1
In the Hands
Of an Angry God

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audioDeuteronomy 32:35 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.’ (NKJV; emphasis mine)

In this verse, God promises to punish the wicked, unresponsive, and unbelieving Israelites. In the Old Testament times, the Israelites were God’s people on earth; they were His chosen children and lived under God’s protection and grace.

But despite all of God’s wonderful blessings, they denied God and pretty much kicked Him out of their nation and society (sound familiar in our world today?). Even though God did everything He could to be patient and bring the Israelites back in line, they still persisted in their wickedness and sin (sound anything like the world today?).

In our opening verse, you see the phrase “their foot shall slip in due time.”  There are four things this phrase seems to imply about the punishment and destruction that was about to come on the Israelites for their continued disobedience.  (As you read these, consider whether or not God would punish our wickedness today in the same manner… after all, He has never failed to punish an evil nation… is America [or other countries] somehow exempt from God’s justice?)

If you are standing on slippery surface, are you not predisposed to slipping?  If you put yourself into wicked situations, are you not prone to sinning? If you continue to do wrong, are you not destined to be punished?  The phrase “their foot shall slip in due time” seems to imply that because the Israelites had chosen to ignore God, was it not only a matter of time before God would respond appropriately?

The phrase also implies that God’s judgment would be sudden and unexpected.  Just like walking on an icy sidewalk, you never know when you are going to slip and fall. It could happen at any time, and it will happen very quickly when it does. You have no idea when it will occur; then ‘whoosh!’ – down you go! Psalm 73:18-19 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. (NKJV)

Another implication is that people fall because of themselves, not because someone pushes them down. When a person goes down on a slippery sidewalk, they only need their own body weight. No outside push is necessary.

We also find that the fall comes at the time that GOD has determined. “In due time” means “at the appointed time.”  Who is capable of determining that time? God, of course.   It’s not that God will push them down; no, it will be that God will simply no longer hold them up.  Sinners fall by their own weight, God does not cause it. The only reasons it doesn’t happen sooner are God’s mercy and patience.

So, here is the point I want you to understand about this: there is nothing that keeps the wicked and sinful person from dying and going straight to Hell this very moment BUT the mere pleasure of God.

What does “mere pleasure” mean? It means His sovereign pleasure.  God can do whatever He wants and is under NO obligation to seek our approval.  He is hindered by no one, and no thing.

The fact that the preservation of the wicked from Hell for one single moment, or the delaying of the sinner’s death and consignment to Hell this very second, is due solely to the pleasure of God can be seen as true when we consider the following:

There is certainly no lack of power or ability in God to cast sinful men into Hell at any moment that He chooses.  Obviously He could do this, so the fact that He does not, displays His pleasure in delaying. If God chose to cast us in to Hell, we would be powerless to stop it. God can do it, and do it easily if He so chooses. Sometimes an earthly authority has trouble getting an outlaw under control who has some means of fighting back, or perhaps has recruited a group of criminals to fight with him. But this is not true for God. There is no place to hide from God, or place to hole up and fight Him off. Even if every person on earth decided to join together to go against God, they won’t last a single second longer than if it was only one person. Anyone attempting to go against God will be like a blade of grass in a tornado, or like dry hay in a firestorm.  It would be easier for God to defeat all the armies of the world than it would be for you or me to crush a worm on sidewalk by stomping on it.

How easy would it be for you to burn a single piece of thread in two that held something up in the air? Just put a lighter to it for one second and the thing “hanging by a thread” would fall.  So it would be infinitely easier for God to “let go” of the thread that keeps us from falling into Hell.

Who are we to argue this truth to the God before whom the entire earth trembles, and the mountains are crumbled to the ground?

Second, the wicked DESERVE to be cast into Hell; there is nothing “unfair” about it. If God chose to destroy all sinners this very moment, it would be perfectly just and right. In fact, justice CALLS for our punishment! Justice says “let wickedness be punished!” and of course this is right. The sword of justice could cut the strand that holds us from plunging into Hell at any moment; and it is only the will of God that delays this from occurring.

The sinner is already condemned to Hell, just like a criminal who is sentenced to jail.  The sinner not only deserves Hell, but the sentence and the pronouncement of condemnation has already been proclaimed. Why? Because it is the proper consequence of sin as it separates us from the eternal righteousness of God.  Hell is already a certainty, a just certainty, and an inevitable certainty for those who die without Christ.

John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (NKJV)

Every person who dies without believing in and responding to Jesus Christ belongs in Hell. That is tough language in today’s world of ‘positive’ religion and ‘let’s don’t mention Hell” seeker-friendly churches. But it is the truth; the real, awful truth. For example, consider this quote from one of today’s most popular “Christian” leaders, Robert Schuller:

“I don’t think anything has been done in the Name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and un-Christian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.” (Christianity Today, October 5, 1984)

John 8:23-24 And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (NKJV)

The proper place of unrepentant sinners is Hell; “you are from beneath.” There in Hell, the sinner is trapped because it is the proper place where God’s justice must be served… that is the result of His unchangeable law that proclaims clearly what the penalty of sin is. (Rom 3.23)

The unbelieving sinner is the object of the very same anger and violence that is found in the torments of Hell. The only reason the sinner does not go to Hell today, is not because God, who is in control of all, does not have, right now at this very moment, the very same Hellish anger towards their sin. Don’t believe that God is not angered over sin just because He is silent for a short time, or because no Hellish consequences have been delivered. No, don’t mistake God’s patience for apathy because even now many miserable and eternally lost people are already experiencing the torments of Hell. Billions of unrepentant sinners can already attest to the fierceness of God’s holy anger. Because we have the revealed Truth at our fingertips, no doubt that God is even a great deal more angered with the multitudes on earth today who ignore or deny Him.  There is no question that even a great many who read this sentence at this moment are in danger of God’s anger to an even greater degree than those who already suffer in Hell. Why? Because many in Hell already did not have the vast resources of the Bible and the Gospel message that we enjoy today. We have no excuse. Do not be mistaken… it is not because God is ignoring wickedness today, or that He doesn’t notice it, that keeps every sinner from being cut loose into Hell at this moment.  God is not like us, so we must not harbor any foolishness that He is forgetful or thinks lightly of our sin.The wrath of God burns with full fury in preparation for the careless, rebellious, or ignorant sinner. Hell is prepared to receive those who deserve to be there.  The sentence has been pronounced, the torments are waiting.  Hell rages and glows hot in anticipation.

Even now, as the unbelieving sinner dangles over those flames, the Sword of Wrath has been sharpened and the Swordsman is ready to sever the thread that keeps sinners from the plunge.  Hell is open wide to receive its eternal inhabitants.

Satan stands ready at this moment to seize for himself as many souls as he can.  He cherishes each lingering moment that God permits him to claim more for his possession and dominion.  The devils watch and wait, ever vigilant to see who will make the fall next. They stand watching like hungry lions awaiting their prey, expecting to have it any second… but for some reason are held back, if only for a moment. At any moment, if God decided to remove His restraining hand from the ravenous devils, they would pounce on the poor souls. Hell stands ready, and only God keeps it from swallowing up those who could slip in at this very second.

The hearts of sinful men contain the principles of wickedness that would already have them fuel the fires of Hell if it were not for God’s merciful restraint. The very nature of the flesh is the foundation of the torments of Hell. There is that rotten part of man’s heart, which man can use to great destruction, that are the seeds of Hell’s fire. These wicked tendencies are active and powerful in the race of men, exceedingly violent; and again, only God’s restraint keeps that wickedness from flaring up into a great consuming fire to receive the same torments as those souls who are already damned.

In other words, every heart in every man has the potential and capability for great wickedness; and the wickedness would quickly send each of us to Hell if it were not for God’s merciful decision to keep this from happening this very moment.

The souls of wicked men are like the stormy sea (Isa 57.20). For a little while, God restrains their sinfulness in the same way that He can speak to the stormy waters saying, “The raging water can come only to this point, and no further”; but if God were to let the waters go without restraint, it would flood and destroy everything in its path without mercy.Sin is what destroys and ruins lives; it’s very nature and purpose is to destroy things.  If God decided not to intervene and restrain it, then there is no way that every one of us would not totally wreck our lives.

This teaching of this truth is almost non-existent today. Think about it.  The nature of sin is TO DESTROY EVERYTHING IT TOUCHES. We are all sinful.  If God did not mercifully restrain the effects of sin in each of our lives, we would most certainly destroy ourselves in a very short time.

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? (NKJV)

The wickedness in our hearts has no boundaries or moderation; and as long as sinful people inhabit the earth, it will be like a fire that is held back by God, which if let loose would consume the entire world.  The heart of man is a place of sin, and if God wasn’t keeping us from it, our soul would quickly be consumed in the fire.

There is no comfort for the wicked man just because immediate danger or death cannot be seen.  In the same way, just because a person is healthy now, the wise man knows that at any moment he could die from an accident – even though he sees no immediate cause for concern. Yet it is the common experience of mankind that we do not think about the fact that we stand on the very edge of eternity, one step away from leaving this world.  The number and variety of ways that we could die this very moment are so many, you can’t even count them. Unsaved people do not see that they walk over top of Hell on a thin, rotting floor that is so weak it can barely hold their weight; it threatens to break and cave in at any moment, sending them plummeting to eternal torment. When is the last time you heard the truth of this? Think about it.  There are thousands of ways a person could die at any given moment.  For the unsaved, it’s like walking a tightrope over the fires of Hell. At any moment, they could lose their balance, trip, the rope could break, a gust of wind could blow them off… any number of things could send them into eternal torment of Hell at any moment.  And only the mercy of God keeps it from happening this very second. When was the last time you heard, or presented, this part of the Gospel?

The potential to die comes at us from all angles, every moment of the day, and yet most are unseen to us because God protects us.  There are so many ways that a person can die unexpectedly and be immediately in Hell, that it should almost be considered a miracle that any wicked person lives one minute longer.

All the ways that a sinner can die this second and be in Hell are so numerous, and so much in God’s hand, under His power and control, that if He were to quit caring or being concerned for even one moment, then every sinful person would be killed and go immediately to Hell.

That is a point you should not lightly pass over.  There are countless ways a person can die at this very second.  Each of these ways, like everything, are under the power, control, and providence of Almighty God.  If God were to quit caring, quit restraining, or withdraw His attention for even a moment, then every sinner would no doubt be killed instantly and forever be lost in the tormenting fire of Hell.

Our desire or ability to preserve or protect our lives will not secure one extra second of existence for us.  It is the common experience of all men that this is indeed true.  No amount of money, talent, fame, or power can ensure that you will extend your life for one second past the time God allots you. Man’s wisdom certainly gives us no protection from death. If that were true, then we would see some difference between the wise and powerful compared to others; but we don’t.  All men die with equal opportunity regardless of status or privilege. Ecclesiastes 2:16 For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, Since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. And how does a wise man die? As the fool! (NKJV)The wise and powerful die just as surely and suddenly as the fool.

All the efforts and tricks that evil men use to avoid Hell, even while they continue to reject Jesus Christ, will not keep them from Hell even one second less. Almost every person who hears about Hell imagines that it somehow doesn’t apply to them, and they entertain the idea that they will escape it somehow; perhaps by being a “good” person.  Or perhaps they convince themselves that they will do something in the future that will change things. People dream up all sorts of plans and ideas that allow them to either escape Hell or to be convinced it doesn’t exist at all. They believe that what they have thought up is a good idea and must be true.  In our day when one person’s “truth” is as good as another’s truth, people just deny that Hell exists, or believe that a “loving God” wouldn’t send anyone there, or they just make up their own religion that declares their safety from Hell. Either way, instead of accepting what God has declared about the reality of Hell, foolish men somehow believe they can just make up their own reality; and even though it will cost them their soul for all eternity, their pride will not allow them to believe otherwise. Sinners hear God’s Word that only a few will be saved (compared to how many will be lost) and they hear that the greater part of mankind who has died chose Hell over God, but still hold onto the foolish belief that THEY will be different; that Hell was for others, but not them.

It is not their intention to choose Hell; they do not believe they will end up there.  They have every intention and plan to take care of things in the future and arrange life in such a way that Hell will not be their destination.

But this is complete foolishness!  Men deceive themselves by their own plans rather than simply following God’s plan.  They rest their fate in their own wisdom and strength.  They place their trust in nothing more than a dream.

The majority of people who have died, having the same grace offered to them by God as we have, have no doubt rejected that grace and are now in Hell; not because they were less wise than we are, but because they simply chose to trust themselves, and not Christ.

If we could ask each person, one by one, who is now in Hell, whether or not they expected to end up there in misery and torment (even though they had been adequately warned while alive), we would no doubt hear them reply:

”No, I never thought I would end up in hell. I had it all figured out. I thought I had things taken care of. I had intended to do something about it, but death came unexpectedly.  I wasn’t looking for it when it happened; it came when I wasn’t ready.  Death out-smarted me, and God’s wrath came too quickly for me to avoid.  What a fool I was! I thought I had it all figured out, deceiving myself with my ignorant ideas; and just when I thought all was well…. Hell came calling.”

No person plans to end up in Hell. To the contrary, we all convince ourselves that we don’t deserve it, and that somehow, some way, certainly we will escape it (I’m speaking of those without Christ). We ignore, change the rules, rationalize, or put off dealing with it for a future day.  No one plans to go to Hell. No one intends to go to Hell.  No one WANTS to go to Hell.  Not one person there right now thought they would be there.

God has not promised to keep the unrepentant sinner from death and Hell for even one moment.  God has made no promises outside of Christ and the New Covenant to preserve any life, to give any reward, or to save any person from eternal death. And it is true that most people have no interest in Christ, no interest in the New Covenant or the Mediator of that Covenant; and so God is under no obligation to extend to them one less second in Hell.

Given these things, it is plainly true that no matter how much human effort is made, no matter how much religious effort is made, no matter how many prayers are offered up, no matter how much sincerity is involved… until, and unless, a person believes in Jesus Christ for salvation, God is under no obligation to save them from the Hell they themselves have chosen.

This applies to a person no matter how “good” they are as well. It has become popular today to preach a religion of morality and goodness, resurrecting the age-old damnable lie that if a person is simply “more good” than he is bad, that a god who is truly loving could never justly condemn them to Hell.  “Goodness” does not save; belief and obedience in the Gospel of Jesus Christ does.  That and that alone.

So the truth, regardless of our opinion of it, is that every person is held by the Hand of God over the fires of hell.  We deserve to be dropped into the pit, and our sin has already secured our just and rightful place in the fire.

God is very angry over our sin, and rightfully so.  His anger is just as great towards us as it is towards those who are already suffering in Hell.  We have done nothing to diminish God’s anger, neither is God obligated in any way to keep us from being dropped into Hell at this very moment. (Again, I speak of those outside of Christ.)

The Devil wants each of them.
Hell is open wide.
The flames burn fiercely. 

The sinner craves their sinfulness and has no interest in God.  They could fall into Hell at any moment and have no promise of one more second of delay.  They have no place of safety they can run to; nothing to hold on to that will keep them from falling.

All that keeps them from Hell this very moment is the will, mercy, and pleasure of God; the same God who has no obligation or promise to protect them for one more second; the same God who is very, very angry over sin.