There were two lawyers who were partners, one named Will and the other Tom. One night, during a tabernacle revival meeting, down the aisle went the lawyer Will, confessing Christ as his Savior publicly. Early the next morning Will got up to go to his office and gather together his personal belongings. He wanted to dissolve the partnership, thinking in his heart, “My partner Tom is a bitter critic of the church and of Christ and of God. I do not think I can stand his ridicule, sarcasm, and all of those bitter things he says about God.”
On the way down the street he met the last man in the world he wanted to see, his partner Tom. Tom looked at him and said, “Will, why are you up so early, and where are you going?” Will replied, “Tom, last night I gave my heart to Christ. I know how you feel about God and Christ and the church. I just do not think I can live under your bitter and sarcastic criticism. So I got up early this morning, before you would be down, to gather my things and dissolve the partnership.”
Tom replied, “Will, you did not know it, nor did anyone know it, but last night I went to that meeting and stood outside the tabernacle. I saw you go down the aisle, give your hand to the preacher, stand before the people, and confess your faith in God. You and I have been partners all these years. We have always stood side by side. We have been through numerous cases, trials, and difficulties. Will, when I saw you standing up there by yourself last night, it just seemed to me that I ought to be standing by your side. The reason I have come early this morning is that I thought maybe you would teach me how to become a Christian.”
Note: Below is a link that will take you to a video recording of a man reading this great sermon pretty much like Jonathan Edwards may have read it originally. Now you can hear the message being read. Remember that Jonathan Edwards read his sermon to that congregation when the Great Awaking started.
-Their foot shall slide in due time- Deut. xxxii. 35
In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God’s visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works towards them, remained (as ver. 28.) void of counsel, having no understanding in them. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text. The expression I have chosen for my text, Their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following doings, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.
That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon them, being represented by their foot sliding. The same is expressed, Psalm lxxiii. 18. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction.”
2. It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning: Which is also expressed in Psalm lxxiii. 18, 19. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction: How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!”
3. Another thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.
4. That the reason why they are not fallen already and do not fall now, is only that God’s appointed time has not come. For it is said, that when that due time or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.
The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this. “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment.
The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations.
1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands.-He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defense from the power of God. Though hand joins in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?
2. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God’s using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, “Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?” Luke xiii. 7. The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God’s mere will, that holds it back.
3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. John iii. 18. “He that believeth not is condemned already.” So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is, John viii. 23. “Ye are from beneath.” And thither be is bound; it is the place that justice, and God’s word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.
4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment is not because of God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.
So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.
5. The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The scripture represents them as his goods, Luke xi. 12. The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit
it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.
6. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God’s restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in scripture compared to the troubled sea, Isa. lvii. 20. For the present, God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;” but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God’s restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.
7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked nian, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God’s hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.
8. Natural men’s prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is this clear evidence that men’s own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? Eccles. ii. 16. “How dieth the wise man? even as the fool.”
9. All wicked men’s pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.
But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those who heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they were not as wise as those who are now alive: it was not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell ever to be the subects of that misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, “No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself: I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief: Death outwitted me: God’s wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then suddenly destruction came upon me.
10. God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.
So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men’s earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.
So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of, all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.
The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ.-That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of, there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.
You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his band, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.
Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.
The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld, but your guilt in the meantime is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.
The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart,
by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. And consider here more particularly
1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. Prov. xx. 2. “The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul.” The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as his majesty is greater. Luke xii. 4, 5. “And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
2. It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isaiah lix. 18. “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries.” So Isaiah lxvi. 15. “For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and wifh his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” And in many other places. So, Rev. xix. 15, we read of “the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, “the wrath of God,” the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is “the fierceness and wrath of God.” The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful must that be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power in what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!
Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezek. viii. 18. “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only “laugh and mock,” Prov. i. 25, 26, &c.
How awful are those words, Isa. lxiii. 3, which are the words of the great God. “I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.” It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, vis. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you, in the utmost contempt: no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.
The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to that end, that he might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath had it on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his love is, and also how terrible his wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have a mind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extreme punishments they would execute on those that would provoke them. Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldean empire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it was before; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fierceness that human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing to show his wrath, and magnify his awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of his enemies. Rom. ix. 22. “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endure with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” And seeing this is his design, and what he has determined, even to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, he will do it to effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with a witness. When the great and angry God hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. Isa. xxxiii. 12-14. “And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites,” &c.
Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. Isa. lxvi. 23, 24. “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
4. It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment, but you must suffer it for all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For “who knows the power of God’s anger?”
How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here, in some seats of this meeting-house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before to-morrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest will be there in a little time! your damnation does not slumber; it will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living and in the house of God, and have an opportuniry to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day’s opportunity such as you now enjoy!
And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield*, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?
Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, sirs, your case, in an especial manner, is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Do you not see how generally persons of your years are passed over and left, in the present remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God’s mercy? You had need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God.-And you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as with those persons who spent all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness. And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?
And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle-aged, or young people, or little children, now harken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favors to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men’s hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls; and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to the hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the greater part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on the great out-pouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles’ days; the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you was born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God’s Spirit, and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.
Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation: Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”
You may doubt this statement by Dr. Graham and many will. You may outright disbelieve his statement and many will. But if you listen to his words and let the Holy Spirit do His work in your heart it will change the way you think and act. The following link will connect you to a video by Billy Graham.
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
“Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
“These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”
– Titus 2:11-15
Kindly notice that the Apostle Paul, talking about the second coming, said we are to “speak,” “exhort,” and “rebuke” with “all authority.” One gets the idea we certainly are not to be silent on this subject. Yet when we started our ministry preachers were talking about His return all the time; now almost no one does unless he is a “prophecy specialist.” Would you say the majority of today’s preachers are disobedient to God and His Word?
Put it down and put it down big: Jesus Christ IS coming back again!He WILL return!
Listen to what He said to His disciples late in His earthly ministry, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).
And after His ministry on earth was completed, when He finished commissioning them to take the gospel as witnesses into all the world, starting where they were, He said goodbye to those disciples on the Mount of Olives and was suddenly caught up in the sky and disappeared behind the clouds. The Word explains, “And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
What sweet assurance the angels gave the disciples: He will come again just the way you have seen Him go! This Bible truth is a comfort to sorrowing saints, a monument of hope for believers in the midst of a man-made civilization hastening to its doom. Jesus is coming! For centuries now the thought that “Jesus is coming” has inspired downhearted, discouraged saints to continue to “fight the good fight” and “endure hardness as a good soldier” of the Master.
Let’s take a look at this good news left by the ascended Christ that we are to speak, exhort and rebuke with all authority.
First of all, we are to be
I. Looking for the Blessed Hope:
Never mind whether anyone else or everyone else is looking for His appearing. The question is, are you?
A Promise: Christ is Coming!
The idea of looking in our text means “to expect,” that is, to await with confidence and patience. It is the same as Hebrews 9:28, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Note carefully, for those who look, He shall appear. No doubt about it. In His first coming it was to settle the sin question for us; in His second coming it will be to receive us unto Himself.
Can we place our confidence, our patience in the Word of God?
Of course we can. His word has been tried, tested and proven.
Moses did in leading the Israelites out of the land of Egypt. God gave Him instructions as to how to get out and then what to do when they were free men marching toward the Promised Land. Everything He said worked.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did in refusing to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. The fiery furnace was heated so hot it burned alive the soldiers who got close enough to throw the three saints into it, but they still refused to stoop to idolatry in order to save their own necks.
The trio told the wicked ruler, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:17, 18). In short, their God could easily deliver them, but if He chose not to do so, they still wouldn’t obey. They refused to bow, they refused to bend, and they didn’t burn!
And after it happened, the astonished king said, “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Vss. 24, 25). They tried His word … and proved it true!
Daniel didin defying the decree of King Darius not to pray. His enemies got the monarch to sign a decree forbidding any citizen of the land to “ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee,” under penalty of being “cast into the den of lions” (Daniel 6:7). Apparently His Royal Highness, who enjoyed having his ego massaged, forgot that his #1 president, Daniel, was a faithful subject of the King of Kings. Anyway, he signed the edict.
Daniel, of course, went right on as usual; “he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (6:10).
What happened? Did God send “Airforce One Chariot” to pick up Daniel and whisk him to Glory like He did Elijah? No, He allowed the prophet to be tossed to the lions.
But He also gave them all lockjaw and when Darius ordered Daniel taken from the pit the next morning, there wasn’t a single bite – not even a scratch mark – on him. He found, as Moses and the three Hebrew children before him, he could trust – await with confidence and patience – the promises of God.
Joseph did, too, in the mistreatment he received from his elder brothers. During all those years when he was cast into a pit, sold into slavery, thrown into prison for crimes he didn’t commit, being forgotten by those he had helped and their promise to help him, he kept his faith in God and His eyes on His promises.
Did it pay? He ended up the Number Two Man in Egypt, able to save his brothers that had sought his death.
My friends, God keeps His Word! It has been tested, tried and proved. “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him” (Psalm 18:30). “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).
Don’t ever doubt it for even a moment. Jesus is coming back, just as He said.
There is an old story that I told a few times early in my ministry. I tried to find it to use here, but couldn’t locate it anywhere. Usually when I tell an illustration I have the details before me to make sure I get it straight. I’ll try to tell this one, but admitting that it is based on my imperfect memory.
A young couple were in love and planned to marry. He was a fisherman who made his living on the sea and was forced to be gone for long periods of time. On one occasion, when it was time for his return, he didn’t come. After some weeks everyone in the little village accepted the fact that he had been lost at sea, something not highly unusual in those days − except his sweetheart, that is.
Every night about sunset she would go down to the docks and squint her eyes, looking out on the horizon in hopes of catching sight of her lover’s familiar ship. It never came.
After time something happened to her sight; whether her eyes were destroyed by disease or accident, I do not recall. Nonetheless, she continued her nightly trips to the docks, now to listen instead of gaze. The town people called her “the Blind Watcher.”
One night a ship sailed into the harbor and there was a happy reunion. It seems a storm had wrecked his vessel on an island and it had taken him months to repair it and make it seaworthy again. But her patient, believing watching had paid off, paying her big dividends for the one she loved.
Those who are looking for the rapture of the church have long been the subject of the sneers and jeers of unbelievers. We are the blind watchers of the 21st century. But one of these days the skies will be split as lightning coming out of the east and flashing to the west; the Son of God will appear. It is a promise! It is a promise of God!
But His return is not only a promise, it is also
A Warning: Christ is Coming!
Up to this point the story of the Savior’s return has been one of exciting joy and blessed happiness. But it is only fair to warn you that for those not ready for His return it will precede a time of doom, damnation and destruction. Consider a few verses, some about His rapture and some about His revelation, but the time between the two phases is so short you can think of them almost as one.
Listen to the parable Jesus told about His coming in the tale of the ten virgins. Five were ready and five were unprepared. Here is what He said about the latter:“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:10-13). The door was shut and when God shuts a door, no man can open it.
Listen to what the Apostle Paul had to say about those who are not ready at His coming: “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day” (II Thessalonians 1:7-10).
Even Jude, the little one-chapter book near the end of the Bible, talked about it: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Vss.14, 15). Note how Jude spoke of judgment in connection with His coming.
For those who have not trusted Christ, the day of grace will be over. Hope will be gone forever and there will be no possibility of their entering the land that is fairer than day.
But wait; there is a warning to the saved as well. It is a warning that time is short for witnessing to friends and loved ones. Yes, time is short indeed. We should do everything in our power to win our friends and loved ones at once!
A Command: To LOOK for It!
Matthew 24:42 commands, “Watch therefore: fore ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
Matthew 25:13 commands, “Watch ye therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”
Mark 13:35-37 commands, “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”
We have added boldface emphasis to the above verses to call attention to the fact that the commands are not to believe Christ is coming again, which is important, but to note that the children of God are to watch for His coming!
How about you? Are you looking and watching? There are several views of the rapture today – pre-trib, post-trib, mid-trib, and even post-wrath – but we think most of the saints, at least in practice, subscribe to the post-nap theory. He will come sometime after they wake up from sleeping.
Like the ten virgins in the story Jesus told who were waiting for the bridegroom to come for his bride – five of whom were ready (had oil in their lamps) and five who were not (had no oil in their lamps) – they all slumbered and slept.
Like Peter, James and John in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus was crucified, when He begged them to “watch and pray” while He went a little deeper to pray alone – and each time He returned they were all asleep. He lamented, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 20:40). And the final time He came back and they were again asleep, He said, “Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Vs. 45).
Actually, if you are in full fellowship with the Father, faithfully read your Bible, take time for regular intercession, and witness to the lost, you cannot sleep; you must watch!
Jesus said, in Luke 21:28, when certain things come to pass, “… then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” And remember Hebrews 9:28, mentioned earlier, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
But we are not only to be personally looking for the blessed hope, we should be
II. Longing for the Blessed Hope:
Looking does not necessarily include longing. Certain expectation does not necessarily imply joyous anticipation!
For example, consider what the writer of Hebrews said of the unsaved sinner:“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Vss. 26, 27, emphasis added). I have talked with many an individual who knew he was going to Hell, but he was certainly not happy about the thought.
Solomon had the same reflection. He wrote in Proverbs 11:23, “The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.” Just as righteous folks want good, the wicked expect to receive wrath from God because of their sin and rebellion, but they are far from thrillingly anticipating it.
Actually, not even all professing Christians would be happy to see the Lord return. Harry Ironside tells of preaching on the rapture at a German church inStockton during the time when he was living in Northern California. Suddenly he was conscious of a lady storming out of the service. It was in the old days when ladies of that ethnic wore considerable undergarments that swished when they walked.
He thought little about it until the service was over and he went to the rear of the auditorium and found her “swishing” in the narthex. The moment he walked in and she spotted him she swished up and demanded, “How dare you, sir? How dare you?”
Since he didn’t know what he was daring he inquired, “How dare I what?”
“How dare you preach like that?”
Still in the dark he responded, “How dare I preach like what?”
She heatedly responded, “Asking Christ to come back soon! I don’t want Him to come soon. It would spoil all my plans for the immediate future.”
And the gentle Harry kindly responded, “My dear lady, when our Lord Jesus Christ determines to return He will do so whether it interrupts your plans or not.” And so He will.
But I wonder, really, who today is longing for His return? Sometimes I think the only ones are the sickly and the elderly who would gladly welcome the rapture as a substitute for death. Am I correct? Few can sing from their hearts with H. L. Turner and James McGranahan,
“O Lord Jesus, how long, how long
Ere we shout the glad song –
Christ returneth! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Amen, Hallelujah! Amen.”
Looking, Longing as Sweetheart
For Long Departed Lover
This troubled, war-torn world is full of such longings. As a kid fresh out of seminary I was called to my first church during the middle of World War II. It was a tiny, struggling work and I was the first “full-time” pastor (if you could consider my salary and still call me full time). It had been launched by a noble and godly man who came down from Chicago, where he was a student at the Moody Bible Institute. He had gathered together some saints longing for biblical teaching, first in a home and then in a real church building God miraculously provided.
There were some gems in that group and among them was a family of girls by the name of Lewis. The youngest was taking piano lessons and our congregational singing was limited to tunes she had mastered thus far in her program. A new one was always a thrill. The Lewis girls were very active in all phases of the work, but one was no longer a Lewis – she had married a young flyboy by the name of Rich.
Catherine Rich headed up one of the Sunday school departments, as I now recall, and she was a level-headed, sensible girl until the day she got a letter from husband Bob, a bomber pilot in the European Theater. It revealed he had completed a certain number of missions over Germany and was due for a furlough back in the States, although he wasn’t certain about when he would arrive.
As I joked about it later, she wasn’t fit for shooting after that. It was all she could think, all she could talk about, the new center and circumference of her life. She would walk up beaming and say, “Did I tell you Bob is coming home?”
“Yes, you mentioned that!”
And it was the same the next time you met her. That is the kind of looking and longing the child of God should have about the news in our Lord’s love letter (it is called the Bible) that He is going to return. Catherine and Bob were already married, but when our Lord returns there is going to be a big wedding and the Church will become His Bride. Shouldn’t the report of His coming excite us?
Not only did Bob return to Catherine (after I had left the church and entered evangelism), but the war soon ended and he was discharged. They went to the Moody Bible Institute and he eventually, after graduation, was put in charge of that institution’s flight school in Tennessee, training missionary pilots for service around the world.
Christ is our Lover, our beloved Bridegroom. When He comes we will beeternally wedded to Him. If you let your mind think of the longing and anticipation of a wedding of a young girl whose lover has been long absent, you will have an idea of what the Christian’s longing for Christ’s coming should be.
Looking, Longing as Traveler
To Arrive Home
This world is not our home. We are strangers, pilgrims down here. First Peter 2:11, 12 express it, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
I have been an evangelist most of my ministry – well over a half-century – laboring away from family. Usually I was gone from four to six weeks at a time (we didn’t conduct mini-revivals in those days), and when the last service of the last crusade sounded a benediction, I was beside myself trying to get home. If I had an automobile with me I would set out immediately and drive until I arrived (one time from Maine to Texas, straight through, stopping only for gas and snacks).
Trains couldn’t roll over the rails fast enough and planes couldn’t split the skies quickly enough to get me home to wife and children. The best I was able to do, when I was with Dr. John R. Rice and The Sword of the Lord in Wheaton, aChicago suburb, was an American Airlines flight out of Detroit. If I could make that one, I would leave Detroit at 12:30 a.m. and arrive at Midway Airport inChicago (there was no O’Hare International at that time) at 12:15 a.m., fifteen minutes before I left Detroit! (I was able to do that because Detroit was on Eastern Time and Chicago on Central!)
But I did like to get home quickly. So do servicemen and women on furlough (especially from overseas). So do students on breaks like Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, it is the excitement everyone who loves family feels about going home. If we don’t long to be home, it is a sign of lack of love.
The same is true spiritually. We aren’t Home yet. The reason we are away is that there is work to be done and we are trying to finish it. Like any good laborer we want our work done well and in a way that will please our Boss, but, oh, how anxious we are to have it finished and head Home.
The Apostle Paul was that way. Listen to him in Philippians 1:21-26, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”
Was Paul anxious to get Home? You’d better believe it! Sin, sorrow, suffering, pain, tears, anguish, disease, trials, testing, heartaches, disappointments, imprisonments and failures would be – and will be for us – gone forever! To put it in the words of the favorite song of my late friend, Dr. Lee Roberson,
“Some glorious morning,
Sorrow will cease,
Some glorious morning,
All will be peace;
Heartaches all ended,
Schooldays all done,
Heaven will open –
Jesus will come.”
Looking, Longing as a Sinner
To See His Savior
The famous ex-ballplayer evangelist Billy Sunday put it like this: when I get to Heaven I will rush right by Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, John, Wesley, Moody and all the rest. I’ll say, “Where is Jesus? I want to see him that saved me that dark and stormy night in Chicago.” All Christians feel that way, surely.
As Carrie Breck and Grant Tullar expressed it,
“Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkling veil between
But a blessed day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.
“Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face, in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by.”
Walter B. Knight said in one area of Africa the nationals never referred to their dead as departed, but always as having arrived! Ah, that is it! And so it will be when Christ comes for His own.
But consider one final thought about this blessed hope of the Christian,
III. Living for the Blessed Hope:
Note the setting for this beautiful gem of the blessed hope, the verse just prior and the verse just following our text (2:13). The one before says, “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Vs. 12). And the one following it says, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Vs. 14).
Does that leave any doubt? Those looking for His coming should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, living instead lives that are sober, righteous and godly in the present world. And the blessed hope is for people He has purified unto Himself, “a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
The Apostle John said the same in I John 3:2, 3: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
What does the blessed hope do for the man or woman who has it imbedded in his heart? It purifies him or her, even as the Lord Jesus Christ is pure. That is quite a statement, isn’t it?
You see, purification is the natural, logical, inevitable result when preceded by ‘looking’ and ‘longing’ for Jesus to return. The inimitable Vance Havner expressed it, “If we profess the Blessed Hope we should practice the Blessed Holiness!”
In the old days of small, one-room schoolhouses, the district superintendent came to one such school and gave an inspiring talk. In closing he said, “I’m coming back to visit your school again one of these days and when I come I’ll give a gift to the pupil who has the neatest desk.”
One little girl who had the reputation among her peers of being what would be called in the Peanuts comic strip, “Pigpen,” announced she was going to win the prize. When everyone got through laughing, one of the girls with a reputation for neatness chided her, “You’d be the last one to win. Your desk is always a mess.”
That was true and all knew it, including the girl making the boast, but she explained, “I’m going to clean it thoroughly each Friday before going home and on Monday when a new week starts, I’ll have the cleanest desk.”
“But what if he comes on Friday afternoon, after you’ve been messing in it all week?”
That was a telling point and after thinking a moment she responded, “I’ll clean it good before I go home every afternoon so it will be spotless at the start of everyday.”
Again the other girl came back, “But what if he comes late in the afternoon and you’ve been messing around with it all day?”
The first girl looked stunned and defeated. Then, suddenly, she brightened and exclaimed, “I know what I’ll do. I’ll keep it neat all the time so it will be clean no matter when he comes.”
That is the idea around the second coming. We don’t know when He will return so we need to keep our lives pure all of the time, day and night!
What will that involve?
It Will Include Separation!
That is summed up in II Corinthians 6:1-7:1, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
This, it almost goes without saying, involves separation from worldly things.
It also involves separation from worldly people! After all, swine make poor companions for sheep. We have nothing in common with them apart from our witness.
It Will Include Evangelization!
The blessed hope of our Lord’s second coming is one of the strongest motivations, one of the most urgent incentives for reaching the lost of anything in Scripture. He will return just as soon as the last member making up His Body is added to His Church. If we are really looking, longing and living for His return,how we will work to hasten it!
Not only so, purification demands evangelization since not winning souls is wicked, sinful, rebellious disobedience to the Bible’s plain commandments to go into all the world and make disciples in all nations.
Why should we be looking for the Blessed Hope? To look for His coming is tolong for His coming and to long for His coming is to live for His coming. My dear friends – he traveled with me for a time as soloist and song leader in my crusades, R. O. & Angie Stone – wrote a beautiful song he sang often in our meetings. It went like this:
I am preaching tonight on what I believe to be the most important subject in the Bible. Of course, anything that has to do with Jesus Christ is of vast importance. My text is found in the First Epistle of Peter 1:19— “The precious blood of Christ.”
The Apostle Peter, as we all know, was a fisherman in his earlier days. It is wonderful that he became the leader and writer that he was, and, strange to say, the word that he uses many times is this word — precious. He speaks of precious promises. He says of Jesus: “Unto you, therefore, which believe, He is precious.” It is just about the last word that you would expect a fisherman to use. He was probably an uncultured man and a stranger to the schools. Before he began to follow Jesus, he had the habit of profanity. There was an occasion when, in an unguarded moment, his old habit took hold upon him and with an oath he said: “I know not the man.” All this goes to show that if one accepts Jesus Christ as a Saviour and yields himself wholly to him, the Master will take complete possession of him and fashion him all over again. The power of old habits will be broken and the influence of evil associations will be overcome. When once Jesus comes into our lives, we are literally a new creation.
The word of the text is the word of an artist. It is the word of a man who feels power in his soul. When the Apostle Peter caught a vision of Jesus Christ, his soul was on fire, and he used this word: The precious blood of Christ! All too little is said in these days about the blood of Christ. Some of us seem to avoid the subject as much as possible. The other evening I spoke about the personality and influence of Satan. If there is one truth more than another that Satan would oppose, it is the truth of this text. If there is one subject that he would like to turn our minds away from, it is the blood of Jesus Christ. He tells us that we can be saved by reformation, by good deeds. He tells us that we can be saved by doing our best. But all the way through the New Testament we find that the only way to God is a blood-marked way. The precious blood of Christ! I suggest that you take a little camel’s hair brush some time, and a bottle of red ink, and go through the New Testament, marking with red every passage that has to do with sacrifice, with the death of Christ. Every passage that speaks of salvation as the result of the shedding of blood. Well, you will mark a great many passages. You will redden everything that deals with pardon and peace, and forgiveness, and joy, and salvation, and the very music of heaven itself. Then when you have marked these verses red, take a little pair of scissors and clip out every red verse. Then you will begin to understand how large a place the blood occupies in the salvation of man. The apostle knew this, and because he knew it, he said: The precious blood of Christ!
If you go through the Old Testament, you will find that the way to get back to God is the way of sacrifice. There it was the blood of bulls and goats, but these were not sufficient. When sin was too great, and human nature too weak, then Jesus Christ came in the flesh. He lived and loved, and suffered and died, and His heart broke. From pierced hands and feet and broken heart His blood poured forth, and because of this sacrifice, the Apostle Peter writes: The precious blood of Christ. In the Old Testament there are many figures that are used to make it plain. For example, when judgment was hanging over the homes in Israel, and the first born was about to be slain in Egypt, then the lamb without spot was sacrificed, the blood was collected in a basin, a bunch of hyssop was dipped in the blood, and the blood was sprinkled on the doorposts, and the word that came to the people was: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Remember the lamb was to be without blemish. Jesus met this condition. The lamb was to be slain. Jesus died that we might live.
I allow no one to go beyond me in paying tribute to the earthly ministry of the Master, to the marvelous words He spoke, and the great deeds He did. But I wish to say that I think I can prove that there is nothing said in the New Testament about our being saved by His life. I know there is one expression in the Epistle to the Romans which might seem to teach this: “Saved by his life.” But literally, this means — Kept safe in his life. The message of the Apostle Paul here was not to the unsaved, but to the saved. He is telling us that when once we have accepted Jesus Christ as the Saviour, then we have him as our environment, as our protector. His arms are underneath us and round about us. His wings are above us and we are kept safe in His life. But God’s Word teaches clearly that I am saved not because he lives, but because he died. One of the greatest preachers in England said the other day something like this— “Some men have a way of saying in these days very much about the works of men and very little about the death of Jesus Christ.” But if I should lose out of my thinking the death of Christ and the shedding of His blood and all that it means, then I should have a wrong conception of God and His righteousness and justice. Also I should know that there was no chance for me to be saved, for if God could look upon sin and pass it over without an atonement, without something to blot it out, I think I should lose my great conception of God. I should also lose my joy as a saved sinner. But when I realize that He may be just, and the justifier of them that believe, when I know that He may hate sin while He loves the sinner, when I know that His own Son bore in His body our sins upon the tree — then I can sing and shout for joy, for I know that I am lifted from despair into hope, from darkness into light, from bondage into freedom. The Apostle Peter knew this, so we hear him say — the precious blood of Christ. How plain it all is, prefigured in the Old Testament, perfectly illustrated in the New. Listen while I give you some passages of Scripture.
Jesus Christ died, and in dying he paid the penalty for my sins. His death was therefore, penal. Galatians 3:13: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” You remember the story of Father Damien. I recall when he started away from our country to the Hawaiian Islands to become a leper and to die as a leper for the sake of the lepers whom he served. Yet this is a poor illustration of Jesus Christ. He came into this world and suffered in my stead. He bore the shame of the cross. He was made a curse for me. As by faith I lift my eyes to Him and take Him as my Saviour, I take His place in the love and favor of God.
Listen again. It was a voluntary death. John 10:18: “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.” I wish that I could help you to see what my salvation and yours cost. He turned away from the joy of heaven to the shame of earth. He turned away from the vast throngs saying — Holy, Holy, Holy, to this world where they veiled his face and smote him. He turned away from the immediate presence of the Father and came down into this world where men spat in His face and heaped shame upon Him, and even placed the cross upon His tired shoulders. They did even more than this. They put Him on the cross and drove nails through His hands and feet. They lifted Him up between heaven and earth, as if He were unfit for earth and as if they would hold Him back from Heaven. He came down to earth to meet all this and He did it willingly. He was ready to suffer, ready to die for you and me. Tonight, all you need to do to have the bondage of sin taken away and to have sin cast behind God’s back, is just to take Him as your personal Saviour, and with His help to turn away from sin.
It was a substitutionary death. In these times men seem to shrink from this thought. I have no harsh word for any man who cannot accept my theological position. I have no harsh word for the man who cannot at first accept a substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. But let me explain the meaning. It means that He takes my place and offers up Himself for me. I only know that I find this throughout the Word of God, and it takes hold of my soul and grips me. II Corinthians 5:21: “For He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin.” There are some things in this world that are so dreadful that we cannot think of them without growing sick. We cannot speak of them without suffering. So it is when we think of sin in connection with Jesus. Yet we are told that He was made sin for us. When men come to my room and tell me that they are drunken and lecherous, that they have secret sins and passions that bind them, I can only go so far with them. These things I have not experienced, except through my sympathy. Yet while my Saviour did not sin, He was made sin for us. When the man who was a drunkard comes to Him, or the lecherous man, or the dishonest man or the woman who is weak, my blessed Redeemer knows all about their trouble, and knowing their trouble and staggering beneath the weight of the world’s woe, He hurries to the cross and dies. St. Peter knew this when he said — The precious blood of Christ!
Hear me, too, when I give you this text from the Old Testament. Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” What does this mean? It means that when Jesus Christ came into this world and lived and loved and suffered; when His heart broke on Calvary’s cross and the blood poured from His veins, He was laying down His life for you and for me. Of course, if I should lay down my life for you, it might avail in a certain way, but the value of the life determines the value of the blood. Do you not see this? I stand here tonight preaching and I know that there are some rich people here who are nevertheless very weak. There are some who are high in social life, but they have gone astray. Some are poor, too, and they have turned away from God. But no matter who you are, my Saviour is groaning upon Calvary and shedding His blood. He is able to save you all. The Apostle Peter knew this, and he said — The precious blood of Christ. I am hurrying to the close of my message but I want you to know the hope that is in the blood of Christ. Do not resist Him, my friends. Do not reject His precious blood.
My friend, Dr. Geo. F. Pentecost was determined to climb Pike’s Peak alone. His friends said to him, “You cannot do it without a guide who knows the way.” But Dr. Pentecost said, “I know that I can climb it alone.” So he started off. They told him that at a certain curve in the mountain there was a hut, open to any traveler, if by any chance he should miss his way going up. He was getting along very well, when suddenly a snowstorm overtook him. Without warning the blinding snow covered him and he began to drift. He staggered and fell, and then there came to him the warnings of his friends. He had practically given himself up to die, when he realized, as he lay upon the ground, that his hands were touching some dry twigs. It came to him that if he could start a fire he might still escape. He felt in his pocket for matches and found one. But the wind was blowing a perfect gale. I heard Dr. Pentecost say that he took that single match and, shielding it in his hands from the snow, started to strike it, but he was afraid and he put it back into his pocket again. Finally, in his desperation, he got up close under the shadow of a rock and struck the match, shielding the little flame as best he could, and touching it to the dry twigs. The fire was started and his life was saved. There was just that one little thing between him and death. What a blessing that he did not treat it carelessly. Tonight I am standing here to say that there is just one thing, between you and judgment, and that one thing is the precious blood of Christ. I beg you not to treat it carelessly.
But someone is saying, — You don’t know my sins. You don’t know my habits. If I should start this evening, my old habits would come back at my heels like hounds scenting blood. True, I don’t know your habits, but I do know my Saviour.
Do you remember the story in Scottish history, when they were seeking to take Bruce the King? They heard that he was in his palace and they started after him. The King heard that they were coming, and escaped with his trusted few. They made their way through the fields and into the forests, and when they thought that they had escaped, in the distance Bruce heard the baying of bloodhounds. They were his own bloodhounds. He gave himself up for lost, but in the distance, he heard the babbling sound of a little mountain stream. With his faithful followers he went into the stream and by going up the stream some distance and across to the other side, they covered their trail. When the hounds came to the stream, so history tells us, they lost the trail and Bruce was saved. But I know a story a thousand times better than this. Yes, I do. I ask you to give your hearts to Christ and then start, and the moment you start, all the old habits of your life are after you again; the old passions and lusts and desires. You have only half started when you sink back and say — It is hopeless. But wait a moment. You can cover your trail. Mr. Alexander and I landed one night four hours late, on the Fiji Islands. We were to have held services there. The service had to be cancelled. Nevertheless, we decided to stop, for we wanted to say at least that we had been in the Fiji Islands. While we were there, we heard in the distance what sounded like a cannon. We were told that it was calling the people to the House of God. A man stood with a mallet by a hollow log of a special kind of wood, and the sound could be heard for miles. We climbed up the hill and found a multitude of people with black skins and strange hair waiting for us. They sang two songs, in which Mr. Alexander led them. One was the “Glory Song,” and the other was the song which belongs to our subject this evening. We did not know the words, but we knew the music. We have heard this song in every land under the sun. We have heard people sing it with tears rolling down their cheeks. We have heard it sung while multitudes pressed up to the altar and sobbed their way into the Kingdom of God. This is the song they were singing in the Fiji Islands—
“There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel’s veins.”
Can you not see it? Plunge in! Plunge in! Tonight! To-night! Nobody is too sinful!
Nobody is too sinful. Nobody is too far away. The precious blood of Christ can cleanse and save unto the uttermost. Nothing less than his blood can do this. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
I can say no more. With all my heart I wish that I might. I can only add this. I love Him. I love Him. He is to me as real as you are. I love Him. I want you to love Him. I want you to take Him. I know that there are people who want to say this evening — “Pray for me.” Lift up your hand to express this desire of your heart.
J. WILBUR CHAPMAN
John Wilbur Chapman was born in Richmond, Indiana, on June 17, 1859 to Christian parents who raised him in preparation for the ministry. He publicly professed Christ at seventeen and entered college and then the seminary. He pastored several Presbyterian churches before entering evangelism in 1893. He preached with D. L. Moody, acting as an “advance man” for him in his crusades. When he later began his own evangelistic meetings, he hired a young man named billy Sunday as his own advance man. From 1904-1909 Chapman began to develop and promote a new method of urban evangelism. His idea was to hold several meetings throughout a city simultaneously, thereby reaching more people and stirring more hearts to enter into Christian service. He began in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and included cities in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Philippines, Ireland, Scotland and India in his world-wide itinerary. What became known as “mass evangelism” came from his techniques. His sermons were put in book form and even still can be found today. We was a writer of hymns, the three most popular being, “One Day,” “Tis Jesus,” and “One Great Day.” Chapman was a theological conservative who believed in the imminent return of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture. He once advocated that his denomination recall all foreign missionaries from the field who did not hold to inerrancy. He possessed a deep and musical voice in the pulpit and a good sense of humor. His sermons were well illustrated and fully applied, and serve as excellent models for today’s preacher. “I cannot ever recall any hesitation as to being a minister,” he said. “It just had to be.” /