Mark Zaveson sent me an e-mail this week that centered on a discussion concerning the Bible and the accuracy of the scriptures. The authorâ€™s intent was to review and promote a book whose author attacked the common historical revisionism that is around concerning Jesus specifically and the Bible in general.
There is laid in humanity a vision of the torments of Gahenna because they will not hear God’s word – the gospel of Christ . The principles of the gospel are active and powerful, they have not faded – they have not been lost in some shuffle of time. They are not in recession, they are not some myth; and if it were not for the restraining hand of God through his word and his patience the minions of hell would soon break forth to seize those that will not hear and do his will. They would flow out in a flood after the same manner as it has done in the hearts of those poor damned souls who have already been cast into the bottomless pit, and would bring with them the same torments as they do in those already lost. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. “There is no peace, says my God, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah. 57:20)
For the present, God restrains the reward for their wickedness and stays their punishment by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying in Job 38:11: “This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop.” But if God should withdraw his restraining hand for the blink of an eye, this flood would carry all these away before it.
Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive; and if God should leave it without restraint, the soul without God, without restraint, would be perfect in its misery. If the heart is now a pit of sin, it immediately turns the soul into a furnace breeding only destruction, a furnace fueled and awaiting the setting of the fierce fires of hell.
There is no security for the wicked. It is no security that he is now healthy or rich, or that she is beautiful, well known or intelligent, they do not see how they could in a moment go out of this world through some accident or trick of fate.
We each believe that we are safe. The experience of the world in all ages shows that no one thinks that they are on the brink of eternity, and that the next step could bring them to eternity’s night. Yet the unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of this world are incalculable. Unconverted men and women daily walk over the pit of hell on a rotten scaffold, and there are many places on this walk so weak and shaky that it cannot bear the weight, and these places are not even visible.
The arrows of death fly at morning, noon, and night; and the sharpest vision can’t discern them. God has so many different ways of taking good men and women to their reward without warning and the same for taking wicked ones out of this world and sending them straight to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear anything but ordinary. God doesn’t need a miracle or to go outside of the ordinary course of his providence to destroy any wicked person at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of this world, are all in God’s hands right now, and it simply depends only on his will as to whether sinners shall at any moment end in hell.
“Cryin’ won’t help you and prayin’ won’t do you no good.” That’s what the blues song said. Natural caution and care to preserve their own lives or the care of others to preserve them, won’t secure them at all. Universal experience bears this out. There is clear evidence that mens wisdom is no security from death; if it were we would see some difference between when the wise and rich of the world, and common folks were called to an early and unexpected death: but the facts show us that death is no respecter of persons. Ecclesiastes 2:16 states: “For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. And how does a wise man die? Ã¢â‚¬Â¦As the fool” The sage says all will go to the house of the dead regardless of their position.
Almost every person that hears of hell flatters themselves that they’ll not end up there. They think that they’ll escape from it; that they’ll be spared, or they may have decided that it doesn’t really exist. When you do that you depend upon your own self for your security. These types flatter themselves in what they have done, in what they are now doing, or what they intend to do. I came, I saw, I conquered. Every one lays out things in their own mind as to how they’ll avoid calamity, and they fool themselves that they are so well planned and things are so well cared for that their schemes cannot fail.
They hear that there will be only a few who will be saved, and that the greater part of both men and women that have died to this day are already gone down to hell; but each one imagines that he or she is somehow different and that they’ll escape where all the others have failed. Or they simply do not believe it. You’d think it was a Hollywood movie with Steve McQueen escaping from Devil’s Island. We do not intend to end up in hell; we intend to arrange things so that we do not fail – that’s how we are raised.
But the foolish children of men delude themselves by their own schemes and in the confidence of their own strength and wisdom; and they will give over their trust to nothing but empty words and shadows. The greater part of those who have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone into the bowels of hell and right now suffer everlasting damnation; and it was not because they were not as wise or as clever as you and me, or any of those who are now alive: it was not because they did not lay out matters reasonably and plan well for themselves to secure their future.
If we could speak with them whether they expected when alive and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of its misery, we doubtless would hear things like: “No, I never intended to come here: I had things planned out differently; I thought I’d do okay. I intended to be careful; I thought perhaps that I might come to God some day; but death came upon me so unexpectedly; I didn’t see it approaching; it took me by surprise and came as a thief: Death outwitted me: God’s wrath was too quick for me. Oh, I flattered myself, and dawdled in some vain dreams of what I would one day do; and while I was saying, ‘Today is the day,’ then suddenly out of the blue clear sky death and destruction came.”
(This was adapted from the great Jonathan Edward s sermon titled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God which is public domain. I have used it in some form as a spoken lesson successfully. It is here reduced in scope but certainly not in intent, and it has been updated and modified for our CMS reading audience. You might be interested in reading the original, which can be found by Google searching ” Jonathan Edwards ” or its title above.)