I confess that my subject calls for wisdom and talent which exceeds most people and especially me, yet I see the necessity for awakening a realization of the plight of all mankind. It is said that this is the post-Christian era and that Christendom has collapsed but that the church remains as a living and functioning entity although without much power. The Reformation swept through Europe over 500 years ago but vestiges of its being a world changer are still present today. One facet of Biblical teaching that seems noticeably lacking today is the just punishment of God upon those who are not and will not be brought under the covering and protection of Jesus Christ. There is no other name, way or system given for salvation from this punishment. Deuteronomy 4:24 states, “…God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Even in the Gospel age God is still a consuming fire (Matthew 13:41-42). To neglect this offer in Christ by denial or hypocrisy is cause to fall into God’s everlasting curse and punishment. This condemnation has no opportunity of escape. No bribe for the judge, appeal to ignorance, no legal loophole, no insanity plea, no technicality which negates the charges, no excuse – none. There is no way of mercy left. The door is shut and no one escapes.
The ruin of others should make us more watchful. Calamity and affliction should produce repentance and obedience in those who claim to be Christians. Those who do not have faith should note that all these calamities are warnings. God generally warns before He strikes (see Hebrews 11:7, Hebrews 12:25). Possibly the following excerpt from a text of the late 12th century entitled “Sawles Warde” by Death’s Messenger will elicit an apprehension of the offer of escape in Jesus alone. Its descriptions may or may not be close to that which we know very little about yet it catches the tenor of the perpetuity and horror of the second death which, I must add, is not ceasing to be.
“Hell is immeasurably wide, and bottomless in depth; it is full of incomparable burning, for no earthly fire can compare with it; it is full of unbearable stench, for no living thing on earth could stand it; it is full of indescribable sorrow, for no mouth can reckon it or describe it, because of its misery and suffering. The darkness in it is so thick that it can be touched, for the fire gives no light but blinds the eyes of those within with a suffocating smoke, the most awful fumes; and yet, in that very black darkness they can see black things, such as devils which beat them and torment them always, and torture them with every kind of torture, and dragons with tails, as terrible as devils, which swallow them whole and then spew them out again both in front and behind, and sometimes tear them apart and chew them up, every bit – but afterwards they become whole again to face the same unredeemable suffering that they had before. They can see quite clearly, to their fear and horror and to increase their torment, the loathsome reptiles of hell, toads and frogs, which eat out their eyes and the gristle of their noses, and adders and frogs creep in and out, — not like those here [on earth] but a hundred times more horrible – at the mouth and at the ears, at the eyes and at the navel, and at the hollow of the chest, like maggots in rotten flesh, thicker than you have ever seen them. In the burning there is wailing, and in the ice-cold waters there is chattering of the teeth; they move quickly from the heat into the cold, and they can never tell which of the two seems worse to them, for they are both intolerable. In this rapid alternation the second [experience] always hurts all the more because of the first. The fire burns them up into cold ashes; the pitch boils them until they melt away, and immediately they revive to suffer all the same pain over again, and far worse, always without end. And this very despair is their worst torment, in that none of them has any hope of ever recovering; they know for certain that every evil will last in sorrow forever through world after world, into eternity. Each person crowds upon the other; each one is the other’s torment; each one hates both the other and himself like the black devil: always, the more they loved them in this world, the more intensely they hate them there. Each one curses the other, and bites off his ears and his nose.”
Acts 17: 30b-31 states, “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Jon Gatlin, a longtime Madison County resident, lives in the Sharpsburg community near Pickens.