The Blessedness of the Vision
January 22nd, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE VISION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-22-61 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you who listen are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled The Blessedness of the Vision of the Words of This Prophecy. In the Book of Revelation, the first three verses, and the text is found in the third verse:
The Apocalypse, the unveiling, of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show 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, 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.
God says, “Blessed, blessed is he that readeth . . . blessed are they that hear and blessed are they that guard and treasure the words of this prophecy: for the time is at hand” [Revelation 1:3].
There are two extremes in the attitude of differing people toward this Apocalypse. There are those who think that it ought to be abandoned by all serious students. They look upon it as a jumbled polyglot of baseless fantasies. It is a compilation, they suppose, of fragments of Jewish apocalyptic literature that was pawned off by a Christian as being from Christ in heaven. They think of it as an inexorably maze, as a jumbled mass, an elaborate of puzzle and mystery with no meaning, and certainly no permanency to us.
For example, there was a time when Martin Luther refused to include the Apocalypse in his canon of the Scriptures because as he said he thought nobody could understand it. In keeping with that, there are many people who look with sarcasm upon those who attempt to study it—and much more so in looking upon those who attempt to teach it or to preach it. They have a profound prejudice against the Book of the Revelation and would be very happy were it never referred to, and certainly, never taught. That is one extreme.
The other extreme is to be found in those who think there is hardly anything else in the Bible worth studying except the Apocalypse. There are people who make maps and plans in which they fit all future history into the details to be found in the Revelation. And they set dates for the consummation of the age. And then when those dates come, and we pass them, and the consummation is not yet reached, and their foolish chronological prophecies are made to look ridiculous, then all of us have a tendency to look upon the whole affair and the whole Revelation as being itself unprofitable, and fantastic, and ridiculous.
Be these attitudes on the part of others—what they may be or may not be—we are not interested in them. Our interest lies in two ways. First, has God done something here? If He has, what has God done? And second, has God said something here? And if He has, what has God said? We address ourselves to those two things. First, what has God done here? And the answer is very plain, most lucid and clear, God has done here two things.
One: He has given to Christ, as a reward of His condescension, His mediatorial office of redemption and reconciliation; God has given to Christ a marvelous, celestial, ineffably precious reward. And that reward is the Apocalypse, the unveiling, the manifestation of our Savior in eternal and unbounding power and glory: “The Apocalypse, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him” [Revelation 1:1]. This is a reward that God deemed fitting for all that Christ had done in the salvation of this world. And it was an honor so bestowed upon our Lord in glory that He thought it fitting to send an embassage to the earth to make known to men what God had done. And this reward, this gift from God, was deemed on the part of the holy angels an honor to signify. And it was a reward, an exaltation, an honor, that the beloved apostle John, the apostle of love conscientiously wrote down that we might read it and see it, who bare record of the word of God, of the testimony of Christ, and of all of the things that he saw [Revelation 1:1-3]. If we gain strength from the mystery of the incarnation, the birth of our Savior at Christmas time [Matthew 1:20-2:11], the crucifixion of our Lord at Passover time [Matthew 27:32-54], the resurrection of our Lord and His ascension into glory at Pentecostal time [Acts 1:9-10], then how much more should we glory and thank God for, and appreciate this unveiling of the reward of all of His deeds in the earth and for the saving of our souls? This is what God has done for Christ. He has greatly exalted Him and given Him the title deed of the universe, and that unveiling, that manifestation, that appearing we call the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him [Revelation 1:1].
A second thing that God has done: God has given to us something. God has given to us an unsealed book. In the last chapter of the Revelation, and the tenth verse, the angel guide said unto the beloved apostle John, “Seal not, seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” [Revelation 22:10]. The book of the prophecy in Daniel was a sealed volume—Daniel 12:4: “But thou, O Daniel, seal up the words of this book, even to the time of the end.” Shut it up, seal it up. And what was sealed and shut up in Daniel is unsealed, it is revealed, it is uncovered in the Book of the Revelation. What God purposes to do with His people, with the world, with the hosts of heaven, all of the elective program of God until the consummation of the age is now opened and revealed and is to be kept so before the eyes of the people of the Lord. This is a gift of God: the unsealed book. From the day that the breathless messenger ran from Patmos to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea with the Revelation in his hand [Revelation 2:1-3:22]; from that blessed hour until the end of the age, it is to be kept open and to view before all the people of the Lord. Some of the messages were especially pertinent to those who were in the conflict, the circumference, the congregations of the seven churches of Asia. It applied to them especially. Some of the messages are pertinent to us today in this hour. Some of them are especially pertinent at that appointed time in the consummation of the age. But whether then or now or there, all of it is profitable and pertinent to all of God’s children in all of the age. “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is always at hand” [Revelation 22:10].
There is a word that sounds very much like the word “Apocalypse. It is the Greek word Apocrypha. There are books that are accepted by the Church of Rome and in an old big Bible, you will find them between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and they bear the name Apocrypha—apo kruptō—apocryphos. It is a Greek word meaning, “concealed, covered over, recondite, not authentic, not revealed”—the apocrypha. But apokaluptō, “apocalypse” means the opposite. The covering is taken away from; it is “unveiled, it is presented, it is manifest, it is open to view. And that is the word by which God describes this marvelous manifestation of the Son of God. The apokalupsis Iesou Christou [Revelation 1:1]. Not the apocrypha, the “hiding away,” but the “unsealing”—the presentation, the manifestation—the appearing of Jesus Christ in honor and in glory. There are those who would take away from the words of this prophecy. There are those who would take away the entire prophecy itself. But God said it is an unsealed book ever before the eyes of His people, and blessed is He that readeth; blessed they that hear, blessed they that guard and treasure the words of this prophecy [Revelation 1:3].
Now, may I speak what God has said? God has said that there is an attendant blessing in this study, and in this preparation, and in this preaching, that is not attendant upon any other part of the Word of God. The only book in the Bible that has in it an especial blessing for those who read, and study, and ponder, and meditate, and treasure is this Apocalypse of Jesus Christ [Revelation 1:3]. And lest we miss the blessing, the word is repeated again in the last chapter and the [seventh] verse: “Blessed is he, blessed is he that guards, that treasures, that ponders the sayings of the prophecy of this book” [Revelation 22:7].
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” so wrote the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16. But some Scripture is especially precious and especially blessed and especially profitable. And of all of the Scriptures that are so characterized and so received by us, the most blessed and the most precious and the most profitable is the Revelation of Jesus our Lord. “Blessed is he” [Revelation 1:3]—the only book in the Bible that is so introduced—for you see, God knew that as He unveiled the future, there were many passages that would be dark and obtuse and difficult and devious, for the future is an unknown to us. And when God pulls the curtain aside and we look at the vistas that are yet to come, the way is not easy. The birth times of this world to reach that golden age are dark indeed. Consequently, there are those who hesitate before it and look upon it in great bewilderment and puzzlement. But God has not given us this volume in order to mystify His churches. Nor has God written it down if He thought it would not have been profitable for the people to whom it was sent. But God wrote it that His people might be encouraged, and that we might be strengthened, and that we might find hope for the vistas of the ages that are yet to come. And that’s the reason why at the beginning of the book, at the very door, He writes this first of the seven beatitudes to be found in the scroll: Blessed, the one that reads; blessed, they who hear and they who treasure these words in their hearts [Revelation 1:3, 22:7].
I would think that reference to treasuring, keeping, guarding the words in our heart refers to the part of the Revelation that to us are deeply mysterious. We don’t yet understand what they mean and what they refer to, but it is the same kind of a thing as the virgin peasant girl, Mary, when the angel made the announcement and the birth of the first Christmas [Luke 2:9-18]; it says, “Mary kept these things in her heart, and pondered them” [Luke 2:19]. She did not understand all that it meant; in fact, a prophecy like this: when Simeon held the Child in the temple and said, “This Child shall be for a sign that is spoken against; (Yea, and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also)” [Luke 2:34-35]. She did not know what that meant until the day came when she stood by the cross and saw the Son of God and her Son nailed on a tree and raised between the earth and the sky [John 19:25-30, 34]. But she treasured those words [Luke 2:51]. And it was only in time that they came to be known what they meant.
In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of John, in the thirteenth verse, our Lord says, “And when He is come, the Holy Spirit, He will guide you into all truth, and He will teach you things to come” [John 16:13]. When we study the Revelation, and when the pastor prepares the sermons, and when he delivers the message, the Holy Spirit is in his heart and by his side to guide the preparation and the delivery of the sermon. For the darker the mystery, the more rewarding is the examination, and the more earnestly should we consider it and treasure it and keep it in our hearts.
This is a blessed study because we are looking upon the pages of the only prophetic book in the entire New Testament. There are apocalypses, little apocalypses, throughout the New Testament:
- like the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew [Matthew 24];
- like the thirteenth chapter, out of which you read, of the Book of Mark [Mark 13];
- like the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Luke [Luke 17:20-37];
- like the parts of 1 and 2 Thessalonians [1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12];
- and like the third chapter of 2 Peter [2 Peter 3:3-15].
There are little apocalypses all through the Bible. But, there is only one great prophetic revelation in all of the New Testament, and that is the volume out of which we are preaching the sermons during these successive Lord’s days. This is the unfolding of the future [Revelation 1-22].
And God, as He draws aside the veil, invites with imperative urgency His people and His pilgrims, saying: Come, and look, behold! And as we look into the vista of the future through the eyes of the apostle John, as the visions were signified, signified by the angels [Revelation 1:1-2], we see there the course of this church age and our Lord’s relationship with His people. And we see the inexorable judgments of God upon an unbelieving and blaspheming earth. And we see the fearful rise and fall of the Antichrist. And we see the coming in power and judgment and glory of the Lord of hosts, our reigning King. And we see the destruction of the enemies of God, death, sin, and the grave. And we see the creation of a new kingdom and a new heaven and a new earth, and the glory of the children of God who place their trust in Him. “Come,” says the Spirit, “come and see what God hath in store for us who love Him” [Revelation 4:1, 6:1, 7]. How precious, this closing climactic book of the canon. The Bible would be incomplete without it. This is the last writing of inspiration, and these are the last messages of our risen Lord from glory.
It is blessed, it is precious because our Savior will not be glorified alone. We shall be glorified with Him, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us, loosed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, and we shall reign with Him forever and ever and ever” [Revelation 1:5-6, 5:10, 22:3-5]. Not the least of those who have placed their trust in Jesus will be left behind. But when He is glorified, we shall be glorified with Him. When the dead are raised, our beloved dead shall be raised [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. If we are alive to the presence of His coming, we, too, “shall be changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the trump: for the trumpet shall sound” [1 Corinthians 15:51-52], and God shall appear in glory, in power, in resurrection, in immortality, in wonder, and in awe shall we have a glorious and a triumphant part [Revelation 19:11-14]. If I am interested in my soul and in the destiny of the days and the years and the ages that lie ahead, all of it is unsealed and made manifest—revealed, apokaluptō—here in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. “Blessed is he that reads; blessed they that hear; blessed they that treasure and keep the words of this prophecy, for the time is at hand” [Revelation 1:3, 22:7].
Now the conclusion of the sermon is a discourse on that word “for the time is at hand” [Revelation 1:3]. There are two words for time that are used in the Bible. One is chronos—and your word chronometer, chronology—chronos, “time.” The Greek word chronos refers to time in general; just time, time as such, time. Time. There is another word, kairos, and that means an “appointed time, an elective purpose” and that is the word used here, “for the kairos, the elected time, the appointed day is at hand, engus—near at hand.” And in the very first verse, he used a point of time, “The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him, to show unto His servants things which must” en tachei,”“shortly come to pass.” Well, what do those words mean? Well, this Revelation was written a thousand eight hundred some-odd years ago. And yet the Lord says to show unto His servant en tachei, things which must immediately, speedily, certainly, shortly come to pass [Revelation 1:1]. And again, for the kairos, the appointed time is engus, is just at hand [Revelation 1:3]. What does that mean?
Well, there are those who say with great scholarship and erudition—there are those who say that that means “certainly,” and it means nothing else, but that all of these things that were in the Revelation—that are here in the Revelation, all of them were fulfilled back yonder years ago in the days of those seven churches in Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:22], and there is nothing in it of pertinency or of profit to us today. All of it was fulfilled back there. Now, as you know, in the sermon that I preached last Sunday morning, beginning at the fourth chapter [Revelation 4:1], I think we have a picture there, a prophecy there of the unveiling of our Lord at the consummation of the age, at the end of this world, when He comes again [Revelation 19:11-16], when death is destroyed and hell is destroyed [Revelation 20:14], and Satan is bound [Revelation 20:1-3], and God’s kingdom comes [Revelation 21:1-22:21], and His saints are raised and glorified with Him forever [Revelation 20:6]; to me that is the revelation, the reward God gave unto Jesus. But, there are great scholars, and in fact, practically all of our own men who believe that this was all fulfilled back there in days past.
Now, I am going to read from one of those men. This is a very learned professor who has written several books on the subject, and I’m quoting from one of his books. He greatly objects to the method of belief that these things are future; that they refer to the coming of the Lord. And he believes that they were all fulfilled back there in the days of these people to whom the Revelation was addressed in the seven churches of Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:22]. And he says it is inconsistent with the statements made by John that the events predicted were to come to pass soon, to believe that they are out there in the future: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things that it is necessary to come to pass immediately” [Revelation 1:1].
This literal translation includes two words which are of great importance. One is dei—(“must”). It is an impersonal Greek word which involves a moral necessity. It is morally necessary, he says, in order for a just end to be accomplished that these things come to pass shortly. This is the same word which Jesus used when He said it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem for Him to die [Matthew 16:21]. Therefore, it was morally necessary in order for the end to be accomplished that this revelation be fulfilled immediately. There was a moral necessity that these things be fulfilled quickly. The need was an urgent one, and the message was one to meet the urgency need, and that was fulfilled back there.
Then he says the second Greek word that we’re interested in is the phrase en tachei, which is translated “quickly” or “shortly.” We—and I am one of these futurists—hold that this is a term which means “certainly” rather than having any temporal context. Paul hardly uses it this way when he says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:9, “be diligent to come to me tacheos,” the adverbial form of the word “quickly.” We can almost hear him say, according to fellows like I am, “Timothy, I want you to come to me here in Rome, bring the cloak I left with Carpus [2 Timothy 2:13]. I am cold and need it, but there is no hurry. Just so you get here in the next two or three thousand years. I need those Scriptures, scrolls, I left there. Bring them so I can read them. There are some passages I want to brush up on in the next millennium or two. I want to see you. I don’t know how long I can hold out, so come in the next few thousand years—tacheos—any time is all right.”
Mirabile dictu, this author writes: but this is no more absurd than to take the position that the phrase in Revelation 1:1 means certainty of fulfillment rather than a speedy fulfillment. Here John is saying to the suffering, persecuted Christians of Asia Minor—“That’s all right. Don’t be disturbed. After a few thousand years the nations will gather together for a great battle in the Valley of Megiddo. And when it is all over, God will set up an earthly kingdom and reign with His saints and all the followers of Antichrist will be destroyed.” Such a message would have had little meaning and less comfort to those in need. So, on the basis of that exposition and interpretation and exegesis—why, he says that all of these things were fulfilled back there in the days of the people to whom the Apocalypse was addressed.
“Well, preacher, what do you have to say to a Greek exegete like that?” Now, I don’t invent this message. I am just an echo. I just tell you what I find here in the Bible and that is all. I don’t originate it. There is nothing original in any message I preach in this pulpit. I study this Book, and I try to tell you what I have found here in the Word of God. All right, what have I found? It says here: “en tachei—things which must shortly come to pass” [Revelation 1:1]. And it says here “for the time is engus—near at hand” [Revelation 1:3]. And this learned professor from whom I quoted just now says that for that to have any comfort, any pertinency at all, it had to be fulfilled immediately or it had no pertinency to those people to whom it was addressed. All right now just look in the Book. The pastor of the church at Jerusalem—and I like to say the pastor of the First Baptist Church at Jerusalem—was named James, the Lord’s brother. And James, as a pastor of the church in Jerusalem, James sought to encourage and to comfort his flock in that holy city. And listen to him, he says in James 5:8: “Be patient—be patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is engus—nigh.” Why, James, you’re mistaken. How could that be a comfort to the people of God? You wrote that one thousand eight hundred fifty years ago, and you say to the church at Jerusalem: “Be patient—don’t get discouraged, don’t feel we’ve lost the battle—strengthen your hearts for the coming of the Lord is engus” [James 5:8]. Now, isn’t that a strange thing? He comforts the church, trying to build in their souls an expectancy—a prayerful waiting, be it nigh. He is at the door. That is the exact thing in the Revelation [Revelation 22:12].
May I turn again to the apostle Paul as he writes to the church at Rome? And he says—to strengthen them and to encourage them—he says: “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet en tachei” [Romans 16:20]. There’s that same word—en tachei, translated “certain,” en tachei. Back yonder in the garden of Eden, God said: “And the Seed of the woman” [Genesis 3:15]. Isn’t that strange? “The Seed of the woman” and not of the man, “the Seed of the woman,” the virgin birth [Matthew 1:23]. “The Seed of the woman shall bruise—shall crush his head” [Genesis 3:15]. And Paul said: “God shall bruise Satan under your feet en tachei, shortly” [Romans 16:20]. One thousand nine hundred years ago since he wrote that. Or once again, in the parable of the unjust judge, “Hear what the unjust judge saith,” said Jesus: “And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them en tachei”—and there’s that same expression. And yet, he says, though God bears long—long—“Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith in the earth?” [Luke 18:6-8]. It’s going to be so long that there are many who have given up: “He is never going to come. We’re never going to see the Lord. There’s never going to be a consummation; there’s never going to be a victory or triumph.” When He comes, will there be?—Fine! I tell you that He will come en tachei! [Revelation 22:12].
What does that mean then? Why, to me, as I read the Scriptures and these are just a few that I have chosen, as I read the Scriptures, to me it is very plain what the Lord means when He says en tachei and engus [Revelation 1:3]. He means first, don’t you be discouraged. It may be long, and God may bear long with us, but don’t you get discouraged. He will certainly come. Every word will be fulfilled just as God hath said it: the flower may fade, and the grass may wither, and we may die, but the word and promise of our God shall endure forever [Isaiah 40:8]. Every syllable, every jot, every tittle will be fulfilled in that kairos, in God’s appointed time—God’s appointed time [Revelation 1:3]. In that word en tachei, it has also the idea of speed. In speed, that is, when these things begin to come to pass, they shall come to pass speedily! Fast, in a twinkling of an eye some of them; and then, did you notice as you read the Book, God never anywhere set the date, never? Men set dates. Men make chronological prophecies. You will never find it in the Word of God. For you see, God runs His universe by God’s time, not ours. God has got a clock up there, and on the dial of that clock, it is written, “a thousand years!” On this clock is as a day, and a day as a thousand years [2 Peter 3:8]. And one tick on God’s clock may mean five hundred years or a thousand years, as God’s clock ticks.
“Well then, pastor, what does the Lord mean when He says the time is at hand?” [Revelation 1:3]. And in the twenty-second chapter of the last book of the Revelation, He repeats that five times—five times.
- “To show the things which must shortly,” en tachei, shortly, “be done” Revelation 22:6.
- Revelation 22:7: “Behold, I come,” tuchon, an adverbial form of it again, “quickly.”
- And then again in Revelation 22:10, “The angel guide said to me: Seal not up the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at engus, near.”
- And He says again in the twelfth verse, “And behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be” [Revelation 22:12].
- And He closes it with: “He who testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly” [Revelation 22:20].
What does the Lord mean? Why, this is what He means: He wants us to be in that same open-hearted readiness, in prayerful waiting and expectancy, as the churches to whom He addressed this Apocalypse—Ephesus, Smyrna, Thyatira, Laodicea [Revelation 2:1-3:22], lived in expectancy—in prayerful waiting. And He says to the First Baptist Church in Dallas today: “Live in prayerful expectancy and waiting. Surely I come quickly” [Revelation 22:20].
And if it is today, O Lord, the power and the glory and the victory—and if it is tonight in the evening, or if it is morning at the rising sun, or if it is tomorrow, or if it is after this house of clay is fallen into the dust of the earth, surely, surely, surely, He cometh [Revelation 22:12]. And God’s will for His people is to live in the expectancy of the presence, and the apocalypse, and the revelation, and the appearing of our Lord [Titus 2:13]. Any day, any moment, any time, for the coming of our Lord is always engus, “at hand” [Revelation 1:3, 22:20]. And the answering prayer is our answering prayer. “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:21]. Today, this evening, at twilight, at midnight, at the dawning of the morrow, even so, come, Lord Jesus [Revelation 22:20]. What a marvelous benediction to have a people who live in the spirit of that appeal. “Ready, ready, my family ready. We’re all saved. We’re all in the kingdom—ready.” Oh, that it might be true with you, “Ready.” Even so, Lord Jesus [Revelation 22:21].
If you have never given your heart in trust to our Lord, would you this morning? If you don’t belong to this church and would love to be with us in this precious fellowship and incomparably dear and glorious congregation, would you come? Some by a profession of faith to be baptized, some by placing their letter with us, some by statement, however God would say the word and lead the way, would you make it now? The great throng in that balcony, there is a stairway at the back on either side, there is a stairway at the front on either side, you come. We’ll wait, you come. The throng of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Would you make it this morning? Trusting Jesus as Savior or putting your life with us in the fellowship of the church. “I will make it now, pastor, and here I am.” While we stand and while we sing.