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III. THE FIRE OF ETERNAL DOOM.
We come now to the third fire. We read of it in 2 Thessalonians i. 7-9: “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” The third fire is the fire of eternal doom. Every one of us must meet God in fire somewhere. Some of us, I hope, to-night will meet Him in the fire of baptism, with the Holy Ghost and fire; some of us, I know, will meet Him in that great judgment day, when the fire will try our work, of what sort it is; and oh, friends, some of us, I fear—God grant it may be very few—may meet Him in the fire of eternal doom. Some one says, “Do you think it is literal fire?” I will not stop to discuss that. Take it as a figure if you will, but remember that figures always stand for facts. Some people, if they find anything in the Bible that they do not like, say “It is figurative,” and they think that has swept it all away. Remember, who uses the figures; they are God’s figures; and God’s figures stand for facts, and God is not a liar, so God’s figures never overstate the facts they represent. And how terrible must be the mental and spiritual agony described by that figure, if figure it be! Were you ever severely burnt? Did you ever see any one severely burnt? I have been. And how awful must be the spiritual or physical agony, whichever it is; that is represented by such a terrible figure as this.
The superficial thinker says, “Oh, I cannot believe that; I cannot believe that a merciful God is going to let men go on suffering day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, with no hope.” Open your eyes. Look at what is going on right around you in London. Is not God permitting men and women who sin, especially in certain specific forms of sin, to suffer most awful agonies day after day, month after month, year after year, without one hope of relief unless they repent; and when the time of possible repentance is passed—and it must pass some time—when the time of possible repentance is passed, and this goes on and on and on, ever worse and worse, what have you got but hell? You don’t get rid of hell by getting rid of the Bible, or by getting rid of God; hell is here; hell is a fact in London to-night. The only change the Bible and God make is that they open a door of hope, and when you banish God and the Bible the only change you make is that you shut the only door of hope. The infidels are guilty of the amazing folly of trying to close hell by shutting the only door of hope. Hell is here. It is a present-day fact, and unless there is repentance and acceptance of Christ it will be an eternal and endless fact. You say, “For whom?” Listen: “Rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the Gospel.”
First, “to them that know not God.” That is plain English for agnostics. Do you know what “agnostic” means? A great many people are proud of saying, “I am an agnostic.” Well, agnostic means “know not” or “know nothing”; it is used of those who “know not God.” So our text says God will render vengeance to agnostics. Some one says, “That is not just.” I cannot help that: it is a fact. But it is just. You ought to know God; you have no excuse for not knowing God. The most solemn duty that lies upon every man is to find out about God, and there is a way to know God. The trouble is you don’t want to know God. Any agnostic that wants to know God will soon get acquainted with Him. I was once an agnostic, but I was an honest one, and I did not take long to find God.
Only the other night a man said to me, “I am an agnostic.” I pointed him to a way out of agnosticism, a reasonable way, and asked, “Is not that reasonable?” and he said, “Yes.” “Then I said, “Will you try it?” and he said, “No, I won’t.” His agnosticism is not his misfortune; it is his sin. The first and most solemn obligation resting on the creature is to know and worship and serve the Creator. You ought to know God, and if you refuse to know Him, the Lord Jesus will be revealed at last rendering vengeance to you and other agnostics.
But not only, to agnostics, but “to them that obey not the Gospel.” Many a man is not an agnostic, but he does not obey the Gospel. There are many of you people who would support what I say about agnosticism, but you do not obey the Gospel. You do not believe with real faith, which means absolute surrender to and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. You do not obey Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master. You do not openly confess Him as the Gospel commands. He will render vengeance to you; you shall be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power!”
Men and women, every one of us must meet God in fire. Oh, to-night do you not want to meet Him in the glorious fire of the Holy Ghost, refining you from sin, cleansing the dross and filth, illuminating you with God’s glorious truth, warming the cold heart until it glows with holy love, energizing you with the power of God, and spreading wherever it goes? Or do you wish to meet God in fire at that judgment day, that will try your work as to character, motive, the power that wrought it, and send all your works up in smoke, and leave you there stripped, saved “so as by fire?” Or will you meet God in that awful fire of eternal doom, when the day comes that the same Christ whom you have rejected and trampled under foot comes back again in the glory of the Father, with His mighty angels, “rendering vengeance to them that know not God and obey not the Gospel?”
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