Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Death of the Doctrine of Sin

All of the collective evil in the universe is described by the biblical noun sin (hamartia). From this word we come to the study of sin, hamartiology. Sin is difficult to describe from the human standpoint because only the results can be observed. Sin then is an attitude, a state of being that can be classified as rebellion, first and foremost against God. The state of sin then produces sins that translate into rebellious acts against God and others. Sin is the overwhelming cause of all that is wrong in the universe and in the sphere of humanity.

Harmartia basically means to miss the mark. Since all are sinners, humanity misses the mark of God’s standards and glory. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). In other words, human beings cannot measure up to God or His divine requirements. The world is in trouble and cut off from its Creator! But how did it get into this mess? And, if God is sovereign, why did He allow sin to enter into the universe? The Scriptures give answers, though because of the finite mind of human beings, they are difficult to fully comprehend.

Sin and God’s Decree

The Scriptures tell us, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons" (Deut. 29:29). When pondering the mystery of sin in the universe, there is much that is hidden from the limited human mind. Why did God allow sin? Could He have prevented the fall of Lucifer or Adam? Is sin greater in power than God?

Much cannot be answered when thinking about such eternal, weighty matters. But the Bible makes it clear that there is a master plan that is summed up in the word decree. The Scriptures speak of a single decree under which are an infinite number of commands given by the Lord. He has chosen to unfold time and history chronologically, but He sees all things as a complete whole and may carry out, as He wishes, His program from beginning to end. This includes the outworking even of sin.

When God made Lucifer, did He not know that this angelic being would revolt and carry off with him a host of angelic beings? The answer of course is yes. Then somehow in the deep recesses of providence, sin and rebellion is no accident to God. Neither did it destroy a plan conceived in the heart of the Lord.

The Word of God speaks of a single degree. God "has made a decree which will not pass away" (Psalm 148:6); and, "The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation" (33:11). Though in Ephesians 1:11 the context is about predestination, Paul gives a general principle when he says that salvation comes about "according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." All things would certainly have to include all things, somehow even evil!

If God is in absolute control of all things, how can created beings still be held responsible? Though this is difficult to reconcile, the Bible clearly proclaims both to be true. Though this is an inscrutable mystery, everything is working out according to God’s purposes. Isaiah writes that the Lord is "declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure" (46:10).

The Origin of Sin

Sin began with the rebellion against God by the angelic host in eternity past. In two cryptic passages of the Old Testament the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel give a pre-historic view of the fall of Satan and the angelic realm. Isaiah 14:12-21 and Ezekiel 28:11-19 give the ancient account of the revolt of Lucifer and a innumerable company of other angelic beings from the domain of God.

Isaiah 14:12-21

After a poetic taunt against the sovereign and king of Babylon and that empire’s system of evil (Isa. 14:4-11), the prophet Isaiah seems to suddenly goes beyond his words of judgment and speaks of another being, a creature that is other-worldly and existing far-higher beyond the historic events in Babylon.

A heavenly creature called "the star of the morning" and "son of the dawn" or Lucifer, plummeted from the throne of God and came into the realm of earth, whereby he "weakened the nations" (v. 12). With five boastful "I will" statements this angelic being sought to place himself above other angels in order to make himself "like the Most High" (v. 14).

For these proud efforts to dethrone God, he was cast from the heavenlies to the earth. This fall made the earth tremble and, in the course of history, would shake nations and kingdoms (v. 16).

The title of this being is Lucifer, the "star of the morning," of whom Archer writes is the Roman name for the morning star. At dawn this star disappears "before the far greater splendor of the sun. This title is addressed to the king of Babylon … as a representative or embodiment of Satan, who is regarded as the power behind the king’s throne. The titanic pride and ambition expressed in verses 13, 14 are out of place on any lips but Satan’s."1

Ezekiel 28:11-19

What is happening in this passage is similar to the Isaiah passage. Ezekiel’s prophetic words in 28:1-10 addresses a human sovereign and tyrant, the king of Tyre, but verses 11-19 go far beyond the worldly king to one who was "full of wisdom and perfect in beauty … in Eden, the garden of God" (v. 13). This personality was "the anointed cherub" (v. 14), who was "blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you … and you sinned" (vv. 15-16). This angelic being was then cast forth from the presence of God (v. 16) and someday he will be judged and will be no more (vv. 18-19). Commenting on verses 11-19 about Satan, Unger writes

Such terminology is most inappropriate from the lips of the Lord
concerning a fallen man, who at best was but a pagan monarch.
The expression, however, is filled with meaningful truth when
applied to the greatest angelic being in his original unfallen state.
This great passage is of tremendous import, recording the origin
of sin and Satan and the character and panoramic career of the
greatest of the angels. … This revelation is made under the king
of Tyre because of the very close connection between human
government of the fallen world system and Satan and the powers
of darkness as the superhuman agencies, who are the real actors
behind the scenes.2

Revelation 12:1-17

Jesus seems to refer back to the events of the fall of Satan (Luke 10:17-20). When the seventy disciples returned with the report, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name" (v. 17), He quickly responds to them by adding, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning" (v. 18). In the grammar it is better to translate Christ’s words as they are in an imperfect or past tense. "I saw Satan fall …"

This same historic past seems to be in Revelation 12:1-17. Chapters 12-15 give the reader a reprieve from the ongoing hammering of the judgments falling in the earth. The author John the apostle pauses in his prophetic chronology to tell of other important events that parallel his central narrative. Chapter 12 then speaks of the fall of Satan from heaven and his pursuit through history of the woman, Israel, and her male child, the Messiah (vv. 5-6).

Verse 4 goes on and describes the fall of Satan ("the star of the morning") in eternity past. Then verse 9 addresses his accelerated activity on earth at the midpoint of the Tribulation. Morris writes, "the remarkable vision seen by John in this chapter looks back first of all to the very beginning of earth history, then races forward to the time of Christ and finally to the events still to be consummated in this final period. This review was necessary for John (and for us) to comprehend the full significance of the great sign about to be unveiled."3

Revelation 12 sets up the great and terrible satanic conflict between Christ and the Devil that so dominates the history of the heaven and the earth. The climax of this comes in the Tribulation where Satan accuses the saints before God (v. 12), but the time will come in the Tribulation when he will be "thrown down" (v. 10). Being cast to the earth, he will persecute believers in an attitude of "great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time" (v. 12).

Fall of Adam

The Genesis 3:1-19 account of the sin of our first parents, has left awesome scars of judgment upon the human race. From this passage the doctrine of the Fall originates. The story is true though it certainly is probably abbreviated and compressed. Innocence is the best way to describe the moral and spiritual state of Adam and his wife Eve before chapter three. They had not sinned and "were not ashamed" of their nakedness before God (2:25). Satan using a serpent as an instrument to beguile, "deceived Eve by his craftiness" (2 Cor. 11:3).

In contrast to what the Lord said to Adam in 2:17 about not eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Satan told Eve (1) she would not die, (2) that her eyes would be opened, "and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (3:5). Eve saw the food was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise (v. 6). Eating of the tree, she shared the food also with Adam (v. 6b). Though Eve was emotionally quite or extremely deceived (1 Tim. 2:14), the apostle Paul makes sure it is understood that Adam was simply deceived though through him sin, with its rebellion, entered into the world and would be passed down through his posterity (Rom. 5:12-19).

The work of Satan is the machination of deceit. The story makes it clear that it was not simply an animal that came to Eve, but the destroyer of souls whose evil inspires the most wicked lusts and designs of men. Though we may not fully understand the importance of the forbidden tree, God must have certainly had His reasons for the prohibition. Can human beings, even our first parents, completely trust the wisdom of the Creator?

Here is the root of all man’s intransigence: the revealed will of the
all-wise, all-powerful, loving God is impugned by unreasoning
arbitrariness being attributed to God. Man is asked to be a judge of
God! Man is asked to become his own god.
The effectiveness of Satan’s method lies in the appeal to base
carnality. Already are evident the proofs of success. First a
question to arouse doubt, then appeal to a supposed sense of
deprivation, finally an awakening of the sensual appetites were
effective to bring on the failure of Adam and Eve in their probation.4

The Central Issues Concerning Sin

Pride, disobedience, rebellion, and ingratitude seem to be at the heart of sin.

When the Lord God confronted Adam and Eve, He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (Gen. 3:11). Adam quickly placed the blame of the sin of disobedience onto Eve and said, "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate" (v. 12). When the Lord asked Eve, "What is this you have done?" she also responded by deflecting her own guilt and said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate" (v. 13).

It could be argued that pride became the root of disobedience and rebellion. Both Adam and Eve seem to be saying that they know better than the Lord in the issue of the prohibition that He placed upon them.

The apostasy of man is his fall from the obedience owed to God,
or a transgression of the law of God. … The first motion and step in
this disobedience was the disordered desire for some superiority
due to pride of mind. So that she might obtain this superiority—
God’s prohibition being laid aside in her unfaithfulness—[Eve]
willed to test the forbidden fruit to see if it would confer such
superiority. … Therefore the gravity of this sin, containing not
only pride, ingratitude, and unfaithfulness, but also a violation of
a most sacred oath showed, as it were, a general profession of

Though Satan is a superior being to Adam and Eve, he was not the compelling cause of their sin, though he certainly was involved in placing before them the temptation. No one, even on this side of the fall, can say "the devil made me do it." Despite the power of sin even now in the children of Adam, personal responsibility looms large in human affairs. However, it is true that the devil is called "the tempter" (Matt. 4:3).

Biblical Words for Sin

Old Testament. There are at least eight key words that describe sin. One of the most common is chata, used over 500 times. The word is the equivalent of the Greek word hamartano and means to miss the mark. The word pictures the shooting of an arrow that falls short of the target. The word implies both a passive and an active idea. To miss the mark means that one has come short of what is right but also has fallen into rebellion, gross evil, idolatry, or ceremonial sin. Some important passages: (Exod. 20:20; Judges 20:16; Prov. 8:36).

The Hebrew word ra can refer to breaking or ruining something. It is often used to describe overt wickedness, an action that is injurious, as well as something that is simply morally wrong (Gen. 3:5; 38:7; Judges 11:27). Pasha means to rebel or transgress (1 Kings 12:19; Isa. 1:2); shagag is used to describe a staggering drunkard or a sheep going astray. It implies that the one going astray knew what was commanded in the Law (Lev. 4:2; Num. 15:22). Taah is a sin that, though not accidental, implies the person may not have realized its full scope. (Num. 15:22; Psa. 58:3; Isa. 53:6; Ezek. 44:10, 15)

New Testament. There are about twelve main words describing sin. Hamartia is the most common and is used over 200 times. The word was used in the Greek games to mean that one had fallen short of a target with an arrow or javelin. Poneros implies gross moral sin, even sexual deviation. It is even used of the demons whom are described as evil spirits. (Luke 11:26; Acts 19:12; Rom. 12:9; 1 Thess. 5:22)

The adverb kakos is often used to describe physical badness, even disease (Mark 1:32). It then is applied to the issue of moral evil. (Rom. 12:17; 13:3-4, 10; 16:19; 1 Tim. 6:10) There is also the word adikia (unrighteousness, Rom. 1:18); anomos (lawless, iniquity, 1 Tim. 1:9); paraptoma and parabates (transgression, falling away, Rom. 2:23; 5:15-20; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 2:1; James 5:16). Hypocrisis "incorporates three ideas: to interpret falsely as an oracle might do, to pretend as an actor does, and to follow an interpretation known to be false. … False teachers of the end times will interpret falsely and pretend to be what they are not, and many will follow their teaching (1 Tim. 4:2). Hypocrites first deceive themselves into making wrong right; then they deceive others."6

Conclusion. (1) Sin involves pride and arrogance. (2) It is an attitude and also an action that has to do with disobedience, revolt, and rebellion. (3) It goes against instructions, commandments, and laws. (4) It has many forms and shades of expression. (5) It almost always involves actions that harm others. (6) Finally, sin and the sins that follow are ultimately against God!

The Response of God to Sin

Because of the holiness, righteousness, and justice of God, He must respond with judgment against those who sin, and, who by nature are sinners.
Because of His love for humanity, God made a provision for mercy and redemption by the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross for humanity. And,
even the devil and his angels will face a final judgment and an eternal punishment and separation from their Creator.
Ultimately, sin will be finally judged and eradicated from the universe.

The Scriptures are replete with passages that speak of human responsibility and a judgment against sin. That judgment would include both a progressive physical death and a spiritual separation from a righteous God. Adam was told that if he ate of the forbidden tree, "you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17b). The Hebrew text reads, "dying you shall die," and, "you [shall] return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (3:19b). A curse would fall also upon everything, even nature, "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you" (v. 18a).

Judgment then would touch all human beings as people began to multiply on the face of the earth. Ezekiel says, "the soul who sins will die" (Ezek. 18:4). Paul writes, "the judgment arose from one transgression … by the transgression of the one [Adam], death reigned through the one" (Rom. 5:16-17).

In an extremely important but cryptic passage, Genesis tells us, "the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them" (3:21). God Himself slew an animal and covered their nakedness. Though today we do not fully understand the implications of Adam and Eve being without covering before they sinned, their perceiving their own nakedness after their sin played a role in their guilt. God slaying the animal was prophetic of the fact that something innocent died as a substitute and a covering for sin. This of course was pointing to the substitutionary death of Christ.

Like a sacrificial lamb Jesus was "pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities" (Isa. 53:5). Christ’s death would be a just satisfaction with God for sin. By faith, humans could be legally acquitted before the bar of God! "But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him" (Rom. 5:8-9).

Jesus said there is an eternal damnation and fire reserved for the first rebellion of Satan and the fallen angels (Matt. 25:41). Along with the beast or antichrist, and the false prophet of the book of Revelation, Satan will spend eternity in "the lake of fire and brimstone" (Rev. 20:10). Knowing that "he has only a short time" (12:12) to practice his evil, Satan will intensify his activity with "great wrath" during the seven year Tribulation period. But to no end; his fate, and the fate of the "angels who did not keep their own domain … is sealed under darkness for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6)!

After the final judgments, eternity begins in which the Lord on His throne says, "Behold, I am making all things new" (Rev. 21:5b). This includes the new heavens and new earth where there is "no longer … any death; [and] there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away" (v. 4). In this blessed and glorious eternal state there will be no more sin (v. 27; 22:15). God the Father, and Christ the Lamb of God, will be the personification of the temple, the throne, and the lamp to illumine eternity (21:22-22:5). Sin and its universal destruction will be done away with.

Imputation of Sin

The apostle deals with the positive doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the account of the believer in Romans 4:1-11. But he also quotes Psalm 32:2 where king David writes of the blessedness of forgiveness. "How blessed is the man to whom the does not impute iniquity" (italics mine). Here David implies that sin is indeed imputed to one’s account unless he is blessed with the forgiveness and mercy of God. In verse 1 he writes, "How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."

In Greek, logizomai is the word that means to impute, put to one’s account. In Romans 4 Paul puts a twist on the subject and shows how the righteousness of Christ is imputed when one accepts Him as his Savior. But many verses still imply imputation of sin.

Some of the other most important passage on this subject are found in Romans 5 where Paul writes, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (v. 12), and, "By the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one" (v. 17a). Finally, "So then as through one transgression [Adam’s] there resulted condemnation to all men" (v. 18).

Both imputation of sin to the human race and imputation of the righteousness of Christ for the believer are judicial issues. God declares the children of Adam guilty because of "the principle of sin" by which the race was polluted.

Some have raised the question, is it fair for God to condemn all humanity because of the sin of Adam? Though we may attempt to argue with that view, the fact is all human beings are sinners. King David seems to imply that he came about as a sinner from the moment of his physical conception. He writes "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5). Paul seems to add to this when he says the lost are "by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3). He confirms this when he goes on and says with David, "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands (spiritual things), there is none who seeks for God; … there is none who does good, there is not even one" (Rom. 3:10-18; Psalm 14:1-3).

Paul clearly is saying that there are none that have it within their nature to be righteous. Everyone grows up a sinner because of inherent sin. However, the apostle goes on and makes certain we understand that all men will practice sin when he says, "all sinned" (Rom. 5:12b). Looking to such acts, he writes further, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (3:23).

Other verses add to this: "There is no man who does not sin" (1 Kings 8:46); "There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins" (Eccl. 7:20); "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way" (Isa. 53:6); "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. And there is no one who calls on Thy name" (64:6-7a).

While theologians have argued for generations whether sin is imputed originally through Adam, or simply an accumulation of specific evil acts, it seems clear that Scripture is laying both charges against the human race. The clay of humanity was polluted, with the results, that people indeed sin by natural inclination.

What the Scriptures so clearly teach is taught no less clearly by
experience and history. Every man knows that he himself is a sinner.
He knows that every human being whom he ever saw, is in the same
state of apostasy from God. History contains the record of no sinless
man, save the Man Christ Jesus, who, by being sinless, is distinguished
from all other men. We have no account of any family, tribe, or nation
free from the contamination of sin. The universality of sin among men
is therefore one of the most undeniable doctrines of Scripture, and one
of the most certain facts of experience.7

Federal Headship Theory

This issue of how the human race is related to Adam and his sin, is complicated by the Federal Headship view that was espoused under the title of Federal Theology as developed by Coccejus (1602-1669), professor at Franecker and Leyden in Germany. Known as the father of Covenant Theology, Coccejus also taught that Adam stood before the Lord in Eden totally as a free agent. But since they represent all of humanity that would follow, when they sinned their guilt and depravity was passed down to their posterity. The question of unfairness arises—did God simply in an arbitrary manner input Adam’s sin to us by a judicial degree, or is their some kind of realistic or genetic passing down of the sin nature? Thiessen answers:

Both the realistic and the federal theory of the imputation of sin have
seemingly insurmountable problems associated with them; yet they also
solve certain problems. Perhaps there is a mediating position which
contains both the representative concept and the natural relationship
to Adam.8a

The Doctrine of Depravity

Sometimes this doctrine is called Total Depravity. This says that all of humanity is capable of any and all sin, though not everyone sins in an equal manner. Some people are more evil than others. And some sin in the mind and heart, though not carrying out in the open all the vice they are capable of. Thiessen writes,

Man’s want of original righteousness and of holy affections toward God,
and the corruption of his moral nature and his bias toward evil is
called depravity. Its existence is witnessed to by both Scripture and human
experience. The teaching of Scripture that all men must be born again
shows the universality of its existence.8

Hodge adds,

This universal depravity of men is no slight evil. The whole human
race, by their apostasy from God, are totally depraved. By total
depravity, is not meant that all men are equally wicked; nor that any
man is as thoroughly corrupt as it is possible for a man to be; nor that
men are destitute of all moral virtues. … The apostasy from God is
total or complete. All men worship and serve the creature [or created
thing] rather than, and more than the Creator. They are all therefore
declared in Scripture to be spiritually dead. They are destitute of any
principle of spiritual life.9

Romans 1:18-3:20 is the central passage on human depravity. The apostle Paul argues that from the creation of the world, God’s "invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen … so that [people] are without excuse" (1:20). Paul then adds that the Lord gave men over to lusts, degrading passions, and "a depraved mind, to do the things which are not proper" (vv. 24, 26, 28).

It is quite evident that many unsaved people, when judged by man’s
standards, do possess admirable qualities and do perform virtuous acts.
But in the spiritual realm, when judged by God’s standards, the
unsaved sinner is incapable of good. The natural man is enslaved to
sin; he is a child of Satan, rebellious toward God, blind to truth,
corrupt, and unable to save himself or to prepare himself for salvation.
In short, the unregenerate man is DEAD IN SIN, and his WILL IS
ENSLAVED to his evil nature.10

The Scriptures make it clear how tenacious evil really is: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil?" (Jer. 13:23).

The Effect of Sin on Nature

The globe was made to be inhabited by earthly, created beings (Isa. 45:18), therefore when our early ancestors turned from the Lord, the planet was likewise condemned byh human presence. The ground would be cursed and would yield thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:17-19). "Creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of [God] who subjected it. … For we know the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now" (Rom. 8:20-22). More than likely the apostle Paul means by this, decay, disease, and death. But with the ultimate redemption of the children of God, someday "creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption" (v. 21).

The End of the Reign of Sin

When the one-thousand year kingdom is established, the physical earth will have a respite from the curse, though the final purge of sin will not take place until the establishment of the eternal new heaven and new earth. During the kingdom, Christ the Lord will reign in perfect judgment through the power of the Holy Spirit upon Him (Isa. 11:1-5). To some extent nature will be tamed with the result that "the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them" (v. 6). Some of earth’s most dangerous animals (vv. 7-8) "will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain" (v. 9a).

Though these verses describe a marvelous and blessed day for earth when Christ reigns, it is probably best to say that the cruelties of nature are controlled by His authority during this period but not eliminated altogether. That will take place as eternity begins following the final sentencing to doom of Satan, his angels, the beast or antichrist, and the false prophet (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10), and as well, the final judgment of the lost (vv. 11-15).

With the new heaven and the new earth, biology as we know it will be radically altered. There will be no ocean (21:1), though in the new Jerusalem a single river will flow called "the water of life" (22:1). The tree of life will also be there bearing a new fruit each month (v. 2). All we are told of its significance is that it is "for the healing of the nations." Speculation about this is useless because there is so little information given on what all this means. The river and the tree are certainly supernatural and carry eternal significance that we are presently incapable of understanding.

In the eternal state, God "shall wipe away every tear from [the saint’s] eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain" (21:4). The apostle John adds, "there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in" the new Jerusalem (22:3).

The Effect of Sin in History

As the tribes of the earth began to spread and grow in numbers, the sin of Adam was passed down and polluted the growing populations of human beings. Sin became rampant as indicated in Genesis 6-11. The Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strife with man forever, because he also is flesh" (6:3), and, "The wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (v. 5). This brought about "the end of all flesh" (v. 13) with the worldwide flood described in detail in chapters 7-8.

Through righteous Noah and his immediate family, God preserved a human posterity. But the issue of sin continued because of the blight on humanity from Adam. By the time of Genesis 11, people had repopulated the earth with the evilness of heart still intact. As men gathered in the plain of Shinar to build the great tower the Lord declared, "nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them" (11:6). The scattering of the tribes, and the confusion of human language by the Lord, slowed the process of evil to a degree, but certainly not in a permanent way. Unrighteousness would mushroom with idolatry and polytheism following.

Because of human intelligence, civilization would become more technical and astute with invention, art, and learning. But sin and injustice has never been abated (and then only to a degree) except when a portion of the peoples of a nation accepted Christianity. Otherwise, paganism has flourished and will only grow more intense. Nations of course are made up of individuals; and as people go morally, so the nations of the world!

The nations as systems and as populations will be judged at the end of history. The psalmist David speaks of the king-priest, the Lord Jesus, who will sit at the right hand of His Father and judge the nations. David writes, "He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath, He will judge among the nations" (Psalm 110:5-6). At the end of history, in the tribulation, the nations become enraged at the Lord (Rev. 11:18), they join forces with the antichrist, worship him (13:7-8), and then fall under the deception of the harlot (17:15). The nations are brought to their knees by the second coming of Christ when He will "smite the nations; and … will rule them with a rod of iron" (19:15).

At the end of the kingdom reign of the Lord, the nations will be populated by thousands who refuse Him as Savior and rebel against His kingly sovereignty. Satan will be released from his place of confinement, "and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth" (20:8) and come against Christ and His capitol of Jerusalem (v. 9a). The rebellious nations are finally destroyed with fire coming down from heaven (v. 9b). With this judgment, the earthly human systems of government will finally and completely end.

The Role of Satan and the Demons

Satan is called the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5), the devil who deceives (Rev. 20:10), the angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), the liar, the father of lies, the murderer (John 8:44), the evil one (1 John 5:19), the spirit working in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), and the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).

Other titles and descriptions of him make it clear that he is the arch-enemy of God the Father and the Son, and humanity itself. Though tempting people to sin, human beings are still responsible for their transgressions that fly in the face of the laws of God.

The fallen angels, who became the earthly demons are called "deceitful spirits," who cause apostates to pay attention to their diabolical doctrines (1 Tim. 4:1). These same beings energize the worship given to idols. Idolatry inspires people to turn from God to the dark spirit world. This is the abode of demonology.

In the tribulation demons will be extremely active in keeping the world in sin. Revelation 9:1-12 visualizes the demon locust that are propelled forth from the "shaft of the abyss" (v. 2) to torment the people of earth. A second paragraph (vv. 13-21) portrays this demonic activity in the form of horses and horsemen who both kill (v. 15) and bring plagues and fire on mankind (v. 18). Despite the serpent-like pain inflicted (v. 19), the world continues to worship demons and idols "which can neither see nor hear nor talk" (v. 20b). Though they bring harm, the demons also seem to prevent those in the seven-year tribulation from repenting of their murders, sorceries, immorality, and their thefts (v. 21).

Satan and his demonic emissaries work intently to keep the world in the clutches of sin and rebellion. This of course consigns the world to its own spiritual deprivation and prevents its inhabitants from turning to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. However, at the cross, the Lord had the final say against Satan and his demonic forces when He "appeared for this purpose that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8b).

The Holy Spirit and the Conviction of Sin

The Lord told His disciples that, when the Holy Spirit came following His "going away," He "will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment" (John 16:8). The Greek word for convict (elencho) and is translated to correct, censure, rebuke, and may even have the force of to punish. John 16 then "describes the work of the Paraclete as that of the defending attorney and the prosecutor in a trial. … Jesus is in the right as the Paraclete uncovers the nature of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Through this revelation the Paraclete convicts the world."10b

Jesus adds, "concerning sin, because they [those of the world] do not believe in Me; … and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged" (vs. 9, 11). Sin, and its judgment, hangs as a thick cloud over the human race. The Holy Spirit by a subtle inner testimony, witnesses to humanity’s sinfulness, and acts of sin. He testifies of God’s demands, and "of man’s disobedience, and of the consequences of God’s broken Law. … But the Spirit speaks also of righteousness, as the result of Christ’s finished work" on the cross.10c This convicting work of the Spirit does not lead to Efficacious Grace, but is generally classified under what is termed General Grace. General Grace includes this witness and convicting work of the Holy Spirit, and, the witness "of the glory of God" in the heavens (Psalm 19:1), and the handiwork of "His eternal power and divine nature" exhibited in "the creation of the world" (Rom. 1:20). But this evidence does not bring human beings to a conviction of receiving of Christ as Savior. This coming to Christ happens by a sovereign work of efficacious calling.

The Difference Between Sin and Sins

When sin is mentioned in the singular it usually is referring to the principle of original sin and its consequences of spiritual separation and death. "Sin entered into the world, and death through sin" (Rom. 5:12). Continuing his discussion of sin, Paul refers to it as transgression (v. 15), and disobedience (v. 19). Original sin is a habitual deviation of the whole nature of an individual, or a turning away from the righteous demands of God. Because it is the corruption of the whole person, the Bible speaks of the old man (Rom. 6:6, Eph. 4:22); the body of sin (Rom. 6:6); a law of the members (Rom. 7:23); flesh (John 3:6; Rom 7:5, 18, 25).

Sins (plural) that come forth from the principle of sin are actual and they are deviations of human actions from what is right. They are also a turning aside from God (1 John 3:4). Sins come forth from original sin as an act that follows a habit, or as a person’s misdeed that flows from a fault of his nature. Sins may vary in degree and intensity and even harm done to others. Nevertheless, the slightest sin committed is still sin and deserves judgment.

With original sin, all human beings who are descendants of Adam die, because of his "one transgression" (Rom. 5:18). Likewise, "the soul who sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:4). Christ substituted for us on the cross, and under the wrath of God, to set us free from the principle of sin, and the curse of sin. God the Father "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). But Jesus also died for all sins ever committed. Paul writes, "For I delivered to you as of first important what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3). Christ became a second Adam in that He brought about for humanity just the opposite of the judgment of our first parent: "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive" (v. 22).

1 Corinthians 15:22 must not be misunderstood. The apostle Paul is writing about the death sentence that came upon all human beings who are related to Adam. Only those who believe in Christ, are actually in Christ and thus made alive. Some have mistakenly thought Paul was teaching a form of universalism and saying all of humanity is actually spiritually related to Jesus. But only those who come to Him by faith are given this new life.

The Purpose of the Law

There is a lot of confusion about the Old Testament Law and its purposes. It was never given as a system of salvation but as a code of conduct. Though it was an entire body of legal demands, it was divided into three parts: (1) the moral requirements, (2) the civil rules, and (3) the ceremonial laws that governed the tabernacle and later the temple rituals. Israel was most blessed to have the Law because it was a gracious system that fenced out the paganism of the cultures of the world. In addition, the Law reflected (1) the righteous and moral nature of God, (2) His righteous demands upon His people, (3) the awful penalty for sin, as illustrated with the animal sacrifices—a sign that something innocent had to die for their lawlessness, and, (4) with the sacrifices, a way was shown how the people could achieve forgiveness and a restored relationship with the Lord.

In a prophetic sense, the Law was but "a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things" (Heb. 10:1). By this the writer of Hebrews goes on and reminds his readers that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (v. 4) but that sins were finally purged by the Christ who "having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God (v. 12). The Lord Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Law. He "perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (v. 14). "He takes away the first [the Law system] in order to establish the second [the way of faith alone]" (v. 9). Thus, "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (v. 26b).

By the time of Christ, many of the Jewish people mistakenly thought the Mosaic Law was a way of salvation. As children of Abraham, if they kept the Law, they thought they would have eternal life. Paul acknowledges the Law is good (1 Tim. 1:18), but it becomes an instrument of judgment for those who fail to keep it—which happens to be all of humanity! The apostle James shows that the Law convicts as transgressors those who do not keep it (James 2:9b), and that if one point is broken, the transgressor "has become guilty of all [of it]" (v. 10b).

The Law is "the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth (Rom. 2:20b), but it cannot save. It reminds people they are sinners (vv. 21-22) and it speaks to all who are under it and causes them to "become accountable to God" (3:19). It reveals the absolute perfection and righteousness of God (3:21). Therefore, "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin" (v. 20), and then "the Law brings wrath" (4:15).

Because of its heavy judgment, the Law becomes a tutor (a slave-custodian who leads the child to school) "to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24). God used the Law to "shut up all men under sin" (v. 22a) because it could never "impart life" (v. 21b). Shut up (sunkleio) means "to imprison, confine, enclose." The Law brings about such condemnation in order to make us plead to Christ for deliverance and salvation.

Because sin hangs so heavy over humanity collectively, and obviously over each individual as well, no one can appease God or become righteous in His sight be doing anything! Thus, by self-works or Law-keeping, no one can become legally acquitted from the charge of sinfulness before God. Paul writes, "to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).

Sin and the Cross

Being helpless, human beings needed a declaration of forgiveness that only God could accomplish through the death of His Son at the cross. Paul puts the problem and the solution succinctly when he writes, "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, [God] made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col. 2:13-14). Paul sees sin as bringing about such a divine edict and judgment against us that only an infinitely valuable price may satisfy the Lord. The price was paid for at the cross by the death of His only begotten Son.

To human reasoning, "Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:23). The substitutionary death of Jesus is the only way the human sin problem could be solved. Paul emphasizes this great theological truth when he writes, "I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (2:2).

By seeing our sins placed on the cross, and by being aware that Christ died for those sins, we know God is "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26b). Since Jesus was the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world (John 1:29), the apostle carries this picture on by showing that, as a lamb, the Lord was the sin-bearer for those who would be redeemed: God "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). John expands on this and adds, "He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin" (1 John 3:5).

When Believers Sin

When thinking about justification by faith, one is thinking about the positional, timeless, and judicial issue of sin and salvation. Trusting in Christ as Savior is an act of trust that brings about eternal redemption. Paul again says, "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith" (3:24-25).

However as a child of God, believers are living in time and face issues of experience and maturity. The death of Christ covers the issue of the imputed sin of Adam, and the issues of the sins of the individual. The New Testament speaks honestly about the sin of those who trust in Christ. This is why Paul urges believers, "do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts" (6:12). Yet even he fought the fight against the tug of sin. The great apostle wrote of himself, "I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members" (7:23).

Some commentators try to say that Paul’s confession is about his struggle before his conversion. But his continual use of the Greek present tense in vv. 15-25 make it clear he was alluding to his own Christian walk at the time he wrote Romans. For some reason this shocks many who believe that Paul could no longer sin. Haldane correctly observes,

If Paul had said he had no sin, he would have deceived himself, and the
truth would not have been in him, 1 John 1. 8. … In one point of view,
then, Paul the Apostle could truly say that he was spiritual; in another,
with equal truth, that he was carnal: literally and truly both spiritual
and carnal. ‘The flesh lusted against the spirit, and the spirit against the
flesh, and these were contrary the one to the other.’ … There was then,
in the Apostle Paul, as in every Christian, ‘as it were the contrary of two
armies,’ … From this warfare, and these opposing principles within no
Christian in this world is ever exempt; and of this every one who knows
the plague of his own heart is fully convinced.

The heathen confesses that he practices what he knows to be wrong,
but his inconsistency arises from the love of the evil. Paul confesses
that he does what is wrong, but declares that instead of loving the
evil, he regards it with hatred and abhorrence.11

The Final End of Sin

For believers in Christ, a final victory over sin and death is assured. Paul cries, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57). Through Him all of the evil powers and authorities in the universe are done away with. "He has abolished all rule and all authority and power" (v. 24), though this work has been completed, in time it still waits for the ultimate subjugation by the Lord (vv. 26-28).

Because of the complete work of Christ at the cross, the resurrection of the dead will be accomplished; the body is to be raised imperishable, "raised in power" as a spiritual body (vv. 42-44). Paul puts it this way: "’The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (v. 44). Quoting Psalm 68:18, the apostle sees Christ as a victorious general, who "ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives" (Eph. 4:8). Paul applies this to the fact that Jesus the Conqueror over sin and death can now give gifts to His church, the body of Christ, for functioning as His emissaries here on earth during this present dispensation.

Though we see sin and evil being exercised still in time and history, the work at the cross, judged even the fallen angelic hosts. "He disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him" (Col. 2:15).

This includes the devil, the perpetrator of sin in the universe who deceived the nations. Because of Christ’s victory, he will be "thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone" (Rev. 20:10), along with the antichrist (the beast) and the false prophet of Revelation 13.

The fact of the coming of the new heaven and new earth, along with the new Jerusalem, shows that sin will be dealt the final blow. In the person of the visible second person of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ, will dwell among the redeemed, "and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them" (21:3).

For now, the child of God can rest in Paul’s magnificent words: "But in all things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Rom. 8:57).

Modern Denial of Sin

The world has always tried to rationalize sin away, deny its reality, and even laugh at the idea of a coming judgment for evil. But in the last two centuries, a series of sophisticated isms have become extremely more blatant in liberating humanity of guilt and the fact of sin.

Atheism. The belief that there is no God has been around almost since the dawn of civilization. Pure atheism argues that there is no creator or deity to answer to. Humanity is but an independent higher species that is animal with no dependence on a God. The basis of atheism is that an individual refuses moral accountability. David said, "The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’" From this proclamation, the fool goes on and becomes corrupt and commits "abominable deeds" (Psalm 14:1).

Evolution. The basis of evolution continues this line of reasoning. Evolution contends there is no God and life is simply a spontaneous happening of random chance that operates from natural selection. This process is blind and accidental. If all life, including human beings, has just evolved then there is no God who can demand responsibility and morality. We all simply function by the biological random roll of the dice! Sin and evil are simply the destructive side of accidental genetic or chemical forces.

Existentialism. Atheism and evolution come together in existentialism. Though there are diverse existential groups, they generally proclaim "existence simply for existence sake." We are here in this terrestrial ball, spinning in space, with no purpose. Essence and structure are irrelevant and valueless. Only the subjective really exists. There are no moral absolutes or imperatives.12

Communism. Based on economic and social evolution, communism argues for government control of wealth. Capitalism is the greatest sin that makes slaves of the masses. What is good and moral is generally determined as to how the individual conforms to a philosophy of social and economic engineering. The state determines right and wrong and sets the boundaries within which the citizen exists. Generally speaking, communism comes from the three isms mentioned above.

Secular Humanism. This is also naturalistic and evolutionary in philosophy. The highest principle is to set human beings free to be themselves without religious or moral restrictions. Any effort to impose an exclusive concept of truth and morality, piety, virtue, or justice, that violates free inquiry, is attacked and fought. It abhors doctrine, and biblical creeds. "It decries contemporary orthodox religion as ‘anti-science, anti-freedom, anti-human,’ point out that ‘secular humanism places trust in human intelligence rather than in divine guidance.’"13

Secular Psychology. The name Sigmund Freud (1856-1930) immediately comes to mind when thinking of modern psychology. Freud opened the door for other theorists who followed also followed an evolutionary and naturalistic model as to how humanity functions. Freud detested the Bible and said that religion was infantile and foreign to reality. Human history was explained by evolutionary principles rather than an unfolding divine plan. The idea of guilt and sin was a religious invention because of fear of the unknown, and because humans needed protection from aggressive tendencies. One should understand him or herself rather than focus on guilt. "Turn your eyes inward, look into your own depths, learn first to know yourself!"14

Others, such as theorist George Kelly, followed Freud’s lead. Guilt is the perception of one’s alienation from the approval of others. "For both Kelly and Freud, when we depart from the behavior that we expect from ourselves, we experience discomfort: guilt for Kelly, moral anxiety for Freud."15 Rollo Reese May added, "Guilt … results from not approaching or striving toward one’s full potential as a human," not from disobeying some external religious code.16

Right and wrong have lost their meaning because, according to
modern psychology, none of us is responsible for anything we do.
We are all victims, driven to do whatever we do by the traumas
we suffered as children. … Sin has been redefined as sickness and
the list of "mental illnesses" grows almost daily. Instead of being
held accountable and called upon to repent, the sinner is given
"therapy." Everything from disobedience to murder is excused as
some syndrome or addiction.17

Humanity, because it ignores the biblical revelation, will not of itself find the solution to the evil in the world. People left to their own sinful devices cannot, and will not, turn to Christ. "Every man’s way is right in his own eyes" (Prov. 21:2). Jeremiah well sums up the problem when he writes, "the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9).

--Dr. Mal Couch

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, eds. Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison (Chicago: Moody, 1962), 622.
Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody, 1981), 2:1552-53.
Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale, 1983), 213.
Harold G. Stigers, A Commentary on Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 74.
William Ames, The Morrow of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968), 114.
Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 242-43.
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 4 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 2:233.
Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 191.
Ibid., 2:233-34.
David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1963), 25.
Robert Haldane, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), 302-03.
Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 234.
Ibid., 341.
B. R. Hergenhahn, An Introduction to Theories of Personality, 4th Edition (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994), 50.
Ibid., 463.
Ibid., 566.
Dave Hunt, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1998), 324.

8a. Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, 189.

10b. Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 3 Vol. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 1:428.

10c. Robert Govett, Govett on John (Miami Springs, FL: Conley & Schoettle, 1984), 245-46.