Billy Graham - What Is the World Coming to?
I want you to turn with me to Luke, the 21st chapter, verses 25 through 28. Luke 21. "And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring. Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh". I want to call your attention to two words in that 25th verse. "And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and the stars". In other words, signs in outer space. "And upon the earth, at the same time, there'll be distress". That word distress means pressed from all sides. "of the nations with perplexity". That means no way out. Pressures will be so great that no one sees any way out.
Is there any hope as we look at the future of our world? Think of the things that have happened in the last 150 years, 130 years ago, man could not travel any faster than a horse could run. That's all. Look at the world today. When I was born. I was born on November the seventh, 1918, and four days later, they heard it in Europe and stopped the war. That's what my father used to say. And another one started in North Carolina. But be that as it may, look at the things that have happened in my lifetime. When I was born, there was no such thing as radio. I can remember the first set we had. It was a crystal set that my father had made, and there was only one station on the air, KDKA in Pittsburgh. And my father would fix that thing up and hear something saying, woo, woo, woo, woo. He said, "That's it".
Now that was radio in my lifetime. Automobiles hadn't been on the scene too long, and a freeway was unheard of. The only freeway we had was two ruts. And you had to fight the fellow coming towards you to see which rut you were going to use. And up in the mountains where we lived, there wasn't any paved roads, or where we went to visit because we were born in the Piedmont section. And television. I remember the New York World's Fair. I was already preaching at that time in 1939, 1 year before... Well, just a few months before the war was to break out. And you see this was called the Christian century, when we would have peace and utopia upon the world with social justice.
What happened? In just a few years, we had two world wars that slaughtered millions and millions of people and disrupted the life of the whole planet. It looks like we're building up toward another war, God forbid, because if we ever have another one that could be the last war, because it could be Armageddon, the last war of history. But in this passage, they were pressed from all sides, and it seemingly there was no hope. That's the question that is haunting people everywhere today. People pick up their morning newspapers, and see the headlines, and they're asking the question, "What is the world coming to"? Millions of people all over the world today are desperate to know what the future holds. And it's interesting to me that the scientists are telling us and they're speculating, and the sociologists are speculating, and psychologists and psychiatrists are speculating, the farmers out in Minnesota and Iowa are speculating.
Everybody is speculating, "What does the future hold"? But somehow, the church is almost silent And yet there's so much in the Bible about the future. What the future holds. God has a plan for the future. Computers are used on a massive scale to predict the future. In the midst of pessimism, gloom and frustration of the present hour, I want to tell you today, there is a hope and that hope is in the fact that Jesus Christ is going to come again. Yes, there is hope. Jesus said, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again". Now He had been to the cross and shed His blood for our sins because the Bible says, "We've all sinned and come short of the glory of God". We're all under condemnation. We're all facing judgment. We're all sitting under the sword of Damocles and we all need redemption. We all need forgiveness. Billy Graham needs forgiveness.
I don't want justice in my life with God. I want mercy, forgiveness. I don't deserve heaven. I don't deserve to have my sins forgiven, but God is a God of grace and love and mercy. And grace means something you don't deserve. And He offers His grace to every one of us, whatever the color of our skin, whatever our background. And he says, I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you so much that I was willing to give My Son on the cross to die for you and Jesus Christ died for us. And God laid upon him all of our sins. And we're going to go to heaven because of what Christ did on that cross. But He rose, but He also rose again. And then, after He had died on the cross and risen from the dead and ascended back to the Father, the disciples stood there, looking at Him, as He was ascending. And I believe that the cloud that the Bible describes is really a cloud of angels that had come to take Him back and escort him back, as they escorted Him that first Christmas night. And He ascended and the disciples were standing there with tears in their eyes.
Their Master was going, Jesus was going away from them back to the heavenly Father. And two men in white apparel stood beside them. Two great angels and said to them, "You men of Galilee, why do you stand here, gazing into heaven? This same Jesus that you see going into heaven shall so come in like manner". He's coming back. And it was the fact of the resurrection and the coming again of Christ, that they went out to turn the world upside down. That was their motivation. They had within them the hope that death and hell had been conquered. And that someday there was going to be peace and justice in the world. Without hope the world could not go on.
Emil Brunner was a great theologian in Switzerland and a wonderful friend of ours, and a great encourager to me as a preacher. And he once said, "What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life". Nobody can live without hope. John F. Kennedy once said, "It remains to be seen whether civilization would be mended before it's ended". Winston Churchill's favorite American song was "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of The Coming of The Lord," that we heard a moment ago. And the great creeds of the church teaching. The Nicene Creed that I heard over and over again in the Soviet Union said in those great Orthodox cathedrals and the people would be standing and they would say the Nicene Creed. And it says in the Nicene Creed, "He shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead". He's coming again. Then secondly, Jesus left signs of His coming.
People are always asking me at press conferences. They say, "Do you believe Jesus Christ is coming again"? And I say, "Yes". They say, "Do you know when"? No, I don't know when. I tell them Jesus warned against speculating on dates. It could be tonight. It could be a million years from now. I don't know. I only know one thing. I'm to be faithful in the job He's called me to do now. I'll talk about that in a minute. But in Matthew 24, the disciples were sitting at the Mount of Olives. And Peter, James, John, and Andrew. And they asked three questions of Jesus recorded in Matthew 24. They said, "When shall these things be"? "What shall be the sign of your coming"? and "What shall be the sign of the end of the age"? Not the end of the world, just the end of an age. An age that's dominated by evil. That will come to an end.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke differ slightly, but a condensation of a much longer discussion is found in Matthew 16 and in Luke 21 and so forth. And in Matthew 16 it says, "When it's evening, you say it'll be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and lowring. Oh, you hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times". And in that brilliant little parable, what Jesus was saying was this: in the realm of scientific observation, man is tremendously brilliant; but in the realm of spiritual awareness, he's astoundingly ignorant. We live in a world of maddening complexity, in an age of doubt and upheaval, in a generation which has lost its bearings and lost its way. As we scan the face of the contemporary skies, what do we see? Another missile blows up yesterday?
I wrote a book on the four horsemen of the apocalypse. And during the study and preparation for that book, I learned a great many things. Those four horsemen are predicted by the Lord Jesus Christ in this 24th chapter of Matthew, because the first horse has to do with false Christs, false religion. The devil never seems to run out of counterfeits, counterfeit Christ today. Do you know that I read in a paper some time ago that there are over 400 people in Los Angeles alone that claim to be the messiah. False religion everywhere. You can find that I'm sure here in Washington. And then the second thing was the red horse. Wars and rumors of wars. And certainly, I don't have to emphasize that. Rumors of war are everywhere.
And then the third horse is the black horse, and that stands for famine. And in this century, think of it in this century of plenty and all the wealth of this century, more people are starving than probably any other period in the history of the world. Millions of people starved to death last year in Africa alone. Thank God for those organizations and those groups that were helping those people. And then there was the pale horse. In spite of all the advantages of modern medicine and pesticides, the 20th century has had tremendous epidemics. The prospect of man-made diseases for which we do not have any resistance is a horrible prospect. AIDS is only the beginning. And we keep reading in the paper that maybe they're on the verge of discovering something to help AIDS. I hope so. I pray so. I feel sorry for those people that have it, but if we don't find an answer to it, we're told that millions of people will have it in the next five years. It's spreading like wildfire. But that's just one. Think of others we haven't even heard of yet that are on the way. That's the pale horse.
So, we see these horses galloping. Riding toward us with all their devastation, with all their ability to destroy the world that we know. And it all comes as the judgment of God. But it's also God's speaking to us in love and saying turn to the cross. Like those people that had been bitten by snakes out in the desert. Those Israelites. It said turn to the serpent of brass and be saved. Those that turned were saved. Those that did not were lost. There's nothing about a brass serpent that could heal them. It was by faith, doing what God said do, and that's something man doesn't want to do because man is a rebellious person.
We don't want to obey God's laws. We don't want to do what God says. We don't want to act like the good Samaritan and go out and help our neighbors that are suffering. We don't want to love certain people. We consider them beneath us, or inferior to us, or something else. We don't want to love them. And yet the Scripture teaches that we're to love. And that love is to be the dominant feature, if you're to follow Christ. Now, the Scripture has a great deal to say about signs, many more signs; like the loss of fervent love in the church. That's the reason we need revival in the church today, because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will grow cold, the Bible says. "And then, as in the days of Noah, they were eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage". In other words, there was immorality, and break up of marriages, and homes breaking up. And Jesus said, it's going to be that way again, just before my coming. And then the proclamation of the gospel. He says, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached into all the world for a witness to all nations. Then shall the end come".
For the first time in history, we have the ability now by radio, by television, by the printed page, to carry the gospel to every person in the whole world and it's being done. Jesus said that would happen just before He returns. That's one of the signs we're to look for. I never dreamed in 1960, 1959, Grady Wilson and I sat in Lenin stadium in Moscow, beautiful stadium, and they were cleaning it up and there was music playing and the music playing was Rosemary Clooney singing. And we prayed, "Oh God, if it be Thy will help us to come someday to the Soviet Union and preach the gospel". I prayed it, but I didn't believe it. I never dreamed that God had a plan that someday we would preach the gospel in various parts of the Soviet Union. But God, in His own providence, worked it out. The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world.
You know, when Mao Zedong took over China, there were about two or three million Christians, according to Time Magazine. Do you know how many believers there are there today, without any missionaries? Between 30 and 50 million. God has been working mightily. He's not dependent on us, us Americans. God works through all the people. And we're going to have a... Now, what is going to be the results of the coming of Christ? Well, first of all, there's going to be an examination. Man will be accountable to God at the judgment. Exam time. Like the old grandmother and the little boy who said to his friend, said, "What in the world is your grandmother doing"? She was reading her Bible. He said, "She's cramming for exams". And one of these days, a lot of us are going to be cramming, but it may be too late. The Bible says in Isaiah 51, "And everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away".
Is there any hope? Yes, there's tremendous hope for those that put that trust and their faith in Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? Are you sure that you know Him? Have you received Him into your heart? There's a challenge to the fact that He's coming again. First, we're to be pure. In 1 John 3, it says, "Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself". And then secondly, we can be patient watching. To watch implies not only to believe that He will come, but to desire that He would come, to be often thinking of His coming, and to be always looking for it. Paul wrote, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ". And then we're to be prepared. "Therefore be ye ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh". And then we are to be occupied. The greatest motivation for service among believers today is the fact that Jesus Christ is coming again, and did we have hope. And we're living in a world without hope. Are you ready?
You say, "Well, Billy, what would I have to do to get ready"? Because I want to tell you something. We talk about the end of the world. Do you know when the end of the world can come for you? It might not be the coming of Christ, like I’ve just explained. The moment you die, that’s the end of the world for you. That's the end of the world for you You enter another world: heaven or hell. And you travel to one of those two places by a broad road that leads to destruction and the narrow road that leads to heaven. Which road are you on? Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me". In other words, "come in and eat with Me," He said. He has his arms out-stretched. And He says, I want you to come to me. I want to forgive your sins. I want you to know that you're going to heaven when you die. Are you sure of that? Are you certain of that? What do you have to do?
First, first repent of your sins. It's very simple and yet very difficult too. It means that you say to God, "I have sinned. I'm sorry for my sin". Will you say that? And then you say "God, with your help, I can't do it alone, but with your help, I'll turn from my sins. I'll quit. I'll change courses. I'll change roads, but I've got to have your help. I can't do it alone". He'll help you, if you mean it. And then you turn by faith. Now, notice, I said by faith. Now faith means commitment and it means that you're willing to follow Him and serve Him in total commitment to Him. Everything else in your life become secondary. Christ is first. Jesus demands that you believe enough to come to the cross and say, "Lord, I need you, and I believe you're my only hope". You come, and make your commitment to Christ today.
You see this crusade, in which thousands of people that you don't even know, all over the world have prayed for you. They didn't know your name. They didn't know your problem. They didn't know your need, but they'd been praying. Many countries have been praying for this Washington crusade. You may be a member of the church. You may be a good member of the church. You may be an officer in the church, but deep in your heart, you're not sure that you are ready to meet God. You're not sure that you know Christ as your Lord and Master and Savior. You're not sure that you're totally committed to Him.
I'm going to ask you today to take that first step and say, "I do want to be committed." because you see, after you come to Christ, there's a lot more to following Christ than I'm able to tell you this afternoon. It's a lifetime of learning, growing, doing. And it's an exciting time. Even in the midst of suffering, there can be joy. In the midst of tears, there can be a smile, with Christ in your heart and your name written on the book of life. If I didn't know that my name was written on the book of life, I don't believe you could drag me out of this stadium this afternoon till I was sure. I'm going to ask you to do something that you're going to be a little timid about. It's going to be easy, but it's going to be hard. I'm glad it's hard because it was hard, when you look at Jesus on the cross for you, I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat right now and come and stand here on the field and just say by coming:
I open my heart to Christ. I want Him to come in and forgive me and change me. I want to be ready for that moment when I must meet Him.