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The Finality of Forgiveness

by David A. DePra

     Do you believe you are forgiven by God for your sin? I mean
FOREVER and FINALLY forgiven? Do you believe your
redemption is truly finished?
     Most of us don't believe that. What we do believe is that we are
forgiven only IF we believe we are forgiven. Or that God forgives us
"until the next time we sin." Or IF we confess our sin. Or only IF we
forgive others. Or IF others forgive us. All big "ifs." But few of us
believe we are forever forgiven without the "ifs." Few of us dare to
believe that God's forgiveness towards us is unalterably finished.
The result is that we walk, not in the forgiveness of our sins, but as if
we are "on probation" with God. Many of us have yet to grasp the
the finality of God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
     God HAS forgiven us. All of us. That's the good news. He has
already done all the forgiving He is going to do. He has forgiven
all sin -- all of OUR sin: Past, present, and future. That is not only
the good news, but it is freedom.
Christians ARE Forgiven
     One of the reasons a Christian IS a Christian is because they are
forgiven. We become Christians by embracing the shed Blood of
Jesus Christ which paid the price for our sins, and which made it
possible for God to justly forgive us. Thus, it really is all or nothing.
You cannot enter into new life in Jesus Christ "half-forgiven," or "on
probation." Either the Blood is fully sufficient for your sins or it is not.
You ARE forgiven. There is no such thing as an "unforgiven
     Most of us know that -- or sort of. We believe we are forgiven
when we are saved. But it is after we are saved that we begin to
accept the idea that God's forgiveness for us fluctuates back and
forth -- based on what WE do. Such a pattern is so common and
easy to accept that we probably have never thought to question it.
     But it is based in error. God's forgiveness does not fluctuate based
on what WE do, because it was never based on what WE do to
begin with. It is, and always will be, based on what Jesus Christ has
     Now, it is vital that we see that. God's forgiveness was never
based on anything we do. God sent Jesus to die for our sin, and
thus win our forgiveness, completely independent of anything about
us. In fact, God says that the Lamb -- Jesus Christ -- was slain
before the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8) Thus, God's
forgiveness was retroactively applied as finished before the
foundation of the world -- before any of us were born!
     You and I have heard that a million times. But we still don't get it.
We still don't live it. We still don't really believe it in a way that
changes us. God's forgiveness of our sin never was, and never
will be, based on anything we do. It is based solely on the finished
and eternally unalterable redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
How About Unbelievers?
     So far, so good. Christians are forgiven. That's one reason
why they are Christians. But how about unbelievers? Are
unbelievers forgiven? Most of us would probably answer, "No.
Unbelievers must believe.  Then God forgives them."
     Now, we may have never thought about it this way, but what we
are really saying is this: Jesus died for all sin. But God doesn't
forgive anyone simply because Jesus died.  Jesus death, of itself,
was not enough to pay for my sin.  Only if I BELIEVE is it enough will
God "apply" the death of Christ to my sin and forgive me.
In effect, what I am saying is that God forgives me, not solely
because of Jesus Christ, but also because of my faith in Christ. This
means that He does NOT forgive unbelievers.
     Certain passages of the Bible, if taken out of context, seem to
verify this. For instance, we are told, "For without faith it is
impossible to please God. For whosoever would draw near to
God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those
who diligently seek Him." (Heb. 11:6)
     This passage tells us that we must believe or we can't draw
near to God. Certainly that must mean we can't be forgiven unless
we first approach God by faith.
     All through the Bible we read of the necessity of faith. We
are told over and over in the New Testament that we must "believe
on the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be saved." (see Acts 16:31)
So here we have a possible condition attached to God's
forgiveness: Faith. IF we believe, God will forgive. But if we DON'T
believe, God WON'T forgive.
     Is that the Truth? Is faith a condition we must meet in order to
receive the forgiveness of God?
     Well, here's the problem: If we must FIRST have faith BEFORE
we can be forgiven, then from where are we going to get this faith?
God can't give it to us, because remember -- He hasn't yet forgiven
us. By definition, God can't help those whom He refuses to forgive.
So clearly, an unforgiven unbeliever must muster the faith from
     But how? Remember, an unbeliever is dead in sin. He has no
live in himself. So how can he possibly, in such an unforgiven and
dead condition, generate the faith necessary to reach up to God
and partake of the forgiveness Christ has provided?
     Human faith, if there is such a thing, won't do. There has to be a
divine faith in us which is able to penetrate through all sin and all
darkness, and reach up to heaven. It has to be a faith which must
actually carry in it victory over everything which would otherwise
overcome it. And, as said, it must generate fully from the unbeliever
as the source.
     This is impossible. We have no such faith. In fact, if we had any
idea of just how helpless we are, we would realize that even the
tiniest measure of faith which we have is given to us by God. (see
Romans 12:3) We deserve no credit for it whatsoever.
     Actually, the Bible tells us that we cannot generate faith from
ourselves. We cannot believe unless God reveals Truth for us TO
believe. (see Rom. 10:14)
     This only makes sense. After all, how can we believe if there is
no revelation of the Truth -- no revelation of Jesus Christ? Do we
merely sit here, sort of "believing," umm, well....nothing. That would
be nonsense. We must have an object in Whom we can place our
faith: A Person who is revealed to us.
     The Bible tells us this. It says, "Faith comes from hearing, and
hearing comes from the Word of God." (Rom. 10:17) Turn this
verse around and you can see the Truth in it more clearly: "The
Word of God genders hearing, and hearing genders faith." There it
is. The Word of God -- spoken by God's initiative -- genders
hearing, and then faith. God must take the initiative. I cannot
generate faith from myself as the source.
     So here we see the plight of the unbeliever. If we must believe to
be forgiven, yet cannot believe until we are forgiven, we are lost.
That puts the initiative upon God. God must both reveal to us the
Truth, and with it, gender in us the faith which enables us to embrace
that Truth.
     God does just that. Every revelation of the Truth which God gives
carries with it the seed of faith necessary to embrace it. In time, as
we move along with God, this faith will grow to embrace and live
the revelation which carried it.
     God does this with the revelation of His forgiveness. He reveals
to the unbeliever that He has forgiven him in Jesus Christ. Then,
once this becomes clear to the person, the unbeliever believes
and embraces the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ. It
could work in no other way.
     Now ask: How could God take the initiative to reveal the Truth
to a sinner unless He had already forgiven the sinner? God is
perfect. And if He does not forgive, He is perfect in that justice.
So He could not help a sinner whom He refused to forgive. That
would be a contradiction. So the fact that God saves us while we
are yet sinners is proof positive that God has already forgiven us,
even before we exercise an ounce of faith in Christ!
     So the shocking Truth is, God has already forgiven even
unbelievers! That why they are able to eventually believe! And
that's why they will eventually be judged if they don't!
     We cannot have it both ways. Either God forgives us so that we
can come to Christ, or He refuses to forgive us until we come to
Christ. Either God initiates our salvation by first forgiving us, or He
is sitting in heaven refusing to forgiven until WE make the first move.
The answer should be obvious. God forgives us while we are YET
sinners, enemies, and unbelievers.
     We create an impossible moral contradiction if we insist that
God will not forgive until we initiate things by first believing. For
example, if God won't forgive me UNTIL I come to Him, then this
makes me more righteous than God. How so? It makes me more
righteous because I am the one who takes the first step towards
reconciliation. I am the one who makes everything possible by
making the first move.
     The Bible reveals that we cannot make the first move. God does.
God DID. But in order for God to have initiated reconciliation, God
had to have FIRST forgiven us. He could not help those who He
refused to forgive! He can only help those He has already forgiven.
     Therefore, we see the real Truth: God does not forgive me
BECAUSE I believe. He forgives me because of Jesus Christ.
I believe only because He has already forgiven me and revealed
to me the Truth OF that forgiveness in His Son.
     How else could we explain the words of Jesus, to the effect that
we have not chosen Him, but He has chosen us? (Jn. 15:16) How
else could we explain His statement that no one could come to Him
unless the Father draw them? (Jn. 6:44) Make no question, God
must take the initiative. He must give us even the faith necessary
for us to receive His forgiveness. And that means forgiveness
must preceed the gift of faith -- not the other way around.
Faith, rather than something which qualifies us FOR God's
forgiveness, is our surrender and embracement TO God's
While We Were Yet Enemies
     The fact that God has already forgiven ALL humankind, whether
we believe it or not, is a Truth firmly grounded in the Word of God.
For if, when we were YET enemies, we were reconciled to God by
the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be
saved by His life. (Rom. 5:10)
To wit, that God was, in Christ, reconciling the WORLD unto
Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. (II Cor. 5:19)
     Do you see what God is saying through Paul? He is saying that
God reconciled us to Himself "when we were YET ENEMIES." Do
"enemies" of God have faith in Christ? Do they believe? No, they
are unbelievers. Yet Paul says while we were unbelieving foes
of God, we were reconciled to God by Jesus Christ. God did not sit
and wait until we made the first move to be His "friend."
      Likewise, Paul says that God was reconciling "the world" unto
Himself in Christ -- not imputing their trespasses unto them. Is "the
world" ever a term used to describe believers? No. "The world" is
a term used to describe UNbelievers. Yet is says that God was, in
Jesus Christ, reconciling the unbelieving world unto Himself. That's
all BEFORE faith. "The world" has no faith, It would not be "the
"world" if it did.
     If forgiveness does not precede faith then it could not be said
that God reconciled the world to Himself. For that speaks of God
taking it upon Himself to remove what separated us from Him. If
OUR faith has to come first, then Paul would have to say that WE
reconciled ourselves to God. WE made the first move "by faith,"
and ONLY THEN did God respond to us.
     But this is not what Paul says. He says that God took it upon
Himself, in Christ, to do everything possible to reconcile the world
back to Him! In other words, He forgave all sin -- all that separated
us from Him. That is WHY we can now draw near to God in faith!
     The conclusion is inescapable. We do not believe to get God
to forgive us. God forgave us so that we can believe. He forgave
us in Christ long before we ever exercised an ounce of faith. If we
have faith, God put it there, because of His forgiveness in Jesus.
Before the Foundation of the World
     How can it be possible that God forgives before we believe?
Isn't that a breach of moral righteousness, and of divine justice?
Some would argue that. They would say that if God forgives us
even before we believe in Christ, then we don't need Christ to be
forgiven. How about this?
     To the contrary. The reason God can forgive us, even before we
believe, is precisely because His forgiveness depends solely on
Jesus Christ, and not upon us.
     Do you see that? Because God's forgiveness is independent
of us, and solely dependent upon Christ, God is able to forgive us
all -- even before we believe. He is able to say, "It is finished,"
even before a single person has faith in Christ.
     There is no breach of moral righteousness in this because Jesus
paid the full price for sin. God does not forgive sin by waving His
hand and saying sin is ok. He does not say, "You are forgiven. So
I don't care whether you believe." No. He says, "You are forgiven.
And that is precisely why you are able to believe -- and will be
judged if you refuse to believe."
     God does NOT forgive sin because we believe. He forgives
sin because Jesus Christ paid the price for it, thus gave Him a just
and moral reason for forgiving it. The fact and reality of it is
something we had nothing to do with, and which we cannot alter.
Forgiveness, Not Yet Salvation
     Now, this is bound to raise some questions. Are we saying that
faith is not necessary for salvation? Are we saying that God has
saved everyone whether they believe it or not, and whether they
know it or not?
     Not at all. What we are saying is this: Faith is not necessary to
be forgiven.  But faith IS necessary for salvation.  There is a big
difference between the two.  All men are forgiven for sin because
Jesus paid the price for all sin.  But only those who believe and
embrace what Jesus has done are saved.
     This is where does faith comes in. By faith I EMBRACE what God
has done. In other words, forgiveness is a finished reality. God
HAS reconciled the world unto Himself. But unless I believe and
embrace these things, they will do me no good.

     Remember our verse from II Corinthians.  It said:

To wit, that God was, in Christ, reconciling the WORLD unto
Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. (II Cor. 5:19)
     The key  phrase here is "in Christ."  In other words, God HAS
forgiven (past tense) everyone IN CHRIST.  Believer and unbeliever.
But if I don't embrace Christ as Savoiur, I'm not in Christ.  So I, by
MY choice, remain outside of the forgiveness God has given.
     What this boils down to is this:  ALL of us are forgiven IN CHRIST,
whether we believe or not.  But we must come to Him or it will do
us no good. 
     How do we come to Him?  By repenting of our refusal to do so.
The Bible says, "Repent and believe."  Repent of what?  Repent of
NOT BELIEVING!  Then we will do what?  We will BELIEVE!
     We see this in Romans 5:10. First, God reconciles ALL men to
Himself.  That is done. Finished.  But now "being reconciled, we
shall be saved by His life."  In short, the death of Christ took away
all of the sin of mankind.  That is forgiveness.  But only those who
receive Christ enter into the resurrection and salvation.  You must
believe to be saved.  That is the only way to enter into Christ.
     Through the death of Christ, all that stood between us and God
was removed -- i.e., our old sin nature. All of our acts of sin. At that
point the record is wiped clean, paid in full. We ARE forever
forgiven, before the foundation of the world. But we do not yet have
LIFE. Through the resurrection we receive new life.
     We cannot receive this new life unless we believe. And the fact
is, if God has revealed to us the Truth of His forgiveness in Christ,
then He has also given us the faith to embrace it. He has shown us
that we are sinners, yet forgiven. And He has shown us that we
have salvation only in Jesus. Thus, we are utterly without excuse for
not believing and receiving.
Faith Necessary to Receive Salvation
     God has reconciled the world unto Himself through Christ --
whether anyone believes or not. God has forgiven all sinners --
whether anyone believes it or not. If not one human being ever
believed or embraced what Christ has done, He has still done it.
But it is only those who do believe who receive the salvation which
results from the Redemption of Jesus Christ.
     A human example will suffice. Suppose someone sins against
you greatly -- but you truly forgive them. Your forgiveness is total
and complete. It is impossible for you to do any more forgiving of
them than you have done. And you have taken the initiative to
reveal this fact to the person who sinned against you. But -- they
won't accept it. Does their "unbelief" change you? Does it undo
your forgiveness? No. But as complete as your forgiveness is, it
has done nothing for THEM.
     God has done everything He can do to solve the sin problem.
He has taken all of my sins and forgiven them in Jesus Christ.
Nothing can change this -- not my faith, and not my unbelief. Yet it
is by faith that I EMBRACE what Christ has done, and am thereby
saved. Or it is by unbelief that I reject it. The reality of what Christ
has done nevertheless stands eternally in place -- regardless of
what I choose.
The Unpardonable Sin
     In discussing God's forgiveness we must speak about the
"unpardonable sin" -- for it is the one sin which God CANNOT
forgive. Why? Because it is the refusal of God's forgiveness. God
cannot forgive the refusal of His forgiveness elsewise He would be
sanctioning sin.
     Herein we see the judgment of God. It is precisely because
God has forgiven all of us in Christ -- even before we believed --
that such a terrible sin is possible. It is precisely because His
forgiveness is solely dependent upon Christ that we are without
excuse for refusing it. The fact is, the greatest gift in the world is
God's gift of grace. But this same gift will judge us if we refuse it.
For what can God do for us if we reject Christ?
     Notice how this works. If I refuse God's forgiveness, God does
not "yank" it back. Neither does my refusal do anything to UNDO
the finality of what Christ has done for me. That remains in place
forever, free of charge. But that is precisely why I am judged. I have
not only refused deliverance from all of my sins, but I have actually
committed another and much more terrible sin: The sin against the
Blood of Christ. The Bible says, "This IS condemnation, that Light
has come into the world, and men loved darkness." (Jn. 3:18-19)
     So what we have is this: The finished work of Christ is fully in
place for me, and cannot be altered or changed. But if I refuse to
embrace it, God's forgiveness will do me no good. And in time, if I
persist in refusing it, I could become guilty of another sin -- the height
of sin against the New Covenant.   It is the one sin outside of the
Redemption, for it is the refusal of that redemption.
     This "refusal of God's forgiveness" is actually UNBELIEF.  Unbelief is
THE sin because it is the refusal of the solution for sin.  Consequently,
once I repent of unbelief, I will see that all my other sin is taken away
in Christ, and that God has forgiven me.
     In the final analysis, there are two reasons people will reject the
forgiveness of God. It will either be because they think they are too
good for it, or because they think they are too bad for it. Both are
unbelief. And neither need happen if we will just open ourselves to
Past Tense
     God always talks about the finality of our forgiveness in past
tense in the Bible. He always talks about the good works we do
being BECAUSE of what Christ has done.
And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one
another, even as God for Christ's sake HAS forgiven you. (Eph.
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your
flesh, HAS he quickened together with Him, HAVING forgiven ALL
your trespasses. (Col. 2:13)
I write unto you, little children, because your sins ARE forgiven you
for His name's sake. (I John 2:12)
     Note the past/present tense in all of these verses. God has
already done all the forgiving He is going to do. And the fact is,
there is no sin so deep that the Redemption has not reached --
except rejection of that Redemption. God HAS forgiven us. Now,
we need only believe and receive by faith.
Paid in Full
     When Jesus said, "It is finished," He used the a word which
literally means, "paid in full." It was actually a word which was, in
that day, stamped on bills and debts, denoting that they were paid
in full, and therefore, no longer valid. The person who was now
debt-free could carry this voided note around with him, and if any
one claimed he owed the money, it was proof he had been
released from the debt.
     By this Jesus was showing that the debt we owed to God was
"paid in full" by His sacrifice. Indeed, it shows that all our debts are
paid -- past, present, and future. If we sin, we have the cancelled
debt as proof we are always forgiven -- always in a state of having
been forgiven of God.
     Imagine if you were in great debt, say, to a credit card company.
You had no way of being able to pay the debt. The more payments
you sent in, the more you owed, for the interest was outracing your
     Now imagine that someone pays off this debt for you -- free
of charge, no questions asked. You are debt free. But let's take
things one-step further. You are not only debt-free NOW, for past
debts, but you are told that no matter how much you get into debt
in the future, that the future debt is also paid off. You will never
be in debt again.
     Now first, ask this question: What if you DON'T believe you are
debt free? What if you continue sending in payment after payment?
Despite the fact that you are free of debt, your freedom does you
no good. In fact, your unbelief is costing you much. You continue to
act, think, and feel exactly like a man in debt. And furthermore, you
are throwing away money. You are paying off a debt that is already
paid off.
     Some Christians practice this sort of unbelief regarding the
forgiveness of God. Jesus Christ has already "paid in full" every
debt sin has incurred. In Christ, God has cancelled ALL debts.
Not only those of the past -- but of the present and future. But
many of us don't believe it. We keep "sending in" our payment.
Consequently, for us, things are exactly as they would be if Christ
had not paid our debt in full. We live in guilt, condemnation, and
fear. We spend our lives trying to do for ourselves what Christ has
already done.
All Debts Cancelled
     Once we see the finality of God's forgiveness, and begin to walk
in it, we will see that God's love and forgiveness towards us does
not fluctuate back and forth, based on OUR performance. I am not
continually gravitating back and forth, in and out of the forgiveness
of God based on what I do or don't do. Nothing I do can change
what Christ has done. If I am in Christ, I am forgiven forever. But not
because of anything about me. It is because of HIM.
     The fact is, most Christians don't believe this. We believe that
our access to God, and His attitude towards us, is constantly
changing, based on what WE think, do, say, and feel. We live in a
continually fluctuating relationship with God.
     The reality is, it is WE who fluctuate. It is WE who take our sin,
turn it into a debt, and put it between us and God. It is WE who
will not believe our debts are cancelled even before we incur them!
Our unbelief is responsible for every single obstacle which is
between us and God. WE have put them there.
     Note that again: WE put our sin between us and God. God has
already taken sin out of the way in Christ. It is WE who waver and
go back and forth in faith. God never moves. It is a great victory
when we come to see that absolutely nothing we do or believe can
change the Truth about what Christ has done, or alter our access to
God because of it. Eternally, God says, "It is finished. Only
     We have already read two scriptures which contain the English
word "reconciliation:"
For if, when we were yet enemies, we were reconciled to God by
the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be
saved by His life. (Rom. 5:10)
To wit, that God was, in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself,
not imputing their trespasses unto them. (II Cor. 5:19)
     But what does this word "reconciliation" mean?
     The Greek word is "katallassein." It comes from a root word
which means "change." So when the Bible speaks of
reconciliation, it is talking about a CHANGE which has taken place.
More specifically, it is speaking of a change from ENMITY to
     Most of us know how the English word is used. If I have been
estranged from someone, having broken my relationship with
them, and then all of that changes, I have been "reconciled" to
them. In effect, my relationship has changed from one of enmity
to friendship.
     In like manner, the Bible speaks of "reconciliation" between God
and man through Christ. But it is vital to see HOW this reconciliation
happened. Note the two phrases from the above verses regarding
the nature of reconciliation in Christ. First, Paul says, "WE were
reconciled to God." Then he says, "GOD was reconciling the
world TO Himself."
     What we see are two things. First, WE needed to be
reconciled. Not God. And secondly, God did the reconciling, not
     We must see this. And then we must see what it means for our
everyday walk. For if WE needed reconciled to God, and not God
to us, then why do we now walk as if the opposite is true? Why do
we constantly act as if God is the one who withdraws from us when
we sin, and God is the one who needs to be coaxed back and
     The fact is, WE need to be reconciled. WE are the ones who
step back from God, yes, in disobedience, but moreso in unbelief.
God reconciled the world back to Himself by NOT counting our
trespasses against us. He certainly does not change this now
that we have become His people!
     Erring in this can greatly hinder our spiritual walk, for it certainly
strikes at the heart and core of our faith. Yet wrapped up in this one
word -- "reconciliation" -- is the great Truth of the gospel of grace.
God has taken the initiative to reach down and reconcile US back
to Him. He has done this despite our sin against Him.
     If read the two verses about reconciliation again, we will find not
one word which suggests that GOD was ever the one who withdrew
from us. Or that GOD was the one who needed to be brought back
to us by the death of Christ. No. WE were the ones who made
ourselves enemies of God. WE were the one who needed to be
CHANGED and reconciled. GOD was the one who did the
forgiving and reconciling through His Son.
     What we have is a picture of God taking the initiative to effect a
change in us which would remove the enmity in US and replace it
with friendship. We have a picture of God reaching out and doing
in US what was necessary to effect reconciliation. It is ALL God
and none of us.
     Now once we realize this, it should translate into living for
today.  If "while we were yet enemies" we were reconciled to God
by Christ, then how much more now that we belong to Him? If God
forgave us while we are enemies, why do we act as if He won't do
it now that we are Christians?
     The Truth is, we are reconciled to God, not through what we do
or don't do. We are reconciled to God by what Christ has done.
And no sin we commit can undo what Christ has done.
     Thus, we come back once again to the fact that NOTHING we
do, and NOTHING we believe, can change what has been
eternally established by God -- independent of us -- through
the finished work of Christ. Truth IS Truth, and eternal, if not a single
person believes it or obeys it. Yet unless we believe and obey it, it
will do us no good. Indeed, we may even become guilty of a NEW
sin -- that of refusing the only means of our forgiveness.
The Finality of Forgiveness
     Most of us have believed, or been taught, that even though
Christ died for our sins, God does not forgive us until we believe.
But now we have seen that what God wants us to REPENT
OF NOT BELIEVING.  His forgiveness has always been there, in
Christ.  Our unbelief is all that has kept us from it.  
     We have also seen a distinction between being forgiven, i.e.,
reconciled to God, and actually being saved. God reconciled the
world to Himself, and each of us, while we were yet enemies of
God. This He did through the death of Christ. It is a finished fact
whether we believe it or not. But unless we believe, it will do us no
good. We must believe and embrace what God has done through
Jesus Christ in order to be saved.
     This great Truth should cause us to forever leave behind the
lie that any part of God's forgiveness depends upon us. For how
can it depend on us if it is already done? How can we earn or
maintain God's forgiveness for us -- for sins past, present, or
future -- if it is already an accomplished reality, eternally set in place
through Jesus Christ? And that, before the foundation of this world?
     This is not merely a doctrine to believe in. It is not merely a
teaching to memorize. It is a reality which we must embrace by
faith, and one which should revolutionize our Christian walk.
     The forgiveness of God is perfect and final. God has done all
the forgiving He is going to do. He beckons us to now to believe.
He wants us to walk in the forgiveness of our sins, for in His Son,
'"It is finished." *

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