Hell and Dam

God’s grace is a big deal. How can you tell? Because hell is so horrible. If God’s wrath against sin is that intense, then the grace that matches it must be pretty huge as well. However, if hell isn’t a real representation of the immensity of God’s wrath, if his wrath is not that bad, then grace isn’t such a big deal after all. Or at least not as big a deal.

What came to mind was a dam. A dam on a stream is pretty and quaint but not very awe inspiring. It just isn’t restraining that much water. But consider the Hoover Dam. It is an impressive 700 foot wall of concrete that restrains the millions of tons of water that is Lake Mead. You would stand at the foot of it in silence. “Pretty” and “peaceful” are not words that come to mind when you look at it and consider what lies on the other side. If that dam was to release the water behind it, everything in its path would be destroyed in pretty short order. Imagine how silly it would look if you were to look on the other side of the dam and see a babbling brook! What a tremendous waste that would be.

Hell is distasteful to many people today, Christians included. It seems cruel and unfair. But if we make little of it, we either make little of Jesus work or make it a silly overkill. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, the one through whom and for whom all things were created. He left the privileges of deity to take on a human nature and die in the place of sinners. The immensity of the cost of the atonement should make us realize the immensity of the wrath and punishment it averts. The two go together.

I think this also speaks of the nature of faith. As you stand at the foot of the Hover Dam, you might be a bit frightened at the weight of the water it restrains. But you have no option other than to trust that the dam will contain it. Are you going to go help the dam restrain the water? That’s just goofy. You can only trust because you live in the town a mile down the river.

But even more, the water and the dam are just there. They aren’t personal, they don’t bid you to come and be with them. You could just look at the dam, give it a few oooohs and aaaaaahs, toss a rock or two in the lake, snap a picture or two and go back to Alabama. But God and Jesus are personal and they draw you to them. We come and dwell in the presence of God as sinners, knowing that the weight of God’s wrath is immense. But we dwell in Christ and trust that in him, God’s wrath is absorbed and satisfied in his death and resurrection. And that’s it. We can’t contribute to what Jesus did. Our ‘contribution’ is our sin. We dwell there in faith and find God now horrible but reverently lovely.

Print This Post Print This Post


  • Tim,

    Great post; good analogy.

    I’m on vacation for two weeks, not blogging, but still reading. Yours will help take me into my study week next week. I’ll be doing quite a bit of advance work for a preaching series from Ephesians. This will be good grist for the mill. Thanks.

  • Enjoyed the post. Last night, Colleen and I watched a movie called “Wardance,” about these kids in Northern Uganda, in a refugee camp, as their families had been slaughtered by the “Lords” Resistance Army. I interrupted the movie to comment to Colleen “Our Western ideas of God is love — only– are pathetic.” Its largely because we have no experience of the enormity of sin in our comfortable little suburbs. God MUST be a just God to be loving, and Hell must be real — IF we can make any sense of murderous slaughter like that. Then, of course, I need to understand where I fit in to that schema, dont I? :)

  • You guys have no idea how badly I needed to hear what you said. Plagued by self-doubt and feeling like God wouldn’t use me anymore. And along come your kind comments to reassure me that There are still somethings that I can say that are helpful to the saints.

    I feel a lot better now in a big part due to your comments. Thanks men, I sure needed it!!

Join the Discussion

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>