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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, September 29, 2013

“And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:27-28).

Early that morning Abraham went to the place where he had met God the day before. Do you have a special place where you have prayed? I have a place like that on a hill behind the south side of Golden Gate Seminary, near San Francisco. I have a place like that near my grandmother’s house in Edendale, near Echo Park, in Los Angeles.

“And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord” (Genesis 19:27).

The day before Abraham had prayed to God in that place. He had prayed for God to spare the city of Sodom if ten righteous men were there. God had said, “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.”

Now Abraham got up very early in the morning to see how his prayer had been answered. He must have thought – “surely there are ten righteous men there! Surely God has spared the city for their sake!” But when he got to the place where he had prayed, he was shaken by what he saw!

“And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:28).

So Abraham looked toward Sodom. He did not see the green well-watered plain, and the buildings of Sodom. He saw nothing but black smoke rising from the ruins of the city. God had rained down fire, and the whole plain was destroyed.

Ileana and I were there on the plains of Sodom late one afternoon. It looked to us like atomic bombs had exploded there. Not a tree, not a blade of grass remained. I have never seen any other place quite like it.

I want you to look beyond the plains of Sodom, as I did that afternoon. I want you to see the judgment of Sodom as a picture of Hell – for the burning of Sodom is “set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). I want you to see the burning of Sodom as a picture of eternal judgment, in that place “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1961) preached classical Biblical sermons. He was never afraid to preach on sin and Hell. His Sunday evening evangelistic sermons drew great crowds, including young men like J. I. Packer and R. V. G. Tasker, a brilliant New Testament professor at King’s College. They gave up liberalism because Dr. Lloyd-Jones convinced them “of original sin and the wrath of God” (David L. Larsen, D.D., The Company of the Preachers, Kregel Publications, 1998, p. 777).

Original sin and the wrath of God are subjects that should be preached often in our day. There is a great need for preaching on those subjects today. The bright and happy sermons of men like Joel Osteen have caused great multitudes to forget that “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). Sermons that are always positive do not present the full truth of the Bible. And so, tonight, I want you to think of the judgment of Sodom – and beyond it, to that dark and terrible place where the unsaved dead are even now tormented in eternal flames. Look, as Abraham did that morning!

“And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:28).

Look at this picture of eternal wrath. It will do you good. It will make you think.

I. First, how should we feel as we think about the smoke and the torments of Hell?

This sermon is adapted from “The Smoke of Their Torments” by C. H. Spurgeon (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, number 602). Spurgeon said,

There is a deep-seated unbelief among Christians just now (1864), about the eternity of future punishment. It is not outspoken in many cases, but it is whispered...a desire that the doctrine [of Hell] be disproved...Ungodly men think we like to preach on these topics. Far is it from being the case. I have had to censure myself [lately] for [hardly] having preached at all upon them. They [think] that Christian men [are unconcerned about] the torment of the lost, imagining themselves to be safe. They know not what they say. The very reverse of such a spirit is common among us. We shudder so much at the thought...that if we could doubt it, we would; and if we could disprove it altogether, we [would] be glad. But we dare not attempt the task, because we know that [it would] provoke a quarrel against the Most High, the Great Judge of all! thou shalt trample upon thine enemies in the day of thy wrath...Christian, look there, and as thou lookest, rebel not, but say, “True and righteous art thou, O God; let thy name be honored evermore!” (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Smoke of Their Torments,” MTP, November 20, 1864).

I wish Fuller Seminary had made Rob Bell read Spurgeon’s sermon. It might have moved him to refrain from writing books against eternal punishment! But I doubt that Spurgeon, the “prince of preachers,” would ever be allowed to give this sermon at that unbelieving school.

Another feeling we Christians have when we think about Hell is that of thankfulness. “And why am I not going there? Lost souls gnaw their tongues in the fire – and why am I not going there? Did they sin? I too have sinned. Did they curse God and die? I cursed God too. It’s a wonder I did not die!”

Oh, were it not for grace divine,
That fate so dreadful had been mine.

We who are saved should thank God every day that our sins have been washed clean by the precious Blood of Jesus. Let the wailings and the horrors of Hell inspire you and me to give thanks to God for sending Jesus to save us from judgment for our sins! And if you have never yet trusted Jesus, come to Him tonight, and He will cleanse you from all sin.

A guilty, weak and helpless worm
   On Thy kind arms I fall;
Be Thou my strength and righteousness,
   My Jesus and my all.

Last Monday night I went swimming at my gym. I noticed something strange on the cord that separates the lanes in the pool. I went close and saw a “Praying Mantis” there, in the middle of the pool, trapped on the chord. Praying Mantises are only around for a few days in the very late summer. So I looked at the insect very closely. What a marvelous little creature it was. I called out to another man in the pool to come and see it. When I spoke I saw its eyes turn toward me! It could hear me and respond. I wonder what it could see of me, a huge man, looming up out of the water. I’m sure it could only see me vaguely, if at all. My voice must have sounded like thunder to the delicate little creature! It was trapped there on the cord in the middle of what, to it, was a vast ocean of water. I had mercy on my little friend. I let him crawl onto my goggles, which I held in my hand. And I put him on dry land. In a few minutes his wings were dry, and he flew away.

Did he ever give a thought to me, or thank me for rescuing him? I don’t think so. I appeared out of the water like some gigantic Neptune, looming up from the sea, and saving the tiny creature from drowning. I doubt that he had any idea of the pity and grace I showed him when I saved his life. I do hope you will have more understanding than an insect! I do hope you will recognize our great and sovereign God, who rescues men from Hell through Jesus Christ, His Son.

II. Second, can we look at the smoke and torments and not see the evil of sin?

Hell is only sin in its full-grown state. If you play with the beautiful snake it will soon turn and bite you, and you will choke as its venom courses through your blood. Some of you will never know how evil sin is until the sweetness is gone, and the bitterness of death eats at your stomach. Do you think that God poured out his wrath on Sodom, and that He will not pour His wrath on you? No – He is the same God now as He was then. Look at the blackness of your sin in the light of Hell’s fire. Will you live in sin if this means you will go to the tormenting fire? “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). I wish to God that all of us would learn that doctrine, and believe it in our hearts. It is hard for me to preach it. It is hard for you to learn it. But no one really knows the love of Christ until he knows something about the evil of sin.

Another lesson is learned from the smoke and torments of Sodom. We, His people, have been redeemed by Christ’s suffering. At midnight in Gethsemane Christ drank the cup of sin for all His people. Christ drank down all the judgments of our sins. All the judgments of all our sins sank into His veins in that hour. He cried out, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). Yet He drank it all. Yet He felt within Himself every horror, for every sin, that His people have ever, or will ever commit. He swallowed every bitter drop. He turned the cup upside down. Not so much as one black drop of sin clung to its rim, because –

At one tremendous draught of love,
   He drained destruction dry.

For every one of His people He drank the whole cup of sin. There is not a grief, not a groan, not a moment in the fire, for any one of His elect. He suffered “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18).

Yet another lesson comes to mind. As we think of the smoke of their torment, it should make us feel the awful responsibility we have to be zealous in soul-winning. Remember that you are dealing with souls that will soon sink into Hell’s fire unless they find mercy in Christ.

When Michelangelo was about to paint his famous picture of the resurrection of the unsaved dead, he was allowed to bring many newly dead corpses to his bedroom. He piled the dead bodies up on both sides of his bed. He slept in the middle of those dead bodies to get into his mind the horrors of that awful day. I wouldn’t want you to do that. But as you go to bed, sometimes think of those you knew who lived and died without being saved by Jesus. I hope that will make you very zealous about winning lost relatives and friends. I often think of a friend I had in high school. He committed suicide. What makes it awful to me yet is that I never witnessed to him. I never told him the Gospel. I never even invited him to church. I’m sure he would have come, but I let it go until he was dead. He shot himself in the head. I make myself think about him. That painful thought moves me to preach and witness. Many times the zeal you hear in my preaching comes when I have thought about him – in Hell now for more than 50 years because I failed him.

When Abraham heard that God would destroy Sodom his first thoughts were to save the people. Oh, poor Lot, my nephew! Oh, his wife! His daughters! The city and its inhabitants! Thoughts of pity moved his heart. He opened his mouth and his heart in intercessory prayer. That is what you must do for those you know and love. Pray for them! Pray without ceasing for them! Let your prayers be hotter and hotter – more and more pressing – as Abraham’s were. We are in no danger of offending God by crying out for mercy for our loved ones and our friends! When your face shines with the radiance that comes to the intercessor, and your eyes fill with tears for the lost; it will be more and more difficult for them to resist the Gospel when you speak. It makes me sad – but it also reminds me that I have to preach to men and women who will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.

I wish to God that I could preach like Richard Baxter (1615-1691) did. Although he had many diseases, he was sane and healthy in his mind. But he said he never came to his pulpit without tears, with his legs shaking, because he had to speak for God to those who would soon face Him at the Judgment. And he himself would have to face God also, to give an account of his preaching to lost sinners.

I know that some of you came here on this Sunday evening because you thought it would be fun, or to see your friends. But believe me when I tell you that it is no fun for those of us who preach the Gospel to you. I would never have gone into the Gospel ministry if it had not been forced on me. When I think of those who hear me and yet reject Jesus it breaks my heart. When I go home on Sunday night, all I can think of is the faces of you who are still lost – still refusing to come to Jesus. I very often go home heavy hearted. I very often go home feeling that I have failed.

Many years ago, back in the 1950s, before I came to the Chinese church, my pastor was Dr. Music. He was a good preacher. I wish there were more like him today. But I used to wonder what he meant, at the end of the evening service, when he would say, “Well, I failed again.” It made me sad when he said that. I didn’t know what he meant. But now I know. When lost people like you don’t get saved, that’s the way I feel. “Well, I failed again. I just couldn’t get through to them. I just couldn’t get them to see the great importance of trusting Jesus. I just couldn’t get them to see how little time they have before the Spirit of God leaves them because they have committed the unpardonable sin. Maybe I didn’t pray enough. Maybe I should have fasted more. I failed again.” No one but another evangelistic preacher would ever really understand the awful feeling I have when the service ends and you are still not saved!

But I am tired of looking at the thick black smoke and the torment. I am tired of looking at those who died unsaved in Sodom and in my own experience. Let me turn your mind another way. Would you like to be saved from sin and from your trespasses? Does that now sound important to you? Look now to a little winding street in Jerusalem. God has become a man. He is bearing a cross on His shoulder. He is bearing your sins in His heart. He falls on the pavement. They force Him to get up with their spears and whips. He drags the cross outside the city to the top of a small hill. They fling His body back upon the wooden cross. I see the rough soldiers each taking hold of His hands and feet, and then with a hammer driving the huge spikes through the hands and feet of God the Son. He is nailed to the wood. They lift the cross. A hole has been dug for it. They dash it down. The jar dislocates many of His bones. Agonizing pain rips through His body! What excruciating torture He feels as He is lifted up to die on that bloody cross! He screams, “I thirst!’ They give Him vinegar to drink. He cries, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” for the Heaven is black above His head. A burning fever comes. His tongue cleaves to the roof of His mouth. From His head, and from His five wounds His Blood comes streaming down.

Why do I tell you this? Because that is where your salvation is. You must have a share and a part in the suffering and in the passion of this man, Christ Jesus. When you trust Him He becomes your substitute. He pays the penalty for your sin on the Cross. The Blood He shed there washes away every sin you have ever committed. Heaven is opened to you through His all-atoning Blood! Will you believe on Him now? To believe is to trust. Will you trust Jesus and be saved? The moment you trust Him your sins are forgiven, and Heaven is yours. He has now risen to the right hand of God. Will you trust Him right now, tonight?

If you would like to speak with us about being saved by Jesus, please leave your seat now, and walk to the back of this auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place for prayer and counselling. Go now. Also, if you have any questions about becoming a Christian go now. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will trust Jesus tonight. Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Genesis 18:20-33.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“So Little Time” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).




by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:27-28).

(Jude 7; Mark 9:44; Psalm 7:11)

I.   First, how should we feel as we think about the smoke and the
torments of Hell?

II.  Second, can we look at the smoke and torments and not see the
evil of sin? Romans 6:23; Matthew 26:39; I Peter 3:18.