Preaching Between The Living And The Dead

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 14 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Teaching On Preaching)


Some of the people rose up against Moses and Aaron. They said that Moses and Aaron had taken too much upon themselves. They would take away from Aaron his embroidered vest, strip him of his mitre, remove the glittering stones that sparkled on his breast, silence the bells that jangled on the hem of his garment, blot out the embroidered pomegranates near the bells and destroy both him and his brother, Moses.

Suddenly the earth opened. An earthquake consumed these rebels. Then the Israelites blamed Moses and Aaron for the death. God was furious. He sent a plague that killed 14,700 people. (Numbers 16:44-50)

Moses said to Aaron, "Quick, take a censer. Put fire in it. Run to the people. Hold it high." Aaron did so, and as he did, the plague was stayed because he was standing between the living and the dead. Picture this old man, probably 100 years old, running up and down between the living and the dead and holding high his censer. This is exactly what the preacher does when he walks to his pulpit. He is God's man standing between the living and the dead. Oh, for a holy awe to grip us as we enter the sacred place, open the sacred Book and preach the sacred message!

Several years ago at the Bill Rice Ranch I was riding on horse- back to the morning cookout breakfast for which the Ranch is so famous. A young man rode up beside me and said, "Dr. Hyles, I'm a young preacher. I'm trying to decide what type preacher I should be-a Hell-fire and brimstone preacher or a deeper-lifer (whatever that is)." He said that he had talked to a deeper-lifer and gotten his advice; now he wanted my advice about the future of his ministry. Re said, "Could you counsel with me?"

I asked him, "Young man, is there a Hell?" He said, "Yes, there is, but would you counsel with me concerning what kind of preacher I ought to be?" I asked, "Is there a Hell?" "Yes," he said, "there is a Hell, but would you give me advice?" I asked, "Is there a Hell? Is there a Hell? Is there a Hell?" He said, "Dr. Hyles, aren't you going to counsel with me? The other preacher did." I asked, "Is there a Hell? Is there a Hell? Is there a Hell?" He rode off with a look of bewilderment on his face.

Several weeks passed. I was talking to Dr. Russell Anderson on the telephone. He said, "Dr. Hyles, I heard a young man preach the other day who said that he had talked with you recently at the Bill Rice Ranch." I said, "What was his name?" He said, "I don't know what his name was, but he sure preached a great message. I asked if he knew the title of the message. He said, "Yes, I do. The title was, 'Is There a Hell?'

It was the same young man. Re had made his choice. He had decided to stand between the living and the dead. I ask you that question: Is there a Hell? Is there a place where people are burning right now? Is there a place where they plead for one drop of water to cool their tongue for they are tormented by the flames? Is there a place where the worm dieth not and fire is not quenched? Is there a place where He shall say to those on the left hand, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels"? Is it true that the wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God? Is there a place where those not found written in the Book of Life shall be cast into the Lake of Fire? Is the rich man still weeping and begging? Is it true that my unsaved father who died a drunkard's death is there? Is he burning alter all these years? Was I standing between the living and the dead when I talked to my father that Sunday afternoon, January 1, 1950, and pleaded with him to get saved? He told me that he would, but he was going to wait until the spring-but spring never came because he died and was buried on May 13 of that same year! Is it true that there is a Hell? Is it true that your loved ones without Christ are going to Hell? Is it true that the one who carried you in her womb who is unsaved is going to burn in Hell forever? Is it true that the only man you can ever call Daddy who is lost is going to Hell? Is your unsaved brother really going to a place of torment? Do those who hear you preach and reject the Gospel really die without Christ and go to Hell to burn forever? Is it true that those millions in Chicago within driving distance of my church who live without Christ and die without Christ will burn in Hell forever? If it isn't true, I'm going home! If it isn't true, I'm not walking to the pulpit again! If it isn't true, let's eat, drink and be merry! If it isn't true, let's call the missionaries home! If it isn't true, let's stop the buses from rolling! If it isn't true, let's make a planter out of the baptistery, close the church doors and quit the ministry! If it isn't true, let's make money! If it isn't true, let's live it up! If it isn't true, I've gotten my last lonely boarding pass on an airplane! If it isn't true, I've checked into my last motel room! If it isn't true, I've made my last all-night flight!

But if it is true, get the soul winning organized! If it is true, plead for God's power! If it is true, get the buses rolling! If it is true, let's set our preacher boys on fire! If it is true, let's fill the baptisteries every week! If it is true, let's quit trading the prayer closet for the voting booth! If it is true, let's quit turning bus captains into precinct captains! If it is true, let's keep our concern about the murder of the unborn, but be more concerned about the salvation of the born! If it is true, let's keep our burden for the right to life but have a bigger burden for the right to eternal life! If it is true, let's get back to the old-fashioned, window-rattling, shingle-pulling, barn- storming, Hell-fire and brimstone, Bible preaching; to Christ- honoring, soul-winning, Heaven-populating preaching! If it is true, let's dust off some of our old sermons on Hell and use them again!

If it is true, "Let's talk about Jesus, the King of kings is He, the Lord of lords supreme, throughout eternity; the great I Am, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Door; let's talk about Jesus more and more!" If it is true, let's organize more soul-winning campaigns than voter-registration campaigns! If it is true, let's get back to soul winning, which is really the answer! Soul winning will sober more alcoholics than Alcoholics Anonymous. Soul winning will clean more slums than social programs. Soul winning will feed more hungry bodies than welfare. Soul winning will save America quicker than politics. Soul winning will do more for educating children than Head Start Programs. Soul winning will keep folks from burning in Hell!

If it is true, let's get back to talking about souls more than about offerings! If it is true, let's get back to talking about baptisms more than about registrations! If it is true, let's do church work more than school work! If it is true, let's make the Sunday school more important than the day school! If it is true, let's make the Sunday school teacher more important than the history teacher! If it is true, let's make the deacon more important than the school board! If it is true, let's make saving souls more important than basketball goals! If it is true, let's make soul-winning clubs more important than fellowship groups! If it is true, let's find the answer in the Father's house instead of in the White House!

All I ask is, "Dear preacher, is there a Hell?" Oh, for old- fashioned preaching about warning people about the wrath of God, the old-fashioned preaching that has a Hell that's hot and sin that's black and an eternity that's long.

Several years ago a man was dying. I was called to his bedside, and these were his dying words: 'Teacher, don't lie to me. I'm dying. Is there really a Heaven? Tell me. Is it true that there's a Heaven?"

I ask you this question: Is there really a Heaven? Is there "a land that is fairer than day, and by faith we can see it afar, for the Father waits over the way, to prepare us a dwelling place there"?  Is it true that in my Father's house are many mansions? Is it true that He has gone to prepare a place for me'? Is it true that He will come again? Is it true that He will receive me unto Himself? Is it true that where He is, there will I be also? Is it true that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord? Is it true that John saw the Holy City, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband? Is it true that "when we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun"?

Is it true that at 3:37 p.m. on September 30, 1984, my Mama really went to Heaven? Is it true that she is in Heaven now? Is it true that she is with her two little girls who preceded her in death many years before? Can she actually see Lorene, and is she with Hazel now? Is it true that her blind eyes can now see? Are her shoulders really straight? Is she beholding the face of the One she loved more than life? Is her face unwrinkled? Is her brow unfurrowed? Can I really sing, "Tell Mother I'll Be There"? Does she hear me preach? Can she walk? Can she run? Can she jump? Can she hear? Is she watching me now'? Was she wrong when she said on her death bed, "There's Lorene; there's Hazel; there's Uncle Harvey and Aunt Jimmie"? Is she really free of pain? Was she right as we talked and held hands and she said, "I'm going to Heaven, son," and we joined hands and sang, "0 they tell me of a home far beyond the sky; 0 they tell me of a home far away; 0 they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise; 0 they tell me of an unclouded day"? Is there a Heaven? Is there a Hell? Will my mother really never hurt again? Is there a city really being built there with streets of gold and gates of pearl? Was I right when I stood beside my mother's bed and told her of Heaven? Was I right at the airport when I called her after she had died, temporarily forgetting that she was gone? The operator said, "Sir, no one answers," and I said, "Oh, I forgot, operator. Last Thursday she moved to a new address." Did she really move to a new address?

Is my good friend, Dr. John Rice, really with Jesus? Is Brother Lester Roloff beholding the face of his Saviour? Is Dr. Ford Porter talking to Him now? Is Dr. Bill Rice actually with Him?

I ask you: Is there a Hell? Is there a Heaven? Do we really stand between the living and dead? Is Jesus really the difference? Is the need of man the old rugged cross? Was Paul's message to the Philippian jailor really right when he said, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"? Did God really so love "the world that He gave His only begotten Son"? Then what else matters?

Oh, men of God, it is true! There is a Heaven! There is a Hell! There is a Jesus! There is a virgin birth! There is a sinless life! There is a vicarious death! There is a bodily resurrection! There is an ascension! There is a coming back to the earth on the part of the Saviour! There is a rapture! There is a tribulation! There is a millennium! There is a New Jerusalem! It's real! There is a Hell! There is a Heaven! As we stand to preach, we do stand between the living and the dead! May God give us that awareness as we walk to the pulpit Sunday after Sunday, as we hold the censer of the Word of God high to stay the plague, as we stand between the living and the dead!

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Billy Sunday (1862-1935)


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