The Last Promise
October 6th, 1963 @ 8:15 AM
THE LAST PROMISE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Revelation 22: 20-21
10-6-63 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. I notice this Lord’s Day the television cameras are in place, and the eleven o’clock hour will be televised, as well as broadcast over the radio.
This is one of the most meaningful and far-reaching and significant days in my life. Out of all of the thousands of sermons I have prepared, I have never prepared one that had the emotional content in studying as in the preparation of this message today.
Seventeen years and eight months ago I purposed in my heart to preach through the Bible. It was the most unusual undertaking for me that my heart had ever turned toward. Not in my wildest imagination did I think of the length of time I would be engaged in that long series. I had thought that I’d be preaching through the Bible maybe three or four or five years. Had I preached through the Old Testament as slowly as I have preached through the New Testament, it would have taken eighty, ninety, or a hundred years to have finished it. As I went through the Bible, I preached slower, and the sermons multiplied.
Finally, for example, when I came to the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, preaching according to the plan I had been following in the Apocalypse, it would have taken me one solid year. I spent one solid year preaching through the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews and only ceased then because I had lost the feeling and the sense of movement. I just felt I was there, stuck. There is almost, if not all together, an unfathomable, illimitable number of jewels to be discovered as one plummets the depths of the Word of the Lord.
So after these many, many years—I suppose as long a series of sermons as any minister has ever followed since the Lord came into the world—after this long and many years, we have come to the last and the concluding message. The Apocalypse closes with an epilogue [Revelation 22:6-21]. The visions that John has seen are finished in the fifth verse of the twenty-second chapter [Revelation 1:19-22:5]. Beginning at verse 6, John writes an epilogue [Revelation 22:6-21], and the conclusion of the epilogue are the two verses that close the Holy Scriptures:
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
The end of the Apocalypse and the end of the Bible; there are no more prophets to proclaim the mind of God. There are no more apostles to write with infallible authority. There are no more instructions and mandates from heaven. The visions recorded here extend to the end of time [Revelation 1:19-22:5]. They reach into the eternity of the eternities. They encompass all history, all future dispensations, this age, and the ages that are to come.
The next great event in the program of God is the parousia, the personal appearing of our Lord and Savior. This is the last time that our Savior has spoken. These are the last words our Christ has uttered: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly” [Revelation 22:20]. The next time His voice is heard will be when He descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God [1 Thessalonians 4:16].
It would seem as if, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, our Lord had summed up in these few words the entire witness and testimony of the entire Bible. In these brief sentences, God hath made His last promise [Revelation 22:20-21]. The man has uttered His last prayer and written for our comfort and encouragement the last benediction; “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely I come quickly” [Revelation 22:20]. That has been the text and the theme of the Revelation.
Revelation 1:7, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him.” Thrice in this brief epilogue [Revelation 22:6-21], has our Lord made that announcement. In the seventh verse of this last chapter, “Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” [Revelation 22:7]. He repeated again in verse 12, “Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man as his work shall be” [Revelation 22:12]. And the last and third time, “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely I come quickly” [Revelation 22:20].
The Bible begins with a promise; the promise of our Lord’s coming [Genesis 3:15]. And the Holy Spirit closes the Holy Scriptures with a repetition of that incomparable and glorious promise [Revelation 22:20]. And the Lord said, in the garden of Eden, at the transgression of our first parents [Genesis 3:1-6], “I will put enmity between thee”—Satan, the serpent, that old dragon—“I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” [Genesis 3:15].
And according to the sixteenth chapter of Romans and the twentieth verse [Romans 16:20], there are two comings in that promise made in the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:15]. The first coming, when our Lord is bruised by Satan [Genesis 3:15]; He came the first time to be crucified, to die, to give His life an atonement for our sins [Matthew 20:28]. But there is yet a second part to that promise, “And Thou shalt crush his head!” [Genesis 3:15]. There is another coming of our Lord, when He shall trample underfoot the serpent, the dragon, the waster and destroyer of this earth [Revelation 20:2]. And it is of this second coming that our Lord writes, “Surely, surely I come” [Revelation 22:20].
He came the first time and the world didn’t recognize Him. John 1:10-11 says, “He came into the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” After the long centuries, men forgot the promise. After the multiplied millenniums, they began to scoff at it [2 Peter 3:3-4].
And when our Lord came the first time [Luke 2:1-16], there was only a little handful waiting for the consolation of Israel, whose faces were lifted up, believing that God would keep His word. Among that little handful was old Simeon and an aged prophetess named Anna [Luke 2:25-40]. But He came. He did come. According to the word and the infallible promise of Almighty God [Matthew 1:22-23; Luke 1:26-35], He did come [Luke 2:1-7]. And this, “Surely,” is the immutable and indubitable word of our living God that He shall yet in triumph and in power come again. “Surely, surely I come quickly” [Revelation 22:20].
It is interesting to see the first time God uses that word “surely”; and it means the same thing from the lips of our great Lord the first time as it means the second time. Look at the first time God used that word “surely.” He turned to our parents in the days of their innocence, and warning of the tree of that forbidden fruit, He said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17].
It is also equally as interesting to see the second time that word “surely” is used. The second time it is used by Satan himself: “And the serpent said unto this woman, Ye shall not surely die” [Genesis 3:4]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? The turn of that first story is on that word “surely.” God said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17].
And the denial of the word of God is always the beginning of a fall: “Yea, hath God said” [Genesis 3:1], said Satan to the woman, and then outright denying, the serpent said unto the woman, “Ye shall not surely die” [Genesis 3:4]. But in the day, in the day that Adam ate of that forbidden fruit [Genesis 3:6], in that day, his soul died. He became a lost sinner! [Genesis 2:17].
And in the day of the Lord, which is a thousand years—Second Peter 3:8, “A thousand years with the Lord is a day”––and Adam died in the first day of the Lord [Genesis 5:5]. And it’s the strange corroboration of that threat and that warning; there has never been a man who has outlived that day of the Lord. Adam died at the age of nine hundred thirty years [Genesis 5:5]. Methuselah, the oldest of those generations, died at nine hundred sixty-nine years [Genesis 5:27]. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]. Every grave in this earth, every tear that drops unbidden to the ground, every sorrow and heartache known to the human kind, every despair and agony, all of the length and breadth of the untold pain and sorrow of our humanity is an exclamation point of God’s “surely.” “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17].
But there’s another chapter. There’s another verse. There’s another promise. God did not leave us in our sin, and damnation, and death, our misery, our tears, and our heartaches. The last time God uses that word “surely,” it refers to our ultimate and final salvation and redemption. “Surely, surely,” and the word means the same the last time God uses it as it meant the first time God uses it: “Surely, surely … The centuries may pass, the millenniums may multiply, but I have not forgotten,” says the Lord God; “Surely, surely, surely I come” [Revelation 22:20]. And the whole Bible is nothing other than a reflection of that eternal and undying promise. He comes. He comes.
There’s not a more interesting thing in the Hebrew than this passage I now read. “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and she said,” this is the King James Translation, “I have gotten a man from the Lord” [Genesis 4:1]. Let’s look at that, and it’s a very simple sentence: “And she said, Kaniti ish et Yahweh.” That’s why she called him Cain, kaniti, “kani the”, kaniti: “I have gotten, I have acquired, ish, a man, et Yahweh, even God!” [Genesis 4:1].
What’d she mean by that? She meant, she thought that Redeemer was that first child God had placed in her arms. “He has come according to the promise; He will crush Satan’s head” [Genesis 3:15]. The first child that was born, placed in the arms of our first mother, she said, “kaniti, I have gotten, I have acquired, ish, a man, et Yahweh, even the Lord Jehovah” [Genesis 4:1]. She was mistaken, of course, we know. He hadn’t come. But that promise never died [Genesis 3:15].
According to Jude verse 14, “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, behold, He cometh with ten thousands of His saints,” Jude [Jude 1:14]. Job, in his misery, in his despair, seated in an ash heap covered with running sores [Job 2:7-8], Job said:
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that in the latter day He shall stand upon the earth:
And though worms through my skin destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom mine eyes shall behold, whom I shall see for myself.
David cried, in Psalm 24, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates . . . and the King of glory shall come in” [Psalm 24:7]. Isaiah prophesied:
There shall come a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots … He shall govern the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked … And the lamb shall lie down with the wolf … The whole earth filled with the knowledge of the Lord.
[Isaiah 11:1, 4, 6, 9]
And Daniel said, in chapter 7, “I saw in the night visions, visions, and, behold, One like unto the Son of Man came with clouds of heaven, and with Him, and with Him the saints of glory” [Daniel 7:13]. And Zechariah lifted up his voice and prophesied, saying, “And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives … and it shall come to pass in evening time, it shall be light” [Zechariah 14:4, 6-7]. And Malachi closed the revelation of the Old Covenant with these words: “And to those that fear the Lord shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings” [Malachi 4:2].
And that same marvelous recurring hope is repeated throughout the new covenant of the New Testament. “And the Lord said, “If I go away, I will come again” [John 14:2-3]. And the apostle Paul wrote, saying, “Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” [Philippians 3:20]. And the apostle Paul wrote again, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. And the Revelation, the Apocalypse, is none other thing than the glorious unfolding of that triumphant day when the Lord shall come with His people. “Behold, behold, I come quickly [Revelation 22:7, 12]. Surely, surely I come quickly” [Revelation 22:20].
The receding edges echo that glorious refrain, “He is coming. He is coming.” The surging billows of the restless sea cry, “He is coming, He is coming.” The water brooks flowing down a thousand hillsides sing, “He is coming, He is coming.” The angels of glory and the redeemed of heaven shout, “He is coming, He is coming.” And with their voices we mingle our own in love, and expectancy, and adoration, “Amen. Amen. Even so, surely come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20].
“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come” [Revelation 22:20]. Who is this “I?” Over here in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” [John 14:2-3]. Who is this “I”? “I will come again [John 14:3]. Surely I come quickly” [Revelation 22:20].
Oh, what identifications! In my reading, and reading, and reading, and studying, so many say the Lord came at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Others say the Lord came at the conversion of the Emperor Constantine. Others say the Lord came in the diffusion of the Christian gospel message over the earth. Others say He came in the advance of culture and civilization. Others say He comes in these new scientific endeavors. Oh, is that what I am to look up toward?
“I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again in the destruction of Jerusalem”: is that my hope and comfort? “If I go, I will come again in the conversion of Constantine.” “Surely I come quickly, in the diffusion of the gospel. Surely I come in the advancement of civilization and these new scientific breakthroughs.” Is that what I am to look for? Who is this “I”?
“Surely I come quickly [Revelation 22:20]. If I go away, I will come again” [John 14:3]. Whom are we to expect? For whom are we looking? Let God answer. Who is it who is coming? Acts 1:11, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus… shall so come in like manner.” Who is that “I”? Who is it that is coming? Let the Lord Himself answer. In the fourth chapter of the Thessalonian letter, the sixteenth verse, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven” [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. Who is this “I”? Bless you, bless you, encourage you: God wrote it plain. That “I come” is the coming of our own personal blessed Lord Jesus [Revelation 22:20].
Blind Fannie Crosby wrote:
When my life-work is ended, and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see,
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.
Oh, the soul-thrilling rapture, when I view His blessed face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eyes;
How my full heart will praise Him, for the mercy, love, and grace,
That prepared for me a mansion in the skies.
Through the gates into the city, in a robe of spotless white,
He will lead me where no tears will ever fall;
In the glad song of the ages I shall mingle with delight,
But I long to see my Savior first of all.
[from “My Savior First of All,” Frances Jane Crosby]
Who is this I? “Behold, I come quickly [Revelation 22:7, 13]. Surely I come” [Revelation 22:20]. That is our blessed Lord Jesus [Revelation 22:20-21].
I must close, but I dare not without this other word. You can listen to television at the eleven o’clock hour or come back, and I shall try to go more rapidly through the message so I can come to this final conclusion. But before I close this morning, I must say a word about that “quickly,” tachu—“Surely I come tachu, quickly, quickly” [Revelation 22:20]. Lord, what is that “quickly”? What is that “quickly”? What do we expect, Lord? Quickly?
Now, one of the hardest things for a finite creature of the dust to realize is to enter into the timelessness of God. Time is a creation like matter. There is no time with God. The Ancient of Days is timeless [Daniel 7:9]. There is no time with God. Everything is present; there’s no past, there’s no future. There is no time with God. “I Am the great I Am” [Exodus 3:14, John 8:58]. All things are present before the Lord. He sees the beginning, the end, all are alike to Him; “Quickly” [Revelation 22:20]. How long has our Lord been gone? He went away day before yesterday. “A thousand years is a day,” 2 Peter 3:8, “A thousand years is a day.” Our Lord went away day before yesterday. Two days ago, almost two days ago our Lord went away.
As I stand at the rim of the Grand Canyon and look at those geological ages and ages and ages, and look at that river running through that black basalt—that black basalt was once mountains seven miles high, worn down and buried in the ages of time—there is no time with God. And when the prophet looks to see and to speak, like mountains in the distance, they all seem to be in the same range, though they may be far apart; like viewing the vast firmament of the heavens, the stars all seem the same though they are billions of light years apart: time, time; quickly, quickly. Maybe He will come the third day, having left day before yesterday.
But God would teach His church the certainty of the event, the uncertainty of the time; any day, any moment, any hour. And after all, I’m only the length of my lifetime away. Looking at an Egyptian mummy in Cairo, three thousand years before Christ was he wrapped in those scrolls. What if I were able to wake him up? Five thousand years, and if he opened his eyes, it would be but as a watch in the night [Psalm 90:4]. “Quickly, quickly”; it shall be soon [Revelation 22:20].
O blessed Lord, blessed Lord, that our answering prayer might be that of the faithful disciple: “Lord, if it’s today, or tonight, if it’s in the morning, or at noontime, if I know my heart, Lord, I am ready. Even so, come, come, blessed Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20]. And this closes the Revelation with God’s people, their faces turned upward, ready, watching, waiting for their own blessed Savior. Amen [Titus 2:13].
While we sing our song, on the first note of the first stanza, to give your heart to the Lord Jesus [Ephesians 2:8], to put your life in the fellowship of the church, would you come and stand by me? On the first note of the first stanza, while we sing our hymn, while we make this appeal, would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
THE LAST PROMISE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. We have come to the end of the Book and of the Bible
1. The visions written here extend to the end of time into eternity – encompass all history, ages and dispensations
2. One event remains – the parousia, the return of our Lord from heaven
3. This is the last time His voice is heard on earth(1 Thessalonians 4:16)
B. Concluding sentence so full of truth it is as though the entire content of the Bible is summed up in one verse
1. The last promise
2. The last prayer
3. The last benedictionII. The certainty of His coming
A. The theme of the Apocalypse (Revelation 1:7)
1. Thrice repeated announcement in the epilogue (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20)
B. Bible begins with a promise of a coming Lord (Genesis 3:15)
1. There are two comings promised (Romans 16:20)
a. He came the first time in fulfillment of that prophecy: when Satan shall bruise His heel
b. He shall come the next time to crush Satan’s head
2. When finally He did come, generations had forgotten the promise or else scoffed at its fulfillment (John 1:10-11)
C. “Surely” – the certainty of the promise of God
1. The first time God uses the word “surely” was in Eden (Genesis 2:17)
2. Second time it is used is by Satan as the serpent (Genesis 3:4)
a. Adam did die in the first “day” of the Lord(2 Peter 3:8)
3. The last “surely” a summation of all the promises of the Bible – He is coming
D. The cry of hope
1. When Cain born, Eve thought he was the answer to God’s promise(Genesis 4:1)
2. That hope never dies(Jude 14, Job 19:25-27, Psalm 24:7, Isaiah 11:1-9, Daniel 7:13-14, Zechariah 14:4-7, Malachi 4:2)
3. Same expectancy found in the New Testament (John 14:3, Acts 1:11, Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 9:28, Revelation 1:7)III. A personal return – “I come”
A. Who is this “I”?(Revelation 22:20, John 14:3)
1. Some say the Lord came at destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD
2. Some say the Lord came at conversion of Constantine
3. Some say the Lord came in the diffusion of the gospel
4. Some say the Lord came in the advance of civilization and science
B. We are looking for the blessed Lord Jesus
1. The answer of the angel(Acts 1:11)
2. The answer of Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
3. The answering prayer of John (Revelation 22:20)IV. The time
A.Tachu – “quickly”
1. What is quickly?
2. God’s day is 1,000 years (2 Peter 3:8)
a. There is no time with God
B. It is the intention of God that we know the certainty of His coming and the uncertainty of the time
1. That we may live in prayerful watchfulnessV. The closing prayer of affirmation and benediction
A. John’s answer is the last words recorded in the Bible from a man
1. The first recorded words by man – “I am afraidâ€¦” (Genesis 3:9-10)
2. The last recorded words by man are of hope and expectancy (Revelation 22:20)
B. The final benediction(Revelation 22:21)
1. The Old Testament closes with a curse (Malachi 4:6, Deuteronomy 27:26)