Have you ever been behind bars? When we think of a prison we tend to think of steel bars, confinement, concrete walls, prison officers, boredom, and perhaps the hope of escape, or (depending on the sentence), the hope of release, or (depending on the country), the prospect of a death sentence.
Now there are some prisons that are obvious. You get thrown into a prison and you know it - it's clear! But there are other kinds of 'prisons' that aren't so easy to see. Take for instance the prison of alcoholism, or drug addiction. You may not be able to see the steel bars, but they are there.
The Bible teaches that sin is like a prison. The Bible says that it enslaves us and holds us captive by its chains. Now of course most people today would deny that they are in the prison of sin. After all, they are enjoying the 'pleasures' of sin for a season. They are like an alcoholic: you say to him, "You have a problem with alcohol." He replies: "What are you talking about? I drink, I get drunk, I fall down, I get up and drink again. No problem!" He doesn't see that he has a problem. But it is when he tries to pull away, it is then that he realises that he is in the prison of alcohol.
The whole of humanity is in this prison of sin. We are held captive waiting to die, because the God of the universe has proclaimed the death sentence upon humanity. God has said, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Ezekiel 18:4). The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Of course, our holding cell isn't a small cell - it's huge! It has a big blue roof on it with bright lighting and good air conditioning, but nevertheless, this earth is a holding cell. We can get married, have children, we can laugh, we can eat good food, we can play sports, we can travel, but still we are waiting to die. We are part of the ultimate statistic - ten out of ten people die.
The Bible actually talks of two deaths - the First and the Second. The First Death is when you come to the end of your natural life. Your soul will leave your physical body and then await the final judgment. "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). When Judgment Day comes, it is then that you will stand before your Maker. "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12). If found guilty of breaking God's Law, offenders will face the terrifying prospect of the Second Death lived out forever in God's prison - eternal Hell. "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).
On that Day, three key witnesses will testify and confirm the charges brought against you. The First Witness is the wonderful creation that surrounds you and testifies of the handiwork of God. The Bible says, "The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). Creation leaves you with no excuse to deny that there is a God. If you say on Judgment Day, "How could I believe in a God I have never seen?" the Witness of Creation will testify against you.
The Second Witness will be your own conscience. Conscience is your God given inner light that tells you right from wrong. On Judgment Day you won't be able to say, "I didn't know what I was doing was wrong", as God has given you a conscience. Conscience means 'with knowledge'. So when we break God's Law we do it with knowledge that it's wrong. The conscience has been described as, "The impartial judge in the courtroom of the mind", or in other words, the witness in you that will stand up (not taking sides), and will always speak the truth.
The Third Witness will be none other than Almighty God and His written Word to mankind - The Bible. The Bible reveals that, "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Proverbs 15:3). Every sin you have ever committed has been seen and recorded by God, and what is worse, all of your sin (even your most secret sins) will all be brought out as evidence against you on Judgment Day. Jesus said: "Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops" (Luke 12:3).
Here are the Ten Commandments (See Exodus 20) detailing the charges against you. The question is: How will you plead for each of them? Judge for yourself, 'Innocent' or 'Guilty'?
1. Inordinate Affection: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." You are charged with failing to, "love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (Deuteronomy 6:5) How do you plead?
2. Idolatry: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image." You are charged with creating a false image of God in your mind - a kind of graven image created in the heart, 'a god' how you would like him to be (e.g. a 'god' who lets you do what you like and doesn't judge people). How do you plead?
3. Blasphemy: "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain" You are charged with using the Name of God or His Son (the Lord Jesus Christ) as a curse word to express disgust. How do you plead?
4. Sabbath Breaking: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." You are charged with breaking the Sabbath (the Lord's Day - Sunday) by working, shopping, and indulging in selfish pleasures. How do you plead?
5. Rebellion: "Honour thy father and thy mother." You are charged with dishonouring your parents by acts of disobedience and rebellion (think back to your childhood and teenage years). How do you plead?
6. Murder: "Thou shalt not kill." You are charged with hatred. The Bible says, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3:15). God sees hatred in the heart as murder. How do you plead?
7. Adultery: "Thou shalt not commit adultery." You are charged with adultery of the heart. Jesus said: "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28) How do you plead?
8. Theft: "Thou shalt not steal." You are charged with theft (taking anything of any value that does not belong to you). How do you plead?
9. Lies and Dishonesty: "Thou shalt not bear false witness" You are charged with lying (including 'white lies', half-truths and exaggerations). How do you plead?
10. Covetousness: "Thou shalt not covet." You are charged with having a craving and unhealthy desire for things that do not belong to you (materialism). How do you plead?
Remember, these charges are for you to answer for the whole of your life, not just how you see yourself now. Time doesn't forgive sin or cover up what has already been done. Be careful not to plead innocence if you are unsure about one of the charges, or you will end up breaking the 9th Commandment again. The Bible says, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10). So if you have pleaded 'guilty' to any of the Ten Commandments, the Bible says you have broken them all.
If you were to stand before God now, would He find you innocent or guilty? What has your conscience told you? If 'guilty', would you go to Heaven or Hell? God has said: "I will punish the world for their evil" (Isaiah 13:11).
Clarification of the Law - common misconceptions and things people might say in their defence:
"I don't believe in these things - so I'm not afraid of Hell!" Imagine having a judge pass a sentence on you of death by firing squad. Just as you are about to be led away, you call out to the judge: "Judge, I have no fear of the firing squad! I don't believe in bullets!" What you believe does not change reality. Hell is real whether you believe in it or not.
"I will turn over a new leaf! I will do better in my life from now on!" The answer to that is: too late! The law has already been broken. It's like a convicted murderer saying to a judge, "I know I killed that man, but from now on I will do better!" What do you think the judge would say?
"God is love. He would never send me to Hell!" The answer to that is, "Yes!" This god would never send anyone to Hell because he couldn't - he doesn't exist! This is a god that has been made up in the mind - the place of imagination. To believe in such a god is to actually break the Second of the Ten Commandments and commit idolatry.
"I'm trusting that God will forgive me and let me go if I say that I'm sorry." Imagine standing in front of a judge charged with a very serious crime. Imagine you say, "Judge, I confess to the crime! I am guilty! But I want to ask you to forgive me - please let me go." What do you think the judge will say? He can't just let you go - he is bound by the law. If he just lets you off, he would be corrupt. The demands of the law must be satisfied no matter how sorry you are.
"I have done more good than evil - I will probably make it to Heaven!" Again, try that in a court of law. "Judge, I confess to the crime! But I have done more good than evil!" Say that and the judge will throw the book at you! The judge's job is to see justice is done despite your 'good' deeds. Doing a good deed does not erase an evil one. Besides, in God's eyes, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). We have nothing of any worth to 'offer' God, and He will not be bribed.
There is only one hope. God in His great love and mercy has provided a way for you to escape the sentence of eternal Hell. Imagine if you stood before a judge guilty of a serious crime, and there is a £250,000 fine. The judge says, "Can you pay?" You reply, "I have no money - I cannot pay!" The judge then says, "Take him away!" Then, just as you are about to be led away to prison, someone you don't even know steps into the courtroom and says, "Judge! I will pay the fine on their behalf!" The judge can then let you go because the fine has been paid. This is similar to what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. It's like this: we broke God's Law, and Jesus paid our fine.
Two thousand years ago, God became a man in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was God in the flesh! Jesus kept all of the Law perfectly in thought, word, and deed. He was innocent yet punished on the cross for our crimes. The Bible says, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). To escape the justice and judgement of God simply repent (which means to turn away from your sin) and put all of your trust in what Jesus has done on the cross. Believe that He died for your sins, and that He rose again from the dead the third day. Then pick up a Bible (KJV), read it daily, and obey what you read. It is that simple. Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24)
The Lord's Work Trust 2010.
This tract was inspired by 'The Way Of The Master' DVD (episode 16 - Alcatraz, Al Capone, Alcohol) by Living Waters Ministries. The Lord's Work Trust does not necessarily endorse every aspect of Living Waters Ministries.