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.