On the most somber of occasions, he sought to comfort the mourning. The cold casket adorned a chilled body as the eyes of family and friends, swollen from grief, gazed up at the speaker. He wanted to bring whatever consolation he could. And so, he did what many well-meaning pastors have done in his situation: he abandoned the truth.
Many can sympathize with the impulse to do so. The woman before him lived as worldly as they come, blaspheming God and his word whenever the opportunity presented itself. With all her friends and family gathered, it hardly felt like the appropriate time to tell them what God actually said. And so, the pastor proclaimed that — deep down — she was a good person and was with the Lord in heaven.
It was at that moment, when all sat pleased at the pastor’s words, that a young woman spoke up:
It’s a lie! Do not believe him! We will not all be in a better place! That hope is false! Only those who believe in Christ, the Son of God, the one who died and was raised, will be saved! Only those who repent and believe and follow him until the end will be in a better place. Wrath awaits all who die in sin! Please believe! He stands ready to forgive you!
People stared, aghast. A funeral usher approached to invite her to leave. One person furiously told her to shut the hell up — and so she was trying. Hell’s mouth gaped open. Souls were at stake. God’s truth was being butchered. She tried, alone, to warn her loved ones off the path to perdition.
My wife was at that funeral home a decade ago. She witnessed the minister’s sentimental words, saw the usher approach, and heard the crude language addressed to her. She was the young woman who, with trembling voice, offered all who would listen grace at the gates of hell.
Sinners in Angry Hands
Ever since the fall, hell’s mouth has gaped open. Many will be swallowed up today. More will the next day. And the next. This reality caused even the apostle Paul profound sorrow and unceasing anguish (Romans 9:2). Does it for the rest of us?
This world is a doorway into eternity — a fact that few today consider and fear. Sinners frolic before the Almighty God, daring to provoke him to his face. Although God hates all evildoers (Psalm 5:5), burns with indignation towards the unrepentant every day (Psalm 7:11), and is even now whetting his sword and bending his bow in judgment (Psalms 7:11–13), the unrepentant go about life unmindful of their predicament. They slumber atop an active volcano.
They mistake the God of delayed wrath for the God of no wrath at all. They hear about the nuclear bomb of eternity, but are self-assured that it will never detonate. They approach the God of the Bible like some do those British royal guards: mocking, poking, and testing him to see if he will move — never realizing that the riffle has lowered until it is too late.
And they love the god they’ve created. Their god is never angry with them. Their god, if he even hates their sin, only loves the sinner. Their god is only merciful, only forgiving, only compassionate. Their god does not take sin personally, nor would he require the shedding of blood to forgive it. Their god serves the creature and simply pours forth unconditional love when and how the creature calls for it.
But this god is a pipe dream. This god is a demon. This god is absent from the Old and New Testaments. Even now, the true God holds the unrepentant by the nape of the neck to do them unspeakable injury if they will not bow to his great love and mercy, and take up his terms of peace and eternal joy offered them in the blood of his own Son.
Judgment Day Is Coming
As Christians with the book, we know what day is coming. A day when clouds will be rolled back, trumpets will sound, and the Terror of the unrepentant will descend. A day when the wicked will plead with the mountains to crush them so they will not face the fury of the Lamb (Revelation 6:15–17). A dreadful day when the wicked will be torched as Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Peter 2:6). A day when they will not just drift but be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). A day of second death. A day of banishment. A day of wrath, tribulation, and distress (Romans 2:8–9). A day when there will be no escape, no rest, and no reprieve from torment (Revelation 14:9–11).
Better to cut off limbs in this life than to go there forever (Mark 9:43). Better to be cast now into the sea with an anchor around your neck than to go there forever (Mark 9:42). Better to not have been born than to spend eternity in hell (Mark 14:21).
Will We Speak Honestly and Pray Fervently?
Love invites us, compels us, demands that we speak. The unbelieving live but breaths away from eternal pleasure or eternal pain — amazing grace or everlasting justice. Are we to say nothing or mumble about it as though it were not true?
Perhaps you’ve heard of Charles Peace, a convicted criminal who, upon hearing of hell spoken coldly of by the prison chaplain who accompanied him to his execution, allegedly responded saying,
Sir, I do not share your faith. But if I did — if I believed what you say you believed — then although England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would crawl the length and breadth of it on hand and knee and think the pain worthwhile, just to save a single soul from this eternal hell of which you speak.
Will we speak honestly about hell? Will we cross the breadth of the street to tell the lost? Will we embrace our great fear of social awkwardness and press through?
Let’s resolve with Charles Spurgeon,
If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.
If our neighbors should perish, if family members should disappear upon the broad road, if co-workers should refuse the Savior, let them do so while leaping over our sober warnings and bursting through our arms of prayer.
Jesus in Angry Hands
God so loved the world that he sent his own Son to die for his people’s crimes. Jesus took our place atop the volcano. He willingly traveled through hell’s door and became our Door into heaven. He was pierced by the Father’s glistening sword, struck by his full quiver of arrows. God’s firing squad took aim at him and deafening shots thundered upon Calvary.
He walked into the furnace of God’s judgment. He plunged the depths of the lake of fire. He was tormented. He was crushed. He drank the cup of God’s anger poured out full strength. He did not escape on that Good Friday. Hell’s mouth gaped open to receive us, and he stood alone and shut the hell up for his people.
And on Sunday, he rose in victory. Death, sin, and Satan lay shuddering beneath his feet. It is finished.
Sinners in Crucified Arms
So, we do not merely warn them of God’s wrath. We welcome them to embrace Christ and live. We have good news of great joy for every human. We have a gospel that cries, The curse wasn’t strong enough, Satan wasn’t crafty enough, sin wasn’t ultimate enough, judgment wasn’t final enough, hell wasn’t fiery enough, the grave wasn’t deep enough, the lost weren’t distant enough, and the dead weren’t dead enough for the Lamb of God who was slain!
Family members can be adopted. Neighbors can be saved. Wrath can be abated. Eternal life can be received. We can have God as our greatest love, our greatest treasure, and greatest joy forever!
The gospel is the power of God for salvation from the wrath all mankind sits beneath. So we tell them in the streets. We tell them around our dinner tables. We tell them in coffee shops. We tell them while walking around lakes. We tell them in funeral homes. We bang against the gates of hell with words. We of course use discernment, but we err on the side of boldness instead of caution.
Yes, sinners are in the hands of an angry God, but they can rest in the arms of a crucified Savior.