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Jason Sampler
New Orleans, Louisiana

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Th.M. Theology, NOBTS

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Contemplating Hell By Contemplating the Cross

While reading J.I. Packer's classic Knowing God last night, I ran across a thought that gripped my soul. In the chapter "The Heart of the Gospel", he speaks of the death of Christ. He explores the meaning of the cross, its effect on the Father, the Son, and humanity. One particular thought jumped off the page. After a short paragraph refuting universalism (the belief that everyone will eventually be forgiven by God and 'live in heaven'), he writes the following:

"Some, then, face an eternity of rejectedness. How can we understand what they will bring on themselves? We cannot, of course, form any adequate notion of hell, any more than we can of heaven, and no doubt it is good for us that this is so; but perhaps the clearest notion we can form is that derived from contemplating the cross.

One the cross, God judged our sins in the person of his Son, and Jesus endured the retributive comeback of our wrongdoing. Look at the cross, therefore, and you see what for God's judicial reaction to human sin will finally take. What for is that? In a word, withdrawal and deprivation of good. On the cross Jesus lost all the good that he had before: all sense of his Father's presence and love, all sense of physical, mental and spiritual well-being, all enjoyment of God and of created things, all ease and solace of friendship, were taken from him, and in their place was nothing but loneliness, pain, a killing sense of human malice and callousness, and a horror of great spiritual darkness.

The physical pain, though great (for crucifixion remains the cruelest form of judicial execution that the world has ever known), was yet only a small part of the story; Jesus' chief sufferings were mental and spiritual, and what was packed into less than for hundred minutes was an eternity of agony - agony such that each minute was an eternity in itself, as mental sufferers know that individual minutes can be.

So, too, those who reject God face the prospect of losing all good, and the best way to form an idea of eternal death is to dwell on this thought. In ordinary life, we never notice how much good we enjoy through God's common grace till it is taken from us. We never value health, or steady circumstances, or friendship and respect fro mothers, as we should till we have lost them. Calvary shows that under the final judgment of God nothing that one has valued, or could value, nothing that one cal call good, remains to one. It is a terrible thought, but the reality, we may be sure, is more terrible yet. 'It would be better for him if he had not been born.' God help us to learn this lesson, which the spectacle of propitiation through penal substitution on the cross teaches so clearly; and may each us be found in Christ, our sins covered by his blood, at the last."

Here are a few of my thoughts on this passage. What a God-glorifying, and equally troubling picture. Hell is not primarily a place of physical torment, of fire and pain (though I believe it to be so), but of mental and emotional loneliness, of spiritual separation. In a reduced sense, I think it is fair to say those living today without the hope of Christ's propitiation for sin live a life of hell. They are separated from God, still at emnity with their Creator. They are spiritually and mentally alone, with no real companionship. They also feel the weight of their rebellion on their souls, sometimes causing them to lash out even more. Should we be surprised then, fellow believers in Jesus, that the world is oftentimes turned off by our pre-programmed gospel presentation. Instead of offering a canned evangelistic presentation, why not offer them life, offer them relationships, offer them reconcilation with God. Life on earth apart from Christ is just as much hell as life away from earth apart from Christ.

posted by Jason Sampler at 5:56 AM

2 Comments:

Blogger art rogers said...

Excellent parallel. I agree that the great burden for Jesus was a spiritual one.

For the only time in all eternity past and future, the Father and the Son were to be seperated. What a phenomenal weight to carry.

7:59 AM, April 18, 2006  
Blogger Lot said...

... no one this side of eternity lives a life anything CLOSE to hell ... just as the troubles and trials that we face on this side of eternity are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us who know Christ, so conversely so for the pagan. As painful and horrid and terrifying as this life can be, it is not worthy to be compared to the black horrors in torment that await the wicked. After judgement the wicked will long for the days when they had it so good ... regardless of how "bad" they (or others) thought they had it.

Lots Tusej
P.S. Still looking forward to June!

12:06 PM, April 22, 2006  

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A Treatise on Church Order by John L. Dagg


Christian Doctrine by W. T. Conner


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The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Revised Edition) by Wayne Grudem


Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 by D. A. Carson

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The views presented on this blog do not represent the opinions or positions of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the SBC, any local, or state Baptist association, or of Edgewater Baptist Church. The views represented here are solely the personal views of the author. Also, it should be made public that I am a rabid University of Oklahoma sports fan . . . BOOMER SOONER!

 

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