A Biblical response to

 

“The Passion of Christ: Why Did Jesus Suffer?” a chapter from
From Minister To Honest Doubter: Why I Changed My Mind

 

 

John W. Loftus, carpet cleaner and pool player from Angola, Indiana, claims to be “fully informed” about the Christian faith, and was a former “strong apologist.”  In his book, Loftus fails to answer the questions he raises.  His own words reveal a shocking degree of ignorance about the Bible and Christian doctrine.  Most of his questions can be, in fact, answered from the Bible, indicated as follows.

 

Loftus’ text is in red.

 

If Jesus suffered in my place so that I can go to heaven rather than hell, then apart from Jesus’ suffering I should be punished for my sins by being sent to hell when I die. But what has any one of us ever done to deserve the kind of punishment Jesus suffered, much less to deserve hell itself?

 

Jeremiah 17:10
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

 

Romans 8:6-8

6The mind of sinful man[e] is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7the sinful mind[f] is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

 

Isaiah 64:6
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

 

Psalm 14:1-3

    1 The fool [a] says in his heart,
       “There is no God
.”
       They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
       there is no one who does good.

    2 The LORD looks down from heaven
       on the sons of men
       to see if there are any who understand,
       any who seek God.

    3 All have turned aside,
       they have together become corrupt
;
       there is no one who does good,
       not even one
.

 

Psalm 51:4

    4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
       and done what is evil in your sight,
       so that you are proved right when you speak
       and justified when you judge.

 

Romans 5:12-21

    12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

 

    15But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

 

    18Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

 

    20The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

John 3:17-18

17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

 

 

 All through my entire life I have never met, nor even heard of one person, who deserved such a punishment. Never. Never. Never.

 

Psalms 14:2-3

    2 The LORD looks down from heaven
       on the sons of men
       to see if there are any who understand,
       any who seek God.

    3 All have turned aside,
       they have together become corrupt;
       there is no one who does good,
       not even one
.

 

Romans 8:6-8

6The mind of sinful man[e] is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7the sinful mind[f] is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

 

Hebrews 10:28-29

28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

 

Psalm 34:22
The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

 

John 3:16-18

    16”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.[b]

 

 

To say that my sins are an infinite wrong because they are committed against an infinite God, and thus demand an infinite punishment, seems mistaken for several reasons.

 

In the first place, does justice really demand this much punishment?

 

Romans 3:3-9

    3What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? 4Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written:


   ”So that you may be proved right when you speak
      and prevail when you judge.”
[a]

 

    5But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—”Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.

    9What shall we conclude then? Are we any better[a]? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.

 

Romans 3:10-26

10As it is written:
   ”There is no one righteous, not even one;
       11there is no one who understands,
      no one who seeks God.
    12All have turned away,
      they have together become worthless;
   there is no one who does good,
      not even one
.”[c]
    13”Their throats are open graves;
      their tongues practice deceit.”[d]
   ”The poison of vipers is on their lips.”[e]
       14”Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[f]
    15”Their feet are swift to shed blood;
       16ruin and misery mark their ways,
    17and the way of peace they do not know.”[g]
       18”There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[h]

 

    19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

 

    21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

 

John 3:36
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

 

 

Can it really be true that justice demands I suffer for all eternity in hell for one little white lie?

 

James 2:9-11

   9But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

   10For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

   11For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

 

 

Who creates the demands of justice, anyway?

 

Genesis 18:25
Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

 

1 Samuel 2:9-10

    9 He will guard the feet of his saints,
       but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.
       “It is not by strength that one prevails;

    10 those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.
       He will thunder against them from heaven;
       the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
       “He will give strength to his king
       and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

 

Psalm 9:8
He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice.

 

Psalm 9:16
The LORD is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. Higgaion. Selah

 

Psalm 11:7
For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.

 

Psalm 33:5
The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.

 

Psalm 50:4
He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people:

 

Psalm 50:6
And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah

 

Psalm 51:4
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

 

Psalm 89:14
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.

 

Psalm 94:2
Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve.

 

Psalm 96:13
they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.

Psalm 110:6
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

 

Isaiah 2:3-5

    3 Many peoples will come and say,
       “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
       to the house of the God of Jacob.
       He will teach us his ways,
       so that we may walk in his paths.”
       The law will go out from Zion,
       the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

    4 He will judge between the nations
       and will settle disputes for many peoples.
       They will beat their swords into plowshares
       and their spears into pruning hooks.
       Nation will not take up sword against nation,
       nor will they train for war anymore.

    5 Come, O house of Jacob,
       let us walk in the light of the LORD.

 

Isaiah 3:13
The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people.

 

Isaiah 11:3-5

    3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
       He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
       or decide by what he hears with his ears;

    4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
       with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
       He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
       with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

    5 Righteousness will be his belt
       and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

 

Jeremiah 11:20
But, O LORD Almighty, you who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

 

John 12:48
There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

 

Acts 17:31
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

 

Romans 2:16
This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

 

Romans 3:5-7

    5But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?”

 

1 Corinthians 5:13
God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

 

1 Peter 4:4-6

4They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

 

Jude 1:14-16

    14Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

 

 

 What judge would think this is a fair punishment?

 

Job 8:2-4

    2 “How long will you say such things?
       Your words are a blustering wind.

    3 Does God pervert justice?
       Does the Almighty pervert what is right?

    4 When your children sinned against him,
       he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.

 

Job 34:12
It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.

 

Deuteronomy 32:4
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

 

Psalm 45:6
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.

 

Isaiah 5:16
But the LORD Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness.

 

Revelation 16:7
And I heard the altar respond: “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.”

 

Romans 3:3-8

   3What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? 4Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written:


   ”So that you may be proved right when you speak
      and prevail when you judge.”
[a]

 

    5But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—”Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.

 

Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

 

Jeremiah 17:5-10

       5 This is what the LORD says:
       “Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
       who depends on flesh for his strength
       and whose heart turns away from the LORD.

    6 He will be like a bush in the wastelands;
       he will not see prosperity when it comes.
       He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
       in a salt land where no one lives.

    7 “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
       whose confidence is in him.

    8 He will be like a tree planted by the water
       that sends out its roots by the stream.
       It does not fear when heat comes;
       its leaves are always green.
       It has no worries in a year of drought
       and never fails to bear fruit.”

    9 The heart is deceitful above all things
       and beyond cure.
       Who can understand it?

    10 “I the LORD search the heart
       and examine the mind,
       to reward a man according to his conduct,
       according to what his deeds deserve.”

 

Romans 3:18-20

   18There is no fear of God before their eyes.

   19Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

   20Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

 

 

What picture of God lays behind this view of justice…an aloof vengeful potentate, rather than a caring father?

 

John 3:16-17

    16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[b] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

 

Romans 5:7-9

7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

    9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!

 

Romans 5:15
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

 

2 Peter 3:8-9

    8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 


Secondly, if God became incarnate to relate to us, then why can’t he also see what sin is from our perspective, as a finite offense from partly good and partly bad human beings?

 

Psalm 8:4-6

    4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
       the son of man that you care for him?

    5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [a]
       and crowned him with glory and honor.

    6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
       you put everything under his feet:

 

Hebrews 2:1-18

    1We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

 

    5It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6But there is a place where someone has testified:


   ”What is man that you are mindful of him,
      the son of man that you care for him?
    7You made him a little[a] lower than the angels;
      you crowned him with glory and honor
       8and put everything under his feet?[b]In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. 9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

 

    10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12He says,


   ”I will declare your name to my brothers;
      in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”[c] 13And again,
   ”I will put my trust in him.”[d] And again he says,
   ”Here am I, and the children God has given me.”[e]

 

    14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for[f]the sins of the people. 18Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 

John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

Hebrews 1:3
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

 

 

Thirdly, did Jesus really suffer an infinite punishment for our sins?

 

Romans 3:24-26

   24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

   25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

   26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

 

1 John 2:1-3

   1My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

   2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

   3And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

 

1 John 4:9-11

   9In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

   10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

   11Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

 

JPH note on page 124 -- Loftus’s critique of atonement theory doesn’t address my own views: here and here

 

 

 

But it is said that Jesus endured more than just physical pain. He also endured the pain of being separated from God.

 

Psalm 22:1
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

 

Matthew 27:46
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 

Mark 15:34
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 

 How can we make sense of this claim? If it’s merely a metaphor for the mental pain of not sensing God’s help when we need it, then we have all felt that pain throughout our lives. Otherwise, it somehow means Jesus ceased to be God while on the cross.

 

Luke 23:42-43

42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord,[a] remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

 

John 2:18-21

18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

 

1 Corinthians 6:19
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

 

 

But what can it mean for Jesus to cease to be God? If Jesus in fact ceased to be God, then since Christians believe a Triune God exists, that means God also ceased to exist when Jesus ceased to be God.

 

 

This is NOT a doctrine advocated in the Bible.  Glenn Miller explains at

http://www.christian-thinktank.com/trin03g.html:

 

The trinitarian position does NOT maintain that “God died on the Cross”. Rather, it affirms that “Christ died on the Cross”. Jesus describes himself in John 2 as the New Temple:

 

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”  21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.


And John 1 describes how the Word ‘became flesh’ and tabernacled among us.

 

The NT points out consistently that “God was IN Christ”, not that “God was exhaustively transformed into a human”…that God was ‘inside’ the body/life of Jesus, not identified with it:

 

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor 5.19)

 

For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, (Col 2.9)

 

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Col 1.19)

 

Without trying to go into too much detail here, and getting off the subject into the ‘nature’ of the Incarnation and the two-natures issue, let me point out that NT thought teaches that the human (and human body of) Jesus was what died on the Cross. Nowhere does it say ‘God died’--this is just a straw man some might have confused you with.

 

The death of Jesus was described by Him in the passage above as ‘destruction of a temple’. Just as the Jewish Temple could be destroyed, so too could the humanity (as ‘tabernacle’) of Christ be destroyed (by death). In BOTH cases, though, the God who was present in those ‘dwellings’ did not ‘die’ per se.

 

If you keep the analogy of God-in-the-temple and God-in-Jesus linked together in your mind, you will see the vague outline of how this can work.

 

Jesus specifically stated that He would be active HIMSELF in raising His humanity from the dead: “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life-only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” [John 10.17ff]. The sheer ability to ‘raise one’s self from the dead implies a continuity of personal consciousness of some kind. “Something” in Jesus obviously didn’t die, and the part that didn’t die had the ability to raise the dead--a strong indication that it was His ‘deity’ that didn’t die…

 

To say ‘Jesus is deity’, ‘Jesus died’, therefore ‘deity died’ is a misrepresentation of the NT and early Christian position…just as it would be a misrepresentation to argue ‘Jesus is human’, ‘Jesus raised himself from the dead’, therefore ‘humanity raised itself from the dead’…or even ‘Yahweh is all the deity there is’; ‘Yahweh came to dwell in the temple’, ‘therefore, there was no deity in heaven during the Kingship’…it is just not that simple...

 

Of course, in the other aspects of Jesus’ human roles for us, he could ‘die’: as a prophet he could be persecuted to death by a group of his own people, as Messiah he could be rejected and smitten, as Suffering Servant he could ‘pour out his soul unto death’ as a sacrifice, as dynastic Son of God (a la bene elohim) he could be assassinated by the Wicked Tenants, as Lamb of God and inaugurator of the New Covenant he could be slain. But none of these roles involved ‘deity’ in any sense--these were functions, as it were, of the humanity of the Messianic Son. So, in these aspects it would be inaccurate to say that “God died” either.

 

To illustrate the way to think about this consider that the Jew would not have understood  painting the OT Temple or tabernacle as painting YHWH himself, nor would they have been ‘packing YHWH up’ when they moved from place to place. Even though YHWH was fully present in the tabernacle, they would not have confused the ‘enclosure’ with YHWH’s presence. So too with Jesus--we don’t assert that God had to shave or burp...
 

The messianic figure in the OT first and foremost was supposed to be able to walk, eat, etc…and these things are predicated of Jesus as Messiah--not of Jesus as God. There are almost NO predicates made about Jesus as God (other than acknowledgement of that fact, and of his post-resurrection power) in the New Testament. The NT is not about His deity, but about his perfect humanity, his perfect sacrifice, his perfect life, his submission to the Father, his perfect Davidic leadership, his perfect ministerial priesthood, and his perfect ethical example for humans.  His deity “only” adds immense and humbling depth to this grace, assurance of its long-term efficacy, and grounds this redemptive work in the covenant loyalty of YHWH. (This is oversimplified, I must admit, but it is very clear that the mission of Jesus was more dependent on his perfect human response to God and goodness, than on his divine pre-existence and nature…).
 

 

 


In the fourth place, in order for someone to be forgiven why must there be punishment at all?

 

Romans 3:3-20

    3What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? 4Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written:
   ”So that you may be proved right when you speak
      and prevail when you judge.”
[a]

    5But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—”Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.

    9What shall we conclude then? Are we any better[b]? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10As it is written:
   ”There is no one righteous, not even one;
       11there is no one who understands,
      no one who seeks God.
    12All have turned away,
      they have together become worthless;
   there is no one who does good,
      not even one.”[c]
    13”Their throats are open graves;
      their tongues practice deceit.”[d]
   ”The poison of vipers is on their lips.”[e]
       14”Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[f]
    15”Their feet are swift to shed blood;
       16ruin and misery mark their ways,
    17and the way of peace they do not know.”[g]
       18”There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[h]

    19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

 

Deuteronomy 32:3-6

    3 I will proclaim the name of the LORD.
       Oh, praise the greatness of our God!

    4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
       and all his ways are just.
       A faithful God who does no wrong,
       upright and just is he.

    5 They have acted corruptly toward him;
       to their shame they are no longer his children,
       but a warped and crooked generation. [a]

    6 Is this the way you repay the LORD,
       O foolish and unwise people?
       Is he not your Father, your Creator, [b]
       who made you and formed you?

 

 

If the cross of Christ means someone got punished for my sins, then that’s not offering forgiveness, that’s punishing someone for what I did wrong.

 

Romans 3:25
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

 

1 John 2:2
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

 

1 John 4:10
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

 

Oxford English Dictionary,  SECOND EDITION 1989

 

propitiation

    1. The action or an act of propitiating; appeasement, conciliation; atonement, expiation.
 
  
1388 WYCLIF Lev. xxv. 9 In the tyme of propiciacioun. 1706 PHILLIPS, Propitiation, the Act of propitiating, an appeasing of the Divine Anger by Sacrifice, or Prayer; an Atonement. 1750 JOHNSON Rambler No. 10 {page}11 By what propitiation, therefore, may I atone for my former gravity? 1850 R. I. WILBERFORCE Holy Bapt. 132 The propitiation which our Lord effected on the Cross for the sins of men. 1871 TYNDALL Fragm. Sc. (1879) II. i. 1 Propitiation of these terrible powers was the consequence.

 

    b. A propitiatory gift, offering, or sacrifice. arch.
 
  
1552 Bk. Com. Prayer, Communion (1 John ii. 2), He is the propiciation for our synnes. 1649 JER. TAYLOR Gt. Exemp. II. Disc. viii. 69 Christ is our Advocate, and he is the propiciation.

 

 

 

 If the cross was needed to pay the punishment for my sins, then how can God really be a forgiving God?

 

1 John 1:8-10

    8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

 

Psalm 25:10
All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.

 

Psalm 33:4
For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

 

Psalm 37:28
For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;

 

Psalm 146:6
the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— the LORD, who remains faithful forever.

 

Romans 3:21-26

    21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

 

 

Furthermore, what kinds of reasons would God have for punishing us when we die?

 

Isaiah 13:11
I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”

 

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

 

Proverbs 11:18
The wicked man does deceptive work, But he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward.

 

Matthew 16:27
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

 

Matthew 23:37
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!
How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

 

Luke 13:34
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!
How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

 

John 5:40
But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

 

Romans 2:2-16

2Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?

 

    5But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”[a] 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11For God does not show favoritism.

 

    12All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

 

 

Maybe God punishes us when we die to deter others from doing wrong? But then why is it we don’t see any evidence of this punishment while we’re still alive?

 

Luke 16:19-31

    19”There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

    22”The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In hell,[c] where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

    25”But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

    27”He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

    29”Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

    30” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

    31”He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

 

 Maybe God punishes us in order to teach us to do better, like a father who corrects a child? How can this be, since hell would be final and horrible?

 

Ephesians 5:6
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:8-10

8But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.

 

 

 Maybe God punishes us because he is angry with us?

 

John 3:36
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

 

Romans 2:5
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

 

Romans 9:14-29

    14What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to Moses,
   ”I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
      and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[f] 16It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g] 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

    19One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ “[h] 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

    22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25As he says in Hosea:
   ”I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
      and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”[i] 26and,
   ”It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,
      ’You are not my people,’
   they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ “[j]

    27Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
   ”Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
      only the remnant will be saved.
    28For the Lord will carry out
      his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”[k]

    29It is just as Isaiah said previously:
   ”Unless the Lord Almighty
      had left us descendants,
   we would have become like Sodom,
      we would have been like Gomorrah.”[l]

 

 

I have found that the more I understand someone’s background, the easier it is for me to love and have sympathy for that person. By the same reasoning do you think God can ever get angry with us enough to punish us with hell?

 

Romans 3:4-6

    3What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? 4Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written:
   ”So that you may be proved right when you speak
      and prevail when you judge.”
[a]

    5But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world?

 

 

 How can he?

 

Romans 1:17-19

17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[a] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[b]

    18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

 

Romans 1:20-22

20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools

 

 

What judge would do this? What father would do this? He understands everything about us.

 

Psalm 7:9
O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.

 

Psalm 7:10
My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.

 

Psalm 14:1
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

 

Psalm 44:20-22

    20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
       or spread out our hands to a foreign god,

    21 would not God have discovered it,
       since he knows the secrets of the heart?

    22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
       we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

 

2 Chronicles 34:27
Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD.

 

Jeremiah 31:33
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

 

Joel 2:13
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

 

Luke 16:15
He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.

 

Acts 15:8
God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.

 

 

But what other motives are there for God to punish us when we die?

 

Galatians 3:1-29

    1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

 

    6Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[a] 7Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[b] 9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

 

    10All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[c] 11Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”[d] 12The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”[e] 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”[f] 14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

 

    15Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,[g] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

 

    19What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. 20A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.

 

    21Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

 

    23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ[h] that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

 

    26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

 

 

If, however, being sent to hell is not about punishment for our sins, but rather about God not tolerating sin in his presence, then exactly where does sin reside in us? Can it be located somewhere in our bodies and seen by an X-ray machine, or does it somehow make an actual black mark on our soul?

 

Proverbs 14:9
Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.

 

Proverbs 20:9
Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?

 

Proverbs 21:4
Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!

 

 

The truth is that sin isn’t an existing thing at all, nor is sin something we have.

 

1 John 1:8-10

    8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

 

 

We cannot hold a cupful of sin in our hands. Sin is an action we do. Once we do it, sin becomes a memory of a hurtful deed done. We don’t carry sin on us; we do sinful things. So there is no sin to bring with us into God’s presence.

 

Psalm 5:5
The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.

 

Psalm 101:7
No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.

 

1 John 2:16
For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.

 

1 John 3:1-9

    1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,[a]we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

    4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

    7Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 9No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.