Vision of Doom
During one of my recent journeys, I was led to consider the spiritual condition of the multitudes around me, people living regardless of their eternal welfare and in the most open and shameless rebellion against God. I thought of the millions of people around me given up to drunkenness and pleasure, business and anxieties, to politics and troubles, and to thousands of other things. Ignorant of their eternal jeopardy - wilfully ignorant, in many cases - they were continuing on in their blasphemies and devilries.
While pondering this, I had a vision.
I saw a dark and stormy ocean. Over it the black clouds hung heavily, though every now and then vivid lightning flashed and loud thunders rolled. While the winds moaned, the waves rose and foamed. In that ocean I saw myriads of poor human beings plunging and floating, shouting and shrieking, cursing and struggling and every one of them drowning. As they cursed and shrieked, they rose and shrieked again, and then sank to rise no more.
Out of this dark, angry ocean I saw a mighty rock that rose up with its summit towering high above the black clouds that overhung the stormy sea. All around the base of this rock I saw a vast platform, and with delight I saw a number of the poor, struggling, drowning wretches continually climbing out of the angry ocean onto this platform. I saw that a number of those who were already safe on the platform were helping the poor creatures still in the angry waters to reach the same place of safety.
On looking more closely, I found a number of those who had been rescued using ladders, ropes and boats to deliver the poor strugglers out of this sea. There were some who actually jumped into the water, regardless of all consequences, in their eagerness to rescue the perishing.
What puzzled me, however, was that although everyone on the rock had been rescued at one time or another from the ocean, nearly everyone seemed to have forgotten its terror, and the memory of its darkness and danger no longer troubled them. What was equally strange and perplexing to me was that these people did not seem to have any concern for the poor perishing ones who were still struggling and drowning before their eyes, many of whom were their own family members. This unconcern could not have been the result of ignorance, because they lived right in sight of it all, and regularly attended lectures in which the awful state of the poor drowning creatures was described.
The occupants of this platform were engaged in various pursuits. Some of them were absorbed night and day in their businesses, storing up their savings in banks and safes. Many spent their time amusing themselves with growing flowers on the side of the rock- painting, playing music, or dressing themselves up in hopes of being admired.
There were those on the platform who occupied themselves chiefly in eating and drinking. Others spent their time arguing about the poor drowning creatures in the sea, discussing what would become of them in the future, while many contented themselves that they did their duty to the perishing creatures by the performance of curious religious ceremonies.
Some of the crowd who had reached the place of safety had discovered a passage leading up the rock to a higher platform which was fairly high above the black clouds that overhung the ocean. From there they had a good view of the mainland where they expected to be taken on some distant day. On this higher platform they passed their time in pleasant thoughts, congratulating themselves on their good fortune in being rescued from the stormy deep, and singing songs about the happiness that would be theirs when they were taken to the mainland. All the while the struggling, shrieking multitudes were drowning in the dark, angry water in full view of those who were content to sit and wait for the day when they would leave the rock.
Oh, how I wished there had been a multitude of people involved in the rescue work instead of a mere handful! The few laborers that I saw seemed to do little else but weep and toil for the perishing people. They gave themselves no rest, and persistently entreated everyone around them to come to their assistance.
And then I saw something most wonderful. The miseries and perils and blasphemies of the poor struggling people in this dark sea moved the pity of the great God in heaven - moved Him so much that He sent a Great Being to deliver them. This Great Being whom God sent came straight from His palace, right through the black clouds, and leapt right into the raging sea among the drowning, sinking people. There He toiled to rescue them with tears and cries until the sweat of His great anguish ran down in blood. As He embraced the poor wretches, trying to lift them onto the rock, He continually cried to those already rescued - to those He had already helped up with His own bleeding hands - to come and help Him in the painful and laborious task of saving their fellows.
What seemed the most strange was that those on the platform to whom He called were so taken up with their trades, professions, money-saving, pleasures, families, religious activities, and preparations for going to the mainland, that they did not attend to the cry of this wonderful Being they professed to worship the One who had Himself gone down into the sea. If they heard it, they did not heed it, or perhaps they simply did not care. And so the multitude went on struggling, shrieking, and drowning in the darkness.
And then I saw something that seemed to me stranger than anything that had gone before in this strange vision. I saw that some of the people on the platform whom this wonderful Being had asked to come and help Him in His difficult task were always praying and crying for Him to come to them. Some wanted Him to come and stay with them, spending His time and strength in making them happier.
Numbers of others wanted Him to come and make them feel more secure on the rock, because it was a well-known fact that some had walked so carelessly as to miss their footing and fell back again into the stormy waters. These people would meet and get as high up on the rock as they could, and looking toward the mainland where they thought the Great Being was, they would cry out, "Come to us! Come and help us!"
All this time, He was down among the poor struggling, drowning creatures in the angry deep, with His arms around them; He was trying to drag them out, looking up longingly, but in vain, to those on the rock. His voice was hoarse from crying, "Come to Me! Come and help Me!"
Interpretation of the Vision:
And then I understood it all. It was plain enough. The sea was the ocean of life - the sea of human existence. The lightning was the gleam of piercing truth coming from the throne of God's wrath. The multitudes of people who were shrieking, struggling and agonizing in the stormy sea were the thousands and thousands of poor sinners of every kindred, tongue and nation.
Oh, what a black sea it was! and oh, what multitudes of rich, poor, ignorant and educated were there, all so unlike in their outward circumstances and conditions, yet all alike in one thing - all sinners before God, held by some iniquity, fascinated by some idol, the slaves of some devilish lust, and ruled by some foul fiend from the bottomless pit!
Not only were they alike in their wickedness, but unless rescued, they were alike in their sinking, down to the same terrible doom. The great, sheltering rock represented Calvary, and the people on it were those who had been rescued. The way they employed their energies, gifts and time represented the occupations and amusements of those who profess to be rescued form sin and hell and to be the followers of Jesus Christ.
The handful of fierce, determined rescuers were soldiers of salvation. The mighty Being was the Son of God, the same yesterday, today and forever, who is till struggling to save the dying multitudes from this terrible doom of damnation. His voice can still be heard above the music and machinery and hue-and-cry of life, calling on the rescued to come and help him save the world.
Will You Go?
My comrades, you are rescued form the water; you are on the rock. He is in the dark sea, calling on you to come to Him and help Him. Will you go? The surging sea of life, crowded with perishing souls, rolls up to the very spot on which you stand.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is in the midst of this dying multitude, struggling to save them. He is calling you to jump into the sea - to go immediately to His side and help Him in the holy strife. Will you jump? Will you go and place yourself absolutely at His disposal? Will you who still linger on the shore lay aside your love of ease and the other selfish loves that have hindered you so long, and rush to the rescue of this multitude of dying souls?
Does the surging sea look dark and dangerous? Unquestionably it is so. There is no doubt that the leap for you, as for everyone who takes it, means difficulty, scorn and suffering. For some it may mean more than this - it may mean death. He who calls to you from the sea, however, knows what it will mean, and He still beckons you and me and bids us come.
We have enjoyed ourselves in safe religion long enough. We have had pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, and pleasant projects. There has been much of human happiness, much clapping of hands, very much of heaven on earth.
But now we must go to God, and tell Him we are prepared if necessary to turn our backs on it all, and that we are willing to spend the rest of our days grappling with these perishing multitudes, no matter what it may cost.
To go down among the perishing crowds is our calling. Our happiness henceforth will consist in sharing their misery, our ease in sharing their pain, our crown in bearing their cross, and our heaven in going to the very jaws of hell to rescue them.
Will you go?
by General William Booth, Salvation Army
Source: Church Growth Magazine, Summer 1998