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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, February 5, 2012

“The great and terrible God” (Nehemiah 1:5).

“O Lord, the great and dreadful God” (Daniel 9:4).

Again, this sermon is adapted from “The Great and Terrible God” by Dr. John R. Rice (Sword of the Lord, 1977, pp. 7-38).

These verses call God a great, terrible and dreadful God. That may not be your god. But that is the God revealed in the Bible. Whether you believe it or not, our God is a “great and terrible God.” Our God is “the great and dreadful God.” The God revealed in the Scriptures made men quake with fear.

After he had sinned against God, Adam said, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid” (Genesis 3:10). When God confirmed His covenant with Abram, late one night, “an horror of great darkness fell upon him” (Genesis 15:12). Job said,

“When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint; Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions” (Job 7:13-14).

After God warned him of the coming Flood, Noah “moved with fear” (Hebrews 11:7). When God revealed himself to Jacob at Bethel, the Bible says, “He was afraid” (Genesis 28:17). The Psalmist said, “My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments” (Psalm 119:120). When God made known His will to Daniel, the prophet said, “I was afraid, and fell upon my face” (Daniel 8:17). Habakkuk said, “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid” (Habakkuk 3:2). God spoke to Cornelius through an angel, and “When he looked on him, he was afraid” (Acts 10:4). And we are told that Cornelius was one “that feareth God” (Acts 10:22). And when the Apostle Peter spoke to Cornelius’ household he said, “God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). The God revealed in the Bible made men quake with fear.

Dr. John R. Rice said, “We ought to fear a dreadful, terrible God. Fear of the Lord is held up, throughout the Bible, as one of the greatest of all virtues. It is the foundation of Christian character and sainthood. It is necessarily involved in any genuine repentance” (John R. Rice, D.D., “O Great and Terrible God,” in The Great and Terrible God, Sword of the Lord Foundation, 1977 edition, p. 14).

God is “the great and dreadful God” (Daniel 9:4). God is “the great and terrible God” (Nehemiah 1:5). God’s dealing with the whole human race shows that He is a great, terrible and dreadful God.

Once the first man and woman lived in a paradise of beauty with no disease, no sickness, no pain, no distress, with every need supplied to them. There were no vicious beasts of prey. There was no disease. There were no thorns or briars. And God Himself walked in that garden and had perfect fellowship with the man He had created in His own image. But Adam rebelled and committed the first sin against God. And soon God drove the man and woman from the Garden of Eden in His fury. God pronounced death upon the human race. Adam and Eve had already died spiritually, and now they must be converted or go to Hell forever, away from the face of God.

Because of their sin, they now began to age. Death was already working in their bodies. They now began to be tired. Before long, gray hair began to grow on their heads. Their joints began to stiffen. Death had passed to the whole human race. Eve conceived, but it was in pain and sorrow that she gave birth to her first son. And the child was a wicked sinner, and became a murderer and an outcast.

Now they could not easily pluck fruit from the trees. Adam now had to work hard, with sweat on his face, trying to grow a little food on the parched ground. Animals were now the enemies of man. There were now thorns to scratch them and insects to sting them. Now there were storms and floods, with scorching heat at times, and frigid cold at others. There were now many diseases, pains and death. Let us face the fact that this world is under a curse! The great and terrible God has turned an angry face toward the world and toward the human race!

When Adam first saw Eve in the Garden he loved her. She came fresh from the hand of God. There was a smile and a wonderful purity and sweetness in her face. But now he was grieved to see her face becoming lined and wrinkled with sorrow, pain and trouble. Soon both of them were shocked and horrified at the murder of their son, Abel. Soon their hearts were broken over the sin and rebellion of their other son, Cain.

And as certain as the Bible is true, God Himself must be responsible for sending these curses, these tears, this old age and pain and death which came as the inevitable result of sin. God hates sin! His fury is poured out on unrepentant sinners! It is true that the seeds of death are in sin, but it is God that punishes sin. It is God who is the judge, making sure that sinners are punished. Oh, what a great and terrible God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden, and set the sword of His wrath against them for committing sin! Oh, the great and terrible God, the dreadful God, who sent death to the whole human race because of sin!

We dare not think that there are any forces in the world that God cannot control. They simply are not here. We dare not think that there are events which God cannot control. It simply is not true. Then we can look upon the ghastly wars of history and say that they prove the fury of a God who is righteously angered by sin and brings the punishment of sin. All the bloodshed, all the tears, all the weeping, all the pain, all the death in the world prove that there is a terrible, dreadful God, and that His fury is poured out on sin. O dreadful God! O great and terrible God!

Next week we will see how dreadful and terrible God was in punishing Israel’s sins. But we will end tonight by thinking about God’s terrible and dreadful Hell. God is more often hated for the doctrine of Hell than for any other reason. Atheists like Voltaire, Thomas Paine, H. G. Wells, and Robert Ingersoll hated the idea of Hell and blamed God for Hell. But atheists are not the only ones who hate Hell. Every one of the modern cults rejects the eternal Hell spoken of in the Bible. Think of it! Every modern cult – the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, New Age, all of them, without a single exception, hate the very idea of Hell and the God who sends people there!

We could expect the atheists and cult members to hate and reject Hell. But there are many false Christians today who also reject the eternal Hell and the God who sends sinners there. It is very difficult to get church members to believe that many evangelical seminaries reject the eternal Hell. I graduated from a Southern Baptist seminary and from a Presbyterian seminary where the great and terrible God of the Bible was rejected, and where the eternal fire of Hell was ridiculed and rejected. Rob Bell calls himself an evangelical, but he has written several books attacking eternal punishment in Hell, and the great and terrible God who sends lost sinners there. Rob Bell learned to reject what the Bible teaches on Hell at Fuller Theological Seminary, located in Pasadena, California. When I was attending Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in the early 1970s, the professors told us to read and study the Interpreter’s Bible. Dr. George A. Buttrick was the editor of that commentary which attacks every important doctrine of the Christian faith. The editor, Dr. George Buttrick, attacked the great and terrible God of the Bible. He said, “Such a God, we suggest, had earned the verdict of the French skeptic [Voltaire]: ‘Your God is my Devil.’” Thus this liberal, Bible-rejecting commentator dared to call the great and terrible God of the Bible the Devil! Dr. G. Bromely Oxnam, the liberal Methodist bishop of Washington, D.C., called the great and terrible God of the Bible “a dirty bully.” I heard unsaved liberals say things like this repeatedly at the Bible-rejecting Southern Baptist and Presbyterian seminaries I graduated from. At first I thought these professors were confused and could be reasoned with and won over to a Biblical view. But I finally became aware of the fact that they had never been born again. Satan, the god of this world, had “blinded the minds of them which believe not” (II Corinthians 4:4).

Take for instance the strange case of Daniel P. Fuller. His father was the well-known evangelist Charles E. Fuller. But his father was a “decisionist.” His own son raised his hand, said a prayer and was baptized at an early age, without a real conversion. When Fuller Seminary began, Charles Fuller loved his son more than the Word of God. He let his son go to Basel, Switzerland to study under liberals like Karl Barth. Daniel Fuller came back, joined the faculty of his father’s seminary, and opened the way for it to become liberal. And it was at Fuller Seminary that Rob Bell learned to reject the eternal punishment of Hell (see Harold Lindsell, Ph.D., “The Strange Case of Fuller Theological Seminary,” The Battle for the Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, 1976, pp. 106-121).

“One sinner destroyeth much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:18).

The liberalism of Fuller Seminary has its roots in the blinded mind of Daniel P. Fuller. A man who has not been humbled and convicted and soundly converted by God will easily be led into liberalism, a rejection of the inerrancy of Scripture, and an aversion toward the great and terrible God who sends sinners to the Lake of Fire. Therefore we must not let young people in our churches “pass” as converts unless they are humbled by God, convicted of sin, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit to a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!

The great and terrible God does send unconverted sinners to the everlasting flames of Hell. But Hell is so awful that it should make every thoughtful person shudder in fear. Hell is a sign of the fury of a terrible, dreadful God who hates sin and who must punish it.

Dr. Rice said, “It is horrible that Hell is a place of fire. I read of an airplane accident. A pilot was caught in the crushed plane which caught fire. Little by little the fire roasted the pilot who screamed and cried...and begged people to shoot him until at last a [police] officer put a bullet through his brain to stop the suffering of the man they could not save, could not rescue! I was so horrified at the thought of that man’s torture that it stayed with me for days. But great, terrible, dreadful God, what will it be in Hell where there is a lake of fire and brimstone burning forever!...The torment goes on! The fire continues to burn! Men still remember their lost opportunities, their rejection of Christ, their flagrant sin! And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever [Revelation 14:11]. They have no rest through the day. The night brings no peace and that unending cycle of torment goes on. There is no hope of reconciliation with God, no future opportunity for repentance. Indeed, there is not even any tendency toward Hell. What a dreadful God who sets such a punishment for impenitent sinners!” (Rice, ibid., p. 27).

I tell you tonight that this is the great and terrible God of the Bible. And this is the God that you have not thought about deeply. In fact, you have hardly ever thought about Him when you are alone at night. Am I trying to frighten you? Yes, of course! For if you never become frightened of the God of Jacob and Moses and Paul, there is no hope for you at all. The Bible says, “Fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7). May the fear of God move you to seek “Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:24-25). Unless you find Christ, your sins will not be cleansed by His Blood, and you will face the wrath and fury of our great and terrible God. As an old hymn from the Second Great Awakening put it,

An angry God – a Judge severe –
   How just, how holy is the Lord!
While Christians hope with humble fear,
   Let sinners tremble at His Word.

His law condemns the wicked now,
   And [judgment] seals their awful doom;
But wrath, though here unseen, and slow,
   Will burst, and burn beyond the tomb.
(“God Angry With the Wicked” by L. M. Lee, no date;
     from Village Hymns for Social Worship, compiled by
     Dr. Asahel Nettleton, 1997 reprint, International Outreach,
     P. O. Box 1286, Ames, Iowa 50014).

Please stand and sing hymn number 4, “The Lord Hath Laid on Him,” to the tune of “Amazing Grace.”

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Revelation 14:9-12.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“God Angry with the Wicked” (by L. M. Lee, no date).