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FLEE FROM THE WRATH TO COME – ADAPTED FROM A SERMON
BY THE REVEREND GEORGE WHITEFIELD, M.A.

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, July 25, 2010

“Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
(Matthew 3:7).


This is a sermon adapted and edited from one preached by the great evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770) in Glasgow, Scotland in 1753.

“Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
       (Matthew 3:7).

These words are part of a short sermon preached by John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Son of God. Some of those who heard him preach were pricked in their consciences, for we are told that they “were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:6). But when he looked out over the crowd of people who had come to hear him preach he saw some that he had not expected to be there, for we are told,

“When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7).

The Pharisees and Sadducees were the formalists of that time. They had a great deal of religion in their heads, but none in their hearts. They thought they knew all about it, for they were wise in their own eyes. They were self-righteous, thinking they were good enough already. It seems that they came to hear John the Baptist out of curiosity. John saw their rotten hearts. Therefore he called them a “generation of vipers.” Then he looked at them and said, “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” In the name of God, what brought you here? Why did you come to hear a poor Baptist preach? Of all people in the world, how did you come to be alarmed by my preaching?

These were the words that were first preached by John. But they equally apply to some of you here tonight. “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

I. First, I will show you that there is a wrath to come, and what it will be like.

I am going to open Hell to you, and show you what it is like. I know there are some who say there is no Hell. Yet the Bible plainly tells us of the wrath to come. What is this wrath? I answer, with the old Protestant scholars, that it is the punishment of loss, and the punishment of sense, of feeling. The punishment of loss consists in the stingings of a self-condemning conscience. Even the old heathens, before the coming of Christ, had some understanding of this. I remember the punishment of Prometheus, one of their great sinners, that lying on the side of a river, a vulture was continually chewing on his liver. And as fast as the vulture ate part of his liver, it grew again. There he lay, with that horrible bird gnawing endlessly on his liver. This was only a little of what God showed them, and so they knew something about the worm that never dies, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44).

“Flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7).

I know that some people say there is no such place as Hell. They say it is only an evil conscience after death. But do you know what an evil conscience is? A wiser man than you said, “a wounded spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14). Suppose there were no other Hell but a self-condemning conscience. Would that not be enough to terrify you? A person, going on for eternity, accusing and condemning himself for being the author of his own misery would have a hellish experience!

Not long ago a very famous man was condemned to die. I saw him led to his execution. When he said “goodbye” to his wife, his old mother and his friends, he cried out that it was his own folly that brought him to such a terrible end. And if such are the feelings of a man who is only going to be hanged, what must it feel like to those who are going to Hell?

Christ told us of the rich man and Lazarus. When the rich man saw Lazarus in Heaven, he cried out, “I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24). I have thought that this will be one part of the misery of the damned. They will see Christ, whom they have rejected, and Heaven, which they have lost. This is what the old scholars called the punishment of loss.

“Flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7).

But there is also a punishment of sense, that will be felt in the body. It is plain in the Scriptures that there will be a real fire that torments the body, as well as the pain of conscience. From what the Saviour said, I think that it is better to go to Heaven having only one hand, or one eye, than to go to Hell, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that Hell is a place of everlasting torment. Yet Christ said, “Depart…into everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41). Therefore it is “wrath to come,” not merely to come after death, but to always be coming; so after millions of years, the damned will yet cry out, “More wrath is still coming.”

This wrath will always be coming. That made the rich man say that he was tormented in flames, those black flames, those tormenting, never-dying, unquenchable flames. He did not want his brothers to come there. He thought, “I was their older brother. I was a bad example to them. If my brothers come here, then my own suffering of conscience will be five times hotter, and I think it is hot enough already.” This subject is too horrible for a minister to dwell upon. When I think of it my blood runs cold within me. But sinners must be told about it. John the Baptist spoke of it. Christ spoke of it. And so I must speak of it.

“Flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7).

II. Second, I will show you how God warns you to flee from the wrath to come.

First, God warns you by the stings of natural conscience. There are some who try to suppress the feelings of their consciences. When God began to work on my heart, I tried hard to avoid listening to my conscience. Yet it would bother me even in my bed, and trouble me whether I wanted it or not. Thus, God often warns us by our own consciences. I wonder if there are any here that ever committed secret acts of sin – and though you were careful to hide your sins, did not your conscience say to you, “If you go on like this, you will go to Hell”? Therefore God warns us by the light of our natural consciences. You who are young should especially listen to the voice of your conscience, for God uses it to warn you to flee from the wrath to come.

And as God warns us by our consciences, so God warns us by His Word, especially by the preaching of His Word. Some people do not care whether they remember the sermon or not. But I tell you that God writes in His books every sermon that you hear so carelessly. John the Baptist was sent to warn people of “the wrath to come.” Every true preacher is called to follow his example. It is our business to warn you. If there was a fire near your house, you would not be angry if I spoke louder, and told you to flee from the flames. And faithful preachers should do the same, because Hellfire is coming, and you are certain to be tormented in its flames unless you flee to Christ.

And as God warns you by His Word, so He also warns you by His Spirit. Oh, may the Spirit of God work within you and warn you tonight! I may as well speak to dead bodies, and warn skeletons, as speak to you, unless God sends His Spirit to stir your hearts. Without the Spirit of God convicting you of sin, nothing I say or do can help you. I pray that you will not quench God’s Spirit as He speaks to your soul tonight.

“Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
      (Matthew 3:7).

Who hath warned you? Why, your conscience has warned you! Why, the Word of God has warned you! Why, the Spirit of God has warned you!

III. Third, I will show you to whom you must flee to avoid the wrath to come.

Now I am going to preach the Gospel. Everything I have said was to prepare you to hear the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Fleeing from the wrath to come implies that you believe that Christ can save you from the penalty of sin. And Christ is the one that I am warning you to flee to; and the wrath to come is what I am warning you to flee from.

I once preached to fifteen hundred young people at once. As I preached to them their parents prayed for them, wringing their hands. Some of them were awakened. I beg you parents to read the Bible to them, and pray for them. Watch over them during the evangelistic meetings we are holding. During these services make sure they are not watching television, or using the Internet. Make sure they are reading Christian literature and praying much for their own conversions.

You that are young men, I call on you to flee from the wrath to come. When I was your age I paid little attention to my soul. But God stopped me from going on this way. May the Lord stop you as well. Young men, do not be angry with me. I am sure you will not be angry with me in eternity. You will be angry with yourselves for not listening to my warning, but you will not be angry with me for warning you of the wrath to come. Young men, will you give your health and strength to the Devil? Will you remain ungrateful to God, who sent His Son to redeem you? I know that some of you think that you can put it off, and flee from the wrath to come when you are older. Will you go on thinking that? I knew one young man who said he would be converted before he died. But he died only three hours later, unconverted. How do you know whether this might happen to you? For God’s sake, young men, flee for your lives. Flee from the wrath to come, lest you find that God gave up on you, and you fall into the fire that shall never be quenched. One young man I preached to went home unconverted and was a dead corpse before midnight. How do you know but that may be your case?

And you young women, who are neglecting your souls, I warn you to flee from the wrath to come. I know that the Devil will tempt you to go back to lost friends, but remember that the Scripture says, “Whosoever…will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). But we are your true friends who warn you against them, and they are your true enemies that encourage you to go on in sin with them. I therefore warn you, in the name of God, to flee from the wrath to come.

Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. I warn you all to flee from the wrath to come. O God, what a parting there will be among us, with some of you going to Hell, and others carried into Heaven. And will you go to Hell? Will you be damned? Will you fall into everlasting flames, when Hell is open before you? Will you sell your birthright for a mess of pottage, as Esau did? Will you be damned in spite of God’s invitations? Will you hear that Christ died to pay for your sins and rose again for your justification – and still live and die in an unconverted state?

I have been waiting for death for many years, but I do not care if I am kept out of Heaven some time longer, if I could this night persuade one of you to flee to Jesus. Oh, come away with me. Flee to Jesus. I command you to flee to Him. Judgment is coming. Think of how soon judgment may come. And if you have not fled to Jesus from the wrath to come now, it will be too late to do so after you die. In the name of God, why will you not flee? You may say that you will flee some day. In the name of God, why will you not flee tonight? Turn the text into a prayer, “Lord Jesus, help me to flee from the wrath to come. Lord Jesus, draw me to Thyself, wash me from sin with Thy Blood, that I may live eternally with Thee.” May the Lord grant this to your precious soul. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 16:19-26.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Eternity” (by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929).

THE OUTLINE OF

FLEE FROM THE WRATH TO COME – ADAPTED FROM A SERMON
BY THE REVEREND GEORGE WHITEFIELD, M.A.

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
(Matthew 3:7).

(Matthew 3:6)

I.   First, I will show you that there is a wrath to come, and
what it will be like, Mark 9:44; Proverbs 18:14;
Luke 16:24; Matthew 25:41.

II.  Second, I will show you how God warns you to flee from
the wrath to come, Matthew 3:7.

III. Third, I will show you to whom you must flee to avoid
the wrath to come, James 4:4.