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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN



    Reader's Digest quoted the following story from Rotary Down Under: A politician awoke after an operation and found the curtains in his hospital room drawn. "Why are the curtains closed?" he asked the nurse. "Is it night time already?" 'Me nurse replied, "No, but there's a fire across the street, and we didn't want you to wake and think the operation was unsuccessful." Time was when most people feared the thought of hell with its images of fire and flames. For preachers and the people in the pews in years gone by, eternal stakes were forcefully if frightfully clear: there was a hell to be avoided and a heaven to be gained. But now a U S. News & World Report article explains that many from bygone eras would scarcely recognize the hell of today. The article, "Hell Hath No Fury"" (January 31, 2000, p 45), states that "the netherworld has taken on a new image: more of a deep funk than a pit of fire .... suggesting that hell may not be so hot after all." The author, Jeffrey L. Sheler, quotes numerous authors and theologians who debate whether or not hell is a "real place" or simply a "state of being in which a person suffers from the deprivation of God."

     While popular thinking seeks to douse hell's flames and cool hell off, the Bible still tells about a hell that is hot. Consider a sampling of its images and statements:  Matthew 25:41- Jesus spoke of 'everlasting f ire, prepared for the devil and his angels.'  Mark9:43,45- Jesus again spoke of a place He called 'hell" which has a 'fire that shall  never be quenched."  Revelation 19:20; 20:10,14,15; 21:8- These Scriptures speak of a "lake of f ire burning  with fire and brimstone" where some "will be tormented day and night forever and ever."  Luke 16:23-24- Here Jesus described a rich man in torment in Hades who begged for a  drop of water to cool his tongue "for I am tormented in this flame."

    Evangelist Marshall Keeble reportedly preached that if you took the rich man out of hell, placed him in the hottest furnace on earth, then heated it seven times hotter - the rich man would freeze to death in five minutes! We can recognize and appreciate Brother Keeble's hyperbole without dismissing his point. Hell, wherever it is and whatever it is, is a horrible place beyond our full comprehension. And while preaching about hell may have cooled off, the Bible continues to warn hell is as hot as ever.

    Dan Gulley
    Smithville church of Christ