Falling into the Hands of the Living God!
Matthew Mead, 1629-1699
"It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" Hebrews 10:31
In the foregoing part of this epistle, the Apostle has been exalting Christ above Moses, and the Gospel worship above worship during the times of Moses. He has been pressing them to faith in Christ, and constancy in their profession of the Gospel. He now proceeds by way of motive, to show them the danger of apostasy, and of contempt of the Gospel—from the heinous nature of the sin, and the severity of the punishment due to it. He shows that, of all sinners, God would be most severe in judging apostates. Having done this, he concludes his arguments with an elegant expression, which puts a great emphasis on what he had been urging in this matter. We find this in the words of the text, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!"
In the words before the text, the Apostle gives us a distinct account of God's dealing with man, under the Law and under the Gospel, and the difference between the one and the other in the 28th and 29th verses. "Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?"
Here the sin of apostasy is set out as the highest offence against the gospel imaginable. As the offence is—so also is the punishment. Here is the greatest punishment threatened against it, and the offence is described in three particulars:
1. trampled the Son of God under foot;
2. treating the blood of the covenant an unholy thing;
3. insulting the Spirit of grace.
The punishment threatened is not positively expressed, but comparatively described. The comparison is between the punishment of sins under the Law of Moses, and the Law of Christ. Sins against the Law of Christ, are greater than sins against the Law of Moses—and so is the punishment. The punishment for the breach of Moses' Law was physical—but the punishment for the breach of Christ's Law is spiritual and eternal. He who broke Moses' Law, fell into the hands of a dying man, and suffered a temporal death. But the offence against the gospel, brings a man to fall into the hands of the living God, and so brings him under eternal death and damnation. This he calls a much more sever punishment, because the hands of a living God are infinitely heavier than the hands of a dying man.
So that the words of the text, are brought in by way of inference from what goes before. It is as if the Apostle had said, seeing matters stand in this way, that Gospel sins are such great sins, therefore, let a man look to it. Let him take heed to himself, and consider what he does when he neglects Christ, and slights the offers of Gospel grace, "For it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!"
In which words there are three parts.
A description of God with respect to the present case—he is the living God.
The outcome of their sin, with respect to this living God—that is, falling into his hands.
The nature of it, in the general—the Apostle says that it is a fearful thing.
There are several observations deducible from the words:
1. That God is a living God.
2. That God, this living God, is a God of justice and powerful vengeance, for that is meant by his hands.
3. That all such as neglect and despise the Gospel shall fall into the hands of this living God.
4. That God, who is the chief object of the faith, and hope, and comfort of believers—is an eternal spring of dread and terror to impenitent sinners, he is the living God.
5. The dread of the wrath of the living God should prevail on all who make a profession of the Gospel, to hold fast their profession without declension.
These are all truths of great concern, but I shall not insist on these distinctly. The words are in themselves an entire proposition, and I shall consider them as such, and in speaking to them, I shall observe this method.
I intend to speak to this description that is given to God—the living God—and what the importance of this description is.
I will open the notion of falling into his hands.
I will demonstrate the truth of the text, that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God—why this it is a matter of such dread.
I will give you the reasons of the point, and then apply it.
The term that is given to God here, "the living God," of whom this is spoken, and then, in what sense he is the living God.
Of whom this is spoken, "the living God"? Who is this title given to in the text? This is applied to God both essentially and personally. Essentially, as comprehending each person in the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as one God, are called the living God. "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God," (Psalm 42:2). "We preach to you that you should turn from these vanities to the living God, who made Heaven and earth, and all that is therein," (Acts 14:15). "You turned from idols to serve the living and true God," (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Now this is spoken of God, not with respect to his personality, but his essence, and so this description takes in all three persons.
Sometimes this description is ascribed to God as personally considered, and so it is applied distinctly to each person, to Father, Son, and Spirit.
(1). Sometimes it is meant of the Father, and intended only of Him. "You are Christ, the Son of the living God," (Matthew 16:16). "We believe and are sure that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God," (John 6:69). That must be meant of God the Father.
(2). Sometimes it is meant of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and applied distinctly to him. "We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men," (1 Timothy 4:10). And who is this but the Lord Christ?
(3). Sometimes it is applied to the Holy Spirit, and intended particularly of him. "You are the temple of the living God," (2 Corinthians 6:16). This is meant of the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Godhead, as appears by comparing it with (1 Corinthians 6:19). "Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?" In one place you are the temples of the living God, in the other you are the temples of the Holy Spirit, so that the Holy Spirit is the living God.
In this way you have the title of the living God given to all the three persons in the Godhead. But in the text I conceive it is used with respect to God, not as the first person only, nor as the second or third, but with respect to all—Father, Son, and Spirit; and therefore it is to be understood in this place, of God essentially, and that in an absolute sense, God as God.
In what sense is God said to be the living God?
(1). In opposition to idols, such as the heathens worshiped. The Psalmist tells us what dumb and dead idols they are. "Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. (Psalm 115:3-8). Here are two things that put a great contempt upon these idol-gods.
1st. They are made gods—the work of men's hands. It is likely to be but a sorry god which is made by a sorry man. If God makes man, he becomes a living creature. If man makes a god, it is likely to be but a dead god.
2nd. They are gods with senses—and yet without sense. They have ears, and yet do not hear. They have eyes, and do not see. They have mouths, and do not speak. What a pitiful god is that which has all these senses, and yet without any sense; a blind, deaf, and dumb god, must necessarily be a dead god.
"Every one is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. His images are a fraud; they have no breath in them. They are worthless, the objects of mockery; when their judgment comes, they will perish. He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the tribe of his inheritance—the LORD Almighty is his name. (Jeremiah 10:14-16).
(2). He is the living God originally, as having life in himself, no, God not only has life, but he is life. We cannot so properly say that he has life, as that he is life, for it is his very essence. The life of God is the living God; the life of man is another thing. From man, it is the bond that knits body and soul together. But life and God are one—whether you look backward to what is past, or forward to what is to come.
1st. Look BACKWARD to what is past—and so he is the living God. He has always been the living God. No time can be assigned for the beginning of his being. If we look back we can go no further than the date of the creation there time begins, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"—in the beginning of time. If we look further back, we shall lose ourselves in the abyss of eternity, for all before time is eternity. God did not begin to be when he made the world; for as the world that was made must have a maker—so he who made it must have a being before it.
2nd. Look FORWARD to what is to come, and so he is the living God, he is without end. He always was, always is, and always will be what he is, "for in him there is no variableness nor shadow of turning," (James 1:17). God cannot die. Can eternity expire? His Godhead is an eternal Godhead, and therefore as he is said to be from everlasting as to his beginning, so he is said to be to everlasting as to his duration. "From everlasting to everlasting, you are God," (Psalm 90:2). The life of God is from eternity to eternity. He would not be God, if he were not the living God.
Therefore, the Apostle elegantly says of him, "He who alone has immortality," (1 Timothy 6:16). What does only mean? Are there no beings that are immortal except God? Are not angels immortal? Is not the soul of man immortal? True! But they are not immortal as God is, they are not immortal by nature, but merely by gift and grant. It is as easy for God to strip them of it, as to invest them with it. No, it is impossible but that they should perish if God should withdraw the power from preserving them which he exerted in creating them. So, they are not immortal of themselves, but by dependence on divine influences. It is not essential, but by donation, so that the immortality of saints and angels is but a precarious thing.
But God is immortal of himself. He is immortality, fixed in his own being. No one gave life to Him—and none can take it from Him. And in this sense it is what the Apostle says, "He alone has immortality," and in this way He is the living God, as having life originally in himself.
(3). He is the living God communicatively—as giving life. There is no life any being partakes of, but what is derived from the living God, "he gives to all, life and breath and all things," (Acts 17:25). Therefore he is called the Fountain of Life, "He is the fountain of life," (Psalm 36:9). He does not say of this or that life—but of all life, the life of vegetation in plants, the life of sense in brutes, and the life of reason in man, the life of grace in saints on earth, the life of glory in saints in Heaven—all these lives are in God, who is the fountain of life.
All the powers in Heaven and earth without God, cannot give life. Are may imitate living things, but there was never any artist that could make things live. A painter may make the picture of a man—but he cannot put life into it. No, it is the living God, who is the only life-giving God.
(4). He is the living God with respect to his eternal power, by which he is able to avenge the sins of men, and this is the special reason why he is called the living God in our text. He who is the fountain of life—must necessarily be the spring of power. His power must necessarily be eternal, because his life is eternal, and this is that which puts a terror on all the attributes of God which are employed against sinners. His power, his justice, and his wrath would not be so dreadful—if it were not the power, the justice, and the wrath of the living God. And as God's life is a continued act in himself, so it being attributed to him with respect to his wrath on sinners, it imports his continued hand in it without intermission or cessation. As the soul is immortal in its duration, and as the stain of sin is eternal in its nature—so while God lives, and your soul lives, you must bear its punishment if you fall into his hand.
You see in what sense God is said to be the living God; now that he is in this way the living God, I might make out by diverse mediums. He is the living God in the following points:
1.In that he is said to have, "life in himself," (John 5:26). "The Father has life in himself," that is, it is in him originally and radically, and therefore eternally. He who has life in himself, and from himself, cannot cease to be. What he never received, he can never lose. He who has life in himself, cannot cease to be—for he necessarily exists, and what necessarily exist, must exist from eternity.
2.His perfection proves his eternal being—he could not be infinitely perfect, if he were not eternal. There is nothing more inconsistent with infinite perfection, than a finite duration. Being infinite—nothing can be added to him, or taken from him.
3.It is evident in that he is the first and supreme cause of all things. "I am the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega," (Rev. 1:11). Now that which is the first, cannot begin to be, for then it was not that at first, and it cannot cease to be, for then it would not be the last. If God is the first cause of all things—then he must be before all things, and therefore from eternity.
4.It is evident that there is no such thing as succession in the life of God. His essence knows no such thing as past and to come, and therefore the name that he makes himself known to Moses by, is, "I AM," that is his name. It is not, "I was," for that would intimate as if he now is not, what he was once. Nor is it, "I will be," for that would intimate as if he is not yet what he shall be. God has nothing now, which he did not have before; nor shall he have anything hereafter, which he does not have now. If there is any succession in God, he could not be the eternal, "I AM," (John 8:58). "Before Abraham was, I AM."
He has an eternal duration. He has all at once, and possesses all things altogether. There is no time past, present or to come with him. And if God is always I AM, then he must be without all succession, for all succession supposes motion. All motion presupposes a cause and an effect. Whatever is moved from non-being, to a being, or from an imperfect to a more perfect being, has a succession. Now, God has nothing in him to be perfected, and therefore he is not capable of any higher degree of being.
5.It is evident that he is the living God, in that his dwelling is in eternity. "Thus says the high and lofty one, who inhabits eternity," (Isaiah 57:15). If God inhabits eternity, he must necessarily be the ever-living God. His dwelling house is eternity, into which none ever did, or can enter, but himself. It is true the angels inhabit glory—but they cannot properly be said to inhabit eternity, because there was a time when they were not. The saints are said to have a, "house eternal in the heavens," (2 Corinthians 5:1). But yet the saints cannot be said in glory to inhabit eternity, because they are but finite creatures, though they are glorified creatures. It is proper to none but God to inhabit eternity.
Therefore, he is the living God. In this, the life of God differs from the life of angels and the souls of men. The angels are living angels, and glorified spirits are living spirits—but there was a time when they were not so. Though their being shall never cease—yet there was a time when their being began. Duration of being among creatures differs from their being, for all creatures may cease from their being if it is the pleasure of God. Therefore they are not durable in essence. And though angels and the souls of men may be said to be everlasting as a perpetual life is communicated to them by God—yet that cannot be called their own eternity, because such a duration is not simply necessary or essential to them, but depending on the pleasure of another.
But God is his own eternity. The eternity of God is nothing else but the duration of God. "You are the same, and your years shall have no end," (Psalm 102:27). If eternity were not in the essence of God, there would be something which was not God, necessary to perfect God; therefore, eternity is essential to his being and life.
But here may an objection be made, is not the life of God measured by days and years, and what comes under the measure of time, is a bounded being, and has a finite duration? I answer, it is true the Spirit of God in Scripture sets out the life of God by days and years, which are the measure of finite beings. But we are to look on his so doing as divine condescension to comply with the narrowness of our capacities, that by it we might be fitted to form such conceptions of God, as our finite understandings are capable of reaching.
But we are not to conceive that God is bounded in his being, or measured by time, or that there is a succession of days and years in the life of God. How often is God described in Scripture as having human parts—as hands and eyes, and the like? Shall we therefore suppose him to be comprehended in a body and parts as man is? This would be most absurd. These figures of speech are only to help our conceptions of God's glorious nature and operations, and so it is in this matter. Therefore, things spoken of God after the manner of men, must be so understood as befits his nature and being, which is every way perfect. Therefore, though days and years are ascribed to God, yet it is in such a way and manner, as that his eternity is pointed at even in those measures of time.
Elihu says in Job 36:26, "Behold God is great and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out." His years are of such a number, as that they are innumerable, therefore the years that are not expressible, express the being of God. This speaks of infiniteness and eternity, for we may easily search out the number of the years, of all the creatures in the world—yes, the years of the angels in Heaven may be numbered; but we cannot search out the number of God's years.
"The heavens shall wax old, like a garment, as a vesture shall you change them, and they shall be changed—but you are the same, and your years shall have no end," (Psalm 102:26-27). Make note here, the world has its years, and God has his. The years of the world wax old, but God is no older than he was before the world was. He is called, "the Ancient of days," yet his days do not make him ancient, years make no change in God. He is forever the same. So, it is said, "Your years have no end." His life must necessarily be eternal, whose years have no end.
So, you see in what sense God is the living God, and its demonstration, that it is so. I come now to the second thing to be opened—and that is of FALLING INTO THE HANDS OF GOD.
What is meant by the hands of God? What is meant by falling into his hands? This phrase as applied to God is metaphorical, and must be understood in this way. God has no years properly, so he has no hands. His being is not measured by time, nor is it comprehended by parts and members. As he lives without years—so he works without hands. There is a figure in the words, which is when God as it were stoops to us, in expressing heavenly mysteries to our capacities, under human metaphors which are suited to our understandings. Others call it by a metaphor which signifies that that which is properly agreeable to the creature, is by some similitude transferred to God.
This is very common in Scripture to speak of God after the manner of men, and by bodily things to set out the spiritual life of God. The Scriptures often use these kinds of figures, because they are so much proportioned to our senses. In this way God is said to have eyes and ears. (Psalm 34:15). Now, God has neither eyes nor ears! But by these things he signifies to us his omniscience, that he knows all things. He is said to have affections, in Jeremiah 30:20. God has no affections, but the expression is to set forth the tenderness of God's nature and condescension. He is said to have a face, (Psalm 31:16), to set forth his love and grace. In this manner God is sometimes said to have feet, (Psalm 74:3). "Lift up your feet to the perpetual desolations," which is to denote his speed and swiftness to support his Church in distress. So, he is said to have hands, as in our text. Now the hands of God signify things variously in Scripture.
(1). Sometimes the hand of God signifies the Spirit of God. "The hand of the Lord was with them (speaking of the apostle's ministry), and a great number believed," (Acts 11:21); a mighty presence of God's Spirit by their ministry, converting many. So it is said of Ezekiel, "the word of the Lord came to him, and the hand of the Lord was upon him," (Ezekiel 1:3).
(2). Sometimes the hand of the Lord signifies a right to dispose of things and persons, and so it is said of Herod and Pilate, about the crucifying of Christ, that, "they did whatever his hand and counsel determined," to be done intimating that there was a divine disposal in making Christ an offering for sin. So the word is used, where David says, (Psalm 31:15), "My times are in your hand," that is, at God's disposal.
(3). Sometimes the hand of God means the power of God. "Your hands have made me and fashioned me," (Job 10:8). So Genesis 49:24, "The arms of his hands were made strong by the hand of the mighty God of Jacob," that is by his power.
Indeed the hand of God more frequently in Scripture signifies the power of God, than anything else—for the hand is the emblem of strength and power. To put a thing into the hands of another, is to put it into his power, so that, for example, God granted power to Satan is to be understood in Job 1:12. "Behold," God says to Satan, "all he has is in your hand," and it is often used in this way. Isaiah 59:1, "The Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save." His hand is not shortened, that is, the power of God is in no way lessened or abated. Now as the hand of God is put for the power of God, so it is taken three ways in Scripture. 1) There is his protecting hand.
2) There is his chastening hand.
3) There is his revenging hand.
1st. His PROTECTING hand, by which he preserves and secures his people from all hazards and dangers. "No man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand," (John 10:29). The preserving of grace calls for the hand of God, as much as working grace; no less power is seen in preserving grace, than in the first planting grace in the heart. It is this hand of God that breaks the violence of temptation, that breaks the power of Satan, and bruises him under our feet. It is this hand of God that breaks the power of indwelling lust. This kills the reluctance of the flesh against the spirit. As it was a mighty power that brought your soul into a state of grace, so it is the same mighty power that preserves you in that state, (Ephesians 1:19).
2nd. There is his CORRECTING hand, by which God chastises for sin. This is the hand that lays so heavy on David. Psalm 32:4, "Day and night your hand was heavy upon me." It was the correction of God, the chastisement of God—that was heavy on him, and this chastising hand of God is sometimes more immediate, and sometimes more mediate.
Sometimes it is more IMMEDIATE, when God afflicts by himself alone, without the appearance or intervening of second causes, and that may seem to be intended by Satan, where he says to God concerning Job, "Put forth now your hand, and touch him." That is, deal with him in an immediate way, and you shall see what he is, he will curse you to your face.
God sometimes sends an affliction in such an immediate way, that man cannot see by which way it comes. Therefore, it is called creating of evil; creation is out of nothing, when there is nothing out of which it is made. God oftentimes creates an evil bringing it on a man when there is no appearance of second causes, but it looks like it comes immediately from the hands of God; like that in Job 20:26, "A fire unfanned will consume him and devour what is left in his tent"—which is an immediate dealing of God on chastening Job.
Sometimes these chastisements are more MEDIATE. It is God's hand that is felt—though only the creature's hand can be seen; and so it is the hand of the creature in the hand of God. Job says, "the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away." It was the Sabeans that robbed him, but he saw the hand of God on the hand of man. The Lord takes, so David prays in Psalm 17:13-14, "Deliver my soul from the wicked, which is your sword, from men which are your hand." Wicked men are God's sword. Though they cut—it is God who strikes! They are the rod of correction in the hand of God.
3rd. There is the revenging hand of God—the hand of his wrath, by which he executes judgment on unrepentant sinners, without remedy, and without mercy. This is the hand that the text points at. "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God." It is not meant of his protecting or chastening hand—but his revenging hand.
God's protecting hand is sweet and comfortable.
God's chastening hand is bitter, but profitable.
God's revenging hand is neither comfortable nor profitable, but amazing and fearful. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
In this way you see what we are to understand by the hands of God, his revenging hand, his wrath upon impenitent sinners at the last day.
What is meant by FALLING into God's hands? As hands are ascribed to God by way of metaphor, so this expression of falling into his hands, must be taken metaphorically too, and the metaphor is taken from one that falls into the hands of his enemy that lays in wait for him. Or it may be taken from a poor debtor that owes more than he can pay, and cannot look his creditors in the face, but shrinks from corner to corner, but is taken at last. Such a thing as this, is falling into the hands of God.
Now men go on in their sins securely—and God is quiet and lets them alone. Now they speak peace to themselves in the midst of their sin and rebellion. But when God's hand takes hold of them in judgment—then He will right Himself on sinners for all the wrongs they have done Him all their lives long, "As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen My flashing sword and My hand grasps it in judgment—I will take vengeance on My adversaries and repay those who hate Me!" Deuteronomy 32:41
Now this expression of falling into the hands of the living God, is not to be so understood as if sinners were not in his hands now already. For so all men are in his hands, all are under his power—but this falling into the hands of God, in short implies three things.
(1). Having to do with God Immediately.
(2). Having to do with God Necessarily.
(3). Having to do with God Eternally.
(1). Having to do with God IMMEDIATELY, and that in a twofold respect:
1st. Without Christ to mediate for us.
2nd. Without an instrument to convey his wrath to us.
1st. Without Christ as mediator. The privilege of every believer in the great day of judgment is this—he has Christ to plead for him, to stand by him, to manage his cause, and interpose between him and the severity of God's justice. Matthew 10:32, "He who confesses me before men—him will I confess before my Father which is in Heaven," I will own him as one of mine. This is a blessed thing to have a mediator at God's right hand, when we appear before the bar of God.
But what will become of unrepentant sinners, that have to deal with God immediately, that must appear there without Christ! They have slighted him here—and then he will deny them there! So that sinners in that day shall fall into the hands of God immediately.
2nd. Without an instrument to convey his wrath to us. God will be the executioner of his own wrath in that day. He will never anymore use the ministry of creatures, to inflict his wrath—but he will do it by himself. We read of unquenchable fire, and fire and brimstone, outward darkness—which is nothing else but the wrath and vengeance of God.
Here on earth God makes use of second causes, and acts by instruments and means, and these are terrible when the wrath of God is conveyed by them. But alas! The wrath of the creature is not to be compared with the wrath of God himself. The soul of man is of a vast capacity, and can take in more than all creatures can convey, either of good or evil.
No creature goodness can fill the soul of man. It is not in the power of all the creatures of the world, to satisfy the soul. If the soul of man should drink up the rivers of all created good at one drink—this could not quench its thirst. Nothing can fill the soul of man, but God himself. A boundless appetite, cannot be satisfied with a finite good.
And as no created good can satisfy him—so no evil from the creature can fill the soul. As the soul is the receptacle of more good than is found in all the creatures—so it is capable of more misery and anguish than all the creatures can inflict on it.
Therefore God will in the eternal world, no more use the ministry of creatures, but will do all by his own hands. God can make the least creature a judgment, even lice and flies, if they come on God's errand on earth. They are dreadful. But God has infinitely more wrath than any creature can contain. God cannot by creatures (to speak reverently) put forth all his wrath. But when the sinner falls into the hands of the living God, then he has to deal with God alone, with God immediately, "Who knows the power of your anger!" (Psalm 90:11). You may guess a little at it by what the prophet says in Nahum 1:5-6, "The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him!" What a dreadful thing it is to have to deal with God immediately, and this is implied by falling into the hands of the living God.
(2). It implies having to do with God NECESSARILY—he cannot escape nor shun him. You read of those who cried to the rocks and mountains to fall on them, and cover them from the wrath of God, but they could not help them. They must necessarily deal with God, and that is intended by the Apostle, where he says, (speaking of the eternal state of saints and sinners in the other world,) "God shall be all in all"—a man has to deal with God alone in the other world. In Heaven, God is all in all to the saints. In Hell, God is all in all to those souls in misery; falling into the hands of God implies having to do with him necessarily.
(3). It implies having to do with God EVERLASTINGLY. He is the living God, and if you fall into His hands—then you must be the eternal prisoner of His wrath. As long as God lives—you will be miserable, and damned, and undone! He is the living God, and as long as God lives—so the sinner shall live under the weight of His wrath and vengeance.
God holds the sinner in life to that end, that he may bear his wrath as long as he is the living God. God lives forever, and therefore, the believer's Heaven shall be forever; and because he lives forever, the sinner's Hell shall be forever. God being the living God, is matter of as great a terror to those who hate Him—as it is comfort to those who love and fear Him!
A mortal man cannot extend punishments beyond this life, when they have killed the body; they can do no more. We are mortal, and therefore cannot suffer long here. And those who trouble and persecute us are mortal, and therefore they cannot make us suffer long here. But the life of God is eternal, and therefore he can punish us eternally. So Christ says: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!" Luke 12:4-5.
O! that you would seriously consider that God is a living God! Think of this when you are about to sin: "This is done in the sight of the living God! I must appear and give an account of this sin before the living God!"
It would be an awakening thing if we would but let this thought dwell in our minds, that God is a living God, and that I must have to deal with this living God forever, either in Heaven or Hell!
Nothing is so dreadful to a soul under wrath, as to consider that God lives forever. It is that which puts a terror into all those attributes of God which are engaged against the lost soul. The justice of God and the wrath of God are terrible—and the power of God is that which makes them so. God's wrath is made even more terrible, by its being eternal. It is His power that makes His justice terrible, and eternity that makes His power dreadful. The eternity of Hell, makes Hell more dreadful than His power; His power makes it sharp and painful—His life makes it everlasting—and everlastingness is the sharpest sting in Hell's misery!
As no one can convey good with such a perpetuity—so no one can inflict wrath with such a lastingness as the living God. Therefore it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of God, because it is into the hands of the living God! O! that God would persuade sinners to consider these things! O! that you would be awakened. These things are of great use for conviction, if God makes us so wise as to lay them to heart.
Do not dare therefore to live in sin any longer, for if you die in your sins, you must have to deal with God immediately—for then there will be none to interpose, no Christ to save you. You must deal with God necessarily—for God in that state is all in all. And you must have to deal with God eternally—for he is the living God.