What Does It Mean? Pt. 7
Study Guide June 12, 2016
Pastor Clay Olsen
Last week we talked about the glories of Heaven, or our eternal Homeland; and what a wonderful reality Heaven is and is just ahead for us. So now, in order to be rightly balanced, today we need to talk a bit about the just reality of Hell, the land of eternal separation from God; and what a sobering reality Hell really is, and a reality that is just ahead for so many people, people who have rejected or neglected God’s great salvation.
Oddly enough, when it comes right down to it, even for those who do believe that there really might be such a place as ‘Hell’…not many actually believe they might go there. In a survey done some years back, it revealed that most Americans, around 64%, expected to go to Heaven when they died. However, less than 1% thought they might go to Hell. Apparently, the common attitude among most people is that unless you have committed really horrendous atrocities against your fellow man and have been utterly wicked and evil throughout your life, well then, you’re probably within the group that will be admitted into Heaven and will escape Hell when your life is graded on the curve of overall good deeds over bad deeds.
However, for one thing, as we have previously pointed out: Concerning our great salvation, God does not grade on the curve; He grades on the Cross. The Apostle Paul makes it crystal clear that all people have sinned against God and their only hope is to call upon Christ and His saving forgiveness and His gift of righteousness.
Rom 3:10- “No one is righteous—not even one.” 20- “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” 21-25- “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with Him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood.” 27-28- “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.” NLT And then the Apostle John reveals in John 1:12-13 that ‘to believe’ in Jesus Christ means ‘to receive’ Jesus Christ as your Savior:“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” NASU
Again, one of the oddest things about the religious beliefs of most people is that they think that unless they do something horribly evil that they are most likely on their way to Heaven when they die. But the Biblical reality is that apart from having a saving faith in Jesus Christ every person is already on their way to Hell, because they are already spiritually dead in trespasses and sin. That means that every person on Earth is already going to Hell unless they have repented toward God and received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That is why people are in such desperate need of the Gospel, the ‘Good News’, because the bad news is that they are under the sentence of sin and bound for Hell.
It is so strange how that the natural man thinks completely backwards about Heaven and Hell. Most people think they can earn Heaven based upon their works, rather than thinking about how they can escape Hell, since their sins have already condemned them to Hell. They fail to recognize or accept that fact that they are already spiritually dead in trespasses and sin and are already condemned to spend an eternity in Hell, unless they receive a pardon from their eternal death sentence.
Religions across the world that do not teach what Jesus and the Apostles taught about the sinfulness of man and the Gospel of Grace for salvation have done a terrible disservice to mankind and have contributed to this world wide confusion about Heaven and Hell. As such, most people think that there is still a chance that they might gain Heaven by their good works when the Biblical reality is that there is no chance they can gain Heaven by their good works because they have already been condemned to Hell because of their sins. The Biblical reality is that their sins have already condemned them to an eternal death sentence in a literal place called ‘Hell’.
One very overlooked and understated problem concerning any idea about good works in religious teachings is that human beings are way past having their good works offset their sins. The Bible’s diagnosis of the sin problem is that their sins already killed their spirit and and they have already been sentenced to Hell. The verdict about going to Heaven or Hell is not something that is yet to come. The verdict of every unrepentant unbeliever of going to Hell because of their spiritual death sentence has already been declared.
Two of the most crucial verses to teach everyone in the world is John 3:16 and John 3:18
Last week as we talked about Heaven we rejoiced in John 3:16 together. The Amplified Version helps clarify what is meant when the Bible uses the word ‘believe’. “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.” AMP So to ‘believe’ in Jesus is to trust in Him, to cling to Him, and to rely upon Him as your Lord and Savior.
However, as well loved and well known as John 3:16 is, it is astounding how little is made of the crucial point that God is declaring about the reason that He gave His Son. The reason that He gave His Son is because everyone is perishing already, and apart from trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior they will continue to perish forever. We know that clearly from what John continued to declare in John 3:18: “He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation — he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ’s name.] AMP
The Apostle is declaring to everyone that every person in the world who has not turned to Christ in repentance and trusted Him in faith to be their Lord and Savior has already been judged and convicted and has already received his sentence of perishing forever in a literal place called Hell. The final judgment is only to determine what the severity of that sentencing will be, since there are degrees of sentencing in Hell, just as there are degrees of rewards in Heaven. God is perfectly fair in all His judgments, in both sentencing the unsaved and in rewarding the saved. And we can come back to that issue another time. But the point to realize now is that just as every saved person on Earth now is already a citizen of Heaven, every unsaved person on Earth is already an inmate of Hell. He or she has already been judged, condemned, and sentenced to an eternity of separation from God in Hell, because they have sinned against God and are still rejecting or neglecting His Son as their only way of not perishing. Their only hope is to surrender in repentance to God and trust in Jesus Christ be pardoned and given new spiritual life in Christ. Essentially, every unsaved person on Earth has already been sentenced and are basically just living out their life on ‘spiritual death row’.
Which leads back to this completely un-Biblical and completely false idea that anyone could be saved by their good works. You know, when a person has already been sentenced to death and is on death row, they are not thinking about the chance of doing some good works to offset their bad works. No, of course not; they are way past any chance of having their good works offset their bad works. Their sentence of death has already been given. Their only hope is that somehow they might be granted a pardon, which they would joyfully accept and receive. A person on death row is not thinking about doing good works…they are thinking about a pardon and praying for a pardon…because a pardon is their only hope.
This is the spiritual reality of the human race. All have sinned and are already condemned. All are now living out their lives on spiritual death row. Earth is now a spiritual prison and every unsaved person is on spiritual death row. And so people are way past any chance that their good works could somehow offset their bad works to deliver them from their sentence of Hell. Their only hope is to be given a pardon and then joyfully and gratefully accept and receive that pardon.
The question each person should be considering is not: ‘Do you think you will go to Heaven?’ but, ‘Have you received your pardon from going to Hell?’ Again, Salvation is about receiving a pardon from God because people are way past any chance of their good works getting them off of spiritual death row. Each person’s only hope is to receive the pardon that God is offering them in the Person of Jesus Christ. And God can offer this pardon or this forgiveness because Jesus paid the ransom necessary to remove our spiritual death sentence from us. And He did this by taking our spiritual death sentence for us, as the Apostle Peter explains:1 Peter 1:18-20- “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose Him as your ransom long before the world began, but He has now revealed Him to you in these last days.” NLT
How wonderfully loving and kind of God to have already planned a way of escaping the inevitable sentencing of Hell that would come to us because of our sinning against God by providing a ransom, a substitute for us, in His own Son becoming one of us, so that He could die for us, and we could then not only escape Hell, but also be given a home in Heaven! How wonderful, yes, but how very urgent is man’s need! Because as Hebrews 2:2-3 reveals: “For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” NASU
How strange that the most common idea, from world religions to people’s natural thinking, is that people have some chance of earning a place in Heaven, when the Bible’s central teaching is that people have no chance of earning a place in Heaven. What they need to be focused on is how they, as sinners, can escape perishing in Hell, since they have already been sentenced to Hell. And if they reject or neglect God’s only provision for their pardon, they will not escape their sentence of an eternity in Hell.
The Biblical question for the world is not “Are you going to Heaven?” but “How do you plan to escape going to Hell?” Think about it: You would not ask a person on death row what they plan to do when they get out when their sentence is up? Of course not, because they are not getting out, because they have already been sentenced to death. The only hope you could offer them is if you knew that someone was willing to grant them a pardon; and if they would then accept and receive this pardon. That’s the only way they could be rescued from and escape their death sentence. That’s the message you would give to a person on death row.
That brings up another quandary about what people think they know and what they really do not know. Most people do not know they are on spiritual death row. Most people do not know they are already on their way to Hell. Most people do not know that they are way past any hope of their good works getting their sentence of Hell removed from them. Most people do not know that their only hope of getting their eternal death sentence removed from them is to accept and receive the pardon that is being offered to them by Jesus Christ. Most people do not know that the reason Jesus Christ can offer them this pardon is because He took their spiritual death sentence for them and paid the price of their sin sentence when He lived and died in their place. Most people do not know that Jesus lived a life that God would count as a substitute life and death in their place, and therefore they can be pardoned from their spiritual death sentence, but that will require them to personally accept and receive this pardon by accepting and receiving Jesus Christ Himself as their Savior and Lord.
And, most people do not know that Jesus said most people are going to reject or neglect Him and His offer of salvation as He put it in Matt 7:13-14- “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” NASU Of course, ‘the gate’ and ‘the way’ is Jesus Christ Himself, who is the way, the truth, and the life. And as Jesus said, there will be some who will be willing come to Him for His way of salvation. They will receive His forgiveness, His pardon, and His new life with Him. But Jesus said most people are not going to be willing to come to Him to be pardoned, but will continue to insist on having their own way and will continue on the road to destruction.
The few will say to God, “Lord, Thy will be done” as they enter into Heaven. And to the many God will say to them, to the unbelieving, “Thy will be done” as they enter into Hell.