You’ve done things that are wrong before, right? Maybe not really bad things (although maybe you have), but you aren’t perfect. The theological word for ‘missing the mark’ or ‘coming up short’ is sin. That is all the word ’sin’ means – it doesn’t have anything else tied up in it. It means ‘not quite perfect.’ So when the Bible says in Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” it means just that. Only God is perfect and you aren’t God. You can think of some of the things you have done wrong pretty easily, right? Those are sins.
But there is a problem. God has a place He wants human beings to be called Heaven. The Bible says: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” You can’t even imagine what Heaven is like, but it is a reward God intended for mankind. But, like I said, there is a problem. If God let your little sin into Heaven, guess what? It isn’t Heaven anymore. If someone tells lies there, it isn’t Paradise. Pick any little sin you want and you can easily see it just won’t work. Letting you in would destroy the whole thing.
Beyond that, God doesn’t ‘sin.’ God is perfect, so He obviously doesn’t ‘miss the mark.’ So God hates sin. He hates it when people are greedy, selfish, liars or cheaters. He should hate it. If you weren’t a hypocrite for saying so, wouldn’t you hate those things too (including the little – or not so little – sins you know you have committed)? So even if it wouldn’t wreck all of Paradise (which it would), God won’t look on it. Sin is filth. It isn’t just a little filth either. You may try and reason out that you can do 100 years of evil, maximum, in your life, so you deserve 100 years of punishment. Of course, by that logic, a murderer might only spend 10 minutes in prison. After all, it did not take 25 years to life to kill someone. Just a few minutes.
But the consequences of our sin, like the consequences of murder, are bigger than the acts themselves. In the event of sin, when we commit a crime against an infinite God, the consequences are infinite. God doesn’t forget the lie that you told like your friend might. God is in that moment right now, just as He is in this one and the next. Even the tiniest misdeed, the tiniest distance from the bulls-eye, has an effect forever and ever. So for the punishment to fit the crime, you must be punished forever and ever. The punishment is called the Second Death (Romans 6:23a) – separated from God just like the soul is separated from the body when your heart stops beating. Not separated from God to some nowhere, but to a place of punishment for your deeds. The Bible says it is uquenchable fire and total darkness, with weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is not a nice place.
There is something confusing here. Not about infinite punishment, really. Hell makes us squirm in discomfort, but we all know punishment should fit the crime. If we wrap our head around the fact that an action in a finite amount of time can have eternal consequences (remembering that murdering a child may take 10 minutes, but have an effect for the rest of time, as that child never had children and they never had children, et cetera), Hell follows naturally. But why create us at all? Couldn’t this all have been prevented if God had not made the universe? He knew we were going to do all of those things before time began. But He created us anyway. He could have stopped the sin by making us all robots, but He didn’t. God made us with free will and the ability to reason and choose to accept or reject His way. But if we have all sinned and we all deserve Hell, what is the point?
The point is that some of us don’t get what we deserve. From the dawn of creation, God had a plan. An out for us. Someone had to endure the punishment for our sins, because justice had to be done. The punishment had to be infinite, so no man could take on the sins of any other. He would spend forever paying the consequences of His own misdeeds. But there was another way. God is infinite. God emptied Himself of all of His power and glory and became a little human baby named Jesus. He grew up as a man and never sinned. Because He never sinned, He did not deserve to die, in either sense. He deserved to stay in His body and to be with God forever. But because He is God He is infinite. He allowed Himself to be captured by Roman soldiers and the Jewish religious elite and hung on a cross to die slowly in humiliation. They stripped Him of His clothes and drove nails through his ankles and wrists as the hung Him naked before a crowd. On the cross, the Bible says He became sin. God’s infinite wrath was poured out on Himself and He endured infinite punishment. As Jesus cried out: “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” and then died, He underwent the punishment for all mankind. Unlimited atonement.
1 Peter 2:24 “Who His own self 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.” Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Then what is the problem? If the punishment we owe was paid off 2000 years ago, why are we still talking about it?
We are back to our original problem. God cannot let sin into His presence of His paradise. As long as we can sin, we are still destined to pay for our failures forever. Free will comes in to play. God has given me the ability to do wrong and He will not take it away unless I choose to give it up in exchange for something better. If I come to God and admit that I am a sinner and cry out in faith for His help in turning from my wickedness, He will transform me. As the Bible puts it “Behold! All things are become new.”
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
We cannot save ourselves. We will keep giving in to our weaknesses and we will keep on sinning. We can never be good enough for Heaven, because even a little bad is too bad. But God is good enough and will make us good enough, if we ask Him. It is not enough to mutter some prayer, He knows if we mean it or not. But if He is working on your heart right now, leading you to Him, why not now?
No one promised you tomorrow. No one promised you ten minutes from now. You know you have exactly one chance to turn away from your sins and turn to God. Right now. Just pray for Him to save you from your sins and to transform you to live for Him. If a one minute sin can bring eternal punishment, a one minute prayer can bring eternal joy.
It doesn’t end with your salvation, though. Be baptized. Join a Bible teaching church. Pray. Read your Bible. Lead someone else to Christ. Do not be so terribly selfish that you think that just because your soul is safe, that is all that matters. How many people that you care about are teetering on the edge of Hell? Will you stand over their casket, wondering what else you could have done? Or will you let God use you? The first step is to be saved yourself, but it should never be the last.