Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Do I Kings 21:27-29 and Jonah 3:4-10 Teach That There Is a
Temporal Blessing for All Men in the Preaching of the Gospel?

Herman Hoeksema


The First Point [of Common Grace of 1924 wrongly] teaches that in the preaching of the gospel God evinces His general love to all the ungodly, His pleasure in their life and His willingness to save them all.

According to Prof. Louis Berkhof, the same point also purposes to teach that in the preaching of the gospel there is a temporal blessing for all men, also for them that are not saved. He points to the examples of Ahab, who repented and whose punishment was postponed as a result of the preaching of Elijah (I Kings 21:27-29), and of Nineveh, that repented upon the preaching of Jonah and was temporarily saved from destruction (Jonah 3:4-10). This is a minor point and we may dismiss it with a few remarks. First of all, it may be remarked that this presentation of the influence of the gospel upon the reprobate ungodly is certainly not in harmony with our Reformed confessions. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches that by nature we daily increase our debt (Q. & A. 13), that God is terribly displeased with our original as well as our actual sins and that He will punish them in His just judgment temporally and eternally (Q. & A. 10). Nor is this contention in harmony with the teaching of the Word of God. Temporal blessings under the preaching of the gospel for the ungodly reprobate? May I remind the professor of the terrible curse that was threatened upon the people of Israel if they refused to walk in the way of Jehovah? Will he read, for instance, Deuteronomy 28? And were not these curses literally carried out upon the ungodly nation?

The professor may remark, perhaps, that these curses were threatened upon the people of Israel under the law, and that they had a typical significance. And I admit it. But are not the examples of the professor taken from the Old Testament? True, judgment, final judgment, was postponed in Ahab's case. But note, please:

  1. That this was not under the preaching of the gospel, but under the announcement of most terrible judgment.

  2. That this was not a postponement of judgment for one that utterly refused to listen to the Word of God, but for Ahab in as far as he trembled still for God's terrible wrath.

  3. That all that took place in his case was, not that he was blessed, but that the final execution of judgment was transferred to the next generation. Ahab's house was not destroyed in his own time. And thus postponement was entirely in harmony with God's righteousness. Final judgment cannot come till the sinner has shown himself to be utterly hard. Ahab still fears and trembles under the announcement of God's judgment. He assumes the appearance of repentance. Hence, that God may appear as perfectly just and righteous when He judges, this final judgment is postponed till the next generation.

  4. That Ahab did not personally escape his punishment at all, for he died and the dogs licked his blood.

  5. Finally, that all such examples clearly show how desperately the fathers of the Three Points [of Common Grace] are in need of some real scriptural proof for their contentions.

Regarding the case of Nineveh, I remark that there is certainly nothing in the Word of God to contradict the view that the men of that city were really converted—not all, but the elect, which God for His own prophetic purpose had in the city at that time. On the contrary, everything is in favour of such an interpretation of what happened in Nineveh.

  1. The words of Scripture that describe to us the conversion of the Ninevites (Jonah 3:5-9).

  2. The fact that the Lord refers repeatedly to the sign of Jonah the prophet, a sign of Jesus' death and burial, and His leaving of the nation of Israel to turn to the world with the gospel of salvation. Nineveh is, evidently, an old dispensational type of the world from which Christ calls His elect, and gathers His "other sheep, that are not of this fold."

  3. The fact that the Saviour, in words that leave no doubt as to their meaning, asserts that the men of Nineveh repented upon the preaching of Jonah, while the men of His own generation refused to repent upon the preaching of One much greater than Jonah. Sound interpretation certainly would require us to take the word repentance each time in the same sense. So we would maintain that, at the time of Jonah, the Lord, for His own sovereign purpose, chiefly of creating the prophetic sign of Jonah the prophet, had some of His elect in the city of Nineveh, that these repented through the preaching of Jonah, that for a time the city was spared for their sake, while eventually, not long after, it actually was destroyed.

Source: Herman Hoeksema, A Triple Breach