The smoke of their torments
‘And Abraham gat up early in the morning … and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah … and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.’ Genesis 19:27–28
Suggested Further Reading: Jude 5–18
The assurance that God is just, even in the midst of his hot displeasure, must ever be cherished. The Judge of all the earth cannot but do right. Though he is terrible and dreadful in his anger, as a consuming fire, yet he is still our God for ever and ever, full of goodness and full of truth. There is a deep-seated unbelief among Christians just now, about the eternity of future punishment. It is not outspoken in many cases, but it is whispered; and it frequently assumes the shape of a spirit of benevolent desire that the doctrine may be disproved. I fear that at the bottom of all this there is a rebellion against the dread sovereignty of God. There is a suspicion that sin is not, after all, so bad a thing as we have dreamed. There is an apology, or a lurking wish to apologise for sinners, who are looked upon rather as objects of pity than as objects of indignation, and really deserving the condign punishment which they have wilfully brought upon themselves. I am afraid it is the old nature in us putting on the specious garb of charity, which thus leads us to discredit a fact which is as certain as the happiness of believers. Shake the foundations upon which the eternity of hell rests, and you have shaken heaven’s eternity too. ‘These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.’ There is precisely the same word in the original. We have it translated a little more strongly in our version, but the word stands the same; and if the one be not eternal, the other is not. Brethren, this is a fearful thing. Who can meditate upon the place appointed for the wicked without a shudder?
For meditation: ‘For ever’ sounds wonderful when applied to heaven, but appalling when applied to hell. If devils believe and tremble when they think about God (James 2:19), we should tremble and ensure we are trusting in Christ when we contemplate the suffering of the unsaved, which will never end (Mark 9:48; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:11).
Sermon no. 602 20 November (1864)
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