In this installment, we will mainly address the question as to why there would be “stripes” or punishment for unrepented sins and sometimes even for those sins which were subsequently repented of. This question applies to people in this day and age, as well as those who will be raised in the Second Resurrection or the Great White Throne Judgment.
We must realize that sin may have automatic consequences. For instance, if we drive under the influence of alcohol and are responsible for a serious car accident, which may result in bodily injury of ourselves and others, or even in the death of an innocent person, then these consequences will remain for the rest of our lives, even though God will forgive our sinful conduct upon true and genuine repentance. But the death or the loss of limb will not be automatically “annulled,” as if it had never happened.
This is also true when our long-time smoking results in cancer. God forgives the sin of smoking upon repentance, but there is no guarantee that He will also heal us from cancer which was caused by ourselves. God might heal us of this deadly disease, but then, He might decide, based on individual circumstances, that it may be better NOT to heal us from cancer in this life.
Another example would be the murder of innocent human beings. Before conversion, many might have participated in war, and they might have even killed innocent civilians in the “enemy country.” Upon repentance and conversion, God forgives such sins of murder, but this does not bring the killed “enemies” or civilians back to life in this day and age. A mother might have aborted her child and might later bitterly repent of that sin. But God’s forgiveness does not make the child alive again in this life. However, all of these innocent victims will become alive again in the Second Resurrection.
Consider that even though God forgave David his sins, He later brought up again “the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5), as this was not sinful conduct which was committed because of ignorance or temporary temptation. Rather, these sins belonged to a slightly different category. It was not the unpardonable sin, to be sure, since David will be in the Kingdom of God (compare Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5; see also Luke 13:28, referring to “all the prophets,” and David was a prophet, Acts 2:29-31). However, they were not sins which were committed “in ignorance” or because of a temporary, passing weakness that had “snuck up” on David. Rather, this was planned, premeditated, carefully designed and thought-out sinful conduct. David thought through very diligently how to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba, until he resorted to the murder of Uriah. God brought up the “matter of Uriah,” because He was terribly grieved that David would have acted in such a way – and He wanted to impress on the reader the awful consequences of these sins for David and his entire household.
As we explained in previous Q&As, David was punished very severely for these sins, even though he had repented and obtained God’s forgiveness. But David was supposed to uphold the law of God and be a good example for others. In this instance, he failed miserably. God said that He “has put away” David’s sin (2 Samuel 12:13). But then, He gave the reason for David’s punishment, as follows: “… because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme…” (2 Samuel 12:14).
Note that God had clearly spelled out why and in what way He would punish David. In other examples given in previous Q&As in this series, we saw that God punished Moses and Miriam for their sins, but again, He spelled out very clearly what the punishment would be, and why it was given. We must not make the mistake of thinking that if things go wrong in our lives, God may be punishing us for sins which we might have committed earlier, but which we deeply repented of. IF punishment for previous sins is involved, God will make this very clear to us.
Of course, we must ask ourselves the question whether we did indeed deeply repent of our sins, and whether our conscience was completely purified, or whether we are still carrying with us feelings of guilt for sins which we committed earlier, and which we did NOT truly repent of. “Stripes” or punishment may have to be inflicted on us so that we can ultimately acquire a clean conscience (Hebrews 10:19-22; 13:18; 1 Timothy 1:5). It is also important to note that David, Moses, Miriam and others committed sins, for which they were punished, after they were converted and had received the Holy Spirit. Conversion does not make it impossible to sin (Romans 7:14-25; 1 John 2:8)… including very serious and grievous sins, such as the sins of David in the matter of Uriah. It is important that those sins are deeply repented of in this life, before we die.
But as we said, repentance does not necessarily prevent punishment in this life. One reason for punishment in some cases might very well be that God must show us the enormity of our sin, and totally “ignoring” sins without consequence may only lead to “temporary” repentance or regret, and not to ongoing, continuing and permanent repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Christ said that Paul had to learn how much He would have to suffer for Christ’s sake, AFTER his conversion, because he had persecuted the saints BEFORE his conversion (Acts 9:10-16). He received mercy because he acted “ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13), but that did not negate suffering.
We must also realize that when God punishes us for our sins, He does so to bring us to repentance. We read the following end-time prophecy in Joel 2:11-13: “The LORD gives voice before His army, For His camp is very great; For strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; Who can endure it? ‘Now, therefore,’ says the LORD, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God…”
God does not delight in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked repents and lives (Ezekiel 18:30-32). Sometimes “many stripes” in this life or in the Second Resurrection are necessary to bring a sinner to repentance. As was mentioned before, repentance is a process. God leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). And so, punishment for sin may be a necessity. Psalm 146:9 speaks about “punishment of the wicked”—including in this life—so that he might come to repentance: “The LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down (Lit.: “makes crooked”).”
John the Baptist told the hypocritical multitudes of his time: “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance… every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7-9). John addresses the need for true repentance to escape God’s wrath, including on the Day of the LORD, the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment period, and he warns that refusal of repentance will lead to destruction in the Gehenna Fire during the Third Resurrection.
Focusing on the Millennium and the Second Resurrection, we read in Psalm 149:5-9: “Let the saints be joyful in glory… Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand, To execute vengeance on the nations, And punishments on the peoples; To bind their kings with chains, And their nobles with fetters of iron; To execute on them the written judgment—This honor have all His saints.” This promise is confirmed by Christ in Revelation 2:26-27: “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I have also received from My Father.” The ultimate goal is that “‘…Every knee shall bow to Me [God], and every tongue shall confess to God’’ (Romans 14:11).
Please realize that God saw to it that certain sins of David were recorded, for everyone to read. In addition to David’s sinful conduct in the matter of Uriah, some of his other sins were recorded as well, such as his fighting in war and numbering his army. Furthermore, sins of other righteous men and women were recorded: Moses’s sin of murder and his later outburst before Israel, which prevented him from entering the Promised Land; Aaron and Miriam’s murmuring against Moses; Abraham and Isaac’s lies; Abraham and Sarah’s adultery because of lack of faith; Jacob’s deceit towards his father Isaac; Rachel’s theft of her father’s idol; Peter’s sin of lying and denying Christ three times, and his hypocrisy towards Gentile Christians; and Paul’s persecution of Christians when he was still known as Saul. The list could go on and on. We also believe that Solomon came to repentance at the end of his life, but his prior terrible sins were included in the Bible.
The sins of those mentioned above were forgiven (all of those men and women will be in the Kingdom of God as God beings), but their prior sins were not erased from the written Word of God—the Bible—and we are told that they were recorded as an example for our benefit today (1 Corinthians 10:11), and that ALL Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
In addition, we do not believe that Adam and Eve or Judas Iscariot have committed the unpardonable sin, since they never had God’s Holy Spirit, which means, that they will be given their opportunity to accept God’s Way of Life in the Second Resurrection; still, everyone knows and will know about [some of] their sins which they committed, as they are recorded in God’s Word. Jesus even said about Judas that it would have been better if he had not been born. We do not believe that these statements will ever be removed from the Bible. Adam, Eve and Judas will come back to life and will be offered true repentance, which they will hopefully accept. But again, their sins are recorded in the Bible, and the books of the Bible will be opened to the understanding of all who will be in the Great White Throne Judgment period (Revelation 20:12).
When we sin and do not repent, then our sins will stand against us. God will not forgive and forget them. The same is true for our friends and relatives. If they sin in this life, without repenting, God (and we as God Beings in the Kingdom) will not forgive and forget those sins prior to their repentance, but we will offer them repentance in the Great White Throne Judgment period so that their sins can be forgiven.
But what about sins which have been repented of? Don’t we read that God forgives our sins when we repent, and that “their sins and lawless deeds [He] will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34; Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12)? How can this be true for sins which are even recorded in the Bible?
The answer is that God casts all repented sins behind His back and into the depths of the sea, so that when they are sought for, they shall not be found IN THE SENSE that God will never charge us with them. He does not retain them in His mind in the sense that He will not revisit what has passed. This should show us that we must strive to do the same. When we forgive, we must also learn to avoid revisiting what has passed. This is something which those who come up in the Second Resurrection will have to learn as well, when they are confronted by, or confronting, their fellow man against whom they have sinned, or who might have sinned against them.
For instance, let’s take the example of killing in war. Those in the Second Resurrection will become aware of the fact that they committed murder. They will be led to repentance of their sin, and God will forgive them. But they will also meet those whom they murdered. The victims will need to come to the realization that they must forgive their murderers, as they themselves will also be in need of forgiveness of sins which they might have committed.
An unconverted or converted person might sin, as we saw, resulting in the death of another person (in war, through other killings, abortion etc.). Since the victim died, there was really no opportunity to achieve reconciliation with the victim before his or her death. Of course, God will forgive these sins upon genuine repentance, and the converted person [or the person coming to conversion in this day and age] will be in the First Resurrection if he or she subsequently dies in Christ.
Still, the person whom he or she killed will be raised in the Second Resurrection, and the converted person—now a God being—will face his or her victim before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Now picture this: The God being [who might even be involved in judging the person whom he had killed in this day and age] will still need to explain that he or she had repented of the sin of murder and that God forgave the sin, and that the murdered person must learn to forgive as well. Punishment which the God being received for the sin in his or her physical life, as a human being, might very well help the victim to accept the fact that he or she must extend forgiveness as well.
In this light, the warning of Paul takes on important additional meaning for us, when he said: “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10). He added in 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he had done, whether good or bad.”
Paul refers to the reward which we will receive, as we explain in our free booklet, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.” But we can also see now that more is involved, and that Paul might include here our appearance as God beings (!) before the Great White Throne Judgment Seat of Christ in the Second Resurrection.
It is obvious that true reconciliation will have to be achieved in the Second Resurrection even between an immortal saint and his or her prior victim, because it is the potential of the victim to enter the Family of God as well. These conversations might even include “stripes” for the immortal saint perhaps in the form of uncomfortable feelings of embarrassment—as unbelievable as this might sound at first—in that the saint will need one more time to focus on his or her prior wrong conduct and explain this to his or her victim, adding that because of the Supreme Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, his or her sins were forgiven upon repentance, and that the victim can obtain forgiveness as well for his or her sins, and that he or she needs to forgive in return (Matthew 6:14-15). THAT is how total reconciliation will be achieved. If Uriah will be in the Second Resurrection and not in the First, David will need to talk to him at that time about his adultery and murder, bringing about total reconciliation with him. One can only imagine the conversation which will take place then.
Of course, similar conversations will take place even in the First Resurrection. Imagine the scenario when Paul meets the Christians whom he persecuted and whom he had killed before his conversion. All of them, including Paul and his converted victims, will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ as immortal saints. They will talk to each other. Picture Stephen’s first meeting with Paul in the First Resurrection. Remember that Paul, as Saul, had delighted in Stephen’s death. Certainly, Stephen had asked God to forgive his murderers, including Saul, but when they meet each other in the First Resurrection, standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ, they will undoubtedly talk to each other about their prior lives.
Knowing all of this, it is important, as we have opportunity, to strive in this life for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation with everyone whom we might have wronged. Christ said that we have to give account for every idle word which we have spoken against someone else (Matthew 12:36-37)… how much more for every wicked and evil deed. Forgiveness for our sins and reconciliation with our fellow man must be achieved… either in this life (Matthew 5:21-24) or in the life to come.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link