I jokingly told a friend once that every day when I get home from work, I’m pretty certain that something, however minor, has gone wrong for my wife. So, I walk into the house and say, “I’m sorry. It’s all my fault. What can I do to make it better.”
Later he and his wife both told me he actually did that and was greeted with swift retribution, possibly because something had gone wrong and it was his fault. Recently, I also actually said that jokingly to my wife when something that really wasn’t my fault happened after I had gotten home, but she quickly responded, “Too late.”
I was taken aback. Too late for atonement and forgiveness? A review of the history of perfect atonement shows that there’re only two factors that make it too late for forgiveness.
But first, in a manner of speaking, our atonement took place before creation because that’s when God devised the plan for our redemption (Ephesians 1:3-14). Because it was from God, it was certain to come about and now, having been completed in God’s timing, it cannot be undone (Proverbs 19:21; Ezekiel 12:25).
The two factors that make it too late to receive forgiveness are our death and Jesus’ return, although for each person only one of those can apply. In either case, the result is the same because if we die first our fate is sealed while we await the judgment and when Jesus returns, he’ll bring the judgment with him to everyone, whether dead or alive (Hebrews 9:27-28; 2 Peter 2:4-9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; Matthew 25:31-46).
Hebrews 6:4-6 says that it’s impossible to bring a Christian back into a state of repentance that leads to forgiveness if they’ve turned their back on God. Nevertheless, while they cannot be brought back, they still have the capacity to come to their senses and return on their own like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24, especially verse 17). Another parable shows that it doesn’t matter how late in life one comes to Jesus or returns to him, they’ll be forgiven and reap the same salvation as lifelong Christians (Matthew 20:1-16).
(By the way, Hebrews 6:4-6 is but one passage in the New Testament that demonstrates the possibility of losing one’s salvation. See also 2 Peter 2:20-21; 3:17.)
I know my wife was teasing when she said it was too late for me to atone for the situation. As with my friend’s experience, it’ll be no joke when Jesus brings eternal salvation to Christians and swift, but also eternal, retribution to everyone else (2 Thessalonians 1:6-12; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2).
Have you taken advantage of God’s grace in forgiveness? You do that through baptism when your past sins are forgiven and you become a Christian (Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; Galatians 3:26 to 4:7; Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46-49). Otherwise, if you’re a Christian, you only need to confess your sins to him and ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:5-9; Acts 8:21-23).
Leonard Lauriault is a member of the Church of Christ in Logan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org