The Biblical Basis for Identificational Repentance
By Rev. Melwyn M.
Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city. . . . O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent (Jeremiah 5:1-3).
Think about it. God promises to forgive an entire city if just one person deals honestly, seeks the truth, and repents. If just one person humbly abides in God’s presence long enough for the light of God’s truth to expose sin, the Lord says that forgiveness will burst forth from the heart of that individual out toward the city limits. Can one repentant person really unleash God’s forgiveness upon a city?
It maybe much easier to accept another scenario: generation after generation relentlessly “hardens their faces” by refusing to repent of their sins.
As time goes on, we might wonder if God ever addresses the perpetual iniquity that occurs in our cities. Does sin somehow accumulate to a point that it sets off his divine alarm clock? Or does God simply cancel out of history all unrepentant sin once the sinner dies?
There are some compelling arguments in the Bible that suggest that certain transgressions produce real and certain consequences for future generations.
For example, Jesus seemed to affirm the notion that generational iniquities can accrue over time by pointing out that the Pharisees “filled up” the “measure of the sin” of their forefathers (Matt. 23:32-35).
Paul applies the same principle to evildoers who “always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last” (1 Thess. 2:16).
Even Abraham was told that there would be a delay in the return of his descendents to the land because the sin of the Amorites must reach its “full measure” (Gen. 15:16).
The psalmist, being very much aware of this reality, relented: “do not hold against us the sins of the fathers; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake” (Ps. 79:8-9).
“Iniquities can be passed on from one generation to the next if you don’t renounce the sins of your ancestors and claim your new spiritual heritage in Christ. You are not guilty for the sin of any ancestor, but because of their sin, you may be vulnerable to Satan’s attack.”
It is only through the blood of Christ that any one can truly be free from the power of sin-cycles, false belief systems, and unholy bonds with other “gods” (Gal. 4:8; Col. 2:8, 11, 20; 3:9; Eph. 2:1-2; 1 Cor. 7:4-6).
Again, let’s pause to consider: will just one person humbly abide in God’s presence long enough for the light of God’s truth to expose sin and “stand in the gap” as a legal representative before God so that forgiveness may be unleashed upon an entire city?
To intercede through “identificational” repentance is simply to identify with a particular corporate sin (national, regional, ethnic, religious, vocational, or family) and represent the perpetrators (or victims) by repenting of (or forgiving) that particular sin. It is important to clarify at this point that “identificational” repentance is not a prayer for the dead (to absolve them of personal accountability before God); nor is it “vicarious” repentance (to stand as a substitute of others). Identificational repentance seeks to release the present generation of descendents from the consequences of the sins of previous generations (based on 2 Chron. 7:14 and Lev. 26:40).
Is this really biblical? Absolutely.
There are many examples of identificational repentance. Moses sought God’s forgiveness on a corporate level after Israel’s worship of the golden calf (Exod. 32:9-14; 34:8-9; Deut. 9:18-29; 10:10-11; Ps. 106:6, 23).
Note particularly that Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel did not commit the sins they confessed, but as representatives identified with and confessed the corporate sins of others:
• Isaiah repented on behalf of all the Israelites (Isa. 6:5)
• Jeremiah confessed the sins of his generation and his forefathers (Jer. 3:25; 14:7, 20)
• Daniel’s identificational repentance delivered God’s people from the demonic principalities of Persia and Greece (Dan. 9:8, 20-22; 10:2ff.)
• Ezra’s identificational repentance (Ezra 9:6-15) led to corporate repentance (10:1-4)
• Nehemiah’s identificational repentance (Neh. 1:6-9) also paved the way for corporate repentance (8:9-11; 9:1-2)
By following the example of God’s humble servants, believers can also identify with the sins of their forefathers in priestly (mediatorial) prayer (1 Pet. 2:9) in order that they may experience a greater measure of God’s grace on a personal level and release God’s mercy on a corporate level.
Many who hold a passionate vision for their city will likely be inspired to research the historical sins of the land to uncover generational iniquities that have developed into oppressive strongholds for evil forces to exploit today by doing some “spiritual mapping” of our own communities:
So what would happen if believers began to do some Holy Spirit-led investigations of their cities? Would it help us to pray more specifically and more effectively? Would we begin to see some movement toward a tangible transformation of our communities? What would happen if we zeroed in on certain spiritual bondages (i.e. “sin-cycles”) that may be hindering our neighbors from coming to faith in Christ?
If just one city resident earnestly devotes himself to seek the truth, repent, and present his legal appeal before God’s throne, the Lord promises to forgive that entire city and heal the land.
Can one repentant person actually curb some of the darkness over a city long enough so as to jar open a window of opportunity for God’s people to effectually contend for the faith and proclaim the hope of Christ to their generation (2 Cor. 4:3-4; Acts 26:18; Col. 4:2-3)?
Don’t just THINK about it.
Do some SPIRITUAL MAPPING.
Do some RESEARCH and PRAY about it.
9594067840 9702970291 9821257382