God’s forgiveness will not clear the iniquity

Many Christians believe that doing some iniquity and asking forgiveness from God will clear the iniquity as if they had never did that. God said that He will forgive the iniquity of those who ask forgiveness but He will not clear that iniquity to leave them unpunished. Receiving forgiveness but not clearing the iniquity means not to remove the curses or the punishment for that iniquity. Is that so? Let’s see.

Israelites Pardoned, yet Punished

Exod 34:6-7 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing [the guilty], visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

After the children of Israel committed idolatry, God spoke the above words. It seems to say that God forgives the iniquity but does not clear guilty implying the guilty and the forgiven sinner aren’t same. However, the guilty was an added text by the translator. Let’s see if the translator is correct by asking God Himself.

Num 14:17-19 “And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, ‘The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ “Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”

When the people rebelled against God, Moses intercedes for them by quoting what God spoke earlier, that He is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression. Moses wants God to pardon the iniquity of the people. What was God’s response?

Num 14:20 Then the LORD said: “I have pardoned, according to your word;

God promptly pardoned those people. Since God Himself had pardoned the people, no punishment should follow right? Wrong!

Num 14:21 “but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD–  because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.

God promptly pardoned the people according to the word of Moses, but He made sure they are punished accordingly. Hence, God forgiving sins does not mean you escape from His punishment.

Jer 51:56 … For the LORD is the God of recompense, He will surely repay.

It is important to remember that our LORD is a God of recompense.

David forgiven, yet punished

“Thou Art The Man,” a painting on Nathan the Prophet rebuking David (by Peter Frederick Rothermel)

David killed Uriah and took his wife as his own. God sent Nathan to confront him.

2Sam 12:9-12 ‘Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ ”

Nathan then declares God’s judgement for his sins. God said, He will raise an adversary from his own house who will take his wives and sleep with them before all Israel. For David did in secret with another man’s wife but God will make the adversary do with David’s wife in public. This is a terrible punishment and a curse on David.

2Sam 12:13a So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

David was terrified to hear what Nathan spoke and immediately he repented. Psalms 51 explains his heart of repentance.

2Sam 12:13b And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

Ezek 18:26-28 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

David was righteous but he committed iniquity. According to the law, there is no atonement for David and he must die. Yet, David pleads with God and He hears the prayer of David and forgives him by putting away his sin and confirmed that he shall not die because of that sin.

2Sam 12:14 “However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.”

But then, God said something interesting. God is punishing David by taking the child’s life for the sins which God just put away. Hence, forgiveness from God means it is referring to eternal life or death because of the iniquity, not curses or punishment in this world because of it.

2Sam 16:22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.

God even fulfilled all the punishments which he spoke for the sins which He already forgave by making David’s own son taking David’s wives and sleeping with them before all of Israel.

Why God’s forgiveness didn’t stop the Punishment?

Deut 6:16-18 “You shall not tempt the LORD your God as you tempted Him in Massah. You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you. And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land of which the LORD swore to your fathers,

In case of Israelites, God very clearly warned that they must not tempt Him but diligently keep His commandments, His testimonies, and His statutes for them to be well and go into the promised land and possess it. However, they failed at the base of Mount Sinai and God did not take back His Word for He cannot.

2Sam 12:9-12 ‘Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ ”

Lev 26:14-17 ‘But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you.

David despised God and His commandments and God did exactly what was told in the law. David’s own son became his enemy and David fled from him.

New Covenant

Can God punish for our sins which He already forgave?

Matt 18:32-35 “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Jesus taught in one of His parables that God can punish us for the sins which He already forgave if we become unworthy of the forgiveness we received from Him. Hence, it is extremely important that we forgive all who sin against us by bearing fruits of repentance.

Matt 5:23-24 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 

Jesus also taught us that it is our responsibility to reconcile with the brother if he has something against us even before giving a gift to God.

Luke 19:8-9 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;

Only when Zacchaeus cleared up his iniquity with those he sinned against, Jesus said that Salvation had come to his house. Hence, it is our responsibility to make things right and remove iniquity from us. God is not going to hear a prayer of forgiveness when you still have the stolen money with you or the family you sinned against is suffering because of you. However, God is willing to forgive you if you can’t pay your debt. But for the debt you can pay, you must pay.

Matt 18:24-27 “And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

As in the parable of unforgiving servant, the servant must pay the debt with what he had. The servant didn’t come with the expectation of the King being compassionate. Hence, it is our responsibility to settle all our debt with those who we sinned against. If we don’t settle our iniquity even though we can, our sins may be forgiven but God will repay for the iniquity just as He did to Israelites and king David.

What about Christ’s atonement?

Matt 15:24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Ezek 16:63 “that you may remember and be ashamed, and never open your mouth anymore because of your shame, when I provide you an atonement for all you have done,” says the Lord GOD.’ ”

Christ came only for the lost sheep of Israel and as an atonement for Israel. Hence, it is wrong to assume Christ came to gentile Christians and died as an atonement for all the world for all the sins. He died to defeat death and now holds the keys to death and Hades (Rev 1:18). Why should He die for any future sins when He already holds the key to death and Hades? He created a new covenant with His own blood with Israel and a light to gentiles (Isa 42:6) and does not exclude gentiles from this new covenant (Matt 8:10-11). If we are found worthy of that covenant by coming to the light and obeying Him (John 3:19-21), we receive salvation (Luke 20:35).

Christ’s sacrifice provides a way for those who are worthy of death according to the law to receive atonement. Hence, those who are cursed to death in the law now have a way through Christ to receive atonement. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross does not remove any curses spoken by God but rather, it provides a way to eternal life through the curse of death. Just because Christ died on the cross does not mean we stopped working, sweating or dying or becoming dust. Christ’s sacrifice didn’t remove any birth pains from ladies either. Hence, it is important to remember that our curses because of our iniquity are not removed by Christ’s death. But when God forgives us from our sins, He clears up the way for eternal life. God’s forgiveness does not remove the curses we brought upon ourselves because of our iniquity. Even at this, we still have hope because, just as Levi was cursed to have no inheritance by Jacob, but when he stood with God, He Himself became their inheritance making the curse on Levi to become the greatest blessing anyone can receive. God can even overturn curses into blessings while fulfilling the curse to it’s very word, just as He did to Levi.

Hence, Christ’s atonement does not remove curses, just as it did not remove any curses from the garden of Eden.

Conclusion

God said that He will forgive the iniquity of those who ask forgiveness but He will not clear that iniquity to leave them unpunished. Just as Zacchaeus, it is our responsibility to settle our iniquity with others for salvation to come to our home. Christ’s atonement does not remove curses, just as it did not remove any curses from the garden of Eden. His sacrifice provides a way of eternal life through the curse of death, not avoid the curse of death.