ESCAPE FOR THY LIFE

 

By

 

D. M. PANTON, B.A.

 

Blazing beacon-lights God has set in history for the warning of succeeding generations; and the extreme gravity of these divine parallels is that they will be proved to be parallel in fact - the warning is a prophecy: what happened before, repeats itself.So our Lord, when picturing the mocking lawlessness of the last days, and of the rapture in which one is taken and one is left, says:- "As it came to pass in the days of Lot, AFTER THE SAME MANNER" - that is, it is more man a warning, it is a parallel- "shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed" (Luke 17; 28).And what makes of overwhelming importance to the Church is that, in this parallel, one point, and one point alone, the Lord singles out for extraordinary emphasis:- "REMEMBER LOT'S WIFE" (Luke 17; 32); and the nearer we approach the fulfilling the parallel, the more vital, the more urgent, becomes this point on which our Lord casts the whole emphasis.

 

SODOMY

 

Sodom at once stresses one of the most appalling facts of life; namely, that all sin, and any sin, is the beginning of corruption beyond all words, for which the only possible solution is brimstone and fire. It is indescribably awful that the sin of Sodom, for which Sodomites flocked from all parts the city, is now named with something like open commendation in modern England. Dr. Hare says (Encyclopaedia of Sexal Knowledge, P. 350):- "After all, the boundary between the normal and the abnormal is mainly a question of custom and definition. Let it be remembered that in ancient Greece, homosexuality between men and youths was considered the height of sublimity in erotic manifestations, and was officially recognized*

 

[* For a regenerate, unwatchful, and disobedient believer to imagine that it is not possible that he/she could be given up to Ďlustsí and Ďvile passionsí, is to blind oneís eyes to Bible facts. (Rom. 1: 24-32; cf. 1 Cor. 1: 2; 5: 1, 5, 11; 6: 9, 10.).]

 

SEPARATION

 

But immediately a most blessed revelation is given by the Jehovah Angel to Lot. "Haste thee, escape (to Zoar), for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither." Here a principle is revealed of the utmost importance. Godís hands are tied for judgment until the godly have escaped. This is a critical overthrow, manifestly designed as such in our Lordís parallel, of the theory that the [whole] Church of Christ, necessarily and by the design of God, passes through the coming Day of Terror. On the contrary, the Jehovah Angel says that the Most High is powerless to pour forth judgment even on a world ripe in iniquity until the sanctified are removed: then, instantly - with Lot entering Zoar - brimstone rains on Sodom. So, while believers are to be judged, that judgment is to be located in the heavens after their removal by angels; and it is not Godís design, it is no planning of His, if Christians are caught in the hurricane of the Day of the Lord. "For God appointed us not unto wrath" (1 Thess. 5: 9), an ultimate wrath which is exactly Sodomís:- "The earth also, and the things that are therein, shall be burned up" (2 Pet. 3: 10).

 

MOCKERY

 

Now the drama begins. The reaction of Lotís sons-in-law is infinitely significant. In response to Lotís warning cry - "Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy the city", they simply regarded him as "one that mocked": possibly, one that joked: in any case, a fantastic fool. It is identical to-day. The response to our cry is contemptuous unbelief. Miracles do not happen, and cities are not wiped out by fire: if there be a God, He is merely an absentee proprietor: unalterable law for thousands of years proves your warning a fantasy. So it is foretold. "In the last days mockers shall come with mockery, saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Pet. 3: 3). How almost agonizing the situation! Concealed beneath a house we have discovered a bomb with a time-fuse: we rush to warn the inmates, whose sole hope lies in prompt flight: the time-fuse lessens with every secondís tick.

 

ANGELS

 

A fresh, vivid touch is now given to the parallel. How are the godly to be removed? By angels. "And when the morning arose" - the dawn of the new day - "the angels hastened Lot, and laid hold upon his hand." So our Lord says - "The reapers are angels" (Matt. 13: 39), who lay hold on the wheat to be reaped. Each of the group is held by an angel: two angels, we are told, laid their hands on four people - that is, they escape with an angelís hand on each of the four persons. And it is no unconscious removal of sovereign grace: "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the Plain, lest thou be consumed" (verse 17). So our Lord, after fully sketching what is coming, says:- "Watch ye" [disciples], "and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to ESCAPE" (Luke 21: 36).

 

LINGERING

 

There is probably a wealth of meaning for us all, at this juncture, in Lot. "The angels hastened Lot; but he lingered". Observe carefully, here is the holiest man in Sodom; one who welcomes and entertains Godís Angels; who fully accepts prophecy; who witnesses the truth to a mocking world: and yet - he lingers. Why? We are not told. There is no question of Lotís regenerate nature and godly conduct. "Righteous Lot", says Peter, "sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds" (2 Pet. 2: 7). Possible reasons for our own indecisiveness may be found here. The Angels said nothing about saving any portion of his wealth: the utter scepticism he met may have slightly damped the flame of his faith: the imminence of the judgment may have become less sure in his mind: in any case, the immediateness and completeness of the renunciation demanded by God made him hesitate. Nevertheless, the one redeeming point, which saves the whole situation, is that when commanded by God to concentrate everything on escape, he does so: however reluctant, he abandons all. In the beautiful summary: "The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot came unto Zoar."

 

LOOKING BACK

 

Now we reach the sole point which our Saviour singles out for emphasis. All the godly in Sodom, believing the imminent judgment, and obeying the command of the Angels, escape, and have no share whatever in Sodomís eternal [impending] doom: nevertheless Lotís wife - in graciousness to her, our Lord, and the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, omit her name - pictures forth for ever a section of the People of God. "His wife looked back from behind him": that is, she slipt behind him, and then looked back.* Our command is identical with that given to her:- "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee" (Prov. 4: 25); or as our Lord expresses it - "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also" (Matt. 6: 20). Lotís wife was not deaf to the call; she accepted the prophecies of doom; she felt the danger, and fled: but the sun rose; the lovely valley unfolded; the delightful home could be seen in the distance; there was no trace of danger: she looked back. "No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is FIT FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD" (Luke 9: 62). In the words of Dr. A. T. Pierson:- "Lotís wife has always had more followers than Godís angels have."

 

[* There can be no possibility of unrepentant backsliders or un-restored regenerate believers "accounted worthy" to escape the coming Great Tribulation. The "crown" is not a free gift as many suppose; it is a reward for fidelity, that is, for strict adherence to Bible fact and truth: it can only be attained by the overcomers, (Luke 21: 34-36; Rev. 3: 10, 11): and many of those who are left to endure the Great Tribulation, will have an opportunity of winning their Ďcrowní by martyrdom.]

 

A PILLAR OF SALT

 

The judgment of God can be like lightning. "And she became" - literally, "she was", that is, in a flash - "a pillar of salt". Judgment is abroad, and she has partially escaped: nevertheless she incurs a unique judgment, a judgment that has nothing whatever to do with the fire and brimstone of Sodom: exactly so - in this parallel of tremendous importance to us - believers, after removal by angels, can be smitten at the Judgment-Seat of Christ. "Blessed is that servant whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. But that servant which knew his lordís will" - Lotís wife had been explicitly told not to look back - "and made not ready" - our duty is equally to be ready for angels who shall compel us out of our Sodom - "nor did according to his will, shall" - that is, when his Lord cometh - "be BEATEN WITH MANY STRIPES"* (Luke 12: 47). Lotís wife escaped the brimstone and fire, but not the salt.

 

[* All regenerate Bible teachers, who know these responsibility truths but refuse to disclose them to the Lordís redeemed people, particularly spring to mind as those who will be included here, unless their repentance is forthcoming.]

 

REMEMBER

 

So our Lord casts all on the only person of the Old Testament He ever singled out for emphasis, and turning away from the multitude whom He had been addressing, "he said unto the disciples, Remember Lotís wife" (Luke 17: 22).* In other words, her peril is ours: God turned her to salt, not only as a punishment to her but as a warning to us, and our Lord, localizing the warning on the Church, says, "Remember", for she is the one person in the whole scene we are likely to forget.** What then are we to remember? What she was,*** what she did, and what she experienced. Lotís wife was in living communion with the only godly people of that age; she believed in prophecy, and acted on it; she abandoned all in Sodom, at the command of God; she completely escaped its doom; she had run well, and was in the last lap: nevertheless, though chosen, out of the whole city, as one of only four to be delivered, and one who had actually seen judgment beginning in the blind Sodomites groping for the door, she yet is overtaken by judgment.Ļ Our lesson is contained in an army command of the Great War. On the eve of the critical battle on the Marne, the French Commander-in-Chief issued this order to the French armies:- "At the moment when a battle begins on which rests the fate of our country, NO LOOKS MUST BE CAST BEHIND."

 

[* The command is set exactly between the flight of the godly Israelite to the mountains, and the sudden disappearance of a believer in the ordinary tasks of life: that is, Lotís wife is a warning to both.

 

** Probably that little group of godly refugees would have been profoundly indignant had they been warned that after they had been actually delivered by angels they might be smitten to salt: exactly so the Church to-day; but it happened.

 

*** Calvin might safely have expressed it with more certainty:- "Although it is not lawful to affirm anything respecting her eternal salvation, it is nevertheless probable that God, having inflicted temporal punishment, spared her soul; inasmuch as He often chastises His own people in the flesh, that their soul may be saved from eternal destruction." On Lot seeming, to the citizens of Sodom, to "mock", the Pulpit Commentary says:- "As one that made laughter: from the same root as the word Isaac (Gen. 17: 19; Cf. Judges 16: 25.]

 

[Ļ Note the fact that the Judgment of God fell upon Lotís wife before her death: it is therefore a warning to all believers now. It is inferred by many, that all believers will escape the Great Tribulation; and that all believers will be resurrected at the time of the Ďfirst resurrection.í Not so, according to the teaching of the type now before us: let us Ďpress oní and not look back.]

 

 Nevertheless, there are last that shall be first. In the trenches before Sebastopol, when the hospital staff were going round with stretchers to take up the killed and wounded, one of them said, "Hereís a dead "un," and was about to pass on, when a feeble voice was heard:- "No, lift me up. Iím worthy a dead one. Give me air." This all but defunct youth became Of Englandís great generals, Lord Wolseley.

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Remember Lotís Wife eíer you hasten

ĎMidst allurements, folly forlorn:

Eternityís in the balance,

Measuring Time with scorn.


Look not eíen behind you

Oíer all the grassy plain:

The judgment fires are falling,

Swallowing Sodomís gain.

 

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