HELL ON EARTH
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
JUNE 19, 2016
32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God. ’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. 45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
— Matthew 27:32-50, ESV
I have offered counseling during which one or both spouses claimed their marriage had become a Hell on earth. I have had friends who fought in the Vietnam War, who described their experiences in the far eastern jungles as Hell on earth. Personally, I was once lowered into a shutdown boiler in a big factory for cleanup detail. It was extremely hot and very dark and I though I had discovered Hell on earth.
In fact only one person, at one time, in one place has ever experienced Hell on earth. His name is Jesus, it happened over six hours one Friday, in a place called “Golgotha” in Aramaic (“Calvary” in Latin, “Kranion” in Greek, “Skull” in English). The crucifixion of Christ is prophetic, since virtually everything that happens here to open up the New Covenant is foretold by Old Covenant prophets. It is salvific, in that those of us who believe in the One on the cross receive absolute forgiveness and everlasting life. Yet it is horrific, since crucifixion is well known to be the cruelest form of capital punishment ever devised. For Jesus, it was Hell, on earth.
The first thing Jesus discovered on His road to perdition is that Hell is a place of no mercy, only justice and injustice. Barabbas had been given mercy instead of Jesus. Now the other two criminals would get what they deserved while Jesus got what He most certainly did not. No mercy was shown to Jesus in may ways on this day.
On the way to Golgotha, Jesus fell. Mercy would have let him die on the spot from the beatings He had been given by a legion of thugs. But instead, a Jewish man from northern Africa named “Simon” was conscripted to carry Jesus’ cross. Simon, who is believed to have become a believer after this, was probably at the time one of the many Jews who had called for Christ’s crucifixion and was eagerly, and mercilessly, waiting to watch it.
After they nailed Jesus to the cross, they offered him “wine to drink, mixed with gall.” Wine could numb the pain, and our Lord did receive some at the very end. But the first offering was mixed with gall to make it too bitter to drink. On top of everything else, they took Jesus’ clothes, to demonstrate to Him that He wouldn’t be needing them anymore. Hell is like that, it takes away everything you own and everything you are, without mercy.
Hell is a place of no faith, only unbelief. At the cross Jesus was surrounded by it. It should strike us that as people passed by, they were said to be “wagging their heads.” People nod their heads up and down when they want to say, “Yes.” They wag them from side to side when they want to give an emphatic, “No way.”
The crowd said to Jesus, no, we do not believe in You. They said, no, you are not the King of the Jews, no matter what the sign says. No, they said, you are not the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord. They were saying no to the gospel, no to Christ and Christianity, no way to the only way to Heaven. Hell is the ultimate place of unbelief, the place of no faith.
Love has many colors, but respect is always gold. Jesus should have been showered with respect at every juncture, but He received little during His life and at the end found none. Everything in this experience was carefully calculated to show disrespect to the Lord.
Like a crucified criminal, Jesus hung naked and exposed on the cross. A sarcastic placard was placed above His sacred head. The soldiers mocked Him, the bystanders mocked Him, Jews mocked Him, Romans mocked Him, even the two thieves on the other two crosses mocked Him, although one of them saw the light after the darkness fell.
Jesus had shown respect to all people during His life and ministry. He kept Jewish customs, obeyed Roman laws, treated all people, even Gentiles, women, and children, with love and respect. Yet none was given to Him in the end. People do not respect God nor one another in Hell.
Here is the worst part. At this hour of His life, Jesus had arrived at the place of no grace. People say Hell is the place where God is not. But God is omnipresent, He is everywhere, and He was at Golgotha that day. But on that day, what was completely withheld from the Son of God was the grace of God.
I find these words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” to be the most forlorn in all of Scripture. If God would not deliver the Son of God in His hour of need, why would He ever do anything for someone like me? If the sinless Son of God received this, what will become of me and my sins?
Contrary to folk tales and faulty theology, God does not have to do anything for anybody. He does not need us and we do not deserve Him. But when the sun shines, or the rain falls, or the operation is successful, or there is money for groceries, this is grace. Most especially, when my sins are nailed to the sinless Savior, and my heart is changed to repent and believe in Him, this is the grace of God.
Only in Hell, is there no grace. On this day, this Hell on earth, none was given to Jesus. Jesus bore not His own sins, but ours, and was given no grace, so that we might have grace. Can you see how great is the grace of God? Can you see at what a price grace was bought? Can you see what it is like to live, and die, without grace? Get it now! For in Hell, it doesn't exist.
In one of the laments of the great poet Jackson Browne,
“Wake up each day, with the weight of the world spreading over your shoulders,
Can’t get away, from the weight of the world crushing down on you.
A heart broke, in your mind, sudden turns you can’t define,
There is no shade, there is no light, and you’re afraid its all gonna go on forever.”
Every day of His earthly life, Jesus knew He would endure Hell for the elect. Every minute of His earthly ministry, Jesus knew He was walking to the cross. Every second on the cross, Jesus felt the weight of the world’s sins spreading over His shoulders. Those six hours must have felt like six years or more, and even the perfect Lamb of God came to the point where He could not endure it any more.
Without mercy or grace, with the faces of the Father and the sun turned away, at the far end of Hell on earth, Jesus “yielded up His spirit” and died. The perfect man drowned in pain, sorrow, and blood. As He died, as it says in the addendum to the Apostles’ Creed says, “He descended into Hell.”
Death is Hell, and Hell is death. When the Apostle Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death,” he literally meant that unrepentant people whose sin is unredeemed by Christ go to Hell. In the final analysis of Romans 6:23, however, it is written, “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ endured no mercy that we may have mercy, He suffered at the hands of those with no faith that we may have faith, He was treated with no respect so that we may respect Him and His sacrifice, He received no grace so that we may bathe in grace, He gave up His life so that we may have everlasting life, He endured Hell on earth so we may never be touched by Hell, on earth or anywhere else.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org