The President’s Column – Every Pastor in the Concordia Lutheran Conference Preaches About Hell
From the July / August 1996 issue of The Concordia Lutheran
The President’s Column
EVERY PASTOR IN THE CONCORDIA LUTHERAN CONFERENCE PREACHES ABOUT HELL
Even though the word “Hell” often falls glibly from the lips of the unbelieving children of this world who also make blasphemous jokes about hell, yet, people in general do not like to hear about hell or talk about it. There are those who think that the subject of “Hell” is distasteful and should not be spoken of in polite circles, and especially, in this modern day, should not be preached from Christian pulpits. Many so-called Christian churches, therefore, go easy on the subject of “Hell” because, they say, it makes people uncomfortable and it conflicts with mercy and love. In reality, however, pastors who minimize hell or avoid the subject of “Hell” altogether are cruel and unfair to their hearers. They do not warn their hearers forcefully enough about the fatal result of unbelief; they frustrate the merciful desire of God to bring sinners to repentance, and they thereby contribute to the eternal damnation of millions of people. The pastors of our Conference, however, inasmuch as they are committed to preach the “whole counsel of God” in all its truth and purity are also committed to preach about hell and to bring the subject of “Hell” frequently into their sermons. The Gospel and Epistle Lessons for the seasons of the Church Year give every pastor ample opportunity to speak from his pulpit on the subject of “Hell” or at least to mention hell in his sermons.
Those who will be the inhabitants of the abode of the damned are called in Scripture, “The wicked.” The Bible characterizes the wicked, in general, as those who do not recognize the true God and who do not believe in the Lord Jesus as their only Redeemer from sin, death, satan, and hell, and who do not trust in Him alone for their salvation. Such people are indeed “the wicked” in God’s sight–no matter how nice, and clean, and upright, and wise, and good they may appear in the eyes of the world. God says in Psalm 9:17, “The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God!”
In the light of the perversity of the human race since the Fall of Adam, it is amazing to consider that the Lord God sincerely desires to save all people and to give Heaven to all as a free gift of His grace alone in Christ Jesus, our Savior! The Bible teaches God’s Universal Will of Grace (Gratia Universalis) and Salvation by Grace Alone (Sola Gratia) ever so plainly in so many passages, yet, there are those, in fact, the vast majority of people throughout the world, who despise the grace of God in Christ Jesus, who reject the spotless robe of righteousness which the Lord Jesus has earned for them by His perfect fiulfilment of the Law in their behalf and by His holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death on the cross where He endured the torments of hell in their place, as their Substitute! The wickedness of the unbeliever is then simply this: That he does not humbly receive what the Lord Jesus has done for him and for his eternal salvation. He therefore falls under the condemnation of that plain Word of God which say: “He that believeth not shall be damned!” “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God!” and “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him!”
What the Bible teaches about Hell is so clear and so emphatic that a person cannot deny it without rejecting the authority of the Bible altogether–which the pastors of our Conference simply refuse to do. The Hebrew word for Hell, which is used most frequently in the Bible to describe a place of punishment, is the word “Sheol.” Elsewhere the Bible calls it: “Outer darkness,” “a lake burning with fire and brimstone,” “a bottomless pit,” “blackness,” “the mist of darkness,” “a furnace of fire.” The words by which Hell is described in the Bible actually stagger the imagination. There will be indescribable physical and menatal anguish, for Hell consists in everlasting banishment from the sight of God, being forsaken by God into all eternity, being forever excluded from communion with God. To the unbelievers, Christ will say on the Last Day, “Depart from Me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Banishment from God’s face, in the excruciating pains of Hell, involves the most unbearable suffering of body and soul. The Bible describes this agony by means of a variety of phrases: “Tribulation and anguish,” “being in torments,” “tormented in this flame,” “where their worm dieth not, neither shall their fire be quenched,” “they shall be an abhoring unto all flesh,” “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” O, there are no athiests in Hell because in such a place of eternal torment there will be no need for the lie perpetrated by Satan and his followers, the unbelieving children of this world, that there is no God.
The suffering of the damned in hell will be even more intensified by the knowledge that they, too, could have enjoyed the blessedness of heaven as a free gift of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, their Savior. Where the believers in Christ see God face to face, the damned in Hell see only themselves and the devils. Where the believers in Christ are free from all evil, the damned in Hell are in the midst of evil and are evil themselves–drenched in the filthiness of unending sin and corruption. Where the believers in Christ experience fulness of joy in body and soul, the damned in Hell have no joy whatever and are the children of God’s wrath. Where the believers in Christ enjoy the glorious fellowship of their fellow believers (the communion of the saints in bliss}, the damned in Hell form the company of the accursed.
And the punishment of the damned in Hell is without intermission and without termination! The Bible parallels the eternal salvation of the believers with the eternal damnation of the unbelievers. Jesus says, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment., but the righteous into life eternal.” “They that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” The Bible says of the damned, “They shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might.” “They shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.” “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night!” The fire of Hell is unquenchable, the worm deathless, the punishment everlasting, the gulf between Heaven and Hell impassable, the sins of the unbelievers after death unpardonable! O, what deep sympathy and compassion we should have for our unbelieving relatives and acquaintances when we contemplate the terrible and certain fate awaiting them as well as all of the heathen in our nation and throughout the world! O, what efforts we should make to save their souls from death by bringing them the life-giving Gospel of Christ and Him crucified!
Yes, every pastor in our Conference preaches about Hell, also and especially to impress upon his hearers the excruciating agony and pain which our Savior endured FOR US and for ALL PEOPLE, as the Substitute for the whole human race: His heart melted like wax in the midst of His bowels, His becoming a worm and no man, His unquenchable thirst, the nails, the thorns, the spear , the mockery, the buffeting, the shame, His cry of agony, “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Yes, Christ Jesus suffered the agony of Hell as our Substitute, in our place–the agony which each one of us deserves because of our sins–and as true God, His holy innocent, bitter suffering and death was sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world–a perfect ransom for the redemption of all mankind–“that whosoever bellieveth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
What the pastors in our Conference teach about Hell is that which has been revealed in Scripture by a kind and gracious heavenly Father to warn us from the wrath to come; to admonish us to repent of our sins and to urge us to turn to Jesus alone for forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. O, may people everywhere find the Cross of Christ planted deeply before the yawning gates of Hell–a way of escape provided for all people by Him who says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh to the Father but by Me,” and of whom the Apostle Peter declares, “Neither is their salvation in any other!”