Behold the Lamb
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 NKJV).
God is Just. Every sin must be punished and every good thing must be rewarded. For those who need the forgiveness of sins, the penalty is death and the price must be paid. The red in the ledger has to be balanced. God paid the price through the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, and so satisfied the need for justice (Rom 3:25-26).
The Wages of Sin…
The penalty of sin is death because the punishment must fit the crime.
Deuteronomy 19:21, “And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
Why did Jesus have to die? I understand the struggle; it is because our view of sin is wrong. We sin, whisper a prayer for forgiveness, and move on.
At its root though, sin is a rejection of the attributes of God and, by association, God Himself. The result of even a small sin is far more profound given time than we consider because it behaves like compounding interest. By way of example, Lucifer’s pride led to rebellion, which has led to every sin since then. One small sin has led from Cain killing Able to the Holocaust and will ultimately lead to the Lake of Fire for billions of souls.
God is eternal. He sees the end from the beginning, so He knows the end of sin and therefore its severity.
Everything God does is the fruit of who He is. The requirement of blood speaks to the severity of sin–the life of the flesh is in the blood.
Why Animal Sacrifice?
Hebrews 10:4 NLT
For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Animals were sacrificed for a number of reasons: to eliminate human sacrifice, as a reminder of sin, as a means of faith and repentance and to reduce sin and the penalty of sin. The cost of a lamb is about $50. If every time I sinned, it cost me $50, I would sin less or go bankrupt. Not only that, but also, in killing the lamb, I lose 7 years of wool plus the offspring of that lamb in perpetuity. In other words, I am paying a penalty that also compounds over time.
Animal Sacrifice Insufficient
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” (Mt 19:24-25).
The disciples thought the only path to righteousness was through wealth because it was the only way to afford the penalty for sins. The rich would set aside a lamb to slaughter and then go out and do what they pleased. Jesus made it clear that this was not a righteousness that will allow you to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19-20).
In a very natural sense, if applied, godliness produced prosperity in the Old Testament and wickedness produced lack, debt, and slavery.
Jesus sought to make it clear that the consequences of sin are devastating:
Matthew 5:29-30 NLT
“So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
The Bible says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and Jesus says, “If you look on a woman to lust after her you have committed adultery in your heart.” He wasn’t telling us to mutilate ourselves. He was illustrating the dire potential end of even minor sin. He was also revealing the fallacy of the wealthy religious leaders of His day by reminding them that the Law is not the standard by which we measure righteousness. God alone is righteous; therefore we measure our righteousness by what God does. God is TRUE and is, therefore, the plumb-line and standard by which we are measured.
Every sin begins with an elemental hunger, which becomes desire, then lust, then small words and actions, then e mortal sins that can lead to a total rejection of God (as with the greed of Judas).
Civil Penalty of Sin
Why does John warn us to watch ourselves so that we do not lose our reward (2 Jn 1:8)?
Remember, God is JUST. In the life of the believer, there must be a reward for obedience and a penalty for disobedience; there must be a great reward for seeking the Lord and a great penalty for worldliness. It is essential to the nature and character of God that there be a reward for godliness and a punishment for sin.
As the scripture says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap in return. The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; but the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Gal 6:7-8).
The Judgment Seat of Christ will be brutal (1 Co 3:12-14, 2 Co 5:10). I have concluded that Christ paid the criminal penalty for our sin so that we could gain eternal life but there remains a civil penalty for sin. How else will believers “receive back the things done through the body according to what he did, whether good or EVIL”? (emphasis mine).
The twin penalties are found in the sacrifice system. The lamb was to be one year old. So, not only did you lose the lamb but seven years of wool production. The calf was to be three years old. So not only did you lose the calf but (7×3) twenty-one years of his labor at the plow. The penalty for theft is sevenfold (Prov 6:30-31) and compounding.
Last, take a long hard look at the story of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The Prodigal was a son but squandered his inheritance to a life of sin. He returned to the house of His Father and was welcomed but he did not receive another inheritance. The Father assured the other son, “All that I have is yours.”
The Judgment Seat of Christ
OJ Simpson was found “not guilty” of the crime of murder but lost everything that could be taken in the civil trial that followed. In the same way, there will be believers who will enter into heaven but lose their reward and inheritance–“He himself will be saved, but only as one being snatched from the fire” (having lost everything). Yet Jesus promised there were some things that could never be taken away (Mt 10:40-42).
At the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will see “many who are last will be first and many who are first will be last” (Mt 19:27-30).
Those who received an abundance of worldly goods in this life may well find that they already received their reward (Mt 6:1-4, Luke 16:19-31). But those faithful saints who suffered for Christ, who were robbed, beaten, oppressed and afflicted–who were denied the rewards of righteousness by the wickedness of men–will find that they are blessed beyond measure at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The world is not worthy of such (Heb 11:38)!
I no longer feel sorry for those who are oppressed throughout the world for their testimony–I envy their afflictions and suffering–because great is their reward.
I feel sorry for those worldly and carnal Christians who live with wealth and privilege–never sacrificing or suffering for their testimony or for their obedience to Christ–never knowing hunger or thirst, never denying themselves pleasure, living as mere men.
God is JUST. If you believe God is Just, you will embrace suffering for righteousness. If you don’t embrace sacrifice and suffering for the kingdom, it is because of unbelief.