Christ Beyond the Crisis
May 4th, 1958 @ 10:50 AM
2 Thessalonians 2:1-13
CHRIST BEYOND THE CRISIS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Thessalonians 2:1-13
5-4-58 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled Christ Beyond the Crisis. This day is Baby Day, this week is National Family Week, next Lord’s Day is Mother’s Day, and I do not have it in my heart to preach twice at this hour on family and baby and mother and home, so the sermon next Sunday morning will be on Mother’s Day, dedicated to that precious and blessed subject.
This morning, we continue in our place in the Bible to which we have come after these many years. We are in the second letter of Paul to the church at Thessalonica; and last Sunday morning and evening; we concluded the first chapter, the latter part of the first chapter. And this morning, we enter the second chapter. It is in the midst of an apocalyptic discourse, one of the most difficult in all the Bible, but one that is spoken of elsewhere in the Scriptures. This subject that Paul is writing of to the church at Thessalonica was not a peculiar thing or a strange thing; it was something with which they are altogether familiar. It was merely their misunderstanding of it that caused Paul to write as he did.
Now the message this morning will be a general introduction of the whole theme of it. Then beginning tonight, we shall pay attention to the particular. Now this is the passage. After he concluded in the first chapter that “They who were in persecution and trouble were to rest in the hope that the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels” [2 Thessalonians 1:7]:
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord …When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.
[2 Thessalonians 1:7-10]
Then he continues:
Now we beseech you, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto Him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord has already begun.
it is right now—
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that Day shall not come, except there come first an apostasia—
a falling away—
and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing [himself] that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was with you, I told you these things?
[2 Thessalonians 2:1-5]
From Josephus, from the Old Testament, from current apocalyptic literature that we have, and Paul says, And I myself, this thing was something that they were much familiar with.
And now ye know what restraineth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He that restraineth, restrains—
until that restraining One—
be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: Even that one whose coming—
he also a coming—
whose parousia is after the energeia—
of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders.
[2 Thessalonians 2:6-9]
Now you wade into an ocean when you come to an apocalyptic passage like this, and tonight we shall speak of it in particular, these things that he says. This morning we shall look at it generally, and by generally, I mean a subject, this thing that Paul writes of here, which is not isolated or peculiar or unique; it is in the Scriptures all through the Word of God.
Now, the Bible is not only a Book of the world to come, but it is a Book also of the here and now. It has to do with what we see, with what is developing before our eyes. If it has no pertinency to us, if there’s no revelation in it concerning us, why, then let’s just let it go because it has no reference to anything that touches our lives. But that’s not true. The Bible is not, I repeat, just about yonder, just about the far away and the future, but the Scriptures are of the world now. It is of the present. And to one who will open his heart and read, he will find some marvelous things, and all of them are great encouragement and illimitable, immeasurable hope.
Now, the here and now: in our day, in my lifetime, in our generation, we have seen the working out of epochal things, tremendously important things. For one thing, we have seen with our eyes the dissolution of the British Empire, the greatest empire in all of the world and its history. The empire of today is a fragment of what was in the last century. We have not only seen the dissolution of the British Empire, we have seen the destruction of the great nations of Europe. They are second- and third- and fourth- and fifth- and tenth-rate powers. We have seen their disintegration and their destruction. Not only that, but we have seen in our day, we have seen the rise of the masses of the uncounted millions of the Far East under the spell of socialism and communism.
We have seen in our day and in our time the rise of a unique government which is avowedly and supports atheistic, militaristic, materialistic, economic determinism. There never was in all the history of the world any government that was ever atheistic or that supported atheism. Now the government might support Jupiter and Juno, it might be influenced by Baal and Beelzebub, it might have been given to the worship of Shinto or of Buddha or of Zoroaster, it might be a devotee of Islam, but there never was a government—until you saw it rise in your lifetime—that gave itself to materialistic, economic, atheistic, determinism. That’s a unique thing in the history of the world.
Another thing, in our lifetime, we have seen six hundred million more people in this world who don’t know the Lord. There are six hundred million more people in this earth who now live, who are not Christian, who don’t know Jesus; that many more since the turn of the century, and of course, you are seeing in your lifetime, in your day, the great, vast mass and majority of humanity live under the domination of atheistic, militaristic determinism. All of that has brought indescribable fear in death and paralysis of soul to the Christian and the free world.
All you have to do is to take your tax dollar and look at it. A very insignificant part of it goes to government. Practically all of it goes for the preparation of war. This great emphasis that we have today on science comes out of the fears of man. We are afraid. Last night at one o’clock in the morning, this morning at eight o’clock, at this very second, eleven twenty-five, there are bombers of the Stars and Stripes deployed over this earth who are carrying atomic bombs. All it would take is a radio wire. All it would take is a word from the Pentagon, and those bombers change their courses to certain specified targets; they’re in the air all the time. Is all of this strange? Oh, no! Not to the man who would read the Bible. There’s nothing new in that to a man who would open his heart to the truth and the revelation of God. For all of these Scriptures are of the same import, and the message this morning is that import.
All of these Scriptures point toward several things. One of them is this: the Scriptures without variation point towards the day and the time of a great worldwide federation of power. They all do. There’s no exception to that. This passage that I have read is no different. This passage I have read speaks of a world dictatorship called here, “the wicked one, the man of sin, the son of perdition” [2 Thessalonians 2:3-10], in many other places called “the Antichrist,” the final Antichrist; they all point in that direction. There is a movement in this world described by the Scriptures toward a great federation of power, every kind of power. There’s no such thing as “one world” without sooner or later, one ruler. It all moves in that direction.
I could illustrate it endlessly as I read the newspaper. When your labor unions get big, and big, and big, and big, you have bosses and tyrants and dictators that rule them. You don’t have big labor unions without big labor bosses. They go together. It’s inherent. All you have to do is to call to mind these vast social movements that we have seen rise in our day—fascism, Nazism, communism—without exception, they all carry with them tyrants, dictators, great super heroes; that’s inherent in it! There’s no such thing as great federated power and authority without also somebody who wields it. And this is the description you have in the Word of God. We are caught in those things. You just stand by the great tidal wave of humanity and see it rise and rush onward. I do not choose to have it that way, you do not, it is a part of the great movement of human history. And in it, we are inextricably connected. So the Scriptures—as this one—reveal that great movement toward a great, final dictator and tyrant and ruler, one who holds in his hand almost illimitable power [Revelation 13:2].
I came across a thing: you say, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ” [Revelation 11:15]. When you see that thing in Greek, it is singular, “the king-dom of this world is become the king-dom,” singular, “of our Lord, and of His Christ.” What this thing is is a modern Babel. In the ancient time, on the plain of Mesopotamia, they sought to pull together and to hold together all of the races of mankind, and they built the tower to gain them a name and to keep them together [Genesis 11:1-9]. You have that same thing today in modern history, the creation of a modern Babel. Communication makes it that. You can talk to your neighbor on the other side of the world, talk to him and he could talk to you. Transportation does that. World psychology in politics and religion do that. Now this is just a feeble, human judgment on it. I do not think that in the thing, there would be anything particularly wrong at all were it in God—but that is what the Bible reveals, this Scripture here—this great federation of the world, as it grows in politics, in economics, in militarism, in leagues, in United Nations, all of this thing, as it grows and it grows, it does not grow towards God! It is the same thing as you had in the days of Babel. It was an affront to God! It was in blasphemy of the name of God! It was in contradiction to God! [Genesis 1:28, 8:17, 9:1, 7].
So it is the growing power of this world, and the federation of the resources of this earth are not godly. They are ungodly and becoming increasingly, fearfully so. I don’t have to speak of Russia. I don’t have to speak of China. I look at my own country of America. There is something wrong with America when the radios, plural, the radios, plural, of Dallas—the only time I hear them is driving my car over the city—when they have radios that by the hours, and the hours, and the hours, and hours play nothing but the sorriest, sorriest, most inexcusable type of rock ‘n roll. Cat—I don’t know what they call that stuff, but it is an abomination, the whole drift of it is down and down. I don’t have to describe us, anybody who thinks there is a great revival of real religion in America, all they have to do is to just to begin to count up the drunks—they say alcoholics. Just count them up. America is becoming a drinking, sodden nation! I don’t want to take time to expatiate on those things. I am just pointing out that, as we move toward great federated power, you’re not moving to God. You’re moving to godlessness—and I say that for us, much less for the slave world beyond us.
Now, you have here in this presentation, of which this is just a part, I repeat, when Paul wrote this [2 Thessalonians 2:3-10], he was writing not uniquely or in isolation—they were very familiar with these things he was talking about—you would be if you read the Bible too. There is a movement toward the federation in religion, as well as in the federation of military and economic and political power. For example, this man here who is to be the final tyrant and dictator, he is a religious figure. Isn’t that the strangest thing? He is worshiped as God [2 Thessalonians 2:4]. Now what all of that means is this—that the ultimate in the development of the course of history, the ultimate in religion is human. We have a name for it–humanism. That is the denial of the supernatural, and the denial of the supernatural, and the exaltation of the human, the mundane, the terrestrial, the earthly [Romans 1:18-25]. That thing that you see back there in the story of Nebuchadnezzar, when he made a great golden image, and the whole nation was to worship it [Daniel 3:1-7]. That’s a picture of the same thing; human worship, human religion, centered here in this world. It is visible, it is overt, it is outward. It is attended with great ceremony and decorum. It is united. It has great majesty; the monarchy is there. It’s seductive—all kinds of beautiful music and ritual. That’s human religion! It is human worship. It is the exaltation of man. It is a denial of the true God! The religion that shall develop in history will not be like you know it and like you think about it. When we think of religion, we think of conversion, and loving Jesus, and giving your heart to God. The movement of this world that goes on and on will be more and more and more away from that. But it will be a religion of humanism. They will trade—say, and for example, this thing of personal conversion and personal commitment to Christ, they will change it for the social gospel, amelioration of problems, and slum clearance, and all of the things that go with it. And I haven’t—take me five hours even to enumerate it. It’ll be centered in this world. It’ll be a humanistic religion.
Now, it portends, it darkly describes one other and one awful thing. There is no exception in the Word of God but that this is true, that there will be increasingly, darkly, terrible and frightful conflicts of power. All the way through, there’s no exception to that in the Word of God. In Daniel, in Daniel, the Gabriel revealing to Daniel, says, “And wars are determined unto the end” [Daniel 9:26]. In the twenty-fifth chapter, for example, of Jeremiah, the Lord says to Jeremiah, “Jeremiah, take this cup and make the nations of the world drink it” [Jeremiah 25:15], the cup of the fury of God, the cup of war and blood, the cup of destruction by the sword. Now, you look: and God says to Jeremiah, “And if a nation says, ‘We will not drink it,’ thou shalt say unto that nation, ‘Thou shalt surely drink it!’“ [Jeremiah 9:28] What does that mean? That means this. You’re not going to come together in any legislative assembly and say, “Let’s fight.” You’re not going to come together in any plebiscite and say, “Let’s vote for war.” But God’s Book says, “Thou shalt surely drink it!” Whether you will or no, you’re going to be caught in the maelstrom of this conflict of power. You don’t have any choice. You’re born into it; it’s here, and it’s coming, and it’s fiercer, and it’s fiercer and it’s fiercer. Our Lord Jesus Christ said in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, “Ye shall have wars and hear of rumors of wars” [Matthew 24:6]. And the Book of the Revelation is a book of conflict and of war. From the ninth to the nineteenth chapters, it is nothing but conflict and war [Revelation 9:1-19:21]. The most war-filled chapter in the Bible is the ninth chapter in the Revelation [Revelation 9:1-21]. In the twelfth chapter of the Revelation, there is war in heaven [Revelation 12:7-9]. In the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation, you come to the nadir, the darkest midnight of human history [Revelation 13:1-18]. And the seventeenth chapter carries on the great theme of that final world dictator [Revelation 17:1-17]. War, conflict, strife; and it becomes more frequent and more terrible and more destructive all the time.
Is that pessimism? No. That’s realism. That’s just looking at what God says in human history, and that’s just reading your daily newspaper. If you take Time or Newsweek or United States News and World Report, that’s just the daily commentary, that’s all. Jeremiah said to Judah, “Babylon shall surely invade this nation, and Nebuchadnezzar shall surely destroy Jerusalem.” And they called him a warmonger and a prophet of doom and put him in the pit; laid him down in the mire [Jeremiah 38:1-6]. But Babylon came, and Nebuchadnezzar plowed up Jerusalem into heaps [Jeremiah 26:18].
Winston Churchill—at the turn of century—Winston Churchill said, “On the horizon is war. War with Germany!” And they said, “He’s an orator of doom. He’s a black pessimist.” He was right! These men, whom I am beginning to find out—never heard of them before, but they wrote books on the Bible—years and years and years ago, they read the Bible and said, “Russia shall rise as a great, dark, and foreboding power in the world” [Ezekiel 38-39]. And it has come to pass just like they say, reading the Bible.
I want to show you the other side of that. In 1913, William E. Wilson, a great author, theologian, wrote a book entitled Christ and War, with a subtitle A Peace Study Textbook. When Jesus says about these wars and rumors of wars [Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7], this theologian wrote, discussed it on a whole page, here’s a sentence, “The events Jesus foresaw and spoke of happened [eighteen] hundred fifty years ago. And we have, therefore, no right to apply His words to the present or future,” not going to have any more wars. Jesus said “wars.” The theologian said eighteen hundred fifty years ago that might have been true, but it’s not true today. He said that in 1913.
All right, another one: in 1913, December 6, in the Saturday Evening Post, one of the most illustrious senators the United States ever had, Theodore E. Burton of Ohio, wrote an article entitled “The Day of International Peace”; in 1913! I quote from that article: “Wars for the aggrandizement of rulers have ceased.” Amen. “Conflicts caused by popular uprisings against an existing order and for freer government and more liberal institutions are becoming less frequent.” No sooner had the ink dried on the pen than the great First World War, and a few years later, the great and awful, convulsive revolution—he said there’s not going to be any more revolutions—called Soviet communism, and at a few years after that, the most terrible war of all!
Well, I quote just one more: I could continue this by the hour. In 1919, after the First World War, Dr. James H. Snowden, illustrious professor of systematic theology in the Western Theological Seminary, wrote in 1919, I quote:
This war, colossal and terrible as it is beyond anything the world has ever seen in all the centuries of the past, is a work of general destruction, preparing the way for a general reconsecration of the world. Out of all this storm of fire and wreck will arise a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth social righteousness. The sword in this war will go far toward ending the work of the sword. And then all the visions and dreams of prophets and poets will be fulfilled when the battle flags are furled in the federation of the world. 1919: the world safe for democracy; the war to end all wars. But God said, “It is war” [Matthew 24:6]. Now, in a minute to sum up an hour, in this little passage, short, that I read, it says there is a final, final conflict. There is a hinderer now in the world, and we shall speak of that tonight. And when He is taken out of the way, there will be revealed that final one:
Whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming; Even him, whose coming is after the energizing of Satan with power and signs and lying wonders.
[2 Thessalonians 2:8-9]
What he’s referring to there is that final, final battle. You have a name for it over here in the last book of the Bible:
And I saw the unclean spirits—demons—going forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty. . .
And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon
[Revelation 16:13-14, 16]
Har Megiddo, the Hebrew, the Mount of Megiddo—the low-lying hills overlooking the Valley of Esdraelon—the most war-soaked, blood-stained of all of the sections of the world; up here is Mount Tabor, then the Hill of Moreh, Little Hermon, then the hills of Gilboa, then Mount Carmel, and back up to Tabor; about fourteen miles this way, about twenty-four that way, and fourteen that way, the Plain of Esdraelon at the foot of the Mount of Megiddo, Armageddon. I have stood there, and as I stood there, there went through my mind the marching, marching, millions of the world. Thutmose III, king of Egypt, 1497 BC, in battle overcame a confederacy of Asiatics at Armageddon. Barak, fighting against the hosts [Judges 4], when the stars in their courses fought against Sisera [Judged 5:20], the battle of Armageddon, there. Gideon, with his faithful three hundred fighting the hordes of the Midianites [Judges 7:7, 15-22], there Armageddon. That awful and tragic battle of the Philistines against Israel when Saul was slain and Jonathan and his sons [1 Samuel 31:1-6], there Armageddon. When good King Josiah went out against Pharaoh Necho of Egypt and was slain [2 Chronicles 35:20-24], there, the battle of Armageddon. And down that pass and in that plain and on those hills, marching, marching, the armies of Alexander the Great, the armies of the Crusaders, the armies of Napoleon, the armies of General Allenby, there in the great battle that turned back the Turkish Empire; the battle for Armageddon.
And Paul says that that final enemy of God, marching at the hosts of the confederated powers of the world shall be defeated and slain by the presence and appearing of the Son of God [2 Thessalonians 2:8], and it will come to pass in a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon [Revelation 16:16]. That final conflict will reach its zenith and its ultimate and its final denouement in Palestine in a place called in the Hebrew tongue “Armageddon,” the battle of Megiddo [Revelation 16:16].
“Well, what does that have any meaning for us?” you say. Why, just this, just this. Paul wrote that, Paul wrote that, the conclusion, “Bound to give thanks to God…that God hath chosen us from the beginning of the world through sanctification of the Spirit and salvation unto Him” [2 Thessalonians 2:13], these things are seen by a Christian. They are witnessed by a Christian. They are read by a Christian. These dark headlines, these terrible and awful conflicts, these vast, moving, marching nations with their millions and their millions, they are read by Christians, but they’re not read in despair. They’re not read in hopelessness and helplessness. They are read in the light of the Word of God. And when we read them and when we see them, we’re not to be afraid. We’re not to lose courage. We’re not to fall into despair or helplessness or hopelessness. There is One who is on our side, who is marched away to another part of the field of battle, but He hasn’t forsaken His people [Hebrews 13:5], and He hasn’t forgot His children [Matthew 28:20]. We’re in a conflict, and death slays us, and war is on every horizon. And Satan plows us under. But He is Captain of the hosts of the Lord’s army! [Joshua 5:13-15].
And I may not live to see it. I may die before that chapter of final denouement is open, but He comes, and He comes, and He comes, and He rides, and He rides, and He rides, and He wins, and He wins, and He wins! [Revelation 19:11-21]. “And, though, through my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see Him: Whom I shall see for myself, and not another” [Job 19:26-27]. We shall live and reign with Him in victory [Revelation 5:9-10], in a new world, without death and without sin, a world where God is open and visible, to whom we may speak face to face and still live in His sight [Revelation 22:3-5]. I haven’t time. I must close, but the Christian hope is like Peter said, the one we’ve just read. It is unfading and never passes away [1 Peter 1:4]. Above the smoke, and the battle, and the death, and the grave, and the war, there He stands victorious now and forever [1 Corinthians 15:55-57].
Now we sing our song of invitation and appeal; somebody to give his heart to the Lord, would you come? Somebody to put his life in the church, would you come? A family you, one somebody you, as the Lord should say the word and lead the way, would you come? In this great throng and host in the balcony, down these stairwells and up here by the side of the pastor, into these aisles, down to the front, however God should lead the way and the Spirit should say the word, would you come? “Today I put my trust in Jesus,” or, “Today we put our lives in the fellowship of the church,” while we stand and while we sing.
CHRIST BEYOND THE CRISIS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Thessalonians 2:1-13
A. Subject of text not peculiar, but is all through Word of God
B. The Bible a book of the world to come and of the present worldII. What we have seen in our day
A. Dissolution of the British Empire as it was in the last century
B. Destruction of the great nations of Europe
C. Rise of the uncounted masses of the Far East under the spell of socialism and communism
D. First time in history atheism supported by government
E. At present, six hundred million more people in the world without Christ than at beginning of the century
1. Most of humanity under domination of atheistic, militaristic determinism
F. Fear has settled down with increasing depth and paralyzing effect upon human soul
III. Vast movement of the world toward world federation, world government(2 Thessalonians 2:3-10)
A. Inevitably means world control; ultimately involves world dictatorship
1. Powerful labor unions, labor bosses
2. Powerful social movements, all with dictators
3. Picture of final development of history(Revelation 11:15)
B. A modern Babel(Genesis 11:1-9)
1. World communication
2. World psychology in politics, religion
3. As it grows, it does not grow toward God
C. A coming world religion
1. Antichrist worshiped as god(2 Thessalonians 2:4)
2. Human-centered (Daniel 3:1-7)IV. Increasingly terrible conflicts of power
A. Wars determined to the end (Daniel 9:26)
B. Whether you will or no, you will be caught in the maelstrom of conflict of power (Jeremiah 9:28, 25:15, 38:1-6, Matthew 24:6)
1. Winston ChurchillV. The final conflict, triumph(2 Thessalonians 2:8)
A. Armageddon (Revelation 16:14, 16)
B. We’re not to be afraid (2 Thessalonians 2:13, Joshua 5:13-15)