|Photo by flydime|
As we have seen, water can be an instrument of God’s judgment as well as of His blessing. So it is also with oil, needed to nourish our bodies and light our darkness, and yet hot oil that blazes out of control is a fierce, all-consuming fire.
James uses the metaphor of fire to describe our tongue (James 3:5-8). Unless guided by the Holy Spirit, our tongue is set on fire from hell, igniting passions and fury in the souls of others, unleashing forces of evil and darkness rather than of God’s grace and light. Life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21), so may we use our words to comfort and heal rather than to tear down and destroy.
Our God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; 32:22; Hebrews 12:29), sparing us from His judgment only through His mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:16). The intense power of fire can even transform the cooling and soothing qualities of water into a boiling, seething cauldron of destruction, which is a metaphor for God’s judgment on disobedient nations (Isaiah 64:2). When oil rigs explode in the ocean, the blaze does its damage for some time despite the surrounding waves.
But water and fire do tend to neutralize one another, as we all know from watching firefighters extinguish a raging inferno with torrents of water. As forest fires blaze beyond man’s control, God may send mighty rains to inundate the scorched earth and stop the destruction.
The ability of cold water to absorb large amounts of heat also makes it the best first-aid for a minor burn from cooking or a curling iron. In our present life, the pain of even an insignificant burn can be so intense that it distracts us from all else. As a doctor-in-training rotating through different services, I realized that the worst pain and suffering was experienced by patients in the burn unit.
And yet, if we could begin to imagine that pain and multiply it by infinity, we would not come close to realizing the horrors of hell. By far the worst judgment by fire anyone could ever face is the eternally burning flames of hell that are never extinguished (Matthew 5:22;18:9; Mark 9:43-49). Worse yet, those condemned to those flames are tormented forever, as their body is not consumed.
Equally intense as the physical pain of burning in hell must be the affliction of unending thirst. I find myself longing for water just writing this, even though I am well hydrated and am now enjoying a cup of tea. During exercise in the scorching heat, the thirst we experience can crowd out other gnawing sensations such as muscle fatigue, heat stroke, and the blinding sun, and our overwhelming desire is simply for water. That first gulp seems so refreshing, yet our relief is short-lived as we need to keep drinking until our fluid balance is completely restored.
But if we are trapped in the desert without water and no relief from the blistering sun, our thirst and pain will only intensify until we are rescued or until we die. That is the situation in hell, except that there is no end to the suffering. Sadly, we all deserve eternal punishment in hell, for we are all sinners unworthy of being in God’s holy presence (Romans 3:23). Hell is a real place, spoken of by Jesus more times than He described Heaven.
The rich man in hell begged for Lazarus to visit him from Paradise and place just one drop of cool water on his tongue (Luke 16:24). Yet this was impossible because of the “great gulf” between Paradise and hell (Luke 16:26), and no amount of pleading can ease one iota of pain or thirst for those doomed to hell throughout eternity.
Even worse is the mental anguish of those in hell. Too late, the rich man realized the errors of his earthly life (Luke 16:19-22,25), and he begged Abraham to send Lazarus to tell his brothers what he was experiencing so they could repent and be spared the same fate (Luke 16:27-28). But, as Abraham pointed out, they did not believe God’s prophets, so why would they now believe even one who rose from the dead? (Luke 16:29-31) Jesus Himself rose from the dead as proof of His Deity and to show us the Way to eternal life, yet how many refuse to believe His Word?
The rich man’s punishment was not only his own damnation, but the realization that he was now helpless to tell his family how they could avoid being doomed as he was. Each believer has a unique sphere of influence – our family, friends, coworkers – that we could share Jesus with as the Spirit opens the door for our testimony. Yet so often we don’t walk through that door, because of fear or unbelief. When we face Christ at the judgment seat, we will have to account for our lives, including wasted opportunities to lead others to Him (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
Thankfully, there is redemption from hell fire in the Person of our Redeemer (Job 19:25; Psalm 19:14; Isaiah 43:14), Jesus Christ, the Living Waters Who alone can satisfy our thirst throughout eternity (John 4:10-11; Revelation 7:17). Through His completed work on the cross, He reconciled sinful man to Holy God, so that when God looks at believers on His Son, He sees only His righteousness (Romans 4:22-25). In His presence there is no more thirst, heat, or burning sun, for He will lead us to living fountains of waters (Revelation 7:16-17)..
Before it is too late, may we all place our faith in His death, burial and resurrection as the only Way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 4:1-15; John 14:6), so that we can live eternally with Him by the river of water of life (Revelation 22:1-2), where there is no more pain, sickness, sin or sorrow! May we spend our lives telling others about Him, Who is our only Deliverer (Romans 11:26) from the flames of hell, so that they too may live forever with us in Heaven!