Well, here it is just a few days after Christmas, and I’m writing about the wrath of God and Hell. Sorry if I am ruining your Christmas joy, but I have to continue my thoughts in conclusion to this part of “Therefore” … my latest book.
The wrath of God is truly a forgotten doctrine, even in the evangelical church. I’ll dare say that many have never heard a sermon on God’s wrath – that is, not a full sermon devoted to this one topic. The reasons for this apparent neglect are not hard to find. Most of us would rather hear about love and grace. I know I would rather preach about God’s grace. After all, to speak of the wrath of God makes us appear narrow minded, judgmental, and, God help us, fundamentalists. On another level, God’s wrath is difficult to comprehend, so in some ways, this is a doctrine that is easy to overlook. The thought that nice people we know might someday go to eternal hell is so overwhelming – and so disheartening – that we’d much rather not think about it at all.
Many Christians feel as if they have to apologize for this doctrine. Some think it is a blemish on God’s character. Others think that God’s wrath is inconsistent with his love. Let us then consider the words J.I. Packer wrote in his book, “Knowing God”:
“The fact is that the subject of divine wrath has become taboo in modern society, and Christians by and large have accepted the taboo and conditioned themselves never to raise the matter.”
True though these words may be, two facts stare us in the face: First, the Bible says more about wrath than about love. And, second, Jesus spoke more about hell than about heaven. We may speculate as to the reasons behind those two facts, but no amount of reasoning can change the truth. The Bible is filled with warnings about God’s wrath and about eternal judgment. I would not be a faithful pastor if I did not deal with this topic. God has made no secret of his wrath, and neither should we.
Dr. Steven Lawson speaks of this in a great way in one of his sermons: “The Geneva Reformer John Calvin said, ‘Preaching is the public exposition of scripture by the man sent from God, in which Go Himself is present in judgment and in grace’. Faithful pulpit ministry requires the declaration of both judgment and grace. The Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword that softens and hardens, comforts and afflicts, saves and damns. The preaching of divine wrath serves as a black velvet backdrop that causes the diamond of God’s mercy to shine brighter than ten thousand suns. It is upon the dark canvas of divine wrath that the splendor of His saving grace most fully radiates. Preaching the wrath of God most brilliantly showcases His gracious mercy toward sinners. Like trumpeters on the castle wall warning of coming disaster, preachers must proclaim the full counsel of God. Those who stand in pulpits must preach the whole body of truth in the Scriptures, which includes both sovereign wrath and supreme love. They cannot pick and choose what they want to preach. Addressing the wrath of God is never optional for a faithful preacher – it is a divine mandate.”
Acts 17:31 says that God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness. That day is looming on the horizon! It gets closer and closer the more we abandon God. Like the prophets and Apostles, and even Christ Himself, we too must warn unbelievers of this coming dreadful day and compel them to flee to Christ, who alone is mighty to save.