The results of unforgiveness are among the worst suffering, if not the worst emotional suffering, you can possibly experience on earth. It is a foretaste of Hell and of the judgment of God. The Bible tells you ( that if you do not forgive, God Himself will send torturers upon you. These torturers do not wear a black hood and carry you to a dungeon. The torturers are resentment, fear, pain, despair, insanity, suicidal depression, excruciating agony, “mental illness” and suffering that is far beyond what most people who have not experienced it believe is possible.

The difficulty with this and the reason it is so tempting to not forgive is that people feel so absolutely justified in hating and resenting people who have egregiously and with full will caused them so much intense, excruciating, unimaginable, and long-lasting suffering, sometimes lasting decades, as, for example, the suffering that results from childhood abuse, whether it be sexual, violent, or psychological.

And yet forgiveness is the only way out of this hell on earth.

If people cannot forgive, they need to ask God, in Jesus’ Spirit, to help them forgive.

If you do not forgive, your suffering here will never end, and if you are an unbeliever, your suffering will never end, even in eternity.

It seems so damned unfair to first suffer excruciatingly from the sins of others perpetrated on us, whether sexual abuse or violent abuse or emotional abuse, and then to have to suffer again, even more intensely, from the results of not forgiving what was perpetrated against us.

But if you do not forgive, your suffering here will never end, and if you are an unbeliever, your suffering will not end, even after you die.

When we forgive, our intense suffering alleviates and disappears immediately.

But forgiveness is also a repetitive process: resentment and pain can return again and again if even a shred of unforgiveness persists against anyone, for anything.

Curtis Smale


  1. This is something that I want to make sure I get right because Matthew 6:15 says, “If you do not forgive others for their tresspasses against you, I will not forgive you.” My question is do you have to be forgiven to go to heaven? Matthew 6:15 does not say, Unless you are saved. It clearly says If you do not forgive I will not forgive you. I struggle with this on a daily basis. This is a good article and very thought provoking.


    1. Thank you for your comment, Tammy Jo. Eternal Salvation is an issue that is settled by John 6:47. If we believe in Jesus even for a moment, we are saved eternally. If you look up Ephesians chapter 1 verses 13 and 14, you can see that we are sealed for Heaven and guaranteed salvation as believers in Christ the moment we believe in Jesus. We are saved, sealed, forgiven, declared not guilty, guaranteed to go to Heaven, and baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. What is spoken of here in Matthew 6 is a situation where God holds our sins against us ~in our conscience~ because we do not forgive the sins of others. He will send the tormentors of fear, guilt, and anxiety, and eventually depression and despair against us if we do not forgive others continually of everything. We know this is true, and that these verses do not deal with salvation, because if you look immediately before this statement–there is the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer addresses God as our Heavenly Father, so, of course, these are saved believers Jesus is addressing. In the Lord’s Prayer there is the plea, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It is actually merciful of God to give us no peace in our conscience if we do not forgive, because continuing on in unforgiveness is one of the most painful things a person can experience–as I know from personal experience. So there is a difference between being forgiven eternally and being forgiven in the sense of having a clear peaceful connection to God in our day-to-day life.

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  2. An Enormous Debt Forgiven

    Part 1

    by Bob Wilkin
    The forgiveness of sins is one of the most blessed teachings of Scripture. Yet there is the potential for great confusion about God’s forgiveness. How is it, for example, that Christians, those who are totally forgiven by God, need to confess their sins to obtain God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9)? And how can it be that if we refuse to forgive others, then God will not forgive us (Matt 6:15; 18:35)?

    I’ve found that the more I understand His forgiveness, the more my life is enriched. I’d like to share some insights into forgiveness that hopefully will enrich your life as well.

    Forgiveness Is Letting Go

    Far and away the most common New Testament (NT) word for forgiveness is aphiēmi. Yet of its 146 NT occurrences, slightly less than one-third (45 uses) refer to forgiveness (NIDNTT, 1:700). The normal meaning of the verb is “to let…to dismiss, divorce, release…to leave…to leave behind…and to abandon…” (NIDNTT, 1: 701). For example, when Jesus called his disciples, they left their nets, boats, and families (Matt 4:20, 22; 19:27, 29; Mark 1:18, 20). Jesus left Judea (John 4:3) and went on to Samaria where the woman at the well left her waterpot when she came to faith in Him (John 4:28).

    The second most common NT word translated forgive is charizomai. Twelve of its 23 NT uses concern forgiveness.1 The other uses mean to give or to freely give (NIDNTT, 2:115, 122). The verb is related to the noun charis, which means grace. So, it is easy to see why this term for forgiveness relates to grace. Forgiveness is a gift.

    Two other NT words for forgiveness are aphesis and apoluō. The former is translated forgiveness six times. Its remaining eleven uses are always translated remission, except in Luke 4:18 where it is translated liberty. The latter word, apoluō, almost always carries a sense of to let go, to send away, or to release. In only one verse, Luke 6:37, is it translated forgive.

    Putting all this together, we might define forgiveness in this way: Forgiveness is graciously letting go of an offense.

    God’s Forgiveness Should Move Us to Forgive Others

    The Lord gives a fantastic illustration of forgiveness in Matthew 18. Peter asks if he should forgive his brother seven times if he sins against him (Matt 18:21). Since the rabbinical standard was three times, Peter was being quite generous. The Lord’s answer surely surprised the disciples. He said that we should forgive “seventy times seven.” Actually the Greek literally says seventy-seven times (compare Gen 4:24), but either way the Lord’s point is that our forgiveness is to be unlimited.

    The Lord Jesus then gives a parable to illustrate how we ought to forgive. A servant was forgiven an Enron-sized debt of more than $2 billion by his master (Matt 18:27). The master illustrates God who forgives us all our sins. Then that blessed man went out and demanded payment from a man who owed him a comparatively trifling sum of about $4,000. (Literally the debt was 600,000 times smaller!) When his debtor begged for time to pay, he showed no mercy and threw him in debtor’s prison till the debt was paid (Matt 18:28-30).

    The man made a grave mistake. He should have gratefully forgiven his debtors as his lord had forgiven him. After all, any debt owed him was like pennies compared to the great debt his master had forgiven.

    Followship Forgiveness Needs Renewing

    Christians sometimes forget that there are two aspects to the Lord’s forgiveness: positional and experiential (or fellowship). Both aspects are illustrated in the Matthew 18 parable.

    When the master learned of this hypocrisy on his servant’s part, he had him incarcerated “until he should pay all that was due to him” (Matt 18:34). The conclusion is this, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matt 18:35).2

    If the man was already forgiven, how could his master hold him accountable for not forgiving others? The initial forgiveness illustrates the positional forgiveness every believer has in Christ. Many passages indicate that the moment we believe in Christ, we are totally forgiven in terms of our position as eternal children of God. “In Christ we have…the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:14). “[He has] forgiven you all trespasses…having nailed [them] to the cross” (Col 2:13-14).

    But positional forgiveness must not be understood to mean that we always are in fellowship with God. Forgiven people need forgiveness in order to remain in fellowship with God. One commentator beautifully expressed this truth: “An unforgiving spirit is sure to provoke the anger of God; so much so, that His free forgiveness of sinners ceases to flow to them, when in this way they offend. So to speak, it revives the guilt of their already forgiven sins” (Plummer, Matthew, p. 257).

    If we fail to forgive those who commit offenses against us, we will fall out of fellowship with God and stand in need of His fellowship forgiveness (Matt 6:15; 18:35).

    Of course, failing to forgive others is not the only sin that can interrupt our fellowship with God. First John 1:9 is a key progressive sanctification verse: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Believers need to be honest with God concerning all sin in order to remain in fellowship with Him.

    In the movie Love Story Ali McGraw told Ryan O’Neal that “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That is a clever line in the movies, but it isn’t true. Confession and forgiveness are necessary if two people are to remain in fellowship with each other.


    Rejoice that positional forgiveness is total. God’s positional forgiveness covers all sins, past, present, and future. In the positional sense there is nothing a believer can ever do to lose God’s forgiveness.

    Remember that fellowship forgiveness needs constant renewing. While all believers start the Christian life with fellowship forgiveness, they require it anew every time they are aware of new sin in their lives. Confession results in ongoing fellowship forgiveness.

    Let your gratitude for God’s forgiveness motivate you to forgive others. It is hypocritical to receive enormous forgiveness from God and then refuse to extend forgiveness to others over comparatively minor matters. Grateful Christians should be forgiving people. It is noteworthy that many passages dealing with God’s forgiveness enjoin us to forgive others.3 And remember that at the Judgment Seat of Christ those who have been merciful to others will receive special mercy (Jas 2:13).

    1Luke 7:42, 43; 2 Cor 2:7, 10 (twice); 12:13; Eph 4:32 (twice); Col 2:13; 3:13 (twice).

    2F. F. Bruce writes, “If we find it difficult to accommodate v. 35 within our theological system, we should modify our system to make room for it rather than try to make v. 25 mean something different from what it says” (Matthew, p. 61).


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