The topic: Hell.
We don't hear a lot about Hell from many pulpits these days. In his book, Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck, wrote about a rare sermon he heard on the subject:
It had been long since I had heard such a good approach. It is our practice now, at least in the large cities, to find from our psychiatric priesthood that our sins aren't really sins at all but accidents that are set in motion by forces beyond our control. There was no nonsense in this church.Now, I'm no expert preacher where Hell is concerned. But, there was something interesting that I gleaned from Jesus' story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16.
The minister . . . reassured us that we were a pretty sorry lot. And he was right. Having softened us up, he went into a glorious sermon, a fire-and-brimstone sermon. . . . He spoke of hell as an expert, not the mush-mush hell of these soft days, but a well-stoked, white-hot hell served by technicians of the first order.
Twice, Jesus used the Greek word ὀδυνάω (odynao) to describe the anguish the rich man experiences in hell. "Anguish" is, in fact, how the NLT translates that word. (The NIV translates it as "agony.")
There are two other uses of this Greek word in the New Testament. Mary uses it to describe the emotion she and Joseph felt while looking for 12-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem following their Passover visit. After searching for Jesus for three days, a hysterical Mary said to her son, "why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic (odynao), searching for you everywhere."
The other use of the word is used to describe the emotions the Ephesian elders experienced during their seaside farewell with the Apostle Paul in Acts 20. "What grieved (odynao) them most was his statement that they would never see his face again."
All four New Testament uses of this word describe intense emotional anguish. Two reference Hell. Both of the other uses refer to intense relational pain. The point? Hell is going to be a place of, not just intense physical pain and suffering, but also a place where one experiences the intense emotional suffering that comes from abrupt relational separation, and the realization of the permanence of that isolation.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, "God's indignation is no trifle. The anger of a holy, just, omnipotent, and infinite Being, is above all things to be dreaded; even a drop of it consumes, but to have it poured upon us is inconceivably dreadful."
For those of us who value relationships, who love people, Spurgeon's words, are chillingly accurate. Just one more reason to come to Jesus.