Over the years I have heard people reference “hell fire and brimstone” preaching as a bad thing. A dirty word that you wouldn’t want to be associated with. Often times also followed up with a stern warning not to be a bible thumper. Is that really the best advice? How does that instruction match up with the bible? Lets have a little looksy. (Don’t underline my West Virginian vernacular spell check, ughhh.)
Cultural Bullies Change Meanings
I could write a whole post just on this heading. This is a strong tactic of those who gain power, be they on the right side of the isle or on the left side. I will give two quick illustrations of extremes on both sides.
When I say swastika, what do you think of? Do you think of good fortune? Do you think of sacred religious symbolism to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, or Odinism? Probably not; I would wager 98% of my readers draw up negative connotations of the word and associate it with one of the worst human tragedies known to our modern world. Adolph Hitler and his politics has changed what we think of when we bring up the swastika, perhaps for the rest of history. (Unless we forget it and revisionists rewrite it as is currently underway in America)
Lets move over to the other side of the aisle. What do you think of when I fill out a questionnaire and I list rainbow as my favorite color? Or maybe I put a rainbow symbol bumper sticker on my car. Are you immediately thinking, “wow, this guy has a healthy respect for the promises of God and understands that He will never flood the earth again.” No I imagine you would probably assume I was pledging my solidarity with same sex couples.
These two examples are along the same lines of what I believe has happened to “hell fire and brimstone” (HFB from here on out) preaching. In an attempt to defend the character of God, somebody along the way thought that it would somehow impugn his character if anybody went to hell. So then they got the notion that you shouldn’t be talking about hell. Next thing you know you have people being labeled “HFB preachers”. Did the content and message change or is something else going on?
Should We Please Men, or God?
This is the question the Peter and the apostles had for the high priest after he commanded them not to teach in Jesus name. (Acts 5:16-32) I don’t know of anybody that is going to be real pleased hearing about the fact that their rebellion against the creator has them destined for hell, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t warn them.
Now granted there is a wrong way to present the gospel and that would be to stop the message right there. It would be like your mom saying you’re going to get your butt beat when your father gets home and then your little sibling repeats that to you fifty times through the day before he gets there. You are naturally going to want that sibling to shut up. This is the case with people who don’t deliver the full gospel message.
It seems to me today though that those cases are far and few between and that the majority of pastors and Christians in general would stray much too far in the other direction. Never breathing a single word about hell. Now what if that same sibling above knew how to get that butt whipping taking care of with you never having to feel it, would you want them to tell you? Or would you rather them just say, “You’re good man, dad loves you….no worries, he’s loving, I’m loving, we’re all loving.” I would choose the former, the latter sounds just wonderful until your father walks in and you still get your butt beat. That is the equivalent of just telling people God is love and don’t worry about anything because He is a good God. Those are true words, but hearing them and knowing them will do you absolutely no good come judgement day.
Who Started the HFB Preaching?
It is real easy, Jesus did. It was his message. There is hell coming and those who have sinned are going there for God is holy and perfect and there will be no sin in his presence. Now that wasn’t the climax of His message, but it was the setting of the stage. If you take away this aspect, the message can lose its clarity, impact, and meaning.
Jesus didn’t give a hoot if it upset the folks around him, but it wasn’t because he was cold or indifferent; it was because he loved them with a greater love than the “love is love” groups and the social Christians who think you’re going to heaven because you sat in a building for two hours once a week. He didn’t have a problem with “bible thumping” that was kind of His thing. He based his life around the word, when people had a problem with what he was doing He simply quoted scripture and went on about His business. He trusted and rested fully in the authority of the word of God.
He gave the full counsel of God, not just one side or the other. He didn’t lead them to think there wasn’t an ultimate eternal butt whipping coming, he said if you will put your faith in me I’ll take it for you. We have so far removed hell from Christian talk I sometimes wonder if people know just what it is they’ve been saved from. Lump that in with teaching evolution and then you don’t know why you need saved in the first place. It goes down hill pretty quick when you start taking key components out of the bible.
Time Marches On
I attended my little cousin’s wedding yesterday and my daughter Lilly was the flower girl. I was sitting a few pews back and in my line of sight was my Uncle (father of the bride), my daughter a step or two down from the top of the stage, and then my cousin the bride up top. I just had this overwhelming feeling of time sucking everyone in the equation forward.
My uncle would go on to be old and die, like he always said he would. (he has a morbid sense of humor) I would sit where he was, and my daughter would be married off one day. We are all on this planet living and breathing then one day we aren’t. Some of us have more time and some of us less, but we are all limited by time. Please don’t waste your time. There is no more crucial question to answer then where you are going to go when your time is up. I will choose to love you enough to let you know hell is very real, and without the blood of Christ that is where we go.
photo credit: grantuhard <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/30388487@N07/12777057294″>Fire and brimstone</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit: hz536n/George Thomas <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/11703832@N08/34871045692″>Time after Time</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit: evanse1 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/145837323@N08/35215959662″>New Gospel Movie | What Is True Faith in God? | “Faith in God”</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit: Leo Reynolds <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/49968232@N00/25090279764″>war trophy</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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photo credit: Ruth and Dave <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/95142644@N00/34977399525″>Bad things will happen…</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>