Question: I have heard some Bible teachers make the proclamation that our past, present and future sins rolled together have all been forgiven in advance because Christ has nailed it all to the cross. Is this so? And if it is, how do you explain the same through the Bible? If our sins are forgiven past, present and future why do we need to continue repenting? – Tumusiime.
Response: I do not know what those teachers have taught about being forgiven past, present and future and I do not know what their explanation is.
I, therefore, cannot from the offset say that I agree with them or disagree because there is not enough content provided to me to conclude.
However, I can attempt the issue independent of their position and address it together with the other questions.
First, let me give a brief historical background of the same as I attempt how the matter can be explained through the Bible.
It is not news to any Bible reader that man fell from not just a particular standard, but from his Creator.
So the fall of man cannot be fixed by restoring man to the standard he fell from before reconciling him to his Creator.
For this to happen, the Creator must become the creature that He wants to reconcile Himself to and this is what we learn from the miracle of the incarnation-God becoming man (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23, Philippians 2:5-8).
The virgin birth of Jesus Christ and Him becoming like us demonstrates two fundamental perspectives. First is the attitude God has towards the fallen man, and second is that He has purposely become like us (Hebrews 2:14).
God has an attitude of forgiveness.
Are we saved by God’s forgiveness?
To many, forgiveness is part of how we are saved for eternal purpose, however, if we could be saved only by God’s forgiveness, then there would not be a need for God to become flesh, dwell among us, die on the cross and resurrect for our salvation.
He would have forgiven us into Heaven and out of Hell and that could be all.
God hanging on the Cross is evidence enough that His attitude towards the world was not merely love but forgiveness.
He, therefore, forgave us and decided to save us all because of the love He had for us (John 3:16).
This divine attitude of forgiveness and love even before sinners repented is the basis of the divine process of salvation for eternal purpose. So we must establish that forgiveness is God’s attitude that influenced His decision to save us.
It matters, therefore, that whoever discusses divine forgiveness does not assume that we go to Heaven because God forgave us and since He forgave us past, present and future that equals to being saved forever.
Us, the omniscient God and forgiveness
To answer the question of whether our past, present and future sins are forgiven by God, we need to start by asking two other questions: who is ‘us’ and who is God?
Apart from the attitude of forgiveness that led God to become our saviour, having our sins forgiven is a matter of belief.
As we ask for forgiveness for our trespasses (Matthew 6:12) and believe (without tangible proof) we are forgiven.
So we believers ought to believe our sins have been forgiven past, present and future (Romans 4:6; Colossians 2:13; 2Corinthians 5:19).
Omniscience means that God knows things in all tenses, he knows your past, present and future sins.
If you asked for forgiveness of your sins and had the understanding of God, would you only ask for the forgiveness of present and past or past, present and future sins?
The obvious and sensible answer is what makes an omniscient God forgive in all tenses as well whenever we ask for forgiveness.
By analogy, in human relationships, we know something of this truth.
As a parent, I am in a relationship with my two sons. Because they are my family, they will never be cast out; the relationship is permanent.
Yet if they sin against me, or I against them, our relationship is strained and needs to be restored.
The repentance from the offender and forgiveness from the offended is how the relationship is maintained.
Being forgiven by God in all tenses does not mean we have no sin (1John 1:8-10). What then would He have forgiven?
Being and knowing that we are forgiven past, present and future should humble us the more and motivate us to repent than to be arrogant about it.