Tag Archives: punishment

Straining at Gnats, Swallowing Camels

As Jesus spoke to His disciples and the multitude gathered in His last public discourse held in the Temple of Jerusalem before His crucifixion, He spoke of those who strain at gnats and swallow camels. He spoke of those who minor on the major, and major on the minor. He spoke of those who clean the outside of the cup while neglecting the filthiness inside the cup. He spoke of the scribes and Pharisees of the day, pronouncing woe upon them for their hypocrisy and iniquity.

In Matthew 23 Jesus’ words of guilt and punishment are recorded upon those in His presence who had laid heavy burdens upon the people but would not lift one finger to help them. He declared, “All their works they do for to be seen of men,” (vs4-5). In denouncing them, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (v13), Jesus proceeded to make clear the very nature of their sin.

Jesus rebuked them for promoting false doctrine contrary to the Scriptures (v13); devouring widows’ property and possessions by fraud (v14); making a pretence of long prayers (v14); compassing land and sea to make one false convert to their traditions (v15); giving more credence to an oath sworn on the gold of the Temple or a gift on the altar than by the God of Heaven Whose presence dwelt in the Temple (vs16-22); paying tithes with herbs of little value while omitting “the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith” (v23).

As Jesus refers to the scribes and Pharisees as “blind guides” throughout the chapter for leading His people astray, He gives word pictures to their actions. He describes how they wipe clean the outside of the plate and cup, observing all the washings and cleansings of their tradition, while neglecting what matters most on the inside (vs25-26). He then turns their attention to the cemetery and the “whited sepulchres” found there, which appear beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones. He tells them of how they build and decorate the tombs of the prophets and righteous who were slain by their forefathers, all the while proclaiming “If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” Knowing that it would be by their very hands they would call for His crucifixion, He tells them, “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers,” (vs27-32).

For such actions by the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus called them “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers,” for their pretending to be pious and devoted to God, but all the while being wicked on the inside with evil intentions. Jesus then asked them, “How can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (v33). If the scribes and Pharisees continued on their wicked path, their future punishment in eternity would be inescapable.

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No Sin Preached, No Revival

It has been the prayer of many for decades of the Lord granting another Great Awakening to America and beyond. It was during the 1730s into the 1740s the First Great Awakening took place, with the Second Great Awakening following fifty years later during the 1790s into the early decades of the 1800s. Lives were dramatically changed, along with communities, as sin was repented of within a person’s heart and their utmost desire became to live for God by obeying His Word.

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God as the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10. It was by the preaching of a young pastor named Jonathan Edwards in Massachusetts that sparked the First Great Awakening. Edwards was greatly concerned that those who sat under his preaching were prepared for what lie ahead of them in Eternity, either Heaven above or Hell beneath. In order for them to make their decision they needed to know of their lost condition, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); they needed to know of God’s wrath concerning their sin, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men(Romans 1:18); they needed to know of God’s provision through His Son’s death on the cross to pay for their sin, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord(Romans 6:23). Jonathan Edwards preached powerful sermons that caused men and women, boys and girls to grip their church pews tightly with their hands, cry out to God for forgiveness and fall on their knees in total surrender to Him.

Jonathan Edwards is noted for his greatest sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” taking his text from Deuteronomy 32:35, “Their foot shall slide in due time.” Other sermons preached by Edwards to reveal through Scripture the reality of “the place of torment” (Luke 16: 19:31) awaiting those who reject the Son of God, were titled:

  • “The End of the Wicked Contemplated by the Righteous”Revelation 18:20, “Rejoice over her thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.”
  • “The Future Punishment of the Wicked Unavoidable and Intolerable” – Ezekiel 22:14, “Can thine heart endure… in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.”
  • “The Wicked Useful in Their Destruction Only” – Ezekiel 15:2-4, “What is the vine tree more than any tree…Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel… Is it meet for any work?”
  • “The Eternity of Hell Torments” – Matthew 25:46,“These shall go away into everlasting punishment.”
  • “The Unreasonableness of Indetermination in Religion” – I Kings 18:21, “How long halt ye between two opinions?”
  • “The Folly of Looking Back in Fleeing Out of Sodom” – Luke 17:32, “Remember Lot’s wife.”
  • “When the Wicked Shall Have Filled Up the Measure of Their Sin, Wrath Will Come Upon Them to the Uttermost” – I Thessalonians 2:16, “To fill up their sins alway.”

Not until the pulpits of our churches begin to proclaim the full counsel of God concerning sin that so easily besets us all and His wrath that is to come upon sinful people, will revival break forth. Man must first realize his lost condition before God in his inability to keep the Ten Commandments, “for whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all,” (James 2:10). Once man is presented with his total depravity before God and his weakness to do anything about it by himself, will he cry out with the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”…saved from God’s wrath that is to come.