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Foreword: The question above was answered briefly by Donald A. Carson and the original videoblog can be accessed here.  I have transcribed his response and appended it below.

EmmausTrekker

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That’s a very good question. Right on the top, when we have to say that many of those who have fought God all of their lives, wouldn’t at all be that happy in heaven, it seems to me.  If the enjoyment of God’s holiness and the praise of His Name and the wonder of His character, if these things are not really precious in the first place, then why on earth would such a person want to go to heaven?

But there are more fundamental answers. It really is important to see that hell is not a place where there are a lot of deeply sorrowful, repenting sinners who really want to repent from their sins and get out. The bible speaks of hell as a place where those who are filthy, are filthy still. It’s an alarming picture. There’s no evidence anywhere in the Bible that people come to hell and actually repent and want to turn to the living God. Rather it’s going to be a place for all eternity where these people are still defying God, still hating Him, still justifying themselves, still tearing down relationships, still being resentful, still nurturing self-righteousness, in an endless cycle of brokenness and shame and guilt and defiance that shows no repentance ever.  In that sense there is an ongoing cycle of guilt and punishment that is part of what individual sinners still want.  It’s painful to say it but it’s the truth.

Whereas the very nature of biblical Christianity is that God intervenes and breaks the power of this sinful cycle, and gives a new heart and transforms people, frees them from their guilt, gives them His Spirit so that there is a beginning of new life, new desire, new orientation, new hungers, finally consummating in the new heaven and the new earth – the home of righteousness.

So you cannot really answer the question why does God ever consider putting people into hell unless you put it within the much larger question of “what is righteousness?”, “what is sin?”, “what is the connection between shame and punishment?” And within that framework, what will be clear from all eternity, both for those in heaven and even for those in hell, is that God is just and is seen to be just. Even those in hell will acknowledge that for all eternity.

URL: http://against-heresies.blogspot.com/2009/11/don-carson-how-can-god-be-loving-and.html

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The Main Difference Between Calvinist and Non-Calvinist Views of Saving Grace by John Hendryx (from www.reformationtheology.com)

Recently I had am exchange on a message board regarding the particulars of Calvinism. Hopefully you find it helpful:

Visitor #1: I gave up on Calvinism a long time ago.

My response: You mean you gave up on the idea that Jesus Christ alone is sufficient to save you?

Visitor #1: Yep

Visitor #2 chimes in: John, is it possible you’re caricaturing the situation just a smidge? Calvinism cannot possibly have a monopoly in affirming Jesus Christ as sufficient.

My response: Actually the central difference between Calvinist and non-Calvinist soteriology is that Calvinist believes Jesus Christ is sufficient to save to the uttermost while non-Calvinist soteriology believes that while Jesus is necessary, he is not sufficient. To clarify what I mean, both Roman Catholics and Arminians for example, would anathematize anyone who says you can be saved without the grace of God. The Reformers never claimed Rome believed you can be saved apart from grace. That wasn’t the debate. The debate of the Reformation was never ever about the necessity of grace, it was always about the sufficiency of grace. That remains the issue today in so many contexts (James White). So no I am not caricaturing the situation. This is the essence of it. The theology of Calvinism or Reformed Theology centers on the sufficiency of Christ in salvation. There is nothing more essential to its position and this is what sets is apart from other all other types of theology. Another way to put it: it is the difference between Monergism &. Synergism. As Michael Haykin notes, “the most vital question, is, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving us by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying us for Christs’ sake when we come to faith, but also raising us from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring us to faith.” In other words, whatever God requires of us, (including faith), if we believe the unregenerate man has the power in himself to exercise, then we make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of no effect. Either Christ is a complete savior, OR He helps us to save ourselves. What Calvinism means in the historic sense, is that Jesus Christ is a complete savior, not a partial one.

Visitor #1: I gave up on Calvinism because grace is resistible.

My response: Jesus himself teaches that no one can believe in him unless God grants it (John 6:53-65)… and ALL to whom God grants it will believe (v. 37). These passages plainly teach that Jesus alone is sufficient to save. His grace is effectual. He leaves no room from the unregenerate, natural man making good choices on his own, so as to leave no room for any boasting. Why do you think one person believes the gospel and not the other? Was one born with more natural wisdom? Or inclination to good? What makes people to differ? Jesus Christ or something else?

Visitor #1: so does “sufficient” mean that those whom God decides shall have salvation shall have salvation, or that those whom God decides shall have salvation can have salvation?

My response: The word “sufficient” means that Jesus Christ meets all the conditions for us that are necessary for our salvation, not only some of the conditions. It further means what Jesus does for us on the cross meets all of God’s requirements for us, including giving us a new heart which is needed to believe and obey (Ezekiel 36:26). In other words, apart from grace sinners are unable to obey the gospel, any more than the law, without a new heart. The non-Calvinist (synergist) position denies this and instead affirms that the natural man, can have faith in Christ while still in the flesh (with an unrenewed heart). So to answer your question, it means that what Jesus does for us in his life death and resurrection is not only necessary but completely sufficient to save us. This was the point of the Reformation’s affirmation of the principle of Solus Christus, or Christ alone. God’s love for His own is unconditional so He makes sure the job gets done. To look at it from another perspective, the synergist denies that what Jesus does for us is sufficient to save us… grace is necessary but the unregenerate man must also somehow come up with the good will to exercise faith apart from the Holy Spirit granting renewal of heart. So God’s love for the sinner is conditional, based entirely on his response. But the Scripture says that “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all…no one can come to [Jesus] unless it is granted him by the Father.” (John 6:63, 65)

Visitor #1: John: thanks for the response…boiling that down, though, does Calvinism hold that if God decides that someone is to receive salvation, then that person will indeed receive it? My understanding of Calvinism is that the answer is “yes”, and what you’re saying seems to validate that: Jesus Himself meets all the necessary conditions, so there remains no condition that the one receiving salvation must fulfill.

My response: Yes that’s right! – This is what Jesus teaches in John 6:63-65. & 37. A new heart which has faith is part of Christ’s grace to us (Ezekiel 36:26). We don’t come up with faith on our own (drawing from our own resources), apart from the Holy Spirit. This passage in John (among many others) should put an end to all argument on this issue. God’s love for his people in Christ is unconditional, not conditional … therefore Jesus meets the conditions of salvation for us, doing for us what we are morally unable to do for ourselves. He is a Savior, not merely a helper. That means when He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:3,4) he makes sure the job gets done on earth in time. On the other hand, the non-Calvinist, or synergist position, believes God’s love for people is conditional. That is, conditioned on the natural man’s response.

The difference between the two views could perhaps be illustrated fairly well by two parents whose children run into the street. The first parent stands afar at the curb and calls out to the child to get out of the way of the car, but does not lift a finger beyond asking him to use his will. The second parent, on the other hand, runs out into the street at the risk of his/her life, scoops him up, and makes sure the child does not get hit by the car. Which is more loving? When the person loved cannot save themselves true love does not dilly dally.

God loves his loved ones with a resolute will that gets the job done. The God of the Bible names and numbers his sheep, who saves the lost sheep and fends off the wolf.

Warm regards

John

Note: I am using the word Calvinism to cover the historic Augustinian, Monergistic view.

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Foreword: One of the most significant sermons preached during the Great Awakening. It pleased the Holy Spirit to use this preaching to prick the hearts of the hearers to repentance. May it ever be so again today as this, once more, is available below to be read by every visitor to this weblog. Verses below are quoted in American Standard Version (ASV). Click the verse link to read in the English Standard Version (ESV)

EmmausTrekker

 

Preached by by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

Enfield, Connecticut
July 8, 1741

Their foot shall slide in due time.” Deuteronomy 32:35

In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God’s visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works towards them, remained (as verse 28.) void of counsel, having no understanding in them. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text. — The expression I have chosen for my text, their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following things, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.

  1. That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon them, being represented by their foot sliding. The same is expressed, Psalm 73:18Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction.

  2. It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning: Which is also expressed in Psalm 73:18,19Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction: How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!

  3. Another thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.

  4. That the reason why they are not fallen already and do not fall now is only that God’s appointed time is not come. For it is said, that when that due time, or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.

The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this. — “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” — By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment. — The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations.

  1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands. — He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defence from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?

  2. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God’s using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, “Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?Luke 13:7. The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God’s mere will, that holds it back.

  3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. John 3:18He that believeth not is condemned already.” So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is, John 8:23Ye are from beneath:” And thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God’s word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.

  4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.

    So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.

  5. The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The scripture represents them as his goods, Luke 11:12. The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.

  6. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God’s restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in scripture compared to the troubled sea, Isaiah 57:20. For the present, God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;” but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God’s restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.

  7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God’s hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.

  8. Natural men’s prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is this clear evidence that men’s own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? Ecclesiastes 2:16How dieth the wise man? even as the fool.

  9. All wicked men’s pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.

    But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those who heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they were not as wise as those who are now alive: it was not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, “No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself — I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief — Death outwitted me: God’s wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction came upon me.”

  10. God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.

So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men’s earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.

So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of; all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.

Application

The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ. — That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are the black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff on the summer threshing floor.

The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.

The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. — And consider here more particularly,

  1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. Proverbs 20:2The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul.” The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as his majesty is greater. Luke 12:4-5 And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

  2. It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isaiah 59:18. “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries.” So Isaiah 66:15. “For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” And in many other places. So, Revelation 19:15, we read of “the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, “the wrath of God,” the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is “the fierceness and wrath of God.” The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful that must be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also “the fierceness and wrath of almighty God.” As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power in what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!

    Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezekiel 8:18. “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only “laugh and mock,Proverbs 1:25-26,etc.

    How awful are those words, Isaiah 63:3, which are the words of the great God. “I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.” It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, viz. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you in the utmost contempt: no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.

  3. The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to that end, that he might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath had it on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his love is, and also how terrible his wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have a mind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extreme punishments they would execute on those that would provoke them. Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldean empire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it was before; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fierceness that human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing to show his wrath, and magnify his awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of his enemies. Romans 9:22What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” And seeing this is his design, and what he has determined, even to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, he will do it to effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with a witness. When the great and angry God hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. Isaiah 33:12-14. And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites,” etc.

    Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. Isaiah 66:23-24. “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

  4. It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For “who knows the power of God’s anger?

How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here, in some seats of this meeting-house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before tomorrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest will be there in a little time! your damnation does not slumber; it will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living and in the house of God, and have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day’s opportunity such as you now enjoy!

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?

Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, sirs, your case, in an especial manner, is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Do you not see how generality persons of your years are passed over and left, in the present remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God’s mercy? You had need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God. — And you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as with those persons who spent all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness. — And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?

And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favour to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men’s hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls; and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the greater part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on the great out-pouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles’ days; the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you was born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God’s Spirit, and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.

Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”


 

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Foreword:  Goblins, ghouls, witches and demons…these are but a few of the costumes that young kids (and adults too) in many countries around the world will wear on Halloween’s eve (Oct 31) and go around merrily trick or treating from door-to-door . It is also the eve of the day of the commemoration of the dead and much is also celebrated about it. One thing for sure, it is good to lovingly remember people who have passed on into the next life. While many would love to think that their love ones are in a “happy place”, rarely will anyone like to think that they could have possibly gone to that “other place” which the Bible calls hell.

The issue of hell in some quarters have been relegated to a symbolism while some have altogether erased the reality of it, at least in their mind, calling it a ‘Christian myth’.  For who could truly erase it when the Lord Jesus Christ has talked much about its reality and the one place that He so warned all who would not repent and believe in Him.

Hell is much a part of these two celebrations mentioned above, whether one cares to admit it or not, and John Piper’s article on hell is posted hereunder because I think this is an opportune time to for us think about these things. Is hell a trick or a threat?

EmmausTrekker

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How Willingly Do People Go to Hell? Does Anyone Standing by the Lake of Fire Jump In? by John Piper

C.S. Lewis is one of the top 5 dead people who have shaped the way I see and respond to the world. But he is not a reliable guide on a number of important theological matters. Hell is one of them. His stress is relentlessly that people are not “sent” to hell but become their own hell. His emphasis is that we should think of “a bad man’s perdition not as a sentence imposed on him but as the mere fact of being what he is.” (For all the relevant quotes, see Martindale and Root, The Quotable Lewis, 288-295.)

This inclines him to say, “All that are in hell choose it.” And this leads some who follow Lewis in this emphasis to say things like, “All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want.”

I come from the words of Jesus to this way of talking and find myself in a different world of discourse and sentiment. I think it is misleading to say that hell is giving people what they most want. I’m not saying you can’t find a meaning for that statement that’s true, perhaps in Romans 1:24-28. I’m saying that it’s not a meaning that most people would give to it in light of what hell really is. I’m saying that the way Lewis deals with hell and the way Jesus deals with it are very different. And we would do well to follow Jesus.

The misery of hell will be so great that no one will want to be there. They will be weeping and gnashing their teeth (Matthew 8:12). Between their sobs, they will not speak the words, “I want this.” They will not be able to say amid the flames of the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14), “I want this.” “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Revelation 14:11). No one wants this.

When there are only two choices, and you choose against one, it does not mean that you want the other, if you are ignorant of the outcome of both. Unbelieving people know neither God nor hell. This ignorance is not innocent. Apart from regenerating grace, all people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

The person who rejects God does not know the real horrors of hell. This may be because he does not believe hell exists, or it may be because he convinces himself that it would be tolerably preferable to heaven.

But whatever he believes or does not believe, when he chooses against God, he is wrong about God and about hell. He is not, at that point, preferring the real hell over the real God. He is blind to both. He does not perceive the true glories of God, and he does not perceive the true horrors of hell.

So when a person chooses against God and, therefore, de facto chooses hell—or when he jokes about preferring hell with his friends over heaven with boring religious people—he does not know what he is doing. What he rejects is not the real heaven (nobody will be boring in heaven), and what he “wants” is not the real hell, but the tolerable hell of his imagination.

When he dies, he will be shocked beyond words. The miseries are so great he would do anything in his power to escape. That it is not in his power to repent does not mean he wants to be there. Esau wept bitterly that he could not repent (Hebrew 12:17). The hell he was entering into he found to be totally miserable, and he wanted out. The meaning of hell is the scream: “I hate this, and I want out.”

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.

Beneath this misleading emphasis on hell being what people “most want” is the notion that God does not “send” people to hell. But this is simply unbiblical. God certainly does send people to hell. He does pass sentence, and he executes it. Indeed, worse than that. God does not just “send,” he “throws.” “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown (Greek eblethe) into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15; cf. Mark 9:47; Matthew 13:42; 25:30).

The reason the Bible speaks of people being “thrown” into hell is that no one will willingly go there, once they see what it really is. No one standing on the shore of the lake of fire jumps in. They do not choose it, and they will not want it. They have chosen sin. They have wanted sin. They do not want the punishment. When they come to the shore of this fiery lake, they must be thrown in.

When someone says that no one is in hell who doesn’t want to be there, they give the false impression that hell is within the limits of what humans can tolerate. It inevitably gives the impression that hell is less horrible than Jesus says it is.

We should ask: How did Jesus expect his audience to think and feel about the way he spoke of hell? The words he chose were not chosen to soften the horror by being accommodating to cultural sensibilities. He spoke of a “fiery furnace” (Matthew 13:42), and “weeping and gnashing teeth” (Luke 13:28), and “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30), and “their worm [that] does not die” (Mark 9:48), and “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46), and “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), and being “cut in pieces” (Matthew 24:51).

These words are chosen to portray hell as an eternal, conscious experience that no one would or could ever “want” if they knew what they were choosing. Therefore, if someone is going to emphasize that people freely “choose” hell, or that no one is there who doesn’t “want” to be there, surely he should make every effort to clarify that, when they get there, they will not want this.

Surely the pattern of Jesus—who used blazing words to blast the hell-bent blindness out of everyone— should be followed. Surely, we will grope for words that show no one, no one, no one will want to be in hell when they experience what it really is. Surely everyone who desires to save people from hell will not mainly stress that it is “wantable” or “chooseable,” but that it is horrible beyond description—weeping, gnashing teeth, darkness, worm-eaten, fiery, furnace-like, dismembering, eternal, punishment, “an abhorrence to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24).

I thank God, as a hell-deserving sinner, for Jesus Christ my Savior, who became a curse for me and suffered hellish pain that he might deliver me from the wrath to come. While there is time, he will do that for anyone who turns from sin and treasures him and his work above all.

Trembling before such realities, and trusting Jesus,

Pastor John Piper

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17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God !” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God ! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God .” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”Mark 10:17-31

 

The Lord has jusrich young ruler - Mark 10t blessed every children brought to Him by laying His hands on them, prayed and blessed them. And just as He has started to stand up and about to move on, a man came and knelt before Him.  My curiosity is initially taken by the kneeling part when this man could have simply approached and walked with the Lord while asking his question. Generally, it is an act of respect accorded at times to Rabbis but to say that it is so here begs the question as to why the others who approached Jesus did not do that. At any rate, there are three possibilities here why the rich young ruler knelt; either he simply presented himself in a humble gesture, or made a public display of his humility or he wanted to justify himself and earn something thus kneeling was a very expedient way to start. The succeeding verses pull me towards the last possibility. His first question gives the reader a hint that he also desired a blessing from the Lord in the manner that He did for the children. Kneeling would be the “good” thing to do at this moment and hopefully obtain what he was looking for.

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Addressing the Lord as ‘good teacher’ allows a continuity from the thought just mentioned above about the rich man’s attempt to reach out to Jesus who he perceives to be truly good. There is nothing to tell us here that he was mocking or condescending in his address, but no matter how good his intention, his manner of address fell short of what he should understand about Jesus Christ. The man’s question can be either preempted when he heard that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the children presuming that being a Jewish child automatically makes one an heir of eternal life. He definitely missed the mark here.  He must have associated the goodness, even innocence, of the children to be basis of that inheritance. And he wanted that too.  He missed the mark even further when he perceives his goodness to be work needed to obtain eternal life.  His use of the phrase “what must I do” provides us the way he thinks, that a man can work his way through into heaven. He was performance oriented, so to speak.

Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

Although the Lord, while in His humanity, is limited in knowing all, He subtly has opened to us here – the reader – a brief and quick display of His divine nature by knowing the intent of the heart of man.  It is as if the question just jumped out of nowhere. The Lord could have just skipped asking this question and stating an absolute, and could have just proceeded in reciting the second half of the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:1-17). Without going into a deeper explanation of the term good, we can immediately see that the Lord is teaching this man two things:

(a) that no man is good, only God is good, and

(b) He is, by inference, already giving the man a glimpse of who He is – God come in the flesh, the Messiah.

If only this man had the ability to make the immediate connection but he was not focused really on the Lord who can bless him, but rather on himself and sincerely believes his goodness merits the blessing.

The Horizontal Half of the Decalogue (love your neighbors)

Again it may not seem obvious at first instance, but the Lord quoting here the second half of the Decalogue is to prepare the rich man about the meaning of goodness in terms of the Law from a horizontal perspective, that is: a man’s relation to his neighbor. His failure to recognize that Jesus is Lord has consequently magnified that he truly missed the whole point concerning his original question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Perhaps, if we contrast this to the Jewish hearers of Peter on the Day of Pentecost when they asked what they should do, the fundamental different is that the hearts of the 3,000 Jews were cut by what they heard (Acts 2:37-41) which is a significant observation in the Scriptures especially on matters of why a person will or will not respond to the hearing of God’s truth.  Nevertheless, as we must observe here, the rich man replied ‘yes’ to every “Do” of the Decalogue presented to him by Jesus.

 “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”

Notice further that his reply hinted a seemingly proud self-congratulatory attitude rather than humility as physically prefaced by kneeling before the Lord: “Teacher, all this I have kept from my youth.” Should it have been otherwise, his reply perhaps may sound like this, “Teacher, only by the grace of the Lord have I kept them and where I have failed, only to His mercy do I fling.” Of course, I purposely set these side by side so that we can see the wide chasm of difference. In the same way, the Lord differentiated between the two men who prayed in the temple (Luke 18:9-14).

This same account in Matthew 19 presents us a more pointed reply by the rich man saying, “All these I have kept, what do I still lack?”  (Matthew 19:20). A self-righteous man is always an arrogant mind, even if it is inside his heart and will definitely not escape the One who alone sees the heart and mind (Jeremiah 17:10).

Of course there was no way for us to verify now if he was telling the truth or not but for the sake of charity, we assume that he did. The issue here is not whether he did these commandments or not, but his response to the Lord tells us more about the man, so to speak. In fact we would rather assume that he did keep them since the Lord never exposed him as a fraud in any of these commandments mentioned (Mark 10: 19-20).

Jesus, looking at him and loved him

The parallel story in Matthew 19:16-22 does not include the phrase “and loved him”.  I remember a time when a brother in the Lord told me that this rich young ruler turned his back to the Lord – to which I said yes, but his comment pointed to a finality of the unsaved position of this man. I said, “we cannot perfectly assume that,” – he was referring to Matthew 19 – I continued, “because in Mark’s account, the Scripture tells us that Jesus loved him”.

When we talk about the love of God, it is always directed to a salvific end of the beneficiary. In my recent post on John 3:16 explanation by Pastor John Samson, it is a statement of fact that because the love of God displayed in the sending of His send who will be lifted up on the cross, the ones believing will have eternal life.  As already explained therein, that verse does not present any choice to be made but rather a statement of fact of the resulting eternal life for the believers because God has sent His Son.  If God did not send His Son, the supposed elect, those predestined for eternal life will not have eternal life!

Now here we have Mark, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration telling us of the love of Jesus Christ for this man. What more can be plain about this – Jesus loved him, period!

Consider the following verses in Romans 5:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God has already displayed His love in Christ for us while we were yet still sinners.  It was a few decades short of two millennia ago that Christ died on the cross and it took more than 1,900 years for me to realized that I am a beneficiary of that, and so for every person who repented and believed in Jesus during my generation. My point here is this, with Mark saying that Jesus loved him could possibly mean that He did not write-off that rich man finally when he walked away disheartened. He may be arrogant and as we will see later, fallen short of God’s glory, but nevertheless a possibly yet unrealized beneficiary of that salvation that Jesus will purchase at the cross much later in the Gospel narrative of Mark. When did this man get saved? Nothing written about that, but silence does not mean ‘no’ always. The greek egapesen from the root agape is used here. This is supposed to be the unconditional kind. Admittedly, I do not have Greek parsing source for now but Mark used the word ‘love and loved’ a few times and each time it is a form of agape. Some commentaries I have checked said that Jesus only loved him because this man has, at least, an external regard for the Law and was interested to inquire on the matter of eternal life. They say this was only a natural kind of affection.  However, Vine’s had this to say about the word ‘agape’ (noun) or ‘agapao’ (verb):

“Love can be known only from the actions it prompts. God’s love is seen in the gift of His Son, 1Jo_4:9-10. But obviously this is not the love of complacency, or affection, that is, it was not drawn out by any excellency in its objects, Rom_5:8. It was an exercise of the Divine will in deliberate choice, made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself, Cp. Deu_7:7-8.

“Love had its perfect expression among men in the Lord Jesus Christ, 2Co_5:14; Eph_2:4; Eph_3:19; Eph_5:2; Christian love is the fruit of His Spirit in the Christian, Gal_5:22.

“Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments, Joh_14:15, Joh_14:21, Joh_14:23; Joh_15:10; 1Jo_2:5; 1Jo_5:3; 2Jo_1:6. Self-will, that is, self-pleasing, is the negation of love to God.

“Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, Rom_15:2, and works no ill to any, 13:8-10; love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,’ Gal_6:10. See further 1 Cor. 13 and Col_3:12-14.” * [* From Notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg and Vine, p. 105.]

You may not fully agree with me here and I welcome that because it will continue to encourage us to dig deeper into the whole counsel of God.

“You lacked one thing”

After all the “do” commandments stated, there is finally one thing he failed to do…cannot do…give all his wealth to the poor.  You see, if this man indeed knew that the Law required loving our neighbors, he was at least willing to share his wealth to the neediest and there were many at that time. Remember the Lord had fed thousands and many, if not all, followed Him for the food. These are the very people who did not have enough and the rich young ruler would have been blind not to see. Yes, he was not physically blind, but his heart was.  Blindness is an allegory for a sinner. It is no surprise a few verses later we have a story of the blind Bar Timaeus (Mark 10:46-52; see my post on the Caananite Woman).

Jesus said, “you lacked on thing…” and that is all it took to let that man’s whole façade of self-righteousness and self worth to break and fall into pieces.

Disheartened…he went away sorrowful

He was disheartened alright…for what? Because he cannot inherit eternal life? No.  The Scripture is very plain; he was disheartened and sorrowful because he cannot give away his wealth for it was great! This was the final nail to the fact that he was not there kneeling before the Lord, calling Him ‘Teacher’, asking what to do to inherit eternal life because he WANTED to have eternal life…no, he wanted to justify himself that he earned it himself in the same way he thought he earned all his money and because of he belongs to the household of Israel.

One Important Thing

Somehow, we may feel how awful that man was because he turned away from the Lord or perhaps we thought it would have been really a hard thing to give away such a wealth. Whatever position we take, we are just like this man who wants to justify ourselves before God yet there will be always one thing we did not do.  Because of this, we are as much condemned under the Law as this man.  In fact, when it comes to our wealth, no matter how small, we are unwilling to give it all away to anyone poorer than us.  We want to preserve ourselves more than anyone else yet the Law requires that we love our neighbors LIKE ourselves. We trust in our wealth and ambitions of wealth to sustain us rather than God who can give us back all that we must give away to the needy and more (Mark 10:28-31). You might ask, “why persecution?” – persecution from people who would ridicule us for giving away our own worldly wealth and ambitions for the sake of the kingdom of God .

But the good news is Jesus loves and whom God has predestined His love in Christ will receive salvation. In the course of the Lord’s dealing with men, He will always expose our sin and our condemnation. He will say to us, “one thing you lack….” And that is enough to condemn us.  But thanks be to God, although with man salvation is impossible, but with God nothing is impossible (Mark 10:26-27).  He sent His Son to pay for that penalty of sin, even to the last one that we lack (and we lack a multitude!). He paid it all. And this is salvation story, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8).

May God the Holy Spirit cut our hearts with His Word of  truth always so that we will never remove the eyes of our heart upon Jesus Christ who lived a perfectly righteous life in our stead, was raised upon a cross, shed His blood for the propitiation to God for our sins, died a most horrible death that we all deserve, and was raised to life after 3 days proving that He is indeed the Son of God and that sins are truly forgiven in Him to them who has faith in Him alone. In Him we put our trust.

For the person who trusts in Christ Jesus, the same grace that saved him will transform him,  as he submits to the Word and the Spirit, into a life of generous giving  with the glory of God as his goal, for the benefit of his needy neighbor as an abiding evidence, while wanting nothing for himself except knowing that he has been blessed as a forgiven man who is eternally joined together in the Lord who loved him and gave Himself for him – which is, I should say, way more than what we can ask for or think!

Finally, as I have now pointed that it is union with the Lord Jesus Christ which transforms a man to become a generous giver, allow me to end this post with these words written by the apostle Paul to the Corinthians:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” – 2 Corinthians 8:9

To our good God and Lord Jesus be all glory! Amen.

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And behold, I am always with you, to the end of the age – Matthew 28:20

After the Lord declared His authority and commissioned the disciples to spread the good news, teaching those who will believe the Gospel everything that Jesus said and did, it was about the time that He will ascend to His rightful place and be seated at the right hand of God. The disciples would undoubtedly need comfort and these last words of the Lord was the coup de grace of all comforts: “I am always with you…”

Not only were these words of comfort to those who are being left behind for a while but also a source of strength as these disciples will face the world to preach the Gospel. Their account in the book of Acts testify to this fact. But allow me to take this verse to its personal level, not only for myself but for every Christian as well. I will remain in the purpose of the Scriptures: that we may know Him.

Like the early disciples, we face a world that is too pre-occupied with its own business – for various reasons; work, family, friends, leisure.  Every person is at the same time interacting somehow with each other, some for a while, some for long periods of time.  But if there is one thing about this fallen world to realize is that no one is, nor will be a constant companion. People leave, some relocate, some fall away from friendship, some become indifferent, everyone will die sooner or later. And that leaves us alone…but not so for a Christian. By “Christian” I do not mean the nominal kind who attends a local church congregation but rather one who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and who has a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, in love with Scriptures and whatever is righteous according to it, hates sin, loves the believers, preaches the Gospel to whoever may cross his path as God enables him, and by grace is separated from the way of the fallen world – this person may fall into sin, but he runs in repentance towards the Lord for forgiveness and trusts in the security of salvation that Jesus paid for with His life.

Yes, the Christian disciple is also busy, but like everybody else, there comes an occassion that he is left alone with none to interact with…yes, I have known times like this. Times when I had so much to say about the Lord to someone, both believers and unbelievers, but there’s none who simply has the moment to listen because they have other things to do.  At the ebb of this longing, I find my greatest comfort…Jesus Christ.  He is always with me according to His promise. And His last words recorded by Matthew was brought to my remembrance, to which I found my comfort – a joyful comfort.

So to the Christian I share this encouragement and may the Lord bless you with the same desire to get back to His word with which God communicates with us and through prayer, by which we communicate with Him.

To the one who has not repented and believed in Jesus the Son of God, what awaits him is an eternity of being alone in an inexpressible torment in the fiery furnace away forever from the love of God through His Son.  The wrath of God is upon all men and only Jesus has propitiated for this by dying and shedding His blood on the cross at Calvary.  Only in Him can men be forgiven and reconciled to God. And when you have repented of your sin and believed in the grace and forgiveness of God through Jesus, that is just the beginning of the eternal comforts and companionship of Him who is forever praised both now and forever more. Amen.

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