Series: The Gospel: It's Not...
Message: About Salvation
Preacher: Mark Johnson
Daily Walk: Mark Johnson
Refresh: Open with prayer. Read or listen to Psalm 95:1-4.
Read: Exodus 32:32; Romans 9:3 (ESV). As you read this version, note 1-3 insights or questions.
Reflect: The Apocalypse of Peter, a pseudepigraphical book written sometime between 100 A.D. and 175 A.D., claims to describe the place of punishment and dwells on the differing modes of eternal suffering inflicted on people for a variety of sins. Blasphemers hang by their tongues and women adulterers hang by their hair over a lake of fire. Murderers are cast into a place full of snakes and are "smitten by those beasts." False witnesses gnaw on their tongues and have flames of fire in their mouths. The rich who had no pity on orphans and widows are made to roll about on red-hot pebbles, sharper than any sword. There are many more modes of punishment described for many more types of sins.
In the 14th century, Dante Alighieri, the author of The Divine Comedy, expanded on these themes in his description of his supposed journey through the nine circles of Hell (Inferno), beginning with his entrance through the gate on which were found the dreadful words, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." Once again the various types of sins are punished forever with varying levels of painful punishments, and the vivid descriptions can be terrifying to one who believes that these portray reality. A true believer would do almost anything to escape from the never-ending torments awaiting unforgiven sinners.
These writings, and others like them, formed a theological foundation that was common in the time of the Reformation. This fear-based focus on hell and salvation carried forward through the Great Awakening sermons of Jonathan Edwards and are still found in some "hellfire and brimstone" sermons today. Being saved from eternal torment is a major focus in reformation theology. Although being saved has always been present in Christian teaching, the Protestant sects have developed new ideas about "finding salvation," and the doctrine of salvation has grown in import and emphasis.
Clearly salvation (and escaping hell) is good news, but is it the Gospel?
Respond: Pray for a peaceful spirit based on hope and love.
Research: Read The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.