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I am the Pastor/Teacher of Rivers of Joy Baptist Church in Minford, Ohio since August 2008.  I am married to Charity since June 14, 1969.  I have four grown children.   Having served in the local church for over forty years as Pastor/Teacher, Asso., Youth Pastor, Minister of Education, Building Upkeep, Camp Director, Sunday School Teacher, etc. Also I have worked in the public place for as many years as I have preached. Charity and her sister are co owner of Union Mills Conf. (Bakery) in West Portsmouth Ohio

Hell: The Reason To Preach and Weep

Sinclair Ferguson quoting Thomas Brooks in the latest edition of the 9Marks eJournal on hell:

Oh, but this word eternity, eternity, eternity; this word everlasting, everlasting, everlasting; this word forever, forever, forever, will even break the hearts of the damned in ten thousand pieces…Impenitent sinners in Hell shall have end without end, death without death, night without day, mourning without mirth, sorrow without solace, and bondage without liberty. The damned shall live as long in Hell as God himself shall live in heaven.

Makes me want to weep… and preach.

Weep Over Hell is a post from: Pure Church by Thabiti Anyabwile

The following article can be found here

To speak of hell is to speak of things so overwhelming that it cannot be done with ease.

Yet hell exists; this is the testimony of the Scriptures, of the apostles, and of the Lord Jesus himself. The emotionally intolerable is also the truth—and therein lies its awfulness.

It is incumbent on the Christian pastor to be familiar with it, to feel the weight of it, to preach it, and to counsel his flock in connection with its meaning and personal implications.


The preacher speaks as one who is conscious that he himself must stand before the judgment seat of Christ: "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done in the body, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). Perhaps more than anything else, this must become the atmosphere from which God's servants approach their tasks as preachers and pastors. We must appear there. Only those who are consciously aware that they will come before the judgment seat can speak with any sense of the weightiness of the issues of life and death, heaven and hell.

It is here that we learn for ourselves the dreadful unveiling of our sinfulness, and this, in turn, enables us to stress three things essential for our preaching:

  • the righteousness of God
  • the sinfulness of our sin
  • the absolute justice of God's condemnation of us.

Unless we have established these coordinated principles and impressed them on the minds and consciences of our hearers, there is little likelihood that we can make much impression by preaching on hell.

Every member of fallen humanity needs to have thrust in front of him the radical and total inexcusability of sin and the absolute justice of God's condemnation. Only then will he, can he, take hell seriously. The preaching of these truths is intended to tear away the blindness, to arouse and pierce the slumbering conscience. Otherwise, we persist in our assumption that whatever fate befalls others (a Nero, a Hitler, an Idi Amin), we ourselves are safe from divine condemnation.


What then shall we preach on hell? There are several things we need to affirm.

1. Hell is real.

It is as characteristic of Jesus' teaching to warn against the prospect of hell as it is for him to describe the high privileges of heaven. For him, at least, hell is just as real as heaven.

2. Hell is vividly described in the pages of the New Testament.

Over the centuries theologians have discussed whether the biblical vocabulary for hell is to be taken literally or metaphorically. My own view is that in any aspect of biblical teaching where various descriptions contain elements in tension with each other, those descriptions are in all likelihood metaphorical. But, having said this—and here is a vital point—metaphors are used precisely in order to describe realities greater than themselves.

Hell is a sphere of separation and deprivation, of pain and punishment, of darkness and destruction, and of disintegration and perishing. The vocabulary of the New Testament includes: darkness outside, weeping and grinding of teeth, destruction of body and soul, eternal fire, fire of hell, condemned to hell, forfeiting eternal life, the wrath of God, everlasting destruction away from the presence of the Lord, perishing, separation, blackest darkness.

What is the preacher to do with this language? Exactly what one does with other biblical language: use it to the limits of its significance within the text, no more, no less. In particular, the word "eternal" underscores the magnitude of what is in view. This condition is not only one of separation from God and disintegration of all that is pleasing; it is perpetually and permanently so. It is this that made the great seventeenth-century preacher Thomas Brooks cry out, in words found also on the lips of his contemporaries:

Oh, but this word eternity, eternity, eternity; this word everlasting, everlasting, everlasting; this word forever, forever, forever, will even break the hearts of the damned in ten thousand pieces…Impenitent sinners in Hell shall have end without end, death without death, night without day, mourning without mirth, sorrow without solace, and bondage without liberty. The damned shall live as long in Hell as God himself shall live in heaven.

3. Hell, though prepared for the devil and his angels, is shared by real human beings.

It is the wasteland of humanity, inhabited by those who reject Christ and his revelation. Those who do not belong to the kingdom of God are there: "Outside are the dogs, those who practice magical arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood" (Rev. 22:15; cf. 1 Cor. 6:9). The rich man is there (Luke 16:19-31); those who did not love Christ's brothers are there (Matt. 25:41-46); some who prophesied, cast out demons, worked miracles in Christ's name are there (7:21-23); "those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" are there (2 Thess. 1:8-9); Judas Iscariot is there (Acts 1:25), for it were better for him that he had never been born (Matt. 26:24); the devil and his angels, the beast, and the false prophet are there, "tormented for ever and ever"; anyone whose name is not found in the Lamb's book of life will be there (Rev. 19:19-20; 20:10, 15).

So awful is the prospect of this judgment that when it is revealed,

the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called on the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Rev. 6:15-17)

It is, indeed, too terrible to contemplate—more terrible than the vocabulary used to describe it, just as heaven is more glorious than our words can possibly describe.

Like millions of others, on September 11, 2001, in horror and foreboding I watched, in real time, on television in the United Kingdom, the second jet crash into the New York Twin Towers and then saw the buildings collapse in rubble as people fled for their lives. It was the most horrific event most of us will ever witness "live." As I watched, I also asked: "What kind of cataclysmic horror would make strong men run into that falling rubble to find protection, preferring such a holocaust to the wrath of the Lamb?"

4. Most important, in expounding and applying the biblical teaching on hell, we must emphasize that there is a way of salvation.

There is somewhere to hide from the wrath of the Lamb.

The gospel is not a message about hell. Yet one cannot be faithful to scripture without preaching about it for the simple reason that the gospel itself cannot be understood apart from its reality.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21). In a nutshell, the gospel is this: Christ took our place, bearing our sin, tasting our judgment, dying our death—so that we might share his place, be made his righteousness, taste his vindication, and experience his life.

But to be made sin implies liability to the condemnation of God and the righteous judgment of the punishment of hell. This, in effect, is how the New Testament (always in the light of the Old) sees the inner significance of Jesus' death.


It is in this context that preaching on hell belongs to the preaching of the gospel. When we understand that this is what the death of Christ means, when this grips our soul, we will begin to find the apostolic model of preaching reduplicated in our own ministry. For constrained thus by the love of Christ, several things follow.

1. Courage and commitment

It takes courage and commitment to preach hell. Courage is needed because in many contemporary contexts one mention of hell is enough to guarantee the accusation of a harsh spirit and a bigoted mind.

Commitment is required because such ministry demands a desire to live for Christ (2 Cor. 5:15) and to see men and women brought to Christ, which is greater than our native desire for security and popularity. It is not possible to be liked for preaching the truth about hell (although it is, paradoxically but thankfully, possible to be loved for having done it).

2. A truly biblical perspective

Sinful humanity naturally looks at life through the wrong end of the telescope. For them time is long and eternity is short; this life is large, the afterlife is small; this world is real, the world to come is unreal. This is what it means to live kata sarka ("according to the flesh") rather than kata pneuma ("according to the Spirit"; Rom. 8:4). But the Christian's eyes have been opened, and they are fixed on Christ, on eternity.

A Christian, then, looks at life in the light of the destination to which it leads, and sees every person within that framework. Famous words penned around 1843 by the still young but soon-to-die Robert M'Cheyne express well this view and its implications: "As I was walking in the fields, the thought came over me with almost overwhelming power, that every one of my flock must soon be in heaven or hell. Oh, how I wished that I had a tongue like thunder, that I might make all hear; or that I had frame like iron, that I might visit every one, and say, 'Escape for thy life!'" Behind everyone we know and meet stands the shadow of judgment.

Knowing this, how can we remain silent—or cowardly? We can only do so if we ourselves live in denial of the reality that we know has been revealed in the gospel.

3. A deep awareness of our calling

"God… reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us…be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:18-20).

The Christian preacher is a debtor because through Christ he has himself been delivered from future judgment. He is a steward, because the message of reconciliation has been committed to him. He is to employ the resources provided by his Lord, not to diminish, add to, or transform them. He is also an ambassador, whose task is always to represent his Master and faithfully to deliver his message.

This is why our own excuses must never prevail ("I am not that kind of preacher"; "the congregation would not receive it well"; "people do not take these things seriously any longer"; "we are living in a day when that kind of emphasis does not draw people to Christ").

When Robert M'Cheyne met his dearest friend Andrew Bonar one Monday and inquired what Bonar had preached on the previous day, only to receive the answer "Hell," he asked: "Did you preach it with tears?"


So we are called to preach as his representatives: with biblical balance, with a Christocentric focus, with the humanity of those who realize their own need of grace before the judgment seat of Christ, with a willingness to suffer in the light of the coming glory, with love and compassion in our hearts, and in a way that commends and adorns the doctrine of God our Savior.

Sinclair Ferguson is Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina and is Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

(This article is a condensation of Sinclair Ferguson's chapter, "Pastoral Theology: The Preacher and Hell," in Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A Peterson. Copyright © 2004 by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A Peterson. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com. The whole book is available for purchase from Zondervan here.)

September/October 2010
© 9Marks

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