The belief that we need to speak very gently to people about their sinful state has become very popular. It is true that most people are repelled by an in-your-face “turn or burn” message. However, some of the most successful salvation efforts have been ones full of fire and brimstone.
Jonathan Edwards won many sinners to the kingdom of God with his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” The prophet Jonah started one of the greatest revivals recorded in the Bible by simply warning the people of Nineveh that God was going to overthrow their city.
“So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them” (Jonah 3:3-5).
The advantage of hell-fire preaching is that it gets to the heart of the problem. People need to know that they are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell, that we are all sinners. The love option is a good way to connect with people, but at some point they need to be confronted with the truth. This can be done in a loving, concerned and kind way without watering down the facts.