Forgiveness is a central theme of the Gospel. The only way we can approach the Living God is by having our sins covered and forgiven through the blood of the Messiah, Christ Jesus. Once we have been forgiven we are expected to forgive others. In His teaching, Jesus came down very hard on those who received God’s forgiveness, but then withheld it from others.
General Rules of Forgiveness
Believers are to extend forgiveness to an almost limitless degree. Seventy times seven is the formula Jesus gave for forgiveness (Matt. 18:22). The impression is that we are to forgive anyone who has wronged us repeatedly ad infinitum. We are, in fact, commanded to forgive our enemies. There are numerous examples in the Scriptures where men of God forgave those who mistreated them and even tried to or succeeded in killing them (Joseph and his brothers, David, Saul, Christ and His executioners).
Is there, then, anyone who we do not have to forgive? For instance, if someone were to kill our spouses or our children, would we be required to forgive that person? We would certainly be justified in seeking justice against whoever killed our loved ones. Would that be contrary to the New Testament standards of forgiveness?
Does God Forgive Everyone?
Does God forgive everyone? Are there those whom God will not forgive? The Universalists teach that ultimately God will forgive all beings, but this is not the teaching of Scripture. It appears that there are several categories of beings whom God has not and will never forgive for their sins and rebellions against Him:
- Satan, and all those angels who rebelled with him against God in the initial sin. These fallen angels are the demons described in the Bible.
- The “angels who left their habitation,” who are restrained in chains for judgment and may be in a different category than those in group one (Jude 6).
- All humans who die in unrepentance and in rejection of the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are assured that none of these beings will ever be forgiven by God. He has prepared the Lake of Fire for Satan and his rebellious angelic host, and humans who are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will share that ghastly eternal punishment forever and ever (Rev. 20:15).
Will God Forgive the Leaders of the Holocaust?
What about those who have had as one of their main purposes the goal of destroying the Lord’s covenant people, the Jews? This is a special category of evil humans, and includes the perpetrators of the Nazi German Holocaust. It has long been recognized that they systematically killed approximately six million Jews in Europe during World War II, or about one third of the entire Jewish population on earth.
One of our primary guides in Israel, Zvi Rivai, who is a Messianic believer in the Lord Jesus, has informed us that new evidence indicates the killing was even worse, and there may be as many as seven million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis. They were able to do this because of the willing cooperation of many Germans, Poles and other European collaborators. Indeed, Jews were trapped in the European hell in part because of the indifference to their plight practiced by Britain, America and the rest of the world. Anyone who is interested in the facts of the Holocaust would do well to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
At any rate, most of the Nazi criminals are dead, although some have certainly been harbored with assumed identities by various sympathetic countries around the world. Should the Jewish people forgive the Nazis? Should we who claim the name of Christ forgive the Nazis?
Frankly, I am not aware of any of the Nazi war criminals who have come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, although there may be some who have. Almost all of them who have come to public attention appear to be so hardened and sold out to Satan that repentance and faith are the furthest things from their minds.
Were Pharaoh and Haman Forgiven?
The Holocaust’s perpetrators appear to fit into the category of those who have tried to destroy the Jewish people throughout history. At least a couple of individuals like this are described in the Scriptures: the Pharaoh of the Exodus from Egypt, and Haman of the Persian court of Xerxes (Ahasuerus) in the Book of Esther. When Pharaoh’s massive cavalry perished in the waters of the Red Sea, Moses and his sister Miriam composed a victory song. There was no thought of forgiveness for these Egyptians, who had enslaved the Jews and sought to destroy them.
Likewise, when Haman, in his anti-Jewish fury, schemed to have all Jews murdered on a certain date, the tables were turned on him, and he himself and his Persian henchmen were executed on that very date, which is now celebrated as the Feast of Purim. There is no cry for forgiveness in the Scripture for these inveterate enemies of the Lord and Israel. Rather, there is joy and a sense of victory over the righteous judgment of those who have tried to destroy the Lord’s Chosen Nation.
Will the Antichrist be Forgiven?
In addition, the Scriptures describe the just fate of the chief hater of the Jews, the Antichrist. We read in Revelation 12 that when Satan is finally expelled from Heaven, he will realize that his time is short. He will then rededicate himself to destroying the woman who gave birth to the man-child who will rule the world with a rod of iron. The clear interpretation is that in the middle of the Tribulation, Satan will redouble his efforts to destroy the Jewish people. He will do this through his appointed ruler, the Antichrist, the Beast. The saints in Heaven ask the Lord how long it will be before their blood is avenged.
For his efforts to kill the saints and destroy Israel, the Beast and his False Prophet will have the dubious distinction of being the first creatures to be cast into the eternal Lake of Fire. No forgiveness is contemplated for them, and there is again a sense of righteous victory in Heaven when these haters of Israel and God receive their just desserts.
Balancing Forgiveness and Justice
In the Church Age, our dispensation is characterized by grace and mercy from God. When the disciples implored the Lord to rain down fire upon the cities that rejected their message, Jesus replied, “Ye know not what Spirit ye are of” (Luke 9:55). We are not supposed to go around calling down God’s judgment on those who do not receive the Lord. Nevertheless, we should not have a neutral attitude toward those who display a hatred against the Jews and attempt to annihilate them.
History shows that when the Jews are attacked, evangelical Christians are not far behind as targets. This is true whether it occurs in outright pagan societies or in professing Christian societies. Satan fights all representations of the Living God, whether His Chosen Nation of Israel or His born-again believers in the Church. We should pray for these enemies of the Lord, that they would repent and be saved. But if they persist in their evil and unrepentant attitude, we should also rejoice in their judgment.