Biblegateway Verse of the Day

To Be Searched and Known

By Benjamin H. Liles

          I sit here almost a month later and sometimes you have to figure out ways how to communicate what's on your heart. In between helping my parents take care of things on their property, my learning to develop sites/do some programming, after all the labor intensive things are done I have very little energy left. But there's something that's been bugging me. I don't like bad teaching, and this time I lay it at my own feet. If I'm not mistaken I believe I may have said, at least in one post, "When you go to Hell, you're separated from God and His love."

          Wrong. Again, it takes time for things to be brought to light for me, for me to get a handle on things. Add to that I help take care of my home (an apartment I share with my wife and cats) things can get overwhelming, none of which I place on my wife, just on myself. Okay, so about this teaching on Hell, and the title of this post. David, the King of Israel, penned the words to God, "O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You understand my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my laying down; You are aware of all my ways" (Psalm 139:1-3, Berean Study).

          If we go down a few verses, David pens this: "Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there" (Psalm 139:7-8). Houston, we have a problem. Some people make claims about how far God is from us, that He cannot be known (if He is even a "He," as some argue), that God isn't real, or even if He is there He could care less about us. Awkward. Very awkward. David, in this Psalm, declares otherwise.

          I don't pride myself on much if anything, but one thing I do know is how meticulous Jacob's children were, especially those from the tribe of Levi were of recording all the doings God did on behalf of Israel (another name for Jacob, I digress: that's another post for another day and time). The whole point of Psalm 139, it seems at first glance is that David is saying God knows him fully well, from the minute he wakes in the morning, to the minute he goes to sleep. Our thoughts, God knows. The intents and purposes of our hearts, David says, "hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me'--even the darkness is not dark to You, but the night shines like the day, for darkness is as light to You" (Psalm 139:10-12). 

          The whole point is that David is saying, "God you know me fully well; more than likely better than I know myself." Don't misunderstand me here: I'm not trying to add or take away from scripture. I want to paint this picture of the reality, a stark reality of what happens when we depart this physical realm we live in. David has made the claim, to God--mind you--that, "I can't escape You. I can't leave Your presence. If I go to heaven, You are there. If I go to [the underworld, the pit, the grave, hell], You are there." That word Sheol is a very real place, friend. 

          Christ, when he walked among the Pharisees, the tax assessors, the lame, the blind, the mute, all the masses in Israel, said these things, "Then He will also say to those on this left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. For it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where 'their worm, does not die and the fire is quenched.' For everyone will be salted with fire" (Matthew 25:41, 46; Mark 9:44-49). 

          Friend, those of you who read this, know this for certain: God knows it all. He knows your thoughts, He knows the intent and purposes of your heart. Every time that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, He spoke to their condition in accordance to their relationship with God, the Father. It's not God who distances Himself from us. No. We do that to God. If I point to the Laws of Moses and other scriptures laid out by the prophets, we see they pointed straight to God. In fact, let's go there.

          Moses writes to Israel: to Israel--let's get that clear, this first command of ten, "I am the the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:2-3). So, the very first command God gives of the ten great cannons of commandments, "Do not worship anyone, anything else but Me." 

          James, a brother to Christ, wrote, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). So, if we're separated from God by sin, which we're born in, and naturally rebel against Him, knowing we're robbing Him of His Creation--that is to say keeping ourselves away from Him--we're violating what He has said, not only to Israel but to all mankind. Why do I say that? The Old Testament verses don't just simply point the way to Jesus, but by and large apply to Israel. 

          Here's the thing: Israel was to point the way to the nations around them, back to their God. This God, who sent Jesus among His people of Israel (which at that time comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin), also went to the Samaritans (a cross of Assyrians and the northern ten tribes of Israel). Jews despised their cross-cred cousins, so to be harsh, unforgiving towards a neighbor was very much the same sin--in and to God--of worshiping a different God. And remember James said, "Breaking one point of the law, you are guilty of breaking all the commands of God."

          If that's the case then the ultimate reality is that God, being just, holy and pure, has the right as being Himself and the righteous Judge to declare the sentence of eternal separation, as well as being put in  hell. So, what is Hell? If we look back at what Jesus said, it's a place where "their worm does not die, the fire is unquenchable." 

          What else can we know about Hell? John records in Revelation, "the smoke of torment rises forever and ever, [a] lake of burning sulfur, [being] tormented day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 14:10-11; 20:10). I want to summarize this quickly here: Yes, God is love, He is also pure, and holy as well; at the same time, knowing this He can and is able to show justifiable anger. Man's anger is far different from God's holy and righteous anger.

          I'm going to give two scenarios here and I'm doing this to make it clear how much different God's anger is than ours. There is a man who lived in the same area. One was rich, the other poor. The rich man had plenty of livestock: sheep and cows. The poor man had one lamb he bought and cared for. He raised her, growing up in this poor man's home with his children. She rested in this man's arms as if a daughter (not like a daughter). This rich man took the poor man's lamb, instead of giving one of his own to prepare for a visitor. How would you feel knowing this and seeing it played out in your head? You'd be justifiably angry. For someone to take something from someone else by force, slaughtering them, and causing irreparable harm, would make anyone justifiably angry. God is the same toward all sin: worship of another aside from Him, all the way down to hating someone without a cause (which Jesus said is the same as committing murder). 

          Not. One. Sin. Is. Worse. Than. Another. All sin, in God's eyes need to be punished. Paul said this, "If our unrighteousness highlights the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unjust to inflict His wrath on us? I am speaking in human terms...As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one....There is none who does "good" not one...There is no fear of God before their eyes.' Therefore no one will be justified in [God's] sight by works of the law. For the law merely brings awareness of sin" (Romans 3:5-20).

          I know this article is long. Bear with me a moment longer. I'm coming to that payoff. And it is this: we do have good news. The wrath of God has been given and poured out. Where? The place of the skull. It's name is Golgotha; Calvary, where Jesus of Nazareth put Himself on the cross for all mankind. When He cried out, when the sun went dark, and the earthquakes started, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" It wasn't because He was separated from God, not due to a change in His relationship to God; and neither because of His divine nature either. He was fully God and fully man all the way to His death. There is a promise buried deep within scripture, and I was just reminded of it. 

          God, declaring who sinned in the garden said to the serpent of old, the accuser of the brethren, the wily snake, "I will put [hatred] between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15). When Jesus was crucified He was done so on top of a place that means "Place of a skull" (see Matthew 27:33). That skull is death, very much what that serpent was doing to Adam and Eve, introducing a spiritual death do to them listening and eating of the fruit. So, when Christ gave up His life, death was conquered. Yes, death struck at Jesus's heel. Why? The heel of Jesus literally rested on top of the skull of Golgotha, the result being a "bruised head."

          So Nicodemus and another bring the body of Jesus down off the cross and bury him in that tomb. A guard being placed there so that no one can take the body of Jesus. On that third day (being the first day of the week)--a Sunday [as it follows the Sabbath, Saturday], as women were coming to prepare His body for one last, final burial an earthquake shook the place, yet again, rolling the stone away from the tomb, which an angel sat upon, declaring, "He is not here; He has risen, just as He said! Come, see the place where He lay" (see Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-9).

          The conclusion here is that while yes, God will ultimately declare some unrighteous, bind them over to Hell and eternal separation (just not from His wrath, as they are tormented forever), we do not have to be separated from Him, His love, His righteousness and the ability to give Him glory, honor, and praise. We all know, to a degree, the gospel message; to some a stumbling block as they don't want to believe the truth or even hear it, and to others a gift and source of life. Friend, I wouldn't want you ignorant of what the truth is. And while I admit I do get things wrong from time to time, I also realize correction is in order as well. I can't be ignorant of the truth, and frankly, neither should you. On that, I wish you good tidings, wishing you the best, to always be your best in Christ Jesus, to love others and to ultimately love God. Love Him first, do well to your neighbor second. In His name I offer this to you. 

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