Ariel Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years, with no chance of parole; while Castro will not face the death penalty for his crimes, Pastor Mark Driscoll is adamant that he will face both death and hell if he does not repent and trust in Christ.
Castro plead guilty last week to hundreds of counts of rape, kidnapping, and other charges. Michelle Knight, the victim who was reportedly raped and abused so badly that she miscarried several times, called her captor a hypocrite. She said that he went to church and talked about all of the bad things that other people do, then would come home to torture his three captives. It is in cases like this that we can more easily understand Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
There is danger in living in a country where it is culturally acceptable to be a Christian. People can attend church and feel self-righteous for their “service” to God, but in the end, their faith is in the wrong object – it is resting in themselves. They trust in their own good deeds, and in what little grace they think they need for the salvation of their souls.
During his trial on Thursday, Castro offered an apology to the three victims. He also said that he had asked God for forgiveness for what he had done. He said that the "True judgment day is when God comes and judges me … I don't know how He's going to judge me."
Castro is correct, the judgment of God matters infinitely more than that of man; however, he is in grave error to think that God might pardon him if he is not resting in Christ for his salvation. Only those who cling to the Gospel – that we are saved by grace through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins –can be assured that nothing we have done can nullify the grace of God (see Acts 22:3-5 and 1 Timothy 1:12-17). If Christ has paid for the punishment of our sins, then there is no payment left to make – God has satisfied His justice at the cross (see Hebrews 10:12-18).
Driscoll tweeted on Thursday morning, “Ariel Castro was sentenced to life. If he doesn't repent to Jesus and plead for forgiveness, he will face the eternal wrath of God in hell … For Ariel Castro and for all of us, justice comes by Jesus suffering for your sin or you suffering for your sin.”
While God alone knows the heart (and we are often deceived by our own – see Jeremiah 17:9-10), those who are born again can rest assured that they will have everlasting life – no matter what they’ve done or will do in the future. Castro says that his own fate is uncertain – hopefully he will come to know the grace that is offered by the God he has gravely offended while in prison.