The text is Revelation 18:20 —
Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.
The sermon by Jonathan Edwards is comprised of four headings:
1. When the saints in glory shall see the wrath of God executed on ungodly men, it will be no occasion of grief to them, but of rejoicing.
Edwards poses an argument that is counterintuitive but biblical, nonetheless. That saints in eternity future will not only see the wrath of God executed against the ungodly; they will rejoice at the sight of it. Edwards gives two evidences of this:
- That the seeing of the wrath of God executed upon the damned, should cause grief in the saints in glory, is inconsistent with that state of perfect happiness in which they are.
- The saints in heaven possess all things as their own, and therefore all things contribute to their joy and happiness.
2. Why the sufferings of the wicked will not be cause of grief to the righteous, but the contrary.
Edwards supplies a negative and positive rationale for why this proposition is true:
- Negatively – It will not be because the saints in heaven are the subjects of any ill disposition; but on the contrary, this rejoicing of theirs will be the fruit of an amiable and excellent disposition: it will be the fruit of a perfect holiness and conformity to Christ, the holy Lamb of God.
- Positively – The sufferings of the damned will be no occasion of grief to the heavenly inhabitants, as they will have no love nor pity to the damned as such.
Edwards argues that God is greatly glorified in the eternal damnation of ungodly men. Once again, his argument appears counterintuitive but is in agreement with the biblical record.
The Northampton preacher continues to unfold how God’s redeemed will respond at the sight God’s wrath as it is unleashed on unregenerate people:
- They will rejoice in the seeing the justice of God glorified in the sufferings of the damned.
- They will rejoice in it, as it will be a glorious manifestation of the power and majesty of God. God will show his own greatness in executing vengeance on ungodly men.
3. Objections Answered
Like a good attorney, Edwards anticipates objections. The objection is stated as follows: “Why is it not an unbecoming thing in the saints in glory to rejoice when they see the damnation of the ungodly?” Five responses are offered:
- It is now our duty to love all men, though they are wicked; but it will not be our duty to love wicked men hereafter.
- We ought now to seek and be concerned for the salvation of wicked men, because now they are capable subjects of it.
- Rejoicing at the calamities of others now, rests not on the same grounds as that of the saints in glory.
- The different circumstances of our nature now, from what will be hereafter make that a virtue now which will be no virtue then.
- The vengeance inflicted on many of the wicked will be a manifestation of God’s love to the saints.
4. The Ungodly Warned
In the closing section, Edwards offers a stern warning to unregenerate people.
- How destitute of any comforting consideration your condition will be, if you perish at last.
- Consider how it will be at the day of judgment, when you shall see Christ coming in the clouds of judgment, when you shall begin to wail and cry; as knowing that you are those who are to be condemned.
- If you now repent, before it be too late, the saints and angels in glory will rejoice at your repentance.
- If you repent before it is too late, you yourselves shall be of that joyful company.
This sermon is a vivid reminder of the reality of hell’s torments. But it is also a powerful reminder of God’s love and grace shown to all the elect!