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Lloyd-Jones on the folly of thinking God is only love and ignoring punishment and hell

My thanks to Adrian Warnock for this:

Lloyd-Jones could have been saying this for the 21st Century not the 20th. There really is nothing new under the sun:

“All this modern preaching on the fact that God is love is an indication of the same attitude and spirit. We are told today that the old sermons that preached the law and talked about conviction of sin and called people to repentance were all wrong because they were legalistic . . .So it is said that we must return to the message of Jesus. We must get rid of all our theology, our argumentation and doctrine—it is all unnecessary. The business of preaching is to tell people that God is love. It does not matter what they are, or what they have been, or what they have done, or what they may do—God loves them. Nobody will ever be punished. There is no law; so there is no retribution and no hell . . .

Dignitaries in the church tell us that what we need is a “religionless Christianity.” One of them has written a book in which he says that if you really want to find God, do not go to places of worship. He says that he has found more of God in the brothels and beer parlors of Algeria than he has ever found in a church. Kindness, love for one another—that, we are told, is the message. This is all just a very clever, modern, sophisticated, philosophical way of saying, No repentance!

. . . If you know the message of the Bible at all, you will be in no difficulty about answering this question. Repentance is essential to salvation. There is no salvation without it . . . If you say you need a Savior, it must be because you realize that the life you have been living is wrong and sinful, that it deserves the judgment and punishment of God and of hell . . . the object of that death upon the cross was to reconcile us to God. It is a personal reconciliation. Christ’s death does not just put us right with a law—it puts us right with a person . . . to have this relationship, this communion and fellowship with God, we must be like Him. We see that we must be righteous, for there is no communion between light and darkness—that is impossible, and therefore we must be delivered from all that is wrong and evil. That is repentance . . .

The world needs to be reminded of judgment. This country [England] is becoming lawless—all countries are—and it is no use trying to solve the problem by passing acts of Parliament—you cannot do it . . .you need to change human nature. The trouble is in the human heart, on both sides of industry. Because people have no idea of the judgment of God, they ultimately have no sense of responsibility. Every man is out for himself, trying to get the best for himself . . . The world needs to know that it is rushing in the direction of final judgment. Only the prospect of judgment can sober it and bring it to its senses, and it is the business of the preaching of the Gospel to tell the world that, and not to say that God loves everybody and therefore everybody is going to heaven. Our Lord preached judgment, as we have seen; that is the sole explanation of why He died.”

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Victorious Christianity, 1st U.S. ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2003), 66-74.

Eternal Punishment and the Fate of Those Who Haven’t Heard

Justin Taylor:

Here are two excellent posts that help to clear away some misconceptions about the biblical teaching on eternal punishment and those who haven’t heard the name of Jesus:

Two excerpts follow, but I’d encourage you to read both all the way through.

DeYoung:

Divine punishment—hell, in its eternal form—is not simply what we get because we make poor decisions or decide to live a selfish life. Hell is what we get because God is offended by our sin and punishes it. We see everywhere in Scripture that divine wrath is a curse on the ungodly, not a mere consequence for self-centered decisions. Hell is much more than God simply allowing us to have our own way and to experience all the bad effects of our choices. Hell is God’s active, just, holy wrath poured out on the disobedient.

Storms:

Let me say this as clearly as I can: No one will ever suffer for any length of time in hell or anywhere else for not believing in the Jesus they never heard of. Should I say that again or is it enough to ask that you go back and read it again?

Edwards on why hell is eternal

“The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionably more or less heinous, as he was under greater or less obligations to obey him. And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligation to love, and honour, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty.

Our obligation to love, honor and obey any being is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority. . . . But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. . . .

So sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving infinite punishment. . . . The eternity of the punishment of ungodly men renders it infinite . . . and therefore renders it no more than proportionable to the heinousness of what they are guilty of”

“The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Banner of Truth], 1:669.

(HT: Sam Storms)

We Must Feel the Truth of Hell

From John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry:

I must feel the truth of hell–that it exists and is terrible and horrible beyond imaginings forever and ever. “These will go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46). Even if I try to make the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15) or the “fiery furnace” (Matt. 13:42) a symbol, I am confronted with the terrifying thought that symbols are not overstatements but understatements of reality. Jesus did not choose these pictures to tell us that hell is easier than burning.

…If I do not believe in my heart these awful truths – believe them so that they are real in my feelings – then the blessed love of God in Christ will scarcely shine at all. The sweetness of the air of redemption will be hardly detectable. The infinite marvel of my new life will be commonplace. The wonder that to me, a child of hell, all things are given for an inheritance will not strike me speechless with trembling humility and lowly gratitude. The whole affair of salvation will seem ho-hum, and my entrance into paradise will seem as a matter of course. When the heart no longer feels the truth of hell, the gospel passes from good news to simply news. The intensity of joy is blunted and the heart-spring of love is dried up.

(HT: Darryl Dash)

We Care about All Suffering in This Age—Especially Eternal Suffering

From John Piper’s address to the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization:

One truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it impels us out toward the alleviation of all unjust suffering in this age. That’s what love does!

The other truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it awakens us to the horrible reality of eternal suffering in hell, under the wrath of a just and omnipotent God. And it impels us to rescue the perishing, and to warn people to flee from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10).

I plead with you. Don’t choose between those two truths. Embrace them both. It doesn’t mean we all spend our time in the same way. God forbid. But it means we let the Bible define reality and define love.

Could Lausanne say—could the evangelical church say—we Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering? I hope we can say that. But if we feel resistant to saying “especially eternal suffering,” or if we feel resistant to saying “we care about all suffering in this age,” then either we have a defective view of hell or a defective heart.

I pray that Lausanne would have neither.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Not Without Jesus

From Anthony Carter at the Gospel Coalition blog:

At a recent prayer meeting someone asked the question, “How do people make it in this world without Jesus?” The answer to that question is that they don’t.

There is a sentence of death over every one who has not professed faith in Jesus Christ. This sentence is executable at any moment. And the only reason that it is not executed and the sinner is not immediately experiencing the terrible judgment due for sin is because of the grace and mercy of God.

Yet, even more is the reality that instead of having the sentence immediately executed, millions of people experience the grace and mercy of sunshine and rain; seed time and harvest. The fact that there is any light or joy in the life of a sinner is owing to God’s desire to show mercy and to be longsuffering.

Nevertheless, those who have come into the knowledge of the truth and have experienced the forgiving grace of God in Jesus Christ are aware of the pending danger of judgment upon the unrepentant and thus we plead with them, even in the midst of God’s longsuffering and patience, to repent and believe. We plead with them because God will not strive with them forever and without repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, judgment for their sin is coming. The sun they take for granted will be darkened, a perpetual night will grip their soul, and they will know the true nature of their sin and the necessary punishment for it. It is a terror just to contemplate. And so we say with all our energy, “Flee from the wrath that is sure to come! Flee to the mercy of Jesus Christ!”

Everlasting life is not possible without Jesus. Neither is life in this world. Those who acknowledge it in this world will have life in the next. Those who don’t, won’t.

Without the New Birth…

  1. Without the new birth, we won’t have saving faith, but only unbelief. (John 1:11-13; 1 John 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:3).
  2. Without the new birth, we won’t have justification, but only condemnation. (Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:17 Philippians 3:9).
  3. Without the new birth, we won’t be the children of God, but the children of the devil. (1 John 3:9-10).
  4. Without the new birth, we won’t bear the fruit of love by the Holy Spirit, but only bear the fruit of death. (Romans 6:20-21; 7:4-6; 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; Galatians 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 3:14).
  5. Without the new birth, we won’t have eternal joy in fellowship with God, but only eternal misery with the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41; John 3:3; Romans 6:23; Revelation 2:11; 20:15).

John PiperWhy Do We Need to Be Born Again? (Part 2)

(HT: Adrian Warnock)

An Amillennial Eschatology Chart!

I like this! Check out the references for your self.

Parousia_Concurrent2.jpg
Click Here for larger image

R. Scott Clark recently posted this. This chart illustrates the concurrent events associated with the Second Advent of Christ. i.e. that the resurrection of the just (and unjust) dead, the judgment of all mankind, and the renewal of the entire cosmos will all occur at a point in time: the time of Jesus’ return; the day of the Lord. Could it be so simple and straightforward???

(HT: Reformation Theology)

Revival

Revival is the sovereign work of God to awaken his people with fresh intensity to the truth and glory of God, the ugliness of sin, the horror of hell, the preciousness of Christ’s atoning work, the wonder of salvation by grace through faith, the urgency of holiness and witness, and the sweetness of worship with God’s people.

—John Piper, A Godward Life, p. 111.

(HT: Desiring God)

McLaren Advocates “Rethinking” Second Coming

From Stand to Reason blog:

At a recent youth ministry conference at Willow Creek Community Church, while discussing his latest book, Brian McLaren talked about the need to change our understanding of Jesus’ second coming because

Simply put, if we believe that God will ultimately enforce his will by forceful domination, and will eternally torture all who resist that domination, then torture and domination become not only permissible but in some way godly. . . . [And from the book:] This eschatological understanding of a violent second coming leads us to believe (as we’ve said before) that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion; no one should be surprised when those shaped by this theology behave accordingly.

First, this suggestion reflects a great misunderstanding of justice. Justice is not mere violence, coercion, and domination. The final judgment of all that we’ve done to hurt others is a desirable and good thing in a universe with a good, sovereign God. What kind of a God would He be if He simply ignored the evil that we do?

Second, it reflects a view of doctrine as something we create, not as an eternal reality we discover. McLaren is asking us to shape our doctrine according to pragmatic concerns so that we can create the type of world that seems best to us. However, if God is real, and He is good, and the Bible is His word, and that text has an intended meaning, the best possible result will come when we follow that word closely–shaping our ideas to it rather than it to our ideas. You’re moving into dangerous territory when you start to tinker with it according to what you think might work out better. God is far more likely to be right than we are!

Third, even if it were up to us to create the doctrine we think will work best in our world, McLaren is making a huge mistake here, as Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary explains in this article:

“The apostle Paul tells us not to avenge ourselves. Why? Because, he writes, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’ (Romans 12:18-20).

“As for domination, the Bible tells us not to dominate one another, precisely because ‘we will all stand before the judgment seat of God’ (Romans 12:10).”

Even though McLaren claims to want world peace, his own view is actually the one that leads to violence, Moore said.

“When a Christian understands that he does not fight for his own honor, but that justice will be done by God, either through union with Christ and His cross or at the judgment itself, the Christian is freed then to trust God, not his sword or his gun or his fists or his tongue,” he said. “It is McLaren’s vision of a life that consists only of the justice achieved in this era that leads to violence and Darwinian struggle to see that a pound of flesh is exacted.”

(Since I haven’t been able to find a place where I can listen to McLaren’s presentation, I’m basing this on the reporting in the article.  It’s possible it’s inaccurate, but it does seem to match what I’ve heard from McLaren in the past.)

God, Man, and the Cross

“All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely ‘hell-deserving sinners’, then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.”
- John Stott

(HT: Symphony of Scripture)

No Credential but Christ!

This is a great reminder from Jared Wilson for those of us who desire to be used of God.

When God called Moses to demand release of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity, Moses felt inadequate and unqualified. He asked, “Who am I to do such a thing?”

Now, when I ask this question of God, I usually ask in false humility. What I really want is God to reassure me of my qualifications and giftedness. What I really want is God to pump up my self-esteem. “Please remind me how awesome I am so that I’ll be confident enough to do this,” I ask God. And I fully expect God to respond, “Jared, you’re good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.”

This not what God said to Moses. In fact, he really didn’t even answer the question “Who is Moses?” He answered the question “Who is God?”
The answer, of course, is God.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Exodus 3:11-12

“Who am I?”

“Never mind who you are. You’re right; you’re a nobody. But you are called. I will be with you. And the sign of your success will not be a gold watch and a plaque and a place in Superduper Church Magazine’s 100 Most Awesomest Churches and Pastors with Mad Leadership Skills, but worship of me.”

“Oh.”

Moses’ “oh” consisted of more questions.

Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Exodus 4:10-12

You’ve likely heard the dictum “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

This is why God uses shepherds, fig farmers, youngest sons, prostitutes, widows, etc.
This is why he uses sinners. Not so that they will realize their potential. Not so that they will finally see how inherently awesome they are.
But so that God gets the glory and so that he gets the glory in the vivid, repeating imagery of turning ashes to beauty.

God made man out of dirt. We — you and I — are dirt.

We only need to read a little bit of Paul to see how little he cares about human credentials and qualifications. And Paul actually had them.

The gospel is not the power to save because of our knowledge, our techniques, our systems, our innovations, our preaching style, our music style, our creativity, our conferences, our degrees, our viral marketing, our evaluations and efficiency, or our selves. None of those things is bad, but we make all of them idols so easily. They take so much effort, and yet we make them idols so effortlessly.

“Who are we? We’re awesome!”

But the gospel is the power to save because of Jesus’ work. Because God is with the gospel.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
– 1 Corinthians 2:2

Lloyd-Jones: The Necessity of the Cross

. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Photo by Iain Murray. . As Christians we believe that the Son of God came into this world, that He laid aside the insignia of His eternal glory, was born as a babe in Bethlehem, and endured all that He endured, because that was essential for our salvation. But the question is, Why was it essential to our salvation? Why did all that have to take place before we could be saved? I defy anyone to answer that question adequately without bringing in this doctrine of the judgment of God and of the wrath of God. This is still more true when you look at the great doctrine of the cross and the death of our blessed Lord and Saviour. Why did Christ die? Why had He to die? If we say that we are saved by His blood, why are we saved by His blood? Why was it essential that He should die on that cross and be buried and rise again before we could be saved? There is only one adequate answer to these questions, and that is this doctrine of the wrath of God. The death of our Lord upon the cross is not absolutely necessary unless this doctrine is true.”

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. God’s Way of Reconciliation—An Exposition of Ephesians 2, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1972, pp. 49-50.

(HT: Adrian Warnock)

The difference between the Law and the Gospel

Another great ‘Gospel-Driven’ quote posted by John Fonville: 

Q. What is the difference between the law and the gospel?

A. The law is a doctrine that God has implanted in human nature and has repeated and renewed in His commandments. In it He holds before us, as if in a manuscript, what it is we are and are not to do, namely, obey Him perfectly both inwardly and outwardly. He also promises eternal life on the condition that I keep the law perfectly my whole life long. One the other hand, He threatens eternal damnation if I do not keep every provision of the law my whole life long but violate it in one or more of its parts. As God says in Deuteronomy 27[:26] and Galatians 3[:10], “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” And once the law has been violated, it has no promise that by the help of the law, that is, by works of the law, our sins might be forgiven. Rather, the sentence of condemnation is imposed upon us.

The gospel of good news, however, is a doctrine of which even the wisest knew nothing by nature but which is revealed from heaven. In it God does not demand but rather offers and gives us the righteousness that the law requires. This righteousness is the perfect obedience of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, through which all sin and damnation, made manifest by the law, is pardoned and washed away (Rom. 5; Gal. 3). Furthermore, God does not give us forgiveness of sins in the gospel on the condition that we keep the law. Rather, even though we never have kept it nor will ever be able to keep it perfectly, He still has forgiven our sins and given us eternal life as an unmerited gift through faith in Jesus Christ. John 1[:17] says, “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth come through Jesus Christ.” And Romans 8[:3, 4]: “The law is not of faith but ‘The man who does it shall live by it.’ Christ, however, redeemed us from the curse of the law when He became a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus and we thus might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

Caspar Olevianus, A Firm Foundation: An Aid to Interpreting the Heidelberg Catechism, pp. 9-10

Lloyd-Jones on the True Nature of Sin

“The fatal mistake is to think of sin always in terms of acts and of actions rather than in terms of nature, and of disposition. The mistake is to think of it in terms of particular things instead of thinking of it, as we should, in terms of our relationship to God. Do you want to know what sin is? I will tell you. Sin is the exact opposite of the attitude and the life which conform to, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ If you are not doing that you are a sinner. It does not matter how respectable you are; if you are not living entirely to the glory of God, you are a sinner. And the more you imagine that you are perfect in and of yourself and apart from your relationship to God, the greater is your sin. That is why anyone who reads the New Testament objectively can see clearly that the Pharisees of our Lord’s time were greater sinners (if you can use such terms) than were the publicans and open sinners. Why? Because they were self-satisfied, because they were self-sufficient. The height of sin is not to feel any need of the grace of God. There is no greater sin than that. Infinitely worse than committing some sin of the flesh is to feel that you are independent of God, or that Christ need never have died on the cross of Calvary. There is no greater sin than that. That final self-sufficiency, and self-satisfaction, and self-righteousness, is the sin of sins; it is sin at its height, because it is spiritual sin . . . .”

Lloyd-Jones, D. M. God’s Way of Reconciliation – An Exposition of Ephesians 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972, p. 33.

(HT: Adrian Warnock)

The Great Exchange, by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington

Is a clear understanding of the atonement an academic preserve to which only theologians and scholars have access? Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington don’t think so.

Thus, they have written The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness, which seeks to explain the way that the Old Testament prepares the way for Jesus’ death, then looks at every text on the atonement in the New Testament. Crossway has provided a text-interview with Bridges and Bevington here. They describe their primary audience as “mainstream . . . believers.”

You can check out the book’s website, which includes study guides on the book. This book and these study guides will be ready tools in the hands of disciplers.

Oh that mainstream believers would watch less football this fall so they could have time to read books like this one!

(HT: For His Renown)

Here’s some thoughts about the book from the authors:

Jerry Bridges (JB): The Great Exchange refers to the way Christ’s sinless life and sacrificial death in the gospel works to benefit the sinners that are united to him by faith: their sin is charged to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness is credited to them. In essence this is a transaction, an exchange, namely, our sin for his righteousness. This is the essential message of the entire Bible, but it can be seen in its most concise form in our key verse, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Bob Bevington (BB): Since the death of Christ is the central event in human history, anytime is a great time to write a book on the subject! But many within today’s church are following a dangerous trend away from the historical gospel of substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness in favor of a fashionable brand of “new” Christianity that defines a genuine Christian as one who simply follows the example of Jesus. We would never object to robustly seeking Christlikeness. But this recent trend at times appears to neglect the central fact that we have a sin problem that can only be dealt with by the application of Christ’s death on the cross. No one can truly think and speak and live like Christ unless their sin dilemma is first solved by faith in Christ in the Great Exchange, as Jerry described above. So our book aims to assist a resurgence of the centrality of the historic gospel as both the cornerstone and the all-encompassing proposition of today’s Christian church.

JB: The value of the gospel is equal to the price paid by Christ to provide redemption to believing sinners. In releasing his grasp on equality with God, taking the form of a servant, and becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross, Christ paid an infinite price. Thus the gospel is infinitely precious. And like a diamond, the gospel has many facets that display its glory and brilliance. All these facets have one common essence in the stone itself. For example, Christ is our sinbearer, our wrathbearer, our cursebearer, our righteousness, our ransom, and our redemption. All these facets proclaim the same glorious message: Christ died for our sins.

BB: Anyone who believes it was a form of cosmic child abuse must either believe God is evil or that the cross was metaphorical and not historical. But I see several reasons for substitutionary atonement to be truly just. First, it is just because the sovereign God, the creator of all things, including justice, says it is just. The clay doesn’t argue with the potter. Second, it is clear that Jesus came to earth voluntarily, with full understanding and agreement with the Father about his mission. Thus, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Third, the mechanism by which it is just for God to punish Christ instead of us is our union with Christ by faith. That is, God sees us as one with Christ; therefore, Christ’s sinless life is justly credited to us as though we had lived it ourselves, and Christ’s death for our sin has the same effect as if we had died on the cross ourselves to serve God’s justice. Lastly, it is just because, on the third day, God raised Christ from the dead and highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. In the gospel, in the end, justice is served on every conceivable level.

JB: No other contemporary book that I know of covers the topics of substitutionary atonement, the righteousness of Christ, and the believer’s union with Christ quite like ours—within the context of the Old Testament and then in the same order of the books of the Bible from Acts through Revelation. As we unpack each passage, the reader’s appreciation of the grace and truth of the gospel broadens and deepens, while any overlap between the passages serves to reinforce the message.

BB: The Best “good news for believers”? That’s easy. We get God himself. The gospel announces many aspects of good news, such as eternal life, freedom from guilt, and victory over Satan. But the best good news of all is that in the gospel we are restored, favorably accepted, and reconciled to our infinitely holy God. Nothing could be better than that, because nothing can be better than God. He is more glorious, more satisfying, and more to be desired than any and all created things.

You can read the entire interview with Crossway Bibles and Books here.

Baptizing the Masses with a Watered-down Gospel!

“When a sinner wanders into the church and sits through skits, mimes, interpretive dances, and the like, and yet never hears a clear, convicting message about his dangerous and tenuous spiritual situation– that he is a depraved sinner headed for an eternal fire because he is a daily offense to a holy God– how can that be called successful? You could achieve the same level of success by sending a cancer patient to receive treatment from a group of children playing doctor. A sinner must understand the imminent danger he is in if he is ever to look to the Savior. What’s worse is when seeker-focused churches baptize the masses with their watered-down gospel, assuring them that positive decisions, feelings, or affirmations about Christ equal genuine conversion. There are now multitudes who are not authentic Christians identifying with the church. As you set your strategy for church ministry, you dare not overlook the primary means of church growth: the straightforward, Christ-centered proclamation of the unadulterated Word of God.”
- John MacArthur

(HT: Symphony of Scripture)

Is Hell the Absence of God?

R.C. Sproul gives a masterful response to this common explanation:

It is common to say that hell is the absence of God. Such statements are motivated in large part by the dread of even contemplating what hell is like. We try often to soften that blow and find a euphimism to skirt around it.

We need to realize that those who are in hell desire nothing more than the absence of God. They didn’t want to be in God’s presence during their earthly lives, and they certainly don’t want Him near when they’re in hell. The worst thing about hell is the presence of God there.

When we use the imagery of the Old Testament in an attempt to understand the forsakenness of the lost, we are not speaking of the idea of the departure of God or the absence of God in the sense that He ceases to be omnipresent. Rather, it’s a way of describing the withdrawal of God in terms of His redemptive blessing. It is the absence of the light of His countenance. It is the presence of the frown of His countenance. It is the absence of the blessedness of His unveiled glory that is a delight to the souls of those who love Him, but it is the presence of the darkness of judgment. Hell reflects the presence of God in His mode of judgment, in His exercise of wrath, and that’s what everyone would like to escape.

I think that’s why we get confused. There is withdrawal in terms of the blessing of the radical nearness of God. His benefits can be removed far from us, and that’s what this language is calling attention to.

R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2007), pp. 157-158.

(HT: Desiring God blog)

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