Saturday, 10 August 2013

What Is The Difference?

Grace Words

By King Julius Kwedhi

“People think that, ‘If you go to hell, you go to hell. What’s the difference?’ Again I heard a professor who said, ‘A sinner in hell would give everything that he owned, and do anything that he could to make the number of his sins during his lifetime one less.’ Because he would be judged according to his deeds. And there are various degrees of punishment in hell. Why? Because hell is the place where God manifests His perfect justice. And the punishment always fits the crime; and if there are 30 sins you are gonna be punished 30 ways.” – Dr. R.C. Sproul

Am I Making Sense?

After posting this on facebook, on I received a comment that I am very much grateful for because it partly lead to the writing of this post. The facebook user responded thus (For the sake of privacy of the user I have hereby withdrawn the name of the user):

“This cant always be the case… Why don’t we rather focus more on the fact that we serve a merciful and gracious God?? Of course we cant rule out the fact that there will be consequences for our sins, indeed, but this comment pushes sinners away from God rather than towards Him. I believe that even before we can begin to fear God, he wants us to know that His love for us comes first… He wants to gain our souls through genuine repentance and love, not because we have the fear of ending up in hell for eternity. And He specifically tells us that when we repent, He forgets our sins,COMPLETELY! And then He also says that His Love covers a multitude of SINS. This status makes me scared, not becauause I’m not saved, but because it would make me flee from God My Creator. Am I making sense?”

And below is my response to that specific comment.

I must first say thank you for taking your precious time to read and then respond to my post. Thank you for that. I deeply appreciate that at least someone read it. Praise the Lord Jesus!

Wow! You are making sense that needs correction however. This cannot always be the case? I should further ask, How often have you heard people talk about hell? Say, in ten Christian preachers and/or ten facebook statuses, how many talk about hell? Indeed we cannot, and should not even attempt to try to rule out the reality of hell and the punishment thereof awaiting the sinner who dies in his sinful nature.

If you are to truly read and re-read again that post you will realise in truth that it is in no way out doing or blurring or casting out the fact that we serve a merciful God. On the contrary it is pointing to that glory of God’s mercy and grace. How can you ever understand mercy and grace if you have no clue of your sins and the impending judgement due to such offenses? How can you understand mercy if not against the backdrop of man’s sin? I say this with confidence because that is the Gospel. What is the Gospel? The Gospel tells you the bad news (despair) and then the good news (hope that shines and overcomes the despair).

The bad news is God is good. And the good news is God is good. How is it bad and good at the same time? It is bad for the sinner because the wages of sin is death. And the Good God judges all sin justly with all perfect due punishment. And it is good news because there is now hope for the sinner. God is good and in His goodness He has made a way. He has decided to have mercy and grace on sinful men. That is why we now have hope? How can there be hope if not that there first was no hope before the revelation and appearance of the hope. How can hope be if there is nothing good to look forward to? If the good is already here then there is no need to hope for it (Romans 8).

Your comment, “This can’t always be the case” suggests to me that all you have been hearing, or perhaps all that you have sensitized your ears to, and all that you seem to be noticing, as a child of God that you are, is the preaching on hell. As you clearly admit, it is not that such preaching is bad, but you have developed a view that whoever preaches on hell is condemning sinners to hell forthrightly. And that is an error to look at this post from that stand point. “Always” suggest that that is all you have been hearing.

I must say that you have failed to read and understand the hope-filled words in my post, as I quoted the man of God, Dr. R.C. Sproul. I will explain below as I break down the text to help you understand that hope embedded in every part of that text. My post is not meant to and neither does it hold chasing remarks forbidding sinners to turn to Almighty and Merciful God. And I will explain that below as well.

Understanding Grace, Mercy And Justice

It is utter error to conclude that God’s love and embrace can be understood and apprehended apart from his justice and righteousness. Why? Because, Paul, instead of using your strategy of bringing sinners to a Holy God, he first, in Ephesians 2, outlined the sinfulness of men’s sins and his inevitable judgement before stating that we are saved by grace and it is not of the works of ours that we are saved but solely His and His alone. You totally cannot understand grace and mercy without understanding sin. Why? Because grace is giving what is not due. And mercy is not giving what is due? Why is grace not due, making it a gift? It is because the recipient of grace is a sinner who has not and cannot, in and of himself, do anything worthy of grace. And why is mercy an act of not giving what is due? Because mercy acts to intervene and save from impending judgement.  And what is due that mercy refuses to give is the killing of the sinner. Therefore mercy says, I will not punish you to hell as you deserve. Then grace says, I will give you the holiness, righteousness and all fruit of the Spirit that you do not deserve. And that is where the glory of our hope in Christ is embedded and shines from. I am sure you will agree with this.

The Fear Of The Lord

Therefore the fear of God is necessary. Why? Because, “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalms 130:3 ESV). What does it mean to fear God? In commenting on Hosea 3:5, Albert Barnes in his notes defines the fear of the Lord as thus:

Literally, “shall fear toward the Lord and toward His goodness.” It is not then a servile fear, not even, as elsewhere, a fear, which makes them shrink back from His awful Majesty. It is a fear, the most opposed to this; a fear, whereby “they shall flee to Him for help, from all that is to be feared;” a reverent holy awe, which should even impel them to Him; a fear of losing Him, which should make them hasten to Him. : “They shall fear, and wonder exceedingly, astonished at the greatness of God’s dealing, or of their own joy.” Yet they should “hasten tremblingly,” as bearing in memory their past unfaithfulness and ill deserts, and fearing to approach, but for the greater fear on turning away. Nor do they hasten with this reverent awe and awful joy to God only, but “to His Goodness also.” His Goodness draws them, and to it they betake themselves, away from all cause of fear, their sins, themselves, the Evil one. Yet even His Goodness is a source of awe. “His Goodness!” How much it contains. All whereby God is good in Himself, all whereby he is good to us. That whereby he is essentially good, or rather Goodness; that whereby He is good to us, as His creatures, its yet more as His sinful, ungrateful, redeemed creatures, re-born to bear the Image of His Son. So then His Goodness overflows into 

beneficence, and condescension, and graciousness and mercy and forgiving love, and joy in imparting Himself, and complacence in the creatures which he has formed, and re-formed, redeemed and sanctified for His glory. Well may His creatures “tremble toward” it, with admiring wonder that all this can be made theirs!

My post is saying, look, even sinners in Hell have now realised that they have wasted their lives here on earth and wish they could have made up their minds to follow Jesus while they were alive on earth. They, in Hell, are wishing that they could, if ever given the chance to, give up all they would own and do whatever would be required of them just to make their sentence in Hell less in the hope that they will make it to heaven. “I suppose the Roman Catholics, though might have been ignorant of this reality, might have used this reality, nevertheless, to begin to manipulate people into buying and working for indulgences, which indulgences are nothing but deception.”

The Fear of Hell

The fear of hell is necessary as well, so that we understand what we are saved from and what we are saved to, that we appreciate and run with this salvation full swing. If you find a Christian caught up in backsliding and sin, check well and you will realize that they have not apprehended the fact that we are really saved from hell and death by God’s mercy and grace and into righteousness and holiness. If they once understood it then they have, since their advent into backsliding, lost to be mindful of that goodness of our God.

You cannot apprehend that God has forgiven your sins and will remember them no more if you do not understand what your sins are and what punishment is due to such sin. Once that is well understood then and then only will that truth of His love covering the whole multitude of our sins be fully and duly apprehended.

See Hope 

Turn your reading glasses and wash your eyes with salve and re-read that text again. Once you do so, at least twice or thrice, you will clearly see that the text is not to inflict fear but to ignite hope.

Therefore, dear friend, I say to you, if you are fleeing from God your Creator because of the reality of hell mentioned in this text, which hell He created and hath made known to us in His Holy Scriptures, even mentioning of hell more than He has of the heavens that He dwells in, then I say to you to read the Bible well. And read it again. And again. And tell me whether Luke 16:15-31, the very words of Jesus our King, makes you to “flee from God My Creator.”

What Is The Difference? 

Now, to explain the text quoted:

“People think that, ‘If you go to hell, you go to hell. What’s the difference?’ Again I heard a professor who said, ‘A sinner in hell would give everything that he owned, and do anything that he could to make the number of his sins during his lifetime one less.’ Because he would be judged according to his deeds. And there are various degrees of punishment in hell. Why? Because hell is the place where God manifests His perfect justice. And the punishment always fits the crime; and if there are 30 sins you are gonna be punished 30 ways.” – Dr. R.C. Sproul

I am hereby explaining this text, in light of Scriptures, and as I have understood it personally.

“People think that, ‘If you go to hell, you go to hell. What’s the difference?’” Here Dr. R.C. is pointing out that people think going to hell is not something to dread. They think the reality of hell is that of partying and just chilling with the devil planning for more destruction. Nothing could be more further from the truth! When people say they know they are going to hell and it doesn’t concern them that they are heading there, saying it casually as if hell is just a less privileged hotel, and thinking that it is not a big deal to go to hell, they do so without understanding the severity of punishment that is being inflicted in hell. Remember that Hell is God’s judgement upon all sinners. And there is no compromise and no respect of person on God’s part, when it comes also to that kind of justice.

So, it is not just about going to Hell after all, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11 ESV).

The professor’s quote A sinner in hell would give everything that he owned, and do anything that he could to make the number of his sins during his lifetime one less,” is pointing out that, as I have stated earlier, the sinner in hell is desperate, beyond all else, to escape the anguish and torment of Hell. And that should encourage you to seek hard after God instead of running and fleeing away from Him because such fleeing leads into those very same torments, the very fleeing that led those being tormented in Hell to end up in their current state.

As I said before so say I again that my post is saying, look, even sinners in Hell have now realised that they have wasted their lives here on earth and wish they could have made up their minds to follow Jesus while they were alive on earth. They, in Hell, are wishing that they could, if ever given the chance to, give up all they would own and do whatever would be required of them just to make their sentence in Hell less in the hope that they will make it to heaven.

And to further explain the quote of the Professor, which is also an explanation on 2Corinthians 5:10, 11, Dr. Sproul now says, “Because he (the sinner in Hell) would be judged according to his deeds. And there are various degrees of punishment in hell. Why? Because hell is the place where God manifests His perfect justice. And the punishment always fits the crime; and if there are 30 sins you are gonna be punished 30 ways.”

So, what should be the appropriate response of the sinner to this comment? Repentance. Why? Because repentance is turning away from sin and punishment of sin. He will then better understand the mercy and grace of God once he has grasped the knowledge that Hell is real, he will end up there if he does not repent, and he will only end up there because of his sins. When you then tell him the grace of God that gives what is not due (life) and the mercy of God that takes away what is justly due (death) he will gladly receive it with a big smile that shines from one wisdom tooth to another wisdom tooth, sometimes even with tears rolling down the cheeks out of the thankfulness of the heart that is bubbling up in joy!

Further Scripture Reading:

Psalms 89:14 ESV
(14)  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

2 Corinthians 5:10-11 ESV
(10)  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
(11)  Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

Psalms 130:1-8 ESV
(1)  A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
(2)  O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
(3)  If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
(4)  But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
(5)  I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
(6)  my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
(7)  O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
(8)  And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

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