SBC Life Articles

The Sermon That Disappeared From Our Pulpits

Freddie Gage has embarked upon a new campaign — a campaign to put Hell back in our pulpits.

Moved by an article in the August 22 issue of Newsweek, the indomitable and fiery evangelist is preaching a new sermon that challenges pastors to reverse the trend of ignoring the controversial and unpopular topic.

Gage, one of the best known and most accomplished evangelists among Southern Baptists, observed, "Where America's pulpits have failed, the world in all of its lost condition has captured the ever pressing need of the hour in the August 12, 2002 edition of Newsweek magazine. The front cover is titled Visions of Heaven. This edition expounds on the virtues of Heaven, with a contrasting view of Hell."

Gage referred to the supplemental article on Hell in Newsweek by Kenneth L. Woodward, "Why We Need Hell, Too: Churchgoers Take Comfort: Hell has all but disappeared from modern Christian theology." Remarking on the article, he said, "It's a sad, sad commentary that Newsweek magazine has to tell Protestant and Baptist preachers that they need to preach on Hell!"

Gage pointed out that evangelism in the Southern Baptist Convention is failing to keep pace with the nation's population increase, particularly among teenagers. He noted, "Since 1979 there has been a steady decline in youth baptisms among Southern Baptist. Last year out of 40 million teenagers in our nation we baptized only 82,000, the majority of whom were children who have grown up in the church, re-baptisms, or those coming from other denominations.

"We had more teenagers killed on our highways as a result of alcohol related deaths than Southern Baptists baptized last year. Last year 116,000 teenagers went to prison compared to the 82,000 that we baptized. This is appalling!"

He went on to point out that the imbalance in evangelism stretches beyond our youth. "Out of 285 million people in America, the greatest harvest field on planet earth, we as Southern Baptist reach less than 90,000 out of a pagan culture," he said

Freddie Gage also emphasized that embracing Conservative theology is essential, but not enough in reaching souls for Christ. He noted, "For over a quarter of a century there has been a raging war over the Bible, over the inerrancy of Scripture. I am an Inerrantist! However, the conservative resurgence has not brought about a revival or a surge in evangelism.

"J. Harold Smith stated that dead orthodoxy is worse than liberalism. I agree! Something is drastically wrong with us. Seventy percent of our churches are dead, or dying, or declining.

"The question I am being asked is, 'Why,' and I think one reason is that Hell has disappeared from our pulpits. The past fifty years I have watched evangelism die in our pulpits. Hell has all but disappeared. There was a time when Southern Baptists were known for preaching hellfire and damnation.

"We are being told we must change because it is a new culture. I agree, we must change – change back to the book of Acts!

"The subject of Hell should motivate us to be soul winners! The 'Seeker Friendly' movement says that if you preach on Hellfire, you alienate people and run them off. But my question is 'Where are you going to run them off to?' I know of four options: 1. Hell; 2. Hell; 3. Hell; or 4. Hell!

"The article in Newsweek says 'The most famous sermon in American History was a graphic evocation of the horrors of the damned in Hell. As Jonathan Edwards expanded on his subject, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," so many moans and cries arose from his proper New England congregation that the learned theologian had to pause while the listeners recoiled in fear of their fate in life to come. That was July 16, 1741. Such a sermon could not be preached today — not even by Billy Graham, who has eschewed the fire-and-brimstone sermons of his youth. If the modern pulpit is any index, hell has disappeared from the modern religious imagination, and so has Edward's angry God.'"

Pointing to the teachings and example of the Bible, Gage observed, "If there is no Hell, the Bible becomes a book of blunders, a book of lies, a myth, and a fairy tale. All the prophets who spoke and wrote of Hell are all liars!

"If there is no Hell, Jesus Christ deserves to wear the label of imposter!

"If there is no Hell, is not Calvary, with all of its suffering and sacrifice and finished atoning work, a blunder?

"If hell is not real, then by every mouthful of spit that befouled His face, by every hair of His beard which cruel fingers tore from His cheeks, by every bruise of His face, by every mark of the scourge upon His back, by every thorn that punctured His brow, by every nail that held Him to the tree, by every breath He drew which was agony and pain, by every beat of His heart which was a throb of agony, by all the shadows that covered the earth when black midnight came at noonday — by all of these Calvary is a mistake!

"If a man accepts the cross of Christ, he must accept the dogma of Hell. If there be no hell, there can be no heaven!!"

Gage quoted several giants among evangelism to underscore the need to preach about hell. "D.L. Moody said 'The same Christ that tells of Heaven with all of its glories, tells us of Hell with all of its horrors.'

"William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, said, 'If I had my way, I would not send any of my preachers to Bible School, but I would put each of them in Hell for twenty-four hours. It's the best training a preacher could have. When they came back out of Hell, they would be flaming soul winners.'

"Billy Sunday said, 'If there is no Hell, let's close down the churches and build a monument to an Atheist.'

"Charles Spurgeon said, 'Preaching that ignores the doctrine of Hell, lowers the Holiness of God and degrades the work of Jesus Christ.'

"Dr. W.A. Criswell said, 'If you say there is no Hell, you say the Bible is not the Word of God!'

"Dr. R. G. Lee said, 'A soul lost forever in outer darkness, in the bottomless pit, in a Christ-less world where there is no God or no hope; a soul hurled by the wrath of God out yonder somewhere beyond creation's boundaries, doomed to wander throughout all eternity, in outer darkness where no ray of light shall pencil an image on the walls of hell; where no friendly hand will ever touch that tired suffering, tormented soul; where no friendly voice will ever be heard; where only the sounds that shall greet those weary ears throughout all eternity will be the mocking and jeering of demons, the groans of the dying, a Soul lost forever doomed to wander throughout all eternity in bottomless, boundless darkness sinking down, down forever. I tell you if only half of what the Bible says is true, it is a terrible place.'"

In closing Gage observed, "If every Christian went to Hell, we would become flaming soul winners. How can Christians say they believe in Hell and never make an attempt to win a soul? How can they go week after week, month after month, never attempting to win a lost soul to Christ?"


Biblical Descriptions of Hell

Hell is:

• A lake of fire (Revelation 20:15)
• A devouring fire (Isaiah 33:14)
• A bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1)
• Everlasting burning (Isaiah 33:14)
• A furnace of fire (Matthew 13:41,42)
• A place of torment (Luke 16:23)
• A place of filthiness (Revelation 22:11)
• A place where they can never repent (Matthew 12:32)
• A place of everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46)
• A place they do not want there loved ones to go to (Luke 16:28)
• A place of murderers and liars (Revelation 21:8)

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