This is where understanding sometimes becomes difficult. Our God is a Holy God, He cannot sin nor have fellowship with anyone who has sinned. In order for human beings to be able to dwell with God or have fellowship with Him, their sins must first be dealt with. It is because the Lord has such great compassion towards us, that He will not allow us to be in the full light of His Glory until we have had our sins removed. If a mere mortal human being were to stand in the presence of God, they would instantly be consumed.
Exodus 33:20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”
Deuteronomy 4:24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire
Lamentations 3:22 “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.”
Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord repeatedly emphasizes His Holiness in contrast to man’s sinfulness. These two are not compatible. Sin must be dealt with by judgment and punishment before man can have fellowship with God.
Leviticus 22:2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they do not profane My holy name by what they dedicate to Me: I am the LORD.”
When Jesus died on the Cross, He was taking upon Himself all of the sins of the world. Every person descended from Adam, all have their sins atoned for by Jesus’ sacrifice. All sins for all time were taken upon Jesus when He went to the Cross. Anyone who hears about this opportunity to be made right with God can take advantage of the sacrifice that Jesus has made for them. If any person will come to Jesus in true humility and be willing to repent of all their sins, by a sincere confession of Jesus as their Savior, God will grant that person eternal life.
Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Finally, we must live and abide in Jesus for the rest of our life, seeking to bring Him glory and honor by the way that we live.
John 15:5 (Jesus speaking) I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Not covered, removed
We should never think of our sins as being simply covered up by Jesus’ sacrifice. Although the Old Testament sacrifices were only a covering for sins, this is not the meaning of the atonement that Jesus has made for us upon the cross—as illustrated by the New Testament. In order for God to be able to remove sins from our record, the penalty for those sins must be paid.
When a human being thinks of forgiveness, we feel the wrongful acts that were committed against us, and they are not easily forgotten. Though we may choose to forgive the people who hurt us, we will never fully be able to forget what was done. The best that we can hope for in forgiveness is not allow a past offense to affect our future relationship with those who committed the offense.
Biblical forgiveness of sin is much different. The wrongs that we have committed must suffer the penalty for those errors. God said: “The soul that sins will die.”
Ezekiel 18:4 “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.”
We might believe that our soul belongs to us, but we would be wrong. The soul that we have is on loan to us from God. We are accountable to Him for what we do with it. According to God’s purpose, if we use it to sin, the penalty is eternal death. The only way for those sins to be removed is for a penalty to be paid which is—death.
If God had not provided a Savior to take the penalty for our sins which we deserved, then all of us would have to bear that penalty ourselves.
The escape clause
A provision in the law of God allows for a perfect sacrifice by an innocent third party to be made for our sins, thereby paying the penalty for them. A transfer of guilt is made in this sacrifice whereby our guilt is conveyed into the one dying for us. In order for the Messiah to take our sins, they all had to be placed in Him. At the precise moment that Jesus died on the cross, the sins of the whole world were transferred from all of us to Him. However, we do not receive immediately the eternal benefits of this sacrifice unless we personally decide to believe that Jesus did this for us and then request that He grant us the forgiveness of our sins and the resulting right to eternal life.
This may all sound very strange and confusing to a person who has never heard these things. To some, this principle may even sound ridiculous and foolish. We must understand that God has brought the availability of salvation down to a level that every person can understand. If our salvation required only intellectual mastery, then very few might be able to understand what the Lord requires and be saved. God chose to make salvation as simple as believing what He says, and then receiving it as a free gift. To those who demand that salvation come through intellectual understanding, they will likely not be able to receive it. To those who simply hear that Jesus has died for them according to the prophecies of the Hebrew scriptures and believe it, they are saved.
A large barrier to salvation for many people today is secular education. It is common inaccuracy of college professors to openly state that the Bible is a book full of myths and only the foolish and naive believe such things. These are uniformed and erroneous statements that cause many a young person to never seriously consider the truth of the Bible.
True knowledge comes by revelation from God, not human wisdom.
The reality is that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contains the wisdom of the ages and can only be understood by first coming into a deep and personal relationship with the God who made all things. This relationship is only possible by the one whom God has chosen to be the intermediary between Himself and all mankind—the Messiah.
Once a person has come into this new relationship with God and all of their sins have been dealt with and removed, the Bible becomes an entirely new source of revelation. God will hide His truths from those who think themselves wise while they ignore His imperative call to have their sins dealt with by the Messiah’s sacrifice. God cannot be known nor understood by human wisdom apart from the proclivity of salvation.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
This is why for some people, the message of Jesus’ cross is an intellectual impossibility. It makes no sense and it appears “foolish.” This is precisely the reason that God chose to reveal Himself to the world by the death of His Son on a Cross—to eliminate the wisdom of men who think that all knowledge of the universe can be understood by education and human intellect.
1 Corinthians 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
God chose the foolish appearance of the cross as a way to display His great wisdom. By the simple message of the cross, all the wisdom of men is obliterated.
The supposed foolish message of salvation by the death of Jesus was sufficient to manifest the weakness of man’s intelligence and show that he is incapable of knowing God by human knowledge. The purpose of this was to preclude any person from being able to claim that they had a role in their own salvation. Salvation is of the Lord, from start to finish. All that any human being can do is hear it, believe it, and live it.
According to the Bible, God has manifested Himself through the person of Jesus Christ, and He cannot be truly known by any other way.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.
Our sins had to be placed upon Jesus and transferred from our account to His, in order for salvation to occur. Once our sins were taken by Jesus, He died to pay the debt for those sins and make their removal possible.
One might wonder how the life of one man could pay for the lives of all other men. Jesus was not just any man; He is the eternal Creator who made everything which exists—dwelling within the body of a man.
Colossians 1:15-17 “Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the most important above all creation. For by Jesus all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” (RCR)
Jesus took the form of a human being—to become like us, but He is also God. Because of this dual nature, His life has infinite value. The priceless Life of Jesus Christ was more than enough to satisfy the righteous requirements of God to pay the penalty for the sins of all men.
Just as all those who are descended from Adam inherit their tendency towards sin and therefore are sinners, all those who are Born Again in Christ, inherit His perfect righteousness. Jesus became our sin so that we could become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
The unseen torture
More horrific for Jesus than the terror of the cross was the fact that He would be separated from the Father. As Jesus took all of our sins, the Father could no longer have fellowship with the Son. This was why Jesus cried out from the cross: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me…” At that moment, Jesus became our sin and His former close and eternal fellowship with the Father was broken. It was not until our sins were fully atoned for by Jesus’ death, and He rose from the dead on the third day, that the Father and Son could once again enjoy the eternal fellowship that they had enjoyed for all of eternity. As Jesus rose from the dead, His former relationship with His Father was restored.
In the garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus was arrested, He asked the Father if there was any other way that the salvation of mankind could be secured other than for Him to drink from the cup of all our sins and bear them on the cross.
Luke 22:42 Jesus…saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
The cup which Jesus was referring to was the fullness of all our sins. When Jesus agreed to drink from that cup, He understood that He was going to take our sins from us, and they would become His. The reality of that moment terrified Jesus much more than the thought of actually going to the cross to suffer the physical pain and torture of crucifixion. While on the cross, all of God’s wrath would be poured out upon Jesus, which had been stored up since the first sin of Adam in the garden of Eden.
Jesus knowingly quoted Psalm 22 repeatedly because He wanted us to know that He was the Messiah, the object of the words of Psalm 22. Jesus was claiming to be the person, described by David in Psalm 22, who was crying out to God: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? When Jesus said those words, it was at that moment that God’s fury was being unleashed upon Him. He was asking the Father how long His wrath would be poured out upon Him and when would it end. For three hours, the wrath of God for our sins continued to be poured out upon Jesus, until finally it was finished and all of God’s wrath had been fully satisfied. It was then that Jesus surrendered His spirit and died.
We can have confidence today that because Jesus took all of God’s wrath for us, there no longer remains any wrath for all those who have placed themselves under the sacrifice that He has made for us. Anyone who repents of his sins and receives Jesus as his Savior has passed from God’s wrath to a place of peace with God. There will be no future judgement for this person because their sins no longer exist.
Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
To those who refuse to place themselves under Jesus’ sacrifice by repentance and make a commitment to Him as their Lord and Savior, the wrath of God remains.
John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…”
Romans 2:5 “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God…”
After reading the account of how much Jesus suffered to secure the forgiveness of all men, is it any wonder that God’s wrath is fierce towards all those who treat His son’s sacrifice as insignificant, or ignore it altogether?
Hebrews 10:28-31 “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The LORD will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
If there is no repentance and a turning to Jesus Christ during the lifetime of an individual, his decision to reject God’s provision for the forgiveness of his sins is sealed at the moment of death and cannot be reversed. There is no repentance accepted by God after death. There is no prayer that can save a person after the moment of his death. God gives to each individual, one lifetime to decide, either to receive Jesus Christ—or to reject Him. Once death has occurred, there is no possibility of change for a person’s eternal destiny; only a long wait for the final judgment of the individual’s sins as he must stand before God and bear His wrath.
Genesis 6:3 And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”
The Bible does not teach reincarnation, a second chance after death, or any possibility of escape from hell after death, if a person should reject Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…”
The reward for accepting God’s offer of eternal life in Jesus Christ is an eternal recompense in heaven. The penalty for rejecting God’s offer of forgiveness of sin by Jesus Christ is eternal punishment in hell. The reward and the penalty are equal, both being eternal.
The question of eternal punishment being fair is offset by the greater question of eternal reward. Do any of us really merit the infinite and eternal blessings that heaven represents? Was it fair that Jesus suffered so greatly and was made sin because of us? God has given us an entire lifetime to make our decision either for or against Jesus. It is quite disingenuous to blame God for the consequences we suffer as a result of our own bad decisions. The Lord has done everything that He could to ensure that all of us make it to heaven. It is up to us to exercise our right of choice and make the right decision.