Monday, May 8, 2023

The Reality of Hell

"But the wicked will be cut off from the earth, And the unfaithful will be uprooted from it" (Prov. 2:22).

Our study of the wicked as portrayed in the book of Proverbs has been driving us toward one frightening but unavoidable conclusion—without Christ the wicked are destined for hell. The wicked are responsible for their own actions, they are an abomination to the Lord, they are hopeless without Christ, and they suffer the temporal consequences of trouble and sorrow on account of their sin; but more than all this, they are burning sticks, smoldering and flickering in this life, that will explode into flame during the next.

Anyone who would take just a moment to consider the reality of hell as it is portrayed in God’s Word would not be able to avoid the fear, the stinging of conscience, and the desperation to run in the opposite direction. But, as Jonathan Edwards once wrote, the wicked find peace to face the realities of hell by denying its existence. And this is exactly what has been done in many churches today. The doctrine of hell has been rejected and the warnings of Scripture silenced.

To reconstruct this doctrine that has been disassembled by liberal theology, we will turn to a time in America’s history when preachers boldly proclaimed the biblical doctrine of hell. They did not delight in their message, they spoke of the eternal consequences of sin with tears in their eyes and heavy hearts, but they were constrained by the Word of God and could speak only the truth. They loved their people and faithfully warned them of the coming judgment of God. Interestingly enough at a time when messages on hell and damnation burst from pulpits throughout the country, revival spread like fire in a dry and parched land. Among the many preachers used of God to bring this revival was Jonathan Edwards. He, more than any other, is famous for preaching on hell. Some think it was an obsession. But the only obsession for Edwards was a love for God’s truth and a love for his people. To learn more of hell, we will use John Gerstner’s analysis of Edwards’ teaching on this subject (Heaven and Hell—Jonathan Edwards on the Afterlife) during the next week, that we might become awakened to the truth of this terrifying doctrine, and be compelled to warn others of that final day of judgment and offer them a sure recourse—the olive branch of peace, which is Christ our Savior.

When was the last time you heard a sermon on hell? When was the last time you studied about hell? When did you last think about the eternal state of the wicked? Skim through the book of Matthew today. How many times is eternal punishment mentioned? What does this say about the importance of learning about this doctrine?