Romans 9 contains what appears to be a preposterous statement; it is so audacious that Paul affirms in three ways that he is speaking the truth, that this really is what he longs for and wants (Rom. 9:1): were it possible to pray for his own damnation in exchange for the salvation of his kindred Israelites, he would be willing to do so (Rom. 9:3). He is clear that if he could substitute his life for the redemption of the nation of Israel, he would do so (and to be clear, he cannot be a substitute for them and he is not saying that he can; only Christ can provide a substitutionary salvation for anyone).
What motivates that apostle Paul is his longing (Rom. 9:2) for the fulfillment of the Lord’s covenental promises to Abraham (Rom. 9:4-5) and his hatred for the reality of Hell. He longs for their release from God’s damning wrath and for their delight in Christ and the joys of Heaven. He has meditated on both Heaven and Hell and so he longs for the salvation of others.
We are too often too preoccupied to think much about Heaven or much about Hell. We may believe in their existence, but the reality of those domains is too distant to us and the consequences for those who are in both places are too inconsequential to us.
We need to think more about Heaven and its delights. We need to think about Hell and its horrors. We might be contemplate Heaven on occasion, but to contemplate Hell is difficult — it’s too hard for us to think of it as the place where those who lived with us and worked with us and shared meals with us now reside.
But we must think about it and its horrors so that we might cultivate a similar longing as Paul for the redemption of Israel and the redemption of sinners from that place.
I have previously written numerous times about Hell. You can find some of those brief expositions of Hell here. In particular you might find these helpful:
- “A Brief Glimpse of Hell”
- “The Future Punishment of the Unbelieving”
- “Is Hell Tolerable?”
- “Sunday Leftovers” (8/26/07)
- “Sunday Leftovers” (9/23/07)
I also said in the sermon that last week I read a book to help me think clearly about Hell and its horrors. Here are some of the resources I have found helpful to inform my mind and heart about Hell’s horrors:
- A Visitor’s Guide to Hell (Clint Archer)
- The Other Side of the Good News (Larry Dixon)
- “The Future Punishment of the Wicked Unavoidable and Intolerable” (Jonathan Edwards)
- Hell on Trial (Robert Peterson)
- “Brothers, We Must Feel the Truth of Hell” (John Piper, in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals)
- “Five Myths About Hell” (Joe Thorn)
I do not naturally have a desire to think about Hell anymore than I desire to watch a horror movie. But a consideration of its realities helps me cultivate a Paul- and God-sized longing for sinners to be freed from the slavery and just wrath of Hell.