9. We are All Headed Somewhere
We were not made to die. Something immortal is in us. Eternity is in our hearts.
The rich young ruler's anxious cry to Jesus, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" epitomizes the deep, universal longing of the human soul. If death ends it all, what about the unpaid moral bills? If all the rewards and punishments come in this life only, the books are way out of balance. In that case, Adolf Hitler received the same thing in the Fuhrerbunker as the twenty-year-old Christian GI in the burned-out Sherman tank.
Somthing basic in our intelligence tells us that the moral government of God is not going to let things end like that. God is going to settle accounts and balance the books. The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves it. We can count on it.
The moral law has appropriate rewards and punishments, administered by the moral government of God. Some of these are the natural consequences of obedience and disobedience. They are a simple matter of reaping what we sow.
But other rewards and punishments are specifically prescribed in addition to the natural ones. Rewards and punishments exist for several reason:
(1) they serve as inducements to obedience and deterrents to disobedience;
(2) they demonstrate the fact that God cares enough about us to do everything morally possible to uphold moral law and order, promote obedience and prevent sin;
(3) they show us how important moral law is to us, how right it is, and how necessary it is for the highest good of all;
(4) they prove that God means business. One look at the penalty should convince us that God is not trifling with sin.
How long do the rewards and punishments last? The answer is simple: they last as long as our obedience or disobedience lasts.
Man is immortal. Every one of us will spend forever somewhere. So then, happiness must continue as long as obedience continues, and punishment must continue as long as disobedience continues.
The Bible teaches us that those who go to Heaven are the ones who will obey God forever. Revelation 22:3 says, "His servants shall serve him," and so their joy will be endless.
Also, there is no indication that sinners in hell will ever stop sinning. On the contrary, the very fact that their punishment is endless is a strong indication that their disobedience will be endless also. Stubbornness has a way of perpetuating itself under severe punishment. And no amount of punishment can forgive our sins or make us innocent. Punishment earns us nothing.
Sin perpetuates and aggravates itself. It is not static. Sinners grow worse as they grow older. Just think of the result as this process continues. Let countless ages roll, Then, if you could stop and look into hell for one brief moment, what would you find? Not one soul is willing to love and obey God. Instead, they have become immeasurably worse. The blast of vile cursing and bitterness that erupts from the caverns of the damned causes us to flee instantly in horror and revulsion.
The sin of hell continues. So must the punishment.
"It is not merely natural death, for this would in reality be no penalty at all. It would be offering a reward to sin. If natural death be the penalty, then infants and animals suffer this penalty. If natural death be the penalty, the only penalty, it sustains no proportion whatever to the guilt of sin. Natural death would be no adequate expression of the importance of the precept.
"The penal sanction of the law of God is endless death, or that state of endless suffering which is the natural and governmental result of sin...."
"Endless punishment is unjust because life is so short that men do not live long enough in this world to commit so great a number of sins as to deserve endless punishment."
"I answer...that one breach of the precept always incurs the penalty of the law, whatever that penalty is. The length of time employed in committing a sin has nothing to do with its blameworthiness or guilt."
"A finite creature cannot commit an infinite sin."
"This objection takes for granted that man is...so much less than the Creator that he cannot deserve his endless frown. Which would involve the most guilt, for a man to smite his neighbor and equal or his lawful sovereign? The higher the ruler is exalted above the subject in his nature, character, and rightful authority, the greater is the obligation of the subject to will his good, to render him obedience, and the greater is the guilt of the transgression in the subject. Therefore, the fact that man is so infinitely below his Maker does but enhance the guilt of his rebellion....
"Sin is not an infinite evil, and therefore does not deserve endless punishment."
"This objection may mean either that sin would not produce infinite mischief if unrestrained, or that it does not involve infinite guilt. It cannot mean the first, for...misery must continue as long as sin does and therefore...sin unrestrained would produce endless evil.
"What does all sin in its own nature deserve? They who deny the justice of endless punishment manifestly consider the guilt of sin as a mere trifle. They who maintain the justice of endless punishment consider sin as an evil of immeasurable magnitude, and deserving of endless punishment.
"The Bible...represents the future punishment of the wicked as eternal, and never once repesents it otherwise. It expresses the duration of the future punishment of the wicked by the same terms and...as forcibly as it expresses the duration of the future happiness of the righteous." 72
God is not trifling with sin and sinners, because He is not careless in protecting and promoting the well-being of the universe. Calvary proves that. With God, moral issues are of fundamental and eternal importance. So should they be with us.