A Heavenly Vision

By Dr. Tom Malone, Sr.
(Preached at EmmanuelBaptist Church, Pontiac, Michigan, July 27, 1997)
I am reading in the Book of Acts, Chapter 26,and I am going to read beginning with verse 12 through verse 19.Will you put your heart upon the Word of God as we read.

Paul is actually testifying. He is giving oneof the great testimonies - Paul's testimony - thatis found five times in the New Testament. So that is pretty muchwhat he is doing here. He is giving a testimony of how the Lordhas worked in his life. He said,

"Whereupon as I went toDamascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, Atmidday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above thebrightness of the sun, shining round about me and them whichjourneyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, Iheard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue,Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kickagainst the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said,I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thyfeet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to makethee a minister and a witness both of these things which thouhast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear untothee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles,unto whom now I send thee."

That is a great verse. I do not know if hethought about it very much, but God was saying to Saul, "Iam delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles untowhom I now send thee..." I believe that God's servantsshould be in the hands of God, and I think that is what the Lordis talking about here, "I am delivering you from the people,and from the Gentiles, unto whom I now send thee, To open theireyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the powerof Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, andinheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is inme. "Whereupon, O king Agrippa,I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:"

I am going to read verse 19 again, and I amgoing to take another text in another part of the Word of God. Inverse 19 Paul said before King Agrippa,"Whereupon,O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenlyvision:" And perhaps what we can talk to youabout tonight is the heavenly vision that God gave to Saul, nowthe Apostle Paul. In the book of Proverbs, Chapter 29, verse 18,we read this statement, "Where there is no vision, thepeople perish."

I am not talking tonight about some spookything - some way out thing. I have heard people testify thatthey saw things and heard things which they did not see nor hear.All God wants us to know is in this Book, and God does not haveto give us some great experience and have us see things with ournatural eyes. All of it is right here in the Book. But there issuch a thing as a vision. I believe God's people, God'spreachers; I believe God's churches ought to have a vision.That is a vision that comes from God, a heavenly vision of whyGod saved us, why God formed the church, and what we are supposedto do. We need to have a vision. I want to be true to the text- "Where there is no vision, the people perish:" Aheavenly vision.

I. We Need a Vision of God.

I believe there are some verses that make itplain as to what this really means. I want to give you fourverses out of the Old Testament tonight about this.

First of all, "...Andthe word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was noopen vision." That is found inI Samuel 3:1. I would like to have the time to explain to you whythis is said in the Bible. The Word of the Lord was precious. Itwas unusual, it was rare, because there was no open vision. Thesewere the days of one of the old prophets who was not faithful toGod. And little Samuel was raised up by a Godly mother and ofcourse of the Lord, and when he was probably three or four yearsof age he was placed in the temple with the old prophet who wassupposed to get things from God and bring them to the people. Butwe read, "And the word of the LORD was precious in thosedays; there was no open vision." Now the reason was thatthis old prophet was not living for God. He had sons who livedoff the people of God. They were like thieves and scavengers andthe Bible says he reprehended them not. God was not saying muchto that kind of person, and I say to you I do not think Godreveals very much to people who are not right with Him, who arenot in the Lord's will or carrying out God's purposefor their life. But for those who do, He gives knowledge and whatthe Bible speaks of as a vision.

I read in Lamentations, Chapter 2 and verse 9, "...her prophets also find no visionfrom the Lord."Here again youhave what I just said to you about the old prophet not faithfulto God and to His truths. Now here is a time when God'speople had been severely chastised, had been taken into captivityfor 70 years, and the Bible says "her prophets also find novision from the Lord." Oh they were scattered and they hadgotten away from the Book of God, gotten away from the will andthe purpose of God. So her prophets during that time found novision from the Lord.

You know, you have got to be where God can talkto you. You have got to be where God can show you something outof the Bible. That is what a vision is. God gives a picture inyour heart and on your soul of what you are here for, in theworld for, and what you are supposed to be doing for the Lord.

I read about the coming of the Holy Spirit onthe day of Pentecost, and in the Book of Joel, Chapter 2, verse28, it says "...your young men shall seevisions:" You see, there issuch a thing as a spiritual vision. Well, I will mention anexample. I had a lady say to me one time, "You must come tomy home and pick up a book I have written. It will do you good inyour ministry." So I stopped by one day and knocked on thedoor, and she came and handed me this notebook she had written,page after page, but all of it contrary to the Word of God. I amnot talking about something like that - I am not talkingabout something false or something spooky, or something you haveto see with your natural eye. I am talking about what the Bibletalks about when it speaks of God's people having a heavenlyvision, and, ".where there is no vision, the peopleperish." And Paul was able to say, "I was notdisobedient unto the heavenly vision."

I believe God wants to give us a visiontonight. I remember in my lifetime in my ministry when I feltlike God put something on my heart that was real and there was apurpose in it. The call of God was in it. It was a vision fromGod. I remember when the Lord spoke to me about starting a BibleCollege - church-centered - not just out in the desertsomewhere but a church-centered Bible College, and aboutforty-four years ago we started Midwestern Baptist College. Iknow it was of God, but one of my dear friends, a preacherfriend, wrote me a letter at the time and in it he wrote,"We do not need another Bible College. We need your help andinfluence in the Bible College we already have." It turnedout to be a Bible College very successful numerically, butdeparted from the true teaching of the Bible. I know God wantedMidwestern Baptist College raised up. God made it plain to me. Ido not think I could have ever preached with freedom and victoryin my life if I had disobeyed God, but a dear preacher friendsaid, "Do not do that." But about 114 missionaries areon the field who were trained at Midwestern Baptist College, andover 300 preachers are somewhere on this continent preaching theWord of God, and around the world people are witnessing forChrist. O, let God give you a vision of what can be done if wefollow the voice of God and go for the purpose of God in ourlives. "I was not disobedient," Paul said, "untothe heavenly vision."

I do not like something that must be tangible.You do not have to put your hand on it, you do not have to see itwith your natural eyes. I remember when I first saw the littlebuilding where this church started, and I told you that storymany times and I will not do that tonight. Mrs. Malone and Ilooked in on a little dance floor in a building set right wherethat part of these buildings is - the other side of thatwall. We stood up on some large stones as large or larger thanthis pulpit and looked through a window and I saw something, notreally, but what I believe God is talking about when He says,"Where there is no vision the people perish." I believeHe was talking about God's people having a vision of what Hewill do if we obey Him and carry out His purpose for putting ushere. We looked out on that dance floor and saw every chair witha person in it and in my heart and soul I saw the buildingfilled. Mrs. Malone saw a little old fashioned band shell as aplace for the choir and she saw it filled, and before many yearshad gone by, my vision had come to pass, and the little buildingwas filled and people were saved, and God was working.

Oh, tonight we need to let God work in ourhearts and give us a vision of what can happen if we follow Himclosely and obey Him and do the work and the will of God. I say Iam not talking to you about something spooky. I am talking to youabout what I believe the Bible teaches about a vision. I heardpeople speak about things which are not according to the Word ofGod about a vision.

Dr. Lakin was preaching here one time and hesaid that he knew of a church where no one could have any realimportant part in the work of the church and could not be heardunless something really outstanding had happened in their life,and that you could not join the church unless you could testifythat something unusual and outstanding had happened in your life.He said that one time a lady stood up, a kind of elderly lady,and she said, "I want to apply for membership in thischurch." Someone said, "Well, you must be able to tellus of some outstanding experience you have had in yourlife." And this dear old lady said, "Well, I laid inthe bed the other night and I heard a bug scratching on the headof my bed." And she repeated it two or three times and said,"That is my experience." The people told her that didnot mean anything and they were about to vote her down when amember with more sense than most of them stood up and said,"I move we take her in because I have been in this churchthirty years and I have never heard of anybody having such anexperience as a bug scratching on the head of her bed, and I moveshe be received." I am not talking about that really. I amtalking about something real - a real vision.

You thank God that He put in His Word,"Where there is no vision the people perish." And thegreatest man of the Bible you might say, said, "I have notbeen disobedient unto the heavenly vision that you gave me."He would not have put it there if He did not want us to have avision in this church. I am positive the Lord talked to theApostle Paul about what He wanted him to do. He said, "I amgoing to send you to the Gentiles, the heathens." Gentileswere considered heathen - they were lost people. "Iwant you to be a soul winner."

II. We Need a Vision of Lost Souls.

You know, I believe God wants to give us thatvision. I believe you need to see yourself tonight because youare born again and have the Spirit of God in you. You can go topeople who know not Christ, and point them to the Word of Godabout how to be saved and you can win souls. You need a vision ofyourself as a soul winner for God. Oh, Paul was sent to lostpeople to win them to Christ. I read in the 16th Chapter of theBook of Acts where a "vision appeared to Paul in the night.There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying,"Come over into Macedonia, and help us." What kind ofvision did Paul get? Well, Paul and his team wondered,"Should we go there or there or there?" And the Biblesays the Holy Spirit forbade them to go to these places, but inthe night God gave to Paul a vision, and what was it? It was aman, not a building, not a country, not a continent, but a lostsoul who cried out, "Come over into Macedonia and help us.We need God. We need to be saved. We need a preacher. We need aChristian." And the vision Paul had that night was a visionof a man crying out for help.

You know the Bible says that when Jesus saw themultitudes, He had compassion on them. We need to see people.People, not programs, not beautiful buildings, not symbols ofChristianity. We need to see people who are lost and without Godand need help. "When He saw the multitudes He had compassionon them." We need to see the multitudes, the multitudesaround us. I do not know how many hundreds of thousands of people- I am not talking about Pontiac alone - but hundredsof thousands of people who live in the shadows, so to speak, afew miles from this church. Oh God, give us a vision of peoplewho are lost for miles around this church, where there is nochurch that preaches the gospel, and no people who knock ondoors, and no one with a heart to win souls, to see people saved.God, give us a vision!

We need a vision like David Brainerd had whenhe went to the American Indians. We need a vision like GeneralBooth had who founded the Salvation Army and made altars forpeople to be saved out of the sidewalks and the curbs all overthe world. God, give us a vision. We need a vision like HudsonTaylor had when he went to the Chinese and thousands were savedand churches started, and there is still a touch of Taylor'swork in the great Communistic nation of China. Give us a visiontonight of Adoniram Judson going to the far Burmese people whoselanguage he did not know and for whom he must translate the Bibleinto their language, but he went simply because God gave him avision of a lost nation who needed to hear about the gospel. Weneed a vision of lost souls.

Now let me tell you some folks say, "Well,you hammer on the same thing all the time." I think that iswhat God wants us to do - hammer on what God hammers on.Jesus came into the world to seek and to save that which waslost. I want to say to you that it is a sin for you and me toclaim to be a church, a New Testament Bible-believing church, andnot see people saved. I mean many people being saved, coming toknow the Lord as their Savior. God, give us a vision of lostsouls and let us not be disobedient to the heavenly vision. Godwants to give us that vision. I believe that with all my heart.You might resist, you may prefer to hear something else, but Ithink I am talking about what is nearest to the heart of God. Ido not think anything is closer to the heart of God than soulwinning, getting people saved. Oh please, tonight, I beg of you,let God give you a vision of lost souls.

General Booth started the Salvation Army -his wife carried it on. When she was buried - he had alreadygone to heaven - when her funeral was taking place inLondon, they put a large glass bulb over her body. People wantedto touch her. Their tears would flow upon her were her body notprotected. And for hours upon hours upon hours there were lines- a procession - that would go by and look at the faceof Catherine Booth. And at one time during that funeral therecame a lady leading a child by the hand with another one in herarms and her tears dropped on that big glass bulb as she lookedat the face of Catherine Booth. And someone said, "Lady, youmust hurry. Others want to view Mrs. Booth also." She said,"Please do not hurry me. Besides these two," the oneshe was leading and one she was carrying, "I had two sons,one 19, and one 20, both going to hell, and Catherine Booth said`I will lead those boys to Christ,' and now they are saved.Oh, let me have a few seconds more to look at one who won my sonsto the Lord." I tell you, God wants to give us a vision oflost souls.

III. We Need a Vision of theJudgment Seat of Christ.

I must hurry, I can not give you the fullsermon and I will not try, but we need a vision of the judgmentseat of Christ. Notice so many people living like there is nosuch thing. The Bible says, "But why dost thou judge thybrother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shallall stand before the judgment seat of Christ." (Rom. 14:10)

You see, even in our relationship to ourbrother, we are going to give an account at the judgment seat ofChrist. You know, I remember one time when Mrs. Malone and I wereon a train trip in Scotland, and I remember one time we could notget up to the window to get information or tickets and we had tostand and wait. And I remember how a man got upset because hecould not get to the window where the ticket agent was. When hedid get up there, he fussed at him and told him what a sorry jobhe was doing. The agent said he was doing the best he could andhe pointed and said, "I want you to look up there at thatbalcony around us and there is a door up there that says,'Superintendent,' and he said, "what I aminterested in is not only pleasing the people, but my mainpurpose is to please that man who sits in that office - mySuperintendent - I want to please him." And I want totell you, friends, you ought to want to please God. Tom Maloneought to want to please God. God, give us a vision of standingsome day at the judgment seat of Christ when we have not pleasedthe Lord in our life on this earth. We need a vision of thejudgment seat.

IV. We Need a Vision of Hell.

Oh, how much I could say tonight about how weneed a vision of hell. I think, maybe, there is some convictionin my heart that I do not preach on it more. It is an unpopularsubject. The world today only uses the word hell as a slang word.They do not believe in it, but the Bible teaches that there is ahell. Hell is down, hell is at the end of a Christless life.Every person we do not get saved is on his way to hell - noexit - no water - no peace - no quietness -only weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and it nevercomes to an end. God, give us a vision tonight of a hell that isat the end of the road of a Christless life. God, help us believewhat this Bible says.

One time during visitation work, a person said,"Who said there is a hell?" I said, "Jesus saidso." The kindest, most loving person who ever walked thisearth said so five times in the ninth chapter of Mark. Five timesHe said about hell, "Where their worm dieth not, and thefire is not quenched."

I have told you many times about wanting to winmy father to the Lord, but I never did until I saw him in hell.God gave me a vision of my own father who is responsible for mebeing born. I saw him in hell. I heard him cry for water. I heardhim call my name, "Help me." I heard him beg, "Isthere no way out? Is there no end?" Until I saw my father inhell, I never could win him, but thank God, I was able to win himto the Lord. God saved him and he is in heaven tonight. God, giveus a vision of hell.

I want to mention to you a lady I was thinkingabout this morning - I have often thought about this before. Whenthe Woodys were here - Mr. and Mrs. Harold Woody - theywere in this church for years, and they were both Sunday Schoolteachers, always on visitation, and they saw hundreds andhundreds of people saved in this church and they had a great partin it. There was a lady like that - Mrs. Malone wouldremember her - her name was Janet Hardenberg. JanetHardenberg was a blond-haired lady, and she had an unsavedhusband. She lived for the Lord. She was not putting on a show orgoing through the motions or just talking the language. Mrs.Hardenberg loved God. She loved God. She loved the soul of herhusband and wanted to keep him out of hell. She came one Sundaynight, like this Sunday night service, and she came down and tookme by the hand and she said, "Please pray for me. I want Godto give me a vision of hell. I want to see what it is like morethan ever. I want to feel it. My husband is lost, he needs to besaved. Please pray for me." And this good Christian womanasked me, "Would you pray for me." The next Sundaynight there was a visiting speaker. I was here. I listened to himpreach with tears, with sobs, on the subject of hell. I saw thislady leave her seat and come down to the front and she said tome, "Pastor, God answered my prayer. I see what it is like.I feel what it is like for my husband to go to hell. God hasgiven me a vision of hell." She was a wonderful Christianbefore, but what a difference afterwards. I have seen her comedown with children all around her that she had visited and won tothe Lord. I have seen her come with a family. I have seen hercome with other ladies of her age group. I have seen her comenearly every Sunday bringing somebody to the Lord because shecared to ask God, "Oh, God, give me a vision of hell."Her husband drove race cars. It was not long before the car hewas driving in the race wrecked and caught fire, and not longafter that he died, but she won him to Christ. "Oh,"she said, "I want to see what hell is like."

We need that. Some of you, you are afraid ofwhat people will think of you if you talk about hell. They willcall you one of those fundamentalists, and that is a compliment.They will say you take the Bible literally, and that is acompliment. They will say you are a fanatic, and that is acompliment. I am a fan of Jesus, and have been for going onsixty-two years, and I believe every word, every word that theLord has ever said about anything in His book. The Bible sayshell is at the end of a Christless life.

V. We Need a Vision of the Church.

We need a vision of the church. I must skipthis - who is in it, what it is here for, the purpose of it,why you need it. The Bible answers all those questions.

You know a man claimed to be an infidel. I haveoften wondered if there really is such a thing. This thing ofpeople saying, "There is no God, no God." The Biblesays, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is noGod..." And in the Hebrew language, that verse says,"The fool hath said in his heart, No God." No God. Whathe is saying is, "No God for me." And one day thechurch caught on fire and the infidel, like others in the olddays, ran to join the bucket brigade to put out the fire in theold-time, old-fashioned church. Someone said, "Never saw yourunning to the church before." He said, "I have neverseen the church on fire before." Oh, I would like to seethis church on fire. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't you like tosee it burning? I mean in the Spirit, on fire for God. We need avision of what the church is for - a church on fire. That isthe kind of church you read of in the New Testament which is themodel church. It is a church on fire, a church busy, reachingpeople, living for God, holding up the Bible, lifting up theLord. We need a vision of the church - a church on fire.

VI. We Need a Vision of Jesus, Himself.

And I want to close. You know we need -and I want to try to explain this - please help me, pray forme that I can say what I want to say - we need a vision ofJesus, Himself. I would say that ninety-nine percent, maybe onehundred percent, I do not know, of the people in this auditoriumtonight know the Lord Jesus as Savior, but we need to know Him asa friend and sanctifier, as an advocate, as our coming King, asour constant companion and friend. We need a vision of Jesus.

In John 12:21 the Greeks came - that issynonymous with Gentiles in the New Testament - unsavedpeople. The Greeks came to a great feast, 12th Chapter, verse 21,and they said to Andrew, "Sir, we would see Jesus.""We want to see Jesus." I want to ask you something.Don't you want anyone who comes through any one of thesedoors into this place, don't you want them to see Jesus? Youneed a vision tonight in your hearts. We need a vision of allabout Jesus, about lifting Him up, about Him being the Savior ofthe world, our go-between and advocate at the throne, our comingKing. We need to see Jesus as He is in the Bible. When He went tothe Mount of Transfiguration, He took with Him Peter, James andJohn, and two men from heaven came - two famous men, Mosesand Elijah - but they did not get the attention. The Biblesays, up on that mountain they saw no man, no man, "no mansave Jesus only." We are not interested in promoting someman, some one of us. We should be loyal to one another, but theOne we need to promote is Jesus, lift up Jesus. In Hebrews,Chapter 2 and verse 9, the writer says, "But we seeJesus..." "We see Jesus..." He is talking aboutknowing Him in the heart and soul, loving Him, trying to be likeHim, a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Joshua saw Him, I think the pre-incarnateChrist, when he stood at the walls of Jericho and wondered whatplans should be followed to take that city, and he saw a man witha sword in his hand, and he said to him, "Are you on ourside or for the other side?" He said, "I am the captainof the host of the Lord." That is Jesus in the OldTestament. The preincarnate Christ. He is our Captain. We need tosee Him tonight as our way to victory and, if you please, our wayto success in the work of God. I mean visible success in workingfor God. He is the Captain. He has the plan, the way and thetruth that what we need is to see Jesus, have a vision of Him.

Isaiah said, "In the year that king Uziahdied, I saw the Lord, I saw the Lord, high and lifted up. Uziahdied, I saw the Lord - I saw the Lord - high and liftedup. I saw Him!"

Oh, we need to see Him tonight, and see Himhigh and lifted up. I tell you, you will never go wrong when youlift up the Lord in your life, in your church, in your work.

Stephen saw Him. What a wonderful spirit-filledman was Stephen. Stephen preached a sermon which, if you read itsometime carefully in the 7th Chapter of the Book of Acts, was aresume of the Old Testament from Genesis right down to that time,and he wound up his sermon by saying, "You have killed theHoly One, you have crucified the Holy One, you have put Jesus todeath." Stephen ended his sermon, he began it in the 12thChapter of the Book of Genesis and he gave a resume of the wholeOld Testament. They heard him say to those unsaved Jews,"You killed the Lord. You murdered Jesus. You put Him todeath." They rushed upon him with stones and they stoned himto death.But my, what a wonderful thing happened. The Bible tellsus of Stephen, "But he, being full of the HolyGhost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory ofGod, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God"Then the Bible repeated the statement by actuallyquoting Stephen when he said, ".Behold, Isee the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the righthand of God." (Acts 7:55, 56)

And though broken and bleeding and dying, hesaid, "I see Jesus." They stoned him to death. Thosewho stoned him took off their garments. There stood a young Rabbiwho hated God's people, who put them to death, and he said,"Lay your clothes right here. I will take care of them whileyou kill that deacon." That spirit-filled man called out,"I see Jesus," and as he died, he said, "Lord, laynot this sin to their charge." And he said, as Jesus said onthe cross, "Father, into Thy hands I commend myspirit." He saw Jesus as the Bible sets Him forth.

Two days later that young Rabbi was on his wayto Damascus with letters of authorization in his pocket to killmore Christians and to persecute the people of God. Suddenly alight shone from heaven and a voice came to his ears saying,"Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Saul had neverput a hand on Jesus, but when you put a hand on a child of God,it is just like putting it on the Lord. He said, "Why do youpersecute me?" Saul had persecuted God's people -same thing - same thing. You might as well slap Jesus asslap one of His Christians, one of His believers.

Saul fell to the earth, blinded, and cried outto God, "Lord, what would you have me to do?" You knowwhy? Because just a few days before, a Christian had seen theLord. He had a vision of Jesus as He is set forth in the Bible.God, give us a vision..

Let us just stand together and bow our heads inprayer. Oh Lord, tonight give us a vision. Lord, what I pray forthese dear people I pray for myself, for my own heart and soul tosee more of Thee and know Thee, to have a vision about people,the world filled with people on their way to hell. Please, I begof Thee from the depths of my heart, I cry out from my soul, OLord, tonight give us a vision. May we not go through this lifein a daze and in confusion, but let us have a vision of what itis all about, what we are here for.

Give us a burden for souls, a love for people,for Christians, for each other. Lord, keep us under Your hand.And Lord, we want to believe that when You say we are going tothe other side, we are going all the way. Nothing can stop us ifwe obey You. We believe nothing can stop men and women who loveand obey the Bible and have a purpose in their life and a visionof what it's all about.

Lord, speak to us tonight. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

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