What I Deserve vs. What I Get

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.—Rev 2:11

There is nothing of which I am more deserving than the second death. There is nothing more fitting, more just, more righteous than that I should suffer forever in the lake of fire. And the only reason why I won’t is that Jesus has endured in himself the judgment it entails. Jesus has exhausted in his own person the wrath of God that I otherwise would have faced in the lake of fire.

As I reflect on that reality I can’t help but feel complete dismay at those who reject penal substitutionary atonement, or flippantly and blasphemously dismiss it as “cosmic child abuse.” What hope have we for deliverance from the second death if not the suffering of its pains, in our stead, by the Son of God? If I receive the crown of life, which I don’t deserve, in place of the lake of fire, which I do deserve, it can only be for one reason: Jesus Christ, by a marvelous and ineffable exchange, has died that I might live, has suffered that I might be set free, has for me faced and felt the wrath of God and absorbed it in himself. . . .

As for the Christians in Smyrna, no sweeter words were ever spoken than these. Tribulation was tolerable, knowing that the second death died in the death of Jesus. Slander and imprisonment, yes, even martyrdom, were but “light momentary affliction” when compared with the “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17) that is ours because Jesus died and rose again on our behalf.

Thinking about hell and the second death has immense practical benefits. . . . It is remarkable how tolerable otherwise intolerable things become when we see them in the light of the second death. Think often, then, of the pains of hell. Think often, I say, of the lake of fire. It puts mere earthly pain in perspective. It puts tribulation and poverty and slander and imprisonment and even death itself in their proper place. The collective discomfort of all such temporal experience is nothing in comparison with the eternal torment of the second death in the lake of fire.

The one who conquers, said Jesus, “will not be hurt by the second death.” Not even when Satan viciously accuses me of sins we all know I’ve committed? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death. Not even when others remind me of how sinful I still am, falling short of the very standards I loudly preach and proclaim? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death. Not even when my own soul screams in contempt at the depravity of my heart? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death.

And that for one reason only: Jesus, in unfathomable mercy and grace, has suffered that hurt in my place.

So, be faithful, Christian man or woman. Rejoice, oh child of God. And give thanks that you will never, by no means ever, suffer harm from the second death!

 Adapted from Sam Storms, To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3, Kindle Edition

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