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Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother who sins against him:

Mat 18:21  Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Seven times is certainly more generous than our often quoted “three strikes, you’re out” limitation on forgiveness.  But Jesus responded to Peter with, 

“I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Mat 18:22) 

Why 70 x 7? 

Many have suggested seventy times seven is a perfect completion as exemplified in both judgment and restoration:

  • In Judgment

Gen 4:24  If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

  • In Restoration

The descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japeth after the flood were seventy
There were seventy descendants of Jacob in Egypt at the time of Joseph
Israel was restored to their promised land seventy years after the Babylonian captivity
Daniel’s seventy weeks will complete the time when the Most Holy will be anointed
 70 x7 is a complete restoration; the perfect forgiveness of God

Another Consideration?  70 x 7 = 490

Two well respected Bible teachers suggested another meaning to the significance of these numbers: 70 x 7 = 490.  Clarence Larkin (1850-1924) suggested that God fellowshipped with man in 490 year periods.  He gave these seven periods of 490 years each:

[1]. From Adam to Enoch

[2]. From Enoch to Noah

[3]. From Noah to Abraham

[4]. From Abraham to Moses

[5]. From Exodus to the 1st Temple

[6]. From the 1st Temple to the edict of Artaxerxes

[7]. From the the edict of Artaxerxes (Neh. 2) to the the triumphal entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday (483 years) + the seven years of tribulation [Read: What is the Seventieth Week of Daniel?] that ends with the second coming of Jesus.

In the last 490 year period is a “parentheses” of time. Between the Triumphal entry of Jesus and His second coming is the Church Age of 2,000 years.

Bible teacher Chuck Missler (1934-2018) defined how God dealt directly with His people, Israel, defining four 490 year periods of time.  In each time period, there were “seasons” when God was not directly governing them or they were in a period of disobedience.  Chuck Missler constructed this chart:

1) Abraham to the Exodus

Promise (Gen 12:4)            75 years
(Gal 3:17)                       +430 years
                                         505 years

Ishmael (Gen 16:16;21:5) -15 years
                                         490 years


2) Exodus to the Temple

Begun: 1 Kgs 6 – 8            594 years
Completed: 1 Kgs 6:38;     + 7 years
                                          601 years
Servitudes: Judges
Mesopotamia 3:8        – 8 years
Moabites 3:12-14      – 18 years
Canaanites 4:2,3       – 20 years
Midianites 6:1             –  7 years
Ammonites 10:7,8      – 18 years
Philistines 13:1           – 40 years
                                   -111 years

Begun: 1 Kgs 6 – 8             594 years
Completed: 1 Kgs 6:38        + 7 years
601 years

3) The Temple to the Edict of Artaxerxes

1 Kgs 8:1-66 1005 B.C.
Neh 2:1 445 B.C.                 560 years
Babylonian Captivity            -70 years
                                             490 years

4) Artaxerxes to the Second Coming

Artaxerxes to the 1st Advent
“The Sixty Nine Weeks”           483 years
[Church interval]                           ?
The Seventieth Week”               +7 years
                                                 490 years

490 Times

It’s interesting that God fellowshipped with man and dealt with Israel in 490 year periods and that Jesus chose 490 times as the number for forgiveness to be given to others.  Of course we know, that God forgave them many more than 490 times.

This shows the abundant compassion and mercy of God and his generous unmerited forgiveness. And that is exactly what Jesus continued to teach them in His parable of the unforgiving servant.  Watch for next week’s article on Matthew 18:21-35.

The Lesson?

We have been forgiven much, so we are to do the same.  The forgiveness we have received from Jesus was unmerited and freely given, so we are to do the same.  Forgiveness brings restoration in relationships and peace to our souls.

Eph 4:32  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.

Col 3:13  Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you.



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