Probation

Probation

Scripture: Isaiah 55:6-7, Matthew 24:44, Amos 4:12
What is the close of probation? God calls us to seek Him while there is hope. Will there ever come a time when our opportunity to turn to God will end? What does the Bible say about this important topic?
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You know, friends, when there is hope, there is also a chance. Only after the final door of possible help has been closed does a person give up hope. Then death comes quickly because there is no will or desire from which to draw strength.

Fearful though it seems to face a hopeless problem in the physical world, it is much more terrible to lose all hope spiritually. When the door closes on the last chance for eternal life, the prospects are too terrible to describe.

I read from Isaiah 55:6, 7, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." The Lord here gives a very, very strong inference that is borne out in other parts of the Bible. "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found." The inference is that one of these days He will be a long ways away, so far that one seeking for Him then will not be able to find Him. The time is coming when it will do no good to make an attempt to get in touch with God, that is the time we sometimes refer to as the "close of probation." As Jesus says in Matthew 24:44, "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." We know not what hour it may be that probation will close.

Amos 4:12 gives a solemn warning to every Christian, and I believe it is a message that needs to be sounded in every part of the land. "... thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." You know, it is so easy for us to fit into the modern picture today, when everyone is trying to find something that will entertain, something that might satisfy, something that would tickle their fancies; but the message that needs to be sounded today is a warning message, a message that will stir our hearts. "Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." This is speaking to church members, those who call themselves God's people.

Amos 5:18 says, "Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light." Again we find that God is speaking to His people. The subject today is addressed to Christian people, and it warns that when the Lord does come, it will mean darkness in the lives of many individuals. Today many Christians are praying, "hasten thy coming," but when it does come it will be a day of doom if they have not lived up to the light they had. Many will be disappointed because they have trusted in themselves and have not made a heart preparation.

Does probation close for every one at the same time? Let me read Isaiah 38:18. "For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth." Other parts of the Bible bear out the same thought that when a man dies, his own probation is sealed; his doom is settled if doom it might be. Never will he be given another opportunity, now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation. Sudden death has cheated many a soul out of eternal life.

There is another way by which individuals end their probation, and that is described in Ephesians 4:30. "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Many people are ending their probation by grieving the Spirit of God, not suddenly but gradually. Little by little they turn from the Spirit of God until the Spirit no longer pleads with their hearts. They come to the place where they say, I will go no farther, and they close their own probation. Proverbs 1:24-28 speaks of this day and tells us how we can avoid it. "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded."

For a long time, the Lord says, I called but you wouldn't hear. My Spirit has been striving with you, but you refused. And the verse in Proverbs continues, "But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me."

I want to ask you, friend, if the Lord should come in person and stand by your bedside and say, "Tonight this verse is going to apply in your heart. Tonight is the last time I am ever going to call you. If you do not heed tonight, I will not be able to help you when your calamity comes. ‘Because I have called and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: ... When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.'" Oh, I thank God friends, we can still call upon God and we can still find Him.

This experience is also described in Genesis 6:3 when the Lord says, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." I want to ask, How many chances does God offer us? A man goes along persisting in sin. The Spirit of God pleads with him, but he continues to harden his heart until finally the time comes when the Spirit is no longer heard. At that time his probation is closed. That person may not know when he has passed that unseen line, but his probation has been sealed forever! God says, "Grieve not the Spirit of God." We have an example of the Spirit of God being grieved until He left an individual in the case of Saul. Saul started out in life a good man, a Christian, but as he went on through life he turned from the Lord and would not heed His voice as He spoke to him through the Holy Spirit. He thought it didn't make any difference whether or not He did what God said. He was one of those Christians who believe that God is not so particular. Well, Saul kept going in that way until it finally came to the place where God would not hear Saul anymore. When he asked of God, it was not from a sincere, surrendered heart. He prayed, not because he wanted contact with heaven, but because he wanted to find out something. God shut up every avenue of approach that Saul might have, for Saul had sealed his own destiny. He had closed his own probation. Saul did not commit black, grievous sins like David. Oh, David's record was so black, but David repented in deep sorrow and turned from his sins. With Saul it was a matter of going on and on in small things until he persuaded himself that it didn't matter. He didn't repent, for he didn't feel that what he was doing was wrong, and then God couldn't hear him any more. There is great danger today that our hearts be touched, but that we continue to put off surrender of our sins and our past until our hearts become hardened and we do not feel our need of repentance. That, my friends, is the saddest condition that comes into a person's life. When one comes to the place where he feels no need of repentance, does not see the wrong in the sin he is doing; I say that is the condition most to be feared in the life of any individual.

A difference is noticed in the life of a person when the Holy Spirit is speaking to his heart. One of two things happens: You see one individual with whom the Spirit is striving, and his heart softens and keeps growing softer and softer. But with another, his heart hardens and grows harder and harder until it turns to stone. I think of it this way: I take some nice clay and mold it into the form of a roll of butter. With it I take a pound of butter, and I place them both out in the warm sun. I watch them for a time, and I see the butter begin to melt. It grows softer and softer and finally is entirely melted. The clay, just as soft as the butter to begin with, begins to harden. It grows harder and harder until it is like stone; yet the same sun shined on them both. The Spirit of God shining on some hearts causes them to harden if they will not heed the pleadings of the Spirit, while others melt under the influence of the same Spirit.

Now what about mass close of probation, when probation closes for all? Over in Matthew 25 Jesus pointed forward to that time. Matthew 24, you know, tells how we may know when His coming is near. It gives the signs of the times, but some people never notice that Matthew 25 always follows Matthew 24! In the 25th chapter Jesus goes right on and tells of the close of probation. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."

Here we have the story of the close of probation, when midnight came and probation was forever closed. It is the scene of an oriental wedding. We see Jesus out on a little hillside, with just the little valley between Him and the city of Jerusalem. Off to one side they see a lighted dwelling where the bride is waiting for the bridegroom. Outside there are people waiting for the bridegroom to come, for he will come from his home to take the bride from her home back with him, and there the ceremony will be performed. The guests wait to join the procession. As Jesus looks over at that scene, He says to His disciples, "See those people waiting for that wedding? That is like My coming will be." And He tells them a story of a wedding. There were ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom to come. Five were wise and five were foolish. When the bridegroom and his procession would come along, they were ready to join it and go back to the groom's house where they would take part in the wedding ceremony. Five were foolish. What was it that made them foolish? "They that were foolish took no oil with them." They were all virgins, signifying that they were all church members, their names were on the church books, they had all accepted Christ, they were preparing to be a part of the wedding procession and to join in the ceremony. They all looked alike, they were dressed alike, you couldn't tell them apart by looking at them, five of them didn't look any wiser than the others. They all had lights, and they all had some oil, but you couldn't see how much oil they had. So today you can't separate Christians in the church, but listen, friends, each one of them knew how much oil she had with her. Five of them knew that they didn't have any extra oil with them. There was no fault that you could find with their looks, but when the time to buy oil was there, they did not take advantage of it, and five had no extra oil with them. Psalm 119:105 says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."

Jesus said five of the virgins had no extra oil in their lamps. They had the lamp, the Word of God, but they didn't have the oil that would make the lamp burn to show them the way. Now, what is the oil, my friends? By comparing scripture with scripture you will find that in the Bible the Holy Spirit is represented by the oil. And so these virgins, representing a certain class of Christians who are waiting for the Lord to come, will know the Bible, but they will not have the spiritual power that will make that Bible live and that will prepare them to meet the bridegroom when He comes. In other words, we're living right now in the time described by Jesus in this parable. There are two classes of people in the church and in the world today. Part of them believe the prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus and the end of the world. They have studied, and know even the verses. They can quote the texts to prove that His coming is very, very near at hand, because the signs have been fulfilled. But some of those very ones who believe it and can quote the Scriptures, are not ready because they have not opened their hearts and lives to let the Holy Spirit come in and fit them spiritually for translation and for the coming of Jesus.

On the other hand, there are those who are ready and they have the oil in their lamps. They have the power of God with them, they have the Spirit as well as the letter, and so they are ready and waiting for the coming of Jesus.

Well, I want to remind you that the probation of all mankind is just about ready to close, because we're living today on the verge of eternity. The coming of Christ is about to take place, and the destiny of every man, woman, and child is about to be decided. Are you ready for that event, friends? Would you be satisfied to be judged on the basis of your life record at this moment?

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