…depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:23b)
I realize I may be taking a risk by starting a Sunday morning with a subject most preachers dare not discuss. I promise, though, by the time I reach the end of this article you will be glad I did. The scripture quoted above is from the Sermon on the Mount and was spoken by Jesus as part of the conclusion of His greatest discourse. It is a warning against false professors who claim to speak in His name and do many wonderful works for His kingdom. In this short article, I do not have space to develop the entire theme therefore I have to get straight to the point. This is a warning about hell. Jesus, the great righteous and holy Judge of the universe announced the final sentence that will be declared upon those who profess to know Him but have never truly received Him as Saviour.
The awful terror of hell is a subject that Jesus often expounded. He did not leave us to speculate what it may be like. He described it clearly in Matthew 25:41 as a place of everlasting fire. Lest anyone should misunderstand, He illustrated by speaking the parable of the tares in the 13th chapter (vv. 24-30). He explained the tares represent false professors that will be burned in a furnace of fire at the end of the world (vv. 37-42). This is the bad news that most preachers today are unwilling to tell. It is not a popular theme; and amongst a feel-good, self-assured congregation it will not be awarded favorable stylistic points.
Set over against this, however, is the good news. The good news is the gospel of Christ which never shines as brightly as it should unless it is contrasted with the stark reality of its opposite. The gospel is that Christ died for iniquity, was buried in a tomb, and then arose again for our justification. On the cross, He suffered hell for those who believe so that one day He would not have to say to them “Depart from me.” The full fury of God’s wrath against sin was poured out upon Jesus while He hung on the cross. God’s wrath was expended, exhausted upon Christ as He took the punishment that sinners deserve. This was the supreme demonstration of Christ’s love in that He willingly offered to take this punishment in our place. There is no conceivable way His love can be understood without the backdrop of the eternal punishment of hell. A message that begins and ends with “Smile, God loves you,” with no intervening information about the depravity of man and the consequences of his depravity is virtually meaningless. No wonder the false professor does not “do the will of the Father” (Matt. 7:21). He has no sensibility of what God did for real believers to secure their obedience.
Be thankful that you read and hear this message in Berean Baptist Church this Sunday morning. Come to church with joy in your heart that God has delivered you from such an awful place! Worship Him for He is great and worthy to be praised!
Pastor V. Mark Smith