Part of my morning exercises over the last year is reading through Cyril of Alexandria’s commentary on John (not that I always get to it daily). Cyril, like most other Early Church Fathers, was quick to speak about eternal punishment. In his commentary on John 8:21, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin,” Cyril notes that Jesus is speaking warning here in order to graciously turn people away from hell.
So you want to understand hell better? Assuming you have already read Is There Anything Good About Hell? these are my top five recommendations. I have purposefully chosen a mix of five books that will capture some of the breadth of the doctrine of eternal punishment. Some of these excel in biblical exegesis and defense of the doctrine, while others provide the foundational logic and presuppositional philosophy necessary in rightly comprehending this most sober subject. Honorable mention goes to Blanchard's Whatever Happened to Hell?
Thomas Brooks is one of the greatest theologians of hell in Christian history. He remarks in “The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures,” that contemplating hell results in a greater love and appreciation for Christ:
If there be a hell, then, Christians, spend your days in admiring and in being greatly affected with the transcendent love of Christ, in undergoing hellish punishments in our steads. Oh pray, pray hard that you ‘may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of that love of Christ which passeth knowledge,’ Eph. 3:18, 19,—of that love of Christ that put him upon these corporeal and spiritual sufferings which were so exceeding great, acute, extreme, universal and continual, and all to save us from wrath to come, 1 Thes. 1:10. Christ’s outward and inward miseries, sorrows, and sufferings are not to be paralleled, and therefore Christians have the more cause to lose themselves in the contemplation of his matchless love. Oh, bless Christ! oh, kiss Christ! oh, embrace Christ! oh, welcome Christ! oh, cleave to Christ! oh, follow Christ! oh, walk with Christ! oh, long for Christ! who for your sakes hath undergone insupportable wrath and most hellish torments,Continue reading
This top three has little to do with hell--at least specifically. I am preaching through the book of Exodus, and its been wonderful growing in my knowledge of the degree to which Exodus, its language, and its themes, impact the rest of the scriptures. It's truly remarkable. So I present a top three resources on the book of Exodus with a particular view to seeing some themes and connections you may not have seen before.
Reformation21 has published my review of Samuel Renihan’s “Crux, Mors, Inferi”. It begins
Please check out the review: https://www.reformation21.org/blog/crux-mors-inferi and consider purchasing the book.
A believing friend recently wrote with a serious question about his own election and the question of trust in a God who eternally loves some and hates others. The following is my attempt at an answer. Chapter 9 of Is There Anything Good About Hell? contains some of these thoughts. Continue reading
It was a joy preaching at Westlynne Baptist in North Vancouver, where my good friends Sam and Esther Chua minister. The text was Isaiah 30:27-33 and the title was “The Joy of Judgment.”
In chapter 7 of Is There Anything Good About Hell?, I argue briefly that there are degrees of punishment in hell precisely because there are degrees of sin.
Recently, I stumbled across an excellent and concise essay at The Gospel Coalition by Albert Martin and Fred Zaspel that does an excellent job of explaining the rationality of hell’s degrees of punishment. It probably doesn’t warrant an entry into the literature database, but it is worth a bit of your time. Some excerpts are selected below.
For this top five, I want to share five books referenced in Is There Anything Good About Hell? which could help establish a younger or less mature believer in some deeper theological thinking. None of these are about hell or punishment itself and I have deliberately not included longer works: systematic theologies, commentaries, or other reference-type works. I also ruled out sermon compilations, or larger collated works (no Jonathan Edwards or Charnock here). If when you think of theological books, you are a toe-dipper, think of this top five as the moment you take a breath and submerge under the water. It may take a moment to acclimatize, but when you do it will be so much better!
Decretum Books will soon be re-publishing L. B. Hartman’s phenomenal book on justice and hell, Divine Penology (public domain), which will include a biographical introduction. This has been a fascinating project, as no significant biography of Hartman exists at present. Appendix B in the new publication is a glowing review from Christian Work: Illustrated Family Newspaper, Vol. 67, in 1899, which captures many of my own thoughts about the work, idiosyncratic as it is. It is printed here in hopes it will whet your appetite for this “peerless” treatise.