FIRE AND BRIMSTONE
But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what was called in times past “Fire and Brimstone” sermons, and how I’ve written about their effectiveness on the congregation. Since the subject was on my mind I decided to do a bit of research into the better known of these sermons... and I discovered that what they mean by fire and brimstone, is not what I mean. Let’s look into fire and brimstone, then I’ll explain what I mean.
19And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. 20And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. (Rev 19:)
The lake of fire and brimstone is going to be inhabited with many souls. The picture we’ve been given of this lake is, not a lake, but a hollow spot in the center of the earth. Dante has given us a very graphic image of this place on earth, which we take to be accurate, at least to some degree. I do have a question I’d like to pose concerning this hole in the center of the earth: when the earth is destroyed, along with the heavens, what becomes of this place of torment called hell? And what about its inhabitants?
4The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. 5The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. 6Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. 7For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright. (Psalm 11:)
Hell is for the wicked. In today’s churches this means anyone who hasn’t been baptized in a certain church and in a certain way, that church and way differing in definition according to the church one attends.
In the Old Testament the wicked to be punished were those in the church, that is, the nation of Israel. Today we’ve turned the Words of God around and say it’s all those outside the church, while those in the church can do no wrong no matter how wicked they are.
And to think, God changes not. But we sure do.
11For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. 13Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. 14For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. (Psalm 103:)
12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Heb 8:)
We of the Church don’t like to use passages from the Old Testament because they’re so harsh and condemning, especially of us. But when an Old Testament Scripture suits our purpose, we have no trouble at all using it to our advantage. If you want to hear some good ol’ Old Testament preaching, listen to the heated sermon on tithing, a part of the law the modern churches have failed to cut out of their Bible.
In the verses above we have the evidence that God remembers our sins no longer. But who is this passage of Scripture talking to and about? Is it talking to the reprobate, backslidden person who calls themself a Christian in name only?
17For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1Tim 4:)
Peter seems to think the Judgement of God, not only fails to miss the churches, but begins with them.
8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2Peter 1:)
19Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 21Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 26If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. (James 1:)
Both Peter and James say we should not only remember our sins, but that we should do something about them. How does that fit with the common view that we’re perfect in God’s eyes the moment we step out of the baptismal tank, even though we’ve not even given thought to our old sins, leastwise confessed them and repented of them? For myself, even after a long lifetime of dealing with my past, I’m still having my old sins (as well as my new ones) brought before my face to be reconsidered, hated and purged. Since this is not being taught in so many churches, I can only assume it isn’t being done in those churches, certainly not by the pastor or the board of elders (or whatever they might be called) of such a church.
21But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 22All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. 23Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? 24But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. (Ezek 18:)
The Old Testament prophets were highly inclined to teach that we have to turn from our sins, to repent of them and be sorry for them. They taught a hard message that was even difficult for them to bear. That load has been lifted from us today, and we aren’t even faced with the consequences of our failure to follow up on this teaching. I should think those people who say they believe in an eternity in a lake of fire and brimstone would be doing everything they can to avoid such a place, and to make sure everyone knows about it, and is avoiding it as well. The fact that just about everyone in the Mainline churches seem to count it as something insignificant causes me to suspect they don’t actually believe in such a place. I know if I even suspected that the direction I’m going might cause my pinky finger to be placed on a hot stove for a second or two, I would be very careful to make sure I changed my direction. Wouldn’t you?
1Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Mat 7:)
31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (1Cor 11:)
Contrary to what I hear in church, it appears to me that Jesus, and here God through Paul, wants us to remember our past, and to judge it along with our behavior and attitude in the present. And in case you hadn’t noticed, this is out of the New Testament, not the Old, even though the concept is the same in both.
1I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2Tim 4:)
9Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 10For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 12One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. (Titus 1:)
19Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. 20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. (1Tim 5:)
Now to my purpose in writing this fire and brimstone message. When I think of fire and brimstone preaching, it’s not the lake of fire or the hole in the middle of the earth I think of. That’s not what I noticed about the preaching when I was young. I didn’t hear, or consider, that I would be sent to hell if I didn’t change my ways, I heard that to be a Christian I had to live by the rules in the Bible (New Testament. We had rules back then that seems to have vanished from the Bibles somehow), and to do my best at whatever I set my hand to. Being a Christian meant more than just getting wet for a couple minutes. People in those days sought to improve themselves, and they were inclined to point out where others were falling short so they could correct their stance with the Lord (and with the church I might add).
It’s this drive for perfection, to convict our conscience, I think is missing in the churches of today. It’s the preaching to itching ears and those who wish to be deceived, and to the neophytes, and to the uncaring people who come to church to be given an ego massage and peace of mind rather than shown where they need to get their lives straight that I find to be distressing.
18For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. (2Peter 2:)
46The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. (Luke 12:)
Jesus said we need to judge ourselves instead of judging others. Paul says that if we judge ourselves, then we won’t have to be judged. If we judge ourselves, and we do so with a strict rule, then what is there left to be judged? But if we don’t judge ourselves, then the Almighty Judge will have to do it for us. Which judgement do we prefer? Which are we being taught in our churches today?
Peter says we are better off remaining a person of the world, an unbeliever ignorant of the things of God then to enter into the realm of the Church, receive of the Spirit, then not move on in our dedication to the Lord. And Jesus says those servants, which we all are to be, and claim to be, will be cast with the unbelievers if we don’t keep awake to, and fulfill our duty.
But how can a person, a Christian, fulfill those duties if they’re not taught, or even alluded to in the churches where we’re to learn of such things?
11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (Eph 4:)
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