Vol: 95 Issue: 20 Thursday, August 20, 2009
If I were to have to choose the saddest statement in all the Scriptures, it would be that of King Herod Agrippa to the Apostle Paul as recorded in Acts 26:28: “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”
In 1871, Philip P Bliss attended a service at which the Reverend Brundage concluded his sermon with the words, “he who is almost pursuaded is almost saved . . . but to be almost saved is to be entirely lost.”
Mr. Bliss was so moved by the thought that he penned the hymn, “Almost Persuaded”.
The last verse goes like this: “Almost persuaded / harvest is past! /Almost persuaded, / doom comes at last! / Almost cannot avail; / Almost is but to fail! / Sad, sad, that bitter wail / Almost, but lost!”
One of the most difficult things in Christian doctrine to get one’s head around is the doctrine of the Trinity. We can do so in a general sense, but if you want to test yourself and see if you really understand it, try explaining it to someone else.
Man is created in God’s image and after His likeness, so it stands to reason that a Triune God would create a triune man. The difference is that Trinity is the same God in Three Persons, whereas triune man is one person in three parts, body, soul and spirit.
Think of man as existing within three concentric circles. The outer circle is physical; it is the ‘soma’ or the body. It is the body that has the five senses, sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch.
These five are the gateways to the soul, or ‘psyche’. The soul of man is often confused with the spirit, which can raise all kinds of misunderstandings. Every living person has a soul. And every living person has a spirit. But not every living person has a living (or, ‘quickened’) spirit.
The Apostle Paul explains, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (Romans 7:9)
Paul isn’t speaking of physical death, obviously. He is speaking of spiritual death. Babies are born in God’s image, a living spirit and incapable of willful sin.
Obviously, babies are unconcerned with keeping the commandments. But there is a point when a child matures enough to understand the choice between keeping the commandment and feeding one of the body’s five senses.
Remember, it is the five senses that serve as gateways to the soul. These are the gateways through which sin makes its entrance.
Paul writes, “And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” (Romans 7:10-11)
Paul was spiritually alive until he sinned for the first time. Until Paul knew what sin was, he could not sin. And he couldn’t know what sin was until he understood right from wrong.
(“Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet”).
Sin entered into Paul through one of the five gates of his body. But it wasn’t sin until it made the transition from the body into the soul. The body’s five senses feed the soul’s five senses; imagination, conscience, memory, reason and affection.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Dividing ‘asunder the soul and the spirit’ and of the joints and marrow (the body) and discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart (imagination, conscience, memory, reason and affection).
Are you still with me? We’ve only scratched the surface of man’s complexity. The ‘natural man’ consists of a living body, a living soul and a dead spirit. The natural man is dead in the sense that he is dead to God and therefore incapable of grasping the things of God.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1st Corinthians 2:14)
Unless and until the spirit of natural man is ‘quickened’ by the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Gospel is foolishness to him.
The spirit of man (pneuma) is ‘quickened’ (made alive by regeneration at salvation) when the Holy Spirit takes up residence. It is the spirit of man that provides the spiritual insight, or food for the soul.
When one’s spirit is quickened, one gains a whole new set of insights; faith, hope, reverence and the both the ability and the need to worship and pray.
That is not to say that the natural man doesn’t aspire towards obtaining the characteristics of the spirit — the spirit of man longs for these things. We are designed with a God-shaped ‘hole in the soul’ — the unregenerate spirit — where the Holy Spirit belongs.
Since the soul can’t help but notice it is incomplete, it is constantly in search of something to fill that empty, aching gap. Some folks fill it with drugs,(imagination) others with sex, (affections) others by replacing God with something else (reason), with false assumptions (conscience) or false experiences (memory).
The five gateways to the soul are as far as these folks get — for reasons known only to themselves and God, they just can’t seem to make it all the way into the inner ring of their soul where their spirit lies dormant.
They are almost persuaded.
King Agrippa believed the prophets, according to Acts 26:27. And so he was aware of Isaiah 53 which taught of the suffering Messiah. Paul preached first the suffering Messiah, then he preached Jesus Christ. “For the King knowest these things,” Paul said.
Agrippa knew the prophets and the prophecies. He therefore knew that Christ had fulfilled those referring to His First Advent. Agrippa understood the Gospel as it was presented. He was “almost persuaded” but not quite. Why?
For the same reason that people are almost persuaded today. He didn’t want to submit — he was convinced by his conscience and his sense of reason, but he “wasn’t ready.” I’ve heard that excuse before and probably so have you. “I am almost ready, but not yet. But when I am ready I am going to do it right.”
What it really means is “I love my sin so much I’m not ready to give it up.”
Other people argue they have an intellectual problem with the Bible and so they just cannot believe. They are “almost persuaded” but they cannot accept the Lord. “Maybe later.”
‘Almost persuaded’ is to be entirely (and eternally) lost. And later is always sooner than you think.
The Apostle James writes, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (Jas 4:14)
In terms of eternity, James tells us, the periods of our individual lives are, in the grand scheme of things, like a puff of smoke.
Eternity is a long time.
By way of analogy, if a sea gull on the West Coast picked up a grain of sand and dropped it on the East Coast, and then came back and repeated the process every ten thousand years, when all the beaches of the West Coast were transplanted to the East Coast, well, that s the first ten MINUTES of eternity.
Jesus told a parable in Luke 12:16-18
“And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”
You and I, everybody you meet, from the mailman to the guy next to you at work, has an eternal destiny. That destiny is either a joyful existence in the presence of God, or a Christless eternity in the place prepared for the devil and his angels.
And make no mistake about it. Hell is a real place. Jesus referred to it three times as a place where the worm dieth not and the fire is never quenched.”
In Luke 16, Jesus tells of Lazarus and the rich man. “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,”
We’ve discussed this passage before. Note that Jesus did NOT say, ‘Learn the parable of the rich man’. Instead, the Lord was specific when He said ‘there WAS a certain rich man.’
Jesus was speaking of a literal event of which He, as God, had specific knowledge. There WAS a certain rich man.
“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”
Stop there. Note the following from Jesus’ account. Before their Pardon was paid for, the righteous dead, like Abraham, Moses, etc, did NOT go directly to heaven, as do Blood-bought Christians of the Church Age.
Instead, they went to Paradise. Jesus did NOT say to the repentant thief, ‘this day you will be with Me in Heaven’. He said, ‘this day you will be with Me in Paradise.’ (Luke 23:43)
Hell was at that time divided in two, one a place of comfort, (Abraham’s bosom, or Paradise) the other a place of torment, but both located physically in hell. Note also that the rich man can see Lazarus, that he speaks of literal torment and literal flame.
Abraham explains the division of hell, and why Lazarus cannot come to him:
“And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” (Luke 16:26)
The rich man cries out, “Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” Stop here again.
Note that the rich man remembers his life on earth. As he will for eternity. He remembers his loved ones, and is conscious of their destiny. He begs Abraham to do something, but Abraham simply tells him that “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”
Now note something EXTREMELY revealing about the exchange. Abraham is Abraham. Lazarus the beggar, is Lazarus.
But the rich man has no name. He has his memories, he has his awareness of his surroundings, he knows the hopelessness of the situation and the only thing he wants more than a drink of water is to save his five brothers.
But HE HAS NO NAME! Why is that so important? Because he doesn’t need one. Nobody will ever speak it again. There is no reprieve, no visitors, no hope and no need for a name. To all intents and purposes, he is dead. BUT — he is eternally aware of it.
Eternally conscious, perpetually lonely, tormented alive, yet dead forever, remembering that one time when you could have escaped the torment.
THAT is what awaits the mailman, or the guy next to you, or your friends or relatives of whom we say, “I’ll talk to him when the time is right” or when he says, “I’ll think about it. Maybe tomorrow.”
Then God says, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.”
It is a terrifying thought.
The facts are these. If heaven is real, then hell is real. If God is real, then Satan is real. The Bible is not a theological smorgasbord where one can pick and choose what to put on their plates and choose to reject other parts as unpalatable. The same Bible that reveals the existence of God and heaven also reveals the existence of Satan, hell and the Lake of Fire.
Despite the best efforts of false teachers to recreate God in their own image, hell is real, and was NOT created initially for man — it was prepared for Satan and the rebellious angels.
Man was created in God’s Image — that is, with an eternal component that can not die. That existence continues somewhere; either in heaven with God, or eternally separated from God.
There is no third option.
That is why God places such great emphasis on the Great Commission. God knows what hell is really like, and gave His Own Son as a substitute sacrifice so that we could escape its torments.
Every person you see today, whether they are bagging your groceries or changing the oil in your car — EVERY PERSON — has an eternal destiny.
They will either spend eternity in unspeakable joy in the presence of the Father in Heaven, or they will spend eternity in equally unspeakable torment, separated from the Father, and remembering the opportunity they squandered to escape their fate.
For those of us that know the truth, that is an awesome thing to contemplate. It rekindles a sense of urgency for the lost. We are the watchmen on the wall.
It is incumbent upon us to be prepared, “and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15)
The Omega Letter exists — not necessarily to preach to the lost — but rather to equip the saved with the knowledge they need to “stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)
The information in your Omega Letter is not for entertainment. We don’t sensationalize events to sell subscriptions. Our goal is to equip the one-on-one evangelist to meet the challenges facing each of us as the clock runs down.
Because it IS running down. And its running down faster than we think. Too many of our family and friends are almost persuaded.
‘Almost’ isn’t good enough.