Is This The End Of The World?
September 10th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
IS THIS THE END OF THE WORLD?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-10-61 10:50 a.m.
We have much to say this morning and very little time in which to say it. I told the service at the 8:15 hour when I had done my best to present it and could not begin, I asked them to listen to this service if they could over TV or over the radio, and I would try to sum up the first part of it and then expatiate on the last part, the part that I did not have opportunity to mention in this earlier hour.
You will find in your program that the subject is announced as The Doctrine of the Nicolaitans. In preaching through the Word of God, we are in the Book of the Revelation. And that message is picking up where I left off at the last service I preached here. I have been working on that sermon almost a month. But I have decided to do something else this Lord’s Day. So I hope you will come back next Sunday and listen to the one that was prepared for today, The Doctrine of the Nicolaitans.
I have changed because I have found a foreboding, and a dread, and a terror, and a deep searching of the future in the hearts of all of our people. Whether it is expressed or unexpressed, there lies back in the hearts of all of our people an earnest askance, questioning of what the future holds. And on the East Coast, and I would suppose on the West, and here in Dallas, and I suppose wherever earnest, responsible men look upon our present world situation, there is trouble and dread and terror. For example, in the newspaper this morning in the city of Dallas, there is an article concerning this.
If just a small hydrogen bomb is dropped anywhere in our county, over 950,000 of our citizens will be immediately slain or will die soon because of a radioactive fallout. There is no hope to preserve even our people far removed and in the heartland of America, there is no hope for the preservation of the lives of anyone of our people if there were dropped in the confines of this county anywhere one of those terrible bombs.
So the question rises among us as it arises on the shores of our nation and beyond the seas, Is This the End of the World? And I have decided this morning to turn aside and to preach a sermon on that question, Is This the End of the World? I have, of course, no recourse to any knowledge that is not also known to the people of God. I just sum it up for us this morning: what God has to say about the end of the age.
In Matthew 24 is the great apocalyptic discourse of our Lord in which He outlined the future. And in Matthew 24, verses 6 and 7, our Lord says:
And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. But the end is not yet.
Oupō estin to telos, “but the end,” telos, the great consummation, the goal for which all history and time do rapidly move, but the end is not connected with that. With what? “Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled” [Matthew 24:6]. All these things are a characterization of history from the beginning to the end. As Daniel says, “Wars are determined unto the end” [Daniel 9:26]. But, oupō estin to telos, “but the great consummation,” the end of the age is not connected with that.
There have been wars in ancient history; medieval history is soaked in the blood of those conflicts. And in my own generation, there have been two frightful holocausts. But whether the wars were fought in the days past, or whether the war is the one we face now, or whether in God’s mercy in the world last, there are wars more frightful and fearful yet to come, the end of the age, the consummation of history is not connected with armed might and marching armies and terrible, horrible conflict.
Then what is the characterization of the end of the age? The Scriptures are plain in their delineation, and the Word of God reveals four things that characterize, that accompany, that attend the great consummation of world history. I have chosen, just that we might remember them better, alliterated words for all four of them, words that began in “r.” And we shall speak of them now, these four revealed characteristics, accompaniments that shall point up and declare the end of the age.
The first is resurrection. In the sequence of events when God declares that time shall be no more, and history is passed, and the consummation of the age is come, the first thing unannounced, suddenly, like a thief in the night, secretly, furtively, clandestinely [1 Thessalonians 5:2], first the Lord shall come for His people. That is first! In I Thessalonians 4:16, for the Lord Himself, personally:
The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to be forever with the Lord.
[1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]
But first! the resurrection of God’s sainted dead [1 Thessalonians 4:15-16]. Is this the denouement of all time? Is this the consummation of history? Is this the end of the age? Go out to the cemetery and see! For the first thing in the sequence and in the order of God’s consummation is this: that the dead are raised who sleep in the Lord Jesus [1 Thessalonians 4:14]. In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, our Lord said: “Two shall be in the field; one shall be taken, and the other left. Two shall be grinding at the mill: one shall be taken, and the other left” [Matthew 24:40-41]. In Luke 17:34, half of the world will be in darkness as half of it is in daytime when the Lord comes. And Luke 17:34 says,” And two shall be sleeping in a bed” that night, and in that night, “Two shall be sleeping in a bed; one shall be taken, and the other left.”
When the Lord comes, half of the world in the nighttime, half of the world in the daytime; those that are working, some shall be taken, and the others left. Those that are sleeping, some shall be taken, and the other left. That’s the first thing in the great denouement of all time and history. Paul spake of it in the incomparable fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, beginning at verse 50:
This I say, brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption.
But, behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.
[1 Corinthians 15:50-52]
The great rapture and translation of the church and the saved and the sainted of God, that’s first. And it comes as a thief in the night [1 Thessalonians 5:2]. In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: “Watch therefore” [Matthew 24:42], immediately after the Lord had said in verses 40 and 41: Two shall be in a field; one taken, and the other left. Two shall be grinding in a mill; one shall be taken, and the other left [Matthew 24:40-41]. Then He says:
Watch, watch: for you know not what hour your Lord doth come.
…if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched . . .
Therefore be ye also ready: for such an hour as you think not the Son of Man cometh.
In Revelation 16:15, the Lord says, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth.” When the Lord comes, when the great end of the age is upon us, it shall come like that. The Lord shall appear suddenly for His people. Without announcement, He shall come as a thief in the night to steal away His jewels, He calls them the the pearl of price, to take them away [Matthew 13:45-46].
And then, and then comes what Revelation 7:14—and as we preach through the Book of the Revelation, we shall speak of these things—and then shall come he thlipsis he megale, the tribulation, the great! Then shall fall upon the world the judgments of Almighty God. And then shall be days such as the world has never seen, “The great tribulation,” he thlipsis he megale, the tribulation, the great [Revelation 7:14]. And it ends in the battle of Armageddon when the Lord appears visibly with His people. Revelation 19:11:
And I beheld heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon it was Faithful and True.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns;
He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
The armies that followed Him are clothed in white. And He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth: and rule them with the rod of iron: and on and on.
These are the orders of sequence at the end of the age. First, the resurrection of the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
The second “R,” redemption; regeneration: in Romans 11:25-26, Paul said:
I would not, brethren, that ye be ignorant of this mustērion—
a secret in the heart of God, not to be searched out by human wisdom but revealed—
. . .
Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
And then shall there come out of Zion the Deliver, And shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
Oh, we haven’t time to mention, “The day of the end shall come when the fullness, the plēroma, “the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” [Romans 11:25]. The fullness, the plēroma of the Gentiles, refers to the full number to be saved. Brethren, I would not have ye ignorant of this mystery: this election, this purpose of God. There are a certain number known to God, written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, out of the Gentiles who are going to be saved. And all of the devils in hell and all of the powers in earth cannot and will not force the hand of God until that last one be come in [Romans 11:25]. And that is known to God, in the elected purposes of heaven. Some of us are going to be saved, and those are known to the Almighty. And their names are written in God’s Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. And when that last one comes in, “the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” [Romans 11:25], the last one that God has numbered when He saved, then the end, like a shepherd with His staff outstretched, and He calls His own sheep by name [John 10:3], and as they come under the rod and into the fold, when the last one comes in, the door is shut, and the end comes. That’s the second.
The third: to follow the alliterated “R,” a return; the return of Israel to Palestine; in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, “Verily I say unto you, This genea shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” [Matthew 24:34]. Genea, we took the English word and made it genus, or plural, genera. And the biologist and the botanist and the zoologist that uses it, he translated kind, species, or stock, race, so let’s stay true to the word and call it that. In speaking to Jerusalem and to the Jew and to Israel, our Lord says, “This genea, this race shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” [Matthew 24:34]. Our Lord says that Jew, he will be here until the time of the end. The Hittite, and the Jebusite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Moabite, and all the rest of those “ites” back there; nobody ever saw anybody that ever saw anybody that saw anybody that saw anybody that ever heard of anybody that ever saw one of them. But the Jew is still here, like God said he would be! Walk up and down the streets of Boston or New York City or Philadelphia or the streets of Dallas, and you will see him. God said and he will be here “until I come again.”
And if you want to watch God’s clock, don’t look at Russia or America or Europe or the Orient, look at the Jew. When you watch the Jew, you’re watching God’s clock, for God has an elective purpose for that Jew. Romans 9, 10, and 11 are given over to a discussion of God’s elective purpose for the Jew. And he closed that discussion, “I say then, hath God cast away His people? God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew” [Romans 11:1-2]. Then after the long discussion, he closed it:
Brethren, I do not want you ignorant of this mustērion . . . Blindness is happened to them in part until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And when that last Gentile is saved, so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
This is My covenant with them, when I shall take them away from their sins.
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for our sakes: but as touching the election, the purposes of God, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, without changing, without turning.
When God sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob that his seed should possess the land, it was a covenant promise unconditional and forever! [Genesis 12:7; 26:3; 35:12]. And God said the Jew shall go back, and the Jew shall possess his home. And God’s elective purpose shall be worked out in that Jewish nation. And if I had hours to speak, we’d follow that through to the Word of God; the elected purpose of God for that Jew. Our blessed Lord, in Luke 21:24 said: “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Watch Jerusalem; keep your eye upon Jerusalem. Watch that Jew. For two thousand years there were not enough Jews in Palestine to fill these front seats. But God said he’s going home, and the land will be his forever. God said it, and in your generation, the Jew is turning his face homeward. “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” And when the Jews gain Palestine and Jerusalem, the end is come. That’s the third great sign of the denouement of the age. That Jew, watch him, and Jerusalem, watch that city [Luke 21:24].
I was in Jerusalem so close to the close of this war between Arab and Israel, I was so close to the close of it, that I was there and watched Israel bury their soldier dead. The Arab had given to the Jew the soldiers slain in Jordan, and the Jew had given to the Arab the soldiers slain in Israel. And I stood on the curb of the street and watched David Ben-Gurion, their prime minister, and the sorrowing families as they passed by, buying their soldier dead. Did you know that war was fought by youngsters, teenagers, young Jewish boys and girls, both in the army? And did you know that in that war that those young Jewish solders won Jerusalem? And they sent word back to the headquarters, “Come and possess the Holy City, we have won it, and the Arab legions are fled away!”
And at that particular minute, at that very moment and second, the United Nations, in its commission sent over there, had got together the leaders of the armies of Arab and the armies of Israel, and they signed that armistice and made a funny gerrymandering demarcation from the top of Palestine to the bottom. And in that demarcation, Jerusalem was placed in the hands of the Gentiles, in that funny kind of a gerrymandering line that goes down, for had the Jew won Jerusalem, the end would have been then! Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled [Luke 21:24]; the third great sign of the end.
In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the Lord says the parable of the fig tree which is a symbol of Israel:
When its branch is tender, and it putteth forth its leaves, you know that summer is nigh:
So likewise ye, when you see these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
Verily I say unto you, This genera shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled.
Watch the Jews, watch the Jew; he’s God’s clock for the ages.
The fourth “R.” The first one was resurrection, the Lord taking His people [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. The second “R” was redemption, regeneration, when the last Gentile has come in, when he has been saved [Romans 11:25-26]. The third “R” when God’s elect people go back home, return back to Palestine, when they win their country, rebuild their temple [Matthew 24:34; Romans 9:11; Luke 21:24]. Oh, so much I haven’t time to mention.
The fourth “R,” the fourth “R,” the sign, the characterization of the time of the end: rejection, and by that I mean the church and her Lord, and the Lord and the organized church. Revelation 3:16 to Laodicea: “Thou art neither cold nor hot. I will spew thee out of My mouth!” Second Thessalonians 2:3, “That Day shall not come until at first a great”—and the Greek word is apostasia—“apostasy, falling away.” The last and the fourth great attendant sign of the end of the age is the apostasy; the Laodicean response of God’s churches to their Lord and Savior [Revelation 3:14-22]. The church is turned into a club, or the church is turned into a community service, or the church is turned into some kind of a social and welfare agency, or the church is turned into a worldly band of worldly minded people, or the church becomes almost nonexistent and certainly powerless because of its lack of spiritual dynamic and movement. The sign of the end, the Laodicean church; “I will reject thee, spew thee out of My mouth” [Revelation 3:16]. And the time shall not come unless there first be an apostasia, a falling away [1 Thessalonians 2:3]—the time of the end; worldliness in the church.
This last month, again and anew, I was impressed. The great gambling institutions of America are the church; they say that, the church! Don’t go to Las Vegas, don’t go to Reno, don’t go to the race tracks to find gambling, go to the church and look at it! Great revenues by the uncounted millions of dollars poured into the coffers of the church, gambling day and night, Sunday and every other day! Or a little minority band will rise up, and I’m speaking of illustrations that I have found, when the little band rises up, there’s a riot created, and they are in danger of physical destruction in America! And the authorities, the police, are helpless before it because the church sponsors the gambling institution. Where they number in the majority, the minority that believe that is an affront to God are helpless and powerless before it. They have the police. They have the judge. They have the alderman. They have the governor. They have the representative. They have the Congress. And they are powerless in front of it. The great institution of gambling in America is the church!
Another thing. You forget about prohibition. You will never see it in your day or in your children’s day or any day that might lie ahead. For the great drunkenness is in the church, sponsored by its leaders and its ministry who lead them in consumption of the vile and deadly stuff that destroys on our highways, that wrecks homes, that orphans children, that blinds eyes, that destroys a man’s job, that curses a man’s life. The church, they sponsor it, get money off of it; worldliness.
Sabbath desecration; in one of the great cities of America on a Sunday evening, I stood in the sacred hall. In the days of the generation before mine, those great institutions were institutions of evangelism and soul saving and revival! On a Sunday evening, I stood in the sacred halls of one of those great institutions; where men like Moody, and Sunday, and Chapman, and Sankey, and Alexander, and Torrey had won thousands to Jesus; preaching the gospel of the Son of God. I stood on a Sunday evening in the sacred halls of those sacred places, and I was watching on a Lord’s Day evening the most offensive and suggestive rock-and-roll that you can imagine. Had it been in a barn somewhere, had it been in a Saturday night brawl somewhere, it would not have been more offensive to me—in the place, in the institution, in the great company, for the man of God had preached the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ the Lord, the rock-and-roll on a Sunday night.
The Supreme Court of the United States in upholding the blue laws of New Jersey said, in upholding the laws, they said Sunday to our forefathers was a religious day of worship and of reverence and of church attendance. But today, Sunday is a national holiday and is no longer considered religious! But it is a day of recreation! And on the basis of it being no longer religious but a national holiday, the Supreme Court of the United States of America says, we will uphold the blue laws forbidding the opening of business on the Lord’s Day.
Whether by law or not, I was not interested in it. I was only interested in the Supreme Court of the United States saying: “That to our forefathers, Sunday was a religious day. It was a godly day. It was a day of worship. It was a day of reverence and of sabbatical rest.” But today, Sunday to America is a day of national pastime and amusement and recreation. Oh, I have so much that I haven’t time to speak of it. I wanted to speak of the powerlessness of our churches, as I have looked at them and attended them and watched them.
To return to the answer of the message, what is then this day horrible, and tragic in which our people now live? Is this the day of the end? Is this the time of the closing of history? No, it is not connected with that. Then what is this hour and what is this day?
The Word of God plainly says: in about 750 BC, Isaiah, the man of God and the prophet of the Lord, stood in the presence of the overwhelming flood of the ruthless and the bitter Assyrian as he swept down upon the land. He destroyed Samaria. He destroyed the northern ten tribes. He destroyed Israel. And the Assyrian came down, put his hand next to the very heart life of Judah and Jerusalem themselves [2 Kings 18]. And Isaiah took it to the Lord, and the Lord God said of Assyria: “O Assyria, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of My indignation, Assyria, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of My indignation,” Isaiah 10:5. And after the days of Assyria, when the northern ten tribes were destroyed and Samaria was destroyed, the bitter and hasty Chaldean under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon, came against Judah and against Jerusalem [2 Kings 25].
And Habakkuk the prophet stood in the presence of the awful invasion of those ruthless and merciless people. And he cried to God: “O Lord, Thou hast ordained them for judgment; O mighty God, Thou hast established them for correction [Habakkuk 1:12]. But O God,” cried Habakkuk, “Thou art of purer eyes than to look upon evil, and canst not behold iniquity. Why, Lord, why then, do You look upon those that deal treacherously with us? And why do You not speak when the wicked devoureth the more righteous man than he?” [Habakkuk 1:13]. Jerusalem may be vile and Judah may be wicked, but Jerusalem and Judah are not as vile and as wicked as the awful indescribable, merciless, ruthless Chaldean, Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. And yet, Lord, You are letting them come down and sweep our nation away and destroy our city, Lord, why? O why?” Ordained for judgment, and raised up for correction [Habakkuk 1:12]. And Habakkuk cried: “O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid: O, Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath, remember mercy” [Habakkuk 3:2]. Lord, Lord, raising up the bitter Soviet, raising up the ungodly, atheistic communist, raising up those awful and indescribable instruments of slavery and of death for judgment and for correction. And Habakkuk cried: “Lord, I have heard Thy speech. I have read the prophecy and I am afraid,” and then his prayer: “O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years, make it known; in wrath, remember mercy” [Habakkuk 3:2].
Jeremiah cried, who was a contemporary, Jeremiah cried to Jerusalem and to Judah: “Repent, repent, turn and get right with God” [Jeremiah 3:12]. Nebuchadnezzar came in 605 BC, and carried away Daniel and the princes to Babylonia [Daniel 1:1-3]. And Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried: “Repent ye, repent ye.” Nebuchadnezzar came the second time in 598 BC, and he carried Ezekiel and the godly people of Judah and transplanted them, colonized them, by the River Chebar [2 Kings 24:12-14]. And Jeremiah at home cried: “Repent ye, repent ye, repent ye!” Nebuchadnezzar came the third time in 587 BC [Jeremiah 39:1-2], and he didn’t need to come anymore. Jeremiah was forced as a captive down into Egypt [Jeremiah 43:7]. And the armies of Nebuchadnezzar plowed up the Holy City with a plow, and sowed down the side of the holy temple with salt, and took the people, those who escaped the edge of the sword, into slavery and into captivity [2 Kings 24:15]. And the people of the land became subject to the times of the Gentiles, and Jerusalem was trodden down by the alien and foreign powers, and the great nation lost its destiny and its history in the earth [Luke 21:24]. “The rod of Mine anger, and the staff of My correction” [Isaiah 10:5].
When you face the Soviet government today, with their threat of nuclear warfare, and what they say they shall yet do with manned flights and the stratosphere of this earth from which they can loose bombs of indescribable potency on our beloved land, whither shall we fly and what shall be our defense? Pray for those in high office according to the Word of God, yes. Build up our forces of defense, yes. Do all in our power to protect our homeland, our America, yes. But most of all and above all:
O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid:
O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known: in wrath and in judgment remember mercy.
Lord, Lord, for the sake of the righteous few, would You destroy? Would You destroy? Would You destroy?
What if there were fifty righteous, for the sake of fifty righteous?
What if there are forty righteous?
What if there are thirty?
What if there are twenty?
What if there are ten?”
And Abraham ceased asking.
I believe God would have answered his prayer had Abraham said, “Lord, for the sake of one righteous man would You spare the city? For the sake of one, would You spare the city?” I think the Lord would have replied, “For the sake of one righteous man, I will spare the city for his sake.” Ultimately, our deliverance lies not in the great armed might of our forces; our deliverance lies in the imponderables of God.
“O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy [Habakkuk 3:2].
Our hope lies in a great revival. It lies in an outpouring of the Spirit of God. It lies in the moving of the presence of the Lord upon His people. It lies in our turning; turning, turning to God. This is the Lord’s appeal for us. However they may do out there, however somebody else may do over there, as for us and our house, let us turn to God. And for the sake of those righteous, Lord spare our country, our homeland, our city. “Lord, in wrath, remember mercy” [Habakkuk 3:2].
Oh, what a day to give your life to God, and what an hour to trust Jesus as Savior, and what a moment to put your life with a praying people; come, make it now. Make it this morning. We’re going to sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, would you come and stand by me? To the last row in that balcony, there’s time and to spare to come down that aisle, down one of these stairways at the front, at the back, on either side and to the pastor, “I give you my hand, preacher, I give my heart to God,” On this lower floor into the aisle, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I come, here I am, here I am. This is my family, pastor; all of us are coming this Lord’s Day morning.” Make it now, come. Come, while we stand and while we sing.