Hellfire and God’s Grace

Psalm 50:1

The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Hebrews 1:1–2 (NIV)

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. 

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Today is the 275th anniversary of Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, being preached, signaling the start of the Great Awakening. In that message Edwards speaks of the reality of hell, the culpability of man to God’s judgment, the need for repentance and faithfulness to God, and asserted that the only thing keeping men out of hell is the will of God. It was a wake-up call to the people of his day who made little of sin or of the need for Christ’s saving work.

There are many who would call for such hellfire and brimstone in today’s climate of godlessness and apathy. And while I might agree with the need to awaken people from the stupor of their sin, I much more believe that the message of God’s love in Christ for sinners is the power of God for salvation (cf. Romans 1:16-17). God’s last word is the word I wish to convey: Jesus Christ’s message of grace, life, forgiveness, and hope for sinners, and his scathing condemnation of all who suppose they are righteous apart from him.

God does summon the earth. He has called us to his Son, Jesus Christ. And admittedly Edwards’ famous sermon expresses the dire need for Christ. So hear his message: “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that you may have life in abundance (John 10:10). Whoever comes to me I will in no way cast out (John 6:37). The time has come. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Good News (Mark 1:15).

There is a hell, a terrible place of judgment and horrific terror. But God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), he does not want the wicked to perish, but to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23).

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