He was a prisoner. He was a debtor. He saw their faces when he was lying down at night trying to sleep. He was haunted by the sound of their footsteps marching toward the precipice of hell without Christ, and therefore with no hope.
God is always looking for the man or woman that He can yoke His passion for souls to. Such people have changed time and eternity by their prayers and preaching.
“I care not where I go, or how I live, or what I endure so that I may save souls. When I sleep I dream of them; when I awake they are first in my thoughts…no amount of scholastic attainment, of able and profound exposition of brilliant and stirring eloquence can atone for the absence of a deep impassioned sympathetic love for human souls.” (David Brainerd)
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” (Charles Spurgeon)
These men had caught a glimpse of the lake of fire; they had smelled it’s rising sulphur. Do WE have any idea what an eternity in hell will be like?
Listen to the words of Jonathan Edwards:
“Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. Isa. 66:23,24. ‘And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.’
“It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For ‘who knows the power of God’s anger?'”
(Excerpted from “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God”)
If we would only shake off our apathy and stupor, and get this same vision before our eyes, it would drive us to 2 certain things:
- To examine ourselves and make sure WE are in the faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)
- To reach out to others like nothing else on earth matters at all. “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11)
Many will scoff and call this “alarmist”. But if the flames are real (and God’s Word leaves us in no doubt that they are), we will very shortly wish that we had screamed ourselves to the last breath raising the alarm.