Sunday, February 7, 2016

Did Jesus Wanted God To Forgive His Killers, Or Wanted Them To Repent?

What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said, "Father, Forgive Them, For They Do Not Know What They Do"?

Question : What did Jesus really mean when He said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." (Luke 23:34). Does this mean that Jesus is praying for his killers to be forgiven by God as they do not know really what they were doing while they were killing and mocking Jesus during Crucifixion, or Jesus wants them to repent to be saved? If the prayer of Jesus was accepted by God the Father at that time, does that mean that all who crucified and mocked him were also saved because of that prayer?

Answer : Greetings to you in Jesus wonderful name! It is indeed a nice question, because if we see for the first time this statement which Jesus prayed to God while hanging on the Cross saying,
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." (Luke 23:34), it seems like Jesus was dangling in to universalism where all people were believed to be unconditionally forgiven of all their sins without them asking God for forgiveness because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, and then as we know that God has accepted Jesus as a substitutional sacrifice for the sins of the whole world which include all humans, and therefore we have reason to believe that He must have heard this above prayer too (1 John 2:2; John 3:16) .

But it is far from truth because the Bible says,
"Search from the book of the LORD, and read: Not one of these shall fail; Not one shall lack her mate. For My mouth has commanded it, and His Spirit has gathered them." (Isa 34:16). This means God is saying for every Scripture we read there will be another Scripture related to it in some other part of the Bible through which we can really substantiate whether what we believe about a Scripture as the right meaning is true or false. The Bible also says, "Out of mouth of two or three witnesses, every word shall be established." (2 Cor 13:1).

So taking another verse where the same type of prayer has been prayed for their enemies is the prayer of Stephen when he was killed unlawfully for preaching the Gospel, here is what the Bible says about this event,
" 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. " (Acts 7:59-60). Here also we see that at first it seems like if Stephen's prayer was heard by God, then God must not have retained this sin even though it is murderous plot of the wicked people who killed him unlawfully.

But generally this cannot be so, because the very first opening statement of Jesus ministry was,
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matt 3:2). That means each person should realize that they are sinners who are lost and should make a turn of 180 degree towards God in the opposite direction, and receive Jesus as the substitute for all their sins through which God has saves them from it all (Rom 10:9-10, 11-12, 13). Scripture cannot contradict itself. So we should not misunderstand Scripture when what we believe as true at the first sight, differs from the truth of the other revealed Scripture in the same subject, but it does means the direct meaning of it should not be taken but rather a metaphorical [i.e. figurative] or spiritual meaning of it should be taken in to consideration to explain the truth.

We see after this statement of Jesus and Stephen, we see many people who believed Jesus were saved. One of the person who got saved among those who killed Stephen was the greatest apostle of all time in the Church, the apostle Paul. Apostle Paul in his own words later confessed like this to the Lord Jesus after His conversion,
"19... ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. 20 And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’" (Acts 22:19-20). Here we see the real meaning of the prayer of Stephen, God not only forgave the murderer who consented to the death of His follower and worker Stephen, but also made him to become a great and important apostle of all times, after he repented being supernaturally encountered by the Lord on the road to Damascus.

The same apostle Paul said still later,
"12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life." (1 Tim 1:12-16). Here in the above testimony of apostle Paul we see that he says, "I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." If God retained the sin of Paul, he would have never had the chance to become even a saved believer to go to heaven, let alone being a apostle and that too one of the greatest in the Church to write even one third of the entire New Testament Bible. All those who consented and murdered Stephen that day, all of them did not later become believers or apostles, why? Because they might not have accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord as Paul did in his life. What does this shows to us? Even though God might be willing, desiring and being ready to forgive the sins of all sinners, unless a sinner repents from sin and turns to God and accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they cannot be really forgiven by God (1 Tim 2:3-4, 5-6; Ezek 18:23, 21-22). But when sinners repent and turn to God from all their evil and sinful ways seeking salvation, God and all his angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner after another who repents and get saved to become a child of God (Luke 15:7, 10).

The Bible reveals a example that Jesus gave regarding this,
"There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”" (Luke 13:1-5). All humans are sinner and sudden destruction will befall to all sinners alike, unless they realize that they are sinners in need of salvation from God. In other words, all humans will perish like those who perish suddenly by accidents or as rebels and warriors for a cause or for any other thing because life is not permanent, so that repentance before that day of death will make any human to live in relationship with God forevermore. Even if in case they die due to their own ways, yet they will live with God in heaven because of what Jesus has done for them on the Cross (John 11:25-26; Col 2:13-14,15). No humans can be able to repent after death or even pass messages of warning to their living blood relatives on earth (Luke 16:22-23, 24-25, 26, 27-28), because God in his word has said that, "It is appointed once for man to die, and after that God's judgment will come." (Heb 9:27). So here Jesus has made it as clear as a crystal, that no humans can ever be saved unless they repent from sin and turn to God to receive His forgiveness, or else no matter who they are, that is whether they are religious or atheist or idolater, it doesn't matter, all of them will perish and be separated from God to go to hell fire after their physical death.

In every way all people before they were saved are actually enemies of God
(Rom 5:6-7, 7-8, 9-10), God through Jesus have accepted His sacrifice of life as a substitute for all of us sinners, and have initiated reconciliation through Jesus Christ (Rom 5:11). So the prayer that Jesus prayed while hanging on the Cross saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." (Luke 23:34), does mean that because God has heard that prayer of Jesus and have answered it, He has not got angry against all the sinners who killed His very own only begotten Son whom He sent (Matt 21:37-41, 42; Lev 25:17, 23), but rather chose to forgive all the sinners irrespective of their sin, who come to Him through believing in His Son who has died for them. We see this in context, just after this prayer of Jesus, two thieves who were crucified as sinners one at the left side and the other at the right side, were also mockers of Jesus seeing the sign, 'King of the Jews' written on the top of his cross (Matt 27:37-38, 39-41, 42-44), but when one of the robber realized the purity of the character of Jesus in staying silent against the mockery of all of them, and also his gentleness in silently bearing the suffering He was going through (1 Peter 2:23), immediately he repented of his sins and turned to Jesus for salvation, and thus immediately he got His assurance from Jesus Himself that he was saved from his sin to live eternally with God (Luke 23:34, 39-43). In a fraction of seconds before entering in to hell fire, this repentant thief, changed the direction of his eternal dwelling and suddenly found Himself under the eternal grace, mercy and salvation of God to finally enter in to heavenly paradise of eternal friendship and fellowship with God the Father through believing Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. GLORY TO GOD!

If a sinner doesn't know that he is a sinner, then how God is going to make him accountable for his sins? We see that the Scripture says,
"11 For there is no partiality with God. 12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel." (Rom 2:11-16). These above verses says, that God never shows any partiality to any one person or a group, but rather He has clearly told that those who sin after knowing the law of God whether righteous or wicked will die when they unfaithfully continue to sin not doing what they read and hear from the Word of God and His voice that come to their hearts and consciences (Ezek 18:24, 26, 27). The righteous will die physically, but the wicked who is not saved will die eternally. When a person have not the law of God given to them like all those people apart from the Jews in all the world in all the ages who were born outside of the nation of Israel, God says that, "the work of the law [is] written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)", so whether saved or unsaved God says the conscience bears witness to their wrong doings. To someone unsaved, though they do not have the power to not to do evil, they know within their heart and within their conscience that they are doing something wrong and is sinning against God, God expects these unbelievers to grope for Him in the darkness of the world in sincerity to find Him and the truth of God and His eternal friendship of salvation (Acts 17:26, 27). This means that when God judges a person after death, he will judge based on what they know within them as truth and yet denied the existence of it (Rom 1:21-22). And they will be made accountable for what they did not do with what opportunity they had in this life to find God and repent to be saved (Matt 25:24-30). Once the Word of God judges them (John 12:47, 48), after that their conscience and thoughts will accuse them in the time to come for eternity ahead of how they did not seek a way out of sin to get saved from it through the help of God, when they had a lifetime of opportunity that God gave for them to get saved, they will run in to eternal fire led by condemnation from themselves and within (John 3:18, 19).

The bottom line is like this, the conscience of a person will either condemn him or justify him automatically when he stands before the judgment of God, that is the Bema Judgment after the rapture of the Church for the righteous, and for the unbelievers who stand before God the White Throne judgment after the Millennium rule of Jesus
(2 Cor 5:10-11; Rev 20:11-15). Jesus also said that His word will judge people during the final judgment, that means God's law written in the Law of Moses and Prophets, the New Testament and the natural law of conscience will all act together as the measuring rod for judging all humans lives, and thus God will reward them according to their doing (John 12:47-48). Whoever will reject Jesus and his precious salvation, will have no mercy from God available in this life or in the life to come from God at the time of His judgment (Heb 10:29-30), because they loved darkness rather than the gospel light of Jesus that came towards them, they rejected the light because their deeds were evil, and therefore he who does not believe in Jesus is already condemned (John 3:18-19).

Finally we see as Isaiah the prophet revealed,
"...And He [i.e. Jesus] bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isa 53:12), which makes us see clearly that the intercessory prayer for the transgressors done by Jesus by saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." (Luke 23:34) is not only a prophetic fulfillment of it, but also it shows that this prayer becomes effective only upon those who receive Jesus by experience of salvation, and these are the only people who will partake of the answer of this prayer that Jesus did to the Father during his Crucifixion, and therefore the grace of God is supplied only to these whose sin Jesus has borne when they received Him as their Savior and Lord of their lives (John 17:9). And the love of God and intimacy of fellowship that He manifests in the lives of believers is a tool through which God wants all humans to receive the same message the believers have believed and got saved through the prayer that Jesus made (John 17:26, 23). So the prayer of Jesus is a fragrance [i.e. life-giving perfume] to life for those who are being saved and to those who are not being saved, it is a fearful smell of death and doom (2 Cor 2:16). For the best translation of Jesus prayer must be paraphrased like this, "Father, forgive them of their past, present and future sins when they will come to realize that they are sinners and need me as their Savior, as for now they don't realize what they are doing is in rebellion to you and your precepts." (Luke 24:34, Abi's Version). So God desires, all sinners to repent and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and wants them to continue to seek Him for the rest of their lives, so that they might thus receive the assurance of the forgiveness of sins, and with that eternal abundant life of joy, peace and righteousness that follows it might be given by God continually to them as a eternal gift to enjoy personally and individually, so that many more might see their life of love towards one another and towards God, and be drawn to God to receive salvation for themselves and their families by recognizing their need for salvation (Luke 24:44-45, 46, 47-49; Rom 6:23).

Much Blessings....


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