OUR FRIENDS AT THE JUDGMENT
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1-17-71 7:30 p.m.
Let us turn in God’s Book to the Fourth Gospel, John chapter 5. We begin reading at the thirty-ninth verse of the fifth chapter of John, and we read to the end of the chapter. And on the radio of the city of Dallas, you share with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message on The Great Judgment Day. And if you have a Bible, open it to John chapter 5, beginning in verse 39, and read it out loud with us. Now we begin:
Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.
And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.
I receive not honor from men.
But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.
I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.
How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?
Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for he wrote of Me.
But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?
In that passage is one of the most unusual turns that I have ever read in God’s Holy Word. At the great judgment day when we stand before the Judge of all of the earth, who are our friends? Who accuses us? Who are our enemies? Who stands by us? Who supports us and pleads for us? And this I say is one of the most unusual turns that I could ever have thought for or imagined. When I stand at the judgment bar of the Great Almighty, who shall accuse me and who shall stand by me? To my startling, unbelieving amazement these accuse me, these whom I love, or trust, or follow, who keep me away from Christ. “When the great judgment day comes, I will not accuse you. I will not condemn you. There is one who will stand in that judgment day and accuse you and condemn you. It will be even Moses, in whom ye trust” [John 5:45].
You say, “I am a follower of Moses, a disciple of the great lawgiver. Therefore, I am not a disciple of the Lord Christ, and I’m not a follower and a believer in Him.”
“At the great judgment day,” says the Lord God, “at the great judgment day he whom you say you follow, and whom you say keeps you away from believing in Me, he will stand in that judgment day and condemn you and accuse you” [John 5:45]. That is an astonishing thing, and yet, as I look at it in life and experience, I do not know of a profounder or a more startling or tragic truth revealed in the Bible than that. What keeps you away from Christ, who keeps you away from the Lord, whatever, whoever, in the great judgment day will stand and condemn you and accuse you [John 5:45].
I see so often, and many times with lamentation on the part of a mother or a father, “My boy got in the wrong crowd. My girl had the wrong friends. And that is why this illimitable, immeasurable sorrow has come upon me.” Isn’t that a strange thing? We love the gang. We follow the crowd. We like their affirmation. We love their approval and acceptance. And what the crowd likes, I like. And what the gang does, I do. And yet like the prodigal boy when he lost his money, and he lost his place, and he lost everything that he had [Luke 15:13-15], the parable says, “And no man gave unto him” [Luke 15:16]. They left him in the hog pen to starve to death, and that gang and the crowd will do you that way.
As long as you have something they like, they accept you. You’re one of their number. You belong to the gang. You’re one of the outfit. But when you lose what they like and what they want, they pitch you on the ash heap like a peeling, like a shell, like a husk. They suck you dry like an orange and throw you away! As long as the girl is beautiful, how attractive and appealing, but when the days pass and she loses her beauty, they throw her away and forget her. As long as a boy has something they want, how acceptable he is. But when he loses it, they cast him aside like a forgotten yesterday.
Whatever it is, it’s just like that. If it pulls you away from Christ, and if it comes between you and God, and if it keeps you from following the Lord, finally, in the by and by, at the great judgment, even that that you have given your life to or loved rises up and accuses you and condemns you. The liquor man is in it for your money. The dope peddler is in it for your money. He cares nothing about you. He wants to sell you something. He wants to get you into some kind of a habit, and when he’s won you, and when he has you, and he’s through with you, he throws you out like a piece of potsherd, like a filthy nothing. He’s done.
I was pastor in a church about seventeen miles from a city. And in that community was a man drinking his salary away. And on a night, and it is in the wintertime, when he’d spent everything that he had at the bar, the saloon keeper pushed him out in the night and in the cold, pushed him out drunk and penniless. The next morning some of my men found him face down in a ditch. It had just a little amount of water in it, just enough to freeze during the night. And when my men found him and pried him up, as they pried him up, they pried up a part of the filth, and the dirt, and the mud, and the muck in the ditch. There he was, a man made in God’s image, frozen, stiff, lifeless, dead, pried up with the dirt and the filth frozen to his face. Did the saloon keeper care about that? Did he close up his shop in lamentation over that? Did he say, “By God’s grace, I’ll never take another man’s salary,” over that? No. He opened his shop the next day in the same business, selling for money. They don’t care anything about you.
In the penitentiary there is a boy, a lad, he’s unshaven. He’s not old enough to grow a beard. He’s just a boy to me. He’s a boy. And he’s in the penitentiary. And at home his mother cries and laments. And at home his father weeps. Do you suppose the dope pusher that got him into it is at home weeping and crying? No. He got his money! He got what he wanted! Let the boy go. Let him rot. Let him destroy his life and break the heart of his family. He’s selling. He’s pushing. He doesn’t care anything about you. Yet these are the things that will come between a man and a woman and God.
Sometimes in life, we can name a score of them, sometimes a man gives himself to success, and to advancement, and to money and leave God out of his life. “I don’t have any time for the Lord, no time for the church, no time for anything. I’m making money!” This life is all scheduled according, and it rises or falls according to how we advance, achieve in this world. “And I’m going to succeed. I’m going to make money.” Well, sometimes he does succeed. He gives his life to it. He doesn’t have any time for God, no time for Christ. He’s making money. And I say sometimes, many times he succeeds. Then he comes to the end of the way, some day, pay day, judgment day, the end of the way day, always it comes! I don’t know why some of these stories stay in my mind as they do. But here’s one that I never have forgotten, stay in my mind and I think about that.
This is a man who had no time for God, no time for the church, no time for the Lord, no time for the Savior. He was making money and he succeeded. He made money. He was a success. He arrived. He did it. Of course, the time came to face God. And the time came to die. It always comes. Just give it a little time. Sometimes this long, sometimes this long, but it always comes! It always comes. It’s on the way. Just around the corner. And this man had given his life to making money. So the day came, he, lying there in bed waiting to die, and he was obsessed with his hands, with his hands, with his hands, with his hands, obsessed with his handsHis wife said to him, “Why, John, there’s nothing wrong with your hands. Your hands are perfectly all right.”
But he was obsessed with his hands. She called his friend and said, “Would you come over and see him? Maybe you could help him. He’s obsessed with his hands.” And so the friend came over to visit him, and as he would wring his hands and look at his hands, his friend say, “Why, why John, there’s nothing wrong with your hands. Your hands are perfectly all right. There’s nothing wrong.”
And the man looked at his friend and said, “But my God, Jim, they’re so empty!” How much did he leave behind? The answer is every cent, every cent. These are things that appeal to us. We like them, and we give ourselves to them, but at the end of the way, they mock us, and they laugh at us, and they condemn us.
Why, there’s a thousand categories that I hear people say. “I’m not going down that aisle. I’m not going to give my heart to the Lord. I’m not going to be baptized. I’m not going to join the church. Why, look at all those hypocrites. Look at all those hypocrites.” I don’t doubt that there are hypocrites everywhere. There are more of them out there where you are than there are in here where I am. I can tell you that, lots more of them. You live among them out there. You really do. We may have a few here and there. But you say, “I’m not a-going down that aisle, and I’m not a-going to give my life to the Lord, and I’m not going to follow will of Christ. Look at all those hypocrites.” There’ll be a judgment day someday, and when you stand before the great Lord of all the earth and you say, “The reason I didn’t give my heart to Christ and become a Christian is on account of the hypocrites.” And those very hypocrites will stand up and look at you and laugh and mock and scorn.
“Why, you, you didn’t give you heart to the Lord on account of me? You hide behind me? I am a manifest, blatant, manifest, open phony! I know it! There never was a hypocrite in the world that didn’t know it better than you do. And yet you refuse the Savior, and refuse God, and refuse His Lord, and His church, and His people on account of me, a blatant, open, manifest phony and charlatan!” Condemn you, whatever keeps you away from the Lord. Do you have a family? Do you have children? Do you love your family? And you’re not teaching them in the way of Christ, and you’re not bringing them up in the way of Jesus? At the great judgment day that very family will condemn you.
I’ve often thought about this story that one of those West Texans told me. He said to me, “I went to a hanging one day down at the county seat and in the courthouse square. I went to a hanging.” He said, “It was a public exhibition, and I went to see it. I was there at the hanging.” “But,” he said, “when I saw them put the rope around the fellow that was to be hanged, he was a boy. He was a boy. He was a youngster, just a boy, just a boy.”
And that man said to me, this West Texan said to me that when they put that knot around, that noose around that boys, neck, ready to string him up, to hang him there publicly on the county seat square, that the hangman, the sheriff turned toward the lad and said, “Do you have anything to say before you’re hanged?”
And the boy replied, “Yes, sir.” “Well,” the sheriff said, “you may say it now.”
And that West Texas rancher told me that that boy turned to his mother in the crowd and said, “Mother, had you brought me up right, had you taught me the right way, had you taken me to Sunday school and to church, I wouldn’t be dying in shame and disgrace today.” That West Texan said they strung the boy up, and the mother fell into a paroxysm of horror and dread and terror, and they carried her away.
However that really happened, it is but a harbinger of what it will be in the great assize when we stand before God. When we haven’t brought up our children in the love and nurture of the Lord, at the great judgment day they will arise and condemn us. But thank God, as the choir sang, praise His name, at the great judgment bar of Almighty God it is not all condemnation and accusation. When we stand before the Judge of all of the earth, there will be some there who are willing to befriend us and to stand by us, to be our pleader and advocate. Who are our friends in the judgment?
These are our friends in the judgment. First, and above all and foremost, the Lord Jesus who died to save us [1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 10:4-14], He is our friend in the judgment. When we stand in the presence of the great Almighty, the Lord Jesus Christ will say, “He belongs to Me. He is Mine. Back yonder in those days written in the Book of Life, he trusted in Me [Acts 16:30-31]. He belongs to Me.”
And the soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I’ll never, no never desert to its foes.
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake.
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
[“How Firm a Foundation”, John Rippon, 1787]
“He belongs to Me. He is Mine,” our Friend in the judgment. Who are our friends in the judgment? The angels, the angels, why, bless your soul they are the ones who will hover near when time comes for our translation. And the Book says they carry us up to heaven [Luke 16:22]. The angels are our friends in the judgment.
Who are our friends in the judgment? The saints of God who love us. One of the most astonishing passages in the Bible is in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Luke. It says, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that turns” [Luke 15:10]. Who are those in the presence of the angels of God? They’re the saints. When you turn, when you trust in the Lord, and when you’re saved, all of God’s redeemed say, “Amen. Glory. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord,” your friends in the judgment.
Who are our friends in the judgment? The church, and the Spirit, and these who belong to the household of faith. Why, the very Apocalypse, the very Book closes, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come, come, come.” The pastor, the angel of the church, says, “Come. Come to Jesus.” And the Spirit of God who pleads with us in our hearts says, “Come. Come to Jesus.” And the church, the household of faith, God’s redeemed repeat the glad refrain, “Come. Come to Jesus” [Revelation 22:17].
Who are your friends in the judgment? Anybody who really loves you and seeks your highest interest. These are not your friends who pull you down, who destroy your life. These are not your friends who dissuade you, and lure you, and entice you away from the Lord Jesus. These are not your friends who block the way to heaven. These are your friends who love you, and pray for you, and who would rejoice to see you come down that aisle and give your heart to the Lord. The saloon keeper wouldn’t be happy; he loses his money. The dope pusher wouldn’t be happy; he loses his money. The crowd and the gang that live in a sinful world, they wouldn’t be happy; they’ve lost you. But somebody will be happy. And that somebody is that somebody who really loves you, the blessed Lord, the angels, the saints, the church, the pastor, the people of God; they’re happy to see you come; your friends in the judgment.
In the quiet of this moment where you’re seated, in a balcony round, on this lower floor, in your heart, in your deepest soul, would you make a decision tonight? “This night, I’m going to follow the Lord. I decide for Jesus, and I’m coming. I’m coming. These who stand between me and my Lord, they’re not my friends. These who pray for me and love me really, these are my friends. And in answer to their prayer and their appeal, I’m coming tonight.” Then tell Jesus that. “Lord, I’m making this decision for Thee, and I’m on the way. Lord, see me through. Bless me. Help me. Give me strength. Just trusting Thee, Lord, for it, and here I come.” Will you tonight? Maybe a whole family of you, maybe a couple you, maybe just one you, maybe you and your best friend, maybe you and a girl that you love, or just you, make that decision tonight, “Lord, I decide for Thee, and I’m coming.” And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. In that balcony round, down that stairway, on this lower floor into the aisle and here to the front, “Here I am, pastor. Here I come. I make that decision tonight. God help me, and God see me through. Here I am, and here I come.” Do it, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.