Peering Over The Edge

How many of you have ever taken an elevator to the observation deck of a tall building where you could peer out over the edge of the guardrail or some other enclosure and look down into the streets below? Who’s been to the Grand Canyon and looked over the edge of one of the canyon walls? Maybe some of you’ve been to the Royal Gorge bridge in Colorado and walked out to the middle of the bridge where you could look straight down into the Arkansas River nearly a thousand feet below. Or maybe you’ve peered over the edge of a cliff of a mountain somewhere. Most people tend to tense up just a bit when they peer over the edge of a tall building or some other high place. The heart rate picks up a little and sometimes there’s a little adrenaline surge that kicks in. A lot of people will pull back from the edge even though they’re not in any real danger. I remember looking down the side of the Lake Amistad dam down into the Rio Grande river near Deo Rio some years ago. It was a long drop. I looked over the edge of the guardrail for an instant, and it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck!

The reason we get that little rush, the reason we pull back from the edge of a high place is purely instinctive. We know that a fall from such height means certain death. That’s because we’re subject to God’s law of gravity. Unlike Jesus who demonstrated His power over the law of gravity when He walked on water, we don’t have the ability to defy gravity. So we have a built in mechanism that tells us if we fall, we die. Skydivers, paratroopers, BASE jumpers, bungee jumpers, etc. have to learn how to suppress that mechanism, which us normal folks call a survival instinct!

If someone were to blindfold you though, you could stand a fraction of an inch away from the edge of a cliff and never know it. You’d never realize the danger you were in until the blindfold was removed. But as long as you’re unable to see the danger, you would think everything was perfectly fine. Now think about this: What if someone was standing beside you telling you that you’re perfectly safe, that everything’s fine, and then tells you to go ahead and take a step forward? By the time you realized something wasn’t right, it would be too late. You’d be dead. As absurd as it might sound to think that any of us would allow someone to blindfold us and lead us to the edge of a cliff, that’s how millions and millions of people are living today. They’re standing on the edge of Hell, living in a world system that tells them they are perfectly safe living the way they live, and never realizing just how much danger they’re in. Many will not realize it until it’s too late.

The reason we know we’re in danger of falling if we stand too close to the edge of a cliff is because of our sense of sight. We can see the danger. So wouldn’t it have made sense for God to have given everyone a glimpse of Hell so we could see the danger, so we could see how real a place Hell is? Actually, God did just that.

In Luke chapter 16, Jesus told the story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Eventually, Lazarus and the rich man both died. Picking up the story in verse 22, the Bible says:

The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for…………….I am in anguish in this flame.

In the book of Revelation we’re given a more vivid description of Hell. In the 19th chapter we’re told that the beast and false prophet will be thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. In chapter 20 we’re told that the devil will be thrown into the…… lake of fire, and that unbelievers whose names are not found in the Lamb’s book of life will be thrown into the…..lake of fire.  (Many of us have been taught and have heard it preached that Hades, the place where the rich man went after he died, and the lake of firedescribed in Revelation, are two different places. Hades is where the unsaved go to await judgement, while the lake of fire, or Hell, is their final destination. But for now,  I’m not going to go into that.)

So the lake of fire is a place of eternal torment where those who reject Christ will spend eternity. The closest we can come to anything like that on this side of eternity would be an active volcano. I’ve never stood beside the mouth of an active volcano but I have watched documentaries on the National Geographic channel about volcanologists who have. The molten lava in the cauldron of a volcano is literally a lake of fire! They say the fumes from the sulfur and other gases are so toxic that no one can stand near the mouth of a volcano for very long without being overcome unless they have some sort of portable breathing equipment. Even then, it’s only a matter of time before the extreme heat will get to them, even with those protective suits they wear.

The smell of sulfur would be bad enough. And you don’t have to journey to Hawaii or stand beside an active volcanoes to get an idea of how bad sulfur smells. If you’ve ever driven through some of the oilfields in east Texas or out in west Texas, then you’ve probably smelled the rotten egg smell associated with sulfur. If you’ve ever ordered a glass of water in a restaurant in Luling, Texas, you can taste it! If the smell is strong enough, it can make you sick to your stomach. Now multiply that thousands of times, and the sulfur fumes from the lake of fire of Hell will probably be a whole lot worse than that!

The rich man in Jesus’ story begged for relief from the extreme heat. He said he was in “anguish in the flames!” Have you ever had a charcoal or gas grill flare up on you? Maybe you got your eyebrows singed? Again, in your minds, multiply the intensity of the heat and flames of a gas grill a few thousand times and we probably still can’t come close to imagining what the lake of fire will be like for those who will be condemned to spend all eternity there.

The depiction of Hell in the Bible is accurate enough to tell us just how bad a place Hell is. We’re given just enough of a glimpse to know that we don’t want to spend eternity there. Yet millions of people are standing on the very edge of Hell without ever realizing it. And we can’t put all the blame on the world and the world system. Many Christian churches today avoid the subject of Hell in their preaching alltogether, preferring not to make their congregations feel uncomfortable. They’re afraid of offending their members. They aren’t doing anyone any favors. Jesus actually preached more about Hell than He did about Heaven.

There are certain churches teaching the lie that everyone eventually ends up in Heaven, or that God is too kind and loving to send anyone to Hell. In a way, they’re right. God won’t send anyone to Hell. The people who end up spending eternity there will be there by their own choosing. They’ll have no one to blame but themselves.

Others teach that Hell is not real, that it’s just a state of mind. Again, that sort of false teaching is like putting a blindfold on someone and leading them to the edge of a cliff and telling them they are perfectly safe, that they’re in no danger at all.

So what do we do as Bible believing, God fearing Christian men? In 2 Corinthians 4 the Bible gives us the answer. The Apostle Paul wrote, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” We keep on teaching the truth!  We don’t shy away from teaching the truth because it might sound unpleasant or make someone uncomfortable, though we always teach and share Christ in a spirit of love for the unsaved. No one will come to the faith when talk about Jesus Christ with a scowl on our faces. We keep on teaching the truth of the gospel because it’s the only by the light of God’s truth that anyone can see how close they are to the edge, and it’s only by the saving power of Jesus Christ that they will be able to turn from the edge, and turn to God!