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THE WICKED HEREAFTER WILL BE CAST INTO A FURNACE OF FIRE
– ADAPTED FROM A SERMON BY JONATHAN EDWARDS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, January 26, 2008


The following message is a condensed version of Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “The Wicked Hereafter Will Be Cast Into a Furnace of Fire,” preached by Edwards in May, 1733. It has been adapted to modern English.

“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42).

This is part of Christ’s explanation of the Parable of the Tares. In these verses Christ gave the literal meaning of the parable. The basic teaching is: the unconverted wicked will be cast into a furnace of fire.

I. First, the unconverted wicked will be cast into a furnace of fire.

The wrath of God, which the unconverted wicked will suffer, is a furnace of fire. The wrath of God is very often compared to fire in the Bible.

“For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell” (Deuteronomy 32:22).

“Lest my fury come forth like fire” (Jeremiah 4:4).

“He poured out his fury like fire” (Lamentations 2:4).

The souls of unconverted men are spoken of in the Bible as being cast into fire. Thus, we are told that the rich man in Hell cried,

“I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24).

The wrath of God upon the damned is like earthly fire for several reasons.

First, fire gives an idea of the torments that are suffered by unconverted souls under God’s wrath. When fire touches our skin it causes pain. A small spark of fire is enough to hurt us – how much more to be covered all over in fire.

If a human being in this world is covered with flames, he will become unconscious and not feel the pain. But a person in Hell will not become unconscious. And this shows the misery of a damned soul under the wrath of God. The wicked will be swallowed up in the fire of God’s wrath, in which they must burn for all eternity.

Second, fire destroys. So the wrath of God will destroy all comfort, all hope, all courage, and all well-being. It will not reduce the wicked person to nothing, yet it will be far worse than nonexistence. It will be horrible.

“Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”
      (Isaiah 33:14).

The unsaved soul will utterly sink down, and be utterly crushed. The strength or courage of the soul won’t stand before the wrath of God any more than stubble will stand when it is set on fire. The Scripture says,

“Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

Third, fire is very powerful. When in God’s hand it rages with a dreadful power and an irresistible violence, there is no way to withstand it or stop it.

Fire speaks of the wrath of Almighty God. No one can stand up before an angry God, according to the Scriptures.

“Who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?”
      (Psalm 76:7).

“Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire”
       (Nahum 1:6).

Here, as in so many places, the wrath of God against unconverted man is spoken of as His fury and fierceness. So it is well described as a raging fire, against which no one can stand, and Whose fury there is no stopping. The Scripture says,

“Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath” (Psalm 90:11).

Great men or small, strong or weak, are all alike before an angry God. They will see that they are all alike when He comes to pour out His wrath, which none can withstand. The caves these people hide in cannot protect them from the mighty wrath of God. All of God’s enemies are like dry grass is to flames, like leaves blown by a whirlwind. Unconverted men shall feel the power and strength of an angry God.

“Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power”
      (II Thessalonians 1:9).

The wrath of God on unconverted men is like earthly fire in many ways. Sometimes it is described as a storm of fire, as in Psalm 11:6,

“Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup” (Psalm 11:6).

The destruction of Sodom, which was destroyed in a storm of fire, was a type of the eternal burning of the unconverted. Sometimes it is called a lake of fire and sometimes a furnace of fire.

The Spirit of God represents the damnation of Hell in horrible ways. But that is not all. It is the most fierce and vehement heat that men have ever known. Furnaces are made to contain great heat. In these furnaces the heat is raised to the most intense degree possible. Christ says that He will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and shall cast them into such a fire.

This gives us a more clear idea of the misery of the damned in Hell. What a terrible thing, to imagine a man inside a burning furnace, with heat of the greatest possible intensity, and remaining there day after day alive.

And if the man in that furnace remained conscious and knew what was going on, what hideous torment would this represent? And how horrible to remain like this one hour after another; and from day to day, and from week to week; and from month to month; and year to year; and age to age, throughout eternity!

All wicked men can be sure that unless they are converted their own case will be as terrible as possible. Earthly fire is very weak in comparison to the eternal wrath of Almighty God on unconverted sinners.

That will not seem strange if we know whose wrath this is – the wrath of the great God of the universe. This wrath is described as His fierceness and fury. What can give more horrifying thoughts of Hell than this? Can anyone think this is a small matter when the Bible calls it the fury and fierceness of the Almighty God? When the Bible tells us that none knows fully the power of God’s anger, by which He will show His wrath and make His power known, can we think the wrath of God is unimportant?

And, then, think about what sinful men deserve – how one sin deserves eternal death, and then think how sinful you are by nature, and how many sins you have been guilty of committing. Thus I have shown you what it will be like when unconverted sinners are thrown into a furnace of fire.

“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42).

Yes, the unconverted sinner will be cast into a furnace of fire.

II. Second, wicked men, after the resurrection, shall be cast into
a furnace of fire in a literal sense.

Liberal preachers have questioned whether there will be any material fire in Hell, and even whether or not Hell exists. Yet their arguments against Hell are weak, and don’t stand up when we read what the Bible itself says about Hell. For at the Last Judgment the Bible teaches that, not only the souls of wicked men, but their resurrected bodies too, will be sent there, as Christ said,

“Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

There is no question that the resurrected bodies of the unconverted dead will be tormented with material fire.

There is no question in the Bible, that Christ, on the Day of Judgment, will send away the body and soul of the unsaved wicked into a real fire, where they will exist in torment forever.

The bodies of the wicked shall be cast into a fire. And since there is nothing that makes it impossible for God to do this, there is no reason to think of this as anything but real fire.

“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth”
      (Matthew 13:41-42).

There is no reason for us not to believe that Christ will send the wicked into a real fire, to that place where they will remain forever.

The bodies of the unconverted wicked will be tormented as well as their souls, or how else could their bodies be cast out into Hell? Christ tells us to “fear him [that will] destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). He speaks of this as the one thing that will add great pain to wicked, unconverted men: that their own bodies will be thrown into Hell. But how would this add to their misery, if their bodies did not suffer as well as their souls? Their bodies will be resurrected, reunited with their souls, and “cast into a furnace of fire.”

Their bodies will be cast into a literal fire. Since there is nothing that makes it impossible for God to do this, there is no reason why we shouldn’t think of this as real fire, or that we should look for some figurative sense. There is no need for figurative fire in which to torment the resurrected bodies of unconverted sinners.

But, then, the Bible is even more plain on this subject. In II Peter 3:10 we read,

“The elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (II Peter 3:10).

The heat shall be so great that it will melt the very elements and burn up the very earth!

How great then will be the heat of that fire when the world is in flames? That will indeed be a great, burning furnace, and what horrible and terrifying torment the unconverted will go through, whose bodies shall burn in that furnace, and yet not be consumed, or extinguished, or become unconscious in that terrifying day. The violent heat of this furnace will torment them, but it will not burn up their bodies.

Application

The use of this doctrine is to warn unconverted persons, so they will not go on half asleep until they wake up in the flames of Hell, enduring this misery: to lie roasting and burning in a furnace of fire, and yet alive and sensible, and to be there for ever, for all eternity.

Doesn’t it make good sense to deny yourself, and be very careful to avoid this horrible misery? A thinking person should agree that it makes sense to do everything possible to avoid the flames of Hell.

But what is it like to lie in such a furnace in fire? Think of spending one long day after another in these flames; and to do so year after year for the ages of time in that terrifying condition, and after thousands of years being no nearer to the end of your pain than you were the first few minutes you got there, and all the time, every minute of it, in horrible torment? How little do the unconverted think about these things. How careless they are about what will happen to them in the eternal flames, how little they think of these horrors, so that they are cheerful and happy, and go on, unconverted, in a life of sin.

Think about this – you know what Christ said about this future misery. You know that Christ spoke the truth. And yet some of you may think it may not be true. But you have strong proof that it is true. The Bible gives the truth. Your church says it is true. Christ says it is true. What more proof do you need?

Hell is compared to darkness – to the blackness of darkness; sometimes to a worm gnawing and never dying; sometimes to fire; sometimes to a storm of fire; sometimes to a lake of fire; sometimes to a furnace of fire.

The reason the Holy Spirit gave so many ways of describing Hell is because none of them completely describe it. If one description of the horror of Hell were enough, then there would be no more reason to give more descriptions. But one is not enough. Therefore many descriptions are given in the Bible. None of them do any more than partly describe the unspeakable terror of Hell.

Biographical Sketch of Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards was born in 1703 and died in 1758. His conversion took place when he was 17. He began preaching before the age of 19. For about 8 months he preached in a small church in New York City. He then was called to Yale to become a tutor, and remained at Yale for two years. In 1724 he was called and ordained at the First Church of Northfield, Massachusetts, where he served as associate pastor alongside his grandfather, Dr. Solomon Stoddard. Dr. Stoddard died two years later and Edwards became the pastor.

The First Great Awakening of 1734-1744 broke out in his church, and in some neighboring churches, largely under his preaching. His sermons had a powerful influence on his audiences and even influenced the views of the great evangelist George Whitefield, who worked with Edwards in the First Great Awakening. Even from his early preaching days, Edwards was known for his deep thought and fiery preaching. His voice was not commanding, and his gestures were few. But many of his sermons were overwhelming (The above paragraphs were adapted from Elgin S. Moyer, Who Was Who in Church History, Keats Publishing, Inc., 1974 edition, p. 129).

Under the influence of Edwards’ preaching, his Northampton congregation and several nearby churches experienced a powerful religious revival in 1734-1735. Beginning in 1739, again under Edwards’ preaching, the revival expanded and became known as the First Great Awakening. During this time George Whitefield preached in Edwards’ church and they became close friends. A few years later, Edwards’ books were published in England by John Wesley. Dr. Isaac Watts recommended that they be read and wrote an introduction to Edwards’ book on revival. His books and sermons were the fountain from which sprang this mighty revival in the mid-18th century. In a very real sense he was the instrument God used to ignite this greatest of all revivals in the English speaking world. He is now widely considered to be the most important theologian and philosopher America has produced. Late in life Jonathan Edwards became the president of Princeton. (The above paragraph is adapted from J. D. Douglass and Donald Mitchell, editors, Who’s Who in Christian History, Tyndale House Publishers, 1992, p. 224.)

(END OF SERMON)
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THE OUTLINE OF

THE WICKED HEREAFTER WILL BE CAST INTO A FURNACE OF FIRE
– ADAPTED FROM A SERMON BY JONATHAN EDWARDS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42).

I.   First, the unconverted wicked will be cast into a furnace of fire,
Deuteronomy 32:22; Jeremiah 4:4; Lamentations 2:4; Luke 16:24;
Isaiah 33:14; Hebrews 12:29; Psalm 79:7; Nahum 1:6; Psalm 90:11;
II Thessalonians 1:9; Psalm 11:6.

II.  Second, wicked men, after the resurrection, shall be cast into a furnace
of fire in a literal sense, Matthew 10:28; II Peter 3:10.