Hell was never made for man. Man was never supposed to end up in that horrifically inconceivable place. Hell was originally created as a place of punishment for the devil and fallen angels.
God’s original plan was for Man, created in His image, to be multiplied across the earth. When sin came into the earth, it looked like this plan was over. Because of sin, all of mankind became:
- Children of Wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3)
- Children of Satan (John 8:44)
However, no attempt of Satan could prevent God’s plan from being fulfilled. Job 42:2 (NIV) says,
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
God was still going to see His plan through, in spite of sin that entered the world.
While God is a just and righteous Judge who must punish sin wherever it is found, He is also a loving God who doesn’t want us to go to hell. Furthermore, because God is omniscient, the fact that Adam sinned was no surprise to Him at all. Therefore, God already knew the predicament we were going to find ourselves in, and He already knew how He was going to save us from ourselves.
Isaiah 46:10 says God declares (and therefore knows and wills) the beginning from the end. Because God knows the beginning from the end, He was able to provide (or declare) an infallible plan for our redemption, even before He created Adam. In Isaiah 46:10 (ESV) God said,
“My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.”
Before God made us, He knew we were going to need a Saviour, and even before Adam sinned God already had a Plan of Redemption which He was going to accomplish through His son, Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:20 says about Jesus,
“For He was foreordained (foreknown) before the foundation of the world, but has appeared [publicly] in these last times for your sake.”
God’s Plan of Redemption was a plan for all of mankind worked out to the finest detail, even before the foundation of the world was laid.
This plan had two fundamental parts to it. In the 3rd post in this series called God Is A Judge, we saw that God has a legal case against all of us who have sinned. Therefore, the 1st part of God’s Plan of Redemption had to do with how God, as a good and uncompromising Judge, was going to deal with our sin – legally. In this post we will look at this point in more detail.
The 2nd part had to do with the restorative work God would be able to do in us, once our sin has been dealt with from a juridical perspective. We will look at this in the next post.
How God Dealt With Our Sin – Legally
In the post called God Is A Judge, we looked at a few hypothetical illustrations involving a fictional character named Jack. In the different illustrations, we investigated the ramifications of violating the law, and how a good judge or justice system views the legality of each case.
Let’s revisit Illustration One from that post. In this illustration, Jack found himself travelling at 120 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. Unfortunately for him, there was a traffic cop monitoring that section of the road for any speedsters on that particular night. In light of the seriousness of the offense, Jack found himself with a gracious fine of only $2,000. Unfortunately, he had no money and the alternative was six months in prison.
How could Jack, while not having any money to pay for the fine, legally escape prison time? While Jack was unable to pay for the fine himself, there was hope if someone else could pay the fine on his behalf. While the odds seemed to be against him, his dad however, had the means of getting the money by selling some of the shares in his company and he was able to pay the fine on his son’s behalf.
The son was grateful for the sacrifice his father had made and walked away with a hard lesson learned, together with some motivation not to speed again.
While we are able to draw some parallel between a speeding ticket and our own violation of God’s Moral Law, our own transgression is much greater than just a mere speeding offense. As we saw in the post called Where Did All The Good People Go?, the penalty for sin is death. We also saw that the punishment for sin, after death, is more than just a mere fine or a few months in prison. In actuality, according to the Bible the punishment for sin is eternal torment in hell.
To drive this point home, Jesus warned of judgment and hell more than he spoke about heaven. Isaiah 66:24 prophesied about this too when the prophet said,
“And they shall go forth and gaze upon the dead bodies of the [rebellious] men who have stepped over against Me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all mankind.”
Hell Was Never Made For Man
Hell was never made for man. Man was never supposed to end up in that horrifically inconceivable place. Hell was originally created as a place of punishment for the devil and fallen angels. Jesus said in Matthew 25:41,
“Then He will say to those on His left, Leave Me, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (demons).”
Although hell was made for the devil and the fallen angels, men who still bear the image of Satan, do unfortunately, go there too when they die. Those who go to hell, go to hell primarily for two reasons:
- Their unholy (Satan like) nature cannot enter the presence of a Holy, Loving God, who is also a Just and Wrathful God.
- Their sin, if undealt with, demands punishment as decreed by the Judge of the Universe.
The Penalty Must Be Paid
If we consider that God’s decree is not just for murderers or thieves to burn in the lake of fire, but also for liars (a crime we are all guilty of), we realise the fine is far greater than any of us could bear. It would then be more appropriate to compare Jack’s predicament with a crime which is more serious than just a speeding offense.
Therefore, let’s say Jack was on trial for a more serious crime, like dealing with illegal drugs. Let’s also assume, for the sake of our analogy, that someone overdosed and died because of drugs obtained through Jack’s illegal dealings. All was revealed in a court of law, and Jack found himself guilty in front of a judge who also happened to be his own father.
His dad, overwhelmed with grief, had no choice but to pass a 25 year prison sentence or a $2 million fine which he knew his son would be unable to pay. His dad presided over a similar case the year before, and being a fair and good judge he had no choice but to pass the same sentence for the same crime. If he didn’t, his integrity as a judge would be questioned and he himself could be put on trial for misconduct and nepotism.
With his son on his way to prison, however, his dad did the unthinkable. He sold all his worldly possessions accumulated over the years. He also retired from his position as judge a few years earlier than planned in order to cash in his retirement fund. With all the money he was able to rake in, the judge was in a position to hand over $2 million to the State in order for his son to be legally released from prison.
Just like Jack who was unable to pay for his own fine, we as sinful and unholy human beings are also unable to pay for our own fine. Just like Jack who needed someone to pay for his fine on his behalf, we needed someone to pay our fine as well.
Dealing With Sin Under The Law Of Moses
In the Old Testament, Moses commanded that animals had to be sacrificed for the temporal atonement of sin. When we study the Old Testament in greater detail, we discover that the animal that was going to be sacrificed had to be “without spot or blemish.” The blood of the animal had to be poured out at the base of the altar, and the Bible says the sacrifice of the animal was a sweet fragrance unto the Lord. It was only through the sacrifice of an animal and the pouring out of the blood that sin was forgiven.
In Leviticus 4 we read about the Law of Sin Offerings, and in Leviticus 4:28-31 Moses gave the following instruction for when a man brought his offering to the priest for the atonement of his sin,
“if his sin which he has committed is made known to him, then he shall bring a goat, a female without blemish as his offering for the sin which he has committed. 29He shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering [transferring symbolically his guilt to the sacrifice], and kill it at the place of the burnt offering. 30The priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and shall pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. 31Then he shall remove all its fat, just as the fat was removed from the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar as a sweet and soothing aroma to the Lord. In this way the priest shall make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven.”
From this passage we can see that sin was forgiven and atoned for in the following way:
- The animal brought for the sacrifice had to be without spot or blemish
- The sin of the person who brought the sacrifice had to be transferred to the sacrifice
- The blood was poured out at the base of the altar
- The smoke from the altar was a sweet and soothing aroma to the Lord
We also read from the Old Testament that it was the blood in particular that atoned for sin. Leviticus 17:11 says,
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement …”
The lamb without spot or blemish was a metaphor of what (or rather who) was to come.
In John 1:29 John the Baptist exclaimed when he saw Jesus,
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
The animal without spot or blemish which was to be sacrificed for the payment of sin was an illustration or prophetic demonstration of the sinless person of Jesus Christ, who would pay for our sins. Hebrews 4:14-15 (ESV) say,
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Since Jesus was without sin, He was the Sacrificial Lamb without any spot or blemish. Furthermore, it was the uncontaminated (guiltless) blood of Jesus that was poured out at the base of the cross that made the atonement for our sins. Jesus confirmed this at the Last Supper before He was crucified when He spoke symbolically of the wine they were drinking as His blood. In Matthew 26:28 Jesus said,
“For this is My blood of the [new and better] covenant, which [ratifies the agreement and] is being poured out for many [as a substitutionary atonement] for the forgiveness of sins.”
In addition, just like the Old Testament sacrifices that were a sweet fragrance to the Lord, it was similarly the sacrifice of Jesus that was a sweet fragrance unto the Lord. Ephesians 5:2 says of Jesus Christ that He…
“…gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.”
Jesus took upon Himself the sin of the world and was duly punished for it. As He willingly gave Himself up for us because of His love for us, the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus instead of us. The punishment for our sin was exacted upon Jesus with such fierce and violent anger, even to the extent that He was marred beyond the recognition of any man. Isaiah 52:14 (NIV) states,
“Just as there were many who were appalled at him; his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.”
This is why Paul explained in the book of Romans in the 5th chapter that Christ died as a substitute for the ungodly.
Just like Jack’s father went out of his way to pay a price on his son’s behalf in order for his son to go free, the Judge of the Universe gave Jesus who paid the ultimate price so we could legally escape His wrath. Isaiah 53:6 summed it up in this way,
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, We have turned, each one, to his own way; But the Lord has caused the wickedness of us all [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing] To fall on Him [instead of us].”
Our Debt Paid In Full
While I am extremely grateful for the English translations of the Bible, we sometimes still lose a lot of the original and intended meaning behind the Hebrew and Greek texts. For example, the Book of John recorded the last words of Jesus before He died. Without a doubt, the last words spoken by Jesus had to be immensely profound. First we read that Jesus knew at this point that the work He had done on the cross was finished, and in John 19:28 we read,
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said in fulfillment of the Scripture, I am thirsty.”
Two verses later we read in John 19:30,
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and [voluntarily] gave up His spirit.”
When Jesus said “It is finished”, our understanding is that He accomplished what He came to do, and rightly so. However, when we look at the word used in the original Greek for ‘finished’, a lot more is revealed about this pivotal moment in time.
The original word used is tetelestai, and when literally translated it does mean “It is finished.” However, in New Testament times this was also the word that was used when a bill or outstanding debt was paid in full. In fact, creditors would write tetelestai or an abbreviated form of this word on receipts when the final payment on an outstanding debt was made.
In other words, when Jesus said tetelestai, He declared on the cross that He had paid the fine for our sins, in full.
The Price Was Paid For Everyone
The Bible refers to Adam who sinned as the first Adam, and to Jesus who never sinned as the second Adam. When Adam sinned, the death that resulted affected not just Adam but also the entire human race to come. Romans 5:12 describes it this way,
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all people [no one being able to stop it or escape its power], because they all sinned.”
The work Jesus did on the cross had the same effect in the sense that it affected the whole human race. Romans 5:15 says,
“But the free gift [of God] is not like the trespass [because the gift of grace overwhelms the fall of man]. For if many died by one man’s trespass [Adam’s sin], much more [abundantly] did God’s grace and the gift [that comes] by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to [benefit] the many.”
While the first Adam, through his sin brought death to the world, 1 Corinthians 14:45b says of Jesus that “… the last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving spirit [restoring the dead to life].”
The penalty was paid for all, and there is no sinner, race or people group for whom Jesus did not declare tetelestai. John 3:16 makes this plain as it says,
“For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
As we can see from this passage, eternal life is available to whoever believes. This makes sense when we realise God’s will is that no one should perish. 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is…
“…not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
1 Timothy 4 says that God our Saviour…
“…wishes all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge and recognition of the [divine] truth.”
While Jesus paid the price for all, and while God wants all people to be saved, it is important to understand that each person’s individual sin is not automatically forgiven, and all people don’t become born again by default. Rather than saying everyone’s sins are forgiven, the truth is that everyone’s sins have been dealt with legally and therefore can be forgiven. We can only receive salvation on God’s terms, not ours.
We will look at the terms of salvation a bit later, but for now it is important to know that God’s Plan of Salvation was a plan that included all people, and it was motivated by His immeasurable love for all of mankind.Read Next: Man’s Destiny