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Hell and the Wrath of God


Jonathan Edwards was an 18th century preacher, philosopher and theologian. He is widely regarded as “one of America’s most important and original philosophical theologians”1. A sermon by Edwards that has caught the attention of many is titled “sinners in the hand of an angry God”, and can be read here.

In a great little book called ‘The Holiness of God’, R.C. Sproul summarises the main application points from this sermon. Below are chosen excerpts regarding hell and the wrath of God from Sproul’s book, based on the sermon by Edwards.


God’s wrath is divine. The wrath of which Edwards preached was the wrath of an infinite God. He contrasts God’s wrath with human anger or the wrath of a king for his subject. Human wrath terminates. It has an ending point. It is limited. God’s wrath can go on forever.

God’s wrath is fierce. The Bible repeatedly likens God’s wrath to a winepress of fierceness. In hell there is no moderation or mercy given. God’s anger is not mere annoyance or a mild displeasure. It is a consuming rage against the unrepentant.

God’s wrath is everlasting. There is no end to the anger of God directed against those in hell. If we had any compassion for other people, we would wail at the thought of a single one of them falling into the pit of hell. We could not stand to hear the cries of the damned for five seconds. To be exposed to God’s fury for a moment would be more than we could bear. To contemplate it for eternity is too awful to consider.

The tragedy for us is that in spite of the clear warnings of Scripture and Jesus’ sober teaching on this subject, we continue to be at ease about the future punishment of the wicked. If God is to be believed at all, we must face the awful truth that someday His furious wrath will be poured out.

When we understand the character of God, when we grasp something of His holiness, then we begin to understand the radical character of our sin and helplessness. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace. Our strength is futile in itself; we are spiritually impotent without the assistance of a merciful God. We may dislike giving our attention to God’s wrath and justice, but until we include ourselves to these aspects of God’s nature, we will never appreciate what has been wrought for us by grace.

Even Edwards’ sermon on sinners in God’s hands was not designed to stress the flames of hell. The resounding accent falls not on the fiery pit but on the hands of the God who holds us and rescues us from it. The hands of God are gracious hands. They alone have the power to rescue us from certain destruction.


To read more of R.C. Sproul’s book ‘The Holiness of God’, buy the book from Koorong or Amazon.

1 Wainwright, William, “Jonathan Edwards”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/edwards/>.

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