Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Hold the Fire and Brimstone, Please"

The title of this post is the title of a short article by Burk Parsons in this month's issue of Tabletalk, a magazine published by Ligionier Ministries. In the article, Parsons recalls an incident where he was teaching a class on heaven and hell to a class of middle-aged students. Not one student could raise his hand when asked to recall the last time a sermon was heard on the topic of hell. The same response was given when asked about heaven, except this time a few could say that they remembered hearing a pastor at least mention heaven in a sermon.

So, where did hell go? Hell is an important biblical truth, and one that is not a peripheral matter to the truth of the gospel. It goes to the core of divine justice and man's sinfulness, the foundation blocks for a true understanding of the gospel. Everyone is sinful, and unless the individual recognizes his sinfulness and the fact that he deserves hell, he will remain lost. A sense of God's divine justice and our sinfulness is the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Could it be that God's power would be shown in great ways, manifesting itself in many being drawn to Christ for salvation if only more pastors would speak of the judgment to come? Let us not forget the marvelous revival that began with Jonathan Edwards preaching "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," which graphically depicts the precarious situation of the lost in regards to divine judgment. Sinners who would flee to Christ must know why and from what they are fleeing!

Parsons ends his article with a defense of the usefulness and necessity of the doctrine of hell and divine retribution:
The subject of the eternal destinies of human beings is not a footnote to the Gospel, it is at the heart of understanding the very essence of the Gospel. We would not need mercy if we had no sin, and we would not need grace if we had no future. God bestows His grace upon us not merely so we can get a fire ticket out of hell. In fact, in preaching fire and brimstone, the Lord graciously provides us with a bad impression of ourselves so that we might be offended by our sin and turn to Him in repentance and faith through Christ.

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