Fire and brimstone
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Fire and brimstone (or, alternatively, brimstone and fire, translated from the Hebrew גפרית ואש) is an idiomatic expression of signs of God's wrath in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the New Testament. In the Bible, they often appear in reference to the fate of the unfaithful. "Brimstone", the archaic name for sulfur, evokes the acrid odor of volcanic activity. The term is also used, sometimes pejoratively, to describe a style of Christian preaching that uses vivid descriptions of judgment and eternal damnation to encourage repentance.
The King James translation of the Bible often renders passages about fiery torments with the phrase "fire and brimstone". In Genesis 19, God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah with a rain of fire and brimstone, and in Deuteronomy 29, the Israelites are threatened with the same punishment should they abandon their covenant with God. Elsewhere, divine judgments involving fire and sulfur are prophesied against Assyria (Isaiah 30), Edom (Isaiah 34), Gog (Ezekiel 38), and all the wicked (Psalm 11).
The breath of God, in Isaiah 30:33, is compared to brimstone: "The breath of Jehovah, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it."
Fire and brimstone frequently appear as agents of divine wrath throughout the Book of Revelation culminating in chapters 19–21, wherein the devil and the ungodly are cast into a lake of fire and brimstone as an eternal punishment:
"And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Revelation 19:20, KJV).
"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Revelation 20:10, KJV).
"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8, KJV).
Two archeologists believed that they found brimstone in the ancient cities of the Holy Land reported to have suffered from the disaster. William Albright and Melvin Kyle set out to find the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in 1924, and found brimstone at Southern end of the Dead Sea.
According to Jewish historian, Josephus, "Now this country is then so sadly burnt up, that nobody cares to come at it;... It was of old a most happy land, both for the fruits it bore and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. It is related how for the impiety of its inhabitants, it was burnt by lightning; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that divine fire; and the traces (or shadows) of the five cities are still to be seen,..." (The Jewish War, book IV, end of ch. 8, in reference to Sodom.)
The story of prophet Lot finds mention in several Qur'anic passages, especially Chapter 26:160-175 which reads: "The people of Lut rejected the apostles. Behold, their brother Lut said to them: "Will ye not fear (God)? "I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust. "So fear God and obey me. "No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the lord of the Worlds. "Of all the creatures in the world, will ye approach males, "And leave those whom God has created for you to be your mates? Nay, ye are a people transgressing (all limits)!" They said: "If thou desist not, O Lut! thou wilt assuredly be cast out!" He said: "I do detest your doings." "O my Lord! deliver me and my family from such things as they do!" So We delivered him and his family,- all Except an old woman who lingered behind. But the rest We destroyed utterly. We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): and evil was the shower on those who were admonished (but heeded not)! Verily in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe. And verily thy Lord is He, the Exalted in Might Most Merciful."
Brimstone was not only associated with the wrath of God or judgment but it was also used as a purifying agent. The Greek Orthodox would burn brimstone to ward off evil and disease. Some[who?] might state that this is why God's breath is compared with brimstone and why brimstone is often used in carrying out divine judgment. That is, the brimstone is used to purify the land from evil.
Puritan preacher Thomas Vincent (an eyewitness of the Great Fire of London) authored a book called "Fire and Brimstone in Hell", first published in 1670. In it he quotes from Psalm 11:6 "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest, this shall be the portion of their cup."
Preachers such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were referred to as "fire and brimstone preachers" during the Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s. Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" remains among the best-known sermons from this period. Reports of one occasion when Edwards preached it said that many of the audience burst out weeping, and others cried out in anguish or even fainted.
- http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/brimstone+?s=b; http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brimstone