The Great Warning
January 24th, 1960 @ 7:30 PM
THE GREAT WARNING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-24-60 7:30 p.m.
Will you turn with me to the Book of Hebrews, chapter 10? We shall begin reading at the twenty-sixth verse and read to the end of the chapter [Hebrews 10:26-39]. Hebrews 10, verse 26, and reading to the end. Do we all have it? The Book of Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 26. Now all of us reading it together:
For if we sin willfully 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.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
Partly, whilst ye were made a gazing-stock, both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.
For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
These days in the middle part of January bring to us our evangelistic conferences, and for these years past I have always preached through several of them, and I am in the midst of preaching through some of them now. This last week I have been sharing in the program in the state of Arizona, and early in the morning I leave to share in the state evangelistic conference in Alabama.
And when all those preachers get together, and it’s the highest spiritual tide, I think, we have in all of our Baptist life and communion. When the preachers get together, beside the earnestness and seriousness of the work, why, they always have some enlivening remark, or story, or observation to kind of further the cause along.
For example, one of those preachers said that in the providence of life and in the passing of time, this whole world was destroyed by a hydrogen bomb and only three people were left. And those three happened to be Southern Baptist. They immediately called a session, set a goal for next Sunday of six, and made it.
Another one of those preachers said that there was a group discussing about how it would be if the Lord were to come back to earth. Which church would He attend? And the Episcopalian said, “Why, He would attend our church. He would love our beautiful ritual.” And the Methodist said, “He would attend our church, for He would like our good fellowship.” But the Baptist said, “He would certainly attend ours, for why should He change?”
And then one of them told about the beatnik that went to church and he liked the sermon. And after the sermon was over, why, this beatnik shook hands with the parson at the back of the church. And he said, “Parson, you sure were cooking on the top burner today.”
And the dignified preacher said. “I beg your pardon?”
And the beatnik said, “Parson, you were a gone cat today.”
And the parson said, “I beg your pardon?”
And the beatnik said, “Parson, you sure were off the pad and in orbit today.”
And the parson said, “What did you say?”
And the beatnik said, “Parson, I said you were going great guns today, and I put a ten-dollar bill in the collection plate.”
At that, the preacher grabbed the beatnik’s hand and pumping it said, “Crazy, man, crazy.”
And one of them began his address in a most unusual way. He said, “I picked up one of our Baptist papers. And I read the caption, ‘The Top Ten Stories in Baptist Life in 1959.’” Now this preacher said, “When I looked at that caption, I thought surely the number one story would be that our Baptist people have gathered together and they have dedicated themselves to winning three-and-a-half million souls to Christ in these years of the Jubilee Advance.” But he said, “When I looked at the article, I found myself mistaken. For article number one, the article of top interest in Baptist life of 1959, was, number one—‘The altercation in Texas over the Texarkana Hospital.’”
Then the preacher said, “I thought surely it would be in second place, Southern Baptists dedicate themselves to winning three-and-a-half million souls to Jesus. But no,” he said, “the second top religious story among our people was this, as it was listed: ‘The possibility of having a Catholic president in the United States.’”
Then he said, “I thought surely the third story of major interests among Baptist people would be our three-and-a-half million we propose and pray to win to Jesus in these days of our Baptist Jubilee Advance.” Then he said, “I looked at the third top news story in Baptist life, and the third one was the fuss and the fight they had in the Louisville Seminary when they dismissed thirteen professors.”
Then the preacher said, “What is of major interest to our Baptist churches, and our Baptist people, and our Baptist life?” And he asked, “What’s the matter with us? When the dedication, the avowal, the commitment, the prayer, the program to win three-and-a-half million people to Jesus is not a top story? It’s not a second-rate story. It’s not a third-rate story. It is hardly mentioned in the press.”
Then he launched into an earnest appeal about the consecration of our lives to that major commitment from the blessed hands of our Savior, the Lord Jesus. Now from then on he had his own sermon. I have my own tonight.
What a cry, what a far, far cry from the days of Jonathan Edwards when he preached the immortal sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” And the people who listened cried aloud for the mercy and grace from heaven, and clung to the benches lest they fall into hell. What a far different day, and age, and spirit, and kind are God’s people today. You would hardly think they were the successors of those men of God, who preaching the gospel, showed the horrors of damnation and the terrible, terrible judgment that is to come upon a lost and unrepentant soul.
If we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth—if we turn aside from Christ and the saving message of Jesus—there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, only a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses’ law—turned aside from the appeal of the Mosaic legislation in the Old Book—he that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Of how much greater damnation, and perdition, and punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath not only despised the witness and testimony of the Mosaic legislation, but hath trodden under foot the Son of God, hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
[Hebrews 10:26-29, 31]
One of these great modern liberal theologians that I one time read after this said, “If the doctrine of damnation and perdition were written on every leaf of every page of all the Bibles in the world, I would not believe it.”
That is very fine for a man to say, very fine to put in syllable and sentence. But it nowise reflects the dark, dark tragedy of the awful realism of the life we live in this world. For the darkest, darkest reality I know of in this world is this: that men are lost without God [Ephesians 2:12]; that sin damns the life and the soul [Romans 6:20-21], and that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” [Hebrews 10:31].
God has written large in His Book some of the merciful revelations, that we might know what it means to spurn the overtures of grace, and of love, and of mercy. One of God’s pictures in this Book is that of death. Death is a picture of, a symbol, a type of the damnation and judgment of God upon human sin and human guilt.
Death; “the wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23], and “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:4], and God Himself has welded those chains together. Sin means death, and death is a type of the eternal damnation that is a judgment of God upon unrepentant, unconfessed sin.
And they took Samson and put out his eyes and bound him; and he did grind at the prison mill [Judges 16:21]. Sin blinds, and it binds, and it grinds, and it grinds. And Samson lifted his eyeless sockets to heaven and cried, saying: “O God, let me die, let me die with the Philistines” [Judges 16:30]. And when his father and his mother came from Judea, they found the body of their fallen son slain among the Philistines [Judges 16:31]. Death; the harshest, darkest, darkest reality I know in life, and it’s a type of the sin that damns our souls.
God’s second awful picture revealed in that Book is suffering; suffering. I can easily imagine when Adam and Eve stood over their second son Abel and the crimson of his life wantonly spilled out on the ground. And there were blood clots on it, the murderous weapon by which their older son had slain their second boy, Abel [Genesis 4:8-10]. And I can well imagine those parents learning anew what God meant when God said: “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17].
It means suffering. And Dives lifted up his eyes and saw Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, and he cried, saying: “Father Abraham, send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in the flame” [Luke 16:22-24]; suffering, agony!
And the third great picture God has written in His Book of what it means to be damned and to be lost is that of separation. And He who loved us most, took little babies up in His arms and blessed them [Mark 10:13, 16], died on the cross for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. It was He that spoke most and most solemnly on that awful reality. In fact, outside of the revelations of Jesus, we would hardly know anything about that great and final division that is to be made.
Sometimes our Lord would speak of it like this: He would say it is like wheat and tares, and the wheat gathered into the garner and the tares burned with unquenchable fire [Matthew 13:30, 40]. Sometimes He would say it is like fish caught in a net, the good is kept, and the bad is passed away and destroyed [Matthew 13:47-50].
Sometimes He would say it in terms of a shepherd, the sheep and the goats divided one on the right hand and the other on the left [Matthew 25:32-46]. Sometimes He would say it like a bridegroom and his wedding and the five wise were let in and the five foolish were shut outside forever [Matthew 25:1-13].
And sometimes He would say it like this: it is like two grinding at a mill; one is taken and the other left. Two sleeping in a bed; one is taken, and the other left. Two working in a field; one is taken, and the other left [Luke 17:34-36].
And sometimes He would say it like this: it is like a great gulf that is fixed, and on one side are the people and children of God, and on the other side are those who did despite to the Spirit of grace, and who died without a Savior and without God [Luke 16:26].
I heard one time in the years gone by, an old, old white-headed Indiana preacher give an illustration that may not be quite true theologically, but it is true actually and realistically. He said, “These funeral services that I’ve held in the years of my ministry, I’ve seen the father, the mother, the child, the daughter. I’ve seen them come. And as they fall over the casket in a silent prostrate form, crying ‘Goodbye, Mother’ or ‘Goodbye, Daddy’ or ‘Goodbye, son’ or ‘Goodbye, sweetheart,’” he says, “That’s not goodbye.”
He says, “I’ll tell you what goodbye is. Some of these days at the great and final white throne judgment of the Lord, when the Lord sends into eternal perdition these that have rejected the overtures of grace, and the love, and mercy of Christ the Savior and they are sent into the place that burns with fire eternal” [Revelation 20:11-15], He said, “That is forever and forever goodbye, goodbye, goodbye!”
Oh, the horror of the thought much less that we should live against that ultimate and final day! The judgments of God, he says here, are awesome. He said, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses” [Hebrews 10:28]. When two or three witnesses were there to see this man spurn the law of Moses, the man was suddenly slain. He died without mercy.
Then he said, “How much sorer damnation, perdition, punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy?” [Hebrews 10:29]. And then He names the three great witnesses that shall appear against a man that says no to the grace of Jesus at that great, and final, and ultimate day of the Lord.
The three witnesses: he “hath trodden under foot the Son of God,” Jesus pleading with that man, “Come, come, come.” And he treads under foot the Son of God [Hebrews 10:29]. And he “hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith Christ was sanctified, an unholy thing” [Hebrews 10:29], the blood of Jesus, the wounds of Jesus, the cries of Jesus, the sobs and tears of Jesus, pleading with the man to come, and the man says, “No. No. No.” And the third great witness in that day: “and hath done this despite unto the Spirit of grace” [Hebrews 10:29].
Every time I preach, every time I make an appeal, the Spirit of God in a man’s heart says, “Come, come, trust and be saved.” And when we spurn those witnesses at the great final day, the Lord shall be standing there to condemn us and to witness against us.
And this author closes with a marvelous, marvelous appeal. “We,” he says,
are persuaded of better things concerning you.
The just shall live by faith: if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
And that is our persuasion of you. You are not of them who say no to the Son of God, who say no to the cries, and sobs, and tears, and blood of the Holy Savior. And you are not of those who say no to the Spirit of grace that knocks at the door of your heart. We are of those who respond.
O blessed Jesus; blessed Jesus, unworthy as I am, that Your life should be spilled for me, I come. I come. Unworthy of the least of Thy blessings and Thy remembrance, dear Lord, I come. Such as I am do I place my trust in Thee.
We are not of those who draw back to perdition; but we are those who come forward to the saving of the soul [Hebrews 10:39].
A man one time said to me. He said, “Preacher, you almost got me last night.” What he meant was that somehow he managed to escape the touch and the tentacles and the grasp of the Christian faith, and he escaped.
“Preacher, you almost got me last night.” What he really meant though was this. Like the children playing in the yard, and the little boy Charles fell in the well and sank out of sight. And when he was recovered, the little boy was dead. And as the mother wept, and cried, and lamented, one of the little playmates said, “When he fell in the well, I reached down to lift him out, and I could just touch the tip of his fingers, and he slipped out of sight. I almost reached him,” said the little boy, “I almost.”
“Preacher, you almost got me last night.” What he really meant was—I heard a physician say of a great, wonderful man who died, he said, “Had I found that carcinoma just a little earlier, I could have saved him. I almost saved him.”
“Preacher, you almost got me last night.” What he really meant was—in that Battle of Bastogne when General Patton with his Third Army wheeled to the north and came to the rescue of those GI’s, when our American soldiers arrived, those Nazi hordes had just slaughtered their prisoners. And those men told me that when they arrived, the red blood of those boys was still fresh and crimson on the ground. He almost saved them. “Preacher, you almost got me last night.”
Oh, how infinitely better! How infinitely better, not almost but altogether such as I am, only more given to the love, and mercy, and Spirit of Jesus.
Almost cannot avail
Almost is such to fail
Sad, sad, that bitter wail
Almost, but lost.
[Almost Persuaded Now To Believe, Philip P. Bliss]
You wouldn’t be here tonight if you weren’t interested. You wouldn’t be here had not the Spirit of Jesus touched your heart and made an appeal to your soul. Would you make it all of the way to Him tonight? Not just to the door and in that pew, but through the door, beyond the pew, into the aisle and down to the front. “Here I am, preacher. By God’s grace, I give you my hand. I give my heart in trust to Jesus. Here I come. Here I am!” In this balcony, this great throng of people who have listened prayerfully, is there somebody you, has never given your heart in trust to Jesus, would you come tonight? Looking in faith to Him, “Here I am, and here I come.”
This throng of people on this lower floor, into that aisle, into the aisle, into that aisle and down here to the front, “Here I come, preacher, and here I am. Tonight, tonight, I make it now. I give my heart in trust to Jesus” [Romans 10:8-13]. Is there a family to put their lives with us in the church? [Hebrews 10:24-25]. However God shall lead the way, one somebody you, a family you, as the Spirit of God shall make appeal, would you make it tonight? “Here I come, preacher. Here we are gladly, worshipfully, faithfully, believingly, committingly, yieldedly, surrenderedly. Here I am, and here I come, trusting Jesus, looking up to Him.” Would you make it tonight? While we stand and while we sing.
A. Preaching through
these evangelistic state conferences – preachers’ jokes
B. Address of secretary
of evangelism – top ten stories in Baptist life
to win 3.5 million people to Jesus number 9 out of 10
C. Far cry from the
days of Jonathan Edwards
D. Dark, tragic reality
– men are lost without God
Sin damns the soul
is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31)
II. That we might know what it means to
spurn the overtures of grace
A. Death(Romans 6:23, Ezekiel 18:4)
is death – God has welded those chains together
Samson blinded and at the grinding mill(Judges
Adam and Eve looking upon the blood of Able(Genesis
tormented in the flame(Luke 16:23-24)
Jesus spoke most of this awful reality(Matthew
13:30, 47-50, 24:40-42, 25:1-13, 32-46, Luke 16:26)
preacher, “That’s not goodbyeâ€¦”
III. The awesome judgment of God
judgment of God in the Old Testament, under two or three witnesses(Hebrews 10:28)
judgment of God in the final day, under three witnesses
Son of God has pled
blood of the covenant has pled
Spirit of grace has pled
IV. The author’s persuasion of them(Hebrews 6:9, 10:37-39)
A. Why harden your
heart against the appeal?
B. We are of those who
C. “Preacher, you almost