The future punishment of the unbelieving

The past few Sundays we’ve been considering what the life of the unbeliever is like.

In many ways, this has been an incomplete consideration, for it has only contemplated what the life of the unbeliever is like now; we have not dwelt on what the life of the unbeliever will be like, because of what he is now.

This morning, as I was reading some selections by Jonathan Edwards, I came across these paragraphs from his sermon, “The Future Punishment of the Wicked Unavoidable and Intolerable.” We do well to consider their end (as a motive to pursuing their salvation and as a means of gratitude for God’s grace towards us who believe):

The nature of man desires happiness; it is the nature of the soul to crave and thirst after well-being; and if it be under misery, it eagerly pants after relief; and the greater the misery is, the more eagerly doth it struggle for help. But if all relief be withholden, all strength overborne, all support utterly gone; then it sinks into the darkness of death.

We can conceive but little of the matter; we cannot conceive what that sinking of the soul in such a case is. But to help your conception, imagine yourself to be cast into a fiery oven, or of a great furnace, where your pain would be as much greater than that occasioned by accidentally touching a coal of fire, as the heat is greater. Imagine also that your body were to lie there for a quarter of an hour, all the while full of quick sense; what horror would you feel at the entrance of such a furnace! And how long would that quarter of an hour seem to you! And after you had endured it for one minute, how overbearing would it be to you to think that you had it to endure the other fourteen!

But what would be the effect on your soul, if you knew you must lie there enduring that torment to the full for twenty-four hours! And how much greater would be the effect, if you knew you must endure it for a whole year; and how vastly greater still, if you knew you must endure it for a thousand years! O then, how would your heart sink, if you thought, if you knew, that you must bear it forever and ever! That there would be no end! That after millions of millions of ages, your torment would be no nearer to an end, than ever it was; and that you never, never should be delivered!

How feeble our minds are and how poorly we grasp the magnitude of the wrath of God and the horror of hell — and of the wonder of grace that has been extended to everyone who believes.  I am worthy of that torment.  His grace alone is sparing and will spare from knowing that condemnation.


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