What Is Unforgiveness Jail? And How to Get Out of It

Friend, are you struggling with anxiety, emotional pain, grouchiness, irritability, hatred, confusion, anger, or discouragement of any kind? If so, you might be in unforgiveness jail–and in this article, I’m going to show you from the Bible how you can get out of it!

The Bible talks about what I call “unforgiveness jail” in Matthew 18:21-35. We’ll read the passage below, but first let me say:

Understanding what unforgiveness jail is, and how to get out of it, is absolutely necessary if you want to receive inner healing from the Lord.

In this series Finding Deep Soul Healing 101, we’re laying the groundwork for you to pray one big deliverance prayer at the end of the series. However, if we don’t show you how inner healing works–and how deliverance works–first, then you can pray a prayer all day, but you’ll go right back into bondage.

God doesn’t want you to be in a repeating cycle of bondage. It is God’s will for you to have wisdom and revelation from His Word, so you can walk in the total freedom, deliverance, health, wholeness, and abundant LIFE that Jesus purchased for you on the cross.

And in order to do that …

You have to learn how to close the doors to the enemy in your life, and keep them closed.

Get the video!

In the Finding Deep Soul Healing 101 video class, Jamie teaches:

  • The basic foundation of inner healing;
  • Three open doors to the enemy, and how to close them;
  • What is unforgiveness jail, how it feels to be in it, and why you want to get out of it;
  • The faceted nature of hurts and wounds; and
  • How to follow the leading of Holy Spirit to receive inner healing.

This packet also includes the sample prayer for forgiveness and soul healing that we recommend. 

As we discussed in the first part of the Finding Deep Soul Healing 101 series, the enemy has no access to your life unless you give it to him. But many people give the enemy access without knowing it by opening one of the three open doors to the enemy.

The three types of open doors to the enemy are:

  1. Unconfessed, un-repented-of sin;
  2. Unforgiveness (which includes getting an offense); and
  3. Unhealed hurts and wounds.

Review the basic keys to inner healing!

If you want to get healed and stay healed, you need to understand how inner healing and deliverance work. Take a moment to review these slides.

Most people have all three of these doors open to the enemy because they have never learned to live differently.

That’s why most people’s lives–even Christians’ lives–are being wrecked by the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. As Jesus told us in John 10:10:

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (- Jesus Christ, John 10:10 NKJV).

But if you learn how to close these doors to the enemy and keep them closed, you will see a dramatic difference.

When you don’t give the enemy access to your life, your life then is only impacted by God. And when your life is only impacted by God, you dwell in Him, in His love, and in His blessing.

That is the goal: Get to where you abide in God–in His love, in His presence, and in His blessing–and where no other thing has influence or inroads into your life.

In this series, we’re providing you the teaching you need to get there. But it’s important to lay this foundation before we pray the actual prayer, okay?

Unforgiveness is one of the biggest open doors to the enemy that most people have.

That is why most people live in unforgiveness jail all the time–and it’s a big part of why they’re miserable. And if you are in unforgiveness jail right now, we’re going to show you how to get out of it–and you will be able to tell a dramatic difference.

So first, what is unforgiveness jail?

We see this concept in Matthew 18:21-35, which says:

“Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.

The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.

So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’

And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:21-35 NKJV).

Notice a few key things about this passage:

  1. Peter, ever the gangster, is looking for a loophole at the beginning of this passage. He wants to know if it’s okay for him to take revenge as long as he first forgave them seven times. If the hapless victim messes up and sins against Peter the eighth time, is that Peter’s cue? Does Peter have God’s permission to bash a guy’s head in for that eighth sin?
  2. Jesus is wise to Peter. He knows what is in Peter’s heart, and He is not in agreement with it. He tells Peter that no, sorry, seven times is not enough. Instead, Jesus offers the alternative of “seventy times seven”–which is not a mathmatical equation. Why?
  3. In the Bible and in Hebrew culture, seven was the number of perfection. By saying “seventy times seven,” Jesus was communicating to Peter that he has to forgive to infinity–to perfection and completion. Jesus was telling Peter that there is not a specific number of times he must forgive, but that he must forgive ALL times, forever.
  4. Then Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant to explain why.

Let’s look at the parable of the unforgiving servant a bit more deeply:

(By the way, I highly recommend that you read this part of this article with your Bible open to Matthew 18:21-35 so you can follow along without continually having to scroll up to re-review the passage.)

Note these things:

  1. The main character of this parable–the unforgiving servant–represents you and me.
  2. You and I have both been forgiven of a huge debt. When I read this parable, I think of all the sins I have committed. And God forgave me for every single one of them when I asked–when I confessed my sins to God and asked Jesus to save me. He also continues to forgive me every day if I sin again. He does, and has done, the same for you.
  3. But when someone sins against you or against me, and we refuse to forgive them for it, it is as if we are grabbing them by the neck and saying, “Pay me what you owe!”
  4. Yet, the sins we ourselves have committed were deserving of death! Remember that Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NKJV)). And even though you and I deserved to die, God forgave us when we asked!
  5. God commands us to forgive all who hurt us. If we refuse and do not forgive, then we are disobeying Him.
  6. If we disobey God, then we are obeying the enemy–the devil.
  7. If we obey the enemy, then we have aligned ourselves with the devil and come into agreement with him.
  8. And if we agree with the devil, then we are opening the door to him to operate in our lives.

So where does unforgiveness jail come in? It has to do with the torturers Jesus mentioned.

Remember this part of the passage:

“And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:34-35 NKJV).

When you come into agreement with the devil by refusing to obey God and forgive, you open a door to the devil.

Your refusal to forgive is a blatant refusal to obey God. And your refusal to obey God gives the devil permission to access your life because you have purposefully come OUT of the covering and protection of God. (Abiding under the shadow of the Almighty, with all the protections you get there, requires you to obey God and dwell in Him.)

And Jesus said that, if you refuse to forgive, the Father will deliver you to the torturers.

This is one of the “hard sayings of Jesus.”

How can we reconcile our understanding of a good and loving God with a God who will deliver you to the torturers?

People don’t like to think about this because we think of God as good and loving. And He IS! The problem is that we don’t understand that He is also just, and that He respects our free will.

God gave each of us a free will. Your will–in other words, your ability to choose–used to be bound in sin. But, when God drew you to Himself and saved you, your will became free.

Now, as sons and daughters of God, we can make our own choices–and Father God respects our choices. We are not robots; we are sons and daughters. God’s grace gives us power to live holy lives and make good choices all the time, if we want to. However, the same way your sons and daughters can choose to obey you or disobey you as their parent, you and I can choose to obey God or disobey God.

The problem is that there are consequences for disobeying.

When you and I agree with the devil by refusing to obey God and forgive, we give the devil permission to access our lives.

And when we do that, it’s as if the devil submits extradition papers to God.

When a criminal commits a crime in a foreign country, but flees to his home country, the foreign country submits an extradition request to the home country.

“To extradite” or “extradition” is what happens when one government forces a person to return to another government to be tried for a crime. A person can be extradited:

  • from one county to another;
  • from one state or province to another; and
  • from one nation to another.

Extradition happens when governments follow the law and force people to stand in accountability for their acts somewhere else.

Well, when you and I sin, we commit an illegal act that only belongs in the territory of darkness.

And when we refuse to repent for it right away, the devil has the legal opportunity to go after us–because we’ve submitted ourselves to his government with our sin.

So does Father God want us to be tortured? NO!

But when He asks us to forgive–which He DOES, the moment someone sins against us–and we do not forgive, we place ourselves under the governmental territory of Satan and the demons come for us, “extradition papers” in hand! Those “extradition papers” show God that those demons have legal right to torture us!

And you know what? Because they really do have legal right to torture us, God has to let them.

It’s not that it makes God happy to “deliver us to the torturers.” But He has no legal recourse because it is our choice to allow the torturers into our lives.

And boy, do those torturers go to town.

This is what unforgiveness jail looks like. When the Father delivers you to the torturers–which, remember, only happens because we chose to submit to the devil instead of to God–those torturers will get you in their grip and torment you. The torturers are demons, and their torment looks like:

And the list could go on and on.

Remember that the thief DOES NOT COME except to steal, kill, and destroy (see John 10:10).

On the other hand, JESUS came that we might have LIFE, and have it more abundantly. But anytime the devil does anything, it’s only to your detriment.

Those torturers hate you, and the devil hates you. And so the torturing demons will make you as miserable as they can, while they can.

But thank God for the convicting power of God’s Holy Spirit, and of His Word.

Even if you’re in unforgiveness jail, being tortured for your sin under the influence of the devil, God will still move and work in your life to convict you.

Holy Spirit will convict you in multiple ways:

1. He will convict you by His Word as you read. His Word will reprove you:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV).

And His Word will cut through what is from God’s Spirit versus the things that are from your flesh or soul:

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NKJV).

2. He will convict you by His Spirit, as Jesus said:

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:7-11 NKJV, emphasis mine.)

3. He might even help convict you by sending you a human messenger who carries His Word of truth.

Think about how God convicted King David for raping Bathsheba and murdering her husband, Uriah, to cover it up:

  • He sent the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12:1-15) to tell David a story, an allegory, about what he had done.
  • Then, when David got mad about the story, thinking it was real, David jumped up and said, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:5-6).
  • And Nathan responded, “You are the man!” … and then proclaimed the consequences the Lord had prescribed for David’s acts.

God sent a messenger to David because David wasn’t listening to Holy Spirit by Himself.

And when the prophet Nathan released God’s message to David, Holy Spirit worked in David’s heart to give him ears to hear. David then repented with all his heart, penning one of the most poignant Psalms–Psalm 51, the song of utter brokenness and repentance.

The good news is that, if you are in unforgiveness jail, God is still working to convict you.

He is sending you message after message, Scripture after Scripture. This very blog post that you are reading right now–this article that you are reading this very moment–is God’s messenger to convict you. Won’t you listen to Holy Spirit speaking through it?

So how do you get out of unforgiveness jail?

Let’s review what Jesus said again. He said:

“And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:34-35 NKJV).

You get out of unforgiveness jail by forgiving from your heart. And it’s important to know:

Again:

  • Forgiveness does not mean or imply that what they did was right.
  • Forgiveness does not mean they have permission to do it again.
  • Forgiving someone does not require relationship with them of any kind. It doesn’t require current relationship, past relationship, or future relationship.
  • Forgiveness does not mean someone shouldn’t face the consequences of what they did, even legal consequences.
  • Forgiveness cuts the chains off of YOU from what they did. Forgiveness sets YOU free.

But consequences still happen when sins occur. For example:

  • When a husband or wife cheats on their spouse, forgiveness can happen–but divorce might happen too, and the divorce would be a Biblically-legitimate choice on the part of the victimized spouse.
  • When someone abuses a child, you have to forgive because Jesus said so–but you also need to turn them over to the authorities, because God is a God of justice. They need to experience the consequences of their actions.
  • When someone treats you terribly, maligning you and twisting your words and making up lies about you, you have to forgive–but that doesn’t mean you need to be in relationship with them any longer.

Nevertheless, no matter what a person has done to you or to someone you love, you have to forgive from your heart.

Sometimes you might have to forgive more than once. You might have to forgive them to infinity–seventy times seven and beyond! And if you forgive, but then they go and do something additional to offend you, you have to forgive for that too!

(But, if sinning against you is someone’s habit, I definitely would recommend re-evaluation of that relationship. Have godly boundaries. You can’t love yourself if you let people stomp all over you all the time. Sometimes you need to love others from a distance, and it’s okay to put distance between you and them if you need to.)

Do you need boundaries?

Are you spending time people-pleasing? Worse yet, are you being used or abused?

If so, download Jamie’s class entitled Boundaries: What’s Good, What’s Bad, What’s Healthy today. You don’t have to let people stomp on you anymore; Biblical boundaries will set you free.

Regardless of how many times you have to forgive someone, you forgive until the depth of your forgiveness exceeds the depth of your wound.

But you know what? There is a way to forgive that takes away the hurt of your wound. There is a way to forgive that actually heals your wound. And there is a way to forgive that actually takes away your pain, so that you do not hurt anymore.

And when you forgive the way the Bible prescribes–which method, incidentally, is rarely taught in Christendom–you will find yourself INSTANTLY delivered from unforgiveness jail.

Not only that, but as you forgive in this prescribed method from God’s Word, you will find yourself back in the secret place of the Most High and abiding under the shadow of Almighty God, where no evil can touch you!

Read the next article in this series to learn how to forgive so it doesn’t hurt anymore, how to come out of agreement with the devil, and how to get back in the secret place of abiding in God’s presence!

In the meantime, did this teaching resource about how to get out of unforgiveness jail help you? Are you IN unforgiveness jail–but you’re ready to get out of it? If so, please leave a comment below!

4 Comments

  1. Brilliant thanks Jamie

  2. This is an eye opener. Thank you Jamie.

  3. Sharon McLafferty says:

    So how do I find the next article of how to forgive in a way that doesn’t hurt anymore? So I can get out of unforgiveness jail? Can you send me the link pls?

  4. Could not find “next article….” and did not receive what I purchased in the download request of Series.

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