In the course of our discussions on the question of forgiveness and the Holocaust, Todd Baker and I touched on a most interesting point of modern life. It seems that with genetic engineering, doctors are going to be increasing our life spans as time goes on, and if the Lord tarries, we may live some very long lives indeed. In fact, perhaps we would live as long as in the pre-flood days, and therefore the world would be exactly as the Lord said it would in the End Times: "But as the days of Noah were..." (Matt. 24:37). I have thought about whether cloning, since it takes over the process of the creation of a human being, might be the end of the line for us. After all, when we are taking over God's own work, it may be time for Him to put a stop to things.
As a point of interest, far more people are killed in car accidents in New York City each year than in all of the Israeli terrorism and strife that the newspapers make so much of. Not to be depressing, but the country of Algeria now has virtually a weekly massacre, according to a recent 60 Minutes program.
These murders of innocents have been going on for nearly ten years, but the world pays little attention since the government of Algeria keeps its oil flowing. I intended to put the blame on the Islamic faction in Algeria for these killings, because militant Moslems are doing just that in so many places in the world. But there was some suggestion on the broadcast that the government in power is responsible, and that the nations receiving Algeria's oil don't want to upset that government by protesting.
After the recent negotiations by the television networks, it was revealed that the popular prime-time program ER will cost 13 million dollars per episode to produce! Please know that in our nearly 20 years of producing television programs, we have not spent anywhere near that figure. In fact, I think my grandchildren would be long gone before we would have spent 13 million dollars. Which programs do you like better? The National Football League was paid 17 billion dollars for the broadcast of its games for a few years by one of the networks!
Hamstrung for negative stories about Israel this month, CNN stooped to "Israel's Sabbath Debate," as if this theological difference were on a par with some foreign war. CNN still has an unbroken record since the early 1980s of criticizing our sister democracy and most faithful Middle Eastern ally.
Saddam Hussein has made reference to "the Jihad to lift the sanctions," as though a holy war is needed to guarantee that his nation can make its weapons of mass destruction to kill millions so that Saddam Hussein can rule over us all. George Will, speaking on the ABC news program This Week, referred to "Arafat... whose vocation is killing Jews." As we go to press, Arafat and Netanyahu are both coming to Washington to see President Clinton (as though Israel's small problems deserve throne room meetings).
Arafat has warned that if Netanyahu doesn't cooperate, there will be more violence. I thought he said he could not control the violence. How will he know for sure there will be violence if he is not connected to it?
Mark Twain said, "Always tell the truth and then you don't have to remember anything." It's beyond me why Arafat, an international terrorist with decades of experience in murdering people of various nations, including ours, is even allowed in Washington.
On the positive side of the news about Israel, that nation is prospering as a democracy and an economic powerhouse. Its economy remains ten times the size of that of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan put together. The country continually demonstrates to the whole world that a Middle Eastern nation can be a 20th or even a 21st-century success, even without oil.
Democracy is the way to go. It is perhaps for that reason more than any other that economic success may be the main reason that the Arab nations become so indignant, since they are unable to achieve anything like it, even with all their oil revenue. On my second album, Next Year in Jerusalem, a decade and a half ago, I wrote a song lyric: "Father, my heart is with Israel/Father, with Israel I'll stand." That's still my position.
Come to Israel with me and I'll show you exactly why I feel that way. Springtime in Israel is an experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life. You will see the green hillsides of the Galilee and flowers blooming in the fields where our Lord once walked.
Our Grand Tour passengers will get to trace Paul's travels as they visit Athens, with its Acropolis and Mars Hill, and Corinth, as well as experience a Mediterranean cruise to the islands of Mykonos, Patmos, Rhodes, and the city of Ephesus. This is the only time in 1998 that we will visit Greece, so check your schedule and come with us.
Our Grand Tour will be May 20 - June 2. Our Deluxe Israel Tour will include the major biblical sites in Israel and will be May 24 - June 3. Call our answering service at 1-800-WONDERS (966-3377) for your travel folder, or call Cynthia at 214-696-9760.
Our new series, The Covenants of God, will begin airing soon. There will be eight programs covering the various covenants God made with His people. We are presently in the post-production phase and would like your help with this most expensive part of our TV production process.
Thanks for praying about this, and, as always, remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
How Dare You, Zola!
I came across this statement which I know you did not mean to say. I do believe you intended to say that you could not forgive the actions of these people. — GM
In going over your newsletter, I was sickened at heart as to the continual contents of your writings. It is swollen with hatred, vindictiveness, malice, revenge and backbiting. — JB
In your article regarding the trial of Papon... I was sympathizing with your feelings about him being excused from waiting in prison because of his three bypass surgeries. So far, so good. Then you make the statement: "I would only feel better if this Nazi were given the death sentence that he so richly deserves." What was it the Messiah said? Oh yeah, "Father forgive them." — Anonymous
I received about a dozen letters similar to those shown above in reply to my remarks about the Germans and the Holocaust. It is now obvious to me that I expressed myself imprecisely. I should have written something like, "I cannot forgive the actions of those Germans who participated in the Holocaust," rather than the way I put it. But with that said, I was discouraged both with the doctrine in some of the letters and with the bitter and sarcastic tone used by a few of the writers.
While most people who wrote criticized me in love, some acted as if they had caught me in some terrible mistake and were gloating over it. Others demanded to be taken off the mailing list at once, being so offended by my lack of knowing that the Gospel says "forgive." Still others quoted to me verses about forgiveness, such as the Lord forgiving the policemen at the cross, or His statement to Peter that he should forgive a brother "...until seventy times seven" (Matt. 18:22).
One letter claimed that I constantly criticize "Arab nations." That is not true. The Arabs I typically criticize are terrorists. I don't believe I've ever criticized an entire nation. That would be an unfair and an unchristian thing to do.
The Gospel certainly does not say that Christians are to forgive everyone and everything around them. If that were true, the Church would be of no effect in this world. God has not forgiven Satan, and our Lord did not forgive the money changers in the Temple. If everyone were forgiven everything, there would simply be no Hell.
I think this kind of error comes from the modern church's "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" philosophy, which is not even close to the Gospel of Christ but is still widely believed and taught in the churches. This doctrine says we are to look the other way in the face of evil and accept the bad works of the unbelievers all around us with a meek, apologetic nature. Are we to accept the murders of 20 million innocent children, women and men as if it is the same as forgiving the grocer for overcharging us for a loaf of bread?
As far as relations with Germany, I hold nothing against today's Germans. Our tours to Israel will be using Lufthansa, the German airline, through 1998, and I have visited that nation with pleasure a number of times. My books have been translated into German, and I have spoken there to an appreciative audience. I chose to study the German language in college.
With all that said, I cannot forgive the Germans who participated in the Holocaust, other than the ones who ultimately repented and came to the Lord for their salvation. On that score, we certainly must forgive anyone whom God forgives, and I readily forgive anyone who asks for forgiveness. But we certainly can't dispense forgiveness where it is not wanted. I specified in my original article that the Germans have by and large not really asked for forgiveness for the Holocaust. And frankly, forgiveness for the Holocaust is not up to me; I was not there.
As Elie Wiesel has stated (and he was there in Auschwitz, the worst of it), "Only the ones who perished can forgive." In our ministry I teach exactly what the Bible says whether it's popular or not. I am not in the P.R. business, and I am not writing to please customers. If you want to get off the mailing list because of something I have said, then know that you are forsaking a worthwhile ministry with offerings of television programs, books, tapes, music, and personal prayer that may very well be quite beneficial to you and to many others if you support it. Other theologians and teachers are available to you through our outreach, in our Levitt Letter, and through our various television interviews.
Please know that I really am thankful for all your letters and for your criticism, which has been a learning experience for me. I am sincere when I say that you teach me at least as much as I teach you. I took the letters of criticism seriously enough that I thought better theologians than I might address them.
I asked Dr. Thomas S. McCall, the
senior theologian with this ministry, and Todd Baker, our younger
theologian, to answer this claim that we Christians are to forgive all
sins, even the Holocaust. Their articles appear later in this
newsletter. Thanks again for writing.
Forgiveness is a central theme of the Gospel. The only way we can approach the Living God is by having our sins covered and forgiven through the blood of the Messiah, Christ Jesus. Once we have been forgiven we are expected to forgive others. In His teaching, Jesus came down very hard on those who received God's forgiveness, but then withheld it from others.
General Rules of Forgiveness
Believers are to extend forgiveness to an almost limitless degree. Seventy times seven is the formula Jesus gave for forgiveness (Matt. 18:22). The impression is that we are to forgive anyone who has wronged us repeatedly ad infinitum. We are, in fact, commanded to forgive our enemies. There are numerous examples in the Scriptures where men of God forgave those who mistreated them and even tried to or succeeded in killing them (Joseph and his brothers, David, Saul, Christ and His executioners).
Is there, then, anyone who we do not have to forgive? For instance, if someone were to kill our spouses or our children, would we be required to forgive that person? We would certainly be justified in seeking justice against whoever killed our loved ones. Would that be contrary to the New Testament standards of forgiveness?
Does God Forgive Everyone?
Does God forgive everyone? Are there those whom God will not forgive? The Universalists teach that ultimately God will forgive all beings, but this is not the teaching of Scripture. It appears that there are several categories of beings whom God has not and will never forgive for their sins and rebellions against Him:
We are assured that none of these beings will ever be forgiven by God. He has prepared the Lake of Fire for Satan and his rebellious angelic host, and humans who are not written in the Lamb's Book of Life will share that ghastly eternal punishment forever and ever (Rev. 20:15).
Will God Forgive the Leaders of the Holocaust?
What about those who have had as one of their main purposes the goal of destroying the Lord's covenant people, the Jews? This is a special category of evil humans, and includes the perpetrators of the Nazi German Holocaust. It has long been recognized that they systematically killed approximately six million Jews in Europe during World War II, or about one third of the entire Jewish population on earth.
One of our primary guides in Israel, Zvi Rivai, who is a Messianic believer in the Lord Jesus, has informed us that new evidence indicates the killing was even worse, and there may be as many as seven million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis. They were able to do this because of the willing cooperation of many Germans, Poles and other European collaborators. Indeed, Jews were trapped in the European hell in part because of the indifference to their plight practiced by Britain, America and the rest of the world. Anyone who is interested in the facts of the Holocaust would do well to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
At any rate, most of the Nazi criminals are dead, although some have certainly been harbored with assumed identities by various sympathetic countries around the world. Should the Jewish people forgive the Nazis? Should we who claim the name of Christ forgive the Nazis?
Frankly, I am not aware of any of the Nazi war criminals who have come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, although there may be some who have. Almost all of them who have come to public attention appear to be so hardened and sold out to Satan that repentance and faith are the furthest things from their minds.
Were Pharaoh and Haman Forgiven?
The Holocaust's perpetrators appear to fit into the category of those who have tried to destroy the Jewish people throughout history. At least a couple of individuals like this are described in the Scriptures: the Pharaoh of the Exodus from Egypt, and Haman of the Persian court of Xerxes (Ahasuerus) in the Book of Esther. When Pharaoh's massive cavalry perished in the waters of the Red Sea, Moses and his sister Miriam composed a victory song. There was no thought of forgiveness for these Egyptians, who had enslaved the Jews and sought to destroy them.
Likewise, when Haman, in his anti-Jewish fury, schemed to have all Jews murdered on a certain date, the tables were turned on him, and he himself and his Persian henchmen were executed on that very date, which is now celebrated as the Feast of Purim. There is no cry for forgiveness in the Scripture for these inveterate enemies of the Lord and Israel. Rather, there is joy and a sense of victory over the righteous judgment of those who have tried to destroy the Lord's Chosen Nation.
Will the Antichrist be Forgiven?
In addition, the Scriptures describe the just fate of the chief hater of the Jews, the Antichrist. We read in Revelation 12 that when Satan is finally expelled from Heaven, he will realize that his time is short. He will then rededicate himself to destroying the woman who gave birth to the man-child who will rule the world with a rod of iron. The clear interpretation is that in the middle of the Tribulation, Satan will redouble his efforts to destroy the Jewish people. He will do this through his appointed ruler, the Antichrist, the Beast. The saints in Heaven ask the Lord how long it will be before their blood is avenged.
For his efforts to kill the saints and destroy Israel, the Beast and his False Prophet will have the dubious distinction of being the first creatures to be cast into the eternal Lake of Fire. No forgiveness is contemplated for them, and there is again a sense of righteous victory in Heaven when these haters of Israel and God receive their just desserts.
Balancing Forgiveness and Justice
In the Church Age, our dispensation is characterized by grace and mercy from God. When the disciples implored the Lord to rain down fire upon the cities that rejected their message, Jesus replied, "Ye know not what Spirit ye are of" (Luke 9:55). We are not supposed to go around calling down God's judgment on those who do not receive the Lord. Nevertheless, we should not have a neutral attitude toward those who display a hatred against the Jews and attempt to annihilate them.
History shows that when the Jews
are attacked, evangelical Christians are not far behind as targets. This
is true whether it occurs in outright pagan societies or in professing
Christian societies. Satan fights all representations of the Living God,
whether His Chosen Nation of Israel or His born-again believers in the
Church. We should pray for these enemies of the Lord, that they would
repent and be saved. But if they persist in their evil and unrepentant
attitude, we should also rejoice in their judgment.
After thoughtful analysis from Scripture, the answer would be a qualified no. Divine forgiveness is always based on repentance and faith (Mark 1:14). Jesus made this clear, and said so more than once in Luke 13: "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3, 5).
Scripture teaches that if the sinner does not repent and ask for God's forgiveness, he will not be forgiven but will eternally perish. God's forgiveness is effectively given when the sinner admits that he has sinned and needs to be forgiven by God (Luke 18: 9-14). Some people might say that the statement made by Jesus on the cross in Luke 23:34 ("Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.") contradicts this, but that verse cannot be used for the Nazis because those words, from their context, applied directly to those who crucified the Lord.
To apply it to the Nazis is to read into Luke 23 something that simply is not there. Most of the Nazis never repented before God for their crimes against the Jews. They never asked the Lord or the Chosen People to forgive them. Indeed, those Nazis who were brought to justice either denied that they had murdered Jews (Herman Goering) or justified it as simply "following orders" (Adolph Eichmann). Because Nazi Germany refused to repent, God justly condemned them and brought utter destruction upon their country, using the Allied powers as His instrument of judgment in the process.
Many passages in the New Testament tell us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:47-48). These verses do not mean, however, that we are to overlook the wrong acts of others. The love that is meant here is one that includes a righteous hatred for sin and evil. Until the surviving Nazis see the terrible harm they have caused and ask God to forgive and save them, they cannot be forgiven. We do not love what they did, nor can we condone or excuse their atrocious acts against the Chosen People and the rest of humanity.
On the contrary, we must constantly remind the world of what they did to the Jewish people so that it will not happen again. Jesus said that God will "avenge" His "elect" (Israel and the Church) and mete out punishment on those who seek their harm: "And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him... I tell you He will avenge them speedily" (Luke 18:7-8). The Nazis certainly fall under this category, if anybody does.
The eternal promises that God made to Abraham stand for all time. Among the unconditional blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant is the one that clearly says that God will curse anybody who seeks to harm, curse, or destroy the Jewish people. In this covenant, God said, "I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you" (Genesis 12:3).
This has been fulfilled throughout the course of history. Hitler's Nazi Germany brought God's eternal curse of Genesis 12:3 down upon itself, just like all the other nations, empires, and individuals before it that sought to destroy the nation of Israel. The Nazis are the latest of those who joined the graveyard of anti-Semitic nations when they tried to exterminate the Chosen People. If God were to grant forgiveness to the Nazis who have not repented, He would in effect be breaking His own promise to Abraham and the Jewish people.
The Bible teaches that there is no forgiveness for the reprobate, this includes Nazi Germany. The biblical doctrine of reprobation begs the question of what is a reprobate? A reprobate proves by his very actions that he is an enemy of God who will not change, no matter what God does. He remains hardened against God even at death. Human reprobates (like their spiritual counterparts, Satan and the fallen angels) cannot be forgiven by God because they have closed their hearts to Him.
The Pharaoh of the Exodus and Judas the Apostle are biblical examples of reprobates. We discover from these two individuals that there are two distinct features of being a reprobate: (1) a permanent hatred for the Jews and (2) an incorrigible unbelief and opposition toward Christ. Obviously the Nazis possessed these two traits. They proved by their recalcitrance that theirs was a reprobate rule. They rejected and sought to destroy the Jews, and so God justly rejected and destroyed them.
Liberal Churches are fond of speaking about a God of love, to the point that they exclude the God of judgment. They would say that God loved the Nazis and forgave them, and that the Jews and the rest of us Christians need to make peace with the past by forgiving Hitler and his followers. But this kind of unbiblical thinking is symptomatic of the universal apostasy in the Church today. Liberal churches are known for worshiping an attribute of God rather than worshiping God Himself. They especially do this with the attribute of love, to the exclusion of God's wrath, holiness, and righteousness, which require that He punish sin.
This holy God raised up the Allied powers to mercilessly destroy Nazi Germany so that the Nazis could not prevail in their satanic quest of exterminating the Jewish people, which would have rendered the promises of God to the Jews null and void.
For those in the Church to tell the Jews they need to forgive the Nazis is hypocritical. Christians need to wake up and realize that the Church has also been responsible for the long historical mistreatment of the Chosen People. Jews who survived the Holocaust can tell you how the Nazis who sent them to the death camps and gas chambers claimed to be Christians and followers of Jesus Christ. When Christians tell them to "get over" the Holocaust and forgive the Nazis, the Jews understandably interpret such advice as a belittlement of what they suffered and a denial of the grave reality of what happened to their people at the hands of these self-proclaimed "Christians."
The churches of Europe did little or nothing to save the six million innocent Jews who were killed. Instead, they looked the other way, or worse, gave theological justification for Hitler and the Nazis. It is the Church, not the Jews, that needs to ask for forgiveness from both God and the Jewish people for its passivity and complicity in the Holocaust.
The Church needs to stand up and
take responsibility for its part in the Holocaust and the historical
abuse of the Jews. Until this is done, Jews will naturally view
Christians with suspicion.
Copyright © 1998 by Zola Levitt Ministries, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. All rights reserved. Brief passages may be quoted in reviews or other article. For all other use, please get our written approval.