Growing up in the church environs I did I heard a lot of sermons, mostly bad or awful sermons rarely I heard a good one. One sermon I heard a few times by even a few preachers was “Trophies of Hell” if said sermons were not all entitled this then the premise was the same. The idea was to promote the concept that God and the devil are competing for the acquisition of mens souls, sort of like a poker game where the stakes are eternal. And the devil although willing to take any soul as a prize, was particularly enthusiastic about the souls of those who have an affiliation with God. These were proclaimed to be his trophies, and the devil was said to have exhibited them high on his “mantle” for all to see. Examples were put forward such as Adam and Eve, Cain, and Judas these were relegated to hell without question by the preacher. And the way they went to hell! Why, they were grasped by the menacing hand of Satan right under the nose of the Almighty Himself, it was almost as if God in His infinite wisdom didn’t see it coming! The sermons intent was to scare you into church if you were wayward or better yet to nestle you deep within the confines of the Oneness Elite club to the point where your autonomy was lost. Depending on the lengths the preacher would go to and the gullibility of his listeners he well could have a panic at the altar, a near stampede of folk rushing to avoid becoming the devils latest display.
This type of preaching of course gave the hearer absolutely very little confidence that their salvation was obtainable, also it made the devil either an equal with God or a near equal with God. Perhaps even worse was this notion that the devil was the ruler of hell as if he is as comfortable in hell as I am in the warmth of my home when it is 30 degrees outside. Growing up I assumed that hell was merely the devil’s house and that he would entice us to make it our home where as it was a pleasurable place for him it would be torment for me with the devil administering the torture I was to feel forever. I was astonished to discover that the devil was not the “ruler” of hell nor was it his home and even further that he is not in a contest with God. But where did I receive this panaply of intellegence? The Holy Scriptures! The Bible was the great destroyer of the influence of Pentecostal superstition and the great informer of the God’s honest truth. This type of preaching, scare tactic was designed to manipulate the hearer into responding the way the preacher wanted them to, obviously there must be some satisfaction in this as many times as it was used in my years of Oneness attendance!
So the question then is, “What does it mean when a person goes to hell?” Is it that the devil has won a battle with God? Is the Lord of heaven and earth going to be eternally disappointed? Does God wish that there was some way He could have broke through this persons will and in lieu of their eternal condemnation have given them eternal joy? This touches on the very fabric of who God is…is He God who rules all things well and brings about His purposes? Or is He at the mercy of His creation? Perish the thought! God is God and if a soul goes to hell it is not as if God was unable to stop it…it is that it is His purpose to bring about the exaltation of His glory. Now this may shock you, but hell glorifies God. It is no place where the devil will display his trophies against a disappointed eternal God! If a soul goes to heaven God is glorified by the display of his grace, this is why we have no cause to boast. If a soul goes to hell God is glorified by the display of his justice, no one can accuse God of unfairness one gets what they do not deserve: grace and another gets what they do deserve: justice. Since the fall of Adam and Eve we as humans have rallied to dethrone God and usurp His dominion and Godhood. One way we do this “religiously” is to take the matter of heaven and hell and the dispensing of grace and justice out of Gods hands and place them in our own. Think on these things. Remember I’m available for questions or comments. Until next sermon, listen, evaluate and test to see if it is from God: there is no other way then by God’s own word.