Sunday, March 19, 2006

Thoughts Regarding Matthew 12:22-37

Well, it has been some time since I actually had time to write a post.  I have been extremely busy and to be honest, extremely tired after a full day at work and some time with the family along with reading.  However, the Lord has graciously provided me with some time this morning before the kids are up, as Denise has gone to the doctor.  I made mention earlier about making a few comments on Matthew 12 in regard to Christ and the kingdom.  Note:  These are comments on  the passage and I welcome your input.

These comments are in response to  some of the questions that we encounter in previous posts (look through the archive if you have questions about that(.  Verses 22-32 are the basis of what we are looking at.  We will note that how Christ has already rebuked the Pharisees in verses 1-8 concerning the Sabbath and how He spoke of His superiority to the temple and His lordship over the Sabbath.

Next He demonstrates what He spoke of in verse 7 in the following verses of 9-14 by healing a man’s withered hand.  In 15-21 we find Jesus has left the synagogue and the people are following Him were healed, but He warned them not to make Him known, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet saying…”, the Isaiah 42:1-4 is referenced.

The we come to the passage we are considering.  Verse 22 speaks of one who was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute.  Jesus heals the man and the multitudes are amazed so much that they ask themselves, “Could this be the Son of David?”  This title “Son of David” has already been referenced in Matthew.  For instance on 9:27 we see it referenced by two blind men who cry out to Jesus as the Son of David, desiring that He cause them to see.  Later in Matthew 21:9 we see that the phrase is used to refer to Christ as He comes into Jerusalem and that Matthew clearly indicates in verse 5 that it is a fulfillment of what the prophets said and that was that the King had arrived.

Later in Matthew 22:41-46 we find Jesus questioning the Pharisees about their understanding of the “Son of David”.  His point is ultimately to show them that the Son of David would not only come through the family line of David, but indeed He was superior and “older” than David Himself.  Thus He asks “If David then calls Him Lord, how is He his Son?”  Clearly we are talking about Messianic, kingly references.  See my previous post on Daniel 9 concerning what Messiah would do and when He would do it.

So in Matthew 12 we find that the crowds are asking if this could be the Son of David.  Remember, what did the Jews perceive the Messiah to do?  They perceived that He would establish a physical kingdom and destroy the enemies of the nation of Israel.  Even the disciples didn’t really get it until after the resurrection and Jesus enabling them to understand the Scriptures.  So these Pharisees thought they would try and change the perception of the crowds by saying that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub.

The term Beelzebub is the Greek word beelzeboul, which simply means “lord of the house” and is further defined in the text as “the ruler of demons”.  This is none other than Satan himself and he is further referred to in the Old Testament as the god of Ekron in which Baal-Zebub (the lord of the flies) is referenced (2 Kings 1:2).  Clearly the Pharisees are saying that Jesus and Satan have “teamed up” in order to pull away followers after themselves.

Verse 25 gives us the response of Jesus.  Notice that the text says that He knew their thoughts.  He not only heard their blasphemous words, cut also know the depths of their depraved thoughts.  He then responds by saying, “"Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.
If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?”  He basically is giving a logical response to what they are saying about Him and His power to heal and cast out demons.  We might be more familiar with a later vernacular and that is “together we stand, divided we fall”.  Jesus is clearly showing how it is impossible for a kingdom to stand if it is opposing itself.  Then He does exactly what He has done on many occasions in Matthew and that is to put them in a pickle in regards to where His authority actually comes from.  Notice He contrasts His power and authority and ask them by whom their children are casting demons out by.  Their children refers to of Jewish decent that had been sent out by Christ Himself as disciples (Matt. 10:5) to heal, preach the gospel, and cast out demons.  It’s possible others could be included in that, but I tend to think it much clearer that the Christ’s own disciples are the ones referenced and in the midst of them one actually was a devil, Judas Iscariot.

Jesus then announces a truth often overlooked by some:  If He is in fact casting out demons by the Spirit of God, Then the kingdom of God has come unto you.  The verb efyasen is in the aorist active indicative.  It is commonly held that this is an action that has begun in the past, is occurring at the present and will continue into the future.  This kingdom is the same kingdom that John the Baptist spoke of earlier in Matthew 3:2.  

There were times in Jewish History when they acknowledged the kingdom of heaven with God Himself.  Surely the times of the Messiah were considered to be the kingdom of heaven.  I do not take that there is to be a distinction between the two phrases “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven”.  One thing is for sure:  the kingdom was at hand when John began preaching and Jesus now says it has already come and is now and will continue into the future.  His kingdom is thus being established before them.

Now He then references a small illustration concerning the strong man.  Let us note what He says.
<blockquote>"Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.  He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”</blockquote>

Granted, Satan’s name is not used here specifically as the strong man, but is it not a correct assumption from the text itself that Jesus is using the strong man to represent Satan?  What is He saying concerning the strong man?  Well, it seems obvious.  Jesus is saying that one cannot go into the strong man’s house and plunder his house, unless He first binds him.  The term “binds” here is deo and can be used to speak of forbidding, holding in bonds, or binding with chains.  Interestingly enough this is the same word used in Revelation 20 concerning the binding of Satan.  The only difference of course is their contexts and the moods.  In Matthew it is the subjunctive mood and in Revelation it is the indicative.  Of course the explanation concerning Matthew is tied to its context which is presupposing that the binding of the strong man has occurred in order that the desired end be accomplished (ie. Plundering).

Now Jesus has clearly tied this little picture with what He has been doing and the kingdom of God.  There can be no question that He has done that.  In verse 30 He then goes on to emphasize the fact that His kingdom and Satan’s are opposites.  One is gathering and the other scattering.  There is not a third kingdom mentioned.  Therefore these kingdoms are in complete opposition to one another.

He then addresses the ones who have dared to blaspheme by actually saying that the work of the Son of God done by the power of the Spirit of God under the authority of God the Father is actually the work of Beelzebub (Satan, the devil, the dragon, that old serpent).  Truly they are hard hearted and spiritually dead and blind and in such sin that they cannot even understand the clarity of the person of Christ:  that He is sent from God.  Therefore, Jesus concludes with a resounding judgment upon their wickedness in declaring that there is no forgiveness for what they have done.  They have blasphemed the Holy Spirit.  These men, even to this very day, no doubt, hear those words echo in their tormented soul’s ears and it torments them all the more.  They experienced the presence of the Messiah (God Himself in the flesh) and they witnessed His miracles and heard His teachings, but they were so blinded by their own self love that they despised their Creator and counted Him as nothing more than a mere teacher, possessed of the devil and one who was out to destroy the power they had with the people and expose them for what they were.  This judgment fell on them and they have no escape.

Thus we see that particular sin would not be forgiven them in this age, nor in the age to come.  Some would say this is the present age that Jesus spoke of and that the age to come is when He returns to end human history.  Personally I don’t quite know what to make of it.  I tend to view it in those terms because that is what I have been taught to believe, however there are some who make a compelling argument for the difference between the Old Covenant age and the New Covenant age, and I think that seems much clearer.  I will simply be clear on the fact that Jesus said there was no forgiveness for such sin.

With these things said, I tend to lean toward these things being accomplished in what is referred to in Revelation 20.  I know, I know.  We have been through that before.  However, I do see Christ’s kingdom here and now and yet a future aspect to it when He concludes time and places all His enemies under His feet, including death (1 Cor. 15:23-26).


Hank said...


Nice article. I must not have scrolled down far enough the other day when I checked for your post.

I think the simple term used "Beelzebub" and its meaning, "lord of the house" fits rather neat exegetically with your conclusions of the identity of the strong man. Ultimately, "Head of demons" as the "Lord of the house" within the confines of Jesus' parable gives us a clear view of the intended meaning.

Also, it is so important that we not forget the Jewish idea of the messiah and the physicality and narrowness of His reign as King. It seems inherently easy for us to fall into the same error. Sometimes I think we as the church are making similar mistakes. Anyway, here we have the central fulfillment of the greatest blessing of the covenant. Both, all or in an over arching sense, THE covenant, is in fact God dwelling with His people. Here in this text you see Immanuel beginning the consummation of this superior blessing in a way foreign to the Jewish mindset.

I liked your analysis of the unpardonable sin. These men, handing over this incarnate fulfillment of the whole purpose for their (Israel's) existence to pagans, were in fact committing the most heinous sin known to mankind. Tearing their clothes as they pronounce Jesus a blasphemer, both here and as He is before the High Priest describing Himself as the very One Daniel had spoke of. Ultimately, they spit in the very face of God as they declare before the entire world, "We have no King but Cesar!"

As for the age and the age to come, I vote for Joel's pronouncement of the "Last days", verified by Pentecost ending with the dismantling of sacrificial system in AD 70. Thus making our day, "The age to come" in their day! If not, and we are still living out these days, we end up with the "Last days"[of the age] or the "End of the Age" actually being longer than the "Age" itself!

Now that’s confusing!!

Have a good weekend
Lord bless

Tim said...

Thanks Hank,

I agree. Clearly, when I went through Daniel I saw the last days as relevant to the time of Messiah and the fulfillment of the 70 weeks of Daniel. Besides that, I wondered if anyone really thought there would be forgiveness given after death. Obviously not. Therefore, I tend to agree with you. I guess I kind of botched it on the end there:) Thanks for the encouragement.

Hank said...

You said:

"I wondered if anyone really thought there would be forgiveness given after death"

That is an interesting statement when applied to the "this age or the next". I suppose it is possible that to them the 'next' wasn't really the consummated kingdom as we look forward too, rather it was the re-establishment of the Throne of David in physical Jerusalem. With the Nations coming and going to and from the Mountain of God for their healing. To them, this age to come was the Messianic age of Israel's unmatched bliss. I would agree, only applying Paul's theology of the 'True Israel" of God as recipients of the blessing of Immanuel and Christ's kingdom being sovereign over ALL as the Earth is His footstool! Amen!

In this sense I suppose it would be possible (in their minds) for their forgiveness in the 'age to come'.(sounds a little familiar)
That is, looking for a renewed Jerusalem super power as they are delivered from the Nations.(as opposed as TOO the Nations as servants)

Maybe this is why Jesus spoke so harshly about the judgment after death, trying to sway their theology some.

BUT, please do not take this as dogmatic!! Only some thoughts to add to our conversation.
Gotta run........

Lord bless