Fear is a powerful motivator. Granted, fear is often used by Satan to hold us in his grip, but fear—when connected to the fear of God—can motivate us to turn away from our sin toward Jesus Christ and God’s gifts of righteousness and forgiveness in Him. If we spurn Him who is our only hope for salvation then we should be terrified! “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). For this reason, “not only did the Puritans seek to stir up a longing for heaven, they also sought to instill a terror of hell” (A Puritan Theology).
In yesterday’s post we considered Christopher Love’s attention to the glories of heaven as an important means toward our obedience to the admonition to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is” (Col 3:1). Today, let’s think about the equally important attention that we need to place upon the terrors of hell. Specifically, let us stop for a moment to think about the practical benefits of thinking about hell.
Thinking about the terrors of hell causes us to fly to Christ. Arthur Dent’s fictional pastor Theologus encourages those who grieve over their sin “to believe that ‘Christ is for you,’ and that they must ‘apply Christ, and all the promises of the gospel’ to themselves, ‘for we have not other remedy or refuge but only his merits and righteousness—he is our city of refuge, whither we must fly, and where we must take sanctuary—he is the balm of Gilead, whereby our souls are cured.’”
Thinking about the terrors of hell guards our hearts from a false sense of security. How many professing Christians lack a burning desire to turn away from their sin because of false security regarding their salvation? “In seeking to motivate us to fear God more than men and to awaken ‘drowsy consciences,’ Love focuses on the power of God to subject men to eternal torment, which ought to ‘work an awful fear of God’ in our hearts. Hearing of such torments should ‘startle’ our consciences out of a false sense of security, strip away ungrounded hopes of glory, and drive us away from wallowing in sin.” By seeking to give preaching on hell a bad name the devil “seeks to ‘nuzzle men in security in their sins’….Satan will do all that he can to keep the thoughts of hell from men so that they go on in their sins with ‘no fear of death, and judgment to come.’”
Thinking about the terrors of hell motivates us to continually turn away from our sins. Christopher Love argues that this was one reason God does not tell us in His Word the exact physical location of hell: “That God has chosen not to give us the exact location may be to ‘prevent Curiosity’ and unrest in our hearts, to keep us from fearing hell more than the sin that leads us to it.” In another place, “Love testifies that hearing a sermon on hell is good if it causes you to tremble and keeps you from feeling hell itself and turns you from the sins that lead you there.”
Brothers and sisters, it is a good for us to think about hell. Thinking about hell not only is biblical counsel that will aid our sanctification, but it also motivates us to hold out Christ to our lost friends and relatives as the one and only Savior. “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord [and the terrors of hell], we persuade men” (2 Cor 5:11).