Question: “What is hellfire preaching? Is hellfire preaching biblical?”

Answer: The term “hellfire preaching” does not appear in the Bible, although the concepts of the fires of hell and the necessity of preaching certainly do. Hellfire preaching means different things to different people and conjures up different images, mostly negative. Those who use “hellfire preaching” as a pejorative are generally repulsed by even the mere mention of hell, preferring instead to imagine a God whose great love for mankind simply precludes Him from sending people to hell or even allowing them to go to hell, despite their best efforts to do so. On the other extreme are those who see a perpetually angry, wrathful, and vengeful God who condemns people to hell for the sheer enjoyment He gets from it. Both these views of God’s character and of hell are biblically insupportable.

Although true preachers of the Word of God have always included the reality of hell in their messages, hellfire preaching has come to be associated with preachers of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and America. The image of Puritan preachers is often one of bewhiskered, black-frocked theological terrorists pounding their pulpits and continually threatening their congregations with eternal burning. Perhaps the epitome of the image of the hellfire preacher is Jonathan Edwards, whose sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” depicted the realities of hell so clearly that it was said the hearers could smell the sulfur burning. However, it is fair to say that Edwards believed strongly not only in the fearful reality of hell but his duty as a minister to warn people of that reality. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” when read properly, has a clear emphasis upon the mercy of God. It is nothing but God’s mercy that keeps us out of hell, he was saying, and, therefore, we are to ask God for that mercy for salvation.

Is hellfire preaching biblical? Clearly, Jesus taught on hell, and He did so to warn people not to go there. Hell is depicted in Scripture as a very nasty place from which there is no escape. The punishment of the wicked dead in hell is described throughout Scripture as “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41), “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12), “shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2), a place where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44-49), a place of “torment” and “fire” (Luke 16:23-24), a place where “the smoke of torment rises forever and ever” (Revelation 14:10-11), and a “lake of burning sulfur” where the wicked are “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). Surely, a loving and compassionate Savior could not be so described if He failed to warn us about hell. But Jesus is certainly loving and compassionate, and He presented the joys and bliss of heaven and was clear about the only way to attain them. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” He said. “No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). The apostle Paul was equally blunt about the fate of those who rejected the gospel of salvation through Christ alone. They are condemned to “everlasting destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

Is there a place for hellfire preaching today? Not only is there a place for teaching about the fires of hell and the only way to escape them, but true preaching of the gospel of Christ is not complete without it. If today’s pastors and preachers are to be consistent with the Scriptures, preaching and warning their flocks about the fires of hell must be part of their message. Too often, people are invited to come to Christ so He can ‘fix up’ their lives, make their marriages better, or provide health, wealth, and prosperity. But this is not the message of the Bible. We come to Christ for forgiveness of sin, the very presence of which in all our hearts is a sure one-way ticket to hell. A balanced, biblical message consists of the reality of hell, a warning to escape it, and the only way to do so—through the shed blood of Christ on the cross for our sins.

What’s so shocking about the Boston Bomber Rolling Stone cover?

Maria Wehmeyer:

Wonderfuly said by Matt Walsh.

Originally posted on The Matt Walsh Blog:

I’m assuming a lot of people have been to the dentist recently. Otherwise, how would anyone know who or what is on the cover of Rolling Stone? Much like airport terminals keeping CNN in business, worthless left wing rags like Rolling Stone wouldn’t exist anymore if not for waiting rooms. Seriously, who actually subscribes to magazines nowadays? I don’t think I’ve ever said to myself, “Gee, I’d really love to pay money for a paper printout of the sort of information and commentary I read for free, online, 37 days ago.” This might be partly why I haven’t been quite as deliriously outraged as the general public by RS’s newest issue, featuring the Boston Bomber striking a glamour pose on the cover. I certainly do find it grotesque to give a child killer the Jim Morrison treatment, but I just can’t figure out why this is suddenly so upsetting to…

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The Consequences of Drifting

Hebrews 3:12-13

Spiritual drifting–the gradual wandering away from God and His will–takes place when a believer ceases to steer toward the Lord. Like an empty boat set loose upon the waters, he or she makes a slow and lazy glide away from good practices like disciplined obedience, regular Bible study, prayer, and assembling with fellow Christians. And there are consequences for casting yourself on uncharted and dangerous waters.

A life adrift is outside of God’s will and therefore in sin. The Holy Spirit pricks a believer’s conscience to send a message when he is off course, but the drifter is prone to ignore such warnings. If a Christian continually excuses his wandering ways and denies sin, then his conscience gradually numbs. A person who becomes desensitized to wrongdoing has paved the way for more sinful behavior with less guilt. Can you imagine a more dangerous situation?

As the drifting believer’s conscience becomes anesthetized, his spiritual ears are also deadened–truth cannot gain entrance because he has invited wrong attitudes and philosophies into his thinking process. What’s more, his heart hardens to the things of God. Shrinking away from testimonies about divine power, grace, and mercy, he avoids situations that might reawaken the conscience and stir his spirit to repentance.

People drift from God in search of more–more freedom, choices, and pleasure. But since the consequences are a hard heart, a numb conscience, and dead ears, what they end up with is less. The drifting believer sacrifices the victorious life in Christ for an existence devoid of permanent satisfaction.

How Will Believers Be Judged?

Scripture reveals that Jesus Christ will judge every person who has ever lived (Acts 10:42). Those who refuse His offer of salvation face the white throne judgment—the unbelievers’ last stop before an eternity of exile from God’s presence. Believers will also stand before Jesus, at which time they’ll finally come to full comprehension of His extravagant grace.

In 1 Corinthians 4:5, Paul asserts that Jesus will disclose the motives hidden in believers’ hearts. Some people have gotten the misguided idea that all their sins will be displayed for everyone to see, but the Bible in no way supports that notion.

Jesus will reveal the true nature of a believer’s heart to him or her. Every rebellious act, wrong attitude, and cutting word will be reviewed. When the Bible says that Jesus will wipe the tears from our eyes, it is referring to this time (Isaiah 25:8). We’ll be standing in the holy Savior’s presence, grieving over how undeserving we are of His sacrifice. But the sorrow will last only a moment. On its heels comes the tremendous joy of having received forgiveness and lived a life pleasing to Him. Christ’s judgment is not a punishment; it is a reminder that we are pardoned. At last, we will fully realize the depth and breadthof His grace.

Believers need not cower or hang their heads during the judgment. Nor are we to repent—the time for that is past. We will stand before the Lord, clothed in Christ’s righteousness and forgiven of every single sin. And we will at last comprehend how great is the love of our God for us.

Choosing the Right Building Material

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Believers build their lives on the Rock of Ages: Jesus Christ. Every motive, every deed, and every word is material for our spiritual house. The apostle Paul warned followers to construct with care because on the day of judgment, fire will test the quality of each person’s work. This refers not to a literal fire but to the purifying presence of Jesus Christ.

When I stand in the Savior’s perfectly holy and just presence, all the wood, hay, and stubble in my life will disappear. Good things done with wrong motives will vanish along with secret sins and bad attitudes. Only what has been done and said in Jesus’ name remains. And the moment the chaff is gone, we will see that God is right—those things didn’t fit the life of His child.

On hearing this explanation, someone usually says, “All that matters is that I get into heaven.” But that attitude is shortsighted because the judgment of believers is about rewards. In the parable of the unrighteous steward, Jesus explained the basic concept to His disciples: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). Our time on earth is the beginning of an eternity serving and rejoicing in the Lord. God will reward us with heavenly responsibility according to our faithfulness here.

Wise people plan for the future (Prov. 27:12).I want to receive as much of God’s goodness as He offers, so I am determined to build with top-quality, enduring materials. The privilege of serving is only the beginning of the rewards. In heaven, God’s generosity will be even more abundantly unleashed.

Our Gifts for His Kingdom

1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Many people hear the word “serve” and feel that they do not have the necessary qualities to make a difference in others’ lives. This is true–apart from God. But He has gifted each of us in unique ways with a purpose in mind. His plan for us involves using these talents to serve Him for the good of others.

Satan would like us to believe otherwise. Our Enemy wants us to notice what others are doing and then to feel inferior. For instance, I have heard women say, “I am just a homemaker.” They see people preaching and singing in the choir and wish they could accomplish something so great for God. Friends, there could be nothing further from the truth. An enormous responsibility rests with those who train their children in righteousness.

In fact, the Holy Spirit has gifted each believer for specific work in God’s kingdom. Scripture explains this idea by a comparison with a human body: each person has gifts and purposes that make the entire system function well. But if the heel wants the eye’s role, the whole being will lose balance.

Each part is crucial, even though some are less noticeable than others. Truthfully, those with less apparent talents have an advantage because pride and self-sufficiency may be less of a temptation.

Notice how Peter defined himself: “a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:1). He was no longer a man motivated by self-interest. Once He followed Jesus, he saw himself as a servant of God. We, too, are called to serve the King of Kings with whatever abilities we are given.

Used with permission from In Touch Ministries

How Did Paul “Kick Against the Goads”?

Apparently, “to kick against the goads” was a common expression found in both Greek and Latin literature—a rural image, which rose from the practice of farmers goading their oxen in the fields. Though unfamiliar to us, everyone in that day understood its meaning.

Goads were typically made from slender pieces of timber, blunt on one end and pointed on the other. Farmers used the pointed end to urge a stubborn ox into motion. Occasionally, the beast would kick at the goad. The more the ox kicked, the more likely the goad would stab into the flesh of its leg, causing greater pain.

Saul’s conversion could appear to us as having been a sudden encounter with Christ. But based on the Lord’s expression regarding his kicking back, I believe He’d been working on him for years, prodding and goading him.

I believe the words and works of Jesus haunted the zealous Pharisee. Quite likely, Saul had heard Jesus teach and preach in public places. Similar in age, they would have been contemporaries in a city Saul knew well and Jesus frequently visited.

Imagine Saul (the name Paul means “small,” suggesting he may have been shorter than average), standing on tiptoe, straining to watch Jesus, all the while grudgingly wondering how this false prophet could be gaining popularity. Nonsense. He has to be of Satan! Pharisees loved to think that. Nevertheless, Jesus’s ministry stuck in Saul’s mind. The more it goaded him, the more he resisted God’s proddings.

Once you’ve seriously encountered Jesus, as Saul did, there’s no escaping Him. His words and works follow you deep within your conscience. That’s why I encourage people who are intensifying their efforts to resist the Gospels’ claims to study the life of Christ—to examine carefully His captivating words. Most people who sincerely pursue them can’t leave Him without at least reevaluating their lives.

Taken from “God’s Goads” from Thomas Nelson, inc. (used by permission).