Matthew 18:23-35 Forgiveness in the Kingdom of Heaven

Forgiveness in the kingdom of heaven is not like forgiveness in the church age, at all. In the church age, our forgiveness is based solely upon what Jesus Christ did for us at Calvary (Col 1:14; Eph 1:7). We can go directly to Jesus with our confession and he will forgive us of our sins (1 Jn 1:9). And because God has forgiven us for Christ’s sake, we are instructed to forgive others (Eph 4:32).

By contrast, in this parable, the illustration is that if a person doesn’t forgive others, he won’t be forgiven himself. Forgiveness is conditioned on forgiving others (Mk 11:25-26; Matt 6:14-15; Jas 2:13). This conditional forgiveness is true concerning the kingdom of heaven, but is not so in the church age. We forgive because we have already been forgiven. Of course, with such a strict demand on forgiveness in the kingdom of heaven, we should take heed not to withhold forgiveness in the church age. We still have to face the Judgment Seat of Christ.

If a person were indebted in the Old Testament, he could be cast into prison (verse 30), and turned over to tormentors (verse 34) until he had satisfied his debt (Lev 25:39-46). The implication is that selling someone into servitude makes them a bondservant and that bond service can be rigorous. According to 2 Ki 4:1 and Neh 5:5, children could be sold to satisfy claims. The price at which they were sold was paid to the creditor. They had the duty to serve the purchaser until the price he paid was satisfied in labor. Jesus even taught that the obligation to a brother should be satisfied before bringing a gift to the altar (Matt 5:23-26). Notice that prison and satisfaction of the debt were the threat in that text, as well.

This parable illustrates a literal doctrinal necessity in the kingdom of heaven. However, it also typifies some things in the kingdom of God, spiritually:

In verses 24-25, we owed a debt we could not pay.
In verse 27, Jesus paid a debt he did not owe.
In verse 27, Jesus paid all that was due (Acts 13:38-39; Gal 3:13; Heb 10:10-14).

In verses 24 and 28 we find that the 10,000 talents owed by the forgiven servant versus the 100 pence owed by the servant he did not forgive represent a difference in the magnitude of what the Lord has to forgive in us versus anything we will ever have to forgive in a brother. No one has ever done worse to us than we have done to the Lord.

In verse 27, when the Lord had compassion on us and forgave our debt, he loosed us, also (Jn 8:33-36, Prov 5:22).

In verse 30, after having been forgiven so much, we should readily forgive others (Eph 4:32).

A heresy is brought forth from this parable. That heresy is purgatory. But notice, the man is still alive when he is sent to the tormentors. So, this is not something that happens after death. He is sent to the tormentors. These are people not “torments” as in the flames of Lk 16. Neither hell nor purgatory is mentioned in the passage. When fire is intended in a parable concerning the kingdom of heaven it is mentioned when it is there (Matt 13:42, 50). Jesus has already paid all that was due; there is nothing left for anyone to pay in purgatory (1 Jn 2:2).