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writing on the wallRaising hell is either terrific fun (of the throwing-televisions-out-of-hotel-windows kind) or terrifically sobering. This is the sobering kind.

Here are three thoughts on speaking about judgement. These aren't the three most important things to say but they are the three things I think we're commonly getting wrong.


1) Our job is not to save God from the 'guilty' verdict.

So often I hear talks that seem to aim at getting God off of our "guilty" verdict rather than getting us off of His. If you aim at trying to save your hearers you'll present God righteously.  If you aim at justifying God, you'll save neither.


2) We don't bring hell to the world, hell is here. We bring reality and then hope.

According to Romans 1, the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven. All that sinful humanity chooses is already hell-bent. This means that earth's vision of heaven is heaven's vision of hell. As we herald heaven's vision, we're not saying 'Ah, life is rosy now but the pit awaits.' We say 'Don't you realise how life is the pits now? Don't you realise we've already fallen? Don't you see where this thing is already heading? Don't you want a way out?' In this way we don't introduce hell to people who are otherwise living it up. We point to the hell in our hearts and the hell in our world and say "Hell is here and it needs nipping in the bud before it goes viral. But we know Someone who takes it seriously. Jesus can handle your hell and give you His heaven."


3) The quintessence of hell is not sin's recompense so much as mercy's refusal.

It's fairly common to do a 'reverse Godwin' when speaking of judgement. We begin with Hitler and the justice of judging him, then we work backwards towards less flagrant sinners... like ourselves. I wonder though if that frames everything in terms of degrees of just punishment, and while there's a place for that I think leaning too heavily on this will come a cropper in the face of eternity. (You can tell people 'temporal sins against an infinite God = eternal punishment, QED" but I've never seen it convince anyone.)

Luke 15 finishes with the bad boy in the feast and the good boy outside, with weeping and wailing and the angry gnashing of teeth. This is pretty much every way Jesus describes hell in Luke's Gospel, but the question comes: Why is he there? Because he's so bad? No, because he's so good - too good for this mercy meal. Why is he shut out of the feast? Because his father is so cruel? No he's so kind - too kind for this moralist who insists on justice.

In Luke 15 "justice forever" is the motto of hell's inmate, not its Jailer. If we let shared concepts of "justice" do all the heavy lifting on this question it frames God's ultimate posture towards the world in terms of law. But what of the "wrath of the Lamb"? The anger of the spurned Lover? Is there an evangelical (and not merely legal) preaching of hell? Or do we always come back to a law which the New Testament says has been fulfilled by Christ (the curse and all)?

Similarly I worry that an exclusive focus on the justice perspective obscures, not only the gospel character of God but also the mad mystery of human iniquity. As we hear of Matthew 25's goats, certainly we're meant to think that their punishment is fitting, right and even that there is a poetic justice to it all. But we're also meant to think 'That's insane! Goats: hell is not for you! It's for the devil and his angels. Why are you following him!? Why won't you turn and live, for who can take any pleasure in your perishing?!' God certainly doesn't (Ezekiel 18:30-32).

Our preaching of hell should lead to a gospel appeal from the depths of God's own heart, not an 'all-sewed-up' accounting for sin's recompense. That's what I mean by an evangelical (and not merely legal) account of hell.

If you want a terrific example of preaching hell, check out Steve Levy:



Isaiah40Our comforts never work.

In fact those with the greatest "creature comforts" often have anxiety, stress, depression and dissatisfaction through the roof.

What gives true and lasting comfort?

Isaiah takes us to the depths, then raises us to the heights. In Chapter 40:1-8, God gives three messages to be proclaimed by a human voice. And here's the essence of these messages: Take heart... Judgement is coming... You're all perishing.

That's a shocking way to comfort a people but if we follow Isaiah down, he'll raise us up to true and everlasting comfort...







When the Sun of Righteousness rises to banish the darkness, He will have two distinct effects.

To those with an organic connection to Christ, it means warming, life-giving rays.

To those disconnected to Christ, it means their shriveling as the lifeless branches they are - making them fit only for the furnace.

Same Sun, two different effects.

To the believer it is the sunshine of eternal love. To the unbeliever it is the furnace of God's righteousness.

Therefore the whole world is summoned to find healing in Christ's wings.



People often recoil from these two J words.  Judgement and jealousy can sound like horrible aspects of the Lord's character.  But actually when you put the two together, you see a very different picture.

Judgement and jealousy are regularly twinned in the bible:

Ex 20:5; 34:14; Deut 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 29:20; 32:16,21; Josh 24:19; 1 Kings 14:22; Ps 78:58; 79:5; Is 9:7; 26:11; 37:32; 42:13; 59:17; Ezek 5:13; 8:3ff; 16:38,42; 23:25; 35:11; 36:5; 36:6; 38:19; Joel 2:18; Zeph 1:18; 3:8; Zech 1:14; 8:2,3; 1 Cor 10:22; Heb 10:27

In fact Jealousy is at the very heart of the LORD's character:

Exodus 34:14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Song of Solomon 8:6 ...Love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

Jealousy is the very Name and Flame of the LORD!

We baulk at this, having only negative connotations for 'jealousy'.  But...

a) The word in Hebrew and Greek can as well be translated zeal (in fact in Greek it is zelos!  See the way it's used in Rom 10:2 or Phil 3:6 for instance).  In Hebrew it is derived from the word for 'red'.  It's the idea of hot-blooded commitment.

b) The bible has all sorts of examples of good jealousy on a human level (e.g. 2 Cor 7:7,11; 9:2; 11:2)

c) Jealous love is - first of all - good, appropriate, hot-blooded, protective, possessive zealous ardour.  Only secondarily does it imply opposition to rivals.  And the existence of negative jealousy (e.g. Gal 5:20) is in fact a perversion of true jealous love.  It is a zeal but not according to knowledge.

d) This is a good example of how all love must include a righteous jealousy or it's not true love.  Dr Braintree is not demonstrating true love to his wife because he's not expressing real jealousy about Roger's adultery...


So the God who is love is a Jealous God.  That is His original and all-pervading nature.

Secondarily this implies a certain stance towards rivals - towards those who would threaten, steal, oppose or belittle His love.  But this is absolutely secondary.  Originally and to His very depths, God is love and the flame of His passion is the sunshine of His love.

However if and when rivals appear, that same flame will burn but with markedly different consequences:

Zephaniah 1:18 In the fire of His jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for He will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.

Zephaniah 3:8 In the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.

The whole world is headed for the flames.  God will be all in all when He consumes the world.  For those hidden by the LORD (Zephaniah means 'The LORD Hides') they will experience the sunshine of His love - as Zephaniah 3 goes on to describe.  For those who stand apart from their Refuge it will be a judging, ravaging fire.

Same flames - very different experience.

"How can a God of love judge?" cries the outraged sceptic.

Well there should be outrage in that question.  But it shouldn't be outrage towards God.  The great tragedy is that there are rivals to the love of God.

As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?  (Ezekiel 33:11)

Judgement is not necessary as though the flames burn brighter when the wicked are fuel.  That would be like saying that jealous marital love requires adultery.  No.  Judgement is the strange and alien work of the LORD (Isaiah 28:21).  But, when confronted with rivals, it's the work of the LORD who burns with love.

It should be very obvious from this that love and judgement are not incompatible.


It's your parents' 40th wedding anniversary.  Your father's holding a big dinner as a surprise for Mum.  He wants the whole family there.  Everyone.  Including your wretched brother - a heroin addict who's been nothing but trouble.  Your father has been through hell trying to keep him alive and out of prison.  He's even had to pay off mobsters with extortionate sums to stop them killing him.

At every stage your brother has shamed the family.  And at every stage your parents have pursued the boy and bailed him out.  They've paid any price to bring him back.

You, on the other hand, have never been any trouble.  You've kept out of your parents' way, put your head down and worked hard.  You spent your teenage years hitting the books and keeping yourself to yourself.  The first chance you got, you left home and made your way in the world.  You didn't need any help and you never asked Dad for a penny.

Now your father wants the whole family to sit around the same table.  And, wouldn't you know it, your brother is actually keen on the whole idea!  It's unthinkable.  You can't go. You won't go.

First you avoid your brother's calls. Then your father rings: "Please son I want you all there."

Unbelievable.  You're being cast as the bad guy?  You're the sticking point?  How ridiculous!  Can't everyone see, it's your brother.

But Dad continues to press you.  "Son, I haven't seen you in so long, can we meet face to face?"  No we cannot, you think.  There was something deeply disturbing about your father's gaze.  He seemed to search your face for something that just wasn't there.  And you both knew it.  You'd been avoiding that gaze for as long as you could remember.

"Well then," he asks "would you do it for your mother?" Oh, now he's playing that card is he?  Fury grips you.  This is precisely the problem.  Some households have a little thing called family manners.  With yours it's all family and no manners.  It's all caring and no consequences.  Well no longer.

If it's a choice between brotherhood and behaviour, you pick behaviour.  And you hope they choke on their mercy meal.


Hell is not an equal opposite to heaven.

Hell is outer darkness, shut out from the Light.

Hell is the judgement flowing from God's mercy.

Hell is for good people.

Hell is getting what you want.



A sermon on the theme


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This time I'm ripping off Steve Levy.  But I can't do it like he does it.


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We're in the middle of Ask Eastbourne at the moment - please be praying that folks keep coming and trust in Jesus.

Here's a section of tonight's talk I'll have to leave on the cutting room floor.  I'm speaking about "What happens when we die?"

With Jesus we have the only gracious Judge the world has ever conceived.  I want to be very clear here: There is only ONE gracious Judge and His name is Jesus.

That’s a bold statement I know, but I thought I’d put it to the test by considering the top 5 spiritual beliefs in the world.  Let’s compare what they believe about judgement.

Christianity is number one, let’s look at the number 2 belief in the world: Islam.

Who is the Judge?  Allah.  Now Allah continually calls himself the compassionate and merciful.  But even Mohammed was utterly terrified by the prospect of judgement day.  He had no confidence that he would fare well on the last day.  Allah told him he would inherit paradise but, in the Quran Allah is known as the Best of Deceivers (Sura 3:54).  And Mohammed knew that he couldn’t trust Allah to save him.  His promise might be a deception.  So Mohammed did not trust Allah to save him.  And the Quran forbids you to trust him for that day (Sura 7:99)

Interestingly, the next in line after Mohammed was a man called Abu Bakr – the first Caliph in Islam.  When someone tried to encourage Abu Bakr that he would probably do alright on judgement day Abu Bakr said:

By Allah! I would not rest assured and feel safe from the deception of Allah, even if I had one foot in paradise.’”

No Muslim can presume to know how they will fare with Allah on judgement day.  And the very greatest Muslims were terrified of coming before that judge.

Let’s consider the third most popular belief in the world: No religion.  Now if you don’t believe in God, you have not escaped judgement have you?  You are still at the mercy of bigger forces than you, aren’t you?  You will be judged by decay and death.  And you will get absolutely no mercy from death.  No-one has ever avoided that judgement.  Death is, perhaps, the least merciful judge of all.  And it’s certainly the least hopeful.

What about the number 4 belief in the world: Hinduism.  Here your fate in the afterlife is determined by your Karma.  If you do good, you’ll accumulate good karma, maybe you’ll get reincarnated as a priest.  If you do bad, you get bad karma, you’ll get reincarnated as a donkey or something.  But it’s all down to you.  There is no mercy whatsoever.  It’s all about earning.

The number 5 belief in the world is Buddhism.  The Buddha started life as a Hindu, but he didn’t like the idea of continually being reincarnated.  So his hope for the future is “Nirvana” when you finally get off the merry-go-round of re-incarnation.  Then your soul is “blown out” like a candle.  That’s what Nirvana means – it means being blown out.  So Buddhism again teaches that your after-life is down to your karma – down to your performance.  And the ultimate hope is non-existence.

So have a look at the beliefs in the world and know that, apart from Jesus, there is NO MERCY from the Judge and NO CERTAIN HOPE for the outcome.

But with Jesus...

Here’s what the Judge of the world has done, according to the Bible.  Jesus is the judge who has stepped down off the judgement bench.  He’s put Himself into our shoes. He’s taken our side completely – we who are in the dock.  He has stood with us.  And then on the cross He stands for us.  On the cross He takes HELL on Himself.  He takes our Hell, to give us heaven.  And He does it so He can offer anyone and everyone eternal life.

This is the Judge in Christianity.  A Judge who is judged.  A Judge who pays the price for our sins and offers us free forgiveness.  What a Judge!  You will not find any other Judge like this Judge.  In religion, in atheism, in all the world – you won’t find a Judge like Jesus.  Run to Jesus.  He gives you immeasurable mercy and a certain hope for the future.

When you hear that Jesus judges the world - don't hear that as bad news.  It's GREAT news.  Jesus judges the world!  We should rejoice to know that Jesus is Judge.  He’s the Judge we want.


Every year Steve Levy's congregation ask him to preach his hell sermon.  They invite their friends and people become Christians.  It's phenomenal preaching and if you ask me it's exactly the way to speak of judgement.

Hell is already on us.  We experience it (John 3:18,36; Romans 1:18).  We see the "trailers" for the main feature and everything screams at us "You do not want to go there!"  Jesus does not come into the world to save some and damn others.  He comes into a condemned world only to save.  We are not at a cross-roads with heaven or hell in the power of our choosing.  Hell is on us.  Our only response is to turn to the Saviour.

Download here.

Also check out the rest of the Mount Pleasant sermons.  Wonderful stuff - including some recent Blackham sermons too.


Sermon Audio


We love to judge.

George Carlin once noted a universal rule of the road: Everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot.  And everyone who drives faster is a maniac.

To the speeding driver, everyone’s an idiot.  To the slow driver, everyone’s a maniac. But one rule applies to all:  My speed is just right.

Two weeks ago the BBC, CNN, the Daily Mail, The Telegraph and many other news sites and blogs have reported a hoax as fact. The hoax was this: Internet Explorer users are less intelligent than those using other web browsers.

It is a lie that has spread like wildfire despite the thinnest of fabricated “evidence” produced by a website cobbled together in the last month. Why did this lie find such instant and universal acceptance (amongst the web-savvy anyway)? Because we love to judge.

David Cameron shortly after the riots said that pockets of our society are not just broken but sick.  Pockets?

Rioters; Politicians; Police; Media

We feel superior, but you know what they say?  When you point the finger at others, you have three fingers pointing back.

Jesus says:

37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Jesus says there’s two realities you can buy into.  Either Judgement and condemnation; or Giving and forgiving.

Jesus tells us the currency that God deals in.  Verse 36:

36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  (Luke 6:36)

He is in the forgiveness game.  What game are we in?

...continue reading "Getting out of the blame game: A sermon on Luke 6:37-42"


Exodus 7-10 - The Plagues


We saw last time that the LORD is a God of Promise.  Read Exodus 6:6-8 to remind yourself of His seven-fold “I will” to the people.

...continue reading "Exodus 7-10 – Plagues Bible Study"

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