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Revelation 6:12-17 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:57 mins 47 secs

Hardening the Heart; Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit. Rev. 6:12-17

 

From the beginning of creation when God first put Adam and Eve in the garden the key issue in human history has been that of volition. Volition means choice; it is from a Latin word that relates to the will. Man has a choice to make in terms of his response toward God. In the garden Adam and Eve were created perfect. They had no sin; there was no history of sin; they were the original first human beings. As such they had a test before them: whether or not they would obey God when God said that they should not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Despite the fact that it was perfect environment, despite the fact that they had the physical, actual presence of God on a day by day basis in the garden, and all the evidence that that implied as to who He is and to what he provided, they still disobeyed Him.

 

After the fall all of their descendants have another problem. We have a sin nature. We are born with a bent toward disobedience; we have a predilection for rejection of authority, especially the rejection of God's authority. Man is oriented to his own authority and trying to make life work apart from God. That is the push; that is the bent; that is the trend of our sin natures. But God has not left us without a witness to who He is. As we have seen, there is a non-verbal witness in the heavens—the heavens declare the glory of God, there is a verbal witness in His Word, there have been evidences of God's power that have been demonstrated down through the centuries; yet from generation to generation the vast majority of mankind rejects the truth of God and seeks to construct his own alternative reality. He creates other gods out of his imagination, out of wood and metal, stone, and worships them rather than submit to the authority of God. And no matter how strong and powerful that evidence is of God's existence and reality volition is the issue, and mankind, because of the sin nature, too often yields to that sin nature, rejects God and hardens himself against His Word and disobeys Him.

 

We see a demonstration of this in its most extreme form when we come to man's response to the judgments of God during the future period known as the Tribulation. We have been studying the sixth seal judgment in relation to this idea of hardening the heart because of the response of this group called earth dwellers in Revelation 6:12-14.

 

Three times in the epistle to the Hebrews we are warned not to let ourselves become hardened by the deceitfulness of the world system, by the deceitfulness of the world around us. So hardening has application to believers as well as unbelievers and it is one of these very subtle, deceptive things that we can easily slip into. We can continue to read our Bible, go to Bible class, listen to any kind of Bible teaching, and yet we can slip into a subtle complacency, we begin to lower our guard and relax, we get involved in self-absorption and arrogance, and the next thing we know we are not at Bible class as often as we were. We don't have that priority in our relationship with God that we once had and five, six, ten years down the road all of a sudden we realise we are under divine discipline and our life is in a mess because we have turned against the God who has provided for us. Anyone can do this.

 

The picture we have in Revelation is of the unbelievers. We have talked about rhe category called earth dwellers but this doesn't refer simply to unbelievers because there are many at this early stage of the Tribulation who are unbelievers who will trust in Christ throughout the next few years; they will become saved. But there is one group that is hardened who never will respond to God's gracious call to salvation and this is the group that resists and resists and resists. No matter how much evidence they have they reject it because it doesn't fit their prior commitment to autonomy, independence from God, the orientation of the human heart.

 

There is one other event that illustrates the hardening of the heart and this has to do with another generation, a generation of Jews that existed at the time of the incarnation. In Matthew 12 Jesus, as He has done on numerous occasions prior to this, is going to cast the demon out of a demon-possessed man. Demon possession is a situation where and evil spirit [fallen angel] takes up residence inside the body of an unbeliever. It is a reality, it is not just some sort of pre-scientific explanation for mental illness or disease or some sort of superstitious way that they had in the fist century to try to explain certain kinds of physical maladies. There is no demon possession in the Old Testament; there is very little after the resurrection of Christ. There are a couple of examples in Acts but by the time we get towards the end of Acts they seem to be disappearing. It is because during the period of the incarnation Jesus Christ, the eternal second person of the Trinity, is invading the earth, as it were, in order to offer His kingdom and to establish it on the earth. This has Satan all churned up and it has the demons all churned up, and so there is this excess of demonic activity at the time because the King was offering the kingdom in history. So during this time there were many examples of those who were demon possessed who came to Jesus and He cast out the demons.

 

So in Matthew 12 there is this demon possessed man who comes to Jesus. Matthew 12:22 NASB "Then a demon-possessed man {who was} blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw." As a result of the casting out there was an immediate change. [23] "All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, 'This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?'" They understand from the Old Testament that casting out demons in this manner is unique. It is not like anything the Pharisees are doing, or any of the other religious leaders, this is unique, and based on the Old Testament this is a unique credential of the Messiah. The Pharisees don't like this. [14] "But when the Pharisees heard {this,} they said, 'This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.'" Beelzebub was just a pejorative name they had for Satan.

Confronting what they have said, Jesus said: Matthew 12:31 NASB "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven." Blasphemy against the Spirit is what the Pharisees have just done by accusing Jesus of casting out demons in the power of Satan. [32] "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the {age} to come." In this passage are two titles: the son of David, indicating His descent from king David, indicating that He was the fulfilment of the Davidic covenant promise, and Son of Man, indicating that He is the one who will come to rule and establish His kingdom—a title that comes out of Daniel chapter seven. So what Jesus is saying here by identifying Himself as the Son of Man is that at this point in Matthew He is offering the kingdom and He is the one who has the right to demonstrate His credentials as such, that He is the authority over everything, including the demonic realm.

As we look at this we need to put it within the context of Matthew's Gospel. What we have in the Gospels is that each writer has a particular focal point that he is honing in on in relationship to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are essentially presenting Him in a certain way and they are organising their material about Christ's life in order to demonstrate their case. The case that Matthew is making is that Jesus of Nazareth has the credentials and the background, the ancestry, in order to be the promised Messiah. He is the King who came to present the kingdom and His message, His offer of the kingdom, was rejected by the nation The Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes represent the nation as a whole, they are the leaders, and it is their corporate rejection of Jesus' offer of the kingdom that is the issue. There were hundreds and thousands of Jews who trusted Jesus as their Saviour but because the nation as a whole rejected Him that His offer of the kingdom was postponed.

In Matthew 1-4 we have the coming of the King presented. In chapter one we see the ancestry of the King, showing that He is related to David and He has that background; He is credentialed in terms of His ancestry to be the promised Messiah. We have His birth in chapter two. In chapter three the fact that He is announced by John the Baptist as the one who would come. He is validated at His baptism by God the Father who speaks from heaven, and the Holy Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove. This demonstrates who He is. In chapter four He shows that He has the ability to withstand the temptation of Satan, unlike the first Adam. In chapters 5-7 He confronts the religious interpretation of the Mosaic Law. This is a crucial passage known as the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says, "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you cannot see the kingdom of God." What He is doing is challenging the religious interpretation of the religious leaders that people could become righteous through their overt works, their deeds, their rituals and religious observance. He contrasts what He is saying to that of the religious leaders. Again and again in the Sermon of the Mount he uses the terminology: "You have heard it said [what the Pharisees taught] … but I say to you [His authoritative interpretation and application of the Mosaic Law]." So when we come to the end of chapter seven we read: Matthew 7:28 NASB "When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; [29] for He was teaching them as {one} having authority, and not as their scribes." In chapters 8-11 we see Jesus presenting His credentials, different credentials related to Old Testament prophecies. The Rabbis understood that two things would be unique qualifiers for the Messiah: that He would heal lepers and that He would heal someone who was born blind. Only the Messiah could do this and among these miracles that Jesus performed in chapters 8-11 we have these two distinct miracles. There is continuing opposition to Him, yet Jesus continues to heal, continues to give sight to the blind, continues to cast out demons. This is to show His credentials that He fits the pattern describes in the Old Testament, specifically Isaiah, that the Messiah would do all of these things.

Then we come to Matthew chapter 12 which begins with another confrontation with the Pharisees who are getting extremely upset with Him. In Luke there are some episodes that are not included in Matthew's Gospel. Prior to the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit passage in Luke Jesus announces a woe against the Pharisees (Luke 11:37ff). He continues to challenge them and in v. 53 of Luke 11 NASB "When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, [54] plotting against Him to catch {Him} in something He might say."

The religious leaders are hostile to Jesus and have rejected Him, and it is in that context that we have the episode in Matthew 12 where he casts out the demon. Now they are going to accuse Him not of being the Messiah but of being empowered by Satan. That is the unpardonable sin. It could only be committed at that time in history because it is a national sin where the nation has come to the point where they are rejecting Jesus as their Messiah. And this marks a turning point. We see in all three of the synoptic Gospels that from this point on, when Jesus is accused of performing His miracles in the power of Satan, He no longer offers the kingdom to the nation. He begins to train and teach His disciples in light of what is going to happen, that unannounced church age period we are now in, and so there is a shift in His strategy an approach. When He is talking about forgiveness in vv. 31, 32 He is not talking about justification salvation, He is talking about the fact that this is an irreversible hardening now that has occurred among the leadership and that the die is cast for judgment on the nation because they have rejected Jesus as the Messiah, they will take Him to the cross where they will crucify Him.

The kingdom is going to be postponed and because of their rejection of Jesus because they have hardened their hearts it will result in God fulfilling His promise in Leviticus chapter twenty-six that when Israel goes through these series of stages of discipline and get to the most extreme form of discipline they will be removed from the land. This happened two previous times in history. In 722 BC the northern kingdom of Israel was defeated by the Assyrians and deported from the land. In 586 BC the Babylonians came in and destroyed the southern kingdom of Judah and many were taken and exiled into Babylon. There is a return that occurs seventy years later, but it is only a partial return from Babylon, not from the four corners of the earth. It is a partial return in order to have a nation established in the land to whom the Messiah can come. So Jesus comes to that nation, that small group that is in the land, and at the time more Jews were living outside of the land of Israel than were living there. If they had trusted Him, had believed in Him as Messiah, then He would have brought in the kingdom. But because they rejected Him the kingdom was completely postponed and what we have in an unannounced period in terms of the Old Testament prophecies, known as the church age. But God is going to eventually fulfil His promises and bring the Jews back to the land.

The unpardonable sin is the national sin of rejecting Jesus as Messiah. And even though they hardened their hearts as a nation many individuals, including many Pharisees, trusted Christ and could be saved, yet the judgment against Israel was set. There was still an offer. In Acts chapter two Peter says, "the times of refreshing will come." There was a continual offer all the way up to the time of the Jewish revolt in 66 AD. God continues in His grace to offer but what happens is that once man continues to harden himself in rejection of God is that God's gracious overtures simply become an opportunity for them to intensify their hatred of God. We see this in Revelation.

Revelation 6:15 NASB "Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; [16] and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; [17] for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'"

There are further examples as we go through the Tribulation period. Some people aren't going to be convinced by anything. The Pharisees weren't convinced by Lazarus being raised from the dead, they weren't convinced by Jesus being raised from the dead. In the future Tribulation period those divine judgments that come again and again and again those who reject God are going to harden themselves against Him. It is not an intellectual problem, and IQ problem, it is a volitional issue. They have set their heart against God. Revelation 16:9 NASB "Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory." With all this evidence men will continue to shake their fists at God. [11] "and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds… [21] And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe." This fulfils the prophecy in Daniel 12:10 NASB "Many will be purged, purified and refined [believers who respond in the Tribulation], but the wicked [unbelievers who are mired in rejection of the gospel] will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight [believers who have trusted in Christ] will understand."

The warning for us is that just because we are believers doesn't mean that we cannot do this. We can't lose our salvation but we may put our future inheritance in jeopardy in terms of our position in terms of ruling and reigning with Christ and will come under severe divine discipline in this age. There is a real warning in Hebrews not to harden our hearts when we hear the Word of the Lord. That is why it is important for us to be consistently be in the Word. The only thing that matters in life is our relationship with God and our response to His Word. When we die and go to the grave the only thing we take with us is the spiritual maturity that develops in this life. That is the only thing that goes with us into heaven and that, then, becomes the basis for our rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. 

Illustrations