This is an amazing story about the wonderful revival God gave to Jonah and Nineveh. Not only was it the greatest revival in the Bible; it was also the greatest in the history of mankind.
Let me give you the background for this revival. In Jonah 1:1-2 we read, “Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.”
Let me pause and say you will never get people saved unless you know there is sin; then you must preach against that sin. We cannot sneak up on sinners. You are going to have to let them know about their sin.
Nineveh was an idolatrous city. This city did not serve God, nor did it love God or the things of God. It was a heathen, idolatrous, fish-worshipping city, the capital of a heathen nation.
God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach, but Jonah did not go to Nineveh. In fact, he went in the opposite direction. (This is why we know he was a Baptist!) He went down to Joppa and caught a ship going to Tarshish.
The ship set out to sea, and a storm began to brew. It became so fierce that the sailors feared the ship would break up. Wishing to appease their gods, they cast lots to see who was to blame for the storm. When the lots fell to Jonah, he was cast out of the boat. God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah, and he lived in the belly of that fish for three days and three nights.
Then the Bible says that the Word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time. Unfortunately, it is much easier to hear the Word of the Lord when you are in the fish’s belly. Jonah responded this time to the Word of God. He then went to Nineveh and preached the greatest revival ever held in the history of mankind.
In Genesis we read that Jacob deceived his brother, Esau. Jacob’s mother urged him to flee Esau and go back to his homeland. We preach about the fact that Jacob wasted twenty years of his life fleeing from his brother.
We read the story of Elimelech and Naomi’s flight to Moab during the famine, and we lament over the ten years they wasted in Moab. By the way, it is just as wrong for you to move for money as it is for you to drink liquor. It is wrong for you to move somewhere because your company transferred you. But, you say, “Preacher, there is no work here.” First, that is a lie. Second, you need God. Stay in the will of God even in the times of famine.
Elimelech and Naomi went down to Moab just to “sojourn”; in other words, they were just checking out the area. But, like everybody else who just visits the world, Elimelech and Naomi ended up staying for ten long years. Never fool with the world! Nobody plans to be an alcoholic. Nobody plans to be an addict. Nobody plans to be divorced. Nobody plans to end up in a rescue mission. Nobody plans to wreck his life living as a derelict. Elimelech and Naomi did not plan to stay, but they stayed and wasted ten years. Yes, Naomi did come back, but her friends did not even recognize her after ten years. When you come back to church after wasting a number of years, your friends will not recognize you either. The greatest beauty aid in the world is the beauty of obedience and sweet submission to God.
Now we talk about the twenty wasted years of Jacob. We talk about the ten wasted years of Naomi and Elimelech. We talk about the wasted years of Abraham when, during another time of famine, he left the will of God and went to Egypt, wasting several years of his life. We talk about the nation of Israel and the forty years the Israelites wasted wandering in the wilderness because they refused to go into the Promised Land when God told them to enter. In the book of Hosea, we read about Gomer and the years she wasted in terrible sin.
However, in Psalms 90:12 we are admonished not to waste our days. Notice it does not say years: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Ephesians 5:16 admonishes us, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Thus, rather than concerning ourselves over the forty years Israel wasted wandering in the wilderness, the twenty years Jacob wasted fleeing from Esau, or the ten years Elimelech and Naomi wasted in Moab, let us focus on an instance of wasted days.
The great evangelist Jonah preached a great revival in the city of Nineveh, and then he held the invitation. Just how great was this revival? Well, the city of Nineveh was a city of 600,000 to 700,000 people, and the Bible says every citizen, from the greatest to the least, was saved in that revival. This could be compared to holding a revival in the Ark‑La‑Tex area, which also has a population of 600,000 to 700,000, and having every citizen in the Ark‑La‑Tex area receive Christ as personal Saviour.
Even the king was saved. He laid aside his robe and sat in sackcloth and ashes. Not only that, he made a proclamation commanding every person and every animal to sit in sackcloth and ashes. He commanded all the citizens of Nineveh to turn from their wicked ways. The people of Nineveh had true revival. They were saved inwardly, and they were on their way to Heaven. Not only that, they also got right with God outwardly.
Now think about that for a minute. The Hugh Heffner’s of that day got saved and closed down the Playboy clubs. All the Hollywood whores and whoremongers repented. The Rolling Stones got saved and quit their nightclubs and concerts; instead they started singing “Rock of Ages.” The Arnold Schwarzenegger’s of their day got saved and quit Hollywood; they quit womanizing and declared abortion really was murder. There were no more dirty television programs. Dr. Phil went out of business, Dr. Laura could not be found, and Oprah Winfrey’s ratings plummeted. This meant the “R” rated movies were banned, as well as movies with any other rating.
The adult bookstores all closed down. The tavern owners shut their tavern doors. They all turned from their evil ways. The Reynolds tobacco company went out of business. Crime stopped, and the jails were empty. The homosexuals went straight to Calvary and kept going straight after Calvary. Dirty magazines could not be found. Blockbuster was out of business. No profanity was heard on the streets of their day. No cocktails or alcohol of any kind could be found. Not a single woman could be found wearing shorts, pants or any other immodest clothing. Divorce courts were closed.
No atheists could be found in the land. The Madeline Murray O’Hara’s got saved; they started soul winning and telling people that yes, there really is a God in Heaven. Everybody believed the Bible to be the Word of God. All the NIV and ASV Bibles were burned. The liberal preachers got saved and became fundamental. Every seminary became a fundamental Baptist seminary. The whole school board got saved and changed the liberal dress codes to decent dress standards and modesty in the school. No contemporary worship service could be found in the land. No rock and roll show could be found on the platform of any church. This revival meant that the ministerial association and the national council of churches of their day were dissolved. The old-time religion became the only religion, and everybody went to church.
Do you understand what happened? They all got saved; they all repented. This meant that the United Nations of their day was dissolved. All the Congressmen of their day got saved and voted prayer back into their government. No liberals could be found in the land. That means their Supreme Court put the Bible back in the schools of their day. Abortion was considered murder in their day. This means the city council got saved and closed all the gambling houses; they even shut down bingo at the local Catholic church.
Many of you are right with God inwardly, but you are not right with God outwardly. Only when both are right do you have real revival. As a result of this revival, every single person in the city knelt down, got saved, and repented for the way they lived. Over 600,000 people got saved. Just imagine it—on one occasion, under the preaching of one man, 600,000 people got saved and then turned from a wicked lifestyle to God. After they turned to Christ and got saved, they decided to walk straight in their lives day by day.
By the way, you do not get saved by turning from sin; you get saved by turning from unbelief to belief. You do not even know all your sins.
Before we decide to give Jonah a plaque tonight, before we put his picture on the cover of The Baptist Magazine, before we give him an honorary doctorate, let’s reconsider this situation. If Jonah spent one day on the boat, three days in the belly of the fish, and one day getting back to Nineveh to preach, then the greatest revival in the history of mankind actually started at least five days late. Jonah showed up in Nineveh five days later than he was scheduled to arrive.
Five days may not seem like such a big deal, but stop and think about it. Everybody who died in those five days went to Hell. They are still burning in Hell tonight because Jonah was five days too late.
An average of 25 people die daily in a population of 700,000 people. Over five days, about 125 people die. That means that about 125 people died and went to Hell because Jonah was late. We cannot afford to waste a day. Every time you miss soul-winning night, you fail to give the Gospel to someone; that person could die and go to Hell. Every time you skip soul winning on Saturday, you fail to give the Gospel to someone who could die and go to Hell. Every time you skip your scheduled soul-winning time, you miss the opportunity to win someone to Christ and keep him from burning in Hell. If Jonah had just arrived five days earlier, those 125 people would not be burning in Hell today.
Add up all the days you skipped soul winning—not because you were in the hospital, not because you had pneumonia or a broken leg—but because you simply did not feel like going. You came home from work tired, and you just did not feel like going. You said, “I don’t feel like going, and I’m not going. I’m not dying, so don’t rush me to the hospital. I just don’t feel like going, and I’m not going to go.” I say these are days of waste, days we will regret when we get to the Judgment Seat of Christ.
I beg you, please, if you do not feel like going, GO ANYWAY! You go to work when you do not feel like working. You go to work because you get paid. Well, payday is coming with these souls that get saved too. Next time you are overwhelmed with the desire to stay home from soul winning, I want you to think about Jonah, who just did not go. He just did not go, so somebody went to Hell.
Think about all the people that got saved that day. They were rejoicing, shouting, and hugging each other. Yet, amid the rejoicing, there were some who were struck by the realization that their loved ones had died during the previous five days when Jonah failed to arrive on time. Their joy suddenly turned to sadness when they realized their loved ones could have been saved also.
I say to you, add up those days. ("Five days too late…") how dare we allow someone’s mama or daddy, son or daughter to go to Hell just because we do not feel like going. So you are tired, but why in the world should somebody go to Hell just because you are tired! Bless God, someday you will have a glorified body, you will be walking on streets of gold, and you will live forever in Heaven; yet you might as well say, “Let the world go to Hell.” I do not care how you feel. It does not matter. There is a Hell, and somebody ought to say, “I’m going.”
Think about it tonight, Jonah. I can hear families saying,”Where were you? Where were you? Oh, Jonah, if this be true, where were you five days ago?” I can hear the wailing of a mother over a child. I can hear the weeping of a widow as she leans over the casket of her husband. “Where were you, Jonah? If what you said is true, and there is a Hell, where were you, Jonah?”
I was flying into Atlanta, and I was extremely busy. As the landing approached, we started getting ready to put the seats and tray tables up and to stow our luggage. Finally, I turned to the lady sitting next to me. She was a very sophisticated lady, probably in her early 80s. She was obviously a woman of means because she wore large diamonds. I said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to ignore you. I’ve been busy, but I’d like to give you a tract and talk to you about salvation.” I began to witness to her, and in a few minutes she bowed her head, prayed and invited Christ into her heart.
We circled around the airport, preparing to land. Suddenly, she tapped me on the shoulder and looked at me with eyes that burned like fire. I almost thought I was looking to my mother’s eyes. Glaring at me, she leaned in to me and pointed, saying, “Young man, if what you said to me is true, I am going to Heaven. It just dawned on me. If this plane had crashed before you talked to me, I would have gone to Hell. Don’t you ever…don’t you ever wait on a flight! Don’t you ever wait on a flight! Somebody will go to Hell!” As she began to disembark, I raised my hand and prayed, “Dear God, forgive me.” She was absolutely, absolutely correct!
“Oh, Jonah, my daddy died! Where were you? We were living in darkness, and we didn’t know about the Saviour. Jonah, where were you? You were just five days too late.” Think about it—125 people burning in Hell tonight, 125 people begging for a drop of water, 125 people gnawing on each other with their teeth, 125 people screaming at the top of their lungs, “Let us out, let us out!” Those 125 people are falling in a bottomless pit, 125 people in pitch-black darkness. Can you imagine the stench, the smell of burnt flesh forever? Imagine 125 people screaming for mercy, 125 people pleading for somebody to come and get them out, but they will never get out. Why? All because Jonah just decided to go somewhere else instead of where God wanted him to go.
I do not know where you go on Thursday night or Saturday. If what you are doing is more important than what we are doing, we should go to your house. We need to have an old-fashioned revival about the concern for the souls of men and women. I say to you, 125 people are begging. Why? Because one preacher, because one soul winner wasted five days; he obeyed God five days late.
My friend, is there a Hell or is there not a Hell? How many Saturdays have you missed because you did not feel good? How many Thursdays have you missed, not because you were sick or laid up in the hospital, but because you just did not want to go. You rolled over, pulled the covers up, turned your alarm off on Saturday morning and said, “I am not going.” You are not dying, you do not have cancer, you have not had a heart attack, and you are not in the emergency room. You just roll over and pull the covers up. You are not dying, and you have not broken a leg. Get up off your couch and go tell people how to be saved.
Jonah missed five days; how many days have you missed over the years? Now translate that number of days into people that will face eternity in Hell because you did not want to go soul winning. Maybe you have the title of Sunday school teacher, Sunday school superintendent, secretary, usher, bus captain, bus worker, choir member, or bus driver. Maybe you are a member of the pastoral staff, or you may even be the pastor of the church. You enjoy the title, but you do not want to fulfill your responsibility to go soul winning. Jonah was five days too late; how many days has it been for you?
How many people are in Hell because of your needless extravagance? How many Saturdays did you work overtime to get extra money to buy a 70-inch plasma television? How many Saturdays did you work overtime to buy things you really do not need, when your time would have been better spent soul winning on a bus route?
John 15:16 says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye soul go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
If you go soul winning, God promises to give us what we need. I wonder how many people are burning in Hell because you did not feel like going? The truth is you did not even lie or make up an excuse; you simply told your wife, "I'm not going tonight!" I realize you are tired, but we are all tired! Please do not let the burdens of life be a reason to simply not go soul winning. I am a busy man but no one should be so busy that they do not go soul winning.
How many days have you missed? How many people are going to burn in Hell or are burning Hell, because you simply did not want to go soul winning. I am not talking about being ill or physically unable to go! Only you can answer the question! Could you have gone?