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Chapter 8. Receiving Pardon

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"For thy name's sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great" (Psalms 25:11).

From what do I need pardoned?

We learned in the previous chapter that everyone is born powerless to determine and follow their own will, thus rendering them selfish and sinful according to Satan's direction. They are unable to fully eliminate harmful desires and erroneous thinking. Without intervention, all would continue in sin and die as a result.

"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

Thankfully, Christ has intervened and offered a way to stop being selfish and ruled by sins that cause pain and death. However, what about all the sins you've already committed? If the wages of sin is death, you deserve to die despite what you do in the future. What exactly is meant by death? Note that the above text is contrasting death with eternal life. It is the eternal death, or the second death mentioned in Revelation (2:11, 20:6, 20:14 and 21:8), not the first death that all people experience, that is here being referred. There are many varying understandings regarding immortality and life after death. Before looking at the Bible references, let's examine the associated Greek and Hebrew words.

What is death and hell?

The Hebrew word "sheol" means the grave or place of the dead. The King James Version of the Bible translates sheol into grave (32 times), hell (31 times) and the pit (3 times). However, the New International Version consistently translates sheol to grave (58 times) or death/depths (8 times). This is important, because in more modern times the word hell came to mean something very different from the grave and sheol couldn't be accurately translated into hell anymore. Instead of being a place of the dead, the word hell has come to be understood as a place of burning for the living! The original Hebrew does not support this concept.

The equivelant of the Old Testament word "sheol" in the New Testament is the Greek word "Haides." It also means the place or state of departed souls (the meaning of soul is discussed later), or the grave. Both mean the place where the dead reside. The King James Version translates haides to hell (11 times). However, the New International Version translates haides to death (1 time), realm of the dead (2 times) and hades (8 times). In times past, the word hell meant to hide, conceal or cover up, thus hell and grave could at times be used interchangeably. Studying these original words reveal that when we read the word "Hell" in our Bibles, it should usually be thought of in the same way you would think of the word "grave."

The concept of hell meaning a place of burning is only accurate when translated from the original word "Gehenna" in the New Testament (occurs 12 times - Mt. 5:22, Mt. 5:29, Mt. 5:30, Mt. 10:28, Mt. 18:9, Mt. 23:15, Mt. 23:33, Mk. 9:43, Mk 9:45, Mk 9:47, Lk 12:5 and Jas 3:6). The word "Gehenna" refers to an actual place on earth, the ravine of Hinnom, a valley of Jerusalem, where refuse and corpses of criminals and animals were burned. The area was associated with idol worship and child sacrifices (2 Kings 23:10, 2 Chronicles 28:3, 33:6, Jer. 32:35), later becoming known as a place of swift judgment for lawbreakers (Jer. 7:31-33, 19:2-6, Matt. 5:29-30, 18:8-9). Gehenna does not refer to the grave, it is figurative of the end of time when the wicked are destroyed by fire. The word "hell," if understood as "a place of burning" should apply to Gehenna. However, "hell" should not be applied to the other Hebrew and Greek words "Haides" or "Sheol," which are referring to the grave where people are sleeping until the resurrection. Later, after the resurrection, Gehenna occurs.

The Bible actually portrays the first death like a sleep with there being no consciousness during it, and that immortality is rewarded to the righteous only at the second coming. The place of fire, which many refer to as hell, is actually the second death, which occurs at the end of this earth's history, where the wicked are destroyed forever (not punished forever). Carefully read and consider the following texts:
  • John 11:11-14, Psalm 13:3 - Death is like a sleep.
  • Psalm 6:5 - Those who are dead have no memory.
  • Isaiah 38:18 - Those who are dead do not praise God, celebrate or hope.
  • Eccl. 9:4-10 - Those who are dead do not know anything, work, have knowledge or wisdom.
  • John 6:40 - Those who believe in Jesus are raised to life at the last day.
  • 1 Thes. 4:16 - Those who believe in Jesus are raised to life at Jesus' second coming.
  • 1 Tim. 6:15-16 - Only God is immortal.
  • 1 Cor. 15:51-54 - Immortality is not awarded until the second coming.
  • Luke 23:43 - Being in paradise is also a reward. (Note: The ancient Greek did not use punctuation, and this verse could just have easily been translated as "Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise" instead of putting the comma before the word "today".)
  • Matt. 16:27, Rev. 22:12 - Rewards are given at the second coming.
  • John 5:28-29, Acts 24:15 - There are two separate resurrections, one for the righteous and one for the wicked.
  • Rev. 20:5-6 - The wicked are resurrected 1000 years after the righteous.
  • Rev. 20:7-15 - The second death (destruction by fire) occurs after the 1000 years.
  • Ezekiel 28:18-19 - Destruction of the wicked by fire results in ashes and not being anymore.
  • Malachi 4:1-2 - Destruction by fire results in being burned up, with nothing left.
  • Obadiah 1:15-16 - The reward of the wicked is to become as though they had not been.
  • Revelation 21:8 - Being put into the lake of fire results in the second death.
  • Revelation 20:13-15 - Even death and the grave are burned in the lake of fire, resulting in no more death for eternity. God says there will be no more pain or tears. The burning must have an end.
  • 2 Thes. 1:7-10 - The wicked are punished with destruction, which lasts forever. Note: The act of punishing doesn't last forever, but the result of the punishment lasts forever. Eternal death (non existence), not eternal punishing, is the opposite of eternal life.
(More information on death and hell.)

How is pardon possible?

In order to avoid the penalty of your sins, which is the second death, and instead obtain eternal life, a pardon must be granted to you. This pardon involves much more than simply writing "pardon" on a slip of paper and sending you on your way. No, it involves infinitely more.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

"...but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26).

"...Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Christ died, though innocent. This makes it possible for you to live, though guilty. Because of His innocence, His life can substitute in place of yours, and everyone else's. Only an infinite being could provide this sort of substitution. This means that He experienced the penalty for your sins, which is the second death, in your place. If you accept this, then you can be pardoned and forgiven, and do not need to die the second death.

"...I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me" (Jeremiah 33:8).

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

"And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47).

"All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven..." (The Great Controversy 483.2).

"As man's substitute and surety, the iniquity of men was laid upon Christ; He was counted a transgressor that He might redeem them from the curse of the law. . . . He, the Sin-Bearer, endures judicial punishment for iniquity and becomes sin itself for man" (The Faith I Live By 104.5).

"The instant man accepted the temptations of Satan, and did the very things God had said he should not do, Christ, the Son of God, stood between the living and the dead, saying, 'Let the punishment fall on Me. I will stand in man's place. He shall have another chance'" (Letter 22, Feb. 13, 1900).

Receiving Pardon: The declaration that you are innocent of the sins you have committed and will not have to suffer the associated penalty of death, made possible because Christ already suffered the penalty in your place and when you place your trust in Him, He clears your name in the record books of heaven.

This is remarkable! Furthermore, Jesus rose from the dead! This means that not only did He die in your place, but since He lived a perfect life as a human and was resurrected, He can now impart His divine nature and character in place of your selfish nature and hurtful habits. This gives you a second chance to choose the right and show your loyalty to Him.

"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Romans 6:4-6).

The price of redeeming humanity is inestimably high. Getting your thoughts completely around the magnitude of what has occurred is insurmountable. Yet, you can contemplate the type of character God must possess in order to carry out such a plan. And you can understand how every drop of precious blood that spills out of a loved one is irreplaceable. And you can certainly come to appreciate the intense love of Someone who would go to such lengths to help you.

"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10).

"Oh, was there ever suffering and sorrow like that endured by the dying Saviour! It was the sense of His Father's displeasure which made His cup so bitter. It was not bodily suffering which so quickly ended the life of Christ upon the cross. It was the crushing weight of the sins of the world, and a sense of His Father's wrath... The fierce temptation that His own Father had forever left Him caused that piercing cry from the cross: 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" (God's Amazing Grace 170.4).

"By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan's purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen. In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken... forever to retain His human nature" (The Desire of Ages 25.3).

"When we seek for appropriate language in which to describe the love of God, we find words too tame, too weak, too far beneath the theme, and we lay down our pen and say, 'No, it cannot be described.' We can only do as did the beloved disciple, and say, 'Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.' 1 John 3:1. In attempting any description of this love, we feel that we are as infants lisping their first words...Eternity itself can never fully reveal it. Yet as we study the Bible and meditate upon the life of Christ and the plan of redemption, these great themes will open to our understanding more and more" (The Faith I Live By 43.3-4).

"In the light of the cross alone can the true value of the human soul be estimated" (Acts of the Apostles 273.1).

"Many of you have at times felt a numbness around the brain... Those who place so much food upon the stomach, and thus load down nature, could not appreciate the truth should they hear it dwelt upon. They could not arouse the benumbed sensibilities of the brain to realize the value of the atonement and the great sacrifice that has been made for fallen man. It is impossible for such to appreciate the great, the precious, and the exceedingly rich reward that is in reserve for the faithful overcomers. The animal part of our nature should never be left to govern the moral and intellectual" (Counsels of Health 158.2).

What occurs when pardon is granted?

When Christ grants you a pardon, it has a lot to do with record keeping. The Bible reveals several record books that are kept in heaven.

A) Record Book of Remembrance

All of your good deeds are recorded in this book. Every act of sympathy and righteousness are meticulously entered.

"Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name" (Malachi 3:16).

"Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof" (Nehemiah 13:14).

"Thou tellest my wanderings: put Thou my tears into Thy bottle: are they not in Thy book?" (Psalm 56:8).

"'A book of remembrance' is written before God, in which are recorded the good deeds of 'them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name.' Malachi 3:16. Their words of faith, their acts of love, are registered in heaven. Nehemiah refers to this when he says: 'Remember me, O my God, . . . and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God.' Nehemiah 13:14. In the book of God's remembrance every deed of righteousness is immortalized. There every temptation resisted, every evil overcome, every word of tender pity expressed, is faithfully chronicled. And every act of sacrifice, every suffering and sorrow endured for Christ's sake, is recorded. Says the psalmist: 'Thou tellest my wanderings: put Thou my tears into Thy bottle: are they not in Thy book?' Psalm 56:8." (The Great Controversy 481.1).

B) Record Book of Sin

The books of heaven also record evil acts. Every sin and selfish act are exactly recorded in the books.

"Behold, it is written before me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom" (Isaiah 65:6).

"There is a record also of the sins of men. 'For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.' 'Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.' Says the Saviour: 'By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.' Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36, 37. The secret purposes and motives appear in the unerring register; for God 'will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.' 1 Corinthians 4:5" (Christ In His Sanctuary 117.3).

"Every man's work passes in review before God. . . . Opposite each name in the books of heaven is entered, with terrible exactness, every wrong word, every selfish act, every unfulfilled duty, and every secret sin, with every artful dissembling. Heaven-sent warnings or reproofs neglected, wasted moments, unimproved opportunities, the influence exerted for good or for evil, with its far-reaching results, all are chronicled by the recording angel" (The Faith I Live By 210.6).

C) Book of Life

There is also a Book of Life, which contains the names of all those who have accepted Christ.

"Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20).

"And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:19).

"And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life" (Philippians 4:3).

Receiving pardon means that your name is entered into the Book of Life. When your time of judgment comes, if your name is retained in the Book of Life, then your sinful deeds are blotted out of the Record Book of Sin (this judgment process is studied in a later chapter).

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).

"For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

"I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins" (Isaiah 43:25).

Your name can be removed from the Book of Life (Rev. 22:19) during the judgment, in which case, your sins will remain on the record book and you will eventually experience the reward of the second death. Remember though, that Christ is patient and endures long with you. Your name does not just get entered, erased, entered, erased, and so on. Once entered, it remains until the judgment. You are given a chance to show, through the direction of your life, whose side you are on. Where do your loyalties lie? In whom is your faith? What have you done with the gifts Christ has given you since you accepted Him?

"As the books of record are opened in the judgment, the lives of all who have believed on Jesus come in review before God. Beginning with those who first lived upon the earth, our Advocate presents the cases of each successive generation, and closes with the living. Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected. When any have sins remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book of God's remembrance. The Lord declared to Moses: 'Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book.' Exodus 32:33. And says the prophet Ezekiel: 'When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, . . . all his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned.' Ezekiel 18:24. All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven; as they have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and their characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God, their sins will be blotted out, and they themselves will be accounted worthy of eternal life. The Lord declares, by the prophet Isaiah: 'I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.' Isaiah 43:25. Said Jesus: 'He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.' 'Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.' Revelation 3:5; Matthew 10:32, 33" (The Great Controversy 483.1-2).

Darkness = Death
Light is often used as a symbol of truth in the Bible. Darkness represents deception and rejection of truth.

"For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (John 3:20-21).

When a ray of light reveals just a snipit of your true character and with it a conviction that something you love to do is causing harm, your first impulse may be to withdraw from the light. It is common to actually prefer the darkness. The goal is to embrace the gift of the love of the truth, where you welcome the opportunity to learn of a defect in your character, for you understand that embracing the truth goes hand in hand with living. Withdrawing into darkness leads to death.

Receiving pardon is a merciful act by a merciful God. It is the declaration that you are innocent of the sins you have committed and will not have to suffer the associated penalty of death. This is made possible because Christ already suffered the penalty in your place. When you accept Him, He enters your name in the book of life in heaven and you are placed in the state of being "In Christ" and thus protected from the second death.

Next Bible Term: Being Justified
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