Fire and Brimstone, Thomas Vincent

Characteristically systematic and passionate Puritan pleading concerning hell, Christ, and saving faith. Short, but very powerful. Sermon on Psalm 11:6.

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Excerpts

Extremity and eternity are the two most bitter ingredients of the damned’s torments. Who can set forth the eternity of the wicked’s punishment in hell-fire? This eternity is immeasurable. It is incomprehensible. All the rays of the sun may more easily be comprehended in a small room, and all the waters of the sea contained in a small nutshell, than boundless eternity be conceived by our finite and shallow understanding. None have shadowed eternity, and set it forth better than those who have shown how infinitely short all measures and numbers do fall, when they are applied to the space of it’s duration. One expresses himself thus on this subject in another language: suppose ten thousand years past, after that an hundred thousand millions of years past, after that ten hundred thousand million of millions of years past, and yet you are not come to the end of eternity, no nor to the middle of eternity; yes, you are but at the beginning of it. Add unto this the number of all the thoughts of angels and men, of all the motions in every creature, of all the grains of sand which would fill ten thousand worlds; gather all the minutes of time, from the beginning of the creation of the world, all the numbers of arithmetic that can possibly be conceived, and all this is but the beginning of eternity. How long will eternity last? Always. When will eternity end? Never. As long as heaven shall continue to be heaven, and God shall continue to be God, and the saints shall be happy in the enjoyment of God, so long shall the wicked be tormented in the fire of hell. We may apprehend the everlastingness of this fire of hell, but we cannot comprehend it.
The torment of the wicked in hell is a punishment, and therefore has a respect unto sin, the guilt of which does lay the wicked under an obligation hereunto, and lays God under an obligation to inflict this punishment upon them. Sin is the violation of a holy and righteous law; and an offence of an Infinite Majesty, whose justice requireth infinite satisfaction, which it can receive no other way from sinners themselves, than by their undergoing the punishment of hell. Although this punishment is not infinite in regard of the quality, yet it is infinite in regard of it’s duration, and therefore the torments of the wicked shall have no end.

There are too many in our age who endeavour to wear off all sentiments of a deity from their minds, that they might sin freely without any check and control, that hereby they might arm themselves against the thrusts and wounds which the sword and arrows of God’s threatenings would otherwise give unto them, and that by this means they might still the noise of their clamorous and accusing consciences, which otherwise would give them no rest under such heaven-daring provocations, as they daily are guilty of. But such persons, if they will not believe the engravings of God, which are upon the face of the universe, the impress of infinite power, and an invisible Deity on his works, which are visible unto the eye, they shall not remain long under their atheistical apprehensions but he will make them to know and feel that there is a God by the immediate impressions of his wrath upon their souls, and the dreadful flames of hell-fire, which his breath will kindle to burn their bodies everlastingly.

Take heed that you do not mistake your state and way. Thousands have gone to Hell through a mistake. It is very easy to mistake. It is difficult not to mistake, and no mistake is worse than this mistake. All is not gold that glitters. All is not grace, that has the show of it.

Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up, Francis Chan & Preston Sprinkle

A well-written, popular-level book by two great communicators in answer to Bell’s Love Wins. At times it is frustratingly ambivalent or vague, however. Good, but not at all great.

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Excerpts

I have always been convicted by Paul’s efforts to reach unbelievers. At times, I have even felt guilty when reading of the suffering he endured in sharing the gospel. When I read what he writes about the punishment of the wicked, it helps me understand how he stayed so motivated. Could it be that his drive to reach the lost was directly related to his willingness to ponder their fate if he didn’t reach them at all? It sure appears so.

“TILL ON THAT CROSS AS JESUS DIED, THE WRATH OF GOD WAS SATISFIED!” I’ve sung songs like that a thousand times, and I’m sure you have too. But think about that line. Jesus satisfied the wrath of God. This is the same wrath that Jesus, Paul, Jude, Peter, and John spoke and wrote so vividly about. This is the same wrath that is being poured out for your sins. This is the same wrath that ultimately will be satisfied, either in hell or on the cross. We deserve it; Christ endured it. How could I keep from bursting out in joy? While hell can be a paralyzing doctrine, it can also be an energizing one, for it magnifies the beauty of the cross. Hell is the backdrop that reveals the profound and unbelievable grace of the cross. It brings to light the enormity of our sin and therefore portrays the undeserved favor of God in full color. Christ freely chose to bear the wrath that I deserve so that I can experience life in the presence of God.

Eternal Punishment, A. W. Pink

An extremely short but solid work from a renowned theologian.

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Excerpts

Forward
The subject before us is one that needs stressing in these days. The great majority of our pulpits are silent upon it, and the fact that it has so little place in modern preaching is one of the signs of the times, one of the many evidences that the Apostasy must be near at hand.

Foreword
It is the deepening conviction of the writer that what is most needed today is a wide proclamation of those truths which are the least acceptable to the flesh. What is needed today is a scriptural setting forth of the character of God—His absolute sovereignty, His ineffable holiness, His inflexible justice, His unchanging veracity. What is needed today is a scriptural setting forth of the condition of the natural man—his total depravity, his spiritual insensibility, his inveterate hostility to God, the fact that he is “condemned already” and that the wrath of a sin-hating God is even now abiding upon him.

25
Not only will the lost be tormented in flames, but their anguish will be immeasurably increased by a sight of the redeemed being “comforted.” Then shall they see the happy portion of the blest which they despised, preferring as they did the pleasures of sin for a season. And how the retention of “memory” will further augment their sufferings!

31
That God shall punish every rebel against Himself is required by the very perfections of His high sovereignty. It is but meet that He should display His governmental supremacy. The creature has dared to assert its independency: the subject has risen up in arms against his King; therefore, the right of God’s throne must be vindicated—“I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly He is above them” (Ex. 18:11). When Pharaoh dared to pit himself against Jehovah, God manifested His authority by destroying him at the Red Sea. Another king He turned into a beast*, to make him know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men. So, when the history of this world is wound up, God will make a full and final manifestation of His sovereign majesty.

33
Think it not strange that God should deal so severely with you, or that the wrath you shall suffer shall be so great. For great as it is, it is no greater than the mercy which you now despise. The love of God, His marvellous grace in sending His own Son to die for sinners, is every whit as great and wonderful as this inexpressible wrath. You have refused to accept Christ as the Saviour from the wrath to come, you have despised God’s dying love, why then should you not suffer wrath as great as that grace and love which you have rejected? Does it still seem incredible that God should so harden His heart against a poor sinner as to bear down upon him with infinite power and merciless wrath?

Reconciliationism: A Forgotten Evangelical Doctrine of Hell, Andy Saville

Genuinely useful, if ultimately unbiblical viewpoint. Worth the interaction. See also Blocher’s chapter in Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell.

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Excerpts

And now we come to the weightiest datum of all. The theory of sin forever flourishing ignores the message of Christ’s victory over sin and all evil. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, those of the lost included. It cannot mean mere outward, hypocritical and forced agreement; what sense would there be in any outward show in the light of that Day, when all the secrets shall be exposed (Rom. 2:16) before the God who is Sprit? Sinners are forced, then, to confess the truth, but they are forced by truth itself, by its overwhelming evidence and spiritual authority; they can no longer refuse to see, they can no longer think otherwise. Through Christ, it has pleased God to reconcile, apokatallaxai, the whole universe, including all rebellious spirits (Col. 1:20). ‘Reconciliation’ does not imply salvation, here, as independent exegetes have recognized; it means the restoration of order, of all within God’s order, ‘pacification,’ as all are brought back into the divinely-ruled harmony. Nothing could be farther removed from divine defeat and sin going on after judgment. .. The main fact about everlasting punishment, the fate of the reprobates, is this: sin shall be no more. Such is the thesis we propose.

Sermons Upon Death and Judgment, William Bates

Most Puritan authors have an excellent theology of hell and punishment, but Bates has some particularly good insights and turns-of-phrase.

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Excerpts

That those who now say to the Almighty, depart from us, we desire not the knowledg of thy Ways, should hear the Dreadful Depart from me into everlasting Fire? As there will be no vain-boasting in Heaven, where the Reward is the Gift of pure Bounty; so there will be no righteous Com∣plaint against God in Hell, where the Punishment is inflicted by powerful Justice. He that vo∣luntarily sins, by consequence chuses the Punishment due to it.

The estimation of an Offence is taken from the disposi∣tion of him that does it. When ’tis done with pleasure and obstinacy, there is no place for Favour. Now final impenitence alone makes Sin actually and eternally damning to the Sinner. Those that, notwithstanding all gracious Means, live continually in rebellion against God, those that impenitently die in their Sins, those that desire to live here for ever, that they might enjoy their sweet Sins; those that are so hardned and naturaliz’d in their Vices, that if they were revived and brought again into this World of Temptations, would certainly return to the pleasures of Sin; is it not righteous that their incorrigi∣ble obstinacy should be punish’d for ever? Is it not just that those who would continue under the dominion of Sin, should forfeit all their claim to the Divine Mercy?

Altho’ all the Damned shall be equally miserable in dispair, all broken on an endless Wheel, yet the degrees of their Torment are different. Sins of Ignorance are extenuated in comparison of Rebellious Sins against knowledge. The first are like a Servant’s dashing against his Master in the dark; the other like the insolent striking of him in the light: And as they incur greater Guilt, will expose to greater Punishment.

Tho our conquest of Sin be not compleat, yet our resolution and endeavours must be to mortify it in every kind. Tho’ our obedi∣ence has not the perfection of de∣grees, we must be equally regard∣ing the Divine Law. If there be any secret-favoured Sin either of omission or commission, it will render our Petitions unaccepta∣ble at the Throne of Grace, and our Persons at the Throne of Judgment;

Hell and the Justice of God, Marilyn McCord Adams

Some serious missteps here by McCord Adams in this philosophy-oriented article, and not only from a biblical perspective, but even in reading other authors well.

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Excerpts

442
From a historical point of view, it is understandable how Anselm could have come to hold such a principle. Anselm was a member of feudal society in which the amount of honour due to serfs as opposed to lesser nobles, and to lesser nobles as opposed to the king, was very important in dictating behaviour. In fact, somewhat earlier in Anglo-Saxon society, there had been an institution of wergild, according to which the value of a noble, and the wergild of a noble was less that that of a king. If someone killed another person, he was legally obliged to pay the wergild of the one he had killed [precisely like in the Bible!]. on this system, someone might be able to afford to kill a serf, but not a noble, or a noble but not a king. How much one owed for killing a person was thus proportional to the honour accorded to his place in society. So in Anglo-Saxon society, at least for the offence of killing, guilt was proportional to the augustness or majesty of the offended party and not just to the act of offence. But if history makes Anselm’s alleged adherence to the principle understandable, it does nothing to make it more commendable. Indeed, it seems the height of immorality to suppose that the amount of guilt incurred in killing another person depends on the dead man’s social status.

445
The question is, is it true that to will it is as bad as to do it? It is a part of Christian doctrine that not only one’s actions but also ones’ desires, intentions, and attitudes can render one morally reprehensible. And it is initially plausible to reason that if one genuinely wants to perform an evil action and even tries to perform it, but is unsuccessful because of circumstances beyond his control, he is just as morally culpable as if he had succeeded in performing the act. Suppose Jones tries to shoot Smith, but when he pulls the trigger, the mechanism fails and the gun does not go off. We are strongly inclined to say that Jones is not less morally reprehensible for having failed to kill Smith than he would have been had he succeeded. Yet, if the will often makes one as morally reprehensible as the deed, we would not ordinarily suppose that it makes one as liable to punishment.

Divine Penology, L. B. Hartman

This short, obscure book is the greatest book on hell ever written, in my estimation. Hartman is persuasive, memorable, thoroughly biblical, and effortless with a wide range of sources. If I had come across Divine Penology at the beginning of my research, I may not have written Is There Anything Good About Hell? Simply phenomenal.

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If indeed the law is not immutable, if it were capable of being intermitted or relaxed, then it follows that there was no legal necessity demanding the atonement of Jesus Christ; and if there existed not an absolute necessity for such a sacrifice, then both justice and mercy were outraged on Calvary. We may rest assured that if atonement could have been made without such a sacrifice, it would so have been made. Nothing so demonstrates the absolute immutability of the law, as the atonement of our Lord.

If there is no force in the universe except what we call law, where is God? Does not this thought banish him from his own universe? and if God is simply law personified, then is he not imprisoned within it, and reduced to blind force? But if God is the power behind the law, if law is simply his mode of action, and his method of procedure, as science demonstrates, then sin cannot be “its own punishment,” nor law its own “executor.” The truth is, laws do not “reign,” neither do they “govern”; they only show us how a “Somewhat” or a “Some One” behind them rules and governs the world. “The universe,” says Dr. Carpenter, “is not governed by Law, but according to Law.”

If we suppose that God is indifferent as to the sanctions of his law, that he will relax the penalty, or remit it altogether; that he will overlook the sins of the transgressor, the guilt and demerit of the wrongdoer, and allow his law to be violated with impunity, we take correspondingly low and derogatory views of his character.

Every moral act of man, good or bad, has infinite bearings, and in this sense it is infinite. It becomes a factor of endless causation, and therefore infinite in the same sense that endless punishment is infinite, and for the same reason.

Such strange phenomena, such seemingly infinite resources of power, welling up from the nether depths and unexplored chambers of soul-being, are the unmistakable signs and evidences of the startling fact that far down beneath the zone of human consciousness, are armories of hidden weapons; regiments of untold potentialities; slumbering engines and dynamos of unmeasured energies; smouldering fires of the most vehement intensities; and pent-up forces, more minacious than thunderbolts, all unknown to conscious life and being. The illimitable capacities and possibilities of human nature have never yet been calculated; nor is there a datum from which such calculation can be made. The old adage, “That a man may become an angel in moral beauty, or a devil in moral baseness,” is as literally true as it is hoary with age.