The Walk of the LORD and Risk of the Wayward
Genesis 18:1 – 19:38
In our last study we discussed circumcision and how it is a sign of God symbolizing separation from the world and the way of the flesh (i.e. self-centeredness; self-reliance). In Genesis 18 and 19 we will see The Walk of the LORD and Risk of the Wayward. These chapters are a historical practical example of how God makes His presence known to us. These chapters also reveal a right and wrong response to God.
The Walk of the LORD
Genesis 18:1-33 - Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, 3 and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. 4 Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.”
They said, “Do as you have said.”
6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. 8 So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.
9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?”
So he said, “Here, in the tent.”
10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.”
(Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.) 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
13 And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”
15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid.
And He said, “No, but you did laugh!”
16 Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way. 17 And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, 18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” 20 And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
27 Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: 28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?”
So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.”
29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?”
So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.”
30 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?”
So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
31 And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?”
So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.”
32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?”
And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” 33 So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
When we look at these chapters they reveal a great deal about how God walks amongst us. Notice that in Genesis 18 God is referred to with His most holy name, “LORD” a number of times (18:1, 13, 14, 17, 19, 20, 22, 26, 33). “LORD” is the name of God, which emphasizes His eternal existence and total sufficiency (cf. Exodus 3-4). We can make a number of observations here that give us insight into how God makes His presence known.
The LORD initiates contact (18:1). “The LORD appeared,” tells us that God took the initiative to interact with Abraham and provide an opportunity to fellowship with him. God knew where Abraham was. God always takes the initial step to reach out to us. Then it is up to us to respond to His overtures.
The LORD came unannounced (18:1). Abraham was sitting in his tent door. We are not told what he was doing there. He may have been resting. He may have been praying or meditating on the word of the LORD. But as we will see later, Abraham was ready when God came. The LORD can enter our life at any time. Are we ready to receive Him?
The LORD came personally (18:1). This time the LORD came to Abraham in a personal face to face way. Since no one has ever seen God “face to face” in all His glory, we can deduce that this is a pre-incarnate Christophany of Jesus (John 1:18). The Bible is all about God making Himself known and people getting to know Him (John 17:3-4). Do you know Him personally?
The LORD came to fellowship (18:2-8). When Abraham welcomed the three men and offered them fellowship, the LORD welcomed it. The LORD is always looking to fellowship with His people (1 John 1:1-4, 7; Revelation 3:20).
The LORD came to reaffirm His plan (18:9-13). We are not told how much time elapsed between Genesis 17 and 18, but we are told that by the time the LORD came to Abraham and Sarah they were both well past child bearing age (18:11). God patiently reaffirmed His plan and intention to faithfully do what He said He would do for Abraham and Sarah, give them a child.
The LORD came to reaffirm His power (18:14). When Sarah expressed doubt about God’s plan, God reaffirmed His power to carry it out. God was teaching them that His plans are not limited to our resources. He wanted them to know there is nothing “too hard for the LORD.” God is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can even ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). He is even able to do miraculous things through imperfect people (John 14:12-14).
The LORD came to reveal our thoughts (18:11-15). Sarah silently “laughed within herself,” at the thought of having a child at her age. She was close enough to hear the LORD speak but didn’t want to be heard eavesdropping on Abraham’s conversation. The LORD knew what she was thinking. The LORD knows our thoughts, even the ones that include doubt. He searches our thoughts and motives (1 Chronicles 28:9). We can’t hide our thoughts from the LORD (Jeremiah 17:10; 23:24). In the Gospels we see that Jesus knew the evil in people’s hearts (Matthew 12:25; 22:18; Mark 2:8; Luke 6:8; 11:17). But the LORD also knows those who are His (John 10:3, 14; 1 Corinthians 8:3).
The LORD came to reveal His will (18:16-22). The LORD didn’t only come to reaffirm His plan but He also came to reveal His will in regard to sinful Sodom and Gomorrah. The LORD revealed His plan of judgment to teach him the importance of “righteousness and justice” and to keep the “way of the LORD.”
The LORD is righteous in all His ways (18:23-33). The LORD is not a cold heartless Judge. He tempers His judgment with mercy. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9-10). Abraham’s interaction with the LORD proved that God would bend over backwards to hold off His righteous judgment on these sinful cities.
The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was “great” and “grave” (18:20, 21). There was an “outcry” against what was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah much the same as the blood of Abel cried out from the ground earlier in Genesis (4:10). God will not ignore the cries of the victims of sin. He is always looking to show Himself strong on behalf of the weak and vulnerable (Psalm 4; 7; 18:2; 68:5; 119:54; 121; 2 Timothy 4:17-18).
The Righteous Response
Abraham was righteous before God because of His trust in God (Genesis 15:6). His response to God in this situation provides us with a picture of how we should live.
A righteous response to the LORD is one of readiness (18:2). Whatever Abraham was doing, when these three men came into his presence, Abraham was ready and responded in a righteous way. Are you ready for the LORD to come to you and speak to you now?
A righteous response to the LORD is one of service (18:1-6). Abraham instantly jumped to his feet and was ready to serve. This was not only a culturally acceptable thing for him to do, but he must have sensed there was something, Someone special who had entered His presence. This righteous man had a servant’s heart ready to act in hospitable service at a moments notice. Can you say the same?
A righteous response to the LORD is one of sacrifice (18:7-8). Abraham “ran” and got a “tender and good calf,” (not just any old calf or one he could spare, but one of the best he had). Notice, he served them the food and “stood by them” as they ate. Abraham was concerned for meeting the needs of his guests. He had no agenda and sought nothing in return. Abraham was other oriented, not self-oriented.
A righteous response to the LORD is concerned about what is right (18:23-33). Abraham responded to God’s revelation of impending doom on Sodom and Gomorrah with intercession on their behalf. Abraham is used by God to reveal a great truth of how God works. He will not destroy the righteous with the wicked (18:23). God is just and fair. It is not just to punish the righteous along with the wicked. Therefore God who is just will not punish the just along with the wicked.
God’s dealing with Sodom and Gomorrah is pertinent for today. God’s judgment on these two cities is proof of God’s future judgment on all who disbelieve in Him and rebel against Him (Jude 7). Peter mentions the reality of God’s impending judgment on a Christ rejecting world too but adds an interesting phrase, “the LORD knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:6-9). The phrase “out of” (Greek EK) means literally, “from, out of, away from” and denotes a point of departure or separation.” The preposition EK is used to express how Jesus rose “from” (EK) the dead meaning He escaped the clutches of it (John 12:1, 9, 17). It is also used to designate a direction such as “He came up out of the water” (Mark 1:10).
The account of Sodom and Gomorrah is important because it needs to be applied eschatologically. There is a period of time in the future when God will pour out His wrath on a Christ rejecting world. This period is called the Tribulation and is seven years long Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:19; Revelation 7:14). This period of time is described particularly as a time of God’s outpoured wrath (Revelation 6:17; 11:18; 16:1). The Bible says believers are saved from God’s wrath (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). What then will happen to believers when God pours out His wrath? The Bible tells us that the LORD will rapture believers “out of” this world before He pours out His wrath on it (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is why Jesus instructed the disciples to pray to escape this time (Luke 21:36). Jesus promised to keep His faithful from this time of Tribulation (Revelation 3:10). This is why in Revelation 6-18, (the most detailed account of what this seven year period of God’s wrath will be like) the church is not mentioned; it has been removed from the earth. The church has been “caught up” (Greek HARPADZO) out of the earth to be with Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is the blessed hope of the church (Titus 2:13). Only God knows when these final events will occur and so He could rapture the church out of the earth at any time (i.e. the rapture is imminent). The awareness of this possibility should motivate us to live holy pure lives in order to be ready (like Abraham) for the Lord’s coming and our rapture to Him (1 John 3:3).
The Risk of the Wayward
Genesis 19 - Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. 2 And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.”
And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.”
3 But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”
6 So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, 7 and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 8 See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”
9 And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. 10 But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11 And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.
12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city— take them out of this place! 13 For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”
14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.
15 When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.” 16 And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”
18 Then Lot said to them, “Please, no, my lords! 19 Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die. 20 See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”
21 And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. 22 Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.”
Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
23 The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.
26 But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt.
30 Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave. 31 Now the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” 33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.
34 It happened on the next day that the firstborn said to the younger, “Indeed I lay with my father last night; let us make him drink wine tonight also, and you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” 35 Then they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.
36 Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day.
This is a sobering account of judgment and the risk one is exposed to when they stray from the LORD. Lot is the main character here and he is a picture of the carnal believer. What is a carnal believer? A carnal or fleshly believer is a person who believes in God and has a saving relationship with God, but who is trying to live still in his own strength for his own purposes. Carnality (what the Bible refers to as “the flesh”) means, “having the nature of the flesh”; sensual; controlled by animal appetites; governed by human nature rather than the Spirit of God.” A carnal person is pleasure oriented, they put their personal interests before everyone else's interests and say, “ME first!” A carnal person is worldly. They depend on their own ability, wisdom, and strength. They depend on humanity rather than Divinity. A carnal person acts first, then seek God’s help crying, “LORD, bless this mess.” To be carnal is to be less than totally committed or surrendered to God. Lot is the epitome of carnality.
When we examine Genesis 19 we see the risks and results of the carnal lifestyle. These things can be summarized as follows:
1.) God did not meet directly with Lot (19:1). Lot’s relationship with God was distant unlike Abraham who was close with God (15:1; 18:1; 21:12; 22:1-14).
2.) Lot toyed with sinfulness and was drawn deeper and deeper into sin, like a moth to a flame (13:12; 14:12; 19:1).
3.) Lot’s compromise with carnality led to him being surrounded with sinfulness that curtailed his ability to fellowship (19:2-3).
4.) Lot’s compromise endangered his holy guests (19:4-7).
5.) Lot’s carnality led to a warped perspective and questionable decision making (19:8).
6.) Lot’s carnality jeopardized his family (19:8, 30-38). It jeopardized the purity of the family members (19:8); it led to the loss of credibility with family members (19:14); it led to the loss of family members (19:26); it led to carnality in his children (19:30-38).
7.) Lot’s carnality led to a dangerous situation (19:9).
8.) Lot’s carnality led him to linger and resist the will of God aimed at saving him and his family (19:15-16).
9.) Lot’s carnality demonstrated blindness to God’s mercy (19:18-20).
10.) Lot’s carnality demonstrates that a carnal person barely escapes the wrath of God (19:29; 1 Corinthians 3:15, “as through fire”).
Lot’s life is a risky and dangerous one that fails to take into account the eternal consequences of a righteous LORD. But the LORD is merciful and it is only by God’s mercy and grace that Lot survives, (though the same cannot be said of his wife). Lot survives, but suffers great loss. The mercy of God toward carnal Lot is seen in the following summary:
1.) God often rescues the carnal person from the fixes they get themselves into (19:10-11).
2.) God is concerned for the carnal person’s family (19:12).
3.) God clearly warns the carnal person of the danger they are in (19:13).
4.) God urges the carnal person to leave carnal worldliness (19:15).
5.) God provides a means of escape from carnal situations (19:17; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
6.) God is patient with the carnal person (19:18-21).
7.) God heeds the prayers of holy people on behalf of the carnal person (19:29; 12:5; 13:8; 14:14).
Even carnal Christians are righteous because righteousness is based on God’s grace not people’s work or efforts (2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:8-9). Lot is referred to as “righteous Lot” (2 Peter 2:6-8). Lot may have been “oppressed” or “tormented” by “the filthy conduct” he saw in Sodom (2 Peter 2:7), but not enough to leave! His lust for pleasure and things outweighed his sense of right and wrong. Lot was a very unhappy person. Why? Lot had too much of the world to be happy in the LORD, and too much of the LORD to be happy in the world. He was double-minded (James 1:8).
Jesus said, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). Jesus wants us to remember the danger of living a life that lusts after this world. He wanted us to recognize the danger and possible fatality of carnality. God’s grace should motivate us to a loving appreciation of God (2 Corinthians 5:14). That love of God in us should manifest itself in a life surrendered to God (Romans 6; 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Galatians 5:16,24). The carnal person says, “LORD, do I have to . . . ?” The spiritual person says, “LORD, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6).
It has been said:
“You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind. He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds.” – Dag Haamaskojold (Secretary of United Nations in late 1050s).
In the New Testament we are instructed:
- Romans 8:5-8,13-14 – “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
Abraham and Lot contrast each other. Abraham had a close intimate personal relationship with the LORD and experienced the miraculous promise of God. Lot had a distant disastrous existence and suffered great loss and dishonor. Who would you rather be?
The Way of the World
A time came when “the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens” (19:24). Sodom and Gomorrah had reached the lowest depths of sin. The men of this city were given over to homosexual immorality (19:5; compare with Romans 1:24-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). They were desperately wicked (19:7). The blindness inflicted upon them by the angels of God was symbolic of a deeper spiritual darkness (19:11; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 2:1-3). The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were doomed to the destructive judgment of God (19:13, 24-25). Their persistent and pernicious immoral conduct secured a destiny of God’s eternal judgment and vengeance in hell (Jude 7). This is a picture of what awaits those who rebel and reject the Holy God of Love. Some question whether or not the idea of judgment and wrath is consistent with the God of Love. But when we look at the Bible God has revealed the complete consistency in His holy righteous plan of justice.
God’s Wrath and Propitiation
It is frequently said in modern times that, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” We need to ask whether or not such a statement jives with Scripture. Certainly it is true that God desires all people to repent and be saved (2 Samuel 14:14; Lamentations 3:33; Ezekiel 18:23,32; 33:11; Hosea 11:8; 2 peter 3:9). But there are also verses that tell us the view of God toward those who sin that must be held in equal balance with His desire that all sinners repent. Does God only, “hate the sin but love the sinner”? What of such verses that state:
- Psalm 5:5 – “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity.”
- Psalm 11:5 – “The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”
- John 3:36 - “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
When we look at such verses it is clear that the separation of God’s hate and wrath seems less based on Scripture and more based on human efforts to make God in their own image so that He will be more palatable for the public. But God knows what He is doing and sinners need to see their tenuous and dangerous position before a holy God. The position of the sinner as on the receiving end of God’s wrath is an awareness that God uses to draw the sinner to Himself. Without such awareness, the sinner sees no immediate need for salvation. Furthermore, if the idea of God’s “wrath” is excluded as it so often is by liberal parts of the church, then other biblical doctrines fly out the window as well because there is no need. Such doctrines as atonement, sacrifice, justice, justification, holiness, and punishment are all removed from their biblical moorings when God’s wrath against sinners is ignored.
How Can a God of Love Be Wrathful?
It is difficult for some to reconcile or picture a God of love being characterized as wrathful. But the problem is not with God but with us. Leon Morris makes the following comment in this regard:
“Perhaps the difficulty arises because we are making a false antithesis between the divine wrath and the divine love. We are handicapped by the fact that we must necessarily use terms properly applicable to human affairs, and for us it is very difficult to be simultaneously wrathful and loving. But, upon analysis, this seems to be largely because our anger is such a selfish passion, usually involving a large element of irrationality together with a lack of self-control. . . . Those who object to the conception of the wrath of God should realize that what is meant is not some irrational passion bursting forth uncontrollably, but a burning zeal for the right coupled with a perfect hatred for everything that is evil. . . . The writers of the New Testament know nothing of a love which does not react in the very strongest fashion against every form of sin.”
Propitiation and the Wrath of God
In Romans it states:
- Romans 3:25 – “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,”
What is “propitiation”? Propitiation (Greek ILASTERION) is a term whose roots are in the Old Testament. In the Septuagint (Greek version of OT) ILASTERION is used to translate the Hebrew word for “mercy seat.” Therefore when propitiation is used in reference to Jesus it means that just as the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies was the place where atonement for the people was made, so too is Jesus the place where atonement is made. The sacrifices of the Old Testament point to Jesus. The sacrifices of the Old Testament depict the severity of sin, i.e. it takes a life to atone for sin. PROPITIATION IS THAT SACRIFICE WHEREBY GOD’S JUST WRATH AGAINST SIN IS SATISFIED BY A SUITABLE PENALTY, THE SACRIFICIAL DEATH OF JESUS.
Therefore, propitiation is the sacrifice of Jesus that removes the wrath of a just God against sin and opens the door for God to forgive sin. God dealt with the sin of the Old Testament, New Testament and all time not simply by passing over and dismissing it, He exercised patience in light of the certainty that Jesus would go to the cross and pay the satisfying and just penalty for sin and in the process demonstrate in the greatest of ways, His love.
The Jesus Seminar
The modern liberal scoffs at the idea of God’s wrath and propitiation. An example of this is Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar; a group of “scholars” who meet annually to determine which part of the words of Jesus in the gospels were actually His words. They put themselves in the seat of judge, (they in reality make themselves to be an authority over God) over the word of God.
Robert Funk said the following:
“The doctrine of the atonement – the claim that God killed his own son in order to satisfy his thirst for satisfaction – is subrational and subethical. The monstrous doctrine is the stepchild of a primitive sacrificial system in which the gods had to be appeased by offering them some special gift, such as a child or an animal.”
James R. White in his book The God Who Justifies responds with the following comment:
“Enemies of the faith often point to the alleged parallel between the biblical doctrine of atonement and the ancient pagan religions that required sacrifice, whether animal or human. But it has been rightly pointed out that the Christian doctrine of atonement is significantly different than that of the religions of men. While in paganism sacrifices make it possible for the deity to be forgiving, in Christianity God himself provides the propitiation because of His grace and mercy. (Emphasis added.) 
Another issue that the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah brings up is the idea of hell. That is the consequence for the sinful inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus warned people about hell. He devoted a great deal of His teaching on such warnings (see Hades – Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Hell – Matthew 522,29; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5). Jesus spoke of hell and how important it was to deal thoroughly and drastically with sin in order to avoid a sentence of hell. One such passage is as follows:
Mark 9:42-50 - “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.43 “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—44 “where 1 ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’45 “And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—46 “where ‘Their worm does not die,And the fire is not quenched.’47 “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire—48 “where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’ 49 “For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt.50 “Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”
Jesus was very protective of children, of the innocent and vulnerable, especially those who “believe in Me.” He makes His point of the preciousness of children by warning about the penalty and consequence waiting for those who might harm children. These are sobering words and every pedophile and child abuser should spend some time, some serious study time in going over these verses. Jesus says it would be better for those who harm children if they put a millstone around their neck. A millstone is a large, thick round, wheel-like stone used to grind wheat and other things into powder. It was big and it was heavy. To tie a millstone around your neck and throw it into the sea was like saying, “Go drown yourself.” What does this passage warn us about in regards to sin in our lives and hell?
First, be decisive and ruthless with sin and make every effort to rid yourself of anything that might lead you to hell. Jesus said it would be better to cut off your hand (9:43) or foot (9:45), or pluck out your eye (9:47) if it caused you to sin and go into the afterlife maimed, than to go to hell with both your hands (9:43). The point being made by Jesus is to deal ruthlessly with sin in your life, cut it off, and give it no quarter, no mercy, because if you do, it can lead you to hell. Hell is not a place you want to go.
People need to be decisive with Jesus. No decision is decision. The only way to cut sin out of your life is through faith in Christ. Jesus is not teaching some Islamic code of law where, (as is done even today in Islamic countries) a hand is cut off for stealing. No, Jesus is telling us we have to deal decisively with sin; we have to make a decision to rid our lives of sin. It is only through faith in Jesus that our sins can be decisively dealt with. It is through confession of sin and faith in Jesus that His blood is applied to cleanse away all our sin (1 John 1:7, 9). It is through repentance and faith in Jesus that our sins are washed away (Acts 2:38). Once we put our faith in Jesus as Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to reside within us to do His holy work of cleansing us from sin and empowering us to decisively defeat sin in our lives (1 Corinthians 6:9-12; Titus 3:5). But the point here is you need to make a decision to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord. You can’t wash your sins away with good works; you can only be cleansed from your sin through the completed work of Jesus put to your account by grace through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:1-10).
Are You Going to Heaven?
The Bible states you can know for sure whether or not you are going to heaven?
· 1 John 5:13 - 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
How can you know for sure?
- Realize you are a sinner –
· Romans 3:23 - 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
· Galatians 3:10 - 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”
· James 2:10 - 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
- Realize there is a price for sin –
· Romans 6:23a - 23 For the wages of sin is death,
3. Realize Jesus paid the price for you –
· Romans 5:8 - 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(Galatians 3:10-13).
· 2 Corinthians 5:21 - 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
4. Realize your salvation is a free gift that requires only a heart decision from you to receive it –
· Romans 6:23 - 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)
· Romans 10:10 - 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
- Realize you must now call upon Jesus to save you –
· Romans 10:13 - 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
A SALVATION PRAYER: “Dear God, I know I am a sinner. Please forgive me for my sins. Come into my heart and save me. Send Your Holy Spirit to me and help me to live the life that you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
We need to deal decisively with sin. Jesus’ words also speak to the permanence with which we should deal with sin. When a limb was cut off or an eye was plucked out in Jesus’ day, there was no possibility of reattachment or transplant. Today limbs can be reattached and organs such as eyes can be transplanted and that is how we often deal with sin today. We leave a door open to return to our sin. We keep the little black book of addresses so we can return to our former ways. Jesus tells us we need to put our sinful ways behind us, permanently. When we deal with sin in our lives we should burn our bridges so we won’t revisit the sin. This may mean a change I lifestyle, associates, and a host of other things. You need to act decisively with sin. We have to have finality when we deal with sin in our lives. (See Romans 6; Colossians 3:1-17).
In an April 6th 2004 article in World Net Daily entitled Man Plucks Out His Own Eye, Quotes Bible the following account was given:
A murder suspect in Grayson County, Texas, quoted a Bible verse after using his hand to pluck out his own right eye.
According to the Sherman Herald Democrat, confessed killer Andre Thomas was in a county jail cell directly across from the book-in station Friday when he turned his back on the jail staff. After hearing a scream, personnel saw Thomas turn around with his eyeball in his hand.
Thomas is no stranger to mutilation. Police say he killed his wife, son and wife's daughter in the woman's apartment, mutilating each victim. According to the report, Thomas turned himself into police the day the bodies were discovered, having cut himself with a knife. After undergoing surgery, Thomas was transferred to the Grayson County Jail and placed on "suicide watch."
After the eye-plucking incident, the Democrat reports, jail staff rushed to Thomas' aid and brought him to the hospital.
Jail personnel say when they went to help Thomas, he quoted Mark 9:47, which states, "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell."
Thomas' attorneys have asked that he undergo a mental-health evaluation before his capital murder trial.
According to the report, Grayson County Attorney Joe Brown said the injury Thomas caused himself is not a clear-cut indication of mental illness. Brown said people do desperate things out of fear of punishment, as much as they do it out of insanity.
If convicted, Thomas could face the death penalty.[i]
This man was guilty of acting literally on a figurative statement of Jesus. The point hear is not to literally pluck your eye out, but to deal thoroughly, ruthlessly, completely, permanently with sin in your life. You want to eliminate anything that might cause you to stumble into hell. The best thing to do if you’re concerned about going to hell is to repent of your sin and put your faith in Jesus as Savior. Cut off your old sinful lifestyle and turn to Jesus for liberation from your prison of sin (Ephesians 2:1-9). If you already know the Lord, make sure you burn your bridges, rely on the Holy Spirit, put off the old sinful ways and crowd them out of your life with loving service to our Lord Jesus.
If your attitude is, “Well, how far can I go before I’m considered sinning?” you’ve missed the mark already. Our attitude shouldn’t be to see how far we can go before crossing the line from temptation into sin. Our attitude should be, “I don’t want to do anything that even hints of sin. I don’t want to do anything that might appear sinful. I want to stay as far away from sin as I possibly can.” That is the attitude that will win the day and bring victory. If in doubt, refrain (Romans 14:23).
Second, you don’t want to go to hell. The word translated “hell” here is GEHENNA in the original Greek language (gheh´-en-nah). GEHENNA is also known as the valley of Hinnom. This was an area outside the walls of Jerusalem that was a garbage dump. Where there is garbage there are worms and other critters. In order to eliminate the threat of disease and the smell, the garbage was incinerated with a perpetual fire. When Jesus used GEHENNA to illustrate hell, He was using a place of dark, rotten, smelly, fiery images. Hell is not a place you want to go. Some joke about not being afraid to go to hell because they think they will party with their friends there. Nothing could be further form the truth. Hell is a place of rotting, filth, darkness, loneliness and tormenting pain and suffering that goes on forever. That’s what Jesus meant when He repeated the phrase, “Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (9:44, 46, and 48).
Third, God makes every effort to turn people away from hell. Jesus says that “everyone will be seasoned with fire” (9:49). What He means by this is that God will even use trials in a person’s life to steer them away from the path to hell. God hopes that sorrow will bring repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). God devises ways to save those headed for hell (2 Samuel 14:14b). He went so far as to send His priceless only Son Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of all humanity (Romans 8:31-32). That tells us the extent to which God will go to save a soul; He goes all the way.
But Jesus adds, “if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it?” (9:50). In other words, if the providential trials God sends to get through to the lost go unheeded, the salt meant to purify and point us in the right direction losses its taste and effectiveness at some point. It is possible to refuse Jesus and the gospel so often that you get beyond the point of redemption like many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day (John 12:39). At what point does that occur? Only God knows. We must press on offering the gospel to all. But to the one who is being offered the gospel and the chance to be saved from their sin, they are not promised another opportunity beyond the one they are presently considering. They need to receive Jesus as their Savior today, now! (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). Jesus says we ought to have salt in ourselves; we should heed the Divine appointments and efforts to keep us out of hell.
The Bible speaks of hell in a very sobering way. It describes it as a fiery furnace (Matthew 5:22; 13:37-42, 49-50; 18:9), an unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43-47; Isaiah 66:24). It is a place of “everlasting fire,” it is eternal; once you are there, there is no way out, ever (Matthew 18:8; 25:46). And for those who would say hell is not everlasting, or eternal, the same word, “everlasting” is used to describe heaven and therefore if hell is not eternal neither is heaven. Hell is the eternal counterpart to heaven. We can have eternal life through faith in Christ by the grace of God. But if we pass up God’s gracious offer in Christ, our eternity will be dark and disastrous for us (Romans 6:23).
Hell is a place of torment where its inhabitants grieve perpetually over what might have been (Luke 16:19-31). All the missed opportunities to respond to the gospel will be ever before the one in hell. All the times the person refused to accept Jesus as Savior will be a haunting torturous eternal reality. Hell is a place where words of accusation and reminders of what might have been never stop (James 3:6).
Those who are in hell will be barred from the presence of God (2 Thessalonians 1:9). God is love, but there will be no love in hell. Hell will be a place of loneliness and solitary confinement. It is a place of everlasting blackness and darkness (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13).
Jesus said the way to hell is “broad” (Matthew 7:13). It’s easy to go to hell. I have seen a gospel tract that on the outside is a picture of a bright hot flame with the question on it, “What do I have to do to go to hell?” When you open the tract it is blank. The message is clear, do nothing in regards to the gospel and you will go to hell. Indecision is decision in the eyes of God. You must decide to turn from your sins and turn to God in Christ for forgiveness of your sins and to surrender to Jesus as your Lord and savior (Romans 10:9-10).
Who will be in hell? God prepared hell for the devil and his demons, not people (Matthew 25:41). But unfortunately some, because of their own choice or indecision, will serve their eternal sentence for their sin in hell. Who will be in hell? Angels who sinned will be in hell (Gk. Tartaros - 2 Peter 2:4). The Beast and False prophet will be there (Revelation 19:20). The devil will be there (Revelation 20:10). Death and Hades will be there (Rev. 20:14). The enemies of Christ’s cross will be there (Philippians 3:18-19). And those not in Book of Life will be there (Rev. 20:7–15; see the lists of those who will be in hell – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; Revelation 21:8). Is your name in the Book of Life? Have you received Jesus as your Savior and Lord? This is something you need to look into. This is something you can be certain of (1 John 5:13; why not read John’s gospel and his first epistle to learn where you stand with God.)
Hell and all that it is, is reason to revere and respect God (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5). Many people fear Satan and all His dark devices and persecutions of saints. But it would be better and more prudent to fear and revere the Lord in regards to His justice and a potential sentence of hell.
Hell is a lake of fire that will be filled with an ocean of sinners. At the very least those in the lake of fire didn’t care enough to decide to accept the gracious gospel offer of God in Christ (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21) and at the very worst, were outright rejecting rebels and haters of God (Revelation 19:19-21; 29:14). And all these will be lopped together in a sea of fiery torment. Hell is the second and final death (Revelation 2:11; 20:6). Hell is not a place you want to spend your eternal destiny. Turn to God in Christ for forgiveness for your sins and exchange the perils of hell for the promise of heaven.
There are two choices before you; the way of Sodom and the way of God, which will you choose?
 James R. White, the God Who Justifies, (Bethany House: Minneapolis, MN, 2001) p. 196
[i] Reprinted with permission from WorldNetDaily.com, the Internet's largest independent full-service news website.