In this article Matt Slick's words will be in italic, my (Tony's) responses will be in Roman type.

Mark 3:28-29 and Universalism

     The universalist states that there is no unforgivable sin because all people who have ever lived will ultimately be reconciled to God; in other words, all sins from all people who have ever lived will be forgiven.  However, if there were a sin that will never be forgiven, then Universalism would be proven wrong. 
    Actually, Matt is not correct. I do believe that there is an unforgivable (or more literally “unpardoned”) sin. Just because a sin will not be pardoned by Christ does not disprove universalism, as we will see.

     Mark 3:28-29 are important verses in showing that there is an unforgivable sin.
“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”(NASB).
    What amazes me is that Matt uses the NASB which leaves out certain words which are in the Greek in spite of the fact that he uses the Greek internliear below which shows the important words the NASB left out! For instance here is the passage Matt quotes but in a Bible which is closer to the Greek (the words Matt's version left out will be in red.

    28 “Verily, I am saying to you that all shall be pardoned the sons of mankind, the penalties of the sins and the blasphemies, whatsoever they should be blaspheming, 29 yet whoever should be blaspheming against the holy spirit is having no pardon for the eon, but is liable to the eonian penalty for the sin.”

    Did you notice how the version Matt chose said “never has forgiveness”? Did you notice that he chose a version that did not even put in the rest of what God said: “. . . for the eon”?

     The Greek Interlinear of Mark 3:28-29 is as follows:

Mark 3:28

      Verses 28 and 29 are in contrast to each other.  Verse 28 says that all sins shall be forgiven.  Verse 29 clarifies the statement and flatly says that there is a sin that “never has forgiveness.”  This sin is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit -- which is stating that Jesus did His miracles by the power of the devil.
     Verse 29 has the contrasting preposition “but,” Greek “de.”  The use of the word “but” is showing that there is a contrast, or an exception to the previous statement.  All sins are forgivable, but blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not.  That is why the word “but” is there, to show that there is a qualification, an exception to the first statement.
    It doesn't say that “all sins are forgivable.” Rather, it says that “all sins shall be forgiven.” Furthermore, I would agree with Matt that all sins will be pardoned but the blasphemy of the holy spirit will not be pardoned! That sin never ever will be pardoned ***in this eon and that (eon) which is impending*** (Matthew 12:32). Yet this fact in no way will undo God's goal for all mankind as will be seen.

     So, how do the universalists answer this verse?  They do it in two ways. 
     First, they say that the word "aiona", "age" can mean a period of time that ends.  Now, this is true sometimes and not others.  There are verses that use the word “aiona” that can refer to non-eternal duration (John 8:35; Luke 1:55) and there are verses that use it and mean eternal duration (Matt. 21:19; Mark 11:14; John 4:14; 6:51; 6:58, etc.).  It is the context that determines the meaning of the word.
    Tony's reply: Well, let's just have a look at the verses Matt references above which he says prove “aion” refers to “non-eternal duration” and “eternal duration” (in that order) shall we?

The verses Matt says aion means “non-eternal”:

John 8:35 says: “Now the slave is not remaining in the house for the eon. The son is remaining for the eon. 36 If ever, then, the Son should be making you free, you will be really free.”

Luke 1:55 says: “(According as He speaks to our fathers) To Abraham and to his seed, for the eon.

The verses Matt says aion means “eternal”:

Matt.21:19 says: “And, perceiving one fig tree on the roadside, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only. And He is saying to it, ‘No longer, by any means, may fruit be coming of you  for the eon/age.’ And withered instantly is the fig tree.”

Mark 11:14 says: “And answering, He said to it, ‘By no means may anyone still be eating fruit of you  for the eon/age.’ And His disciples heard.”

John 4:14 says: “yet whoever may be drinking of the water which I shall be giving him, shall under no circumstances be thirsting  for the eon/age, but the water which I shall be giving him will become in him a spring of water, welling up into life eonian.”

    Note for John 4:14: The “life eonian” may sound strange to our ears at first but just think of it this way: “eonian” simply has the idea of “pertaining to the eon or eons” as the case may be. Therefore the life eonian is the life pertaining to the eon(s) and not to eternity. Life eonian is that life which pertains to the eon or eons which are coming such as the 1000 year millennial reigh of Christ and the New Earth eon/age. It is true that the believer will put on immortality. So when the eons end the believer will continue living, but NOT because he has life eonian but because he will have put on immortality!

John 6:51 says: “I am the living Bread which descends out of heaven. If anyone should be eating of this Bread, he shall be living  for the eon/age.”
John 6:58 says: “This is the Bread which descends out of heaven. Not according as the fathers ate and died; he who is masticating this Bread shall be living  for the eon/age.”
    Now do you really think that God is so careless with words that He would use the same word to mean “a period of time having a beginning and an end” and also meaning “having no beginning and no end,” i.e. “eternal” and even meaning “never”? God is not the author of confusion. Besides, the Bible shows that all the eons/ages end. Click here to read an article showing the eons end.

    Do any of the verses above prove that aion (eon) means eternal? No. Also please note below that Matt basically says that it is sometimes wrong to think that the word “age” means “a definite period of time that will end.” Well, if it doesn't mean that, then what does “age” mean? If Matt is suggesting that “age” can mean “eternal” then you have a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as “eternal age.” That's like saying “white” is “white black,” or a week is sometimes “seven days” and sometimes “unending.”

     It is a conjecture on the Universalists part that the word "age", in Mark 3:29, means a definite period of time that will end.  But that isn't the case.  As I said, Jesus is contrasting the second statement (unforgivable sin) with the first statement (forgivable sin). 
     Second, the Universalist will go to Matt. 12:32 which says, 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."       They state that "the age to come" is the 1000 year reign of Christ which will end.  Therefore, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will be forgiven after the 1000 year reign.  They then state that Mark 3:29 must be interpreted in light of Matt. 12:32. 
     Granted, we must look at all the verses on a subject in order to get an accurate understanding what is said.  But, the logic of the Universalist is wrong.  Here is why. Mark 3:29 states that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (BHS) will never be forgiven.
This verse clearly states the impossibility of forgiveness of this sin.
    Matt didn't tell you the rest of what Mark 3:29 actually says. It says “will never have forgiveness for the age,” or more literally, “is not being pardoned for the eon.”
    Also, I think that there is something very basic Matt is overlooking. He even quoted it and still didn't see it. It is to be found in the verse he quoted: “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/eon, or in the age/eon to come.” (Matt.12:32).
    Now is Matt going to tell us that this age in which we live is eternal? If there is an age to come then the age in which we live surely cannot be eternal. If this age is not eternal why should the age to come which lasts a thousands years be eternal? Matt would have to prove somehow that 1,000 years equals eternity. And what happens when the thousand years ends? The new earth comes and with it the final age/eon. So the sin of the blasphemy of the holy spirit has to do with being unpardoned in this age and the age to come.
    Also, Matt might be surprised to learn that I really do believe that the blasphemy of the holy spirit will NEVER EVER be pardoned. It will not be pardoned in this eon/age nor in the eon/age which is coming. The person who commits that sin will have to do the full time for that crime. Once they have done their full time they will not need a pardon. It is just like in our judicial system here in the United States. If one commits a crime and go to prison for twenty years, if the governor or president does not pardon him, he must remain incarcerated for the duration of his sentence. Once the twenty years comes up he will not need a pardonl. He will be set free. It is just that simple.

Matt continues: Matt 12:32 states that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven "in this age or the age to come." If Matt 12:32 is interpreted to mean that BHS will be forgiven, then that contradicts Mark 3:29 which states it will not be forgiven.
If Matt 12:32 is interpreted to mean that BHS will not be forgiven, then it does not contradict Mark 3:29.
Therefore, the only way to harmonize both verses is to say that BHS is unforgivable.
If BHS is unforgivable, then Universalism is wrong.

A comparison of translations

    Instead of trying to define the Greek text ad nauseum explaining how and why words are translated, I've simply supplied ten Bible translations along with a commonly used Universalist translation of these two verses.

Bible
Version
Mark 3:28-29
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"
NIV
I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."
NKJV
"Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 "but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation"
KJV
Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:
RSV
"Truly, I say to you, all sins will 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"
1901 ASV
Verily I say unto you, All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 but whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin:
Phillips
"Believe me, all men's sins can be forgiven and all their blasphemies. But there can never be any forgiveness for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. That is an eternal sin."
Darby
Verily I say unto you, that all sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and all the injurious speeches [with] which they may speak injuriously; 29 but whosoever shall speak injuriously against the Holy Spirit, to eternity has no forgiveness; but lies under the guilt of an everlasting sin;
BWE
`I tell you the truth. All wrong things that people do and say about anyone will be forgiven. 29 But people who say wrong things against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. A person who does that will be punished for ever.'
Weymouth
"In solemn truth I tell you that all their sins may be pardoned to the sons of men, and all their blasphemies, however they may have blasphemed; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, he remains for ever unabsolved: he is guilty of a sin of the Ages."
Concordant
Literal
New Testament
28 Verily, I am saying to you that all shall be pardoned the sons of mankind, the penalties of the sins and the blasphemies, whatsoever they should be blaspheming, 29 yet whoever should be blaspheming against the holy spirit is having no pardon for the eon, but is liable to the eonian penalty for the sin --


     First of all, the ten translations above, all done by very reputable scholars, all say the same thing:  Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven -- ever!
Tony's reply: What good is their reputation if they can't even be honest enough to translate ALL the words God has in that verse? Notice that the Concordant Literal New Testament above gives what they left out, from the Greek . . . “is having no pardon for the eon . . .” Yet the “very reputable scholars” (according to Matt) didn't even have the guts to translate every word. I guess they thought their reputation was more important to be kept than God's.

     If you notice, the Concordant version (done by Universalists) did not translate the Greek words "eon" (age) and "eonian" (eternal) into English, but left them transliterated. In fact, the word in Greek is not "eon" but "aiona." 
     Notice the majority of Bibles Matt quotes above were done by Eternal Tormentists.
    Matt makes it seem as if the translators of the CLNT have done something underhanded by transliterating aiona as eon. Why doesn't he level the playing field and accuse his “reputable scholars” of doing something underhanded when all of them transliterated “blasphemiai” as “blasphemies,” and “blasphemesosin” as “blaspheme” in verse 28, and “blasphemese” as “blaspheme” in verse 29? And why doesn't Matt accuse them of not even transliterating those words properly according to Matt's rules? In every Bible the word “Christou” is always transliterated and brought over directly into its Anglicized form as “Christ.” I wonder if Matt thinks that is wrong for his cherished bibles to leave off the “ou” at the end of “Christ”?
    Also, A.E. Knoch was not a Universalist when he began his work on the Concordant Literal New Testament. He did not change the Bible, the Bible changed him. He came to believe that God would save all mankind, once more light was given to him due to a properly translated Bible with a uniform vocabulary.

     All other words are in plain English accept for these two.  Why?  I believe it is because they wanted to influence the way the text sounds.  By not translating the words, and by telling you that the word "eon" only means a duration of time with an ending, then, the universalists can get you to accept the idea that BHS is forgivable and that their theology is correct.  There is just one problem.  It isn't.
    Matt says that all other words are in plain English except for these two (eon and eonian). But that really is not the case. “Blaspheme” and “blasphemies” is transliterated by the “scholars” and is plain English. “Eon” and “Eonian” is plain English as well. As a matter of fact, the translators of the Concordant Version were the only ones who DID NOT translate aion nor aionion! They brought the words directly over in their Anglicized form so that the reader could decide what the words meant by how God used them in their context. Yes, Matt, you are correct when you said above that “it is the context that determines the meaning of a word.”
    Now to the final part. Do we use “eon” to get one to believe that the blasphemy of the holy spirit is forgivable (i.e. pardonable)? Not at all. We don't believe it will be pardoned! The Bible says it won't be pardoned! It says it won't be pardoned in this eon or that which is impending and that the one who commits such a sin is “liable to the eonian penalty”!
    And what did Jesus say about all sins? “Every sin and blasphemy shall be pardoned” (Matt.12:31). President Clinton, as well as many presidents, upon leaving their term of office, pardoned lots of people who were charged with crimes. They are now free. How much more shall one be free when the King of all the earth pardons all men's sins! The only sin not pardoned is the sin of blasphemy of the holy spirit. If Mr. Clinton did not pardon a criminal, then that criminal would be liable to remain in prison UNTIL his sentence was served. Thus also with the blasphemy of the holy spirit. Since it is not pardoned, the person who commits it is liable to the eonian penalty for that crime. “Yet whoever should be blaspheming against the holy spirit is having no pardon for the eon/age, but is liable to the eonian penalty (the penalty pertaining to the eon) for the sin”--for they said, “An unclean spirit has he” (Mark 3:29,30). Do you know anyone who has accused Jesus of having an unclean spirit? That drug abuser down the street? That harlot down in the red light district? I know of no one. But then again, I don't personally know any harlots either. So while it is true that a person who commits the unpardoned sin will not be pardoned, it is also true that they will serve the full time for the crime! Then once the time served is completed they will be freed. Even in our society when a person commits a crime and he writes to the president for a pardon, if the president does not pardon him he must do the full time for his crime, and then, once the time has been served he is freed. In our society we don't think this is unfair. Why should we with the future society?
    Look at it this way, if a judge told a criminal: “I sentence you to prison for this decade and the decade which is coming. What you have done cannot be pardoned!” Now would you think by what the judge just said that he meant this criminal will spend eternity behind bars because he is not allowed to be pardoned? I sure hope not! He will spend ten years plus the remainder of the years of this decade behind bars. Didn't Jesus say that if one commits the sin of blasphemy against the holy spirit that they will not be pardoned? Didn't He say that it will not be pardoned for the eon? Didn't He say that it will not be pardoned for the eon and that (eon) which is impending? Yes! Didn't He say that such a one is liable for the eonian penalty for the sin? Yes! What do you think is going to happen to this criminal once he serves his time for this crime? He will be a free person.
    Now you can believe the rest of the wonderful good news of what Christ accomplished for all mankind! Remember the gospel is “Good News”! It's not bad news.

Sincerely, In Christ
I Remain,
Tony Nungesser

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