As in the Day

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5)

This was the assessment of the Lord concerning mankind prior to the world wide flood in the days of Noah. By the grace of God Noah and his family were saved to accomplish God’s plan and purpose. The people of Noah’s day were warned by Noah’s testimony as he built the ark. Those who ignored his testimony went on as before and were drowned in the flood.

Jesus warned that His second coming will be in similar circumstances (Matthew 24:37f; Luke 17:26f). In these days God’s warning of impending judgment and the outpouring of His wrath against sin is through the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Christ as revealed in the Bible. Those who do not heed His words will carry on as before and be unprepared for His judgment. Those who receive it will be saved from wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; Romans 5:9).

In the days of the Tribulation the Lord’s witnesses will be 144,000 Jews who will preach the Gospel to all nations and ethnic groups in all languages. Those who carry on as before and ignore the warning are destined to endure God’s wrath. Those who receive it will be delivered through it or from it by bodily death.

Jesus also gave the illustration of the city of Sodom (Luke 17:28f). Lot had been less than faithful in warning the people that their wickedness would bring an outpouring of God’s wrath. The judgment of God fell upon those people also.

Denying either of these historical events is to call Jesus a liar and renders one carrying on as before and unprepared for the wrath to come. His words are clear; when every intention of the thoughts of the heart of mankind is evil, then we can expect God to again judge the earth.

God is presently allowing Satan to test the hearts of nations and of individuals to reveal openly whether they are truly His or not. He is giving us an opportunity to see the world as it would be without His righteousness and without Him. Perhaps some will turn to Him and call for mercy.

Of that great city, Nineveh, the Lord said, “Their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). Jonah was sent to warn them. With reluctance he went saying, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). Unlike in the days of Noah and the days of Lot the Ninevites had a change of heart and pleaded for God’s mercy. They believed the warning and acted upon it through prayer and fasting believing that God might show them mercy. God will always respond to genuine calls for mercy.

It is not difficult to see that our world is at the threshold. Those who know the truth have the privilege and responsibility of warning others. We don’t know whether the world, our nation or our neighbour will respond in the way the people in Noah’s and Lot’s days did or in the way that Nineveh did so let us persevere in sharing the Gospel of grace and see what the Lord does in the hearts of people and nations.

A Day Nearer

“Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” Revelation 5:2

The above question was asked in heaven by a “strong angel.” Opening this scroll by breaking the seals is described in this book beginning in the next chapter. The breaking of the seals is the beginning of God pouring out His wrath on the nations. God has judged people groups before. He wiped out all but eight people at the time of the worldwide flood. He judged the new population later by confusing their language and He judged the sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah by destroying the whole region and only saving Lot and two of his daughters. The Bible records that God has judged nations and people groups on many occasions in the past and that He will do so again.

God’s holiness demands that sin be dealt with. People deny or disregard God’s warnings of future judgment at their peril. John records God’s revelation to him of the future outpouring of wrath in this book. Revelation 6:16-17 and 19:15 particularly reveal this warning.

Who is worthy to judge the nations? Certainly no man is worthy. Many set themselves up as judges but this “strong angel” can find no one worthy to judge the nations. Worthy has to do with character. The scribes and Pharisees believed that they were worthy judges and brought a woman they caught in the act of adultery to Jesus to see if He would agree with their judgment. His response was, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). As the Gospel records, they all left without so much as picking up a pebble. None of them was worthy to judge the woman. The “strong angel” seems to be in that kind of situation as well. Who is without sin to judge mankind?

The only one found to be worthy is the one who Himself bore the wrath of God that was due us. John made this clear in his first letter, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). “Propitiation” is the turning away of wrath by satisfying the debt.

Consequently Paul could write, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9; cf. 1:10 & Romans 5:9).

In Revelation 5:9 we read the words of a new song sung in heaven by the twenty four elders, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood.” This is what makes Jesus Christ worthy to open the seals of God’s judgment. No one else qualifies. Every day brings us a day nearer to when the nations will be judged by Jesus Christ.

Shipwrecked

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” Matthew 7:13-14

A few decades ago when living in Port Pirie, South Australia it was not unusual for me to take my fourteen foot bond-wood boat with putt-putt motor out into Spencer Gulf for a spot of crabbing or fishing. The gulf was relatively shallow so far north but that was not a concern for my boat. However, there was a lead smelting industry in Port Pirie and they needed large ships to be able to berth and take on board the lead. To accomplish this, a channel had been dredged from deeper water, a kilometre or two from shore, right up to the dock. This was marked by lights and signs on marker posts.

Ships coming into port must stay between the markers or they would most certainly run aground. To navigate this channel required care and concentration as it was not a particularly wide channel and neither was it straight. Any captain who ignored the markers would soon lose his ship.

There are essentially only two ways that we might seek to live our lives and please God. The broad way that leads to destruction is the one that ignores or disregards the markers in God’s word. At Port Pirie the markers were to inform the ship’s captain where it was safe to navigate and where there was danger. If we ignore our Creator’s markers and navigate where it is unsafe we can hardly expect to avoid the dangers and we will make shipwreck of our lives.

Most people will rely on human logic and in so doing make a fatal choice. Since Adam’s sin mankind has had a faulty logic. In Proverbs we read, “There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way of death” (14:12, 16:9) and “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes but the Lord weighs the spirits” (16:2). A captain who chooses not to follow the markers and take a short cut will run aground.

The broad way is the way that seems right to people but in following that way they miss the truth and make shipwreck of their lives. They have missed the warning markers in God’s word. The narrow way is the way that follows God’s warning markers and remains in the safe channel.

It is tragic that we observe people and nations making shipwreck of life because they have ignored God’s word and revelation in the Bible. It is even more tragic that many deliberately and defiantly rebel against God’s word. It does not bode well for our nation and it robs people of the blessing they might otherwise have had from the Lord.

If we are not to make shipwreck of our lives, either personally or nationally, we will do well to know the safety markers God has given us in His word and enjoy the freedom that we have within them.

Writing Scripts

“You were hypocrites in your hearts when you sent me to the Lord” Jeremiah 42:20

The small, unprotected and disorganised remnant of Judah that remained in Judea must have felt vulnerable and unsafe. Those who had obeyed the Lord and surrendered to the king of Babylon were safe but removed from the land. Of those who had not obeyed the Lord most were now dead and only these few remained.

The armies of Babylon had gone home but they still felt that the Lord’s hand was heavy upon them and they were at risk. Since everything Jeremiah had prophesied had come to pass they went to him and asked him to seek the Lord’s counsel.

They promised that they would obey the Lord regardless of “whether it is pleasing or displeasing” (v 6) but the Lord knew their hearts and was determined to reveal their hypocrisy. What is revealed is that they had already chosen what they would do and were just seeking the Lord’s confirmation. This is often the way people relate to God when they do not have a genuine personal relationship with Him.

We need to be careful that we do not follow the example of these people. When we pray we should make up our minds to do as He reveals regardless of the response. Let us be sure that we have not already settled our direction before we hear the Lord’s response to our prayer. If we have, we will make up scenarios or accounts of events that will seemingly justify our actions even when contrary to God’s revelation and word to us. True prayer allows the Lord to respond as He chooses with the full intention of obeying whether it seems pleasing to us or not.

The people who came to Jeremiah with this request received a wonderful response – stay where they are and God would be their provider and protector until all Israel was brought back. If they chose to disregard and disobey the word of the Lord, contrary to their promise, they would suffer the very thing they sought to escape.

They had already made up their minds and instead of believing God’s revelation concerning past events and their current situation, they invented their own version that would make their decision look reasonable (44:16-19). In so doing they called God a liar (43:2). The Lord’s response to these people was, “Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves” (44:7). It is so illogical for people to choose against the revealed will of God. One can only wonder at how often we have rewritten our own history so as to put ourselves in a good light when in fact we are disobeying the word of the Lord.

The issue was not so much about where they should be physically but where their heart is toward the Lord. The same is true for us. The Lord will also test our heart motives in prayer. He doesn’t do this to harm us but to reveal where our heart really is so that our relationship with Him may become more intimate. God’s warnings were for Judah’s good, as they are for us, so let us take Him at His word and not try and write our own scripts.

Everlasting Joy

“When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish and the hope of the unjust perishes” Proverbs 11:7

Jesus said that He came to save that which was lost (John 3:17; Luke 19:10) and He has sent all who have been saved to continue His mission. While we are often inclined to only speak of the blessings that come to those who respond positively to the Gospel of Christ it is also necessary to speak of the tragedy that awaits those who reject Jesus. Jesus frequently does this. The watchman must give a clear warning of the danger in order to rally a response.

Quite likely we have all experienced times when we have put a lot of time and effort into achieving a certain goal only to have it unravel and remain unrealised. That is a disappointing and deflating moment as we consider the wasted time, energy and effort. Multiply that thousands of times over and we will begin to understand the depths of anguish and futility that the one who has his expectation bound in this life will realise immediately after bodily death. There will be the realisation that his ambitions and everything he laboured for all have come to nothing, are of no value and his life wasted in futility. There will also be the gut wrenching moment of realisation that there is no second chance.

The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus has provided a sure expectation that will not end in futility. The reason for Jesus coming was so that we might be saved from sin and its consequences. He is the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world on Calvary’s cross. Jesus said that He came that we might have abundant life (John 10:10).

He also said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). An attempted burglary next door, as this article is being composed, put these words into perspective.

Let us not treasure earthly temporal things but rather treasure those things that are eternal. Later in Proverbs eleven we read, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise” (v 30). Christ’s mission is our mission, to seek those who are lost that He might save them. This will be eternal treasure from which there will be only everlasting joy.