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They that Hate Me Love Death

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My Theme:

Put more succinctly, in the words of the Wisdom of God, “he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death.”[1]

I. What Sin IS

A.           Actual sins are hatred of God

The English word “sin” corresponds to a number of biblical expressions, word groups, and associated ideas.[2]  Most often it expresses  violation of the Divine requirement of the creature, a trespass or transgression of God’s law, a failure to keep His covenant, a “missing of the mark,” where the mark is a due performance of obedience to God, and consequently a debt against a creaturely obligation.   When this is remembered, it is not difficult to see that actual sins (whether prohibitions violated or good omitted) are expressions of hatred of God.  If this seems too strong, consider what it actually means to transgress God’s law.  It is to disregard God’s revelation of His will, which is a rejection of His authority, a denial of His right as Lord.  His Lordship, moreover, is rightly His as the perfect and simple “I AM”, and as the creator of all that exists.  Each and every act of sin, then, is a denial and rejection of His infinity, His eternity, His immutability, His wisdom, His power, His holiness, His justice, His goodness, and His truth.   It is to refuse to respect His right as the creator, preserver, and governor, whose glory and pleasure is the chief purpose  of all things.   Sin against the creation is against God because the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.  Sins against our fellow man are all directly and indirectly, i.e., doubly, sins against God, for man is the image of God, and there is not a single crime or offense committed against men (insult, slander, theft, robbery, adultery, murder, etc.) that is not committed against God’s own person, attributes, or office, in every sin that is committed.  Sin is a worship of that which is not God, the performance of that which is opposed to God.  It is a robbery of God, treason against God. 

Ultimately, to sin is to wish that God would not be the God He is; which is to wish Him not to be, for He cannot be other than what He is.

In addition to the idea of acts of transgression against God’s law, sin has another meaning—not just what you do, but what is at work within you, your spiritual condition.     God’s law addresses not only what man does, but also what he is.  It commands what he is to be, and forbids what he is not to be.    The scriptures utilize a particularly rich vocabulary and vivid imagery for this as well: sin that “lieth at the door,” a heart whose thoughts are “only evil all the time,” deceitful and desperately corrupt, it is pictured as the uncircumcised heart, the corrupting leaven, leprosy, “the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.”  Those demonstrating its character are thistles, thorn bushes and evil trees that receive God’s rain and produces only evil fruit, whose end is to be burned.  It is described as pollution, corruption, foolishness bound up on the heart of the child who is “born in sin and shapen in iniquity,” going astray from the womb.  It is evil, loving the darkness and hating the light, having a hard forehead, dull ears, and a fat, stony, and impenitent heart, foul bondage, the flesh, the evil concupiscence, the man of sin, and the sin that remains in our members and which seeks to reign over us.  It is that worldly, fleshly mind that cannot be subject to the law of God for it will not.  Why not?  Because it is at enmity with God since it cannot bear that there should be another god but itself. 

Even in the godly (in whom it remains dwelling in the body and its members) it seeks to reign, and those Christians who fail in their campaign against it, who fail to mortify and crucify it, grieve the blessed Holy Spirit, bring humiliation, sorrow and divine chastisement to themselves, great disadvantage to the church, and occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme.  Its “exceedingly sinful” character is demonstrated in the way it is excited into rebellion by the holy, just and good law of God.  So powerful a force against God is it that it drives the godliest of men to cry out, “O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”   Indwelling sin is hatred of God, and God is utterly opposed to it.[3]

II. What Sin Deserves –Every Being the transgression of the Law of God, God must punish it. 

God must punish sin.   There are at least six scriptural arguments in support of this view.  Let me mention 4 of them.

A.           First, Scripture describes God’s pure and holy nature as opposed to sin, as hating and detesting it. 

God’s holy nature and its profound detestation of sin is apparent from Habakkuk 1:13 – He is “of purer eyes than to look upon” it.  Again, in Joshua 24: 19, it is due to God’s holy nature itself, that Joshua argues that the Israelites cannot lightly serve the Lord, for “he is an holy God; he is a jealous God.” 

To assert that God is holy and just is all the same as to say that it is a fixed feature of God’s nature to hate and punish sin.   Sin-punishing justice is inherent in God’s nature, as revealed by his name.  Throughout the scriptures it is declared, as a divine excellence praised by saints and angels, that God’s very nature is opposed to sin. 

4      For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;

          evil may not dwell with you.

5      The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;

          you hate all evildoers.

6      You destroy those who speak lies;

          the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

Indeed, the scriptures describe the opposition of God’s holy nature against sin by the most vivid negative expressions.  He is said to hate, detest, abhor, loath, despise, and abominate sin, and react to it with anger, fury, and rage; bringing upon the sinner bowls of wrath, the sword of vengeance, the winepress of his indignation, crushing, bruising, smiting, affliction and other expressions. The scriptural witness is incontrovertible: God hates sin.

B.           Scripture ascribes to God the office of a judge, who will judge all things with justice.  

God, who commands earthly judges to judge with justice, neither condemning the innocent nor excusing the guilty, does so because they are his own agents, representing him and administering justice at His will.[4]  It is the glory of God as a judge to judge justly, which glory the saints acknowledge in Rev. 16:5-6, “Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.”   

C.           Scripture asserts that sin is, and must be, punished for the glory of God.

If God’s chief end in the creation of the world is the manifestation of his own glory, if sin is such a God-denying thing, utterly opposed to that glory, it is also clear that God, to preserve his glory as the Holy One, as the wise creator and the just judge of all, must, by a necessity of His nature, punish sin.  This association of God’s righteousness, anger, and glory is clearly seen in 2 Thess. 1:6-10,      

…it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

D.   Scripture asserts that Christ was crucified for the exercise of divine justice against sin. 

There is no other just or sufficient cause for the cross of Christ than the propitiation of divine vengeance against sin.  Indeed, the scripture reveals that by this divine execution of the penalty for sin, God has demonstrated his justice with regard to past, apparently unpunished sins.  Indeed, this is the glory of the gospel, that in the cross of Christ, God has demonstrated his justice more clearly and powerfully than in any other possible way, and has done so the praise of his glorious grace in the salvation of his enemies.  Nevertheless, apart from the clear demonstration of the sinfulness of sin and the sin-punishing justice of God, the gospel cannot be understood, which was the purpose served by the giving of, and in the preaching of, the law.    

E.   Scripture asserts that God has demonstrated His justice in the world.

Thus we turn now to consider the spiritual and temporal miseries of sinners.

III. The Wages of Sin

Having seen that sin ought to be punished, and that God, being God, must necessarily punish it, we come now to examine the biblical teaching of the way He does so.  The confession summarizes it by calling it “death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.”  The association of sin and death could not be more positively revealed: “In the day that you eat of it you shall die,” “the soul that sins, it shall die,” “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned,” “the wages of sin is death,” “the law of sin and death,” “dead, in trespasses and sins,” “sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.”    Nevertheless, it is apparent in the scriptures that this judgment of “death” is carried out in a number of stages and dimensions.  

A.           God Has Punished Sin.

At the beginning of his exposition of the gospel, Paul asserts, that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”  Peter and Jude, seeing the obstinacy with which men will suppress and deny this truth, remind their readers of some of the more outstanding proofs of the divine wrath.

First they say, God spared not the angels that sinned (2 Peter 2:4).  Angels--sinned--and were not spared.  The thought of it should make us all shudder, aghast with horror.  Here, if anywhere, might be made a case for simple pardon, but these creatures were given neither the opportunity for repentance, nor a mediator to assume their nature and die in their place.   Instead, they were cast down to hell and delivered into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.”[5]  Next, though not mentioned by Peter and Jude, God punished Adam and Eve with expulsion from the garden, the loss of the glory of their creation.  Who, besides themselves and the fallen angels can imagine that day?  They next tell us that God destroyed the old world.  Here is a fact in the lore of all the nations of the world, though little regarded at Peter’s time or ours.  How horrible must be that vile poison of sin, that it brings the world to such a state that the gracious, long-suffering God must cleanse it with such a deluge!  In the Biblical record we also find God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, plague against Israel’s Egyptian captors, an entire generation (excepting only two persons) perishes in the Wilderness, the “Amorite” is made put to the sword and fire when his iniquity has become full, all but a remnant of Israel and Judah perish for their apostasy from their covenant God, and the wicked nations that greedily gave themselves to destroy them are overthrown.  Indeed, the entire history of God’s relationship with his people, based as it is upon a covenant made in the blood of a substitute leaves no doubt that God punishes sin.

B.              Spiritual Death, Spiritual Miseries

Paul, in expounding the ways the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven” might well have begun with that which is most obvious.  He could have elaborated upon the groaning of the creation, its subjection to futility, the cursing of the ground, which yields its produce only after much sweat and toil against the thorn, under the sun that smites by day, until the worn-out and pain-wracked body, yields to death and returns its dust to the ground from which it was taken.  He could have spoken of disease, disaster, and war, expounding the curses of Deuteronomy 28:15-68 with seemingly endless examples from sacred and secular history.  Instead, he directs our attention to that first act of the divine displeasure: the death of the spirit through its loss of fellowship with that God who is its life: “their foolish hearts were darkened,” and they were “given up.”  Men became, as it were, spiritual zombies, “dead in trespasses and sins,” even while they “walked in them.”  Dead to God, yet living in His world, cast away from his gracious presence.[6]

What, then, are the miseries that accrue to the spirit that does not have God as its friend, life, and light, but is under His condemnation and curse?  Naturally some of these will vary in kind and degree from individual to individual, according to the providence of God, but among them are the following: futility of thought, spiritual blindness, inability, a guilty, accusing conscience, hardness, “the plague of his own heart,”[7] vile passions, prejudice, burning in lusts, the emptiness of unsatisfied desires, confusion, gullibility, foolish vanity, loneliness, suspicion, envy, self-flattery, obsession, bondage through the fear of death.  They are hopeless, or else they lean on reeds that will break and pierce their hands.  They are enslaved by the devil, in mind and body, individually and corporately, giving heed to seducing spirits, and some actually undergoing demonic possession or direct demonic torment of mind. 

C.             Punishment beyond the grave, and beyond the Day of Judgment

The scriptures have a great deal to say about the punishment which takes place after the death of the body.  First, undeniably, the punishment of sin continues after physical death.  For example, sinners are not only said to be slain, or cut in two, but also afterwards “appointed a portion with the unbelievers,” (Luke 19:27; 20:16) and with the hypocrites (Mt. 24:30-31, 51).   The Lord contrasts him that can kill the body only, and the one who “after He has killed, has power to cast into hell” (Luke 12:4-5, emphasis mine; Mt. 10:28).  Matthew 16:26 which refers to a man loosing his “soul,” obviously does not refer to this life only, for Christ immediately adds, “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 (cf. Luke 9:25-26).  Matthew 18:6-9 (Luke. 17:2) asserts that rather than live and die as a sinner, it is preferable to live maimed, or be drowned in the sea.  Both expressions plainly assert that the sinful life results in an end following and worse than physical death.   Sinners will be “delivered to torturers” (Mt. 18:34-35), “cast away” into “outer darkness,” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; Lk. 13:27).  In his detailed description of one particular lost soul, Christ describes this torment as consisting both of the privation of good, and the suffering of the most extreme pains.  Listen well to our Lord’s horrifying rhetoric--“The rich man also died and was buried, and, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes.”  “Buried,--and being in torment!”  No sooner dead than this is his state, with sense to feel the heat of the flames that engulf him, eyes to look upon the bliss of the righteous,[8] a memory to reflect upon his vain and self-centered life, a mind to dread the arrival of those he should have exhorted to righteousness in his lifetime, and ears to hear the solemn pronouncement that there is no hope for him ever: his place unchangeable, and his thirst undiminished by so much as a single drop of water.   

Men already know that evil-doers deserve death (Rom. 1:32), they also know, or will certainly come to realize, that they are doomed to receive “a fate worse than death,” as we see in their response to the coming of Christ:

And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”[9]

Elsewhere, the Lord tells us that at this time the tares will be bundled and burned, and the wheat gathered into his barn (Mt. 13:30, explained 40-42).  This general resurrection (John 5:28-29) includes the righteous and the unrighteous.  “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”[10]

As the righteous are “clothed upon” with their former bodies, now glorified to fit their everlasting state of righteous bliss,[11] it is reasonable, the human nature being a unity of body and spirit, that those undergoing the “resurrection of condemnation” to shame and everlasting contempt will likewise receive their bodies, which in their lifetimes had been the instruments of sin, resurrected in a condition fitting their state of God-forsaken wretchedness. 

After the final judgment, in contrast to the eternal life of the godly, sinners are cast into an everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels for everlasting punishment (Mt. 25:31-46). 

D.           The fact that explains and supersedes all these expressions. 

“Cast into prison,” the “lake of fire,” “beaten with many stripes,” the “cup of wrath.”  Isaiah (33:14) asks, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”  Are these expressions literal?   Are they metaphors?  For what?  Can there be any justification to the rhetoric of damnation as heard, for example, in Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God?  Given what we have observed in the scriptures, we are forced to agree with Thomas Goodwin: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the mind of man what things the Lord hath prepared for them that hate him.”  That burning, consuming, fire is God himself, [12] an infinite, eternal, “angry God.”  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”[13] The living God: “at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.” [14]  The thing that is missed by all who would laugh at, scorn, or apologize for Edwards and other “hell fire and brimstone” preachers like him is they realized that everything that the scripture said, and all that they could communicate by their most horridly vivid imagery was no closer to the true state of the damned “than a shadow to the reality.” 

IV. A Few Points of Application

A.           As Men

We are sinners before a sin-hating God.  Shall we consider these things academically, without pausing to consider the great evil of our natural state and our danger and end if we have not been admitted by faith to stand in His grace, our sins washed away, our souls clothed in His righteousness of God? 

B.           As Christians

As we are expected as Christians to set the Lord always before us, let us set before our conscience also His holy hatred of sin.  Let us have the mind of Christ towards it, and view our darling vices, our bosom sins, as He.  Let us remind ourselves often of what sin is, its deceitfulness, odiousness, and guilt, and of the untold harm it has brought to men of like passions as us.  Let us then resolve, for the glory of God, for the souls of men, and as befits the new nature which we have received at so dear a price, that we will prosecute a relentless campaign for its mortification in our own bodies and for its expulsion from our lives in every sphere under our influence.

Let us consider the love and grace of God, who having such a profound hatred of sin, nevertheless, determined to make such abominable creatures as human sinners the recipients or His divine, paternal favor.  How? By imputing their trespasses to the Son of His infinite eternal pleasure, and then exhausting the full measure of divine judicial vengeance in blazing indignation and wrath against their substitute.  

Let us live in adoration of Him, who, by His own humble life under the Law, wrought for us a perfect righteousness, and who by His death, annulled the power of sin over us, delivering us from the law of sin and death.

Let us the more love and cherish the Holy Spirit, who abides and reigns within us, so that where sin has abounded, grace will more abound, and by Him mortify the remnants of sin within us.


----

[1] For support of the following two sections, please refer to the following scriptures: Exodus 20:5; Deut. 7:9-11; 32:29-42; 1 Sam. 15; 2 Chron. 19:1-2; Psalm 21; 50; 51; 68; Isaiah 1; 30; 40; Malachi (whole book).

[2]“As might be expected of a book whose dominant theme is human sin and God’s gracious salvation from it, the Bible uses a wide variety of terms in both OT and NT to express the idea of sin.” Douglas, J. (1982; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). New Bible Dictionary.  (Page 1116). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.  This is a great succinct article on our subject.

[3] Genesis 4:7; 6:5; Ezekiel 44:9; 1 Cor. 5:8; Leviticus 13; Jeremiah 17:9; Eph 4:22; Matt. 7:15-20; Heb. 6:7-8; Prov. 22:15; Psalm 51:5; 58:3;  John 3:6, 19-20; Ezekiel 3:7; 36:26; Acts 28:27; Romans 2:5; 3:10-19; 6:12-8:13; Col. 3:9-10.

[4] Romans 13:1-4

[5] Some, apparently, have an existence as demonic spirits in this world, where they “wander through dry places seeking rest and finding none,” or possess the bodies of men, awaiting with terror the prospect of being cast into the abyss, (Luke 8:28-31), probably the lake of fire prepared for them.  No wonder that they “believe and tremble.”

[6] Rom. 1:18-32; Eph. 2:1-3; Genesis 3:23-24.

[7] A spiritual misery mentioned by Solomon in addition to physical afflictions experienced by a sinning Israel (1 Kings 8:38).

[8]See also Luke 13:28, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.”

[9]Rev. 6:15-7:1

[10]Dan. 12:2

[11]2Cor. 5:2-4; 1 Cor. 15:42-53

[12] Heb. 12:29-13:1

[13] Heb. 10:31

[14] Jer. 10:10

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