Comparing the Messages of Edwards and Piper

Comparing the Messages of Edwards and Piper

Comparing the Messages of Edwards and Piper

Comparing the Messages of Edwards and Piper

This is a review (part three) of a famous sermon called Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Read part one, The Suicide Sermon, a synopsis of the sermon, and part two, Slippery Slope.

In part two, Slippery Slope, I examined the introduction to Edward’s sermon and concluded:

The problem with Edwards’ intro is that he takes the idea of destruction, within the context of unbelieving Israel, and equates it with eternal torment in hell. This is wrong on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin. But begin I will…

Today, we’ll examine the main body of the sermon:

II. It is God’s sovereign pleasure to NOT preserve or protect them from falling at the appointed time.
1. God has the power “to cast wicked men into hell at any moment.”
2. You deserve to be cast into hell.
3. You are presently condemned to hell.
4. The wrath of God presently burns against you.
5. The devil is ready to seize you, once God gives the okay.
6. The “seeds” of hell fire are presently in you.
7. You are on the brink of eternity, and your very next step could send you straight to hell.
8. You can do nothing to secure yourselves.
9. You have fooled yourselves into believing you are not going to go to hell.
10. God is under no obligation to keep any person from hell, even for a moment.

First, recognize that when Edwards talks about “destruction” or “falling,” he isn’t talking about the natural consequences that accompany negative or immoral thoughts, decisions, or actions — he’s talking about eternal torment in hell, as is evidenced in the following quotes from his sermon:

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. […]

It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite.

Obviously, Edwards moves way beyond his sermon introduction, the Old Testament context of unbelieving Israel, and applies those scriptures to all  “unsaved” humanity. Three major problems with this approach are first, the concept of eternal torment in hell was completely foreign to unbelieving Israel; second, we know the fate of unbelieving Israel, and it is NOT even remotely close to what Edwards suggests; and third, the concept of eternal torment in hell is just plain erroneous.

Hell and Unbelieving Israel

Examine all of Moses’ laws and the consequences of breaking them, and you’ll not find any clear indication of eternal torment in hell. It simply wasn’t part of the Hebrew belief system. While it is true that you might find the word “hell” in modern translations of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “sheol” simply means “grave” or from the viewpoint of those still living, the “realm of the dead,” as is evidenced in this and other Old Testament scriptures:

And [Jonah] saith: I called, because of my distress, to Jehovah, and He doth answer me, from the belly of sheol I have cried, Thou hast heard my voice.(Jonah 2:2)

It is also noteworthy to compare, for example, in the New International Version, “hell” in the New Testament, translated from the Greek word, Gehenna, to Old Testament translations of the same word in Hebrew, Gai Ben-Hinnom, meaning the valley of the son of Hinnom, where people sacrificed their children in fire to the god Molech:

New Testament

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:22)

Old Testament

They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded–nor did it enter my mind–that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin. (Jeremiah 32:35)

Do you see how a concept like the grave or a place like a valley is translated in two completely different ways?

Israel, whether they were believing or unbelieving, had a concept of a place where anyone who dies goes, and a concept of a place where people participated in “detestable practices,” but had no concept of a place of eternal torment called hell.

The Fate of Unbelieving Israel

Concerning not only the fate of unbelieving Israel, but the fate of every person, Paul wrote to the believers in Rome,

For I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, of this secret — that ye may not be wise in your own conceits — that hardness in part to Israel hath happened till the fulness of the nations may come in; and so all Israel shall be saved, according as it hath been written, “There shall come forth out of Sion he who is delivering, and he shall turn away impiety from Jacob, and this to them is the covenant from Me, when I may take away their sins.” As regards, indeed, the good tidings, they are enemies on your account; and as regards the choice — beloved on account of the fathers; for unrepented of [i.e. irrevocable] are the gifts and the calling of God; for as ye also once did not believe in God, and now did find kindness by the unbelief of these: so also these now did not believe, that in your kindness they also may find kindness; for God did shut up together the whole to unbelief, that to the whole He might do kindness. (Romans 11:25-32 YLT)

Eternal Torment in Hell, an Erroneous Concept

1. It negates the idea that everything God does is a reflection of Who God is.

If God is love and the concept of eternal torment were true, this means that God operates in contradiction to His own character. Most believers accept the idea that we never asked to be born, in other words, we have no part in deciding whether we come into existence; we are inherently predisposed to sin (it’s in our nature); and we live in an environment conducive to sin (the world). Yet most believers think that God is operating according to His character (doing what is good, acting in love) by subjecting the majority of His creation to infinite punishment for finite (70 years, give or take) unbelief or sin. This kind of disproportionate punishment cannot possibly be an act of love.

2. It exalts and glorifies the power of sin and death.

Orthodox theologians, preachers, and teachers have to do some major spiritual gymnastics to resolve this problem. And even then, I’ve never truly seen it resolved, only avoided. Consider, for example, a very convoluted blog post by John Piper called, For Whom Did Jesus Taste Death? He basically starts with the idea that Christ died for those He came to save, and then asks, “For Everybody?” He explains,

But to say what the Bible says and to mean what the Bible means are not necessarily the same thing. Which is why I said that there is something unhealthy about answering the question, “For whom did Jesus taste death?” by simply saying “everybody.” What’s unhealthy about it is not, first, that it’s wrong. It might not be wrong. It depends on what you mean by saying that. What’s unhealthy is that it stops short of asking what Jesus really accomplished when he died. It assumes that we all know what he accomplished and that this he accomplished for everybody in the same way. That is not healthy, because it is not true. My guess is that most of those 95% who say Jesus died for everybody would have a hard time explaining just what it is that the death of Jesus really, actually accomplished for everybody—especially what it accomplished for those who refuse to believe and go to hell.

The obvious question, then, is why is everyone not saved? In other words, why did the death of Christ accomplish so little? After some very self-serving gibberish, like a “precious and unfathomable covenant love between Christ” and those who believe (compared to those who don’t believe), Piper ultimately concludes,

And when you believe as you ought to believe, you will discover that your belief—like all other spiritual blessings—was purchased by the death of Christ. The sin of unbelief was covered by the blood in your case, and therefore the power of God’s mercy was released through the cross to subdue your rebellion and bring you to the Son. You did not make the cross effective in your life by faith. The cross became effective in your life by purchasing your faith.

So glory in this, Christian. Glory that your sins really were covered when Jesus tasted death for you. Glory that your guilt really was removed when Jesus tasted death for you. Glory that the curse of the law really was lifted and that the wrath of God really was removed, and that the precious faith that unites you to all this treasure in Christ was a gift purchased by the blood of Christ.

Christ tasted death for everyone who has faith. Because the faith of everyone who believes was purchased by the death of Christ.

What this amounts to is that for the majority of humanity, the sin of unbelief was not counted among those sins done away with by Christ. Piper directs our attention away from the idea that sin and death is NOT conquered for the majority of humanity and redirects it  — never mind that THEIR sins were not covered, just be happy yours were. Never mind that THEIR guilt was not removed, just be happy that yours was. Never mind that the curse of the law remains for so many others. The blood of Christ secured YOUR gift of salvation, and that’s all that really matters.

3. It stands in contradiction to other scriptures.

Can you imagine opening up your Bible and reading:

But the angel said to them, “Be very afraid; for behold, I only bring some of you good news…”

That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of a small minority of people, and only of those who believe…

Even though in Adam all die, in Christ all will not be made alive. And this happens all at once…

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, but just can’t make it happen. That’s why the one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, gave himself as a ransom exclusively for the people He knew would believe…

I could go on, but I won’t. You can do your own homework. Look these up and ask yourself whether sin and death are completely conquered and “swallowed up in victory” in your current interpretation/understanding: Genesis 12:3, 28:14; Psalm 22:27 & 29, 65:2, 145:8-9; Isaiah 40:5, 45:22 & 23; Joel 2:28; Acts 3:21; Colossians 1:20 & 23; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 15:23 & 28; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 1:9-11; Galatians 3:8; Hebrews 1:2, 2:9, 8:11; John 1:9 & 29, 3:16, 4:42, 8:12, 12:32-33 & 47, 16:33, 17:2 & 21; 1 John 2:2; Mark 9:49, 16:15; 2 Peter 3:9; Philippians 2:10-11, 3:21; Revelation 4:11, 5:13, 21:5; Romans 5:17-18, 8:21, 11:26 & 32 & 36; Titus 2:11.

Next week we’ll look at the Edwards’ sermon conclusion.

  • Rachel October 12, 2014 at 11:33 am

    How intelligent people can ignore/accept the double think just baffles me.

    • Lanny A. Eichert October 14, 2014 at 2:40 am

      Intelligent people can see through the evil heart of unbelief that exists in those who ask the deceitful questions proposed on this site’s blogs trying to deny everlasting torment

  • Stephen Helbig October 12, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    JESUS SAVIOR OF THE “WORLD”! ~ “kosmos”: order, the world
    kósmos Strong’s Concordance 2889 (literally, “something ordered”) – properly, an “ordered system” (like the universe, creation); the world.

    For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. ~ Jn. 12:47
    Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. ~ Jn. 1:29
    We know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world. ~ Jn. 4:42
    We testify…the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. ~ 1Jn. 4:14
    He is the propitiation…not for our sins only but also for the whole world. ~ 1Jn. 2:2

    p.s. ~ You are the light of the world. ~ Mt. 5:14
    ~ Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. ~ Mk. 16:15

    p.s.s. ~ All the ends of the world shall…turn to the Lord, all families of the nations shall worship. ~ Ps. 22:27
    ~ All the earth shall worship you and sing praises to your name. ~ Ps. 66:4

    p.s.s.t. ~ Oh Hades* where is your victory? ~ 1Co.15:55 (NKJV)
    vs.55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
    vs.56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
    vs.57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ

    • Lanny A. Eichert October 14, 2014 at 2:54 am

      Stephen cannot see the limits imposed by the contexts of what he reads.

      Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and MANY there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. {Matthew 7: 13 & 14} straight from Jesus’ mouth
      NOT every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. MANY will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. {Matthew 7: 21 – 23} straight from Jesus’ mouth

      He’d call Jesus a Liar than admit to everlasting torment.

  • Mary Vanderplas October 13, 2014 at 5:23 am

    I agree with what you say about the Hebrew scriptures containing no teaching about eternal torment in hell. By the first century, though, “Gehenna” was used metaphorically as a picture of the eschatological judgment. The larger issue here, in my view is that there is no warrant for using the text in Deuteronomy, which constitutes a warning against idolatry and faithlessness given to Israel, to make a doctrinal statement about the final destiny of the unbelieving.

    I like what you say about the fate of Israel, which Paul envisions in terms of an ever-gracious God finally bringing all peoples, both Jew and Gentile, into the one people of God, the company of the redeemed.

    I especially like what you say by way of arguing that the doctrine of eternal torment is erroneous teaching reflecting a view of God in which God’s actions toward some are (grossly) inconsistent with his nature as love in himself. I think you’re right to argue that the doctrine of limited salvation (and eternal torment for the majority) fails to acknowledge the death of Christ as the death of sin, the decisive expression of God’s wrath that opened the way for God’s grace to be bestowed on all. I would add here that God’s coming to us in Christ, his binding himself to us in love, means that we (humans) are chosen to belong to God. I agree that all sin has been taken away, including the sin of unbelief; however, I can’t rule out altogether, on the grounds that God will not strong-arm anyone into the kingdom, that some may not finally be saved. (But woo God will, I think; and so even those who reject him now may come to receive and embrace his grace.) I agree that the doctrine of eternal torment in hell stands in contradiction to (some) other texts, though I think that, generally speaking, an appeal to scripture is the shakiest ground on which to base an argument for the doctrine that all will be saved in the end. That there are texts that at least suggest final separation and limited salvation, as well as texts that affirm universal salvation, seems hard to deny. But I do agree that the ones you cite affirm that God wills and has acted in Christ for the salvation of all, and that these texts should not be dismissed.

    • Lanny A. Eichert October 14, 2014 at 2:46 am

      Mary, it is either one way or the other; both are not true. Everlasting torment IS the portion of all who physically die without confessing Christ.

      For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. {James 1: 6b & 7}

      You are in danger of receiving NOTHING from the Lord, which means you will NOT receive His salvation.

  • Lanny A. Eichert October 14, 2014 at 2:37 am

    First of all, Alice, Jonah 2: 2 is not Jonah in sheol, but in the fish’s belly, so it adds nothing to your argument except to demonstrate your mistakes.
    Second, your Matthew 5:22 demonstrates the torment of fire is real.
    Thirdly, your Jeremiah 32:35 sacrifice of children to Molek is also an ordeal by fire also.
    The concept clearly in view was likening a final place of torment by fire is without dispute thus far, blind Alice.

    Further, your Romans 11:25-32 is “dated” by the words “till the fulness of the nations may come in” and has nothing to do with those who lived and died before that moment. It is not retro-active.
    Your negation argument based on your so-called “Who God Is” is purely human logic and you appeal to your so-called “majority” human opinion.
    Just like you, Alice, those who ask the wrong evil questions cannot understand God’s grace, Piper rightly declares only those who receive God’s salvation can appreciate with understanding what God did in Christ for His precious “few” Elect.

    But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. {John 1: 12 & 13}

    Alice, God’s salvation is effective to ONLY those who receive it in the NOW as it says in 2 Corinthians 6: 2

    For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

    There is only one day of salvation and it is in the NOW of this mortality as God has said. Can’t you see 2 Corinthians 6: 2 is quoting God Himself? He ought to know. Go ahead and use your human logic. If God says “now” does it mean always at all times or is it a reference to a limited time and place? Has God heard you and helped you understand? Then that is God’s accepted moment for you to be saved and there will never be another. If you missed it, you will burn forever.

    For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. {Matthew 12: 40} Between death and resurrection is conscious awareness as pictured by Jonah and as experience by Christ by His prophetic words “for as” Jonah thought and prayed. Jesus did not cease to exist for three days and three nights, so neither will anybody who physically dies without confessing Christ cease to exist between his death and resurrection, but he will be tormented in the flames of hades until the resurrection of damnation {John 5: 28 & 29} to which he’ll respond from his conscious torments of hades only to be judged and thrown as trash into the everlasting Lake of Fire without remedy. Neither Alice nor Kevin can argue with Matthew 12: 40 that consciousness prevails between death and resurrection and so does place. That place os obviously torture for the unsaved.

  • Lanny A. Eichert October 14, 2014 at 3:34 am

    Alice, for as OFTEN as I’ve quoted on this site Psalm 11: 5 & 6 how can you write “you’ll not find any clear indication of eternal torment in hell”?

    The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.

    When God writes “this shall be the portion of their cup” you don’t get it that He means that will be their portion which will never change. Once they get their portion God does nothing else for them. He’s finished giving them anything. The Holy Bible ends with the Lake of Fire populated without remedy. You need to believe it ends the way God leaves it, gal.

    • Lanny A. Eichert October 14, 2014 at 4:02 am

      Furthermore, Alice, Jude 7
      Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
      Jude explains Sodom and Gomorrha stood as a picture to ALL the Old Testament people of everlasting torment by fire. You know the fire and brimstone that destroyed the twin cities is no longer burning and that’s why it stands as a picture/example of continuous burning, otherwise “eternal” would NOT have any reason to be in the sentence regardless of your age-during interpretation. (Remember you admitted to an age that has a beginning but no ending.)
      Again add Psalm 11: 5 & 6 to the concept of Sodom and Gomorrha deriving everlasting torment and you have everlasting hell in the Old Testament.

      It was there, Alice, in Sodom and Gomorrha and Psalm 11. Jude tells us what the people during the Old Testament period knew and believed.

      See, again you make unjustifiable claims from your evil heart of unbelief.

      • Alice Spicer October 14, 2014 at 10:03 pm

        Regarding this portion of your comment, “You know the fire and brimstone that destroyed the twin cities is no longer burning and that’s why it stands as a picture/example of continuous burning, otherwise “eternal” would NOT have any reason to be in the sentence regardless of your age-during interpretation.” Please explain. It seems like you are killing your own argument.

        • Lanny A. Eichert October 15, 2014 at 12:13 am

          Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of a single one-time-only destruction by fire out of heaven by God that burned itself out for lack of fuel on the ground.

          That is not what the people understood the scene to be during the two thousand years between its happening and Jude’s description of what they knew it to be. Jude pointedly states they knew it to be an example of the souls’ suffering the vengeance of eternal fire consistent with Psalm 11: 5 & 6 the rain of snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest which shall be the portion of their cup. You can’t divorce Jude 7 from Psalm 11: 5 & 6. BOTH texts prove everlasting torment was well known by the ancients to be the fate of the ungodly = the portion of their cup, their only portion. Jude does not attach a new meaning to Sodom and Gomorrha with the word eternal because it already was inherent in the words an example. You well know eternal is more properly understood in the context of your blog site as everlasting in this useage because it has a starting point.

          Alice, what happened on earth is only a PICTURE/example/type of what happens in the everlasting Lake of Fire. What happens on temporal earth can only partially picture what happens in the final estate, so your pressing the fact that fire is no longer burning is foolishness. God did that to confound your unbelief and prevented your total insanity. I direct you again to Mark 9: 43 – 48 their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

          It was there, Alice, in Sodom and Gomorrha and Psalm 11. Jude tells us what the people during the Old Testament period knew and believed. You are stretching everything to avoid the truth of ET. You’re sincerely the devil’s advocate and that will land you in hell. Believe what Jesus literally taught in Luke 16: 19 – 31 the rich man and Lazarus.

          Also, Alice, Jesus was not sleeping according to His words in Matthew 12: 40 between His death and resurrection 3 days/nights
          For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
          Remember above you quoted (Jonah 2:2) And [Jonah] saith: I called, because of my distress, to Jehovah, and He doth answer me, from the belly of sheol I have cried, Thou hast heard my voice. Yet you contradicted your position that nothing happens (soul sleep) in sheol by having Jonah calling to Jehovah. You have action in the “realm of the dead” by your use of Jonah 2: 2. You killed one of your own arguments, except I corrected your error by identifying sheol as used only figuratively by Jonah because he had not physically died. It seems as if he thought he died. You see, I could have left your quote stand and told you that you proved the soul does NOT sleep in death.

          What if I used Jonah 2: 2 to prove Kevin wrong that souls do not cease to exist at death? Would he and you be convinced or is Matthew 12: 40 much more convincing to both of you?

  • You're Not a Spider January 6, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    […] is a general overview; part two, Slippery Slope, is an analysis of the sermon intro; part three, Comparing the Messages of Edwards and Piper, is about the body of the message, and now we’ll look at the sermon application and […]

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