“The Man who was Known in Hell”
I have had four main mentors in my life: Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Billy T. Ball, N. Burnett Magruder and Rolfe Barnard.
Rolfe Barnard died in 1968 at the age of 67. He was a no-nonsense, rugged, fearless, moderately Calvinist Baptist evangelist from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He was one of a kind – either very, very loved or very, very hated. I never met anybody like him before or since.
Rolfe had an unusual sermon called “The Man who was Known in Hell”, based on the account of some Jews who were playing games with the demonic. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out”. One day an evil spirit answered them: “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).
The gist of Rolfe’s sermon was: “Paul was known in Hell; I want to be known in Hell”. The devil knew who Jesus was; the devil knew who Paul was. “I want the devil to be aware of me”, said Rolfe.
There are three Greek words translated Hell in most versions: tartarus (2 Peter 2:4), hades (the grave) or gehenna (hell fire). What Rolfe meant by “hell” in this case would be tartarus, the realm of fallen angels. Rolfe wanted the devil to know who he was, that is, to be a threat to the devil.
I have thought about that sermon a lot over the last fifty years but more so in recent years. I have decided that if I had the choice I’d rather be known in Hell than on this earth.
Why? For the same reason that Jesus and Paul were known in Hell. This meant that Jesus and Paul were a threat to Satan’s interests. Jesus and Paul had a reputation in Hell. They were feared. Those who cast out demons in Acts 19 were not known in Hell. I wonder if others since who are experts in casting out demons are known in Hell? I wonder if famous preachers are known in Hell?
But am I? I fear not. I would be so thrilled if I thought I had a reputation in Hell as one the demons feared. I’m sorry, but I doubt it. I’m not sure what more I can do to achieve this, but if I knew what it would take to achieve this I would do it at once.
John 5:44 – “How can you believe if you receive honor from one another and seek not the honor that comes from God only (or the only God)?” – has been the verse I tried to use to govern my life. It may be a bit presumptuous to say this, especially since I have come so short of this. I can only say I have made an effort to seek His honor above that of people. The older I get the less reputation in the world means to me. I would of course hate to have a bad reputation; I would hate to have a moral failure that eclipsed the good I may have done. But I so want the honor that comes only from God and I would have thought that a reputation in Hell might come close to that. I would have also thought that a “well done” at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor.5:10) might be guaranteed if on earth I had been a threat to Satan.
Those are my thoughts as I get older.