The Words of this Prophecy
November 15th, 1964 @ 10:50 AM
THE WORDS OF THIS PROPHECY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-15-64 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, you who listen on radio and look on television. And this is the pastor bringing the 11:00 o’clock morning message, a sermon entitled The Words of This Prophecy. And to one who is persuaded that he can read the very words of God, the Bible becomes a living treasure, a final authority, a glorious and incomparable hope and promise. And that is the sermon this day, The Words of This Prophecy. The Book closes, the Bible closes with these words:
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Do you notice the inspired apostle does not say, “If any man shall take away from the scenes, or the imagery, or the thoughts of this prophecy”? What he wrote was: “if any man shall take away from the logoi, the words, of the book of this prophecy” [Revelation 22:19]. The apostle is avowing that herein are written the veritable words of God.
Now when I speak this morning, I am speaking of the original manuscript, not of a translation. A translation is the finest effort of devoted men to take God’s words and place them in another language, in another tongue. And sometimes, of course, men, in their human frailty and limitation, are not quite able to equate in another language exactly the weight of a word in the original language.
In the Amazon jungle last August, I was amazed at the slavery of one of those translators, toiling over the Gospel of Mark, trying to get the Gospel of Mark in the language of that jungle tribe. So I asked of his slavery, of his meticulous care—it had taken years for it—and he said to me, and pointed out another translator who had not done so well, and one of the members of that tribe said to the translator, the missionary, “You say this is God’s Book?”
“Yes,” said the missionary, “This is God’s Book.” And the tribal Indian said, “Well, God doesn’t speak very good grammar, does He?” That’s what I mean; and that’s why that other missionary was toiling so in a translation. I’m not speaking of a translation now. I refer to the manuscript, the original Word of God.
There are several attitudes about God’s Book. You might call them theories of inspiration, whether they are God-breathed or not [2 Timothy 3:16]. There are several. Let me name briefly four: first, there are those who look upon God’s Book as they would any other piece of antique literature. It isn’t inspired anymore than any other ancient writing is inspired. They look upon it in the same way that they would a pot, or a piece of pottery, or a brick, or a weapon that was dug up from some archaeological survey.
They’d go through a museum, and here’s the things of the ancient day from Persia, and here’s some from India, and here’s some from Egypt, and here’s some from Palestine. And among the bricks and pottery and weapons and what have you, dug up from that ancient day, why, here is some of their literature, and they look upon this as they would any other ancient document. No more of God in it than there is in the Egyptian Book of the Dead or the Bhagavad Gita out of India.
Then there is a second attitude toward the Word of God. There are those who believe that it is a product of man’s intuition, that we are capable of discernment, we have intuitive faculties and understanding, and they apply that through all of life. In the world of materialism our intuitive faculties bring to us all the marvels of science. By our mind’s eye we are able to see them and to pluck these things like the ether waves, to pluck them out of what cannot be seen and use them for scientific purposes.
Applied to knowledge, it would give birth to philosophy or beautiful literature or operas or things that we enjoy. Applied to painting it would give birth to art. Man’s intuitive faculties, above that of an animal, and then of course applied to the spiritual world, those intuitive faculties gave birth to the Word of God. It is no more inspired than a man is inspired who would paint a beautiful painting, or write a beautiful poem, or sing a beautiful song, or discover some great fact in the scientific world. It’s just a product of man’s genius; his own powers have produced it.
Now a third attitude toward the Word of God is one of spiritual illumination. Any child of God, these men would say, has an inner illumination, and the men who wrote the Bible had that to a greater degree than the rest of us. They were more spiritually sensitive. They would deny that God has revealed objective truth; they would avow that all of the things that are written here in the Word of God are subjective. A man’s spiritual sensitivity has given birth to this Book. All of us have it; it’s just that these men had it to a greater degree than the rest of us.
Then there is another, and this is the one that I believe in: there are those who believe that the Word of the Bible is inspired, a plenary verbal inspiration [2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21]. This does not “contain” God’s word; this “is” God’s Word. This is what God has said, and when I read this Holy Book, I am reading God’s Word. I am following God’s language and thinking God’s thoughts. Did God say anything? Does God speak? My heart answers, “Yes!” God speaks, and what God says I can read in the holy and sacred and infallible volume that I hold in my hand.
Now the sermon this morning is a presentation of that humble belief and persuasion that this is verbally, plenarily inspired. When I turn to the Book itself, I am amazed; I am overwhelmed by the claims of these who wrote it down. In the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, it is said more than two thousand six hundred times, “thus saith the Lord”– or cognate expressions. More than two thousand six hundred times it is said, in those thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, God said this. God speaks and these are the words of God.
You know, in preparing this sermon, I came across a man who said, he said, “You know, if these men say over two thousand six hundred times that God said, that God spoke, and that they were writing by inspiration what God said, if God didn’t say those words and if they were not writing by inspiration,” this man said, “these authors are the most compulsive and consistent and confirmed liars and deceivers the world has ever known.” Then he added, “Can you imagine a group of men over a period of years telling over two thousand six hundred lies about the same thing”? Then he said another thing: “That ought to be a record that long should stand.”
I feel that way. These men give you the definite avowal that what they are writing are the words of God, and they avow it, and they re-avow it, and they say it, and they say it again, and they confirm it, and they reconfirm it. I have taken just one leaf out of the Bible, which is so typical of all of it. Now I’ll not turn a page, you watch me, I’ll not turn a page, not a page; but you see, without turning a page, how many times the holy prophet of God will avow and confirm and say that the words he delivers are the words of the unchanging God. Now look:
The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah . . . to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah . . . king of Judah. And in the days of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah—
Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying—
now the next verse—
But the Lord said unto me, Be not afraid… for I am with thee.
Then the Lord put forth His hand, and touched my lips. And the Lord said, I have put My words in thy mouth—
Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying—
Then said the Lord unto me—
And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying—
Then the Lord said unto me—
For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee—
Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, thus saith the Lord—
Thus saith the Lord.
I haven’t turned the page! This is but typical of the whole Word of God. These men who delivered it, an apostle, a prophet, an ambassador from the courts of heaven, with illimitable and unfathomable and immeasurable assurance avowed that the word they delivered was the word of the living God; the word, the language of God.
Now I want you to notice how often it will be said that God spake in an audible voice, that God used words and God used language. Now we have that introduced to us in the beginning. When Adam and Eve interdicted God’s command and hid themselves in the garden [Genesis 3:1-8]—what does it say? “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” [Genesis 3:8]. They heard “the voice”; they had been accustomed to talking with God, and they recognized the voice of the Almighty, for God uses words! “And the Lord called unto Adam, and said”—this is the next verse, the ninth verse of the third chapter of Genesis, “And the Lord called unto Adam, and said, Where art thou, Adam, where art thou?” [Genesis 3:9]. The voice of God!
Now I’ve just chosen just a few as typical of all. And Moses on the back side of the desert saw a bush burning unconsumed. And the voice of the Lord God spake unto Moses out of the burning bush, saying, “Moses, Moses,” and Moses replied, “Here am I, Lord.” And the Lord God said, “Take off thy shoes from off thy feet for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” And the Lord God said, “I am the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob” [Exodus 3:1-6]: God speaking audibly, God using words.
Now when we come to the recording of this Holy Book—oh, how God speaks!
And Mount Sinai was altogether on smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereupon ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice!
God’s voice: God using words, and God speaks unto Moses. I turn the leaf:
All the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear thee: but do not let God speak to us because we will die!
So awesome and so terrible was the voice of the living God—“You tell us, Moses, what God says, but let not God speak to us face to face, lest we die!” The words of God! I continue, and after the law was given and the tabernacle erected, now you listen:
And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with Him, then he heard the voice of One speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of Testimony, from between the two cherubim: and He spake unto him.
God spake unto him! As it says in the thirty-third chapter of the Book of Exodus, in the eleventh verse: “God spake unto Moses face to face, as a man would speak unto his friend” [Exodus 33:11]. The words of God!
I must not continue this; I haven’t time to speak. In the nighttime, when Samuel lay asleep in the church, and old Eli the pastor presiding over the house of God at Shiloh, and the voice of God spake unto Samuel, saying, “Samuel, Samuel!” well, the little boy did not know that God spoke, so he ran to old Eli and said, “Here am I; for thou didst call me.” And Eli said, “I never called thee; lie down again.” And the second time God spoke unto Samuel, saying, “Samuel, Samuel!” And the second time he went to old Eli. And the third time God spake, “Samuel, Samuel!” And the little boy ran to old Eli, and the old pastor realized that God was speaking to the child! Old Eli said to the little boy, “Son, the next time you hear the voice, say, ‘Here am I, Lord, speak. Thy servant heareth’” [1 Samuel 3:4-9]. These are the words of God!
Now may I turn to the Book and look how they wrote down God’s words? One time, they were written by God Himself. The end of the thirty-first chapter of Exodus, “And God gave unto Moses, when He had made an end of communing with him upon Mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God” [Exodus 31:18]. I am talking about the words of the Bible, the inspired words of this Holy Book, on those tables of stone, written by the finger of God! Like that hand wrote on the wall in Belshazzar’s feast: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin, written by the finger of God; God’s words! [Daniel 5:24-25].
Now in this Holy Book it is avowed again and again that these inspired prophets and apostles wrote down God’s words. Exodus 20:1,
And God spake all these words, saying—
and I turn to 24—
And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord—
and in that same chapter—
And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to Me into the mount; and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.
And Moses wrote down—after the voice, and after the revelation, and after the speech of God—Moses wrote down these words of Almighty God [Exodus 24:4]. When I turn through the whole Bible, it is that same avowal. Listen, listen to David. The twenty-third [chapter] of 2 Samuel, “Now these,” this is the deathbed of David:
Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me.
[2 Samuel 23:1-3]
And David wrote down what the Rock of Israel, what the God of Israel, said.
I choose one other, in the thirty-sixth chapter of the prophet Jeremiah:
It came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that the word came unto Jeremiah from the Lord,
Now watch him write it down:
Take thee a roll of a book, a scroll, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee. Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord, which He had spoken unto him, upon a scroll of a book!
[Jeremiah 36:2, 4]
These are God’s words, and Jeremiah dictated them to Baruch as God spake them to Jeremiah. And in this story in the thirty-sixth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, when Jehoiakim heard that the scroll was written, he sent Jehudi to fetch the roll, and Jehudi stood before the king and read it in the ears of the king [Jeremiah 36:2].
Now the king sat in the winter palace . . . and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, had turned the scroll three or four times, that Jehoiakim, the king, cut it with a penknife, and cast it into the fire, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.
But can you burn up God’s Book? Can you destroy God’s revelation? Can you? Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, after the king had burned the roll, and the Lord said to Jeremiah, “Take thee another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned [Jeremiah 36:28].
God’s Word is indestructible and imperishable. God’s Word is like Himself: “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” [Hebrews 13:8]. Yea, our Lord said when this heaven and this earth have passed away, God’s Word shall endure immovable, unchangeable forever [Mark 13:31].
Now when I turn to the New Testament, I find that these holy apostles looked upon the words written in the Old Testament as being the words of God. Now I am just going to start out on one leaf and that’s all; the first one in the New Testament, which is like all of the rest of the pages:
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and called His name Iēsous, Savior, JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and they shall call His name, God with us, God with us—Immanuel.
Who said that? Did a man say that, “fulfilled by the prophet who spoke by the Lord?” [Matthew 1:22].
And then just one other:
And they brought the Child out of Egypt that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Out of Egypt have I called My Son
The attitude, holy and reverential, of the apostles and the authors of the New Testament is that, when they read the Old Testament Scriptures, they were reading the words of God. Now in the moment that remains, may I sum up briefly what could be spoken of at such great, great length; the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures in the New Covenant? The New Testament. In the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, the Lord said:
But the Paraclete, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
And in the passage we read together:
When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth:
for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak:
and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: He shall take of Mine, and give it to you.
There are two things in that one: this is the pre-authentication of the holy inspiration of the New Testament. What was written and what those apostles delivered was what the Holy Spirit placed in their hearts, and bought to their remembrance, and confirmed as being the true revelation from God. And the second thing, and it assures and guarantees the inerrancy, the absolute accuracy of what is written in these New Testament pages. This is what God, by the Holy Spirit, hath said, and the apostles wrote it down. For example, the apostle Paul said, “I certify you, brethren,” speaking in the first chapter of Galatians, “that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ [Galatians 1:11-12]. The words that he spake and the gospel that he delivered was one that God, by revelation, placed in his soul, and in his hands, and in words on his lips. Every time we have the Lord’s Supper, I read that passage: “My brethren, for I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you” [1 Corinthians 11:23]. God said it to Paul, and Paul wrote it down in the Book.
You notice the same thing in the life and writings of the apostle Peter. He said, “That you may be mindful of the words, of the words which were spoken before by the holy apostles, by the holy prophets, and by us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior” [2 Peter 3:2]. The words that are spoken by the prophets and by the apostles are the words of God.
And I close with just one other. In the glorious, unfolding of the times that are yet to come, given to the sainted apostle John on the isle of Patmos:
I John, your brother and companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus;
I was in the isle that is called Patmos on the Lord’s Day. I was in the Spirit, and I heard a great voice behind me say, I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia.
And John wrote down according to the voice that spake unto him the words and the revelation of Almighty God.
In the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophet Jeremiah, King [Zedekiah], saying to the man of God, “Is there any word from the Lord? Is there any word from the Lord? Does God speak?” [Jeremiah 37:17]. You boys and girls who go to school, any of us who read, the cry of science in the voice of one of its greatest exponents and proponents said, “The silence of the universe frightens me.” They can hear no voice from the grave. They can hear no voice from the dead. They can hear no voice from the spheres. They can hear no voice now in the universe around us, or a prospective hope in the unfolding of the ages to come. Their word is one of despair, and sterility, and darkness, and death. And our cry is like the cry of King [Zedekiah]: “O Jeremiah, prophet of God, is there any word from the Lord?” [Jeremiah 37:17]. Does God speak? Has God said anything? In this veil of tears and in this long, long journey that all of us inevitably face, is there any meaning in it? Is there any hope for it? Is there any destiny before us? Does God say anything?
“Jeremiah, is there any word from the Lord?” And Jeremiah replied, “There is, there is,” and forthwith Jeremiah proceeded to deliver to the king the prophecy of the great sovereign God of time and destiny and history [Jeremiah 37:17]. And we bring our humble, baffled souls to Jesus today. Lord, is there any word? Does God speak? And I turn to the Holy Book, and there I find the plenitude, and the fullness of God’s loving and merciful care for His own. “Yea,” said our Lord, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” [Matthew 4:4].
Thou Holy Book, thy constancy I’ve tried.
When all were false, I found thee true,
My counselor and guide.
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.
[from “My Mother’s Bible,” George P. Morris]
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word, the word of God shall abide forever.
Blessed, precious, unchanging hope. While we sing our song of appeal, somebody you give himself to Jesus, a family you, coming into the fellowship of the church, while we sing our hymn of appeal, would you come now, this morning? “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” In the balcony round there is time and to spare, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” As the Spirit shall lay the appeal upon your heart, make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE WORDS OF THIS PROPHECY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Not the idea, scenes, imagery, or thoughts, but the logoi, the “words”
B. Speaking of the original manuscript, not of a translation
1. Translator among Amazon jungle tribesII. Theories of inspiration
A. Not at all inspired – looked upon as any other piece of antique literature
B. A product of man’s intuition
1. Insight into secular truth
2. Insight into spiritual truth
C. Result of spiritual illumination
1. God has not communicated objective truth, but all that is written in the Word is subjective
2. These men had great degree of spiritual sensitivity
D. Plenary, verbal inspiration – does not “contain” God’s word; this “is” God’s WordIII. The Book itself
A. “Thus saith the Lord” or similar expressions said over 2,600 times in the Old Testament
1. If God didn’t say those words, these authors are the most compulsive and consistent liars the world has ever known
2. The authors avow and re-avow and confirm they are writing the words of God(Jeremiah 1:1-2:5)
B. God spake in an audible voice
1. In Eden with Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:16, 3:8-9)
2. To Moses out of the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6)
3. On Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:18-19, 20:18-19)
4. From the Mercy Seat in the tabernacle (Numbers 7:89, Exodus 33:11)
5. To Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4-9)
C. Once God actually wrote the words (Exodus 31:18)
1. Like the hand that wrote on the wall (Daniel 5:24-25)
D. In the Bible it is avowed again and again that inspired prophets and apostles wrote down God’s words(Exodus 20:1, 24:4, 12; 2 Samuel 23:1-3; Jeremiah 36:1-32)
1. God’s Word is indestructible and imperishable(Hebrews 13:8, Mark 13:31)
E. The New Testament consistently refers to the writings of the Old Testament as being the words of God Himself(Matthew 1:21-23, 2:14-15)IV. The words of the New Testament
A. Pre-authentication of the New Testament(John 14:26, 16:13-14)
1. The new revelation will be by the Holy Spirit Himself
2. The absolute accuracy of what is written
B. The apostlesspake by inspiration of God
1. Paul (Galatians 1:11-12, 1 Corinthians 11:23)
2. Peter (2 Peter 3:2)
3. John (Revelation 1:9-11)V. Does God speak?(Jeremiah 37:17)
A. Cry of science – “The silence of the universe frightens me.”
B. Man does not live by bread alone (Matthew 4:4)
C. Poem, “Thou Holy Bookâ€¦”(Isaiah 40:8)