Seven Habits of a Godly Life

Dr. Stanley details the seven habits that undergird a healthy spiritual life, encouraging us to dedicate ourselves to practices like prayer, generosity, and forgiveness. Make pursuing godliness a habit—you won’t regret it! For more messages from Charles Stanley, including this week’s broadcast, go to intouch.org/tv.

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Fallen Angels and Men

Dr. W. A. Criswell

2 Peter 2:4-9

6-9-74    10:50 a.m.  Video Link: https://www.wacriswell.com/serm…/1974/fallen-angels-and-men/

W. A. Criswell

On radio and on television we welcome you to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Angels and Men.  In going around through our Baptist Zion, so many times have my fellow ministers said to me, “When we come to Dallas for the Southern Baptist Convention, please, would you be in your pulpit?  We would like just to go to church and we would like to hear the pastor preach.”  Then some of them made a second request: they said, “When we come and attend the services, could it be that there be not a special address made for that occasion, but would you preach just as you do Sunday by Sunday?”

Nothing could have pleased me personally more.  For Sunday by Sunday in the church, I expound the Word of God in order.  For example, I preached through the Bible seventeen years and eight months one time.  Where I left off Sunday morning, I began Sunday night and continued that for the years and the months.  What I do now is I take a Bible book, one that especially is meaningful and appealing to me, and I expound it Sunday by Sunday, taking the passages as they come in consecutive order.

Now at this time, during these days, I am preaching through 2 Peter, and we have come to the second chapter of 2 Peter.  The message therefore, this morning, is an exposition of the text we have come to in the second chapter of 2 Peter, beginning at verse 4:

For God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment:

And He spared not the old world, but saved Noah . . .

a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

And God turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly;

But He delivered just Lot, who was vexed with the filthy living of the wicked:

For the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished

[2 Peter 2:4-9]

This is our text for the exposition of this morning’s message.  It is an astonishing thing that God reveals here through His apostle Simon Peter: the angels who left their first estate, fallen angels, “now reserved in chains and in darkness until the great day of judgment” of Almighty God [2 Peter 4; Jude 6].  I preach out of the King James Version, and the text, the translation, reads: “the angels that sinned, God hath cast down to hell” [2 Peter 2:4], the word is Tartarus.  There is nobody in hell—not now, nor until the consummation of the age—the first to be cast into hell will be the beast.  The second to be cast into hell will be the false prophet [Revelation 19:20].  The third to be cast into hell will be the devil and his angels [Revelation 20:10Matthew 25:41]].  And the fourth and last to be cast into hell are the lost, those who reject the grace and goodness of God [Revelation 20:15]; this is Tartarus.

When we die we go—God’s saved, they go to Paradise, to Abraham’s bosom [Luke 16:22].  Some people would like to call it “heaven.”  Fine, but it is not the heaven that shall be when God shall raise our bodies from the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16], and soul and spirit and body are joined again, immortalized and glorified [1 Thessalonians 5:23].  Until that great resurrection day, when we die, we go to Paradise, or Abraham’s bosom, or heaven if you like [Luke 16:25]; but not the heaven that shall be at the consummation of the age [Revelation 21:1].

When the wicked dies, when a lost man dies, he goes to Tartarus, or to “torment” [Luke 16:22-23], awaiting likewise, the great resurrection day of the Lord; for the unjust shall be raised as well as the just.  And at that day, their soul and their body will be joined together and at the great white throne judgment, they will receive the reward of their deeds [Revelation 20:11-15].  In that place to which the wicked go [Luke 16:23], these fallen angels are already there [2 Peter 2:4], in Tartarus, the Bible calls it, and there in chains and in darkness [1 Peter 3:19], these await the great judgment day of Almighty God [Matthew 8:29].

Who are these angels?  And why did they fall?  Who are they?  This is a mystery God has kept to Himself.  They are certainly not the devil and his angels, because when Satan is cast out finally, he is cast out into the earth [Revelation 12:9].  And he has access to God now, where he accuses God’s saints, accuses God’s saints day and night [Revelation 12:10], and his demons, his fallen legions, are here with us, deceiving and destroying men.  So these angels in Tartarus [2 Peter 2:4], are not the devil and his angels, for they are free in the earth and are our antagonists and accusers and deceivers.  Sometimes I will run across in my studying a man who will say that these angels who are in Tartarus are the angels of Genesis 6 [Genesis 6:4], who in carnality cohabited with women in the earth, and because of that, judgment was cast upon them and they are in torment in Tartarus.  To me—and this is just a personal, private judgment—I think that is of a piece and of a kind with unbelievable, speculative Greek mythology, nothing better or more.  Who are they?  We do not know.  Somehow there are these angels that God imprisoned and in chains and in darkness [1 Peter 3:19], they are kept in Tartarus against the day of judgment of Almighty God [2 Peter 2:4].

Now, why are they there?  What did they do beyond what Satan and his legions have done that these should be so chosen for incarceration?  Again, this is a mystery that God has kept in His own heart; it is not revealed.  But there is something about it that is very evident.  It is this: when God made, created the angels, He created them moral and upright and with the freedom of choice [Isaiah 14:13-14].  And in the ages past, man—not the first sinner; angels, the first sinners in the ages past, given the choice of loving God or following Satan, they chose to spurn the goodness and grace of God and followed after the archangel Lucifer [Revelation 12:4].  And in that choice, they are forever confirmed: those who love God confirmed in heaven and these who rejected God confirmed in damnation [Revelation 12:4].

That is an exact thing that we find in our own human lives.  We also are here in a period of probation.  And at the end of that period of probation, which we call life in the earth, when we die we are forever assigned to the choice that we have made.  If I love God and accept Christ, I am forever confirmed in the glory and fellowship of heaven [John 10:28-29].  But if I reject Christ and spurn the overtures of grace and mercy, at the end of my period of probation, when I die I am forever confirmed in damnation and torment [Luke 16:26].  These are awesome things that God reveals to us in His Holy Word.

Now, let us look closely at the passage and see here some things that God reveals to us.  Number one: in studying the text and in reading the revealed Word of the Lord, I am taught herein, hereby, that high office and privilege do not save me and do not keep me from falling [Deuteronomy 10:17Job 34:19].  These angels are in the very presence of God, created just a little below the glory of the Lord Himself, and yet their high estate and their holy calling of praise and glory did not keep them from falling [Job 15:15].

Lucifer degenerates into Satan [Isaiah 14:12] and the son of the morning [Isaiah 1:12]becomes Apollyon, the destroyer [Revelation 9:11].  His wisdom curdles into cunning, and his strength sours into vicious and brutal force.  How astonishing that one so high, so exalted, could fall so abysmally, and tragically, and catastrophically; just as the high office of Judas, an apostle of Christ, did not preserve him or keep him from the disastrous judgment that fell upon him [Acts 1:16-18].  Not to apply this to salvation, but to our ministries before the God; it is possible for a man to be high and exalted and fall to the depths!  That is what Paul meant when he cried, saying to the people at Corinth, “I keep my body under subjection: lest that I, having preached the gospel to others, should become a castaway” [1 Corinthians 9:27].  High office and exaltation do not save us; nor do they preserve us from falling.

Second: as I look at the passage [2 Peter 2:4-9] and see the revelation of God, I find here that great, vast multitudinous throngs and numbers does not mitigate my terror and the awfulness of my destruction in damnation.  How unbelievable a grasp for a slight hope when a man says, “I may fall into hell and into damnation, but I won’t be by myself.  There will be millions and millions of others who will live in the same hell and the same damnation as I am.”  Oh, what unbelievable reaching out for comfort.  For how is it a comfort to a man writhing in agony, and in terror, and in torment, to think that there are millions of others just like me who also writhe and are in agony?

How many angels are there?  The Scriptures say “myriads times myriads times myriads.”  That is ten thousands times ten thousands times innumerable tens of thousands[Revelation 5:11].  And these angels that fall, what comfort would it be to an angel who had fallen and is in chains and is in darkness [2 Peter 2:4]just to remember that there are other angels just like him also damned?  What spare, sterile hope and comfort is this?  Look, the text says God spared not that old world—only Noah; and the whole world of the ungodly was destroyed [2 Peter 2:5].

I can easily imagine the great population gathered around Noah, building an ark hundreds of miles away from the water to float it [Genesis 6:13-14], and they say to one another, “Who is believing this?  Just one old man, and he’s crazy!  Just one family, and just look at all of us gathered around.  To us, it is idiocy that God should judge this world [Genesis 6:11-13].  That God should condemn sin is unthinkable!  Look at us, how many we are!”  But when the flood came, and the fountains were broken up, and the skies turned into the ocean beds themselves, what comfort would it be to a man standing on an eminent somewhere and seeing around him the floating bodies—the dead, drowned corpses of those who had perished in the flood? [2 Peter 2:5Genesis 7:17-24].  He mentions Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah, when the fire and the brimstone fell [2 Peter 2:6Genesis 19:24-29].  What comfort would it be to a man in Sodom to look around and see his wife and his children and his friends and everyone that he has ever known, see them destroyed in the judgment of God, and find comfort in the thought that “I am not alone in this damnation; look around me—all of these are also judged and dead”?

In 1947, I went through Germany, so soon after the World War that the great masses of rubble that represented those vast cities were still there.  They had just taken time to find a pathway through the jungle of debris—just for a car to drive through.  And I have thought what comfort would it be for a man in Hanover, standing and looking at the destruction of his vast city, and he finds comfort in his heart to think, “It isn’t just my Hanover.  You ought to look at Hamburg, or Frankfurt, or Leipzig, or Dresden, or Munich; they also are level with the ground.”  There is a harshness and a tragedy about damnation that is inescapable and unshared.

Sometimes we think that in hell, we’ll find fellowship.  From what I can read in the Bible, it is an outer darkness, and you are by yourself, alone.  Ah! the multitudinous throngs that may reject and be lost, they are no comfort to us in our agony and our distress.  I look again at this passage from God’s Holy Word [2 Peter 2:4-9].  I can see as I read it that culture and environment and training and background do not save me, nor do they keep me from falling.

Was ever concourse more salubrious, and felicitous, and beautiful, and good, and glorious, than the angels as they stood in the presence of the Lord God Almighty Himself?  They sang together in the praises of God, and when the Lord God flung these worlds out into space, they sang as the sons of joy and of the morning, rejoicing in God’s handiwork [Job 38:4-7], God’s lacework, God’s vast, immeasurable, infinite firmament, and they were surrounded by like goodness and holiness and purity.  They had converse with the cherubim and the seraphim, and they stood in the courts of heaven in the very presence of God.  There was no thing around them that was not holy and blessed, and yet, with all of the fine environment around which they were surrounded, they fell, deceived by the enticements and allurements of Satan [Revelation 12:4].

When I think of that with us, can culture save us?  Can training and education and background and environment deliver us?  O Lord, I wish that it could.  All we needed to have done was to educate Nazi Germany, and they would have been amenable to peace and goodness and righteousness.  All we would need to have done was to educate and train and put a good environment around the Italians, and there never would have been a Fascist party.  Or all we need to do for America would be to educate them and train them and put environmental goodness around them, and they would never be violent and blasphemous.  Don’t you wish that were our simple problem—just to train, just to educate, just to create an environment of affluence and the accouterments of aesthetic enjoyments, and that we would all be good?  Don’t you wish?  But underneath, underneath the veneer of culture and training and education and good environment, always there is that depraved character, that fallen soul.  It is always with us.

I read where a man had a leopard—a pet leopard.  And upon a day, seated in his living room, the leopard was licking the hand of his master.  And as the leopard licked the hand of his master, his razor-like teeth scratched him.  And he licked blood and he tasted blood.  And immediately, the primeval ferocious nature of the carnivorous animal went wild and cut his master to pieces.  I again read of a man who had a cub lion, and out on their farm a little boy, his son, and the cub lion were out there.  And upon a day the father saw that cub lion stalking his little boy; underneath, underneath always that primeval and fallen nature.

You could not find a more dramatic illustration of that than in the eighth chapter of 2 Kings, when Ben-hadad the king of Syria is sick unto death.  And he sends Hazael, his trusted captain and chief of staff—he sends Hazael to the prophet of God, Elisha, to see if he will recover or die.  And Hazael stands in the presence of the man of God and asks about King Ben-hadad [2 Kings 8:7-9].  And Elisha replies, “Go tell your master he will recover, but God has shown to me that he will certainly die” [2 Kings 8:10].  And then Elisha fastened has gaze upon Hazael, and as he looked at Hazael, Elisha the man of God began to weep.  And Hazael said, “My father, why do you cry?” [2 Kings 8:11-12]. And Elisha replied, “For God hath revealed to me that thou shalt be king over Syria and that thou will burn their cities in Israel with fire, and you will slay the young men of Israel with the sword, and you will rip up their women with child” [2 Kings 8:12].  And Hazael looked incredulously into the face of Elisha the man of God, and said, “But, my father, is thy servant a dead dog that he would do a thing like that?” [2 Kings 8:13].  But he did.  He took a wet cloth and covered the face of Ben-hadad the king and smothered him to death [2 Kings 8:14-15].  And when Hazael ascended to the throne, all of those violent things that Elisha wept over did Hazael devastatingly visit upon Israel [2 Kings 12:1713:3].  Underneath, underneath that depraved, fallen nature and the veneer of culture and environment are not able to eradicate it.

Out of a seminary of the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church came Joseph Stalin.  His mother dedicated him to God for a priest.  Out of the righteous home of Noah came carnal Ham [Genesis 5:32].  Out of the home of a man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14Acts 13:22] came the traitor Absalom [2 Samuel 3:3], his own son out of his own loins [2 Samuel 15-18].  And God said because of the sins of Manasseh, “I will destroy Judah from the face of the earth” [2 Kings 21:10-15;Jeremiah 15:4-6].  And Manasseh was the son, the only son of good King Hezekiah [2 Kings 21:1-3].

Upon a day in another city where lives, I suppose, the greatest preacher of our time—retired; and the pastor of the church took me to see him.  And in the home, pictures of his daughter, many, many, many—wall covered with them.  Pictures of his daughter’s family, many, many, many—the grand piano covered with them.   And after it was over, walking from the house, I said to the pastor, “Didn’t he have a son?”

“Yes,” said the pastor, “He had a son.”

“Well,” I said, “where is his picture?  What is his name?”  He said to me, “Sir, he is never referred to.  He is never named.”  Brought up in a godly home in one of the houses of the great of our Baptist Zion, an obstreperous, an incorrigible, and prodigal, and unnamed.  These angels with all of the accouterments and aesthetic sensibilities of worship, and goodness, and praise, and glory all around them, yet fall into the deception of sin and judgment and damnation [Revelation 12:4].

O Lord, what of us?  What of us?  What of us?  If an angel falls and is lost [Matthew 8:29]; Lord, what of us?  But the Lord—but the Lord knoweth how to deliver those who trust in Him.  God knoweth how to deliver those who believe in Him out of peirasmou, the ravages of trial and temptation [2 Peter 2:9].  God knows how to deliver us and He does.

Oh, the grace and the mercy of God that extends down to us! [Titus 2:11]. Look! Look: the angels fell, and these are chained forever in darkness, waiting the judgment of God [2 Peter 2:4]; but for us, but for us, God sent His own Son, a Savior [John 3:16-17].  For us, God made atonement for our sins [Romans 5:811].  For us Jesus died [Romans 5:6].  Oh the goodness and the grace of God, that He had pity and mercy upon us! [Ephesians 2:8Titus 3:5].

I sometimes think, as you do, why would God do that for us?  Send Jesus to die for us? [John 3:17].  Make atonement in His own blood for our own sins? [Romans 5:11]. Suffer in our stead, die our death? [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Why does God do that for us?  And the only answer I have ever been able to find in the Holy Scriptures is like Psalm 103:

As a father pitieth his children,

so the Lord pitieth them that look in helplessness and in crying need to Him.

For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.

 [Psalm 103:13-14]

God in His pity looked down in compassion upon us and sent Jesus to make atonement for us [John 3:16-17], that we might be saved, “like as a father pitieth his children,” so God pities us who are made out of dust [Psalm 103:13-14].

There was a man who had a big, fine son, an older son.  The boy was in college; a star athlete, a handsome specimen of young manhood, the older boy.  The father also had a little boy, a younger son, and the little boy gave promise to be as fair and as fine and as strong and as athletic as his older brother.  Upon a day—upon a day, somehow, in these ways that you never know and can never explain, somehow the little boy got tangled up with his bicycle and the wheels of a big truck.  In the hospital the doctor turned to the father and said, “Sir, the only way I can save, in hope, the life of the boy is to amputate his left arm and to amputate his right leg.”  And the father said, as he looked down into the face of his little boy, for the first time he knew what it meant when the Scriptures say, “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth us who are made out of dust” [Psalm 103:13-14].  Oh, the goodness, and the grace, and the mercy of God that extends down to us with open arms, with open heart, with grace and glory!  God says, “Come, come, come” [Matthew 11:28].

In the balcony round, a family you, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, a couple you, down one of these aisles; or just one somebody you: “Today, God has spoken to me and I am coming.”  Some to give heart in faith and trust to the dear and blessed Savior: “I take Him today into my heart and into my life.  I believe in Jesus and I am coming.”  Or to put your life in the circle and circumference of this dear church, or to answer a call the Spirit has pressed to your heart, make the decision now, and when we stand in a moment to sing, stand coming down that stairway or walking down this aisle.  There are hundreds of you in chapels and assembly halls around the church.  If God has spoken to you where you are, come; across the street, some of you there; up the stairway, some of you there; as the Spirit shall open the door, make it now.  Angels will attend you in the way; these who love God will rejoice in the presence of the Savior in heaven when you come [Luke 15:10].  Make it now, do it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.

Fallen Angels and Men

All of Satan’s Apples Have Worms

Message by Dr. John R. Rice

I am speaking tonight on the subject, “All Satan’s Apples Have Worms.” I do not deny that the Devil has some pretty apples; I just say that all of them are fakes and that after you bite into them, you will find they have worms. All Satan’s apples have worms.

Luke, chapter 15, is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible, one of the most beautiful stories in all literature – the story of the prodigal son. With what measure of strength God will give me, I will bring to your mind illustrations, Scriptures and experiences proving that every time the Devil promises happiness, he lies; proving that every time the Devil promises things will turn out well, he lies and deceives; proving that everybody who ever depended on the Devil’s lie, the Devil’s way, the Devil’s pleasure, the Devil’s whims, the Devil’s plan for happiness and peace, found they were duped, fooled, deceived; found that the Devil’s apples all have worms.

Now in Luke, chapter 15, verse 11 and following:

“And he said (Jesus said), A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and be merry; For this my son was dead, and is alive again: he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”

Satan Does Have Beautiful Apples
First, Satan does have beautiful apples. This prodigal boy thought, It is dull around here. I don’t want to stay home. And my father wants me to obey him.

Obedience is always a distasteful thing to young people, “I don’t want to have to stay here and mind. I don’t want Dad telling me what time I must get in, what time I must be in bed. I don’t want anybody telling me when to get up, what kind of company to keep, whether I can go to this place or that place, and can’t go to another.”

So the prodigal son thought, I want to get from under my father’s thumb. How many young men have thought, Oh, if I could only get untied from my mother’s apron strings, how happy I would be.

So this prodigal said to his father, “If you are going to ever give me anything, give it to me now. When you die I may be an old man of thirty with all the chances for a good time gone. I am not willing to wait until you die to have part of your estate.”

Young people feel that way, that a person is awfully old when he is thirty.

“If you are going to give me anything, give it to me now.” So that father divided unto them his living.

This boy thought things around home distasteful; he did not want to obey the rules.

And then he said, “I don’t want to work so hard.” Young people always feel, Why does there have to be so much hard work in the world? You remember God said to Adam in the Garden of Eden after sin came in, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake.” He did not say, “I have cursed the ground as a constant reminder that I hate you, that I am trying to whip you, that I am punishing you, that I want to make you unhappy and miserable, that I want to wear you out with hard labor.” Rather, God said, “I have done it because I love you. I have cursed the ground for your sake, and you are now going to have to work for a living.”

Young people think the Devil doesn’t say that. No, the Devil has easy ways of making a living without work. The Devil has easy ways of getting along without buckling down. The Devil always claims to have a better way than studying hard to get your lessons. He says, “You can cheat on exams; you can postpone studying and cram before examinations.” But you will soon find him to he a liar when you try that.

The Devil always has some easy way to get by without work, some way to make a living by just being smart. He says, “Just put a few dollars on the ponies and you will be a millionaire overnight.” Or if it is not that way, it is some other way.

The prodigal boy thought, I don’t want to stay here and work hard all the time. I want to have some fun. The Devil has a good argument, hasn’t he? He does not want you to obey the rules: he does not want you to work.

Then this boy did not want to be denying himself. He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. Here at home I can’t have this, and can’t do this, and can’t go this way. I don’t like giving up my own way and trying to please Dad. Mother grieves when I get drunk, and she thinks I shouldn’t waste money. Dad acts as if he is brokenhearted just because I go out on a wild party. I want to have fun. I want my way for awhile.

The Devil always makes the far country beautiful. He always paints it in glowing colors. The Devil always says, “Out in the far country there is wonderful music and dancing. Out in the far country there is more good wine to drink, more beautiful girls to go with, and no rules. There everybody does as he pleases. People have such a good time. They have plenty of money and don’t have to work for it out in the far country.”

The boy thought, I must go try it. I don’t like this old fogy way of working for in living, this old fogy way of obeying your parents. I want to go. The Devil agreed. “That is right. You don’t have to deny yourself.”

Satan brought the same old palaver, the same lies, in the Garden of Eden, saying to Adam and Eve, “Did God tell you that you would surely die if you ate of this fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Why, you will not really die. God just doesn’t want you to have any good times. He just doesn’t want you to enjoy the good food that is here. Besides, He knows it would make you smart. See how it shines! See how good it smells, how well it looks! Suppose you pull one. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to – just pull one and look at it and feel it. See, it is ripe and mellow and smells so good.”

That is the way the Devil always works. He says, “You don’t want to get drunk, so just take a little social drink. You don’t want to embarrass the hostess when wine is served or when the gang is having just a glass of beer. You don’t want to be an old fogy. Of course, you don’t have to get drunk.”

He said to Eve in the Garden of Eden, “Why don’t you pull the fruit? Just feel of it. Do you really know what it would do for you?”

Eve said, “No, but I am sure it would do a lot of wonderful things.”

The Devil said, “Well, it will make you smart. You will be as smart as God. If you will eat this, you will be wise like God.”

The Devil has some beautiful apples. So he held an apple before the prodigal boy and said, “Out in the far country you would have lots of friends, not these old fogy folks around here. Out in the far country you could stay out as late as you liked. My, the wonderful orchestras and the night clubs and the cocktail parties – all the good times you would have! Don’t stay around here.” The Devil dangles some beautiful apples. So the boy leaves home.

I want you to know this, too. The prodigal son had a whale of a time while it lasted. Sure! Any fellow who has a Chrysler and enough gas, if he has money for night clubs and shows, can honk his horn in front of nearly any girl’s house and fill his car. There are beautiful apples out in the far country. Don’t you tell young people that the Devil doesn’t have something that appeals. He does! The Devil has some beautiful apples. They smell fine, and the first bite may taste very delicious.

So this prodigal went out into a far country. There he began to spend his money. There he began to drink. He wasted his substance in riotous living. Boy, what a high time he had!

Listen to me! We had as well face it. The Devil is out to get your boy and girl. And he has every allure in the world with which to do it.

I think I ought to say this also. We will show that God has some good things, too. That is one reason why I am out to compete with the Devil. Some people are always saying, “Don’t worry about big crowds.” Listen to me! God has a right to as big crowds as the Devil has. He has! Why should this big auditorium be filled with basketball games every night and then we not be able to get that many people out to hear the Gospel? We have more to draw crowds than the world has.

On my book table out there you find those pamphlets printed on nice paper, in beautiful colors, with lovely pictured covers drawn by good artists. I have tried to make my Christian books as interesting and attractive as the world makes its literature.

Why should a church not have as bright lights as a theater? Or gospel singers not have as many instruments and as well-trained voices as those in night clubs? Why should God’s people not enjoy the best?

I say, the Devil does have shined-up apples. They have glowing color and a pleasing aroma. And the first bite is sweet. We must recognize that the Devil has a pull on young as well as older people.

I remember one day out in west Texas we spent two or three hours confessing our sins. A lot of people had been confessing that they had gotten drunk, or had been dancing, etc. One man about seventy years old said, “Brother Rice, I haven’t been to a dance in thirty years!” A seventy-year-old bragging because he had not been and did not want to go to a dance! Brother, the truth is, if you are seventy and you go on the dance floor these days, I don’t know that you will have such a hot old time! But the young people do.

I say, Satan does have some beautiful apples! That old liar and deceiver is bent on the destruction of people.

This boy said, “Dad, listen! I just can’t stand it around here. It’s so dull; and I have to obey all the time. I have to get up in the morning on time. I have to be in early at night. The other guy’s don’t have to obey. And they spend money; why couldn’t I spend more money? They go to the show; why couldn’t I go to the show? They think it is all right to drink beer; why shouldn’t I drink beer?”

So the boy finally decided he would go into a far country and eat the Devil’s apples. Oh, Satan does have some beautiful apples.

But Each Beautiful Apple Has Worms
Notice next that Satan’s apples really have worms. The prodigal boy went “into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.”

You see, when he bit down into the apple, he found a worm. That is what you always find when you bite into the Devil’s apples! Sometimes when you bite into the Devil’s apples, you will find half a worm! Some of it you will have already swallowed! That is not a joke when you apply it to sin, as I am applying it now. Lots of times when you bite in and do not find a worm, you have already swallowed it. The sin is committed and you can’t get done with it as easily as you think. You will find out the Devil is a liar when it is too late to retract some things, when it is too late to live over some things.

Sure, with some of his years already wasted, with his money gone, with a diseased body, with his dad brokenhearted and disgraced in public and his mother sobbing her heart out every night on the pillow, this boy found it was not so pleasant in a far country. All that had to happen before he found that Satan’s apples have worms.

You do not believe that the Devil’s apples have worms; but one day, when it turns out bitter. you will find a worm in that apple.

I want to read a few verses on this Bible doctrine that all Satan’s apples have worms. And it is a Bible doctrine!

“And when he [the prophet of God] looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever.” – Num. 24:20.

The Amalekites were the people who went against Israel and fought against them. God said, “I’m going to destroy them. They are the strongest nation in all the land, the first of the nations. But you wait until the end; you will find they are not so hot. You will find that the Devil’s apples have worms.”

Here is another Scripture on this Bible doctrine that all Satan’s apples have worms.

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” – Ps. 37:7-10

“David, don’t fret because of that old sinner. Don’t complain because that man is getting along better than you are.”

David had said, “Lord, here is a sinner who is making good money and having a good time. I am living for You and am having it tough. This man who is living for the Devil seems to prosper.”

God said, “David, don’t worry about that. He has pretty apples, but all of them have worms.”

Listen to what God says:

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evil doers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.”

Just watch awhile and you will find that really he does not prosper. The man who has plenty of the Devil’s apples and thinks they are wonderful and seems to enjoy them – watch him for awhile, and you will find that every one of his apples will have worms. “The man who seems to prosper in his sin won’t keep on prospering.” God is saying to David.

Another Scripture on this Bible doctrine that all Satan’s apples have worms is Proverbs 5:3-5. This is a story to young people.

“For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb [Isn’t she sweet? Aren’t her kisses sweet? And there is the allure of her arms about you, and the allure of her sweet perfume and her soft hair and skin], and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end” – oh, yes, the end – “But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two edged sword. Her feet go down to death: her steps take hold on hell.”

Yes, sin is beautiful to start with. Satan himself, when he sends his ministers, sends them like angels of light. My, how beautiful are the Devil’s angels!

Young person, listen! Now you have your friends and you are having a high old time. You go the way of sin. You give way to your sex passion. Maybe it is in petting and necking. Maybe it is in the lewdness of the dirty picture show. Maybe it is on the dance floor. Maybe it is in mixed bathing. But wait! “Her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two edged sword. Her feet go down to death: her steps take hold on hell.” This is the Bible doctrine that all Satan’s apples have worms when you get down to the core!

Proverbs, chapter 14, has this same Bible doctrine, that all Satan’s apples have worms, that his promises are lies, that all his good times turn out in sorrow and heartbreak. Verses 12 to 14 say:

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness. The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.”

Oh, young people, wait until you see the end! Do not judge by the beginning; judge by the end! Do not, I say, depend on how the Devil makes it look at the start. You had better see how God says it will end. The Devil’s apples look nice, smell nice, taste nice at first. But you will find out the truth when you bite into the worms of sin, sorrow, corruption, disappointments, broken hearts, smiting consciences, and torment in Hell.

Listen again!

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful …”

Oh, there is laughter in the night clubs. There is laughter in the lewd, dirty shows. There is laughter in barrooms – and shooting, too, and divorce, and broken homes, and broken hearts, and the making of paupers and harlots and drunkards! Sure, there is lots of laughter. But remember that in that kind of laughter that “even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”

Many people laugh and laugh. But then they find it does not make them happy, and they go out – some often to commit suicide. Others go out in disappointment, with disillusionment written on their poor hardened faces because of sin.

It is said that in a great city there was a physician famous for his counsel. A man came to him one day and said, “Doctor, I want you to see what is wrong with me.”

The doctor checked him over and said, “Your heart is all right. Your lungs are all right. Your blood pressure is normal. But you look as if you are run-down and tired, disillusioned, and unhappy. You need to do what I did. Go out to the circus and laugh at the antics of a famous clown with his funny mask, his big shoes, and his slapstick. He got bowled over a number of times. More funny things happened. I went and I laughed and laughed! I prescribe for you a visit to the same circus. Sit for two hours and laugh at that clown, and forget your troubles and have a happy heart.”

The man said, “Doctor, your prescription won’t do me any good. I am that clown!”

The man who provides the laughter for the world will soon find that it turns to heaviness. You who have all the sweetness the Devil can give, drink it down. Prodigal boy in the far country, drink it down. Wayward girl here in Cleveland, when you come to the dregs in the bottom of the cup you will find them bitter as wormwood! You will wish you were dead. Oh, I tell you now, the end of that kind of mirth is heaviness! All Satan’s apples have worms, the Bible clearly teaches. Every promise of a good time the Devil ever made is a lie. Every good time the Devil ever gave was misery when the other side was reached. It never turns out happily.

“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” – Prov 16:25.

That is a repetition of what was said in the 14th chapter. Here is another in Proverbs, chapter 23, (This is what liquor does. And every one of the Devil’s apples end up the same way – with worms.)

“Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.” – Vss. 31,32.

Do not look at it! You say, “But it looks so beautiful. See the bubbles. See the foam sparkle. When people taste it, their eyes get brighter. Suddenly they feel so witty! Everybody laughs at their jokes after they have a few drinks, and they have such a good time. Their inhibitions are gone. They used to be so timid; now they can make speeches. They can sing the loudest of anybody now.”

But listen to what the Bible says:

“Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. AT THE LAST (you had better think about what is in the core before you eat any of the Devil’s apples) AT THE LAST it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.”

That is what wine does. That is what liquor does. That is what every kind of sin does. The Devil has worms in the core of every apple.

Ah, the prodigal boy! His money was gone after awhile. Did you know that it pays in dollars and cents to be a Christian and to live straight? How many people have found when they tried the Devil’s way to make money they could not keep it! Did you know that a Christian can hold a better job than one who is not a Christian? Don’t let the Devil tell you that you can’t hold a good job unless you drink. The contrary is true. The traveling salesman thinks he has to drink a little to hold his job. But nearly always, in the same company, the president got there because he did not drink! He had character. He could be trusted.

I tell you now, the Devil is a liar when he makes you think you cannot get along in this world without sin. I say, the Devil means to deceive and ruin you. He lies when he promises anything at all for sin. Always at the last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder.

All the prodigal boy’s money was soon gone after he went to the far country. If he had stayed at home and worked hard, he would have still had money in his jeans. But his money was soon gone, then his friends were gone.

I have preached in many rescue missions in America – in the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, the Sunshine Mission, the Mel Trotter Mission in Grand Rapids, in the Evansville Rescue Mission at Evansville, Indiana. The same thing happens everywhere. A fellow spends his money in the dirty booze joint and has a high old time. Then when it is gone, he is kicked out. Then he comes down to the mission to get a cup of coffee and a sandwich or a hamburger or a doughnut. The simple fact is, the Devil’s crowd are not good friends when your money is gone.

You remember Judas Iscariot. He thought, “Jesus isn’t a good friend of mine. He doesn’t give me enough money. I have been stealing some out of the purse, but I can’t get much now. And there is Mary who came with three hundred pence. (Really three hundred Roman denarii, One denarius represented about a day’s wages ordinarily.) She spent it all for perfume, then broke the bottle and poured it out over Jesus. I told her she ought to have saved the money to give to the poor. I could have carried it, and would have gotten more out of it. I never will get rich this way. These Pharisees, these scribes, will pay me more than this.”

So Judas went down to see them and inquired: “How much will you give me to betray Him? I will lead you right out where He has His prayer meetings; there, when nobody can defend Him, I will show you how to take Him. How much money will you give me?”

“We will give you thirty pieces of silver.”

Judas thought, Boy, that is more money than I have had in one day in a long time! I’ll sure do it. And Judas fell.

Yes, Judas has gotten one of Satan’s apples. He led Jesus’ enemies out there and got the money. They took Jesus and brought Him back to kill Him. About that time Judas’ conscience began to work. He began to find the apple had a worm in it. He came back and said to those priests, those Pharisees, and those scribes, “Take this money back! I have betrayed innocent blood! My conscience is burning like fire. I feel as if I am already in Hell. Take the money back and turn Jesus loose!”

They said, “You see to that yourself, old boy. We made the bargain and got what we wanted. What do we care about your conscience? What do we care if you go to Hell? What do we care about your broken heart?” (See Matt, 27:3-5.)

So Judas threw the money on the stone floor, then went out and hanged himself. Can you hear the ringing of the coins as he threw them down and as they scattered around the feet of those avaricious and wicked men? When Judas got down to the core of the Devil’s apple, it was bitter with worms. You will find the same thing!

What I am saying is, when the man’s money was gone, his friends were gone. The Devil has no friends to stick by you in the long run. The best friends you have in the world on the Devil’s side will make a drunkard out of you or a dopehead or break up your home or make a sucker out of you. I say, Satan’s apples have worms.

So this prodigal’s money was gone after awhile, and his friends were also gone. Then there arose a mighty famine in that country.

Notice the succession of sin. First, his money was gone. That was the natural result of sin. Second, his friends were all gone; there was nobody to help him. That was the Devil’s part and the Devil’s way in sin. The Devil always quits you when you are in a tight spot. He and his friends never really help you when you most need them.

Next, there arose a mighty famine in that land. That was God’s punishment on sin. Sin itself brought one punishment; the boy’s money was gone. And Satan himself is a wicked, unreliable, hateful, pretended friend. He is the enemy, and called that in the Bible. You think he is your friend. No; the prodigal son didn’t have any friends. That is Satan’s part in sin. Then the famine came – God’s punishment on sin. A famine always comes. You cannot sin and get by.

Isn’t it strange that here in America we had first a great depression and then a war? No. That is because God won’t let sin get by. God never lets a prodigal boy land in a far country, play the fool, waste his substance with riotous living and devour it with harlots, then get out without a famine. If you have gone on in sin and have not landed in the hog pen, if you have not come where the famine is, you will, you are on the right road to it. It is the inevitable result of sin, This boy came to a famine.

Young people, do not be deceived by Satan! Oh, what a fool you are if you believe that happiness comes from the Devil’s way. What a fool you are if you believe his way turns out happily. It never did and it never will!

Somebody has well said that Satan has no happy old people. Satan has a lot of happy young people, if you mean happiness that comes from a good time in the sense of effervescent experiences, if you mean that kind of happiness – Hail fellow well met; pat me on the back; drink it down, and so on. The Devil has a lot of young people who start out thinking they are happy. But they soon find they are not. They find when they bite deep into the apple it has worms.

At Shamrock, Texas, where I was pastor of the First Baptist Church, Miss Irene Bryan came one day and said, “Brother Rice, a neighbor girl of mine, very prominent in society and monied circles, told me she is so despondent that she is thinking of killing herself. She is the victim of such melancholy that I wondered if I could bring her to see you.”

“Sure, bring her to see me.”

They came. This lovely girl, a beautifully dressed, cultured, well-educated young woman sat in my sitting room. She said, “Brother Rice, you tell me life is worth living. I know better. I have tried everything life has, I have gone with the country club crowd; I have danced; I have had my cocktails. I have enough money. I have traveled; I have seen the world. I have education. I have tried music and art and literature – I have tried all that. But I wish I were dead! Life isn’t worth living, I don’t see why God lets us be born into such a world, Everything in it is disillusionment and unhappiness. I have tried life, and it isn’t fit to live! I wish I were dead, and I am half a mind to kill myself!”

I said, “No, you don’t know all about life. You just know one side. Life is sweet and beautiful, if you are on the right side.”

She said, “Do you know any way more fit to live? I try to have a good time: I go with the gang, but the next morning my heart is so lonely; my head is splitting, and I feel like a fool! Do you know any way I could have some joy in life, some contentment, something that would give me happiness?”

I said, “I certainly do.”

She said, “I wish you would tell me.”

“Well, we will just get right down on our knees here and you can tell the Lord how empty your heart is. Tell Him you have tried all the Devil’s ways and they didn’t turn out well. Tell Him that you believed the Devil but that everything he said was a lie. Tell Him that all Satan’s apples have worms and you hate them. Then ask Jesus Christ to forgive you and come into your heart.”

“Will He do it?”

“He sure will! Try Him and see.”

Then I read some Scripture to her, and we got down together on our knees in the living room and prayed. Her tears wet the carpet as she knelt there while I prayed. She asked Jesus Christ to come into her heart and forgive her. She rose up with the peace of God in her heart. Her eyes filled with tears of joy, and her face was glad and happy.

What I am telling you about this girl, I have seen in a thousand hearts and lives and faces. I tell you, the Devil’s ways are ruinous, and the end thereof are the ways of death. The cocktail looks beautiful and bright, but you drink it, and at the last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder. In the long run, Satan’s ways do not pan out.

This boy is down here in the hog pen now, a prodigal boy away from home, hungry-hearted, physically hungry, and dressed in rags.

“And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.”

I have seen it all over America: the man who lives for the Devil may be picking up cigarette butts out of the street gutter. All over America I have seen that people who live for the Devil are likely to come to asking every passerby for a handout, telling some lie to get a few cents for another glass of beer. I say, all over America I have seen that such a man has to try every way, by hook and by crook, in order to keep soul and body together; and to him life is miserable, utterly miserable. No wonder people kill themselves! No wonder people take poison!

A woman in Fort Worth, Texas, put eight bichloride of mercury tablets in a glass of water and drank it down. Her home life was miserable. Jesus was not there. So she tried to kill herself. I went to St. Luke’s Hospital and the doctor said, “There is not a chance for her at all.” But she gave her heart to Christ; and He changed her heart, healed her body, and restored her home to happiness.

This prodigal boy found out that sin does not pay. It never paid anybody in the world, and you are a fool if you believe it does. The Devil has some beautiful apples, but they have worms in the cores. So this boy found out.

Throw Away Satan’s Apples
Now notice the next thing. First, the Devil has beautiful apples. Second, the apples have worms in them. Third, this boy threw his away. And that is what I want you to do tonight. Throw away the Devil’s apples! Down there in the hog pen he came to himself.

You know why you think it is such a “high old time” with drinking and dancing and necking and lewdness and these crazy ways of sin? Listen, you never have had a sensible thought. You are not in your right mind. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” You never did sit down at a table and reason with God. If you had ever had one sober, earnest, serious consideration, you would have been saved; you would have seen it was foolish and wicked to go to Hell in your sin. This boy came to himself.

A young woman in Chicago heard me preach and then talked to me later. She said she hated God because He had taken her mother. She cursed and swore at God and said she would never serve Him. I tried to get her saved: but she would not, at first, come to Christ. She said, “I guess you think I am a fool to come and hear you preach every day when I don’t believe in the stuff.”

I said, “No, I think the first time you have had any sense is when you came to hear an honest preacher.”

She kept on coming until God moved her heart and saved her and gave her sweet peace.

This prodigal boy in the Scripture came to his senses. And everyone who ever did come to his senses saw that sin was a fake, saw that the Devil was a liar, saw that the yawning pit of Hell was ahead of him if he stayed in sin, saw God’s mercy was free and turned to run to it.

This boy came to himself. He said, “I am going to arise and go to my father. Back home, my father’s servants, the hired servants, have plenty and to spare I wish I could get hack home with the hired men.” And he made up his mind, “I will arise and go to my father!”

Look about you at the happy old people. Look about you at other people with happiness in their hearts. They are not the people who gave way to Satan. They are the ones who lived for the Lord and stayed in the Father’s house. The boy said, “I am going back to my father.” So he got ready and went back.

A lot of people run down this boy. He did play the fool. He was a prodigal, a wastrel. He spent his money like water. He threw it away in a night at a poker game, perhaps, or a drinking party – money that it might have taken his father years to save. He surely was a fool. But I will tell you this about him: he came to himself and had sense enough to admit it.

Some of you are that same kind of a fool, but you have never faced the facts. You have never come to yourself. You had better say tonight, “I want to be saved; and, God helping me, I am going to turn to Jesus Christ.” This boy said, “I will arise and go to my father,” and he arose and came to his father.

You say, “Is being saved as simple as that?” It is even simpler! It can be done quicker than these words can be said: “The boy rose and came to his father.” If in your heart you will admit that sin is a wicked business, all a fake, that it doesn’t pay and if you will throw away the devil’s apples and turn to God, the Lord will give you His fruit right now. God’s fruit – how sweet it is! And at the last it is still sweet. A million years from now it will be getting better and better and better!

“He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:17). “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3). Oh, righteousness and peace and joy and love without disappointment! The long years ahead will only serve to prove how good God was to those who served Him, “Showing mercy,” the Bible says, “unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exod. 20:6).

The boy thought, I wish I had stayed home! I am going to get up now and go to my father. I don’t want anybody here to lift your hand for prayer unless you mean you want to be saved tonight. Most people who are “going to be saved sometime” are never saved. The road of Bye and Bye leads to the house of Never. It you are going to be saved, be like the prodigal who said, “I will arise and go to my father.” He came to his senses; he made the decision: he turned his back on his sin; he got up and came home to confess it to his father; he threw away the Devil’s apples. I hope you will do the same thing.

You May Have the Wonderful Fruit of God
Now there is one last word. The father had more than the Devil could ever give. His father had everything good. Here is the fruit the father gave the boy. First, the father ran to meet him, fell on his neck and kissed him.

Did anyone ever tell you that the Devil’s crowd is friendlier than the Lord’s crowd? You never did have the Devil give you things like this. The father came and fell on his neck and kissed him. The boy started to say, “Dad, I sure played the fool. I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight.” He had planned to say. “I am not fit to be your boy. Just let me live out in the bunkhouse with the hired hands and wash on the back porch and live just as though I were a hired man.” But he did not get that said. The father already had forgiven him! He fell on his son’s neck, kissed him and said to one of the men at the house, “Bring a robe for this boy.” (His robe had turned to rags. It alway’s turned out that way in the Devil’s service.) “And bring a ring for his finger.” (That was the sign of sonship, he was not a slave.) “And kill the fatted calf and let us be merry, my son that was dead is alive again!”

Suppose I meet that boy on the way home. “Hey, where are you going?”

“I’m going home to Dad. Don’t bother me.”

“Wait a minute! I want to talk to you.”

“No. Mr. Rice, I must hurry home. I have played the fool long enough.”

“Well, how do you feel?” (You know, a lot of people say, “If I felt right I would come.”)

“I feel like a bum, a crook, a fool: but I am going anyway.!”

“But don’t you think you had better wait until you feel right?”

“No. If Dad will forgive me and if I get a good meal under my belt, I’ll feel all right. Please leave me alone!”

And son he goes home.

I drove into a filling station down in Dallas, Texas, and said to a man there, “How are you today?”

“I’m not any good.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I feel like a fool.”

“What about?”

“I went out last night and got on a drunk, and did I have a big’un! When I came to my senses today, my head was splitting: and I didn’t have a dime in my pocket. I won’t have a penny for food this week unless I borrow it. I’ve got to pay my landlady. I’ve played the fool, and I don’t feel like working. If there ever was a fool, I’m that fool. If you want to know how I feel, that’s the way I feel.”

Don’t expect to feel so good before you come home. But this boy comes home. I say, “Wait a minute! Why you look pretty ragged to be going back to your father’s mansion. Isn’t he the rich fellow who lives up on the hill in that nice white house with the rolling acres?”

“Oh. Yes, that’s my father’s place.”

“Well, are you going back in those rags? Don’t you think you had better buy a good suit and wait until you earn your way?”

“Oh no! I can’t wait for anything. My father has a good suit of clothes. He has plenty! I’m going home and let him furnish those things.”

I say, “Where is all that money you wasted? Don’t you think you had better stop and earn a little?”

“No, I can’t earn it; I would starve to death. But I will go to my father. He has plenty; he will take care of me.”

“Well, how do you feel?”

“I feel bad, but I am going home to my father.” So here he goes.

A little later I slip up there. What a good time he is having! I hear the happy laughter of friends and the father’s soothing tones as he talks to the boy. I hear the rattle of silverware. I hear the servants talking as they gather around the table. I hear the father say, “Son, may I give you just a little more of this veal? It is mighty tender. We have kept this calf fattened up a year waiting for you to come home. Can’t you eat a little more?”

“Well, you can give me just a little more. Boy, I have never had anything like this before!”

Mother says, “May I give you another glass of buttermilk?” (Maybe he was a Southern boy and would want buttermilk!)

He is having a good time. I slip up by his side and whisper in his ear, “How do you feel, old boy?”

“I feel wonderful! My father loves me, and he has forgiven everything, and my heart is satisfied. I have on a nice robe that represents the righteousness of Christ. I have on the ring which means I am His son, God’s son. I have the shoes on my feet which means I am clothed with the Gospel of peace and am very proud of it. I have a message to tell. And I have had the fatted calf of God’s richest blessing. I feel fine!”

Don’t wait, brother. Let not conscience make you linger, Nor of fitness fondly dream. All the fitness He requireth Is to feel your need of Him.

O sinner, come on back to the Father’s house! Throw away the Devil’s apples, and you will find the Father has everything good and sweet for you. And in the long run, how glad you will he that you let Jesus be your Saviour, let God be your Father, had your sins forgiven and washed in the blood.

Don’t you want to come home tonight, young people? How many here have been away in a far country? You say, “But Brother Rice, I don’t see how I can give up this; and I don’t see how I can give up that.” Somebody says, “Well, I’ll try it.” No, I’m not talking about trying anything.

I say to the prodigal boy, “Will you let your father put a nice, clean, beautiful robe on you? Will you sit down and eat of this fatted calf? He has been saving this veal for you for months. Will you come and sit down and eat?” Does the boy say, “Well, I will try”? No, no! He says. “I’ll take it. I haven’t any money, but it is free.”

Will you let your Father come and fall on your neck and kiss you and forgive you? This boy did not say, “I will try.” He said, “Well, if Dad loves me enough to do it, I will take it.” And so he came home.

All God wants is for you to get out of the hog pen and start for home. The Father will rush to meet you and fall on your neck and kiss you and give you everything He has. Why don’t you come to the Father?

I remember when I first started preaching about the prodigal boy. I told about how long the way home was. I talked about how rough the road was and how tired the boy was. I discussed how his feet bled because he had no shoes. I talked about how he dreaded the long trip home and how he wondered whether the Father would be willing to take him in.

Then one day I discovered that was not in the Bible.

The Bible said, “I will arise and go to my father … And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

Listen, a sinner doesn’t have to do a lot of praying and begging and pleading to get God ready to save him. God is ready before he is. God is ready now: and if in your heart you will say to Him, “I am coming, Father, I am coming! I am tired of my sin,” the Father will meet you. Come on! Why, you couldn’t lift your heart up to Him before it is all done. You can’t take one step down the aisle, if you mean it, before He has already met you.

You remember Zacchaeus. Before he could slide down out of that tree and hit the ground, Jesus had already saved him! You can come to Jesus now and be saved as that boy was who went home. The father saw him and met him, and it was all over with. Will you come like that?

Oh, the feasting at the Father’s house! Oh, the blessing of the robe of righteousness! Oh, the security of a ring of sonship! Oh, the blessedness of carrying the Gospel with your feet shod with the shoes of the preparation of the Gospel of peace! Oh, the rejoicing and communion, sitting at the Father’s table, being fed on the glories of Heaven!

Don’t you want to come to the Father’s house? Throw away the apples of Sodom. Throw away the Devil’s promises which are lies! Throw away the Devil’s company – it will lead you to ruin – and come on.

Somebody says, “Brother Rice, I am just afraid I can’t give up so-and-so.” Do you really think so? Let me slip back to see the returned prodigal again. I hate to interrupt this happy party: but I slip back to the table and say to the young fellow, “How do you feel?”

“Oh, boy! This is wonderful!”

“Don’t you think you will have a good deal of trouble giving up the slop down there where you fed the hogs in the hog pen? Don’t you wish you were down there now for just a few more of those husks the swine ate?”

“Don’t talk to me like that! No, no!”

God will fix up the whole thing. He will change your heart, give you victory, joy and happiness unspeakable. Throw away the Devil’s apples. Come on home. The Father has better fruit than the Devil’s. Every promise of God is yea and amen! It will be better tomorrow than it is today. If you have gone on to serve God, when you are eighty years old, you will just begin to find how sweet it is. You will say, as I have heard a thousand old saints say, The way grows brighter the farther along I go. Oh yes, how many times they have said it; and how they love to say it, I have been serving the Lord fifty years (or sixty years), and I am not tired yet. And you never will be.

When I get to Heaven, I am going to say, “Paul, what about all the beatings you got?”

Paul will say, “Wasn’t that great! Wonderful! It doesn’t hurt any more. I’ve never regretted it at all, and I never will.”

At the end, the Devil’s way is sad and the cup is bitter. The Devil’s apples have worms. But the end, for the Lord’s people, is happiness and joy unspeakable and full of glory. Then come and be saved today. Won’t you be saved today?

How I thank God I was converted when I was just a little child! How I thank God that in His mercy He kept me from some of the ways of outward sin. Oh, how good He was! I want to serve Him until I die and then praise Him forever in Heaven. Oh, thank God for such a Saviour!

I wonder how many will say. “I have tried both ways, and I have found the Devil is a liar and a deceiver. His ways are miserable ways, and they lead to ruin. The Devil’s apples all have worms. The Devil’s promises are all lies.” How many can say, “I have tried both ways, and I know sin never pays. It breaks the heart; it smites the conscience; ruins the life, and I hate it. Thank God I found peace in Jesus.” How many will say, “I have tried both ways, and I have found the Devil’s way didn’t pay and God’s way did.”

Now listen, don’t you want to be saved tonight? All right, can you say, “Father, I am tired of the hog pen. I am tired of the ways of sin.” Can you say, “I am sorry for going away from home and going out in wickedness. It doesn’t pay. God forgive me.” Will you come back as that boy did and say, “I have sinned.” Will you come back that way? You will be received with open arms and go away happy tonight in the Saviour’s love. Won’t you come?

What Dr. Criswell Discovered from the Bible

WHY I BELIEVE IN A PRE-MILLENNIAL FAITH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Luke 24:25-27

4-8-84     10:50 a.m.

 

And the Lord wonderfully bless the great multitudes who are sharing this hour on radio and on television.  In these days and years, we are preaching the great doctrines of the Bible.  One of my staff members reminded me this morning – he said, “Pastor, you’ve been saying you’ve been preaching three years.  It has been four years.  You began preaching this doctrinal series the first Sunday in January of 1984 – four years this year.”  We are in the concluding and climactic sections of that doctrinal series, and this one concerns the second coming of Christ.  This is the fourth message in that series on the second coming of our Lord, and today’s message is entitled Why I Became A Premillennialist.

In Luke 24, verses 25 to 27, is a background text.  Our Lord said:

O, slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:

Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He – diermeneuo, diermeneuo, He “interpreted,” He “explained,” – He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

 

There are three attitudes.  There are three approaches that one can make to the great prophetic teachings of the Scriptures.  There are some – used to be many – who are postmillennial.  They are postmillennialists – postmillenarians.  That is the interpretation of the Word of God that we’re going to get better, and better, and better.  And we are going to preach and win people to Jesus.  And finally, the whole world is going to be converted and everybody will be saved and safe – and the millennium then will come.  We’re going to preach the world into the millennium; we are going to evolve into the millennium; we’re going to get better and better, until finally, with the angels and maybe some of us, archangels.  That is postmillennialism!  The Lord is going to come after the millennium.  We are going to get better; we are going to win this world of Jesus; we are going to solve all of our problems, and confrontations, and then the millennium will come.  And then, after the millennium, Jesus will return to the earth.  That is postmillennialism.

A second approach to the prophetic Scriptures is called amillennialism.  “A” in Greek is a negative; it negates.  Like atheos, atheist.  Theos is the word for “God.”  So atheist,  “no God,” doesn’t believe in God, atheism.

Now amillennialism is, “There’s not gonna be any millennium.  All of these words in the Bible, all of these prophecies, are just so many enigmas.  They have no pertinency; they have no message.  There’s not going to be any millennium.  We’re just going to go, and go, and go, until finally the thing ceases to exist” – amillennialism.

Then there is another approach to the Word of God, and to the prophetic Scriptures, and that is called premillennialism, a premillennialist, a premillenarian.  And the teaching, the doctrine, of the premillennialist is this; that all the promises in the Bible are everlastingly yea and amen; that God will do exactly as He has promised; and that the program of the world, and the unfolding of its history, is according to a sovereign and divine plan.  And there are five parts of the premillennial faith, and each one is going to come to pass exactly as the Scriptures have portrayed it.

Number one; the Lord is coming secretly, privately, furtively, clandestinely, softly.  He is coming as a thief in the night to steal away His jewels.  He is coming for His people, and that is called in an old Anglo-Saxon word the “rapture” of the church.  All of us are going to be raptured up to heaven to our Lord.  First the dead will be raised, and then all of us will be changed, immortalized, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.  That is the first step in the program of the end of the consummation, the denouement, of the age.  First is the rapture, when Jesus comes for His people.

Number two; that will be followed by the Great Tribulation – seven years of turmoil, and unprecedented sorrow, and trouble in the world.

Number three; that period of Tribulation will close with the war of Armageddon, the great battle of Almighty God, at the end of which war the Lord comes from heaven.  He comes openly.  He comes before the eyes of all creation – visibly, personally He comes.  And, at that time, Israel is converted.  The nation accepts their Messiah.

And then comes the millennium, with our Lord’s presence; and all of the evil, and injustice, and sorrow taken away.  The Lord leads us into that period of blessedness so beautifully described by the prophets and by the apostles.  Now, that is premillennialism.  How did it come to pass that I became a convert to the premillennial faith?  It started in a way that, for the life of me, I cannot recreate.  I have thought ten thousand times, and still do, “How did this come to pass?”

In Muskogee, Oklahoma, where I was pastor, I had been preaching all the years of my life before, as I’d heard everybody else preach.  I preached subject sermons.  I preached topical sermons.  I hadn’t heard anybody preach any other way.  So, when I stood up to preach, for the years and the years of my first beginning ministry, I preached topical sermons, subject sermons.  I’d preach on faith, or I’d preach on hell, or I’d preach on justification; I’d just preach topical sermons.

For some reason that I cannot recreate in my heart and memory, in Muskogee, I began preaching the Bible.  Where I left off Sunday morning, I started Sunday night.  And where I left off that Sunday night, I started again that Sunday morning.  And I started preaching the Bible – paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, book by book.

If you were here when I came to Dallas, almost immediately, I started doing the same thing.  And I preached eighteen years through the Bible – started at Genesis and went clear to Revelation.  How many of you were here in those days when I preached through the Bible?  Would you hold up your hand?  There are a good many of you, but a good many of you weren’t here.  Well, what happened was, when I started preaching through the Bible, people who came to hear me went away and said, “That man is a premillennialist.”  And that was universal; anybody that came to hear me preach went away saying, “That man is a premillennialist.”

Well, I never had a premillennial teacher in my life.  Not one!  Nor had I ever sat under the ministry of a premillennial preacher.  I never had been introduced to it, not in all of my life.  All of the preachers that I had heard, and all of the teachers that I had, were either postmillennialists or amillennialists, every one of them.  I never had any teacher, nor did I listen to any preacher, who was anything else except a “post-” or “a-” millennialist.  Yet when they heard me preach the Bible, they went away saying that, “This man is a premillennialist.”

My Greek teacher was the greatest Greek scholar in the world.  His name was Dr. A. T. Robertson.  I not only studied Greek under him, but I began my doctoral work under him.  And he died just as I was beginning my Ph.D. studies.  I shall well remember, when in studying the syllabus of Dr. Robertson, we came finally through the Revelation – studying the syllabus and the New Testament – and when we came to the Apocalypse, Dr. Robertson stood at the podium, at the lectern, and he dropped the syllabus on the lectern just like that and said, “Young gentlemen, in my syllabus you will find the differing theories regarding the interpretation of the Revelation.  They are futurist, or they are preterist, or they are synchronous historical, or they are continuous historical – and you just take your pick.  Choose any theory you would like!”  And that was my introduction – that was my study of the Apocalypse, of the Revelation.

I never had a premillennial teacher, nor did I ever sit under a premillennial preacher.  Yet when I started preaching the Bible, just preaching the Word of God, people went away saying, “That man is a premillennialist.”

If I had time – what happened here at this church: an executive in the denomination wrote to the pulpit committee of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and said, “We hear that you are considering that pastor in Muskogee, Oklahoma, to be your pastor, to follow the great George W. Truett.  I think, in all fairness, you need to know that that man is a premillennialist.”

Well, the letter was given, of course, to the secretary of the committee, Orville Groner.  Now, Orville Groner was the treasurer of the Annuity Board, and the executive leader of the Annuity Board was Dr. Walter R. Alexander.  He was a tall, handsome Philadelphian, a cultured gentleman if ever there was one.  You couldn’t help but love and admire Dr. Alexander.  Well, Orville Groner took the letter to Dr. Alexander and said, “Dr. Alexander, I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know where to turn.  I don’t know what to think.  This man that we’re considering to be pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas is a premillennialist.  Look at that!”

And Dr. Walter Alexander looked at that, and back to Orville Groner, and said, “Orville, thank God!  Thank God!  Praise the Lord!”

And Orville said to Dr. Alexander, “What?”

“Yes,” said Dr. Alexander, “for I am a premillennialist.”

And Orville said, “You are a what?”

And Alexander said, “I too am a premillennialist.  Praise God!  Praise God!”

Well, I didn’t even know what I was either.  So I began to study, and that is the message this morning; why it is that I believe in the premillennial faith – how it came to pass that I became a premillennialist.

I began to study the Bible, not from the point of view of subjects as such, topics as such, but I began to study the Bible concerning what it said.  What did it say about the resurrection of the dead?  What does it say about heaven to come?  What does it say about the judgment?  What does it say about the return of Christ?  What does it say about the life that we face after death?  I began to study, began to pour my life into that Word, in the Hebrew, in the Greek.  And I learned, first of all, concerning the teaching of the Scriptures – and I have nine points here to mention – some of the things in the Bible that you will find.

Number one; I have our Lord’s apocalyptic discourse in Matthew 24 is premillennial.  In Matthew 24, verses 29 and 30: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days, shall appear the … Son of Man in heaven.”  After the tribulation the Lord comes openly, then the millennium.

Number two; I studied and could easily see that the Revelation, the Apocalypse, the last book in the Bible, is absolutely and completely premillennial.  It is nothing else.  It starts off with an outline and then carefully follows that outline.  And in Revelation 4:1, John is raptured up to heaven – a picture of the rapture of the church.  And the church disappears from the earth until it appears, coming with the Lord, in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation – and then, in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, the millennium.  The Apocalypse is absolutely premillennial.

Number three; the tribulation is premillennial.  The great tribulation is described in Revelation, chapters 6 through 19, and that’s before the twentieth chapter, which is the millennium.  You will find that all through the Word of God–Matthew 24:21222930Luke 21:2230 – all the way through.

Number four; the appearance of the final Antichrist, the world dictator, is premillennial.  He is destroyed by the brightness of the coming of our Lord.  That’s in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2 – the entire chapter.  There is no millennium, there is no peace in this earth while Antichrist rules the world.  It is given unto him, as Daniel 7 says, to wear out the saints.

Number five; before the millennium, the seven-headed, ten-horned beast, that bore on his back the scarlet woman drunk with the blood of the saints, will exist to persecute the church until Christ comes[Revelation 17:1-18].

Number six; before there can be a millennium, Satan must be bound.  And the Scriptures teach that he will be bound, in Revelation 20:1-3, and then comes the millennium.

Number seven; the condition of the earth is tragic, not euphoric, before Christ comes.  That is universal in the prophetic Word – Matthew 24:37 and following; Luke 18:81 Timothy 4:1-22 Timothy 4:1-42 Timothy 3:1-132 Peter 3:3-4Jude 12 and 13.  The whole Bible is that way.  The condition of the world, of this earth, before Christ comes is not millennial.  It is not euphoric.  It is not at peace.  It is at war, and it’s plunged in blood.

Number eight; the tares are to be gathered out of the kingdom at the coming of Christ, before the millennium, in Matthew 13.

And number nine; the restoration and conversion of the house of Israel will take place at the return of Christ, and before the millennium.  This is in Zechariah, chapter 12; Zechariah, chapter 13; Zechariah, chapter 14; and 1 Corinthians 15:8, and a thousand other like Scriptures.

Not only in my study of the Word of God did I find the premillennial faith, without exception, but as I reviewed history – should have been aware of it when I was studying it – the ancient faith of all of the church fathers was premillennial.  There is no exception to that.  For the three hundred first years after Christ, when the church was persecuted, all of those great church fathers were premillennial; Polycarp, Papias, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Rome, Tertullian, Lactantius – the whole group.  There’s no exception to it.  They were all premillennial.

I have here, in the Bible, a summary of that by Edward Gibbons.  He wrote the greatest history that has ever been penned by a man.  It is called, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  And Edward Gibbon writes, I quote:

 

The ancient and popular doctrine of the millennium was carefully inculcated by a succession of church fathers from Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, men who conversed with the immediate disciples of the apostles, down to Lactantius, who was the preceptor of the son of Constantine.

It appears to have been the reigning teaching of all orthodox Christians.  It was productive of the most salutary effect upon the faith and practice of the disciples of the Lord.  When the church was persecuted, their hope was in Christ, and they believed that He was coming, and that He Himself would set up a kingdom of righteousness in the earth.

 

All of the fathers, every one of them, was a premillennial believer.  Then, after the conversion of Constantine, the church became the lapdog of the court.  It was petted, and the whole system of Greek religion – its basilicas, its temples, its priests, its vestments, its images, its liturgies, its rituals – all of it was baptized into the Christian faith.  And there was a great change in the theological teaching and doctrinal outlook of the church.  It followed Augustine, who was an amillennialist, who spiritualized all the teachings of the Word of God.  And the church ceased to look for the coming of the Lord, and it ceased to expect a heavenly kingdom established by the visible appearing of Christ Himself.

But the premillennial faith never died.  What we call the “morning stars of the Reformation” preached it; Savonarola of Florence, John Wycliffe of England, John Huss of Bohemia.  And it was preached by the great reformers themselves – the premillennial return of our Lord – Martin Luther, John Knox, John Calvin, Zwingli.  And it was preached universally by the Anabaptists – who laid down their lives as martyrs by the uncounted thousands.  And it was preached by our Baptist forefathers, in their confession of faith delivered to the King of England they emphasized the premillennial return of our Lord.

And when the Puritans came to the new land of America, they preached the premillennial faith.  Increase Mather, who was born in 1639, said – and I quote from one of his sermons: “That which presseth me so, as that I cannot gainsay this millennial opinion, is that the thousand apocalyptic years are not past, but future.  There will be a glorious day for the elect upon the earth.”  And his son, another great Puritan preacher in Boston, was named Cotton Mather, born in 1663.  And from a sermon by Cotton Mather:

 

It is well known that in the earliest of the primitive times, the faithful did, in a literal sense, believe in the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the rising and the reigning of the saints with Him a thousand years before the rest of the dead live again.  This doctrine of the millennium is true.

 

From those Puritan preachers who came to America, I learned then that the original primitive faith was premillennial, that it is not a later doctrinal development.  And I learned concomitantly that postmillennialism, and amillennialism, is a later doctrinal development.  It is not the preaching of the Word of God, and it was not the primitive faith of the church.  That did I learn in my study.

Now, may I make three or four remarks concerning what happens when you depart from the premillennial faith?  First of all, it makes – when you depart from the premillennial faith – it makes for hermeneutical confusion of the highest, deepest, darkest order.  Hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation.  And when we depart from the premillennial faith, the Bible becomes a book of impossible, jumbled enigmas.

For example, in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 10:32, there are three divisions of mankind: the Jew, the Gentile, and the church.  Amillennialism is the tragic human interpretation of the Scriptures that loses sight of these three distinctions – the Jew, the Gentile, and the church.  And it makes the Bible meaningless.  Finally, the Scriptures, to them, become a heterogeneous collection of pieces of antique literature, and they go off and preach something else.

Now, let me show you what I mean.  I have here in my hand a beautiful Bible given me with my name written on the outside in gold.  This is the Oxford Press’ most beautiful Bible that they – and the most expensive – that they publish.  Now, when I open this beautiful Bible, I read up here at the top the caption before Isaiah 43, “The church comforted with God’s promises.”  So I look down to read about the church comforted with God’s promises, and this is what I read, “Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not, for I am with thee.”  I don’t see anything about the church.  It is talking about Jacob.  It is talking about Israel.

I turn the page, and there I read that caption, “The church comforted with God’s promises.”  And this is what I read, ”

Hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:

Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb.  Fear not, O Jacob, My servant; and thou, Jesurun – that is a little pet name for “my angel baby, my little sweetheart, my chubby chub-chub.”  That’s; that’s just a “sweet thing” for Israel.

Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, My little baby doll, Israel, whom I have chosen.

[Isaiah 44:12]

 

I don’t see anything about the church there!

So I turn the page, and I read up here the caption; “The church’s joy.”  And I read down there in Isaiah 52, “Break forth into joy, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem.” [Isaiah 52:9]  I don’t see anything about the church!

So I turned the pages and I read here in Isaiah 63; “Christ’s mercies toward His church,” and I read about the great goodnesses of God toward the house of Israel and how He remembers the days of old and Moses, “Yea, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledges us not – because of our sins – yet the Lord, our Father, our Redeemer,” [Isaiah 63:16]He remembers us.  I don’t see anything about the church there!

And then I turn the pages and come to Jeremiah.  And here in Jeremiah 31 the caption is; “The stability of the church.”  And I look down there to read about the stability of the church, and this is what I read, “Thus saith the Lord God, as long as the sun shines up there in the sky by day, and as long as the moon shines up there in the sky by night, just so long will Israel be a nation before me for ever.”  [Jeremiah 31:36]

Now, that is amillennialism.  It has no pertinency to what the Bible is saying whatsoever.  It takes what the Bible says and makes it mean anything that anybody chooses to make it mean.  It spiritualizes it.

Now, the church is a musterion.  It is a secret that God kept in His heart until He revealed it unto His holy apostles.  The prophets never saw the church.  The church never appears in the Old Testament Scriptures.  They never looked at it.  They never saw it.  They never prophesied it.  They never described it.  They never were introduced to it.  They knew nothing of it.

The church is a secret that God kept in His heart until He revealed it unto His apostles.  The Bible calls it a musterion.  When you take that Greek word and spell it out in English, it spells out “mystery.”  It’s spoken of in Romans 11:25, in Romans 16:25, and Ephesians 3:34and 9, and Colossians 1:26 – all of those passages in the New Testament declare that the church is a secret God kept in His heart.  This whole age of grace, this period of the church, this interlude between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks of the Book of Daniel, was a mystery.  It was a secret.  The apostles were introduced to it.  It was revealed to them.  The prophets never saw it.

The only way, the only way that the amillennialist can teach the Word of God in a amillennial faith is to spiritualize the plain teaching of the Scriptures; that is, to make them mean something else besides what they say.  For example, I’ve taken Augustine, who was the father of the amillennial doctrine when the church became the lapdog of the luxurious fawning of the court, and the whole world was baptized into it.  The amillennial teaching of Augustine – which became the accepted teaching of the Roman Church – now, you look at his spiritualizing.

One; he says the binding of Satan took place during the earthly ministry of Christ.  He spiritualized the fall of Satan.

Number two; he said the devil is bound and expelled from the hearts of those who believe in Christ.  He spiritualized our conversion in the Lord and our blessed hope.

Number three; he said the first resurrection is the new birth of the believer.  He spiritualized the resurrection from the dead.

Number four; he said the reign of the saints is their personal victory over sin and the devil.  He spiritualized the whole concept of the kingdom coming.

Number [five]; He said the beast is this wicked world, and his image is hypocrisy.  He spiritualized the coming Antichrist.

And number six; he said the millennium is this present period of the church age.  “We’re in it now.  We’re in the millennium now.”  That is the teaching of the amillennialist.  My brother, if I’m in the millennium now with all of the headlines I read in the paper; and all of the bloodshed and suffering in this world; and sin and death – if this is the millennium, words have lost their meaning, and the Bible is truly, as they say, an enigmatic jungle of impossible revelations.

I want to point out a second thing.  When we depart from the premillennial faith, we lose our assurance that the Lord God will keep His promises to us.  The amillennialist teaches that God is through with Israel, that they have no future and no remembrance and no anything.  But let me tell you truly, as a prophet from heaven and preacher of the gospel, if the Lord God breaks His promises to Israel, how do I know but that He will break His promises to me?  What assurance do I have if God forgets, and denies, and negates the promises He’s made to Israel, how do I know that He won’t do the same thing to me?  What assurance do I have of any future in heaven if God doesn’t keep His word?

Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent.  Hath he said, and shall he not do it?  Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”  God has promised several things about Israel.  Number one; you just heard me refer to Jeremiah [31].  God said, “As long as there’s a sun to shine in the sky by day and a moon to shine in the heavens by night, just so long will there be a nation of Israel to live before Me.”

Look again.  God has said that the land of Palestine is His.  I wish I had time to read these references, such as in Leviticus 26 and Psalm 105.  The land of Palestine belongs to Him, God said.  The Lord God said that He will return to His Palestinian home, to dwell there forever.

In Amos 9 God has said he will be converted, the nation will.  He will accept the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior and Messiah.  That’s in Romans 11:25 to 29 and Zechariah 12, 13, and 14.

Christ appeared to His brethren, Joseph and Jude and James and Simon.  And He won them personally to the Lord.  God appeared to Saul ektroma, as one born before he should be born; born in an abortion; speaking of the fact that someday he is going to appear before his people, his brethren, and they’ll be won to the Lord.  That is the promises of God to Israel.  And if God breaks those promises to Israel, I have no assurance at all but that He’ll break His promises to me.

Now, look again.  We see the confirmation of this premillennial faith in history.  Just look around you.  First of all, the death of [post]millennialism.  There is not a [post]millennialist in the world today, not one.  If a man were to stand up today and preach [post]millennialism as I heard all of my life, as I was taught all the days that I went to school, they would think he had lost his balance.  They would accuse him of insanity.  No, man today preaches that we’re going to evolve – that we’re going to get better and better, and we’re going to finally convert this world, and then the millennium will come, and then we’ll give it to Christ.  Nobody believes this today.

Yet, when I was a youth, growing up, every teacher I had and every preacher I heard was a postmillennialist.  “We’re going to get this thing going.  And we’re going to do it; don’t need Jesus here; not even looking for Him.  We’re going to do it ourselves.”  There is not a postmillennialist in the earth today, not one.

Number two; the affirmation of history to what God has said in His book.  As you know, for two thousand years, there was no nation of Israel over there.  After 70 AD they were scattered, and buried among the peoples of the world.  On the 15th of May in 1948, there was born the nation of Israel.  God said they will return in unbelief, Ezekiel 36:24-28.  And there they are, just according to the word of God.  If I were to call the Israelite nation one thing, I’d call it an atheistic nation.  They don’t believe anything.  They don’t believe in God.  That’s what the Lord said they are going to return in unbelief.

Number three; the consummation of human history is there in the Middle East.  Armageddon is there.  The attention of the world is there.  There are no more people in Israel than there are here in the metroplex but the attention of the world is there.  The headlines of the world are there.

In the days when I used to be invited to the White House, upon this occasion in the Oval Office, we were with Henry Kissinger – the little group of us, the little handful of us – and he was briefing us on the foreign policy of the American government.  It was in the days when the war was raging in Vietnam.  And while we were talking, I asked Mr. Kissinger, then Secretary of State, I said, “Do you believe that over there in Indonesia, over there in the Orient, over there in Vietnam, there will be this confrontation between the east and the west that results in atomic war, in Armageddon?”

He said, “Not at all, not at all.”  He said, “The great confrontation among the nations of the world will be in the Middle East, Middle East.”  Just according to the Word of God.  If you read the headlines of the papers, and read the Bible, you’ll find them congruent.  One confirms the other throughout the generations, and I think until Jesus comes again.

May I say another avowal?  We see the confirmation of the premillennial faith in the effective message and messenger.  It is difficult to face a lost world with a message of conversion and believe that the Bible is a jumbled mass of enigmatic words.  It’s hard to do it.  In fact, you can’t do it.  And I have a good illustration of that here.

There came to Dallas, about the same time, two world theological figures.  One of them preached in a Presbyterian church here in the city, preached for a week.  For years and years he was the darling of the liberal neo-orthodox theological community.  For the years and the years he was professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  He preached for a week here in Dallas.

I asked an elder in the church, who had been there every service, I said, “How was it?”

And he said, “Sir, I listened to him for a week, and to this minute I can’t tell you a thing that he said.  I couldn’t understand even what he was talking about.  It had no meaning, no pertinency whatsoever.”

About that same time, there came to the city of Dallas, and to the Texas stadium, the world-famed evangelist who belongs to this church.  And many of you went out there.  I went out there.  And I saw people come to the Lord by the thousands and by the thousands.  That’s the difference.  An amillennialist is always moving away from the Word of God; further, and further, and further away.  Pretty soon, like Union Theological Seminary, they haven’t produced a preacher in over fifty years, not one.  They go out to teach; they go out to counsel; they go out to a thousand other things.  But they don’t have any message.  They don’t have any Word of God.

A preacher is doing one of two things.  He’s moving away from the Word of God, moving away from it, or he’s moving toward it, and deeper in it.  He’s doing one or the other every day of his life.  And I found that true with me.  As the days pass, and do pass, more and more and more, I’m beginning to see the infinite treasures of the depths of the wisdom of God in these holy pages, moving toward the Word of the Lord.

There is not a premillennialist in the world who is other than a believer in the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God.  There’s no exception to that.

Now, I must close.  The time has passed.  I want to close with a tribute to my old teacher.  I don’t want to leave it as I said it.  Dr. A. T. Robertson, as I said, was the greatest Greek scholar in the world.  Dr. Merrill, don’t you use his grammar there in the seminary?  There’s a textbook that was my textbook.  It’s about that thick, and weighs about fifteen pounds, and you had to learn every syllable of it – Dr. A. T. Robertson.

Dr. Ironside, in his book The Lamp of Prophecy – Dr. Ironside, as you know, for many, many years was pastor of the great Moody Church in Chicago – he writes, and I quote him:

 

Some years ago it was my privilege to sit at the feet of Dr. A. T. Robertson as he gave a course of lectures on the Epistle to the Colossians, directly from his Greek Testament.” – We always studied from the Greek Testament.  When I first came here to Dallas, I used to preach from my Greek Testament, but you people thought I’d lost my mind, so I quit it.  There in the Greek class, and Dr. Robertson – it was very fine.  He was speaking directly from his Greek Testament – “in Calvary Baptist Church in New York City.  He was conducting a ministerial conference.  And it was my privilege in that conference to give a series of addresses from my English Bible.  And I was rather gratified to see that the great scholar sat before me every day.

I recognized Dr. Robertson is undoubtedly the outstanding Greek scholar of America, if not of the world.  And yet that dear, kindly man of God set and listened to a poor insignificant person like myself.  And he was just as gracious and just as attentive as anyone could possibly be.

I went through the two letters to the Thessalonians.  As you know, the five chapters of the first letter, the three chapters of the second letter, all of them end with the coming of our Lord.

I went through the two letters to the Thessalonians and at the close of the last address, Dr. Robertson came to me and said, “Well, this is the first time that I have ever listened to anyone go carefully through the epistles from the premillennial standpoint.

And I must say that my judgment has gone with you through the entire series.  I have never definitely declared myself a premillennialist, but I think if I had my life to live over again, I would be much more positive concerning this doctrine, for I have never in all of my ministry known a premillennialist who was a modernist.

We’d say a liberal.  We would say a man who doesn’t believe the Word of God.  Well, God bless my old teacher and his home in heaven.  And God bless the open-heartedness with which he listened to a premillennial teacher of the Word of the Lord.  And God bless you for being so open-hearted to the faith that I have learned to embrace in these days and years and years that I have studied and tried to preach the Word of God.

We must sing our hymn of appeal and while we sing the song, a family you coming to put your life with us; a couple you; a one somebody you, “Pastor, today, I have opened my heart heavenward and God-ward and Christ-ward and I am on the way.  Here I am.”  May the angels attend you as you come.  “I want to reconsecrate my life to Jesus today.  I am going to open my heart and house and home to the blessed Lord today.”  It is the most precious and comforting thing you could ever know in your life is to give your heart to Jesus.  There is a man listening to me right now on the radio that I went to see yesterday and he says, “Pastor, I don’t think I will live.  I want you to pray for me.”  And he said, “It will be better over there than to be down here as sick as I am.”  That is the truth, that is the hope, that is the comfort.  You never lose giving your heart to Jesus.  He is the best friend you will ever have now; guides you through every decision and He will stand by you in that ultimate and final day when we come to see God face to face.  Oh come!  And bless you as you answer with your life while we stand and while we sing.

Healing God’s Way

DIVINE HEALING

Dr. W. A. Criswell

James 5:13-15

W. A. Criswell

We welcome you who are sharing with us the service on the radio and television this morning.  You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  As you know, at these services we are preaching through the epistle of the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, James, to the Diaspora, those brethren scattered abroad, and, of course, reaching down to us today.  And the title of the message is Divine Healing.  We have come to the fifth, the last chapter of the epistle, and beginning at verse 13, this is what by inspiration the brother of our Lord wrote:

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.  Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.

[James 5:13-16]

Just looking at the passage for a moment—if “one is sick among you, let him call for the elders of the church” [James 5:14].   We would use the word pastors of the church.  There are three words in the Bible that refer to the same office.  Sometimes he is called a presbuteros, an “elder,” referring to the honor of his office.  Sometimes he is called the episkopos, translated “bishop,” which refers to the assignment—the responsibility of office.  And sometimes he is called a poimen, “a shepherd,” which refers to his pastoral care of the congregation.  But all three words are used interchangeably to the same office.  They refer to the same man, whether he is called an “elder” or a “bishop” or a “pastor”—a “shepherd.”  It’s all the same man in the New Testament.  So if one is sick, let him call for the “pastors” we would say, the “elders” of the church; “and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick” [James 5:14-15].  That’s exactly what is written.  It means “shall heal him”—”and the Lord shall raise him up . . . and if” kan-—not kai “and,” but kai ean.  And it is a contraction—kan—”even if he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” [James 5:15].  That is, whether the illness is caused by his own wrongdoing or whether it is not caused by his own wrongdoing; either way, “even if he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”  In the praying and in the anointing, the man is not only healed in his physical frame, but he is healed in his heart and soul.  He is forgiven.

Well, we are going to look especially at this praying and this anointing with oil.  What does that mean and what does that refer to?  If you had a fine library, or came to our library, and you had in it many commentaries—the works of scholars as they interpret and explain the Word of the Lord—if you look up that passage and read about it in the different commentaries—the scholarly books of those who give their lives to the study of the Word—you will find a bedlam of differing voices.  For example, Ellicott’s Commentary, one of the finest in the earth; Ellicott’s Commentary says that this anointing with oil is just symbolic.  It has no medicinal efficacy at all.  Now, if you would read The American Commentary on the New Testament, which is a Baptist commentary published by the Judson Press in Philadelphia—you read that commentary; it says that this anointing with oil is medicinal.  It is medicine to help the man be well.

Now, one of the great commentaries of all time is called the Expositor’s Bible.  And on one page of the Expositor’s Bible it says one thing; and then on the other page, it says diametrically the opposite thing.  I copied it out just to read to you.  In the Expositor’s Bible commenting on this, “Let them pray over him, anointing him with oil” [James 5:14]. In the Expositor’s Bible, volume 6, page 634, this is what is written, “It is altogether beside the mark to suggest that the elders were summoned as people who were specially skilled in medicine.  Of that there is not only no hint, but the context excludes the idea.”  If that were in the writer’s mind, why does he not say it once, “Let him call for the physicians?”  The case is one in which medicine has already done all that it can or in which it can do nothing at all.”  So on this page, on page 634, the Expositor’s Bible says that it is not medicinal nor has it a reference to it.

All right, now on page 635, the next page—just turn over the page in the Expositor’s Bible, and here’s what it says, “What purpose was the oil intended to serve?  Was it medicinal?  The reason oil was selected was that it was believed to have healing properties.  That oil was supposed to be efficacious as medicine is plain from numerous passages, both in and outside of the Holy Scriptures.”  So on one page of the Expositor’s Bible, it says it has no medicinal significance at all.  And on the next page it says that’s why it was used, was because of its medicinal properties.  Well, I’ll just use that as an example of how you see in the scholarly interpretation of the passage nothing but bedlam and confusion.

Well, we are going to look at it just as the Bible presents it to us; divine healing—the minister praying and anointing with oil [James 5:14].  One thing that is certain is psychological.   It is good to do something to help people believe that they can be well.  In the story of our Lord when He healed the blind, He made a clay of spittle and anointed the eyes of the blind man, and he was healed [John 9:6-7].  Upon another occasion, He did the same thing with the ears of a deaf man, and he could hear [Mark 7:31-37].  It helped the man’s faith to have some token of its healing.  And if you would study, you would find that there are healing properties in spittle, in saliva.  You reckon how on the earth the inside of your mouth ever heals when it is kept wet all the time?  God put a healing property in the saliva, and it will heal.  If you see a dog that is sore, he will lick his sores.  The reason for that is God put healing properties in the saliva, and it helps the dog get well—just like it helps us get well on the inside of our mouths.  So, to use a means like that has medicinal properties, and it helps the faith of the man to believe that he will be well.

Another thing that we find is that in the using of means to be well, oil and then sometimes wine—and oil and wine are in these ancient days used for medicinal purposes.  In the first chapter of Isaiah, verse 6, Isaiah speaks of the wounds of the people that have not been healed with oil, with ointment [Isaiah 1:6].  And, of course, in the beautiful story of the good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37], the man who fell among the thieves and was left wounded and for dead, the kind Samaritan picked him up and poured into his wounds oil and wine, medicinally ministering to the man who was so grievously hurt [Luke 10:34].  In classical literature, Dio Cassius and Strabo will describe the army of Gallus and say that the army was afflicted with a malady, and they ministered to the soldiers with a mixture of oil and wine—externally and internally.  Josephus, in describing the death of Herod the Great, said that the physicians bathed his body in oil.  But however that is, there are two things here in the text that are very plain.  One is “The prayer of faith shall heal the sick” and “the Lord shall raise him up” [James 5:15].  That’s one thing that is definitely said.  Prayer before God heals.  And the other is, there are means that are used in that healing, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Well, what of this healing of our bodies?  I was walking down one of the corridors in Baylor Hospital, and a man stopped me and asked me a question that I had been asked many, many times.  Because of a heavy illness in his family, he asked me, “Do you believe in divine healing?”  And I asked him back again, “Is there any other kind?  Does anyone heal but God?”  The doctor can prescribe, and the surgeon can cut, and the physician can tie up, sew up the wound, but it is God who heals.  Nobody heals.  No one heals but God.  The pharmacist cannot heal.  The physician cannot heal.  The surgeon cannot heal.  Only God can heal [Deuteronomy 32:39].  And the surgeon is as helpless, along with the doctor and the pharmacist, before God as you are and as I am.  They have to depend upon God whether they admit it or not—whether the man is an infidel or an atheist or not.  The physician has to depend upon God for healing. There is no other kind of healing but divine healing.  It comes from the gracious hands of the Lord.  Now, by the Scriptures do we have a right to look to God for healing and to expect it from His bountiful hands?  The answer to that is a deep and affirmative yes.

By the Holy Scriptures, we have a right to ask God for healing.  In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus, the Lord says to His people, “My name is; I am the Lord that healeth thee” [Exodus 15:26].   That’s one of God’s names, “the Lord that healeth thee.”  Look again in Matthew 8, “When the even was come, they brought unto Jesus many that were possessed with demons: and He cast out the spirits . . . and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” [Matthew 8:16-17], quoting Isaiah 53:4.  A part of the atonement of Christ is for the healing of our bodies.  His atonement was not only for the forgiveness of our sins [Romans 5:11], but also for the healing of our bodies.  Look again in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans.  Paul writes in verse 11: “But if the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” [Romans 8:11].   Not your dead bodies—does not say “dead bodies.”  It says your mortal bodies; that is, your bodies that are liable for pain and suffering and illness.  The Spirit of Christ that dwells in you heals you, quickens you, brings you to strength and to health.

Now, we find in the Word of God instance after instance of the divine graciousness in healing His people, in answer to prayer.  Abraham prayed for Abimelech, and God healed him [Genesis 20:17].  Moses prayed for his sister Miriam, who was stricken with leprosy, and God healed her [Numbers 12:10-15].  Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and God heard his prayer and healed him [2 Kings 20:1-7].  And in the New Testament, in the life of Christ and the apostles, world without end there were those who were healed by the gracious hands of our Lord and by the gifts of the Spirit in the apostles.  So, by the Word of the Lord, I have a right, a privilege to go before God and to ask for healing.

Another thing in the text; does God use means in healing [James 5:14].  Are there instruments?  Are there medicines? Are there procedures?  Are there ways that God uses to heal us?  Yes.  An affirmative and decidedly emphatic yes!  In the Holy Scriptures there are means that are used in our healing.  For example, one of the noblest stories in the Bible concerns good King Hezekiah.  The Lord sent him word and said, “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.  And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed” [Isaiah 38:1-2], and wept [Isaiah 38:3].   And Isaiah was sent to Hezekiah with the word, “Thus saith the Lord, I have heard thy prayer, and I have seen thy tears. . . . And I will add to thy life fifteen years” [Isaiah 38:4-5].   That’s a beautiful story of God’s healing.  Now, I want to read to you the little verse down here—a little addendum.  Verse 21: “For”—for Isaiah had said, “Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover” [Isaiah 38:21].  There were means that were used in the healing of Hezekiah.

Now I am going to turn again in the sixth chapter of Mark, “And the disciples went out, and preached that men should repent.  And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and therapeuō”—which is the word used for the practice of medicine [Mark 6:12-13]. The oil, the ointment was medicinal, and the apostles not only went out and preached, but they healed using means for the healing [Mark 6:12-13].

I have, out of a multitude of others, another instance in this letter that Paul writes to his young son in the ministry, Timothy.   Timothy was weak and sickly and Paul says, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” [1 Timothy 5:23].   Alcohol is so vital to the pharmacist that medicine would almost be impossible without it.  It’s one of the finest solutions in which the medicinal efficacies can be dissolved.  And that’s what Paul writes to his young son in the ministry.  Why didn’t Paul just pray for him and he get well?  No.  There are means to be used to be well—”use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.”  Apparently he was a teetotaler and wouldn’t touch it at all.  And Paul said, Now, you forget about being so overly righteous that you lean backward, and so fanatical that you won’t even use alcohol as a medicine.  Don’t be that way.  “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine oft infirmities” [1 Timothy 5:23], not to be a wine head or a wine bibber, but to get well; to get well means to be well.

So I learned from the Word of the Lord that when I am sick, I’m not only to pray, but I am also to use means that I might be healed [James 5:14].  Let me give you an example of that that is absolutely beautiful.  This is one of the most magnificent little side things to be seen in the Bible.  In the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, when Paul is wrecked upon Malta, the beloved physician Luke is with him.  Now look at the story, “And it came to pass, that the father of Publius”—Publius was the governor of the island—”that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever . . . to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him” [Acts 28:8]. All right, now the next:—”So when this was done, others also, who had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: who also honored us” [Acts 28:4-10].  Paul the apostle, who prayed; and Luke the beloved physician, who practiced medicine, they honored us with many honors; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary for our continuing journey [Acts 28:10].  Now I want you to look at that as it is written here by Paul.  Look at that, Paul “laid his hands on him and—iaomai—healed him [Acts 28:8].  Then others came who had diseases, and they were theratherapeuō, the practice of medicine, who also honored us” [Acts 28:9-10], Paul and the beloved physician.  Is there anything wrong with that?  Does that please God?  Was the Lord honored in that?  Yes.  Paul prayed and laid his hands upon them, and Luke the doctor, the beloved physician, the Bible calls him, therapeua, he practiced medicine.

“Do you think that’s right, preacher?”  I’m just an echo.  I don’t invent this message.  I just read the Word of God and ask the Spirit of the Lord to help me expound it, expose it—exposition.  That’s all I do.  There’s not anything that I invent in the message.  And if I do, it’s human and speculative and has no authority.  But when I read in the Word of God that in the sickness of the people, Paul prayed, and Luke the beloved physician practiced medicine, I see it in conformity with the whole will and purpose of God.  If one is sick, let us pray.  Let us pray.  There is divine healing in prayer.  Let us pray.  People are sick most of the times in their hearts and in their souls—as much as they are in their physical frames.  Let us pray.  Let us ask God’s healing and then let us use all of the means that we can, for they also are of God.  Luke was a beloved physician.  God presents him as such [Colossians 4:14].  Where did penicillin come from?  God made it.  It was from the beginning.  It’s just now we’ve discovered it.  Where are all of these other herbs and chemicals?  Where do they come from?  They come from the creative hand of God.  And for us to have a minister pray for us, and to have friends and neighbors and family pray for us, and for us to have the hospital and the pharmacist and the physician and the surgeon to help us, this is in keeping with the Word of the Lord [James 5:14-15].

Now, does God always heal?  No.  No.  God has healed.  God does heal.  God can heal.  God will heal, but God does not always heal.  He does not.  God said to Moses, “You cannot enter in [Numbers 20:8-12].  You shall die here in the land of Moab.”  And Moses pled with the Lord [Deuteronomy 3:23-25].  And so insistent was his intercession that God said to Moses, “Speak no more to Me of the matter” [Deuteronomy 3:26-27].  “Thou shalt die here in the land of Moab.  You cannot enter in” [Deuteronomy 34:1-5].  Not always does God heal, saves us in life.  Add to our days, God does not.  He just does not.  There comes a time when the sentence of death that is passed upon all mankind passes also upon us in the will of the Lord.  God does not always heal.  Paul came before the Lord with a thorn in his flesh [2 Corinthians 12:7].  I don’t know what it was, but it was some malady in the flesh——in his physical body.  And he came before the Lord and asked God to heal him, to remove it.  And God said, “Not so.  My grace is sufficient for thee” [2 Corinthians 12:8-9].  And Paul, being a great Christian, said, “Therefore will I take pleasure in my reproaches and in my sicknesses and in my infirmities; for when I am weak, then am I strong” [2 Corinthians 12:10].  It’s in my weakness that God perfects His strength.  Not always does God heal.

One of the strangest things that I hear constantly from divine healers, paid healers—men who make money off of the illnesses of the people—”you put a one-hundred-dollar bill in the collection plate; you put a one-hundred-dollar bill in the envelope; you put a hundred-dollar bill on the radio, and on and on and on.  And I will pray and you will get well.”  That goes on day and night forever.  And they do that on the assumption that they have the gift of the healing.  They say that the apostles had that.  Listen, the only thing the apostles had was the gift and the power of the Spirit to confirm the Word, and that was all!  They did not have the power to heal indiscriminately and as they might wish.  No.  Paul writes to Timothy in his second letter to Timothy, saying, “Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick” [2 Timothy 4:20].  Why didn’t Paul heal him?  Because he didn’t have the power to heal him.  Why didn’t Paul heal Epaphroditus, who came to see him from Philippi, in the city of Rome?  Because he does not have the power to heal him [Philippians 2:25-30].  The sign, the miracle was an affirmation of the truth of the Word that was preached; but no apostle even had the power to heal indiscriminately.  “Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick!” [2 Timothy 4:20].  It may be God’s will that I not be well.  Now we are going to look at that in the last few moments that remain in the message.

What is to be my attitude, our attitude?  What is to be the attitude of a child of God toward illness?  Number one: let us admit it.  Let us say it is a fact—illness, disease, germs, bacteria, these things that hurt us and cause us to be sick, they are here, along with the accidents that we fall into.  And death is here, and we are not to deny it.  One of the strangest of all of the denominations to me in the world is that one that denies the reality of hurt, and injury, and disease, and illness, and death.  They say it’s just in the mind.  There’s no such thing as hurt.  There’s no such thing as illness, no such thing as disease.  And at the same time they’re saying it, the guy that’s saying it may have his teeth full of crockery and his eyes covered over with heavy lenses of glasses.  But, you know, there’s just no such thing.  It’s just in your mind.  It’s just in your head.  There’s no such thing as disease or illness.

I was pastor of a church where there was a university, and a professor in the university, her mother was a devout Baptist and belonged to our congregation.  And the mother was a big, heavy woman.  And she stumbled and fell down the steps into the basement.  And she was broken up from head to foot and black and blue all over.  And the daughter came running down and helped her mother up and said, “Now, Mother, you’re not hurt. You’re not hurt.  That’s just in your mind now.  You’re not hurt.  You’re not hurt.”  And there was no doctor called and no pharmacist was asked for medicines—and no anything.  And I went out to see that poor mother.  She was lying there in bed in the house, and I sat down by her side—and she was just hurting all over.  She was black and blue all over!  She was hurt and hurting—but not to that daughter of hers.  “That is just in her mind.  It is just—now, don’t you think anything about that, Mother.  Now, you’re not hurt.  You’re not hurt.  You’re not hurt.  You’re not hurt.”

Man, I do hurt!  And there are times when I am just sick.  It is just a fact.  And the best thing for me to do is just to recognize it.  And I see it in you.  There are times when you’re sick, and there are times when you’re hurt.  So what do I do with my illnesses and with my hurts?  Well, having recognized it, let me take it to God.  I take it to the Lord.  It may be due to my own fault.  I may eat the wrong things, and I get sick.  I may have the wrong diet, and I get sick.  I may not observe the laws of health, and I get sick.  Let’s look at ourselves and search ourselves and see why is it that we are ill.

Another thing, it can be a chastening from the Lord.  In the [twelfth] chapter of Hebrews we are told, “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourges every son of His” [Hebrews 12:6].  And if we are not chastened, we are not children of God.  It could be due to something that we have done that is not right.  Illness can be an affliction and a judgment from God.

There’s a rampaging illness that is scourging America today, and especially among our teenagers.  And every doctor in the land would tell you it is due to the promiscuity, the immorality of our young people.  And the doctors don’t know what to do.  In many places, it is becoming epidemic.  There are illnesses that are due to our sins, and the disease is a judgment from Almighty God.  Again, it may be that we are afflicted and it may be that we are ill that we might manifest the glory of the Lord.  The disciples passed by and saw a man blind from his mother’s womb, and they asked the Lord, “Lord, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?  And the Lord said, Neither did this man sin, nor his parents”—that he be born blind—but that the glory of God might be manifest in him” [John 9:2-3].

There are illnesses that are sent upon us that we might demonstrate to the world the glory, the manifested presence of Almighty God.  Job was that way.  The friends of Job tried to convince him that because he was a great sinner, therefore he was a great sufferer [Job 22:5].  Not so.  God said to those three friends, “You have spoken that which is not right concerning Me.  Now, you go to Job and ask Job to pray for you” [Job 42:7-8], lest you die.  There are some things that God sends upon us that we are to bear for the glory of the Lord.

As many of you know, for many years I was a trustee at Baylor Hospital.  I faithfully went to the meetings.  In those days, the chairman of the board of trustees for Baylor Hospital was Harvey Penland.  He was the founder of the Southwestern Drug Company.  Harvey Penland was the nephew of Dr. Truett.  Harvey Penland’s mother, Mrs. Penland, was the sister of Dr. Truett.  Harvey Penland was a noble man.  He was a fellow member of this church.  I buried Harvey Penland.  He was a wonderful man, a gifted man, a worthy man.

I could not tell you the numbers of times that going to a trustee meeting maybe a little early and Harvey Penland would talk to me.  Most of the times tarrying after the meeting was over, and he’d talk to me.  I don’t think there was ever a time but that Mr. Penland talking to me would ask me why Dr. Truett suffered so greatly.  For a year, a full year before he died, Dr. Truett suffered agonizingly.  He was allergic to all the pain killing drugs.  Any narcotic would make him deathly sick, nauseated.  So he suffered a full year, excruciatingly, agonizingly.  And, of course, Harvey Penland looked upon it for all the year.  And he would ask me again and again and again, almost every time that we’d talk, why it was that Dr. Truett, the great man of God and the incomparable preacher of the Word, why did Dr. Truett suffer so agonizingly, so painfully for a full year?

When he would talk to me, my mind would go back to a Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.  Pat Neff, a layman, the president of Baylor University, was the president of the convention and presided over it.  And before the thousands assembled there in hushed quiet, Pat Neff began his presiding with a word of a personal visit he had made to the suffering and dying Dr. Truett.  He had gone from Waco, from Baylor to Dallas, and had visited with the great pastor in the home and so had come to the convention in Atlanta.  And Pat Neff described in words of deepest humility and reverence, described the hurt and the illness and the pain of the great pastor; then described Dr. Truett’s faith in the Lord and in the goodness of God, and repeated what Dr. Truett repeated so many times concerning which he preached so often, “Not my will, but Thine be done” [Luke 22:42].  And in that faith and in that committal, in that yielded submissiveness, the great pastor died.  That is what it is to be a Christian.

Anybody can sing songs, can be happy when they’re well and up.  What do you do when the dark day comes, when the valley stretches endlessly before you, when illness racks and the bed is itself an affliction?  That’s when we glorify God, singing songs in the night, believing and trusting in the goodness of the Lord in the day of our illness, of our suffering.  Take it to God.  Ask God in prayer.  Ask the pastor to pray.  Ask the people who believe in the Lord to pray.  Use every means God has given us:  the doctor, the pharmacist, the hospital.  Then having prayed, having done all that we know how to do, yield it, submissive.  We leave the final verdict in God’s hands.  If it is God’s will that I live, may I praise the Lord in the gift of days.  If it is God’s will that my life is closed like a book, and the last chapter is written, and the sun has set in this life, then, Lord, may I have the  faith to believe that God will heal me over there, give me length of days over there, that the sun shall rise over there.  This is what it is to be a Christian.

Our time is far spent.  In the moment that we sing, to give your heart in faith to our blessed Lord, to come into the fellowship of His church, whatever God shall say, answer with your life.  “Today I take Him as my Savior,” or, “Today we’re putting our lives in the fellowship of this dear church.”  As the Lord shall speak, answer now.  Come now, while we stand and while we sing.