“God has forgiven all my sins, past, present and future.” This was heard from a couple of pulpits in the last year, and repeated online in a couple of Bible teachings. It sounds reasonable given God’s view of time, but the subtlety of this heresy bears careful examination.
We have no argument against God’s forgiveness of past sins. (1 John 2:12) Even present battles in which a man or woman struggles against weaknesses (1 John 2:1), or in which ignorance or misinformation misleads a follower of Jesus, are clearly forgivable in God’s (and our) eyes. (Acts 17:30; 1 Timothy 1:13)
It is this “future” forgiveness that gets us into theological and practical trouble.
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse” is an American expression of the Rule of Law and is applied in many circumstances, such as a speeder who drives faster than the speed limit, even when the speed limit sign is missing or has been defaced. This idea comes from the original Law of Moses, Leviticus 5:15-17 which says, “If anyone sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty and will be held responsible.“ However, reading it in context, one cannot miss that this is describing a path to forgiveness, not condemnation. The offense is still punishable, the offender is still guilty, but there is a clear path, that on discovery of one’s ignorance or lack of bad intention, there is forgiveness available, and the punishment is annulled.
Our courts understand this principle, giving out lesser punishment for “first-time” offenders than for repeat offenders. The hope is that perhaps the criminal did not understand the significance of his crime, and will learn from a small or even “suspended” sentence, and will not return. But such mercy is usually lacking for the repeat-offender who shows up before a court more than once for the same crime. The punishment becomes more severe with each repeat. Such is intuitively acceptable to any civilized person.
However, the forgiveness of “future” sin leads us into murky waters that are much less clear, and seriously dangerous. It is based on the idea that God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and that the atonement for our sins is based on the sacrifice of Jesus’ life on the cross, an event that was planned before the creation was completed. (Revelation 13:8)
We cannot argue with these two premises, clearly taught in the Bible. The application of them to our future forgiveness, though, requires the assumption of a viewpoint that we cannot reach. Only God knows the end from the beginning. No one on earth shares that knowledge (Isaiah 40:13-14), and even those who have died do not seem to be clear on how and when events will unfold in this drama we call “life.” (Revelation 6:9-10)
The problem with the statement “God has forgiven my sins, past, present and future” lies in the verb. “Has” is a past tense verb, admitting a constraint within time, while “future” is a time constraint of what has not yet occurred. This is the same error the unbeliever makes when he thinks he will confound the believer with the question, “Can God make a rock too big for Himself to lift?” If the believer says, “No,” the unbeliever jumps for joy because he thinks he has just “proven” there is something God cannot do.
However, within the argument is a logical fallacy of the absurd. God’s “inability” to make a rock too large for Himself to lift is no more an “inability” than for His limitation that he cannot make “dry water” or “hot ice.” Things He creates are logically consistent, and He cannot deny His character and make something logically inconsistent. In the same way, though He may know how the end will turn out, and from His perspective, He will have forgiven all our sins by the time we arrive in Heaven, He has not yet forgiven our future sins from our perspective, simply because from our perspective we have not committed them yet!
So for us to presume that we know that God will forgive us for something we will do next week is to put ourselves in God’s place and announce our forgiveness before it has occurred in our perspective. There is reassurance that if I sin unintentionally or in ignorance, I can rest in faith that God will forgive me. But if I presume upon this, that I can sin, knowing that I am sinning and that I am going to keep on sinning, I run a danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is noted by Jesus as the one unforgivable sin! (Luke 12:8-10)
And what is “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?” Blasphemy is defined as “
It should be easy to see how unscrupulous people can warp this idea of God forgiving future sin as an excuse to sin: “Well, God has already forgiven me for what I am going to do this Thursday night. I’ll just confess it to Him at the church on Sunday.” But such thinking leads to a false repentance and rests on presumption of God’s perspective. It is psychologically unsound and theologically dangerous.
It is wonderful to know that when we fail, we do not cease to be His redeemed children; he does not disown us for our acts of sin. But this must always be balanced with the understanding that while God will never disown us, we can disown Him; i.e. we can cease to be His children by our choice. Becoming a Christ-follower does not remove our free will; just as we freely receive His grace, we can reject it and this is cause for fear! “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men.” (2 Corinthians 5:11 – Darby); “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.” (Romans 11:22)
So we conclude God has NOT forgiven my or your future sins! Only He knows the end from the beginning, and to assume we know that to is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit of God. “He has shown you, oh mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8