Saturday, August 7, 2010

Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell

In our modern age, few people give much thought to heaven and hell. Even most Christians (myself ashamedly included) do not spend significant time pondering what lies ahead after death. We are probably guilty of this because our lives are so posh in the West. My guess is that followers of Christ in places like North Korea, China, and the Arab world actually do give much time to looking forward to heaven with Christ.

Jonathan Edwards, the greatest American theologian, gave much thought to the realities of both heaven and hell. Fortunately for us, Edwards put much of this down on paper.

In Heaven and Hell, Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney have taken Edwards' writings and put them in a form that is easy to understand for us modern readers. They have not "dumbed-down" the text, but rather have added explanatory notes to assist in comprehension.

Here is a sample of what Edwards wrote about the prospect of hell, "The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and Justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise of obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood." (Works 22, 411).

As for heaven, Edwards wrote, "And when Christ shall bring his church into his Father's house in heaven after the judgment, he shall bring her there as his bride, having there presented her whom he loved and gave himself for to himself, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The bridegroom and the bride shall then enter into heaven, both having on their wedding robes, attended with all the glorious angels. And there they enter on the feast and joys of their marriage before the Father; they shall then begin an everlasting wedding day. (Works 9, 508).

Heaven and Hell is a relatively short book (about 140 pages) that is also very readable. If you are new to Edwards, this is a great place to begin. He speaks with a clarity that far surpasses most theologians.

May we all spend increasing time pondering eternity with Christ in heaven. May we also be inspired by the reality of hell to more faithfully share Christ with others.

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