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Lowell Brueckner

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Comments Concerning a Message by Phil Johnson


"A jealous and avenging God is the Lord; the Lord is avenging and wrathful. The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies."                                                                                                                                                                                   Nahum 1:2
Margaret and I listened to a message last Sunday by Phil Johnson. He had preached previously on the subject “Love that is Poured Out Like Water”, from the book of Jonah, centered on the mercy of God towards the people of Nineveh. This time his subject was “Wrath that is Poured Out Like Fire” from the prophet Nahum, in which he depicted the doom and destruction, which was to fall upon the same city many years later. Johnson dealt with the subject in a biblical and sane manner, from the beginning making a statement about those, who might enjoy speaking on such a theme. He denounced those people as having something seriously amiss in their character. He made it clear that this message would not be one that is easy to hear and certainly would not be easy to deliver. However, to evade the theme is to be unfaithful to the revelation of God and His truth. This message will be available to hear “on demand” in less than a week.

There are many in these times, who refuse to address the subject of the wrath of God. Joel Osteen leads a great host in “positive” preaching that avoids talk about sin, hell or judgment. However, even the general trend in evangelical circles is in a direction leading away from the consequences of sin and a rejection of Christ. Then, there seems to be a growing number, who oppose the very doctrine of eternal damnation. Rob Bell, a universalist, who believes that no one will be eternally damned, and who was a pastor of a large evangelical church, wrote a book called “Love Wins”. Phil Johnson read a portion from that book at least twice during the message, pointing to the misinterpretation that this man holds, concerning the character of God and the consequences of sin. Many ignore the fact that William Paul Young, author of “The Shack”, which sold 10 million copies, is also a universalist. Think of the influence this book had upon human souls, who were seduced by its subtle and clever lie.

Johnson makes it clear that it is as necessary to emphasize the wrath of God in these times, as it was in the Old Testament. He proclaimed that there is not another book in the Bible that speaks more about the wrath of God and the Lamb as does the book of Revelation. He quoted Hebrews 10:26-30, which depicts “the fury of fire which will consume the adversaries.” It warns that a far severer punishment awaits those “who have trampled under foot the Son of God”, than those who despised the Law of Moses.  It concludes that section stating, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

These passages, said Johnson, are written with the intention of producing fear and, as the Bible teaches more than once, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Therefore, it is impossible to attend to the things of God with wisdom without first knowing His fear.

He gave five reasons why it is necessary to preach the wrath of God: 1) Because it demonstrates the fact that sin is extremely evil. There is no such thing as a finite sin against an infinite God. Eating a fruit cannot be considered an evil act, until one takes into account that a holy, supreme Authority forbade Adam and Eve to eat it.  All the catastrophes in history and the world today resulted from that disobedience. An eternity of hell is not enough punishment to pay for one offense against an infinite God. 2) His wrath depicts the gloriously holy nature of God and His perfect righteousness. To a certain point, God would be unrighteous, if his righteousness did not demand perfect obedience. Every infraction demands a just retribution. 3) The wrath of God shows how seriously He takes His Law and how supremely important it is. He holds that Law of His government before the eyes of men and declares that it must not be broken. He lays down the terms of the Law and the penalty for disobedience. The world will be brought before His Great White Throne judgment in order to answer to that Law. 4) His wrath is a foretaste of the unspeakable and unending torment of hell. There wrath will be poured out without mercy, with nothing to appease or lighten it. It will continue to burn unquenchably for eternity. 5) Most importantly and wonderfully, the blackness of the wrath of God backdrops His sublime grace. How brightly it shines into the heart that has felt the fires of the condemnation of his sins!  It took a John Newton, slave trafficker and abuser of thousands, to write the lyrics of that great hymn, Amazing Grace.  He said, “I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior.” The person, who has not sat under the preaching of the wrath of God, is robbed of the appreciation and love that he would otherwise know for God’s grace and forgiveness. Therefore the exclusively positive preacher is depriving and harming his listeners, instead of lifting them, as he claims to do. Those who ignore His wrath, have an immense disadvantage in living the Christian life.

As fallen creatures this theme seems repulsive and we quail before it. On the other hand, we know that it is good and natural to love justice and to rejoice, when God deals with evildoers (such as Hitler and Ben Laden). Vengeance is not in our hands, but vengeance is just and right in the hands of Him, Who knows perfectly how to perform it. The souls of martyrs under the altar in heaven ask for vengeance for their blood. Paul told the Thessalonians that vengeance is perfectly righteous (2 Th.1:6).   

We know people among us, who do not want this theme emphasized, and they do not want to hear it preached from our circles to the unbelieving world. They are under today’s humanistic deception (please read in this blogspot, “Ten Shekels and a Shirt”) and proclamation of “unconditional love”. We must not give them any importance, adhere to them, and certainly not allow them to still our mouths and pens. They are ashamed of a wrathful God and apologize for him. They don’t want us to acquire the fame, the reputation, for being people who emphasize this necessary and good trait of our God. As Francis Chan said, “Let’s stop apologizing for God and start apologizing to Him for neglecting to preach His wrath.”


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