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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, December 29, 2013

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46).

I grew up in a time when racial discrimination was a powerful force in America. I escaped from it because my mother taught me it was a sin. From my earliest years I remember her telling me that all people are created equal in the sight of God. Our conversation went something like this: Mother said, “Robert, you didn’t decide which race you would be, did you?” I said, “No, Mother.” She said, “Neither did anyone else, so treat all of them as equals.” But I never fully realized how terrible it is to be discriminated against for one’s race until I was older. Then I felt the sting of racial discrimination because I was a white man. It took a strong dose of my mother’s racially tolerant medicine to keep me from staying bitter. Yet, by God’s grace, He used that experience to make me a man for all people! I could never have been able to found and pastor this church in the civic center of Los Angeles without my mother’s teaching and those experiences in my life.

Some years later I realized that I don’t even think of someone’s race when I meet them. That is a rare quality, and I thank God for giving it to me. We could never have this church if God had not burned out all traces of racial discrimination from my heart. One missionary who recently visited our church said, “I was pleasantly surprised by the amazing ethnic diversity in your congregation. It is just like Heaven will be!” Yes! In Heaven, we will sing to Jesus,

“Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

I feel sorry for pastors in areas of racial transition. They often try to save their Anglo churches by putting the Hispanics or Asians in another building, in a Sunday School room, with a pastor of their own race. But that seldom works. Almost always the Anglo church dwindles until it is too small to keep the building. Usually the building winds up in the hands of a cult, or a weird Christian group. I feel sorrow for pastors who are too timid to integrate their congregations. The Pentecostals integrated their churches over a hundred years ago! Our public schools have been integrated for over 50 years! Here we are in the twenty-first century. Isn’t it time, for Heaven’s sake, that all of our fundamental Baptist churches were integrated too? I know some people will stop looking at this website because I said that. But I have to tell you the truth! Any church that is not fully integrated today is a bad witness for Christ. And having a little Asian or Hispanic group tucked away in a Sunday School room doesn’t count! A church is not fully integrated until all the people worship together at the same time – with the same pastor.

But racial discrimination is not the subject of my sermon tonight. Sociologists divide all people into racial groups – according to the color of their skin, the shape of their heads, and so on. But Christian people divide the human race into only two classes.

Spiritual men know that all mankind came from one pair. Yet they know that all those now living can be divided into two families, as distinct from each other as night is from day. They know that there are two such families now. They believe that these two families have existed since the beginning of time. One family is filthy and obscene. The other family is as clean as crystal in the sight of God.

Since the beginning of creation there have always been those two distinct families – Abel offering his acceptable sacrifice, and in the same field the fierce and murderous Cain; Enoch who walked with God, and Lamech who walked in sin; Noah and his family who found grace in God’s sight, and the world of the ungodly who perished in the great Flood; Abraham who worshipped God, and the denizens of Sodom who lived in greed and lust; Israel, the people of God, and their Egyptian slave-masters who worshipped gods of wood and stone. When Israel was in the promised land there were those who worshipped Baal, and those who worshipped Jehovah; in Babylonian captivity there was Mordecai the godly Jew, and there was the wicked Haman, plotting to take his life; in the time of Christ there were those who believed in Him and followed Him, and there were those who cried out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” And it is so today. You have the holy and harmless Christians on the one hand, and the murderous, hate-filled Muslims, and American atheists on the other. There are always two groups in the sight of God!

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46).

The wicked and the righteous never mix together. They are always distinct – as distinct as if one were the offspring of Satan, and the other the offspring of God – the unrighteous and the righteous. It is so tonight. It is so with the people who are sitting in front of me right now! If the rapture happened now,

“The one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matthew 24:40).

This does not mean that God always protects His people, or always punishes the wicked in this life. If an earthquake comes, it will not discriminate between the houses of the Christians and the houses of the wicked. If the Muslims set off a bomb, it will blow up the houses of God’s people, as well as the houses of those who belong to Satan. Sometimes it even seems like God acts more favorably toward the wicked than toward the righteous. The Psalmist said,

“But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2-3).

Lazarus had his sores licked by dogs, though his prayers were heard by God – while the rich man was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day, even though the wrath of God awaited him. No, the division that God makes between the righteous and the wicked does not necessarily change what happens to them in this world.

A person’s health and success in business does not mean that God is blessing him. Another man’s problems or sicknesses are no sign that God is punishing him. He may be very sick – and his children very wicked – and yet be a good Christian. He may be very rich and prosperous, and yet extremely wicked. In these matters God has not discriminated. God has made no distinctions.

But in other matters God has eternally discriminated between the wicked and the righteous. Our text tells us that this distinction will last throughout eternity.

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46).

The punishment of the unrighteous and the Heavenly life of the righteous, will both be eternal. Christ Himself said they will both be “everlasting.” Notice several things about this eternal discrimination God has toward the wicked.

First, God has made eternal distinction between the righteous and the wicked in the book of life. The Bible says that the righteous are those “whose names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:3). Revelation 13:8 says that the wicked are those “whose names are not written in the book of life…from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). The ungodly do not have their names listed in God’s book. The Lord did not write them there at the beginning of the world. God has not elected them to salvation. The Christian’s name is written in God’s book of life. He was chosen by God before the foundation of the world. From eternity past his name was engraved by Jesus in God’s book of life. The wicked may laugh at the Christian now, but the day will come when it will be the Christian’s turn to pity the wicked – because they have chosen the passing pleasures of this world, while the Christians have chosen the things that will last throughout eternity!

Then, too, God has made an eternal distinction between those who are lost and those who are saved in the two ordinances of the local church. Those two ordinances are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The ordinance of baptism is for those who are saved, and only for them. Formerly we baptized everyone right away, upon their profession of faith. But later we found that many of them lied when they gave a testimony of having trusted Christ. After they were baptized they left the church and went right back to the world. So now we wait before baptizing anyone. That is what many foreign missionaries do as well, and for the same reason. So, baptism is only given for the saved.

Likewise, the Lord’s Supper discriminates between the saved and the lost. The Lord’s Supper is only for the saved. Those who are still unconverted are plainly warned not to partake of it. The Scripture says,

“Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord…For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (I Corinthians 11:27, 29, 30).

If you dare to be baptized, or if you dare to take the Lord’s Supper, if your pastor hears your testimony and says you are indeed saved, then come to the baptism pool or the Communion table. God has invited you to come. But He has forbidden the unsaved to do so. Thus there is a distinction between the saved and the lost in the two ordinances – baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Furthermore, God makes a distinction between the saved and the lost in the secret dealings of His providence. I said earlier that God makes no distinction outwardly between the righteous and the wicked. But now I say that he does make a secret, inward difference. The dealings of providence may seem just the same outwardly, but they are not so inwardly. When the Christian’s car is totalled there is a blessing in it. But when the sinner’s car is totalled there is a curse in it. If things go wrong for the unbeliever he feels the sting of God’s curse. But if misfortune falls on a Christian, he can still say, “I know that my redeemer liveth! Praise the Lord!” When trouble comes to the Christian, he knows that God is correcting him, and teaching him, and using his troubles to make him a stronger and better Christian. But when evil falls on an unbeliever he feels the judgment of God – a foretaste of eternal judgment, and the hopelessness of a godless life. So even in His providence, God distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked.

Yet these are small distinctions compared to the ones that lie ahead. The great distinction between the saved and the lost is yet to come.

There is a real distinction in the way people die. I know that nearly everyone is now sedated with drugs on their deathbeds. But before the discovery of ether, just before the Civil War, lost people used to groan and scream on their deathbeds. You can’t read about the deaths of people like Tom Paine or Voltaire, and many others, without seeing how fearful it has been for atheists when they face God at their time of death. The pains of a woman giving birth are nothing when compared to the screams of the wicked in the grip of death.

On the other hand, the deaths of Christians are always easier, and often quite triumphant. John Owen had just finished writing his book on The Glory of Christ. He laid the pages aside on his bed and said, “Ah! Put them away! I shall write no more. I am now about to see the glory of Christ myself – and crown Him Lord of all!”

Not every wicked sinner dies in pain and fear. And not every Christian dies rejoicing like good Dr. Owen. But the reaction of their families tells the story every time. The families of lost men and women are unconsolable. I have seen a strong man lift a dead body out of a coffin in his arms, and wail like a tortured man over the corpse of his non-Christian friend. I have seen a woman threaten to leap into the open grave with her lost mother. It took three strong men to keep her from doing so. I have seen and heard terrible things like that at the funerals of those who are lost. But there is always a soft sweetness at a Christian’s funeral, never the harsh hopelessness felt at the death of a lost sinner.

Think now! Think now! If you were to die tonight, would you have a Christian funeral – or would your mother and others wail and weep knowing you had gone to a Christless grave? If you have any love for your mother and others in your family, it should drive you to Christ at once – if for no other reason than to spare your loved ones from such agony!

But I must end by giving the text once more.

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46).

When your coffin has been lowered into the earth and covered with sod, when the last prayer has been said, and all your friends go home, you will not be left there in the cemetery, under six feet of earth. Oh no! You will not be there at all! You will either be screaming in everlasting punishment – in the fire that never shall be quenched – or you will be in the celestial city, rejoicing with Christ and all the holy angels! You will either sing with the righteous or scream with the wicked on the day you are buried. Which will it be for you?

I urge you to throw yourself on the mercy of Christ if you are lost tonight! Cast yourself upon Jesus, because He said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). He shed His Blood on the Cross to cleanse you from all sin. He rose from the dead to give you eternal life. Come to Jesus now and be saved by Him for all time and for all eternity!

Please leave your seat and walk to the back of the room now if you would like us to counsel you and pray with you about trusting Jesus and being saved by Him. Go right now. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will be saved tonight. Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Luke 16:19-24.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“What Will You Say Then?” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980)/
“Eternity” (by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929).