I want you to turn in your Bibles with me to Luke's gospel and chapter 13. I did announce this morning that I would be speaking concerning the recent tragedy in the United States of America that has affected the whole world, and indeed affected us here in our own province and particularly the mainland - where we are led to believe that there could be up to 500 people, British citizens, who perished in that disaster. I think our hearts have been wrenched and broken at times as we've seen the anguish and the loss of many folk on our television screens and in our newspapers. I want to speak to you - I was driving on Tuesday in the car and this passage came to me, and I felt the Lord was imploring me to speak upon it this evening - I want to speak to you on "The Tower That Fell", Luke's gospel chapter 13 and verse 1.
"There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans" - told the Lord Jesus of the Galileans - "whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish".
Then if you would turn with me to the book of James - don't worry if you don't have a Bible, or you don't know where to find these things, because we'll be reading them out together and you can get the gist of what is being said. James chapter 5 and verse 8, James says: "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh". We know that the Lord will bless His own inspired word.
Now, let's turn in our Bibles again to Luke's gospel and chapter 13, and I want you to keep open at this passage of Scripture. I want you specifically to look at verse 4 and verse 5. The Lord is coming to these people, and the people pose a question to Him. They give Him the example of a disaster that happened in the temple, and then they come in verse 4 and say: 'What about, Lord, those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?'. The Lord says: 'I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish'.
Let us bow in a moment's prayer. Our dear Father, we come before Thee and we thank Thee that it is a thing most wonderful, almost to wonderful to be, that God's own Son should come from heaven and die to save a child like me. Oh, Father, we thank Thee for this gospel, and we pray that the Holy Spirit would be present with us to bring that gospel to some poor sinner's heart this evening. For Christ's sake, Amen.
In the first few verses of this chapter, the Jews bring to the Lord Jesus Christ and cite a specific political and religious unrest that took place in their temple. It's related to Pilate, the Governor, and the sacrifices that took place periodically within the temple. What happened is, the history books tell us, that a man called Judas - not Judas Iscariot, but a man before Judas Iscariot - tried to rise up a revolutionary movement in Palestine in order to overthrow the Romans. He dictated to the people that they should forget about paying tribute to Caesar, and because of that Pilate became very angry - and indeed much of the tribute that was paid to Caesar came from the temple. Therefore, what angry Pilate did - and Pilate was a very vicious man - he went into the temple and he planted some people in plain clothes, some of his army in plain clothes, in the temple while the people were worshipping, while they were performing their sacrifices, and just as they were about to sacrifice the animals, they slipped daggers into the sides of the Jews. There in that secret holy place of the temple, those who worshipped, their blood became mingled with the blood of sacrifice. You can imagine the tragedy that was in Judaism in that day.
Then these Jews bring to the Lord another situation, and they speak of the tower of Siloam that fell and eighteen people were killed underneath it. This time I can almost hear the people saying: 'Well, that wasn't Pilate's fault. That wasn't the Roman Empire or the Governor, it wasn't anybody, it was just a freak accident and this tower fell upon them. These people were just doing a day's work, they were minding their own business, they weren't overly sinful any more than anyone else'. If you like they were asking this question: 'Lord, you see these two disasters? We can sort of understand the first one, but you see the second one? What is that all about? What is it all about? A tower falling, and eighteen people being plunged into eternity underneath it'. I think we would be right in saying that tragedies like these make us think, don't they?
You've seen it on the television, you've read it in your newspapers, and I read it this week: 'New York Tragedy: In a day of unprecedented horror and savagery terrorists hijacked two airliners and flew them into the twin 1,360 foot towers of the World Trade Centre, which collapsed in a mountain of dust and rubble - each 110 storey block held 25,000 people. The madmen hijacked another airliner which they speared into the Pentagon military headquarters in Washington, where more perished. A fourth hijacked jet crashed 80 miles south of Pittsburgh, it is believed it was being targeted at the presidential retreat, Camp David, 85 miles away'.
A construction worker said, and I quote: 'You could see bodies flying out of the sky, there's no words to describe what we could see. It's devastating, I can't imagine anything worse'. Witnesses told of people jumping from windows 110 storeys high, some from as high as the 80th floor, some burning. One couple were seen holding hands as they plunged to their death. A security consultant, Joseph Gomez, was gazing out of his window on the 71st floor of tower one when the plane hit. A newspaper reporter says he could see him still shaking, and he said these words: 'It was like something from a bad movie. I looked up and just saw a ball of fire coming towards me - I thought the world was going to end, as the whole building shuddered and shook, I thought the whole world was going to end'. A news reporter, Lee Brown for the Daily Mirror, said this: 'The carnage around me felt like the end of the world, and for me it almost was'.
What about all this? The world is asking this very night: 'What about this? What is the point of all this? Why has this happened?'. They're trying to make sense out of it - how could madmen do this? How could they have it in their hearts to plunge these great weapons of warfare that we have never known before, jet aeroplanes, into small cities - those two tower blocks, like small cities in our world - and thousands of people plunged to their death? What is it all about?
Well, we could say it's about hate - men can hate so much. We could say it's about sin - how sin has eaten up and depraved mankind to such an extreme that they could think and even execute such a deed. I have heard people on the television and the radio saying that this disaster has brought the best out in people - and I have no doubt that it has to a certain extent, but I also know that it has brought the worst out in people. Do you know that within hours of that great disaster, on the Internet for a high price you could buy chunks of the rubble from that disaster? Men making money even at this lowest ebb in all of the world's history, men can still make a fast buck out of people's death!
What's it about? Hate, sin - oh yes I'm sure, very sure, it's about politics - and I'm sure that the common denominator in it all is sheer evil. But the Lord Jesus, I believe, in this passage - and what He would say to you and I tonight is this: 'No matter what these people did, whether they were sinners or whether they weren't' - in Jesus' day - 'that really doesn't matter'. That's basically what the Lord is saying. Do you see what happened in the temple when those Jews were killed and their blood mixed with the sacrifice? That doesn't really matter in a sense! This tower that fell - oh, it's tragic, and we must remember those people that have been bereaved and hurt in it all, but the Lord Jesus would bring us a little bit further and say: 'You must go beyond this awful sight, and you must move to see that this tragic scene points to some eternal certainties'.
Do you hear me? The Lord Jesus is saying to you and me as we look at this tragedy in our world today: 'You must move on from this. You've got to see that this is pointing to eternal certainties in the universe'. Now, what are these? Well, the first that I want present you this evening is this: you must see what is coming your way. These poor people did not see what was coming their way - but, my friend, the Lord Jesus Christ out of this situation and out of these disasters in His day would have you see what is coming your way! What is coming my way, David? I'll tell you: the coming of the Lord draweth nigh!
Do you know that this book, this Bible, is like a calendar of world history and indeed of the future that is still to take place. Now, it's not like a crystal ball that you can tell what you're going to be, or who you're going to marry, or anything like that - but world events, and the future of this world, is encapsulated within the pages of this book. The word of God tells you and I that there is only one more event to take place in the history of this world with regards to the church of Jesus Christ. Do you know what that is? It is called the 'rapture of the church'. 'Rapture' simply means 'to be taken up', and that is the next thing to happen.
What is it? Well, when the Lord Jesus was leaving this earth, just before He went to the cross, just before He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, He said: 'If I go, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also'. The Lord Jesus promised His people, those who believe in Him, His church, that there was a day coming when He would return. The word of God teaches that: that there is a day coming when the clouds will burst, and the dead in Christ - those who have died and have been believers - shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. The shout of the Lord, the last trump, and then we will go home to be with the Lord Jesus.
My friend, do you realise that in God's calendar that is the next thing that is to hit this planet? Boy, when it hits there's going to be some shocks! If you think that there was chaos in New York this week, you have not seen anything yet! Planes will fall from the sky, there will be turmoils in the city as people just disappear - millions upon millions of people from the subways, from the train stations, from the airports, from the offices and the factories, in the shops. Everywhere people will just be gone, and there will be this mass hysteria because the church has been taken out of the world! Before I go any further I want to ask you: this is the next event on God's calendar, are you ready for it? I mean, if this should happen tonight, would you be left behind? Would you not go to be with Christ?
Now let me explain a little bit why this is going to happen. The Holy Spirit is the influence for good and godliness in the world today, and when the church of Jesus Christ is raptured, taken up to heaven, because the Holy Spirit indwells the church, the Holy Spirit in His bodily sense within the church will go to heaven too. Now why is God doing that? I'll tell you why: because all hell is going to break loose on earth, because the Holy Spirit is the only restraining force stopping all evil breaking loose in your world today. When the Holy Spirit is taken with the church, that will pave the way in order for Satan to rise up his great empire, and he will appoint one man - a false messiah, the Bible calls him the Antichrist, the man of sin - and he will push this man to the forefront, and he will be the absolute personification of all evil.
Oh, I wonder at this very moment is the stage set? I believe it with all my heart, that the stage is being set for this man of sin. I believe very soon you will see him, perhaps. My friend, this could be the man that will step into all the chaos and all the turmoil of this world and he will say: 'Look, trust me, and I'll sort it all out - politically, religiously, economically. I'll pull the place together again' - and this man will pull it together. You must see the danger that the reason why the church is being taken to heaven is that the Holy Spirit's influence will not be here, and that God will come in absolute judgement upon this world. The Lord Jesus warns in His own words, Matthew 24:21: 'Then', at that time, 'shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be'. An awful day that this world has never seen, or ever will see! There will be absolute turmoil and tribulation across this world - and it will all pinnacle and climax, at the end of seven years of distress and disaster, in the battle of Armageddon when the nations of this world will surround the nation of Israel.
If you're not saved this evening you will see it, you'll see it. You will see your loved ones disappear, gone to glory. Those in Christ that you love, you'll never see them again - they will depart to be with Christ which is far better - but the awful thing for you, my friend, is that you will be left behind to face this tribulation, to face this antichrist, to face this Armageddon. You will see the man of sin cast away by God, and then the Lord Jesus will return to Olivet's Mount and He shall put his feet in Jerusalem. He shall come to conquer Jerusalem's enemies, and He will bring His kingdom upon the earth - a kingdom of peace, a kingdom of righteousness - and He shall reign where'er the sun doth it successive journeys run. For a thousand years there will be peace on earth, there will be happiness, there will be godliness, there will be righteousness because of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Is it near? Oh, I believe it's near. Now don't get me wrong, these events in the United States have been described as apocalyptic - and I think that's what they are, but I'm not setting dates tonight. I'm not telling you when the Lord's coming, because I can't do that, because the Lord has told us not to do that. It's not for us to know the days, the hours, or the times, or the seasons - but I'll tell you this: I don't know where all of this disaster fits in, it may well be the beginning of the end. But I'll tell you what it definitely is: it is a sign for you, it's a sign for you! You see, there are many signs given within the word of God. We are told by the Lord Jesus when we are to expect His coming, and I don't have time to go through them all this evening - but I will give you one. Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 21 verse 9: 'When ye shall hear of wars and commotions', wars and rumours of wars, He said to His disciples, 'Be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by'.
When you hear of wars and commotions, and rumours of wars, the Lord Jesus - and He was no liar, my friend - said the end is by and by. Oh, is that not a great enough sign for you? Oh, my friend, we have seen awful scenes this week - but the Bible tells you and me that there's a more terrible day coming, an awful day coming. It's called 'The Day of the Lord', and the Lord shall come to judge this world - and, my friend, if you're not in Christ He will come to judge you in it. My question is: are you ready? These things are unfolding, perhaps, around us - but are you ready? Are you ready for the Lord Jesus? Are you ready for this great tribulation?
Do you know what the Bible describes it as? The book of the Revelation says: 'The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb'. This age that will enter into the world, that the Bible prophesies, will be a terrible time - and the kings of the world, and the presidents, and the prime ministers, will be able to do nothing about it. They will call on the rocks and the mountains to fall on them, they would rather die than to pass through this great tribulation! Are you ready for that?
A king sent for his jester one day and presented him with a stick. He said: 'Take this stick and keep it until you find a bigger fool than yourself'. Lying on his deathbed, the king again sent for his jester: 'I'm going away', he said. 'Where?', asked the jester. 'To another country', replied the king. 'What provision has your Majesty made for this journey and for living in the country where you go?'. 'None', was the king's answer. The jester handed the king the stick: 'Take it', he said, 'I have found a bigger fool than myself, for I only trifle with the things of time, while you have trifled with the things of eternity'. Could that jester hand you that stick tonight? Would he come down from this pulpit, and walk down the aisle, and walk down your row, and look into your eyes, hand you that stick and say: 'You're a greater fool than me. I have trifled with the things of time, but you are trifling with the things of eternity'?
Are you ready? My friend, are you ready for the Lord Jesus coming? Are you ready for this great tribulation? I don't know about you, but these events of the recent week have the effect of halting us in our steps. We stop, we begin to think, many people have decided to get their priorities right - and maybe that has been you. You've been caused to recollect and think about things that really matter. Now, can I challenge you? How long are you going to let that last? How long are you going to think about what happened? How long are you going to contemplate where your priorities are and about your eternal soul? I believe that this week, for many people, what had been for all their life an impossibility became an awful reality. Think about that: they never believed - the Americans thought that America was impregnable, they even admit that themselves. The idea of two jets flying into the World Trade Centre, and then the Pentagon, and then going to hit Camp David - if it was a script it would be rejected by any director in Hollywood, it's too far-fetched! But it happened! It happened.
For many, what was an impossibility became an awful reality - and in that moment many people thought it was the end of the world. You heard those reporters: 'I thought the world was going to end. It felt like the end of the world. I can't imagine anything worse'. Another impossibility there, isn't there? Do you believe the world's going to end? Oh, for many that's an impossibility. When I preach from this pulpit on a regular basis about heaven and hell, I know that there are people in the meeting and they're thinking: 'Does he really believe that?'. My friend, beware, because what for all your lifetime has been an impossibility will become an awful and terrible reality one day - and you will realise too late that it's all so real! My point is: what you think is impossible is going to happen, and Jesus Christ is coming again and He's coming to judge the world.
As you have seen these events, perhaps you've thought in your heart, maybe you know this gospel: 'It must be sooner or later, the Lord Jesus must be coming sooner or later!'. I wonder have you even asked in your heart: 'It's about time I was saved!'. That's the way it was with Michael Parfitt (sp?). He was a writer for Smithsonian magazine in America. He was writing a feature, an article about the mighty Mississippi River. He rode in a dinghy all the way down that river to test out the power of that mighty torrent. He went from Memphis, Tennessee right down to the Gulf of Mexico, and he learnt of the incredible power of the giant river. He tells in his article that the Mississippi gathers it's water from 41% of the Continental United States, catching water from Montana right down to New York - half a trillion tonnes of water flow down the Mississippi every year, carrying downstream 63,000 tonnes of soil a day! Now a river that big is a threat to anyone and a threat to any town, and especially the farmland and the towns nearby. Because of that there are great levies along the side and bank of this river, and it has caused a plain called the Mississippi Delta. There are people living there today, they live along that plain and they are trusting in these great levies to stop the water flooding over that great plain. Some of them are 2,203 miles long on both sides.
He writes in his article, listen to this: 'As the wall was built over the years people came to live under its protection. They tore down the forest and planted cotton, and the flood plain of the Mississippi became an expansive farmland known as the Mississippi Delta'. Do you know how many people are living there? Eight million people in the Delta! The question he asks in his article, a secular article, is this: 'At what risk are they living there?'. This journalist, Parfitt, took a plane and he flew over the Delta and over the Mississippi River, and he saw plainly along the Delta the tracks on the land where the river had flooded years ago. He writes: 'The levy cages the giant, or at least appears to, and no-one but birds and an occasional light plane pilot notices the long sweep of the river's indelible script. What the river has written in the mud again and again is simple: some day' - some day! 'Some day soon will come another flood', he says - and that's what he wrote in February 1993, 'Some day soon will come another devastating flood'. They had three already: 1882, 1927, and 1973. Listen to what he said: 'People in the valley get a sense that everything is totally in control'. One engineer told Parfitt: 'That is a false sense of security, we haven't seen anything yet in this valley as to what this river can do - we're not in control of anything'. 'The river', wrote Parfitt in February 1993, 'moves brown, swift, unpredictable, enormous, always murmuring: some day soon'.
Months after February 1993 when Mr Parfitt wrote this article, in the summer of 93 came one of the worst floods in the history of the Mississippi. But why didn't they know? They weren't looking at the tracks that that great flood had made in years gone by! They weren't looking for the sign, they had become complacent underneath the shelter of those levies. They thought it could never happen to them, and that false sense of security was the thing that damned them! Man, woman, child, that's the thing that will damn you. If you don't come to Christ, if you don't see the signs, if you don't take of the blood of Christ that He freely shed for you at Calvary, if you don't avail yourself of His salvation that is a gift free of charge - by faith if you come to Him, and turn from your sin, and trust in Him - do you realise that some day soon, that's what these great disasters and earthquakes in diverse places and these signs are all shouting: some day soon!
You must see what's coming your way, and the second thing you must do is this: you must take a U-turn. It's coming your way, you must turn around. What did the Lord Jesus say? He says: 'Don't think about this too much in the sense of why it has happened, but look to the eternal reality that it's pointing to'. What was the eternal reality that the Lord pointed to in verse 5? 'Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish'. Do not make the mistake of thanking your lucky stars that you weren't in New York on the 11th of September 2001. Don't make the mistake of having a false security that something like this will never happen to you. The Lord used a contemporary disaster of His day, and I use it again in His will to say to you, my friend: except you repent, you will likewise perish. You will perish in the great tribulation that will hit this world. You will perish, perhaps, in the battle of Armageddon. You will perish all, definitely and certainly, in the lake of fire and brimstone - the smoke of whose torment ascends for ever and ever and ever and ever and ever!
The Lord Jesus Christ and John the Baptist said, both on separate occasions - one in Matthew 3:7, one in Luke 3:7 - 'Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?'. Oh, you've been warned. Maybe some of you have been warned many many times. Can I ask you, can I please ask you: why, why will you not come to Christ? You know that the Lord is a faithful God, and you might say: 'David, why has He taken so long coming back?'. Do you know what I would do? I would point you to Noah, and tell you that before the flood for 120 years Noah preached the message that the flood was coming. He basically told people what I'm telling you - flee from the wrath to come. They all laughed - we all like a laugh. Such a rib-tickler this man! The world had never seen water, he's building a big ship and he's saying that the whole world is going to be destroyed - what a laugh! But there was one day that what was an impossibility for them became a terrible reality. Let me say this: for 120 years the hand of mercy rung the bell of God's grace. There wasn't a soul saved, but yet that bell rang and rang and rang. Why is the Lord not coming back tonight? I'll tell you my friends: He's not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness - it's not that He has forgotten, or He's not going to do it. This is why: He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come unto repentance.
Do you want to know why He hasn't come back yet? You! You! For love of you He came to Calvary. For love of you He bled and died. For love of you He died to save you. For love of you He was buried in the grave. For love of you He rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven to be a witness for you and to show His hands and His feet to His Father as a sacrifice for your sin. For love of you He's holding back this wrath and this judgement on the earth. Why? Because He wants you to be saved, and my friend He's waited so long for you to be saved - how much longer do you want Him to wait?
The final ruin of this world is delayed for your repentance. I have a pastor friend and I was hearing about him the other night at the prayer meeting. He was counselling a couple, and as soon as they saw the events on the television they rang for him and got him into their house. I don't know whether this is the end of the world - it doesn't matter to me, do you know why? Because it didn't matter to the Saviour, for He said: 'Except you repent, that'll be your end'.
I don't know whether you seen the film 'Out Of Africa', or read the book. Isak Dinesen is the author, and she tells the story about her Kenyan cook, Kamante. I want to read this shortly to you, this is the end. She says this: 'One night after midnight Kamante suddenly walked into my bedroom with a hurricane lamp in his hand, silent as if on duty. He spoke to me very solemnly: 'I think that you'd better get up, I think that God is coming!'. When I heard this I did get up and asked why he thought so, and he bravely led me into the dining-room which looked west over the hills. From the door windows I now saw a strange phenomenon, there was a big grass fire going on out in the hills and the grass was burning all the way from the hilltop to the plain. When seen from the house it was nearly a vertical line, it did indeed look as if some gigantic figure was moving and coming towards us. I stood for some time and looked at it with Kamante watching by my side. Then I began to explain the thing to him, but the explanation did not seem to make much impression on him one way or another. He clearly took his mission to have been fulfilled when he called me. Asked that question, he said: 'Well, yes, it may be so - but I thought that you had better get up in case it was God coming''. His only mission was to get her up just in case it was God coming.
I can't tell you the future, but I can tell you this: Jesus is coming, and He is coming soon, and you must be ready. In His words, just in case: 'Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh'.
Let's bow our heads, and I believe that the Lord could not be but speaking to your heart with events of recent days. These tragedies point to eternal certainties. What are you going to do? What are you going to do about your soul's salvation before it's too late? You can be prepared tonight by the forgiveness of sins and the peace of God. You can have a life that you've never had, and a joy that you've never known, if you will come to Christ by faith and leave your sin and repent - turn from it. For my friend, if you don't turn from it you will perish - you'll perish. I'll be at the door on the way out if anyone wants to speak with me. If you want me to pray with you or anything, or talk to you, you've questions - I can help you. There are others in this building who will be willing to help you - but please don't go, if the Lord is speaking to you, without getting saved and being bound for heaven and home.
Lord, we believe that the coming of the Lord does draw near. We believe we can hear Your footfall, and we believe that it's not long - and Lord that means it's joy for us, but we also believe that there's not much time left for people to be saved. We know that there are some here tonight and they're not saved, and we pray, our Father, that tonight they will do what You want them to do. Who knows, they could be the very one that's keeping all of this back! Lord, we believe there's a number of people, and once they're saved we'll go. Lord, would You save souls tonight? Would You bring them to the Saviour? Bless us now as we go home our separate ways, in the Saviour's lovely name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly, Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge in the wake of the terrorist attacks on America of September 11th 2001. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "The Tower That Fell" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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