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We read in 1 Peter 1:18-19 that Christ paid with His blood to ransom us from the worthless behavior we inherited from our fathers and were enslaved to. Our “vain conversation” learned through the cultural tradition and imprinting of our ancestors kept us bound in the darkness, groping in pointless progression away from God. He determined in love to purchase us to eternal preservation and the price He paid was His own precious Life.[1]

1 John 4:10
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

To propitiate, the verb from which propitiation comes, means to appease or conciliate an offended power. Propitiation is not an offering given to one in power to engender favor to one’s self, like the Queen of Sheba’s showering of Solomon with spices, precious stones, and gold.[2] It is to make restitution, a reconciliatory reach, to a regent who holds power over you, like Jacob sending gifts to Esau in the vanguard of his caravan.[3] Without his prayer to God for deliverance and his conciliatory gifts sent forward to his brother to make restitution for the deceptive way he earned his father’s blessing, Jacob’s encounter with Esau’s army would have been a bloody route instead of a brotherly reunion.

Adam’s rebellion brought ruin to God’s good creation. Our father’s sin seeped into our bones, his guilt defused through his descendants as a pre-engineered defense designed by the Almighty to allow for mercy to triumph over judgment. Merciful He is, but His offended holiness must respond to restore righteousness. To face the Holy Judge without the covering blood of Jesus Christ has eternal consequences. Dire is the penalty for rejecting the purchase price of redemption.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In its simplest definition, death is separation. We can see this in the result of Adam’s disobedience. They were cast out of the Garden of Eden and separated from the Tree of Life. The day they ate of the forbidden fruit, they died—they were separated from life.[4] We also see the separation principle play out in body death.

James 2:26
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

When the spirit leaves the body, the body is dead. It is separated from life, which is its spirit. This is the same reason we are said to have been spiritually dead prior to salvation. A spirit separated from God, who is the source of life for all,[5] is dead.

Ephesians 2:1-3
1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

In our reckless wrath, we ran rebelliously away from God. We were dead in trespasses and sins. As awful as being lost in sin is, as sad as physical death can be, neither need be terminal. There are worse conditions than being physically alive and spiritually dead or spiritually alive and physically dead. The ultimate death is eternal separation from God, which is the full penalty of sin from which Christ purchased us.

While teaching on forgiveness, stewardship, and true riches, Jesus responded to the ridicule of some covetous Pharisees with an account that many treat as a parable.[6] “There was a certain rich man,” Jesus said and recounted the experiences of a rich man who indulged himself in the lap of luxury and a poor man named Lazarus whose only mercy came from the swabbing tongues of the rich man’s dogs as he sat neglected at the rich man’s gate. The beggar is carried on angel’s wings to lean on Abraham’s bosom at banquet, much like the beloved disciple that leaned on Jesus’s breast at the Last Supper,[7] while the rich man is buried and finds himself tormented in hell.

[The English word “hell” is used to translate various original language words in Scripture. For a short primer on these terms and the places they describe, please see my YouTube presentation below.]

Is it a parable? If it is, it lacks the distinctive cues given to us elsewhere throughout the Gospels. The account is absent the usual preambles such as “the kingdom of heaven is like” or “he spoke a parable to them.” If anyone had insight into the actual state of the dead, true vision into the shrouded realms of Sheol,[8] Jesus would certainly be a credible candidate. Whether it is an account of two men who actually lived or a parable to drive the point home to the Pharisees of their need to look through the law of Moses to see the Messiah standing before them, the truth remains that all of Jesus’s parables held fast to the facts. His parables are effective because they resonate with and remain in the realm of reality.

Luke 16:22-24
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 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.

Hell is a reality, a place of torment where the lost are fully exposed to the lustful desires of their flesh with no possible means of ever satiating them, not even a drop to cool the tongue. This was the destiny Christ rescued us from with His own torn flesh and spilled blood. The wages of sin is death. If the penalty payment is rejected, it results in the permanent punishment of eternal torment.

Matt 25:41, 46
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. [Emphasis added.]

Jesus contrasted everlasting punishment with life eternal. For the parallelism to remain valid, both destinations must have the same unending duration of time. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.[9]

[1] Acts 20:28.
[2] 1 Kings 10:9.
[3] Gen. 32:9-18.
[4] Gen. 2:16-17; 3:23-24.
[5] Ps. 104:29-30; Isa. 42:5.
[6] Luke 16.
[7] John 21:20.
[8] Sheol is the Hebrew word for the abode of the dead, consistently translated as “hell” in the King James Version. It is the equivalent of Hades in the Greek.
[9] 2 Cor. 9:15.