It is often argued that Jesus thought of Himself as divine because He claimed for Himself the power to forgive sins. Now of course, any man can forgive a sin by another against himself, but only God can forgive sins tout court, and Jesus did just that: “‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ — he then said to the paralytic, ‘Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.'” (Mt 9:6)

But a much less often stressed Biblical fact — and with some reason, because it’s scary — is that Jesus also claimed for Himself the power to refuse to forgive and by that very fact, condemn to hell, e.g., “the Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Mt 13:41-42)

Of course, the opposite of “to condemn” is not “to forgive” but “to glorify.” Forgiveness is for us as wayfarers; glory or damnation is one’s ultimate destiny. Thus, Jesus adds in the next sentence, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Mt 13:43)

Now today a Catholic priest can forgive a person’s sins, as per “I will give you [Peter] the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:19)

But no man whatever can condemn another to hell or, for that matter, bestow glory. The power to administer the final judgment then is even greater than the power to forgive. For one, the latter is at least partially communicable from God to human beings, while the former is the sole prerogative of God. And being forgiven is merely a means to glory; it is better not to sin in the first place than to be forgiven for sins.

If that’s not an indication of Christ’s divinity, I don’t know what is.

Categories: Soteriology


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