Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness
Feb 20, 2007
Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness are close relatives, but they do have their differences. Grace postpones judgment and limits judgment for sin in the law of Jubilee. Mercy seeks to find an alternative to judgment. Forgiveness cancels the judgment altogether.
Sometimes these concepts are difficult to isolate and identify, because they are so closely linked, and in most situations they are found working together.
Grace is often thought of as a means of avoiding judgment altogether, but this is not true. The misconception comes as a byproduct of putting away the law, by which God judges all things. But Jesus did not put away the law; in fact, He upheld it by agreeing to pay its full penalty for the sin of the world. If He had repealed the law, the world would have become sinless, because where there is no law, there is no transgression (Rom. 4:15). This would have de-criminalized all sin and made all mankind legally perfect--though personally imperfect.
Jesus chose instead to pay the full penalty by redeeming the world, re-purchasing it for Himself, so that He would have the lawful authority to save them by a longer, more painful process of drawing the world by Love.
By going this route, He retained the right to judge mankind for sin. Thus, even Christians are disciplined and judged for sin, not so that we might be lost forever, but so that we would mature and develop the character of Christ. Like a good parent, His judgments are corrective and administered in Love.
There are also Grace Periods of Time, illustrated by Jesus' statement to Peter in Matthew 18:22 that one should forgive 70 x 7, or 490 times. The time period of 490 days (personal) or 490 years (national) is a very important Grace Period in biblical history. At the end of Daniel's 490 years (33 A.D.) God reckoned the account (Matt. 18:23). That is why Jesus went to the cross at that time. He paid the full penalty of the debt owed because of sin.
In Secrets of Time, I speak also of shorter Grace Periods such as 414 years (Cursed Time) and 434 years (Judged time). Grace holds back judgment to give people and nations time to repent, so that the judgment might possibly be forgiven and cancelled altogether.
Mercy seeks an alternative to the judgment for sin. By God's mercy, He has raised up intercessors to help pay down the debt to sin. Jesus was the great Intercessor, of course, who paid for the sin of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Many of the body of Christ have also been called as intercessors on a lesser scale and have tasted the sufferings of Christ for the sake of those who persecute and falsely accuse them.
Mercy is not the same as a cancellation of sin. Mercy shifts the penalty to intercessors, who often pay the penalty with their very lives. An intercessor extends mercy to the sinner by taking part of the penalty upon himself or herself. In so doing, the intercessor purchases spiritual authority over those for whom he or she intercedes, whereby many sons may be brought into glory.
Thus, if a sinner is sentenced to 40 lashes with a whip, and as an intercessor I take 20 of those stripes upon myself, I have shown mercy to the sinner at my own expense. When the time of intercession is complete, God will give me a corresponding level of spiritual authority, for I have taken the responsibility of his sin upon myself. Authority and responsibility always go in equal measures.
Forgiveness in the presence of sin is beyond the law's capability. Only the victim has the authority to forgive the wrong. A biblical judge does not have the authority to cancel any portion of the debt to sin that is owed to the victim. The judge can only determine guilt by witnesses and then impose the precise sentence of the law--no more and no less.
Once the sentence has been imposed, the victim then is empowered to collect the entire debt or to forgive any portion of it as he chooses.
An intercessor is a victim of someone else's sin and thus empowered to forgive as well.
Last week I wrote about the Divine Court, which men may appeal to if justice is not done on the earth. That is a victim's lawful right. He may seek justice, or he may seek the authority over the sinner that comes with being an intercessor. To absorb the wrong and forgive goes against human nature. It is "unnatural" to the Adamic flesh, nor is the old man capable of it.
This fact restricts spiritual authority to those who are in training to be leaders, priests of God and of Christ, overcomers. The way to being a ruler in God's Kingdom is purposely made difficult so that only those who have a heart of forgiveness will be given such authority. God will have no tyrants ruling in His Kingdom. He seeks those who follow Jesus' example, who think like He thinks, do as He does, and speak as He speaks. He seeks an Amen people.
The Hebrew word for "forgive" is sawlach, spelled samech (60), lamed (30), and chet (8). It has a numeric value of 98, which is two Jubilees.
Jacob's name was changed to Israel at the age of 98. That was when he came to understand the sovereignty of God in all things. That was when he finally understood that he had been wrestling with God, thinking that he was fighting Esau. Many people today are fighting Esau, not realizing that they are fighting God. The next day, after Jacob's revelation, he was able to say to Esau in Gen. 33:10, "I see your face as one sees the face of God."
It is doubtful if Esau understood this statement, but Jacob had just finished wrestling with Angel Peniel, "God's face," and had named the place "Penuel" after the name of the Angel.
Jacob's age (98) provides us with a hidden mathematical link to the concept of forgiveness, sawlach, showing us that Jacob's heart of bitterness toward Esau had finally been eradicated. Of course, Esau's bitter heart had not been changed, though his behavior was different.
Another example of a 98-year illustration is in the time from Eli's death to the day the glory of God filled Solomon's Temple. In the days of Eli, the Ark of God was captured by the Philistines at the feast of Tabernacles. 1 Sam. 6:1 and 13 say it was returned seven months later at the time of wheat harvest (Pentecost). Thus, we know the Ark was taken at the time of the previous Feast of Tabernacles.
The glory departed, and Eli's grandson, Ichabod, was born (1 Sam. 4:19-21). His name means "the glory has departed." The glory returned 98 years later to the Temple of Solomon. This represents a time of forgiveness and Jubilee (49 x 2).
I find it interesting that Eli was also 98 years old when the glory departed. It took 98 years, represented by his corrupt priesthood, to bring about the departure of God's glory. The nation did not receive forgiveness at that time, for they had judged themselves. In taking up the Ark to the battlefield, they had fulfilled Moses' word in Num. 10:35, which was spoken each time the Ark was taken up: "Rise up, O Lord! And let Thine enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Thee flee before Thee." They soon discovered that God's enemy was Israel, for they were in rebellion against Him. The army of Israel was scattered (1 Sam. 4:10).
It then took another 98 years for God's glory to return, for God intended to show us numerically the principle of forgiveness of sin. God was the victim of Israel's sin, and He chose to withdraw His presence for 98 years and then to forgive the past corruption of the priesthood.
Dr. Stephen Jones