Billy Graham - Will Our World End?
For our message this evening I want you to turn with me to the 21st chapter of Luke. The 21st chapter of Luke. That's the third book in the New Testament and beginning at verse 7. "And they asked him, saying, master, but when shall these things be? And what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And he said, take heed that ye be not deceived for many shall come in my name saying, I'm Christ, and the time draweth near. Go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified. For these things must first come to pass, but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And great earthquakes shall be in divers places: and famines, and pestilences: and fearful signs and great signs shall there be from heaven, but before all these things, they shall lay their hands on you and persecute you, and put you into prisons and bring you before kings and rulers for my name's sake".
The disciples had come and asked, "When is the end of the world? What is going to be the sign of your coming again"? They believed that Jesus Christ was coming again and there was going to be the end of the age. Not the end of the earth. Not the end of the world that we think of, but the cosmos, the world system that is dominated by evil. Then there's a strange little verse, one of the shortest verses in the Bible, back in Luke 17:32. Beginning with verse 28, it says, "Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot, they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded. But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot's wife".
That's my text tonight: "Remember Lot's wife". Now why would Jesus say a thing like that? A strange thing for him to say: remember Lot's wife. And then in 2 Peter the 3rd chapter the scripture says, "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up". And you say, "Billy, do you think those things are going to take place"?
Well, let's go back and study why Jesus said, "Remember Lot's wife". It started with Abraham. Abraham was called of God. He was a friend of God. He was a great man of God. He was a great man of faith. And when God told him one day to take his only son Isaac and offer him on mount Moriah, he did it. And he was going to offer him as a sacrifice, and God stopped his hand in mid-air as the knife was plunging down. And God was testing him to see how much he really loved God, and how much he obeyed God. And he toured all around the Middle East. He started with Ur, down close to where the Iraq/Iranian war is now being fought. And then he went to Haran with his father Terah and he went from there to Canaan, then went to Egypt, then back to Bethel, and back and forth throughout the Middle East, and he became very rich.
He had large herds of cattle and sheep. And he had his nephew Lot with him. And his wife's name was Sarah. But there's a danger of riches and affluency. Abraham became rich and affluency often brings spiritual poverty, and Abraham committed some sins before the Lord. He straightened them out, he confessed, and God forgave him. The scripture says in Ecclesiastes 6, "A man to whom God has given riches, wealth and honor so that he wanted nothing for his soul". And Jesus said it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get to heaven.
Now who are the rich people? The people that live in Europe, in America, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, in this part of the world are considered rich by the standards of many other countries of the world. Even if we have clothes on, and have shoes on, we are considered rich, and Jesus said it's going to be very hard for a rich person to get into heaven. Why? Because of all the allurements of the world. And because of all the dangers that it brings. Now Lot also became rich. Abraham was rich, Lot was rich, and they decided that they would separate because their servants were not getting along with each other. And so Abraham said, "All right, Lot," said, "If you want to go to the right, you go to the right, and I'll go left. If you want to go to the left, I'll go to the right, you make the choice".
So Lot looked down and saw in the valley the well-watered plains of the Jordan, and then he saw Sodom, and his wife and family probably were urging him, and he chose to go to Sodom. Sodom, a wicked city. You can take all that you think of when you think of Wall Street or Las Vegas or Soho in London, or the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, or the Red Light District of Amsterdam and roll it all into one, and you'd have what Sodom was in that day. Ezekiel the prophet once said, "Behold, this was the iniquity of Sodom, pride". Sodom was very proud. They excluded God. They were proud of themselves and the things they'd done. And then they were filled with bread, it says. "And abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters".
In other words, they had all the things that they needed to give them leisure in their lives. "Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy". They ignored the needy and the poor. And the oppressed of the world. Many times we ignore those of other races. We ignore those people in Africa that are suffering from famine. Or maybe we don't ignore them, but we don't do much about it. Not as much as we could do. And God is going to hold us responsible. And they were haughty, and committed abominations before me. In other words, they were proud, haughty, rich. They had it all, and they neglected the poor and the oppressed of the world, and God said, "Judgment is going to come".
And in Luke the 17th chapter, as we read, "As it was in the days of Lot, they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even thus", listen to this, "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed". As it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Sodom, so it's going to be similar to the days just before the coming again of Christ.
Yes, I believe the Bible teaches in more than 300 places in the New Testament that Jesus Christ is coming back again. That's the hope that beats within the heart of every true believer. Christ was raised from the dead, he is alive, he is at the right hand of God the Father and he's coming back. Now don't ask me when because I don't know. He told the disciples don't try to guess the day nor the hour, don't speculate. We don't know. But he left us certain signs, and it seems to me that these signs are coming together for the first time, perhaps, in history, since he said it. All the signs seem to be there, that the coming of the Lord draws near. We don't know, we're not sure, but it seems that way, because one of the things that he told us was that the Middle East would be in turmoil. He told us about the pestilences.
Look at all that's happening in pestilences. He said the world will be in turmoil. Look at the terrorism that's going on in the world. And the tremendous military buildups around the world. All of these things he said are indications that the coming of the Lord is near. Because you see, the world would destroy itself if God doesn't intervene. But I believe the Bible teaches that God has other plans for the human race. I believe that Christ is coming again, and the Kingdom of God is going to triumph! And those of us that know Christ and have the Kingdom of God within us, we're going to reign with Christ. I'm looking forward to that day when he comes again. And he said, two will be in the bed, one taken, the other left. Two might be flying in an airplane, one taken, the other left.
Now the road to Armageddon is similar to the road to the destruction of Sodom, said Jesus. Now notice, they had that false security. We have a false security, too. We trust in our economic strength and our military power. All of that could go in just a moment. Isaiah the 31st chapter and the first verse says, "Woe to them that go to a pagan country for help and stay on horses and trust in chariots, but they look not unto God, neither seek the Lord". They're not looking to God. We're not seeking the Lord. We're trusting these other things. We're trusting in our dollars and in our pounds. Trusting in our military power. And these things will not save us. We need God. We need to seek the Lord. This is what Isaiah was saying.
And then the second thing, they had a false sense of security, but they were involved in sinful pleasure. They had become satiated. We, too, are that way. And the Bible warns, "The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment". It's only a moment in time. The Bible says in Proverbs 14, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is the way of death". It seems right to go this way, but the end is death, God says. "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness". Even when you're laughing sometimes, aren't you sad? And then when you pick up the papers and watch the news, and all the murders that are going on, and all the things that are taking place.
I hear people say every day they just cannot understand it. And then the scripture says that the people of Sodom were too busy for God. They were too busy making a living and having all their pleasures to give any time to God. And that's the way we are. We don't give God first place in our lives. God doesn't demand a legalistic system under which we live. But he does demand first place in our lives. He wants to be the Lord that sits on the throne of your life and controls your life, and rules your life. And that's why he sent his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross and shed his blood, so that our sins could be forgiven.
Because you see, the problem in the world today is pronounced with one word: sin. And the Bible says we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. We're all sinners. We were born in sin. We're sinners by choice, and we're sinners by practice. And that sin separates between you and God, so that you don't have the sense of fulfillment. You don't know the purpose and the meaning of your life. And you can have all these kicks and all these pleasures, but it doesn't satisfy. Something deep down inside is crying for something more. It doesn't solve the problem of your home. It doesn't solve the problem of your unemployment. Something is out of kilter, something is wrong.
And then they were guilty of idolatry. Idolatry. That's the sin that God hates the most, and that's the sin of the western world today, and it's the sin of the whole world. Romans 1:25 says, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie". And they worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator. And anything in your life that takes the place of God becomes your God. Anything that you think more of and takes your time more than the living God, becomes your God.
And then the next thing that they were guilty of was sex perversion. One of the last directions that a nation takes before judgment is this. Usually found in an affluent society. Not normal sex relations. Perversions of various sorts. Trying to find new ways to get kicks out of sex. That's the full-time occupation of many people, and you go to the newsstands today and you see magazine after magazine dedicated to that. Trying to find some new angle, some new way. Now in the midst of all this place, Sodom, lived Lot. He'd chosen Sodom to make his home. And the scripture says that he was miserable, and he was vexed.
You see, Lot's trouble was that he had one foot in the Kingdom of God, and the other foot in a sinful world, and he was caught between. He wasn't happy in the sinful world. He wasn't happy in the Kingdom of God. And there are many of you like that. You go to church, you're a member of a church and you believe in God with your head, and once in a while you read the Bible, and you have a religious outward appearance, but deep inside your heart you know that your heart belongs to the world. The cosmos, this world system which is dominated by evil.
Many of you have a Christian heritage. Your parents were Christians. You learned from the Bible in school, and you're now a man or a woman of the world, or a young person. But you're never really satisfied with your relationship to God. Something's wrong. Something's lacking. Something's missing. You know what it is? Maybe you haven't been born again. Maybe you haven't really received Christ totally and completely as your Lord and Savior and tonight, on this last night of this tremendous mission, is your night to make that commitment. We have hope in Christ. We have something to offer people. A new day, a new kingdom. A new world! A new world is going to be born. A new heaven, and a new earth. And we're going to be a part of it, because we're in his kingdom.
But Jeremiah wept over Jerusalem, because he saw judgment was coming. And he was called, "The weeping prophet". Jesus wept over Jerusalem 700 years later, and he said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered your children together as a hen doth gather a brood under her wings, but you would not". You wouldn't listen to me, you wouldn't come to me, and now you're in for judgment. God warns Sodom, and he sent two messengers to warn them. But Lot's wife didn't believe. But he did. The messengers warned the wife, said, "Don't look back"! Lot's wife disbelieved and turned into a pillar of salt as she had been warned. The wrath of God was poured out on Sodom and Lot's wife.
And Abraham knew it was coming, and he prayed and he said, "Lord, if you could find 50 righteous people in Sodom, would you save it"? God said, "Yes". "Forty-five"? "Yes". "Thirty"? "Yes". "Twenty"? "Yes". "Ten"? "Yes". But he couldn't find ten righteous people! Ten people totally committed to God so the judgment came. Now, what is the lesson we learn from that statement "Remember Lot's wife"? Why did Jesus say it? First, remember she was the wife of Abraham's nephew and she had lived in Abraham's tent, and many times she had seen the power of God. "And to whom much is given, much is required".
And then secondly, remember what a wrong marriage can do. She was a Canaanite, and God had forbidden his people to marry these pagan tribes round about them. How many men and women have been destroyed by marrying the wrong person who influenced them the wrong way? That's the reason you should marry God's choice.
And then thirdly, I think Jesus said it because we are to remember her sin. It seemed such a small sin. But it represented something far deeper. It represented unbelief over many years. It represented rebellion against God on many occasions. God in his mercy was giving her another chance, and God said, "Don't look back. Don't look back to Sodom. Sodom is controlled by the devil. Don't look back," but she couldn't help it. Her heart was still in Sodom, even though she was escaping the judgment. Her sin didn't seem to be so great, just to look back. But it was something deeper inside of her that caused her to look back.
And then remember, fourthly, that she was almost saved. They were at the gate of Zoar, the city of refuge. You see, in those days, they had cities where people could run to if they'd committed a crime, or committed murder, until they could get their lawyers set, and get everything organized, because people would lynch them or stone them, just with the drop of a hat in those days. So there were cities of refuge that they could run to. And they were right on the edge of Zoar when she turned and looked back. And it was that moment she turned into a pillar of salt. Now the Bible says that Agrippa, the great king, heard Paul preach and he was "Almost persuaded but he hardened his heart". Many of you are almost persuaded to give your life to Christ, but you're gonna take a chance that you can make it without it. Some of you are.
And then fifthly, remember that she was offered salvation. Christ is the place of salvation and refuge. It's at the cross where God poured out his love, and where our sins were borne by Christ. "He was made to be sin for us who knew no sin". He took your sins and my sins. He took my judgment. He took the hell that I deserved on that cross, and when he said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me"? It was because God was looking not at him, God didn't forsake his Son, he forsook the sin that he became because of you. He took the hell that we deserve. She was offered salvation. She could have been saved. That's what they were trying to do, was to get her to the place of safety.
And then sixthly, remember that God never judges without warning. He always warns. We had a flood some years ago in the United States that killed hundreds of people in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. And they went up and down the valley warning the people that the dam had a crack in it and could break at any moment and to evacuate. But the people wouldn't evacuate. The dam broke one night, and scores of people lost their lives. But they had been warned.
And then seventhly, remember when God warns, there's danger in delay. The scripture says, "Prepare to meet thy God". Don't put it off. "He that hardeneth his heart, being often reproved shall suddenly be cut off and that without remedy". Come to Christ while you can. "Now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation".
I'm going to ask you to flee to the place of safety. The only safe and secure place in this whole world is at the cross of Christ and the open tomb. I'm going to ask you to do something that we've seen thousands of people do this week here in this stadium, and in other auditoriums throughout the country. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat, hundreds of you, get up out of your seat right now, and come and stand in front of this platform and say, by coming, "I want to be sure that my sins are forgiven and that I'm going to heaven. I want to be sure that I'm in the Kingdom of God". You get up and come, hundreds of you. No one leaving the stadium, please, at this holy moment as people are already coming here in Bramall Lane.
You know, the night I came to Christ, they sang two songs, and I came on the last verse of the last song and I was a leader in my church. A youth leader. And I'm glad they waited on me. We're going to wait on you. God is speaking to you. There's a little voice inside that says you ought to come, you come. You that are watching in other parts of the world, you get up. Many people kneel beside their television sets. And make their commitment. Some make their commitment lying in bed. Wherever you are, you may be at a bar. We get so many letters from people that watch the television in a bar and they make their commitment. Or in a hotel room. If you're in America or Canada, pick up the phone and call the number on your television screen and make this tremendous commitment to Christ. Don't you let this night pass without you making your commitment. We're going to wait on you from everywhere. There's plenty of time, you get up and come. This is the greatest decision that you'll ever make in your whole life.