|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!
Praying for you.
Amen to what you have said Laurie. I can not imagine my life without Jesus. God bless you in your ministry to others.
One week ago died one of our Sisters from my church. I'm hope we will meet her in the New Earth. It is the biggest hope for us - new creation and ressurection.
Greetings and blessings for You :)
Hell is indeed a very grim subject of discussion, and I too have believed that Hell is a literal lake of fire depicted in Revelation 20:12-16. At various places Jesus himself spoke of Hell as a literal fire, eg Matthew 5:22,29,30, Luke 16:19-31.
Yet I have speculated where the sense lie when the rich man asked for Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool his tongue if (a) Lazarus would have to have made the trip with a wet finger which by the time he would have got to the rich man, his finger would have dried, and (b) how a drop of water on his tongue would have made any difference if the whole of his body was submerged in fire.
Then considering the "outer darkness where men will weep and gnash their teeth" of Matthew 8:11-12, 22:13, and 25:30, I have wondered if this eternal fire is a symbol of the mental and emotional torment gotten by refusing the offer of salvation during one's lifetime, and now the sinner weeps and gnashes his teeth in deep regret of his former decision, especially after seeing the saints sitting in glory in the Kingdom of God while they themselves are shut out. Therefore concluding that being shut out of the Kingdom is the prime source of torment, with only themselves to blame.
Life experience seem to indicate that whatever was in my mind would be suddenly obliterated if I was to suffer physical pain, particularly a burn or scald. For example, I would forget how to meet the expense of a bill to concentrate on soothing the pain.
So would the lost in Hell really ponder on their loss of eternity? Or concentrate fully on the physical pain they are suffering?
I'm not disputing the reality of a literal fire. It could well be the case. But with just the Bible to depend on without anyone actually visiting, what seems to be two apparent contradictary records has made me wonder over the fate of the lost.
As usual, a post well written and presented.
Praying for you too, dear one.
Amen, Brenda -- without Him we are nothing. Thank you for your lovely comment, and may God bless you and your ministry also!
Dear Zim, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Praise God that it is not goodbye, for we will again meet our loved ones in Christ and spend eternity with Him and with them.
Blessings and greetings to you!
Thanks, as always, Frank, for your thought-provoking comment! I think that the request of the rich man for a drop of water from Lazarus' finger to his tongue was made in desperation, begging for whatever he might have thought at some irrational level he had hope of receiving. Perhaps it reflects the reversal (in spades) of the earthly situation, where he dined sumptuously and Lazarus got only crumbs from his table and the paltry relief of dogs licking his painful sores. The Scripture suggests to me that the rich man experienced physical as well as spiritual torment when he realized his brothers were also lost.
You're right that on earth, physical pain tends to crowd out other concerns, and yet even in this life there are intense situations such as extreme danger when emotion and the required response stifle the pain. For example, a loving mother would not flee from the blazing heat of a fire but would stay to make sure she got her child out safely. In the space of just a few minutes she might experience intense fear, relief when she got her child outside, physical pain from the burns, sorrow and loss when the child died from smoke inhalation, regret and self-blame that she had left the stove unattended for just a moment, and even rage at God.
So throughout eternity in hell, I believe that there is plenty of time for physical as well as spiritual agony, the worst of which is eternal separation from God Himself. We can't begin to imagine its horrors, and thankfully, believers in Christ will never have to.
I can only imagine how the knowledge that the pain is the result of one's own deliberate decisions will intensify one's distress.
Thanks, Donald. Yes, the regret over knowing there was a choice -- a gift refused -- must be a significant component of the suffering.
Amen to your words, our prayers reach out to you.
Thanks for linking at our party.
Always a joy to be splashed in God's Word!
I'm splashin' around looking for some ways to splatter joy into our summer. I would love you to share some of your creative ideas too. Join me in the splash.
Thank you for linking up with Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday.
Thanks for your lovely comment and for hosting! May you have a blessed weekend!
Thanks, Sarah, for your visit & invite! I've linked up!
Thanks, Jenifer, for your sweet comment & for hosting!
Many blessings to you.
Hi Laurie, I'm a new follower from the Friday hop. Have a great day!
I'd love it if you can follow me back :)
Such a profound and well written post. Thank you for sharing it at All Things Pretty. Hope you come back soon!
Welcome, Ochi! Thanks so much for following & commenting. God bless you!
Is this a from a Journal post you wrote? Powerful words. Nice to see you at The Random Journal Day link Up. In His Grace, Dawn
Thanks so much, Kathy! I appreciate your kind words and your hosting! May you have a blessed week!
I blog instead of journaling. but I base my blog posts on writings I do in Word files loosely resembling a journal-type format. Thanks for your comment & for hosting!
What a reminder to be thankful and to pray and share with those who don't know yet God's love and forgiveness.
Blessings to you :)
Thanks for your lovely comment. Amen -- we need to fervently pray for and witness to those whose souls may be in danger.
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