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The Good, The Bad, and The Holy: Hellfire and Brimstone
Hell is a very controversial topic these days. People don’t like to talk about hell. They don’t want to know what happens after they die, they want to live for now; even if it does have its repercussions. Personally I think that America as a whole is getting a little sloppy when it comes to really getting down into the nitty gritty of the Bible. If we can’t go to church in a snuggie, mooch some donuts off the minister, and sit in a plush recliner to listen to a sermon on how we should love our neighbors, we’re not going! Or, at least, most of us aren’t. Books like “Love Wins” from Rob Bell are becoming prominent in our culture, promising the public that God is too nice to condemn someone to hell, and in the end, we’ll all be saved. There are, however, the rare few, like myself, who are confrontationalists. Who take the issues head-on, and do not stray from the hard questions. Those who are not afraid to call out those false-prophets when they see them, and most people don’t like that too much.
Let’s get one thing straight: there is nothing moderate about hell. If the true extent of danger is not declared, the urgent call away from that danger will not be understood. If there is no fear of the Hell I deserve for my sin, then I will never hunger for grace. It’s a counterbalance; an equal moderation. Whilst searching the web for scripture and quotes for this essay, I chanced a great quote from a man named D A Carson. He says:
“We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."
Now, I’ve never heard of anyone by the name of D A Carson, but I agree with this obvious Scripturally-educated man. In 2 Peter 2 it says this:
“While promising them liberty, they themselves are the slaves of corruption, for by what a man is overcome, by that is he brought into bondage.”
False freedoms are found over centuries, in hundreds of historical writings, and in every country. Political leaders have long since used this tactic to ensure votes from their governed. Many people don’t even catch it. Karl Marx, the founder of Marxism (the original idea behind Communism), once said in an address:
“Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your shackles!”
And well, they did unite. But, as the history books say, the Marxist “liberation “, resulted in 70 years of slavery for Russia and the subjugation of her neighbors. Nice one, Karl.
So, I think the topic of hell and damnation should be discussed in every church, with all age groups, and all mindsets. There is not one person in the entire world that will not benefit from a hellfire and brimstone sermon. But, if being told that you are a sinful creature deserving of hell by your pastor isn’t your thing, you could always just read Revelation and hear it for yourself. Revelation is basically one big, hellfire and brimstone sermon. Fire and brimstone frequently appear as agents of divine wrath throughout the book mostly in chapters 19–21, where the devil and the ungodly are cast into a lake of fire and brimstone as an eternal punishment:
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
- Rev. 21:8
Who of us has ever been cowardly? Who has ever had any doubts? Who of us can say in truth that they have never lied? None.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
In conclusion, hellfire and brimstone sermons are both effective and inspirational. They change lives and convert souls in ways that most things can’t. I can’t help but think of “The Minister’s Black Veil” in the way that most times, us sinners need something spectacularly un-ordinary to wake us to the fact that we are wallowing in sin and have no exit strategy. Hellfire and brimstone sermons do not only show us how horrible and hideous hell is, but they also open our eyes to how much we really need God’s gift of everlasting grace. And frankly, I think that’s worth listening to.