The Horrors Of Hell
August 2nd, 1992 @ 10:50 AM
THE HORRORS OF HELL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-2-92 10:50 a.m.
The Book of Romans: we are in the second half of this first chapter. It is a portion of God’s Word that is never read publicly. And the subject is one that is rarely, if ever presented. The title of the message is The Horrors of Hell. And the text is written large here on the sacred page, Romans chapter 1, verse 18: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Verse 21:
Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him, nor were thankful; but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened,
And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and like birds, and animals, and creeping things.
And here three times is repeated a little phrase in Greek: paredoken from para didomi, which means "to deliver up"; translated here "God gave them up," God paredoken, “God gave them up, delivered them up to uncleanness, to the lusts of the heart, to dishonor their bodies,” these who worshipped the creature rather than the Creator. Then again, verse 26, paredoken theos:
God gave them up to vile passions: the women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature:
And men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another; men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error
– which is AIDS and venereal diseases –
As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, paredoken theos, God handed them over, God delivered them up, God gave them up.
Then follows five times an avowal of the inevitable judgment that awaits those who spurn the knowledge of God: verse 32, "Knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death." Then chapter 2, verse 2: "We know that the judgment of God is according to truth." Then verse 3, "How will you who do these things escape the judgment of God?" And then verse 5, "You are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." Then verse 16, "In the day when God will judge the secrets of men." Oh! I tremble before the exposition of such a dreadful possibility, the damnation of our souls in hell. The wrath of God is revealed: God gave them up, God delivered them into the fire of hell and the judgment of the awesome day of the Lord.
All of that preaching has fallen out of the pulpits of the modern day. You can hardly remember a time when you heard a sermon on hell. "Preacher, preach about everything sweet and nice; but never about the truth of the judgment of Almighty God." And there’s no doubt but that when there was hell in the pulpit it was not in the homes and on the streets of the city. But now that there is no hell in the pulpit, you find it in the homes, and in the streets and violence of the cities.
"But Pastor," you would say, "are you trying to scare me into the kingdom? You trying to frighten me to be a Christian?" I do not know of a motive that is more explicitly described in this Book than the motive of fear that brings us bowing before the presence of an omnipotent and righteous God." Hebrews chapter 11, verse : "Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet," the sky was perfectly clear, "moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house," the motive of fear. When you read in the Book of Kings and in the Book of Chronicles, in the days of young King Josiah,
[Hilkiah] found in the house of the Lord a scroll of the Book of the Law. And he gave it to Shaphan, the scribe, who took it to Josiah the king, and read it in his presence. And in that book it said, If you depart from the law, God will destroy you. And Josiah rent his garments, and in great fear before the judgment of God, cried out for mercy.
[2 Kings 22:8]
God spared them because of their repentance and because of the fear that had brought them into His presence. Later, as you remember, God destroyed the city, God destroyed the nation, and God led the whole people into captivity; they became slaves.
Do you remember the text of the Book of Proverbs, "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord" [Proverbs 9:10]; what God can do to a people, to us, and to our souls, trembling in the presence of the Almighty God!
One of the most unusual things I ever heard of in my life: in the hospital and in the ward lay a man who was sick. While he was lying there in that ward in the hospital, sick, there came two attendants, and they were talking about a screen they were going to put around his bed. And one of them said, "This is not the screen that we ought to use; it ought to be another one." And the other one replied, "It doesn’t matter what screen we put about him, the doctor says he’s going to die." So they put that screen around his bed, and he lay there in that bed in that ward, having heard the attendant say, "The doctor avows he’s going to die." It scared him to death. "Oh! I’m going to die. The doctor says I’m going to die. O God, and what of me, sinner as I am? Lord God, have mercy upon my soul, and save me! O God, I’m going to die!" And while he was repenting and confessing his sins, the Lord God forgave him, came into his heart, and saved him! And about that time, those two attendants came back, took away the screen, and said, "Listen, we put this screen around the wrong man. And we ask you to forgive us."
"Oh!" said that man in the ward on the bed, "This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Because of you and what you’ve done, and what you’ve said, I’ve been saved, I’ve been saved.” Fear, a motive to bring us to God.
So my first avowal concerns the urgency of the preaching of the gospel. Great God! How vital it is for two reasons: one is the inevitable hour of our death, and second, the certainty of our appearance in the day of judgment. As Hebrews 9:27 writes, "It is appointed unto men once to die," we, you, all of us, "it is appointed unto us once to die, and after that the judgment."
Does it matter how we die? Does it matter whether I’m a Christian or not? Does it matter whether I’m in the church or not? Is church an option, like joining a club: join it, don’t, doesn’t make any difference? How is it that I die? Do I die like a tree that turns to a stump? Do I die like an insect? Do I die like a worm? Do I die like an animal? How is it that I die? However it is out there in another part of God’s creation, I have a soul; we have a soul. And that soul shall stand and appear in the presence of God. In this Book of Romans out of which I’m preaching, oh! how the inspired apostle emphasizes that, as he says in Romans 14, verse 10: "We shall all stand in the presence of Almighty God." And two verses later, verse 12: "Each one of us shall give an account of himself unto God." And we appear before the Lord God immediately after we die; and it is one of two places. If I am lost, if I die without Christ, I wake up in torment, in hell. Great God! If I die in Christ, I wake up in Abraham’s bosom; I wake up in paradise, I wake up in the third heaven. And an unusual thing: the Bible calls that place a "place," t-o-p-o-s, tÃ³pos. You can’t translate that word any other way except "place." In the passage that you just read, that rich man cries out, "I am tormented in this tÃ³pos, in this place" [Luke 16:24]. You are somewhere. On the other hand, in the beautiful passage in John 14, verse 2: "I go to prepare a tÃ³pos, a place for you." When we die, immediately we go to a place: either damnation, torment in the fire of hell, or into Abraham’s bosom, into paradise, into the arms of Jesus. That’s the place where we receive the final reward for our life, good or bad, evil or righteous. You see, the judgment of our souls, whether we are saved or not, is now, here, already. I’m either saved or I’m lost, one or the other. But the judgment that is final concerns our works: the reward of what we have done in the days of our flesh. And that’s why that final judgment concerns the rewards of our lives.
You see, I don’t die when I die: I keep on living; I keep on influencing. These that know me and whatever I have done continues. For example, I read Spurgeon all the time. Spurgeon has been dead a hundred years. I preached many times in Moody Bible Institute. Dwight L. Moody’s been dead over a hundred years. Their influence lives on. They can’t receive their reward until at the end of the age.
On the other hand, the evil that men do lives on. I went to high school with a boy named Royce Thompson; we went to school together, to the university together. He turned to be an infidel, an atheist. I went to his room one day to talk to him and pray with him. He was seated there reading Tom Paine’s Age of Reason. Tom Paine has been dead two hundred years; but his influence lives on. Either in glory, in paradise, or in damnation and hell, at the end of the age we shall receive the reward of our lives. O God! who could but fear and who could but tremble in Thy presence?
The eternity that awaits us, O Lord, how am I equal to it? The forever and the forever and the forever of the life beyond the grave, so long, long, forever, forever; great God! If I were to attempt to dip out the ocean with a little spoon, after I had dipped out the oceans of the world, eternity would not have begun. They say it is ten billion miles to the edge of the universe – no, ten billion light years of miles to the edge of the universe. And light moves at 187,000 miles a second. Ten billion light years to the edge of the universe: if a snail were to crawl from here to the edge of the universe, eternity had just begun. The length of it, forever and ever and ever, and the leveling of it: all kinds of differentiations we know here in this life.
I was in a city in the Northeast, and a friend who was taking me through the city, we passed by a cemetery, and he said, "See the hill in the cemetery? On the top of that hill the rich and the famous are buried. And down here the poor and the unknown are buried." Not that in God’s eternity. We stand in the presence of the Lord God and are assigned our places according to whether we love God or not, and how we served Him. And the “locked-inedness” of that eternal assignment, O Lord, how shall it be with us?
Do you remember the passage that you just read? The passage you just read, that rich man crying out in torment and in the fire of damnation, said, "There is a gulf fixed between me here and you there," and Abraham confirmed it, “a great gulf fixed” [Luke 16:26]. Lord God in heaven, the fear of damnation and the fire of hell.
That’s why Jesus came into this world – what brought our Lord down from heaven to suffer, and to die for us? – because we faced an eternal condemnation and damnation, the fires and the fury of hell.
"This is My blood," He said, "of the new testament, shed for you” [Matthew 26:28]. “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” [Luke 19:10]. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. God made Him to be sin for us, Him who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" [2 Corinthians 5:21]. It was our lost condition that brought Jesus from heaven down here into this world, to die for us. And that is the preaching of the gospel. That is our assignment: to make known to lost men how they can be saved, to bring the grace and the forgiveness of Jesus to our souls, that when we stand in the presence of God it may be in heaven and not in the fires of hell.
In the preaching of the gospel, incidentally, as a concomitant and a corollary, we are ameliorating society, we are helping the poor, we are doing many things domestically, nationally, politically, many things. But if I give myself to that alone, who’s going to preach the gospel? Who will tell men of their danger of damnation and of their salvation in Christ? If I don’t do it in the pulpit, who will? The city council? The legislature? The national congress? The United Fund? The charitable trust? If I don’t preach the hope of salvation in Christ, who will? God hath committed that wonderful word of forgiveness and grace and heaven to us in this blessed Book, and to us who proclaim it in the pulpits of God’s house. And, O Lord, how we need to listen and to respond.
You know, one of the things that I see once in a while, I’ll see a wonderful girl – a beautiful, godly, Christian girl – marry a man of the world. He’s irreligious; he looks upon religion with contempt and disdain, and his life and interests are all out there in the world, and she will love the Lord. Well, it happened in this instance. A beautiful, darling, Christian girl, sweet and faithful, married a young man out in the world; looked with indifference upon God, and the church, and all religion. She went to church and to Sunday school faithfully; he never thought of entering the door. He was out there in the world trying to have a good time.
In the providences of life, a little baby girl was born into the home. And while the child was small, the mother took the little thing to Sunday school and to church. But when the child became a little older, that worldly father planned purposely to woo the child away. And when Sunday came, and Sunday school time and church time came, he had other plans for the little girl. And then as she became a teenager, he encouraged her out there in the world. So much so, that, having a date, stay up half the night, Sunday come, mother would say, "It’s time to rise, and we go to Sunday school," she would reply, "Oh mother, I’ve been out so late, I’m so sleepy, I can’t get up." And when the father overheard the little girl saying that, he just smiled on the inside of his heart: he’d won; he had her out there in the world where he was, and not in the world where mother was.
Then a providence that oft times happens: driving furiously back into the city late at night, with her date, had a terrible accident. The girl, the teenager, carried to the hospital, rushed to the hospital; father and mother called, and the doctor announces to the father and mother, "Your little girl has a few moments to live." And he leaves the room. And the father takes her hand, and sits there. And the girl turns to her father and says, “Daddy, mother always taught me that Jesus was the way to heaven; the way, the truth, and the life. And that if I was going to heaven, I had to accept Jesus as my Savior in my heart. But you, Daddy, you’ve always said to me, I am to enjoy and to have fun in the ways of the world; I’m to drink, and to dance, and to gamble. Daddy, I have a few moments, shall I take your way or mother’s way?” And the father knelt down by the bed and cried, "Oh, take mother’s way!" But before he could exclaim, her hand turned limp in his. As he raised his head and looked, she was gone; she was dead.
After the memorial service, he went down the aisle at a church to confess his faith in the Lord Jesus, and to accept the Lord as his Savior. And he told the people in his testimony of what had happened. And he said, "I would give my life, I would give my life if only I could know in that moment of time she had opportunity to take mother’s way."
It may be all right and fine to live in the world while we have length of days. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment" [Hebrews 9:27]; and eternity is so long. Great God! May the Lord place it in our souls to turn to Him in repentance, in faith, and to accept the grace and love of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to live forever with Him.
THE HORRORS OF HELL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Text phrase: "God handed them over, delivered them upâ€¦to the judgment of God" (Romans 1:32, 2:2, 3, 5, 16)
B. Subject of judgment, hell, has fallen out of pulpit ministry and preaching
C. Objection: "Are you trying to scare me into the kingdom?"
1. Fear a legitimate motive (Hebrews 11:7, 2 Kings 22:8-20, 2 Chronicles 34:15-28, Proverbs 1:7, 9:10)
II. Why the urgency of the gospel
A. The inevitable hour of our death (Hebrews 9:27)
B. The certainty of our appearance in the day of judgment (Romans 14:10, 12)
C. There immediately when we die
1. Hades, Abraham’s bosom, Paradise (Luke 16:22, John 14:2, 2 Corinthians 12:4)
2. Torment (Luke 16:23, 2 Peter 2:4)
3. Awaiting the reward for our souls
III. The eternity yet to come
A. So long
B. So leveling
C. Death so final (Luke 16:26)
D. What so tragic to bring Christ from heaven to die for us?
1. We faced eternal condemnation, damnation (Matthew 26:28, Luke 19:10, Acts 4:12, 2 Corinthians 5:21)
IV. Our assignment, ministry
A. Preach the hope of the gospel