“D0 you ever think about going to hell?” “No, I can’t say that I ever do.” That was a question asked at family visitation one year, and invariably that was the answer. If one really knows Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord he does not have to worry about going to the place of perpetual perdition when he dies, hut one wonders if all people in the churches today truly know the Lord and the eternal life He gives.

How long has it been since you heard a sermon on God’s wrath? I recall as a boy I heard quite a few. We like positive preaching of Christ and a powerful presentation of the Gospel but, if Christ is preached, then His preaching must he preached also. It is common knowledge that our loving Savior spoke about hell more than anyone else in the Bible.

• Thank God for His love! The Bible tells us that “God is love” (I John 4:8); It does not say that God is anger, or hate, or wrath. Thank God for John 3:16—but the verse contains a real implication that some people may “perish”.

The following verse is most comforting; there the Savior tells us that “God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might he saved through him”. Saved from what? In the marvelous final verse of this famous chapter our Lord states the issue very clearly. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him” (John 3:36).

• The man who introduced the Lord Jesus Christ to the world of men was John the Baptist. He spoke sternly to the religious leaders as they came for baptism, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7). Is wrath removed? Is the warning dated? Will all be well in the final judgment?

How can one introduce the Lord Jesus to people today without understanding God’s wrath against sin? The cross tells us that our Savior’s death was an act of necessity, not a sentimental example of a lofty ideal. The death of God’s Son had in it the power—and nothing else in all the world has that power—to deliver man from the penalty of sin against a holy God.

• As a lad in high school I remember reading Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, and it seemed I could hear the flames of hell crackling around me. How different from most preaching today!

Many preachers feel so desperate to communicate without giving offense, that the average person loaves the house of God with a kind of a smug idea that there is not too much wrong with him. It is not so pleasant to confront and to be confronted with sin and its terrible consequences. Maybe people do not take it today, but the truth of God is the same as it was in the day of Jonathan Edwards.

The forgiving grace of God is real. His love and mercy are available in Christ. But His wrath is real too, and His judgment is certain. Paul expresses the issue so well in Romans 5:9: “Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we he saved by him from the wrath of God”. The great Bible treatise on the efficacy of Christ’s priesthood warns in two striking texts: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31), and “for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29).

• Frequently in the preaching of God’s Word it is not so much what is said on a subject, but what is not said. How many souls arc being lulled into a false sense of security because they think they are not so bad and they think God is so good! God’s anger is not like anger as we know it, but it is a holy wrath agninst sin in every form. It is a wrath so great that God’s Son suffered death and separation from God in order to deliver us from the wrath to come. Paul speaks of God’s Son “whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come”. (I Thess. 1:10).

With all the riches of love in Christ Jesus and the glorious grace of the Gospel, how can true preaching soft-pedal the wrath of God? A while ago a social worker spoke at a local ministers’ conference and told us to tell people that they are basically O.K. and that God loves them. This is the preaching challenge for today, said he. However, this is certainly a far cry from the preaching of Christ and the apostles. There is nothing more advantageous to the devil than to get people to believe that there is no wrath, hell, or judgment. Praise God when wrath is removed, but it can he removed only one Way.

• Does God’s wrath still have a place in our preaching? As people speed along on the road of life, are we keeping silent about the destruction that awaits the unbeliever? We must face that reality. Someday Paul’s words will be fulfilled, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in naming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God, and upon those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (II Thess. 1:7–9).

In the final book of the Bible we read the last invitation: “Let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price” (Rev. 22:17). But in solemn words the same book speaks of people “calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand before it?” (Rev. 6:16,17).

“O Lord in wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2).

Fred W. Van Houten is pastor of the historic Ninth Street Christian Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan.

The Unborn Child Has Rights


Last March the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada held its annual meeting for the first time in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. One of the major actions taken was the rejection of abortion on demand. The resolution declared that life begins at fertilization, and it urged that legal rights he extended to the fetus. As a member of the General Council of the EFC I do, of course, wholeheartedly concur with this declaration. This resolution is based on Biblical principles and it is in line with what the church has taught during the centuries.

A sociologist wrote that “social engineers should realize that at times abortion can be a vital instrument of social control.” This is a very dangerous prospect—social control by man playing God. This is a going back to non-Christian philosophy.

Plato sanctioned abortion when conception took place past the age limits of the stale-controlled procreation, because it was “an offense against religion and justice, inasmuch as he is raising up a child for the state.” Aristotle also required abortion when state-allowed births were exceeded. Ancient Rome saw abortion in the context of the father’s right to an heir. Septimius Severus and Antoninus prohibited abortion on the ground that it defrauded the husband, not because it was immoral or a murder.

The Christian religion spoke out very quickly with respect to abortion. The condemnation of abortion as outright murder was soon in evidence. Tertullian declared: “To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth. That is a man which is going to he one; you have the fruit already in its seed.” The Church Councils repeatedly dealt with abortion. Basil of Caesaria in Cappadocia, in his Canons, called abortion murder. In the Quineset Council of 692, Canon XCI declared: “Those who give drugs for procuring abortion, and those who receive poisons to kill the foetus, arc subjected to the penalty of murder.” Christians opposed the practice of abortion. God’s law was for them final and absolute. A man’s life was not his own, nor the life of an unborn child.

The Canadian government has cased the abortion laws 10 the point, where local, three-doctor committees (one of them must be a psychiatrist), may decide in favor of abortion if they are convinced the life or health of the mother to he in danger, Women’s lib says that this is not enough. They demand full control as women over their own bodies, including the fetus, in conjunction with their doctors and husbands. The reasons for a child being unwanted can be varied. They range from the financial to a dislike for children. The human factor is so much involved in the making of decisions.

Should we revive the ancient pagan Roman position? Should we say that “abortion can he a vital instrument of social contro!”? Should we say that the fetus is without rights if the mother for any reason whatsoever says so? Dr. W. Fitch in his book Christian Perspectives on Sex and Marriage says about this modern trend: “One can very easily reach il position of infantcide even though the real act may he only that of twentieth-century feticide.” I certainly agree with Dr. Heather Morris when she contended at McMaster University’s Sex Fest ’72: “A society that weighs human life so cheaply is not a civilized society. A civilized society is judged on how it takes care of those who can’t take care of themselves.”

Life is precious in the sight of God. We have no right to take life. The unborn child has rights. The psalmist wrote many centuries ago of his first beginnings in the very presence of God: “For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou are fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, everyone of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are thy thoughts O God! How vast is the sum of them” (Ps. 139:13–18).

Johan D. Tangelder is pastor of the Riverside Christian Reformed Church of Wellandport, Ontario.