By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
Most of us preachers like to talk about inspiring and encouraging subjects. These include God’s love, grace, and mercy, that God answers prayer, forgives our sins, comforts the sorrowing, and gives wisdom for decisions we must make.
But sometimes we must talk about less popular subjects, too. Judgment and hell are two of the subjects we would rather not talk about. But talk about them, we must. God’s Word, the Bible, gives us at least three reasons why preachers need to talk about these subjects:
Preachers need to talk about these subjects because non-Christians need to be warned about the horrible and eternal consequence of going into eternity as non-Christians. The consequence is judgment and hell. Here is what John 3:36 says is the consequence for refusing to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Preachers need to talk about these subjects because they are part of the message they have been given to preach. In Acts 10:42, the apostle Peter told his listeners what Jesus Christ had told him and his companions to preach. Here is what Peter said: “And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.”
Preachers need to talk about these subjects because they should follow the example of preachers in the Bible who talked about them. Consider some examples. John the Baptist did so. Here is what he said in Matthew 3:7 to some listeners: “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? ” The Lord Jesus Christ did so. In Matthew 25:41 he said that he will one day say this to those who refused to accept him as Lord and Savior: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” The apostle Peter did so. Here is what he wrote in his second letter, chapter 3, verse 7: “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word (of God), are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” The apostle Paul did so. Here is what Acts 17:30 and 31 says he told his listeners: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
More examples could be given, but these make it clear that preachers in the Bible talked about the sobering subjects of judgment and hell. They talked about these subjects to awaken people to their need for God’s grace, mercy, and salvation. God does not delight in or desire the judgment of anyone. Therefore, he lovingly delays judgment to give us abundant opportunity to admit our need for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. God’s patience is taken by some to indicate that he will not judge at all. That is why the apostle Peter wrote these words in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Repentance includes an honest acknowledgment of our sinfulness and our need for salvation. And salvation is given to those who do what the Bible says must be done to be saved. It says in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”
When should we talk about these subjects? Honestly, I see no need to frequently preach full sermons about judgment and hell. It might be best to bring them up at the end of a sermon, when we make an appeal to any non-Christians who might be present in the church service. It is my habit to at that time say to the congregation that if they die without having believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, at death their soul will be permanently sent to hell. I tell them there is no alternative, no second chance after death. I tell them they might die today, unexpectedly, by one means or another. Then, I give them opportunity to believe on Jesus Christ to be saved. Of course, it is appropriate to talk about these subjects with individuals or small groups of individuals, too.
How should we talk about these subjects? We should do so lovingly, carefully, and with evident concern for the persons to whom we are speaking. An evangelist from the 1800’s, maybe D. L. Moody, was said to preach about hell with tears in his voice. His listeners knew he loved them, and this moved their hearts to consider what he had to say. We might not get emotional, but our listeners must sense our concern for their eternal welfare.
This posting has been directed at preachers. But it applies to all Christians, for all of them should seek to lead others to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.” It was taken from this website: www.biblegateway.com.