Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďTHE GREAT DIVIDEĒ

We are time-bound creatures who relate to the universe we live in by means of five senses (smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing), or with technology that enhances those five senses within the context of the historical past, the experienced present, or the anticipated future. What about reality that lies outside the boundaries of time and sensation? If you think I am imitating Rod Serling and setting you up for an episode of Twilight Zone, think again. I am bringing to the table for discussion and consideration an issue that the Bible reveals to be true, but which in great measure lies outside our experiences. It is a matter of considerable importance, and should therefore affect our dealings with other people.

Perhaps we should call it the great divide, that gulf that exists between God and the people of God and those who are not of God and who are not the people of God. The great divide exists in society, in neighborhoods, in families, in clans, in workplace environments, in marriages, and even in churches. Ponder, with me, one point at a time:

First, THERE IS THE EXISTENCE OF THE GREAT DIVIDE

Our first introduction to the existence of the great divide takes place in the Garden of Eden, when Adamís fall into sin results in the end of the communion and intimacy the man once enjoyed with God, and the resulting expulsion of the man and the woman from the Garden of Eden.[1] The concept of the great divide is further developed in the book of Exodus when Moses ascends to the top of Mount Sinai to commune with God, while the rest of the children of Israel are forbidden that type of access to God.[2] Later, when the Tabernacle is constructed, strict prohibitions are placed on the people to bar their approach to the place where Godís presence is found.[3]

With the passage of time and Godís Word progressively revealed, we come to understand that the great divide is transcendent, existing in both our time frame and eternity. Isaiah 59.2 addresses the great divide in time: ďBut your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.Ē This is the present experience of most. The existence of the great divide in the hereafter is evident from Luke 16.22-26:

22     And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abrahamís bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

23     And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24     And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

25     But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

26     And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

The existence of the great divide in eternity after time is no more is evident from many passages, the Lord Jesus Christís words in Matthew 25.46 being but one: ďAnd these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.Ē The great divide, therefore, exists in our time frame, exists in the hereafter, and will continue to exist throughout eternity.

Next, THERE IS THE CAUSE OF THE GREAT DIVIDE

The initial, or ultimate, cause of the great divide must be God. After all, God is the First Cause, of which all else is somehow and in some way a consequence. Until God exercised Himself as Creator, there was nothing else but God. Therefore, on one level, the cause of the great divide is God. However, on another level it is recognized that for there to be a divide there has to be at least two. So long as there is only one God and nothing else, there is no divide. As soon as God creates and there is creation that is other than God, there exists the potential for a great divide. Two is necessary for the divide, but not sufficient for the divide, because there was the Creator and His creation without any divide. Distinction between Creator and creation, yes, but no divide.

The mediate cause of the great divide is Satan, Lucifer, now known as the god of this world and the prince of the power of the air.[4] He realized the potential for the great divide when he led an angelic rebellion against God and a portion of Godís creatures defied their Creator.[5] However, it was not until Satan used the serpent to bring about Adamís downfall that the great divide immediately affected man, with the immediate cause being sin introduced to the human experience.[6]

Therefore, from the time of Adamís sin in the Garden of Eden down to this moment, our immediate cause of the great divide has been sin. Going back to Isaiah 59.2 once more: ďBut your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.Ē What is the cause of the great divide? Sins and iniquities separate us from the holy God.

Third, THE NATURE OF THE GREAT DIVIDE

If you consider that the single word that best describes the moral nature of God is holy, that His angelic servants are holy angels, and that His children are identified as saints, or holy ones, it is no surprise that those on the other side of the great divide are referred to in Godís Word as cursed, unclean, defiled, dead, or are labeled by the sins that dominate their lives.

Following is a partial list of the sins associated with those on the other side of the great divide from God, His angels, and His children: Women who change the natural use into that which is against nature, men with men working that which is unseemly, those who did not retain God in their knowledge, those who are filled with all unrighteousness, those who commit fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, who are full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, those who are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, uncleanness, lasciviousness, who engage in witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and are fearful, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars.[7]

Thus, one side of the great divide is associated with blessing, the other with cursing. One side is associated with grace and mercy, the other with judgment and wrath. One side is associated with moral good, the other side with immorality and spiritual degradation. One side is associated with eternal bliss, and the other with eternal sorrow, damnation, and suffering.

Fourth, THE CROSSING OF THE GREAT DIVIDE

Luke 16.26 sheds light, showing that once a person departs this life and enters eternity through the portal of death, crossing the great divide is utterly impossible. Abraham tells the rich man who has died, ď. . . between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.Ē

Therefore, if there is to be any crossing of the great divide such crossing must take place during the course of this life on earth. I speak to Christians, so that you might understand what Godís Word says about the perseverance of the saints. If you know Christ as your savior, you are on Godís side of the great divide, and you cannot under any circumstances pass over to the other side. Eternal life in Jesus Christ is just that, eternal life. What can separate us from the love of Christ; Paul asks and answers in Romans 8.35-39? Nothing.

This is not to say that while we cannot return to the other side of the great divide we are not capable of reaching across and are not also commanded to reach across to those whose existence is on the other side. We can reach across to the lost and the undone, by means of our love, by means of Godís grace, by being instruments of Godís mercy, and by demonstrating and speaking the truth in love. However, there is no loneliness as stark as a Christian married to an unsaved person, or a love as desperate as is a Christian motherís or fatherís for a beloved but lost child. Thus, though you cannot cross the great divide to where your unsaved spouse lives, or to where your unconverted child resides, or your unbelieving neighbor or coworker resides, it is your holy obligation and noble duty before God to exalt Christ by reaching across the great divide with a word, with a gesture, with kindness, with witness, with a smile, with concern, and with whatever means are at your disposal to spread the seed of the Word and encourage its reception to properly prepared soil.

Sadly, some compromise concerning admitting the reality of the great divide, pretending it does not exist. Of course, this only serves to convince the unsaved that it does not exist, making reaching them with the gospel of Godís grace all the more problematic.

Fifth, THE CURE OF THE GREAT DIVIDE

The great divide is essentially the enmity that exists between the sinner and God because of the sin that so greatly offends God, but which the sinner is so comfortable with and so used to. God is the living God, while sinners are dead in trespassers and sins, therefore the great divide is a monstrous and impassible gulf that exists between life and death, between holiness and defilement, and between good and evil. Is there no hope? Is there no remedy? Is there no cure for this terrible affliction? There must be, since Godís Word is full of sagas of restoring love and forgiveness, is saturated with the record of redemption and reconciliation, and overflows with the truths telling of salvation and cleansing. Know that the hope, the remedy, the cure for this terrible affliction is not a plan, is not a program, is not a process, but is instead a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It serves us well to keep in mind that Job once voiced his desire for a referee who would mediate between sinful man and holy God, when he longed for a daysman, in Job 9.3, ďthat might lay his hand upon us both.Ē When Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the living God, became a man by means of the virgin birth, He became that daysman, the God-man who could lay His hand at once on the shoulder of God as God and on the shoulder of man as man. When He took upon Himself the sins of all mankind, when He became sin for us who knew no sin, He actually did lay one hand at once on the shoulder of God as God and the other hand on the shoulder of man as man. Then, when He died on Calvaryís cruel cross an atonement for our sins, He made provision for reconciling sinful man to holy God.

The cure for the great divide is the precious blood of Jesus Christ that washes away the sinnerís sins, and that cure is applied when the sinner comes to Jesus Christ by faith. Writing in terms easy for his audience to grasp, the Apostle Paul described the benefit to the sinner of coming to Christ in Colossians 1.13: ďWho hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.Ē Implicit in Paulís words is the recognition that the great divide has been cured, at least for that one sinner who has turned to Christ that he might be reconciled to God.

Sixth, THE REALITY OF THE GREAT DIVIDE

Though the unsaved do not fathom the reality of the great divide, because they think in terms of time and distance, we see from Colossians 1.13 that there are actually two realms that occupy the same physical space. There is the realm of spiritual darkness dominated by the Devil and thoroughly contaminated by sin, and then there is the kingdom of Godís dear Son, where righteousness reigns. Because the Christian man married to the unbelieving woman, or the Christian mom with the unsaved child, typically sit next to each other in church, it is easy to lose sight of the profound significance of the great divide. Though sitting together, they are on opposite sides of the great divide, so that when one of them dies they will forever be separated from each other. Never again will a kind word pass between them. Never again will a fleeting smile or a nod from across the room be seen.

The reality of the great divide is oftentimes overlooked by even the most spiritual Christians because we are presently creatures of sight and space, and we lose sight of the certainty that no matter how physically close or personally intimate you are with someone, if that person is on the opposite side of the great divide you will eventually be forever apart, with one of you consigned to the lake of fire throughout eternity. The mistake that Christians sometimes make, and the mistake that the unsaved always make, is to act as though the things that can be seen and felt, that can be heard and smelled, are somehow permanent, with the unseen things being somehow less real. Of course, the opposite is true. Marriages are temporary. Parent child relationships are temporary. Friendships are temporary. It is the spiritual kinships that are durable, so that brothers and sisters in Christ will spend eternity together, with those who reject Jesus Christ sharing in the torment of the damned forever.

Be not deceived about this at all. A Christian mom better love her unsaved child as much as she can for as long as she can, because unless her child comes to Christ the relationship will be forever severed once one of them dies. The same is true for married couples. The same is true for siblings. The great divide is more significant and more durable than any merely human relationship that exists, because the great divide shows where eternity will be spent, and once this life is over the great divide is incurable.

Finally, THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE BELIEVER CONCERNING THE GREAT DIVIDE

I beg your indulgence for dealing with such a grave topic as this with such bluntness, but I am not a nuanced person, being like someone carved out by God with a hatchet rather than being someone sculpted by God with a fine wood carving knife. As well, the more important the issue the more direct I feel I should be with you. Such is my responsibility. What, then, is your responsibility? It is to show the reality of the great divide, regardless of how much your unsaved loved one wants to avoid thinking of it or pretending it does not exist. It does exist. There is a heaven to be gained and a Hell to be shunned, and both places reflect the reality of the great divide.

You do your loved one no good turn by pretending there is no great divide, by tricking yourself into not thinking about it always with respect to your unsaved loved one, and by allowing that precious lost one to be comforted by your benign neglect. I cannot remember who remarked about the subtle racism of lowered expectations in the social realm, either Bill Cosby or the first president George Bush. More important for the sinner, however, is the subtle danger to the soul of the Christianís lowered expectations, being convinced that real Christian witness is futile because you are convinced the lost friend or loved one will never be converted to Christ.

There is a spiritual Grand Canyon between you if you are a Christian and every lost person you know and love. Though you cannot see it, smell it, feel it, taste it, or hear it, you dare not pretend it does not exist. It is more real than the sun in the sky or the solid ground under your feet. Therefore, your conduct, your prayers, your personal testimony, your ministry, and your relationships need to be grounded on the certainty that someday your loved ones will actually see the great divide. If they see it too late to come to Christ in this lifetime, they will forever be lost. For that reason, we have a debt, a holy privilege and obligation to do what we can to bring the lost to Christ.

 

How should you conduct yourself in light of this great divide? The great divide can only be bridged by a great Savior. However, there is no convincing the sinner the great divide actually exists apart from great grace in the life of the believer to reach across the great divide in a way no one else can. When sinners relate to sinners, there is no reaching across anything, since there is no divide. There is oftentimes no real love, no real mercy, and certainly nothing of the supernatural in their relationships with anyone.

Therefore, it is all the more crucial for Christians to be godly, to cultivate rich and thriving communion with God, and to seek to bear the fruits associated with the Christianís life, such as the fruit of faithful giving that reflects Godís gracious generosity, the fruit of the Spirit impacting the Christianís personality, and the fruit of converts brought to Christ. When a sinner comes to Christ, he is suddenly translated across the great divide from the realm of death to the kingdom of Godís dear Son. From that point forward, he is charged with reaching back across the great divide with love, with persistence, and with determination to bring others to Christ. There is no other proper way to deal with the reality of the great divide.



[1] Genesis 3

[2] Exodus 19

[3] Exodus 29

[4] 2 Corinthians 4.4; Ephesians 2.2

[5] Isaiah 14.12-15 ; Revelation 12.4

[6] Romans 5.12

[7] Romans 1.26-31; 1 Corinthians 6.9-10; Galatians 5.19-21; Revelation 21.8



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org