From a Sermon delivered at Celebration Church, November 20, 2016
Life is a slippery slope into eternity. One minute we are in this life, standing on what we believe is a firm foundation—and the next, we are sliding into eternity. Here was a woman who was on our property—and missed an opportunity to experience the love of God.
Deuteronomy 32:35 says this about the slippery slope of life:
Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them.
In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, that were God’s visible people, and lived under means of grace. The expression, here, “Their foot shall slip in due time,” seems to imply the following things, relating to the punishment and destruction of the wicked:
1. The wicked are always exposed to destruction, as one who stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. Psalms 73:18: Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.
2. It implies that the wicked are always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As one that walks in slippery places cannot know when he or she will fall, so it is with this verse. Psalm 73:19: Oh, how they are brought to desolation; as in a moment! They are utterly consumed
3. Another thing implied is that the wicked are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another. Just as one who walks on slippery ground, they do not need anything but their own weight to throw them off balance.
4. The reason why the wicked have not already fell into hell, and do not fall now, is only that God’s appointed time has not come. As the verse says, “in due time,” or the “appointed time” their foot shall slide. They will slip according to their own weight, and God will not hold them up any longer. They will fall to their utter destruction
My observation in this verse and the reason for my thanksgiving is this: There is nothing that keeps wicked, at any moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God. By His pleasure, I mean His sovereign will, His own choosing. God is not hindered by any manner of difficulty or any person, but it is His own mercy that keeps any person from slipping into hell.
1. There is no lack of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment.
The strongest man has no power to resist God, and no man can deliver another out of the hands of God. God is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes earthly rulers have great difficulty in executing punishment or subduing rebellions, but it is not so with God. There is no defense against the power of God. Though men were to join together against God—even in great multitudes—God would break them into pieces. They are like light chaff before a hurricane or dry twigs in a devouring fire.
We may find it easy to crush an ant that we see crawling on the earth; it is that easy for God, when He pleases to crush His enemies. What are we to think that we can stand before Him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before Him the rocks are thrown down.
2. The wicked deserve to be cast into hell so that divine justice may be complete.
The justice of God calls loudly for infinite punishment of their sins. The sword of divine justice is always hanging over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of God’s mercy that holds it back.
3. The wicked are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell.
The wicked not only justly deserve to be cast to hell, but the sentence of the law of God, the eternal and unchanging rule of His righteousness, has gone out against them. John 3:18: But he who does not believe is condemned already.
4. The wicked are objects of the full wrath and anger of God, and the reason why the wicked do not go to hell at every moment of every day is not because God is not angry with sin, but because of His mercy.
It is not because God is unaware of their wickedness, and doesn’t resent it, that he holds his hand from cutting them off. The wrath of God towards them and their sin is burning against them, and the furnace has been made hot and ready to receive them. The flames of hell do now rage and glow. The sword of vengeance is held over them, and the pit of hell has opened its mouth under them.
5. The devils stand ready to fall upon the wicked and seize them as their own at the moment that God will allow it
The wicked belong to the devil; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The devils watch them; the devils are always by the wicked, waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. But if God should withdraw His hand, by which the devils are restrained, those devils would in one moment fall upon the poor souls of the wicked. And if God should allow it, hell would quickly swallow them up.
6. Hellish principles are reigning in the evil nature of wicked men, and if not for the restraining hand of God, this evil nature would burst into full flame, consuming the wicked person.
Isaiah 57:20: The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
Job 38:11: When I said, This far you may come, but no father, and here your proud waves must stop!
These wicked principles in the evil nature of man are active and powerful, and exceedingly violent, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, the evil in wicked men would fully overtake them, turning their soul into a fiery oven of fire and brimstone.
7. Just because a wicked man does not see imminent death upon them is no security to them.
Being in good health and not seeing imminent death or any visible danger shows no evidence that a man is not on the brink of eternity, and that his next step won’t be into another world. The unseen, unthought of ways a person may suddenly go out of this life are innumerable. Wicked men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are many places in this covering so weak that it will not bear their weight. The arrows of death fly unseen. There are so many different ways of taking wicked men out of this world and stepping into hell’s flames.
8. Wicked men’s attempts to preserve their lives or the attempt of others to preserve their lives does not secure them for one moment.
Men’s own wisdom is no security from death. Ecclesiastes 2:16: And how does a wise man die? As the fool!
9. All of wicked men’s efforts to escape hell, all the while rejecting Christ, do not secure them from hell.
Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he will escape it; he depends on himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is no doing, or what he intends to do; everyone plans out in his own mind how he will avoid destruction, and flatters himself in that his schemes won’t fail. But they are trusting in nothing but shadows. There are millions—billions—who have lived before us and are now dead and have not escaped eternity. If we were able to speak with each of them who have died and gone to hell, they would tell us about the times when they heard of hell and rejected it; they would tell us of the times they heard of God’s mercy and did not listen. They would say, “No, I never intended to come here; I had laid out plans otherwise; I thought I was a good person and I would handle this later in life before I died, but it came as a thief; death outwitted me; God’s wrath was too quick for me. I was flattering myself, pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do in the afterlife, and when I was saying peace and safety, then sudden destruction came upon me.”
10. God has not put himself under any obligation to keep men out of hell at any moment.
God has made no promise to keep wicked men out of hell for any moment. He has made no provision for deliverance or preservation from eternal death outside of what is contained in the covenant of grace, given to us in Christ. But the wicked have no interest in these promises in the covenant of grace, and are not children of that covenant, and have no interest or mediator of the covenant, and thus God is not obliged to maintain a promise they have not enjoyed. God is under no obligation to keep the wicked at any moment from eternal destruction. They have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is provoked, his anger is great towards sinful man, and wicked man has done nothing to appease or abate the anger of God; the devil is waiting for them, hell is opened wide for them, the flames gather and leap about them, the sword of vengeance is drawn above them. They have no refuge, nothing to hold them from slipping, and all that preserves them every moment is the mere forbearance of a merciful God.
What you have heard is the case of everyone of you that are out of Christ. That world of misery, the lake of burning sulfur is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide open mouth, ready to devour you; and there is nothing that you may take hold of to keep you out of hell; there is nothing between you and hell except for a vapor; and it is only the mere pleasure and power of God that holds you up.
You probably are not aware of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but don’t see the hand of God in it, but you flatter yourself in that it is your own plans that keep you from hell. But if God were to withdraw his hand, they would not avail, no more to keep you from falling than a thin vapor that would hold a person upright. Your wickedness makes you as heavy as lead and weighs you downward towards hell, and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and quickly slide and plunge into the bottomless lake of fire, and nothing you could do or say would have any influence to keep you out of hell, just as a thin spider’s web would have no power to stop a falling rock.
Were it not for God’s mercy and His own desire, the earth would not bear you any more, for you are a burden to it; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain your life while you spend your life serving God’s enemies. God has subjected them to you, and should He remove His sustaining hand, the earth would spew you out. There are black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your head, full of the dreadful storm and thunder and lightning, and it is the mercy of God that keeps it from breaking upon you. The fury of the hurricane of His justice would consume you like chaff on the summer threshing floor if not for His mercy.
The wrath of God is like great waters that are restrained for the present; they increase more and more and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given. The rapid and mighty river will overtake you. The floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld, but your guilt in the meantime is constantly increasing, and every day you are storing up wrath. The waters are continually rising and growing in strength, and the mercy of God has shut the floodgate, but once His hand is removed, the waters will flood in, and the fierceness of His wrath will rise upon you; and if your strength was ten thousand times greater, it could not withstand the fiercest wrath of God towards sin.
The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.
All who have not been born again, made new creatures, raised from being dead in sin to a state of new life, experiencing the light of God’s glory, will experience everlasting destruction.
However unconvinced you may be of this truth today, there will be a time when the reality of it will come upon you.
The God that holds you out of the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or an insect over the fire, He abhors sin and is provoked; His wrath towards you burns like fire. His eyes are pure and should not bear you in His sight. You have offended him infinitely more than any other. It is His hand of mercy that has kept you out of hell: it is His mercy that you did not go to hell last night, that He suffered you to wake again in this world; there is no other reason why you have not slid into Hell since you woke up this morning, but that God’s hand is upon you; there is no reason why you have not gone to hell since you sat here in the house of God, provoking His pure eyes by your sinful wicked presence in His house this morning, other than His merciful hand upon you.
You are like the annoying cobweb in the corner of a home in which the owner will take a broom and sweep it away; even so God is as easily inclined to remove you from this life and everlasting judgment will overtake you.
May the wicked sinner consider the fearful danger you are in: a great furnace of wrath, and a wide bottomless pit full of endless waves of torment are held open for you and the wrath of God is provoked against you. You hang by a thread over the flames, every moment the flames singe the thread until one day the thread will give way and you will fall into the pit of utter torment and despair.
Consider this wrath that you are in danger of:
1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, it would be comparatively little. But this is the wrath of the king of Kings, the absolute sovereign of all the universe who is absolutely perfect and holy and just in all His ways. The person that rebels against an earthly ruler is subject to the most heinous of torments that human power can inflict. But the greatest of earthly suffering and torments cannot compare to the weakest of hell’s fierceness.
2. Consider the fierceness of His wrath that you are exposed to. Isaiah 59:18: According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies… Isaiah 66:15: For behold, the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. Revelation 19:15: He Himself treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. These words are greatly terrible. We read of the fierceness, the fury, the hurricane of his wrath and judgment. If Scripture had only said “the wrath of God,” they would have implied great torment; however, Scripture speaks of the great and exceeding wrath of God that will come on the wicked. Who can conceive or begin to speak of such torment and destruction these words carry in them. Just as God worked a great manifestation of His power in redeeming fallen man, He will work a great manifestation of His power in judgment against those whose names are not found in the Book of Life.
Consider, as this verse has said, according to or in proportion to your sin He will judge you. The fullness of God’s wrath is against sin, and yet the intensity of His judgment will increase upon you as you will find yourself ensnared to chains of sin in Hell for all eternity. There will be no escape from His judgment and there will be no escape from your sin and there will be no escape from your absolute misery. Just as the born again will take on the nature of Christ in heaven, in hell, the wicked will continue in the nature of their father, the devil. The sinful chains you carry to your grave will hold you captive for all eternity as you suffer the fury of God’s wrath. Your addictions will hold you captive. Your pride will hold you captive. Your lying and cheating will hold you captive. Your earthly successes will hold you captive. Eternally reminding you of your opportunities to repent; eternally reminding you of why you are suffering; and eternally conflicting your soul to act out more sin while you suffer its judgment.
Consider this, that you are here in this world, unconverted to Christ. Consider that God will execute the fierceness of His anger, without hesitation, against you in judgment in Hell. At this time, His full judgment is withheld because of His mercy, but in that day, there will be no moderation or mercy. God will no longer stay the sword of vengeance, and you will suffer what justice requires according to your sin.
Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of mercy. Today God stands ready to forgive through the sacrifice of His son. But when the day of mercy has past, your most desperate cries will be in vain; just as it was when God shut Noah and his family in the ark, the cries of the wicked outside would not save them from the fierceness of the floods of judgment that were rising around them.
Isaiah 63:3: For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. It is quite impossible to fully understand the magnitude of this verse; to see those being utterly trampled under the vengeance of God; to hear the cries of misery and pride and rejection that spew from their mouths as justice is executed; to smell the stench of death in the air as their blood is splattered about the garments of the Righteous King.
3. Consider the misery which will be inflicted upon you that it might show what the wrath of God is. God has intended from before creation to show angels, men, and creation how excellent His love is, and how terrible His wrath is. In His love and mercy He has shown great forebearance towards sinners, and when the appointed time has come, His forebearance removed, He shows forth His great judgment and wrath. When God arises against His enemies and displays His great judgment upon sin, He will call creation to behold His majesty and His power against sin. Just as the earth gave testimony of the destruction of Sodom, the earth and its inhabitants will give testimony to the fierceness of God against sinners.
So it will be with you if you continue in an unconverted state. The infinite might and majesty of God, the greatness of His power will be against you and will come upon you quickly. And He will make you a spectacle of His judgment to others; he will demonstrate in you the fierceness of His wrath towards sin.
4. Consider that His wrath is an everlasting wrath. It is extremely dreadful to think of God’s wrath even for one moment, but consider this wrath that will last forever. There will be no end to this misery. You will look behind you and see nothing but fury and judgment, and you will look forward and see nothing ahead but torment and extreme misery. You will be in absolute despair and nothing will mitigate the suffering. Your punishment will be infinite.
Consider those that have died in sin many, many years ago, and are to this day experiencing the wrath of God in hell. Moment after moment, day after day, there has come to them endless torment, even to the present day. And this suffering will not end for them, and neither will it end for you if you continue in your unconverted state.
There is reason to think, that there are those in this congregation now hearing this message, that will actually be subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We don’t know who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they have: it may be that these persons are now flattering themselves in their pride, promising themselves they will escape the wrath of God. If we knew that there was one person in our congregation that was to be subject of this misery, what an awful thing to consider. If we knew who it was, would we not cry over them and warn them of coming judgment. Would we not remind them of hell and God’s judgment. Would we not love them with the love of God. It would not be surprising if someone that is sitting here now, quiet and secure, should awake tomorrow engulfed in the flames of hell.
Those who continue in their natural man, and should stay out of hell the longest, will find yourself someday quickly engulfed in hell’s flames. Swiftly and suddenly judgment will fall on you.
And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has flung the door of mercy wide open, and stands in the door calling and crying with a loud voice to all sinners; a day where many are flocking to Him daily; many who were miserable are now finding life and healing in His arms of mercy. How horrible to be left behind in such a day! To see so many others feasting and rejoicing in the mercy of the Lord, while you are still perishing. How can you rest one moment in your condition?
To the young, do not neglect this precious season. You have a great opportunity to feast on the goodness of God and rescue others from the fury of hell’s torment. But if you become apathetic and waste your days on your own pleasures, you will find the judgment of natural men falling upon you.
To those who have lived long in the world, especially consider your days. Has your heart hardened to the love of God? Have your affections towards God grown cold? Have you been born again? Consider yourselves and wake out of sleep; you cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God.
And let everyone who is yet outside of Christ, hanging over the pit of hell, whether young or old, man or woman, give heed to the loud calls of Christ, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink…” This is the acceptable time of the Lord; this is the day of His favor; do not harden your heart and allow your mind to become blind.
To those who are in Christ, consider John the Baptist, preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness. Do not walk according to the ways of the religious leaders of the city, but go outside the city, outside of the way of natural man, as Christ was crucified outside the city; go to those in the wilderness and proclaim the way of salvation. Let your voice be heard; let the power of the Gospel be seen in great demonstration; let your prayers and worship ascend the heavenly heights. Today is not a day to sleep and grow apathetic. We are not of those who slip back and slide down the slippery slope of judgment. We are those who walk by faith on the foundation of His Word. Preach the Word, love the unlovely, and give the reason for your hope without shame.