Worse Than the First


It is not enough to experience the good things of the kingdom; repentance and obedience must follow.

“It goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself…and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation” (v. 45). - Matthew 12:43–45

In stating that something greater than both the Ninevites’ repentance and King Solomon is present in Israel (Matt. 12:41–42), Jesus teaches us an important point about Himself (Christology). Jonah and Solomon represent the offices of prophet and king, respectively, and that which is greater is, of course, Christ Jesus and His coming. In short, Jesus is better than all the prophets and kings who came before Him. He is also greater than the priesthood because He is greater than the temple, which represents the priestly office (v. 6). Jesus, then, is clearly presenting Himself as the consummate prophet, priest, and king, a teaching found elsewhere in the New Testament (Heb. 1:1–4).

Knowing the greatness of Christ’s threefold office as our prophet, priest, and king helps us to interpret our passage. The magnificence of Jesus means that there can be no neutral ground once you have seen the working of His power. Either you are for Jesus or you are against Him (Matt. 12:30). Christ has delivered many people from demons; therefore, those who have been rescued from Satan’s grip must make a decision. A life of discipleship must follow such great healings. He who tries to remain on the fence about his allegiance to Jesus once he has seen the might of the Savior is going to be worse off than he was before meeting the Lord. If the place the Devil formerly occupied is not filled with love for the Redeemer, the evil spirit will return and bring with him seven demons more wicked than himself (vv. 43–45). The one who tastes the goodness of Jesus and then does not respond in faith will end up enslaved to Satan with stronger chains and will be more inclined toward degeneracy (see Heb. 6:1–8).

Jesus’ main point in our passage is not to provide a thorough explanation of demon-possession and exorcism, though these verses do have bearing on that subject. Instead, Christ is emphasizing once again the necessity of whole-hearted commitment to Himself. It is not enough to experience the good things of the kingdom; repentance and obedience must follow. Life-transforming discipleship must fill the void left by sin and evil. Otherwise it would be better not to be freed from such slavery at all (Matt. 12:38–42).

Coram Deo

Modern commentators like James Boice have expressed grave concern for the present generation of Americans. Like those who lived during the time of Jesus, many people in the United States have experienced profound material blessings without turning from their sin and rebellion. Our pews are filled with people who lack faith even though they have seen the power of the Gospel in preaching and in answers to the prayers of others. Are you one of these individuals?

Passages for Further Study

  • 1 Sam. 15:22– 23; 16:14
  • Luke 11:24–26
  • 2 Peter 2:20–22
  • Revelation 3:1–6

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