirits
Jesus continues His comments in Luke 11:20-22,
20 But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own homestead, his possessions are undisturbed; 22 but when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied, and distributes his plunder.
In other words, if Satan does not cast out demons, then Jesus must have cast out the dumb demon “by the finger of God.” Hence, it is “the kingdom of God” being manifested, rather than the kingdom of Beelzebul.
Jesus then gives an analogy where demons in general are compared to a strong man, fully armed, who is guarding his possessions. Suddenly, one who is stronger (that is, Jesus) attacks the strong man, strips him of his armor, casts him out, and “distributes his plunder.” This is what Jesus did in casting out the dumb spirit. He proved Himself to be stronger than the dumb spirit, and so that spirit was unable to remain in his “homestead,” that is, the man who had been possessed.
Jesus continues in Luke 11:23,
23 He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.
Matthew places this statement just before his section on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It is plain that this was a warning to those guilty of such blasphemy. Luke, however, records other words that Jesus spoke. Luke 11:24-26 says,
24 When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” 25 And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.
No doubt Luke had witnessed such incidents in his travels with the Apostle Paul, and so he felt it was important to provide this warning and instruction. When I cast out the evil spirit from the woman (mentioned earlier), I warned her of that spirit’s desire to return. I gave her simple instructions on what to do if that spirit should return.
Indeed, a few weeks later, she called to tell me that as she stepped into the shower one day, suddenly all of her old symptoms returned. The light dimmed, the color blindness returned, and her left ear again became deaf. She immediately addressed the demon, telling it to get out, because she was a child of God, owned by Jesus Christ, and that it had no right to claim her. The demon left, and she returned to normal.
Therefore, we can see that Jesus’ words were not meant to resign us fatalistically to an inevitable return to a worse state than before. Jesus’ warning was to prepare us so that we might know how to defend ourselves from the desire of evil spirits to return to their former house.
This ends Luke’s record where Jesus answered his detractor’s first objection. Next we will see how Jesus answered the second objection, where a man asked for a sign to know for sure that Jesus was sent by God.
This is part 57 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones