I have often heard people ask “How can a loving God cast good people into hell just because they don’t believe?” What so many of us fail to realize is the correlation between Jesus’ crucifixion and our punishment. Lee Strobel described in his book ‘The Case for Christ’..
“Roman floggings were known to be terribly brutal. They usually consisted of thirty-nine lashes but frequently were a lot more than that, depending on the mood of the soldier applying the blows. The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely. The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs. … As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh.’
A third-century historian by the name of Eusebius described a flogging by saying, ‘The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.’ … He would have been laid down, and his hands would have been nailed in the outstretched position to the horizontal beam. This crossbar was called the patibulum, and at this stage it was separate from the vertical beam, which was permanently set in the ground. …. The pain was absolutely unbearable,” he continued. “In fact, it was literally beyond words to describe; they had to invent a new word: excruciating. Literally, excruciating means ‘out of the cross.’
Think of that: they needed to create a new word, because there was nothing in the language that could describe the intense anguish caused during the crucifixion. At this point Jesus was hoisted as the crossbar was attached to the vertical stake, and then nails were driven through Jesus’ feet. Again, the nerves in his feet would have been crushed, and there would have been a similar type of pain.”
“What stresses would this have put on his body?” Metherell answered, “First of all, his arms would have immediately been stretched, probably about six inches in length, and both shoulders would have become dislocated- you can determine this with simple mathematical equations. Once a person is hanging in the vertical position,” he replied, “crucifiction is essentially an agonizingly slow death by asphyxiation. The reason is that the stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into the inhaled position; basically, in order to exhale, the individual must push up on his feet so the tension on the muscles would be eased for a moment. In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking up against the tarsal bones. After managing to exhale, the person would then be able to relax down and take another breath in. Again he’d have to push himself up to exhale, scraping his bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross. This would go on and on until complete exhaustion would take over, and the person wouldn’t be able to push up and breathe anymore. As the person slows down his breathing, he goes into what is called respiratory acidosis- the carbon dioxide in the blood is dissolved as carbonic acid, causing the acidity of the blood to increase.
This eventually leads to an irregular heartbeat. In fact, with his heart beating erratically, Jesus would have known that he was at the moment of death, which is when he was able to say, ‘Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And then he died of cardiac arrest.”
It’s hard not to form a mental picture of what you just read, so go ahead. Think about the brutality with which he died. Think about the excruciating pain, the unbearable suffering, the amount of time Jesus spent in horrible agony. It’s a pretty grim picture, right? Now think about our Lord in Heaven, watching His only Son suffer in such a way. What if it was your son? Would you let him be crucified for the sake of humanity? Could you sacrifice your child for the world? I personally don’t think I could do it. But God did. Why? Because He loves you and wants to give you eternal life. The only requirement- acknowledge the suffering of Christ, acknowledge and accept that he did it for YOU.
So, is the punishment of rejecting Christ fair and just? Absolutely. It is as severe as Jesus’ suffering. You get to avoid everything Strobel described because someone took your place. There is massive evidence of Jesus’ existence; you just simply have to care enough to discover it. Instead, we act on our emotions and selfish desires daily, never thinking twice about the brutally-spilled blood with which we’ve been purchased. You belong to a loving God who wants you in His Kingdom. All you have to do is make a choice.