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Matthew 12:33-50 by Robert Dean
None of us want to hear that we’ve had our last chance and there are no “do-overs”. Listen to this lesson to hear that Jesus pronounced this judgment on the nation of Israel and told the leaders that the kingdom was not going to be given to them at that time. See that Jesus then turned His ministry to Gentiles in preparation for the Church Age. See why the Pharisees’ request for a sign was not legitimate. Understand that those who trust in Jesus become His real family.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:45 mins 7 secs

Last Chance; Whosoever Will
Matthew 12:33–50
Matthew Lesson #077
May 10, 2015

Matthew 12 is the crisis point in Jesus’ ministry to Israel. John the Baptist—the one who was the forerunner to the Messiah, the one who came with a distinct message to Israel to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand—was announcing to Israel that they needed to change. They needed to refocus on what the Lord had taught in the Hebrew Scriptures and to get away from the superficial legalism and works-oriented spirituality and theology of the Pharisees. When Jesus came on the scene, His message at the beginning was the same: the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He sent out His disciples, and they were to go to the house of Israel and the house of Judah, and their message was to repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. This builds to a climax and a confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders, specifically the Pharisees, in Matthew 12.

We have seen that this culminates in the statement by Jesus in Matthew 12:31 and 32 related to the topic of this sin that is unforgivable. This is the crisis point: it is now or never. There are no more chances. They have had more opportunities to this point than anyone; and this is it. Their rejection of Jesus by identifying the source of His power as Satan rather than the Holy Spirit, has brought them to a crisis point. This is the last chance, and the kingdom now is taken from them and will not come into existence. So this is the last chance, and it is going to conclude in verse 50. Whereas the good news to this point has been on taking the good news of the kingdom to Israel, now the focus shifts to whosoever. There is a transition from a Jewish focus now to a Gentile focus.

Saying that Jesus’ real source of power was Satan was the unforgivable sin. But it wasn’t a personal sin. It was a sin of the nation because, as a nation represented by the leaders, they rejected the offer of the kingdom and the Messiah. We learn from that something that many of us don’t like so much, and that is that a nation’s destiny can be determined by its leaders. And the decisions our leaders make often impact us whether we like it or not, whether we agree with them or not.

The focus now is on preparing the disciples for their future ministry in the Church Age, and the kingdom takes a back seat and is not mentioned again. This culminates in the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of the King; and that precedes the coming of the Church Age. That is the basic structure that takes place.  

In Matthew 12, we see for the first time the foreshadowing. We see for the first time the mention that Jesus’ ministry is going to end in death. Up to this point, this wasn’t presented. Now we see that a shift is taking place, and this is really important for interpreting this whole passage. The focus here is really on the nation, not on the individual. The illustrations and what happens at the end of the chapter are all understood as representing this shift that takes place where Jesus is saying, “I have given it to you (the Jews); I have offered it and offered it and offered it and you keep rejecting it, keep turning it down, and you are focusing on superficial things; this is the turning point – it’s over with – I am now going to the Gentiles”.

Matthew 12:14 was the first hint that Jesus would die. The Pharisees began to plot as to how they would destroy Him. We focused on the citation in Matthew 12:18–21, a quotation from Isaiah 42:1, 2; and this introduces a couple of ideas that are important.

The first thing this quote introduces to us is the Holy Spirit. In the Mark account, the Holy Spirit is brought in, in terms of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, with no foundation. Only in Matthew where we have this quote from Isaiah 42 is there the first mention of the Holy Spirit – that the Holy Spirit is the Source of power for the Messiah. God says He puts His Spirit upon Him. In the other part of this quote, it shows the significance of the shift to the Gentiles— “… and He will declare justice to the Gentiles”. In vv. 19, 20 “he won’t quarrel or cry out”. In other words, the Messiah is a gentleman. He is going to offer it. He is not going to force you. If you don’t accept the offer of the kingdom, He is not going to get in a tussle in the streets over it and try to arm-twist you into the kingdom. He is just going to quietly withdraw. He is not going to force the issue at the first coming: “A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish …” All this is imagery is related to the fact that He is not going to force the issue at that time.    

Matthew 12:21 NASB “AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE.” This is a fulfillment of prophecy (Deuteronomy 32:21) that God foresaw that He would be going to the Gentiles.

The other thing that was brought into this is that the Bible talks about two categories of forgiveness. This passage about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is couched in terms of forgiveness: there will be no forgiveness for the commission of this sin. The broad category is forgiveness of sin so that we can have eternal life with God in Heaven.

The second category is forgiveness of sin where we are pardoned of the consequences of sin in time—in our life; that God allows us by grace to continue without reaping the consequences of our sin that we have sown in this life.

This is the issue in this passage. It is not talking about individual justification, because when we look at the context, it is not the individuals that reap the consequences (although they do). It is the nation that reaps the consequences, and it is a shift in God’s plan for the nation that is what comes out. So it is not the first category, although that is the first blush response of everybody. How many people when they read the word “saved” think it means going to Heaven? But most of the time in the Bible, the word “saved” doesn’t mean going to Heaven, it is used in terms of being delivered from the power of sin in the life today. It is never used once in Romans as a synonym for justification, to refer to eternal salvation. In Ephesians 2:8 and 9, it clearly refers to justification, but in other passages like Philippians 2, there is the command to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” That is talking about what we call phase two salvation: being saved from the power of sin, or the spiritual life and spiritual growth.

Matthew 12 isn’t talking about individual salvation. So what is it?

Jesus is announcing to Israel the final straw related to the rejection of Him as Messiah. This blasphemy, therefore, is related specifically to a historical event, and is unique to the life of Jesus. It can’t be done today. The judgment is a national judgment, not a personal judgment. And it was fulfilled in AD 70 when God took Israel out. That is the background of blasphemy. We went through those blasphemy passages in the Law, and the root cause of Israel going out under divine judgment in 722 and 586 BC was blasphemy. It wasn’t eternal punishment; it was temporal punishment. So the background of punishment for blasphemy is temporal punishment, not eternal punishment.

What about Mark 3? That is a very abbreviated version of this event. When we read it, it looks like sin and eternal, individual salvation. Mark 3:28 NASB “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; [29] but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”

There are some things we need to look at here. First, is this really an accurate translation? If it is not an accurate translation, then it doesn’t mean what it appears to mean. The other thing is, when it introduces forgiveness, people immediately want to read into this statement that forgiveness means individual justification.

The first phrase that we need to understand is the phrase “never has forgiveness”. When we look at this in the Greek New Testament, it literally says, “does not have forgiveness to the age” or, “into the age”. Now that is a very different concept than what comes across in the NKJV/NASB translations. I would suggest that the phrase “into the age” also has the connotation, according to several commentaries, of “into this age”. Jesus was into a particular age. What He is talking about therefore, is a limitation on this forgiveness that is related to human history. So the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit isn’t talking about eternal forgiveness. It could be talking about temporal forgiveness, which is clearly in focus in the Matthew passage.

That would fit, if we have a correct translation of this phrase. It is not, “never has forgiveness” but “does not have forgiveness into this age”. It could have the concept of “never have forgiveness” if we understand the fact that: this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back – “the rejection of Me and attributing My power to the power of Satan means that you have reached an irrevocable point; I’m taking the kingdom from you and am not offering it anymore.”

The second phrase is at the end of verse 29 which says, “subject to eternal condemnation” [NKJV] “guilty of an eternal sin” [NASB]. There is no equivalent word in the Greek for condemnation. It doesn’t say anything about condemnation in the Greek. Actually what it says is, “sin of the age”. That is the literal translation, or “eternal sin”; and eternal sin doesn’t necessarily have to be sin into eternity. It can still have the connotation that there is an everlasting consequence to this sin: you are not going to get the kingdom now; it is irreversible, an irrevocable decision.

Does God ever do that? Does God ever come to Israel in the Old Testament and say, “This is your last chance; judgment is coming, and there is nothing you can do to change course?” Sure it did. Numbers 13. Twelve spies went into the land. Ten of them came back and said there were giants in the land, walled cities, too many people; we can’t do it. Two people said, yes we can. Everybody went with the people who said no, we can’t. Result: God says that as a result of their failure to trust Him, this generation is not going to enter the land, and that for the next 38 years they would spend their time in the desert. Period, over and out. The people repented, wept, said they were sorry and didn’t understand. They tried to go to battle against the Canaanites right after that, and what happened? God let them get their butt kicked. That was it; they weren’t going to get into the land; God had made an irrevocable decision.

There was another situation that happened in the life of an individual—King Saul. Saul was a believer, but at some point he decided to disobey God. Year after year after year he would disobey God. God told him to wipe out and destroy the Amalekites, the terrorists of that generation. Saul thought that wasn’t such a good idea, that there was a little investment here, so let’s keep the livestock, etc. Samuel announced judgment on Saul – that God was going to take the kingdom away from him. When Samuel turned to leave, Saul seized the edge of his robe and it tore. Samuel turned to him and said: “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to a neighbor of yours who is better than you [David] … “and also the strength of Israel [a term for God] will not lie nor relent, for He is not a man that he should relent.” What is the point? The point is you have been given chance after chance after chance, and you’ve blown it. You’ve been disobedient. You’ve been rebellious. We have reached the point of no return, the final straw on the camel’s back. The kingdom has been taken from you, and it doesn’t matter what you do from this point on – the kingdom is not coming back to you or your descendants. That is the same kind of thing that happens in Matthew 12.

Other examples are the Northern Kingdom, which was taken out in 722 BC. From the time the judgment was announced, it was irrevocable and no matter how they turned back to God, it wasn’t going to work. The same happened with the Southern Kingdom. In fact, under Josiah, a good king, after the judgment had been announced by Isaiah 100 years earlier, Josiah brought the people back to God. Nevertheless, when he died, they rebelled again. The judgment was set, and nothing could change it. The Babylonians were coming, and Israel went out under divine judgment in 586 BC.

Again, what we see is that God gives people chance after chance after chance. If they continue to reject God, refuse to obey Him, then eventually they reach a point of no return, and God is going to bring judgment. It is not eternal judgment; they don’t lose their salvation, but God is going to bring divine discipline in order to straighten things out.    

This is where we are, but Jesus gives one more chance. He gives one more opportunity to clean up their mess. Matthew 12:33 NASB “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” He is taking the analogy of a tree and applying it to Israel and says that it is the fruit that is what is bad, and because the fruit is bad, the heart of the tree is bad.

What is the fruit? Is it their lifestyle? No. There is this horrible heresy that goes around the church and says that your works will show whether or not you are a believer. That is not true. It is not true biblically. It never has been. Here, what the works reflect is the heresy of the Pharisees. Here, the works are the words and what the words reflect is the heresy of the Pharisees, their legalism. Their words were what? “You are doing this by the power of Satan”.

What did those words indicate? That they had rejected Him as the Messiah. Their heart is evil because they have rejected the provision of God. An evil heart produced evil words. This wasn’t a litmus test for whether somebody is a believer in Jesus Christ or not. It was a litmus test on whether or not they had accepted Jesus as the Messiah, whether they had repented, changed from their evil works-oriented unrighteous theology to a grace-based theology and following the Word of God.      

Then He makes it even more clear. Matthew 12:34 NASB “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” The resounding diction of the KJV obscures the significance of this insult. Jesus has reached that point where He is going to make it very clear that they have rebelled, and who they are. The term “brood” is a word for descendants, or as it is put in the Old Testament, the seed, the descendants of somebody. Vipers are poisonous snakes. So what has Jesus called them? You are the seed of serpents! Have we heard that before? We did. Back in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise Him on the heel.”

So the seed of the serpent is a term that describes those who follow Satan, those who are the real dupes of Satan, Satan’s disciples. Jesus is turning the tables on the Pharisees here: you are accusing me of doing these works by Satan? You are the ones who are the seed of Satan; you are the ones who are promoting Satan’s kind of self-righteous works-oriented gospel. You are the ones who have rejected the Son of God, the Messiah; you are the ones who are doing the Devil’s work, not me.

He goes on and talks about a principle. Matthew 12:35 NASB “The good man brings out of {his} good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of {his} evil treasure what is evil.” This is just a proverbial statement: if your heart has received the gospel of the kingdom, then you would say good things about the King. But because in your heart you have rejected the gospel of the kingdom, you are saying evil things about the King.

They will be held accountable for this. Matthew 12:36 NASB “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. [37] For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” And these words condemned the nation. This is reminiscent of passages like Matthew 7: “You know them by their fruit.” Their fruit is their words, and it is the teaching that reveals their heresy. This isn’t a litmus test for whether or not someone is a true believer, someone who trusts Christ as savior. This is to show the error of the teaching of the Pharisees. Matthew 6:21 uses similar imagery: “Where your treasure is, there you heart will be also”. So their focal point was completely wrong.

After He has indicted them in vv. 33–37 by demonstrating that their heart is wicked and that they have condemned Him, Matthew 12:38 NASB “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You’.” Well, Teacher it’s not quite so bad, just give us a sign. Doesn’t that sound nice? No, because they have had sign after sign after sign. So now He doesn’t treat this as a legitimate request, because it wasn’t a legitimate request. They had been given more than enough information, more than enough evidence that Jesus was the Messiah.  

Matthew 12:39 NASB “But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign’ …” First of all, He calls them the seed of Satan, and now He calls them evil and adulterous. He is not trying to win them back at this point because that is not an achievable objective. He is making sure that they understand their indictment. By adulterous He doesn’t mean sexual adultery. He means spiritual adultery. Spiritual adultery is when you are seeking after other gods when you have rejected the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So they are adulterous because they are seeking the solution for life’s problems in legalism and not in the grace provision of God. “… and {yet} no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.”

What was the sign of the prophet Jonah? What they are saying is, we want a sign. We want you to make fire come down from heaven and destroy the Romans; we want you to make the sun go from west to east; we want you to make rivers run uphill—some kind of demonstration of your power and authority, because what we have seen so far we don’t want to accept. We want you to dance to our tune.

Jonah was the prophet sent by God to Nineveh but said he hated the Ninevites, the Assyrians. I’m not going to go east, I’m going to go west. He went down to Joppa and hopped on a ship to Tarshish. When a storm came up, Jonah recognized that the only way they were going to save the ship was if they threw him overboard. So they threw him overboard, and a great fish that God had prepared swallowed him up; and he spent three days in the fish until he was vomited up on the beach. He went into Nineveh and preached the gospel, and the Ninevites responded. Jesus uses that as a picture of death and resurrection. That is the sign that is going to be given to them.

So Jesus’ first example comes from Jonah. Matthew 12:40 NASB “for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Who were the Ninevites? They were Gentiles. Matthew 12:41 NASB “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

What is He pointing out? Jonah took the gospel to the Gentiles, the Gentiles accepted it, and the Gentiles are going to rise up in judgment against you Jews because they understood the grace of God and you didn’t. 

A second example. Matthew 12:42 NASB “{The} Queen of {the} South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” The Queen of Sheba was a Gentile. The point in all of this is about this shift from offering the kingdom to Israel to offering Jesus to the Gentiles. Jesus says even the Queen of Sheba recognized the grace offer of the gospel and the wisdom of Scripture as she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon.

He continues to talk about an unclean spirit. Last time we saw the analogy that if the strong man is going to take the house he has to bind the strong man. The strong man is Satan. The permanent binding of Satan doesn’t come until the Millennial Kingdom. But when Jesus came at the first advent, He was clearly in a confrontation with Satan, and he is restricting Satan’s activity. He is casting demons out of individuals in Israel to show that He alone can free Israel from this demonic oppression. Now He comes back and talks about this same idea of casting out a demon.

Matthew 12:43 NASB “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find {it.} [44] Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds {it} unoccupied, swept, and put in order.” This is Israel. Jesus has been preaching the message to repent. He has restricted Satan. They repented, but they didn’t turn to Him. They cleaned up their life; they got kosher, but they didn’t get righteous. He says that all they did was have a little more reformation and not a spiritual regeneration. Then what happens is that spirit is going to come back and will bring seven other spirits. [45] “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

The point is: because you have rejected Me, when I go, Satan is going to come back, and the state of Israel is going to be worse than the state before. You are going to go through complete destruction in AD 70 and be scattered among the nations. There is going to be the rise of anti-Semitism, which is one of the most horrible things that has ever happened. They are going to persecute you; they are going to run you from nation to nation and even get to the point where they are going to attempt mass murder, mass annihilation in the crematoriums of Auschwitz, and they are going to seek to wipe out every Jew on the face of the earth. It is going to be much worse after this decision. That is what Jesus is saying.  

Matthew 12:46 NASB “While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him.” The mother has come because she has to bring her unbelieving sons to hear the gospel. It is the role of parents to evangelize the children. Joseph isn’t there because he is dead. It is the primary role of fathers to make sure their children are spiritually squared away. If the fathers are failing, then it goes to the mothers. If the fathers are spiritually divorced from the house, then the responsibility falls to the mother. But the spiritual leader in the house is the father. With Joseph gone, Mary is still hoping that these brothers, these siblings of Jesus, will figure out who Jesus really is; and she has brought them to hear Him once again.

But this is used as a pretext by those listening by saying, “Look, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him.” Quit condemning us and quit talking about how bad we are spiritually; you need to focus on your family. Matthew 12:47 NASB “Someone said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You’.” The subtext here is, we are your family. You are a Jew, we are Jews; don’t focus on us, you take care of your own first.

Matthew 12:48 NASB “But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ ” You have rejected Me. My family are those who respond to the message. He points to the crowd. [49] “And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers!’ ” What He is pointing out is that because His family rejected Him, those who are His true family are those who do the will of the Father. [50] “For whosoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” That is, they respond to the gospel.

Whosoever. This is where we see this shift. It isn’t just the Jew; it is whosoever. This is summarized in John 1:10–12 this way: NASB “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own [the Jews], and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, {even} to those who believe in His name.”

The shift is made in Matthew 12. Now it is “whosoever will.” John 3:16 NASB “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” That is the issue. Trust in Jesus alone for salvation, and you have eternal life.