HARDENED BEYOND REPENTANCE
T. PIERCE BROWN
The question is sometimes raised, “Does the Bible teach that one may sin past the point of repentance?” The simple answer is, “Yes,” but the implications of the answer are so important that they deserve a little more extended thought. If a person can get to the place where it is impossible to repent, then sin is doubly dangerous. Let us examine some scriptures that deal with the subject.
First, in Genesis 6:3, we find that God’s Spirit would not always strive with man. It suggests that when every imagination and thought of man’s heart is only evil continually (Genesis 6:5), the powers and influences which God uses to bring men to repentance may be withdrawn.
The same idea is expressed more concisely and forcibly in Romans. We find that “the goodness of God leads to repentance” (Romans 2:4). When men despised that goodness and rejected it deliberately and persistently, God gave them up. A careful reading of Romans 1:20-32 shows that God gave them up for at least three reasons (vss. 24, 26, 28). When God gives a person up, it seems almost without question that he has rejected the goodness of God that would be the cause of his repentance, and thus no longer has the ability to repent. We find that they were without excuse, because they did not like to have God in their knowledge.
When we find in Exodus 4 and following chapters that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, we also find that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. If this is not an indication of the principle found in 2 Thess. 2:11-12, then we confess that we are not able to understand the Bible or give a sensible exegesis of the passage. It is clearly stated that “they received not the love of the truth–” and “for this cause God sendeth them a working of error (strong delusion) that they should believe a lie; that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
If there is any stronger way that God could reveal that He not only will cease to strive with man and give them up when they persist in their ungodly ways, sinning against light, but that he will actually harden their hearts and send them a strong delusion, I do not know what that way would be. When and if God gives up on a person and sends them a strong delusion, I know nothing in the Bible or any other source of truth or reason to help me to arrive at any means by which a person could be led to repent. And the Bible is clear that if a person sins and does not repent, he is lost.
In Genesis 15:16, we find another suggestion of the same idea. “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” Then in Joshua 11:20, we find that it apparently was full, “For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor, but that he might destroy them–.” That suggests that they continued to get worse, so they went past the place of repentance, for even foreign nations (NinevehandBabylon) had a chance to repent somewhere along the way.
In Deuteronomy 2:30, we find that “Sihon, king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand—.” Unless God arbitrarily hardens a person’s heart, then punishes him because of its hardness, the only other logical conclusion to which we can come is that the person hardened his own heart by his deliberate rebellion against God, then God hardened it in order to fulfill some purpose. That fits well with the thought of Proverbs 29:1 that says, “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy.” Whether the remedy would have been repentance does not need discussion now, for the fact remains that one may so harden his heart that he will be destroyed without repenting.
If it is possible to get a stronger expression of the idea, surely Proverbs 1:24-32 gives it. “Because I have called, and ye refused–I will laugh at your calamity–then shall they call upon me but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me; for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” The general rule is “Seek and ye shall find,” but surely we know that there are many that seek in the wrong place, or in the wrong way or with the wrong motive, who do not find. Hear are some that were seeking early, but not finding. Why? They hated knowledge! They wanted to be saved; they were seeking salvation, but they did not choose the fear of the Lord–they did not want to do it HIS way. I have known many like that. They want to be saved, but they seek to have it without repentance, or baptism.
Now the question is, If they did not repent when the GOODNESS of God was manifested to them and they did not repent when the SEVERITY of God came upon them, what is there left that will cause them to repent? It seems plain that the condition of those in Revelation9:20is suggested here. If a man rejects the goodness of God, then rebels at his severity, God has revealed nothing else that can cause him to repent, so he is in a hopeless condition.
Can YOU get that way? If not, why would the Bible be so filled with examples and warnings of it? Hebrews3:13says, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called TODAY, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Then Hebrews 6:4-6 says that it is IMPOSSIBLE to renew them to repentance. We may ask all sorts of questions like, “If they do all these things, then DO repent–what?” A question like that in the face of the fact that God says it is impossible is about like this question: “Suppose a man really loves his wife with all his heart, but he DOES kick all her teeth out, burn her all over the body with a lighted cigarette, and skin her with a dull knife, what is his condition?” Or, “Suppose you are the healthiest man in the country, but have cancer of the liver, tumor on the brain, arterial sclerosis and galloping consumption, are you in danger of dying?”
We have no hesitancy in teaching that IF a person can repent, God can forgive him. But let us not ask such questions that imply that God is mistaken when he says, “It is impossible to renew them to repentance” (Hebrews 6:6).
If there is any sin you are committing, and deliberately persisting in, you are in the gravest danger. Repent while and IF you can!