The average American is more ignorant of the Bible than he is of modern forensic science. He knows more about Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia than he does about Heaven. And he certainly knows more about Justin Bieber than he does about Jesus Christ. Our schools, our media, our advertizing, and our conversations are filled with facts and figures about sports, politics, current events with a touch of science thrown. But to hear –or over-hear – a serious and intelligent conversation about the Bible is rare. To hear about the Lord and the Word, generally you must buy a specific book or visit a specific church. As a result we live in a society of Biblical illiterates. This was not the way things were two hundred years ago. I don’t know that there was a greater number of Christians in the world then, but the world was generally more religious and filled with more Biblical knowledge.
Our scripture for this morning could be used as a test of what I just said. How many of our neighbors can define or explain the righteousness of God, redemption, or remission? Not even the average church-goer can accurately explain propitiation or justification. These are some of the grandest truths available to man, but how many educated Americans understand? Few people even have an accurate picture of God in their minds. Many of our neighbors picture Him as a blind sugar-daddy, kindly granting only our important requests. The bulk of the rest visualize God as an ogre ready devour us at a moment’s notice. “Look at the two dozen who died in tornados last week.. That is God’s department – if there really is a God.”
Both of these ideas – God the good and God the ogre – have a grain of truth in them. The God of the Bible is HOLY. In other words, He is separated from sin and sinners. We could draw some parallels between the Lord and a HAZMAT team in their protective suits. Jehovah will not permit sin into his presence; He will not tolerate wickedness for any length of time. He destroyed the world in Noah’s day because of the people’s unmitigated rebellion. And He destroyed Sodom for its perversity. He rejected Israel’s kings and let His chosen people be punished in captivity and slavery. On the other hand, God has displayed His love in a thousand different ways. He has given to this race of rebels a world of beauty and bounty in which to live. And even though His holiness and justice demand that all sinners be cast into Hell, He created a way to justify and accept some of them without compromising that holiness. The seven verses of this scripture summarize this tremendous conflict and contradiction. How can God both be honest and just while at the same time still be a justifying Saviour? The solution is in His Son who bore the effects of Hell for each of His adopted children. These things stand at the top of the list of things which the world needs to hear.
My hope is to bring this to your attention in the sense of which Christ Jesus suffered Hell while on the Cross. I don’t say that allegorically, or as a profanity – “Jesus suffered Hell.” I say that quite literally, but with qualifications. As He hung there, suspended by nails, Christ felt in His body and soul, the effects of the Lake of Fire. He did not suffer IN Hell, but he suffered the effects OF Hell on the cross. He “bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”
Jesus paid the price of Hell for every one of His elect, because He bore the wrath of God.
For example, He suffered the agony of LONELINESS.
During our Lord’s life, He knew what it was to be despised and rejected. “He came unto his own and His own received Him not.” He came into His own creation, and He came unto His own nation; neither of which wanted Him. He was the One who had no form nor comeliness according to Isaiah. Foxes and birds have holes and nests in which to lay their heads, but Jesus had no place to call home. He was a man whose own family laughed at him. Even in the few months of his relative popularity there were death squads out looking to kill him.
Though He was rejected of men throughout His life, He was never so alone as He was on the day in which He was crucified. Where was Peter, who said, “I am ready to go with thee, both unto prison and unto death”? Where was Thomas, who said, “Let us go with him that we may die with Him”? Where was James who said, “Yes, Lord, I am able to be baptized with the baptism you are baptized with”? Where were the multitudes who days early were casting palm branches down in front of him, calling him the Messiah? Out of all the throng who sometimes followed him, on the day Jesus died there were only a few of the lady disciples, John, and one or two others.
But there was a pretty good size crowd there to watch the spectacle of His death. There was a squad of Roman soldiers and perhaps some of the Temple guards. There were a great many of the priests, along with a large portion of the Sanhedrin. Those were the people who condemned Him. There had been a mob of people who earlier had been crying out, “Crucify him, crucify him,” and many of them had most likely followed the Lord to Golgotha. So there was the Creator of Heaven and earth, the One before whom “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess,” being openly rejected, vilely slandered, spit upon and laughed at.
While upon the cross, Jesus suffered things that the wicked shall suffer in the Lake of Fire. As difficult as it is to imagine with billions of souls in that place all at once, it will nevertheless be the loneliest place in all of God’s creation. It will be lonely in the sense that not one person will have a companion to share his torment. Every soul will be isolated in his own agony. And there won’t be any false prophets to tell people that their pain will soon be over, because “God is too good to let anyone suffer very long.” There won’t be any physicians to tend to the burns of the wicked. There won’t be any psychiatrists to administer mood-enhancing drugs to those going insane. The Lake of Fire will be an eternity of soul-crushing loneliness with nothing to interrupt or entertain. But worst of all it will be the total absence of the blessing of God. Christ Jesus experienced that same sort of thing while on the cross.
Jesus not only suffered the loneliness of Hell, but the DARKNESS of that place.
On the day of the Saviour’s death there were 3 hours in the middle of the afternoon when there was no sun. It wasn’t like some of the dismal winter days that we have here in the Northwest, when the clouds are so thick that the street lights don’t know whether or not to stay on or shut off. And it wasn’t like an eclipse, when for a few seconds the moon comes between the sun and the earth. During an eclipse there is only a very tiny path across the earth where the sun is completely covered. And even then that lasts for only a few moments in any one place. Besides, this was the Passover season when the moon was full, and an eclipse was impossible. The darkness on the day of Jesus’ death was one of those negative miracles we sometimes find in the Word of God. I don’t know how the Lord accomplished it, but He turned out the lights. Was it a complete or a partial darkness? I must assume that it was like the darkness of night – when there is always some kind of light. If it had been the total darkness of a cave, every person on that hill that day would have crawled home in mortal terror, rather than just huddling together in semi-terror.
Matthew 27:25 tells us that the time when the heat of the day was usually most terrible there was no heat. And John 19:28 tells us that Jesus deliberately fulfilled scripture by saying, “I thirst,” but I would guess that He said it while the rays of the sun were beating down upon Him. Someone slowly got something to moisten the lips of the Lord, because they were not surprised that He was thirsty under those circumstances. To the naked men hanging on those crosses, the drop in temperature must have been excruciating. Their bodies undoubtedly began to violently shiver, wrenching the wounds where the nails pierced them
Matthew 8:12 and 22:13 describe Hell as a place of utter darkness. I have to admit that there is a great deal that the Lord has not explained to us about Hades or Sheol. And for that, I think that we probably should be thankful. We might not be able to remain sane, under a full understanding of that place. I don’t know how Hell can be a place of fire and yet be a place without light, but it will be so. How could the rich man look across the gulf between himself and Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. Could it have been dark in the side of hades filled with torment, making the light of the Paradise side that much brighter? I have questions, but I don’t have any problem believing what the Lord has revealed.
Upon the cross Christ Jesus, my vicarious substitute, suffered the darkness of Hell on my behalf.
And as I said, He suffered the agony of THIRST.
For three hours before the blackness, Christ hung on that gibbet with the sun beating down on Him. He probably hadn’t eaten or taken any water for nearly 24 hours, so His body yearned for refreshment. The Old Testament demanded that Jesus be given some vinegar, so perhaps to provoke its fulfilment, Jesus cried, “I thirst.” His plea, unlike that of the natural man, didn’t include any screaming, begging or excessive emotion. Simply, “I thirst.”
We all know what it is to be thirsty, but to be dehydrated to the point of near death is not something that many of us know. Tongue so swollen that it became difficult to talk. Throat so dry that it felt like it was cracking as you croaked out two words: “I thirst.” If you have, then you’ve experienced a small foretaste of Hell.
The Bible describes a man who died and went to Hell. “The rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” I shall never have to endure a thirst like that, because I have had a Substitute who endured it all for me. If Christ has borne the effects of Hell, we can be sure that His people will not have to do the same.
Another of the torments that our Lord suffered on Calvary was the agony of CONCERN.
There is no human way for us to measure the love which filled the heart of Christ that day. As Jesus hung on the cross His mind reached toward those who were elect from before the foundation of the world. Undoubtedly His heart was encouraged by thinking about what He was doing and those who would benefit from it all. But His love also traveled along on a horizontal plane as well.
Jesus was concerned for the future welfare of His mother, Mary. Joseph was apparently dead and this eldest son inherited the obligations of his Father. There was no governmental system in that society to take care of the elderly. The responsibility of the sick or the elderly belonged to the family.
But Jesus had several half-brothers who should have cared for their mother, once Jesus was gone. Perhaps so, but we don’t have all the details. Doesn’t it appear that Mary had become a disciple of Christ, and not just the mother of Jesus? At the time, did Jesus’ brothers did not have the same faith that their mother had? At some point, some of them were converted to Christ and became servants of the Lord, but exactly when that took place, it is difficult to say. So it could have been that at this time it would not have been wise to leave Mary in the care of unbelieving family members. We don’t know the reasoning, But Jesus put the responsibility of caring for his mother into the hands of the Apostle John.
We probably shouldn’t disregard the fact that people in Hell might feel the same sort of pangs of guilt and responsibility. Hell will be hellish in just about every way imaginable. Memory, remorse, emotional pain and guilt will certainly be a part of the punishment of that place. When the rich man of Luke 16 died, his heart went out toward his equally sinful and wicked brothers. “Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”
While He hung on the cross, Christ suffered the pain of SEPARATION from the Father.
In the past, I have joined the myriads of preachers who have said that when the sky turned dark it was because God was turning His back on the Saviour. I don’t suppose it is a mistake to say the darkness was a type of Christ’s separation from the Father. But it’s probably not wise to say that they were one and the same thing.
But that the Father did look at His beloved Son as carrying the sins of His people, there is no doubt. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” said the Son. This might have been the humanity of Christ crying out, under the pain of the cross, but I don’t think so. I think that this was more for the information of us and the people who were there – rather than for the Lord.
Then Christ suffered the agony of SHAME as well.
Nearly every picture we ever see of dress in Jesus day, depicts people who were almost completely covered. But there was Jesus, hanging naked or nearly naked before the tormenting mob. Usually when we try to understand the emotions and feelings of others it’s through what we personally feel. And if that is the case, then for me, the Lord Jesus was not just embarrassed, He felt utter shame to have been stripped of his clothes.
I suppose that this aspect of Hell might be different for everyone, but Hell will be a shameful place, and to be there will be a shameful thing. Perhaps in some wicked minds, it is a status symbol to spend time in the county jail, but for the average person, to spend the night in that place, for whatever reason, is not a story often shared with others. Then imagine a religious minister or a priest of some sort dying and then lifting up his eyes in hell. Wouldn’t that be similar in nature? Imagine a teacher with 25 years experience and thousands of students, learning in Hell that what she was telling her kids about evolution and God were all lies. Imagine a church-going son who had told his parents over and over again that he was a Christian, but who had secretly been living a lie – waking up in Hell after a drug over-dose. Or imagine the closet homosexual politician who had been covering his private sins with his public life, but who wakes up in Hell. What shame will go with those people throughout eternity.
Of course, the Lord Jesus suffered the hell of excruciating PAIN.
Nearly every joint in his body was being ripped apart by His own weight and the force of gravity. Some of you know what it is to have joint pain, but I’m not sure that any of us can imagine Jesus’ pain. And as His strength dwindled, there was less and less ability to hold Himself up. There must have been incredible pressure on his heart and lungs. Most likely a crucified person would have had a migraine of colossal proportions. I am not sure that any of us can accurately imagine envision what Jesus suffered there that day.
Nor can we imagine what our unsaved friends will have to endure for eternity. The man described in Luke 16 said that just a drop of water would have eased his torment. Hell will be a place of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Finally, the Lord Jesus suffered the agony of DEATH itself.
The number one statement of the gospel is that “Christ DIED for our sins according to the scriptures.” He is the Good Shepherd who giveth his life for the sheep. He is a man of great love, for “greater love hath no man than this, than that a man lay down his life for his friends.” “He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many.”
How can God be just and at the same time the Justifier of those who believe? How can the Lord remain holy and righteous and honest with himself and still forgive sinners? The only way possible to have peace with God is through the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Someone without sin had to take the sinner’s place under the wrath of God. Someone undeserving Himself, had to take our place. On Calvary, Jesus Christ suffered an eternity of the Lake of Fire. And if you wonder how His death could possibly meet the needs of thousands of the saved, remember that it wasn’t the quantity of what Jesus suffered, but the quality, depth and spiritual intensity.
Is Christ your redeemer? Are you absolutely sure? Can you point to scriptures and make the claim that Jesus died for you? Can you talk about your repentance and your trust in the finished work of the Lord? Will you say that you have no other hope but in the sufferings of the Lord? Can you point to your life and say that there is evidence of your faith in the way that you live? Have you been to Calvary and bathed in the shed blood of Christ?