Pray or Perish; Intercede or let others perish!
By Mathew Paul
God created the world and He runs it by unchangeable laws (Psa.148:5, 6). We know that there are physical laws which govern the universe. For example the Law of gravity, No one could ever imagine jumping from a high rise building and go without getting hurt. If we break the physical laws of life we get hurt physically. Thankfully, the Lord has permitted great scientists in different generations to discover some of these physical laws and that makes life much easier. Scientists who do further experiments base all their investigations on these known physical laws.
Likewise, there are immutable spiritual laws at work as well. Because no man could ever discover these spiritual laws, it pleased the almighty to reveal these laws to His people (Psa.147:19, 20). If one wants to be familiar with the spiritual laws which are operative, one need to turn to the revealed Word of God which is the Bible. From nowhere else we could learn these spiritual laws!
Validity of the Old Testament could never be challenged any time. We read in Psa.119:89 "Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens". So we are dealing with eternal truths and we are thankful that God has NOT left us in darkness in this area.
One of the unchanging spiritual laws is "Ask and you shall receive" (Mat.7:7) and it is put the other way around in Js.4:2 where we read, "you do not have, because you do not ask".
Prayer is one of the most misunderstood subjects in the Bible. There are many promises in the Bible. It looks they are given without any conditions attached to them. For example, look at Mat. 7:8. It says, "For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened". Could this be true when we pray for material things? Will everyone who ever asks for anything receive it every time? of course, not. If so, what does this promise mean?
Many have become infidels because they found this and such other Bible promises do not work in real life. Tragically they have misunderstood the Word of God!
What did our Lord actually mean when He made that promise in Mt.7:7? The very next verse is the key to understanding Mt.7:7. When He said that every one receives what is asked for, it obviously means the Lord is talking about spiritual things only.
Come to think of it this way. Have you ever found someone who prayed in faith trusting the word of the Lord who did NOT get forgiveness from the Lord? It could never happen. Could it?
From this we learn a great spiritual truth. Prayer is ordained by the Lord primarily for spiritual things. First thing we ever need to pray for is forgiveness and we need to make sure that we are forgiven before we go on to ask for anything else in life.
We are clearly told in Ps. 66:18 “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened".
Any sinner, praying in true repentance and faith, could confidently pray a prayer for forgiveness and he could be absolutely sure that God would not reject him. Once forgiveness is experienced, then all other prayers, done in the will of God, would surely have an answer as well (1Jn.5:14).
But have you ever come across anyone who experienced God's forgiveness without praying? We are told that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son that everyone who believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life (Jn.3:16). The only condition is believing. And, indeed, true faith would express itself as believing prayer! We are told in Rom.10:13 that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord would be saved. That means anyone who would not do the believing prayer would be damned forever. Thus we come to the conclusion "Pray or perish". And there is no exception to this rule ever!
While what is said so far is abundantly clear, a few, at least, would raise their eye brows at the next phrase in our caption, "intercede or let others perish"! Is there scriptural warrant for that statement? Or is it the truth that the eternity of every one born in this world is fixed by the Lord before the foundation of the world?!
We need to study the scripture clearly to find out what is being taught in this regard. Doctrines of predestination and eternal security are two of the most misunderstood doctrines of the Bible. This misunderstanding has led to callousness in the lives of many well-meaning believers. I believe that these two doctrines are clearly taught in the scriptures. And if I do not believe them, I am not a Bible believer! We are clearly taught that God does everything based on His foreknowledge (1Pet.1:2).
Having said that, we need to investigate further the role of a believer in the eternal plan of God. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). Indeed, what does the Lord expect from each believer?
We might begin with Eze.3:17-21. Clearly this passage teaches that Ezekiel is fully responsible for his generation and that the blood of the wicked shall be required of his hands if he was not to warn them!
Now turn to Ps. 106:23 where it says, "Therefore he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them". Again in this verse the Lord's action toward the ungodly and the wicked was based on Moses's intercession. God changed His decision because Moses interceded for them!
We know about the intercession of Abraham for Sodom and Gomorrah. And we are told that the Lord saved Lot because He remembered Abraham (Gen.19:29). Again we read that God did NOT punish Aaron when the golden calf was made because Moses prayed for him (Dt.9:20)!
This truth of the Scripture is cemented when we read Ez. 22:30 where we read, "And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none".
Come to the New Testament and see what it says. Paul tells in 1Tim. 2:1 to pray for all men and he goes on to tell the fundamental reason for this in v. 4 where we read that it is God's will that all men be saved. Again we are told in 2Pt.3:9 that He is delaying His coming because He is not willing that any should perish and we are asked to hasten His coming by our holy lives!
Obviously, these and other scripture portions clearly teach us that the punishment of the wicked would be averted if there was an intercessor standing in the gap for them.
God's justice demands the punishment of the wicked. But God's grace longs to save the wicked if they would turn from their wickedness. And those of of us who enjoy the grace of God need to be the media through which God's grace would reach the wicked.
How are we to understand the doctrine of predestination in the light of these scriptures? The most important thing is that there is no NEGATIVE predestination taught in the New Testament. By that I mean, God has NOT destined any one to go to hell. In fact, hell is created for the devil and his angels (Mt.25:41). In the Old Testament we read of God choosing Jacob and rejecting Easaw even before they were born (Gen.25:23; cf Rom. 9:11-13). In the OT God did that. That was because in the Old Testament God wanted just ONE nation through whom He would carry out His plan of salvation for the human race.
While God knew what each man would choose, because He is all-knowing, He has NOT determined what each one would choose! That would be interfering with the freedom of human will. Each one has the freedom to choose good or evil. But man by nature is corrupt now and he is inclined to choose only evil. That is because of the total depravity of the human heart due to the sin of Adam. But praise God, God would change His mind about punishing sinners if there was someone who would intercede for them and as a result they would turn to God in repentance.
Our Lord said Jo. 6:44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day". Thus it becomes the duty and privilege of each intercessor to ask the Father to draw men to Christ so that they too would be saved.
Be sure of one thing that all prayers done in the will of God would never go unanswered (1Jn.5:14) and we know it is God's will that all should be saved (1Tim.2:4).
Sure, we are entering into real spiritual warfare here. The devil has trapped millions in various fortresses (2Cor.10:3, 4) and also blinded the eyes of unbelievers so that they can not see the light of the gospel (2Cor.4:4). We need to strive in prayer that the will of God might be accomplished in the lives of our loved ones (Rom.15:30-32). There is no other option.
Brethren, let us be men on our knees interceding for our neighbors and friends who are unsaved and let us be instruments in the hands of God to snatch a few from fire (Jud.v.24). Be sure of this truth that unless we become mighty intercessors, we are letting the unsaved around us to be perished forever! And thus we will be guilty of failing God in our generation. History is replete with examples of mighty intercessors who moved the heart of God to save millions in their generations. When ever, where ever there was a praying church, there were mighty movements of the Spirit of God when millions turned to Christ. When the church was slack in prayer, there was proportionate dearth in the work of God as well. May the Lord give us grace to be mighty intercessors and may millions in our generation turn to the Lord in true repentance and faith and thus be saved from eternal damnation. May His name be glorified through us. Amen.