Saturday, December 3, 2011
Every Occupant Of Hell Remembers Crossing Their Rubicon
Do you remember having a feeling of affection for someone in your youthful years but your feelings were not reciprocated? Maybe you asked her out but she sloughed you off. Maybe you dropped a note to her or called her on the phone only to be rejected, over and over again. At some point you wrote your last note, you made your last call. You walked away realizing that she would never acquiesce to your invitations.
I know a man who lives under a bridge. His story is a sad one. He disappointed his family in his youth. His father died and finally his mother too. A rift developed between he and his siblings. He lost his wife. He lost his two children. He began to consume large amounts of alcohol to ease the pain he felt. There were numerous attempts at reconciliation but all failed. He is now in his older years with no family to care for him. Loneliness is now leaching the very life from him. He will never return to his family. There was a last attempt, a last phone call, a last conversation. It was all to no avail.
Julius Caesar was a consul of Rome in 59 B.C. He was appointed governor of Gaul where he made a reputation for himself as a great orator and a brave and formidable warrior. His military genius enabled him to conquer the Celtic and Germanic tribes and these victories made him very popular and powerful. Rome learned of his success and Pompey and the Senate were threatened by his ambition. Word was sent to Caesar demanding he disband his army and submit to the government of Rome.
In January of 49 B.C., Julius Caesar finds himself at the crossroads of indecision. Shall he submit to Pompey or shall he march toward Rome and confront Pompey and spark a civil war. Caesar contemplates this decision at a small river in northern Italy called the Rubicon. 'Still we can retreat! But once let us pass this little bridge…nothing is left…” Roman law declared it treasonous for any general to cross the Rubicon with an aggressive army. For Caesar it was a matter of life or death. Once he crossed the Rubicon there would be no turning back! Finally, a decision was made, “Advance...the die is now cast!”
Every man and woman in hell had a Rubicon moment in their lives. They had a last opportunity, a last phone call, a last conversation. Mark 9:48 refers to the “worm that never dies” in hell. Is that indestructible worm the torturous memory of the very last opportunity to accept the forgiving grace and mercy of Christ? Do the memories of all the sermons ever heard, all the hymns ever sung, all the pleas from loved ones and friends turn like an imperishable worm over and over in the flames of torment?
Judas Escariot was not always a traitor to Christ. He was chosen to be a disciple. He was so trustworthy in his earlier days as a disciple that the others appointed him treasurer of all the monies collected. When Jesus revealed that “One of you shall betray me” (Matt. 26:21) the disciples were greatly distressed and began to ask, “Lord, is it I?” (Matt. 26:22) None asked the question, “Lord, is it Judas?”
Judas was a man who walked against a massive amount of light. He saw the very Son of God in action. He saw miracles performed. He saw the dead raised to life. He heard Christ preach truth on numerous occasions and yet Judas rejected the light. He came to the Rubicon and made the decision to cross over. He rejected Christ once and for all. He had heard his last bidding and now his sin would be unpardonable.
In the story of Alice in Wonderland, Alice chases a rabbit to its hole. Without hesitation she plunges after the rabbit into his hole and falls. “Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end? ‘I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time?’ she said aloud. ‘I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth.’” Like Peter on the water, we can lose sight of Christ and start sinking. We can chase an delusive dream or a sinful ambition or pleasure only to find ourselves plunging into a free fall that has no end. There is no bottom to the hole and there is no hope of breaking our fall unless Christ intervenes with his grace and mercy.
I grew up living just a couple hours from Niagra Falls. We made a trek to the falls almost anytime family from out of town would visit us. As a child I felt a great amount of growing anticipation as we traveled along the Niagra River toward the northern wonder. As we neared the falls I was astonished to see boats and people swimming in the river. As long as they stayed a good distance from the falls they were in no danger. But there was a point on the river, a point of no return. If, in their carelessness, they allowed themselves to cross that point they could not save themselves. They were destined to go over the falls and face certain destruction.
One of the more sobering verses in the Bible is found in Genesis 6:9 “My spirit shall not always strive with man.” This is a dire warning that after the last call is made there is no longer any hope because no man can come to God unless he first calls. The call of God sounds something like this, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18) When we respond to this call and confess our sins and accept Christ as the Savior of our wretched souls we are filled with hope and rewarded with eternal life. When we resist the Holy Spirit of God over and over we risk crossing the Rubicon, crossing the point of no return.
Listening carefully for the call of the One who is “not wanting anyone to perish, but (wants) everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)