DISCLAIMER: The material in this article may offend those with other viewpoints. This article is not meant to offend or cause any emotional harm to anybody. I have written this piece to both share my experiences with this topic and to hopefully help others who are interested in this doctrine. And if you'd like to make the most of this article, go grab your dusty Bible under that lamp and follow along. May you be blessed in reading this as I did in writing it.
Chapter 3: Total Depravity
We saw earlier that Jesus made a riveting claim about hell, namely, that it is a place of fire. Let us go back to this passage and find the purpose for Jesus giving such a horrifying description. He says,
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21-22)
Jesus begins by quoting the sixth commandment and continues by pointing out the nature of the heart to make clear that they all are subject to death and judgment to hell already. Scripture teaches that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). Christ points this out by giving the crowds a lesson in obeying the law. He says that not only would you be judged and sentenced to hell if you murder somebody, but even if you become angry with your brother the same judgment will befall you.
He expounds upon this truth with an example that would be very clear and understandable to everybody listening. He shows them the true nature of the law by declaring that if you get angry with your brother and call at him “Raca,” which is a term of contempt, you will be unavoidably judged by your own church government. But even if you call him a simple fool, you will be called upon by the holy God and judged to hell for that action. Jesus is thus saying that there is no escape from hell by trying to follow the law. Nobody can follow the law except God Himself. James teaches us that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). And this is what Jesus was getting at. We have all broken the law. Do not try to follow the law exactly for your righteousness, but have faith in the Son of God for your righteousness.
There are a lot of people in our society today who would claim they are going to heaven. There reasoning: “I haven’t murdered anybody.” This is the same mistake that the Pharisees made in regard to the law. They thought that if they kept away from murder and adultery, coveting and lying, they would be righteous enough to enter eternal life. Christ says you’re wrong. Do not think this way! It is futile and will only lead to the eternal wrath of God upon you. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All are subject to judgment and wrath without faith in Jesus. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).
The Pharisees spent their whole lives following the 613 commandments that God gave to Moses for the people of Israel, but they interpreted these commandments wrongly. They would actually create a hedge, or fence, around God’s laws so they wouldn’t stumble over those. Examples of this would include: counting the number of steps they took on the Sabbath, ____________, and ____________. But Jesus says that this is not enough. Nobody but Jesus could perfectly follow the law. So Jesus unfolds the real issue the commandments were getting at: humankind’s total depravity. “Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin” (Romans 3:9).
And if there is not one single person on this earth, besides God Himself, that could actually follow the law perfectly, the question that begs to be answered is “Why would God create a law in the first place? Why are these commandments here?”
What This Means for Unbelievers
Because we are all destined for Hell without faith in Christ, then as unbelievers we have to stand before God with all of our sins before Him, completely depraved, and receive a judgment that fits the crime we’ve committed. What’s that crime? We have offended and hated and disobeyed a perfect and holy God who made us in His image.
This offense is horrendous and worthy of eternal punishment. Why? Not necessarily because of the crime (although that’s a huge part of it), but because of Whom the crime was against. Because God is perfect, holy, just, loving, and the perfection and source of every good thing, and you the created, you should have loved Him with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind every second of every day that you lived. But you never did. There was not one moment that you loved God that much. And every breath that you took was a sin against this Perfection who made you to glorify Him.
So now this Creator and Judge will sentence you to a just and right punishment. And that punishment is eternal darkness, pain, torment, hunger, loneliness, thirst, sleeplessness forever and ever. The smoke of your torment will rise before Christ forever and ever (Rev. 14). You will wish to spend eternity in a lake of fire than be where you’ll be. No second chances, nobody to help, and no way out…forever. And all you have to do now to escape that eternal peril is to repent of your sins and all of your “good” deeds and turn to Christ for salvation. That’s it. Believe. Trust. Repent.