Tom: Continuing in this section, Understanding the Scriptures, the topic is the gospel of salvation. We’re really trying to, I mean we are taking awhile, but we’re really trying to zero in on exactly what the gospel is. Dave last week we talked about sin. We went back to the Garden of Eden and we recounted how sin entered in and our Lord said the day you eat of it you shall surely die. That’s what I want to talk about this week.
What does the death penalty mean? It is a process of a physical death; we mentioned that. But it also involves the wrath and punishment of God doesn’t it? And [it also means] separation from God forever.
Dave: Well, man was separated first of all from the Garden—from God’s presence in the Garden and from the Garden. Then at death he was separated from his body; separated from his friends, from this world and if that continued he would be separated from God’s universe forever.
Tom: Right. Romans:5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:…”
Dave: Well yes, it’s a physical death, we experience it and there’s really no explanation. I mean there is no scientific explanation why we should die. But we start to die the minute we are born and we are going downhill just like the whole universe. In fact the Bible says the whole universe groans; the creation groans. It’s all under the judgment of God now. And that means we are cut off from God.
Tom: Don’t you think it’s important that we get a better understanding of what sin—we’ve seen what sin has produced, but sometimes we forget about that in terms of the character of God? I mentioned before, sin brings about God’s wrath and his punishment. Sometimes we don’t want to face up to that. But it’s a fact, and Jesus, I mean I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here, but Jesus took the wrath of God, didn’t He?
Dave: Yes, exactly.
Tom: Matthew 25:41, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…” Verse 46:“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Again a consequence of sin that is rarely preached today; rarely faced today.
Dave: The everlasting life of course, just thinking of it logically—it will have to be in a new universe. So God is going to do away with this entire universe. The Bible says it will all be destroyed by fire. It will all go in one big nuclear holocaust. So only those who have been made new creatures in Christ through believing in Christ will be allowed to live in God’s new universe. So what separation from God means, I think it is probably horrible beyond our comprehension. The Bible likens it to thirst. You remember the rich man in hell it says lifted up his eyes being in torment and he asked Abraham f he wouldn’t send Lazarus just to dip his finger in water and just put one drop of water on his tongue, I am tormented in this flame.
I believe that his torment was the remorse for the life that he had lived and realizing that he was lost. He could have obeyed God. He could have done what was right. He could have believed. You know, he didn’t have to be there because obviously, there was another place to go and Lazarus was in this other place. I can’t imagine what horror would envelop the soul—the hopelessness to realize this is it—forever. And when you think of that, some people would say I can’t believe that a just God would damn people to hell forever. I don’t think God damns anybody to hell. He doesn’t want—it says “he is not willing that any should perish.” We send ourselves there by rejecting the pardon, the salvation that he has provided. But the consequences are eternal for I think a number of logical reasons.
First of all, we have a physical body and physical things don’t last. But our spirit and soul are not physical and you can’t destroy them, they go on forever either in heaven or in hell. Man—he’s an eternal being and if he’s not eternally in heaven, he’s eternally in hell. And then you think then they would surely believe if everybody in hell now—now they know the truth, now they would believe. So then why can’t the gospel be presented to them and they would all believe? It’s a horrible thought, but I don’t think they would believe. I think their chance is gone because their only reason for believing now is to want to get out of hell. They have such an overpowering desire to leave this horrible place that they could not embrace Christ out of love, honoring God for who he is, submitting to his will and to his justice. They’ve passed the line where they could ever make a rational choice to receive Christ as their Savior. So there are a number of reasons for eternal punishment. It’s biblical, but you can think of it logically as well.
Tom: Well, you know that’s a sobering thought. I mean those of us that believe that we’re saved—do we love God? Do we really want to be with him forever? I know there are days when the flesh takes over. But that really has to be the heart, doesn’t it? I mean not just for what Christ did for us, but because of whom he is?
Dave: There must be some—I mean the first commandment is that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And unless that love is somehow created in me, by God himself, who works in me to will and to do his good pleasure; unless I’ve been made a new person, born again of the spirit of God into the family of God and now the love of God dwells in me and I really love him and want to respond to him, without that I wouldn’t really want to be in heaven. I can’t really respond to God if I am just trying to escape hell. I don’t think that’s really responding to the gospel. But there should be some gratitude in my heart, as Charles Wesley said “That thou my God shouldst die for me.” That he would love me so much that he would pay the penalty only that justice demanded. And see God is a personal being, a personal God, not an impersonal force. This isn’t just some cosmic type of energy out there. This is personal love. More personal and intimate and passionate than any love that human beings have for one another. To think that Christ loved me that way! Surely that would break my heart; that would win my heart.
And so the hymn writer said “What a debt of love we owe thee, Love that we can ne’er express. Since we by the Spirit know thee, Christ the Lord our righteousness.”
Another hymn says, “Bound me by the chains of love to yourself….” So in the final analysis it’s going to be a wonderful love experience; an eternal honeymoon. That’s why you have the analogy of the bride and the groom. We are the Bride of Christ and he is the Bridegroom.
Tom: This, I mean this is overwhelming as we come to understand it better and better. And when I say overwhelming I mean yes, there is the death penalty. There are the consequences of sin. But God did, I mean he paid for all of it. And he offers salvation to us again as we mentioned before, a free gift. So those who would try to undermine these elements that physical death involved: the wrath and punishment of God, separation from him forever, those are the penalties, but he offers the solution and at no small price.
Dave: Yes, and it has to be a gift, because you can’t earn it. You can’t merit it, you can’t pay for it. We’ve already forfeited the right to life. So if we are going to receive it from God we have to receive it in humility. Well it’s not even humility, it’s reality, realizing that I can’t pay for this. I can’t earn it and I am going to have to receive it by his grace as a gift.