By Rev. Gary Lewis Hendrickson
Zion Lutheran Church, Little Falls
Revelation 20:15(ESV) 15: “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
After I was discharged from the U. S. Army many years ago, I took a job working for Honeywell in the Twin Cities. I had various jobs during my 19 months there. One of those jobs was filling bellows with a liquid metal (which we referred to as “nak”). The basic procedure was to attach the piece of equipment that contained the bellows to a vacuum pump. All the air would be removed from the bellows. At the appropriate point of air extraction, the vacuum would be turned off and the vacuum line sealed. Another line would be opened to permit the “nak” to fill the bellows. Once filled, both lines — the vacuum and “nak” line would be permanently sealed. The bellows was now ready for operation.
The basic procedure was simply — suck out the air from the bellows and fill the bellows with this liquid metal. But with all seemingly simple procedures, there was one big glitch. This “nak” didn’t like moisture — not even the humidity in the air. Exposed to high humidity, the “nak” would begin to smoke — and perhaps even catch on fire. If immersed in water, there would be a rumbling sound as the “nak” was dissipated by the water. A few spoonfuls of this “nak” would cause a minor explosion.
To work with this “nak,” I had to wear spats (which covered my feet so that no “nak” could accidently get inside of my shoe and come in contact with any moist spot), protective clothing, and a protective face mask. Severe burns could easily result from some “nak” making contact with any moist part of my body. Just a drop or two inside my shoe would most certainly result in some kind of burn. The face shield was to protect my face, but most primarily, my eyes. “Nak” in the eyes could easily cause permanent damage — possibly even blindness.
One day, one of the bellows I was filling with “nak” exploded. Liquid “nak” droplets went flying all over the place — and all over me. My feet were protected by the spats; much of my body was protected by the safety clothing I wore; my face mask was covered with “nak” spray. Some “nak” got under my protective mask and ended up in my eyes. Some sort of oil was used to neutralize the “nak.” Whether it was mineral oil, cooking oil, or some other kind of oil — I just don’t recall. Oil was promptly spread on any exposed skin and in my eyes. I was rushed to an emergency eye doctor for treatment.
I remember thinking and wondering as I was rushed to the doctor if the blurry things I was seeing (my eyes were filled with oil) were going to be the last things I ever saw. Still, I was surprisingly calm. After all, I was young and I still had that youthful optimism that nothing really bad could ever happen to me. And it turned out that I was right. The “nak” hadn’t burned any part of my eyes. There were no after effects once the oil was rinsed out of my eyes.
We live in a world where the common perception is that everyone — or nearly everyone — is on their way to heaven. Why? Because we’ve done more good than bad. People really do believe that they are essentially good. They choose to ignore the warnings of Holy Scripture regarding our sinfulness and our desperate need for a savior. Like me in my youthful optimism, folks generally believe that nothing bad can happen to them when this life is over.
The law is given to wake us up from our unfounded optimism and reveal the naked truth that all sinners deserve to spend an eternity in hell. Thank God that the law is not all he gave to us. Once the law has done its intended work — to wake us up and move us to repentance — we’re ready to hear the Gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. It’s the Gospel that informs us that Jesus has already paid the full price for our sinfulness with his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave and that a forever place in heaven is available for everyone who believes in and trusts Jesus completely for his/her salvation.
Believe and be saved. Optimism won’t save anyone. Only Jesus saves.