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The Israel story – Judah to the Romans

What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

The full thrust of the curses for disobedience eventually came into play for the kingdom of Israel. You'd think it would serve as a warning to Judah, the southern kingdom. Unfortunately it didn't. Judah sank into the same sins and the only reason why it didn't suffer the same fate was given in 2 Kings 8:19. ‘Nevertheless, for the sake of his servant David, the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants for ever.’ So when the Babylonians arrived in the 6th Century BC and Judah was led into captivity for its sins, the exile was only to be a temporary one.

A few decades later, the Jews were allowed back into their land by the Persians and stayed there for another six hundred years, despite suffering 'under the cosh' of Greeks or Romans for much of that time. They may have been in the land, but not always as a free people. They were not particularly reaping the blessings as outlined in Deuteronomy, though their disobedience didn't warrant destruction or exile. But something was going to happen during the Roman occupation that would change this situation for the worst, even though, ironically, this event was intended as a blessing to end all blessings.

That event was the coming of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus came as the promised 'anointed one' of Israel, prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. This was a momentous event. Jesus was the fulfilment of the Torah and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17) and the agent of the New Covenant as prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-33. Yet, as we read in John 1:11, ‘He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him’. The Jews as a nation rejected his claims and ultimately rejected him.

His mission during his lifetime was to the Jews. In Matthew 15:24 he says, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel’. Yet, apart from a few apostles and disciples, he was rejected by these 'lost sheep' and left for the Romans to administer their brutal justice in the form of crucifixion outside the city walls of Jerusalem.

A few days earlier he had prophesied over those very walls, “Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'" (Matthew 23:38-39). He knew what was coming around forty years later, when those walls would be breached by the Romans and the city destroyed. He was also stating the conditions for his return. The World was, and is, having to wait a long time for that particular event.

When the Romans came in 70 AD and sacked Jerusalem, there was to begin a period of Jewish exile, the Galut, that was to last around 1800 years. The Babylonian exile was just 70 years and was for the sin of idolatry, so what sin could have been committed this time to warrant an exile of such a magnitude?

The Jewish Christian teacher, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, has a view that may be uncomfortable for some. He harks back to a key passage in Matthew. In Chapter 12, verses 30-32, we read ‘He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

The context of this proclamation is Jesus' healing of a demon-possessed man and the Pharisees assertion that this was only possible because Jesus himself was demon-possessed, rather than indwelled by the Holy Spirit. This was the blasphemy against the Spirit, or the unpardonable sin, a sin so awesomely bad that it cannot be forgiven.

According to Dr. Fruchtenbaum, this is a national, rather than a personal sin, being ‘the national rejection by Israel of the Messiahship of Jesus while he was present on the grounds of him being demon-possessed’. This, he adds, ‘is the most important single event in the life of the Messiah with the exception of his death and resurrection, because it sets the stage for Jewish history for the next 1800 years or so.

In short, the Jewish nation (specifically the religious leaders) brought on themselves the 1800 year diaspora by not just rejecting Jesus as Messiah, but by attributing his miraculous powers to the work of Satan. 

For the next article in this series, click here.

For the previous article in this series, click here.

You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.

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