In Christian circles and Bible study groups we talk about how much it cost God to provide a way of salvation for mankind, but this has always left a sense of an unanswered blank space in my mind. Like, there’s something missing here that has not been addressed. There seems to be a focus on all of the physical torture Jesus suffered on the cross at Calvary. There must be more to
it than that, for Romans 5:7-8 says:
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die, but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
This points to man’s total unworthiness for redemption, but does it not say something about a different kind of death, beyond just physical? Heroic men on the battlefield have made their ultimate sacrifice for a fellow soldier, but not man’s sins.
My thoughts go to Hebrews 12:2, for example, and ponder the underlying meanings of what the writer tells us: “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” That verse is between two other verses that challenge believers to pick themselves up out of discouragement and press on as true disciples. Even this verse points us to that issue.
But note what it says about Jesus. He had two visions of the future—One of short-term intent, one of long-term expectation. It seems to beg an answer to the question, “What was the cost He paid for man’s redemption?” Before you yell out, “Wait a minute there, Buster, you’re bordering on blasphemy!” let me point out that Jesus fully expected to return to His place in the throne room of heaven. In other words, God gave Him for us, but God got Him back! So, what was the true cost? (Keep in mind that a mere man, dying without making his peace with God, will not be returning from that place of judgment. He will be there forever and ever!)
I’ve already waded into this up to my neck so bear with me a little further, please. When Jesus cried out those words on the cross of Calvary, those words that David penned in Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” it poured out of His lips after all of the physical torture that had brought Him to that place had already been done to Him. In that statement, prophetically fulfilled by Jesus in actuality, do we see something of the true cost of our redemption? Does God put a much greater importance upon that time of separation of Jesus, the
Man, from His eternal Father, than we ascribe to the matter?
Are we, in fact then, saying hell won’t be all that bad? Romans 6:23 is often quoted as a certainty of a penalty for sin: “For the wages of sin isdeath, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In our sharing the plan of salvation, we explain that that verse means we will be separated from God and spend eternity in hell as the payment for our sinfulness—unless, of course, we accept the gift of eternal life which He offers us for free. (Thank you, Jesus!)
That death is much more than physical. When God warned Adam to not eat of the forbidden tree, He told him, “The day you eat of it, you will die,” but Adam lived to the ripe old age of 930 years! What died that very day when they disobeyed and ate was their spirits. They knew they were sinners and could not walk with God any longer, so they hid themselves and covered themselves with fig leaves.
That, dear reader, is what I believe is that great cry of anguish, of horror and aloneness that came from those pain-wracked lips of Jesus on that horrible cross that day! When He sweat great drops of blood in His struggle of the will in the Garden of Gethsemane that night and finally crying out, “Not My will but Yours be done, O Father,” was He looking toward that time of separation from His Father as the ultimate suffering—far beyond the terrible physical abuse He would endure? No mere finite human can grasp, fully, the significance and reality of that experience, I feel sure.
So, did Jesus die that kind of death for us? Or was it just a physical death? His body, the body of a man, was provided that the sins of mankind might be laid on it, that that price might be paid in full (Hebrews 5:5,10). What did the eternal justice of the judgment of God require? I once brought this up in a Bible study, suggesting that if the price for my sin was hell, and Jesus paid the full price, then…you understand the obvious conclusion. The knee-jerk reaction from the others in the study was quite interesting: Such a thing could not be! But then, is separation from God actually hell? Jesus says that everlasting fire was prepared for the devil and his angels, not for man — because the promise of eternal life was available for mankind (Matthew 25:41).
The account in Luke 16 of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, gives us some insight to what hell is like: “The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame’” (Luke 16:22-24). His tongue was burning, but one can realize that he was tormented more than that, being “in this flame,” as he admitted.
In other articles I have referred to the fiery furnace that KingNebuchadnezzar prepared for the three Hebrew men (Daniel 3). He ordered it to be seven times hotter than ever before (seven, the perfect number, perhaps indicating a likeness to the fire of God’s wrath). Ordering his men to throw the three offenders into the furnace, he saw his men die from the heat of the furnace. Looking into the flames, the king saw the three men walking around, unscathed from the fire, and suddenly he exclaimed, “I see a fourth one there and he looks like the Son of Man!”
Now consider how that scene would look if that fourth man was not present. If this is a picture of what hell is like, the separation from God’s mercy and goodness through Jesus, then you would see the three men writhing in agony and torment, never being extinguished, always burning—forever and ever…and ever! Hebrews 9:27, says this: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…” This seems to say there is no waiting period, no second chance, but judgment comes quickly.
The rich man, in Luke 16, “Died and was buried…and being in torment, he lifted up his eyes…and cried out…” but look at Verse 28 in the Hebrew passage: “So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”
Having grappled with this question of the real cost of our redemption, two concluding thoughts come to mind: 1) My finite mind cannot grasp all the depth of meaning in that cry from the cross that Jesus made, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Mark 15:34), and 2) Hell is really, really bad, forever and ever, so “Behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Heaven is so much better. Will I see you there?