The Bible clearly says that sin carries its own built-in penalty. The natural, inevitable conseqence of sin is death: “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. Death is not a punishment God inflicts on those who break His rules- His Law. Death is the automatic result of breaking the laws of God.
Imagine for a moment that you’re an astronaut. You’re outside your spaceship taking pictures, when the insane urge comes over you to remove your helmet. We all know what will happen to you if you give in to that senseless notion. You will die. It is a natural law that man cannot live without oxygen.
If you do remove your helmet and you die, did God kill you? Is death His punishment for breaking His natural law? (And, by the way, isn’t the purpose of punishment to educate – to help a person learn to associate negative behaviour with unpleasant conseqiences? If so, how can you “learn” anything to help you in making your future choices, if you are dead?)
God does not kill you for disconnecting your oxygen supply. Death is the natural consequence of your unwise choice. And the law of nature that says you will die without oxygen is also not your enemy. This law does not kill you – it warns you! It’s on your side. It’s there to protect you – not to restrict you. If God’s laws restrict us at all, they restrict us from hurting ourselves.
And that is the purpose of all of God’s laws – natural and moral. When we live within His laws, we are happy, healthy, and holy. But when we ignore them, we do great damage to ourselves.
Just as we cannot continue to live if we cut ourselves off from oxygen, we cannot continue to live if we cut ourselves off from God. He is the source of all life. And when Adam and Eve chose to sin, they cut themselves off from the Source of life. They would have died immediately if God had not instantly stepped in and placed them on artificial life support. And the human race – the descendants of Adam and Eve – have been on artificial life support ever since.
Why? Because God wanted to heal the broken relationship between Him and His creatures that resulted from their selfish choice. He wanted to demonstrate fully to them the sure results of choosing sin in contrast with choosing the way of love. He wanted them to be able – after seeing the sure result of both choices – to choose again. And He wanted time to demonstrate that love is far superior to selfishness.
Sin’s ultimate penalty – it’s natural consequence – is death. And by death, the Bible means eternal death. Death that is everlasting oblivion. Death that says goodbye, to life forever.
One of the many tragic results of sin is that we grow old, wear out, and die. But this death – if we die in Christ – is just a temporary rest in the grave until the resurrection day. It is not that “second death” the Bible talks about (see Revelarion 20:14) from which there will never be a resurrection.
And when Adam, the head of the human race, sinned, the second death passed over all of us. “Sin entered the world through one man,” Paul wrote, “and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12.
You see, all of us were in Adam there in Eden. God considered the whole human race to be in him. Therefore whatever happened to Adam happened to us all. Just as the first mountain climber on a rope may fall and take all the others down the precipice with him, when Adam fell, he took us all down with him. So when Adam came under the power of death, we all did.
Listen to the good news: “Just as the result of one tresspass (sin) was condemnation (the death penalty) for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” Romans 5:18.
Life for all men! If you are under a death sentence, and that sentence is lifted, may I suggest to you that that is good news? And that is precisely what has happened.
How? Through the life and death of a second Adam. “’The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit....The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as in the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.” 1Corinthians 15: 45-48.
Dis you catch that last sentence? Whatever goes for the earthly man (Adam) goes for us. But, whatever goes for the man from heaven (Jesus) also goes for us!
It would not have been fair if , after Adam sinned, God had simply suspended the natural penalty of sin. And He didn’t. The penalty would still have to follow the sin. And it did. But instead of falling on us, God placed it on His Son, Jesus Christ, as the new head of the human race. And on the cross, Jesus reaped in full not only the penalty of Adam’s sin, which separated a whole race from God, but the penalty also of all the countless sins that would follow that first one.
On the cross, Jesus died as the new head of the human race. And God, in His reckoning, has included every one of us in Jesus. So unless we reject the life that Jesus now offers us, we once again have the right to eternal life. We are forgiven. We are free. We are reconciled to the Father.
Not one of us will be lost because of our sins. Jesus has taken the penalty for them all at the cross. If any of us are finally lost, it will be because we have rejected Christ’s pardon. May that never be my decision – or yours!