I hope I never forget what the Spirit of the Lord said to me on September 11th, as I watched the towers of the World Trade center flare then crumble in smoke and ashes just a few hours from my home. It’s not what I would have expected Him to say. He didn’t pat me nicely and say, “There, there, now sweetheart. Don’t be afraid. Everything is going to be all right.”
It would have been perfectly scriptural if He had. After all, the 91st Psalm says a thousand will fall at my side and ten thousand at my right hand and it won’t come near me. He could have said that to me right then. He could have reassured me that my temporal security was guaranteed…that my family was safe…that my life would go on just as before.
He could have.
But He didn’t.
Instead, He said something that has jarred me to the core. As I wept over the untold thousands of precious lives that had so cruelly and abruptly ended in the skyscrapers that had melted before my eyes, the Spirit of the Lord said to me, “…And it will all eventually be destroyed in that same way.”
Is That in the Bible?
I’ll be honest. It’s been so long since I’ve heard words like that preached from a pulpit that for a moment I wasn’t even sure they were scriptural. In my heart, I questioned them. But the Holy Spirit quickly reminded me of the New Testament passage that speaks of the times when people begin to overlook the fact that this natural order of things is coming to end:
But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been stored up (reserved) for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly people…The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will vanish (pass away) with a thunderous crash, and the [material] elements [of the universe] will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:7, 9-10)
A thunderous crash. Material elements dissolved with fire. Works burned up. That’s what we all saw the day the towers fell. It was, indeed, an accurate picture of what Peter warned us will happen globally one day in the future.
Of course, it’s not the material elements that will be the real loss on that day, just as it wasn’t the steel and concrete we cried over that September morning. We wept over the loss of irreplaceable lives, over husbands who would never come home to their wives and wives who would never come home to their husbands, over fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. We cried for those whose loved ones perished, knowing that human beings are uniquely precious. One can never replace another. So when one is missing, he is always missed.
As the death toll rose, the thought came to me as it did to all of us. If only they could have been warned in time so they all could have escaped that calamity…If only one more…or twenty more…or five hundred more…could have been saved.
A Holy War
“…And it will all eventually be destroyed that same way.”
When I think of those words, I wonder what will it be like for us, as believers, on the day of earth’s judgment? Will we be congratulating each other on the wonderful, blessed little life we had on earth and on our escape from this final destruction?
Or will we be weeping as we watch precious souls, people Jesus loved enough to die for, slip into an eternal hell. Will we be wondering, Did we warn them clearly? Did we make sure we gave them an opportunity to escape this calamity? Could one more…or two more…or twenty more…or five hundred more have been saved?
Writing those words seems odd to me, right now. They seem somehow out of step with what others have been saying.
All around me I hear Christians comforting each other, telling each other everything’s going to be all right. Our lives will be protected. Our pocketbooks will be divinely filled.
Sure, we’re going to be all right. Sure, we’re going to be protected. But our lives aren’t supposed to be centered around ourselves. We’re here for the sake of a lost world and that world is not going to be okay! It is heading rapidly toward destruction.
What are we doing about it?
This is no game. We are already in a “holy war.” We are fighting the devil every single day for the souls of people. This isn’t just about our economy or our way of life. This is about eternal destinies. People are on their way to hell! They’ll experience it in this life and in the life to come if the Church doesn’t rise up and do her job.
What is her job? To preach the Gospel. The whole Gospel. Not just a feel-good kind of message that says, “Just add Jesus to your life and you’ll get lots of neat stuff!”
No, the real deal. The message that says, “Hey, you’re a sinner and you’re separated from God. You’re headed for an eternal separation from Him in hell. But He doesn’t want you to go there. He wants you with Him. In fact, He loves you so much, He sent His Son to die and pay the penalty for your sin. He died, was buried and rose again. If you’ll give your life to Him, you can be saved.”
That doesn’t sound politically correct, does it? No, you can’t talk about things like sin and hell and be politically correct. But, like it or not, that’s the message that saves people.
What Did Jesus Say?
If you’re like me, right now you’re thinking, Surely now isn’t the time to start talking about the end of the world. Shouldn’t we be positive and uplifting? Shouldn’t we be loving in the face of such tragedy?
Yes, we should be loving but Jesus is our example of love. So let’s see how He responded in Luke 13 when he encountered this same kind of situation. There, Jesus spoke about two national tragedies in which a number of people died. Jesus could have addressed the situation by saying, “Listen, the devil did this. God doesn’t want anybody to suffer or die. He’s a loving Father. So don’t worry about a thing. Just trust Him to take care of you and He will.”
He could have said that but He didn’t.
Instead He said, “…unless you repent (change your mind for the better and heartily amend your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins), you will all likewise perish and be lost eternally” (verse 3, Amplified Bible).
Those are hard words, words that probably didn’t make people feel all warm and fuzzy.
He didn’t just say them once, either. He said them twice.
Jesus loved those people too much to make them people comfortable on their way to destruction. He loved them too much to pet their temporal emotions at the expense of their eternal lives. So He told them the blunt truth.
Give Me a Little More Time
The passage doesn’t end there, however. Jesus is not one of those prophets who says when calamity comes, “Tsk, tsk…I warned you to repent and you didn’t, too bad for you.” So He went on to tell a parable about the owner of a vineyard who ordered his vinedresser to cut down a barren tree that had been judged unworthy.
As I see it, Jesus is the vinedresser in that parable. The Father is the owner of the vineyard. When the Father, in accordance with the moral principles of His glorious government came to remove that which was not producing good fruit in the earth an amazing thing happened. Instead of agreeing with the Owner’s judgment, Jesus took the side of the unproductive tree. He interceded for it. He pled for mercy.
Oh, what a Savior we have! A Savior that refuses to give up on the souls of men! He set the example for us. He had a place of blessing with the Father. He had glory and security and riches—guaranteed. Yet He left it all to identify with mankind.
That’s the example we must follow now.
While we must be bold enough to tell sinners the truth about the judgment to come and the One Way to salvation, we must also be loving enough to refuse to separate ourselves from them. Instead of spending all our time quoting scriptures about how we won’t be harmed with the world, true as they are, we should be on our knees weeping for that world, identifying with it, asking for more time and more mercy to be extended.
Oh, that we would have the heart to say what the vinedresser said! “Lord, just give me a little more time. I’ll give my life to help save these souls. I’ll get my hands dirty. I’ll water them with my tears and cultivate them with words of witness and words of prayer. Dear God, I can’t give them up! I feel that if they died, I would die with them…”
That’s the heart of Jesus and, if we ask Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He’ll put that heart in us too.
Facing Our Own Mortality
The end of this world is coming. Sinners need to know it and saints do too because when that end comes our Lexus will burn just like the unbeliever’s. Our stuff will go up in smoke just like theirs. All we’ll have left is what we did for the Master. The rest will be ashes.
Although I’m totally in favor of ridding ourselves of fear at times like this, I do have this question. Why are we, as believers, so quick to fear when our temporal safety and security are threatened?
Is it because we don’t want our service to the Master cut short? Is it because we want as much time on this earth as possible so we can win as many souls as possible before we pass to the other side?
Or is it because we want to be reassured that our own, selfish little kingdoms aren’t going to be disturbed? Is it because we want to believe that the world can literally go to hell around us without causing us any pain or inconvenience?
Last week, I walked into our church sanctuary at noon to help lead a prayer service for the nation. I had the opportunity to greet the first three people who arrived. They were all unsaved. They were all uncertain. They were all looking for eternal security.
Because of the shaking of the world around them, their hearts were opened to the Gospel. The next day, because of that same shaking, the Dow Jones fell over 600 points. Would you say the souls saved one day were worth the money lost the next?…Even if it was all your money?
Truthfully, I’m not totally sure we can go through shaking times like these and not be inconvenienced. It’s going to cost us something to bring in this harvest of souls. It cost the early church something. Read the New Testament. They were scattered from their homes. They had their possessions seized. They were persecuted and even killed. They had to stay up all night praying sometimes just to keep the pastor alive.
Am I believing for that?