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Matthew 28
posted August 9, 2012

Revelation 13
posted August 16, 2012



Sermon of the Week #200841 – October 12, 2008

And in those days cometh John the Baptist, preaching. With those words John leaps upon the stage of Biblical history, even as it is written, “And he came into all the region round about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord. Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight. And the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

So John came preaching in the wilderness. Now who would go into the wilderness to hear anyone preach the Word of God? It appears almost everybody; they went out from Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region around about the Jordan.

Someone has written, “When you build a better mouse trap, build a better house, preach a better sermon, write a better book, the world will beat a path to your door though you build your house in the wilderness.” That is the way it was with John when we are told, “He came preaching.”

The Apostle Paul would say later on in 1st Corinthians 1:21, “For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” If the world is to be saved by the foolishness of preaching, just what is some of this foolishness that John came preaching? I must say at this time what Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 11:1, “Would that you could bear with me in a little foolishness.” So the following is a sampling of gospel foolishness.


We begin with what John said about repentance. He said, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” If I had lived at that time, and had been in charge of John’s itinerary, the last place in the world I would have booked him would have been the wilderness of Judea. I would have told John, “If you are going to preach on repentance you don’t need to do it there. This is the holiest place in the world. The High Priest holes up in Jerusalem. The Temple is there, and there are more synagogues in this area than anywhere else in the world. No one plays the ponies. There are no slot machines. There are no x-rated movies. There are no drug-pushers. There are no porno shops. On Friday night they roll in the sidewalks early, and everybody is in services all day Saturday. There is more holiness per square foot, per square yard, per square heart than any place else in the world.”

I would have told him that if he wanted to preach on repentance, he should go to Rome, or Corinth, or Ephesus, one of the sin cities of the world. Don’t preach it here. We don’t need it. However, I seem to remember reading a verse where it says, “There came a man sent from God whose name was John.” The reason John came to Judea with the message of repentance was because God had sent him.

I take my cue from this and say that the message of repentance needs to be preached in the holiest place of all today, namely the meeting places of the New Testament Church. Our message needs to be, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

In Luke 13:4-5, the Lord put special emphasis on repentance when He referred to an act of terrorism well-known at the time when He said, “Those eighteen, upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and killed them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwell at Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay, but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” While we may not know the particulars of what happened, Jesus evidently taught the innocent in this case were also guilty.

This brings to mind those hideous men who tore down the Twin Towers. Think ye that they were sinners above all people who live in America? Nay, but except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish. Years ago Adolph Eichmann was hanged for the killing of six million Jews; and the last thing he said to the reporters as he was led to the gallows was, “Gentlemen, I’ll be seeing you.” His meaning was clear; we shall all meet again at the judgment. Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.

Repentance does not come easy for many. In the gospel according to Luke 16:19 is the story of the rich man and a certain beggar named Lazarus. The rich man died unrepentant; and in Hades lifted up his eyes in torment, and saw Lazarus afar off in a state of bliss, and from eternity, plead that Lazarus be sent to his five brothers, and testify unto them lest they come to this place of torment. He was informed, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.” The rich man replied, “If one go unto them from the dead they will repent.” Then he was told, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from the dead.” The testimony of the Word of God is clear; if they won’t hear Jesus and the Apostles in the Word of God, they will not hear anyone, even one risen from the dead. The unrepentant would not even hear the impassioned pleas of Judas Iscariot, Caiaphas, Pilate, or King Herod risen from the dead; pleading with them to repent.

Then Peter in his second epistle gives this word of warning, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promises, but is long-suffering to you and is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The church that preaches the message of repentance today is a modern-day voice crying in the wilderness.


Another area where John had something to say that does not fit in with the present-day is in the area of Hell. Listen to him as he says, “His fan is in His hand and He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing floor. He will gather His wheat into the garner, but the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire.”

We all like to think of Heaven, but thoughts of Hell are pushed aside as long as we are in good health, and many glibly say, “God is too compassionate to let anyone go to such a place.” Many would agree with Robert Green Ingersoll, an agnostic who said, “The preaching of Hell puts the beak of a vulture on the Dove of the Holy Spirit, and the fangs of a snake in the mouth of the Lamb of God.” But the day comes when we are faced with our mortality, and then saint and sinner alike give thought to a verse of scripture they may never have read, but comes to every mind anyway. Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the  judgment.”

A man told me recently he went to the hospital for a very serious operation. He said when he awakened he thought for a moment that he had died, and gone to Hell. Since he was not a Christian, I thought to myself, it appears that some people believe in Hell a lot more than they claim or realize.

I read of a great preacher years ago who said, “No preacher should ever preach on Hell without tears in his eyes.” There is much truth in that, because it is the most terrible topic in Biblical teaching that can be raised. Many are convinced that Jesus is so full of compassion, that He would never teach such a thing; and they are right, except they are a little twisted in their thinking. Jesus was so compassionate, that He went to the cross, and suffered unspeakable agony to save me from going to such a place.

The New Testament is the last revelation from God, and here are a few direct quotations from Jesus and His Apostles regarding this important subject, and no further comment is needed: Mark 9:43-47, “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed than two hands to be cast into the unquenchable fire. And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: and cast it from thee, for it is better for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having two feet to be cast into Hell. And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out: it is good for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye rather than having two eyes to be cast into Hell, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.”

Matthew 10:28, “And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell.”

Matthew 25:41, 46, “Then shall He say unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me ye wicked into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels...And these shall go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into eternal life.”

Revelation 20:10, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Revelation 21:8, “But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderer, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.”

John’s question to the Pharisees and the Sadducees is a good question today, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” And the answer comes through loud and clear, “Nobody told us to flee from the wrath to come. NO BODY!” Actually we have been told, “There is no Hell, and everyone is going to heaven.”


And a third topic is in the area where Matthew had something to say about the baptism of Jesus, “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan unto John to be baptized of him.” Matthew could just as well have said, “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Gethsemene, then cometh Jesus to be beaten with rods, then cometh Jesus to be spit upon, then cometh Jesus to wear a crown of thorns, then cometh Jesus to be nailed to a cross---then cometh Jesus.”

However, in this case it was, “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized of John.” John had certainly picked the right place at the Jordan to baptize, because at a later time Jesus Himself had returned to the same spot where He was baptized and we are told in John 3:22-23, “Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judaea and tarried with them, and baptized. And John was also baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came and were baptized.”

John had moved his pulpit as close to the water as he could get it. He got so close that when the time came for people to make a decision, they were close enough to get into the water without delay.

Now this was a most unusual event. The scene before us seems to be like a celestial board meeting of the Holy Trinity at the Jordan River. Jesus the Son comes up out of the water, the Holy Spirit of God descends on Him in the form of a dove, and the Father is revealed by His voice, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” It is evident that the matter of our soul’s salvation by the shedding of the blood of Jesus the Son was equally approved by all three members of the Godhead.

Now there are several points of interest in this event; the first item that gets our attention is the portrayal of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. The significance of the dove may be seen at the time of the flood in the days of Noah. Of course most people today have forgotten the flood. In 2nd Peter 3:5-7, the Apostle tells us about it, “For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the Word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”

In Genesis chapter eight after those forgotten flood-waters had abated, Noah sent forth a raven and the raven never came back. Then he sent forth a dove and the dove found no rest for her feet. Noah waited seven more days, and sent her out again, and this time she returned with an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. And he stayed yet another seven days, and sent forth the dove; which returned not unto him anymore. God had made peace with men.

When the Holy Spirit in the form of the dove appeared at the baptism of Jesus, it was surely a sign that God was ready to make peace with any sinner, and that is why it is said at the baptism of Jesus, “The Heaven was opened unto Him,” and will they not be opened unto us at our baptism as well?

A gospel song of yesteryear says it for us:

“Buried beneath the yielding wave the great Redeemer lies

Faith views Him in the watery grave, and thence behold Him rise.

With joy we in His footsteps tread, and would His cause maintain

Like Him be numbered with the dead, and with Him rise and reign.

Now blest Redeemer we to Thee, our grateful voices raise

Washed in the fountain of Thy blood, our lives shall be Thy praise.”

And then a second item is the thought on the heavens were indeed opened unto Him, but the heavens were also opened to Him again at the ascension in about three years in Acts 1:9, “And as they were looking, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” But between the opening of Heaven at His baptism, and the opening of Heaven at His ascension, there was the cross and resurrection before Him as stated in Hebrews 12:2, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

And now the last point of interest is the descent of the Holy Spirit at the baptism of Jesus that marked the beginning of the ministry of Jesus on earth. And the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost marked the beginning of the ministry of the church on earth to go into all the world armed with the great commission. In Matthew 28:18-20: “All authority hath be given unto Me in Heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”