Hell has been in the headlines in recent days. No small credit goes to Rob Bell and his best seller “Love Wins.” The book challenges the traditional understanding about Hell and Judgment. Many people have asked me, “How do we answer this book?” I remind them of what the noted evangelist D.L. Moody once said, “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.” The real issue is not the destiny of the lost but the definition of the Atonement. Instead of arguing about “Who goes to Hell?”, we need to answer the fundamental question about Christianity, “Why did Jesus Die on the Cross?”

The straight stick of the Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are all violators of God’s laws and His holiness demands that sinners be punished. We need righteousness to avoid His wrath. Only God possesses righteousness and is willing to justify us “freely by His grace” (Romans 3:24). This He did by sending His Son, Jesus, to become a “propitiation by His blood” (Romans 3:25). Propitiation means that Jesus took our penalty of sin by shedding His blood to satisfy God’s wrath against us.

People shy away from the fact that God’s wrath is against us. They offer several reasons for the crucifixion. Some say that Jesus died to destroy the work of Satan and Death. Others think that His death was an example for us. Some argue that He died to pay our ransom to Satan, while others think that He satisfied God for our sin. One even dares to bring up God’s wrath but points to sin as the object of that wrath. Although there is some truth in all of these reasons, they all fail to point out that we are the real offenders against God’s Holiness.

Someone asked me, “Isn’t God all-loving? Doesn’t He understand that we are hopeless sinners? Why doesn’t He just forgive us?” Because God is perfect and perfection cannot be compromised. He is all-holy and He is all-loving. His perfect Holiness demands that sin be punished and His perfect love understands that we cannot bear the punishment. Hence, God’s perfect holiness met His perfect love at the cross where Jesus Christ became our substitute. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

We receive God’s righteousness and avoid His wrath the moment we trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:26). We do not saunter, stroll, or wander casually over to God. The wrath of God drives us to fling ourselves upon the love of God. We rush to Him just the way we are. If you try to clean up yourself before you come, it will never happen. If you try to bring tears or remorse, you are wasting your time. If you try to turn everything over to Him before you come, it is putting the cart before the horse. Run to Him as you are and in an instant, He will save you. If you reject Christ’s Atonement, you choose Hell – “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41) This is the gospel of Luther and Wesley.

“The only hope of Christianity is in the rehabilitating of the Pauline theology. It is back, back, back, to an incarnate Christ and the atoning blood, or it is on, on, on, to atheism and despair.” Francis L. Patton, President of Princeton University (1888-1902).

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