The Destruction of the City Church
December 27th, 1964 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-27-64 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 message entitled The Destruction of the City Church. I have followed through, in three passages in the Bible, the waste of the church in Ephesus. First of all, in Acts chapter 20, verses 28 and following: Paul speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus:
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.
For I know that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
That is the prophecy of the apostle Paul as he spoke to the elders, the pastors of the church at Ephesus, that that day was coming.
In 2 Timothy chapter 3, the apostle Paul addresses Timothy, who is the pastor of the church at Ephesus, this church at Ephesus. And the apostle Paul writes in chapter 3, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” [2 Timothy 3:1]. Then he begins, in [verse] 13, “Evil men and imposters,” translated here “seducers:
Evil men and imposters shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, mature, strong, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
[2 Timothy 3:13-17]
So I would know, from what Paul describes, as the work of these men who are evil and imposters and wax worse and worse, deceiving and are themselves deceived [2 Timothy 3:13], that the basis of their attack is against the Word of God, the inspiration of the Word of God.
Then in the Revelation, chapter 2, this same church at Ephesus, chapter 2, verses 4 and 5: the Lord says:
I have this against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, turn, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou turn.
Now there is a pattern here in the church at Ephesus that we’re going to follow through. I have taken Ephesus as one, as typical of the great city churches.
The city governs the life and colors the life of the nation. The city is the center of culture, of art, and literature, and theater, and opera, and ballet, and all of the things that are identified with culture. These are centered in the city. The city is the center of commerce: banking, insurance, merchandising, the great stores. The city is the center and the heart of the commercial life of any nation. The city is the center of communication: radio, television, the press, the great newspapers, the magazines, all of them are centered in the city. And the city is the center of education and instructive life: the university, the college, the seminary; all of the means of education, largely, the instruments of education largely are forged and fashioned and presented in the city. In fact, you can almost identify the nation in the city. Rome is Italy, Cairo is Egypt, Moscow is Russia, Paris is France, London is England; so much of the very life of the nation itself is identified in the city.
You can find that wisdom and persuasion in the strategy of the missionary work of the apostle Paul. He planted the seeds of the gospel in the great cities of the Roman Empire: in Antioch, in Ephesus, in Thessalonica, in Corinth, in the great imperial city of Rome itself. So when we turn to the city church, we are looking upon the church that colors, and outlines, and delineates, and evaluates the very heart and soul of the Christian life itself. I would therefore presume—whether I was a religionist or not—I would therefore presume that if Satan sought to destroy the Christian faith, to cut its foundation, to lower its standard, to annihilate its message, to emasculate its faith, I would suppose that Satan would attack especially the city church. And that is exactly what has happened in the centuries since, and what has happened today.
First of all, he liberalizes it. You don’t go to the country, you don’t go to that devout and humble preacher out there in a rural area preaching the gospel of the Son of God to his people, you don’t go out there to find the seeds and the hotbed of liberalism and modernism and destructive criticism. If I were looking for that I would turn toward the city, and listen to the polished intellectual, listen to the product of the city universities and seminaries, and listen to it in the city pulpit. He liberalizes it, he broadens it out, he turns the great river unto the miasmics of a swamp. Then of course the people leave it. Why bother if religion, its salvation, if the Christian faith is just one facet of a theological, argumentative, dialectic system? Something for the scholar to say, “Yes, maybe,” or, “No, maybe”; or something for the social life of the people to be shared, either there or in some country club. And wherever Satan liberalizes the church, the people leave it and pass it by. Consequently, when you look upon the church in the city, for the most part you look upon a dying and decadent institution. These great cities pass by those churches by the thousands and by the millions; closed and locked up like a mausoleum on Sunday night, and with a little handful of people worshiping in them on a Lord’s Day morning.
Well, how does Satan do that? That’s what we’re going to look at today at this hour. How does Satan do it? Just as I followed through the destruction of the church in Ephesus: Paul said, “There will arise imposters, false deceivers, who will gather disciples to themselves” [Acts 20:29-30]. And in the center passage in Timothy, the second passage I read, when Paul said that, he made an appeal that Timothy would be true to the Word of God [2 Timothy 3:13-17]. So I know that what Paul had in mind, among other things, was the rising up of men who would deny the authority and the inspiration of this Holy Book. And then in the Revelation, the third passage I read, you see the result, the end of what those men do who deny the Word of God: the people have lost their first love, and they have forsaken God’s house, and God’s message, and the praise and glory and adoration by which we consecrate our lives to the Lord Jesus [Revelation 2:4-5].
Now, in following that through today, I have taken an instance of the bitter and merciless and unending attack of liberalism against the Bible, and I want us to look at it briefly this morning. I have chosen out of a thousand things that could be mentioned, I have chosen one: the repudiation of the Book of Daniel. That is universally discarded and discounted by all of the liberal schools, all of them, all of them. It’s the one universal verdict of modern destructive criticism: the repudiation of the Book of Daniel. You see, the great basic principle of the attack lies in this: there is nothing supernatural, nothing; everything has its normal explanation, and everything has its usual course, and there is no such thing as miracle, and there’s no such thing as the intervention of any God of any kind, but all things are explicable according to normal and natural law, and there is nothing supernatural. Therefore there is no such thing as prophecy; for it is impossible for men to predict coming events. If you granted prophecy, you would grant the supernatural, and there’s not any such thing as the supernatural. Now the Book of Daniel, of all books in the Bible, the Book of Daniel is filled with prediction, it is filled with prophecy, it is filled with delineation of the future; so in order to destroy the whole Word of God, the attack is especially pointed toward the prophecies and the predictions and the person of the Book of Daniel.
In 275 AD, the Neoplatonist philosopher of Alexandria, Porphyry, Porphyry in his bitter assail, in his bitter attack against Christianity, Porphyry especially attacked the Book of Daniel. It is filled with prediction, and Porphyry, the Neo-Platonist philosopher, who was a heathen and an unbeliever, said, “There’s no such thing as prophecy. Therefore the Book of Daniel is a fraud, and it is a forgery.” And he said that it was written in the days of the Maccabees, about 150 BC. And he said all the Book of Daniel is, after the history had happened, after the events had happened, why, whoever this man was, he wrote it down as though he were writing years before it happened. He wrote it down, and made it in the form of a prophecy, as though it were written hundreds of years before, when actually it was written hundreds of years afterward. And it’s a forgery, and it’s a fraud, and it was made as though it were written years before and these events were predicted, when actually they had already come to pass.
Same thing as if I were to write a document today, and to present myself as a great prophet, and I wrote as though I were writing in 1920, and I predicted, writing right now, as though I were writing in 1920, I predicted the Great Depression, and the course of Roosevelt, and World War II, and all the things that have happened since. So Porphyry said it was a fraud and a forgery, and was written years later as though it had been written years before. And every one of the liberal schools, every one of them follow that same judgment of Porphyry, the bitter assailant of the Christian faith itself.
So this morning for this little moment, we’re going to look at the Book of Daniel; going to look at the Book of Daniel, and just see to what extent men who deny the Word of God will go and will repudiate the plainest and simplest of evidence, just in order to destroy God’s Holy Book. Now we’re going to look at several things.
First of all, I turn to Matthew 24, verse 15, and I find there an unusual thing. I find there an unusual thing. This is our blessed Lord Jesus speaking, and He says: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then” [Matthew 24:15-16]. and then the Lord continues on in His apocalyptic discourse [Matthew 24:16-25:32]. First of all, first of all: I find that the Lord speaks of Daniel as a prophet! [Matthew 24:15]. The Lord doesn’t said, “Daniel the fraud”; He doesn’t say, “Daniel the imposter”; He doesn’t say, “Daniel the deceiver”; but He says, “Daniel the prophet.” To the Lord Jesus, Daniel was a prophet! [Matthew 24:15]. That’s the first thing I notice.
All right, a second thing that I notice: I have in my hands my Greek Septuagint. This is the most famous and the most influential of all of the translations that have ever been made in the history of the world. It is the translation of the Old Testament Scriptures into Greek. This is the language and this is the Bible out of which the apostles preached. They carried the Word of God to the Roman Empire in the Greek Septuagint. They took the scrolls and cut them up, and put them together at the back, and made what you call a codex, in order that the Christian preacher as he preached out of this Greek Septuagint, in order that he might turn to the passage and prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ of God, from the Holy Word of God itself. For the Hebrew language was a dead language; so they preached the gospel in Greek. And the Greek-speaking people of the Roman world—and Alexander the Great carried that culture and that gospel and that language all over the world—in speaking to the Greek-speaking people, the apostles used the Greek Septuagint. That Septuagint was translated beginning at 300 BC, unto the Ptolemies in Alexandria, Egypt.
So they [the liberals] say that the Book of Daniel was written in the days of the Maccabees, in 150 BC, because you see those intimate and intricately delineated prophecies reach up into 150 BC. So they say Daniel, whoever he was that wrote that, lived in 150 BC. So, I look at my Greek Septuagint, which is translated beginning in 300 BC, and I see Genesis is in it. Then I turn the page, and I see Exodus and Leviticus in it, and Numbers, and Deuteronomy. And I turn the page, and here are the books of the Bible. And I turn the page, and the Psalms; and I turn the page, and here are all of these books. And I keep on turning the page, and to my amazement, and to my amazement, in this Septuagint, the Greek Bible which was translated beginning in 300 BC, here is the Book of Daniel! But they say it was not written until 150 BC. But here in the Septuagint, which was translated beginning 300 BC, is the Book of Daniel! Why, you’re just amazed. You’re overwhelmed by the effrontery of these men who deny the Word of God! And the plainest and simplest of all of the reasons for its authenticity are openly, and flagrantly, and unbelievably denied. Here it is in the Septuagint, as it was in the Hebrew canon of Holy Scripture.
Now we’re going to continue on. The Book of Daniel: in 1 Maccabees, in which time they say the volume was written, in 1 Maccabees there is a continual lament that there is no prophet; they don’t have a prophet, there’s no man sent from God. In that long period of four hundred years between Malachi and the appearance of John the Baptist [Matthew 3:1-3], there was no prophet. And the Book of Maccabees, laments there’s no prophet. You remember when I spoke on the Feast of Lights? They took the stones of the altar that had been polluted by Antiochus Epiphanes, and carried them out to an unclean place, until a prophet should arise to tell them what to do with those defiled stones. Remember that? Remember that? In the book of Maccabees there is a lament that there’s not any prophet. But when you read the Book of Ezekiel, he extols and he honors Daniel, his contemporary, his older contemporary [Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3]. Daniel lived in the days of Ezekiel. And in the days of the Maccabees, they are lamenting that there’s not any prophet. But in the days of Ezekiel, Ezekiel speaks of the marvelous prophet Daniel.
Not very long ago, on the Dead Sea shore, they discovered the Qumran scrolls, the Dead Sea Scrolls. They found those scrolls that had been copied, the Scriptures that had been copied in the days of the Maccabees. And in the Scriptures that were discovered in the Qumran caves, there were fragments of the prophecy of Daniel; at the very time that the forgery is supposed to have been written. That reminds me of that attack of destructive criticism against the Book of John, John’s Gospel, and they said it was a Gnostic gospel that had developed through the centuries, and it could not have been written until about 200 or 250 AD, a hundred fifty years after John had died. And then all of a sudden they discovered a papyrii in the sands of Egypt written in about 90 to 95 AD, and quoted John’s Gospel! Isn’t that something? Yet they said it wasn’t written until 250 AD; and here it is quoted as part of the Word of God in about 90 AD. Same way with these Qumran scrolls: there are fragments from the great prophecy of Daniel.
And then of course, I turn to Josephus. This is my volume of Josephus. And these destructive critics say that Daniel was not written until 150 BC, in the days of the Maccabees. So I turn to Josephus; this is my copy of Josephus. And he has here one of the most interesting and colorful of all of the incidents, of all of the stories in history. He is describing Alexander the Great and the sweep of Alexander the Great as he conquered the civilized world, and as Alexander the Great came to the city of Jerusalem. So he starts off here, he starts off with Alexander—this is Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, book 11, chapter 8, paragraph 3, 4, and 5—now you listen to the story as Josephus describes it. This is 332 BC, 332 BC. Now Josephus begins: he describes Alexander as he passes over the Hellespont. And then he describes the battle at Issus in Cilicia, right there where the Mediterranean Sea turns, where Alexander destroyed the army of Darius. And Darius fled, with the remaining fragments of his army. And then he describes Alexander as he captures Sidon, and then as he besieges Tyre. Tyre had never been taken by any general in the world. So while Alexander the Great was at Tyre in 332 BC, he sent word to the high priest at Jerusalem, asking him for food, and for help in his besieging of Tyre. And the high priest at Jerusalem said that he had sworn by an oath to be loyal to Darius, the king of the Persians, and he refused Alexander the food that he asked and the help that he wanted. And it made Alexander very angry, Josephus says. So, after the fall of Tyre, Alexander took Tyre, and after his conquering of Egypt:
Now Alexander, when he had taken Gaza, made haste to go up to Jerusalem. And Jaddua the high priest, when he heard that, was in an agony, and under terror; not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians; since the king was displeased at what Jaddua had done when he refused to give him food for his soldiers. Jaddua, therefore, the high priest, ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in appeal unto God. Then God warned him in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice, that he should take courage, and adorn the city, and open the gates, and that the rest should appear in white garments, and that the priests should meet the king in habits proper to their order, without any dread, upon which, when he rose from his sleep he greatly rejoiced, and he told the people what God had spoken to him in a dream.
[from Antiquities of the Jews, book XI, 334]
Now when he understood that he was not far from the city, when Alexander came up with his army to destroy Jerusalem, and to destroy the priest, he was followed by people from other nations, who had come along to plunder the city of Jerusalem, and to see Alexander the Great torture the high priest to death. Now, when Alexander the Great came, why, the high priest—and Josephus describes him here, “Dressed in his royal garments, his blue, his scarlet, and his purple, and with the stones upon which the name of God was written on his breast, and with the miter on his head, followed by all of the priests dressed in white”; when Alexander the Great met them, that beautiful and glorious procession coming out, streaming out of the gates of Jerusalem, why, he stopped, and he bowed down, and he worshiped the name of Jehovah God. And all of those people who had come to plunder Jerusalem were amazed and astonished that the great Alexander would bow down. And one of those heathen came up to Alexander and said, “Why are you adoring the name of Jehovah God, when you came to the city to destroy it, and to put to death this high priest Jaddua?” And Alexander the Great replied, “I did not adore the priest, but that God who hath honored him with his high priesthood. For I saw this very person, this very high priest, I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, dressed like this, when I was at Dios in Macedonia; who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but to pass over the sea, the Hellespont with my army.” And Alexander says, “I have found in this man that identical person who appeared to me in a dream and sent me over the Hellespont with my armies to conquer Asia.” So when he had said this, and had given the high priest his right hand, the priest ran along with him, and he came into the city. And when Alexander went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God according to the high priest’s direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests. And when the Book of Daniel was shown him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire, Daniel, why brother, this is in 332 BC, the Book of Daniel is shown Alexander the Great when he comes into the city of Jerusalem.
Now, where was it in Daniel that the high priest showed Alexander that he should destroy and overcome the Persian Empire? All right, turn to the eighth chapter of Daniel, if you’d like to; turn to the eighth chapter of Daniel, the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel. Now we’re going to read the interpretation of the vision first; the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel, verse 15, in Daniel 8:
And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, why, there stood before me this man [Daniel 15:8]. And he came near, and he said, Behold—
I will make thee know what shall be the last end—
now verse 20—
The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Perisa. And the rough goat is the king of Greece: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king—
then he prophesies—
When that king is broken, four kings shall stand up in his stead.
As you know, the Greek Empire, after Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, the empire was divided into four parts. All right, now that’s the meaning of the vision. Now when you turn to the first verse of the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel, there begins the vision: “And in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel” [Daniel 8:1]. And then he looks up, and he sees that ram with two horns [Daniel 8:3], that he said the man told him represented Media and Persia [Daniel 8:20]. And he saw that ram, “pushing westward, northward, and southward, and eastward [Daniel 8:4]. And then he looked, and behold, a he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth [Daniel 8:5]. And the goat had a notable horn” [Daniel 8:5], that’s the great king Alexander, “and he came to the ram that had the two horns, and he destroyed the ram that had two horns [Daniel 8:6-7]. Therefore,” verse 8, “the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken: and from it came up four notable ones that took his place” [Daniel 8:8]. That is the great prophecy of the coming of Alexander the Great to destroy the Medo-Persian Empire; and that is the prophecy that was shown to Alexander himself when the great conquering Macedonian appeared before the gates of Jerusalem, in 332 BC.
Yet the universal verdict of destructive, modern, liberal criticism is this: that the book was not written until 150 BC, because there is no such thing as predictive prophecy.
Now dear people, bear with me as I follow through just for another moment. You don’t have to take Josephus, and you don’t have to look in the Septuagint; just look around you, just look around you, look around you today. For the great prophecies of [Daniel] reaches down to our day and to the end of time. Here’s one: he saw, beginning in his own day as a Babylonian captive, he saw the whole course of history from that day until the consummation of the end [Daniel 2:1-45]. And he saw it in the form of a man: the head of gold was the Babylonian Empire [Daniel 2:32, 38], God told him; and the breast and the two arms was the Medo-Persian Empire—two arms, Medo-Persian, two horns, the ram with two horns, Medo-Persian [Daniel 2:32, 39, 8:20]—and then the thighs of brass [Daniel 2:32, 39], the great Grecian Empire founded by Alexander the Great, and the universal distribution of Greek culture and language; and then the legs of iron [Daniel 2:33], two again, the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire; and then the breaking up, the breaking up into clay and iron [Daniel 2:33], weak and strong, there will never be, not until the end time, there will never be a great universal empire again. The Roman Empire was the last one; so predicted Daniel. Is it true? All you have to do is to look at the world, and read the newspaper, or follow history, and it will follow that diagram and outline and prediction and prophecy of Daniel to the minutest detail.
Then one other thing, one other thing: in the Book of Daniel it was prophesied, in that famous ninth chapter, it was prophesied that wars and desolations are determined unto the end; war and desolation to the end, to the end [Daniel 9:26]. In February of 1914, there was convened a group of godly men, and they called it a prophetic conference, in Los Angeles, California, in February 1914. And in that conference, that prophetic conference, attention was especially called to the fact that in God’s Book it said, “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall follow famine, and the inevitable pestilence, and waste, and destruction of war” [Matthew 24:7]. And the editor of the Christian Advocate, when he heard of that prophetic conference, he said, “It is a pathetic conference, a pathetic conference, for with the destruction of dynamite, and the destruction of these terrible guns, it is so tragic until you couldn’t have war anymore; it’s all in the past; a pathetic conference.” Within a very few months after that, the archduke of Austria was shot down in Serbia, and the holocaust of the First World War engulfed in blood this nation. For Daniel said, “To the end, to the end” [Daniel 9:26].
And all that we have to do today is to read about the Congo, and to read about Vietnam, and to read of the merciless drive of China, whose hands are dipped in blood; all we have to do is to open our eyes and see! And when you look, you will find that the Word of God is that truth the Lord revealed to His holy servants in the centuries gone by, and shall endure, and shall stand in truth forever and forever!
Oh! if the destructive critic can take away from us the authority of our faith and the foundation of our religion, the rest follows after: we’re destroyed. But wherever there is a people who build their faith, and their hope, and their trust, and their church, and their lives, and their families, and their homes, and their destiny on the immutable and unchanging Word of God, there will you find strength, and triumph, and God’s presence in power and in glory.
Oh, bless us as we hug to ourselves, as we embrace to our souls this Word of life, God’s Holy Book!
Now we must close. We’re late. We sing one stanza, one stanza. And while we sing that one stanza, somebody you, put your life in the church; somebody you, take Jesus as Savior. As God shall say the word and open the door, come on the first note of this first stanza, while we stand and sing it together.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CITY CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Acts 20:28-30, 2 Timothy 3:1-17
A. Prophecy of Paul concerning church in city of Ephesus(Acts 20:28-30)
1. He defines the coming attack in his letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:1, 13-16)
2. As he speaks of imposters, evil men and deceivers, he makes appeal to be true to the Scriptures(2 Timothy 3:16)
3. Prophecy came to pass(Revelation 2:4)
B. When we lose our persuasion that this is the immutable revelation of God, we lose all the convictions that make possible our faith and salvationII. An example of the attack of liberalism – the repudiation of the Book of Daniel
A. Modern criticism overwhelmingly denies its authenticity – no such thing as prophecy
B. In 275 AD, Porphyry made focal point of his attack against the faith the prophecy of Daniel, saying it was a fraud and forgery
1. Said it was written in 150 BC in days of the Maccabees as though it had been written in 600 BCIII. The prophecy of Daniel
A. Jesus called him a prophet (Matthew 24:15)
B. It is in the most famous and influential translation of Scripture – the Greek Septuagint, which was made beginning 300 BC
C. Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran contain fragments of Daniel
1. Scrolls dated at the time when the book’s fraudulent composition is commonly claimed
2. Critics said Gospel of John was not written until at least 250 AD – papyri discovered in Egypt quoting it, written about 90 to 95 AD
D. Lament in 1 and 2 Maccabees that there is no prophet, yet that is the time they say Daniel lived, and that his prophecy was written(Matthew 3:1-3, Ezekiel 14:14, 20, 28:3)
E. In Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews is the account of the conquest of the civilized world by Alexander the Great
1. In 332 BC he went to Jerusalem, and was shown the prophecy concerning him in the Book of Daniel(Daniel 8:1-7, 20-21)
F. We verify it today
1. Daniel’s vision of the whole history of mankind from his day to the end time (Daniel 2:1-45)
2. Daniel prophesied that wars and desolations are determined to the end(Daniel 9:26)
a. Prophetic conference in February 1914 focused on Matthew 24:7 and intellectual liberal made fun of it – within months, World War I
b. Wars and suffering since then