« Back to Articles
What the Fires Meant
by Dr. Johnny O. Trail, LMFT
When I was younger, I seldom woke up during the night. As I have gotten older though, mother nature makes my sleep determinations if you know what I mean. Even though I did not wake easily when I was younger, there was one night in the early eighties when I woke up for no reason. I remember it vividly.

Upon awakening, I went to the rear of our single-wide trailer and looked out a window that faced west. I remember seeing a glow akin to what a sunset might look like. It was odd to observe such a spectacle but that was what illuminated the two o’clock morning sky. Being sleepy eyed from my slumber, the details of what was on the horizon did not register until a few moments later. For one thing, the sun does not rise in the west, and a rural environment does not provide that much light at two in the morning. I pondered, “What could be happening just over the horizon?”

The next morning, my family ventured in that direction to see what could have caused the bright light just over the horizon. At some point during the wee hours of the morning, our neighbor’s milk barn had been completely engulfed in flames. The only portions that remained were the blocks and portions of steel in the structure. All the round bales of hay had been consumed in the fire and the glass on the windows had melted. It was rather shocking to see this dairy operation in ruin due to the power of the flames. It seems that one of the bales had spontaneously combusted and caught the whole structure on fire.

In some instances, as in the case of my neighbor, fire can be very destructive. However, there are good applications for fire. Over the years, we have had several “burn piles” filled with rubbish and trees that were cut down to clean up certain pieces of land. In addition, we trimmed several trees around my son’s elementary school to help with the appearance of the landscape. Several trailer loads of limbs later made a pile of wood over fifteen feet tall and about fifteen feet in circumference. This made a large powerful fire that burned for some time. No worries, we received permission from the forestry division and made sure that we had a water hose and shovels ready. We never left it unattended and made sure it was out before going to bed.

Each time I witness a fire or use one to remove refuse, I think of the reality of hell. Even the controlled fires are rather daunting to consider. One could not get close to the fire to toss extra limbs onto the flames without getting the equivalent of a sunburn in return. The sweat and the heat of the summer weather caused any water that accumulated on my clothing to evaporate immediately. All in all, it was a miserable proposition standing close to a flame to manage it and use it to completely consume all the tree trimmings that we wanted gone.

After having years of experience tending brush pile fires and witnessing various structures be destroyed by fire, I know hell is not a place to be. Fires are barely tolerable with an occasional sip of water from a water hose or a mist of water to help with the discomfort. I cannot possibly imagine being in a place where there is no relief or comfort for the continual flames that will engulf a tormented person’s body.

I cannot imagine seeing another person in agony from such torment; especially family

members and people that I love. The wealthy man in the story of the rich man and Lazarus immediately worried about his brothers. He says, in Luke 16:27-28, "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'” The rich man did not want to see his family in such a place and we should not either.

In this life, we can oftentimes escape bad situations. It may mean enduring some ridicule or strenuous activity, but we can focus on the end and relief. Hell is not that way. Mark 9:44 points this out when Jesus says, “Where 'Their worm does not dies and the fire is not quenched.’” There will be no escape from eternal punishment and there will be no end to the pain that one will endure.

In our physical existence, we can excuse ourselves from the presence of bad people. Can you imagine being in eternity with wicked, disagreeable people? In this life, we can chose where we want to be and who we want to be with but not so in eternity. People may complain about the hypocrites in church that they spend four hours with per week, but what about spending eternity with them? Scary thought to say the least!

Some say that it is not loving to speak with others about hell. If you do a quick study of scripture, you will find that the one speaker who had the most to say about hell was Jesus Christ. If the cross underscores anything, it should reinforce the motivation of a loving Savior who wants to save a multitude of people from a hell prepared for the devil and his angels. If hell is not really that bad, why would Jesus be willing to die in the manner He did to save us from it?

People need to stop treating Satan as if he is not a real character wanting to see souls condemned. He is real. 1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” Satan wants to see you lost for eternity in his presence.

People need to stop pretending that hell is not really that bad. Our best efforts to understand the horror and torment of such a place fall short. The small fires that we sometimes tend or see engulfing structures are very small things in comparison to what torment awaits the wicked. Revelation 20:12-15 says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

We should want to avoid hell and arrive in Heaven. We should want to take others with us and save them from a place of torment. We need to make provisions now while there is still time.