“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31, AV)
In July 1741, a theologian and pastor named Jonathan Edwards compiled and preached a sermon titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It was a sermon that had tremendous influence in the Great Awakening of 1730-1755. According to reports, Edwards was interrupted often in the middle of preaching the sermon, with listeners crying out under conviction of their sins and seeking how they might be saved from the coming judgment. Through the preaching of this sermon, multitudes came to faith and repentance.
The world needs such a message today. There is no doubt that today our society is moving rapidly away from the biblical absolutes held in the Bible. People believe that truth is relative, stating that what the Bible records as a supreme moral standard has changed due to cultural enlightenment and societal change. They believe that God has not established an immutable standard for holiness. They neglect the possibility of eternal judgment.
This morphing of our society has also affected the church. There are many preachers today who will not preach on sin and judgment. There is a tendency to overlook the issue of sin and preach messages to tickle itching ears. In many churches there is a lack of preaching the full counsel of God’s word. These preachers will proclaim only the good things, but will ignore things that are difficult.
In this section of Hebrews, the author has been making a bold statement about sin, righteousness, and judgment. He is not afraid to tell it like it is. He began speaking of those who knew the truth but rejected it and thus could expect nothing less than judgment (v26-27). He contrasted the judgment under the Mosaic law to the much worse judgment to come upon the apostate who rejects Christ (v28-29). Now he goes on to say that those who know the truth and yet reject it with great distain will come under the judgement of God (v30).
Thus, if those who refuse Christ truly understood what awaited them in the judgment, they should tremble in their boots. They should faint for fear because “it is a fearful thing” for a sinner “to fall into the hands” of an angry God. Make no mistake about it, God hates sin and the one who dies without faith in Christ and repentance will face His fierce judgment (v31).
The more I have studied the book of Hebrews, the more I have concluded that the author has done a masterful job of trying to reach his Jewish audience with the only message of hope. He does not sugar-coat the message, but tells it like it is. We should do the same. Our family, friends, and neighbors are destined for the fiery judgment if they refuse to believe. We should be praying for them with a fervency like none other for their salvation. We should be bold enough to speak to them and warn them so that they will not be “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” but children saved by grace in His loving care.