‘Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.’ Isaiah 47:14
Suggested Further Reading: Luke 16:19–31
In Scripture this wrath to come is sometimes spoken of as the second death. Imagine a man dying, dying in pangs, and then rising again to die again, and so continually dying and yet living; expiring and yet breathing; perishing and yet existing; being dissolved, but yet being still in the body. You have now before you, then, the Biblical view of punishment—‘the second death.’ O soul, there are no words that human eloquence can ever find, however dreadful, that can reach the thousandth part of this great argument! No language that was ever uttered by the sternest prophet, could ever attain to the tremendous terror of the wrath to come. I know men say of God’s preachers that at times they speak too harshly: we cannot speak half harshly enough. We tell you again, even weeping, that our poor feeble words cannot portray your danger; that we cannot ourselves even feel the danger as we would wish; but if our lips had language, if we could but speak as sometimes we feel, we would move you till you should neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, until you had sought and found a refuge in the wounds of Christ. But we are so dull, or else your hearts are so hard, that when we speak we are like men who throw stones against a wall, and the stones come back upon us. O that instead thereof we might be like the man who drew the bow at a venture, that the arrow may find a place in the joints of your harness, where your heart may be wounded with the arrows of the King!
For meditation: Human nature understandably likes to imagine that everybody goes to heaven or at least that those who are excluded are simply wiped out of existence. But our sin is far more serious than that; it is out of love, not spite, that the Bible warns us of an everlasting existence which makes physical death look like child’s play (Mark 9:43–48; Revelation 14:11). Do you weep for yourself or for those who are heading for it (Philippians 3:18–19)?
Sermon no. 444
13 April (1862)