Beware therefore, lest that come on you, which is spoken of in the prophets;…
I. THE CHARACTER OF THESE DESPISERS.
1. There are some who despise all religion, and reject even those fundamental principles which revelation presupposes; such as the existence and providence of God, the difference between moral good and evil, and the freedom and accountableness of man.
2. There are some who pretend to believe the truths of natural religion, but despise all revelation. From the supposed sufficiency of human reason for all the purposes of religion, they conclude that no supernatural discovery ever has been or ever will be made.
3. There are some who acknowledge in general the truth of the gospel, but despise its peculiar doctrines.
4. There are those that profess to believe the gospel in all its essential doctrines, and yet in their hearts and lives oppose it.
II. IN WHAT RESPECTS, IT MAY BE SAID, THEY WILL PERISH WONDERFULLY. Here are two things asserted.
1. Destruction awaits contemptuous sinners. Whatever may be the condition of heathens, who never heard of Christ, awful must be the fate of those, who, having heard of Him, despise and refuse the only Lord who bought them. "They who believe not, shall die in their sins"; they are "condemned already, because they believe not in the name of the only begotten Son of God." If obedience to God is necessary to salvation, faith in Christ must be necessary; for this is the command of God, "That we believe on Him whom He hath sent."
2. This destruction when it comes will be wonderful.
(1) Unexpectedly. A punishment which they little thought of will therefore fill sinners with wonder and astonishment. It is said of Jerusalem, "Because she remembered not her last end, therefore she came down wonderfully." The Scripture represents the destruction of sinners, in general, as coming upon them by surprise.
(2) Exceeding all present conception. There is a strange punishment for the workers of iniquity. Some temporal judgments are so great, that they are called strange and marvellous works. How much more strange and marvellous will be the future punishment of despisers? "God will perform a work which they would not believe, though a man should declare it to them." "Who knows the power of God's anger?" We cannot conceive —
(a) the great anguish of a self-condemning conscience.
(b) That positive punishment which awaits sinners.
(c) The distress of total despair.
(3) Wonderful, compared with that of other sinners. Despisers will be distinguished in the world of misery from others. Moses having enumerated the singular privileges of the favoured people, says, "If ye will not observe to do all the words of this law, the Lord will make your plagues wonderful." The gospel abounds in warnings of this kind. "If the word spoken by angels was steadfast," etc.
III. LET ME ENFORCE THE CAUTION IN THE TEXT. "Beware," etc. In mercy to our guilty world, God has sent His Son to make the purchase, proclaim the offers, and state the terms of eternal salvation. To us the word of this salvation is sent. The question now proposed is, Will you accept it? If you will accept the benefit you must submit to the terms of it. You must repent and yield to the government of the gospel of Christ. If you will not do this, you despise His gospel, and all the blessings which it reveals. Consider what it is that you despise. It is a gospel preached by the Son of God from heaven; confirmed by miracles, preserved in the world by a merciful providence, and transmitted to you by peculiar favour. How worthy, then, of your thankful acceptation! To despise this is to despise that pearl of great price, to purchase which you should be willing to sell all that you have. To despise this is to despise God's greatest gift, even the gift of His own Son, who came to seek and to save them who were lost. Judge, now, what must be the consequence of this contempt. Know ye, that your judgment lingers not. The Lord will soon arise, that He may do His strange work.
(J. Lathrop, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;