Friday, July 28, 2006

A Voice from the Grave Warns Simon About Hell

A little Jonathan Edwards to end the week...

The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this. -- "There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God." -- By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God's mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment. -- The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations.

1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men's hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands. -- He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defence from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God's enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?

2. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God's using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, "Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?" Luke 13:7. The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God's mere will, that holds it back.

3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. John 3:18. "He that believeth not is condemned already." So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is, John 8:23. "Ye are from beneath:" And thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God's word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.

4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.

So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.

5. The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The scripture represents them as his goods, Luke 11:12. The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.

6. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God's restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in scripture compared to the troubled sea, Isa. 57:20. For the present, God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;" but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God's restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.

7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God's hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.

8. Natural men's prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is this clear evidence that men's own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? Eccles. 2:16. "How dieth the wise man? even as the fool."

9. All wicked men's pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.

But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those who heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they were not as wise as those who are now alive: it was not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, "No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself -- I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief -- Death outwitted me: God's wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction came upon me."

10. God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.

So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men's earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.

Flee from the wrath to come...

(Excerpt taken from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. This text is in the public domain.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Conjunction Junction

How one word makes a difference.

Dan Phillips' recent Pyro post reminded me of something I've been meaning to write about.

    Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."

    Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." (John 11:1-7, ESV).

No doubt, you're familiar with this passage--the first part of the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Like me, many of you have probably also read it in the NIV:

    1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."

    4When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

    7Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."

Did you catch the difference? Vs. 6 in the ESV says "So," while the NIV says "Yet."

So how do we account for this difference? Well, my first thought would be "maybe there is a variant involved." But I can't find anything in either UBS4, NA26, or Zack Hubert's cool Text Critical parallel column.

Next, a quick look at the word. Even though I'm just a beginning Greekling and bound to make mistakes, I'm only really checking what many others have done before, so I'm on safer ground that if I was striking out in a new and novel direction on my own.

The word ὡς can mean a great many things, but for our purposes, the meaning in context is "when." So perhaps the case could be made that the best thing to do is to simply translate it that way (as the King James does by saying simply "When he had heard therefore that [Lazarus] was sick..."). I could live with that.

But the statement in vs. 5 is odd, almost parenthetical (so much so that the HCSB & NET both render it as such), and nearly begs that something other than simply "when" be put there. And, in that sense, the "yet" may seem a good fit.

But the problem with this is that you get the idea that although Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, despite this he waited (compare GNT "yet," CEV, NCV "but," NLT "although," & MSG "but oddly"). However, given the nature of the word ὡς and the context of the sentence, "yet" doesn't seem an appropriate addition to the text. If John had wanted it there, he would have included some word that made it clear.

So we're left with the other rendering, which tells us that it wasn't in spite of loving them, but rather because of his love that Jesus did this (see NASB, NKJV, HCSB, NET--all have "so").

This is a huge difference, and it has broad implications. Consider what this does to a theology that says "God doesn't allow Christians to suffer," or alternatively how it affirms that God can use even the death of believers for His glory.

I might also add, though we're not delving into this issue today, it is interesting that all of the major "formal" translations render it "so," and all of the functional translations render it "yet." Something to think about there.

All this to say, I think the correct rendering of the passage is this: Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and so when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he waited. Why? So that all of them could see the power of God work in a spectacular way.

Amazing the difference one little word makes.

A quick footnote: the 2001 TNIV renders vs. 6 as "yet," but the latest edition has "so," conforming it to all of the major literal translations.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Calling All Dr. Who Fans

The BBC is running a radio serial of "Shada" on Sundays. It was written by the late Douglas Adams. Here is the BB7 Dr. Who homepage, and you can listen to the latest episode here.

If you're like me, and would rather take it to go (or want to listen to multiple episodes in succession), you may want to record it. If you don't have software on your computer that will record streaming audio, may I suggest Easy Radio. You can download here. Install it, then go to Stations, Add, and in the URL put this (it is the URL for the "standalone player"):

(As an alternative you can use FreeCorder. Unlike Easy Radio, you don't have to have a URL, you just start the audio & away you go. But the free version only records for 30 minutes, only in 64K MP3, and it doesn't come preloaded with tons of radio stations. It is install & go, though; It's easy enough that eventually I might pony up $20 to upgrade.)

Still not enough Who for you? Try the Classic Dr. Who pages, where you can look look at the episode guides, watch clips from the Doctor's previous incarnations, read ebooks, and even watch (or listen to) animated webcasts.

Update: If you have a recorder that you like better, leave me a note in the comments. Would love to hear about it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Middle East News Tracker--from the

The Wall Street Journal has launched a Middle East News Tracker, which has timestamped news entries, so you can keep track of the latest news on this story.

Note: if you're using another source to track this, I'd love to hear about it. Leave a note in the comments. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

One of My TV Favorites has arrived on DVD: The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

If you've never seen it, you've really missed out. It was sort of a "Wild, Wild, West" for the 1990s, and it never took itself too seriously (a flaw all too common these days).

It's way too expensive, but maybe it will be available for rental before too long. For an overview of the series, you can see the Wikipedia link, and a recap of each episode and DVD extras can be found here.

By the way, if you're a fan, please leave a comment and let me know.

Update: I meant to mention it before, if you recognize the theme song, that's because NBC co-opted it for their Olympic coverage.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Sermon Goldmine (Sermons of Mark Dever)

Just found this downloadable Word document with sermons from Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Mark Dever's church). It goes back to 1993, and lists the Sermon Title, Speaker, Scripture passage, and a link to download each sermon!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Psalm 119 (Aleph)

As a parallel to Bug's post, and an answer to his statement "It is nigh well impossible to fully appreciate the poetry and structure of this psalm if you don't know Hebrew," I'm posting this; though by no means perfect, it will you give you some flavor of what the first eight verses of this Hebrew acrostic poem look like in an English example. Though you still won't fully appreciate it, perhaps you may appreciate it more fully.

Psalm 119

A blessing is on them that are undefiled in the way
and walk in the law of Jehovah;

A blessing is on them that keep his testimonies,
and seek him with their whole heart;

Also on them that do no wickedness,
but walk in his ways.

A law hast thou given unto us,
that we should diligently keep thy commandments.

Ah! Lord, that my ways were made so direct
that I might keep thy statutes!

And then shall I not be confounded.
While I have respect unto all thy commandments.

As for me, I will thank thee with an unfeigned heart,
when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.

An eye will I have unto thy ceremonies,
O forsake me not utterly.

--From "The Psalms Chronologically Arranged By Four Friends". 1867.

Watch the Spacewalk Live

You can go here to watch the rest of the spacewalk live.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

35 Reasons Not To Sin

Simon thinks that if Jesus' death really paid for our sins, there is no reason why we shouldn't be out there sinning like crazy. But actually, there are are quite a few reasons why we shouldn't. So I'm posting these reasons for Simon, but also as a good reminder for believers of the "sinfulness of sin," as the Puritans used to say.

35 Reasons Not To Sin

1. Because a little sin leads to more sin.
2. Because my sin invites the discipline of God.
3. Because the time spent in sin is forever wasted.
4. Because my sin never pleases but always grieves God who loves me.
5. Because my sin places a greater burden on my spiritual leaders.
6. Because in time my sin always brings heaviness to my heart.
7. Because I am doing what I do not have to do.
8. Because my sin always makes me less than what I could be.
9. Because others, including my family, suffer consequences due to my sin.
10. Because my sin saddens the godly.
11. Because my sin makes the enemies of God rejoice.
12. Because sin deceives me into believing I have gained when in reality I have lost.
13. Because sin may keep me from qualifying for spiritual leadership.
14. Because the supposed benefits of my sin will never outweigh the consequences of disobedience.
15. Because repenting of my sin is such a painful process, yet I must repent.
16. Because sin is a very brief pleasure for an eternal loss.
17. Because my sin may influence others to sin.
18. Because my sin may keep others from knowing Christ.
19. Because sin makes light of the cross, upon which Christ died for the very purpose of taking away my sin.
20. Because it is impossible to sin and follow the Spirit at the same time.
21. Because God chooses not to respect the prayers of those who cherish their sin.
22. Because sin steals my reputation and robs me of my testimony.
23. Because others once more earnest than I have been destroyed by just such sins.
24. Because the inhabitants of heaven and hell would all testify to the foolishness of this sin.
25. Because sin and guilt may harm both mind and body.
26. Because sins mixed with service make the things of God tasteless.
27. Because suffering for sin has no joy or reward, though suffering for righteousness has both.
28. Because my sin is adultery with the world.
29. Because, though forgiven, I will review this very sin at the Judgment Seat where loss and gain of eternal rewards are applied.
30. Because I can never really know ahead of time just how severe the discipline for my sin might be.
31. Because my sin may be an indication of a lost condition.
32. Because to sin is not to love Christ.
33. Because my unwillingness to reject this sin now grants it an authority over me greater than I wish to believe.
34. Because sin glorifies God only in His judgment of it and His turning of it to good use, never because it is worth anything on it's own.
35. Because I promised God he would be Lord of my life.

Relinquish Your Rights - Reject the Sin - Renew the Mind - Rely on God

Copyright © 1992 Jim Elliff
Christian Communicators Worldwide, Inc.
201 Main, Parkville, MO 64152 USA

Posted by permission. Visit the Christian Communicator's Worldwide website.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Mark Noll has an Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal today on the influence of the King James Version of the Bible. Wish it could have been longer--whole books could be (and have been) written about this topic--I'm planning to post a review of one later this month.

Frank is well-spoken & conciliatory (if you count the comments) while Phil is a pot-stirrer (good to see the comic cover comeback, though).

My apologetic tag-team partner continues his cage match with Simon the atheist (see also recent matches here and here).

And finally, please pray for Michael Spencer and family on the loss of his mother, and as he shares the Gospel at her funeral.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Creative Commons

I've reviewed the Creative Commons website on a couple of occasions. It seems interesting, but I just don't know.

For those that have taken the plunge, can you tell me why, and what I need to think about before I do it?

Monday, July 03, 2006

What Say You--The American Revolution & Romans 13

Starting a new feature today on the blog--"What Say You?"
It will feature a question where opinions differ. Normally (but not necessarily), it will have some reference to Scripture as well. Divergent opinions are welcome (and, in fact, expected); all I ask is that discussion be kept civil.

Also, I am having trouble with internet at home, so I may not be available for a couple of days to provide responses.

In honor of Independence Day here in the US, my question is this: Did the American Revolution violate Romans 13?