The Bible teaches that the sins of fathers are passed down to the third and fourth generation. In this blog I want to explore how sins are passed down to children.
"The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation" (Ex. 34:6-7).
I also want to see how the following seemingly contradictory passage fits into this:
“Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?' Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezek. 18:19-20).
I find it interesting that the above verses from Exodus mention fathers but not mothers. It could be because often the Bible speaks of men as representative of the whole human race and is not specifically excluding the sins of the mothers. Or it could be because the tainted blood line is passed down from the fathers but not the mothers. If this was not so, then Jesus would have had blood infected with sin from his mother.
In order to understand how sins are passed down from fathers to children, we need to understand how sin was passed down from the original father, Adam, to the entire human race. Paul says,
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom. 5:12).
For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life (Rom. 5:17-18).
Why did one man’s sin affect the entire human race with death? To understand this we must first understand that “life is in the blood.” “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). If life is in the blood and death entered into the world through one man’s sin, it is apparent that something happened to the blood once it was tainted with sin to cause death; and then through the blood line of Adam, the entire human race was infected because all men are from one bloodline—Adam’s. As it says in Acts,
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth (Acts 17:26a).
The blood is what was poisoned by the forbidden fruit. Thus, those who are born again are saved by the untainted, incorruptible blood of Jesus, who was born of a woman but not of a man. Medical science has proven that in the mother’s womb all nutrition can pass through the placenta to the fetus. Also, all the waste products from the baby can pass through to the mother to be expelled by her. However, not one drop of the mother’s blood passes through to the child. It manufactures its own blood after the sperm of the father has fertilized the egg. Therefore, Jesus had to be born of a virgin impregnated by the Holy Spirit; otherwise His blood would have been tainted by a human father. Thus, the blood of Jesus was not infected with sin and death.
The fact that Jesus’ blood was not tainted with death is why it was incorruptible and is why His body did not decay in the grave. When decay begins after physical death, it starts with the blood. That is why meat must be drained of blood if someone wants to preserve it. It is also why morticians drain the blood of corpses to buy a few more days before corruption affects the flesh. Life is in the blood, but since Adam death and decay has entered into the blood.
If one man’s sin can affect the entire human race, do you think possibly the sins of fathers might be able to add more corruption to the blood in a child he produces? It is not a giant leap of faith to think so. When most fathers sin in their youth, they usually are not thinking about the effects of their sins on their children. Neither did Adam—but that did not stop death and corruption from being passed down the bloodline to us today.
The good news is that God limits the effects of our sins to three or four generations while any consequenses of our righteousness and blessings in the Lord can be passed down for a thousand generations
You shall not make yourself any graven image [to worship it] or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; You shall not bow down yourself to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, But showing mercy and steadfast love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments (Ex. 20:4-6 AMP).
This is not to say that the blame of the father’s sins is going to be passed down the line. As I mentioned above Ezekiel says, The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son.
The death spoken by Ezekiel is a spiritual death in hell. It cannot be speaking of physical death since we all die anyway. No, it is speaking of the responsibility of sin on the soul—not the physical body. Notice he says, “The soul who sins shall die.”
The blood is only one way sins are passed down to children three or four generations. We know today that many things are passed down from our parents from their corrupted genes. It is also known today that the behavior of a person can actually alter the DNA that is passed down to children. An emerging science called epigenetics studies how the parents’ environment and behavior can change the DNA and genes that are passed down to children. Bad behavior can cause mutations in DNA that are inherited by children. It may not seem like it at the time, but sin always effects other people not involved.
Besides physical things such as blood and DNA, spiritual things can also cause harm to children. Curses are another way the effects of sins are passed down to children. Curses are spiritual but can also affect the soul and body. For example of a curse that is passed down, the curse of the bastard (a person born out of wedlock) stays in effect, not for three or four, but for ten generations!
“One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord” (Deut. 23:2).
Why would God not allow a bastard child in the assembly of the Lord for ten generations? Maybe He knows something of the results of that child growing up without a father that takes ten generations to work out in the soul and blood of which we are not aware. Therefore, He did not want this person to influence others in the assembly. I find this very interesting because in the assemblies of God today, you would be hard pressed to find anyone that does not have a person born out of wedlock going back ten generations of their ancestors. Possibly this says something about the condition of our churches.
I used to have a deliverance ministry so I know firsthand that curses are not automatically broken when a person is born again. They have to be discerned and prayed for specifically to be broken. Demons will sometimes actually tell the deliverance minister that they have a right to be there because of some generational curse. Nevertheless, the blood of Jesus can break the curse and overcome the demons. Today, a simple sermon is supposed to take care of all problems in the church—apparently! This is one reason deliverance ministries are so important; however, they are almost nonexistent in churches today. Many Christians have the mistaken idea that believers cannot have demons. I have only cast out demons from one nonbeliever (who subsequently received Jesus); the rest were from believers in Jesus. It is difficult to find a nonbeliever who wants his curses broken and his demons cast out.
Some transgressions bring a curse with them. Just to name two, lying and stealing are such sins.
Then I turned and raised my eyes, and saw there a flying scroll. And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.” Then he said to me, "This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth: 'Every thief shall be expelled,' according to this side of the scroll; and, 'Every perjurer shall be expelled,' according to that side of it” “I will send out the curse," says the Lord of hosts; “It shall enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name” (Zech. 5:1-4).
In the realm of the soul, negative emotions can easily be passed on to our children just by example. If a father has a problem with anger, it is likely his children will. Children learn much more by their parents’ behavior than by what they actually teach their children verbally.
Blood, DNA, curses, and the example we set are some of the ways the sins of the fathers are passed down to the children to the third and fourth generation (or more). Whenever a father sins, it does not just affect him negatively. It also affects the inheritance of his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great, great grandchildren. Did you ever feel you had the deck stacked against you when you were born? Thanks be to the precious, powerful, and incorruptible blood of Messiah that has delivered us from our sins. His blood can break all curses and can heal us from all our infirmities. Let’s strive to pass on an inheritance of blessings to our children by the things we do so they won’t have to suffer negative consequences for our sins.