"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" — John 10:27-29.
I want to tell you about the greatest insurance policy in the world. I am an agent for the company. I represent the King's Eternal Life Insurance Company. It has headquarters in Heaven. The directorate includes God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The President is the King of kings. The General Agent is the Holy Spirit.
I want to offer some reasons why you should take a policy in this company. First of all, it is the oldest. It has been doing business for thousands of years and it has never changed its policies nor management: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8). "For I am the Lord, I change not" (Mal. 3:6).
It is the strongest of all insurance companies. It has more capital than all other companies combined, for its capital is the "unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8).
It has the largest number of policy holders. In Matt. 8:11, we read that Jesus said, "Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven." Rev. 7:9 speaks of, "A great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne." In Rev. 5:11, we read, "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." Bring on your adding machine, your posting machine, and your clerks, secretaries, and stenographers and try to count the redeemed; you will find that it is "a great multitude, which no man could number."
It has no dissatisfied policy holders. Not one has been displeased with the benefits derived in 6000 years of the company's existence. Every one is a booster. In fact, all are anxious to get others to enroll.
It is the only company which insures a man for more than he is worth. In every company there is a limitation except in this one. How much is a man worth? Paul tells us, "They are together become unprofitable" (Rom. 3:12). In spite of man's valuation. God insures us for Time and Eternity.
You need it. How strongly God argues your need of ETERNAL LIFE INSURANCE! "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9). "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" (II Thess. 1:7-9). "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:5). "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).
A policy in this company has many provisions which no other policy carries. At the outset, it is a mutual benefit association. Every policy holder is given a joint interest and shares in its profits. "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17).
It provides an unlimited drawing account throughout life. "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14).
This policy insures you against shipwreck in the River of Death. "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:25,26). In his early ministry (1869), B. H. Carroll was holding a revival under a brush arbor, and when about half way through one of his sermons he noticed a ramshackle mover's wagon stop in the road, and through a rent in the dirty wagon-sheet there looked out a hungry-eyed, emaciated face of poverty and suffering. Brother Carroll was impressed to stop his sermon to the crowd, and going out he preached present and eternal salvation to the dying man. Accepting the Lord Jesus as his Redeemer, he was received into the church. He was so weak that he had to be baptized sitting in a chair. A few days later he was dying. Mr. Carroll, leaned over him, and said, "Brother Bryan, you have come to the river. But in the name of Jesus, I assure you that in the crossing, you'll find no river and no darkness. If God permit you, give us a token that what I say is true." As he nodded his head, he seemed to die. Brother Carroll put his finger on his eye to close it and the man, not yet dead, raised his hand and with jerking words said, "Brother Carroll — no — river — all bright," and died.
"Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar
When I put out to sea;
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark.
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar."
Further, this policy insures you against loss in the Great Judgment Day Fire. I believe in an old-fashioned Hell of literal fire for unbelievers, for the Bible speaks of those who "shall be tormented with fire and brimstone . . . and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever" (Rev. 14:10,11). "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-48). However, the believer is safely insured against this day. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). "Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that heareth my Word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36).
This policy provides an eternal inheritance. "To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (I Pet. 1:4). "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life" (John 6:4).
This policy is irrevocable and nonforfeitable. This means that God won't revoke it and man can't forfeit it. It is noncancelable from the standpoint of God and man. "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38, 39). "You who are kept through the power of God through faith unto salvation"' (I Pet. 1:5). "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me" (Jer. 32:40). "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28,29).
Years ago, at Leicester, England, there was a strike. Property was demolished and homes were ruined in the riot. In one home a lad was playing on the first floor, while his big brother was mending shoes upstairs. Fearing the rioters would break the door down, he stepped to the ladder and called: "Tom, Tom, they are going to smash the door open; make haste and come down." The big brother, a strong, well-built man, put his burly back to the door, while the younger boy went on about his play. Sometimes the Devil comes to this house of mine, and when I fear, lest he take me by force, I rush to the foot of the ascension ladder and cry: "Christ, Christ, make haste and come down: the Devil is about to get me." Like lightning He places Himself at the door of my heart, and there are not enough Devils in all Hell to break the door open, when my "elder Brother" has His back to the door.
"How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word;
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, tho' all Hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!"
The premium is paid for Time and Eternity. That which keeps men from carrying insurance in this life is the premium, which must be paid when due. When Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), the premium on this policy was paid forever. What is the premium? "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Pet. 1:18,19). "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (I Pet. 2:24). "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit" (I Pet. 3:18).
It is interesting to notice the terms and conditions of this policy. Such a remarkable policy is offered you as a gift. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
George F. Pentecost, in spite of the advice of his friends, determined to climb Pike's Peak alone. He was getting along very well when suddenly a snow storm overtook him. Without warning the blinding snow covered him and he began to drift. He had about given himself up to die when he fell to the ground, and his hand fell upon some dry twigs. It came to him that if he could make a fire, he might escape. He felt in his pocket for matches and found only one. The wind was blowing a terrific gale. He took the match and shielding it in his hand from the snow, he started to strike it, then put it back into his pocket. Finally in his desperation, he got up closer under some rocks and struck the match. Shielding the little flame the best he could he touched it to the dry twigs. The fire was started and his life was saved. There was just one thing between him and death — that was one match. There can be just one thing between you and the judgment and that is the precious blood of Jesus Christ which you must receive as a gift from God.
Furthermore, it must be accepted only as a gift. There is nothing that I can do to merit it. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God.
Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9). "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us" (Titus 3:5). "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).
It must be received by faith. "But as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12). "And brought them out, and said. Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:30,31).
Will you now make application for one of these policies? You must apply to the President. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 2:5).
Suffer this further word. Make your application immediately. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Cor. 6:2).
"A dear one in Heaven thy heart yearns to see
At the beautiful gate may be watching for thee,
Then list to the note of this solemn refrain
Ye must be born again."
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" — John 10:27-29.
Perhaps Jesus never spoke greater words than these concerning Himself as the Good Shepherd. The little child as it goes to sleep, lisps a simple prayer,
"Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me,
Bless thy little Lamb tonight."
The old gray-haired saint lies down to die, comforted because, "The Lord is my shepherd . . . Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil" (Psalm 23:1,4). And all in between these two extremes of life, the thought of Jesus as our tender Shepherd appeals to all.
No greater figure of speech could be used to describe the relation between Christ and the saved: — He, our Shepherd, and we, the sheep of His pasture.
First, let us notice the characteristics of a sheep. A sheep is helpless. Nature didn't endow sheep with weapons of defense or of attack. A believing child of God is equally helpless. As Jesus said, "Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me . . . without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:4, 5).
Also, a sheep is gentle. There is nothing so tame and gentle as a sheep. Even a child will approach one without fear. This characteristic of gentleness should ever distinguish God's own. "Gentle, and easy to be entreated, full' of mercy and good fruits" (James 3:17). "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Gal. 5:22, 23).
A sheep is dependent. This is noticeably the case in the Orient, for there the sheep must look to the shepherd for
protection and for guidance to and from the pasture. God's people ought thus to depend upon the Lord. The great Mueller of England said, "If you lose a door key, don't do anything to find it, until you pray." May God's sheep be cast back more upon God!
A sheep is ever characterized by a proneness to wander. If there is a single gap anywhere in the fence, he will get out. How sadly true this is of God's dear sheep!
"0 to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Bind my wandering heart to thee!
Prone to wander. Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, 0 take and seal it;
Seal it for thy courts above."
A sheep is harmless. Who ever saw even a child that was afraid of a sheep! God's people are thus exhorted to be harmless. "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matt. 10:16).
A sheep doesn't like filth. It is the cleanest domestic animal known. Although God's people have a proneness to wander and quickly go astray, they do not like filth, nor love sin. The world gets a wrong impression when it sees sinning church members wallowing in sin. They are not God's sheep; they are either the Devil's hogs that have rooted in under the fence, or the Devil's goats that have climbed over the top.
When Noah sent forth the raven and dove from the ark, the dove came back, since there was no food but rottening carcasses and no place for her to alight upon except on filth. The raven never came back. Those putrid carcasses floating in the water provided a place for his feet to stand and food for his stomach. Thus the nature of each manifested itself. There is a lot of old raven unconverted nature in our churches. God's sheep are like the dove; they don't like filth.
As a boy I grew up on a stock farm, where we raised lots of sheep and hogs. It was my business to get the hogs ready for the show circuit and fairs. The Devil always told me that there was no time like Sunday morning to do this, and usually I believed him. Accordingly, on Sunday morning, I gave Mr. Hog his weekly bath, trimmed his toenails so he would stand up well on his feet, and polished his bristles with oil until they shone in the sunlight. Then I would say, "Now, Mr. Hog, stay clean." Instead of walking around to the front porch and seating himself in an easy chair, he would make a beeline to an old mud slough back of the barn and would roll over on one side. As I watched, I would say, "Goodbye, 50 per cent of my work is gone already." As if not content, he would roll over on the other side to finish his task of spoiling my morning's work. Why did he do it? Because he was a hog and it is a hog's nature to like filth. One day I saw a pet sheep walking across the old pond dam of this mud slough and when some dirt slipped beneath her, she fell in. She got out at once, looking very much ashamed of herself for having soiled her pretty white wool. Why didn't she wallow there like the hog? It was her nature to be clean. In our churches, we have a lot of the old hog, unregenerate nature, which manifests itself, but they are not God's people. His people may fall in sin, like the sheep, but they will not wallow in it, like the hog.
A sheep is a useful animal. Each year it produces a crop of wool and mutton. God's dear sheep are useful also. The daily attitude of every believer should be, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6).
I used to have an old gentleman in a church of which I was pastor who was perfectly happy whenever I preached from either one of the texts: "Feed my sheep," or "By grace are ye saved." If I used them each Sunday morning and evening, this dear old soul would go into ecstatic jubilation. Now, those are good texts, but any text or subject used to an extreme will kill any church. One day I preached on "Missions" and at the close of the service he came to me with a look on his face as though he had been eating sauerkraut and drinking lemonade for the past six months, saying, "0, Brother Gilpin, why didn't you feed the sheep?" Having heard that same plaintive note and having seen that rejected face often before, I said: "Look here. Brother, if I had a sheep as ornery as you, I'd send him to the stock yards tomorrow morning." Beloved, there are many church members just like that, good — but good for nothing. A genuine sheep is really useful in Christ's Kingdom.
It is interesting to notice the mark of ownership which God's sheep carry. Every good farmer will mark his livestock or poultry with either an earmark or a footmark. God's dear sheep carry His brand both in the ear and the foot.
First, there is the mark of the ear. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:27). God's sheep have a hearing ear. They will hear Christ and His Word. They are like Lazarus, who though dead for three days, responded to the voice of Jesus (John 11:43, 44). Any church member who is not willing to listen to God's Word and who will not accept His Word, thereby proves that He is not one of God's sheep. In fact one of God's sheep won't hear anything else but His Word. Whereas one may be satisfied with the "Discipline," or with the findings of the "Presbytery," or with the teachings of his church fathers, the moment he is saved, he will have a taste then for nothing but the Word of God.
Not only do God's sheep carry a mark in the ear, they also carry a footmark. They have more than a hearing ear; they have following feet as well. Jesus said, "My sheep . . . follow me" (John 10:27). They may rebel or delay following some of Jesus' teachings, but if saved, eventually the "following foot" will manifest itself. Those who never follow Him, thus say to the world that they know not the Lord Jesus.
This text further declares that Christ knows His sheep. He says, "I know them." I am sure that one way whereby He knows His sheep is by their imperfections. A preacher friend traveling in Palestine said to a native shepherd, "Is it true that you actually know each sheep?" By way of answer the shepherd lifted his voice. No sooner had he done so than a sheep lifted his head from grazing to answer. He called again and another looked up, and on and on he called various ones of his flock. When asked how he could tell them apart he said, "This one has a squint; this one's toes are in a little; this one has a black spot; another, sonic wool off; and another has a piece out of the ear." Thus he remembered his sheep by their imperfections. Possibly Christ remembers us in like manner, for surely no one of His sheep is perfect.
Since He knows us then each of His sheep is secure. At the Judgment, Christ will say to the lost, "I never knew you." (Matt. 7:23). If one of Christ's sheep could be lost then Christ would falsify at the Judgment when He says, "I never knew you." In view of this spotless character of our Lord, then none of us can believe that He would thus speak. Therefore, only one conclusion remains: since He knows us, we are secure in Him. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." (John 10:27-29). "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38, 39).
Since He knows His sheep then all is well even in the midst of danger. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). "Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psa. 121:4). "I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, 0 Lord: I said Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living" (Psa. 142:4, 5).
"'There's never a heartache and never a groan
Never a teardrop and never a moan;
Never a danger, but there on His throne
Moment by moment He thinks of His own."
Since He knows His sheep then Heaven is our home and He will take us to it by and by. "For our citizenship is in Heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3:20-21). What a blessed future each of God's dear sheep has before him. How wonderful to know that the God who has provided saving Grace, keeping Grace, and protecting Grace will also provide dying Grace, when He makes ready to take us to Heaven. Possibly the experience of no one better illustrates this than that of Roland Hill of Surrey Chapel, London, who when he lay dying raised himself and repeated a poem which he often quoted from his pulpit:
"And when I am to die, receive me I'll cry,
For Jesus has loved me, I can not tell why;
But this I do find, that we two are so joined,
He'll not be in glory and leave me behind."
In closing we ask, "Are you one of His sheep; are you sure of it?" I imagine that many of the hearts of my readers must answer in the negative, and say, "I wish I were a sheep." Then, if you sincerely wish to be one of His sheep, listen to His words, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10:9). There are no difficult walls to scale to get to God; there is only one step, a step of faith. There is only one door. "Jesus said unto them, I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 1:6). Today that door is open. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Cor. 6:2). In view of the fact that some day this door will be closed, then make your calling and election sure today.
In the hills of West Virginia, a miner attended some evangelistic services and became deeply convicted. One night he started to talk to the evangelist after all had gone home, but he couldn't seem to grasp the Truth. At 10:30 the preacher proposed that the man go home, but return to talk about the matter the next night. The man said, "Sir, it must be settled tonight or never." At twelve o'clock the man jumped to his feet and cried, "I've got it!" "Got what?" asked the evangelist. "The peace that Jesus made," was his reply. He went down in the shaft at 6 o'clock the next morning to work. Two hours later, there was a terrible explosion and he was pinned into a corner by a huge piece of coal. One man put his ear against a crack in the coal and heard him say, "Thank God, it was settled last night!"
"It must be settled tonight.
I can no longer wait,
Peace with my God I now must have.
Tomorrow may be too late."
"Tomorrow's sun may never rise
To bless my long deluded sight,
This is the time. 0, then be wise,
Thou wouldst be saved, then why not tonight?"
"Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said. The morning cometh and also the night: If ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come." — Isa. 21:11, 12.
Did you ever sit by a bedside at night and watch someone who was ill? Time after time you have doubtlessly looked at your watch and perhaps asked, "What hour is it?" During the long hours of the dark vigil, often you looked out and said, "Will the light soon dawn?" Isaiah, God's prophet was just such a watchman for Israel. The Edomites in a condition of humiliation and distress, said to Isaiah, "What of the night; how long before the morning?"
Today we read of pestilences, floods, wars, strikes, terrible world conditions and like the Edomites we ask, "What about the future: how long before things are going to be better?"
From a material viewpoint the future is exceedingly dark. This was likewise true in Isaiah's day for did he not say, "The morning cometh and also the night?" Literally he said, "If this night of trouble passes, it will but give place to another." I remember distinctly my first really long ride in a railroad coach — from Cincinnati to Williamsburg, Ky., where I was enrolling in school several years ago. On this railroad the tunnels are most plenteous. We would run out of the darkness of one into the light of day and then back into the darkness of another. It is thus with the world. We may pass through one night of darkness and may come into the sunlight for a little while and then again will come another night of darkness.
In Boston, a man advertised, "I will answer any question, any time, for any one, anywhere, on any subject." A preacher by the name of Cook visited him and said, "What I want to know is, how are things?" He received this reply, "Key. Dr. Cook, 'things is mixed.' " This Boston wise man may have been grammatically incorrect, but actually his reply characterized his day. It does not require a wise man to know that such is true today for surely "things is mixed." There are distinct evidences that this world's history is fast drawing to a close and that the stage is fast becoming set for the closing of the history of this age.
Could the future be anything else other than dark, in view of the fact that human nature will remain the same through the ages that are before us? "But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matt. 24:37). Civilization, philosophy, education, and science will never make mankind better in nature than since the beginning and thus, materially speaking, the future is exceedingly dark.
The world will never know any abiding conditions of peace among men or nations. "And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom" (Matt. 24:6,7). The League of Nations has become a league of notions and its boasted peace conferences have not been so peaceful, nor have they succeeded in producing peace. H. G. Wells says, "In 6,000 years of human history we have had but 226 years of peace." It is true that a day is coming when the swords shall be beaten into plowshares and war shall be no more. However, this will not be until the Prince of Peace returns. Until then. God says, concerning the earth, "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it" (Ezek. 21:27). Just now the tramp of armies all over Europe and Asia is heard, while the clang of hammers in the work shops tells a grisly story of death-dealing material being manufactured. Man's inhumanity to man has filled the pages of history and until Jesus returns there can be no abiding conditions of peace among men or nations.
Opposition to God and His people will never cease, "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matt. 24:9-12). "But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:10-12). In Russia the national salute today is for one to pause and shake his fist toward the Heavens in defiance of God. Churches by the thousands have been destroyed and Christians by the tens of thousands have been killed. I saw sometime ago a cartoon of a workman climbing a ladder with a chisel and a mallet in his hand and an angry scowl upon his face as he climbed upward into the ethereal space. Underneath was the descriptive caption, "Now that we have finished with the earthly czars we will tackle the Heavenly ones." That spirit of opposition to a greater or lesser degree prevails the world around and will continue thus until the closing of the age.
Society will become more and more corrupt. "For wheresoever the carcass is there will the eagles be gathered together" (Matt. 24:28). The word "eagle" used in the King James Version is the word for "buzzard." Whenever you see an old buzzard flying around in the air you can know that something dead and putrefying is near at hand. Until Jesus Christ returns to this earth, society will become more and more corrupt and will be nothing but a rotten carcass when He returns. In this same chapter of Matthew's gospel, Jesus gives a further description of social life. "But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark" (Matt. 24:37, 38). The eating and drinking indicates hilarious living. The "marriage and giving in marriage" finds explanation in our divorce courts and remarriage often in the same day. Of recent date we have heard of married couples by mutual agreement exchanging partners for hilarious weekends, with no thought of God's woe resting upon them. Unconsciously they fulfill Jesus' prediction just read. Paul gives an accurate description of the social conditions which shall exist in the last day. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (II Tim. 3:1-5). If one reads this list of 19 characteristics of the last days and then looks about at conditions as they exist today, there is little need to wonder if we are not living now in the very last of the last days.
For years it has been debated as to whether the world is getting better or worse. As if in answer, Paul says, "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (II Tim. 3:13). In the prophecy of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of an image, the form of which was terrible, with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron. Daniel interpreted this as a dream of history, showing that the head of gold represented Babylon, breast of silver. Media Persia, the belly of brass, Greece, and the legs of iron, Rome. Starting with the head of gold please note the metals of this image — gold, silver, brass and iron. Though there is an increase of strength in these metals there is a deterioration as to the finer qualities. Truly this illustrates the world's condition morally for there has been a deterioration of finer qualities through the ages.
Religiously, the world will get farther and farther from God. In prophecy of the world-wide dictator, Paul says, "That day shall not come, except there come a falling away first" (II Thess. 2:3). When he speaks of perilous times in the last days, Paul describes the world as, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (II Tim. 3:5). In the majority of churches, there is a form of worship which is devoid of the Spirit's power. But did not Jesus also prophesy a spiritual declension? "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven. Which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened" (Matt. 13:33). Leaven causes fermentation and spoilage. Is not the whole world, religiously speaking, well on the way to spiritual fermentation? Surely any spiritually-minded student of the Scriptures and current events must realize that we are living today in the light of these Scriptures.
And, are not the preachers greatly to blame for existing conditions? Fully nine-tenths of the preachers themselves are lost, if they believe what they preach, for 90 per cent preach salvation by works or salvation by the cities' water-works, instead of salvation by grace, as taught in the Scriptures. Many hundreds of the so-called ministry have compromised the doctrines of the Bible. They have taken God out of Christ, the water out of the baptistry, the fire out of Hell, the Holy Spirit out of regeneration, the Blood out of the cross, the Spirit out of the Bible, faith out of salvation, and life out of the grave. In many instances, they are preaching a bloodless, twentieth century religion, which will send souls to a first century Hell. Actuated by a spirit of fear or favoritism, many hundreds more have been effectively silenced. All of this has reacted most unfavorably on the morals and policies of the ministry. Many of them have become religious charlatans and "huskers of the Word." Some time ago we heard one of these religious racketeers of the air say, "This is station WHAM and this is evangelist Whoop-it-up, Cloud-Smasher, Put-on-the-pressure, Sky-buster. We are in great need. Send in your offering at once. This is desperate. We must go off the air if help doesn't come at once. And then you good people listening in, I must be taken care of. I like white shoes, size seven; also white socks. I wear size fifteen in a shirt and thirty-eight in a suit. And the doctor says I will have to go on a diet, so send me lots of oranges, apples, bananas, beans, celery, strawberries, potatoes, onions, parsnips, black-eyed peas, cucumbers, cabbage, carrots, and ice cream."
Perhaps we have overdrawn the words he actually used, but the spirit of his appeal is as described. The sad part of it is that most church members are pleased with that kind of a ministry. The prophet of old said, "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so" (Jer. 5:31). As in the days of Jeremiah, so today a carnal people love a carnal priesthood. With that type ministry it is no wonder the average Christian does not travel fast enough to avoid a tail-end collision with the Devil. Just as long as the ministry continues in its degeneracy, then religiously we will get farther and farther from God.
In these perilous days, the Bible will continue to be our resource. After that Paul describes the apostasy of the last days, he says, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:14-17). This is our hope for (he perilous days before us. It shall remain such, for did not Jesus say, "Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35).
"Last eve I stood beside the blacksmith's door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers worn with beating years of time.
"How many anvils have you had, said I,
Only one, said he, the anvil
Wears the hammers out, you know.
"And so, I thought, the anvil of God's Word
For ages skeptics' blows have beat upon,
And though the sound of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unhurt — the hammers gone."
Isn't it glorious to know that in the days before us, the Bible cannot be destroyed and will continue to be our chiefest resource?
The old gospel of Jesus Christ will continue triumphant. "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations" (Matt. 24:14). We hear today that the gospel does not interest people as it once did. It isn't the old gospel that has lost its power: it's the ministry instead.
When I first entered the ministry, preachers were complaining of a difficulty in getting crowds and many were beginning to substitute theatricals for preaching on Sunday evening and in the summer season, many were closing their buildings on Sunday night. I made a resolution something like this: "When the old Gospel fails to draw folks, then I'll quit the ministry." Since then, I've failed in many ways in the ministry, but I've never deviated from my initial ministerial resolution. I have never labored without blood in the basin and have never preached without telling sinners that they could be saved only through Jesus' shed blood. For many years I've been preaching the Gospel, and I've never preached to more people in my life than I'm preaching to today, both at home and away from home. No! No! Brother preacher, if you are having your troubles, don't forget that the old gospel is still "the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). We are living in a day when modern science adds a "less" to everything — horseless carriages, smokeless shells, iceless refrigerators, beardless wheat and seedless fruits. And now we have a bloodless religion. As surely as we live, a bloodless religion will send souls to a never-ending Hell. Thank God, the gospel hasn't lost its power, but will continue triumphant to redeem the elect until Jesus conies.
"Dear dying Lamb thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved to sin no more."
Eventually the Lord Jesus is coming back to take possession of the world that has been forever rebellious against Him. On the day when Jesus left this earth to ascend back to the Father, two angels stood beside Christ's disciples and said, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you unto heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (I Cor. 11:26). Every time we observe the memorial supper, we have a prophecy of Christ's return. Thank God, He's coming back! What difference does it make if the future is dark, and God's people are being opposed on every hand, and society is rottening, and the world is getting farther from God, and the preachers are compromising the Truth, and the world is going to Hell in high gear? Jesus Christ is coming back! What difference does it make if we do have floods to beggar us, wars to threaten us, strikes to worry us, and terrible world conditions to confront us? What does it matter if the Communists with their Hellish anti-God propaganda are subtly securing a foothold in our political, social, industrial and religious life? Jesus Christ is coming back!
During the dark days of the struggle for Italian liberty the people looked upon General Garibaldi as their invincible deliverer. Prisoners, hurried away to loathsome dungeons, would be cheered as they passed along the streets by friends whispering in their ears, "Courage, Garibaldi is coming!" Men would steal out at night and chalk on the walls and pavements, "Garibaldi is coming!" And when the news of his approach near to a city was announced the people broke out into the rapturous shout, "Garibaldi is coining!" He came, and Italy broke her political and religious fetters, never to be so enslaved again. A greater Garibaldi is coming to God's people. The desire of all nations is on the way. Jesus is coming, coming to reign.
Are you ready for His coming? If not, then heed the words of Jesus, "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). May you cry out today as the Philippian jailer in his midnight darkness, "What must I do to be saved?" Then pause for a moment to hear the answer, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved" (Acts 16:31).