Hell fire and brimstone
(A two part sermon) by Jim Carmichael in part “borrowing” from Jonathan Edwards 1741
When was the last time you heard a sermon on hell? A real in your face, scare you to death lesson on hell? Me to, it’s been a long time, and it makes me wonder why? Are we no longer convinced of its reality? And if this is so, how can we believe in Heaven? How can we believe in God, if He says there is a hell and we don’t?
I returned to the church in 1991, after 25 years of walking in the world, but I just kind of stuck my toe in the door, like testing the water, make sure it wasn’t too hot or cold.
I remember telling a man I worked with shortly afterwards that I was a Christian who loved to sing gospel music while I drank my scotch and water, I thought he was going to faint on me, and he certainly shared his disgust with me, and the odd thing was, I couldn’t understand (at the time) why.
At some point I saw a movie titled “Ghost” with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore each time one of the bad guys would die, these evil creatures came up out of the ground and would grab them, and pull them down into hell with them kicking and screaming.
Now, I can tell you that affected me, I wanted nothing to do with that, it really scared me, and I took a harder look at my faith, and my life as I referred to myself as Christian.
The point is, the fear of hell does help in the salvation of men, and if it’s okay with God, then why wouldn’t it be okay for men to use the fear of hell to persuade men to look toward heaven?
In truth, I also am guilty of thinking and teaching there is no hell, not as we think of it, because I just couldn’t stand the idea of any living creature suffering for all eternity in the way the bible describes.
But that is the work of the devil, if he can take men’s minds off a truth as profound as hell, it will help him send them there.
Appropriate reward for good and evil is an evidence that “there is a God that judgeth in the earth” (see Psalm 58:10,11).
As we read about heaven, we read about this place of beauty beyond the imagination, we are told there will be no more death, no more tears, no more illness, and we know this is all true, but it is only a way of describing it so that a human can understand it is a desirable place to go.
But we can’t know the true extent of it, it is impossible to be described completely in human words; we will not know the extent of it until we are there.
In other words, it is symbolic. My wedding ring is symbolic of my love for my wife, but it fades completely compared to the real thing.
Those of you here who know my wife, know that she is a wonderful person, a person I have at times claimed to not be human but an angel from God sent here to help me find the way. My ring alone can’t tell that story.
It is true as well with the idea of hell. Think of a lake of fire that burns just as we understand burning, for eternity, forever, and ever and ever. And then realize this is just a symbolic illustration that does not even touch the reality of the torment those who choose to go there will experience. And, Yes, it is for those who choose it, it is not God’s will that anyone should suffer it.
Today, we hear people talking about partying together in hell as if they actually believed that. Lines such as in the unforgiven as Clint Eastwood is about to kill the other evil guy and one tells the other, I will see you in hell, glorifying it as a place where “tough guys” go.
Another tool of Satan, make it look glamourous. Hell is the place for all you tough guys, you cool people, the jet set, and the beautiful, and wouldn’t you want to be there with them?
Jonathan Edwards gave a power sermon on hell entitled “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God” in 1741.
This is a typical sermon of the Great Awakening, ( in which we are in great need of another one) emphasizing the belief that Hell is a real place.
Edwards hoped that the imagery and message of his sermon would awaken his audience to the horrific reality that awaited them should they continue without Christ.
The underlying point is that God has given humanity a chance to rectify their sins. Edwards says that it is the will of God that keeps wicked men from the depths of Hell.
This act of restraint has given humanity a chance to mend their ways and return to Christ.
Jonathan Edwards was interrupted many times before finishing the sermon by people moaning and crying out, “What shall I do to be saved?”
Although the sermon has received criticism, Edwards’ words have endured and are still read to this day.
Edwards’ sermon continues to be the leading example of a Great Awakening sermon and is still used in religious and academic studies
Hell is a reality:
Let’s examine what we do know about hell.
First, the bible describes the penalty of hell as “the second death” (Revelation 20:14), which suggests that it is the ultimate separation from God. Unprofitable servants will be “cast out” (Matthew 25:30),
and will hear the Lord exclaim: “Depart from me…” (Matthew 25:41). Paul expressed it like this. Those who know not God and who obey not the gospel, “shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
This abiding separation from God is but a continuation of the separation that the rebel cultivated in this life.
Being alienated from God is the ultimate experience of horror. It is a separation from everything that is pure and good, everything that is right and wholesome, and everything that gives you joy and tranquility.
Think of it this way, picture in your minds a moment in life when you experienced peace, where there was no strife, no persecution, no news reports of all the evil, where maybe we lay in the hammock, with a cool breeze, and just dozing and understanding life is good at least for a moment out of time…there it was…that moment of joy, the feeling that “all is good within my soul”.
Elaine has experienced this lately as her grandchildren; beautiful beyond compare came to see her from Italy. She had that moment of pure love for another, innocent human being, her little grand babies.
Have any of you ever experienced a moment such as this, a moment or an hour with no worries, no frets, quiet reflection, just peace?
What about a joyful moment, when you were just so happy you couldn’t be contained? Maybe it was just a funny movie, or while have a great time with your friends.
Once in hell there will never be another one of those moments, there will never be another sleepy afternoon, a good movie or book, a great meal with a wonderful friend or loved one, no grandbabies to cuddle and love, no wife, no husband, no best friend to share precious moments with,
because there will be no precious moments, no happy, fun moments, nothing but anguish moment after moment, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, forever, and ever, and ever, (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46).
And, not just punishment, but no break from it, no escaping it, no sleep to forget your troubles for a few hours, no stopping, no resting, no one even to discuss it with,
it will be a lonely place where you are separated, a total darkness experience and it will go on and on and on forever and ever, pain, frustration, fear, terror, evil at every turn worse than the last one (Mark 9:48 where the worm will not die) .
You will never grow accustomed to it, you will never accept it, and maybe the worst part, you will always know it was your choice, you are there by your own will, and you will constantly be aware you could have chosen differently.
You will remember that loved one who tried so hard to get you to repent, to find Jesus, to enter upon that narrow path to eternal life, and you will also know she/ or he no longer has any memory of you, for if they did, they could not enjoy the eternal happiness promised to those who believe and obey.
The eternal home of the wicked is a state of pain, trouble, and sorrow (Psalm 116:3). It is characterized by shame and contempt (Daniel 2:2), a realm of affliction (Jonah 2:2).
Hell is a place of outer darkness where there is weeping and the gnashing of teeth (Matthew 23:30), indeed a sphere of eternal fire (Matthew 25:41), where the “worm” (a figure for gnawing anguish) does not die (Mark 9:48). The wicked are described as being beaten with stripes (Luke 12:47-48);
they are recipients of God’s wrath and indignation; they experience tribulation and anguish (Romans 2:8-9); and they suffer punishment as a manifestation of the Lord’s vengeance (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
Hell is a place of utter torment where no rest is ever known (Revelation 14:10-11).
And one must never forget that the symbolism is designed to emphasize the absolute terror of being abandoned by God. Moreover, the symbols do not do justice to the actual reality of this eternal nightmare!
1. God may cast wicked men into hell at any given moment.
This can happen at any time, before we leave this building, before you get back to the barracks, or we get back to our car we could be called to judgment.
Amos 9: 2- 4 2 Though they dig down to the depths below, from there my hand will take them. Though they climb up to the heavens above, from there I will bring them down. 3 Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, there I will hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from my eyes at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent to bite them. 4 Though they are driven into exile by their enemies, there I will command the sword to slay them. “I will keep my eye on them for harm and not for good.”
These verses threatened the Vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, they were God’s visible people, who lived under the means of grace and He had blessed them with wonderful works.
And, is it any different in the civilized world? Is it any different in America? We live in a nation that was built upon the foundation of Christ, His word, His realty, and we were blessed beyond measure.
And we, as a nation, have turned our backs on Him, allowing our politicians, those people elected to represent us, our thoughts, our morals, our demand that we follow the words of Christ…or not, to pass laws that contradict Gods laws, and the teachings of Christ.
However, it is a personal choice, each and every one of us must make, to accept Christ, and by doing so confess our sins, repent our sins, ask for forgiveness of our sins, be baptized, added to the church, and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, in that order, and then continue on to do His will, with a passion that is like an unquenchable fire.
Psalm 73:17-19 …17 until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end. 18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!…
The wicked are always exposed to total destruction; they do not know when they will be cast down to an eternal hell, without end, as if they are on a slippery place. They are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the Hand of another. As he that stands or walks on slippery Ground, needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.
Back in 1980 I was the manager of AAMCO transmission at 41st and Harvard in Tulsa Ok. I was standing at the edge of the shop, right under the overhead doors, talking to a group of mechanics and their wives at closing time. I was just standing there, not even on any oil, just the dry floor.
I was not moving, not walking, not even talking which was odd for me, nothing just standing there, and in a split second, it was all over before I knew what happened, I was on my back; I had no sensation of falling, no option or chance to catch myself or break my fall.
I had somehow, without movement, slipped and fallen flat on my back. This is how it will be for the sinner, in an instant he will be in hell, without recourse, without seeing it coming; he will be out of chances.
The only reason why each and every evil man is not already there is it is not the appointed time, that time is chosen by God, when there is no more hope for the man, and there is no reason for him to remain.
And when that appointed time comes, at that very instant, he immediately falls into that pit, nothing in heaven or earth can prevent it, just like when I fell in the tranny shop, there will be no chance to steady yourself, to catch ahold of something, or even chance to break the fall by reaching out, it will be all over.
- 2. The Wicked deserve to be cast into hell. Divine justice does not prevent God from destroying the Wicked at any moment.
Man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), and he has free will. He has the power to choose good or evil.
Joshua challenged Israel, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Humanity was not programmed to rebel; rather, men have “willed” to reject Heaven’s plan for living upon this Earth (see Matthew 23:37; John 5:40).
Man was made upright, but he has generally sought the way of evil (Ecclesiastes 7:29). There are, however, consequences associated with this type of activity.
Every day, we make choices about whom we will serve, this is spiritual growth, as we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, and learn to obey as He speaks.
However, the only one the wicked man has to listen to is us, we are his source, his guide to the narrow path, through our teaching of God’s word, he may move back from the edge of the pit… but he has to choose to do so, we can‘t make the choice for him, God cannot make the choice for him.
Choose life; choose to follow the narrow path to eternal happiness. If we choose hell over heaven due to our stupidity, our lack of belief, or our weakness, not having the courage to endure the wrath of man, for the beauty of God, then we deserve hell.
- The Wicked, at this moment, suffer under God’s condemnation to Hell.
They are already under a Sentence of Condemnation to Hell. They don’t only justly deserve to be cast down thither; but the Sentence of the Law of God, that eternal and immutable Rule of Righteousness that God has fixed between him and Mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to Hell.
John. 3: 18 He that believeth not is condemned already. So that every unconverted Man properly belongs to Hell; that is his Place; from thence he is.
John. 8:23 Ye are from beneath. And thither he is bound; ’tis the Place that Justice, and God’s Word, and the Sentence of his unchangeable Law assigns to him.
- The Wicked, on earth – at this very moment – suffer the torments of Hell.
The Wicked must not think, simply because they are not physically in Hell, that God (in Whose hand the Wicked now reside) is not – at this very moment – as angry with them as He is with those miserable creatures He is now tormenting in hell, and who – at this very moment – do feel and bear the fierceness of His wrath.
Have you ever known an evil man, or anyone who is not saved really living a good, happy life? You may think you do, but when you look below the surface, you might see something very different. I often think of the term the homosexuals have adopted “Gay” .
It is not my job to condemn the homosexual that is God’s; my job is, if asked, to share the truth, but the point is, I have known a few homosexuals, and have not observed anything happy about them, which the word gay implies.
A gambler is always stressed worried about having a stake for the next game.
A thief is always worried about getting caught, as is a murderer, because they are afraid of the punishment that follows.
Many drug addicts are stressed trying to find the medication they need, or getting caught and not being able to medicate, and often the drugs they use cause paranoia.
On the other hand, I have seen devout Christians, suffer from the same troubles as everyone else in this world, yet they are happy through it, knowing all is to the will of God, knowing their troubles will come to an end, as God has promised, and faith demands they believe.
The early Christians being persecuted by the Romans they would often turn themselves in knowing it was a death sentence, yet singing praises to God as they were led to the lions.
Isaiah 57: 19 – 20
19 Creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” Says the LORD, “and I will heal him.” 20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea, For it cannot be quiet, And its waters toss up refuse and mud. 21″There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
- 5. At any moment as God shall permit him, Satan stands ready to fall upon the Wicked and seize them as his own.
The Pit is prepared, the Fire is made ready, the Furnace is now hot, ready to receive them and the Flames do now rage and glow. The glittering Sword is whet, and held over them, and the Pit hath opened her Mouth under them.
The Devil stands ready to fall upon them and seize them as his own, at what Moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their Souls in his Possession, and under his Dominion. The Scripture represents them as his Goods, Luke 11: 21 But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21″When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. 22″But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder.…
They are being watched by the devil, he stands ready, just waiting for them like a hungry lion, waits for the Christian, and when God gives these men over to them, they are devoured in a moment and nothing can stop them.
And they are gone forever, into the hell that burns without ceasing.
- If it were not for God’s restraints, there are, in the souls of wicked men, hellish principles reigning which, presently, would kindle and flame out into hellfire.
Every moment we live we have no guarantee that is not the last. We have no way of knowing when we leave our home this morning that the first step out the door will not mean the first step into eternity. And for the wicked man, that step is to experience the wrath of an angry God; for one of creation with so many opportunities to save himself from eternal punishment, but didn’t. The unseen ways, the unseen means of these people to step into eternal punishment are innumerable and even inconceivable, yet unconverted men as Jonathon Edwards said, walk over the pit of damnation on a rotten covering, that will not bear their weight in many places, and they have no way of seeing these places that will give away under their weight, and the only thing that saves them (for the time being) is the miracle of God restraining even their steps.
- 7. Simply because there are not visible means of death before them at any given moment, the Wicked should not feel secure.
As I said earlier, death can come calling anytime to any of us, saved or unsaved alike. I would like to share Gracie’s story with you. Gracie was in Jody’s baby class at Highland Church of Christ in Texarkana about 5 years ago, and she just loved Jody, as most all of the children do, but Gracie was somewhat special to us, an adorable little girl, as a baby / toddler she would leave her mother during service and come over to sit in Jody’s lap. (She wasn’t the only child to do that). Last year about this time Gracie went to meet her kindergarten teacher, as she was ready to start school. She was just fine when they arrived at the school, but suddenly lost her vision in one of her eyes, and very quickly went limp in her mother’s arms, and died shortly thereafter. No Warning, no sicknesses, she just died, she was called home. Apparently she had something in her brain that when present caused children to die expectantly at around age 5. If they catch it, it can be treated, problem is, they almost never catch it, and it is very rare, and has no symptoms other than death. All of us have a “time bomb” and it could be at age 5 or 50, we just can’t know. When a person has heart disease or cancer, then death can be expected, but it doesn’t have to be that way, and if you are not saved when it happens, then you will face eternity in hell, unless you are a child such as Gracie, before the age of accountability.
How many times did I think about that when I was walking in the world, about how if I died I had no hope of Heaven, I am so blessed God allowed me to live long enough to truly accept Him.
- 8. Simply because it is natural to care for oneself or to think that others may care for them, men should not think themselves safe from God’s wrath.
We all have heard people talk about being “good” so why should they expect hell? Good has nothing to do with it, except as our normal expected work for Christ. Salvation is free, cannot be purchased, or earned, it comes as a gift from God. He paid the price by sending His own precious Son, the author of life to come here, live a perfect sin free life, and then die a horrible death in our place, as our sacrifice. He paid the price, all the rest of us are evil, until covered by the blood of Christ.
9. All that wicked men may do to save themselves from Hell’s pains shall afford them nothing if they continue to reject Christ.
You can give billions of dollars, you can work a thousand charities, you can do the most good of any person who ever lived, and be loved for doing it, looked up to, held up as an example for others, but unless you have your salvation secured through the blood of Christ, and following His commands you are without hope, you will spend eternity in a place without pity, and without hope, and without reprieve.
10. God has never promised to save us from Hell, except for those contained in Christ through the covenant of Grace.
There is simply no other way to Heaven except by the narrow path. The path Christ took himself, to die to self, and Christ died for us, so that we might have life and have it abundantly.
There are no other gods, there is no other way, but all we need is one way, one hope, one Savior, and why would any person choose against the one way?