Bible Facts Newspaper Article (Ian C. Kurylyk)
“And they said unto Moses ... let not God speak with us lest we die” (Exodus 20:19).
Exodus chapter 20 not only lists for us the Ten Commandments, but also tells us the effect they had upon the people when they heard them. First of all, they realized the very sober significance of this law from God. The words they heard were accompanied with a solemn display in nature. “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off” (Exodus 20:18). Mount Sinai itself breathed the majesty and threatenings of God’s holy law.
Second, the people realized that they themselves fell short of the law’s holy demand. They “stood afar off” from the threatening mountain. The words of God’s law were so searching and convicting in their hearts that they asked that God not speak directly to them. Apparently some people today still are uncomfortable with God’s law judging from the efforts some have made to remove the Ten Commandments from public places.
Third, they became conscious that the law condemned them to the death penalty. “Let not God speak with us lest we die.” This is how serious God is about His Commandments. God’s perfect justice pronounces the death penalty upon those who break His law. The first command He gave Adam in the Garden of Eden made this very clear. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). The prophet Ezekiel also warned of the law’s penalty: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20a).
Every time a death takes place we are witnessing the consequences of the sin that entered the human race back when Adam first broke God’s command. We were born into a dying race. The Bible also makes it clear that there are several things included in the death penalty. As grim as physical death is there is an even more sober aspect to death after the grave. That is the prospect of eternal punishment.
There is no question about what Jesus taught about hell. “It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched” (Mark 9:43b). He also described the cry of a man enduring terrible conscious suffering there. “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24). Before Jesus came into the world the Psalmist warned of the same thing. “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup” (Psalms 11:6). Apparently Jesus took the Bible warnings of hell literally.
It is also apparent that those who warned of hellfire and brimstone down through the years have been true to the Christian message by the only standard that exists, the Bible. It is a simple matter of Bible facts. Simply wishing that this wasn’t taught or holding opinions against it is not the same as sharing the results of unbiased Bible study.
The Bible teaches there will be one final appearance before His throne of judgment for all the dead. “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened” (Revelation 20:12a). “The dead” here are those who have never come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Countless will have died by then. Jesus spoke of this time as “the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29c). Even hell will be emptied and everyone who has not believed unto salvation will receive the final eternal sentence demanded by God’s holy and just law. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15).
This is distinct from physical death. It is called the “second death” as it comes after, but it is the rest of what is included in that original warning God made, “thou shalt surely die”. It is this place of eternal suffering that the Lord Jesus Christ came to rescue us from by Himself taking our punishment on the cross. Since He paid this death penalty and rose again He has the power to give eternal life to all who believe in Him.