Our subject matter is understandably a very serious one. And it brings to focus certain words that must clearly be understood before we go ahead in a serious exercise of writing and reading about the most important issue in time and all of eternity. In defining such key words, our guide will be the dictionary.
You would be right if you expect a Bible or a theological dictionary to be that guide in a write-up such as this. However, to spare some minds at this stage of what they are likely to tag theological jargons we pick on a secular dictionary, and no other but Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.
DEFINITION OF FEW KEY WORDS
We shall look at ‘Salvation’ and its family words; ‘Damnation’ and its family words; and ‘Eternity’ and its family words.
SALVATION is defined as the saving of a person’s soul and its consequences; the state of being saved in this way. Of SAVIOR we read: A person who rescues or saves somebody/something from danger, failure, loss, etc. Then of THE SAVIOR or OUR SAVIOR: Jesus Christ, it reads.
We now go to DAMNATION: The state of being damned, and the dictionary gave us this sentence construction, ‘suffer eternal damnation’. Under (a) of its first entry of the verb DAMN, it states: (of God) to condemn somebody to suffer in hell. And of THE DAMNED it states: people who suffer in hell, and then with this sentence construction: ‘the torments of the damned’. And that takes us to the question: What does ‘eternal’ mean? What is eternity?
Our dictionary defines ETERNAL as without beginning or end; lasting or existing forever; eternal life (i.e. life after the death of the body). Under (a) of the first entry ETERNITY is defined as: time without end; while under (b) of the same entry we read: endless life after death; and then this sentence construction: ‘spend eternity in a far better place’. That is Oxford so far.
TWO SIDES OF A WIDE GULF
Life in eternity may be said to be in layout of degrees ranging from the indescribably absurd, damnable and woeful (DAMNATION) to the indescribably glorious, peaceful and awesome (SALVATION). And in that infinite degrees of from damnation (which is eternal) to salvation (which is eternal), there is a separating gulf (now we are helping Oxford) that divides items of like terms from other items of like terms. Absurd, damnable and woeful items will belong together, cleanly and unimaginably widely separated from things that pertain to glory, peace and godliness that will abide together.
On one side of the gulf is damnation and that is in degrees and on the other side salvation, and also in degrees. And these degrees on either side are only interpreted by or relate to the level of your reward, for every man shall reap according to what he sows. There people will reap according to what they sowed on earth or according to where they fall in that divide.
There are some who may not suffer in the same degree in the burning fire of damnation as Satan, his coming beast (the Anti-Christ), his coming false prophet, Nimrod, Semiramis, Jeroboam, Jezebel, Judas Iscariot, Darwin, Hitler etc would, but the least sufferer in that eternal burning fire is sure to stay in continual agony in (you don’t pass through) what all the minds of all mortal men put together cannot comprehend.
Certainly also, there are some who may not enjoy (and I speak in terms of rewards) in the same degree in the coming eternal bliss with Jesus, the LOVER OF OUR SOULS, as Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David, or as Peter, Paul, John, Mary and Barnabas; or still perhaps as Polycarp, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas à Kempis, Richard Baxter, the Wesleys, George Whitefield; or yet still, perhaps, as Charles Finney, R.A. Torrey, J.C. Ryle, Watchman Nee, Kathryn Kuhlman etc would, but the least beneficiary of eternal glory with Jesus is sure to stay in continual bliss in (you don’t pass through) what all the minds of all mortal men put together cannot comprehend.
The ‘gulf’ that separates those two incompatible worlds with their various stations or places is as wide as cannot be possibly imagined and so it is enough to say it is impassable. And, of course, if the gulf that separates Hades or Sheol (commonly called hell in our English Bibles) from Paradise (Abraham Bosom) is impassible even when both are apparently in the same location in God’s world, how much more will the Lake of Fire and Brimstone (that swallows hell, death, the grave and indeed every form of disobedience wherever it is found among men and angels) be separated from God’s eternal abode with His angels and the faithful in Christ; an abode that swallows, as it were, Paradise (Abraham Bosom) and adds all the righteous in Christ to an innumerable company of angels, just as it is written:
“But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the City of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels” – Hebrews 12: 22. They are indescribably removed from all others and that eternally. All others, men and angels (fallen angels that is), would be eternally lost.
But let’s say it this way: While Jesus Christ leads and coordinates His people on His glorious side of eternity; Satan is a prisoner reaping what he sowed, and no more walking to and fro as on earth with the possibility that there will be many in the Lake of Fire and Brimstone (may you not be there) who will not even see Satan who sold them to eternal damnation in all of eternity because he is a prisoner as well, reaping according to the degree he sown.
WIDE GULF HERE SPANNED!
But that unimaginable wide ‘gulf’ in all of eternity has graciously been spanned on this side of eternity for men. If spanned, it means there was a gulf before this! When Adam our father sinned against God, that ‘gulf’ was established. And when we did not only inherit his sin (Adam nature, for so now was his nature; a nature that is actually Satan’s) but went ahead committing ours, we justified the existence and permanence of such a wide gulf. And so, the Bible says that the soul that sins, it shall die; eternally separated from the source of life: God. Now, no meeting point between Divinity and humanity. It was an eternal sentence because humanity, you and I, have failed the purpose of our creation and that is again because God has nothing to do with Satan and his nature which nature we now also have.
God’s Justice (justice being an absolute attribute of God) demanded that we be lost, lost forever. But then came in Love: and Love revealed another absolute attribute of God, and that is Mercy; and Grace was the result. And grace changed everything. It gave not only hope of being restored to God but of actually being counted as one with His Beloved (Jesus Christ) in all of eternity if we can but accept His grace, His free gift.
I don’t know about you, but how fearful the thought THAT GRACE HAD TO TAKE MY CREATOR TO THE CROSS TO SUFFER FOR ME, BE KILLED, BURIED UNDER THIS FEET OF YOURS AND MINE CALLED GROUND OR EARTH. Think about it! But thank God, THE CROSS IS THAT GRACE, THE CROSS IS THAT SLIM LINE THAT BRIDGED THE WIDE AND IMPASSABLE ‘GULF’; it does that only on this side of eternity generally called ‘time’. But those who will not grab this opportunity would discover too late in eternity that the now impassable ‘gulf’ that separate eternally was actually bridged (in The Cross) in ‘time’.
GRACE IN TIME, LAW IN ETERNITY
Yes, that bridge over the hitherto impassable gulf is the Cross: The Cross of Sacrifice upon which the King of Glory died (as a substitute for mortal man who had spurned the laws of his Creator, identified with the arch enemy of God and creation, and so has immutable Divine sentence of eternal condemnation). So now, all that is needed to s
ave man has been done. Jesus puts it this way: IT IS FINISHED!
We can now effortlessly pass through this bridge or link to the side of God in ‘time’ while it is still called ‘today’, when we still have our breath intact; before it widens into that fearfully impassable separation: for at death that is what it becomes to all that spurn grace. The side of eternity you belong depends on whether you have walked ‘the bridge’ now or not.
Today, the other side of the bridge lies eternal salvation with God and an illumination, glory, peace, joy, wellness et cetera that no man or machine can describe (and which you start partaking in now once you go to the Cross, and in Heaven they just overwhelm you ceaselessly). Go to the Cross now before the bridge is no more, and the gulf widens up, and time be no more! And when the bridge is no more, and you pass on, it will be damnation with Satan and utter darkness, blazing fire, hurt, pain and gnashing of teeth. Humanity as one huge mind (assuming it is possible) or all machines of men as one huge machine cannot describe the horror, dreadfulness and revulsion of that.
The thing is, if you are wise and conscientious enough to cross or pass through the Cross (the bridge of Grace and Hope) to the side of God now, you have the assurance of eternity with God. And if you continue to hold on to grace you are certain to walk from the grace side of time to that side of eternity that manifested sons of glory go when the toils and pains on this side of eternity is all over. And you would have avoided that impassable gulf!
The slim line is grace, sweet grace! But while grace or the Cross is the bridge here, grace rejected or the Cross spurned becomes law or judgment there, that is, after now. It was initially law in ‘time’ until grace came and when grace is over, it will be law: And the law says we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3: 23); again the law says the soul that sins shall surely die (Ezekiel 18: 4), and that God is of a purer eye than to behold iniquity (Habakkuk 1: 13).
But Grace says that, “…he that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5: 2). But, to say it again, grace is only for ‘time’ and don’t spurn it because law is waiting on the other side of eternity; and indeed, from eternity we can hear loudly the echo of law here in ‘time’: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation…” (Hebrews 2: 3).
And how William Reed Newell (1868-1956) reminds us what happened at Calvary and what a thing can happen to us if we go there now, before it is too late! Let’s hear him therefore in his great hymn:
O the Love that drew salvation’s plan!
O the Grace that bro’t it down to man!
O the mighty gulf that God did span
Mercy there was great and grace was free,
Pardon there was multiplied to me,
There my burdened soul found liberty –
Go to Jesus today and that would be your wonderful experience, an the result pleasantly indescribable.