If hell is only symbolic, then the need for Christianity vanishes like a vapor. If there is no need of salvation, part of which is avoiding hell, then there is no need for Christianity.
Some will say Christianity provides more than salvation; yes, I suppose that is true, but the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is the core of Christianity. Without the saving works of Christ, the Bible is slimmed down to not much more than a few guidelines on living and the ancient history of the Hebrews and the church.
The Bible tells us God is love (1 John 4:8), and two verses later, it explains God’s love, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Propitiation is not a word used too much anymore, but according to Webster it means, “to make [someone] pleased or less angry by giving or saying something desired.”
If a wife is mad at her husband and he brings home flowers to calm her anger, the flowers are the propitiation – the something given to make her less angry.
Isaiah explains this as far as God, and our sin is concerned, “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:4-10).
Did you notice? In this vivid prophecy of the cross, we read how Christ was bruised for our iniquities, wounded for our transgressions. We also read He was an offering for our sin. In the description of the murder of Christ, we read, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” In other words, the death of Christ is the flowers given to God to remove His anger from us. This is the love of God.
Romans 3:25 also talks about Jesus being the propitiation, and the next verse explains that God is just and “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
God does love us, but God is also just. Being loving He desires to spend time with us, to include all of the eternity. However, being just, He must also punish sin. Herein, is a problem – we are all sinners. Because God is holy, and our sins have separated us from Him (Isaiah 59:2).
How does a just God punish sin and still provide a way for sinners to live with Him?
Step in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy, Sinless, Son of God took the punishment for our sin on the cross. That appeased the Father. It is the sacrifice of Jesus that takes the anger of God away. Jesus is the flowers; He is the propitiation.
Without His sacrifice, we are all doomed to a fiery eternity in hell. With His sacrifice, comes the guarantee of a home in heaven.
If Christ died for all then what is the difference? Why do some go to heaven and others to hell? Remember the husband bringing the flowers? When we place our trust, our faith, in the sacrifice of Christ and bring that bouquet to the Father, He is pleased, and the anger subsided. If we bring anything else, it is not sufficient. Romans 3:24-25 says, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”
Have you brought to God the proper bouquet?
Preacher Tim Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Ind. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit preacherjohnson.com.