At the End of Your Life
© Copyright 2001 by Tony Capoccia. This updated file may be
freely copied, printed out, and distributed as
long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold. All rights reserved.
Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY
BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ©
by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
A copy of this sermon, Preached by Tony Capoccia, is available
on Audio Tape Cassette or Audio CD at www.gospelgems.com
“At the end of your life.”--Proverbs 5:11
The wise man saw a young and foolish man straying into the house of the adulterous woman. The house seemed so completely different from what he knew it to be, that he desired to shed a light on it, that the young man might not sin in the dark, but might understand the nature of his actions. The wise man looked around, and he saw only one lamp suitable for his purpose; it was called “At the end;” so, grabbing this lamp, he held it up in the midst of the adulterous woman’s den of iniquity, and suddenly everything was changed from what it had been before: the truth had come to light, and the deception vanished. The young man dreamed of pleasure, he hoped to find delight in lustful lovemaking; but when the lamp called “At the end” began to shine, he saw rottenness in his bones, filthiness in his flesh, pains and griefs and sorrows, as the necessary consequence of sin, and, wisely guided, wisely taught, the simple-minded young man started back and listened to the warnings of the teacher, “Do not go near the door of her house, for her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.”
Now if this lamp called “At the end” was found so useful in this one particular case, I think it would be equally useful everywhere else, and it may help us all to better understand the truth of matters if we will look at them in the light which this wonderful lamp yields. I can only compare my text in its matchless power to Ithuriel’s spear. Now, according to Milton, Ithuriel was an angel, who on finding Satan, in a toad-like form, tempting Eve, touched him with his spear and transformed him into his proper likeness, into his true colors. Therefore, if I can apply my text to certain things today, they will come out in their true light; “At the end,” will be the rod in my hand with which I will touch tinsel, and it will disappear and you will see it is not gold, and I will touch varnish and paint, and you will understand what they really are, and not what they profess to be: the “At the end” light will be the light of truth, the light of wisdom to our souls. It seems to me that this morning is a fitting occasion for holding up this light, since we have come to the end of the year, and will in a few short hours be at the beginning of another. Let us look back on the year that is past, and look forward on the year that is to come, and my four-sided lamp will perhaps shine off in the distance. I hope that you have the courage to look down the vista of the years that you have already lived, and think of everything that you have thought, and spoken, and done, in the light of the beams of this lamp called “At the end,” and then I hope you will be bold enough to let the same light shine forward on the years yet to come, when your hair will be grey and your teeth begin to fall out, and your eyesight fails.
We will, this morning, examine the past and the future of life in the light of “At the end.” May it teach us wisdom, and make us walk in the fear of God.
I have said that my lamp has four sides to it, and so it has: we will look at the first side of the light which streams from death.
I. DEATH is at the end.
In some sense it is the end, of this mortal life; it is the end of our period of trial here below; it is the end of the day of grace; it is the end of the day of sin. The tree falls when we die, and it will not sprout again; the house is removed from its foundations and it is not to be built again, if it has been founded on sin. Death is the end of this present life. And how certain it is to all of us! This year we have had many proofs of its certainty. One might almost compose an almanac for this year, and write down, each month, the name of a noteworthy person who has died, and I would not be exaggerating if I said every week, throughout the year. All ranks and classes have been made to feel the sting of death. From royalty down to poverty the grave has been gorged with its prey. Early this year there fell one whose benevolence mingled with wisdom had blessed our land, and who being dead is still remembered by the needy, because he lowered the cost of their food, and abolished the laws which, have fattened the rich, and impoverished the poor. His wisdom and kindness could not spare him, and though he is embalmed in the hearts of thousands, yet to the dust he has returned.
Swiftly after him there fell another who ruled a mighty people in the afterglow of victory, when what threatened to be a disruption and a separation had ended in triumph to one side and the nation seemed as if it were about to start on a fresh course of prosperity. By the assassin’s hand he fell. Whatever question there might have been about him in his life, all men conspired to honor him in his death. The ruler of a nation who could subdue a fearless and a mighty enemy, could not subdue that old enemy who conquers whomever he wills. Abraham Lincoln died just like all the rest.
And then there was he who had saved many precious lives by warning mariners of the approaching storm, and thus many a ship had remained in harbor and been delivered from the merciless jaws of the deep, but this person could not forecast or escape the last dreaded storm; he, too, must go down into that fathomless deep which swallows all mankind.
Then, when the year was ripe and the flowers were all in bloom--an appropriate season for his death--there was taken away the man who has garnished our nation with objects of beauty and of joy, a man who loved the flowers and sleeps beneath them now. Like flowers he withered as all of us must do--Sir Joseph Paxton died. Then in the month of September, when the year began to wane, three men who studied the stars, astronomers who predicted eclipses and told of comets, men of fame and name--all three died at once. They might tell of a coming eclipse, but they themselves must be eclipsed; and they who could foretell the track of the next comet, are themselves gone from us just like those dazzling meteor stars have disappeared from view.
Then you will remember, when the year had waned, grown old, it is but a day or two ago, that all were startled by the death of that man who had ruled our nation so long and on the whole so well. We will not forget that he who was taken away from us, was, in some respects, a king throughout our land. Wisdom, cheerfulness, youthful strength such as he possessed, could not avert the time of death. And then, as if the muster roll were not completed, as if death could not be satisfied till the year had yielded up yet another grave, we heard that the oldest of monarchs had been taken away; and though his goodness and his wisdom had successfully guided the little nation over which he ruled, and given him an influence far more extensive than his own sphere, yet death did not spare him, and King Leopold I of Belgium must die.
This past year has been a year of dying rather than of living, and you may look on yourselves and wonder why you are still here. Some younger than we are have been taken. You that are older, are you ready? It is amazing that although you are so ripe for death, yet you should have been spared for so long.
Now in the light of all these deaths, I want you to look at the deadliness of sin. If you were to visit a graveyard you would notice that some gravestones have angels sculptured on them; then let each angel from the gravestone speak to us this morning, and we will listen to their words, for they will surely be wise and solemn, and worthy of our notice, as if they had risen from the dead.
Let me take you to your own death bed, for there, perhaps, the lamp will burn best for you. Look at the various activities of your life which you thought were great, and on which you have prided yourself--how will they look at the end? You made money; you made money fast; you did it very cleverly; you praised yourself for it, just as others have praised themselves for conquering nations, or forcing their way to fame, or lifting themselves into eminence. Now you are dying, and what do you think of all that? Is it so great as it seemed to be? Oh, how hard you climbed up to it, how you strained yourself to reach it, and you have got it, and you are dying. What do you think of it now? The greatest of human accomplishments will appear to be insignificant when we come to die, and especially those on which men most pride themselves--these will yield them the bitterest humiliation. We will then say what madmen we must have been to have wasted so much time and energy on such worthless things. When we discover that they were not real, that they were only mere bubbles, mere pretences, we will then look on ourselves as having been crazy to have spent our entire life and all of our energy on them.
Let us look at our selfish actions in that light of death.
A man says, “I know how to make money,” “and I know how to hold on to it too,” he says, and he prides himself that he is not such a fool as to be generous, nor such a simpleton as to give either to God or to the poor. Now, there he lies. Ah! do you know how to hold on to it now? Can you take it with you? Can you carry so much as a single penny of it across the river of death? You have come to the water’s edge--how much of it will you carry over? Oh you fool! how much wiser you would have been if you had laid up your treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys! You called such men fools when you were living. What do you think of them now that you are dying? Who is the fool, he that sent his riches on ahead, or he that stored them up here on earth to leave them forever? Everything that is selfish will look disgraceful when we come to die; but everything which in the sight of God we have done for Christ’s sake that has been generous, and self-denying, and noble, will even amidst the tombs of death sparkle with celestial splendor. Some of you have been, during this past week, giving very generously to the cause of Christ, for which I thank you, and when I have thought of it, I have said to myself, “Surely, when these generous people come to die, none of them will regret that they have served the cause of Christ. Yes, if they have even given to the point of personal sacrifice, it will be no source of sorrow when they come to their death bed that they did it to one of the least of God’s little ones.” Look at your actions in the light of death, and the selfish ones will soon fade away.
I pray also, dear friends, that some of you would look at your self-righteousness in the light of death.
You have been very good people, very upright, honest, moral, friendly, generous, and so on, and you are resting on what you are. Do you think this will bear your weight when you come to die? When you are in good health any form of religion may satisfy, but a dying soul wants more than sand to rest on. You will want the Rock of Ages. Then let me assure you, that in the light of the grave, all confidence, except confidence in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, is a clear delusion. Flee from it, I beg you. Will you rest beneath Jonah’s vine that will wither when chewed by the worm? Seek a better shelter; cling to the Rock of Ages; find the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
I can say the same thing of all confidence in the value of the Roman Catholic ceremonies and sacraments. When Roman Catholics are in good health it seems sufficient for them to have been baptized, and to have taken the sacrament of Holy Communion and to go to Mass, and read prayers and all that, and take a little “holy” water, out of those little wells while they are strong and joyous; but when they become sick and are about to die, these sacraments and ceremonies will mean nothing to them.
Likewise, for those claiming to be Christians, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper will also deceive you, if you rest your salvation on them; when you are near death you will find them too frail to be supports to bear the weight of an immortal soul’s eternal interests. It will be worthless when you lie dying, if your conscience prompts you to say, “I went to church or to prayer meetings so many times a week.” You will find it a poor dressing to your soul’s wounds to be able to say, “I made a profession of godliness.” Oh, your facade will all be torn away from you by the rough hand of the skeleton called “Death”; you will need a real Savior, vital godliness, true regeneration, not baptismal regeneration; you will need Christ, not sacraments; and nothing short of this will do “at the end.”
And, dear friends, let me ask as I hold up the light, “How will sin appear when we come to die?”
Sin is pleasant now and we can excuse it, calling it a venial sin, a little trivial mistake, a juvenile error, and an indiscretion, and so on; but how will sin appear when we come to die? The grim ghosts of our iniquities, if they have not been laid in the grave of Christ Jesus, will haunt our dying bed. That ghastly figure of Death, with his fingers all bloody and red, will draw the curtain around us. What a horrid prospect, to be shut in with our sins forever, to be dying, with no friends around the bed to comfort, but only the remembrances of the past to terrify and to frighten!
Think, I pray that you think, not only of the root and principle of evil, but of the fruit of it. Remember that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Do not consider what the thing looks like today, but what they will look like at the end of your life? Today you provide a warm resting place for the viper of sin in your heart, but how will you bear its sting in the last day when you are lying on your death bed? I know the sea is smooth and calm to you, for the moment, as you navigate your ship through life; but remember, there are storms, there are hurricanes that sweep down, and what will your poor cry of distress accomplish without Christ at the helm when the dreaded storm of death comes? Imagine with me, that you are going down, down, down in the waters of death, where you will feel your feet sinking in the dreadful sand of uncertainty, and hear the explosive sounds of the distant sea, and your spirit will begin to ask, “What is that ocean that I hear?” And there will come back an answer, “You hear the breaking of the everlasting waves of judgment; the bottomless sea of eternity is that to which you are descending.” You will feel its chilling floods as they rise up from the ankles to the knees, and from the knees to the hips; and you will find it (if you are without Christ), not a river to swim in, but an ocean to be drowned in forever, forever, and forever.
Oh, may God help you to look at present joys, and actions, and thoughts, and behavior, in the light of death!
What a contrast there often is between the life of a man and his time of death! You would praise some men if you only saw their lives, but, when you see their deaths, you change your estimation. There is Moses: he is in line to become the King of Egypt, but he gives up royalty and all its tempting joys. On the mountain he is told that he will become the founder of a mighty race--a desire always prominent in the Eastern mind, but, instead of desiring that he would be made be made a great nation, he, unselfishly, desires that he himself would be blotted out of the Book of Life, if God will but spare his people Israel. And what does Moses get for it all? His only earthly reward is to be the leader of a group of slaves who are perpetually rebelling against him and greatly troubling his heart. Now there is Balaam, on the other hand, he has visitations from God; and when Balak, the son of Zippor, begs him to curse Israel, he cannot curse, though he is quite willing to go as far as he can. He is compelled by the Holy Spirit to bless the people, but, after he has done that, for gain and for reward, he devises a plan against Israel by which they were cursed: he tells their enemy to send out the idolatrous women of Moab to lead astray the children of Israel. Now there he goes, with his treasures of silver and gold, back to his own house, and the shrewd busy worldly man says, “That is the man for me: do not tell me about your meek Moses, that is afraid of doing this and that. He has thrown away a kingdom, and has thrown away the chance of being the head of a nation. That is the man to make money--Balaam. He will be a city father, or a mayor, or governor one day--that Balaam. A man must not get too caught up with principles; he must move ahead, and make hay while the sun shines.
That is the man for me, the one who knows when to launch out on the waters and who does not ask if they are dirty or clean if they only carry him onward to wealth and success.” Ah, but they come to die, and Balaam dies--how? He had prayed to God, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like theirs!” Balaam wanted to die the death of the righteous, but how did he die? He died in battle, fighting against the righteous and against the God of the righteous.
When Moses died; how did he die? You know how--standing on Mount Nebo, looking at, Canaan, the Promised Land, in the distance, and melting what he saw into visions of the Promised Land which is above, the New Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all. In death, who would not want to be a Moses, let all who will be Balaam in life? Be it yours and my desire to aspire to be like Moses, both in life and in death. “At the end!” think of that, and whenever you are tempted by sin, or tempted by wealth or honor, look at it by the light--called, “At the end,” “At the end.” God help you to judge with a righteous judgment.
II. And now we will turn to the second side of our lantern. The second light at the end is the light of JUDGMENT.
After death comes the judgment. When we die, we don’t really die! When a man dies, will he live again? Yes, he will--for his spirit never dies. God has made us such strange wondrous creatures, with such far reaching hopes and aspirations, that it is not possible we should die and become extinct. Animals have no longing for immortality; you never hear them sigh for the celestial state: they have no fear of judgment, because there is no second life, no judgment for the animal that perishes. But the God who gives to man the fear of things to come, and makes him feel and long after something better than this earthly life provides, cannot have mocked us, cannot have made us more wretched than the beast that perishes, by giving us passions and desires never to be gratified.
We are immortal, every one of us, and when the stars cease to exist and the sun’s great furnace is extinguished for lack of fuel, and, like a scroll, God’s universe is rolled up, we will still be living a life as eternal as the Eternal God himself. Oh, when we leave this world, we are told that after death there comes a judgment for us. I don’t know how it is with you--you may be more accustomed to courts of justice than I am--but there always creeps a somberness over me, even in a common court of justice among men, and especially, when a man is being tried for his life. Laughter seems out of place there, and everything is solemn. How much more dread will be in that Court where men and women will be tried for their eternal lives, where their souls rather than their bodies will be at stake! Judgment by our fellowmen is not to be despised. A bold good man can afford to laugh at the world’s opinion; still it is trying to him, for they just may be right: multitudes of men, if they have really thought on the matter, may not all be wrong. It is not easy to be given the judgment of public opinion, and receive the verdict of condemnation; but what will it be like to stand before the judgment throne of God, who is greater than all, and to receive from him the sentence of eternal damnation! God save us from that!
Let us think of this judgment for a moment.
We will rise from the dead: we will be there in body as well as spirit. These very bodies will stand on the earth during the last days: when Christ will come and the trumpet will sound, his people will rise at the first resurrection, and the wicked will rise also, and in their flesh they will see God. Let me think of all that I have done in the light of that. There will be present every man and woman who has ever lived on earth. How will I like to have all my deeds published there? My very thoughts--how will I feel when they are read out loud; what I whispered in the ear--how will I like to have that proclaimed with the sound of trumpet! And what I did in the dark--how will I like to have that revealed in the light? And yet these things must be revealed before the assembled universe. My enemies will be present there. If I have treated them badly, if I have been a backbiter, a slanderer, then it will be declared: if I have been a hypocrite and a deceiver, and made others think I was speaking the truth when I was lying, I will be unmasked then. Those I have injured will be there. The seducer will panic to see those whom he has seduced stand with fiery eyes to accuse him there! With what horror will the oppressor see the widow and the fatherless, whom he drove to poverty, stand there, swift witnesses against him to condemnation! If I have spread false doctrine, a moral pestilence destroying human souls, my victims will be there to gather around me in a circle and, like dogs that bay the deer, each of them demanding my blood. They will all be there, friends and foes. But still even more solemn, “He” will be there--the man of men, the grandest among men, because He is God as well as man, and if I have despised and rejected his salvation, I will then see him in another way and with a much different nature.
“The Lord will come! but not the same
As once in lowliness he came,
A silent Lamb before his foes,
A weary man, and full of woes.
The Lord will come! a dreadful form,
With rainbow-wreath and robes of storm;
On cherub wings, and wings of wind,
Appointed Judge of all mankind!”
How will you face him, you that have despised him? You who have doubted his deity, how will you bear the blaze of it? You rejected and trampled on his precious blood, how will you bear the weight of his almighty arm? When on the cross you would not receive him, and when on the throne you will not escape from him. That silver scepter which he now stretches out to you on earth today, if you refuse to touch it, will be laid aside at your death, and he will take one of another metal, a rod of iron, and he will break you in pieces, yes, he will smash you in pieces like potters’ jars. And God will be there, manifestly there, that God who is here this morning, on the last day of this year, and who sees your thoughts and reads your minds at this very moment, but who is so invisible that you forget that he fills this place, and fills all places; you will not be able to forget him then. Your eyes will see him in that day; you will understand his presence. You will try to be hidden from him; would desire hell itself, and think it a place of shelter, if you could escape from him; but everywhere that fire will encircle you, will consume you, for “our God is a consuming fire.” You will no more be able to escape from yourself than from God. You will find him as present with you as your own soul will be, and you will feel his hand of fire searching for your soul. Unspeakable misery must be yours when the voice of the God-man, will say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fires,” of hell.
I pray to God that you would look at all your actions in the light of the Day of Judgment. Our secret thoughts, let us expose them this morning; they have been lying hidden till they have become moldy; let us bring them out today. My thoughts, how will they look in the light of judgment? My profession of faith, my imaginations, my conceptions, how will they all be when the judgment day will shine on them? My profession of faith, how does that look? I have been baptized in Christ because of my professed faith, I wear the name “Christian,” I preach the gospel, I am a Church officer or a Church member, how will all this stand the light of that tremendous day? When I am put on the scales and weighed, will I be the weight that I am labeled? In that dreadful day will I see the handwriting on the wall, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN”--“You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting”? or will I hear the gracious sentence which will pronounce me saved in Jesus Christ?
As to my graces, what must they be in the light of judgment?
My own salvation, all the matters of experience and knowledge--how do they all look in that light! I think I have believed: I think I love the Savior: I sometimes hope that I am his; but am I really? Will I be found to be a true believer at the end? Will my love be mere lip service or true affection? Will my graces be mere talk, or will they be found to be the work of God the Holy Spirit? Am I vitally united to Christ or not? Am I a mere pretender, or a true possessor of eternal things? Oh, my soul, ask these questions in the light of that tremendous day. I pray to God we could now go forward to the day of judgment, in thought at any rate; and since I feel myself quite unable to lead you there, let me adopt my Savior’s words: “He says that the day will come when he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. There will be some on his left hand to whom he will say, “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. Depart from me, you who are cursed.” Will he say that to you and to me? There will be some on his right hand to whom he will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Will he say that to you and to me? It will be one or the other.
As I stand here this morning, I seem to feel, and I hope you all do too, what a certain man once felt in court. Sentence was about to be given in his case, or, at least he thought the case would be called on immediately, and he rushed to his attorney and he said, “Have we done everything we can do? Are you sure? for if I lose this case I am a ruined man.” His face was white with anxiety. And so it is with you. Have you done everything you can do? for if you lose this case at God’s throne of judgment--you are a ruined man. Come, have you believed in Christ Jesus, or is your faith incomplete? Have you given up your self-righteousness? Have you left your sin? Have you given your heart to the Savior? Is your regeneration still unaccomplished? Are you born again? Are you in Christ? Are you saved? If your case is lost you then you are a ruined man. A man ruined here on earth may still retrieve his fortunes; the bankrupt person may start all over again and still become rich; the captain who has lost a battle may renew the fight and win the next victory and begin the campaign anew; but lose the battle of life, and the fight will be over. Become bankrupt in this life’s business, and you have no more trading. This is the business of eternity.
Soul, is there anything left unfinished? Brother, sister, is there anything left incomplete? for if you lose this case, you are ruined, and that for all eternity. I pray that you look at this day and at all your days, the past and the future, in the light of the day of judgment.
III. But my lamp has a third side to it, bright, gleaming like a cluster of stars. The third light at the end of our lives is the light of HEAVEN.
We hope, when days and years have passed, that many of us will meet to part no more on the other side of the Jordan, in heaven. Now, let us see if we can cast a little light from heaven on things from the present and the past. You have been working--working very hard, and wiping the sweat from your brow, and saying, “My lot in life is not a desirable one. Oh, how tired I feel! I cannot bear it.” Courage, brother, courage, sister; there is rest for the weary; there is eternal rest for the beloved of the Lord, and when you arrive in heaven, how little, how utterly insignificant your labor on earth will seem, even if it will have lasted seventy years. You are in much pain; even now pain shoots through your body; you don’t often know what it is to have an easy hour, and you half murmur to yourself, “Why am I like this? Why did God deal so harshly with me?” Think of heaven, where the inhabitants will never again say, “I am sick;” where there are no groans to mingle with the songs that sing from immortal tongues. Courage, tried one, Oh it will soon be over; it is only a pin’s prick or a moment’s pang, and then eternal glory. Cheer up, and don’t let your patience fail you.
So you have been slandered. You have received shame and reproach because of Christ’s dear name, and you are ready to give up. Come, my friend, look beyond this earth! Can’t you hear the applause of the angels as the conquerors receive, one by one, their eternal crowns? What! Why won’t you fight when there is so much to be won? Must you be carried to the skies on flowery beds of comfort? You must fight if you would reign. Prepare your mind for action and think of the rewards waiting for you in heaven. In the light of heaven, the shame of earth will seem to be less than nothing and vanity.
So you have had many losses and crosses: you were once well-to-do, but now you are poor. You will have to go home today to a very poor house and to a meager meal, Oh, but beloved, you will not be there long. “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” It is only an inn you are staying at for awhile, and, if the accommodation is a little rough, remember you are gone tomorrow; so don’t complain. I pray to God we could look on all our actions in the light of heaven--I mean those who are believers in Jesus Christ. If we could have regrets in heaven, I think it would be that we did not do more than we did for Christ here below. In heaven they cannot feed Christ’s poor, cannot teach the ignorant. They can extol him with songs of praise, but there are some things in which we have the preference over them: they cannot clothe the naked, or visit the sick, or speak words of cheer to those that are sad. If there is anything that can give joy in heaven, surely it will be in looking back on the grace which enabled us to serve the Master. Oh, if I can win souls to Christ, I will be a gainer as well as you. I will have another heaven in their heaven, another joy as it were in their life, and another happiness in their souls’ happiness. And, dear brothers and sisters, if in your Sunday-school teaching, or visiting, or talking to others, you can bring any to glory, you will, if it is possible, multiply your heaven and make it all the more glad and joyful.
Now, look at the life of some Christians. They come here, and if I preach what they call a good sermon, they like it and drink it in. They are willing to eat the best foods and drink the sweetest drinks, but what do they do for Christ? Nothing. What do they give for Christ? Hardly anything. There are a few such people among us, and these are generally the most miserable people you meet with--neither a comfort to others, nor any joy to themselves. Now, I think, even in heaven, though no sorrow should be there, it will only be God’s wiping it away that will keep them from regretting that they did not do what they might have done on earth. We are saved by grace, blessed be God--by grace alone; but, being saved, we desire to make known the savor of Christ in every place, and we believe in heaven we will have joy in having made this known among the sons of men on earth. Look at your joy in the light of heaven, and you will see it differently than it now appears.
IV. Lastly, we now turn to the fourth side of our lamp, and that is the fourth light at the end of our lives, the light of HELL. Let us look at all things in the light of HELL, that dreadful and gloomy light, the glare of the fiery abyss.
Bring that lantern here. Here is a young man very merry. “Ho! ho!” he sings, “Christians are fools.” Hold up the light of Hell. There you are, young man, without God, without hope, with the great iron gate of death shut on you and locked forever, your body and soul in the horrible flames of the wrath of God. Who is the fool now? Oh, when your spirit is damned, as it must be if you live without a Savior, you will not even think of laughing. Laugh now, sir! Scoff now! For a few minutes’ merriment you sold eternal joys. You had a bowl of red stew and you ate it quickly, and you sold your birthright. What do you think of it now? It is an awful thing that men should be content, for a few short hours of silly amusement, to throw away their souls. Look at your fun and games in the glare of the flames of hell. Note that man in agony down in the vault of hell, he made money by sin, and there he is; he gained the whole world and lost his own soul. How does it look now? “I would give fifty thousand dollars,” said a gentleman when he lay dying, “if any man could prove to me, without a doubt, that there is no hell.” That man did not want to believe in a literal hell, and was willing to pay almost anything for some proof to satisfy his conscience, but now, with indescribable pain, he knows hell is real. If lost spirits could return here, surely they would do what Judas did--throw down the thirty pieces of silver in the temple, and curse themselves that they ever took the reward of this world and destroyed their souls.
And how will unbelief look in the flames of hell?
There are no unbelievers anywhere except on earth: there are none in heaven, and there are none in hell. Atheism is a strange thing. Even the demons never fell into that vice, for the Bible says, “the demons believe and shudder.” Yet, there are some of the devil’s children that have gone beyond their father in sin, but how will it look when they are forever lost? When God’s wrath crushes them, they will not be able to doubt his existence. When he tears them in pieces and there is no one to save them, then their sophisticated reasoning, their empty logic, their boasts and showy defiance, will be of no avail. Oh, that they had been wise and had not darkened their foolish hearts, but had turned to the living God!
I have another thought which will come home to some of your spirits with special power. How will procrastination seem when you get to hell?
Some of you have been attending this church for a long time: you have often felt conviction in your hearts, but you have always said “Tomorrow,” “Tomorrow.” You have been aroused and aroused again, but still it has been “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.” How that word “tomorrow” will ring in your ears when you are actually burning in the fires of hell! What would you not give for another day of mercy, another hour of grace? I feel this morning as if I would do with you what the Roman Ambassadors did with Antiochus. They met him and asked him whether he intended war or peace. He said he hadn’t decided yet; and one of them taking his staff, made a circle around him where he stood, and said, “You must answer before you leave that spot. If you step out of the circle then it is war. Now, war or peace?” And I too would draw a circle around you in the pew this morning, and say to you, “Which will it be, sin or holiness, self or Christ? Will it be grace or hostility, heaven or hell? And I pray you answer that question in the light of hell. It is a dreadful light, but it is a revealing one. It is a fire that will devour the scales that cover your eyes and prevent you from seeing clearly. God grant that it may burn those scales away, that you may now see how dreadful a thing it is to be an enemy of God, and be led by his Holy Spirit to plead for mercy from Jesus Christ even now.
Ah, how will the gospel seem in the light of hell, and how will your indifference to it seem?
When I was thinking of preaching this morning, I wished that I could preach as in that light. To think that there are some to whom I have spoken again and again, who during this year have passed out of this world of hope and into the fires of despair, is a dreadful thought. Persons that occupied these pews, some even stood during the service and listened and heard the gospel--and now they are gone! Did I warn them fairly, truly? If not--if you didn’t warn them, then they perished, but their blood God will require at our hands. My God, by the blood of the Savior, set us free from these men! Oh deliver us from that solemn condemnation. But with those of you that still live, I will be innocent of your blood. Dear listeners, don’t you feel that you are mortal? Don’t you have within you a sense that you are dying? It is a thought that is always with me; life seems so short. It was not always this way with me; but the shortness of life now seems to hang over my mind perpetually, and I suppose it must be so for those of you who are thirty, forty, fifty, or sixty, and who frequently see your friends taken away. Now, since you too must soon die, since there is a world to come, and you believe there is, how can some of you play with these things? How is it that while you are attentive to your business, you neglect the business of your soul? What are you waiting for, my friend? Are you waiting for another season? Doesn’t the Bible say, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”? What are you waiting for? Oh that you were wise, and would think of the end of your life and seek after God! I call on you, because of the shortness of life, because of the certainty of death, because of the terrors of judgment, because of the glories of heaven, because of the agonies of hell, to seek the narrow path to heaven and follow it. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. This is the gospel, “Whoever believes in Christ is not condemned.” To believe is to trust. Oh, that you may have grace to trust your souls with the Lord Jesus now and forever, and then we will not need to fear those words, “At the end,” nor the four lights at the end of our lives: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. God bless you, for his name’s sake. Amen.
Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Spurgeon Collection" by:
Bible Bulletin Board
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Online since 1986