Last week’s topic was God’s holiness and why sin cannot exist with that holiness. God deals with sin by disposing of it in hell. Thus, we cannot take our sin to be with God. The question we are left with is how we fit into the picture. However, before we get to us, it is worth talking about angels. The fallen angels were cast out of heaven when they rebelled against God and became sinful. The ringleader of this detestable lot was none other than our adversary and accuser, Satan. Now, when Satan and his ilk were cast out, it wasn’t merely being kicked to the curb. Jesus states that He, “…saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18) Dante Alighieri, in his epic poem, The Inferno, paints a humorous picture of the result of this bolt-like descent. He places Satan at the very bottom of hell, where, after having performed the mother of all face-plants, he is buried up to his waist in ice, heels to the heavens.
In 2 Peter 2:4, we are reminded that God, “did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment”. We often think of hell as a kingdom ruled by Satan. However, this is simply not the case. The Bible never speaks of Satan holding any kind of power or authority in hell. Satan is sometimes described has being the ruler of this world, but not hell. He may perhaps be the most notorious inmate, but he is certainly not the warden. In the words of a preacher I once heard, “He’s down there soaking up the heat like everyone else!”
Thus is the state of the fallen angels and ours would be no different. We, too, are marred by sin and it is not something that we can separate ourselves from. We are incapable of living sinless lives. Because of the sin we’re attached to, we find ourselves staring down the maw of hell. Simply put, God is set apart from all unclean things, including us. This however, is not the end of the story; it is at this point that God intervenes:
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
In His death on the cross, Christ took upon Himself everything in us that is hellbound.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
–2 Corinthians 5:21
Additionally, He received the wrath of God laid up for us on account of our sin.
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our inequities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
In doing this, our bounds to sin where severed and we are free to lay down our burden.
Christ’s work on the cross and continuing ministry as our great High Priest separates us from our sin so that we may be counted among the holy. (This isn’t to say that we don’t still stumble into sin, hence His continuing ministry.) Additionally, God makes His Holy Spirit to dwell in us and carry out the sanctification and conversion of our hearts.
God looks upon our state, our inability to stand before His holiness on our own, and is filled with compassion. He gave His only begotten Son so that we may be reconciled to Him and stand before His holiness, not by our own strength, but by His. It is God who casts into hell, but it is also God who saves from hell. To get a more complete handle on the love that God has shown us in Christ, consider this: “For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:16-18) Christ did not die for Satan who is described with the powerful images of a dragon and a roaring lion, or for the other fallen angels described as stars. Rather He died for us, who have frames that are weak like dust. With this in view, we can truly say with the Psalmist: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him? For you made him a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:4-5)
- What are some ways that we are led to think of Satan as a ruler and king over hell?
- What dimensions does the idea of defilement and uncleanness add to our view of sin?
- What does it say about God’s character that He takes action to bridge the gap we are unable to?