Sinners in the Hands of an Angry [Christ]
January 6, 2015
How many of our modern hymns speak of Christ's wrath and judgment? If I'm not mistaken, "Agnus Dei" (Michael W. Smith) derives its language from Revelation 19. How many consider the wrath of the Lamb, described in that chapter, when they have their eyes closed and hands raised in the air when singing that (aesthetically appealing) song?
Bible-believing Christians are generally prepared to acknowledge the wrath of God, just so long as they don't have to hear sermons on it. But there is a distinct lack of emphasis upon the wrath of the Lamb. Christ carries out the purposes of God, both in salvation and judgment. He is the one who is "Faithful and True," who "judges and makes war" (Rev. 19:11).
Knowing Christ would be idolatry if his wrath and judgment were removed from his person and work. Jonathan Edwards's famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," needs a companion: "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Christ." The Scriptures leave us in no doubt about the love of God and Christ. But those same Scriptures also do not leave us guessing whether God and Christ will execute judgment upon the impenitent. Hell is as real as heaven: the cross demands that much.
All things are created for Christ (Col. 1:16), even hell itself. Hell glorifies Christ. If it did not, hell would not exist.
No one knows the wrath of God like the Son. Christ was roasted in the fire of God's wrath; he was in the fiery furnace during the three hours of darkness at Golgotha. God's people, as a result, have Christ's garment upon them, "and the fire of Hell can never singe this garment" (Thomas Watson).
But there are implications to these truths. First, there are those who do not have Christ's garment upon them, and the fire of Hell will certainly "singe" them. Second, Christ who experienced the wrath of God, will also execute the God's judgment upon all the ungodly. The evidence for this is so overwhelming that one would have to excise a large part of the Scriptures to deny this truth. Indeed, as the Old Testament shows us, the Angel of the Lord (the Son of God) often executes judgment in the most severe ways. The Angel of the Lord anticipates the reality of the God-man's future judgment upon his enemies when he "judges and makes war" (Rev. 19:11).
In the Old Testament, we frequently read of the "Angel of the Lord." Many times this angel executes judgment on God's behalf, and many times the Angel is a reference to the pre-incarnate Son of God. Jonathan Edwards rightly noted that "when we read of God's appearing after the Fall, from time to time, in some visible form or outward symbol of his presence, we are ordinarily, if not universally, to understand it of the second Person of the Trinity" ("History of Redemption" in Works, 1:537). Thus, when judgment took place directly from God, it was the Son of God who executed wrath upon the ungodly and even God's own people.
Tertullian said "It was the Son who judged men from the beginning, destroying that lofty tower, and confounding their languages, punishing the whole world with a flood of waters, and raining fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah... for he always descended to hold converse with men, from Adam even to the patriarchs and prophets, in visions, in dreams, in mirrors, in dark sentences, always preparing his way from the beginning: neither was it possible, that God who conversed with men upon earth, could be any other than that Word which was to be made flesh."
In connection with this point, the Apostle Jude makes a fascinating comment regarding Christ's wrath: "Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe" (Jude 5). Jesus, according to his divine nature, executed judgment upon people in the Old Testament. In the most severe manner, he judged God's people who had been redeemed out of Egypt because of their unbelief (see 1 Cor. 10:5; Heb. 3:16-19).
Christ will be a terror to those who despise God's kingdom (Lk. 19:27), refuse God's grace (Ps. 81:11), despise God's benefits (Heb. 2:3), turn his grace into wantonness (Jude 4), do not abide in Christ (Jn. 15:6), and act wickedly (Matt. 24:48-51). On the contrary, Christ will be a comfort to those who have believed Christ's doctrine (Jn. 11:25), loved Christ (Eph. 6:24; 1 Cor. 16:22), warred against Christ's enemies, the devil, the world, and the flesh (Rev. 3:21), and obeyed His commandments (1 Jn. 2:28; 4:17). Believers will be comforted because the judge is their friend, their brother, their high priest, and the one who died for their sins. Christ will come to take them to mansions prepared for them in heaven.
With all of the fortune cookie tweets that constantly remind people of God's love and grace towards them, maybe we need a twitter account reminding people of Christ's wrath. I'm sure it won't be long till that account needs to get "verified"!
Pastor Mark Jones only closes his eyes to sing when he listens to "Brokenheartsville" by Joe Nichols.