Blog

Could Esau Repent? The Difficulty of Heb. 12:17

I was talking to someone the other day. He was distraught and depressed about his faith. Though he had experienced a dramatic conversion a few years back, the last year has been full of trials and temptations which lead him back into a lifestyle which he thought was in his rear-view mirror. Along with his return to some former habits, he has entered into a nightmare of doubt. His primary doubt comes from his ability to return to the Lord, having, according to him, “rejected the gift of God” and “returning to his own vomit.”

While the issues are complex and I do not wish to enter into a dialogue about this person’s spiritual state, I do want to mention a verse that has put him in a spiritually catatonic state. He believes that like it was with Esau, it is too late for him. He believes that the repentance that he seeks has been removed from the table. In other words, he believes that there is a time when repentance is no longer possible.

Here is the verse he referred to in support of this pain:

Heb. 12:17
“For you know that even afterward, when he [Esau] desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” (NAS)

The impression is that Esau rejected the blessing of God through his birthright (which is true). When he later realized how fool-hearted this was and turned to God for repentance of his sin, he was rejected. It was just too late. I don’t believe this is the case. Let me explain.

The question is What did Esau seek with tears? What is the “it” of Heb. 12:17 (“he sought for it with tears”)? Many people assume that it is repentance. While the translation I used (NAS) leaves the question open for interpretation, the word order in English leaves the other possibilities obscure. But, at face value in the reading of most translations, it does seem like it is repentance that Esau is seeking. Notice the readings in these other translations:

KJV: For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

ESV: For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

NKJ: For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

NLT: You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.

RSV: For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

All of these translations at least give the impression that what Esau sought for was basic repentance. If this were the case, this is a cause for great concern since it would teach that we may be able to turn to God with tears, truly seeking repentance, but be unable to find it. It would teach that there may be people who truly want to turn from their sin, but cannot find the ability to repent. It may teach that there exists the possibility for you to approach the throne of God requesting the gift of repentance and be turned down. It may teach that there is a time in this life when it is just too late, no matter how much you desire to change. That is scary.

However, there is another, and I believe, more faithful way to understand this passage. You see the pronoun “it” has not one but two possible anticedents. When structured like the translations above, the common way to read this in English is to look for the closest possibility as the referent to what Esau sought. That is just the way the English language works. And the closest referent to “it” is indeed “repentance.” However, the Greek language goes by a different set of rules. Word order is secondary to inflection. The word “it” is a feminine pronoun. This means that the noun which it modifies will be feminine too. In this verse there are two feminine nouns: “repentance” and “blessing.” Therefore, there are two viable options here for what Esau sought with tears. It was either repentance or the blessing. Neither is necessarily preferred based on grammar and syntax, therefore we must look to the context of the story the author of Hebrews is alluding to. So let’s look at the context of the story of Esau.

When we turn back to the narrative in Genesis 27, we see Esau being tricked out of his blessing by both Jacob and his mother. After Esau found out he had been tricked and that Isaac had blessed Jacob rather than himself, he broke down. Notice how the story goes:

Gen 27:35-38
And he [Isaac] said [to Esau], “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.” 36 Then he said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37 But Isaac replied to Esau, “Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” So Esau lifted his voice and wept. (NAU, emphasis mine).

You see that Esau did indeed weep. He did indeed repent. But what was it he repented and wept over? It was the loss of his blessing. The context in Genesis is clear. I think we must see the passage in Hebrews through the context of the original storyline.  The author of Hebrews is saying that Esau sought his blessing with tears, not repentance.

I think some of these translations do a good job of bringing out this nuance:

TNIV: Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

NJB: As you know, when he wanted to obtain the blessing afterward, he was rejected and, though he pleaded for it with tears, he could find no way of reversing the decision.

NRS: You know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, even though he sought the blessing with tears.

NAB: For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit his father’s blessing, he was rejected because he found no opportunity to change his mind, even though he sought the blessing with tears.

NET: For you know that later when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no opportunity for repentance, although he sought the blessing with tears.

It is unfortunate when Bible translations seek to leave the options open in situations such as this. This is one of those places where I believe translation philosophy militates against the clearer meaning of the text. I understand the reasoning in many cases, but here, the casualties are plenty as the implications are severe. Normally we would seek to leave ambiguity where it truly exists. I get that. But can we really say that this passage presents us with such a dilemma? Its it really ambiguous enough to leave the English word order in such a misleading way? I think that this is only a difficult passage because of the (albiet) intentional ambiguity left in the text by many modern translations.

I believe that the Bible teaches that there is never a day when repentance is beyond our grasp. Even the thief on the cross was able to find humble repentance in his words “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This is the wonder of our God and the Gospel message. God’s love makes repentance always acceptable no matter where you find yourself in life. If you seek repentance, you will find it. God’s grace is that radical.

Mat 7:7-8
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

139 Responses to “Could Esau Repent? The Difficulty of Heb. 12:17”

  1. :) I raged when I heard Piper make the same point in a different context.

    Well maybe rage is a bit strong, more like “was mildly annoyed”.

    Good job!

  2. Wow, Michael. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about this verse, and thought about my struggle with doubt, and wondered quietly in my heart, “Am I now numbered with Esau as those who are rejected, no longer finding a place for repentance?” Seriously. Thank you for bringing this meaning of this text to light.

  3. I agree with your analysis. Perhaps a valid lesson that *can* be drawn from this passage is that, while repentance (and thereby forgiveness) is always possible so long as we are on this earth, there may in fact still be very real earthly consequences to our prior actions and decisions. Esau could be forgiven his transgression, but would still never inherit his birthright.

  4. “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and [then] have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance , since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.” (Heb 6:4-6)

    I think these two passages tie in with one another. Also, kaiper seems to pick up directly from the preceding clause, as would expected of a conjunction. This would only mean that he sought to undo what he had done, not “repentance” as that which restores to God; so it may in fact accomplish the same thing you are trying to do here. There was no place found to undo what had been done and the blessing, which had been given away, is now gone. So I don’t think this indicates that he tried to repent and God wouldn’t let him. I think it indicates that those who make a decision to give away the…

  5. blessing, aren’t going to be given a chance to get it back. This would be a “repentance that will not be granted” as opposed to a “repentance that will not be answered.” As Auctor indicates in 6:4-6, repentance is impossible, not the reward of repentance, so it seems this refers to the idea that a person, who rejects after being exposed to the blessing in such a deep manner, will not be granted repentance again.

  6. By saying that Esau sought repentance but could not obtain it, are some Christians saying that God wouldn’t justify Esau even if Esau repented of his sins and put his faith in God?

  7. That sounds like a typical example of Hebrew Parallelism which says the same thing.

    Isn’t the point of this scripture saying that …even though Esau repented…he still couldn’t be given the blessing which he sought.

    I don’t however believe this speaks of the experience believers can have during a crisis of faith…rather its more to do with the fact that someone tells Jesus to shove it… totally knowing what they are doing and what the repercussions are.

  8. This is the folly of paraphrase. It makes perfect sense when rendered literally.

    Esau found no place for his repentance.
    It existed, but could not be received.

    This is all perfectly normal.

    The thief on the cross is a great example,
    because Jesus didn’t rescue him from his sentence.
    He was crucified, justly, perhaps mercifully,
    since we don’t know how many this bandit
    had murdered in his career. He agreed openly that
    his punishment wasn’t overdone.
    The Law required him to pay back fourfold, twofold,
    or even sevenfold in various circumstances.
    His debt was overwhelming.

    How do you pay back murder?
    On the analogy of stealing, you might have to save 4 lives for every one taken.
    But only God could provide the opportunity to pay the debt back on those terms.
    You could spend a lifetime regretting and working up courage,
    to sacrifice yourself for others in the effort.

  9. Truth Unites... and Divides March 8, 2011 at 8:38 am

    I’d like to see Esau in Heaven when I die. He forgave Jacob at the end. I hope God blesses Esau with eternal life in Heaven.

    Although the Bible does say that God hated Esau. So maybe Esau’s not in Heaven.

  10. CMP, I agree that the “it” refers back to the blessing, as do commentaries like O’Brien, etc. However this does not necessarily show that repentance by Esau would have been effective. We still have the phrase to interpret that says “he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent” (ESV) or “he found no place for repentance” (NAS). Why was he rejected?

    And Heb. 6:6 does teach that apostates cannot be renewed to repentance.

    We must interpret according to grammar and historical context first, then impose our theology from that. Not the other way around.

  11. Michael, I do not see in the Piper writing the spirit of your disagreement with his interpretation of Heb. 12:17. I see Piper being very non-specific in his use of Esau as an example in his description of Hell the way Jesus described it (and the whole Bible does) as opposed to the way C. S. Lewis did. He is merely using Esau as an example of someone who realized that had made a horrible mistake, now sees the painful consequences of it and wants a “do over” to get a different outcome. He desperately (with tears) wants out of the consequences, and so will anyone sent to Hell for their unbelief. But as Isaac said, it is too late now, the choice has been made. Just as the “blessing” could not be done over, a person, when he is in hell, will not get the opportunity for a “do over.” Jesus’ story of Lazarus illustrates that. I think your use of Piper as an example of someone who misuses Heb. 12:17 and therefore doesn’t believe that repentance is always available in this life is a stretch.

  12. Norm, Piper has made this claim several times:

    The unpardonable sin is a sin that makes you an Esau. It brings you to a point where according to Hebrews 12, Esau sought repentance and he couldn’t find it.

    Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljAqm3Hjfc0

  13. I agree with the overall premise of the post. I am a bit more hesitant, however, to say for certain that “it” refers back to “blessing.” I agree that word order is not definitive, yet at the same time it often plays a role in instances such as this. Since the antecedent of “it’ can be either “blessing” or “repentance”, the syntax does seem to tip the scales slightly in favor of repentance. Not just word order, but the place of the conjunction “though” as well.

    I don’t think we can come down definitively on either one, which is perhaps why some of the translations leave it ambiguous. I also do not think that linking “it” with “repentance” necessitates the interpretation set forth by Piper. While Esau may have truly repented, there was nothing he could do to change his father’s mind with regard to the blessing. This is analogous to when someone ultimately rejects Christ (12:25; Heb. 6)

    This seems to be the thrust of the passage, whether we link “it” to…

  14. One of the points to make about Esau and Jacob is to think through why it was that God hated him. Esau threw away his birth right to carry on Abrahams linage which in reality means Christ should have come through Esaus genealogy.

    However; Christ came through Jacobs…and so the point in Hebrews is do not reject Christ like Esau did.

  15. One problem with the view that “not all believers go to heaven” (i.e. Esau) is that it diminishes our assurance of salvation. What tangible evidence do we have that we’re believers who will end up in heaven instead of believers who will end up in hell?

  16. This is the reason that I appreciate your blog and other resources. It is well thought out and remains faithful to the Gospel. I agree that the better understanding of this is that Esau was beyond the blessing rather than repentance. If we could reach a point beyond repentance then what of the Israelites? It is clear that even with all of their disobedience and turning from God there was always the option to turn back. Indeed, there was always a standing covenant between them and God. Of course, now we have the standing new covenant sealed by Christ and His blood. My question would be, at what point have we sinned too much to be beyond hope? I believe, that if our hearts are seeking repentance then that is a sure sign that we are not beyond it. The evidence that we have strayed too far is a hardened heart that the Holy Spirit will no longer woo back to God. Just my $.02.

  17. True Hope,
    Good point – it then becomes based on works right?

    Michael – I would like to echo a sentiment said earlier – this is a verse that I have been wrestling with recently, and it terrified me. But all I could do was cling to the hope and knowledge of the truth of God’s love and Christ’s grace as sufficient.
    It is really comforting to hear it be interpreted this way. Thanks
    Sas

  18. Michael,
    This post is what we need more of – clear exposition of difficult passages. It’s a huge service to the body and I’m greatful that God has given you the gifting and availability to do this great ministry.

    I have to agree with Norm Eddy that Piper’s use of this verse seems non-contradictory to your position. Piper’s point seems to be that once in hell, people want to repent based on what they are receiving. This is very closely associated with Esau seeking his blessing.

  19. I believe that as long as we’re alive and on this earth, the only sin that God won’t forgive is the sin that we refuse to repent of. Anyone who is concerned with unforgivable sin and desires repentance shows by his very concern that he has not committed the unforgivable sin.

    Anyone who has committed the unforgivable sin has his heart hardened to the point that he will have no desire to repent for the rest of his life.

  20. An interesting and helpful post. I think I agree most with Matt’s comments, so I decided to make a few more comments on another blog here: http://betterbibles.com/2011/03/10/repentance-in-heb-1217

  21. michael, thank you so very much for bringing clarity to this verse. i can not tell you the horrible depression this verse has put me in. i have the same experience as the friend you have written about in this post! i thought i was the only one discouraged by those verses.

    i have fallen away for a short time from god in my teens, and ever since i have been seeking god like crazy. the verses in hebrews about esau and heb. 6:4 have caused such great depression…with my feeling like god will never take me back though i am begging him to. john piper scared me even more with his teaching on this verse which i noticed a few years back.

    • Sandra, I realize it has been a few years since you posted this and I hope you somehow see this.
      I went through the same concerns as you before. I thought upon initially encountering the Hebrews passage that it applied to me. I was horrified.
      Yet somehow it seemed that the Lord was talking to me a short while afterwards. I just had to listen. It was not enough to lift the emotional weight off of me, but it was enough for me to move forward ,however slowly that was.
      About a year or two after ,I had a visit from the Spirit one night where He came and literally picked me up off the bed and laid my head down on the pillow. I woke up and was like, “God, all of these problems I have had I am giving to You and let You work them out in Your time.”

  22. michael, thank you so very much for bringing clarity to this verse. i can not tell you the horrible depression this verse has put me in. i have the same experience as the friend you have written about in this post! i thought i was the only one discouraged by those verses.

    i have fallen away for a short time from god in my teens, and ever since i have been seeking god like crazy. the verses in hebrews about esau and heb. 6:4 have caused such great depression…with my feeling like god will never take me back though i am begging him to. john piper scared me even more with his teaching on this verse which i noticed a few years back.

  23. and i just went back to read the comments people have left and now i feel conflicted and ambiguous again. is it possible this text still says that esau did not get the blessing even though he repented, as one commentator said?

  24. This verse is saying that even though Esau repented he could not get the blessing back. This is scary. Also, it says that he “found no opportunity to repent” What does that mean? Even the good translations say that. Could the repentance refer to his father? Like, he could not change his father’s mind to give him the blessing?

  25. Really nice… Thank you!

  26. I just learned that the Holy Spirit gives repentance, it is a gift of God. That this is part of the “election” of God. Esau was not chosen, so he did not have the gift of the Holy Spirit, from the womb, he was not part of the chosen “elect” ,whose names were written in the Lambs Book of life at the beginning of the world. god would not give it.
    No one seeks God, we are called , those that are appointed “believe” and repent. Acts 13:48

  27. I think Piper was taken out of context. This is a post from him just a couple of days ago…hopefully it will give some encouragement.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/a-word-for-those-who-have-forsaken-jesus

  28. CMP did an exceptional job proving (in my mind) an obvious exposition of Heb 12:17—– sad that so many in the posts still miss it.

    The antecedent for the “IT” Esau sought is obviously the birthright he sold for a “mess of pottage”… and the “IT” is not the repentance.
    Though he repented with tears, he could not get back birthright he gave up.

    This verse has NOTHING to do with salvation, hell or anything related to eternal life. (or even an allusion, illustration, allegory etc)

    The context (Heb 12) is for those who are believers (saved) and warns of chastisement for those believers who sell their birthright of an abundant life here and eternal rewards at the judgement seat for a “mess of pottage” (living after the flesh)

    Piper’s other delusion (eisegesis) is that only those who got saved by turning from their sin, forsaken their old life, committed themselves to Christ and make him Lord of their will be saved…. and even then, only those who endure in good works, hold out faithful, do not practice sin and endure to the end of their lives can be saved.

    This thinking creates complete lack of assurance of salvation; which gives way to the depression so prone to people like CPM spoke of in the article.

    Depressed after hearing poor preaching and unbiblical platitudes, which make you doubt if you are saved, makes you doubt if you can return to the Lord and makes you doubt if you are capable of seeking repentance to restoration.

    As long as you have breath you can repent (change your mind).

    God commands all men everywhere to repent… which obviously means that all men are ABLE to repent.

  29. Hi Jeff, I think you are incorrect on the statement you made about the statement having nothing to do with eternal life. The book of Hebrews is all about persevering for the reward and the final destination (Strive for the holiness without which none will see the Lord is what the author says). He tells them all throughout that to reject Christ is to reject your final reward otherwise the warning passages have no meat to them. On the topic of Esau I still think you need to do something with the clause “He found no chance for repentance”. Piper describes Esau’s condition in one of his sermons on Hebrews. His (and Spurgeons) description of Esau is also one of the human heart getting to such a hardened state that you can desire repentance but not have the volitional ability to carry it out. The scripture (can’t remember where) describes Esau as despising his birthright. The author of Hebrews is exhorting the hebrew Christians to not despise their “birthright” and to stop drifting and shrinking back else they become like Esau and go over the cliff of hardened un-repentance. A person can have tears of sorrow over their sin but not repentance. I think that describes Esau. So whether its repentance he was seeking or the blessing, either way, he despised it and therefore was rejected. The author of Hebrews is saying “there is a point Christian where you may drift into sin so long that there is no hope for you” which is why Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10 are there. The author is not saying as a declaration that they are beyond repentance but as a warning to stop drifting else they come to a decisive cliff like Esau and throw themselves over it. He tells them in chapter 6 that if the salvation (or birthright) you have is lost by you making a decisive decision to drink the poison of rejecting Christ (i.e falling away) and profane the blood of the covenant by which you were sanctified (chapter 10) then there is no other salvation for you” and you may desire to come back but to come back after falling away is to re-crucify Christ and re-crucifying Christ can’t be done and for those that do there is a wrath of fury and judgement that will consume the adversaries (Chap 10). But Jude 24 “Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you blameless and above reproach”.

  30. Esau lost his inheritance, not his ability to repent. If we repent, God is faithful to restore us with things that honor him, but God will not automatically give us back the thing we lost while acting out in sin.

  31. This scripture had given me a few sleepless nights in the past as well but through people like yourself and further study I came to realize a lot of what you just said. I also feel that whether it’s referring to the blessing or actual repentance Esau was wanting it on his own terms instead of what God wanted. It sort of puts me in mind of the story where Cain is told what to present for a sacrifice and although he brings an offering it’s what he wants to bring instead of what God told him to bring. I feel that like Cain Esau wanted to obtain Gods favor but on his terms instead of Gods. The story of the rich young ruler in the new testament is another example of someone who sought repentance as long as they could obtain it in a way that worked for

  32. If this is happened to you, you will not merely wonder. You will know it. It happened to me. It starts when you notice that all the warnings of the bible apply to you, while you are simultaneously becoming unable to relate to the spiritual beauty of the bible. It happens only to people who were never connected to the true vine (jesus christ). These people, utter fools that they are ( as I am/ was) keep on enjoying spiritual experiences but for whatever reason never come fully to Christ. This is the test: if a person is crazy about Jesus (not god or Christianity) then you are not in danger at all. People who took all gods blessings (and spiritual gifts) but refused to give everything to him. Let me warn you guys. This is the absolute worst state in all of existence to be in. It is literally a precursor to hell, but on earth. You know you need to repent, but it is literally impossible. You can feel your heart completely hardened. You no longer understand spiritual things. Church no longer makes sense. Praise is no longer on any personal value. Prayer does not help someone in this condition at all. If you can get even an ounce of spiritual wisdom from the bible then this does not apply to you. Let me tell you one more thing. Once this happens you can clearly see that Christianity is true ( not by faith, but by knowledge).
    You Christians havent even begun to know what a blessing you have. I would give everything to read the bible one more time. to repent just one more time. to pray with all my heart one more time. To listen to one more sermon. PLEASE, if you are reading this and can still do those things, do so as if tonight was you last night one earth. With all the joy in the world. You will never understand how horrible this is, but it fully reminds me (constantly) how great the salvation that I took for granted was.

    • Wait! You are confusing inheritance with salvation! You cannot save yourself and can ONLY lose your salvation if you say so…if it depends on you. The devil wants us to lose our rewards but can NEVER take our salvation. Look into the metachoi of CHRIST. The sheer fact you feel a loss of spiritual things means you understand them and you are just far from GOD right now. Seek and you shall find. HE says HE will never leave or forsake us…for HE is the one who is faithful! Moses lost his ability to go I to promise land, striking the rock twice. Yet, GOD will bring Moses back as one of the two witnesses and was with GOD after he died! ALL can repent, our works are as filthy rags. Plus JESUS died for everyone so we all are capable of repentance. HE commands all to do so. Your hard heart can be broken up. Pray and seek HIM again. You will stand before HIM saved or unsaved. If saved, with good works or without not as part of salvation but because it is what HE has done with our lives by breaking up the soil in our hearts!

    • Do you still sin and can’t turn from it? Or aren’t sorry for sinning against God?

    • What do you mean you can’t repent ?
      Could you email me If I give you address?

  33. John, even though I am writing this months after your post, if you see this, please let me know. I am going through much of the same of what you describe, but am still crying out to the Lord for His mercy. I’ve been in this state for almost 11 months now, after reading one of the warning passages. Many have told me to cling to the cross and concentrate on God’s grace, but what keeps dominating my mind was the unthinkable hypocrisy that was going on secretly in my life. I’m curious to know what is going on with you and how you are handling this. Are you desiring God’s grace, true holiness in life, etc., but feeling no link with God? Have you given up all hope?

  34. In response to John Bartel’s statement, I have unfortunately found myself in much the same situation and state of mind. In my case I have felt myself in this utter pit of despair time and time again, but kept returning to my sinful habbits and lifestyle. I am a college student, and I constantly had poeple and situations to lure me into sin although I kept repeanting and seeking forgiveness. In my life there have been many wonderful spiritual experiences, and I have felt the love and forgiveness of God. I have been enlightened in my mind, and I at one point was able to completely push lust out of my mind along with other things. I enjoyed helping people, and in those few and far between times which I felt I was serving God by doing simple things like going to work at places that feed the homelss, I felt extremely joyful. However, I am like one of those who did not count the cost before starting to build. My mind became rancid with lust and pride. I had many terrible thoughts about God and about the very spirit that brought me to salvation. I always felt in my heart that there was something that held me back from making the right sacrifice in life. I always preached to myslef about doing so, but I never did. Just tonight I began having all of these terrible thoughts about how I have crucified Jesus over and over again by my sin. I have sinned even while I was convicted that my actions were sinful, but I just kept sinning. After such things happened I would make vows and promises to stop sinning, but then would be right back at it before long. I have greviously sinned, and want to change from the inside out, but what more can God do for me? God has blessed me with everything, and I never have had to endure hardships. I hope that there is a chance to grow, a chance to change, a chace to be right again.

    • John email me at Stevenjb78 at aim dot com, I can help you with other scripters that may help you, I will also pray hard for you that God grants you the ability to repent.

    • John Gardner how are you now? Would you like to talk about it ? I’m dealing with a lot of same things

  35. Lake Stevens Pete March 1, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Esau could not find repentance because he sought a restoration of the lost blessing rather than a restoration of the lost relationship with God. He was focused on the blessing of God and not the relationship with God. Contrast Esau’s lack of repentance with David who found repentance after committing sin that on the surface looks worse than Esau. David’s repentance was directed toward restoring the lost relationship with God (Ps. 51). He wanted a “right heart” with God, whereas Esau sought a lost benefit which was selfish in his repentance.

    Anyone who thinks they cannot be restored to God after sin need only consider that repentance is purely an act of turning back to right relationship with God, and not an attempt to “unring a bell” of sin we committed to get rid of the shame we feel. When i sin and others see my sin am I more concerned about my lost reputation (shame based), or more concerned about my lost relationship with God. Nothing is more important than our relationship with God and within that understanding and knowledge should come true repentance that seeks to find peace with God.

  36. Tonight as I was thinking these things, I began to pray to God once again for deliverance and for the healing of my soul. I realized that I began to have a thought that was something like gladness over what I had done. This to I confessed although I think this is disgusting and horrible, and I don’t know why I had this feeling I detest it, but my focus on the feeling may have made it stronger. As I prayed, I began to hear a voice that said, “do you think I will pay the price again for you, no you will have to pay for what you have done.” Also, “I heard the same voice say, “I will judge you.” When all this was happening I felt as if my soul was imploding on itself, and that the destruction of my soul was happening already. This felt like a panic attack, but much much worse. If anyone is examining their life right no, and realizing that the warnings of the Bible apply to you. struggle with all of your heart against sin. I think it is too late for me, but I am hopeful for better things concerning some of you who may still have a chance. Please do not get discouraged in reading this. John Bartell, I do understand what you are going through, but maybe there is hope for those of us who are in this state. My commitment now is to fight through the discouragement, and try to live as Jesus taught us to live, to give kidness and love to others, to connect with people, and to show others the same love we have all been shown. Is that not the Holy command Jesus gave his apostles before he went away? He says to love eachother as I have loved you. Loving God with all of your heart is a concious choice, but how does one persist in such a noble command? How can I who have been so unfaithful even begin to show love? Why does love have to be so difficult? Because it is the most rewarding thing we can have. To love God is to live, but what I have done leads to death. I give thanks to God for pulling me out of my destruction many times, and I hope to be brought to love God more…

    • I feel bad for everyone who feels GOD will leave them at some point. Esau, sought to kill Jacob after he “repented”??? No! He seems to have never repented, he only wanted back the blessings (inheritance) from something he despised (his calling?? Or family lineage?) Many want to be saved and get into heaven but despise CHRSTianity which calls for repentance which HE will forgive if we do that! John Bartell, you seem to keep asserting that GOD is not capable of forgiving sin. That is the reason JESUS came here and HIS work, on our behalf, was not in vain no matter what a person does. If you belive GODS word then belive this…Romans 11;29 for the gifts (salvation) and calling of GOD are without repentance. I pray for us all to feel the joy and security of salvation and that we will seek to be close to HIM which makes us see our sins more and more and receive HIS blessings more and more as we are changed!

  37. And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob. (Genesis 27:41 KJV)

    I don’t see repentance from Esau. Repentance is to turn from what you’ve done. Honestly it seems the author of Hebrews doesn’t understand repentance. Esau may have been sorry that he could not be blessed, but in seeking his own posterity there is not repentance.

  38. To William and John Gardner. I am beginning to feel that I can relate to you both. Maybe the three of us can be of encouragement and prayer to each other. Lets continue to seek Him. Together. God is still good. My email address is galations1vs.6to9@gmail.com

  39. To both William and john. Please note that you are both anxiety stricken. Call out to The Lord. “For all who come to Him He will in wise cast out”. Pour out your heart and soul to the Father. Remember the Farher in te story of the prodigal son? That’s The Lord. I will pray for you both.

    • The father in the prodigal son also gave his son the signet ring (authority to do business on fathers behalf?) and the best family robe (honor given back?) and shoes (servants had no shoes, sons did?)
      The prodigal son spent his earthly inheritance but the father restored him back to himself, the family and the people in the city.. The prodigal never lost his sonship. The father was watching and waiting for his son to return to him. The son repented and the father forgave. Praise GOD!

  40. To William and to john.

    Great book by an old preacher named Horatius Bonar called Gods Way of Peace.

    Get it. Read it. Study it. Pray over what you read. God truly is merciful.

  41. Hello, my name is Jacob.
    I am 18.
    I am struggling with this.
    I don’t have a solid Biblical foundation, I don’t know where to start. I believe Jesus is real and died for my forgiveness, but I don’t know much else aside from that. I’m so lost and confused.
    I know I need to repent. And I’ve tried. But I’ve grievously sinned over and over, despite knowing it was wrong. Convicted while doing the sin, I kept going anyway. I’m so scared, so depressed, so kfjasdlkfjasdg that I’m losing all will power on what to do or even keep fighting.
    I recently encountered someone who introduced me into Andrew Wommack and Bill Johnson teachings, but many people say they are apostate.
    I’ve read Spurgeon, and he believes in OSAS.
    I’ve read the Holiness preachers who don’t believe in OSAS.
    I’m so confused. I’m scared of myself. I hate myself. I go back to the sin even WHILE reading, praying, and seeking repentance. I don’t know what to do. I hear about God’s love, but then read the OT and see how he killed people in an instant. I look at the story of Ananias and Saphira. I’m so scared, yet at the sametime, I can feel I’m starting to not care anymore, like there’s no hope, because there’s way too many interpretations. I’ve had people tell me, “Just seek Jesus” but how do I know who Jesus is? With all these interpretations, people telling me that spiritual encounters aren’t necessarily the Spirit of God, how am I supposed to know? With all these denominations? With all my grievant, evil, smacking-God-in-the-face sin? How do I repent? Get eternal life? Get hope? I’m so lost..help me..please.

    • Scripture proves scripture. Do NOT rely on man to tell you what GOD says. GOD said HE is the only one who will show us spiritual things. You can rely on the people who say just seek HIS word. Read HIS words. HE is the word and the way (for everyone) and the light (to pull you out of this darkness) You need to trust in HIM and HIM alone! May your heart find comfort in HIM and seek HIS word as if looking for hidden treasure! See you in Heaven! .

  42. Hi Jacob,
    Read Romans 7, v 14-25. Paul, a man used mightily by God describes himself as a wretched man due to the struggles with sin he experienced. Sanctification (being made more Holy) is a lifelong process which is not completed in this life.
    The fact that you are seeking Jesus is a great sign- Jesus said that none could come to Him unless His Father had gave them to Him.

  43. I am a bit saddened by how quickly people accept the analysis give-is it because they believe in sinning with the knowledge that they can still seek repentance which will be accepted.
    Let us consider Judas Iscariot ,he also sought repentance and it was not accepted, while God is forgiving ,we choose to to forget that in Hebrews 6:4 it is clearly stated that seeking repentance after having basked in Gods glory is impossible because there is no guarantee that you cannot go back to your vomit and you crucify Christ again
    If you are in a marriage and your wife runs away with another man what chances would you give her again bearing in mind no guarantee is available to say she wont run away again
    So, because of our love for sin we immediately accept an explanation of Hebrews 12:17 as not referring to repentance so we can continue to sin with the assurance that when we are now old and tired of the world and have no energy to work for God we can come back to die in Gods arms sounds like -indulgence to me

  44. The Bible doesn’t say that Judas showed repentance towards God, he displayed remorse and tried to atone towards men by giving back the money. I seriously doubt that anyone here is attempting to useany interpretation as some sort of licence to sin or indulgence which would be completely unbiblical

  45. All great comments from sincere Christians. Consider this, however: when Noah was safely ensconced within the ark and the door was slammed shut; seven days later the rain started to fall, the water started to rise, and people were outside banging on the door in deep repentance begging to come in, why didn’t God put everything on hold and save them? Here is what I believe is the answer to them and to Esau. Repentance is first and foremost the acknowledgement that God is king of your life and you kneel in full submission to Him. Next, it is the abandonment of sin. Esau pursued the second aspect but refused to be in submission to God. Same applies to the people outside the ark, to whom Noah preached 120 years. Same to the people trying to get in to the New Jerusalem when the fires are falling. If we believe that God saves us on the basis of what we do then salvation is by works. If we believe God and submit to His kingship of our lives, which includes our willingness to abhor known sin in our lives, then salvation is of faith.
    It’s always wonderfully challenging to find the answer to difficult texts but we need to let the final arbiter be the character of God. Esau failed to avail himself of the character of God and won’t, I fear, be found among the saved.

  46. It’s been 6+ months since I last posted. I wish I could say that things have gotten better, i.e., that I’ve found spiritual relief in the Lord, but it hasn’t. As time goes on and I see the genuine joy of true believers around me, as I lose my mental faculties due to unrelenting, severe depression (due to the belief that I have apostatized), and my inability to have true godly sorrow in spite of crying out to God every sleepless night, I live in a state of continual despair. I can’t concentrate on any task or on anyone else– all I can think of is what kind of eternal horrors are waiting for me. Whenever I take a drink of water, I think of how I will never get it in hell. Whenever I experience any kind of heat or hear others talk about hot weather, I think about how it is nothing compared to what I will be experiencing in hell. I sometimes go into an inner room and turn out the lights to see what total darkness will be like, knowing it’s nothing compared to the eternal darkness I’m headed for. My greatest regrets are assuming all the time I was saved at an early age (3 years-old), not recognizing that, although very gifted and knowledgeable of the Bible (Ph.D in New Testament), I did not exemplify the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5, nor the qualities of 2 Peter 1. The popularity of my ministries and the accolades I received also aided in deceiving me into assuming I was saved. But I was self-deceived, sinning heedlessly with no real fear of God. I can hardly open my Bible now as every time I do all that speak to me are judgment passages concerning the wicked and the descriptions of the wicked. I had much light, was a staunch biblicist and defender of the inspiration, sufficiency and authority of the Scriptures and of the fundamentals of the faith (which I still believe all), but realize more every day that it was always, only in my head, not my heart. I’m falling apart in every way. It is indeed a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the…

  47. Hi William,
    I have been in a very similar state of despair to your own. A few years ago I had a ‘conversion’ experience which I later gleaned to be without reality. This was following years of also experiencing much light but not truly understanding the meaning of salvation through grace. Subsequently I was more like a pharisee with terrible hyprocisy, even though I was outwardly mostly pious. An experience where I failed to witness ccaused me to plunge in to despair as I realised my profession had been based on a decision to live a Christian life rather than seeking mercy personally from the Lord. This despair lasted for months, however I have found peace through trusting solely on Christ to deliver me from sin and on my personal relationship with Him. There cannot be salvation without conviction of sin and Christ came to save sinners. I would recommend John Newton’s biography by Richard Cecil

  48. William and John Bartlett,

    I have been in a state of utter despair for the past 1.5 years. Like you both described, I had deceived myself into thinking that I was saved when I really was not. I said the sinner’s prayer as a teenager, and subsequently began to read my Bible, knew by heart numerous scriptures, attended church regularly, and participated in several outreach ministries. As an adult, God began to convict me that I was not saved (that I needed Jesus). I argued with God that I had to be saved because of my prayer and all of the subsequent works. God continued to convict me, but I kept refusing to listen (I was too busy doing church work). It was only after the conviction to turn to Jesus stopped that I truly realized that I was lost. And now, like you both, I fear that I am permanently lost. I had abundant head knowledge but no heart knowledge. I feel like I am here on earth physically, but that my spirit died 1.5 years ago. I have no zeal for life, but am not eager for death. My family continues to tell me that I just need to call upon the Lord and He will hear me. They do not understand my utter hopelessness and why I can’t just turn back to God, especially since I was raised in church and appeared to be walking with God. I know that I am lost and I know that I need Jesus, but can not rid myself of this belief that I am no longer able to repent and that though I professed a love for God and others it was hypocrisy.

    I had never noticed how many passages in the Bible referred to the wicked, but now every time I open my Bible, that is all that jumps out. I truly feel like I am just beginning to experience the utter fear of falling into the hands of the living God.

  49. William,
    in response to your questions to John bartlett, i am offering my own responses as i find myself in the same terrifying state.

    1) I’m curious to know what is going on with you and how you are handling this.

    I am in utter despair. I have lost all zest for life. I quit my job in 2012 because i could not concentrate on work, all my thoughts are preoccupied with hell and damnation. I find it challenging to even complete the simplest daily tasks and even maintain personal hygiene. I barely communicate with my husband and family. They are true Christians that love The Lord. I feel like I have nothing in common with them and that everything that comes out of my mouth is a lie. How can I say I love them when I know that the love of God is not in me?

    Are you desiring God’s grace, true holiness in life, etc., but feeling no link with God?

    I m not sure how to answer this question. Yes, I desire God’s grace and to have fellowship with Him. I desire to be saved from my sins. But i must be lying because why would God have hardened my heart, unless He knew that I would never truly seek Him? I am so confused. I know that I am a sinner and that my sins are killing me and that Jesus is the only person that can save me. But I feel like there is an impossible barrier (my hard heart) that prevents me from turning to Jesus.

    Have you given up all hope?

    Yes. The conviction that I experienced as God was trying to draw me to Jesus and the finality when that conviction departed alongside the numerous scriptures in God’s word that warn of hardened heart, falling away, unpardonable sin all have me in a state of utter hopelessness. I feel like I am reading my Bible in vain, trying to reproduce the conviction that I once felt. But knowing deep down that that conviction can only come from God, not me and that He gave me numerous chances and i rejected them. pharisees searched scripture looking for eternal life, but Jesus told them He is life.

    • Stephanie you say that your husband is a true Christian. This verse may help;
      1 Corinthians 7:14
      For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

    • Email me at clintvarner.com please. I’m
      Going through this too. Can you not feel conviction?

  50. Everyday life is getting more difficult. My godly wife is able to see God’s goodness in every circumstance, while it’s as if I have blinders on. I feel like I’m in several vicious cycles. One is as I feel hopelessly headed to hell, I become more and more preoccupied with myself and less and less able to think of others. This terrible, empty self-absorbtion is the fruit of my ways for loving myself for so long instead of really loving God with all my heart and others as myself. But how to get my mind off myself and onto others escapes me as I think about what is awaiting me. I have also allowed the depression over all this to cause me to become very lazy. Also, whereas I used to be a very confident person (probably overly confident), I’ve lost all confidence as I don’t feel the Lord’s presence with me. I feel like everything I do goes wrong or is doomed to failure, the result of realizing the absence of God, who give all ability. I was such a fool– only now do I realize that the infinitely most wonderful blessing is to have a genuine, vital relationship with Jesus Christ. I foolishly let the things of this world gain value in my heart. Now I see the sheer vanity of these things. I am in anguish over my stupidity– having so much light, but not living in the reality of it in my heart. I find myself continually desiring to go back in time, to points where I should have realized that I did not really belong to Christ and repent, but there is no going back. Still, even in this despair, I continue to cry out to God during the sleepless hours of the night (and during the day as well), hoping that His grace and lovingkindness and mercy will triumph over my sinfulness and hard-heartedness. I know God is good and that this is all the result of my own sinful heart, but in spite of this I find myself struggling not to become bitter over this. I know it is the epitome of foolishness to be angry at God– my heart is so wicked. God, help me! You are my…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. All Mixed Up and Ready to Share « Penned Pebbles - March 8, 2011

    […] What if there’s no fruit, bad fruit, or not enough fruit? Could it ever be too bad or too late for us? Could Esau Repent? […]

  2. Repentance in Heb 12:17 « Better Bibles Blog - March 10, 2011

    […] blog post about the possibility of Esau repenting in Heb 12:17. It can (and should first) be read here. He cites a number of different English translations. I will only quote two of them here to give […]

  3. Biblical Studies Carnival LXI – March Madness Edition | Dr. Platypus - March 31, 2011

    […] theology from beyond the perimeter in answering the question, Could Esau repent? (Heb 12:17). Michael Patton and Iver Larsen both said, “Yes”—but for different grammatical […]

Leave a Reply