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A Great Gulf Fixed

September 26, 2006

The Kingdom of God is not like unto the Washington State Bar. When you take the State Bar exam, there are three possible outcomes: Pass, Fail, and close. Close means your score was close enough to appeal one exam question without retaking the entire exam. The Kingdom of God offers two outcomes af the end of life and time: Inside, and Outside. There is no “close,” no appeal over one insufficient answer, no retakes. Just in, or out. And if you are in, it is given to you without money, without price (Is 55:1). Preparation is advisable; study is encouraged. You will never be regarded as a master, and prestige is not the objective, nor will it be conferred.

A lawyer is conditioned to respect a judge, even if he might not hold him in the highest regard. In the Kingdom of God, our Judge is our King and Lawmaker, and he will save us (Is 33:22). As Judge, he has pronounced a death sentence upon you; then, taken your sentence and, not commuted it, but had it carried out on himself.

The distance between Inside and Outside of the Kingdom of God cannot be quantified. To try would be like assuming I would actually be closer to Pluto if I stood on a chair. There is no difference between my distance from Pluto whether I am on the floor or on a chair, or on the top of Sears Tower–I am no closer to Pluto. But even this analogy falls short.

With the Kingdom of God, we can’t be closer or farther; ultimately, we are only Inside or Outside. The only way to be Inside is to reckon fully that we deserve to be Outside–because we have been Outside. We have failed to keep the commands of the one who has the power to cast us into hell and has left us without excuse. Once tasting the sweetness of the book and feeling the bitter savor of sin in the belly (Re 10:10), we want only to be Inside with the Judge who has become, as he purposed along, our Savior: our deliverer from death, from Hell, from the consequence of all sin, imputed and committed.

Heathens never stop raging that God has no right to judge them. He doesn’t exist, they say, and if he did exist, he’d have no such right. That is precisely the trouble: God created darkness as well as light, and the darkness is for the Outside. It is easy to see inside a lighted place from the darkness outside. But the heathens rage because they hate what they see Inside. They turn away and flee further into the darkness of the Outside.

But many Outsiders do look into the light and do not hate what they see. The grave-haunting Gerasene (Mark 1-20): Jesus had scarcely landed in his boat when the poor Gerasene “straightway there met him.” This man sought Jesus out, and the Lord delivered him from a legion of demons that had kept him Outside. The man came to the Inside and told his fellow Decapolitans what had happened, and “all men marveled” (v. 20). We are not told how many came Inside. Zaccheus saw the Lord and climbed out of a tree, out of a state of nature and into a state of grace, and received Jesus joyfully (Lu 19:2-6). And Jesus told a scribe, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34) because the scribe knew the essence of the true moral law of God. This seems somewhat oblique; perhaps from knowing the true command to love God and his neighbor, the scribe would come to an understanding of his hopeless inability to carry out this commandment adequately. We are not told his outcome.

Abraham told the rich man suffering in Hades that there was “between you and us a great gulf fixed” (Lu 18: 26). No dimensions given, just a great gulf, but none could pass from either side to the either. You were either on one side or the other, forever. Jesus told the rich young ruler (Matthew tells us he was young; Luke tells us he was a ruler, and in all accounts he is rich) basically that he had to part with his confidence in the riches he had accumulated in the world and follow only Christ. The rich young man could not; he desired eternal life on his own terms–with all his stuff–and, disinclined toward “treasure in heaven” (Lu 18:22), he went away “exceeding sorrowful” (v. 23). Christ uses the image of a camel going through the eye of a needle (v. 25) to convey the idea of the “great gulf fixed” between the Kingdom of God and the outer darkness. You can’t get there. “Then who can be saved?” “But he said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God’” Lu 18:26-27.

Between sheep and goats; wheat and tares; obedience and rebellion–is a great gulf fixed. No one crosses from one side to the other by his own power; it is impossible because there is no distance between one side and the other, they are simply unbridgeable. No decision can propel you across the divide, no good works can give you a boost. With God all things are possible. With. The God who is with us makes all things possible.

5 comments:

Victorbravo said…
Given all that, it is no wonder that the world so desperately seeks unity. They know of this divide and are scared to death of it.Yet they keep plastering their towers with untempered mortar and shouting “Peace, Peace.”

10:06 AM  
Mrs. B said…
Yes, but “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Is 57:21).
12:35 PM  
HZ said…
That is an interesting thought that God created darkness for the outside. I had never though of it in quite that way before. I will remember that.
12:50 AM  
J.B. Aitken said…
Hi,
Vic just informed me of your blog. I was particularly interested in your recent dabney post. There is a Hobbesian PCA minister in Mississippi (don’t ask how). I will reread that post in depth next weeki. Cheers!
9:10 PM  
Mrs. B said…
Jacob, I’m honored by your visit. Vic speaks very highly of you.At some point I would really want to ask “how?” a Hobbesian can be a Presbyterian, or vice versa. That’s taking the covenant community a bit far, isn’t it??

8:26 AM  
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