Judgment at the House of God
February 27th, 1983 @ 7:30 PM
1 Peter 4:17-18
JUDGMENT AT THE HOUSE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 4:3-19
2-27-83 7:30 p.m.
And welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas expounding the fourth chapter of 1 Peter. We are going to begin in our message tonight with the third verse and expound it through the end of the chapter. But for reading, let us read the last three verses. First Peter chapter 4, verses 17, 18, and 19. The title of the sermon is Judgment at the House of God. Now all of us reading out loud together, 1 Peter chapter 4, beginning at verse 17:
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
[1 Peter 4:17-19]
Judgment at the House of God.
Simon Peter begins his message with a presentation of the evil of the world outside of Christ. In the third verse of this chapter he describes it, “walking in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries” [1 Peter 4:3]. That’s his description of the life of the world outside of our Lord. “Lasciviousness, aselgeiais, wantonness, licentiousness; excess of wine, oinophlugiais, wine drinking,” translated here, “excess of wine,” “wine drinking, revellings, banquetings, potois, drinking,” translated here, “banqueting, and abominable idolatries” [1 Peter 4:3]. When I read that list of these who are outside of our Lord, do you notice something in it? In practically every one of those tragic characterizations, there is the drinking of alcoholic beverages. It’s in that word aselgeiais, wantonness,” it’s certainly in the word oinophlugiais, wine drinking”; it’s in “revellings,” and it is in “banquetings, potois, drinking.” Isn’t that a remarkable thing? And yet when you look at it, is there any part of the unchristian world that you know of, in the secular world, is there any part of it, in its banqueting, in its cocktail hours, in its dinners, in its entertainment, in its advertisements, in its stories, is there any part of it that is not characterized by incessant drinking? Do you know of any story and presentation on television that does not have scene after scene after scene of drinking? It is well nigh and almost universal. But the apostle Peter describes that as a characteristic of the lost and judgmental world.
Now I have to confess to you I don’t live in that kind of a world; I never did. My father, oh dear, he was so opposed to drinking. And of course, ever since I have been a teenager, I have been a pastor and have lived in the circle of God’s sweetest, dearest people; and I still do. I come into no contact; I never have, with drinking. And that’s why I suppose that when I see a man who is so bitterly opposed, fanatically opposed, to liquor, I somehow feel a double response to him in my heart. I’ve never touched it; but I see such fanatical bitterness in him against drinking that I am sensitive to it.
Now I want to give you an example: I am thinking of a layman, and I’m thinking of a minister. And each one of them, oh, how vigorously they were opposed to liquor in any form. The layman, I asked him, “Why are you so fanatically and incessantly and bitterly opposed to liquor?”
And this was his answer, “On the edge of the city, a bar; on the inside of the bar, a drinking group of men. One of them became a problem, having drunken too much, became a problem to the bartender, and the bartender threw him out. And it happened to be in the dead of the winter. And that drunken man thrown out of the bar in the middle of the night, wandered in the darkness, and finally stumbled into the ditch, and lay there frozen to death.”
And the next morning, this layman—who’s speaking to me—was with a group of men trying to find the man that had been thrown out of the bar. Discovered him in the ditch, frozen stiff, and he described to me, beyond what I could feel it because he was there looking at the man, they pried him up. They pried him up out of the ice and the water in the ditch; out of the mud and the debris in the ditch. And he said to me, “I’ll never forget how that man looked when we pried him up, and stood him up with the dirt, and the mud, and the ice frozen to his face, and to his form—a man in the image of God! [Genesis 1:27]. That’s what liquor does,” he says, “to a man, and I’m against it.” That was a layman.
The preacher: I talked to him, and the same bitterness against drinking was in him. Oh! So I asked him why he was so bitterly opposed to the use of alcohol, liquor. And he said: “If you come home with me, I’ll show you my boy! Indescribably sad; he doesn’t have a mind. And the reason he doesn’t have a mind is, when my wife was in labor, we hastily called for the doctor and the child had to be born with instruments, and the doctor was drunk! The doctor was drunk! And he ruined the brain of my boy! And I look at the lad every day of my life, and I curse the liquor industry, and I curse the liquor industry.” “That’s why,” he says, “I am bitterly opposed to it.”
Now, I’m saying to you I have no experience in any area like that; I just read about it. Thousands slaughtered on the highway because of drinking. And I see it in its awful repercussions in the family life in folks all around me; orphaning more children, snapping more wedding rings, breaking up more homes, doing more damage to corporate life than any other one curse in America. Now all of this is just what I’m reading here in the Bible. I never had noticed it before until I prepared this message, how much of the description of the life outside of Christ centers around drinking. Can’t even have a nice conversation without a glass of alcohol in your hand. Can’t even have a party, can’t even have a meeting, can’t even have a convocation.
E. V. Hill was referred to a minute ago; he was here last week in our School of the Prophets. And he was describing a highfalutin social, political convocation to which he had to go because he was in a certain elected office. So he said he attended the thing in a swanky hotel; there were about two hundred of the leading citizens in America there. And he said, “I was told, ‘This is the cream of American culture, and political life, and literary life, and financial life. This is the cream of America!’” And he says, “As I spent the evening there, half of them were drunk, and the other half were carousing and reveling.” And he said here, God bless him, he said, “As I walked among that bunch and I thought, ‘So this is the cream of America;’ I thought, ‘Lord help us, what would the clabber be?’” Take a black man to think of that.
Will you notice second—we must hurry—in verse 5 he says, “Who shall give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead” [1 Peter 4:5]. Then verse 7, “The end of all things is at hand” [1 Peter 4:7]. You know the Revelation is like that, “Behold, I come quickly…” [Revelation 22:12]. The end of all things is at hand, and we shall stand before the judgment bar of Almighty God” [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And then is described the great white throne judgment [Revelation 20:11-15]. What of that word in the Bible? It’s not just here in my expository text, it’s throughout the Revelation; it’s in all of the writings of the apostle Paul. “The judgment day is at hand [Romans 2:16]. Jesus is coming quickly” [1 Thessalonians 5:2]. What about that? And it’s been two thousand years since our Lord returned to glory [Acts 1:9-10], and said He was coming back soon, coming back quickly [Revelation 22:12], and the day of judgment is at hand [Matthew 25:31-46]. There are two things to be said about it. Number one is this: God’s clock is not like our clock; God’s clock moves, tick, tick, tick, maybe a thousand years at a tick, that’s God’s clock. And the second is, I am no further away from that judgment day than my death [Hebrews 9:27]. And I’m getting older.
All of us face that inevitable hour. Well, what makes you think that? Because of this: time is a creation of God, like substance and like matter. And when you die you enter a timeless eternity. There is no time in eternity. And the minute you die, that moment you are in eternity; and there’s no time there [Revelation 10:6]. You are before the judgment seat of Christ, if you are a Christian [2 Corinthians 5:10]; and you are there at the great white throne judgment if you are lost [Revelation 20:11-15]. For example, you know, over there in Egypt, going through that museum in Cairo, I’d look at those mummies. Here is one that was embalmed two thousand years before Christ, and there he is. Now tell me, if I could awaken him, and he’s been dead four thousand years, if I could awaken him, wouldn’t he say, “Just like that, why I was back there four thousand years ago, and I’m suddenly here.” And there’s no time lapse in between. We’re going to be like that. There’ll be no time lapse in eternity, and I am no further away from that great assize and that accounting before the great God in heaven, I’m not further away than the day of my death [2 Corinthians 5:10]. That’s why the apostle writes, “We shall give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the end of all things is at hand” [1 Peter 4:7]; it’s no further away than my death, and could be the denouement of history tomorrow.
Now, verse 12: the fiery trials of the Christian, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” [1 Peter 4:12]. He’s talking to the Christians who were going through the sorrows of the saints. Now may I speak of that? George W. Truett in one of his sermons, published sermons, said this: listen to him—this is the great man of God, the incomparable preacher, my predecessor, pastor of this dear church for forty-seven years – listen to Dr. Truett:
I went for years seeking Christ. From a lad I sought Him. I was definitely called when I was eleven years old. As vividly as though it were yesterday, I can remember my burden, my pain, my loneliness, my fear. I was shrinking, I was timid. I could not venture to speak to anybody. Oh, if somebody could have divined my situation and have taught me! I knew I was a sinner, I knew I was lost. I had a sense of alienation from the holy God because of personal sin. I knew it all, but I could not see the way. I groped in the darkness. Then, after years and years, when young manhood came on in a quiet church like this, one Sunday a man threw out the lifeline and said to me, ‘Lay hold on eternal life,’ and I laid hold.
He became a Christian. Now,
From that little church, I went down the country road, wondering if I would ever have another battle again. The skies were beautiful beyond words, the very stars seemed to be one great galaxy of mighty choirs praising God, and all about me nature seemed in unison with the divine will.
This is in the mountains of North Carolina.
I thought I would never, never, never, know what it was to step aside, to stray, to blunder, to err again. And yet, the very next day, every dog out of the pit seemed at my heels. Doubts came, darts pierced, temptations smoked, and clouds enshrouded. Oh, how little I knew about what the Christian life means!
Now that is the greatest, saintliest preacher our Southern Baptist people ever produced. If you don’t have an experience like that, you are different from the rest of us. That’s what it is to be a Christian: to be assailed on every side!
We are still in this body of the old nature. It’s here with us, warring against us. And our new nature is just born. We’re like lambs in the midst of wolves. Oh, the agony! That’s what the Bible describes it, in Luke, the agōnizomai, the agony of the Christian way [Luke 13:24]. It’s not easy. And the sadness of the saints is something that I read in the Bible, and I see it in human life everywhere; their tears, their sorrows, their hurt, and their awful, awful strivings.
I see aged Jacob, bending over the coat of many colors of his boy Joseph, dipped in blood, and he thinks the boy has been torn asunder by some wild beast; and he cries, saying, “I will go down to my grave in sorrow—my boy” [Genesis 37:31-35]. I think of Rachel weeping for her children because they are not [Jeremiah 31:15]. I think of Job, afflicted by Satan, from the top of his head to the sole of his feet [Job 2:7]. I think of Jeremiah: “When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me. Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night” [Jeremiah 9:1]. I think of Stephen, God’s deacon, stoned to death [Acts 7:58-60]. I think of James, John’s brother, beheaded by Herod Agrippa I [Acts 12:1-2]. I think of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. I think of God’s saints and their tears, and their hurts, and their sorrows. That is a part of the Christian life. Because ye are a disciple of Jesus and you love the Lord is no reason why you won’t cry, be crushed, be sick, be frustrated and disappointed, be plunged into abysmal despair.
Now the apostle speaks of that because he is coming to something else, and it is this:
If that is the judgment of God upon the life of the sainted Christian, then what shall happen to the sinner who refuses the overtures of God’s grace and mercy? If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? If judgment begins at the house of God, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of our Lord?
[1 Peter 4:17-18]
If God’s saints, if God’s precious people, if they go through these fiery trials, and we do, what shall be of those who don’t find refuge, and peace, and hope, and salvation in our dear and wonderful Lord? They don’t have any friend in heaven to walk by their sides. They don’t have anybody to turn to in prayer in the time of desperate need. They are alone. They’ve turned aside from God and His pleadings of love, and welcome, and mercy, and grace, and forgiveness. They’re out there alone, facing inevitable death and judgment. And that time inexorably arrives for all of them, all of them. And Simon Peter asked, as he looks upon it, “If the righteous, if God’s people who are in the part of the sanctuary, if they experience these sorrows and trials in life, what shall become of them who have turned aside from the mercies and grace of our blessed Lord?” [1 Peter 4:17-18].
Dear people, look, think just for a minute, listen. Here is a Christian, a child of God, and he’s lost his wealth, some catastrophic providence has overwhelmed him, and he’s lost everything that he has. And he lives in poverty and in need and in want. He’s lost everything in this world. But in heaven, he’s rich. The Lord God who possesses the gold and the silver [Haggai 2:8], and the cattle on a thousand hills [Psalm 50:10], has made him a great heir with the angels and the Son of God in heaven; he has everything, he’s rich, he’s in heaven! [Romans 8:17]. Why, they even use gold for streets [Revelation 21:21]. Here’s a lost man, and he lives in affluence and wealth all the days of his life. He’s never known poverty or need, and he dies, as inevitably he will die! Dear people, tell me, what is money and wealth and riches in hell? He’s lost his soul, and everything that he possesses! You can’t buy in damnation. Think with me. Here’s a Christian, and he loses his health. He’s broken on the rack of pain and illness. And he dies; this Christian who’s been hurt and sick all the days of his life, then he’s in heaven where the angels took Lazarus [Luke 16:22-26]. He’s in Abraham’s bosom and he’s well; there are not any cripples in heaven, there are no blind in heaven; there are no sick and invalid in heaven. He’s well. Here’s a lost man who lives in strength and health all of his life, and he dies and is damned. What is strength and health in the burning pit of damnation?
Just once again, think with me: here is a child of God who is humble and unnamed, unsung, outside of a little group around, nobody ever heard of him, nobody ever will. He’s a sweet, humble, gentle follower of the Lord Jesus. And he dies. And in heaven there’s a crown for him. God is waiting for him. The Lord Jesus stands to receive him, and the angels cry, “One of God’s saints has come home. Welcome.” And here is a famous Hollywood star who dies. Or here is a famous infidel politician who dies. Tell me, what is Hollywood fame, and what is national, political honor in damnation and in hell? He has lost his soul, and he’s lost every hope of joy and peace and gladness, no matter who he is or how famous he was in the world.
Oh, I cannot understand why anyone would turn aside from the sweet invitation of the Lord Jesus to eternal life; “Come, come, come” [John 10:27-30]. A blessing now, a blessing forever. A great friend and Savior now, and a great friend and Savior forever. I don’t understand how anyone would volitionally, statedly, decidedly choose to turn aside from the overtures of God’s love and grace [John 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:8-9].
I want to tell you one thing that I read; I think one of the most astonishing things I have ever read in American history. In the days of Andrew Jackson, president of the United States, the third chief justice presided over the Supreme Court in Washington, possibly one of the greatest jurists who ever lived. His name was John Marshall. In the days of Andrew Jackson, the president, and John Marshall, chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, there was a robbery in Pennsylvania that caught the headlines and the attention of the American people. What happened was, on a train there was a clerk, a mail clerk, who slew his fellow mail clerk, stole the registered mail, and somehow bound himself, tied himself up, and when they came to the end of the line, he told the people, the police, the security officers, that bandits had overwhelmed them, had slain his partner, and had bound him up. The legal profession sensed discrepancies in his story. And as they probed and probed, they finally came; and the man made a complete confession. He had murdered his fellow clerk and had bound himself up, and pretended, as an alibi, that the robbers and the bandits had done it. Tried before a court in Pennsylvania, he was sentenced to be hanged for the murder of his fellow clerk. In one of those turns of fortune, in which you and I are living now everyday, there were friends who began to circulate petitions, and they began to pressure the courts. And finally, it came to the president of the United States, it came to Andrew Jackson. And out of deference to the people who were pressing for a reprieve and a pardon for this man, Andrew Jackson, the president of the United States, signed a pardon. And they brought it to the murderer, and said, “You’re a free man. You have been pardoned by the president of the United States.” And he refused to accept it to the astonishment of America. He refused to accept it and said, “I want to be hanged.” The warden of the penitentiary never met a legal confrontation like that. So it finally arrived before the Supreme Court of the United States of America, and the unanimous decision was written by John Marshall, the Chief Justice. And after a long legal discussion, he closed it with these words: “A pardon is a paper, the value of which depends upon its acceptance by the person involved. It is hardly to be supposed that one under the sentence of death would refuse to accept a pardon; but if it is refused, it is no pardon at all. The man must hang.”
When I read that I thought, “O Lord, how worthless is the atonement of Jesus our Lord when the man doesn’t accept it, doesn’t accept it.” Came down from heaven for us, “Nothing to me.” Died on the cross for my sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], “It’s nothing to me.” Offers me heaven and pardon, “I refuse it.” And he dies by his own choice, rejecting the love and grace of Jesus [John 3:36; Ephesians 2:8-9]. I’m like Chief Justice John Marshall: it is hard to be believed that a man would reject, would refuse a pardon that carries with it life everlasting [John 10:27-30]; but if he does, if he does, he dies outside of the pale of God’s love and mercy [Acts 4:12].
O Lord, grant us the heart to believe, the spirit to accept, the boldness to confess, and the decision tonight, made in favor of life everlasting, in favor of heaven, in favor of Jesus, in favor of the people of God. Lord, number me with those who bow in Thy presence, who name Thy name, who accept Thy love and mercy.
May we stand together?
Our precious, wonderful, loving Lord, how could it be that anyone, anywhere, anytime could refuse Thy love and mercy? “O Christ, O dear Lord, O blessed Savior, while it is day, while it is time, Lord, help me to come to Thee, to believe in Thee, to trust in Thee, to ask God’s forgiveness of all of the weakness and sins and shortcomings of my soul; and acknowledging Thee as my Lord and Savior, thus I stand.”
And while our people pray and wait, just for you, this will be the greatest night of your life, the greatest decision you’ll ever make, if down that stairway, down one of these aisle, you come, “Pastor, we’ve decided for God, and here we stand.” Make the decision in your heart. Do it now. And when we sing our hymn of appeal and invitation, that first note, that first stanza is your first step. And God will give you strength for the rest of the way. May angels attend you. A family, a couple, a single, a somebody you, “Here I am, pastor, I’m on the way.” And thank You, Lord, for the sweet harvest You give us tonight, in Thy saving name, amen.
While we sing, a thousand times welcome. “Here I am, here I am.”
AT THE HOUSE OF GOD
1 Peter 4:3-19
I. The tragic condition of the unbeliever
excess of wine, wantonness, reveling (1 Peter
So much on drinking
Layman so bitter against drinking
preacher – his boy delivered by drunken doctor
V. Hill at a political convocation
II. The inevitable judgment facing the one
who rejects Christ(1 Peter 4:5, 7)
end is at hand(Revelation 20:11, 1 Thessalonians
clock is not like our clock
time comes, events transpire quickly
III. The fiery trials of the Christian(1 Peter 4:12)
are still in this body of the old nature(Luke
13:24, Genesis 37:31-35, Jeremiah 9:1, 31:15, Job 2:7, Acts 7:58-60, 12:1-2)
rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22-26)
Jackson, John Marshall – murderer given pardon refuses it