There is something in the Bible that doesn’t seem to make sense. Consider: We were designed by our Creator, to be connected to Him, by His Spirit, in an interactive way, much like a cell phone is connected to the cell signal. However, because of rebellion and sin, we are disconnected from God’s Spirit. We are spiritually dead; in cell phone lingo, we have no bars (See: Dead Man Walking). God desires to connect us again, and said He will do so for those who are receptive – the lowly and contrite. He said He will forgive, heal, restore and revive them. But God also said He does not leave the guilty unpunished. This is the riddle of the Bible, set forth in Exodus 34:6-7 and not solved until the New Testament. But God gave Isaiah big hints. Before considering some of those hints, let’s clarify the problem.
Justice demands that the guilty be punished. We know that in our bones. For example, suppose a drunk driver killed your toddler daughter. He’s arrested and goes to trial. During the trial, he breaks down in heartfelt tears of remorse, acknowledging to the judge that he is guilty and that he can never bring your daughter back to life but that he has committed himself to a life of complete sobriety. He is sincere. How would you feel if the judge said, “Because you are sorry, I’m going to let you off and clear your record. Case dismissed!”? Frustrated? Angry? Sure, because justice was not served. Justice demands the guilty be punished. Perfect justice demands that the punishment be balanced to the crime. Too light a punishment makes a mockery of justice.
God is just and God is perfect. According to what He showed Moses in Exodus 34:6, He is loving and forgiving but He also will not leave the guilty unpunished. Question: What should be the just punishment for something that causes death? I’m not talking about something that causes physical death, which merely shortens the span of a lifetime, but an act that causes spiritual death, which has eternal consequences? Death, right?
Jesus said to the most religious people of His day, that, without some significant intervention and change, they would die in their sins.
But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24)
Sin, separates us from our spiritual connection to God, and causes death – spiritually, eternally. Justice demands a full punishment. But Jesus said, “…if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” Who did He claim to be? Why would that make a difference?
Let’s begin with a hint, given by God to Isaiah, 700 years before Jesus:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 )
The “Child” would be born. The “Son” would be given – literally given over. He would be called Mighty God. Jesus said, “… if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”
Chew on that…