Business as Usual

Scripture: Luke 17:26-30, Genesis 19:25, Acts 24:25
People hesitate to their peril to follow God's warning of a destruction to come upon this earth just before Jesus returns. The Bible says that what we are doing in our business as usual will be what we are doing when Christ's comes. We should not wait to think we can easily change and be ready, we must decide to be ready now.
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In one of the most tragic hurricanes of history hundreds died because they would not believe the weather-watch warnings of approaching disaster. The public files of America's statistical records will bear out the same unbelievable story, people just don't want to change their comfortable position, even in the face of deadly danger. They don't like to act, even if they are almost persuaded to believe.

This explains why the great majority of earth's inhabitants will be swept away to destruction in the storm which will soon break over the earth. That storm will be revealed in the final moments before Jesus appears in the clouds of Heaven.

God gives ample warning of the end of the world; yet what do men do when they come to the last night on earth? Jesus answers that question in Luke 17 by describing what we will be doing when the world ends. "As it was in the days of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom fire and brimstone rained from heaven and destroyed them all, so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed." Luke 17:28-30. Jesus tells us here that right up to the end of time, men will be living for the things of this world.

Now there is nothing wrong with these activities of themselves. There is nothing sinful about eating or drinking what is good for you, or planting or building. These are the pursuits of life that God commanded man to carry out, and in themselves they are not wrong. The danger lies in our living only for these things and putting them first in our lives. Jesus was trying to impress on His followers that at the time of His second coming men will be doing very much as they have in the past. It will be "business as usual" right up to the end of the world. Many people have the mistaken idea that just before the coming of Christ, circumstances will be such that they will find it convenient to change; that they will be willing at this time to step over on the side of Christ, even though all the years before this they have lived for self and have neglected making that decision. But, friends, the Bible teaches us that when we come to the last night on earth, we'll be doing exactly the same things we have been doing before.

"As it was in the days of Lot ... ." When I visited the Holy Land, I stood on the hills overlooking the spot where Sodom and the cities of the plain had once stood. Those are barren acres of land, the salt flats of the Dead Sea. It is believed that the remnants of old Sodom and Gomorrah have been found under the south end of that sea. This land was once the most lush and fertile valley in all of Palestine. Today it is absolutely barren. I didn't realize till I saw it how literally the Bible describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 19:25 tells us that God "overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground." God destroyed even what grew on the ground; and today there is nothing there but barren, salt-tainted flats.

The lesson drawn by the Bible from this bit of history is that the inhabitants of the doomed cities continued living in their usual way until the very day of destruction. In the same chapter Jesus refers to another instance of "business as usual" right up to the end. "As it was in the day of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all." Luke 17:26, 27. It didn't make any difference to the antediluvians that Noah had been preaching for 120 years under the power of God's Spirit, warning of the destruction of the world by a flood. During those years the ark took shape before their eyes, visible proof of Noah's faith in what he was saying. But all this made no difference; the people kept right on doing as they always had. No doubt they rationalized that Noah's prophecy simply couldn't come true. "There are many good people," they may have said, "and all of them couldn't possibly get in the ark!" Others no doubt said, "How is that boat ever going to float off the hill? Ridiculous! Water doesn't run uphill! Besides, there isn't enough water anywhere to cover the world even knee-deep!" Some may have said, "You mean only those who join that boat-church up there on the hill will be saved? That doesn't make sense! It's true there is a great deal of wickedness in the world; but there are many good people, too. Are they all going to be lost? Is God going to destroy every beautiful and good thing?" No, they didn't believe this would happen.

When Noah told them about the animals that would come into the ark, they really scoffed. What would cause the animals to come out of the forest? How was Noah going to catch them all? Would he catch the birds and bring them into the ark? They thought that was very amusing. But one day the people were astonished as they saw animals, seven of the clean, two of the unclean, coming out of the forest and going up the gangplank into the ark without any assistance from Noah whatsoever. And they saw the birds flying out of the heavens and coming in orderly fashion into the ark. Obviously there was divine intervention in the affairs of nature, and surely this was evidence that God was in this whole plan. The people crowded around the ark and watched the animals come in, and Noah pled with them to come inside before the door was shut. But in spite of this miracle sign, in spite of the supernatural evidence at the last moment that Noah had been telling the truth, what did they do? They stayed outside the ark!

There are many people who think that when the last miraculous movements of the earth's history take place, when the last prophecies are fulfilled, they will simply step over on the right side and give their hearts to the Lord and join the church. But, dear people, it doesn't happen that way! It didn't in Noah's day. Not one single soul changed his mind, not one! They went right on with business as usual. When Noah pled with them as he entered the ark, they scoffed. They didn't believe he could shut the door, it was too big. But after Noah stepped inside, angel hands closed the door, the Bible tells us in Genesis 7:16. And then came the last seven days when nothing happened and Noah and his family and all those animals were locked up inside the ark. I imagine the scoffing reached a new high during those seven days. But one day, terror struck them as the unfamiliar rain began to fall and the earth trembled and great fountains burst forth and shot like geysers into the air. In the muddy, angry waters of the flood millions of terrified souls went down screaming and crying for help, but it was too late. The antediluvians had been carrying on business as usual, and the flood destroyed them all.

In 79 AD, Pompeii and Herculanean and other cities around Mt. Vesuvius, wicked cities like Sodom and Gomorrah, were suddenly destroyed by a volcanic eruption. From what can be seen now, it is plain that they were full of wickedness. The paintings on the walls of their homes, the signs advertising their products, all were filled with immorality and openly based on an appeal to sex and self-indulgence. I have no doubt that God permitted the destruction of Pompeii. And there was plenty of warning! History tells us that the mountain trembled for several days before the eruption. The inhabitants of those cities knew that destruction was imminent, and while some people left, most stayed and were destroyed. They continued living for the things they had been living for before.

When Pompeii was excavated, one young woman was found lying across her doorstep her hands still clutching a pair of pearl earrings. Others around her had gotten away but apparently she had lived for the pride of life, and on that last day her desires did not change. A man was discovered on a street carrying a heavy box full of precious stones and gold. He, too, might have gotten away, but he couldn't bring himself to leave behind the wealth for which he had been living. It always happens this way, friends, what we have been living for, we will be willing to die for!

The story of the apostate prophet Balaam in Numbers 22 is another example of how men continue doing the same things, living for the same goals, even in the face of divine intervention. Balaam was asked by the king of Moah to curse Israel and was offered a great deal of money to do it. Balaam was a greedy man, and though he must have known that cursing Israel wasn't part of God's plan for them, he asked God if he could go and do it. God said, "No," but Balaam started out anyhow. As he rode along the way, his donkey turned out into a field. Balaam became angry and, striking the donkey, he forced her back into the road and kept on going, impervious to what might be turning her aside. She had always been a good and faithful beast and now she was acting strangely, but Balaam didn't stop to discover what might be wrong. Then they came into a narrow place and in trying to get around something unseen that was in the road, the donkey crushed Balaam's foot against the wall.

Furious, he struck her and beat her again and got her back into the road and kept on going. And then finally in a very narrow place, where there was no way to get around at all, the donkey fell down under him. Now he was beside himself with anger and he beat and cursed the animal, and then a miracle happened. That donkey turned around and started talking to Balaam! "Why do you beat me so? Haven't I always been a good animal? Why are you beating me?" And Balaam was so possessed with his purpose, so blind to the intervention of God, that he argued with the animal! He talked back to that dumb beast. And then he saw the angel, standing in the way, and the angel rebuked him. But after all this, after the intervention of heaven, after miracles had been wrought to turn him aside, what did he do? Did he ask forgiveness and turn back home, thankful that God had spared his life in spite of his disobedience? Of course not! He kept right on going!

You say, "Unbelievable!" Not at all. That is just the way human nature works. We continue living for the same things that we've lived for in the past. Friends, a person doesn't change in the last few minutes just before the prophecies of last-day events are fulfilled. And those who are putting off making a decision for Christ, those who are saying, "I'll wait till some more prophecies are fulfilled. When I see that it is no longer safe to wait, then I'll step over on the right side; I'll join the church and I'll get into heaven just before the pearly gates close", such people are in for a rude awakening. When the last days come, they'll go right on living for the very things they've lived for before until it's too late.

There are two reasons why last-minute changes are almost never made. In the first place, it isn't human nature, as is so vividly illustrated by experiences in the Bible and from history. And in the second place, what man can presume to decide at his own whim when he's going to serve God? Jesus said, "No man can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." John 6:44. Friends, we must come when we're called, when God speaks to us. We must respond when God speaks and not when we think it's convenient. There have been those who said, "When I have a convenient season I will call thee." Acts 24:25, but we don't read that they ever called. There were those who said, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian," Acts 26:28, but we don't read about their being persuaded.

It is terribly dangerous to say "No" when God calls. "No man can come ... unless the Father ... draws him", and friends, if we resist while God is drawing, do we think that we can call ourselves to salvation? Can we change our own hearts? Can any man say, "Now I'm going to be saved. Now I'm going to be born again"? By whose power? It takes divine, creative power to change our hearts, to forgive our sin; to make us new creatures in Christ Jesus, to make us hate the old life and love the new. It takes the ministry of the Holy Spirit, of angels and of God to bring about in our lives those changes that will make us fit for eternal life in heaven at last. Do we think we can bring about those changes in our own lives when we choose to do it? Absolutely not! Only God can do that! And if we are not willing to let God change our hearts when he calls us, if we live for our own selfish pursuits and pleasures until the last events happen, then we're only being selfish about heaven, too, we don't really want to be in heaven because we love God and that which is right. In that last day it will be too late for our hearts to be changed. We'll go right on living for the things that we lived for before and when the world ends we'll be doing the same things we've been doing up to that time.

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