When Peter had asked, “O Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?” (BPV) Jesus responded with a direct answer, “I do not say to you until seven times, but until seventy times seven.” (BPV) Adopting the pattern of the Tabernacle, we can understand Matthew 18:22 from a three-dimensional perspective: Statistical forgiveness, fulfillment of historic prophecy, and deep spiritual application for our lives.
From the Outer Court we learned about statistical forgiveness as to how many times we ought to forgive our brother or sister. Although we know that “until seventy times seven” is not to be taken literally, we still have focused on statistics even if we recognize that the phrase is a figurative way of speaking about an unlimited amount of times we are to forgive.
As we step into the Inner Court, the Holy Spirit can illuminate Biblical history and prophecy. Why did Jesus respond with “until seventy times seven?” Although some Bible versions have loosely translated the phrase as seventy seven, the historic and prophetic points will be overlooked unless the phrase is correctly translated from the Greek. While performing a word search, I came across Daniel 9:24, “Seventy sevens/weeks are determined upon your people and upon the holy city to finish off transgression, to seal up sins, to wipe out lawless deeds, to atone for iniquities, and to bring eternal justice, to seal up vision and the prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies.” (BPV)
Just maybe the phrase “until seventy times seven” spoken by Jesus or “seventy sevens/weeks” as prophesied by Daniel years earlier would signal complete forgiveness of sin by the Messiah. Could Daniel’s prophecy be suggesting atonement through the crucifixion and resurrection? Artaxerxes I, the king of Persia, had issued his decree in 458 BC for the Jews to build a temple to God in Jerusalem. By adding 490 years, or “seventy sevens/weeks,” we will have arrived at the year 33 AD, which is the year of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection when he atoned for all past, present, and future sin.
Entering the Holy of Holies, we can allow God’s presence to fill us with a gracious understanding of revelation in our lives as we see how Jesus’ answer corresponds to the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (23-34). When we are wronged, we are to show mercy, to release those who are snared by sin by our earnest prayers for them, and to forgive them of their transgressions, sins, lawlessness, and iniquity because Christ has died for our sins and is resurrected so we might have newness of life. Forgiveness no longer becomes a duty or some kind of infinite quota to fulfill, but a ministry of reconciliation. Otherwise, we continue the cycle of unforgiveness and show disdain for Christ’s sacrifice.
“And to one another be gracious, compassionate, forgiving one another even as God has forgiven us in Christ.” (Eph 4:32 BPV)