The last in our series on heaven and hell will have as its focus the lamented state of those in hell who attained ALMOST HEAVEN.
‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” says King Agrippa.
It was 1912 when John Harper was asked to return to the United States and continue his ministry to the lost at Moody Church in Chicago. He was a Scottish Evangelist, a widower and would bring his six year old daughter with him.
He booked his ticket on the Lusitania for April that year, but an opportunity came up for him to take a brand new Luxury liner, so John Harper decided to delay his departure for one week and secured tickets for himself and his six year old daughter, to sail from Southhampton England to New York on the 10th of April 1912 on board the Titanic.
On Sunday the 14th of April, 1912, the day when the iceberg was struck by the ill-fated liner, the weather was fine, the sea calm. Harper attended the church service for the passengers.
The Titanic struck the iceberg that night at 11:40 p.m. As the call was issued for passengers to vacate their cabins, Harper wrapped his daughter in a blanket, told her that she would see him again one day, and passed her to one of the crewmen.
As a father and widower, John Harper was one of the few men permitted to enter a lifeboat, but after watching his daughter safely board, he removed his life jacket and gave it to one of the other passengers.
One survivor spoke of this preacher and distinctly remembered hearing him shout, “Women, children and the unsaved into the lifeboats!”
Harper knew that believers were ready to die but the unsaved were not ready. Harper then ran along the decks pleading with people to turn to Christ, and with the ship sinking, witnesses stated that he called upon the Titanic’s orchestra to play, “Nearer, my God, to Thee.”
As the ship began to lurch, he jumped into the icy waters and swam to all he could reach,
“Is your soul saved” he was heard to cry out to each person he could in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.
Hundreds of people were in the water, but only six individuals were rescued from the water and into a lifeboat.
“Is your soul saved” came the cry again, “No” came many responses, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thous shalt be saved” came his answer again and again.
Finally, as hypothermia set in, John Harper sank beneath the waters and passed into the Lord’s presence; he was 39.
How many were eternally saved before succumbing to the deep?
How many where almost lost eternally that night?
More concerning of all, how many were almost saved? How many where almost in heaven?
King Agrippa in our text this morning was one such individual.
“Almost thou pursuadest me to be a Christian”
How much will those very words haunt him for all eternity?
What of those on the Titanic who heard John Harpers selfless cry, “Is thy soul saved?”
Sadly, the evidence that we have in the Bible is that there will be FAR too many people in hell who had “Almost Heaven”.
One writer speaks of the most lamentable word he might ever expect to hear in hell is the word “Almost”.
How many in this room, how many who hear this sermon will spend eternity crying. “Almost, almost, almost was my soul saved….almost heaven”.
Last time we gave some facts respecting the Purpose of hell, this week we will consider six groups of people who had “almost heaven”.
The Unsaved Church Member
The example set before us is Judas Iscariot.
Directly Chosen by Christ as one of the twelve who had multiple opportunities to believe the Gospel but chose rather to betray Christ for thirty pieces of Silver, he had ALMOST HEAVEN.
Judas was called to the apostleship and was expected to be with the twelve, a member no doubt of the group chosen by Christ.
In Acts Chapter 1 however Peter stood up and said;
16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. 17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. 18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
There shall be multitudes in hell who have trusted that their church membership will save them, that Baptism would save them, but now realise they did not believe the Gospel. They were “Numbered with” the other members of the Church but are not saved.
They are Baptised, but are not known of Christ, they may indeed have done many miracles in his name, even cast out devils, but Jesus will say to them “Depart from me ye that work iniquity”
“Many there will be in that day that say unto me Lord, Lord…but I will profess to them, I never knew you”
How frightening that day will be when these Church members, and there will be “Many” according to the scriptures, how frightening will be the realisation that they had “ALMOST HEAVEN”!
Beloved, only you can confirm your salvation, the Pastor can indeed look for indicators and it is his careful duty not to Baptise a single soul that is not born again, but only God knows the heart and only those who testify to the spirit in them can know themselves.
2 Corinthians 13:5
5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
Sure, the pastor may ask seven questions and you might answer them so you can become a member of a Church, be Baptised, get your little certificate (that you will need to keep to show to St Peter…don’t lose it else you can’t get in the gate…no QR codes in heaven beloved).
The Pastor cannot know anything for certain.
He writes to the Hebrews in;
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
There will be multitudes of Church members in hell who obtained “Almost Heaven”.
How great and infinite will be their cry?
24 And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. 26 He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. 27 But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.
You can tremble at the word of God when it is preached and recall it to have left the most incredible impression upon you and still find yourself in hell.
During the preaching of the most famous sermon in modern history by Jonathan Edwards on the 8th of July, 1741 titled “Sinners in the Hands of an angry God”, it was recorded that men held onto the rails of the pews fearing hell would quickly swallow them up at any moment.
Quoting from a diary entry by the Reverend Stephen Williams who was present at that meeting;
and before ye Sermon was done there was a great moaning—& crying out throughout ye whole House—what shall I do to be Savd—oh I am going to Hell—oh what shall I do for a christ &c &c—so yt ye minister—was obligd to desist—the shrieks & crys-were piercing
Edwards was unable to finish preaching the sermon that evening for such was the trembling in the congregation.
Rev Williams goes on to write of Edwards himself saying;
he “seemd affectd & movd—ready to dissolve in Tears &c—but cant well tell why &c.”
The trembling of the heart and worry of the soul is not sufficient to save a man.
So bothered was Felix by the message of Paul that he longed rather not to suffer further temporary trembling, he desired relief and rest for the conviction sparked by Pauls words;
Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
He think to have leave for a “Convenient season”?
He desires rest from his trembling now, but what rest will he have in hell?
The rich man…being in torments…
The phrase in Luke 16 is in the present perfect tense, it is now present and ongoing.
The Bible says “11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night (Rev 14:11)
If you tremble now, do not wait for a convenient season. You might put off the temporal discomfort of today only to endure torments for eternity, and you have no idea when it will come upon you.
There should be NO expectation of a ‘Convenient season’, no expectation of being kept out of hell till even tomorrow!
One of the points of that famous sermon spoken of by Jonathan Edwards was simply;
There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any one moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.
By “the mere pleasure of God,” I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment.
He writes that;
• “It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. ’Tis no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he don’t see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows that this is no evidence that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step won’t be into another world. The unseen, unthought of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they won’t bear their weight, and these places are not seen.”
Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
Hell will be filled with such people who had the very opportunity so perfectly presented to them, so much so that they trembled as Felix did, “ALMOST…ALMOST…ALMOST HEAVEN” But procrastinated for a “more convenient season”.
The convenient season is now!
The greatest lie ever told a man comes straight from the pit of hell. “There’s plenty of time”.
32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Paul writes in Romans 10:13
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”
Beside Christ were two thieves condemned to death. One called upon the name of the Lord, the other heard him call on the Lord but only mocked Christ.
One believed, the other did not.
One attained heaven, the other ALMOST HEAVEN!
So close was he to Christ he could hear his dying breath.
So close was this thief to the King of Kings he could almost touch him.
So he might have come to believe on Christ when he heard Jesus say to his friend, “to day shalt thou be with me in paradise”, and his soul almost saved.
Now, some two thousand years later I am sure he is still saying “almost…..”
In hell, WITH YOUR CONCIENCE NOW FULLY INFORMED, I have little doubt you will remember every Gospel sermon you have ever heard in perfect detail,
in hell you will remember every Gospel tract you read and every Gospel song you heard will flow to your mind.
Every person who ever pleaded with you to BELIEVE the sacrifice of Christ for your sins, to BELIEVE that he died in your place that you might have heaven, you will call to your mind and remember with clarity how you had “ALMOST HEAVEN”.
The unbelieving thief will forever give the testimony that he was Crucified beside the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world….but would not believe.
Remember, it is a question of the will and not the ability. It was not that he did not believe, it was that he would not believe!
He new he would enter eternity shortly, but simply would not believe. One can only think he made other plans to escape hell.
HAVE YOU MADE OTHER PLANS?
ARE THEY GOOD?
ARE THEY SURE?
DO YOU CLIMB IN ANOTHER WAY?
Jonathan Edwards speaks to this also in that famous sermon, imagining hearing a conversation of one in hell saying;
“I never intended to come here; I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself; I thought my scheme good; I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief; death outwitted me; God’s wrath was too quick for me; O my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter, and when I was saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ then sudden destruction came upon me” [1 Thess. 5:3]. ”
Jurgen Ankenbrand, a sixty nine year old individual who had the wonderful privilege of being interviewed by the evangelist Ray Comfort at Huntington Beach California on a sunny December day.
He heard the gospel and has heard it preached by Ray often to others in the same area. That day Ray preached to him personally, and you can see it still on YouTube.
He was a fit man who expected to live another twenty years. He does not believe in hell, nor heaven and shrugged his shoulders at the thought of being wrong about it.
Ray had concerns for his flippancy and asked if he might please consider the Gospel but it was clear Jürgen had no intention.
Jurgen Ankenbrand did not make it home from the beach that day.
“The incident was reported at 5:35pm at the intersection of Brookhusrt st and Villa Pacific Drive, said Sgt Rob Warden with the Huntington beach Pilice Department.
“Ankenbrand and a dark coloured Toyota 4-runner were exiting Villa Pacific Dr onto Brookhurst st when the driver turned left to go north on Brookhurst and crashed with Ankenbrand who was moving in tandem along the driver side of the 4-runner.
Ankenbrand fell on the southbound lane and the driver fled the scene..”
Ankenbrand was then struck a second time by a white Honda Odyssey van traveling south on Brookhurst st.”
Ankenbrand died at the scene
According to his own testimony seen in that youtube video, Jurgen laid out matters otherwise in his mind and thought his schemes good, but it came upon him unexpected!
But the fearful, and unbelieving, ……, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
The Moral Person
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
SO CLOSE HE COULD TOUCH IT
This Young MORAL Man Had Done No Wrong, According To His Own Evaluation.
1. He had never killed anyone. 2. He had never committed adultery. 3. He had never stolen. 4. He had never lied. 5. He honored his parents. 6. He apparently loved his neighbor. B. The Moral Person Is One Who Is: 1. He is a good husband. She is a good wife. 2. He has always been a good father. She, a good mother. 3. He pays his bills. 4. He honors laws of the land.
There are No civic sins are associated with this person and we all know people this way. They are good and upstanding members of the community and care for people, even their neighbours.
Speaking of the same man in Luke’s account, Christ says “yet lackest thou one thing….come follow me”. (Lk 18:22)
ALMOST HEAVEN, only come follow me says Christ.
Beloved it is not the horizontal relationship or moral goodness to fellow man that separates us from God, it is our vertical relationship with God that is severed.
The moral law is given in Exodus 20, not to follow to gain eternal life, but to reveal that no matter how moral we are in civic terms, we are sinners before a holy God.
It was Isaiah who wrote of the value of our morality before God, saying
6 But we are all as an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;
And we all do fade as a leaf;
And our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Paul wrote of the purpose of the moral law in
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Paul expands on that again to the Galatians speaking of the Law as a School master to prepare a person for Christ;
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Yes beloved, a moral person is so close to trusting Christ, he is truly “Almost saved”, has attained ALMOST HEAVEN…
“Yet one thing thou lackest…come follow me”
How many cries will there be in all eternity of people trusting in their OWN GOODNESS? It is the greatest stumbling block of their lives.
How many people do you share the Gospel with today who believe themselves to be good people?
This “Goodness” measured by themselves and compared among themselves, will be the one thing that keeps their minds away from everlasting life.
It is the primary objection of MULTITUDES
And so, hell will be populated by multitudes of moral people who offer to God their “filthy rags”.
You will always have more chance of converting a man who knows he is wicked, then one who believes he is good!
Naaman, the captain of the host of the Syrian nation came to Elisha to be recovered of his Leprosy.
In 2 Kings 5:10
10 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
But Naaman betrays the heart of the Humanist who desires to undertake such cleansing his own way when he responds in verse 12 saying;
12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
Naaman becomes convinced to turn and trust Elisha with the single solution that even Jesus testifies in the New Testament.
Nevertheless the scriptures represent the modern Humanist well.
These are those who trust they shall save themselves their own way. Not only do they believe themselves to be good morally, but they work also tirelessly to gain that which was freely given them.
These are those who “deserve salvation”.
These are the philanthropists of today.
These are the Social Justice warriors of today
These are the Social Reformers of today
These are those who think to change times and laws, indeed they are destroyed by many good intentions.
These are those the Bible speaks of as saying, “the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Prov 12:10)
Today Bill Gates wants to solve overpopulation through education.
Today Bill Gates wants to solve world poverty through infertility.
Today Bill Gates wants to solve viruses through Gene Therapies
Today Bill Gates wants to solve Global Warming by darkening the Sun
The Humanist says, “We don’t need God”
The Humanist instead pretends to “Be God”.
These all think heaven is attained by their endeavours to make the world a better place, they think they just need to do more for they now have ALMOST HEAVEN!
This is the Humanist
Many so called Christian Humanists also exist, people such as;
THEIR PLAN is NOT the Gospel, in short the REALITY EFFECT OF THEIR plans can be sumerised to this statement, “We desire to make the world a better place to go to hell from”.
Men such as this, who profess Christ in name but have hearts so far removed from him, will find themselves occupying the place of many to whom Jesus asked, “How shall ye escape the damnation of hell”
But Jesus made it plain for all to believe
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
The Religious Person
The last of the people who’s souls we could consider as ATAINING “ALMOST HEAVEN” are the religious people.
These are those who think that by their manner of external righteousness in the sight of the world, should gain eternal life.
But Jesus spoke of them saying
20 … That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Judging by the sheer force of The Lords condemnation of the Religious person, there seems little doubt that his rage against them demonstrates one of the severest ends are reserved for the religious person.
Matthew 23:25–36 (KJV 1900)
25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
More people have been destroyed and led astray by those who hold high positions of religious power that think they alone of the keys to heaven and not Christ.
These who Jesus said;
13 …. shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
All their self righteousness has opposed themselves and their own prudence and contrivances and righteousness’s have no more ability to keep them out of hell that a spiders web would have to stop a falling rock.
There are six types of those whom the Bible gives as HAVING “Almost HEAVEN”.
These are those who are metaphorically floating in the waters of the North Atlantic. They hear the words of the dying evangelist as he wades toward them saying “Is your soul saved?” and who respond to themselves that they think so.
Four years after the sinking of the Titanic, another young Scotsman whom one report refers to as Aguilla Webb, stood up in that meeting in Ontario Canada who’s following testimony was recorded.
I am a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone on a spar that awful night, the tide brought Mr. John Harper of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me. ‘Man,’ he said, ‘Is your soul saved?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘my soul is not saved.’ He replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’
The waves bore him away; but, strange to say brought him back a little later, and he said, ‘Now, is thy soul saved?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I cannot honestly say that my soul is saved.’ He said again, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ and shortly after he went down under the waves and I saw him no more; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed on Christ and my soul was saved.
I was one of only six people of the hundreds floating in icy waters to be pulled into a life boat.
I am John Harper’s last convert.
Standing in contrast to the sermon this morning, we have here the testimony of a man who was almost LOST, he had ALMOST HELL.
There will be a multitude in hell who were almost saved, but might you be one who can testify that you were almost lost?
I heard the Gospel for the first time at age seventeen.
I heard the Gospel for the second time at age twenty nine and believed.
The twelve years in between were fraught with many dangers, and God is under no obligation to save any wicked man as I was.
Let me ask you, as a dying man preaching to dying men and women, “Is your soul saved?”
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!