(This is an excerpt from what I was writing today in the first book of the “Heaven Now” series, “Present Access to Heaven”. The context is dealing with things that keep us from seeing God as he is, thus preventing us from living in a heavenly reality while on earth.)
When we do not forgive, we will not experience the heavenly reality that has been available for us, because we experience heaven to the extent that we participate in the love and nature of God. To walk in unforgiveness is to walk in darkness. Bitterness is defiling.
When we do not forgive, we tend to see God through our experiences with other people. Man was created in the image and likeness of God, to reflect his glory. Mankind was meant to be a revelation of what God is like. Yet since all men sinned and fell short of his glory, the image that was reflected became distorted. Jesus came as a sinless man so that we could once again see, through a man, what God is like. He said if we see him, we see the Father.
Yet if we do not forgive, we will look at God through sinful man, the first Adam, the earthly man. Our image of God will be distorted. Instead, we must forgive and behold the pure image of God as revealed through Christ, the second Adam, the man of heaven.
Corrie Ten Boom’s sister, Betsie, was able to live in a heavenly reality while in a concentration camp because she forgave and loved the Nazi’s who were blinded and full of demons. And Betsie died there. Corrie struggled with forgiveness at times, both when they were in Ravensbruk, and after her release and her sister’s death. But God helped her. Her story is encouraging.
Forgiving the Concentration Camp Guard
It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there— the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine.
And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand, a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
Corrie found herself unable to forgive, but she asked God to give her his forgiveness. She then entered into a heavenly reality revealed in the gospel, God’s forgiveness. She beheld the glory of God that was revealed in Christ. This was an experiential knowledge of the Lord’s glory, as she experienced the love and forgiveness of Christ being expressed through her.
You may think that this story sounds quite supernatural. It is! The whole Christian life is supernatural. In times like this when we look to the Lord and experience his power, that fact that “Jesus lives in me” becomes very real to us. We see that the indwelling Holy Spirit is working in us to will and to do his will.
We forgive by faith. We are empowered to do so when we behold the forgiveness that Jesus showed as he died and said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Here is something else that Corrie said about forgiveness:
If you have ever seen a country church with a bell in the steeple, you will remember that to get the bell ringing you have to tug awhile. Once it has begun to ring, you merely maintain the momentum. As long as you keep pulling, the bell keeps ringing. Forgiveness is letting go of the rope. It is just that simple. But when you do so, the bell keeps ringing. Momentum is still at work. However, if you keep your hands off the rope, the bell will begin to slow and eventually stop.
Sometimes the bell is still ringing, and you still feel vengeful over what has happened. Then Satan may accuse you, saying “You really have not forgiven”. Tell him to shut up, then stand firm on the fact that you have forgiven them with the forgiveness of Christ, who lives in you.
Until we forgive, we will be overcome by evil instead of overcoming it. But if you have turned to the Lord you are an overcomer, because whatever is born of God overcomes the world! Just as God is love, you are love and you will find that even when it seems impossible, you keep loving because Jesus lives in you.
Forgiving Communist Torturers
Richard Wurmbrand, after enduring fourteen years of unspeakable tortures in communist prisons, shared about his departure from Romania. His perspective was the perspective of a heavenly person. Even the greatest of evils could never make him bitter or keep him from constantly beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ.
So in December 1965, my family and I were allowed to leave Romania. My last deed before leaving was to go to the grave of the colonel who had given the order for my arrest and who had ordered my years of torture. I placed a flower on his grave. By doing this I dedicated myself to bringing the joys of Christ that I have to the Communists who are so empty spiritually. I hate the Communist system but I love the men. I hate the sin but I love the sinner. I love the Communists with all of my heart. Communists can kill Christians but they cannot kill their love toward even those who killed them. I have not the slightest bitterness or resentment against the Communists or my torturers.
Wurmbrand also described the love and forgiveness shown by many Christians who suffered unspeakable things. You may say “I could never forgive like they did. I could never love like that.” You are right, but you will find that the spirit of Christ in you can love beyond what you could imagine. We come to a place where we realize that we simply cannot do what we are doing, but Christ in us can.
When I read of the remarkable love shown by so many believers who were so greatly wronged, it encourages me because I know that they were men like me, yet the same Holy Spirit which they had dwells in me. No bitterness or unforgiveness should ever keep me from beholding the glory of God and experiencing the heavenly reality of his presence.
We know about the love of Christ toward the Communists by our own love toward them. I have seen Christians in Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold —and praying with fervor for the Communists. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.
As in the book of Daniel when the three young men who were put in the furnace did not smell like fire upon being delivered from it, so the Christians who have been in Communist prisons don’t smell like bitterness against the Communists.
It is interesting that Wurmbrand said that they knew the love of Christ toward the communists by their own love for them. Sometimes the way that we behold the glory and love of God is when we experience the reality of the indwelling Holy Spirit loving people in a way that is not naturally possible for us.
 1 John 2:11
 Hebrews 12:15
 John 14:9
 1 Corinthians 15:45-47
 Boom, Corrie Ten; Elizabeth Sherrill; John Sherrill (2006-01-01). The Hiding Place (pp. 247-248). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Phillipians 2:13
 Luke 23:34
 Romans 12:21
 1 John 5:4
 Wurmbrand, Richard (2010-09-30). Tortured for Christ (Kindle Locations 948-955). Living Sacrifice Book Company. Kindle Edition.
 James 5:17, Hebrews 2:17-18
 Wurmbrand, Richard (2010-09-30). Tortured for Christ (Kindle Locations 992-997). Living Sacrifice Book Company. Kindle Edition.
 Wurmbrand, Richard (2010-09-30). Tortured for Christ (Kindle Locations 1157-1159). Living Sacrifice Book Company. Kindle Edition.