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I was sitting in Panera Bread earlier this evening and working on some homework, and my mind started thinking about eternity. What if I ended up in hell? Normally when I stop to think about the possibility of ending up spending an eternity suffering the wrath of the Almighty God, the thought terrifies me. But for some reason this evening it didn’t, in fact it encouraged me.

Here’s why….because as I thought about my sin and the punishment it deserved, I thought that hell would be a fitting end. Would not God be justified in midigating carrying out such a sentence on a sinner such as I? Even more, would not His righteousness and His justice be rightly displayed for all to see? I thought much like the Psalmist who said,

Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.” (Psalm 51:4).

And what a wonderful thought that should be! That God will be justified when He speaks. That He will be blameless when He judges. How often to we, even as Christians, think that hell is a bad place? How often do we think about the suffering that will take place there, but not why it is taking place? I think if we thought more often about why hell exists – because of our sin. And we thought more often about the character of God – His righteousness, His holiness, His justice. We would not think hell to be such a horrid place, but rather a most fitting demonstration of God’s wrath and power.

I fear that the reason most of us think hell to be such a bad thing, it is because we don’t think it is fair. And we don’t think it’s fair, because we do not understand the gravity of our sin, of our offense against God. May we all be able to say like the apostle Paul, “let God be found true, and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:3). May we be mistaken, but let God always be right (which He is by the way).

But in the final analysis I should add that hell will not be the perfect demonstration of His righteous condemnation of sin, the cross of Jesus Christ will be. If for no other reason than this: When God poured out His wrath on the Son on Calvary, His wrath was satisfied once for all for those who would believe. Those in hell will never satisfy His wrath, and that is why it is eternal.

I have been reading The Soul’s Preparation for Christ by Thomas Hooker over the last few months. Which has really turned out to be a treatise on conviction of sin and what makes truly godly sorrow different from worldly sorrow.  Hooker asserts that most Christians in his day (and in ours as well) do not really sorrow for their sins.

“Now if all be true that I have said, there are but few sorrowers for sin, therefore few saved; here we see the ground and reason why many fly off from godliness and Christianity: this is the cause; their souls were only troubled with a little hellish sorrow, but theirs hearts were never kindly grieved for their sins. If a man’s arm be broken and disjointed a little, it may grow together again; but if it be quite broken off, it cannot grow together; so the terror o the law affrighted his conscience, and a powerful minister unjointed his soul, and the judgments of God were rending of him; but he was never cut off altogether; and therefore he returns as vile, and as base, if not worse than before, and he grows firmly to his corruptions.” (Hooker, 150)

What a great picture of the state of so many today! They have a knowledge of their sin and in one way or another are seeking a doctor to heal it. Alas, many even flee to Christ that He might mend their wound. I say, ‘Alas,’ because I fear that many are seeking to have the wrong wound mended. They are merely seeking to have all their bones set aright, so that they may continue in their previous course of life. They are not those who have realized that what they really need is an amputation.

Let me present to illustrations of what I have in mind. The first is taken from the TV show 24. In the process of keeping a dangerous chemical bomb from getting out in the open it became necessary for one of the agents, Chase, to cuff it to his wrist. The problem was that once the device was attached there was no way to remove it. This left him and his partner with really only two choices: either they leave Chase to die when the device denonated or they severe Chase’s hand from his arm in order to remove it. Now they obviously chose the latter, it was a much better option to lose his hand than to lose his life. So to we must come to see that the only way to be saved is to allow God to sever us from the sin that is cuffed to our souls.

The second example is this. Suppose a man who was driving his car. As he was passing through an intersection he collides with another car, which he did not see. Unfortunately, this man was not wearing his seat belt and so his injures were rather severe. Now with the help of his doctors and time the man healed. Because of the accident he recognized his need to wear a seat belt, so he resolved to wear one from then on. However, the very next time he decided to go for a drive, he ended up in another accident. Fortunately for him the injuries were not as severe, but still required medical attention. You see what he and the doctors had missed was his original injuries were not ultimate the result of not having on a seat belt, but the fact that he was almost blind.

Unfortunately, many people find themselves in a similar position spiritually. They do something that cause them to realize the danger of sin and so they decide they need a safety net, so they start going to church or doing other “religious” things. Yet it is only a matter of time and they find themselves right back where they started, because they have never dealt with the real problem, which is the sin that is still dwelling in them.

So for those of you that do not see the depths of vileness of your own hearts, I would encourage you to look closer to ask God to show you the true nature of your own heart. For those of you that have already seen much of the filthiness that lies within you, seek the help of the Great Physician in removing it from your life. You see it is not eternal punishment that keeps God at odds with us, it is the sin that resides in us. If we should like to see more of Him, then we must put to death the sin that remains. More of God requires less of sin. Just look at heaven there we will know God most fully and there will be NO sin in His presence.

I’m sure a lot of people are just like me. They love to put things off until another day or until a later hour. I mean after all there is usually a pile of things that need to get done (or at least I think need to), and without much effort the pile seems to just keep getting bigger. So things get put off for a day, and then two, and eventually they are forgotten. Debts can be the same way too. When was the last time you lent someone money, and only remembered when the person came to pay it back. Or when was the last time you “borrowed” a quarter from a friend and work to buy a snack during break, only to let the repayment of the debt slip your mind…I mean after all it was just a quarter.

I think that some times we think of God in a similar fashion. How many of us have sinned against God and seen no sign of God holding it against us? I mean everyday people sin and yet life seems to go on as it always has, in fact, many times those who hate God are those who seem to prosper (Psalm 73:3-9). Does God not hold their sins against them? Does He not know of their sins? Have they managed to keep them a secret from Him?

While Asaph’s answer, “Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction” (Psalm 73:18), is surely sufficient. Let’s consider what the apostle Paul had to say about those who were not now receiving the punishment they deserved. In the Romans 2, Paul tells us that God “will render to each person according to His deeds” (Rom. 2:6). This statement comes write after Paul has informed his readers that it is not enough to hold others accountable to God’s law, but you must place yourself under it as well. And those who maintain that the law is right and continue to transgress it are simply storing up wrath for themselves on that day when God’s “righteous judgment” would be revealed (Rom 2:5).

You see Paul was aware that God is patient with the men, because He wants them to come to repentance. Paul understood that in God’s eyes the sins committed where not forgotten; the punishment was just delayed. In fact, it was part of Paul’s gospel message: “on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Jesus Christ” (Rom. 2:16). So for all of those who see the notion of hell or eternal punishment as an out of date doctrine, I think they need to reconsider. Because whether or not they believe in hell, there will be a day when God will call all men to account for the deeds that they do not only in public, but in the deepest recesses of their own hearts. And all that will remains for those who do evil and do not obey the truth is wrath, indigation, tribulation, and distress (Rom. 2:8-9).

I cannot help but think that as Christians it is time for us to remember that not only will we be held accountable, but the whole world will be without excuse. It is time for us to remind our friends that the day of judgment is coming and now is the time for them to flee from the wrath to come. Just as Noah preached to his generation that they can only be saved from the God’s watery judgment, if they are protected within the arc of wood; we must preach to this generation that they can only be saved from God’s final firey judgment, if they are protected by the blood of Christ through faith.