Recently I witnessed to a former neighbor, a lady I really like, and have long been praying for. I ran into her in a neighborhood store. We got to talking, and an opportunity opened for me to share the Gospel with her, so I did. I preached the Cross, and I told her what Jesus said about the necessity of the new birth. Her response? She said that she believed that if she lived a good life she would go to heaven. I asked her if she ever read the Bible and she said no. I asked her if she believed the things that Jesus said, and she just sort of shrugged.
I have witnessed to many people over the last 26 years, and most want nothing to do with Jesus. I know that. So sad. But for some reason, this time I went home with a big “WHY” in my head. Why did she refuse to believe the Gospel, the words of Jesus, while at the same time claiming to believe in him? Strange. (I was reasoning.) It made no sense. She is elderly, has a serious health problem, and says she is not afraid to die. She is perfectly secure in her false security. So I went home disturbed, and I prayed asking the Lord why. In the course of my daily bible studies, studying about the kingdom of God in particular, I came across the following, and therein was my answer, or maybe I should say a reminder.
“Note, Though the stupidity of sinners in a sinful way is as strange as it is without excuse, yet we are not to think it strange, for it is not without example. It is the old way that wicked men have trodden, that have gone slumbering to hell, as if their damnation slumbered while they did.”
Luke 17:20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
The kingdom of God was among the Jews, or rather within some of them. It was a spiritual kingdom, set up in the heart by the power of Divine grace. Observe how it had been with sinners formerly, and in what state the judgments of God, which they had been warned of, found them. Here is shown what a dreadful surprise this destruction will be to the secure and sensual. Thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
When Christ came to destroy the Jewish nation by the Roman armies, that nation was found in such a state of false security as is here spoken of. In like manner, when Jesus Christ shall come to judge the world, sinners will be found altogether regardless; for in like manner the sinners of every age go on securely in their evil ways, and remember not their latter end. But wherever the wicked are, who are marked for eternal ruin, they shall be found by the judgments of God.
That the setting up of the kingdom of the Messiah would introduce the destruction of the Jewish nation, whom it would find in a deep sleep of security, and drowned in sensuality, as the old world was in the days of Noah, and Sodom in the days of Lot, Luke 17:26. Observe,
How it had been with sinners formerly, and in what posture the judgments of God, of which they had been fairly warned, did at length find them. Look as far back as the old world, when all flesh had corrupted their way, and the earth was filled with violence. Come a little lower, and think how it was with the men of Sodom, who were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly. Now observe concerning both these,
That they had fair warning given them of the ruin that was coming upon them for their sins. Noah was a preacher of righteousness to the old world, so was Lot to the Sodomites. They gave them timely notice of what would be in the end of their wicked ways, and that it was not far off.
That they did not regard the warning given them, and gave no credit, no heed to it. They were very secure, went on in their business as unconcerned as you could imagine, they did eat, they drank, indulged themselves in their pleasures, and took no care of any thing else, but to make provision for the flesh, counted upon the perpetuity of their present flourishing state, and therefore married wives, and were given in marriage, that their families might be built up. They were all very merry so were the men of Sodom, and yet very busy too: they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded. These were lawful things, but the fault was that they minded these inordinately, and their hearts were entirely set upon them, as that they had no heart at all to prepare against the threatened judgments. When they should have been, as the men of Nineveh, fasting and praying, repenting and reforming, upon warning given them of an approaching judgment, they were going on securely, eating flesh, and drinking wine, when God called to weeping and to mourning, Isaiah 22:12,13.
That they continued in their security and sensuality, till the threatened judgment came. Until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and Lot went out of Sodom, nothing said or done to them served to alarm or awaken them.
Note, Though the stupidity of sinners in a sinful way is as strange as it is without excuse, yet we are not to think it strange, for it is not without example. It is the old way that wicked men have trodden, that have gone slumbering to hell, as if their damnation slumbered while they did.
That God took care for the preservation of those that were his, who believed and feared, and took the warning themselves which they gave to others. Noah entered into the ark, and there he was safe. Lot went out of Sodom, and so went out of harm’s way. If some run on heedless and headlong into destruction, that shall be no prejudice to the salvation of those that believe.
That they were surprised with the ruin which they would not fear, and were swallowed up in it, to their unspeakable horror and amazement. The flood came, and destroyed all the sinners of the old world, fire and brimstone came, and destroyed all the sinners of Sodom. God has many arrows in his quiver, and uses which he will in making war upon his rebellious subjects, for he can make which he will effectual. But that which is especially intended here is to show what a dreadful surprise destruction will be to those who are secure and sensual.
How it will be with sinners still (Luke 17:30): Thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. When Christ comes to destroy the Jewish nation, by the Roman armies, the generality of that nation will be found under such a reigning security and stupidity as this. They have warning given by Christ now, and will have it repeated to them by the apostles after him, as they had by Noah and Lot but it will be all in vain. They will continue secure, will go on in their neglect and opposition of Christ and his gospel, till all the Christians are withdrawn from among them and gone to the place of refuge. God will provide for them on the other side Jordan, and then a deluge of judgments shall flow in upon them, which will destroy all the unbelieving Jews. One would have thought that this discourse of our Saviour’s, which was public, and not long after published to the world, should have awakened them but it did not, for the hearts of that people were hardened, to their destruction. In like manner, when Jesus Christ shall come to judge the world, at the end of time, sinners will be found in the same secure and careless posture, altogether regardless of the judgment approaching, which will therefore come upon them as a snare and in like manner the sinners of every age go on securely in their evil ways, and remember not their latter end, nor the account that they must give. Woe to them that are thus at ease in Zion.
That it ought to be the care of his disciples and followers to distinguish themselves from the unbelieving Jews in that day, and, leaving them, their city and country, to themselves, to flee at the signal given, according to the direction that should be given. Let them retire, as Noah to his ark, and Lot to his Zoar. You would have healed Jerusalem, as of old Babylon, but she is not healed, and therefore forsake her, flee out of the midst of her, and deliver every man his soul, Jeremiah 51:6,9.
This flight of theirs from Jerusalem must be expeditious, and must not be retarded by any concern about their worldly affairs (Luke 17:31): “He that shall be on the house-top, when the alarm is given, let him not come down, to take his stuff away, both because he cannot spare so much time, and because the carrying away of his effects will but encumber him and retard his flight.”
Let him not regard his stuff at such a time, when it will be next to a miracle of mercy if he have his life given him for a prey. It will be better to leave his stuff behind him than to stay to look after it, and perish with them that believe not.
It will be their concern to do as Lot and his family were charged to do: Escape for thy life. Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
When they have made their escape, they must not think of returning (Luke 17:32): “Remember Lot’s wife and take warning by her not only to flee from this Sodom (for so Jerusalem is become, Isaiah 1:10), but to persevere in your flight, and do not look back, as she did be not loth to leave a place marked for destruction, whomsoever or whatsoever you leave behind you, that is ever so dear to you.”
Those who have left the Sodom of a natural state, let them go forward, and not so much as look a kind look towards it again. Let them not look back, lest they should be tempted to go back nay, lest that be construed a going back in heart, or an evidence that the heart was left behind. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt, that she might remain a lasting monument of God’s displeasure against apostates, who begin in the spirit and end in the flesh.
There would be no other way of saving their lives than by quitting the Jews, and, if they thought to save themselves by a coalition with them, they would find themselves mistaken (Luke 17:33): “Whosoever shall seek to save his life, by declining from his Christianity and complying with the Jews, he shall lose it with them and perish in the common calamity but whosoever is willing to venture his life with the Christians, upon the same bottom on which they venture, to take his lot with them in life and in death, he shall preserve his life, for he shall make sure of eternal life, and is in a likelier way at that time to save his life than those who embark in a Jewish bottom, or ensure upon their securities.” Note, Those do best themselves that trust God in the way of duty.