Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Deal of a Lifetime

In Pilgrim's Progress there is a scene where Christian is confronted by Satan, who offers to "double" his wages if he will return to the City of Destruction and his old way of life. Christian says that he cannot live on Satan's wages, for "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 3: 23).

Now, as a general rule I'm opposed to any evangelistic approach that speaks of salvation in "salesman" terms, but this is worth thinking about. The deal each of us has coming into the world is that we can work for all our lifetimes doing whatever we want, and at the end as a reward we will get an eternity of pain and loneliness beyond description. That's the "default" deal we have. And God is justified in that deal for two reasons. First, in ourselves we carry the defaced and deformed image of God as a result of the fall. God finds this deformed image worthy of judgment and condemnation. Secondly, as a result of the fall we freely choose sin and selfishness over obedience and love, and so God justly condemns us for our actions as well.

At the same time God is also loving and merciful. He, of his own initiative and not because of any merit in us, provided a way of escape from this sad condition. He sent his own Son, born of the virgin, to live the perfect life we could not and bear the eternal punishment we were due as a substitute for any and all who repent of their sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation. He offers peace and forgiveness in this life and eternal happiness in his presence in the hereafter. What does he require of you? Look to him for life. "That if you confess with  your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." "For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom 10: 9, 13, NASB).

So will you stick with the deal you already have or take the free offer of mercy God extends? Where will you stand?


  1. Sorry, but no one deserves to be eternally punished. What's more, Jesus rejected the entire concept of getting back at people for what they did. His message was that God desires mercy not sacrifice.

    What you're saying is that God can't forgive, not even be forgiving of the slightest, little sin, right?

    Even though, Jesus, presumably speaking for God, taught US to forgive others, just as God forgives us! Was Jesus mistaken?

    If Jesus had to "absorb" God's wrath, then God can't forgive. Everyone has to PAY, or have someone else PAY, and pay in full.

    On top of that, God supposedly requires eternal torture of the worst sort for that payment, or the blood of an innocent deity/man, no matter how small the sin. Actually, it's worse than that, because we're told that even if we don't get a chance to sin, that from the moment of conception we are all held accountable for what Adam did, and "deserving" of eternal wrath!

    But all of this is in complete contradiction to what Jesus said about God's nature.

    I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of my book at my website: www.thereisnohell.com), but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it.

    If you'll re-read the words of Jesus in the gospels, and look for where HE said his purpose for coming was to die as a blood sacrifice to PAY for our sins, guess what? YOU WON'T FIND IT. In fact, the one place where he does talk about sacrifice is where he says God doesn't want it! He quotes Hosea, saying that God desire MERCY instead.

    Look in the book of Acts, at all those first Christian sermons. One would think that would be a real good time to explain what was Jesus' main reason for coming, right? But in none of those sermons, do any of the apostles say Jesus was a blood sacrifice to pay for our sins!

    No, all these stuff about blood sacrifice was superimposed later on. Jesus actually said that God just forgives when we own up to our sins and repent. That's it!

    If not, then Jesus/God asks us to do something he, himself, cannot do, to forgive others without demanding any sort of payment or to suffer some painful punishment.

  2. Rick,

    Your approach has the one advantage of not being novel. But you fail to take a fully canonical approach to the issue, and that is a critical error (unless you believe that some parts are more inspired than others).

    First of all, the coming of Jesus is announced with the promise that "he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1: 21).

    Secondly, in Mark 9 Jesus describes hell as a place of unspeakable and endless suffering, and Jesus says more about hell than he does about heaven. Jesus is the one who says that the suffering of the wicked will be "eternal" (Matt 25:46). In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus the rich man is said to be in unspeakable conscious torment in flames (Luke 19). John describes the Lake of Fire as the final resting place of all the wicked (Rev 20: 10--15).

    Jesus said he came to "give his life a ransom for many" (Matt 20: 28; Mark 10: 45). He referred to the wine as his "blood of the New Covenant" (Matt 26: 28), and John the Baptist referred to him as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," which would immediately bring to mind the image of a blood sacrifice for sins in his listeners (John 1: 29). Isaiah says that he bore the punishment for our sins (Isa 53: 5--12), and Paul said that he "died for our sins, according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15: 4), and in Romans, Hebrews, and 1 John, Jesus is called the "propitiation" for our sins, which means he was the sacrifice that satisfied God's divine wrath and justice. This is the basis for God being both just and merciful (Rom 3: 25--26).

    It is not a question of whether God is merciful, but on what terms is he merciful. God's mercy cannot be so pitted against his holiness and justice as to nullify these attributes. Is God just in condemning the lost to eternal punishment? Yes, on two accounts. First, any sin is an affront to God's infinite holiness, and so it deserves infinite punishment. Secondly, the damned in hell are confirmed in their rebellious state, and so continue to spew forth rebellious desires against God, heaping upon themselves further condemnation in their state of punishment.

    This is the biblical basis for the doctrines of eternal punishment and the substitutionary atoning work of Christ, given in short form. Now, if your view of the Bible is not that it is fully and equally inspired from beginning to end, there is no way we can have a meaningful discussion of this matter, because we're approach the question from two radically different starting points. I would refer you to Millard Erickson's Christian Doctrine, 2nd edition, for a more complete treatment of the questions of Christ's saving work and eternal rewards.

  3. I read 23 MINUTES IN HELL and it had a huge impact on me and also my husband. For anyone interested in a description of hell, this man truly believes he was given an opportunity to visit in order to tell the world that it really exists and what it was like for him.