When It’s Too Late For Repentance

Hebrews 12:17 says of Esau, “For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” This verse is speaking in the context of :16, where it refers to how Esau “sold his own birthright for a single meal.” Once that had been done, it could not be reversed. :17 says that though “he sought for it with tears”, there was “no place for repentance.”

This verse is a sobering reminder that there are times when it is too late to reverse the damage done by our decisions.

Many people, having heard all their lives about the grace and mercy of God, take His grace for granted. They decide on courses and actions which they know are contrary to God’s will, but figure that “God will forgive me anyway” and plunge foolishly into their rebellious way. They assume there will be no lasting damage once they are forgiven.

These people exhibit the spirit of Esau — and unfortunately may well discover his end as well. For Hebrews tells us that when “later” came, and Esau wanted to repent of his actions, it was too late. “He found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” Once he had given his inheritance away, he could not regain it back, no matter how “sorry” he was, or how many tears he cried.
This sad story should be a warning to each of us, not to take for granted the grace of God, as well as to realize that there are irreversible decisions in life. Not all the damage you cause from some of your choices and actions can be reversed. It is possible to lose something that you can never regain, no matter how much you regret its loss. There are countless numbers of people who have lost their moral purity, their marriages, their families, the trust of others, their ministries — and more, because of their headstrong and foolish actions. They later discover that no matter how “sorry” they are, like Esau, “there is no place for repentance” — it is too late. It should be a sobering reminder to each of us to weigh our actions carefully, and not to presume upon the grace and forgiveness of God.

As devastating as the loss of such things on earth can be, the weightiest application here is that one day it will be too late for repentance of our sins and saving faith in Christ. As Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” When death comes, it will be too late for repentance. The Rich Man in Luke 16 discovered that too late. His destiny was now fixed, and like in Esau’s case “there was no place for repentance.” May each of us learn from him, and from Esau, and not wait until it is too late to consider the cost of our decisions and actions.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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2 Responses to When It’s Too Late For Repentance

  1. Benjamen Delp says:

    I have been enjoying these posts! Awesome! -Question on this post, was it too late for repentance after Esau sold the birthright to his brother, or was it too late for repentance after the blessing was given to the brother? Your post did not seem clear on this issue. If it is the former, then does that mean as soon as a Christian looses faith in God that then afterwords, no matter what he does, or whatever repentance he has, God will not accept it?

    • Shawn Thomas says:

      That’s a good question. The Biblical text seems to indicate that it was after the birthright but still too late later. Regardless, I would not make the assertion that there is a direct parallel between Esau’s experience and that of a New Testament Christian losing his salvation. I do not believe that a genuine Christian would ever lose his salvation, having been sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13) and having been given “eternal” life (John 3:16). The point of my post was that there are some decisions in life in which the consequences are irreversible, so we need to make sure we don’t lightly assume that forgiveness will “fix” every ill-effect of what we choose to do wrong.
      I’m thankful that you have been enjoying the posts, Benjamen, and hope that you will keep reading!

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