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Theology

Edwards: Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open

Jonathan Edwards believed in the horrors of hell–that it is a place of eternal fiery torment and punishment, with no hope of relief, for all those who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ. But Edwards also believed in the beautiful mercy that Jesus gives to all who would come to him:

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.

How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?

HT: via

Categories
Life Theology

Three Questions about God’s Wrath

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18).

Three important questions need to be answered:

1. Who is it revealed against? Paul writes that God reveals his wrath against ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.  He is revealing his wrath against those who are not believers—those who do not believe the gospel.  In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9, Paul says that “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict [Christians], and to grant relief to you [Christians] who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”  In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 Paul writes, “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”  In our verse, of course, God is revealing his wrath against those who “suppress the truth.”  Those who belong to Satan, not God, who are perishing, not living, are those who are the recipients of God’s manifested wrath in the world.

2. How is it revealed? Paul does not give us much as for how God’s wrath is revealed.  But from the immediate context, we do have some clues.  The word revealed in Greek is in the present tense.  And I believe it is more than just a cognitive disclosure to the mind.  Just like the same word in verse 17, it has some historical reality to it, letting us know that something is physically being manifested in the world.  Verses 24-28 in chapter 1 tell us that God has given people to the lusts of their hearts to commit impurities (v. 24), to the dishonoring of their bodies (v. 24), to dishonorable passions (v. 26), and to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done (v. 28).  All of these things show us two paradoxical, yet non-contradictory facts: 1) God is sovereign over man’s sin, yet 2) people are to blame, not God.  Though God, in his sovereign wisdom and insight, causes people to be given over to depravity, he is never to blame.  We are sinners by nature and by choice.

In Romans 1, God’s wrath is something that is real, not just cognitive, something historical and not just futuristic.  It is something that is being manifested in the daily life of unregenerate people.  We can say that God’s wrath is revealed as a constant, ongoing reality in and through a sinful, unhappy, wasted life that is lived for the pleasing of self and not God.

At this point it might be helpful to say something to those who would think that a God who is full of wrath is either an archaic, mystical God, or simply no God at all.  First of all, think of this question.  If you were holy, perfect, and righteous, had never committed sin, and were completely and utterly pure, would you get angry at things that were not perfect, holy, and pure?  I’m willing to bet you would.  So God, in his perfection and righteousness, gets angry at all that is not righteous.  Paul David Tripp has said, “You wouldn’t want to worship a God who didn’t get angry.”  Some people would not argue with God getting angry at rape, murder, theft, or other “awful” vices.  But when it comes to them personally, whether it is abortion, domestic violence, drunkenness, gluttony, impatience, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or any number of other sins, they would say, “It’s my life.  A God who gets angry at me is no God at all.”  But turn the table.  What if one of those awful things happened to you or someone you loved.  Wouldn’t you want God to get angry at that sin?

The other problem is so-called Christians who don’t believe the God of the Bible gets angry.  The problem above is one thing.  This is altogether another.  To say that the God of the Bible is not an angry God is simply nonsense.  From Genesis to Revelation we see God hating sin, punishing unrepentant people, and destroying those who will not turn to him.  Moo (p. 100) points out that “the OT regularly pictures God as responding to sin with wrath” (see Ex. 4:14; 15:7; 32:10-12; Num. 11:1; Jer. 21:3-7).  He also notes that Paul stresses “the working and effects of God’s wrath.  Paul speaks of wrath as a present reality under which people outside Christ stand” (see Rom. 3:5; 4:15; 9:22; Eph. 2:3).

3. When is it revealed? The tense and mood of the verb “revealed” tell us when God’s wrath will be manifested.  The verb shows us that God’s wrath is continually being revealed. It is a present tense verb in the indicative mood (the exact same as verse 17).  Moo said that it is difficult to give the same form of the same verb a present reference in one and a futuristic reference in another (p. 100).  Paul does teach a lot about future, cosmic events that will bring God’s wrath once and for all at the end of history (e.g. Rom. 2:5, 5:9; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10).  However, in this verse, it is an actual, present reality for people who are not believers.  They are feeling God’s wrath now in an unhappy, wasted life—even if they don’t see it that way.  And at the same time, as we know from other Pauline Scripture, they are also storing up wrath for themselves on Judgment Day (see the passages above).

These people upon whom God’s wrath is resting are experiencing this because they (literally) “hold in the truth in unrighteousness” (that is, to “suppress” [ESV]).  God’s “truth” is not something that simply needs to be acknowledged or memorized.  It is something that needs to be believed as true and obeyed.  When someone suppresses a truth they are not giving themselves over to it in order to be developed and shaped by it.  They are not living by that truth and thus make a mockery of God and all that he is and stands for.  Finally, what is causing this suppression?  Their very own unrighteousness.  They are blind and dead, in the darkness of sin, and have no excuse (see 1:20; 2 Cor. 4:4-6; Eph. 2:1-5; cf. John 3:19).  Their inability to make themselves believe the truth does not alleviate their guilt.  It only increases it.  It shows how totally depraved man is.

Categories
Theology

What is the foundation of your joy?

God’s love for you that makes much of his glory is greater love for you than if he made you your greatest treasure You will never, ever be beautiful enough, strong enough, wise enough, admirable enough, to be the bottom and to bear the weight of all the joy you want for all eternity. It will not bear that weight. It will give way and you will fall into the pit. Only one thing can bear the weight of all the joy you want to have and that is God.

– John Piper, at Passion 2011

(HT: Gregg Metcalf)

Categories
Life

Some of My Thoughts About Hell

In the previous post, I posted on a sermon from my church.  As I’m blogging through my church’s sermons, I should make a note that I don’t necessarily agree with everything that the speaker says.  In this week’s sermon, there were a few things that I took issue with.  I have no doubt that preacher was sincere and loving in his intentions and I am in no way questioning his study or integrity.  He said nothing heretical by any means, and of course, you can only say so much in a 35-minute sermon.  I hope to be gracious to him, but I do want to share my thoughts on some things I disagreed with.

  • In the sermon, the pastor made the point that “hell is ultimately the separation of people from the presence of God (Point 1.3).  The passage he quoted was 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10.  This is true, but not all the way true.  I think that more explanation is needed because the word “presence” communicates an awful lot. I disagree with the flat statement that hell is the “separation of people from God’s presence” for this simple reason: God is omnipresent, he cannot not be somewhere. That includes hell.  Instead of just saying that hell is “separation of people from the presence of the Lord,” we should widen our view.  More than that, hell is the “separation of people from the majestic, glorious presence of the Lord.” Hell is, in fact, “an eternity of suffering the destructive, wrathful, fiery presence of the Lord, experiencing the presence of the darkness of his judgment.” Satan is not the one tormenting people in hell since he himself is being tormented (Rev. 20:10).  So hell is not ultimately about being separated from God, but more about experiencing God’s wrath because of unrepentance. When Christ died on the cross he took on the concentrated wrath of God, which we were deserving of, so that we might not have to experience that wrath in hell. (Check out Luke 3:7; John 3:36; Rom. 2:5, 8; 5:9; Col. 3:5-6; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:9; Rev. 19:15.) For more on this, see R.C. Sproul’s comments on the subject.
  • The pastor also quotes C.S. Lewis saying, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”  I don’t think that Lewis is a reliable source when it comes to hell.  He’s not so orthodox there.  Piper has said it a lot better than I can, but in short, I don’t think anyone chooses hell.  Just because you don’t choose God doesn’t mean you, by default, choose hell.  When I think of someone “choosing” something, I think of something they want.  Certainly no person would ever want the hell that Jesus describes.  They might chose their own hell or something that is preferable to the “borningness of heaven” (though heaven won’t be boring), but they aren’t choosing the literal hell of the Bible that unregenerate people go to after death.  Piper put it this way: “What sinners want is not hell but sin. That hell is the inevitable consequence of unforgiven sin does not make the consequence desirable. It is not what people want — certainly not what they ‘most want.’ Wanting sin is no more equal to wanting hell than wanting chocolate is equal to wanting obesity. Or wanting cigarettes is equal to wanting cancer.”
  • Finally, as he closed, the pastor said that John 3:16 (i.e. the “so loved” part of the verse) communicates how much God loves the world.  This is not the correct translation of “so loved.”  God does love the world more than you or I ever could, but that is not what Jesus is telling Nicodemus in John 3.  What Jesus is telling Nicodemus is this: “God loved the world this way.”   What way?  “Namely, that God sent his Son Jesus Christ that whoever believes in him will not experience the death of hell.”  Jesus coming to earth is a tangible, real illustration of what kind of love God has for the world he created.

So there are some thoughts.  Please feel free to interact with them and offer your thoughts as well.

Categories
Life

What Doctrine Can’t You Wait to Learn More About?

In heaven, Christians will be satisfied with the continual, gradual, joyful revealing of God to us for all eternity.  With that will come layers and layers of learning about all the doctrines that make us scratch our head on this side of eternity.

One thing in particular that intrigues me now, that I can’t wait to learn more about for forever, is the perfect, loving, glorious relationship of the Trinity.  We only get the tip of the iceberg with this doctrine.  And there’s an infinite amount of ice underneath the surface for us to discover.

What about you?