Tuesday, June 13, 2006


It is hot outside!

True, there are hotter places in the world, but I have no desire to experience them. My British cells were not prepared for life in a sauna (I never did understand the pleasure of saunas!).

Stay with me as I suggest that it isn't as "hot as hell"!


Yes, but the expression arose because of biblical imagery that suggests to us that hell is a place where "eternal fire" (Matt. 25:41).

Whatever became of hell? We are adept at obliterating it from our minds altogether or making light of it. Thoughts of redneck fundamentalists and backwood preachers come to mind. It simply isn't good manners to talk of "fire and brimstone." We want to talk about "The Christian approach to Hollywood" or "Christians and leisure" rather than "The Bible's View of Eternal punishment." We certainly dismiss as morbid and bad taste the view of Tertullian and Aquinas and Jonathan Edwards who argued that the saints in heaven find the sufferings of sinners a hell a joyful matter.

It is Jesus who speaks about hell in the New Testament more than any other. He spoke about gehenna, the Greek form of Ge Hinnom, "Valley of Hinnom." This was the area outside the walls of Jerusalem where children had once been sacrificed to Molech (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6) and in Jesus' day was where the city's refuse was incinerated. Smoke arose from the place on most days.

How often have I heard people say: "I don't hold to all the Bible teaches but I do like the Sermon on the Mount." This piffling prejudice explodes in their faces because in the Sermon Jesus talks about 'hell" saying that anyone who calls his brother a "fool" is in danger of "the fire of hell" (literally, "the Gehenna of fire") (Matt. 5:22).

The "fire", the heat, is metaphor, of course. What is in view is something unimaginably dreadful, too dreadful to think about. But think about it we must, with seriousness and godly fear, one the one hand giving thanks to God for deliverance from the fire through the finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf (who experienced the fire for us at Calvary), and on the other hand, evangelistic concern for the lost that we might, by God's grace, effectively witness the love of God that desires the salvation of men and women and thereby "snatch (them) from the fire" (Jude 23).

"Lord, help us today to seriously contemplate the reality of hell; to give you thanks that in Jesus Christ we are delivered from it; to warn those in danger of it--with winsomeness--to repent and believe. Amen."

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