The unforgivable sin and the age to come
The Universalists teach that all people will eventually be saved through the atoning work of Christ. Proponents of universalism must, therefore, maintain that there is no unforgivable sin. For if there were, then their theory that all people will be saved would be proven wrong.
Jesus said there was a sin that would not be forgiven in "this age or the age to come." Matt. 12:32:
"And whoever 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."
A parallel passage is found in Luke 12:10. Jesus said,
"And everyone who will speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him."
Jesus stated in Matt. 12:32 that there is a sin that is not forgivable either in "this age or the age to come." In Luke 12:10, He says blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven at all.
The universalist qualifies their belief by stating that "the age to come" is a future age which will terminate. Therefore, they conclude that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will be forgiven after the end of "the age to come." Therefore, when they read Jesus' words in Luke 12:10, instead of them concluding that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit won't be forgiven, they conclude it will.
The important question then becomes "What is meant by 'this age and the age to come'?" Is Jesus dividing time into two periods? Are there only two ages, or are there more than two? Does either or both of these ages end?
I believe that Jesus divided time into two ages and that all other ages mentioned in scripture fall within these two over-arching categories. Furthermore, "this age" is the time period we are in now; and "the age to come" is that future time when the Lord returns and eternity begins. Therefore, "the age to come" is without end.
How many ages are there?
" . . . and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come" (Eph. 1:20b-21).
This verse speaks about Jesus being seated at the Father's right hand and that He (Jesus) is above all rule and authority in this age and the age to come. Jesus' dominion will never end. Therefore, the age to come, singular, will not end either. This is why God the Father says of the Son, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." (Heb. 1:8). Also, ". . . so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Pet. 4:11).
Let's take a look at what the Bible says about "This Age and the Age to Come."
The Age to Come
As you can see, "this age" is obviously about the present time period because in it we have marriage, rulers, evil, etc. In the age to come, however, we receive eternal life, and no marriage occurs. The future reference of receiving eternal life does not mean that we do not posses it now. 1 John 5:13, says we do. Rather, Jesus is speaking of the completion of our redemption which includes our bodies as well. "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;" (1 Cor. 15:42). In the age to come, we enter into eternity because it is when we are resurrected. This happens at the return of Christ.
There is one verse in the New Testament that mentions ages in a future sense. The phrase is "ages to come," and it only occurs in Eph. 2:5-7
"even when we were dead in our transgressions, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."
This statement is not saying that there are future ages, plural, which are not defined in scripture, anyway. Rather, it is a declaration that in the future state, the Christians will enjoy the "surpassing riches of His grace"--in the totality of the future. The phrase "ages to come" is merely an expression.
This type of usage of "ages" to describe a very long time is also seen in Romans 16:25, "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past." In Greek, "long ages past" is "cronos aioniois," which is literally "time eternal(s)." This phrase is not saying that there are literally eternal past "ages" but that in long times past, the mystery was hidden. Other verses with the same usage of ages past are 1 Cor. 2:7; 10:11; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26; Titus 1:2; and Heb. 9:26.
We can see from the table above that all the ages past are under the umbrella of "this age" in which we have evil, suffering, etc.
The End of This Age
It is important to understand when "this age" ends because it will effect our understanding of the nature of "the age to come" and further clarify that the age to come is without end.
I have compiled a chart below to make this easier to see. The left column contains the events (resurrection, rapture, condemnation, etc.). To the right are the phrases used in the Bible to describe the event. With them are the verse locations.
|The Event||Phrase and location describing when the event occurs|
|End of |
|The Day of |
|Resurrection of the dead||John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24||1 Cor. 15:52;|
1 Thess. 4:16
(thief in the night)
|Matt. 13:39||1 Thess. 4:16-5:2|
|Gathering of elect||Matt. 24:3, 31||1 Thess. 5:2|
|Condemnation||1 Cor. 1:8||John 12:48|
|Wicked burned |
|Matt. 13:40; 49-50|
|1 Cor. 5:5|
|Sun to darkness, |
moon to blood
|New heavens and New Earth||2 Pet. 3:10|
From the above chart you can see that all the events happen at the same time. The Resurrection occurs on the Last day (John 6:39-40), which is also the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15:52). The resurrection is just before the rapture (1 Thess. 4:16-5:2) which occurs on the Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:2) when Jesus returns (1 Thess. 4:16-5:2).
It is with/after Jesus' return, which is simultaneous with the rapture, the harvest, etc, that we receive our resurrected bodies and are forever with the Lord. It is then the "age to come." This age will not end.
It is in "the age to come" that blasphemy is not forgiven. In other words, it isn't ever forgiven.
Heb. 6:6 and Heb. 10:26
There are two other verses which also mention unforgivable sin:
"For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame." (Heb. 6:4-6)
"For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries." (Heb. 10:26-27).
In the case of Heb. 6:6, repentance is an impossibility with those who have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit and then have fallen away. If this repentance is impossible, then so is forgiveness.
Likewise, in Heb. 10:26, "if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." The universalists want to have the sacrifice of Jesus cover, pay for, and remove the penalty of all people's sins who have ever lived. But, according to this verse, there is a point when the sacrifice of Jesus is no longer available to a person.
Therefore, the teaching that everyone will eventually be saved cannot be true.
- This age and the age to come are two over-arching categories that divide human existence.
- Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in the age to come.
- At the end of this age, "the age to come" begins and it has no end.
- Heb. 6:6 and Heb. 10:26 also show us that there are conditions of non-forgiveness.
Universalism is not true.
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