The Temple of God
August 12th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-12-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the eleventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation. And if you would like to take your Bible and open it to this chapter, do so. The eleventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation, [verses 1-8]:
And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
Then, you have the continuation of that vision. The great Greek expositor, Dean Alford said that this chapter was, undoubtedly, the most difficult in the entire apocalypse. And in the interpretation of the vision, there are so many who look upon every separate detail as being just another delineation of the church. They interpret everything as being a picture of the church. For example, I have copied these quotations: "The temple is, here figuratively used, of the faithful portion of the church of Jesus Christ." Another one said, "The command is given to John to measure the temple of God, in order to call attention to the size of the church of God." Another one said, "The altar is the church." Another one said, "The outer court signifies a part of the church of Christ." Another one said, "The Holy City is always, in the apocalypse, a type of the church." Another one said, "The two witnesses represent the elect church of God, embracing both Jewish and Christian, and the witness she bears concerning God, especially in the Old and in the New Testaments." Now, another one said, "The one thousand two hundred and sixty days constitute a period, during which the church, although trodden under foot, will not cease to prophesy." And another one said, "The whole vision of the war of the beast against the two witnesses, is symbolical, and the intention is to convey the idea, that the church and her witness for God, will experience opposition from the power of Satan." And another one said, "The death of the witnesses is the fate of the church pictured in the life of Christ." And another one said, "In the ascension of the witnesses to heaven, the church is triumphantly vindicated." And another one said, "The elders who worship God after the sounding of the seventh trumpet are the church."
So, every diverse expression and ever delineation of every vision is forced to mean the same thing. Finally, it is just nothing. Everything, according to these expositors, is the church. Every presentation, every delineation, every detail, every symbol, all of it, is just the church. Then it loses its meaning; it has no particular message at all. Nor am I able to understand how one can read the Word of God and come to any such conclusion.
Now, let’s begin and look at it carefully; let’s see what it says. And, in the Word of God, we will find a great, great deal to help us in seeking out the meaning of this unusual vision.
The first thing that I notice as we read this chapter is this: that we are distinctly, and we are unmistakably, upon Jewish ground. Now look for example, at the eighth verse, "And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually" – symbolically – "is called Sodom and Egypt," but actually is the city "where our Lord was crucified." Now, I would suppose that any small primary in Sunday school would know where our Lord was crucified. Where was our Lord crucified? Our Lord was crucified just beyond the wall of the city of Jerusalem. Now, symbolically, spiritually, it is Sodom and Egypt. But actually, John says, that city is where our Lord was crucified. So, symbolically, spiritually, it’s Sodom, but actually, he says, "I am talking about Jerusalem, where our Lord was crucified."
All right, let’s look at another thing in this vision. Now, "the court which is without the temple, leave out and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the Holy City shall they tread under foot forty and two months." There’s only one city that is ever called The Holy City and that is the city of Jerusalem. There are many cities mentioned in the Bible, hundreds of them, there are many cities in the earth today, but there is never but one city that is ever called the Holy City and that is Jerusalem. For example, in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Nehemiah, when the people came back from the captivity, "one out of every ten," says Nehemiah "was asked to live in the Holy City." That’s Nehemiah 11:1. Now, in the beautiful, beautiful prophecy of Isaiah chapter 52, "Awake, arise, put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the Holy City" [Isaiah 52:1].
All right, again, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew: And Satan, in the second temptation, took Jesus into the Holy City and set Him up on the temple, and asked Him, as a sign of His deity, to fall down from the pinnacle unhurt. Satan took Him to the Holy City, to Jerusalem. And in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Matthew: after the resurrection of our Lord, many of the saints were raised from the dead; they came out of their graves and appeared unto many in the Holy City. Now, I’m just trying to get us to remember that there is one Holy City in the Bible, only one, and that is the city of Jerusalem. So, when it says here, that the Holy City shall be trodden under foot forty and two months, then I know that he’s talking about the city of Jerusalem.
Now, the city of Jerusalem God hath made the center of this world. God said, in Ezekiel, that He put Jerusalem in the center of the nations of the world. There are many cities in this earth, but there is none that compares with the city of Jerusalem in importance before God, it stands alone and unique. For example, the hundred twenty-[second] Psalm says, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee." Now, that’s just typical of almost thousands of verses you find in the Word of God. And, not only do you find that theme that Jerusalem is the center that God hath made for the nations of the world, but you find it in geography, and you find it in life, and you find it in history.
I one time heard Dr. M.E. Dodd say, that if you will take the map of the world, or the globe of the world, and put your pinpoint there at Jerusalem, all of the nations to the right of it, all of the nations to the east of it, will read from right to left, to Jerusalem. If you will look to all the nations to the west of it, all the nations to the west of it will read from left to right, that includes us; from the right side of the page to the left side of the page, to Jerusalem. All the peoples of the earth, in their reading, go from right to left to Jerusalem from the east, from left to right to Jerusalem from the west. That situation is in the heart where three continents meet: Africa, Europe, and Asia. And what happened in that city is the dividing of time. Everything before our Lord’s crucifixion in Jerusalem is BC, everything after our Lord’s crucifixion is AD; it’s the great dividing of time. Every Jew in this world has a mezuzah, a little thing, a little piece usually made out of silver in which passages from Deuteronomy are placed. And on the door of the house, all over this world, that mezuzah is affixed, it is placed, and it is pointed, it is leaned, toward Jerusalem. And I asked some of the Jewish people in Jerusalem where they place that mezuzah, and they said, "We lean it toward the temple area." There is no city in this earth like the city of Jerusalem; nor shall there ever be.
Now, it is the program and the intention of God, that the gentiles of the world shall be blessed – but not apart from God’s elect chosen people – the Jewish Israelites. For example, in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, "Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision" [Romans 15:8], He was a rabbi among the people of Israel. "Praise the Lord, all ye gentiles; and laud him, all ye people, these things God hath granted, that the gentiles might glorify God for His mercy; [as it is written], For this cause I will confess to Thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto Thy name" [Romans 15:9-10]. And then God says again, "Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people." This is in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, "Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people."
God does not, in His ultimate program, have any elective purpose to bless us without also an elective purpose for His chosen people, Israel. "Rejoice, ye Gentiles," that’s us, "Rejoice, ye gentiles, with His people." So, when I come here to the eleventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation, I’m on Jewish ground, unmistakably. Now, another thing that clearly identifies the part in this prophetic program that the Lord is revealing to us, here in the Revelation, and that is these time periods. "Give that outer court unto the Gentiles," who ever uses the word "Gentile" except in contradistinction to Israel? There are Greeks and barbarians, there are Romans and provincials, there are indigenous and aliens, there are Jews and Gentiles. So, you have a distinction there, "give the outer court unto the Gentiles. And the Holy City" – Jerusalem – "shall they tread under foot forty and two months."
All right, now look at these time periods; they’re all alike. Forty and two months, now, the next verse, "and they shall prophesy" – these two witnesses – "a thousand two hundred and sixty days," forty-two months. When I turn the page over here, I see that same time period in the twelfth chapter and the sixth verse, "And there is a place prepared of God for her, and she shall be fed there a thousand two hundred and sixty days," same time period. And then, in the twelfth chapter and the fourteenth verse, that same time period is called "a time, and times, and half a time," three and a half years. And that same time period, in the thirteenth chapter and the fifth verse, is called forty-two months. Now, three and a half years, forty-two months, one thousand two hundred and sixty days, this is referred to again and again. Well, does it have no meaning? Is it just something that he dug up, he just imagined that? And if he did imagine it, why didn’t he say forty-five months in one place, and sixty-one months in another place, and a thousand two hundred and two days in another place? Why is that time period always referred to, forty-two months, a thousand two hundred sixty days, three and a half years – time, times, and the dividing of time?
Now, it is very plain what that refers to. When we turn to the Book of Daniel, in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel, the Lord said to Daniel that there are "seventy sevens of years." You have it translated here in the King James Version, "weeks." It’s sevens, sevens of years. We don’t like the Revised Standard Version, but this is one place where the Revised Standard Version translates it correctly, "seventy weeks of years," sevens of years, four hundred ninety years, seventy times seven. Four hundred ninety years "are determined upon Thy people and upon Thy Holy City" – upon Jerusalem – "to finish transgression, to make an end of sins, to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy Messiah" [Daniel 9:24].
Well, that’s very plain. God says, for the children of Israel, God hath purposed seventy sevens of years, four hundred and ninety years, until the consummation of the age, until sin be no more, until everlasting righteousness be come in, until the kingdom come and Christ reign supreme over heaven and earth. Well, that’s it. Seventy sevens, God said, in His elective purpose.
Now look how Daniel, in the vision, is told to divide those seventy weeks: sixty-nine weeks, "sixty-two and seven weeks," he says in verse twenty-[six], "will pass until the Messiah comes and is cut off." So you count, from the day Jerusalem was founded, from the day that Jerusalem was rebuilt, until Messiah the Prince, shall be sixty-nine weeks. So you multiply that out, and four hundred thirty-four years from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, when the command was made to rebuild Jerusalem, count four hundred thirty-four years and you come to the place where the Messiah was cut off, He was crucified in Jerusalem.
So, sixty-nine of those years has already passed. Sixty-nine of those weeks, four hundred thirty-four years, have already passed. Now, we had seventy weeks, he said, "seventy weeks are determined upon Thy people and Thy city, to finish transgressions, to make an end of sins, to bring in everlasting righteousness," to bring in the final and ultimate kingdom of God, and to anoint the Lord Christ as the Messiah over the whole universe.
Sixty-nine of those He set apart as being the time when the Lord would come into this earth, the first time. From the rebuilding of Jerusalem until the Messiah shall be cut off, are sixty-nine weeks. That’s the period from the rebuilding of Jerusalem, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, until the Lord was crucified in about 30 AD; that is the four hundred thirty-four years.
Now, you have one week left, and here in the twenty-seventh verse of the Book of Daniel, in the ninth chapter, he divides that final week into two parts: three and a half years, forty-two months on each side, "a time, times and half a time" on each side, a thousand two hundred sixty days on each side.
Between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week, is that great interlude, that tremendous intermission that Paul said, in the third chapter of Ephesians, was a mustērion. It was a secret hid in the heart of God. And we now live in that great intermission, between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week. A secret that the prophets never saw: this church, this church age, this day of grace and of the Holy Spirit; the prophets never saw it. God kept it secret, a mustērion, in His heart and never revealed it until He revealed it to His holy apostles, one of whom is Paul, and we read out of Paul this morning, and one of whom is John, and we are following the vision of John this morning.
So, that time period of forty-two months, three and a half years, a thousand two hundred sixty days, "a time, times and a dividing of time," it refers to this last week of Daniel that Daniel divides in the middle. "And that evil prince that shall come shall confirm the covenant with the Jewish nation for one week: and in the midst of that week he shall turn against those with whom he made the covenant and the sacrifice will cease, and the great desolations shall be poured out upon the desolator and upon the people." He divides that final week into a tribulation, and into the great tribulation.
Now, that final week is the Book of the Revelation, what was sealed up to Daniel and Daniel couldn’t say. He asked God what it meant, and Daniel was told by the angel, "Seal it up until the time of the end" [Daniel 12:4]. What was sealed up in Daniel is now made manifest in the Revelation. And the revelation has to do with that great final week that brings in the ultimate consummation, that brings in the kingdom of God, that establishes everlasting righteousness and anoints our Lord Christ Messiah, the anointed one, the King of heaven and earth forever.
Now, our trouble with the revelation lies in this: we are trying to make it an unveiling of man’s day when it’s not an unveiling of man’s day. It’s an unveiling, it’s a delineation, it’s a prophecy, of the Lord’s day, the great final and consummating day. We are trying to make it an unveiling of all things in human history when the Book says it is an unveiling of Jesus Christ. It is an apocalypse, a presentation, an uncovering of Jesus Christ. And the revelation is the story of how God will consummate history, how God shall end this age, how God shall bring in the kingdom, and how God shall give to His Christ the reigns of government in heaven and in earth forever and forever. And if we will accept the revelation for what it says it is, and will follow its message as the prophets used the words, and as they are now explained by the seer on the island of Patmos, you will find it has an infinite meaning and an infinite pertinency.
So, instead of making all of these things in the revelation, no matter what they are, instead of making them all refer just to one thing, just let it speak. Just let it say. And when it uses forty-two months, a thousand two hundred sixty days, "a time, times and half a time," three and a half years, find out why He uses those terms. And when you read it in the Book of God, it will be very plain what it is God is referring to in these apocalyptic visions.
So, when I come, then, to the eleventh chapter of the revelation, I am in a different day from the day that I now live in. Now, I want you to see that. Today, there is no holy city, absolutely none. There is no city holy above any other city. Not today. And Jerusalem, today, I would suppose – it seems to me as I’ve looked at it – is just about one of the most wretched, the old city, is one of the most wretched looking that I’ve ever looked upon in my life. That vast Jewish sector of the city has been destroyed, and bombed out, and it’s a shambles, and it’s a place for bats and owls, and rats and vermin, it is desolate and destroyed. And the city itself is miserable and wretched. There is no holy city today. One city is just as holy as any other.
All right, another thing: nor is there an earthly sanctuary today. A kitchen corner is as fine to worship God in as a cathedral. There is no holy place. There’s no holy sanctuary in this earth today, one is just as holy as another. I, if God’ll help me, I can preach just as well on a street corner as I can in this pulpit. I can preach as loud and as furiously out there to the cowboys, under an open tabernacle, as I can here in this First Baptist Church in Dallas. There is no spot that’s any holier to God than any other spot today.
The Lord said to that woman at the well, "Believe Me, the hour cometh, and now is, when neither at Jerusalem nor on this mountain will they worship God. But they worship God, His true worshipers, in spirit and in truth, for God seeketh such to worship Him" [John 4:23]. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, our sanctuary is in heaven and our great high priest has entered in within the veil. And in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, our sacrifices to God, the Lord said, are Our praises and Our benevolence unto men. It’s a different day in which we live, altogether. There’s not any holy place.
All right, another thing: today, there is no holy people above any other people, there’s no favored people above any other people, there’s no elect people above any other people. In the church of Christ, there is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor barbarian, nor Scythian, nor Greek, nor provincial, nor Roman, nor alien, nor indigenous, but we’re all a common brotherhood belonging to one body. That’s the way it is now. That’s the way it is today. That is this age of grace, and we live in this age.
But, the Book of the Revelation is Romans 11; what Paul says in Romans 11 is the Book of the Revelation, the time, the day, the age, some people call it the dispensation. That day of the Revelation is the day described here in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans. Now brethren, in the goodness and severity of God, the Lord cut off those natural branches from the olive tree, and engrafted you, the unnatural branches, but, you be careful, you be careful, says Paul, because the same Lord God that cut off those natural branches, God’s people Israel and engrafted you, Gentiles, that same God can re-engraft those natural branches. I do not want you to be without knowledge, my brethren, concerning this mustērion, that blindness, in part, has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, and then all Israel shall be saved. For God has said, "There shall come out of Zion a deliverer who will turn away that sin and blindness from Jacob, this is my covenant with them as concerning the gospels. They crucified Christ as an atonement that we might be saved, but as touching the election, they are beloved for the Father’s sake for the gifts and calling of God don’t ever change." They’re without turning. You have it translated here, "they’re without repentance." Now the Revelation is that. All through the Bible it is revealed that there is a full complement of Gentiles that are to be saved. There are a certain number of Gentiles that are to be saved – we, us. And their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and God has that book before Him in heaven. Before the foundation of the world, God saw every bit of that.
And that book has in it the full complement of the names of the gentiles. And when the pleroma, the full complement, of the Gentiles have come in, when that last one is saved that God has intended to come down that aisle, when the last Gentile has been born again according to the elective purpose of God, then it is that you’re going to have the Revelation: the church complete, the age finished, they’ll be taken up to God in heaven in what you call in an old Saxon word, the taking away, the taking out, the rapture. Then you have this thing of all Israel, that seventieth week which is the Revelation, which is the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans.
All right now, let’s look and see what’s going to happen here – the eleventh chapter. Wouldn’t this beat you? Here I get to talking to you, and the time is gone. I don’t know what to do. I can’t say this in 3 or 4 minutes. It will take too long. We just have to stop. I don’t know anything else to do. Some of these days, we’re going to have a vote here in this church. We used to start at 8:30, and we voted to start at 8:15. So, we’re going to have another vote. Everybody that wants to come at 6:00 – why, we’re just going to have us another vote. I don’t understand why I can’t do this faster. I just try. I study, I put it all together. I just cut out, cut out, and cut out, and try to put it together. And then, I just get started.
You’ve already heard me say so many times, the Word of God is like an ocean, very much like an ocean. And you just can hardly dip it out, you take your little bucket down there, and you take it to the church, and here’s your little bucket full. And then you go back and that ocean’s just as big as it ever was, you just don’t empty it. It is the same thing with the Word of the Lord. When you prepare a sermon, you go look at that Book – you just didn’t touch the hem of the garment. It’s God’s Book and it’s like God Himself, infinitely glorious.
There are three Words: the incarnate Word, the written Word, and the spoken Word, three of them. And a man and his word may be two different things, but not God and His Word. God’s word is like Himself, the same yesterday, today, and forever. And the same infinite fullness that you find in God, you find in Christ, you find in the Book. The incarnate Word: Jesus. The written Word: here in the Bible. The spoken Word: as it issues out of the mouth of God.
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" [Matthew 4:4]. That’s why a born-again Christian will just come and almost sit down forever if you will share with him the Word of God. I love it, myself. I can go to a conference and sit there day after day and hour after hour, and my soul exalts if a man will stand up there and deliver to me a message out of the Book of God. But, I tell you in about thirty minutes, "I’m tired," if he’s lecturing about something I’ve been listening to on the radio and reading in the newspaper, these social problems and all the other things. Man, when you get up in the pulpit, give us something for our souls that’ll save us from death, that’ll deliver us from hell, that someday will present us to God without spot and wrinkle, without blemish and sin, oh, man! Is there a word from the Lord? Remember how the king sent word to Jeremiah? "Is there a word from the Lord?" Did God say something? If God said something, tell us, what did God say? And that’s why these blessed and precious services.
Now, on the first note of the first stanza, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus. Somebody you, come into the fellowship of the church, a family you, while we sing our hymn of appeal, you come and stand by me. On the first note of the first stanza, immediately, while we stand and while we sing.