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The Terrors of Hell – Part 1

by on January 14, 2014

dark road to nowhere

2 Corinthians 5:11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I’ve dabbled in the Puritans for a while since being saved, and as I read Puritan writers, I find myself wanting more.  I don’t believe they are perfect in everything they taught, but yet I don’t find very many areas of disagreement, certainly not on the major doctrines of Christianity.

Although I’m pretty glad the fashion industry has moved beyond those big stifling collars…

I was excited to dig into A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones when I received it several months ago.  Admittedly I’ve moved slowly through it, sometimes because I’ve been lazy, but mostly because I just want to really soak it up and meditate on this teaching.

The subject of hell is a major weakness in the teaching of most churches I would assert.  I know from my own past church experiences before salvation this to be true.  Just like God’s wrath it’s not a popular subject.  It doesn’t keep people in seats; it’s a real buzz kill for most people.   Because of this weakness conversion is surface level which is really not biblical conversion at all, just raise your hand, walk an aisle, pray a prayer type conversion.

Most preaching then becomes man centered and fulfillment based.  You know feel good stuff, “boy that was a great sermon pastor…  I really needed that pick me up today, that was a really funny story you told and I sure did enjoy the drama team today”.  Have you been to this church?

Yet the Puritans taught on hell frequently and with urgency.   How can we believe in heaven without believing in hell, we can’t believe Christ needed to save us, if there was nothing to be saved from?  This is an essential and necessary doctrine of the church and it must be preached with all urgency because everyday people are headed to an eternity of torment.

Today I’m beginning a series on what the Puritans taught about hell.  I’m hopeful it will lead to a better understand and therefore, a greater sense of urgency to preach to others the fear of the Lord, maybe even hear it for ourselves for the first time.

The Terrors of HellA Puritan Theology[1] (all quoted material is from A Puritan Theology as cited from the original works of Arthur Dent & Christopher Love)

Arthur Dent – “we should always live as if we should die, or that our bed should be our grave; we must live consistently as if Christ should come to judgment presently.”

This typical Puritan approach was meant to instill terror and expose sin, but always with a view to opening the way for the mercies of Christ. 

In Dent’s dialogue this causes the ignorant man, to “quake and tremble” with his talk of hell-fire and judgment: “I feel great terror in my conscience – I am afraid I shall be damned.” [2]

A preacher that will not preach on the terrors of hell is a worthless preacher, is he not? 

How can someone be saved if they don’t know what they are going to be saved from?  This is the reason we need Jesus, He is the hope…

Jesus Christ died to save His people and His people must understand they need salvation.

Dent continues “all who groan in their misery and grieve for their sin, to believe that “Christ is for you,” and that they must “apply Christ, and all the promises of the gospel” to themselves. “for we have not other remedy or refuge but only His merits and righteousness – He is our city of refuge, whither we must fly, and where we must take sanctuary – He is the balm of Gilead, whereby our souls are cured.”

When is the last time you really thought about the fact your soul needs curing?  We really don’t want to think about this, how often do you have your conscience pricked with the knowledge of your sin and the cure for your sin?  There is no salvation with no fear of death and the terror of the Lord an understanding that it is “Your” sin that had to be paid for.

Christopher Love – “the tormented condition of the damned in Hell.” for those for whom he has not “gained their affections” with preaching on the glory to come, Love seeks to “startle their Consciences.” by preaching seven sermons on the doctrine of hell.

“Love maintains that the word translated “hell” in the Scripture can refer to the grave (“thou wilt not leave my soul in hell” [Ps. 16:10], the “belly of the Whale” (“Out of the belly of hell, I cried unto the Lord” [Jonah 2:2]), the devil himself (“The tongue of man is set on fire by hell” [James 3:6]), and the place of eternal torment (Matt, 5:29; Luke 12:5; 16:23).  In seeking to motivate us to fear God more than men and to awaken “drowsy consciences,” Love focuses on the power of God to subject men to eternal torment, which ought to “work an awful fear of God” in our hearts.  Hearing of such torments should “startle” our consciences out of a false sense of security; strip away ungrounded hopes of glory, and drive us away from wallowing in sin.”

Even as in the times of Christopher Love, preaching on hell was extremely unpopular, and as they do today, people screamed “legalism”, yet Jesus was a gospel “good news” preacher.

“He spoke directly on hell more than anyone else in Scripture.  Also, the devil, does all that he can to give preaching on hell a bad name as he seeks to “nuzzle men in security in their sins.” 

“Love boldly claims that sermons on terror have done more good upon unconverted souls, than Sermons of comfort have ever done.’  In short, we cannot claim to preach the whole counsel of God if we ‘run only upon strains of free grace.’”[3]

Today there will be someone reading this that is headed for hell… 

They may not realize that is their eternal destiny.

Perhaps they are ignorant to God’s wrath or God’s plan for salvation through repentance and faith in Christ.  They might be deceived in their salvation.

They may have hidden or un-confessed sin.  Perhaps they’ve repressed this sin for so long they don’t even consider it anymore…

…Or they are counting on God’s grace and mercy.  Whatever miserable state you might be in there is hope in Jesus Christ, even though you don’t view your condition as miserable and plight as blinding.

Do not be deceived!

Hell is real, and its miseries are eternal.  The wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6).  Consider these chilling words from the Apostle Paul as he writes urgently to us today just as he did 2000 years ago.

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

Please join me on this journey for the next number of weeks and let us examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, do not allow yourself to be deceived by your sin.  It is a worthy endeavor.

Kevin


[1] Beeke & Jones, A Puritan Theology (2012) 830-831

[2] Dent, The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven; Wherein Every Man May Clearly See Whether He Shall Be Saved or Damned (1599; repr., Morgan, Pa: Soli Deo Gloria, 1994), 1, 277, 285, 287, 295-97, 300, 305

[3] Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 211-25

3 Comments
  1. “If preaching of terror is legal preaching, then the law was more preached in the New Testament than ever it was under the Old. I make it appear thus: There are more terrible and dreadful doctrines scattered up and down in the New Testament than in the Old. It is a note of Chrysostom that in all the Old Testament the word damnation was never used, but it is used thirteen times in the New. And it is observable further that in the Old Testament, though the word hell is often used, yet it is most commonly used for the grave and not for the place of the damned. But in the New Testament, except in two places, hell is altogether taken for the place of the damned, Acts 2:27 and 31. Therefore it is clear to every eye that the gospel is more backed with terror, and with the doctrines of hell and damnation, than ever the law was. The preaching of the law has only “Anathema,” but the gospel has “Maranatha” also. Therefore, all those who are of that seducing antinomian error that cry down pressing duty such as preaching the law greatly deceive themselves, for Christ Himself and the apostles and evangelists all preached more terror than any of the prophets ever did.”~Christopher Love (English Covenanter and Martyr)

    • Matthew – I appreciate the quote.

      That is something that most people would think the exact opposite.

      Praise God for the terror of the Good News and may His people humble themselves today under His Mighty Hand.

      Soli Deo Gloria

  2. Hell is for real and there are some people that know they are going there before they end up in hell. You might like to read this:

    “The Death of Voltaire”
    https://hitchhikeamerica.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/the-death-of-voltaire/

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