“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.” – Revelation 16:1
Is there ever a point of no return with the LORD? Can a person ever reach a point of being irredeemable? The apparent sobering answer to that question is yes. I don’t know that we as limited human beings can ever completely recognize such an irredeemable condition in a person. But the Bible gives us examples of such people. Judas was apparently such a person and is referred to as “the son of perdition” (John 17:12). The Antichrist is given that label as well (2 Thessalonians 2:3). “Son of perdition,” speaks of a destiny.
God desires all to come to repentance and to be reconciled to Himself (e.g. 2 Peter 3:9). Paul spoke to Pastor Timothy about God as One “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Therefore, we are not speaking of people elected or decreed from their inception as being destined to doom apart from their personal free will decision. We are speaking about people who because of their ongoing persistence to resist the gracious offers of God to be saved, are hardened in heart so that they reach a point of no return. Pharaoh was an example of this (Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:34). Yes, God “hardened his heart” (Exodus 10:1), but only in line with the principle of reaping and sowing (Galatians 6:7-9). Based on Pharaoh’s heart decision, God followed through with the hardening of his heart. Paul also spoke of people caught up in lies and hypocrisy whose conscience was “seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:7). People can become deadened in conscience when they persistently refuse God’s gracious offers to be saved. But there is a much greater, more broadly expansive example of people who reach a point of no return.
There is a time yet future when God will pour out His righteous wrath on a Christ-rejecting world. This will be the saddest most profound example of a mass of people who have reached a point of no return. In Revelation 16 we are brought to the second half of the seven-year period of Tribulation. This second half of the Tribulation is sometimes referred to as the Great Tribulation since the second half intensity of tribulation is greater than that of the first half tribulation. This chapter is a “great” chapter in that there are 9 references using this adjective to describe events in this chapter (16:9,12,14, 18 2),19 (2), 21 (2)). This chapter brings us up to the end of the Tribulation. Chapters 17 and 18 consider in greater detail the fall of the one world religious system, economic system and world government during this last half of the Tribulation. In Revelation 19 we will see the Second Coming of Christ.
Revelation 16, the detailed time of God’s final full outpoured righteous wrath on a Christ-rejecting world, begins:
Revelation 16:1 – Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”
The time has come for the complete wrath of God to be poured out. The previous chapter speaks of God’s wrath as part of God’s “great and marvelous” works (Revelation 15). This will be a terrible time on the earth. It will be truly a time of Great Tribulation. But to understand God’s wrath and why it is poured out, it’s necessary to ask a few important questions that deal with God’s grace and the depth of sin of those upon which God will eventually pour out His full wrath. You might be wondering, When and Why is it time for God’s complete wrath to be poured out? We’re going to attempt to answer those questions now.
What has God done for us? The Apostle Paul said we are who we are by God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:10). Grace is undeserved favor; it’s getting what we don’t deserve. God created us purely by His grace (e.g. Genesis 1:1 and 27; Psalm 89:47; Malachi 2:10; Mark 13:19; Ephesians 2:10; 3:9; Revelation 4:11). “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We owe our existence to God our Creator. We and our universe are literally held together by Jesus and His grace (e.g. Colossians 1:16-17). And He oversees us as a Good Shepherd (Psalm 23; John 10; 1 Peter 5:4). But we have sinned. We have rebelled against our Creator (Genesis 3; Psalm 51:5; Romans 3). And yet, because of Who God is, He has chosen not to cast us away, but to redeem and reconcile us to Himself. He has done this at great cost; the cost of the incarnation and life of Jesus Christ on the cross.
How much sin is forgiven at the cross of Christ? There is one event in the history that is pivotal to determining the destiny of humanity. That event is the cross (and resurrection) of Jesus Christ. The Apostle John who was used by God to write The Revelation of Jesus Christ, also wrote the following in his first epistle;
- 1 John 2:1-2 – “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
Being a Christian means you’ve been freed from the shackles of sin (e.g. Romans 6:14; 8:31-36). If we do sin, Jesus has made a way for us to be forgiven our sins (1 John 1:7 and 9). Jesus is our “Advocate,” He stands up for us. He’s our substitute. Jesus Himself is the “propitiation for our sins.” “Propitiation” (Greek hilasmos) means expiation, atoning sacrifice, propitiation, appease. On the cross, Jesus paid it all! Jesus, on the cross, met every requirement of God’s justice to provide atoning and forgiveness for sins. When we trust in Jesus as our Savior, and His atoning cross work, God has a just basis to forgiven our sins. The Bible states this clearly in one verse:
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) – For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
The Gospel (i.e. good news) message is that God, as a gift of His grace, has provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him by having our sins forgiven (sins separate us from Him – Isaiah 59:1-2), through faith in Jesus Christ who paid our penalty for our sins on the cross. When we trust Jesus as Savior, we are forgiven our sins and reconciled to God. The benefit of such a reconciliation is the prospect of eternal life with God.
All of this is provided as a free gift of God’s grace in His only Son Jesus. Scripture states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). Are you getting a sense of how much God has done for us? He is magnificent.
Why has God done this for us? God has done all of this, made this incredibly gracious sacrifice for us, because He loves us. We were doomed in sin, but God, because He loved us, make a way for us to be salvaged, redeemed, restored, reconciled to Him. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The Apostle Paul was inspired to explain God’s love for us like this:
- Ephesians 2:4–5 (NKJV) – But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (cf. also John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; 1 John 4:7-12).
Our salvation from sin is the gracious work of an Almighty God who loved and loves us and will continue to love us throughout eternity.
God’s seal of approval. How do we know when we are saved from our sins? Can we know if we are saved from our sins? The seal or guarantee or confirming evidence of that forgiveness and of our reconciliation is the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; and Ephesians 1:13-14). We know we belong to God by the Holy Spirit Who indwells us (e.g. 1 John 3:24). The Holy Spirit working in us, with our cooperation, strengthens us against temptation, helps us to resist sin, and to follow Jesus’ example (Galatians 5; Romans 8; Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). But that’s not all.
Forgiveness for the sins of the world. At the cross Jesus atoned for the sins of the world by paying humanities’ death penalty for sin (Romans 6:23). When we speak of the cross of Christ we cannot do so without mentioning the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ is the evidence that the sacrifice of Christ (Isaiah 53:4-6; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21) was acceptable to God and His standard of justice as a payment for the sin of the world and that the power of sin, (which is death) has been broken (1 Corinthians 15).
The Bible tells us that the cross work of Christ was sufficient to pay the penalty and debt that sin had accrued over time FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD! That is the good news! The cross of Christ and Jesus sacrifice paid for the sins of the world. We can actually go to people and say, “Do you know the penalty for your sin has been paid for?” Scriptural evidence for this is found in the following verses:
- Isaiah 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Emphasis added.)
- John 1:29 – “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Emphasis added.)
- John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
The reason why I am reviewing God’s grace and love and provision and plan to redeem us is to give us perspective. It is only in the shadow of such great grace and love that the rejection of such grace and love and its penalty can be fully understood. Which leads us to a consideration of the only unforgiveable sin, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. If the sins of the world are paid for, why do people still go to hell? There is one sin that is unforgivable before God, THE BLASPHEMY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Really, this is the only sin that keeps someone from heaven. Jesus spoke of this sin when He said:
- Matthew 12:31-33 – “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.32 “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. 33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.”
Jesus stated that a person’s eternal destiny depends on their response to the Holy Spirit. What is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not necessarily “speaking” a bad word against the Holy Spirit, (although that may be an aspect of it). It is more than that. I know of people who feel they are damned to an eternal hell because they have either thought or said a bad word against the Holy Spirit. This is a shallow understanding of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, a person who is concerned that they have committed this sin by speaking against the Holy Spirit is bearing witness that they have not blasphemed the Spirit. Their concern about offending the Holy Spirit is evidence that they haven’t done it! Their conscience is still sensitive to the Spirit. Someone who is concerned or convicted of sin demonstrates their God-given conscience is at work. Someone guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is someone who disregards and is dead to the conviction of the Spirit.
So, what does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? To understand the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit we first need to understand the work of the Holy Spirit. What does the Holy Spirit do? The Bible states the following about the work of the Holy Spirit:
- Genesis 6:3 – “And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”
- John 14:26 – “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
- John 15:26 – “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
- John 16:7-14 – “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.8 “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:9 “of sin, because they do not believe in Me;10 “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;11 “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”
There are many other portions of Scripture that we could reference to detail the work of the Holy Spirit. But suffice it to say that one of the primary works of the Holy Spirit is to “strive” with sinful people in order to draw them to salvation in Christ. It is the Spirit of God who convicts the world of their sinfulness and confronts them with their need of a Savior. Therefore, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is in effect to reject God’s convicting the sinner of their sin and need of salvation. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to disregard His offer of salvation through faith in Christ as communicated by the Holy Spirit. To do this is unforgivable.
Why is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit the unforgiveable sin? The seriousness of this sin and the reason for its damning finality, is seen in the cost of redemption and extent of God’s grace to the sinner. The cost of human redemption was the shed blood of Jesus Christ. No greater price could have been paid to atone for sin than the perfect life of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the Bible tells us “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19a). No greater price could be paid to provide a way to be forgiven our sin and reconciled to God. And no greater gift could be offered than the grace-full forgiveness for our sins. God offers us as a gift of His grace, the forgiveness for our sins and eternal life. The consequence for our sin is death. But the free gift of forgiveness for our sins and eternal life can be received by faith in Jesus. That’s because Jesus paid our death penalty (e.g. Romans 6:23).
God gave His all to redeem sinful humanity. He not only paid the eternally maximum price to atone for sins, but then He offers the rich blessing of salvation in Christ free of charge. Indeed, the word “grace” can be defined by the acronym God’s Riches/Redemption at Christ’s Expense. God’s plan of redemption is profound in its provision, incredible in its conception, and fantastic in its fulfillment. So stupendous is God’s redemptive work in His Son Jesus and the offer of the benefit of it freely as a gift of His grace received by faith, that to ignore or reject His offer is the highest of sins a human being can commit. To consider the redemptive work of God in Christ and then to ignore or reject it, is the highest of disrespect and blasphemies toward God. To ignore God’s great redemptive work is to assess it as worthless. To reject it is to convey it is not good enough. There is no other sin that can match the offensiveness of that to God. And therefore, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the only unforgiveable sin.
God’s forgiveness of sin is thorough. In the book of Romans chapter 5, the apostle Paul describes the thoroughness of God’s forgiveness provided in Christ. What does this chapter tell us about the forgiveness of sin?
- Forgiveness comes through faith in Jesus Christ – Romans 5:1-2 – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” When we put our faith in the completed work of Christ on the cross, God stamps the ledger which recorded the debt of our sin with a “Paid in full” stamp.
- Faith and forgiveness bring life in the Spirit – Romans 5:3-5 – “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” When we put our faith in Christ and ask to be forgiven for our sin, God forgives us and then pours His love into our hearts by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our regenerated lives.
- New life in Christ is “much more” than we could have hoped for – Romans 5:6-12,15,20-21 – “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— . . . 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The saddest part of a person rejecting the offer of salvation through the Holy Spirit is that they are turning their backs on a life that could be so “much more” than the life of sin they settle for. People who reject God, reject so “much more” than they could have ever hoped for.
I experienced my second birth in Christ in 1977. You would think that the longer you know the Lord the less you deal with sin. But what I have found is that the longer I know the Lord, the more clearly I see my own sinfulness. It isn’t that I walk around sullen or guilt ridden or feeling condemned. It’s that the longer I know the Lord and more closely I draw to Him in my relationship with Him, the holiness of God shines ever brighter and it humbles me. I’m more conscious of sin than ever before. But I’m also freer from sin than ever before. That doesn’t make me proud, it humbles me. And that is what is lacking in the one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit. In the one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit, there is no humility or sense of appreciation for God’s gracious provisions in Christ. There is a spiritual bankruptcy, a void, an insensitivity, an unresponsiveness, a spiritual carelessness.
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a sign of spiritual death. When someone rejects the Gospel of Jesus Christ and commits the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, it is an indication that they have reached an irredeemable depth of sinfulness. The state of such a person is described in scripture as, “although they knew God [or received revelation from God about who He is, their predicament of sin, and God’s solution, the Gospel of grace,] they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21). The one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit makes a conscious decision to reject God’s salvation. Those who God pours out His righteous wrath upon in the Great Tribulation are those who “blasphemed the name of God” (Revelation 16:9). Their hearts are rock solid against the Lord. They have reached the point of no return. They have committed the unforgiveable sin. The one who commits this unforgiveable sin is one who, despite the Spirit’s continual, ongoing, persistent attempts to communicate to the sinner their predicament of sin, and its solution in Jesus, willfully reject the Spirit’s offer.
God is gracious in that He does not stop at one offer of salvation per sinful person. We can safely assume that God, because of His grace, makes many offers to the sinner to repent and be saved. One offer of redemption should be enough for every sinner to be saved. But we know that more often than not the Spirit draws people over time by way of many extended efforts. No sinner should expect more than one opportunity to respond to the gospel. But God is so gracious that He more often than not provides many ongoing offers of salvation. That is because of His love and grace and mercy. The Bible says “today” is the day of salvation. A sinner who presumes they have more time to repent and be saved is a sinner that is foolish. No opportunity to be saved is guaranteed beyond the present one. If you are not saved from sin, now is the time for you to receive the gospel!In the letter of Hebrews there is a very sobering hypothetical presented that is pertinent to the strain of reasoning we are now considering. This letter is written to Jews who had received Jesus as their Messiah but who now were apparently considering either returning to Judaism and forsaking Jesus or at least resorting to a kind of hybrid of belief that is less than what God had provided by grace in Jesus Christ. The author of this letter is not named but I have come to believe that it very well might be the Apostle Paul. Paul had an intense burden for the salvation of his fellow Jews (Romans 9-11). If the author is Paul, I can see him being inspired to write the following words of warning:
- Hebrews 10:28–31 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Now while those in the Tribulation are not only Jewish, still, by this point the Gospel has been preached in numerous ways on numerous occasions so that the above verses apply. And therefore, the final sentence could apply to those in the Tribulation, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit is the one who exhausts the Spirit’s gracious efforts to save them. The Blasphemer of the Holy Spirit is the one who reaches a point where it is said of them, “God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, . . . God gave them up to vile passions. . .. God gave them over to a debased mind to do those things which are not fitting. . ..” (Romans 1:24, 26, and 28; cf. Romans 1:18-32 for context). The one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit is the one who has refused away their God-given opportunities to be saved and reached a point of no return. They have reached an unforgiveable point. At what point can it be said that a person has blasphemed the Holy Spirit? At what point does a person reach a point of no return; a point of being irredeemable? Only God knows that point. And therefore, we should never give up on sinners. We should always continue to reach out to those in sin. We never know when they might respond to the Spirit using us to reach them. We never know the point of no return. Don’t risk reaching the point of no return. If you’ve yet to accept Jesus as your Savior, if you’ve yet to be born again or to have experienced your spiritual birth, I encourage you to consider the following. When this word is used in the sense of knowing someone it means:
Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The word “know” here is translated from the Greek term ginosko. The idea of this word “know” in the original language meant to become aware, perceive (as in “seeing is believing”), to understand, to be conscious of, to see something or someone as it/they truly are (not merely opinion or speculation).
- To know someone personally
- To be personally acquainted with someone
- To trust someone
- To have a friendship with someone
- To have an intimate personal relationship with someone
It is possible to know personally the only true God and His Son Jesus Christ. In light of this the question arises, do you know Jesus?
The Good News is that we can have a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Entering into such a relationship is as simple as ABC: Admit/Ask, Believe/Receive, and Confess/Call.
First Admit your sin and ask God’s forgiveness for them. Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). And we all have sinned and fall short of what it takes to enter heaven (Romans 3). We need to admit this truth before God. Once we admit our sin before God we need to ask God’s forgiveness for our sins. This implies turning from our sins to God (i.e. repentance). This is humbling but necessary. We come to Him on His terms not our terms. We come humbly before God who is Awesome and Holy.
Second, believe in Jesus and His atoning work. Jesus and Jesus atoning work on the cross alone, not our efforts or works, is the basis for God’s forgiveness of our sins. The wages or consequences of our sin is death. Jesus died on the cross in our place, paying our punishment for sin. God offers us salvation from our sins freely as a gift of His grace through Jesus’ death on the cross (Romans 6:23). We are saved from our sins because of His work not our work. To believe, trust, or put our faith in Jesus as Savior is not a “work,” it is God’s grace working in us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Once we believe in Jesus and His atoning work, we believe and receive forgiveness for our sins based on Jesus and His work. God has a just basis to forgive our sins because of Jesus justifying work on the cross on our behalf. Jesus paid our death penalty on the cross for us. He’s the only One qualified to do that. Jesus took our sins on Himself on the cross and when we trust in Him and His work, He offers us His righteousness to be put to our account (cf. Isaiah 53; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God did this for us in Christ because He loves us. God is Love with a capitol “L” (e.g. John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:8 and 16).
Lastly, Confess and call. We confess our sins to God and receive His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). But we also confess Jesus to those around us. We tell others about Jesus. We call others to follow Jesus too. Such confession is not a work that leads to salvation. Confession is a fruit or evidence that salvation has genuinely taken place in us. Such fruit is found in many forms. Love is the greatest fruit of the Spirit’s work in a person (e.g. Galatians 5:22-24). But the Bible states, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). Don’t risk reaching the point of no return. Admit your sin. Accept Jesus as your Savior. Ask God to forgive you based on Jesus blessed atoning work. Believe on Jesus. And confess your sins to God and confess Jesus to others. Now is the day of salvation!