I would like to tell you about the great day when the good and bad shall be divided, and I will not talk to you in cunningly devised fables, for I was an eyewitness of these things. God gave me a preview of that day, and I know how the good and the bad are separated. I was there. I know the joy that belongs to those on the right hand of God. I have seen the weeping and the wailing and the gnashing of teeth of those who have waited until it is too late.
During World War II, I was in Rangoon, Burma, when the merchants closed their shops and dismissed their tired clerks. I saw them fleeing for their lives. I saw the banks close their doors, and the bankers flee for their lives. I saw the post office close, and the post office workers flee for their lives. I was in Rangoon when doctors and nurses put their weak, sick patients out on the sidewalks, and then fled for their lives. The Japanese army was within 75 miles of the city, and our last supply lines had been cut. At the zoo, the keepers shot the lions and tigers to keep them from starving to death, then they fled for their lives. At the leper and insane asylums the warders opened the doors, then fled for their lives. And at the jail, just three miles from our mission station, the prison doors were opened, and 3,000 criminals came walking into town, while the keepers and the policemen fled for their lives. I was there. I saw it. I saw the last boat leave for India. I saw the last train leave the depot.
And I am going to tell you what happened, for in Rangoon God gave me a preview of the end of the world and the day of judgment.
Just two days before we escaped, I was packing away some of our most valuable articles when a well-to-do woman came into the mission headquarters and asked for Mr. Meleen, the mission superintendent. Mr. Meleen came out, and though I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation.
"O Mr. Meleen, I have to go, and I can’t take anything with me except a little suitcase and a rug for the journey," the woman said. "You may not know me, but I know you. I live in that grand home just a few blocks away where the coconut palms and the big mango trees are, and now I have to go and leave my lovely home behind. I hate to think of the thieves breaking in to steal and loot and plunder. Won’t your mission people go over and take all my lovely furniture? Take my beds and my tables and my chairs and my beautiful rugs. I will feel so much happier if I know you mission people can use them."
And I heard Mr. Meleen say, "It is too late now. We are all packed up. We will be leaving any moment ourselves. We have been waiting to evacuate our church members, and when they are out we will be going too, with only a suitcase each. If we could have had some of those things three months ago when we were outfitting our clinic, we could have used every bed and chair and table. But now it is too late, too late!"
I saw the tears come to that poor woman’s eyes. "Too late?" she groaned, as if she couldn’t believe it. "You are going, too?" As she turned to leave, she threw her shawl over her face to hide her grief, and from her lips came the heartbreaking cry, "Oh, how I wish—" Then emotion choked her words, but I knew what she wished. Yes, I knew.
I tried to remember if that well-to-do woman, just two blocks away, had ever helped out in the clinic program or the Ingathering program. I couldn’t think of a single occasion when that poor rich woman did anything for humanity. Now it was too late and she had to leave everything behind, and oh, how she wished!
Some days later as we were leaving the little town of Pakokku, just after crossing the Irrawaddy River in our escape into India, Pastor W. W. Christensen waved us to stop at the side of the road. We pulled up behind him, got out of our cars, and walked up to see what was the matter. He was talking to a well-to-do Indian woman.
"O Pastor Christensen," she was saying, "this is just like the end of the world. Oh, I wish I could get baptized now. Isn’t there time to go back to the river and baptize me? I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. If only I were baptized, I would feel it was all right with my soul."
And I heard Pastor Christensen say, "It is too late now. Six weeks ago I knelt in your home with you and your children, pleading that the Spirit of God would help you to make a decision then. We are fleeing for our lives now, and we must be on our way. We pray that God will bring you safely into India so that we can study together and get ready for baptism then."
And then I saw that well-to-do, well-dressed Indian woman sink to the ground and cover her face with her sari as she sobbed. "Too late! Too late! Oh, why didn’t I get baptized six weeks ago? There was time then, but now it is too late. Too late." It is impossible to forget things like that.
I want to change the picture, for I want to assure you that some people come to the end of the road conscious that they have served God with all their heart, and soul, and strength. They have given the Lord the best they have, and when they come into tight places and difficult circumstances, there is a smile of triumph on their countenances. When we live up to all the light we have, and serve God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, we can approach the end of the road in confidence and joy. When at last I come to the end of the way, I want my face to light up with confidence and joy, don’t you?
When I came to the end of the road, I saw the division between those at the right hand and those at the left. All the way from Rangoon we traveled with every kind of person imaginable—the rich and the poor, the great and the small, the bond and the free. I saw the rich with their servants, their folding beds, their folding chairs, and their folding tables, and they camped at the side of the road in luxury. I saw the poor in their poverty, sitting in the dust eating a handful of rice they had half-boiled, half-roasted in a joint of bamboo. I saw men with hundred-dollar uniforms walking by in their greatness and little men with 50-cent loincloths around their waists walking along in their humility. I saw every kind of person imaginable, until we got to the end of the road, and then something happened.
It was as if a magic general had waved a magic wand and all the camouflage of life was taken away. The rich had to leave their automobiles and servants behind, and they had to walk out of the country on foot, with no more than 60 pounds of luggage. The poor also walked out on foot with a similar load of luggage, if they had that much. The great and the small walked out on foot but none was allowed more than 60 pounds of luggage. And when we all got down on our own feet, there was no longer any difference between the rich and the poor, or between the great and the small. Everybody slept on a bamboo floor or on the ground. There was not enough water to bathe in, and no one shaved. It didn’t matter what kind of bank account you used to have, or what kind of car you used to drive, or what kind of house you used to live in. Nothing mattered then but what you were.
But in every camp I saw two distinct groups of people. It was just as though someone had built a fence in every camp. It was as if an unseen general had stood at the entrance of each camp and said, "You to the right, and you to the left. You stay over here, and you go over there." But they were not the rich and the poor; they were the good and the bad. They were not the great and the small; they were the kind and the unkind. They were not the bond and the free; they were the selfless and the selfish. They were those who sang praises to the name of Christ and those who cursed and blasphemed that holy name. I was there. I saw it.
When I was a boy I thought that Christ would cause the nations to march toward Him, and like a majestic drillmaster He would point, "You to the right," and "You to the left."
I have changed my ideas. I know now how the division is made. I saw no one dividing them, and heard no one say, "You to the right, and you to the left." I saw that the good ones went over to the right because they were good, and that was where they belonged. They went where people were speaking kindly, because that was the way they had been speaking long, long before. Those who blasphemed went among the blasphemers, because they had been doing that all the way. The unkind and selfish went with the unkind and selfish, because they had always been selfish. Thus when we came to the end of the road, just as naturally as water and oil separate after they have been shaken together, the good went to one place in the camp, and the bad went to the other. That is the way the good and bad are going to be separated in that great day when Christ comes. If you and I want to be at the right hand of God then, we had better get to the right hand of God now, and we had better stay there today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and every day till Jesus comes. That is the only way we can be sure of being at His right hand.
I discovered something else in that wartime experience, too. I discovered that those who belonged over on one side were most unhappy if they happened to get over on the other side, and those in one group could not be hired to eat or associate with the other group.
One evening those on the right side said to me, "Oh Mr. Hare, will you play your trumpet for us?"
I asked, "What shall I play?"
They said, "Take the Name of Jesus With You."
I pulled out my old trumpet, for I still had it with me. I began to play the hymn they requested. One man who belonged to the other side was sitting on a rock below me. He listened for a moment, maybe to see if I could play "Roll Out the Barrel" or something like that; but when he recognized that I was playing hymns he clapped his hands over his ears and ran to the other side of the camp, saying, "I don’t belong here. I don’t belong here. Let me out of here quick!" He belonged with those who cursed and swore, and it was punishment to him to be where people sang, "Take the name of Jesus with you, child of sorrow and of woe."
My dear young people, if you want to make certain that you will be among those who are singing and praising God at His right hand when He comes, you had better go where people sing praise to Him now. Then when you come to the end of the road, you will naturally be among those at the right hand of God.
I saw something else in my preview of the end of the world. I saw the punishment of the wicked. No, I didn’t see them burning in fire, but I saw the smoke of their torment ascending up and up.
We had reached the beginning of the Indian road, and were taken to the beautiful evacuation camp of Imphai. We had lovely bamboo barracks, and hot water to bathe in. Think of it! But again I noticed the good ones went to one end, and the bad went to the other. The good ones began to clean up and shave. But at the other end of the barracks, they thought only of liquor. They asked where the liquor shops were, and men and women went off together.
They drank all the liquor they could hold; then they carried back all the liquor they could carry. And that night while we sang hymns, they had a drunken brawl.
Early the next morning the captain came in, clapped his hands, and called, "Everybody be ready at 8:30! Busses and trucks will be here to take you 104 miles to Dimapur Railway Station. You will be given free tickets to any part of India.
Long before 8:30 we were ready, standing on the side of the road. But again I noticed that the good ones were at this end, and the bad ones at that end. I couldn’t help hearing what the people around me were saying. They talked about the wonderful dinner they had last night, and the wonderful breakfast, and the clean bamboo platform they slept on, and the train they were going to ride on!
Suddenly something seemed to tell me to go to the other end of the line and see what they were talking about. I sauntered along casually, but saw not a smile in the whole group there. They grumbled and growled, "Rotten old government. Rotten old camp. Couldn’t sleep for mosquitoes. Why couldn’t the trucks come earlier?" I went back to my end of the line as fast as I could. Back I came to the people who were counting their blessings. That’s where I liked to be, and I prayed that God would search my heart for the roots of bitterness and criticism, and that He would deliver me from these fearful habits; for I know where grumbling and murmuring and criticizing place you--at the end of the road, and I don’t want to be there!
A little while later, we heard a rattle and a clatter, and two military trucks pulled up. They had canvas roofs and half walls, but no seats at all. As they rolled in, those at the other end of the line yelled, "These are ours; we were waiting first. There are others coming; you wait for them."
We just said, "That’s all right, you go ahead." We watched them load up. As they threw in their boxes and bundles, they were fighting, quarreling, cursing, pushing, poking, and knocking people off. At last, squeezed in like sardines, swearing at their drivers, they started off.
It was not long before we heard the clattering of more vehicles, and into our campground came three elegant passenger buses with padded seats and padded back rests. We put the weaker ones on a whole seat with a pillow under their heads, we put the women near the windows, we stacked the luggage carefully, and we checked each bus to make sure that everyone was comfortable. Then, smiling, we said to the drivers, "All right, let’s be going."
Five miles down the road we passed the two military trucks, and that is where I saw the punishment of the wicked. When the ones in the trucks saw our lovely buses, they poked their heads out and waved their hands up and down, and raved and cursed. They yelled to our drivers that it was time to change, or to put all the baggage in the trucks and let all the people ride in the buses, but our drivers drove on. As we passed them I saw the dust of that road going up and up, and amidst it I saw their arms waving. I could see their lips forming curses and blasphemies. I will always declare I had a little preview of the smoke of their torment ascending up forever and ever. The Good Book truly says, "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen" (Matthew 20:16).
Ever since then, as I have driven from one town to another, even the highway signs preach to me and remind me of the reconsecration that I made to God at that time. Everywhere little signs say, "Keep to the right." Every time I see one of those signs I rededicate my life to the Lord, and I say, "That is just exactly what I am going to do—keep to the right—for that is where I want to be when the Lord Jesus comes."
Soon Jesus is coming. Soon the voice from the heavens will say, "It is done." And what then? Where will you be then, on the right hand or on the left? I know the only place where you and I can be happy. You can be there, I can be there. The way is plain. It is marked, "Keep to the right."