Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Escape from the Coming Judgment

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with a sobering history lesson.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Mount Vesuvius is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world! It’s located on the western coast of Italy near the city of Naples. On August 24 in 79 A.D. there was a massive explosion of fire and smoke that came spewing out of the top of this mountain—this volcano.

Ultimately it blew off the entire cone of the mountain, and there was this huge mushroom cloud that rose twenty-seven miles into the sky from this active volcano! The powerful explosion from Mt. Vesuvius was one-hundred-thousand times greater than the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima toward the end of World War II. That’s a powerful explosion!

Leslie: Do you know that the Bible tells us about an explosion that rivals the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius? We’re about to hear about it on Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe, for May 1, 2019.

Nancy is continuing in a series called “Remember Lot’s Wife.” To set up our biblical narrative, Nancy is telling us more about the tragedy in ancient Italy. Oh, and if there are young kids listening with you, be advised that today’s program contains some mature themes.

Nancy: At the base of Vesuvius, at the time there was an active thriving Roman city named Pompeii. Historians think that, at the time, it had maybe ten- to twenty-thousand inhabitants. Within twenty-four hours, the entire city was buried under some twenty feet of volcanic ash, mud, and rocks!

Some of these people died while they were trying to find shelter in their own homes. Others died while they were out on the road trying to flee from the city. Those who weren’t killed by the falling debris were asphyxiated by the gases in the air.

I’ve been researching this over the past few days and on the Internet, you can actually find a video simulation of the twenty-four hour period. It is horrific! And it just shows you, kind of in time-lapse fashion, what this might have looked like, what they might have experienced. It was horrible!

For the next seventeen centuries, the ruins of Pompeii were untouched. There was a thick layer of volcanic ash and debris that covered the city. It preserved the city and its buildings and the dead inhabitants—intact. Then in the mid-1700s, archeologists began the long process of excavating the ancient city of Pompeii.

That excavation continued into the 1900s where they discovered an incredibly detailed picture. Under all these layers, all these feet of ash and debris, they discovered this amazing picture of what that civilization had been like. Because in just of matter of hours the city was gone, and then this blanket of ash covered it and preserved it in a way until it was excavated.

As we look at Pompeii and consider what happened that was so graphic in that day, it gives us a glimpse of the cataclysmic judgment that destroyed the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Luke chapter 17, verse 32 Jesus said to His hearers, “Remember Lot's wife.”

And that’s what we’re doing this week, because Lot and his wife were involved in this whole destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We want to look at the story of this woman, her deadly choice, and the consequences that she faced as a result. Let me do a little bit of reset for those of you who may not have caught the program yesterday.

Two angels, who looked like ordinary men, were sent by God to warn Lot and his family that judgment was coming. There was a horrific scene, as you remember we read yesterday from Genesis chapter 19. There was a horrific scene in Lot’s home that evening as the men of the city tried to gang-rape these two men who were visiting Lot—the angels.

But the angels struck the angry mob with blindness and the mob went away before they could kill Lot. Then the angels, these men, warned Lot and his family of the impending destruction of this city. They offered salvation, they offered grace, they offered rescue to Lot and his family, much as God offered rescue to Noah and his family: “The flood is coming! Destruction is coming. This world is evil; I’m going to judge it. Get into the ark and be safe!”

God said to Lot and his family, through these angels, “Get out of Sodom so you can be safe, so you can be saved!”

In this story we see so many mercies! It’s a story of great judgment. It’s a tragic story. It’s a story of many, many evil people being killed. But it’s also a story that’s filled with the mercy of God! It’s filled with so many opportunities that Lot and his wife, “Mrs. Lot,” had to be spared.

Lot’s wife ended up dead, in case you don’t know the story, but it’s not because God didn’t show her mercy; it’s not because God didn’t give her many opportunities to be spared. But she turned them down. She resisted the grace of God, and she paid for it with her life. (I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Let’s turn to Genesis chapter 19. We’re in the home of Lot. We’ll pick up beginning at verse 12.

The [angels] said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place.”

In other words, “Get your family, get anyone who will go with you, and take them out of the city!”

“For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” . . . As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot [this is another invitation, another opportunity to be spared, another warning] saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city” (vv. 13, 15).

God’s warning Lot and his family; He’s offering them a chance to get out, to be rescued. “But,” verse 16, “he lingered.” Why would you linger!? Because you either don’t believe that what the angels—these men—are saying is true, or you think you can beat the odds and you’ll be okay. It’s much as some people who ignore mandatory evacuations before a storm is coming.

They’re saying, “Looks pretty clear in the sky to me right now. It hasn’t done anything before. I’ve heard these warnings before.” He lingered. In his mercy, God pressed the point with him.

So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city (v. 16).

I just picture this: how many angels are there in this scene? There are two; two men. How many hands does each angel have? Two. How many hands are there total? Four hands. How many people leave the city? They took Lot, his wife, and his two daughters by the hand. So each angel in each hand has one of these four people, and you can just see . . .

There have been some paintings done of this over the centuries. Each angel is dragging two people—Lot, his wife, and their two daughters, Four reluctant people who are dragging their heels and are wanting to hang back, like, “Don’t make me leave! Do I have to leave?”

And here the angels are like, “Get out of here! The fire is about to come!”

It seems like the angels had a greater sense of urgency and concern for Lot’s rescue and his safety than Lot did for his own life and his own family. Not only was he lingering, but as he was lingering, he was making an impression in his wife’s life. He was influencing her thinking and that of his daughters.

Neither Lot’s wife nor his daughters ended up well, I’ll just tell you that, if you don’t know the end of the story. But here’s Lot. He’s lingering, and he’s creating an impression in the lives of his family that makes them not in a hurry to get out. They should have been in a hurry to get out of there, but they lacked resolve. Why? Because their hearts were pulled in two directions.

They wanted to stay in the familiar place. They didn’t want to have to leave everything that they knew behind. But the Lord was kind; the Lord was merciful to Lot, to his wife, and to their daughters. He spared no expense, sending two angels down from heaven to deliver them, to rescue them, to spare their lives!

Verse 17, as the angels brought this family out, one said, “Escape for your life!” because they were just outside of the city now and that wasn’t far enough. When this city blew up—like Mt. Vesuvius—it was going to destroy everything in its wake. Escape for your life! Some of your translations say, “Flee for your lives!” (NIV). “Flee, get out of here!”

“Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape [flee!] to the hills, lest you be swept away” (v. 17).

I mean, can you hear the urgency here? This is not a calm conversation they’re having. The angels are not just saying [languidly], “Escape . . . for . . . your lives.” (laughter) We don’t have any audio of this conversation, but I’m pretty sure it was an intense dialog going on here!

These angels are pleading, they’re appealing, they’re ordering: “Get out of here! Escape for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the valley!” Which makes verse 18 pretty surprising to me . . . if it weren’t so much like human nature.

Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords . . .”

Now, it’s not Lord like God the Lord. It’s “kind sirs.” Lot is saying, “Thank you for your kindness, but oh no!” You can see he’s still hesitant, he’s still torn, he’s still conflicted. He’s not getting how urgent this situation is! “Oh, no, my lords. Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight . . .”

Now, I’m going to just tell you what. They’re on the brink of disaster here, and he’s stopping right outside the city to have this conversation with these angels who have said, “Get out of here! This thing’s going to blow up!”

“Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight [oh no, my lords] and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die" (v 19). (laughter)

. . . which is exactly what the angels told him is going to happen, “if you don’t get out of here!”

He says, “I’m afraid of dying.”

They’re saying, “If you’re afraid of dying, leave! Run! Run for your life!”

Wow! We’re so foolish! Verse 20, Lot says:

“Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!”

I mean, negotiating, manipulating, bartering: “Let me do it my way!”

This is how people so often approach the gospel: “Don’t make me leave everything I love! Let me do it my way! Let me put the conditions on how I want to be saved!”

Well, God is merciful. Here is one more evidence of it in verse 21:

[The angel] said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Escape there quickly, [It’s the same message! “Get out! Get there!”] for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar [which means, “small and insignificant”] (vv. 21–22).

I’m not sure why Lot wanted to go there—Scripture doesn’t really make it clear—as opposed to the place where the angel told him to go. But he’s trying to make the conditions of his own salvation, “Let me go to this small, insignificant place; let me go there.”

And the angel says, “Go there, but what you do, do it quickly!”

The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. [When? When Lot was out of Sodom and finally to the place where the angel had agreed he could escape.] Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven (vv. 23–24).

In His mercy—again!—the Lord waited to send judgment until Lot was out of the city. “The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire.” I’ve been trying to figure out what this really is, what it was like.

Different translations . . . The NIV says, “burning sulfur.” You can imagine the stench of this sulphur! “Brimstone” is in some of our older translations; that’s a synonym of “sulphur.” “Brimstone and fire.” “Fire and brimstone,” you have heard of this. It has become a phrase describing extreme judgment, ultimate judgment.

One paraphrase says, “A river of lava from God out of the sky.” That’s graphic! “The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” And verse 25:

And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

It was like Pompeii—decimated, devastated, no sign of life left! Judgment.

Now, we’re going to come back to verse 26 in a moment, but look first at verses 27–28:

And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord [where he had prayed]. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.

This is massive destruction! And people say, “How can a good God do that!?” Well, we go back to what Abraham said to the Lord: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25). He is a good God and He’s a holy God, and He is honored even in wrath.

But He never destroys those that He has not first extended mercy to, that He has not first given an opportunity to repent and to believe the gospel . . . never! He doesn’t destroy those who don’t know that they are sinning against the holiness of God.

They may not know much, but they have a witness, a testimony, a conscience in their heart that says, “You are sinning against the God of the universe!” They are unrepentant, they are rebellious, they are resistant of His grace. And He finally says, “The cup of My wrath has overflowed! This is the end!”

It was a day of judgment, but it was also a day of salvation . . . because, in the Scripture, wherever you find judgment you also find—on a parallel track—salvation. Judgment and salvation: I mark this in my Bible any time I come to it. It’s all through the Scripture. Where there is judgment, there is also salvation. Where there’s salvation, there is also judgment.

Here’s the salvation: Abraham had plead with God on behalf of the city and in the end, not even ten righteous people could be found, and the city was destroyed—that’s judgment. But look at verse 29:

So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.

God overthrew the cities; that’s judgment. He destroyed them. But what’s the mercy? What’s the salvation? God remembered Abraham and He sent Lot out, rescued Lot! So, God’s mercy in Lot’s life—the rescue of Lot, the salvation of Lot—was the fruit of his uncle’s fervent prayers and faith.

It didn’t say God remembered Lot, it says, “God remembered Abraham, the one who had cried out to Him and said, ‘God, how can you destroy the righteous with the wicked?’” Now, God didn’t answer Abraham’s prayer in exactly the way Abraham prayed, because Abraham left his prayer off at: “If there are ten righteous . . .” God said, “Yes, for ten I won’t destroy the city.” I think Abraham thought, That’s the end of my prayer.

God answered his prayer in a different way, but God heard and answered that intercession. Who has God put in your life that needs to be rescued? Family members, friends, coworkers? They’re resistant to the gospel, they’re rebelling against God. Can I remind you that your concern and your prayers may be the means that God uses to bring about their rescue.

It may be in ways you can’t see; you may not even understand until eternity how all that comes into play. So pray. Pray! When you can’t get them out, you can’t win their hearts, you can’t pull them out, pray! And then, regardless of the outcome, we rest our case the same way Abraham did: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Yes He will. Yes, He will—in judgment and in salvation.

Now, those prayers that Abraham had prayed included not only Lot, but also Lot’s wife and Lot’s daughters. They all could have been spared; they were all given a chance to escape. So were the sons-in-law, by the way, the betrothed sons-in-law. They turned down the offer.

Lot’s wife and daughters, although being dragged out kicking and screaming it appears, lingering, they made it out. But Lot’s wife didn’t live because, in the end, she rejected the mercy and the salvation that God extended to her.

Verse 26: let’s go back there. We read about the judgment, the overthrow, but sandwiched right in the middle of that whole description is verse 26: “But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back.” She looked back. What had the angels said? “Do not look back; do not stop anywhere in the valley. Flee to the hills.” She looked back.

Now as you study this passage, you realize this was not just a quick glance. The word “look” in the Hebrew is a word that means “to look intently at something; to focus on it and to regard it with pleasure, favor or care.” She looked longingly, she looked lovingly; she was longing for what she had left behind.

One commentator says, “It might be rendered: ‘She lagged back,’ or maybe even, ‘She returned back.’” Her heart was drawn back there. That’s all in this “looking back.” She “looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (v. 26). Now, we don’t know exactly what that means, what it looked like. Commentators have speculated as to exactly what happened to her.

The word, “became,” (“she became a pillar of salt”) is a word that literally is, “she was a pillar of salt.” One moment she wasn’t, and the next moment she was. So this is a complete, instantaneous judgment. She became, she was, a pillar of salt. Some believe that she was literally transformed in that moment into a pillar of salt . . . and that may well be the case.

Others believe that she was asphyxiated by the fiery sulfurous gases in the atmosphere, and then her body became encrusted with salt. This was very hot, very powerful; that could have happened in a moment.

Another commentator said it could have been this way: “The earthquake (that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) heaped up a mighty mass of the rock-salt, which lies in solid strata round the Dead Sea, and Lot’s wife was entangled in the convulsion and perished, leaving the hill of salt, in which she was enclosed, as her memorial.”

I think it could have been any of those, but we know that it literally happened. Some people ask, “Did it really happen?”—people who doubt the veracity of Scripture.

Well, the historical reliability of this account is attested to by multiple sources in the first and second centuries after Christ. You may be familiar with the name Josephus, who was a Jewish historian born in Jerusalem shortly after Jesus died, and he writes in his history of the Jews, called Antiquities,

But Lot’s wife continually turning back to view the city, as she went from it and being too nicely inquisitive what would become of it, although God had forbidden her so to do; was changed into a pillar of salt. For I have seen it, and it remains at this day.

He wrote that in the first century.

Two early church fathers—one of whom died in 99 A.D., the other died in about 200 A.D.—both spoke of the pillar of salt remaining until their day. So, if that is the case, if that pillar of salt . . . Whatever it looked like—it was a statue, it was a column—it was some visual monument to this woman’s disbelief and disobedience.

If it was still there in the day of Josephus and these other early church fathers, then it’s likely that Jesus and others in His day would have seen it as well, that they would have been familiar with this monument. So when Jesus is speaking to a group of His listeners in that scene in Luke chapter 17 and He says, “Remember Lot’s wife,” it’s very possible that they could actually picture this grim reminder of this woman’s fate!

“Remember Lot’s wife. Look over there. See what happened to her? Judgment’s coming. Remember Lot’s wife!”

In the end, Lot was spared. He was rescued from Sodom, even though he had to be pressed to leave, but his wife perished—just as the people of Sodom did. Why? Well, it wasn’t that she wasn’t warned of the coming judgment, and it wasn’t that she wasn’t given ample opportunity to escape, to get out.

The problem was she didn’t believe God. She didn’t heed His warnings; she resisted His grace. She maybe thought, I can get away with this. I can get by. I’ll survive. Or maybe she was just not thinking at all.

Isn’t that the way it is with so many people today? They’re just not thinking about their souls. They’re not thinking about the future. They’re not thinking about life after death. They’re not thinking about the promises of God, the threats of God, the warnings of God that He will judge this world with fire—that the wicked will be cast into hell and all those who forsake God.

Maybe she was thinking, I’m not as bad as those people in Sodom. After all, I’m married to Lot! But her disobedience, her unbelief, was as wicked in God’s eyes and as deserving of His judgment and wrath as was the sexual perversion of the city of Sodom.

So you can be sexually promiscuous and experience God’s wrath and judgment that way, or you can be sitting in church every Sunday and experience the wrath of God in the end, because you have not believed the gospel, put your faith in Christ, and fled to Him to save you.

It’s a tragic story, but so like what many listening to my voice today will experience someday. And so I’m coming to you today and in this series to say, “Remember Lot’s wife. Remember Lot’s wife!”

God is merciful. He’s giving you opportunity—today!—to flee, to believe in Christ, to be saved, to stop trusting in your own good works for your salvation, but to trust in Jesus. Escape! Flee for your life! Run to Christ! Remember Lot’s wife.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been offering a warning: Judgment is coming, and we need to be ready!—just like someone facing an imminent wildfire or storm. But Jesus has made the way for us to be safe from judgment. That’s what one young woman discovered last fall at the True Woman ’18 conference. She wrote and told us what happened when she attended.

Woman: I always had a huge struggle with jealousy and disobedience, and especially the sin of falling into temptation and listening to the things the world told me. I never wanted to deal with my sin problem, so I just shoved it down deeper and deeper into my heart until it was buried away where no one could see it.

But that Friday at the True Woman conference, I confessed my sins for the first time in a long time. During the first session of the Teen Track, I think the conviction of the Holy Spirit filled that whole room. Everyone was crying and everyone was pouring their hearts out to God.

I prayed with a counselor and, at one point, I was on my knees giving my heart to God in between songs. It was the most amazing thing I have ever felt or experienced!

Nancy: Wow! What a powerful reminder of why Revive Our Hearts hosts conferences like True Woman. You know, when we come together and God’s Word is proclaimed, He can do powerful things in the lives of the people who are there.

We’re praying He is going to do just that in the coming months when Revive Our Hearts hosts the Revive ’19 conference in Indianapolis. And . . . we haven’t released all the details yet, but we’re also getting to ready for another True Woman conference in Mexico, this time in Monterrey.

Hosting these conferences requires a significant financial investment, and we’re able to continue these outreaches because of friends to Revive Our Hearts—friends like you—who believe in this ministry.

Today is the first day of May, and that means that our team is wrapping up one set of accounts and getting ready for a new budget cycle. What that means for you is that your gift in May is really important!

In order for us to close out this fiscal year in a healthy place, we need to see the Lord provide at least $775,000 this month. That will let us keep current operations going without interruption, and will keep us moving forward in new ministry opportunities as well.

I hope you’ll help us meet this need by supporting Revive Our Hearts here in the month of May. When you send a gift of any amount, we’d like to say “thank you” by sending you an exclusive resource designed just for our Revive Our Hearts listeners. We’ve simply called it Refresh. It’s a beautifully designed tool to help refresh your walk with the Lord.

It includes a journal and cards with daily reflection questions to help you walk through the process of experiencing personal revival over the next thirty days. So would you ask the Lord how He would want you to help meet our fiscal year-end need so that we continue offering spiritual refreshing to women who are thirsty for more of Christ?

And when you contact us, be sure to let us know that you’d like the Refresh Journaling Set—your thirty-day guide to personal revival. You can donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Thank you so much for helping Revive Our Hearts offer times of spiritual refreshing to women around the world!

Leslie: Tomorrow Nancy will continue through this intriguing story of Lot and his family. She’ll look at a woman who hesitated to obey the Lord and was turned into a pillar of salt. And she’ll help you evaluate your heart to see if there are areas where you’re playing with danger instead of running away. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

At the end of Nancy’s teaching, our friend Carrie Gaul prayed for women facing a coming judgment. She prayed that they’d seek protection in Christ.

Carrie Gaul: Heavenly Father, how we thank You for Your Word! How we thank You that You have given us everything that we need. We thank You for Jesus! Thank You for His redemption; thank You that You sent Him that we might not remain dead in our trespasses and sins.

Thank You, O Father, that You delight and are eagerly longing to pour out Your compassion upon those who have not yet heard or have not yet responded to the love and the mercy and the compassion that You are pouring out. So we praise You, and we thank You, God!

We pray for every woman. Jesus, thank You for reminding us through Your Word that judgment is coming. Your Holy Spirit is speaking today, drawing men and women, boys and girls across the globe. Father, we pray for every individual that is this moment experiencing the conviction and the power of the Spirit being poured out and drawing them to repentance.

Jesus, thank You for the gift of repentance. We pray for response; we pray for that step of obedience to take place! We pray, O God, that there will no longer be, as Lot was, hesitant and lingering and refusing, in a sense, to respond quickly.

And we pray, O God, that we would not be as Lot’s wife! Help us to remember Lot’s wife and to respond eagerly and quickly, even in this moment, to Your Holy Spirit’s drawing of our soul. We praise You and thank You, in Jesus’ name, amen!

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is reminding you of God’s mercy in the face of judgment. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.
 

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