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Home The Light Articles from 2000 Eternal Punishment

Eternal Punishment

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Eternal Punishment

Part IV

The Application of the Subject

This is the fourth and final study in our series dealing with Eternal Punishment. This final is especially important to those who feel the concept of eternal punishment is unreasonably harsh; too "unlike God." As noted previously, each installment consumes more space than we would like, but we have proceeded because a study of this matter is vital–the Bible says more about hell than about heaven. Where changes were necessary for doctrinal accuracy, we inserted these in [ ].

The Application

In what has been before us we learn HOW the Character and Throne of God will be vindicated. What can be too severe a judgment upon those who have despised so great a Being as the Almighty? If he that is guilty of treason against an earthly government deserves to lose his life, what punishment can be great enough for one who has preferred his own pleasure before the will and glory of a God who is infinitely good? To despise infinite excellence merits infinite misery. God has commanded the sinner to repent, He has courted him with overtures of grace, He has bountifully supplied his every need, and He has presented before him the Son of His love–His choicest treasure–and yet men persist in their wicked course. No possible ground, then, will the sinner have to appeal against the sentence of the Judge of all the earth, seeing that He not only tendered mercy toward him, but also bore with him in so much patience when He might justly have smitten him down upon the first crime he ever committed and removed him to Hell upon the first refusal of His proffered grace.

That God shall punish every rebel against Himself is required by the very perfections of His high sovereignty. It is but meet that He should display His governmental supremacy. The creature has dared to assert its independency: the subject has risen up in arms against his King; therefore, the right of God’s throne must be vindicated–"I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly He is above them" (Ex. 18:11). When Pharaoh dared to pit himself against Jehovah, God manifested His authority by destroying him at the Red Sea. Another king He turned into a beast, to make him know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men. So, when the history of this world is wound up, God will make a full and final manifestation of His sovereign majesty. Though He now endures (not "loves") with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, it is that, in the coming Day. He may "show His wrath and make His power known" (Rom 9:22).

What has been before us serves to expose the folly and madness of the greater part of mankind, in that for the sake of present momentary gratification, they run the serious risk of enduring all these eternal torments. They prefer a small pleasure, or a little wealth, or a little earthly honor and fame (which lasts but "for a season") to an escape from the Lake of Fire. If it be true that the torments of Hell are everlasting, what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? How mad men are who hear and read of these things and pretend to believe them, who are alive but a little while, a few short years at most, and yet who are careless about what becomes of themselves in the next world, where there is neither change nor end! How mad are they who hear that if they go on in sin, they shall be eternally miserable, and yet are not moved, but hear it with as much indifference as if they were not concerned in the matter at all! And yet for all they know to the contrary, they may be in fiery torments before another week is at an end!

How sad to note that this unconcern is shared by the great majority of our fellows. Age makes little difference. The young are occupied with pleasures, the middle-aged with worldly advancement, the aged with their attainments or lack of them; with the first it is the lust of the flesh, with the second it is the lust of the eyes, with the third it is the pride of life, which banishes from their minds all serious thoughts of the life to come. "The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead" (Eccl. 9:3). O the blinding power of sin! O the deceitfulness of riches! O the perversity of the human heart! Nothing so reveals these things as the incredible sight of men and women enjoying themselves and being at rest, while they are suspended over the eternal burning by the frail thread of mortality, which may be snapped at any moment.

What has been before us ought to make every unsaved reader to tremble as he scans these pages. These things are no mere abstractions, but dread realities, as countless thousands have already discovered to their bitter cost. They may not seem real to you now, but in a short time at most– should you continue to reject the Christ of God–they will be your portion. You too shall lift up your eyes in Hell, and behold the saints in heaven. You, too, shall crave a drop of water to alleviate your fearful agony; but it will be in vain. You, too, shall cry for mercy; but then it will be too late. O unsaved reader, we pray you not to throw this aside and seek to dismiss the subject from your thoughts. That is how thousands before you have acted, and the very memory of their folly only accentuates their misery. Far better had you been made wretched now for a time, than that you should weep and wail and gnash your teeth forever. Far better than you have your present false peace broken, than that you should be a stranger to real peace for all eternity.

"Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3).Whoever you are, whether young or old, whether rich or poor, whether religious or irreligious, if you are in a Christ-less state, then this is what awaits you at the end of your present course. This is the Hell over which you now hang, and into which you are ready to drop this very moment. It is vain for you to flatter yourself with hopes that you shall avoid it, or to say in your heart, Perhaps it may not be; perhaps things have been represented worse than they really are. We have plainly shown that these things are according to the Word of Truth, and if you will not be convinced by that Word when presented to you by men in the name of God, then God Himself will yet undertake to prove to you that these things are so.

Think it not strange that God should deal so severely with you, or that the wrath you shall suffer shall be so great. For great as it is, it is no greater than the mercy which you now despise. The love of God, His marvelous grace in sending His own Son to die for sinners, is every whit as great and wonderful as this inexpressible wrath. You have refused to accept Christ as the Saviour from the wrath to come, you have despised God’s dying love, why then should you not suffer wrath as great as that grace and love which you have rejected? Does it still seem incredible that God should so harden His heart against a poor sinner as to bear down upon him with infinite power and merciless wrath? Then pause and ask: Is it any greater than it is for me to harden my heart against Him, against infinite mercy, against the Son of His love? O dear friends, face this question of Christ Himself, "How can ye escape the damnation of Hell" (Matt. 23:33). There is only one way of escape, and that is to flee to the Saviour. If you would not fall into the hands of the living God, then cast yourself into the arms of the Christ who died–"Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him" (Psa. 2:12).

What has been before us ought to make every professing Christian diligently examine himself. Weigh carefully the tremendously solemn issues which turn on whether or not you have really passed from death unto life. You cannot afford to be uncertain. There is far too much at stake. Remember that you are prejudiced in your own favor. Remember that you have a treacherous heart. Remember that the devil is the great Deceiver of souls. Remember that "there is a way the seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). Remember it is written that "many shall say unto Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?" And then He will answer them, "I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:22, 23).

There are many who now wear the guise of saints, who appear like saints, and their state, both in their own eyes and that of their neighbors is satisfactory. And yet they have on only sheep’s clothing; at heart, they are wolves. But no disguise can deceive the Judge of all. His eyes are as a flame of fire: they search the hearts and try the reins of the children of men.

Wherefore, let each take earnest heed that he be not deceived. Compare yourself with the Word of God, for that is the rule by which you will be tried. Test your works, for it is by these [you will be judged]. Inquire whether you are really living a Christian life; whether or not the fear of God is upon you; whether or not you are mortifying your members which are upon the earth; whether or not you are "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts" and whether you are living "soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world," for it is thus that "grace" teaches the saints to live. Cry unto God earnestly and frequently [that you may know your own heart] whether you are building upon the Rock, or upon the sand. Make the psalmist’s prayer yours–"Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there by any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psa. 139: 23,24). One day God will search you and make fully manifest what you are, both to yourself and to others. With this so, let each of us, then, humbly [search our hearts now]. We have urgent need [to pray for] Divine help in this matter, for our heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked."

What has been before us should cause those who really enjoy the full assurance of faith to praise God with a loud voice. To each of you we say: God has given you wonderful cause for gratitude and thanksgiving. You, too, justly deserved to suffer the full weight of the wrath of a sin-hating and sin-avenging God. It is not long since you loved darkness rather than light. It is only a short time since you turned a deaf ear to both God’s commands and entreaties. It is only a few years at most since you despised and rejected His beloved son. What marvelous grace was it then that snatched you as a brand from the burning! What wondrous love was it that delivered you from the wrath to come! What matchless mercy it was that changed you from a child of Hell (Matt. 23:15) to a child of God! O how you should praise the Father for having ever set His love upon you. How you should praise the Son for having died to save you from the Lake of fire. How you should praise the blessed Spirit for having [given unto you the very plan of God to save you from such]. And how your appreciation ought to be expressed now in a life that is glorifying to our holy God. How diligently ought you to seek to learn what is well-pleasing in His sight. How earnestly you should seek His will. How quick should you be to run in the way of His commandments. Let your life correspond with the praises of your lips.

What has been before us ought to stir up all of God’s people to a deepened sense of their duty. Fellow Christian, have you no obligations toward your godless neighbors? If God has made clear these solemn truths to you, does it not deepen your responsibility toward the unsaved? If you have no love for souls, it is greatly to be feared that your own soul is in imminent danger. If you can witness, unmoved, to men and women hurrying down the broad road which leadeth to destruction, then it is seriously to be doubted if you have within you the spirit of that One who wept over Jerusalem. It is true you have no power of your own to save a soul from death, but are you faithfully giving out that Word which is the instrument which God uses to bring souls from death unto life? Are you supplicating God as you ought and depending on Him to bless your efforts to point the lost to the Lamb of God? Are you as fervent as you should be in your cries to God on behalf of the lost? Alas, must you not join the writer as he hangs his head in shame? Is there not reason for each of us to ask God to give us a clearer vision of that indescribably awful portion which awaits every Christ rejecter, and to enable us to act in the power of such a vision.

What has been before us will yet be the occasion of profoundest praise to God. Whatever difficulties the eternal punishment of the wicked may present to us now–and it is freely granted that it is difficult for our reason to grasp it, and that of necessity, for we are incapable of discerning the infinite malignity of sin, and therefore unable to see what punishment it really deserves–yet, in the Day to come it will be far otherwise. When we behold God’s righteous dealings with His enemies, when we hear the sentences being given according to their work, when we see how justly and thoroughly they deserve merciless wrath, and stand by as they are cast into the Lake of Fire, so far from shrinking back in horror our hearts will give vent to gladsome praise. Just as of old the overthrow of God’s enemies at the Red Sea caused His people to burst forth in worshipful song, so in the coming Day we shall be moved to rejoicing when we witness the final display of God’s holiness and justice in the overthrow and punishment of all who have defied Him. Remember that in the destruction of the wicked God will be glorified, and this it is which will be the occasion of the rejoicing of His people. Not only will God be "clear" when He judges (Psa. 51:4), but His perfections will be magnified in the sentences pronounced.

–End of Series

 

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