4. Egyptian time, e.g.: http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=594
On his way home from work, John has to quickly pop in to the store to buy a litre
of milk. As he is in a hurry, he parks on the double yellow line outside the store.
There is a slight delay in the queue whilst a pensioner fumbles with change. By the
time John gets to his car, there is a penalty notice and a fine to pay.
Jean is a perfectly proportioned model who stands on the scale every day and examines
herself regularly for any signs of aging or going to seed. Occasionally she goes
out with friends for a nice meal or is invited to a dinner party. After each of such
occasions, she takes corrective action with a cleansing diet for 2 or 3 days until
she regains her perfect weight.
Jim is an athlete who trains every day, never drinks or smokes and eats a perfectly
balanced diet. He goes away on a fully paid 2-week package holiday, during which
his iron will gives way. The sight of beautifully prepared food and an endless supply
of alcohol, indulgent friends and his resolve gives way. The thought ‘I have paid
for this, might as well enjoy it’ wins the day over discipline. As he stands on the
scale 2 weeks later, he is horrified to discover he has gained 16 pounds of fat,
his muscle definition is gone, his endurance and strength have diminished. He spends
the next month on a punishing regime of strict diet and doubly hard exercise to recover
his pristine level of fitness.
Jasper is a business man travelling mainly in Europe. On one occasion, he had too
much to drink. Sitting opposite in the bar is a beautiful woman who is clearly attracted
to him. 20 years of faithful marriage is forgotten as he gives in to temptation.
Several weeks later, racked with guilt he confesses to his wife. She goes ballistic
and threatens divorce. He spends the next 20 years trying hard to make amends, but
the marriage is never the same again and the trust between has been lost forever.
Jake is a driver with perfect records and no convictions. Driving through a busy
street, he is distracted as he is expecting an important call that is overdue. His
mobile phone rings and against his normally sound judgement he leans over to answer
it. At that moment a small child steps out in front, but he does not see her. He
is convicted of driving without due care and attention and receives a hefty prison
sentence. However, the regret and remorse can never be expiated by any amount of
prison or punishment. He bears the guilt internally for the rest of his life.
Julian has been a rock-climber since the age of 10 and, aged 20, he is fearless and
skilful on the rock-face. His confidence takes him to a new level of extremity when
he decides to climb a sheer 200 foot cliff face without a rope. As he nears the top,
the tiny ledge on which his weight is resting gives way and he plunges to his death.
All of the above scenarios are examples of sin. Sin is not necessarily doing something
evil as much as failing to reach the required mark. Failure has consequences and
in these little stories there is an increasing level of seriousness and consequence.
At the lowest level a fine is easily paid, but as we go through the scenarios, the
price gets increasingly more difficult to pay until in the final example above, the
result of the error is death, for which no amount of payment, penance or punishment
can make restitution. Every sin, no matter how small carries a penalty, which someone
has to pay. The penalty may be as small as temporarily hurt feelings or as serious
as divorce; from a minor injury or as serious as the death of someone. In some cases,
it may be possible to make some form of payment or gesture to make restitution, but
often the result is permanent and irreversible.
Restitution can be anything on a spectrum from merely having to say ‘Sorry’ through
to paying the ultimate sacrifice of a life.
Over a lifetime we spend much of our energies in correcting errors and mistakes,
but there are some actions that cannot be corrected or expiated as we have seen in
the above examples. Our very nature seems to be to take risks, chances and make mistakes,
some of which we will admit to; others we will try to excuse, deny or put the blame
on someone else. We know in our heart that every one of these failures has to be
counterbalanced by some kind of restitution. Somehow that which is wrong must be
There is no way that a human being can atone for all the wrongs during a lifetime.
Even if it were possible to counterbalance the wrongful actions with some form of
restitution, the overall balance sheet for anyone would be heavily on the side of
wrong. Some actions can never be corrected. There are some breakages that no amount
of glue can repair. God has provided the means whereby all sin, failures and errors
can be expiated through sacrifice. The sacrifice of animals was merely a teaching
aid by which the Almighty Creator of the Universe would communicate the Law of Atonement.
The true means by which all sin is expiated is by death of a perfect human being,
who had no personal sin for which to atone. That person was God Himself in the person
of Jesus Christ. His death was the final and perfect sacrifice to atone for all sin,
no matter how small or great.
The outworking of natural laws still stands. If you drop something and it breaks,
it remains broken. If your sin results in a broken relationship, it may remain broken.
However, as far as God is concerned, the atonement of His death pays the debt and
wipes out the penalty for all sin. Although there may be natural consequences, which
could even be death, God does not hold the sinner accountable for whatever is covered
by the blood of Jesus. Thus on judgement day, the person who has acknowledged Jesus
as his atoning sacrifice stands perfect in the eyes of God.
This is the good news, the gospel. It is FANTASTIC news. It has to be the best deal
This is what the life and death of Jesus is all about. All that we have been considering,
the Law, the sacrificial system, the prophecies and elaborate plans executed over
thousands of years were all heading towards this one purpose – to save mankind from
the penalty of sin.
In all of the above examples of ‘sin’, the consequences were evident and more or
less immediate. However, there is a far greater penalty, which we cannot prove and
cannot observe, but it is clearly stated in the Bible. So, if we have got this far
and are accepting the Bible as truth, then what it says about this subject has to
be taken seriously. The Bible is very clear that, if we die without our sins being
atoned for, then we face the most awful fate imaginable, which is called Hell. This
has to be one of the most unpopular subjects, and yet Jesus speaks about it far more
than He speaks about Heaven. He describes it as a place of torment, of wailing and
gnashing of teeth, of being burned as with fire and extreme anguish (e.g. Matthew
13:42). It is likened to the place of Gehenna, which was the rubbish tip outside
the city of Jerusalem in which fires continually burned, where refuse and executed
criminals were tossed to be consumed in the flames. Whether the descriptions of fire
are to be taken literally or whether it refers to a state of mind is debatable. People
are said to ‘burn’ with anger or shame. The main punishment about hell is that it
is banishment from the presence of God. Now this may seem to some as a minor inconvenience,
but in fact, we have no idea what this is actually like. As God created and sustains
everything, even the ground on which we walk and the air we breathe is a gift from
Him. Our digestive systems and the very cells of our body are subject to laws that
He created. So, if we were to continue a spiritual existence without His grace and
gifts, we have no knowledge of what this would be like. It is certainly not a 3 dimensional
state, but one in which we can exist and live without a physical body. It may be
a state of sensory deprivation for eternity, but with remorse and the knowledge of
what might have been. It may be the awareness that all our loved ones are enjoying
the presence of God and each other in a perfect world, whilst we are excluded forever
to an eternity of aloneness, and knowing that we deliberately chose to reject this
eternal Heaven in favour of transient and temporal pleasure in this life. That is
a fate that is unbearable and unthinkable. Yet, that is what many people are choosing,
knowingly or unconsciously. Maybe that is a worse place and a more unbearable situation
than being subjected to endless fire and torture.
Perhaps this is the most serious message in this book, although it is a very unpopular
theme. It offends and upsets people. Some say, ‘I cannot believe in a God who would
send someone to Hell’. Actually, it does not matter what you believe. What is important
is what is true and the Bible is very clear on this subject.
The point is that God has given and is still giving us every opportunity to choose
Heaven instead of Hell. He has gone to the most extreme lengths to ensure that every
person on the planet can be with Him in Heaven. He could not have made it easier.
He paid the penalty and there is nothing more we need to do than humbly accept his
offer and turn to Him. There is nothing we can do to improve on that.
When Jesus died, He went into the place of Hell and experienced separation from His
Father, in our place. He took our punishment in order that we can go free.
So if you have never repented of your sin and asked God to forgive you on the basis
of the sacrifice of Jesus, then I suggest you do it right now. He is just a prayer
away, waiting and longing to hear from you and forgive you.