Practical Application of Faith (16 of 16)
Series: What We Believe: The Doctrines Of the Church
The little white book: we are going first to look at the lecture that I have prepared for the last seven of these Articles of Faith, and then we are going to look at the pastor’s lecture last Wednesday night. I received a letter from Jimmy Draper in which were enclosed three letters that had been sent to the church and other things, and he says, “Pastor, there have been many comments about this” – he’s talking about the lecture last Wednesday night – “it probably will be good to clarify this on this Wednesday night, tonight.”
So when I get through with the lecture tonight, why, we are going to look at Hades and Gehenna, and heaven and Paradise, and this time I want you to listen with your head. Practically everybody thinks with his glands. Tonight, let us think with our brains; if you will, everything will be just great, just marvelous. So we will get to that in a moment.
This last lecture, lecture nineteen, is entitled Practical Application of the Great Doctrines of the Faith. I have given it that generalization in order to encompass these last seven Articles of Faith.
First: “Evangelism and Missions”; Matthew 13:38 says that the field is the world. In Westminster Abbey I saw a memorial to John Wesley. And in that memorial were incised several of the famous sayings of that great evangelist. One of them was, “God buries the workman but carries on his work.” I remember that. I remember another one, a famous saying of John Wesley, “The world is my parish.” We divide up the world for convenience sake into city missions, associational missions, state missions, home missions, foreign missions. But we do that only for purposes of organization and convenience.
There is one world for us to evangelize, and it is everybody who is in it. We owe an unpayable debt to the mission enterprise. All the Christian nations that now are were once pagan and heathen. They would have remained so had it not been for Christian missions. Our forefathers were heathen, idolatrous worshippers. But a missionary came and won our forefathers to Jesus, and that’s why we have come to know the faith.
The very life of the church is found in evangelism and missions. Without it, the church dies. It dies in its heart. It dies at its heart. I onetime read where an artist was invited to paint a picture of a dead church, and he brought it to the people, and the people looked at it. It was a magnificent church, a cathedral-like church. It had all of the accouterments, and all of the embellishments, and all of the appointments of a magnificent church, and when the people looked at it, they thought, “How could that be a picture of a dead church?”
You would think a dead church would be one with the windows all blown out, and the ceiling falling in, and the foundation giving way, wouldn’t you? It’s a dead church. And here the artist had painted a picture of a magnificent church with everything in it that ought to be in it and everything on it and around it that ought to be on and around it, yet he entitled it A Dead Church. And then somebody noticed in the church the artist had drawn a picture of a gift box entitled, “For Missions,” and over the slot where people were to drop in their offerings, the artist had painted a cobweb. That was his idea of a dead church. It had lost its missionary commitment.
We can be proud of the fact that our Baptist heritage is one of real leadership in the modern mission movement. It began with William Carey in 1792. I went to Serampore, India, just about eighteen miles up the river from Calcutta, and stayed for a day in the school founded by William Carey, on which campus he is buried. And all of the artifacts of William Carey’s life are there. To my amazement, that wonderful English cobbler had translated the Bible into thirty-four different languages, making it accessible, the Word of God accessible to one-third of the human race. He labored there for thirty years, never went home.
Then we think of American missions, this also is a fruit of our Baptist people. Adoniram Judson, Ann Hasseltine, his wife, Luther Rice went to India, then to Burma, and for forty years Judson labored in Burma, one of the great missionary epochs of all time.
I come now to the second article discussed tonight, that of “Christian Education.” We have a most important task. It is this: the education of the succeeding generations. We’re always just one generation away from paganism. Our great assignment is to educate the succeeding generation. Like this lad whom we licensed to preach tonight, he was brought up here in the church and being taught the Word of God, felt God’s call in his heart to mediate that truth. That is our great assignment. In 2 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul admonishes the young pastor at Ephesus, “The things that thou hast heard of me, also you teach to faithful men, who shall in turn teach others also.” We never escape that necessity.
It is a proud thing, I think, for us to be able to say that our faith, our Christian religion, is the mother of all education. The great, old universities of the world, without exception, have been founded by Christian leaders; Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, all of them. They were founded for the training of the Christian ministry and for the educating of a Christian laity. And in that, our Baptist people have had a remarkable devotion; Brown University, Baylor University, Chicago University, all of all, and innumerable others founded by our Christian people.
And the public school system is a part of the church. They met on Sunday, and then as the days passed, they felt that it was not quite appropriate for reading, writing, and arithmetic to be taught on Sunday along with the Word of God. So they divided it, and on Sunday they taught the Word of God. Then in the days of the week they taught the three R’s. Then as the days passed, why, the secular end of that program of education came to be supported by the state in its taxation program. But all of it was born in the church.
Now the tragedy of education is that is has the tendency to become increasingly secular and increasingly material. It is no longer true that education of whatever kind is good. Education can be tragic. Education can be sorrowful and sad. I don’t suppose there was ever a nation as cultured as the Nazi German Reich. I don’t suppose there were ever universities that ever excelled in its dedication to knowledge and scientific achievement than Nazi University of Germany. But there never was a culture so without human mercy and godliness as Nazi culture.
I was in Dachau, and as I went around – this is right after the World War, Second World War – as I went around Dachau, the men there showed me where they would take people and use them for bayonet practice, live bait. They would take people and experiment with them as guinea pigs. For example: this is an example, they would take a man or men and put them down in ice water and then cool the water down, and cool it down, and take scientific instruments and watch the feet, the pumping of the heart, the coagulation of the blood, on and on as the man gradually was frozen to death. Experiments like that, world without end, all in the name of science; there is a limit to the boundaries that men ought to go, and when I name them, immediately you sense that. So education can be tragic. It can lead to the devastation of the whole world, such as you found in the scientific achievements of the Nazi Germans that used their tremendous research in order to plunge the whole world into blood and tears.
I come now to discuss “Stewardship.” The steward, steward is a manager, a user, he directs the household of the master owner. Oikonomos is a household manager, translated a steward. The word oikos is house, and oikonomos is a manager of the house. For example, in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Luke:
The Lord said unto His disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had an oikonomos, a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
And he called him, and said, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy oikonomia, stewardship, your management; for thou mayest no longer be oikonomos, steward.
Then the oikonomos said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the oikonomia: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the oikonomia, they may receive me into their houses.[Luke 16:1-4]
Then he tells a story. So, you see a steward is a manager of the possessions of somebody else. Now that is the conception that the Bible teaches us about us. What we have is ours just to use, we don’t actually possess it. And the day will come when we’ll lay it down, and somebody else will be living in your house, and somebody else will be using your property because you’ll be gone.
In Luke 19:13, The Lord says of that man who went away into a far country to receive his kingdom – talking about Himself – he said to his stewards, “Occupy till I come. Occupy till I come.” And what you have, it doesn’t matter what you have, what you have is yours to use just awhile and that’s all. And somebody else will be using it after you’re gone.
So we have a stewardship before God, and we’re to manage what God has given us because it belongs to Him and will revert to Him. So we speak of a sign of our stewardship dedication. We’re managers of what God has. There is a proportion that belongs to God. And like a man would use a farm and then at the end of the farm year he would give the owner of it a certain proportion of the crop. So it is with us and God. A proportion of what we have belongs to God.
In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, Paul says, “As I gave order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.” If God doesn’t give me anything, there’s not anything I can return. But if the Lord has given me something, there is something that I can return, a proportion of what God has given to me.
Well, when I sit down and think through, “What proportion shall I dedicate to God?” That’s up to you, but I can tell you a proportion that the Bible will suggest. In Leviticus 27:32 it says, “the tenth is holy unto the Lord.” And in Hebrews 7:8 the author writes, “For here men that die receive tithes; but there He receiveth them,” talking about the Lord in heaven, “of whom it is witnessed that He liveth.”
So when our people come to that recognition, “I’m just a steward of what I have, I don’t really own it, it belongs to God and will one day revert to Him, and this is a sign of my oikonomia, that I’m a manager, I will return to the Lord a proportion of what the Lord has given to me.”
Now, our next discussion is on “Cooperation.” There is a vital necessity for cooperation with the Christians of other churches because number one; one church is too small for the whole heavenly mandate that God has given us. The mission field is too great even for this church. The world is too big. The educational system is too vast and demanding. Our printing literature on and on and on, our church cannot do it all. If we have any hope for success in these areas, we must cooperate with other churches to do them.
Then the creation of a program, a policy, a procedure would demand our cooperation with other churches. For example, one church can have a Sunday school, but if we’re going to have a Sunday school program there has to be something like a Sunday school board in which all of us can cooperate and work together.
One church, for example, can have a missionary. We can send out a missionary. But if we’re going to have a mission program, a procedure, a great enterprise, we have to have something akin to a mission board. So there is no choice if we really take seriously the mandate of our Lord for the education and evangelization of the world [Matthew 28:19-20]. We have to do it in conjunction with our sister churches and our fellow Christians.
I come now to the discussion of the fifth one, “The Christian and the Social Order.” The great assignment of the church is to win men to Christ. Then Christian men are charged with the responsibility of creating a Christian society. I am drawing a distinction there between the work of the church and the work of the legislature, the work of the courts, the work of the police department, the work of the Congress, the work of the great law enforcement agencies and law making agencies of the land. That is not our assignment. I am not a policeman. I am not a judge. I am not a legislator. I am a minister of Christ, and my assignment is to encourage men to love God. And then that man as a Christian is charged with the responsibility of the social order.
We have, and I see him here every Wednesday night, we have one of the most illustrious judges in the jurisdictional, jurisprudence section of the life of Texas, Judge Claude Williams. I am not to go down to Judge Claude Williams’ court to sit on the bench. That is not my responsibility. I’m not trained in that, and I would make so many mistakes that they would impeach me, heaven forbid. But what I can do is I can be a friend to Judge Claude Williams. I can be his pastor. He and I can read the Bible together and I can pray for him. And Judge Williams goes down there, and he is God’s man on the bench. Now that’s the difference between us and them; our assignment, and his, and theirs.
Now if a man is personally corrupt, all the laws in the land will not keep him straight; isn’t that right, Judge? If the man himself is corrupt, underneath the table he’ll take a bribe. And a lot of our men do it: the judge will take a bribe, the governor will take a bribe, the bank president will be dishonest.
Can you believe the almost illiquidity of the great Franklin Bank in New York City? And they have fired the president, and they have fired the chief executive officer. Can you imagine that? A tremendous – that is the tenth largest bank in America! There’s no law in the world that will keep a bank president straight. There’s no law in the world that will keep a judge straight. There’s no law in the world that will keep a legislator straight.
You can’t make laws to keep men straight. That has to come out of the heart. And that is the assignment of the church. Out of the heart are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” A man is, I don’t care what his economic or educational status, a man actually is what he is in his heart. If he’s a thief, if he’s a liar, if he’s a cheat in his heart, whether he’s up there in affluence or down here in poverty, it’s just the same.
Do you remember the story that I once in awhile will tell illustrating that? A bum goes by a rip track on the railroad, and he breaks into a railway car and steals a can of tomatoes because he’s hungry. Educate him, dress him up, send him to Harvard, and he’ll steal the entire railway system and get away with it, just the same, whether he’s a bum or whether he’s up there head of the Penn Central. Those are crooks. They’re not crooks in the sense that they’re shooting craps for a dime a shot. They’re crooks in the sense that they beat the stockholders and the American public out of millions and millions and millions of dollars! And I’ll bet you they’ve all been to Harvard. I’ll bet you they have. No, I don’t know. It doesn’t make any difference, whether he’s up there or down here, it’s just the same.
Changed men should seek to change abuses in society by Christian means, not by violence but by influence and witness. The Lord says, in Matthew 5:13-16, we are the salt of the earth, we are the light of the world, and we are to shine that men may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. If there are evils in government, redress against those oppressive evils ought to be done through the changing of the law. Each man cannot be a law unto himself, otherwise we have anarchy. The man who evades taxes because he thinks they are excessive, or the man who becomes a smuggler because he believes in free trade puts himself above civil law and that breeds anarchy. What the man needs to do is, if he thinks the taxes are excessive, he ought to try to find redress through changing the law. Or if he thinks that bootlegging is all right and he ought to be able to sell that forked lightning, that moonshine they call it, moonshine, why, he ought to work to get the laws changed. But he ought not to disobey the law.
But no government has a right to exist that compels men to disobey God. That’s plainly stated in Acts 4:19-20. We ought to obey God rather than men. Legitimate measures to and procedures to repeal unjust laws is what we ought to work for, and there should be revolt only when means of redress are failing, and when a government is so in revolt against God it forfeits its right to exist.
Now we come to the sixth one, “War and Peace.” The scourge and tragedy of war are beyond description. Rivers of blood and rivers of tears attest to the heartbreak of armed conflict. Always and in every circumstance, the Christian is to live peaceably with all men. “Recompense,” Paul writes in Romans 12:17-21:
Recompense to no man evil for evil, If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in doing so thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Is there room for the real pacifist? Not in the world as we know it and live it, or let me say it personally, not in the world as I know it and live it. A real pacifist is one who is willing to live the life of Christ, that is, without wife and home, without children and without property. Otherwise, police and force must make good the title deed to your property and protection for your family.
I think these draft card burners, and I think these men who go to Canada to evade the draft are low down, yellow, treacherous, evil men who would see our country perish rather than lift up hand to defend it. And I think the law ought to deal with them accordingly. When a man is dying in Vietnam and this fellow evades the draft, he’s yellow. He’s traitorous.
Does that mean there’s no such thing as a pacifist? That does not mean there’s no such thing as a pacifist. If a man is a pacifist, I would be the first to honor him, but he couldn’t own anything, for there has to be force to make good your deed to the property. You can’t own anything. You’ve got to give it all away to the enemy.
You can’t have a wife. I could not imagine a man having a wife who would stand by and see men rape her. I couldn’t imagine it. I could not imagine a man having children and standing by and seeing them violated and mutilated. Well, how in the world is it that I’m going to have a piece of property, say, my home, because somebody has to make good the title. It belongs to me and not to them. And my family: while I’m sound asleep, there are cars cruising over this city to protect my home and my family. You see, I’m no pacifist. I own property. I have a wife and I have a child. And as long as I have that, I am no pacifist.
And it is sheerest unadulterated hypocrisy for a man to sit in an endowed professor’s chair and say he’s a pacifist and to teach passivism when his salary and the institution and everything that he owns is paid for by the blood of men who have died that he might have the right to own what he does and to teach in peace what he’s saying. I look with profound contempt upon men like that. And I see in magazines pictures of these draft evaders in Canada walking around up there with their families. No, they’re no pacifists. They’re just yellow, that’s all. That’s all.
Were it not for the blood offered for the defense of our country, the Nazis would have us in 1939 to 45. And had it not been the Nazis, the Japanese would have taken us in 1941 to 45. The reason you’ve got your home and a Japanese doesn’t have it, or a Nazi doesn’t have it, is because over the Atlantic and over the Pacific there were men who were laying down their lives for you.
Don’t you talk to me about passivism; it says here, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” [Romans 12:18]. I want to be friends to the Japanese, I want to be friends to the Germans, I’d love to be friends to the Russians and the Chinese, if they will let us. And in so far as possible as Christian people, we’re going to promote peace, and calmity, and brotherhood among us. But when they mass armies, and planes, and ships to destroy our country, I’ll be out there in the front line with you.
Now, our last one concerns “Religious Liberty.” The Christian is a citizen of two worlds. He’s a citizen of this world. In Acts 22:24-28, Paul says, “I am a Roman citizen.” In Acts 21:39 he says, “I am a citizen of no mean city.” The Christian is a citizen of this world. The Christian is also a citizen of that world up there. In Philippians 3:20 Paul says, “For our politeuma, politeuma, our commonwealth, our citizenship is in heaven.” So we are citizens of two worlds.
Now the Christian is to be a good, faithful citizen in both worlds. First, our Lord and Master is in heaven, and we ought to obey God first. That’s first, Acts 5:29. But second, having placed God first, the Christian is to be loyal to the state. Jesus obeyed the laws of Rome. Let me show you something. One, two, three, four, five; five different times, on five different occasions after Pontius Pilate had examined Jesus – now remember, Pontius Pilate is a representative of Roman law, and the Romans were lawyers and men of jurisprudence beyond any people that ever lived in the earth. This man represents Roman law and yet in Luke 23:14, John 18:38, and John 19:4 and again in verse 6, Pontius Pilate says, “I find in Him no fault at all.” Now He was brought up there for treason against the Roman Caesar. Jesus obeyed the laws, nor could the courts find fault in Him.
Jesus paid taxes and He recognized their lawful collection. In Matthew 17:24, “Does your Master pay taxes?” Verse 25, “Yes, He paid taxes.” Now, Jesus repeatedly refused to lead a rebellion against the empire. In John 6:15 you have the unusual story after the Lord had fed those five thousand, they sought by force to make Him a king. Do you ever sit down and wonder why such a thing like that? Well, it’s very obvious when you think about it.
And they sought by force to make Him a king. Why, the reason is just plain. It’s lucid. It’s clear. Here is a man that if they kill our soldiers He can raise them from the dead. Here is a man that can feed five thousand men with a loaf of bread and a fish or two. Man, think what a man like that could do leading an army. Why, they’d be incomparable. They sought by force to make Him a king, you couldn’t fail with a king like that. Jesus refused to use force. In Matthew 26:52-53, He said, “Put up your sword. Put it up. If I so ask, there are twelve legions of angels.” Twelve times six, is that seventy-two? Seventy-two, seventy-two thousand of them, seventy-two thousand angels, did you ever think about that? One angel passed over the camp of Sennacherib, and the next day there were one hundred eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers that were corpses, just one angel passing over [Isaiah 37:36]. You think what seventy-two thousand of them would do to an army. Now that staggers you! Jesus refused it all.
The Bible tells us that civil government is of divine appointment. In Romans 13, “Let every soul be subject to the high powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be – talking about the government – are ordained of God” [Romans 13:1]. They are appointed of God. Without civil government civilization could not exist; savagery would be the way of life; men would live as brute beasts; evil would not be restrained. The many would live at the mercy of the strong and the violent. There would be no work undertaken for the public good, the bridges that we build, the massing of our armies to repel an invader, all is under the prerogative of civil government. God created man for community-civilized life.
Now the Scriptures expressly state that those set in authority are to be prayed for. In 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “I exhort that prayer and intercession be made for kings, and for all who are in authority.” We are to honor the man for the sake of his office. First Peter 2:17c, “Honor the king.” In Acts 23:26 the centurion addresses a letter to Felix, the Roman procurator of Judea, and calls him “most excellent governor Felix.” Does that mean Felix was most excellent in his character? No. No, he just was not. But he was being honored for the sake of his office.
This 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “I exhort that prayer and intercession be made for kings, and for all who are in authority.” You know who was the Roman emperor when Paul wrote that? N E R O, Nero. And we name our dogs after him. We name our boys after Paul, name our dogs after Nero. However we may think personally about the president of the United States, he ought to be honored and treated with great deference because of his high office. The Scriptures plainly outline our loyalties to the government. In Romans 13:1-7:
Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves – translated here – damnation, judgment.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Will you not be afraid of the power then? do that which is good, and you will have praise of the same:
For he is the minister of God for good. If you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain.[Romans 13:2-4]
The Bible believes in capital punishment all the way through. “For he beareth not the sword in vain.” Not to believe in capital punishment is a sociologist kind of doctrine. Doesn’t come from God, comes from some fellow sitting over here and winding things out of himself. There are instances where a man ought to pay[with] his life for what he does. God says so.
He is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Now not only for wrath sake, fear sake, but you ought to obey the government for conscience sake.
For this cause we pay tribute: for they are God’s ministers…
Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; and honor to whom honor.[Romans 13:4-7]
The Christian is to be a good citizen.
Now, religious liberty and the separation of church and state are basic human freedoms. The basic text for religious liberty is Matthew 22:15-17. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” [Matthew 22:21]. The church is to be free. The state is to be free. The church is not to seek to achieve spiritual goals through political power. The state is not to use the church for political ends. One of the tragedies among a thousand tragedies written in Christian history is to be found in the way the Russian czars used the Greek Orthodox Church to accomplish their nefarious purposes. It was a tragedy. The state is to create a proper area in which the church can do its work, and the church is to produce Christian character vital to a well-ordered society. Religious liberty is the mother of all true liberties. Coercion and conscience lead to oppression in every area of life.
The Pilgrims came to our country, but they came carrying with them the idea of a tax-supported church. The Puritans who came ten years later came with church and state welded together. Both came to establish their own faith and to exclude all others.
This is a little gem in the diadem of our Baptist people. The first community that could call itself a free state with a free church, separation of church and state, was in 1636 when Roger Williams founded such a community, such a society, and called it Rhode Island. That was the first time there was ever a government and a state in which the church, the conscience, was absolutely free.
Well, I have gone through that just as rapidly as I could. And we’ve taken practically all of the time for it. Now I’m going into this for a moment and while we do it, if you have to leave, why, it’s all right.
“Hi, pastor. I’ll be walking the streets of gold in heaven with my Lord while you are in your Hades. How about that?” What I can’t understand is, how in the earth is he going to walk the streets of heaven and he doesn’t have any feet? Now how do you do that? I’m going to give you opportunity to talk to me when I get through with this, and I want you to be thinking about that now, because that’s what you’re writing me – that you’re going to walk the streets of heaven while I’m in Hades, and you don’t have any feet because you don’t have any feet till the resurrection. Your feet are going to be out there in the cemetery somewhere. And if you don’t believe that, you come with me, and I’ll show you thousands of people that I’ve buried in the ground, and their feet are down there in the cemetery. So you’re going to walk the streets of heaven, are you, without any feet? I just want you to tell me how you’re going to do it, that’s all. I’m not arguing with you, I’m just interested. I’m really enticed. I’d love to know.
“You and the Catholics can have your purgatory and Hades, I’m going straight to heaven.” If I bury you, I know exactly where I want to put you. I surely am. I’m going to put you in the ground. I’m going to put you in the grave, and we’re going to look at what the Bible calls that. The Bible calls that Hades. You’re going to the grave. That’s where you’re going. Now your spirit, your soul, will go up there where Jesus is, but you are going down there in that grave. And you’re going to be there till the resurrection, and you’re not going to have any feet, and you’re not going to have any ears, and you’re not going to have anything else until that resurrection. Well, that’s one fellow.
Well, anyway, this is a little introduction. We’re going to get to it in a minute. “To the pastor,” here’s another one per Wednesday night, “at death I will see the Lord and loved ones in heaven. You can go on to the middle ground, purgatory, or Hades, I believe you call it, I’ll be in heaven. The Bible teaches only heaven or hell, no in between.” See, he hadn’t read the Book. He hadn’t read the Bible. Or if he’s read it, he doesn’t cerebrate. That isn’t so, nor is anything approaching that true, “The Bible teaches only heaven or hell, no in between.” Well, look at if for a minute. “Could you clear this up, please, this coming Wednesday? You have ruined the hopes of all those last Wednesday – you have ruined the hopes of all there last Wednesday in any hope of heaven. You never mentioned it. You mentioned only an in between, the Baptist purgatory.”
I wonder if who writes these things, if they know what purgatory is. Purge, purge, and you make a purgatory out of the word purge. That is purge is to cleanse, so you go through a cleansing, and in the Catholic doctrine, you go through all kinds of things that you suffer in order to get ready for heaven. I never have mentioned anything like that, never referred to anything like that.
“Dear Pastor” – Thank you for the “Dear” – “Dear Pastor, my Bible teaches I go to heaven when I die, not a Hades, as taught Wednesday night. ‘Absent from the body, present with the Lord.’” Doesn’t say anything about heaven there, does it? Says, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord” [2 Corinthians 5:8]. It’s just whether you’re going to listen or not, now that’s all. “Is our Lord in Hades? No, He is in heaven. Please clarify this.” Now, “You have confused many people by this Hades talk. We have always looked forward to heaven when we die.” Now, I’m just kidding you, like you say those things to me.
There is a fundamental thing. I mean it is as fundamental as whatever hope you have in God yourself. It is that fundamental. We have got to realize, whether we want to or not, whether you like it or not, we have got to realize that this is the Bible [Hebrew Old Testament]. This is the [Hebrew] Old Testament. I wore that thing out, and a dear friend here in our church rebound it for me. This is the [Hebrew] Old Testament. I turn it open, that’s what it looks like. That is the Word of God. This is. This is. That’s the [Hebrew] Old Testament.
This is the [Greek] New Testament. This, can you see it there? This is the [Greek] New Testament. This is the inspired Word of God. And I believe in verbal inspiration; I believe the reason that word is there is because the Holy Spirit inspired the man to write it. I think the reason this word is here, and this one here, and all of it, this is the Word of God. This is the Bible, the Word of God [Greek New Testament].
What is this that I hold in my hand? This is a translation [King James Version]. It is a version and that’s all. This is the Word of God. This is. This is a translation[KJV]. It is a version. This is why I beg, and importune, and encourage our people to go to our Bible Institute. You will always take as second hand what somebody says when just with a little effort you could go to our Bible Institute.
Dr. Eddleman is one of the finest Hebrew teachers in the world. He taught Hebrew in the Southern Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky, our mother seminary, for years and years. He was a missionary in Israel for years. He talks Hebrew. You have the most marvelous opportunity in the world, and just a little introduction and you could use a commentary world without end.
The same thing about Greek; we have some of the finest Greek professors in the world here in our Institute. And in just a little while you could easily use a Greek commentary and know exactly what that Word says. This is a version [KJV]. It is a version. Now I want to show you what the version does. I want to show you what the version does. We’re going to look at a typical thing it does.
The word hades occurs in the New Testament ten times [KJV], and all ten times it is translated hell, h-e-l-l, hell. All ten times, and in not one of them is it hell, not one [Greek New Testament]. Not one, not one time is it hell. Yet all ten times that it is used in the New Testament it is translated hell [In the KJV].
The word sheol, which is the same thing, occurs sixty-five times in the King James Version. It is translated “hell” thirty-one times. It’s translated “the grave” thirty-one times. It is translated “the pit” three times. Yet, it’s the same word sheol. And yet it is translated “hell” thirty-one times and doesn’t even refer to hell. There is a word for hell, Gehenna, Gehenna. It is used twelve times in the New Testament, and all twelve times it’s translated correctly. It’s translated “hell.”
Paradise is used in the Bible three times. In Luke 23:43, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Second Corinthians 12:, “I was taken up to the third heaven,” and then he calls that Paradise in Revelation 2:. Now if you want to call that heaven, that’s all right. But you’re not getting the distinction between what happens to us when we die. There’s nothing wrong with it but you don’t know, you’re not thinking right, and all we want to do is understand what God is saying to us.
When we die, when we die we go to two places. Now by two places I’m talking about us, who are Christians; we are divided and we go to two different spots. One, my body goes to the grave, grave, g-r-a-v-e, grave. I go, my body, what you see me, I go to the grave, and my spirit, my soul, goes to, now you just name it, goes to heaven. Fine, I don’t mind that, goes to heaven. It’s a better distinction if you really want to follow it, you go to Paradise, go to Paradise. One of our ministers said, “The Lord said, ‘Today you will be with Me in Paradise.’ So my Lord is there.”
“Fine,” I said, “that’s correct.” If you want to call it heaven, there’s nothing wrong with it, nothing wrong with it. It’s just not what heaven is going to be, that’s all, and if you’ll just keep that distinction when you use the word – you know there’s a word about semantics. You can use any word that you want to as long as you’ll define it, that’s all. If you’ll define heaven as being an intermediate state, as being a waiting, as being an incompletion, that’s all right. But you’ve got to define it because heaven is by and by, later on, just like hell. There is nobody in hell, nobody. Not yet. The first one to go to hell is the Antichrist, the beast out of the land [Revelation 19:20]. The second one to go to hell is the beast out of the sea, the false prophet [Revelation 19:20]. The third one to go to hell is the devil [Revelation 20:10]. And the last to go to hell are those who follow the devil [Revelation 20:15]. There’s nobody in hell now.
So if you’ll define your terms, you can use any term that you want. Just like you don’t have to use a period, put an “x,” but just be sure at the beginning of your writing to say, “X, I mean period.” And then you don’t have to use a question mark for a question mark. Use a block, but be sure and define up there, when you see a block after that, that means question mark. You can do anything you want to, just explain it. That’s the same way about this. You can call it heaven if you want to, but be sure to explain that it is not complete. It is incomplete.
Well, why is it incomplete? For those two reasons that I tried to tell you last Wednesday night. It is not complete because my body isn’t raised. Have you ever been to the catacombs in Rome? Those were devout Christians. They’ve been dead there and buried in those catacombs for a thousand eight hundred years.
Have you ever been to that Confucian monastery? There are the bones of all those monks. Have you ever been to St. Catherine’s monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai? I tried to get pictures of them, and they didn’t take to my great disappointment, but there are bins, and bins, and bins, and bins of bones of those monks in the monastery. It’s tragic. Some of you people have got children up there so you better remember them.
Now those people have been dead for a thousand, for a thousand eight hundred years, and there their bodies are. You can go look at their bones. It is not complete, but it is God’s purpose to make it complete, all of it, the whole purchased possession, body and soul. So when you die it isn’t done with, God still has something else. And that something else won’t be until we’re raised from the dead and are in heaven. That’s why you’ve got to wait until then to have feet to walk on.
That lost man, when he died he went to torment over there on the other side of it [Luke 16:22-23]. The good man, the Christian man goes to Paradise, or Abraham’s bosom, or if you’ll define it, to heaven. But define it now. You don’t have to define it if you use the word paradise, and you don’t have to define it if you use the word Abraham’s bosom. But that’s where the good man goes.
Now the bad man, the evil man, goes to torment. Tartaros is also used in the Bible. But that’s not complete, that’s not complete. He is there incomplete too. The Bible teaches he’s going to be raised from the dead, and he’s going to receive the reward for his works. So it’s the same in both instances. It is not final. It is not complete because, one, his works aren’t done. They’re still going on, still going on. So that can’t be given to him, the reward of his works, for good or for evil, that won’t be given to him till the end time, the great final judgment. And he won’t have his body until he is raised from the dead. So between the time you die, there is a time in there, a period in there, in which the lost man down there in torment and the saved man with his Lord in heaven, in Paradise, there is a time when we are waiting for the great consummation of the age, the resurrection of the dead and the reward of our works.[Question from audience]: Now wait a minute. Stand up and let me hear you. [Question]: No, he’s referring to the destruction of death. Death and hell are synonymous terms. See, it is Hades, not hell, Hades. Death and Hades, if you translate it correctly you’d say, death and the grave, they are destroyed. They are synonymous there. And they are synonymous everywhere. Hades means the grave, that world in which you go when you die. And they’re going to be cast into the lake of fire that is going to be utterly and absolutely destroyed [Revelation 20:14-15]. There is not going to be anymore death, and there is not going to be anymore grave. It’s all over; its done with forever. [Question from audience]: Now stand up where everybody can hear you and talk real loud. [Question]: Usually we think of it like this. He’s talking in rabbinical terms. The first heaven is where the birds fly and the clouds go over. The second heaven is up there in the Milky Way, the great vast galaxies above us. The third heaven, up there where God lives, and He calls that Paradise [2 Corinthians 12:4]. Now that is biblical. So it’s all right to call Paradise heaven if you’ll just define it, you know. But when we go to it, we’re not complete. We don’t have our body and we don’t have our rewards. We’re just there waiting for that final consummation, the return of our Lord.
Anyone else? [Question from audience]: What he’s talking about is the spiritual places in which God has seated us. We’re in the heavenlies. Now if you want to call us in heaven, that’s fine. We are in heaven. We’re not going to be saved; we’re saved now. And Paul speaks of our being in the heavenlies. We are with Christ in the heavenlies, in the spiritual places [Ephesians 1:3]. But I don’t think he’s talking about heaven as it is in the consummation, not that at all; you know, when we’re out there with God forever, living in our New Jerusalem, walking on our golden streets with feet and living in a mansion and everything [Revelation 21]. No, this is spiritual heavenlies.[Question from audience]: Well, I believe, now, of course, I’m a premillennialist. Remember that. I think there is a thousand years between those two resurrections. The resurrection of the saved is when the Lord comes [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]. We’re raptured. I couldn’t help but laugh at Hershel Ford last Wednesday night, he said, “Pastor, do you know why the dead in Christ are raised first?”
I said, “No, why are they?”
He said, “Because they’ve got six feet further to go.”
That’s the first resurrection! A thousand years later at the great white throne judgment is the second resurrection, and that’s the resurrection of the lost when they’ll have their bodies, and they’re given their rewards at the great white throne judgment [Revelation 20:11-15].[Question from audience]: They what? [Question from audience].
Yes, that’s right. Then they’re cast into hell, into the lake of fire, into Gehenna. That’s right.[Question from audience]: That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. When the Lord comes again for His own, He is going to raise the body here. He is going to bring the spirit with Him there, and body and soul are going to be joined together at the rapture [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. That’s right. The spirit is up there in Paradise waiting.
You remember last Wednesday night I told you John saw at the opening of the fifth seal the souls of those under the altar who’d been beheaded for Christ[Revelation 6:9]. And remember I said I wonder what that looked like. What does a soul look like? What does a spirit look like? I have no idea. The Bible doesn’t say, but John says he saw them. Now at the rapture, up the body, down our living consciousness, whatever it is that lives in us, going to be joined together.[Question from audience]: I think those saints that were resurrected after Christ – you know Matthew’s very careful to say after His resurrection [Matthew 27:52-53] – I think they’re the firstfruits. I think they’re the earnest of the great resurrection in which will include all of us who die before the coming of the Lord. Now the Lord when He died, you know, His body put in the tomb, the Lord went with that thief to Paradise [Luke 23:42-43]. Then, according to a sermon that I preached here on 1 Peter – and I studied that beyond any one subject in the like I had ever studied in my life, those texts – then He went down into torment, down there where Dives was.
He went down there and kerusso, proclaimed unto them [1 Peter 3:18-19]. I don’t know what He proclaimed. The Bible doesn’t say, nor does it give any intimation. It’s one of those mysteries into which we cannot enter. But when Christ went up to Paradise, took the thief with Him, left him there, He went down to torment, the other section of that world of the grave, the Hades, and proclaimed unto them, and then went back up into heaven, because I know He is there. Stephen saw Him[Acts 7:55-56], and the apostle John saw Him, of course, and described Him [Revelation 1:10-16].[Question from audience]: I would not object to a man calling that story a parable, but it doesn’t sound like a parable. And if it is a parable, it’s the only one where names are called. In no other – [Question], yeah, all right – let’s say then that He is telling what is true. That’s what we’re talking about. In Hades, you know, in the other world, translated hell, but that’s, as I say, it’s a tragedy to do that, translate hell. In that other world, he lifted up his eyes in torment. Lazarus, the righteous beggar, lifted up his eyes in Abraham’s bosom [Luke 16:19-31]. And there they are waiting the great judgment day of Almighty God, the resurrection and the reward of their works, those two places. [Question from audience]: That has to be picturesque language. He does not have a body. His body is in the grave. And He asked that Lazarus’ body be resurrected in order that he could go and talk [Luke 16:27]. We cannot enter into it. It has to be picturesque language because he does not have a body. His body is in the grave. [Question from audience]: No, the lake of fire is hell. That’s Gehenna. That’s the ultimate damnation of the lost [Revelation 20:14-15]. But this rich man, though he’s tormented with fire, he’s not in his final state. He’s not in hell yet [Luke 16:22-23]. There’s nobody in hell yet, but he’s going there at the resurrection and at the white throne judgment for the bad works that he’s done [Revelation 20:11-15].
Well, I have enjoyed this course with you so very, very much. And I pray that as we pick it up again next fall, that the Lord will no less bless us as He has in these days when we’ve had a good and precious time together.
Now Lord, give us minds to understand. There are so many things that we can never know. “The secret things belong to God: but what the Lord has revealed to us belongs to us and to our children forever” [Deuteronomy 29:29]. So, Lord, devoutly, humbly, may we study, and learn, and find our souls confirmed in the faith and in the blessed hope of Jesus, in whose name we pray; amen.
For more sermons by W.A Criswell, please visit www.wacriswell.com