By Dr. David Kyle Foster, Crosswalk.com
During the First Great Awakening that swept England and the 13 Colonies during the 1730s and 40s, Jonathan Edwards delivered one of the most powerful sermons ever preached: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
This first of three ‘great awakenings,’ (although the third is debated by some because of its reduced scope), gave birth to the first vestiges of modern evangelicalism, as it stirred men’s souls to turn to Christ rather than ending up in hell.
As Edwards preached, countless people fell under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and gave their lives to Jesus Christ, who alone is the surety that God’s wrath will be turned away from those who believe in Him.
It was an appropriate message for those who refused to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, (even in the church), because it warned them of the wrath that is to come upon the earth for those who do not repent.
Jesus warned about the day of wrath, and the eternal consequences of rejecting or accepting His message.
Christ Himself repeatedly warned unbelievers of His day, (especially “the clergy”), that they were headed toward the precipice of a fiery eternity in Hell.
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. – Matthew 3:8
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him. – John 3:36
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell. – Matthew 10:28
You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to Hell? – Matthew 23:33
Even today, it is a message that infuriates those who refuse to repent (i.e., turn from their way of sin) and surrender their lives to the Savior for the cleansing of sin. In rejecting their need for a savior or that Christ is that Savior, they have become wise in their own eyes. It’s a manifestation of what the Bible calls “the foolishness of man” to their own peril (1 Corinthians 1:18-30).
Jesus’ warning is a message of love to those who will turn to Him to be saved. It is mercy and grace.
Imagine discovering the cure for cancer, yet refusing to tell the world. That would be an act of hate. But if you freely shared it with the world, even to your own detriment, that would be an act of love.
Today, people don’t want to talk about God’s judgment for those who reject Christ. On the surface, it doesn’t sound like love to them.
They can’t imagine their domesticated savior, meek and mild, pouring out wrath on the earth.
Yet the Bible is clear – it is this same pure and humble Son of God who will exact judgment.
Why? Because He voluntarily died a torturous death to take upon Himself the penalty for our sins. To refuse this supreme sacrifice of love is the worst offense that can ever be committed.
And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this (Jesus) is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. – Acts 10:42
For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son. – John 5:22
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. – Acts 17:30-31
...on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. – Romans 2:16
God is both love and righteousness.
God is love (1 John 4:8-18). Love is the essence of His very being — just so with His righteousness. He cannot act outside of who He is, which is a blend of His love and His righteous judgment for those who refuse to surrender their life to Him.
Imagine being found guilty of a capital crime in a court of law. It is only one of many crimes for which you are guilty, making a sentence of death justified. Then imagine that instead of condemning you, the judge orders the officers of the court to take him to the execution chamber to be put to death in your place. As he is being led away, the judge orders you to be set free. This is what Jesus has done for you!
The Bible teaches that Jesus has driven out fear by His love because ultimately, fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18). That is what Jesus has taken away for all who repent and believe in Him.
The truth is, we all are destined to hell outside of His loving offer of forgiveness; an offer that is open to everyone.
God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9
Wrath is coming sooner than you think.
The judgment of God is coming (Acts 17:30-31). For 150,000 people, it will be today. For the same number of souls, it will be tomorrow. In one year alone, 55 million will die, to stand before God’s judgment.
You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety”, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. – 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3
It is a great sadness that most will use their God-given gift of free will, (which is what makes us human), to continue to live in sin and without the Savior. In so doing, they ignore God’s warning that the sentence of death rests on every person who has chosen to remain outside of Christ.
The warning of God in the Scriptures could not be more clear. It was declared by Jesus Himself. And it was that declaration that was the foundation for Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon.
Why we need Jesus Christ:
God is perfectly pure and without stain or blemish (1 Peter 1:18-19). To live in His presence requires that we also be made to be without stain or blemish (Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:21-23). That requires the atoning death of Christ, the fruit of which has been offered to all who believe in Him.
Even believers still sin, but because of His love, the penalty for such sin has been laid upon Jesus. God’s righteous judgment and His wrath for them has been appeased.
For those who reject such a Savior, there remains only judgment.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. – Hebrews 10:26-27
Would you like to be a sinner in the hands of an angry God, or a sinner in the hands of a loving God?
He loves you and wants you to be with Him!
He wants to release you from the sentence of death and take you to heaven to be with Him forever. Don’t ignore so great a salvation any longer. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). As the Scriptures have said...
If the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? – Hebrews 2:2-3
Dr. David Kyle Foster(M-Div, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; D-Min, Trinity School for Ministry) is the author of Transformed Into His Image and The Sexual Healing Reference Edition. You can listen to his twice-weekly podcast by going to: www.charismapodcastnetwork.com/show/purepassion.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Eris-Setiawan