Is part of the “good news” of Jesus Christ that He threatens His blood-bought people with an eternity of hell’s torments if they don’t believe and repent and keep on believing and repenting? To be clear, there is no question about whether the law as a covenant threatens anyone who does not believe. If you are not in Christ, if you are not trusting Christ for forgiveness and if you are not living a penitent life, then you are in Adam, under the covenant of works and its curse.
But the question of this post is very specific. Does the gospel issue threats? Narrowly defined, the gospel cannot threaten because the gospel “strictly,” or “narrowly,” is nothing other than the pure promises of God to redeem sinners through Christ’s work (1 Cor 15:3-4). There are no commands or even conditions in the gospel, strictly speaking. But what about the gospel “largely,” or “broadly” speaking? The question this post seeks to answer is whether the gospel as a covenant, the covenant of grace, threatens the members of the covenant with eternal condemnation.
1. Christ cannot justly threaten condemnation when He has already pronounced justification.
The gospel clearly states, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), and “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). The Bible says that those who are “in Christ Jesus,” who are part of Christ’s covenant people, are no longer under the curse and therefore cannot be threatened with condemnation. One of the blessings God promises to those in the covenant of grace is, “I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Heb 8:12; cf. Jer 31:34).
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Tom Hicks serves as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Clinton, LA. He's married to Joy, and they have four children: Sophie, Karlie, Rebekah, and David. He received his MDiv and PhD degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a major in Church History, emphasis on Baptists, and with a minor in Systematic Theology. Tom is the author of The Doctrine of Justification in the Theologies of Richard Baxter and Benjamin Keach (PhD diss, SBTS). He serves on the board of directors for Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary and is an adjunct professor of historical theology for the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies.