Where There Is No Vision The People Perish
By Dr. Tom Malone (1915–2007)

"Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. " —Proverbs 29:18.

Pastor Tom MaloneI think this text, like many in the Bible, is sometimes used incorrectly. "Where there is no vision, the people perish." When we come to read a text from the Bible, it is always good to see exactly what God is talking about.

I want to use this text from Proverbs as I believe it has been used in the minds of people down through the years. "Where there is no vision, the people perish." I think that it speaks of another kind of vision-a work of God in the hearts of men and women. That is of tremendous importance.

When you speak of visions, there should be a word of caution. Sometimes people think that they have messages from God, when, I am sure, sincere though they may be, they have not heard from the Lord. I think because sometimes the Lord's people eat too much too late at night, they have some wild dream and the next day lay it on God.

I. We Need to Have a Vision of Lost Souls

I do not think that there has ever been an hour in the history of the church when the people of God needed to have a vision of souls that are lost like that vision is needed in this day and hour. You listen to the conversation of Christians, and you listen to the preaching of preachers, and you are bound to come to the conclusion that the church today, the modern-day church, yes, even the fundamental, Bible believing church of this hour, does not have a vision of souls that are lost.

God gave that vision to Paul. Acts 16 is one of the most dramatic chapters in the Bible. Things happened. People were saved. Families were baptized. Cities were stirred. Earthquakes happened. Prayers were answered. Jails were destroyed. And the work of God went on. Chapter 16 of the book of Acts is a great chapter.

In that chapter, inverse 9, I read, "And 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." We need to see what Paul saw that night. When God brought a man to stand before Paul, he heard that night that man say, "Come, help us." That is a vision every Christian needs to see. We need to hear the cry of the lost souls of this world, still crying after two thousand years, "Come, help us." That is the cry of lost humanity.

We need a vision like Livingstone had when he went to that dark continent of Africa . In his day some had never seen the face of a white man. They said, "We never knew we were black because we never had seen a man who was white until David Livingstone came." All the years of his fruitful life, he walked among them. He braved the rigors of that land, the diseases that racked his body, the fever that almost killed him. He loved them to God until thousands were saved. They found him dead in the little pup tent, kneeling at his cot, praying, "O God, give me Africa !"-a prayer he always prayed. He died, literally, on his knees.

They lifted his body and sent it back to England , to be buried in Westminster Abbey. In the middle aisle where kings and important people of history are buried, lies the body of David Livingstone. The natives said, "His body belongs to England but his heart belongs to Africa . Leave it here." So his heart was taken from his body and buried in the soil of Africa . That was where his heart was.

II. We Need a Vision of the Judgment Seat of Christ

When people talk about judgment, usually Christian people, they think of a Great White Throne judgment, when people are lost and stand before a holy God and the books are opened and the names are read and they are then assigned to the lake of fire forever. But there is another judgment in the Bible never mentioned very much and that judgment is not for sinners but for saints. It is called the judgment seat of Christ. Paul often spoke of it. Romans 14:10 says, "for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." My Christian brother and sister, may God grip your heart with the truth that every believer will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

You say, "What is that judgment all about?" It is not to determine whether you are saved. That is as settled right now as it will ever be. If you are God's child, it will never come into question whether you are a Christian or not. Then God will not deal with you as a sinner; He will deal with you as a son. At the judgment seat of Christ, God will deal with His children. That is why Paul says in Romans 14:12, "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." I wish the Holy Spirit would take that verse and burn it indelibly into our hearts. So then every one of us shall give an account to God.

In II Corinthians 5:10 we read, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ," but I think the verse before that has something important to say about it. Verse 9 says, "Wherefore we labour, that, whether presentor absent, we may be accepted of him." I am told that this is translated, "Therefore we labour that we may be well pleasing to him." Then God's Word says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ."

Do you please the Lord? That will be the thing at the judgment seat of Christ. We need a vision of the judgment seat of Christ. I don't think many people are thinking about it. I don't think many saved people ever think of the judgment seat when a man's works shall be placed there. A Christian's work, his life, shall be placed there, tried and examined. God's Word says, ".saved; yet so as by fire." The wood and the hay and the stubble will be burned up and only the real thing will stand the test of the judgment seat.

III. We Need a Vision of the Horrors of Hell

Third, Christians need to see a picture of what Hell is like. Christians today act like they do not believe that sinners are going to Hell. Unsaved people do not act like they believe that at the end of a Christless life there is an eternal Hell. I believe with all my heart that we need a vision of the horrors of Hell. The Bible says so much about it, yet people think so little about it.

I could take the Bible and show you that when Jesus talked about Hell, He never talked about it as much to the unsaved as He did to the people of God or at least to Christian people. I believe when Christians have a vision of the horrors of Hell and what the Bible teaches about it, it will make them the right kind of Christians.

I heard an old-fashioned preacher say one time, "If we had more preaching of Hell from the pulpit, we would have less living like Hell in the pews." I believe we need in America , and we need in fundamental churches, a crusade of old-fashioned, red-hot Bible preaching on the horrors of Hell. It would get people saved and wake them up and make soul winners out of the people of God.

I never will forget an experience I had that made me appreciate being saved. Some years ago we were visiting in a little town called Puteoli in Italy , where Paul came in on his way into Rome . While we were there someone said, "While you are here, you ought to go up into the mountains and visit some lava pools." We went into the mountains near this little Italian town and there was what was called "Little Sulphatara." There was boiling hot lava coming up out of the earth. There were barricades all around it and the guides kept cautioning people. We watched this lava keep boiling up out of the earth. The guide said, "That's 800 degrees Fahrenheit. If one of you were to fall in this pool of molten lava, we would never find the wrist watch from your arm or the buttons from your clothing. You would be immediately destroyed."

I stood there watching this boiling out of the bowels of the earth and I thought on all the teaching of the Bible about Hell, the home of the unsaved, separated from God, eternally tormented. You know, it is an undesirable subject, but it is a Bible subject.

We need a vision of Hell. I think if you, Christian friend with loved ones who are lost, could see them dancing and burning in the fires of the infernal and eternal Hell, surely that would move your heart. Think of your neighbors, your lost family, lost without God and in Hell. Surely we need a vision of what it means for lost souls to go to Hell.

IV. We Need a Vision of the Church and Its Importance

Who is in that church? People who are born again. The people of God. Jesus said in John 3:5,7, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God . . Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." Born-again people, bloodshed, Spirit-indwelt, born-again people make up the body of Christ-the bride of Christ.

What is the purpose of it? I talked to a man in my home the other night who said, "l am a Christian but have never joined a church and never expect to. There are too many imperfect people in it." Such people take the church of Jesus Christ too lightly. I think the purpose of the church is to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In Mark 16:15 Jesus gave the church's purpose: "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."

Why do I need this body of people that is made up of born-again people, whose purpose is to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth? The Word of God answers that in Acts 20:28: ".feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." In the church of God you are fed spiritual food. You cannot get spiritual food anywhere else. You say, "Well, I can stay home and read my Bible." Yes, but Jesus said where two or three are gathered together, He is in the midst of them. The Word of God speaks of them who speak often one with another. God says a book of remembrances is made of those who meet together and speak in His name. The Word of God says, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25 ).

I don't believe that there is any such thing as a Christian not needing the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is where you are fed; it is where you have fellowship; it is where you grow; it is the base of your operation of service for the Lord.

The Bible says in Acts 2:41 , "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." So people got saved in the Bible and there were additions to the church. They joined the church. I have always felt that there is something wrong with a Christian, if he really is saved, who won't join a Bible believing church. He is not scriptural. They were added to the church. "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47 ).

V. We Need a Vision of Jesus, Himself

In closing, I believe that we need a vision of Jesus, Himself. Oh, lovely, wonderful Jesus! One day a group of people came to the disciples and said, "Sir, we would see Jesus" (John 12:21 ). That ought to be the heart cry of every believer-"Sir, we would see Jesus."

A wonderful experience took place at the Transfiguration when upon that little mountain Jesus took Peter, James and John. While on that mountain two men from Heaven came, Moses and Elias. There was Jesus and five men-six people on that Mount of Transfiguration. Simon Peter got so enthused that he began speaking without thinking. He said, "Let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias." God wasn't pleased with that. So we read that after a while when the clouds went back and these two men went back to Heaven, "When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only" (Matthew 17:8).

The Lord wants us to have a picture of God's dear Son. I see that picture of Him in the Bible. I thank God that I see that picture of Jesus in genuinely saved people. I know people who love the Lord so much and walk so close to Him. When I see them, I think of Jesus. I see Christ in people who really love the Lord. Hebrews 2:9 says, "But we see Jesus." We need a vision of the Lord. We need to see Him and love Him and serve Him with all our hearts.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. " —Proverbs 29:18.

"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
—2nd Thessalonians 1:8

Ye Must Be Born Again!