Hell on earth

After Jesus was crucified, after He died, what to me is the scariest event of all is recorded in Scripture:

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.  “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day.  Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead.  This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.”  So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.  (Matthew 27:62-66, NIV)

This might make sense if you were born in the 20th century hearing the anti-Christian argument that the disciples stole the body of Jesus.  But it has big problems if you lived in Jesus’ day.

Not one of Jesus’ disciples had understood this prophesy.  Not one.  They were all totally dumbfounded when He rose from the dead.  They had completely missed out on understanding this prophesy.

But the Pharisees hadn’t.

They understood.

They understood what Jesus had said.

In fact, a common theme about them in Scripture is, “They knew . .” but it is never positive.

They knew when Jesus was talking about them.

But instead of choosing conviction, they chose revenge.

In the parable of the vineyard (see Matthew 21:33-46, Luke 20:9-19), Jesus revealed something more about the Pharisees:

They knew who He was.

The people who shook their fists in anger and didn’t even know Who they were condemning when they cried for Jesus’ crucifixion scare me.

The people who thought it was their job to torture people and nail them to crosses scare me, too.

But the people who knew Jesus really was the Son of God . . they scare me the most.

Demons knew Jesus was the Son of God.  They knew from the moment they saw Him.  They recognized Him from eternity past.  But this had no change on their hearts.

We wouldn’t expect demons to have a change of heart.  They’ve fallen from glory.

But what about the Pharisees who plotted for the crucifixion of Jesus?  They knew He was the Son of God.  Maybe not from the moment they saw Him, but somewhere along the way, they realized who He was.  But this had no change on their hearts.

The demons feared Jesus when they met Him.  They knew they could be cast into Hell.

The Pharisees feared Jesus, too, but in a different way.  They feared He could win over the crowds.

I wonder at the strange silence of demons on the night of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Where are they?  There are none to be found in the story.  Either they are not mentioned, or they were too fearful to approach the dying Son of God.  Satan entered Judas and was surely striking at Christ on the cross, as God had foretold thousands of years before to Adam and Eve[1] . . but the demons?  Where are they?

We don’t know and cannot say, but what we can say for sure is they could not have been more evil than the Pharisees.

God can forgive a person plagued with demons[2].  But there is one sin He will never forgive.  This sin is told in the context of the Pharisees telling a lie to the people, a lie about the Spirit that filled Jesus, and it is also recorded as a warning to the crowds in Jesus’ public teaching after He has pronounced six woes upon the Pharisees (see Matthew 12:22-37, Mark 3:20-30, and as part of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12:8-10).  The Pharisees saw that He was the Son of God–and they denied Him!  What fear this should strike in our hearts!  What terror that humanity can become so utterly corrupt, that we can fall so far, that we can slander our Creator face to face–and when He stands before us as our Savior!

The Pharisees knew Jesus was God’s Son.  They knew, and they used that knowledge to try to keep Him from saving as many people as they possibly could.

What horror.  What Hell on earth.

Did they believe He would really rise from the dead?  Or did they believe the Son of God was a liar?  We don’t know for sure.  We do know they understood His prediction that He would rise from the dead.  And we do know that they wanted the tomb sealed off.  No way in.  And no way out.

I am so easily frightened by things.  There are so many things in this world of which to be afraid.  But I can think of nothing more frightening than one of my own kin, a human being, to try to destroy the Son of God with full knowledge of who He was, except for one thing–

That I should be that human.

Every one of us, within us, has the power to make Hell on earth.  I think we can even do worse than any demon could, because if we stand against God, we are not only standing against our Creator–as the demons are–but against our Savior–as only humans are given the opportunity for salvation.

I want to shudder when I see what those Pharisees became.

But I want to shudder even more at what I myself could have become.

There are only two ways we can live in this world: with Christ or without Him.  With Him, He fills us with His Spirit to hold back the gates of Hell from pouring from our sin nature into our lives.

Without Him, we have no guarantee what horrors we will or will not do.  We may find ourselves trying to hold back the Son of God with a stone and a few soldiers.

And when the stone is rolled away, what we will find is that we have sealed our own tomb.

Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. (Ezekiel 18:31a, NIV)

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10, KJV)

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NLT)


[1] See Genesis 3:15

[2] For example, Mark 5:1-20


Many thanks to my pastor John in his sermons on the parable of the vineyard, Answers in Genesis for background information, and my mom for her insight on the Pharisees in discussions we have had.

Published in: on November 18, 2012 at 8:36 pm  Comments (1)  
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