For The Time Is At Hand

Revelation

For The Time Is At Hand

January 15th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM

Revelation 1:1-3

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Print Sermon
Downloadable Media
  
Play Audio

Show References:
ON OFF

FOR THE TIME IS AT HAND

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 1:1-3

1-15-61    10:50 a.m.

 

 

On the radio, you who are listening are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the second message from the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ. 

It is always a disappointment to me not to be able to deliver a message that I have prepared.  There’s a great difference between teaching and preaching.  When a man teaches, he can teach up to the middle of a sentence and then stop, and then at the next lesson, start at the last half of that same sentence and go on.  And then when he comes to the end of the hour, stop, and where he leaves off, pick up again and go on through the course of the lectures. 

But a sermon is an altogether different thing.  A sermon ought to have a definite beginning.  It ought to have a definite middle.  It ought to go somewhere.  And it ought to have a glorious climactic ending and appeal.  A sermon is designed to take truth and make it flame; make it live.  Preaching is truth expressed through personality.  Preaching is a living experience.  And the truth that the man has in his soul ought to be felt and lived in that hour when the message is delivered.  Now, I say, I prepare these sermons and it always breaks my heart when I am not able to conclude them.  And it seems to me more than half of them are never concluded.  Dr. John Bagwell, who led our prayer, when somebody was talking to him about what the pastor was going to do when he got through preaching through the Bible, Dr. Bagwell said, "I wish he would just go back and finish all of those sermons through the years that he never has concluded." 

Now, the sermon this morning has to be broken in half.  It has to be made in two.  Because at the 8:15 o’clock service, I found that I could not finish it.  So we’re going to take part of it this morning and then there will be a part of it next Lord’s Day morning.  I was lamenting over this at the end of the service before and one of the fine men came to me and said, "Pastor, why do you lament over that?  Man, you’d got twenty years to preach what you want to preach in this Revelation." 

I go to preach at an evangelistic conference in the morning in Tennessee, in Nashville, Tennessee, a conference of preachers.  And so many times in talking to preachers I describe to them how they are.  Practically all preachers will go into their study and they’ll pace up and down.  "O Lord, what shall I preach next Sunday morning?  O Lord, what shall my text be next Sunday night?  O Lord, what shall I say next Sunday?"  And they pace up and down trying to find out what they shall say and what text shall they use.  I tell the preachers, "You know, I do that, too.  I go in my study and I pace up and down.  But I have a different reason.  When I go in my study and pace up and down my trouble is, "O Lord, Lord, I’m going to die before I get through preaching what I got in my heart, and all the things that I want to say." 

If a man will center his Book, preaching the Word of God, the message of God, he’ll have so much to say and so many sermons to deliver that if he lived a thousand lifetimes, he would never complete it.  This Book is like the ocean.  It is inexhaustible.  There is no end to it.  I preached, you remember, six months on the ninth chapter of Hebrews.  And I’d have been preaching in the ninth chapter of Hebrews to this day, except I felt I was losing the sense of movement in going through the Bible.  So I just went on anyway.  Maybe some of these days, we’ll go back to the ninth chapter of Hebrews and finish it for the next dozen years.  When you love the Book and have a heart that’s open to the Book, it is a marvelous thing; the infinite riches, the pearls of price, the treasure beyond compare, the revelations beyond what mind ever thought of; that you can find in the infinite depths, the unfathomable riches of the Word of God. 

Now the title of the sermon this morning refers mostly to the end of it, but I haven’t time to preach the end of it, so we’re going to take the title anyway and then this Sunday and next Sunday, we’ll complete the message.  The title of the sermon is, For the Time Is at Hand.  And the reading is the introduction to the Apocalypse, Revelation chapter one, the first three verses.  The Apocalypse, the unveiling of Jesus Christ, and last Sunday morning, that was our sermon – the revelation, the unveiling, the uncovering of Jesus Christ.  This book is a presentation, a manifestation, and an uncovering of the glorious person and majesty of our Lord.  When He came in the days of His flesh, His humanity veiled His deity, born poor, lived like a slave and a servant, died in misery and in shame.  And the last time the unbelieving world ever saw our Lord, was as He was lifted between the earth and the sky [Matthew 27:32-50].

And when He died, like a malefactor, like an executed criminal, He appeared to His disciples [Matthew 28:16-20], but the last time the world ever saw Jesus was when they crucified Him on a Roman gibbet.  But God says, but God says, the earth shall have another view of our Lord.  "Behold, behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7].  They shall see the Lord pantokrator, the Lord Almighty unveiled, presented in clouds, in clouds of angels, in clouds of His saints, in the shekinah clouds of glory, the unveiling, the uncovering of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him because He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death [Philippians 2:8].  "God hath also highly exalted Him and given Him, a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow . . . and every tongue shall confess" [Philippians 2:9-11]. 

"The Apocalypse, the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him" [Revelation 1:1].  Like a Roman triumph was accorded by the vote of the Senate to a great hero coming back to Rome, so God hath accorded to our Savior this ultimate triumph and the title-deed to the world.  It’s in His hands.

 

The Apocalypse, the unveiling of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, and He hath done it to show unto His servants these things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John:

Who bare record of the word of God and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

[Revelation 1:1-2]

 

 John is saying there that, "I wrote them down.  They are not sealed.  They are written down.  I wrote them down, the words of God that I heard and the testimony of Jesus that I saw, I wrote them down." 

 

Blessed, blessed is the lector that reads these words.  And blessed, blessed the church that hears these words.  And blessed, blessed are those who keep this prophecy: for the time is at hand.

[Revelation 1:3]

 

In this brief introduction, there are two sentences that refer to time.  The first verse: "To show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass" [Revelation 1:2].  And then in the third verse: "Blessed are those who read and hear and treasure in their hearts the things that are written, for the time is at hand,for the time is at hand" [Revelation 1:3].  Now the sermon is, what do those words mean?  "Things which must shortly come to pass."  "When shall these things be?" [Matthew 24:3] said the apostles, when the Lord was passing by the great temple in Jerusalem, one of the wonders of the world.  Showed the Lord those enormous stones – and some of you have been to Jerusalem and seen some of those foundation stones that are still there, down in the earth.  "What about these things You say, Master?  This temple shall be destroyed and this world shall come to an end, and Thy coming shall be heralded by the angels and the saints in the sky.  When shall these things be?"  Now, that’s this sermon.  "These things shall shortly come to pass," and "for the time is at hand."  What does our Lord mean? 

All right.  We begin.  We’ll take the first part of it.  There are four answers.  There are four interpretations as we read the words of this prophecy.  There are four ways by which men seek to interpret these words of the Apocalypse which God gave to Jesus, about when they are to be fulfilled.  Now, there are many variations of these four – many, many, of them.  Not as many as there are interpreters, but after they have all been reduced to a common denominator, everybody that reads this Revelation and everybody that studies it, can be placed in one of four categories. 

First: there are those who believe that the words of this Revelation referred to a time long ago.  And any prophetic element in it was fulfilled – long time ago.  The men who hold to that position are called preterists, preterists.  The Latin word for "past" is praeter, and "preterist" is an English word built upon that Latin word meaning "past."  A preterist is a man who believes that the revelation was fulfilled in the generations past. 

Now, they are of two schools, these preterists who believe that the Revelation was fulfilled ages ago.  There are those, first, who believe that it was fulfilled in the days of Nero, that it was written in the time of the Roman Caesar, Nero, who reigned over the Roman Empire from 54 to 68 AD.  Nero was the first Roman emperor who persecuted the Christians.  Under Nero, Paul was beheaded.  Under Nero, Simon Peter was crucified.  Because Rome was burned, and they suspected Nero of doing it, in order to get room and place to rebuild the city and to erect his golden palace, in order to avert suspicion from himself, Nero said the Christians did it.  The Christians did it.  And he took the Christians and he dug them in pits and placed them along the streets at night for human torches and furiously drove his chariots through the streets of Rome in the light of the blazing death and martyrdom of those early Christians.  There are those who say that this Revelation was written in the days of Nero, and is a reflection of the Neronian persecution. 

Then the second school of those preterists are those who believe that it was written in the days of the emperor Domitian.  Domitian reigned from 81 to 96 AD.  And they say that we have here a reflection of emperor worship and the persecution of the Christians in the days of Domitian. 

Now, the men who hold that position are almost altogether Romanists.  They are Roman Catholic theologians.  And the reason they hold that position is this: in the seventeenth chapter of this book, in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, there is described a woman that is called the great whore [Revelation 17:1, 15-16].  She is described as the scarlet woman, riding on a beast [Revelation 17:3].  And she is a representation of a false religion whose seat, the seventeenth chapter says, is a city built upon the seven hills [Revelation 17:9].  And her name in mystery is Babylon [Revelation 17:5].  The city, through all of the generations and the years that has been known as the city on the seven hills is the city of Rome.  And there is a religion who has been drunk with the lives of fifty million martyrs, men of God, women of God, that that religion has slain.  Drunk with the blood of fifty million martyrs.  And the seventeenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation describes the rise and the course and the ultimate fall of that terrible religion. 

And in order to get away from that identification which is plainly written in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, in order to get away from that identification, the Roman Catholic theologians say that all the Revelation refers to are things that happened back there either in the reign of Nero or in the reign of Domitian.  Be a very shrewd thing for them to say if it could be made factual and true.  To them, therefore, the Revelation is nothing more than a curiosity of antiquity written in the conventional usage of apocalyptic language known to the ancient Jews.  It has nothing for us.  It has no meaning to us.  It is just one of those literary curiosities that belong in a museum somewhere and has no message for us at all.  Now, that is the first interpretation of those words.  The preterists, they’ve all been fulfilled in generations past. 

Now, we come to a second group of interpreters.  These are the men who believe that they see in the Revelation the story of the continuous historical unfolding of the centuries of the history of humanity; the church, the nations, the people, all of it pre-written here in the Book of the Apocalypse.  They are called the historists, the historicists, or the continuous historical interpretation interpreters.  Those men, as I say, see in the Revelation a panorama of all of the unfolding years from the days of the apostles until the consummation of the age in Jesus Christ. 

Now, that is a very interesting thing.  The men who have greatly furthered that interpretation were the men of the Reformation.  They saw in the Revelation the overthrow of Rome, the rise of the Roman church, the apostasy of porphyry, and the destruction of the papacy.  And they saw in the Revelation these great historical events that have swept through the world.  They are also in two schools.  Some of them are synchronous.  That is, they believe that in the course of history, which they find in the Revelation, they find that the seven seals, and the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls are all synchronous; that is, they cover the same period of time from the beginning to the ending.  The seven bowls, all the way through.  The seven trumpets, all the way through.  The seven bowls, all the way through.  The seals, the trumpets, and the bowls, they’re synchronous.  They describe the same period of time.  Then there are others who believe that they are successive.  That is, the seals describe the history of the world up to a certain time, and then the trumpets take it over. And then the trumpets carry it on to a certain period of time.  And then the bowls take it over.  And then the bowls carry it through to its consummation.  Now, all of that is very interesting.  And they are very ingenious in pointing out in history, things that they say are predicted here in the Revelation. 

But I am persuaded, like Dr. Joseph Angus, a great, great wonderful scholar and authority, writing on this historical theory; he says, "It would be wrong to ridicule the mistakes and contradictions of interpreters who solemn pursuit was that of truth, in their calculations of times and seasons and their interpretations of apocalyptic symbols.  But, but, in the fact that authorities of such reputation as Bengel, Wordsworth, Elliott and others are at hopeless variance, this system breaks down.  Where one interpreter (Elliott) sees in the sixth seal a reference to Constantine, another (Faber) sees allusion to the first French revolution.  Where one sees in the star fallen from heaven a good angel (Bengel), another (Elliott) discerns Mohammed.  The scorpion-locusts that have power for five months mean to Mede one hundred fifty years of the domination of the Saracens, but to Vitringa they mean the Goths, and to Scherzer the Jesuits.  All this seems to be arbitrary and hazardous in the extreme."  And with that position, I also agree.  I do not think that you can take the Revelation and make it point: "This is the French Revolution, and this is the invasion of the Moslem, the Saracens, and this is the overthrow of Rome, and this is the establishment of the American Republic.  I don’t think you can do it.  And I do not think the Revelation concerns itself with that.  And I’m going to tell you what I think it does concern itself with before this sermon is over. 

Now, we’ve spoken of two: the preterists, and the historical.  Now, we’re coming to a third group.  A third group of interpreters of the Revelation are the spiritualizers, the idealists.  There are many, many of them.  They say that the Book of the Revelation refers to no specific event.  It refers to no particular time.  It is no prophecy of any person or of anything that has or shall ever happen.  But it is an allegory.  It presents in metaphorical, figurative language the eternal struggle between evil and good, with the ultimate triumph of the good.  They see in the Apocalypse a dramatic presentation of that awful conflict between God and the devil, between darkness and light, between good and evil and the ultimate, as I say, the ultimate triumph of good.  That’s what the Revelation means to them. 

Now, just personally, how I feel about things – I like that the least.  It commends itself to me the least.  I don’t like spiritualizing in the Word of God any time, any place, anywhere, anyhow.  And to me, spiritualizing is the sorriest preaching in the world.  Spiritualizing is taking the Word of God and making it mean anything that you want it to mean.  Just this could mean that, and that could mean the other, that could mean the other.  To me, the preacher is under God to be a servant who takes the Word of the Lord and tells the people what God says.  This is what God says and that’s why the preacher is called to preach.  And he’s to study to know the background and the meaning of the words and he ought to be able to read them in the original language.  And he ought to go to school to learn how to do it.  And then having learned, he ought to take the Bible in its original language and stand up before the people and tell the congregation what God says.  This is what God says.  And I don’t like spiritualizing.  And certainly, I don’t like it here anymore than I do any other place. 

Now, you look.  There are many, many messianic prophecies in the Old Testament.  And they were fulfilled, many, many of them exactly and meticulously in the New Testament.  There are many, many prophecies in the New Testaments that have already been fulfilled.  And they have been fulfilled exactly as God prophesied.  May I not therefore conclude that the prophecies that I can see fulfilled, argue that the prophecies that are yet unfulfilled are going to be fulfilled just like those that I’ve already seen fulfilled?  If God made a prophecy there and it was fulfilled exactly according to God’s Word here, may I not also be persuaded that when God makes another prophecy here that is not yet fulfilled, someday it will be, just like God says?  If God says a thing, my part is to believe it, though I may not understand it.  And God says what He means and He means what He says.  And my job as a pastor and a preacher is to stand up here in this sacred place and to tell the people what God says.  And spiritualizing is just some fellow’s idea about what this might mean or what that might mean, or what this one, or this one – no, sir, what did God mean when He said thus and so?  What are those words?  Like the word of the king to Jeremiah: "Is there a word from the Lord? [Jeremiah 37:17].  Do you know anything that God hath said?" 

Don’t worry about these things that I can listen on the radio and I can read at home on my sofa for twenty cents and buy in a magazine if I don’t go to sleep.  Don’t worry about those things.  You tell us things that will save our souls from death and will make us someday presentable in the sight of God.  Is there a word from the Lord?  That’s what the preacher is to do, is to deliver to the people the Word of God.  Now, the spiritualizing.  We had a great marvelous preacher by the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  In this last generation, greatest Baptist preacher we’ve ever produced, and I think the greatest preacher of all time, if we except some like John and Paul in the Bible. There’s no man I have ever studied after, read after, that ever did for my soul and heart what Charles Haddon Spurgeon does for me today.  And he’s been dead these years.  Well, he was very witty, and very brilliant, and very able, and a true man of God.  And a fella came up to him, one of his critics, and thought he’d trip him up.  And he took a passage out of the Bible, and he said, "Here, Mr. Spurgeon, look at this.  Now, tell me what that means."  And Mr. Spurgeon, with a twinkle in his eye, looked at the passage and back at the critic and said, "Why, I can tell you exactly what that means.  It means exactly what it says."  That’s the best way for a preacher to take the Book of God in his hand and, what does it say? 

Then it means what it says, and there we leave this thing.  Just like God wrote it.  We can ask a question in a second, and it may take centuries for it to be answered, but it will be answered.  There’s not a Word of God that shall fall to the ground.  When God says the Jews shall go back to Palestine in unbelief [Ezekiel 36:24-28], for two thousand years, he never owned anything in Palestine, but God said he is going back.  And in your day, in your lifetime, in your generation, you have seen the Jew not only go back to Palestine, but create a nation of Israel, just like God said in His Book, even though for two thousand years, there was no sign of it at all.  And that’s just the beginning.  God says they are going to get that country, [Ezekiel 37:21] and they are.  And God says they are going to rebuild their temple [Ezekiel 40:1-], and they are.  There’s going to be on Mount Moriah some of these days, a Jewish temple, rebuilt in the glory that was Solomon’s, and a thousand other things that we’ll take these next twenty years to talk about; things that God has written here in His Book.  Now, let’s come, and we better hasten to do it. 

What do you believe, preacher?  "In the interpretation of this book, and show unto His servants things which are to come to pass.  For the time is at hand" [Revelation 1:1, 3].  What do you believe about this book?  And I can tell you very plainly, very plainly, I am not a preterist.  I do not believe that this book is just a literary curiosity, like you would dig up some cuneiform inscription from the reign of Ashurbanipal of Assyria, and it would be nice and interesting to an archeologist, and he’d put a number on it, and send it to the British Museum.  Forget it.  I don’t believe that at all.  I am not a persuader that we have here an outline of all history from the apostles until the consummation of the age.  There is some of that in it, but that is not what it is, history pre-written as such.  And certainly, as you would know, I am not a spiritualizer, taking the Word of God and twisting it around to mean just anything that at that particular moment I might want it to mean. 

There is a fourth group of interpreters that we call futurists.  They are interpreters who believe that the Apocalypse is an unveiling of the glorious coming of the Lord.  They believe that the Revelation is an account of the consummation of the age.  They believe that in the great vista of the time that is to come, God shall intervene in history and the heavens shall be rolled back like a scroll, and they shall see Him descending who is the rightful Lord and heir of the world.  And that we shall live in a kingdom that belongs to Christ, and that in His power and in His glory we shall have a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1].  And someday, we shall see out of the glory of God our heavenly home, the city of the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:2].  And we shall sit down with the Lord in the kingdom of our Savior, and we shall see His face and rejoice with Him forever and ever and ever [Matthew 8:11].  And to me, the Revelation is an unfolding of that great climactic triumphant consummating end time, toward which our generation and our history is so rapidly moving.  "The time is at hand to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass" [Revelation 1:1]. 

And that great apocalypse, that great unveiling, is to be preceded by unbelievable and terrible judgments from heaven; Armageddon, war, blood, strife, tribulation, sorrows the world has never known.  But they are all revealed here in the Word of God, and we are a part of it.  When you read about these great coming days, our lives are caught up in them.  And when you read about these great consummating ages, we shall be there.  And they shall happen before our eyes and we shall look upon them, just as it is revealed here in the Book of the Revelation.  Now, pastor, why do you believe that from chapter four on, we have an unveiling, an apocalypse, an uncovering of the great things that pertain to the coming of Christ?  Why are you a futurist? 

All right.  I’ll tell you why as briefly as I can until I have to stop.  First, I am a futurist for the simple reason that these things that are written in the book have never happened yet.  Not in time, not in tide, not in the history of humanity, nowhere in this earth have things happened like are unveiled here in this Revelation.  There have never been judgments upon this world like the judgments that are described here in this Revelation.  The destruction of Jerusalem with its terror and with its blood was just a little infinitesimal type of that great and final judgment that is yet to come.  These apocalyptic visitations from God that are unfolded here in this last climactic book of the Bible have never come to pass.  They’ve never been; their terror, their scope, their awfulness, their horror, their magnitude, their enormity.  They are not yet; therefore, they’re in the future. 

Another thing, this book speaks of the resurrections.  You go out to the cemetery and see if our beloved dead have been raised from the grave.  When I go to California, on Forest Lawn, on, in the San Fernando Valley, overlooking the San Fernando Valley lies the fallen form of my father.  And when I go, I go and stand there at that grave.  He is still asleep.  His body lies in the dust of the ground.  But the Book says, the Book says, that God shall raise our beloved dead out of the heart of the earth [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].  That hasn’t happened.  It’s still in the future.  And God says then the wicked dead shall be raised and they shall be judged according to their works and they shall be sent into damnation and in perdition according to their works [Revelation 20:10-15].  Their judgment according to the evil – that hasn’t happened.  And the book described the new heaven and the new earth [Revelation 21:1-22:5].  And that hasn’t happened.  And then the book describes the home of the soul, the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:9-27].  That hasn’t happened.  All of that is yet in the future.  That’s why I am a futurist.  These things have not happened yet. 

Now, the Book of the Revelation is nothing other than an unfolding of what you find throughout the whole Bible.  The Book of the Revelation says before the appearance of our Lord, our world is going to be plunged into tribulation, and into sorrow, and into trials, and into blood, and into war, as it has never been known in the history of the world [Revelation 4:1-20:15].  And the Revelation is just the unfolding of that awful end time.  For example, our Lord said in Matthew 24:

 

There shall be great tribulation, such that was not since the beginning of the world until this time, nor ever shall be

And immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, the moon shall not give the light, the stars shall fall from heaven, the powers of the heaven shall be shaken. 

And then shall appear the Son of Man in heaven: behold, He cometh and every eye shall see Him, and the tribes of the earth shall mourn, then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn when they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with the clouds of glory.

[Matthew 24:21,  29-30]

 

The Revelation, the Apocalypse, is just the unfolding of that. 

Or take again in the second chapter of the second Thessalonian letter, and I haven’t time to read it.  "This day is not going to come, it says, until first there is a falling away, the great apostasy, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above God" [2 Thessalonians 2:3-4].  Or in 2 Timothy 3: "This know, that in the last days perilous things shall come" [2 Timothy 3:1].  And the Revelation is just the Apocalypse, the unveiling of these terrible times of tribulation toward which this world is furiously moving.  God says that before the coming of our Lord, these terrible judgments shall fall upon the world, and God says those terrible judgments would consume this world were it not for the intervention of God.  And those terrible troubles precipitate the intervention of God.  He comes in the midst of those awful and terrible judgments [Revelation 19:11-16], and they’re in the future.  They haven’t happened yet.  They are still in the future. 

Then I have a second reason why I am a futurist: simply because the book says so.  "To show unto His servants these things which are to come to pass [Revelation 1:1].  Blessed are those who read and hear the words of this prophecy [Revelation 1:3] – of this prophecy"; this book is a prophecy.  It’s not a history.  It’s a prophecy.  Dear Mrs. White one time said, "Men write history, but God writes prophecy."  Did you know – did you know that the only religion in the world that has a prophet and the only religion in the world that has prophecy is the religion of the Bible.  No other religion has a prophet, nor does any other religion have prophecy; just the Bible, just the Word of God.  And it says here: "These things which must come to pass" [Revelation 1:1]; that is, God is giving us here in this book to show us the trend of the nations and the political fortunes of this time.  And it says it’s all going to move toward one government, one world government.  And it says and the trends, in religion, and describes them, and it all moves, says this prophecy, toward one great world religion, dominated by one great head [Daniel 11:36-37].  Moving toward that, why, by day and by night, I hear it on the radio, I read it on every magazine and I see it in every headline, just exactly as it says here in the book.  It is a revelation of that end time. 

And it says, "And He sent and signified it by His angel" [Revelation 1:1].  As a man rides along, drives along or in a car, he sees signs on the road, this and this and this; that’s what these are.  The signs on the road of the history that stretches out before us, there they are written here large on the page of the Word of God.  I am a futurist because, "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy" [Revelation 1:3].  It is a prophecy.  The great event, the great event for any Christian is the second coming of our Lord.  And every other doctrine, and every other fact, and every other event moves toward that great consummation, and derives its meaning from that glorious and ultimate triumph.  And you and I stand in the same position as they stood who first read the words of this prophecy.  They lifted up their faces, expectantly, prayerfully, eagerly, awaiting the glorious triumph of our Lord.  And where they stood, we also stand today.  All God’s children, on the same ground with our faces lifted upward, that "when these things begin to come to pass, lift up your heads: for your redemption draweth nigh" [Luke 21:28].  And where they stood, we stand, looking for the coming of our Lord. 

And that brings us to the second part of the sermon that I have no opportunity to mention.  We’ll do it next Sunday morning.  What does He mean when He says, en tachei, to show unto His servants things which must en tachei come to pass"? [Revelation 1:1].  And what does it mean when he says, "For the time is eggus, for the time is eggus" [Revelation 1:3].  What does He mean? 

Why, Lord, it’s been two thousand years almost, what do You mean when You say that these things are rapidly drawing toward that great consummation?  What do You mean, Lord?  What do You mean?  That’s the second part of this sermon. 

God has a meaning written large on the page, and to those who will open their hearts to hear, to see, to understand – the Lord has a message for us.  Just as much for us as He did when He addressed the letter to the seven churches of Asia, to Ephesus, to Pergamos, to Smyrna, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, to Laodicea [Revelation 2:1-3:22], and to the first beloved congregation in the city of Dallas.  We live in that day of imminency, and expectancy, and victory, and triumph. 

O Lord, Lord!  The fullness, the riches, the unfathomable depths of the Word of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!  Now while we sing our song of appeal, in this balcony round, somebody you, on this lower floor, somebody you; a family you, coming into the fellowship of the church, putting your life with us into this ministry, taking Jesus as Savior. Lord, were it today or tonight; is it tomorrow or the next day?  Then glory, and victory, and triumph, "I’m ready, I have settled this in my soul.  My heart I have given to God; my hand, pastor, I give to you."

Would you this day? 

As we sing this song on the first note of the first stanza, if you are in the balcony, a stairwell on either side at the back, on either side at the front, and down these aisles and to this preacher, "Here we come, pastor, and here I stand." Would you make it now while all of us stand and sing together?

 

FOR THE TIME IS AT HAND

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 1:1-3

1-15-61

 

I.          Introduction

A.  In the introduction of the book, two sentences refer to time(Revelation 1:1, 3)

B.  What do these words mean, and when shall these things be?

1.  There are four answers, interpretations

 

II.         Preterist

A.  From the Latin praeter – "past"

B.  Believe that the words of Revelation referred to a time long ago

C.  They are of two schools

1.  It was written in the days of Nero, the Neronian persecution

2.  It was written in days of Domitian

D.  Almost altogether Romanist – Roman Catholic theologians

1.  An attempt to get away from the identification of the scarlet woman in the Roman Catholic church

 

III.        Historist, historicists, continuous historical interpretation

A.  Believe they see in Revelation the story of the continuous historical unfolding of humanity from days of the apostles until consummation

B.  Held especially by leaders of the Reformation

1.  Saw in the Revelation the overthrow of Rome, apostasy of popery and destruction of the papacy

C.  They are of two schools

1.  Synchronous – the three series of seals, trumpets and bowls all cover the same period of time

2.  Successive – the seals, then the trumpets, then the bowls

D.  Dr. Joseph Angus

 

IV.       Idealist – spiritualizing school of interpretation

A.  Believe Revelation refers to no specific event, time or person, but is an allegory, a metaphorical presentation of the eternal struggle between good and evil

B.  This to me is the most unacceptable

1.  Spiritualizing is taking the Word and making it mean anything you want

2.  Messianic prophecies of Old Testament fulfilled literally in the New Testament – I therefore conclude that those yet unfulfilled are going to be just like those I’ve already seen fulfilled

3.  Let the Bible mean what it says, the way God wrote it

 

V.        Futurists

A.  Believe from chapter four on is an account of the consummation of the age, an unveiling of the coming of the Lord

B.  Why this is my position

1.  These things haven’t happened yet

a. Never been judgments upon this world like those described here

b. Resurrections of the dead

c. The Revelation is an unfolding of what you find throughout the whole Bible (Matthew 24:21-22, 29-30, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 6-10, 2 Timothy 3:1)

2.The book is definitely prediction – it says so(Revelation 1:3)

a. Describes trends of the nations, politics, religion

b. Made known by signs

c. Every other doctrine and event moves toward that consummation, and derives its meaning from that triumph