Generational Curses Today?
Many false teachers preach that generational curses require special cures. Supposedly, you must pray special prayers so that you may free yourself from generational curses. In order to understand all matters of faith and practice, we must study the Bible for ourselves. Only the Word of God can help us understand the truth.
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Generational Curses Described
In the Old Testament, God provided written laws to help the people of Israel understand just how sinful they were and how much they needed a Savior to forgive their sins. By faith, the righteous found forgiveness. We may look at the Old Testament to understand the basics of personal responsibility for sin and the effects of national sins.
The Ten Commandments. In the Ten Commandments, Moses wrote about a generational curse:
“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:5, Page 120)
Curses Fall upon People Who Hate God. Notice that the generational curse falls only upon people who hate God, no matter what generation they belong to. Furthermore, false teachers ignore the very next verse:
“but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:6, Page 120).
Blessings Flow To People Who Love God. While God certainly brought generational curses upon some idolaters, He also promised to show His lovingkindness to thousands of generations who love Him and keep His commandments. Therefore, we may safely proclaim that no generational curse applies to anyone who loves God and keeps His commandments. We should also consider other similar passages.
“Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘the LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations'” (Exodus 34:6-7, Page 146).
God Punishes the Guilty. This passage appears very similar to the Ten Commandments passage above. Indeed, this narrative describes the second giving of the Ten Commandments. You may recall Moses slammed the first stone tablets to the ground, outraged over the idolatry of the people of Israel. The second time, however, Moses himself had to cut the stones for God to write upon. As the first time, God emphasized the difference between the fate of idolaters who practice sin over generations, and believers who turn away from idolatry and find the forgiveness of God. God only punishes the guilty, never the righteous.
“So those of you who may be left will rot away because of their iniquity in the lands of your enemies; and also because of the iniquities of their forefathers they will rot away with them” (Leviticus 26:39, Page 209).
National Sins Produce National Disasters. In Leviticus 26, God warned the people of Israel to observe the sabbath of rest while in the promised land. If they neglected the sabbath, then God would impose punishment upon Israel for such disobedience. In fact, God sent Israel into exile in Babylon until it had fulfilled seventy years of sabbaths (Daniel 9:1-2, Page 1404; see also Jeremiah 25:11, Page 1225). This passage pinpoints the specific judgment of God upon disobedient people. While some of the people went into exile in Babylon because of their sin, ignoring the warning of God regarding the sabbaths, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah prospered under the hand of Babylon. Furthermore, Jeremiah himself predicted that the people of Israel should seek the prosperity of Babylon while exiled there, and they should have children and multiply (Jeremiah 29:4-20, Pages 1232-1233). We may learn that God judges a nation for a period of time, but the individuals who serve Him prospered according to His lovingkindness.
Individual Responsibility for Sin. We may glean from these passages the truth that God always holds the individual accountable for his own sin. At times, God also pronounced curses upon an entire nation for the evil things it had done. God did not even spare Israel for such a punishment for its idolatry.
Generational Effects of Sin. We may also learn that sin has affects across generations. One generation may learn to worship idols at home, from their parents. In such cases, one generation promotes the idolatry of the next generation. Even so, each person within each generation may forsake the evil, confess sin, and enjoy the lovingkindness of God, no matter what happened before. Even the faithful exiles living in Babylon rose to prominence, performed great works for God, and became a light to the pagans about the true and living God they served. God used the exiles to evangelize the Babylonians.
The Righteous Enjoy Blessings, Not Curses
The Old Testament consistently provided that only the guilty shall be punished, in contrast to the pagan customs of destroying entire families. God never punished fathers for the sins of their children, nor did God punish children for the sins of the fathers.
“Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16, Page 326).
Fathers Not Punished for the Sons’ Sins. Any notion that children suffer for the generational sins of the fathers should be evaluated according this verse. God never punishes one person for the sins of another person. Moses delivered the laws of God and they clearly indicated personal responsibility for sin (Deuteronomy 24:16, Page 326). Later, King Amaziah understood and applied the teaching of Moses. When King Amaziah killed the rebels who killed his father the king, King Amaziah did not kill the rebels’ children, because King Amaziah obeyed the law of Moses, quoting Deuteronomy 24:16 (2 Kings 14:6, Page 618; see also Ezekiel 18:20, Page 1323).
The Watchman of Israel. The blessings of the righteous rest upon every person who turns from his sin and does justice and righteousness. In Ezekiel 3, God appointed Ezekiel a watchman over Israel. God used Ezekiel to warn Israel.
“When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you did not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand'” (Ezekiel 3:18, Page 1300).
The Spiritual Duty To Warn Sinners. God stressed individual responsibility for sin, but also imposed a duty to warn evil men to turn away from their sins. If you warn an evil man and he continues in his sin, then you are no longer responsible for the sin. Notice that the evil man makes a decision about continuing in sin; God commands all unbelievers to repent and receive the free gift of salvation by faith alone before death on earth. God even sends people to warn evil people about the dangers of sin and unrepentance. Therefore, we may understand that God cares for the evil people, warns them, and offers them life instead of death. Each person must make their own choices, but God calls upon us to care for our neighbors and warn them of the consequences of their sin. God applied this same theme of personal responsibility to fathers and children.
“The person that sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20, Page 1323).
Sin and Death: Always Individual. Many parents worry about their children. Some parents worry that their sins will be held against their children. In other cases, some parents worry that they will be punished for the sins of their children. God does not act like that. He holds each parent and each child responsible for their individual actions.
Sins of the Fathers. A priest name Eli had two sons named Hophni and Phinehas. They were worthless men who did not know the Lord and the custom of the priests with the people (1 Samuel 2:12-13, Page 439). They committed immorality and corrupted the sacrifices of the people of Israel offered to God. Their father Eli honored his sons more than he honored God (1 Samuel 2:29, Page 440). At times, people fail to confront their children timely and persistently about their terrible sins. Although the sons of Eli sinned, and suffered punishment for their own sins, Eli also suffered because he also sinned in not confronting his sons timely about their evil behavior. Individual responsibility for sin does not mean that we fail to warn others about their sins. Remember Ezekiel, the watchman of Israel.
Curses without Cause
Some curses do not have any impact because they have no basis in fact. A proverb from the wise explained that baseless curses never pose a problem.
“Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, so a curse without a cause does not alight” (Proverbs 26:2, Page 1039).
Baseless Curses. A curse without basis cannot attach to a person. In other words, a baseless curse brings no impact. As we have seen throughout the Old Testament, individuals answer for their own behavior; if by faith they have repented and sought forgiveness, then they have been forgiven, and all curses removed from their life.
The Blessings of the New Covenant
Although not all aspects of the New Covenant have been realized, the New Covenant brings many blessings to believers. One blessing concerns the blessing of the nation of Israel. An old proverb in Israel held that “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” In contrast, under the New Covenant, things will change.
“But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge” (Jeremiah 31:30, Page 1238).
New Covenant Blessings. So, the blessings of the New Covenant continue the consistent application of the basic truth that individuals remain accountable for their own actions. An individual will not answer for the sins of his father. On a national level, the nation of Israel shall be transformed when King Jesus returns to reign upon earth. Then, the people of Israel alive at the time King Jesus returns to reign shall all become believers, from the least of them to the greatest of them (Hebrews 8:11, Page 1877-1878).
Complete Relief from Curses
At the moment of salvation, the believer has been set free from the penalty of all sins–past, present and future.
“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14, Page 1843).
Nailed It to the Cross. When Jesus died on the cross, more than His body was nailed to that cross. The entire certificate of debt, consisting of decrees against us, was also nailed to the cross, rendering that debt paid in full and taken out of the way. Our transgressions require supreme payment, the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Having been paid, we are free from every debt, and every curse. No lingering payment for sin will ever be required. Every curse has been broken in our lives.
No Condemnation. Consider also the powerful truth of Romans concerning our victory and freedom in Jesus Christ. After Paul discussed the effects of the flesh and bondage to sin, Paul explained the truth of no condemnation for believers. In triumph, Paul declared that the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ has set free every believer and no condemnation rests upon any believer. No condemnation, no curses.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2, page 1768).
Jesus also became a curse for every believer. The Old Testament provided that everyone who was hung a tree was cursed (Deuteronomy 21:22-23, Page Page 321). Paul applied that Old Testament passage to the redemption we have in Christ. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul explained how Jesus became a curse for us.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE'” (Galatians 3:13, Page 1822)
Christ Became a Curse. Part of the price of our salvation included Jesus becoming a curse for us. Jesus suffered under the Law which provided if a man sinned, he would be hung on a tree. So, everyone hung a tree was cursed. In the case of Jesus, He willingly died on a cross (“the tree”) to become a curse for me. I was living under the curse of sin and death, but Jesus forever broke the curse by dying in my place upon the cross. In so doing, Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law, once and for all.
The New Creation │ Old Things Passed Away
At the moment of spiritual birth, the believer becomes an entirely new person, born of the seed of God. The new believer becomes a new creature.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, Page 1809).
New Creature. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, Page 1809, all the old things inside a person passed away at the moment of salvation. A new creature was born of God at that same moment of salvation. Consistent with all the teaching of the Bible, salvation terminates the spiritual penalty of sin in our lives. Jesus took the penalty upon Himself, and so satisfied all the justice of God regarding the debt created by our sins. In declaring that new things have come and all the old things have passed away, all curses would also be taken away, once and for all.
Parents. Parents never have to worry that their saved children will have to suffer under the curse of the parent’s own sinful activities, bringing a curse upon the children for generations to come. Each individual child will be judged according to that child’s behavior.
Parents. No Special Prayers. God never imposed curses on individuals because of the evil of their parents. Therefore, God does not require special prayers to lift non-existent curses in the believer’s life. If a believer sins, then the believer confesses the sin and by faith believes that the faithful and righteous God will cleanse them and forgive the believer of all their sins (1 John 1:9, Page 1904).
Parents. New Creation. At the moment of salvation, each believer became a new creation. All the old things passed away and are gone forever. No more curses could possibly exist.
Parents. Christ Cursed. Because Jesus was cursed for me, by dying on the cross, then no curse remains for me. He paid every debt, and now no condemnation remains for me.