In the Day of His Wrath
May 20th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
IN THE DAY OF HIS WRATH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-20-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled In the Great Day of His Wrath. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come after these many years to the last, the climactic Book of the Revelation. And in our preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 6, verse 12, which describes the opening of the seal number six. And if you will follow in your Bible, the message will mean more to you as we seek with God’s grace and help to expound the Word of our Lord. Revelation 6, beginning at verse 12:
And I beheld when He had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
And said to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
This is the beginning of the end. It is not the end, as these fearful ones in the earth ascribe. They think because of these terrible, startling, amazing, terrifying phenomena in the earth, they think this is the day of the end. It is not; for so many sorer and more drastic judgments are yet to fall. But these in their terror think that final day and hour has come. No, this rather is the beginning of that final end. You will find in the Book of Daniel, in the ninth chapter, that Daniel divides that final seventieth week into two parts [Daniel 9:27]. And you will find that the Book of the Revelation does the same thing. It divides this great final denouement into two parts [Revelation 6:1-17, 8:1-30]. And if you follow Daniel in his time, you will see that a week of seven would then be divided into three and one half. And if the week refers to a week of years, then it would be three and one half years. Now the Book of the Revelation does that. The last half of this final week, the Book of the Revelation will call three and a half years, or time times and half a time, or forty-two months, or 1,260 days. The Book of the Revelation refers to this last half in those figures, following that week in the Book of Daniel.
Now, our Lord seems to divide this final denouement into that same two halves. The first half He will refer to in Matthew 24 as "the beginning of sorrows" [Matthew 24:8]; and the second half He refers to as "the great tribulation" [Matthew 24:21-29]. And the Book of the Revelation does that. The beginning of sorrows, the first half, is the first six seals [Revelation 6:1-17]; and the last half, called the great tribulation, is the seventh seal, which includes of course the seventh trumpet, which includes of course the seven bowls of the wrath of Almighty God [Revelation 8:1-13]. After this great parenthesis of chapter 7 – at which I pray we shall begin with next Sunday – after this great parenthesis of the seventh chapter, the sealing of God’s elect in the earth [Revelation 7:1-8], then the great final end begins. The great tribulation begins with the blowing of the seventh trumpet, here in chapter 8 of the Apocalypse [Revelation 8:7].
Now, this seal number six [Revelation 6:12-17] is an earnest, it’s a harbinger, it is a portent, it is a pre-description in dramatic form of what is to come: this great and final visitation from God. It is not that final visitation, it is not that final judgment; but it is a harbinger, it is an announcement, and a terrible one, of that great and final day of the Lord.
These six seals all fall in order, one after another. Seal number one [Revelation 6:3-8] brings on the world scene that man of sin, that world dictator, that political, and social, and cultural, and military, and ecclesiastical tyrant who holds all earthly authority and power in his hand. And he comes not by blood, not by slaughter, and not by war; but he comes acclaimed by the people, "This is our great deliverer. This is our great savior. He will keep us out of war, and he will deliver us from all of the suicidal destruction that accompanies terrible warfare." That’s the way he comes; that’s the way they all come. Whether it’s a fuehrer of Germany, or an Il Duce of an Italy, whether it is a Stalin of Russia, they all come like that: these are the deliverers of the people. Then follows your second seal, and your third, and your fourth [Revelation 6:3-8], just as you will find it in human history, these so-called soters. And if you will open your ancient history, you’ll find them as multitudinously written on the book of the pages of mankind as you’ll find them on the pages of the newspapers today. Here is Philadelphia Soter, here’s Demetrius Soter, here’s Ptolemy Soter, here’s Antiochus Soter, here’s Seleucus Soter; they’re all alike and all through history, and they’re all harbingers and types of that great final Soter who presents himself as the savior of the people. And without exception, every one of them, whether his name is Napoleon, or Alexander, or Caesar, or Demetrius, or Philadelphius, or Seleucus, or Ptolemy, or Hitler, or Mussolini, or Stalin, whatever their name, all follow this same pattern you find in the Apocalypse. Then comes war, war, bloody, terrible, bloodbath, the second seal. Then following war, that black horseman of famine, and want, and waste, and dirt. And then of course, the final horseman, the pestilential plague-ridden, disease riding pale horseman whose name is Death; and the grave opens wide her mouth to swallow up these tragic victims.
Now seal number five is a result, not the thing itself; you just see the souls of God’s martyrs in heaven. But in those days of the first four seals, God’s people are wasted. And you see their souls in heaven as they cry unto God for vengeance [Revelation 6:9-11]. And the sixth seal is the beginning of the answer of God from heaven. Those martyred souls cry unto God, "O Lord, holy and true, how long dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that are on the earth?" [Revelation 6:10]. And seal number six is the beginning of the answer of God [Revelation 6:12-17]. And when anybody comes and preaches to you all of these soft things about the Lord, "He won’t judge sin, He won’t condemn the unrighteous, He’s too good and too sweet and too saccharine to have a hell and a judgment day"; that’s all through the Bible, what God is like; and He is not like that. For example, in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 1, verse 6:
It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that persecute you. Rest with us; the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; When He shall come.
[2 Thessalonians 1:6-10]
The God of the Bible, the God of the New Testament, and the God of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is at the same time a God of judgment and of visitation and of wrath as He is a God of everlasting mercy and forgiveness to those who turn and call upon Him. So, in the seal number five you see the souls of those who cry unto God, who have been beheaded in these terrible and tragic days of the end time; and now seal number six is the beginning of the answer of God to their prayer, visiting judgment and vengeance in the earth.
Oh, what startling things! "I beheld when He had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great seismos" [Revelation 6:12]. Almost always you’ll find that translated "earthquake." Your seismograph comes from that; that would be an instrument to detect earthquakes. Well, actually the word means "shaking, agitating, quaking." For example, here in the next verse, "the stars of heaven fell into the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is," and there’s that same word again, "when she is shaken of a mighty wind" [Revelation 6:13]. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Matthew, that word is translated "tempest," when the storm and the fury of the waves roll on the Sea of Galilee [Matthew 8:24]. In the second chapter of the Book of Joel, following the Septuagint Greek translation, there it is translated "tremble": "when all the heavens tremble" [Joel 2:10]. In the second chapter of Haggai, verse 6, which is quoted in Hebrews 12, it is translated there "shaking" [Haggai 2:6]. Actually, what John writes here is, "There was a great universal shaking" [Revelation 6:13]; everything moved by the marching presence of God, the whole universe is involved in the visitation and the judgment of the Almighty.
That thing is a part of the judicial dealing and presence of the Almighty, all the way through. On top of Mt. Sinai, when the Lord came down to speak the law to Moses, the mountain shook! [Hebrews 12:18]. There was a great earthquake. When Elijah complained to the Lord God of the slaying of His prophets and the casting down of His altars, God passed by in a fury of wind that rent the rocks, and in an earthquake that shook the mountains [1 Kings 19:10-11]. When Jesus was murdered, the very earth shook and the mountains were rent [Matthew 27:51]. When Paul and Silas prayed there was a great earthquake, and the foundation of the prison was subverted [Acts 16:26]. Same thing here: this is the visitation of God, and the whole universe trembles [Revelation 6:12].
"And the sun became black as sackcloth of hair" [Revelation 6:12], like a Bedouin’s tent, black; the sun went out. There’s that same phenomenon again you have in the presence of God: when our Lord died, the sun covered its face; in that awful hour, the judgment of God upon our sins [Luke 23:45]. Mt. Sinai, when God wrote the law and gave it to Moses, Mt. Sinai was covered in a darkness of smokiness [Exodus 20:18]. And when God judged Egypt, there was a blackness that could be felt, thick and dark. "And the sun shall become black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon ensanguined like blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, as a fig tree shaken by a mighty wind" – he likens there the entire universe to a fig tree that is blown in the storm and the tempest – "And the heaven recoiled as a scroll when it is rolled together"; in the awfulness of that hour, "and the mountains and the islands, the very configuration of the earth is disturbed; they were moved out of their places" [Revelation 6:12-14]. What does that mean? What does that mean? Over here in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, Jesus speaks of those same things. First, before that awful tribulation, these famines and these pestilences and these earthquakes [Matthew 24:7]; but this isn’t the end, not this time, for there is a far greater earthquake described in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 16:18]. Then the Lord after and at the beginning and during that great tribulation, and the Lord says the same thing, "In those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken" [Matthew 24:29]. You will find it in the Prophets. I will not read this; these sermons are all written down for you, and you’ll find these passages in the Prophets.
What does this mean? Well, first of all, it could mean the thing itself, and doubtless does; these are the physical concomitants of the judgments of God. When the Lord moves in those final days these frightening and paralyzing and terrifying things come to pass. It won’t be the first time. If you’ve ever stood at a great opening in the bowels of the earth, such as the Grand Canyon, there you can find written these geological upheavals the earth has known. Many places in this earth you have stood and there are mountains turned upside down, and there are great masses of rock on end, these violent and volcanic eruptive commotions in the very framework of the earth. I read, among so many others, I read of a man, and it was impressive the way he said it; he’s talking about that sun going out, "black like sackcloth of hair," and talking about that moon that looked like blood. He said, "That moon is red because of the destructive fires that illuminate from this earth! And that sun is black by the smoke of these ninety-three million miles of this plunging and destructive earth." Well, those things are interesting, why it would be red and why it would be black.
Then there are, most I would think, of your interpreters who would say that this is a picture of the breaking up of government and the breaking down of human institutions. This is the inevitable corollary of war; when the world is scourged and destroyed there is the great breaking up of human institutions. And they follow that in detail: the sun would be the great central authority, and the moon would be one of lesser power, and the stars would represent those of still lesser authority, and the mountains represent kingdoms and the islands represent other authorities and kingdoms; and when this world is described as being shaken, and the heavens recoiling like a scroll rolling up together, all of these are pictures of the riot and the horror and the anarchy that sweeps over the earth following these horrible days of bloodshed and of war. Certainly you can say this: that underneath the surface of this earth, those boiling, melted, molten, molten rocks that erupt into Strombolis and other volcanoes on the face of the earth, these things of fire and of fury are pictures of the latent, brutal, bestial, terrible passions of men. It is hard for me to believe that I have lived through a day when great cities have been raped like the rape of Nanking. It’s hard for me to believe that even in America the bestial brutality of men is such that if you had a great catastrophe such as a tidal wave, or such as a great flood, that the rangers are there and the troopers are there with commandments to shoot those who take advantage of families whose homes are destroyed, and they steal what they can find in the debris and the wreckage of these unfortunate. Oh, the brutality of human nature, the abysmal depravity of the human heart!
Now, the main thing that I want to speak of is God’s revelation here of the world when these judgments begin to fall, and when God begins to walk judicially through the earth. Well, they are terrified, all men everywhere: "The kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the chief captains, the mighty men, the bondman, the free man, the poor, the great," all are terrified by these visitations from God. "And they hide themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains" [Revelation 6:15]. They are alarmed, they are dismayed, they are terrified; all men everywhere, just alike! Then look at their interpretation of what is happening, which is so true: they say, "This is the judgment of God. This is a visitation from heaven, this is because of our sins; and we stand naked before the angry Creator of our universe. This," they say, "is the day of the wrath of the Lamb" [Revelation 6:16]. That’s what the judgment of the world is when they see these things come to pass. And isn’t that a remarkable phrase "The wrath of the Lamb" [Revelation 6:17]? For the lamb is always gentle; carry the lamb in His bosom [Isaiah 40:11]. The Lamb, "the wrath of the Lamb." Oh, but what a truth is hid in that coined phrase on the part of these who terrified look up to the day of the judgment of God.
William Cowper, William Cowper as some say, William Cowper, the great poet of England wrote these lines. Listen to them:
Hear the just law, the judgment of the skies
He that hates the truth must be the dupe of lies
And he who will be cheated to the last
Delusions strong as hell must bind him fast.
["Truth," by William Cowper]
These who spurn the overtures of grace, the gentleness of the Lamb, and the mercy of God become hard and sharp and full of judgment. That’s why I had you read this morning that passage in the Book of the Hebrews:
For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, that shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
For we know Him who have said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. For our God is a consuming fire – the wrath of the Lamb.
[Hebrews 10:26-31; 12:29]
Now, the amazing thing: they correctly interpret it. They are alarmed and they look up to God who is visiting in judgment, and they call together the greatest prayer meeting the earth has ever seen. The kings are there, and the emperors; the great men are there, and the captains of the hosts; the rich men are there and the poor; all are in that prayer meeting, and they pray to – even John is amazed – they don’t pray to God, they pray to the rocks and to the mountains. They seek a savior in the strata of the earth. And they’re crying to the deaf and inert mountains [Revelation 6:15-17]. There’s no repentance, there’s no turning to God, there’s no confession of sin. Oh! Why do men not turn to the Lord in the face of death, and in the face of judgment, and in the face of the certain fury and wrath of God upon wrong? Why don’t men turn to God? That is the amazement of John, that he will express time and again in this Revelation. For example, in the ninth chapter, after he describes those horrible things in the visitation of God whereby one-third of the earth is destroyed, here in the Revelation John says, "And yet they repented not of the works of their hands." Then in the next verse, "Neither repented they of their murders, their sorceries, their fornications, nor their thefts" [Revelation 9:20-21]. And that same thing you’ll find John standing in amazement before in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, "And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God, and they repented not" [Revelation 16:9]. And in then in the eleventh verse, "And they blasphemed God because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their evil deeds" [Revelation 16:11]. Isn’t that an amazing thing?
All of you who are of my generation remember John Dillinger, public enemy number one, the most sought after criminal in the history of the United States. The suffering of that man was beyond anything we could ever experience. Cut off the ends of his fingers in order to destroy the prints. With surgery, changed his whole face in order to hide himself. And with every footfall, and with every touch of the door, into terror lest it be the judgment of a righteous and indignant lawful order. But he doesn’t turn, and he doesn’t repent, and he doesn’t get right with God. Pain never changes human life, and never saves a soul. Even in the penitentiary when men are locked up behind bars and walls of stone, if a man is saved he’s saved by the gracious gospel of the Son of God. The pen doesn’t save him, it won’t change his heart. That’s a work of the grace of God. And you see it here in this sixth seal: curse God, blaspheme God.
I have time for just one other thing I want you to see in it, then I’ll have to stop. They’re like Pharaoh: they thought it was the end, but it wasn’t the end. And their hearts became increasingly harder, just like Pharaoh. With the first plague and the second, the third plague and the fourth, until finally Pharaoh was as hard as iron! [Exodus 7:14-8:32]. Same way with these people in the earth: when they first saw these terrible phenomena, representative of the visitation and judgment of God, they are alarmed; but the end didn’t come, and in those succeeding judgments, in their terrible visitations as we read them in the Book of the Revelation, they get harder, and they get harder, and they get harder until finally when the Lord comes in the nineteenth chapter of the book, these men are bold as lions and are there fighting against the Son of God and the Lamb of our hope [Revelation 19:11-19]. That’s human story. Every day when you say "no" to Jesus, something happens to your soul. And every time you reject the overtures of grace, something happens to your heart, until finally you turn into an abysmal negation. Oh, it is hard for a man to repent, to turn, when his conscience is seared and his heart is like a rock. That’s why if one is open to the gospel, and the Lord has touched his soul, oh, oh, oh, that then we might turn and be saved!
And in this moment this morning, if God appeals to your heart, "Today, if you will hear His voice," said the eloquent author of the Hebrews, "Today if you will hear His voice, harden not you heart. Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart" [Hebrews 3:15]. And while we sing this song of appeal, and while we make this wide open invitation to come to Jesus, make it today, make it now. In that balcony round, on this lower floor, into that aisle, down one of those stairways, here to the front, "Preacher, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God. Before it’s too late in this day of grace, now, I take Jesus as my Savior." Or, "Here I come, this is our whole family; we’re all coming today." As God shall say the word and lead the way, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
IN THE DAY OF HIS WRATH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The opening of the sixth seal – the beginning of the end
B. Seventieth week of Daniel(Matthew 24, Daniel 9)
1. First half – "the beginning of sorrows"; opening of first six seals, the tribulation
2. Last half – "the great tribulation"; opening of the seventh seal which includes the seven trumpets and the seven vials of the wrath of God
C. First six seals cover period of time of the first half of final week
1. First four – the four horsemen of the Apocalypse
a. First horseman – ultimate and final world dictator, comes as a savior
b. Second horseman – war
c. Third horseman – famine, death, want
d. Fourth horseman – pestilence, plague
2. Fifth seal – the martyred saints in heaven cry for vengeance(Revelation 6:10)
3. Sixth seal – the beginning of the answer of God; He begins to deal judiciously with the world(2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)
II. The startling, terrifying phenomenon in the fabric of creation
A. Great earthquake
1. Seismos – usually translated "earthquake", actually refers to a "shaking"(Revelation 6:12-13, Matthew 8:24, Joel 2:10, Haggai 2:6)
2. Universal shaking of all God’s creation – manifestation of judicial presence of God(Exodus 19:18, 1 Kings 19:11, Matthew 27:50-51, Acts 16:26)
B. Sun becomes black(Luke 23:44-45, Exodus 10:22)
C. Moon as blood(Matthew 24:29, Joel 2:31)
D. Stars fell – conceives the universe as a great fig tree shaken by a mighty wind (Revelation 6:13)
E. Heavens recoiled – configuration and topography of this earth is changed when every mountain and island are moved out of their places
III. The meaning
A Jesus spoke of these same signs(Matthew 24:6-14, 29-30)
B. The prophets spoke of these same signs (Isaiah 13:10-13, 34:4, 8, Ezekiel 32:7-8, Joel 2:10-11, 3:15, Haggai 2:6)
C. These convulsions of nature can be seen in geological strata, mountains turned upside down, vast formations on end
D. One interpreter’s suggestion
1. Blood moon – the red flaming fires of earth reflected in the moon
2. Black sun – the sun is blackened from the smoke
E. Most interpreters say these physical phenomena are pictures of the breaking up of civil, social, ecclesiastical institutions
1. Whole fabric of civil, governmental power breaks up and a revolution unlike any seen in history – anarchy, riot follow the path of war
2. Passions of men – underneath quiet and civil order of the human heart there is an indescribable villainy
IV. What do these who live in earth do in that great judgment day?
A. All are terrified, dismayed at terrible things coming from God(Revelation6:17)
B. The Lord is gracious to those who love Him – the Lamb, the Savior who died for our sins, is full of wrath, judgment, indignation toward those who spurn His overtures of grace
1. William Cowper’s "The Progress of Error"
2. When a man turns from God, perdition, hell and judgment inevitable (Hebrews 10:26-31, 12:29)
C. Instead of praying to God, they cry out to the rocks (Revelation 3:16)
1. With each separate and coming judgment they aremore confirmed in their rebellion and negation of God(Revelation 9:21, 16:9, 11)
a. John Dillinger
2. Only the grace of God can change a human heart and save a soul
a. Hymn, "Rock of Ages"
b. Poem, "When the World is on Fire"
c. Drawing called "Peace"
d. Hymn, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul"