Life is filled with unanswered questions. The most troubling of which are questions surrounding the afterlife. For example: What happens to us after we die? Who will find themselves in Hell? How does someone get to Heaven?
We hear many opinions about these mysteries from family, friends, co-workers, churches, religious leaders, psychics, and even television talk show hosts. But the one issue that needs to be dealt with before we die is the one problem that people rarely—if ever—mention. It’s the dilemma they cannot account for, remedy or fix, yet it is the one thing that will determine where each and every one of us will spend eternity. This problem that I am speaking of is sin.
We all do it.
Every person who has ever lived or is living now has sinned (Romans 3:9, 3:23), and as long as we live we continue to indulge in sin (Genesis 6:5). None of us are free of sin (1 John 1:8), and God will judge us for every one of our sins, including the secret ones we thought were hidden (1 Samuel 16:7, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Romans 2:16, Romans 8:27).
Sin results in two deaths.
The sin that we inherited from Adam and the sin we willingly commit every day will result in our physical death (Romans 5:12-17, 6:23), but of greater peril than our physical death is that our sin will result in what’s called the “second death” (Revelation 21:8). This “second death” is better known as Hell, a very real and horrifying place consisting of eternal punishment, darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth, and an unquenchable fire (Matthew 8:12, Luke 3:17, Jude 7).
Our common denial.
We are all guilty before God, condemned by a lifetime of accumulated sin, but some people aren’t convinced that they’re sinners until they face these four questions:
- 1) Have you ever told a lie, even a little white lie? (Proverbs 6:16-17, Revelation 21:8)
- 2) Have you ever taken something that did not belong to you? (Leviticus 19:11)
- 3) Have you ever lusted after someone? (Matthew 5:27-28)
- 4) Have you ever used God’s name in vain? (Exodus 20:7)
If you answered “Yes” to these four questions then you’ve admitted to being a lying, thieving, adulterous blasphemer. On the great and dreadful day of God’s final judgment, will you be found guilty or innocent? Based on God’s standards (not ours), the answer is obvious: you, like the rest of mankind, will stand condemned.
We’re already under God’s judgment.
Contrary to popular opinion, we do not have to wait until the day of God’s judgment to find out whether or not we’re in right standing with God. It’s not a question of if upon your death you’ll be condemned to God’s eternal, fierce, and terrifying judgment; it’s already your current condition. Because we’ve all sinned, we are already under His judgment and consigned to His wrath (John 3:18, 3:36).
Our obedience and good works are useless.
If you try to pay your sin-debt to God and earn His favor by being a good person and following the Law, then you must follow all of God’s Laws perfectly your entire life without ever failing in one area or you’ll be charged with breaking all of His Laws (Galatians 3:10, James 2:10). If you’ve already sinned in your life—even once—then perfect obedience to the Law for salvation is not even an option for you.
Not only are you under a curse if you sin in just one area of the Law, but you’re incapable of completely obeying the Law even if you wanted to (Romans 8:6-8). And—as if it couldn’t get any worse—the Bible tells us that those who try to earn their salvation by following the Law have fallen from grace and are cut off from Christ (Galatians 5:4).
God expects absolute moral perfection.
Not only does God require us to be holy (Leviticus 11:44, 1 Peter 1:16), but Jesus said that our righteousness must surpasses that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20) and we must be perfect just as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
God cannot forgive you and still remain holy.
God cannot simply forgive us of our sin without becoming an abomination unto Himself (Proverbs 17:15, 18:5, 24:24). It would be unjust and corrupt of Him to merely overlook our sin-debt just as it would be for an earthly judge to overlook the transgressions of a criminal in his courtroom. We shouldn’t expect God to forgive our offense to Him any more than we should expect an earthly judge to simply forgive the man who was guilty of murder. If the court judge let the criminal go free because he’s a tolerant, forgiving, and loving judge, then that judge would be as wicked as the murderer who committed the crime. Such a pardon would be the epitome of corruption and injustice, yet this is exactly what most people expect God will do for them when they stand before Him on Judgment Day.
God cannot simply ignore your sin and still remain a righteous and just Judge because justice demands that punishment be carried out. Based on the moral standard required of our holy, perfect, and righteous final Judge, you and I must be eternally punished under God’s relentless, unmitigated wrath because we have sinned against an eternal and infinitely holy God.
What hope is there?
So, what hope is there? How can we be forgiven for our multitude of sins that require punishment? How can God justify the sinner and still remain just (Romans 3:26)?
But God . . .
But God, our Judge, being merciful and because of His great love toward us (even while we were still sinners and dead in our transgressions), provided the means of salvation by brutally sacrificing His own Son so that we may be forgiven and reconciled to Him (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:4).
Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22). The only way for us to be forgiven of our transgressions is for someone to die in our place (a propitiatory substitute) in order to bear the wrath of God that our sins justly deserve. Only a sinless sacrifice could redeem us and bridge the gap between a holy and righteous God and a depraved and sinful people. The sacrifice had to be fully human and fully God in order to qualify to be an adequate mediator to reconcile us to God.
God crushed His own Son (Isaiah 53:10) as He placed our sins upon Him (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus bore our sins on the cross (Psalm 22:16, Isaiah 53:12, 1 Peter 2:24), and He redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).The Father placed the wretched, filthy, and vile sins of His people upon His beloved, sinless Son so that Jesus would become sin on our behalf (our substitute) while simultaneously giving (imputing) Christ’s righteousness to us (Romans 4:22-24, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9). Jesus Christ not only paid our insurmountable debt of sin with His own life (a debt we could never pay), but He also credited His own perfect righteousness to our account—the very righteousness that God requires of us but that we could never obtain on our own. This judicial transfer or great exchange meets the requirements of God’s Law and satisfies the demands of God’s justice.
Jesus Christ is the one and only means God provided to reconcile us to Himself. The Son is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), and salvation is found in no one but Jesus (Acts 4:12). No matter how “good” we think we are or how hard we strive to follow God’s Laws, no one (not even you or me) is justified by the Law (Galatians 2:16, 3:11) but by faith in Christ alone because, if righteousness could be obtained by following the Law, then Jesus Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).
Once upon a cross . . .
Either Jesus paid for your sins and absorbed God’s wrath for you by His substitutionary death on the cross, and conversely His righteousness has been merited to you, or you will pay for your own sins and endure God’s unrelenting wrath for eternity in Hell. God declares that we should repent because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world (Acts 17:30-31). It will be a terrifying day for you (Proverbs 21:15, Hebrews 10:31) if you haven’t repented (Luke 13:3) and believed/trusted (Mark 1:15) in Christ alone as your perfect sacrificial substitute, Savior, and Lord.