There is a punishment worse than hell

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

Nobody wants to go to hell. Nobody wants to bear the punishment for his or her sins. In fact, many professing Christians refuse to accept the doctrine of hell. It seems so barbaric, so awful. How could a good and loving God send people to an eternity of torment?

Perhaps a better question would be, how can a good and loving God send his Son to torment on the cross?

When Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) he wasn’t exaggerating. You and I may feel forsaken by God from time to time, but we have this promise from him: “The LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints” (Psalm 37:28).

But Jesus truly was forsaken by his Father. And 1 John 2:2 tells us why. He was a propitiation. God was angry at us for our sins, and rightly so; we are guilty of high treason against him. But then he sent his own Son into the world as a man and poured out his wrath for us on Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, the only righteous man, bore the sin of a wicked world. This means that the cross was a punishment far worse than hell. In hell, a sinner bears the penalty for his own sin. On the cross, Jesus bore the penalty for the sins of his people at least, if not all mankind.

Three hours in the darkness. It doesn’t seem long to us, but “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Each second on the cross was an eternity of suffering, isolation, agony. The Lord did not experience hell on the cross; he experienced a billion hells, because he was not suffering for the sins of only one man but for the sins of the whole world.

We can’t even fathom what hell is like for an unrepentant sinner. Jesus used the imagery of fire and darkness to describe it, but it eclipses any language. How much more does the crucifixion of our Lord surpass comprehension! With the Roman centurion, we can only say, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). No mere man could have borne that infinite suffering; he would have been crushed in an instant. Only a God-man could bear it. That is why Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). Take the time today to watch this video drawn from a sermon by R. C. Sproul. It’s a solemn reminder of the wrath of God against sin and the incredible love of God for us. He sent his Son to endure a punishment worse than hell.

About Dave

I'm a Christian who has been saved and is being transformed by Jesus Christ and his gospel. I’m also a Purdue University and Faith Bible Seminary graduate.

Posted on April 2, 2010, in Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I rededicated my life to Jesus at 15 after hearing an evangelist describe the brutality of the cross. Only recently did God, through His Spirit, reveal what you wrote above – that Christ’s acceptance of not just a sin, but sin itself combined with the separation from His Father was a far more brutal pain. Imagine the guilt we feel for a sin and multiply it beyond imagination. Thank you for the cross. We can never repay.

  2. So god sending jesus to the cross for a bad weekend is equivalent people spending ETERNITY burning in hell?

    Are you serious?

    Is there ANYTHING that a person can do that true justice would call for an infinite punishment.

    Let’s say that somebody steals a piece of gum off a co-worker’s desk. Typically a rational person would say that is bad, and the person deserves some punishment, but a lesser punishment than somebody who commits a car-jacking. In both cases the crime is theft, but one is understood to be a more violent crime than the other.

    So all rational people can agree that there are different levels of crimes, and that those crimes are deserving of different levels of punishment.

    Now let’s imagine a typical person, lives a generally good life, but does typical things that most of us do. This person perhaps fudges his taxes a bit to save a buck, lies occasionally to get a preferable outcome, wants what is best in life, perhaps as a kid stole some a toy or something. But generally this person lives a good life.

    Now if this person is part of the “true” faith, believers in that faith would agree that they are going to heaven and not hell, but if this person is not part of that faith, are these crimes enough to warrant ETERNAL punishment? I can’t imagine any reasonable person saying they do, but if you believe they do, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

    But let’s make it easier; let’s take the most horrendous people of all time. Adolf Hitler. Joseph Stalin. Jeffrey Dahmer. Chrles Manson. My adoptive mother. These people would generally be listed among the most horrendous, despicable people of all time by most people (with one possible exception, people who have not met my mother might only choose 4 of those in this list).

    How much punishment is fair for the crimes they have committed? Would some number of years per life they negatively affected be reasonable? If we made that number something extraordinary? Let’s say each life they negatively affected is worth 100 years, 10,000 year, or even 1 million years punishment.

    Now if the concept of hell is correct that it is ETERNAL punishment, no matter how horrible a person is, what could they do that is worth hell for all ETERNITY?

    So if our understanding of hell is correct, then hell is not a place of judgment for mankind, it’s a place of vengeance.

    To compare this with a weekend of pain, is ludicrous to the point of absurdity… And shows a lack of understanding on your part…

    • Hi Jeff, thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts. Unfortunately, my reply will have to be brief for two reasons. First, the comments section of a blog really isn’t a good place for a debate. Second, since you’ve already judged me as “lacking understanding” without waiting for my response, I’m not sure you are willing to give me a fair hearing.

      The arguments that you’ve presented have been addressed by Christian apologists, and I’ve considered them before, some even while writing this very post. Rather than offering a point-by-point rebuttal, I just want to focus on an assumption which seems to contribute to much of your argument. This assumption is that the God I worship is very small, not much more than a human being. However, the God of the Bible is infinite in his goodness, holiness, and purity. Every sin, no matter how slight, is a colossal offense against him. It is impossible for you and me to underestimate how hideous sin truly is, nor the punishment our sin deserves. I’m sad to hear that your adoptive mother was a wicked person. Her wickedness can only be fully revealed when she is placed next to an infinitely holy God. But though you and I are guilty to a lesser degree, we too are sinners.

      If God truly is great, and if Jesus truly was the God-man, the suffering he endured in a single weekend could far outstrip the suffering of hell, since he would have a tremendous capacity to suffer. And indeed, “he was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…smitten by God, and afflicted.” No one has suffered more than Jesus Christ, because “he was wounded for our transgressions.” (Isaiah 53:3–5) His obedience through suffering and his resurrection from the dead demonstrate his supremacy.

      Although there are several other problems with your argument, I think you are battling an imaginary deity. The god you are rejecting is very small. I join you in rejecting him.

      • Dave,
        Again, you show a lack of understand of what ETERNITY means.
        I understand that in your view the worst thing a person can do is to reject your god, but according to your religion we were made BY god and in his image. If god created a flawed being, and yet still expects that being to be perfect, then the one who deserves an INFINITE punishment would be your god, not the flawed creation of your god.
        As a flawed creation of this version of god you worship, mankind can not be expected to live up to a code of an perfect deity, and to expect as much is simply unrealistic, and an omniscient being would know this.

        And I’m afraid it is you that worships a “small” god, not me that rejects a “small” god.
        A god that throws it’s own creation into hell for ETERNITY for failures during one lifetime is quite a sad and pathetic creature.
        I am a computer programmer by profession. If I create a program that has a big, I don’t blame the program, I blame myself for writing bad code.
        Apparently your vision of god can’t even acknowledge it’s own mistakes…

      • Hi Jeff, by the tone of your writing, it’s clear that you’re not interested in a cordial discussion on this subject. For this reason, it would be a wiser use of my time not to debate you on these points. If in the future you’re interested in such a discussion, please feel free to let me know.

        Thanks,

        Dave

      • If I was not interested in a discussion I would not have commented.
        If you’re unable or unwilling to respond, so be it. But I find it interesting that you seem to have no response once challenged on your views.

        Your comment that “no one has suffered more than jesus” would almost be laughable in it’s ridiculousness if not for the fact that it is so offensive to those who truly have suffered with painful diseases, ongoing torture, the holocaust, sexual abuse, etc…
        If the bible’s version of events are correct, then even during his final weekend, he still knew that it would end relatively quickly and that afterwords that he would be fine.
        Millions of children are starving every single day with no idea if they’ll ever eat again, much less when.
        Countless people are sexually assaulted every day, many of them children raped by a friend or family member. They live with this for the rest of their lives and in many cases it causes them problems with ever forming relationships and in some cases much worse than that…

        I could go on, but I think the point is clear…

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