The sinners in Zion are afraid;
fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites.
Who among us shall dwell
with the devouring fire?
who among us shall dwell
with everlasting burnings?
(Isaiah 33:14, 15, KJV)
The Cross was HellDigging for Truth Jesus' Death Reveals Sinners' Fate Hell in the Light of the Cross The Law of Life, The Law of Death Sin is Self-Destructive No Man Shall Spare His Brother Satan is Abaddon the Destroyer Casting Out Satan Babylon, the Cross, and Unity
Digging for Truth
In the introduction to her book HEART IN THE WILD Susan Chernak McElroy quotes L. Shefer, "Truth is fire, and to speak the truth means to illuminate and burn." She also shares her thoughts about:
"the fires of the year 2000 - the ones that burned the West and the one that took my home in January of that year.
My catastrophic house fire was not the first fire to have touched my life. If you imagine fire not in its flaming form but as a transitional force that sweeps in, consuming and transmuting all it touches, then the soul of fire had certainly entered me before. None of us is immune to the spirit of fire that rushes upon us, signaling profound and deep life changes with a terrifying rush of obliterating smoke that blackens out the meaning and oftentimes the very sense of reality of our former lives."
"Here in the West, the fires of 2000 were only fully ended when the winter snows came. The land went from black to white, and for six months it looked as if nothing were happening. But beneath the snow and deeper still, beneath the scorched ground, change was moving forward resolutely, undeniably. In accordance with a process as mysterious, enduring, and unstoppable as our own life changes, powerful, unnameable forces were remapping the vision of the forest to come. But the regrowth would not begin instantly or at the surface level."1
Just as life exists beneath the black ashes of a forest fire, hidden from sight, so the Bible also contains truths, deeper principles that elude the surface reader. The Bible does describe literal fire, but it also uses fire as a symbol. God is a consuming fire. Sin is also a blazing, consuming fire. On one hand, because God is all-powerful and immortal, and we are weak and mortal, God's warnings about the severe, fiery consequences of sin may sound like threats to us.
Jesus' Death Reveals Sinners' Fate
On the other hand, we look at Jesus' love that led Him to the cross to die in our place. We need to bring our fears to the cross of Calvary. Jesus did not threaten those who mistreated Him. No, he prayed for those who nailed Him to the cross! God is not two-faced. He does not smile at the righteous and snarl at the wicked. Remember, we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Yet sin and unrepentant sinners do come to an end.
Proverbs 1:29-33 No, you would not learn, and you refused to respect the Lord. You rejected my advice and paid no attention when I warned you. "Now you will eat the fruit of what you have done, until you are stuffed full with your own schemes. Sin and self-satisfaction bring destruction and death to stupid fools. But if you listen to me, you will be safe and secure without fear of disaster." (CEV)
Sinners reap what they have sown. They eat the fruit of what they have done. Sinners bring destruction on themselves.
Proverbs 5:21-23 For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He ponders all his paths. His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin. He shall die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray. (NKJ)
The burning anguish that Christ endured upon the cross, the unfathomable weight of sin and guilt, and the sense of separation from God, caused Christ to experience the horrors of the second death. Christ endured the intense, yes infinite, spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical agony of the second death. Make no mistake, it was our sin, not the nails of the cross that killed the Son of God. Nor did God the Father kill his Son. The ancient Molech worshipers sacrificed their sons. But God does not operate by pagan principles.
Psalm 89:46-48 How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? Remember how short my time is - for what vanity you have created all mortals! Who can live and never see death? Who can escape the power of Sheol? (NRSV)
Psalm 89 foretells Jesus' experience on the cross. he suffered the "wrath of God." "How long will your wrath burn like fire?" Christ endured the fullness of the power of Sheol - hell. In the book of Revelation, John writes about the second death and hell. Jesus' deep love for fallen humanity brought Him to the cross of Calvary, where he suffered the fullness of the second death and hell. Jesus suffered the fiery guilt and shame of sin, and the dark, destructive separation from God. Jesus' experience foreshadows the hell unrepentant sinners will experience, bound by their own unbreakable fetters of self-centered sin.
Our guide to interpreting the book of Revelation must be the cross of Christ. Our Father in Heaven did not torment his Son, Jesus, while he was hanging on the cross, or at any other time. Remember that Jesus died to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. That means that Jesus experienced the same fate that awaits unrepentant sinners at the end of the age. Jesus will not change from a gentle Lamb into a fire-breathing dragon that takes pleasure in the torture of his children. Neither will our heavenly Father.
Hell in the Light of the Cross
Our understanding of hell has been inconsistent with the character of God as revealed by the life and death of Jesus. Let's look at some texts that will help us understand the principles involved. Jude 15 "He will bring the people of the world to judgment. He will convict the ungodly of all the evil things they have done in rebellion and of all the insults that godless sinners have spoken against him" (NLT).
At the end of the age, the lost will stand before God's judgment throne. God will enable the lost to remember their evil thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. He will show them how they have stubbornly rejected his mercy, his free gift. The burning guilt of their sins will overwhelm them in the same way that the sin and guilt of the whole world overwhelmed the Son of God. Sinners will die the same death that Jesus did. The infinite weight of our sin and guilt and the sense of separation from God broke the heart of Jesus. The mental anguish Christ endured on the cross far exceeded the physical torments that he endured.
Isaiah 33:14, 15 The sinners in Zion are afraid; Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, He who despises the gain of oppressions, Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, And shuts his eyes from seeing evil? (NKJ)
Psalm 9:15, 16 The nations fall into the pitfalls they have dug for others; the trap they set has snapped on them. The Lord is famous for the way he punishes the wicked in their own snares! (Living Bible)
Our God is a consuming fire. The contrast between God's perfect self-sacrificing love and the guilt and shame of sin and selfishness would kill anyone, even Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus' heart ever burned with the pure, holy flame of unselfish love. Sin never found an entrance into Jesus heart or mind. An ocean of sin battered Jesus everywhere he turned, but its foul waves could never cause his flame of love to wane or even to flicker. The cross proves that God does not have to physically kill the sinner. The sinner dies beneath the crushing weight of his own guilt, shame, and hatred.
The fire of God that comes down from Heaven to consume the wicked is the light of his glorious character of love. The fire of God's glory contrasts, accentuates, and ignites the fire of sin, guilt, and hatred. The fire of God's glory of love comes down from Heaven in the form of the vivid portrayal, the presentation to each heart and mind, of our Saviour's struggle in Gethsemane and his death on the cross of Calvary.
Hebrews 2:14 "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (KJV). Christ's death on Calvary will destroy Satan! Yes, Christ's death destroyed Satan's influence among the loyal heavenly beings and among those who are being saved from the earth. Furthermore, at the white throne judgment, when the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is portrayed before Gog and Magog, Satan will have no power to turn from the picture of his own work. Christ, through his death, destroys Satan indirectly, but literally. The crucifixion of Christ is the full demonstration of God's glory, and his wrath. Our God is a consuming fire!
Deuteronomy 4:23, 24 Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. (KJV)
Ex 24:16, 17 And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel (KJV)
The Law of Life, The Law of Death
God presented his Ten Commandments to Moses on top of the burning mountain, amidst thunder and lightning. The divine statutes can be summarized as love for God and love for others. Love brings life.
When any of God's creatures reject his law of love, they're rejecting life, liberty, and happiness. Sin is the great destroyer. Rebellion's seed grows and yields a mature fruit, the bitter harvest of the second death. This is the natural consequence of sin and selfishness. Sin is self-destructive.
Sadly, in varying degrees, even Christians have accepted some of Satan's lies as an article of faith. God has described the law of life. But because our wise and loving heavenly Father has been shielding Satan, his fallen angels and fallen humanity from the fullness of the natural consequences of selfishness and sin, we have taken sin lightly. We do not see the immediate, destructive consequences of sin. Sin has become familiar to us. Therefore we do not think it's so bad.
Just as he did in Heaven, Satan has turned God's mercy into a lie. Satan depicts God's law and character as arbitrary and condemning. He portrays our loving Father as angrily destroying those of his children who don't repent. At the end of the age, God will allow the lost to experience the full bitterness of sin. The whole universe will see how destructive sin really is. God does not have to arbitrarily punish or destroy anyone. Sin kills.
God allows those of his stubborn, rebellious children that refused to let go of sin to experience it without the shield of his love and grace that they have rejected. What patience! What love and mercy! What grace! The presentation of Jesus' sacrifice, contrasted with each person's vivid, self-condemning memory, vindicates our heavenly Father. The wages of sin is death. The gift of God is eternal life. Hebrews 12: 29 "For our God is a consuming fire." (KJV). God desires to consume our sin and guilt before our sin and guilt consume us. Therefore let us repent of our sin (unbelief), that we may rejoice when Jesus comes to claim his believing children.
The same principle in regard to the second coming applies to the judgment presentation of Jesus on the cross. God's glorious character of love, in its infinite intensity, overwhelms any sinner who is hanging onto his sin. The judgment presentation of Jesus on the cross vividly portrays the Son of God in Gethsemane and on Calvary. The power of God's love is clearly revealed. Self-sacrificing love is God's mightiest weapon. Jesus' sacrifice is God's method for unleashing the infinite power of his love.
Even Satan will be constrained to bow before God. Psalms 22:29 foretells this event: All the prosperous on the earth shall eat and worship, all those that go down to the dust shall bow before Him, even he who cannot keep himself alive (NKJ). Satan cannot keep himself alive. Only God has immortal life within himself. Satan does not, nor do we.
God will not force anyone to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Nor will God force every knee to bow. God always acts based on his eternal principles. The exercise of force is contrary to the eternal principles of God's government.
At the white throne judgment, our Father presents his love as revealed by Jesus' death on the cross of Calvary to impenitent sinners in a 360 degree, 3-D, holographic, omni-vision-type experience. The presentation of Jesus' sacrifice is the glory of God. It is his character of love. This is what makes our God a consuming fire.
The contrast between God's pure, holy, unselfish love and each sinner's selfish, and rebellious heart, mind, and character is the second death experience. It is hell. This is what Christ experienced on the cross. The humanity of Christ could not survive the experience. This contrast crushed out his life. The impenitent sinner will also go through the same crushing experience of the second death. Isaiah also describes the judgment presentation of Jesus on the cross.
Isaiah 45: 21-24 For there is no other God but me - a just God and a Savior - no, not one! Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other. I have sworn by my own name, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to my name." The people will declare, "The LORD is the source of all my righteousness and strength." And all who were angry with him will come to him and be ashamed. (NKJ)
Paul talks about it in Romans 14:11, "For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God" (KJV). Again Paul describes the power of the cross causing every knee to bow:
Philippians 2:6-11 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (KJV)
The beauty of Jesus' sacrifice causes all to kneel in worship before Him. Saint and sinner, good and bad, righteous and wicked, none need be terrified of God. God has nothing but love for all people. That is what the cross proves.
Sin is Self-Destructive
But we should be terrified of sin. Jesus died the second death as a consequence of carrying our sins. Unrepentant sinners at the end of time also die the second death as a consequence of refusing to let Jesus carry their sins.
Just as God did not physically kill his Son, God will not physically kill the unrepentant angels or sinners either. He does not have to. It is the weight of sin, guilt, and shame, the fire of a burning heart, mind, and spirit, that crush out life forever. Sin contains the seeds of its own destruction.
No sinner has ever yet been treated as he deserves. But they will be treated exactly as they deserve at the white throne judgment. Psalm 103:10 "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities" (MKJV).
God has shielded fallen angels and fallen humans from the full consequences of sin and rebellion. More than this, God has poured out his blessings upon the good and bad alike. But Satan has done his best to pervert God's blessings into curses.
The living wicked at the second coming of Christ will get a foretaste of the judgment. God's glory, his infinite love, contains absolutely no condemnation. Although, the contrast between God's goodness and the sinner's depravity will feel like condemnation.
The destructive power of sin has so warped the evil angels and sinful men that they cannot tolerate God's love. God's love condemns and consumes the wicked in the same way that beautiful art condemns bad art - by example.
Dear reader, join me in praying that we will allow God's love to burn in our hearts, consuming sin, day by day. Let us behold Jesus on the cross on a daily basis, allowing the fire of the Holy Spirit to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. In small, daily doses, God's glory, his consuming fire purifies, strengthens, and heals. If it is painful, ego, self, the carnal heart, is what suffers. Indeed self (selfishness) must die daily.
Isaiah 26:7-11 The way of the just is uprightness; O Most Upright, You weigh the path of the just. Yes, in the way of Your judgments, O LORD, we have waited for You; The desire of our soul is for Your name and for the remembrance of You. With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness; In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD. LORD, when Your hand is lifted up, they will not see. But they will see and be ashamed for their envy of people; Yes, the fire of Your enemies shall devour them. (NKJ)
God has stated the point in time that Satan will be unmasked in the presence of those he has deceived. The great white throne judgment will occur after the millennium of rest. The justice of God (his love) means that God does not, indeed cannot, forcibly extend his protection to those that finally and totally reject his love. Otherwise he would become a dictator.
No Man Shall Spare His Brother
Moreover, no purpose of mercy would be served. In fact, it would be cruel to arbitrarily extend the lives of those that have formed evil habits and characters. The lost have no true joy or peace. Their hearts are filled with rage at those that have deceived them or caused them pain. Satan, his evil angels, and the lost, will turn on one another. Without God's protection, Satan will become as vulnerable as any man. Ezekiel foretold Satan's end:
Ezekiel 28:7-18 See, I am sending against you strange men, feared among the nations: they will let loose their swords against your bright wisdom, they will make your glory a common thing.
They will send you down to the underworld, and your death will be the death of those who are put to the sword in the heart of the seas.
Will you say, in the face of those who are taking your life, I am God? but you are man and not God in the hands of those who are wounding you.
You were in Eden, the garden of God; every stone of great price was your clothing, the sardius, the topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the emerald and the carbuncle: your store-houses were full of gold, and things of great price were in you; in the day when you were made they were got ready.
I gave you your place with the winged one; I put you on the mountain of God; you went up and down among the stones of fire.
There has been no evil in your ways from the day when you were made, till sin was seen in you. Through all your trading you have become full of violent ways, and have done evil: so I sent you out shamed from the mountain of God; the winged one put an end to you from among the stones of fire.
By all your sin, even by your evil trading, you have made your holy places unclean; so I will make a fire come out from you, it will make a meal of you, and I will make you as dust on the earth before the eyes of all who see you. (BBE)
God makes fire come out from Satan by presenting Satan with a view of his own sins in contrast to the mercy, love, and patience of Jesus. If Jesus could not survive the cross, neither will Satan survive the white throne judgment. Jesus was resurrected because he was holy, pure love, with no stain of sin. Satan will not be resurrected from his fate. Sin will burn itself out and never arise again.
Isaiah 9:18, 19 For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke. Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother. (KJV)
Wickedness, a searing guilty conscience from a life of sin, burns out the life of the lost. God's principles of love are not compatible with torture. It is sin that burns. Each thought and act of selfishness and sin carries within itself the seeds of self-destruction. Sin and guilt will explode into fiery human rage when determined sinners burn the last bridge, beyond which our loving Father's protection will not reach, lest he become a dictator.
"No man shall spare his brother." This refers to the great battle of Gog and Magog, which will occur after the millennium of rest. The lost will turn on each other with fury. The lost multitudes will especially target those who have been influential leaders in the paths of deception.
Before the thousand years of rest, (the seventh millennium) the die has been cast; men have decided their destiny. At the second coming of Jesus, as well as at the white throne judgment it will be too late for change, because men's hearts will have been hardened by repeated rejections of God's mercy. Now, today is the time for acceptance of God's love. Jesus gives us abundant opportunity to open our hearts and choose his love. The darker the heart, the more Jesus yearns to shed his loving light into that heart.
The second coming of Jesus and the judgment of the wicked after the millennium, contain many parallel aspects. Bible writers often combine two events in a single description. Jesus combined the description of destruction of Jerusalem with the worldwide destruction at his second coming. Bible texts about "The great day of the Lord" also accurately describe the terror of the wicked at the second coming of Jesus and at the final, white throne judgment.
Isaiah 13: 6-11 Send out a cry of grief; for the day of the Lord is near; it comes as destruction from the Most High. For this cause all hands will be feeble, and every heart of man be turned to water; Their hearts will be full of fear; pains and sorrows will overcome them; they will be in pain like a woman in childbirth; they will be shocked at one another; their faces will be like flames. See, the day of the Lord is coming, cruel, with wrath and burning passion: to make the land a waste, driving the sinners in it to destruction. For the stars of heaven and its bright armies will not give their light: the sun will be made dark in his journey through the heaven, and the moon will keep back her light. And I will send punishment on the world for its evil, and on the sinners for their wrongdoing; and I will put an end to all pride, and will make low the power of the cruel. (BBE)
All that Isaiah pronounces here is true. The day of the Lord causes the sinner's heart to be full of fear, pain, and sorrow. Then will "every heart of man be turned to water." That reminds one of the blood and water that flowed out of Jesus' heart when the soldier pierced his side. Their "faces will be like flames" expresses the burning guilt and shame caused by a life of sin. "I will put an end to all pride." In the brilliant light of the cross of Calvary, there will be no room for human pride, especially among unrepentant sinners. With our understanding of God's character of love, and our knowledge of the judgment scene, this passage should cause us to be afraid of, and hate sin and its destructive power. Proverbs 8:13 "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil" (KJV). Here is another description of the day of the Lord, the judgment scene.
Obadiah 15-18 For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near; As you have done, it shall be done to you; Your reprisal shall return upon your own head. For as you drank on my holy mountain, so shall all the nations drink continually; Yes, they shall drink, and swallow, and they shall be as though they had never been. But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau shall be stubble; They shall kindle them and devour them, and no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau," for the LORD has spoken. (NKJ)
God is love. We mustn't blame God for the consequences of sin. "Your reprisal shall return upon your own head." That is why we are not to take our own revenge. God proclaims, "Vengeance is Mine." If we take vengeance into our own hands, we will be adding to our own mountain of guilt. Vengeance requires judgment. In Matthew 7:1, Jesus instructed us to avoid judging others: "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged" (NRSV).
We must have faith that God will execute justice. He will. How he executes justice is amazing to me. "I worship You, Father for bringing sin and sinners to an end without using any of Satan's evil methods." The sinner will be his own harshest judge. We're near the end of time. Now is the time to accept God's light, his glorious character of love. Mankind has suffered long enough from the darkness of Satan's subtle lies about our loving heavenly Father. We must learn to interpret, understand, and appreciate all scripture in the intense light of the glory of God's love, as revealed by his Son Jesus, on the cross.
Satan is Abaddon the Destroyer
The way God's wrath is responsible for the death and destruction recorded in the Old and New Testament can be understood in light of Christ's experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. God did not kill his Son! Our heavenly Father did not react in anger when Jesus took our sins upon himself in Gethsemane. The Father hid his face from Jesus. That is God's wrath. Even that was not an arbitrary act.
It was the cruel darkness of sin that prevented our Saviour from seeing his loving Father's face. It was Satan who cruelly tempted Christ to believe that he would never be one with the Father again. It was Satan who pointed out the apparent futility of Christ's sacrifice. It was Satan who poured all the woe of human suffering into Christ's bitter cup. It was Satan who inspired men to whip, torture, ridicule, and crucify our dear Saviour.
The relationship between Christ's experience in Gethsemane and unrepentant sinners destroyed by God's wrath now becomes simple, and clear. God's wrath means that he "hides his face" from those who, because of the darkness of sin cannot see Him. It is Satan who loves to tempt, discourage, and torment weak humanity. It is Satan who causes us to feel that our sins have separated us from God. It is sin that destroys. Satan has entered so fully into sin that there is nothing else in him. Satan is Apollyon, or Abaddon, the Destroyer (See Rev. 9:11).
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the flood, the death of Uzzah, Korah, Dathan and Abiram, etc., these are not angry, destructive exceptions to our otherwise merciful and kind heavenly Father's foundation principle of benevolent love! 1Corinthians 9, 10 "We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer" (RSV). Notice that serpents destroyed some rebellious people (serpents are a symbol of Satan). The text mentions the Destroyer, Satan.
Our Father does not look for ways to destroy the people that he has created. The cross overwhelmingly demonstrates how far God will go to save souls. No matter how dark and deep the rebellion and ugliness of sin, it cannot cause our loving heavenly Father to deviate from his holy character of love. No exceptions. By the rules of engagement in the war between Jesus and Satan, when cities like Sodom and Gomorrah pass the point of no return, God must allow Satan full control of those who have fully chosen his principles.
Hosea 11:8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you O Israel? How can I give you like Admah? How can I treat you Like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, together my compassions are kindled. (NASB, Margin)
To whom would God give up Ephraim? To whom would God surrender Israel? The answer is the same being that God gave Admah, Zeboiim, Sodom and Gomorrah to. There are only two sides to this war, God and Satan. Of course Satan can use the armies of pagan nations against Israel, as he did many times. Also, remember that Satan brought fire down from heaven and destroyed Job's sheep and servants.
Nevertheless, God takes responsibility because he is the Sovereign King. And Satan delights in blaming God for the destruction and death.
When God's rules of war allow, Satan leaps at the chance to destroy men. Satan exults to cause suffering and death. Then he blames it on God! Shall we join Satan in his evil work of blaming God? No. By the grace of God, no.
Isaiah looks ahead in time to the white throne judgment when as Jesus said "all things will be revealed." Then Gog and Magog, all the wicked will see who was the source of destruction - Satan.
Isaiah 14:16, 17 Those who see you shall stare and closely watch you, saying, Is this the man who made the earth to tremble; who shook kingdoms; who made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed its cities; who did not open the house for his prisoners? (MKJV)
Isaiah prophesied that all humanity would discover that it was Satan who had destroyed the world's cities, not God. (That includes Sodom and Gomorrah). All will see that it was Satan who made the world a wilderness. Satan "made the earth to tremble." That refers to earthquakes, as well as to making people fearful. Indeed, Satan holds the dead as his prisoners, but only until Jesus' mighty voice calls them from the grave!
1Thessalonians 4:15-17 For we say this to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not go before those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall ever be with the Lord. (MKJV)
Satan seeks to punish and destroy sinners. He keeps track of our sins and accuses us before God. Our Father doesn't keep track of our sins, at least not for the purpose of punishment. God looks for ways to rescue us from sin.
2Corinthians 5:17-21 Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. Our message is that God was making the whole human race his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ's behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. (TEV)
Jesus died to win our friendship. God's way of eliminating his enemies is to win their hearts, that is to make them friends. God does not keep an account of our sins. Still, unrepentant sinners face the second death. At first glance these two Biblical truths would seem to contradict one another. If God does not keep an account of our sins, how are unrepentant, rebellious sinners to be judged and cast into hell?
Casting Out Satan
Whenever we see an apparent contradiction in the Bible we should rejoice because the Holy Spirit is preparing our hearts and minds to receive a deeper truth. The contradiction is not in the Scriptures themselves, but in our misunderstanding of Biblical terms, concepts, and principles.
As honest searchers for truth, we must be willing to let go of preconceived assumptions about God, his sovereignty, the law, the judgment, and the second death, which is hell. We must be willing to test our Bible truths in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary.
For example, in the chapter War in Heaven, we discussed how Satan was cast out of Heaven. Through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, God revealed to all Heaven and earth the beauty of his character of love, the destructiveness of sin, and the ugliness of Satan's character. Satan was cast out of the hearts and minds of all heavenly beings.
Let us join the heavenly beings, and by looking to Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, cast Satan out of our hearts and minds. This process will involve casting down pride of opinion and letting go of long-held beliefs.
God is sovereign. We are mortal humans. Humbly, carefully comparing Scripture principle with Scripture principle, checking our interpretation in the light of the cross of Calvary, we should try to grasp how God will use the same method to cast sinners into hell as he did to cast Satan out of Heaven.
God has chosen to accomplish these things by the powerful revelation of his character of love through Jesus' death on the cross of Calvary.
The powerful revelation of Jesus' death highlights the contrast between God's unselfish love and the hideous, destructive nature of sin and rebellion. The war between God and Satan is a spiritual war, fought on the battlefield of the hearts and minds of all God's created beings. All of Heaven has chosen God's law of unselfish love as demonstrated by the life and death of Jesus. How about you? Who will be the sovereign of your heart?
Babylon, the Cross, and Unity
It is only on earth that the dark destructive plague of sin remains. Satan cannot undo the fact, the victory of Jesus' life and death. But he can misrepresent the issues, and cause confusion. That is why hundreds of widely different churches all claim to rightly interpret the Scriptures and yet differ in many important teachings.
The apostle John used the word "Babylon," which means confusion to describe end-time Christianity. Satan is a counterfeiter. He subtly twists and perverts our understanding of the character of God. One way that Satan causes confusion is to cause us to look at Jesus' suffering and death on the cross on only a physical, surface, level.
The physical level is a good place to start. The astonishingly successful movie, "The Passion of the Christ," vividly, graphically, portrayed Jesus' physical suffering and death. Jesus did suffer physically. Mel Gibson did a great job of portraying the physical sufferings of Jesus. Yet Jesus' mental, emotional, and spiritual suffering were infinitely deeper and broader than his physical suffering. However, it is difficult, if not impossible, to give even the smallest idea of Jesus' infinite mental anguish through the finite medium of cinema.
It is good to visualize and appreciate Jesus' physical suffering. However, we need to look beyond the literal blood and gore, keeping in mind, the core issues of Jesus' mental, emotional, and spiritual suffering. Jesus would rather suffer the horrors of the second death than leave his precious children to experience it. What love! What tenderhearted courage! Truly, Jesus is the Lamb of God. He shows us that our Father is gentle and kind.
Our loving heavenly Father is not a destructive tyrant. Satan is a destructive tyrant. Satan uses trickery, lies, and half-truths, as well as enticement, coercion, jealousy, and human rage as weapons of destruction. Our Father is the Creator God, the Giver, and Sustainer of life. God is love. In him is light and no darkness at all!
1McElroy, Susan Chernak (2002). HEART IN THE WILD. New York: Random House Publishing Group.
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