Jude 21-23 “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.”
Tailgating onto Pastor Herk’s sermon based on James chapter 3, I came across this devotional that makes reference to the same passage and topic. I’d like to share it with you today ... with a few comments. This exhortation from Jude refers both to attempting to “save” unbelievers by warning them of hell and to warning believers against the influence of apostates. The ultimate hell (the Greek word “gehenna”) is not the same as the present hell (the Greek word “hades”), although eventually all those lost souls now in the latter will eventually be “cast into the lake of fire” – Revelation 20:15. Both are fearsome places of real fire. The rich man mentioned by Jesus was in Hades and yet was being “tormented in this flame” – Luke 16:23-24.
Where are you going to go when you die? This is a common question because it’s obvious that there more than this life. King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” We know, deep down, that all this life did not come from non-life and be in the perfect conditions to exist and there is a godly purpose and eternal life beyond the grave. The question is “flames of hell or glory in heaven?” Pyrophobia is an irrational fear of fire, beyond what is considered normal. But, there is a normal and healthy fear of hellfire and damnation, whether hades or gehenna; nobody wants to end up there. Both “hells” have literal fires, but it is hard to understand how material fires could torment non-material souls. There is a clue in James 3:6, which calls an unbridled human tongue “a fire, a world of iniquity: set on fire of hell.” Since the tongue is not literally on fire, but can be extremely destructive in human relationships, the implication is that hell itself is a “world of iniquity” (sin/ depravity).
John 3:17-19 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
This aspect of hell makes it even more fearsome than literal fires could ever be. The existence there of billions of unredeemed souls, eternally separated from the holiness and love of God, where all who are “unjust” and “deny Christ” (love darkness) will perish in eternal torment and in the constant presence also of the devil and his angels, is unspeakably appalling. Revelation 20:14-15 tells us, “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Everyone in the pool! Yet that was their choice when they rejected or ignored the God offer of salvation and the infinite love of Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:13-15 talks about the upcoming “come to Jesus” Judgment day where “each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Here you see that some believers will receive their reward for a life well lived for God (gold, silver, costly stones) while other believers will enter into heaven with little reward and their clothes smelling like smoke (got that line from the late, great pastor J. Vernon McGee).
No wonder that Jude urges us to warn them of such awful fire and seek to save them with a healthy fear of fire if they won’t respond to the compassionate love of Christ. Don't get burned. Speak the truth in love. Tell someone about the gospel’s fireproof “Good News” today.