The Great Separation II
October 28th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
THE GREAT SEPARATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-28-62 7:30 p.m.
Now in our Bible we turn to chapter 25 in the Book of Matthew. Matthew chapter 25, beginning at verse 31, reading to the end of the chapter. And the subject is The Great Separation, and the text is in the last verse of this passage, Matthew 25, beginning at verse 31 and all of us reading together:
When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory:
And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats:
And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in:
Naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.
Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?
When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee?
Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.
Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not.
Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee?
Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
A very casual reader of that story, that great and final judgment scene, would suppose that we are saved or lost according to our philanthropies: “Here is a man who feeds the poor, and he clothes the naked, and he visits the sick; he will be saved. Here is a man who is not thus altruistic, and he will be lost.” Such a thing, of course, would be a denial of every revelation in the Word of God. There is no doctrinal system that I know of based upon the Holy Scriptures that would ever say, or present, or argue a thing like that—as though the blood of Christ were of no avail and as though the cross of our Lord were not efficacious. All that a man had to do to be saved was just to feed the poor, to clothe the naked, and to visit the sick; no theology that reflected the Word of God would ever even begin to present such a plan of salvation as that.
This story of the great judgment scene therefore has something far more profound than what might appear on the surface. And its meaning is very evident. “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory” [Matthew 25:31], that’s Revelation 19:11 and following:
I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was True and Faithful . . .
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns . . .
He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
And there followed Him the hosts of heaven. . .
“When the Son of Man shall come in His glory [Revelation 2:27], and all the holy angels with Him” [Matthew 25:31], coming to rule with a rod of iron [Revelation 2:27];
And His name is called the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
This is the great triumphant appearing of our Messiah Christ.
And when He comes, all the families and nations of the world are gathered before Him, and they are judged according to a thing that was taking place during those tragic days, those indescribable days of the great final tribulation [Matthew 24:21]. For in those days God sealed twelve thousand from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand from the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand from the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand from each of those tribes of Israel, one hundred and forty-four thousand [Revelation 7:2-8]. And in those tragic days they are preaching the gospel of the everlasting Son of God [Revelation 7:9-17]. To minister to those preachers, to accept their message, to listen to their hope, and to accept their Savior meant most of the times and in most of the instances—martyrdom:
I saw, when the fifth seal was opened…the souls of those that were martyred…
and they cried unto God, O Lord, how long, how long?
And I saw a great multitude that no man could number…Who are they? These are they who are coming—
who are coming out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
[Revelation 7:9, 13-14]
For us, in those tragic and terrible days, to accept these brethren of our Lord—these evangelists of Christ, these that God has sealed for God to accept them—to minister to them, to believe in their Lord and to receive their message, might mean, and most of the times did mean, death. But many of them, thousands of them and uncounted multitude did. You know that’s an astonishing thing! You would suppose that persecution and violence and blood would destroy the church and would forever drown the preached message of the Son of God; most of the time it’s just the opposite. The old saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” has always been true, is now, and ever shall be!
And in these tragic days of the great and final tribulation, how that messenger was received from God and how that message was believed is the basis upon which God separates those that enter into His glorious and millennial kingdom and those who are shut out into darkness and perdition forever and forever. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; and the righteous,” these who accept the message of God and the messenger of Christ, “these shall enter into life eternal” [Matthew 25:46].
Now following the sermon last Sunday night, we are speaking of that judgment of God: “these into everlasting punishment, and these into life eternal” [Matthew 25:46]. Oh, the destiny of the human soul! If a man died when he died we’d have no thing to think of, or worry, or to be concerned about, or burdened over. Just let men go their merry way because death is the end, and the grave stops it all, and the great finality of all life is to be found in the corruption of his flesh. But that’s not true. The Book says that beyond the days of this life there is a judgment to face. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment” [Hebrews 9:27]. And in the face of those tragic, tragic, tragic perditions and damnations and judgments that await men outside of God, in the face of those terrible realities, you will find God’s messenger and even Christ Himself brokenhearted.
Did you ever notice how the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew ends, as Christ denounces these who are sinful, and wicked, and vile?
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! ye devour widows’ houses, for a pretense make long prayers: ye shall receive the greater damnation.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! you compass land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he is made, he is twofold more a child of hell than yourselves.
Ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
[Matthew 23:14-15, 33]
Oh, the judgment of God upon men who spurn the overtures of grace of the Almighty!
Then listen how the twenty-third chapter ends. It ends in a sob. It ends in a cry. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how oft would I have gathered thy children together . . . but ye would not! Your house [is] left unto you desolate” [Matthew 23:37-38].
Same thing in the apostle Paul, same thing as Paul faced, with men, the great and ultimate judgment of the Almighty, same thing. Paul says, “I taught you publicly, and from house to house; I ceased not, warning everyone night and day with tears, pleading repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 20:20-21, 31]. And as he says in the ninth chapter of the Book of Romans, “I could wish myself were accursed, were damned from Christ for my brethren’s sake, that they might come to know Christ, that they might be saved” [Romans 9:1-3; 10:1]. That heart cry is in the soul of every true Christian and every true preacher.
Richard Baxter said, “I preached as never to preach again, as a dying man to dying men, for the heartache of the lost life and the lost human soul is more than even God could look upon without tears and without infinite sorrow.” I was in a city, in a revival meeting, and one of the funeral directors who belonged to the church said that he had advertised in the paper that he had in the morgue a girl whom they had found dead, didn’t know who she was—and would somebody come, the father or the mother, somebody, and identify that dead girl. And the funeral director said to me, “The tragedy was not so much that this girl was found dead, but,” he said, “the tragedy to me is that for days there came through my funeral parlor an unceasing line of fathers and mothers to see if that child were theirs.” Oh, the heartache and the heartbreak! And if we feel it in this life, the tragedy of the lost, think how God looks upon it from heaven.
“These shall go away into everlasting punishment” [Matthew 25:46]. This to me is a merciful revelation from God. Like the sign on a railroad track, “Stop, stop, stop,” and the red light will flash from side to side: this is a merciful provision by the railroad company lest we enter that danger and lose our lives. The revelations of God concerning the damnation and the perdition of a lost soul are also a merciful revelation from God. What an injustice if such a thing should await us, and we never know it! Just fall into the perdition and the flames and the fires of judgment, and we weren’t warned, and nobody told us. It is the loving Jesus who blessed little children in His arms [Mark 10:13-16], who has told us most all that we know about that awful and terrible damnation.
Did you know, to me, Dr. Edelman, the liberal minister who says, “Yea, does the Bible say that there is a judgment? Does the Bible say there are flames? Does the Bible say there is a hell? Does the Bible say that we are lost without Christ? Yea, does the God say that? That is not true!” says the liberal minister. “There’s not any flame. There’s not any fire. There’s not any judgment. There’s not any damnation!” You know, that sounds to me exactly like Satan whispered in the ear of Eve when he said, “Yea, did God say? Did God say, ‘If you eat of this fruit thou shalt surely die?’ Ye shall not surely die” [Genesis 3:1-4]. The first lie, the first lie was that of Satan who denied the warning of God: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17].
I tell you truly, that shadow of the judgment of God never leaves my soul and never departs from my heart. That sounding of God, that buoy out there in the stormy sea, that bell ringing and clanging sounds through all history, and all life, and all experience; “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” [Hebrews 10:31].
O Lord, and what shall become of us, for we all are sinners alike? The Bible says so: “All we like sheep have gone astray” [Isaiah 53:6], all of us. And again, in the third chapter of Romans: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23], and “There is none righteous, no, not one” [Romans 3:10], and “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23], and “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:4, 20]. All of us, all of us, how shall we be saved, sinners such as we, all of us, all of us alike?
One of our girls out in the country moved to the city to get a job, to a large county seat town. And then as time passed, I became pastor in that county seat town. And in the providences of life, and in the sorrows and tears that overwhelm us sometimes, that girl contracted syphilis. This is the day before antibiotics and before miracle drugs. And she went to see a doctor in the passing of time, and the doctor said, “The germs have entered the soft tissues of your eyes, and you’re going blind.” She committed suicide. And her brother found a letter on her desk, and he brought the letter to me. She told him the story, and at the end of it she asked that I hold the memorial service, because I had led her to Jesus, and I had baptized her.
And the story was this: she had come from the country into the town, and the son of the employer had betrayed her, and she became infected. And the doctor in those days couldn’t help her. And when finally she was going blind, she took her own life. And then at the end of the letter said that I had won her to Jesus, and I had baptized her, and she wanted me to bury her. When the memorial service was held and I was standing at the head of the casket, among the mourners who came was that young man from whom she had contracted that terrible disease. I was a young fellow then, not experienced as I am now, older in the work. I tell you it took all of the reserve that I could to keep from pointing: “You, you, you!”
But in the experience of my life, I have learned that we all were like that. Some of us sin one way, then some of us sinned another way, and some of us sin a third way, and some of us sin still another way, but there’s nobody on this side the house can cast stones at these on this side the house.
“For he that is without sin, let him throw the first stone” [John 8:7]. And they all quietly, unobtrusively, clandestinely, secretly, furtively, they all went away, and left her in the midst [John 8:9]. “Where are thine accusers?” said Jesus. “Are there none?”
“No, my Lord, there are none” [John 8:10-11].
We’re all alike, we’re all alike. We’re lost. We are sinful. There are sins of the spirit, and sins of the affections, and sins of the life, and sins of the soul, and sins of the mind, sins of the family. We all are a sinful people, all of us. And in the experience of my life, I have come to see that we’re just all alike; lost, undone. Some of us may be more vile in some respects than others, but these that are less vile are more vile in other respects than others; just all of us sinners, all of us.
Well, how are we going to be saved? How are we going to be saved? My brother, if it were not for the work of God, if it were not for the interposition of the Holy Spirit of God, were it not for the love and the compassion and the mercy of God, all of us would be lost, all of us, all of us. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy hath He saved us” [Titus 3:5]. Not because we’re lovely; we’re unlovely. Not because we’re righteous; we’re not righteous. Not because we’re holy, or pure, or sanctified; we are not. It’s the justification of God. It’s God who for Christ’s sake declares us justified that saves us. We’re saved because God does it [Ephesians 4:32; Romans 5:1-2].
All of us stand in the way of that terrible day, that judgment upon our sins, all of us do. And it is only the mercy of God and the kindness of God that can lift us up and bear us on eagle’s wings, and take us to glory, and to save us out of that judgment and that perdition upon our sins [1 Thessalonians 1:10].
In holding a revival meeting, the preacher took me to a home in which we broke bread. The man of the house was an engineer on the Louisville Nashville Railway who had retired. Everybody called him Shorty; one of the most lovable, affable, amiable men I ever met in my life. And the whole community loved him. And while we were there, the pastor said, “Shorty, tell Brother Criswell, tell Brother Criswell that story of the little child.” And Shorty told me.
He said he was fireman at that time. He was fireman on the freight train, and they were driving a heavy load of freight down the L & N track. And he said, “When we turned the bend, to our terror, and to our horror, there was a little child playing in the middle of the track. The child was too small to realize the terrible danger.” And he said, “we had no opportunity to stop that gigantic mass. We put on the brakes. The engineer did all he could, but that train was bearing down on that little child.”
Shorty said, “In the little while between the time we saw the little thing and when the train got to him,” he said, “I scampered out the window, down the side of the engine, got out on the cowcatcher.” And he said, “Leaning over holding to the cowcatcher with one hand, leaning over,” he said, “as the train bore down on the little child,” he said, “I picked the thing up by its clothes, and I lifted it up to safety.”
When the engineer brought the great train to a grinding halt, he thought he’d run over the little thing. And Shorty said, “When I came around carrying the little child in my arms,” he said, “the great big engineer broke down and cried himself like a little child. He thought he’d killed the little baby.” [He] said, “’Cross the way, from whose house the little child had escaped unnoticed, why, the mother had seen the train bearing down.” And Shorty said, “When she came and saw that little thing in my arms, oh, you cannot describe the joy in that mother’s soul.”
That’s what God has done for us! Standing in the way of a certain condemnation and a certain judgment, the Lord in His compassion and in His mercy reached down and lifted us up.
From sinking sand, He lifted me,
With tender hand, He lifted me;
From shades of night, to plains of light,
O bless His name, He lifted me!
[“He Lifted Me,” Charles H. Gabriel, 1905]
That’s how we’re saved. It’s something God does for us. Couldn’t do it myself; it’s something God does for us. Writes our name in the book [Luke 10:20, Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], lifts us out of the miry pit, puts our feet on a rock, forgives our sins [1 John 1:9], saves us to glory and forever [John 10:27-30]. All I do is to let Him. “Lord, I’m not equal to the day of that death. I’m not equal to the day of that judgment. I’m not equal, Lord, I’m not. I commit my soul and my life and my destiny to Thee. Lord, I cast myself upon Thy mercies. Lord, save me.” And He does. And He does. That’s how all of us have come into the kingdom: in the love, in the grace, in the mercy of Jesus [Titus 3:5].
And that’s why God made it simple and plain, so that the least among us could find the way. Just letting God lift us up, forgive our sins, save us to Himself. And that’s our invitation to you tonight. In this balcony round, somebody you coming to the Lord, would you? In the throng and press of people on this lower floor, somebody you, into the aisle and down to the front: “Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to God. I open the door of my soul that He might come in.” A family to come, placing their lives in the fellowship of our church, a couple you to come, or one somebody, as God shall say the word, shall open the door, as the Spirit shall bear the message of appeal, would you make it tonight? Would you come now? “Here I am. Here I come,” while we stand and while we sing.