Forgive? 490 Times? Ok. . . But I’m Keeping Count!

Posted on June 7, 2011


Forgiveness can be a tough thing. People will wrong you, sometimes intentionally. People may steal from you, lie about you, harm or abuse you, yet the Bible still calls for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is, without a doubt, one of the toughest issues that Christians face. We live in a sinful, cursed world, with evil all around. It is an easy thing to want to put limits on our forgiveness. Peter made this exact mistake, he tried to put limits on forgiveness, and Jesus set him straight.

Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Now Peter thought he was bieng generous when he offered to forgive 7 times, after all, the rabbis taught that 3 times was sufficient. But Jesus gave a very interesting answer, He said “up to to seventy time seven.” Most people understand Jesus’ statement to represent unlimited forgiveness (with the number 7 representing perfection and completeness), and it does. So why didn’t He just say “unlimited?” Why did He give a specific number? Seventy times seven equals 490. How many times have you asked Jesus to forgive you? If you are honest, I’m sure it exceeds 490 times. So why this number,where have we seen that number before? Daniel offers some insight.

Daniel 9:24-27 NKJV

“Seventy weeks are determined

For your people and for your holy city,

To finish the transgression,

To make an end of sins,

To make reconciliation for iniquity,

To bring in everlasting righteousness,

To seal up vision and prophecy,

And to anoint the Most Holy.  “Know therefore and understand,

That  from the going forth of the command

To restore and build Jerusalem

Until Messiah the Prince,

There shall be  seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;

The street shall be built again, and the wall,

Even in troublesome times.  “And after the sixty-two weeks

Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;

And the people of the prince who is to come

Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.

The end of it  shall be  with a flood,

And till the end of the war desolations are determined.  Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;

But in the middle of the week

He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.

And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,

Even until the consummation, which is determined,

Is poured out on the desolate.”

Daniel speaks of seventy weeks, and a week is made up of seven days (seventy times seven). Each week of Daniel’s prophecy represents 7 years, so those seventy weeks, seventy times seven, would equal 490 years.

Those 490 years of Daniel’s prophechy are divided into three parts. Parts 1 and 2 have already occurred, and there is an undetermined gap of time between parts 2 and 3. Part 3 has yet to happen.

1.  7 weeks (49 years) this was the time that it took for Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem.

2.  62 weeks (434 years) until the cutting off of Christ. It was 434 years from the rebuilding of Jerusalem until the time that Jesus was crucified. If you add these two together, you come up with 483 years that have already elapsed.

3. This is the final 7 years, the great tribulation. This has yet to happen, but when it is complete, the 490 years will have been fulfilled.

After the great tribulation, Christ will return and set up His kingdom here on earth for 1000 years. During this time, sin will be wiped out.

Now when Jesus said “up to seventy times seven,” I believe that He was referring to the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophechy. Think about it, when Christ returns, and sin is wiped out, there will be nothing left to forgive. There will be no more need for forgiveness at that point, so that’s when we can stop forgiving. Up to that time, you may have to forgive 1 million times, and until that time we are not to stop forgiving.

The bottom line is, God continues to forgive you well past the 490 mark. Aren’t you glad? We need to return the same forgiveness to others.

* A special thanks to Dr. Jimmy Hayes for this perspective on forgiveness.

Posted in: Eschatology