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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE LAST STATE IS WORSE THAN THE FIRST

Matt 12:41-45 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. (Also see Luke 11:24-28; 11:30-32)

Because of their wickedness, God warned the people of Nineveh, through His messenger Jonas (Jonah), that He would cause their city to be destroyed within forty days. This Old Testament event was widely known among the Israelites. Jonas' teaching resulted in the Ninevites turning from their wicked ways and the city was spared. Jesus uses their example of repentance to condemn the generation of hard-hearted, unrepentant Jews to whom He was preaching His message of the coming kingdom of God. As another example, Jesus reminded these Jews about the queen of the south, that is, the queen of Sheba, coming to Jerusalem to hear the wisdom of Solomon, which she accepted by presenting him with many gifts. The fact that she traveled such a great distance to hear, and accept, the godly wisdom of this Jewish king, also served to also condemn these Jewish leaders. After these well known examples of repentance and acceptance of the will of God, Jesus then, referring to Himself as the promised Messiah, tells them that a greater than Jonas (or Solomon) is here. These analogies were a condemnation of the hard-hearted scribes and Pharisees that completely rejected Jesus as God's Son and as the promised Messiah.

In verses 43 through 45, of the lesson text, Jesus identifies the specific Jews to whom the condemning remarks apply. Luke makes the same application almost word for word in Luke 11:24-26. Jesus strongly censures the scribes and Pharisees, referring to them as this wicked generation. Why? Because immediately before this incident, they had totally rejected Him as the Savior and had attributed His miracles to the influence of Satan.

Jesus compares these obstinate unbelieving Jews, and their request for a sign to prove His deity, to a man that had an unclean spirit that is now gone out of him. Even though the demon was removed, yet the man, while seeking rest, ...findeth none. By this example, Jesus was telling these wicked minded Jews that, even though He gave them a sign, rest would not have believed in Him. Just as this man could never find rest, so they would never have been satisfied - still refusing to accept Him as the promised Messiah. The mind and soul of the man that had been healed of the unclean spirit, had not been filled with God's righteousness and was still receptive to Satan's sinful deceit, so he entered in and possessed him once again. So it would be with these unbelieving Jews. Failing to allow Jesus to enter into their hearts, He knew they would return to their erring convictions and continue to reject Jesus as God's Son. Because of their self-righteous character, a sign would only be a temporary conviction of their hearts, righteous living would be short lived, and they, too, would return to their former hard-heartedness.

Jesus, then, compares these Jews to the last state of the man into whom the unclean spirit reentered. He said that the satanic demon took seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. The number sevenoften represents completeness. Therefore we know the demon-possessed man was completely filled with evil, with no room for righteousness to enter. With this parabolic example, Jesus says that such were these scribes and Pharisees. Looking into their unrepentant hearts, Jesus could find no redeeming value. Their minds had been completely seared with false interpretations of Old Testament prophecies, and salvation could not be seen in the Son of God.