Why east from west instead of north from south?
God's Forgiveness is Forever
A question that many believers have after beginning to understand the full truth about God's forgiveness is "What about heaven? Won't I be held accountable for all my bad deeds there?"
"As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:12 (NKJV)
God says that He has separated my sins from me as far as the east is from the west. God gives us a beautiful illustration of his long lasting forgiveness in this verse. One day I was sitting at my desk contemplating these verses. I wondered why God said that He had separated our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. I know that He was careful to choose words that paint a clear picture for us, so I wondered why He chose that direction instead of saying that our separation from sin is as far as the north is from the south.
As I thought about that I realized that I could begin traveling from my office and drive south to the South Pole, then begin driving north till I reached the North Pole, then travel south again to my starting point. However, I could also travel around the world millions of time going east, reaching my starting point over and over without ever driving in any direction but east. It hit me like a lightening bolt. Though there is a South Pole and a North Pole, there is no East Pole and no West Pole.
There is no place at which east meets west. And suddenly that verse took on a whole new meaning for me. If God had chosen the words "north from south" then that would mean that there would be some eventual point at which I would meet up with my sins again. But by carefully choosing the words "east from west" God was showing me that there will never be a point in the future where I will meet my sins again.
I won't face my sins again; not in this life and not in the life to come. After fully realizing that fact through an understanding of this verse, everything began to make sense. God's forgiveness is truly forever. And He cared enough about my sense of security that He painted a picture in His creation that will forever assure me of that fact.
"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
If God says "no more" do you think He means ". but after a while I'll start remembering again?" If He says, "no more", do you think He is going to list them for you in heaven? It makes me shudder to hear people say, "God will hold us accountable for our sins when we get to heaven."
What kind of life does that give us here? Wouldn't that be a life of constant fear that we will do something that we'll have to pay for in heaven one day? Does that kind of thinking cause us to look forward to heaven?
You may say, "but what about the verses in I Corinthians that speak of the judgment seat of Christ and say that we'll be held accountable for all our deeds on earth, both good and bad?" Remember that you have to interpret the Bible as a whole and this verse, interpreted as many believers interpret it, contradicts the basics of grace.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
II Corinthians (NKJV)
So what can that verse mean? The subject of our heavenly rewards will be addressed in detail in another lesson in this volume, but for now let's look closely at this one verse and how it relates to our forever forgiveness.
It's important to understand that the judgment to which this verse is referring is not for the purpose of getting "into" heaven. It's for giving out rewards. Do you realize that there are some things that you do that are not sin, yet they are also not something for which you will be rewarded? For instance, you may think that since you are teaching Sunday School, or giving, or doing some other "good" deed you will be automatically rewarded for it in heaven. But what was your motive? Was it for recognition or to get something out of it?
Teaching Sunday School is not a "bad" deed, but if it is done with the wrong motive, then you've received your reward here on earth. There will be no more reward in heaven. Such activity is wood, hay, and stubble and will not survive the test of fire.
In fact, the Greek word used and translated "bad" in this verse is "phaulos" and it refers to that which is "good for nothing." It describes an activity from which no profit or gain is derived. This word stresses the lack of value that the deed contributes. Basically, the verse is talking about worthless service. It is not the same as the Greek word "poneros" which means malicious, describing what is evil or "bad". If God had wanted us to believe that we would be held accountable for our sins, He would have used words that would convey that understanding.
The passages in I Corinthians that address the heavenly judgments are speaking of your deeds, both good and those that are "good for nothing" - they are worthless because they were not done under the leadership of God, you did it in your own strength, or you did it with the wrong motive. But these verses do not provide any basis for believing that we will be held accountable for our sins when we get to heaven.
The Importance Of Believing the Truth About Forgiveness
As long as Satan can keep us deceived about this one matter, our attention will stay focused on ourselves and what we can do to make up for the sins we commit. We will be consumed with doing whatever we can do to keep God from punishing us for them. The last thing Satan wants you to focus on is the truth that your sins have been REMOVED and WHO removed them, because if you do, a chain reaction will start. You will focus on Christ, realize that He has filled you with His Spirit, depend on Him to live His life through you and produce the right behavior you could never do on your own, and God will be glorified through you.