Hank Hanegraaff, the host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast, reads Matthew 5: 21–26. The Lord Jesus extends the law to its logical conclusion. The logical conclusion of murder is not only the physical act but goes as far as thinking a murderous thought—or so far as being angry with your brother or sister, or even calling someone a fool. In other words, if you so much as speak of someone in a contemptible manner, you are in danger of the fire of hell. All of this leads inexorably to the reality that we need the righteousness of Christ. Hank goes on to explain Christ’s use of the metaphor of fire when He speaks of hell. To say that the word fire is used metaphorically does not in the least minimize its gravity. Far from minimizing biblical truth, metaphors serve as magnifying glasses that identify truth we might otherwise miss. This identification creates a meaning that lies beyond a woodenly literal interpretation and thus requires an imaginative leap to grasp what is meant. To suppose that a metaphorical interpretation of hellfire somehow makes eternal separation from the grace and goodness of God something less formidable is to miss the point entirely. The fire of hell need not be physical to be devastatingly real. Jesus no doubt used the metaphor of fire to get through to an obstinate people more concerned with physical well-being than the eternal state of their souls. To be at enmity with a holy God—to experience not so much as a drop of water to assuage the thirst of such separation—is indeed a fearful thing.
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