The Destruction of the City Church
December 27th, 1964 @ 10:50 AM
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CITY CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 3:1-17
12-27-64 10:50 a.m.
On radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Destruction of the City Church. It could as well be entitled “The Destruction of the Christian Faith.” It could as well be entitled “The Destruction of Our Hope in God.” It could as well be entitled “The Destruction of the Foundation of the Faith.” I am taking a church, however, because I think in terms of my ministry here in this holy pulpit. I am taking a city church as an example of how the faith, the foundation, the very existence and life of the witness for Christ in His church can be destroyed.
In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul is talking to the elders, to the pastors of the Ephesian church, and he says to them, in the twenty-eighth verse, to:
Take heed to yourselves . . . to shepherd, to feed the church of God…For I know that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. And out of your own number shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
[Acts 20: 28-30]
That was a prophecy that the apostle made concerning the church in the city of Ephesus. Now in a letter he wrote to the pastor of the church at Ephesus, Timothy, his son in the ministry, he defines a part of that attack. In the third chapter of 2 Timothy, he says:
In these days that are coming, perilous times shall arrive [2 Timothy 3:1]. Evil men and seducers—
the translation better would be “imposters”—
Evil men and imposters shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
But you continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of,
Even from a child you knew them; the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God . . .
[2 Timothy 3:13-16]
“All Scripture”—not a piece of it, a fragment of it, a part of it, but from the first letter in Genesis to the last benedictory “Amen” in the Revelation, “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” [2 Timothy 3:16] You see, as he spake of these imposters and evil men and deceivers, in the same breath he makes appeal to the pastor of the church, his son in the ministry, to be true to the Scriptures, saying, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, theopneustos, it is God-breathed” [2 Timothy 3:16].
But the prophecy of Paul came to pass; for as the days multiplied, and the years followed one after another, to this same church in Ephesus, the Lord addresses a letter in the Revelation, in which He says, “I have this against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” [Revelation 2:4]. The imposter, the deceiver, the evil man who presented himself as having a greater gnosis, a higher knowledge, persuaded them concerning the things of the Bible, and they left that first love because the foundation of their hope and their faith had been undermined, had been eaten away, had been destroyed.
For there is no such thing as the Christian faith continuing in power, there is no such thing as a church growing and continuing as a burning and a shining light for Christ when the persuasion of its pastor, of its leaders, of its membership has come to that point and place where the Bible is looked upon as being just another antique piece of literature out of the ancient past. For when we lose our persuasion and our conviction that this is the immutable and unchanging revelation of God, written by God Himself through human hands [2 Peter 1:21], when we lose that persuasion, we lose all of the convictions that make possible our faith in God and our salvation in Jesus Christ.
Now the message this morning is a demonstration of that attack against the Bible, the Word of God, and a discussion of it. Out of the many things that I could choose as being focal points of the attack of modern destructive criticism, I have chosen the Book of Daniel. I could have chosen the virgin birth. Modern liberalism is almost unanimous in its rejection of the virgin birth [Matthew 1:20-23]. I could have chosen that. But having spoken upon it several times, I have chosen another section in the Bible which also bears the brunt of destructive modern intellectualism: the Book of Daniel. With unanimity unbelievable, the whole liberal modernistic intellectual world—pseudo-intellectual—repudiates the Book of Daniel. That goes back just about as far into the dim past as is the story of the Christian message itself. For Satan is wise enough to know that if he can destroy the Bible, if he can destroy men’s confidence in the authority of the Word of God, it is a corollary, it is an axiom that the faith itself then will disintegrate.
Porphyry, in 275 AD, a brilliant, Neoplatonist philosopher of Alexandria, Porphyry said in his bitter attack against the Christian faith, Porphyry said, “There is no such thing as prophecy. Men cannot foretell coming events.” And then he took, as the focal point of his attack against the Christian faith, the prophecy of Daniel. And Porphyry said, this bitter heathen who assailed the Christian faith, Porphyry said that the Book of Daniel was a fraud and a forgery, that it was written in 150 BC in the days of the Maccabees as though it had been written in 600 BC, and that all of the prophecies of Daniel, all of them, were written after the events had come to pass; and in order to make it look like prophecy, Daniel, or whoever was called Daniel, wrote that volume, wrote that book, and he wrote it as though it were written in 600 BC and as though he were prophesying all of these things that should come to pass. But in 150 BC, all of those things prophesied had become history; and whoever the author of Daniel was wrote down history and made it as though he were writing prophecy hundreds and hundreds of years before. So Porphyry labeled Daniel a fraud and a forgery. And that verdict has become the universal verdict of the modernist and the liberal to this present hour. There is no such thing as the supernatural. There is no such thing as the intervention of God in human history. There is no such thing as prediction. There is no such thing as prophecy. There is no such thing as a man being able to foretell coming events. So Daniel is per se a fraud and a forgery.
Now let’s take that and look at it, just look at it. We’re going to look at it according to days passed, and we’re going to look at it according to this present day. For the liberal, the pseudo-intellectual, the modern destructive critic has said Daniel was certainly written in 150 BC in the days of the Maccabees. All right, let’s start. Let’s just look at it for ourselves frankly, honestly, openly.
First of all, I turn to the Word of God, to Matthew 24, and verse 15, and I read there in the great apocalyptic discourse of our Savior this word: “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:)” [Matthew 24:15], then follows the word of our Lord [Matthew 24:16-25:32]. The first thing that I see is this: our Savior said Daniel the fraud? Daniel the pseudo-historiographer? Daniel the deceiver? Daniel the forgerer? The first thing I notice is, “When therefore ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet!” [Daniel 24:15]. Our Savior called Daniel a prophet! He saw, by the revelation of God, these things that should come to pass in the centuries that were yet to unfold: Daniel the prophet! [Daniel 24:15].
A second thing: I hold in my hand the most famous and the most influential, far beyond anything else in the world, I hold in my hand the most famous of all of the translations that were ever made in human story. This is my copy of the Greek Septuagint, Old Testament Scriptures. This is the Bible that the apostles held in their hands when they preached the gospel of the Son of God. They preached in a Greek-speaking world. When Paul wrote to Latin Rome, he wrote his epistle in Greek. Wherever men lived in the Roman Empire who were at all literate, they spoke Greek. And the Bible, the New Testament was written in Greek; and the gospel was written in Greek; and the Bible that they used was not in the old dead language, no longer spoken, of Hebrew, but the Bible they used was the Greek translation called “The Seventy [LLX],” the Septuagint. That translation was made beginning under Ptolemies in Alexandria, in 300 BC, 300 BC: starting in 300 BC, thereafter, in the years that followed this Greek translation was made of the Holy Scriptures of the Lord. When I turn therefore to the Septuagint, I turn the page and I see Genesis. So it was certainly written by that time, Genesis. Then I turn the page, and here is Exodus, and Numbers, and Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, and every one of the books of my Bible, every one of them, every one of them. All except Daniel; for Daniel, the critic said, could not have been written until 150 BC, and this translation was made after 300 BC—can you imagine my amazement and my astonishment when I look in the Septuagint, and there is Daniel? Yet it is not supposed to have been written, except as a fake and a forgery, until 150 BC. And here in the translation of the Old Testament Scriptures, the Bible that our apostles used when they preached the gospel of Jesus, there in that Book, translated beginning at 300 BC, there is the Book of Daniel.
One of the illustrious professors who loves God and loves the Word is a faithful member of our church; he’s a professor of Hebrew over in our Southwestern Theological Seminary, and he sits right there every Lord’s Day morning with his mother. As you know, he is interested in archaeology. A few weeks ago there was a marvelous article in our daily newspapers about some of the archaeological discoveries he’s made over there around Hebron. Nearby where this scholar in archaeology is probing into the things of God, there was a section of Qumran, a cave; and on the inside of those caves at Qumran they discovered scrolls of God’s Holy Book. And those scrolls go back about nine hundred or a thousand years beyond any of the manuscripts that we have of the Masoretic text, of the Old Testament Scriptures. And in those scrolls, and in those scrolls, they were copied, the Word of God was copied about 150 BC in the days of the Maccabees. And in those scrolls that they discovered in those caves at Qumran, they found fragments of the Book of Daniel; at the very time when they say the forgery was composed, that very time we have fragments of Daniel as a part of the Word of God.
Reminds me of these critics who were tearing up the Gospel of John, and saying, “No such Gospel could have been written so soon after the death of Christ, because it would have taken years and centuries for such a gospel message to be developed.” So they said the Gospel of John was not written until at least two hundred fifty years after Christ; 250 years AD. And while the whole pseudo-intellectual modern destructive world was saying that, they discovered one of the papyrii in the sands of Egypt, written about 90 to 95 AD in which the Gospel of John was quoted as a section of the Scriptures of the Lord.
Does that change them? No. No. “For God can’t intervene in history, and there’s no such thing as the supernatural, and there’s no such thing as miracle, and there’s no such thing as prophecy, and there’s no such thing as men predicting the events of the future. Therefore, Daniel per se, no matter what, is a forgery and a fraud.” Well, we’re looking at it. We’re just looking at it.
We have 1 and 2 Maccabees that has come down to us. You will find it in the Apocrypha. And over and over again in the Maccabees there is a lament that there’s no prophet, there’s no prophet, there’s no man of God. From Malachi 400 BC, to John the Baptist announcing the kingdom of God and the coming of the Lord Messiah [Matthew 3:1-3], there was four hundred years when there was no prophet. And over and over again in the Maccabees there is a lament that there’s no prophet, no prophet. Yet that’s the time they say Daniel lived, and that’s the time they say that his prophecy was written. Yet when I turn to the Book of Ezekiel, time and again you will find there that Ezekiel honors Daniel, his older contemporary, as a great prophet and a holy man of God [Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3]. We’re just looking at it. We’re just looking at it.
They say that Daniel is a fraud, and a forgery, and that it was composed in 150 BC. I have in my hand here my beloved, my loved copy of Josephus. Josephus was the great and famous Flavian historian; took his name Flavius Josephus because he was befriended by the Flavian emperors, beginning with Vespasian. He was a general in the war of liberation against Rome. He was conquered—he headed the armies of Galilee—he was conquered when Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. Flavius Josephus took his name Flavius from the Flavian house of the emperors. And he was one of the beloved historians who was much, much honored by those Roman Caesars. Flavius Josephus was a contemporary of Paul and of John. And his history of the Jews is one of the greatest pieces of historical narrative to be found in all literature.
In the story of the Antiquities of the Jews, I turn, in this copy of Josephus, to Josephus’ account of the conquering of the civilized world by Alexander the Great. And in 332 BC, 332 BC—now they say Daniel was not written until 150 BC—in 332 BC, I have this story of the account of the conquest of the civilized world by Alexander the Great. I wish I had time to read it. It is magnificently presented. But I’m going along and just sum it up, and maybe read a few sentences here and there. This is in the Antiquities of the Jews, book 11, chapter 8, and paragraphs 3, 4, and 5. Now we begin. Josephus says that at this time, 332 BC, that Alexander crossed over the Hellespont; and they fought the great battle between the Macedonians and the Persians at Issus in Cilicia, where the Mediterranean turns from going this way, down that way, at that corner there. And Alexander the Great overwhelmed the armies of Persia. And the king of Persia fled back into his capital. So [Alexander] came into Syria, and took Damascus; and then he took Sidon; then he besieged Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for months and years and never was able to reduce the fortress. The only time in the history of the world that Tyre was ever reduced, was ever seized, was when Alexander the Great did it here in 332 BC. So while Alexander the Great was besieging Tyre, Josephus says, he sent word to Jaddua—the high priest at Jerusalem, who ruled over Judea—he sent word to the high priest that the Jews send him provisions, send him food and help in his siege against Tyre. And Jaddua the high priest answered Alexander the Great and said that he had sworn by an oath to be true to Darius, and he could not break that oath. And upon hearing this answer, Alexander was very angry. And after he had reduced Tyre, he said, “I’m going up to that city of Jerusalem, and waste it, and slay that high priest for not helping me in my hour of strait and need.”
So, after Alexander the Great—I’m just summarizing the best I can the story here in the history of Josephus—after Alexander the Great had reduced Tyre, and for the first time in history had taken that bastion, he went down and conquered Egypt, and then Gaza, and then after he had taken Gaza, he 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 because he refused to give him food for his soldiers against Tyre. Then it was that, Josephus says, “Jaddua took it to God in prayer, and asked all the people to make supplication to Jehovah. Whereupon,” Josephus says:
God told him in a dream that he was to take courage, and adorn the city, and open the gates; and that all the priests should appear in white garments, and they were to go out to meet the king, Alexander the Great, in the habits of their order, without dread of ill consequences. Whereupon Jaddua the high priest went before his people in Jerusalem and made the announcement of what God had told him in the dream.
[from Antiquities of the Jews, book XI, 334]
So when Alexander the Great came up from Gaza to destroy Jerusalem, he was followed by a band of people from all over the country, who followed after him to pillage the holy city and to sell the people into slavery, and to see Alexander the Great put the high priest to death. But when Alexander the Great came up with his army to destroy Jerusalem, he saw, he saw that holy band of God’s people pouring out of the city, the city was adorned. And then Josephus describes how the high priest was dressed: “He was in purple and scarlet, and a miter was on his head, and the beautiful garments flowing from his shoulders and waist; and on his breast the golden plate whereon is inscribed the name of the Lord God.” And when Alexander the Great met that marvelous procession coming out of the city of Jerusalem, he fell down in the presence of the high priest, and bowed before him, and called on the name of his God Jehovah.
And one of the leaders of the army came up to Alexander the Great, and said, “Why are you bowing; you who never bowed before any man, the conqueror of the world, why are you bowing before this great high priest?” And Alexander the Great replied, “I do not adore him, but that God who hath honored him with his high priesthood. For I saw this very person,” now this is Alexander the Great, “for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, in this very dress, when I was at Dios in Macedonia, who, when I was considering how I might conquer Asia, adjured me to make no delay, but to cross the Hellespont with my army.” And Alexander the Great accompanied the high priest and the people of Jerusalem into the holy city. And when he had gone up into the temple, he offered sacrifices to Jehovah God. “And when the Book of Daniel”—why man, it wasn’t written until 150 BC; it wasn’t written till 150 BC; the entire liberal world, the entire pseudo-intellectual world says it wasn’t written till 150 BC—I’m reading from Josephus, “And when the Book of Daniel was showed him, when the Book of Daniel was showed him, wherein Daniel described that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he was glad,” and on and on Josephus describes it.
Where in the Book of Daniel did the high priest show Alexander the Great the prophecy of his coming? I haven’t time to expatiate upon it; I can just refer to it and that’s all. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel, in the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel, the prophet there describes the conquest of the Persians, and then he describes the destruction of the Persian Empire by a great king of the Greeks. Verses 20, 21, and following [Daniel 8:20-22], he identifies the kingdoms and the king of the vision that he had, in the first part of the chapter [Daniel 8:3-8]. No wonder Alexander was impressed. No wonder any fair-minded man who lives would be impressed.
We must hasten. I haven’t time to lengthen these words. The time is almost gone. We’ll not turn back to Josephus. We’ll not turn back to the Septuagint. We’ll not turn back to these ancient histories that confirm the fulfillment of the prophecies of Daniel. Let us look about us today. We can test it, we can measure it, we can put a canon by the side of it today; for Daniels’ prophecies reach to the consummation of the age, to the end time. Are they being fulfilled? Are they true? Are they from God? Now just for a moment, and listen just for a moment.
Daniel saw, as a revelation from God, a portrayal of all the history of mankind from his day—he was first taken as a captive in 605 BC by the armies of Babylon, by Nebuchadnezzar [Daniel 1:1-6]—so from his day, the first kingdom, until the end time, he gives a great outline of human story [Daniel 2:1-45]. And he says this—and watch it and see if it’s come out just as Daniel saw it in 600 BC—he saw a great image in the form of a man, and the head was gold. And God said to Daniel, “That is the Babylonian kingdom, the beginning of the times of the Gentiles”; the head of gold [Daniel 2:32, 38]. Then the breast and arms were of silver; that’s the dual kingdom, the two arms of Medo-Persia [Daniel 2:32, 39]. Then the thighs are of brass. God said, “That is the great kingdom of the Greeks” [Daniel 2:32, 39]; and you’ll find that in the eighth chapter fulfilled there in the prophecy [Daniel 8:5, 21], the one that Jaddua the high priest showed Alexander the Great. And then the two legs were made out of iron, the strongest of all; that’s the Eastern and the Western part of the Roman Empire [Daniel 2:33]. And then God said to Daniel, “The feet and the toes are made out of iron and out of clay” [Daniel 2:33]; there will never be another universal kingdom, there will never be another world empire. But there will be many nations; some of them weak, some of them strong. Did it come to pass like that? Was the Babylonian kingdom succeeded by the Medo-Persian two? Was the Medo-Persian succeeded by the thighs of the Greeks? Was the Greek kingdom succeeded by the two branches of the Roman Empire? And is it true there has never been a world kingdom, a world empire since the days of the fall of the Roman Empire? But it continues as you see it today: some nations weak, some nations strong; but there will never be, not until the consummation, a universal kingdom in this world. That’s what Daniel said. Is that the way it’s coming out? Is that history about us today? Precisely!
One other thing, and then I must close. Here in the Book of Daniel, in the ninth chapter, Daniel made a prophecy by the Spirit of God, saying that unto the end, that unto the end wars and desolations are determined [Daniel 9:26]. Is that true? Is that true? Daniel said, in 600 BC, that to the end, to the consummation, to God’s kingdom establishment, wars and desolations are determined. Is that correct? Let’s look at it for just a moment.
In February 1914, there was gathered in Los Angeles, California, some godly men who loved the Holy Scriptures, and they called it a prophetic conference. And in that prophetic conference in Los Angeles, in February 1914, they gave special attention, called special attention, to those prophecies of the Lord and of the Holy Word, that nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, followed by famine and inevitable pestilence [Matthew 24:7]. And when the pseudo-intellectual world, when the modern liberal world, heard of that prophetic conference, one of them, the editor of the Christian Advocate, called it a “pathetic conference,” not a prophetic conference, a “pathetic” conference, “For,” said these dreamers of a golden age created by the ingenuity of man, “For,” said they, “wars are to be no more [Isaiah 2:4]. We’re beating our spears into plowshares, and we’re learning war no more,” and America was throwing away its blueprints of dreadnoughts and battleships because we were forever thereafter to live in a world of peace, brought by legislation and culture and all of the accouterments of education. That was February in 1914, when the intellectual and the liberal made fun of the “pathetic” conference in Los Angeles, California, quoting God’s Word, those holy men.
What happened? Within a few months, within a few months, within a few months, the archduke of Austria was slain by a man in Serbia, and the whole civilized world was plunged into that horrible, dreadful holocaust of the First World War. And after that war was over, Germany did no other thing but to live for the day when she could avenge her blood and her destruction. And we faced the Second World War; and after the Second World War, Korea; and after Korea, Red China, and Vietnam. Isn’t this a strange thing? We’re not at war, but American boys are dying every day in a battle that never ceases in that little peninsula you call Malaysia.
You see, Daniel said, Daniel said, “to the end, to the end, to the end” [Daniel 9:26]. And it is difficult for even the pseudo-intellectual ultimately to deny the truth of the living God.
Our time is done. I must close. As long as we hold to our hearts this Holy Book, its revelations are from the God of heaven who can see the end from the beginning, its message is directed to our souls that we might be saved, its precepts are the great foundations upon which human life and family is to be built, as long as it is the source of our doctrines and of our preaching, as long as its message is our faith [Ephesians 2:8-9], as long as God’s Word is dear to us, the Word Incarnate, Jesus [John 1:14], the Word written, the Holy Bible [2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21], the Word spoken by the mouth of the living God, as long as the Word is precious to our souls, we have hope, we have faith, we have strength, we have salvation, we have heaven and all that God hath prepared for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9]. But when the basis of our persuasion and of our hope is destroyed, the whole revelation of God in Christ turns to dust and ashes in our hands: there’s not any authority, there’s not any revelation, there’s not any Word, and we live in a world of hopeless and darkening despair.
O, blessed Book, blessed Book.
The mines of earth no treasures give
That could the volume buy;
In teaching me the way to live,
It taught me how to die.
[“My Mother’s Bible,” George P. Morris]
While we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, give himself to Jesus today. “Lord, I accept Thee for all God’s Book reveals Thee to be.”
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; He was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. And to those who love His appearing [2 Timothy 4:8], shall He someday present Himself in glorious and triumphant righteousness [Hebrews 9:28], and we, washed in His blood [Revelation 1:5], without spot, without blemish [Ephesians 5:27], saved now and through the endless ages that are yet to come [John 3:16; 10:27-30], all promised in the immutable and unchanging Word of God [1 Thessalonians 5:24].
And while we sing this appeal, somebody you give himself in trust to the blessed Lord Jesus. A family you, put your life with us in the fellowship of the church. As God shall say the word to your heart, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your soul, make it now, make it now, come now. On the first note of the first stanza, come, come, while we stand and while we sing.