Defending Hellfire Preaching

Some pastors think that if we’re negative or show any signs of meanness (like screaming at the top of our lungs, or yelling “You’re God-forsaken sinners and you’re going to hell’), that we are cruel or fanatical or unbiblical.

This is untrue, the reason we preach hell fire and brimstone is because God told us to. Pastors have a direct command from God to reprove and rebuke.

1 Timothy 5:20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

To reprove and rebuke means to preach against people’s sin. Whatever sin is going on in today’s world or the churches must be rebuked and reproved.

Did you know that roughly one-quarter of the Bible is about positive things, the other three quarters are mostly negative?

Your pastor may be the nicest person in town, but the Bible says that he’s a bad pastor if he rarely preaches negative things. The Bible says that the job of a pastor in loving the church is to rebuke.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Man can brag about how good he is and how much social work that he’s doing but in reality, man is always getting worse and worse. Why do we only look at the good side of man? What about the bad side?

2 Timothy 3:1-5 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
2 Tim 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

If a pastor doesn’t mention the sins in our lives, how will we be corrected? We will not change. Things will get worse and worse, and that’s why people like nice pastors, not hellfire brimstone preachers.

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

Jesus Preached about Hell More Than Anyone Else

People who criticize hellfire preachers must realize that Jesus Christ preached more on hell than anyone else in the Bible.

Matthew 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Matthew 5:29-30 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
Matthew 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Mark 9:43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
Mark 9:45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
Mark 9:47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
Luke 10:15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.
Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Why would Jesus emphasize so much on hell and everlasting destruction? He was the one who created hell and knows it’s terrors. He truly cares about people and doesn’t want them to go there, that’s why He warned them so much.

If a person was about to fall off of a cliff, how many times would you warn him? Now contrast this with eternal punishment. We warn people out of love, not hatred.

What does God say about human nature?

God did say good things about human nature but He said very bad things as well.

v19 is the key. Do you know why human nature is so bad? The key is the law. How many rules and laws did you break? How many times did you break it?

Romans 3:9-19 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

People emphasize all the good things that they’ve done but they completely ignore their sins. They just completely blank them out.

Always being positive is wrong

Our positivity must be under the will of God. We can do anything as long as Jesus Christ the Son is in it.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Bible Passages where Positivity Failed

Rebekkah thought optimistically that her son Esau would only get angry with Jacob for a few days but it turned out to be around 20 years.

Genesis 27:42-45 And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother’s fury turn away; Until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?

Samson thought positively, “I will go out at other times before and shake myself, I can win against these Philistines like I did before”. But the Philistines beat him up and plucked out his eyes in the end.

Judges 16:20-21 And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.

The very first sin in history recorded has positivism involved, “I will”. Satan or Lucifer will suffer the fate of eternal destruction.

Isaiah 14:12-15 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

Biblical preaching therefore cannot contain only “positive messages.”

Examples of “Mean Things” Done by People/Prophets from the Bible

The prophets of Baal were cutting themselves with blades and Elijah was making fun of them.

1 King 18:27-28 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.

Nehemiah plucked the beard off the face of men and even cursed at the people who associated with sinners. After he did that, the members got right with God. How’s that for a fire-and-brimstone type preacher?

Nehemiah 13:23-30 In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people. And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives? And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me. Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites. Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business;

Jesus said many mean things about religious leaders in the whole chapter below. Something negative and rude might get through to some and get them right with God.

Matthew 23

In short, hell and brimstone preachers aim to deliver a biblical message, focused on turning people away from eternal death and eternal darkness. They do preach about God’s forgiving nature and eternal life. But, we must not dilute the message for fear of “disdain for preaching.” Our church fathers have been doing ths for centuries, and it’s also exemplified by figures in the Bible including John the Baptist.