What if Jesus really meant it when He said from the cross “It is finished!”? What if He meant that His mission on earth was accomplished? He came to earth to save the world (John 3:19), and save the world He did— at the cross! Mission accomplished. Do you see what this means?
Does it not unfailingly follow that if God’s justice has been fully satisfied at the cross, how can God possibly be still meting out judgment from His throne to sinners who continue to defiantly reject God’s gift of forgiveness and salvation?
Has not man’s penalty for his sin already been paid at the cross by Jesus, satisfying God’s righteous, perfect justice, no matter how rebellious man remains? Does the sinner have to pay again? That would be double jeopardy—paying for the same sin twice. Could it be that God is now no longer a God of justice in dealing with mankind, but know only a God of love, exercising discipline in the lives of His children because of His love, but no longer punishment because of their sin.
Objections abound, of course, but the answer to those objections is always two-fold: 1.) The Cross. We do not fully understand its power. It is bigger, broader and deeper than we have ever understood. Aso, not surprisingly, we also fall for the same temptation Satan used on Eve: 2.), To Be Like God, Knowing (deciding for oneself) Good and Evil. Let’s see how those two biblical truths, the Cross and the Fall, answer every question the first three paragraphs elicited.
My first inclination is always to seek justice, to do the “right thing” myself and to want the culture around me to do likewise—according to my particular standard of right and wrong, of course, and for those who do not, punishment. For a Christian, there is hopefully some recognition of God and His word in the standard chosen.
This is how we are born. We come out of the womb having eaten of the fruit of the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, so our view of the world around us is based on a sliding scale with absolute “good” at one end (as modeled by Jesus) and absolute “evil” (as modeled by Hitler, or, in today’s world, Trump) at the other, with varying degrees of conformity to those absolutes in between. In our minds we are constantly judging ourselves and others around us on that scale.
If we grow up in a Christian family, that standard may be the Bible; in another family, it may be financial gain, in another, worldly recognition, and in another, staying out of jail. Everyone lives by some standard of “good and evil.” We cannot help it. Since the Fall, that standard of living by “good and evil” is written on our hearts.
We live longing for the day when evil is exposed and judged and when righteousness (the good) prevails. “I can’t wait until judgment comes and they get theirs, if not in this world, then the next.” So, when someone has the audacity to ask the question as I did in paragraph three above, “Could it be that God is now no longer a God of justice in dealing with mankind, but know only a God of love,” it goes against the way we have thought since the Garden of Eden. Literally, our world is turned upside down.
But really it is right-side up. Man was not created to live by the law, but by faith in their Creator, just as he did before the Fall, and God restored that whole way to live at the cross! There, in Jesus Christ, we died to the way we have lived since the Garden, by good and evil, the law, and restored us to the way Adam and Eve lived before the Tree, by faith.
Before the Tree, they trusted Daddy for everything—what to think, what to speak, what to do and when to do it. He led them in everything “from without,” speaking His directions audibly. But since the cross and Pentecost, His life of faith is leading us “from within,” not audibly now, but by His Holy Spirit speaking to us in our hearts.
So, is it really finished, as Jesus said? If so, there is nothing left to do but trust Daddy for everything, just as He said to do: for provision, protection, purpose, in my family, at work, in all my relationships. As I learn to trust Him more and more, called “growing in grace,” the fruit of that Spirit of God who lives within, energizing all who walk by faith, begins to appear in my life, with absolutely no effort on my part whatsoever. The promise is that I will become “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season” (Psalm 1:3). What tree ever worked at bearing fruit?! It happens naturally, spontaneously, as the life inside the tree does the fruit-producing.
Therefore, if God is absolutely sovereign, as we have seen in previous postings, and Jesus died for all the sins of all who fell “in Adam,” as the scriptures teach (1 Corinthians 15:22), i.e., Jesus has paid the penalty for all sin, past present and future, and He wants “all to be saved” —”God our Savior . . . who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), will He not ultimately save everyone?
“So, Andrews, if God is no longer a just God toward His creatures, but only a loving one, what about all the verses that talk about Hell? Are you conveniently, like all other heretics, conveniently cutting them out?”
No, certainly not. We saw last week (in the posting and the Comments section) that Hell is very real and very terrible, but just not punitive, nor is it eternal. That word most often in the New Testament means “a period of time.” God is not punishing us for our sin, but disciplining us, because of His love, a huge difference. That was illustrated beautifully for me some time ago.
Jill and I were in the home of a mother whose three-year-old son was misbehaving while we visited. He ignored her instructions and continued his unacceptable conduct. She said, ”Billy go to the bathroom and wait for me to come.” Immediately a look of terror came over his face and he began to scream, “No, Mommy, no, Mommy, no, no!” He knew what lay ahead.
She picked him up, still screaming and kicking, and took him to the bathroom, their spanking room, and we heard a whap, whap, whap among the screeches. A period of silence followed, and they came out, the boy in his mother’s arms, lovingly clinging to her neck as she whispered in his ear her love and commitment to sticking with him until his rebellion was licked.
Her spanking had nothing to do with punishing him for his sin, but everything to do with loving him enough to train him to be a godly man. God does the same thing: “We have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:9-11).
There you have Hell in a nutshell: the discipline of a loving God for His rebellious children. Salvation was achieved fully at the cross. It is finished! God is at work to bring us to “share His holiness.” There is nothing left for us to do. Salvation is of God alone! Can you imagine anyone refusing such a gospel?
Judges 21: 25. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The most frightening words in the Bible? Or, Hosea 4:17. “Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone.” Either way, without God, we are doomed.