Life in Outer Space
August 3rd, 1969 @ 10:50 AM
LIFE IN OUTER SPACE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-3-69 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing a message concerning something that has been asked of me. And if it is asked of me, I know it is spoken of innumerable times by others, both in the circle of a religious quest and answer, and in circles of science, and astronomy, and biology, and anthropology. And the question is, “Could there be life in outer space? Are there planets on which people live? Are there other races of human beings? Are there manifestations of life, intelligent, communicable? Could we get in contact with them?”
And not only is that question asked space-wise, out here in this universe, on some other planet, such as Mars, but the question is asked theologically, “Could it be that there are other beings in the great galaxies that possibly would be forever unknown to us?”
A man would have to live trillions of years in age, just to reach them, if he followed a beam of visitation at the speed of light itself. So far away are some of these spheres, and Milky Ways, and galaxies, until you’d have to travel over 186,000 miles a second, over a trillion years, just to reach them.
Now all of us have had these thoughts in days past. You could not stand under the heavens and not wonder at what God hath wrought, and the intelligent beings who might people and inhabit these other spheres, and universes. But, in our time now, these questions have been vastly heightened because of the success of our American effort to put some of our own citizens on the moon.
Now as I preach this answer and this message, which will be altogether an exposition of God’s Book—as I do it, it’s going to be done in a little different way. And the difference lies mostly in the fact that this morning we have the memorial of the Lord’s Supper. So the message is going to be constructed against the background of redemption.
Now the reading of the text—which is mostly a background here—is from the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew. I begin at verse 45:
Now from the sixth hour—from high noon—there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour—until three o’clock in the afternoon.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli—
El, “God”; i, “my”—
Eli, Eli, lama—“why,” sabachthani—“hast Thou forsaken Me?”
And some of them that stood there, when they heard that—
not being able to understand His Aramaic, for that is Aramaic; some of them misunderstanding what He said, supposed—and they
said, This Man calleth for Elias, Elijah.
They mistook His Aramaic word for God for the name of Elijah. “And one of them immediately… took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave it to Him to drink” [Matthew 27:48]. Once in a while, I’ll see a depiction of Christ crucified as though it were low to the ground. That is not so; Jesus was crucified high up. The cross was lifted up, so much so that when this unknown man offered Him a drink, he had to put it on a sponge on the end of a reed, and raise it up [Matthew 27:48]. So the Lord was crucified high.
“And others said, Let it be.” The purpose of this drink—doubtless it had some drug in it—was to stupefy Him. “But the others said, Let it alone”—let it be, let’s just sit here and stand here and wait here,—“to see whether Elijah will come to save Him” [Matthew 27:49]. That could have been said in sarcasm. It could have been said because of the tremendous events in the life of the Lord. They were halfway persuaded that some cataclysmic, astronomical earthquaking thing was going to develop.
Now “Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost” [Matthew 27:50], dismissed His spirit. And when He did that, at that moment, “Behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” [Matthew 27:51], not from the bottom to the top, as though a man had done it, but from the top to the bottom, as though God had reached down and done it.
And the earth did quake, and the rocks were split;
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
And came out of the graves after His resurrection—
Christ, the first fruits, then they who were raised after the resurrection of the Lord—
and these went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
Now there is a uniqueness about the Lord that is felt, and that is seen, and that is heard and demonstrated in that passage [Matthew 27:54]. It was in all of His life, but particularly and emphatically is it here.
As I spoke a moment ago, there were those who were standing there who actually thought that Elijah himself might come and deliver the Prophet from the cross [Matthew 27:47]. And in His death, so tremendous were those cataclysmic accompaniments, that the centurion—and I would suppose that centurion all of his legionary life had crucified men. That was one of his assignments: criminals, traitors, seditionists, insurrectionists; that was one of his assignments, to take them out and nail them to a cross. It was a Roman way of execution. There are no telling how many men he had seen die.
But when the centurion, and those soldiers that were with him, and the others standing by, saw these things, the centurion and they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this Man was the Son of God” [Matthew 27:54]. There is a uniqueness about our Lord, a separateness and apartness about Jesus that is as high as the heavens are high and as eternal as eternity is long.
And that brings us to the subject of life in this earth, and life in this stellar space, and life in the vast firmament that God has created above and beyond us. First, if there is life anywhere in this universe—on the planets that swing around our sun, or in the galaxies, some of which are beyond the reach of our highest, most powerful telescopes—if there is life, there is none like His: separate, unique, apart, distinct [Hebrews 7:26].
I copied this from the skeptic, Rousseau, a Frenchman of great native literary ability, who was anything but a Christian. And the skeptic said of Jesus,
What sweetness, what purity in His manner. What an effective gracefulness in His delivery. What sublimity in His maxims. What profound wisdom in His discourses. What presence of mind in His answers. How great the command over His passions. Where is the man where the philosopher he was one? Where the philosopher who could so live and so die without weakness and without ostentation? If the life and death of Socrates were those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus were those of a God.
[from Profession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar, para. 223, Jean Jacques Rousseau]
There is a separateness and a uniqueness and an apartness about Christ that is unlike anything in God’s whole created universe [John 1:1]. If there is life, there is none like His. And not only so as we look at Him in the days of His flesh [Hebrews 5:7], but there is a separateness in Christ, if for no other reason than that He is the great Creator of all of these worlds and planets and systems that have been flung by His omnipotent hand into orbital space.
In the beginning was the Word—the logos, the Word—In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
If for no other reason, there would be none like Him wherever life was manifested because He was the great Creator. By Him all things exist [Colossions 1:16-17]. He made these things. He created these things, and they are the handiwork of His omnipotent hands [Psalm 19:1].
Not only that, but the condescension of Christ is without parallel. The yielded willingness of the great God, manifest and eternal, to bow down, to be a Savior for a lost and a fallen race, how effectively is that presented in the Word of God. It’s a theme that goes all through it.
For example, in the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews out of which we read a moment ago, chapter 9, 9 and 10—speaking of this redemptive mission of our Lord; in the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the author writes: “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not”—the blood of bulls and of goats could not suffice to wash away the stain of sin [Hebrews 10:4]—“Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared for Me” [Hebrews 10:5]. In the womb of that virgin, God created a body to offer a sacrifice for the sins of the race. And He came down from glory to be incarnate in that body, prepared for a sacrifice, an atonement, an expiation of our sins [Hebrews 10:5].
Then the author continues, in the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews: “Then said I”—the Lord God speaking in heaven as the body was prepared for the sacrifice—“Then said I, Lo, I come (In the volume of the book it is written of Me)”—in all of those Old Testament harbingers and types and foreshadowings—“Lo, I come (In the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God” [Hebrews 10:7].
Such a condescension that God should become a man like us is unimaginable, and spiritually unfathomable. The greatest passage in the epistles of Paul, to me, is this, in the second chapter of the Book of Philippians:
He, being in the form of God—in the morphos of God, whatever morphos God is in, whatever form God is in—He, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be held onto, to be grasped, to be equal with God:
But made Himself of no reputation, but poured Himself out, and was made in the likeness of a servant, and in the fashion of a man,
And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Down and down and down and down did God come, not to a planet named Mars or Jupiter, and not to a galaxy in the Milky Way, or the sidereal spheres, or those unknown, so-far-away creations of God in the firmament beyond what mind has ever explored; but down and down and down and down He came to be identified with Adam’s fallen race—with us. Being found in fashion as a man [Philippians 2:8], incarnate in a body prepared for sacrifice, for the redemption of us, down and down and down He came to this planet, to this globe, to this place, to our humanity and identified Himself with us—walked like us, talked like us, lived like us [Philippians 2:7-8], suffered like us, died like us [Hebrews 4:15].
There could never be another life or another place or another planet or another system like this; this globe, where our forefathers are buried; this earth, that drank up His blood; this revolving sphere—tiny, inconsequential, almost infinitesimal compared to the greatness of the magnitude of God’s creation. But it was to this place that He came [John 3:16]. It was in this place that He died [Matthew 27:32-50]. It was among us that He suffered [Hebrews 4:14-16]. And it was for the love of Adam’s fallen race that He poured out His life in atonement [Ephesians 5:25].
Consequently, there could never be another place or planet or sphere like this. The atonement of Christ was made here [Romans 5:11]. We must hasten, even though I have a very long time in which to preach.
Second, not only, if there is life in other planets, in other worlds, there could never be a life like His, but a second observation: there may be other worlds, but there could never be another world like this, for our Lord, in His life [Romans 5:10] and death and resurrection [Matthew 27:32-28:7] and promised return [John 14:1-3] and the glory of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven to this earth [Revelation 21:2]—there could never be one comparable to this sphere.
I do not know how it was that I left off the name of the man who wrote these beautifully eloquent words. But I read them, though now I must do so as though from an anonymous author. But listen to them:
Think of Calvary. Millions of worlds may float today in space, many of them are larger and probably grander than this poor earth. They may be strewn with diamonds and robed with flowers that never fade, and whose beauty and fragrance exceed our most fanciful dreams. But, if they have no Calvary to diadem their beauty, of all the worlds God has made, our world is king, king of the spheres. And the highway which leads from our world to heaven is more frequently trodden by the angels. Calvary, heaven’s sacrificial altar, the moral axis of the universe on which the wheels of redemption move.
[adapted from “Sermons and Lectures,” William Elbert Munsey,
John Christian Keener]
That is eloquence.
If there are other worlds and other planets on which life exists, it could never be like this planet and our life and this world. And that leads me to expound upon one of the tremendous revelations in this Book: what God purposes not only for the little terrestrial globe upon which we walk and live, but the whole universe of God’s created handiwork.
Now this is from one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans. Paul writes:
For the earnest expectation of the creation—
the whole creation—
waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
For the creation was made subject to vanity—
futility, hurt, barrenness, sterility, curse, death—
For the whole creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope—
That is, God allowed it to fall into ruin because He purposed some greater thing for us and for it—
Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption—
the whole thing that God has done, the stars, that sterile moon, these burned-out planets—
the whole creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption…
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
I’ve heard cattle moan. A city child does the not realize the birth pangs suffered by the whole animal kingdom. But, “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain” [Romans 8:22], until this very morning. And not only they, but we ourselves also, the human family. They travail and they groan and they weep and they know heartache and disappointment. “Not only they,” the creation around us, “but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” [Romans 8:23].
There is a time coming, says the apostle, when our bodies shall be redeemed [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17], as our spirits are now, when we’re saved [John 3:3-7]. There is coming a time, at the consummation of the age, when our bodies shall be redeemed, resurrected, made into the glorious light and love and loveliness of the body of Christ [Romans 8:23]. And when that consummating day comes, at that time, says the apostle, the whole creation shall be redeemed and shall be restored into the glorious, Edenic likeness into which God flung it into existence, in the beginning [Romans 8:21].
That’s the most stupendous revelation in God’s Book. Think of it. The trees, the flowers, the vegetation, the animals, the firmament, the earth, all that is in it, shall be recreated when Jesus comes again [Revelation 21:1-5].
Now that doctrine is far more frequently met in the Bible than you realize. For example, and we have but a moment to say these things, for example, there’s not a child that grows up in the church but is familiar with John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But, you look at that. You look at that: “For God so loved the world.” There are three words that a Greek—that a man writing Greek—there are three words that he could have used there: “For God so loved the world.”
One word is ge; G-E, ge, ge. Our word “geography” is from it: graphō, “to write,” ge, “land, the world, the earth, the dirt, the ground,” ge. But he doesn’t use that. You know, the planet, the earth, the sphere—“God so loved the sphere, the planet, the ground, the earth.” He doesn’t do that.
Another word that the Greeks had for the world is oikoumenē, oikoumenē—“For God so loved the oikoumenē.” That could mean “the people, the inhabitants” who live on this sphere: “God so loved them; the race, the humanity.” He didn’t do that.
But there is a third word that the Greeks use for the world. And that’s the word kosmos. That’s a magnificent word. Its feeling and its background is glorious. All those Greeks were sensitive to order, and symmetry, and beauty and they had a verbal form of it, kosmeō, which means “to adorn, to embellish, to make beautiful.” And as you know, your word “cosmetics” comes from that; kosmeō, “to make beautiful.”
There are some religionists, and there are some churches, that think it is a sin for a woman to use cosmetics. Well, I think it is a sin for them not to, because we’ve got to look at them. And every creature owes it to himself to make himself as beautiful as possible.
These old scrubs that come by with all that brush on their faces, they are an offense to beauty unless they have a beautiful, curly, wavy beard. If they don’t have it, they ought to cut it off.
I never invented all that: the beauty of the sunset, the colors of the rainbow, the form and symmetry of a figure—God did that. God must love beauty. The starry sky that sparkles at night—now we can’t talk about that. Let’s get back to this.
“For God so loved the world” [John 3 :16]. Now that’s the word that he used here: kosmos. And the word kosmos refers to the whole creation above, below, and around us. Now, we’re overwhelmed by the extent of the macrocosm beyond us. But the creation of God is as extensive in the microcosm beneath us.
At a great World’s Fair, one time, I saw a demonstration of that. In the center of a vast portrayal, there was a man—a man and his size, and the figures were there—a man. And on this side of the man was the infinitesimal world beneath him going back and back and back, and in this pulpit stand here, there are multiplied billions and billions and billions of swirling whirls, electrons and neutrons and protons swinging around a central nucleus, down and down and down into that infinitesimal world, which is as great as the macrocosm beyond us. The vast infinitude of these spheres that God has flung—the whole creation.
Now “God so loved the kosmos,” the whole creation—all of it, all of it—“that He sent His Son” [John 3:16]—to redeem it, to die for it, and to recreate it and to remake it in its primeval and pristine and Edenic form.” Well, if we had another hour, we would just take that.
Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” And if God did it, it was not half made, nor was it ugly, nor was it sterile and vacant and vacuum-like, nor was it chaotic. But, if God did it, it was beautiful and perfect and good.
Then the next verse, Genesis 1:2: “And the earth became void and waste; and darkness covered the deep.” Something happened. We know what happened. In Lucifer, in Satan, sin entered God’s universe [Ezekiel 28:15], and wherever sin intrudes, there is violence and darkness and waste. And that’s what happened to God’s universe.
Now we haven’t time to follow this through the Word of the Lord. But, over and over and over and over again, does God say that He is going to recreate and restore and reestablish what He had made in the beginning [Genesis 1:1], and what Satan had wasted and destroyed [Genesis 1:2]. There shall be, in God’s grace, new heavens and a new earth and a new city, the heavenly Jerusalem [Revelation 21:2], coming down from where God is preparing it now and where the saints go when they die [John 14:1-3]. There’s coming down out of heaven that city of gold and pearl and jasper and it’s going to sit here, on this earth [Revelation 21:1-2, 10-21]. I have to close.
If there is life, there is none like His. If there are worlds, there is none like this. And a last appeal: and if there are devotions and dedications, there ought to be none like ours.
If there are other families and other races, Christ died for them, too, because the whole creation was destroyed. You will not find in any planet life that is perfect. It was destroyed in the beginning, in the fall of Lucifer [Genesis 1:2, Isaiah 14:12]. And Christ’s redemption in this earth would apply to them, too, as it applies to us. It is a fallen creation, all of it [Romans 8:22-23]. We are a part of it, fallen ourselves [Romans 8:19-23].
Now when I speak of this last: if there are devotions and consecrations and dedications, there ought to be none like ours for the Lord. Now, I speak of just those that I know. I know from the Bible of the cherubim, the cherubim. The cherubim are always figures and angelic presences signifying mercy and forgiveness and invitation.
But what of the cherubim and their devotion to God? The most they can do is this: in the beautiful figure of the mercy seat, there was a cherub on each side, and the wings met in the middle above the mercy seat, above the ark. And their eyes looked full upon the blood of expiation and atonement and propitiation. But, that’s all they can do, is just look, for they have never fallen, the cherubim. They can just look. That’s all: just look [Exodus 25:16-20].
I speak, secondly, of the seraphim. The seraphim have six wings; with twain they cover their faces, and with twain they cover their feet, and with twain they fly. And they cover their faces and their feet in holy reverence before the great God of the universe [Isaiah 6:2-3].
And I speak of the angels. I’d prepared to show you what they say. All that the angels can do is just observe and just look.
But, we, we, we are not onlookers, nor do we see from afar, nor do we just observe and gaze. My brethren, we are the redeemed [1 Peter 1:18-19]. It is for us that Christ died [1 Corinthians 15:3]. We are the subject and the object of His great condescension and incarnation and death on the cross [Hebrews 10:5-14]. And that’s why, in the Book, you will read in the Apocalypse, the Revelation, the song that we sing. For example: “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . Unto Him be glory, and honor, and dominion, and power, and blessing for ever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6].
We are the redeemed [Ephesians 1:7]. And that’s why the Scriptures say we shall be exalted above the angels [1 Corinthians 6:3]—a fellow heir with Christ [Ephesians 3:6], the God of this universe—and we shall reign as kings and priests in this firmament and in this earth and in God’s universe that He has made [Revelation 5:10].
Oh, if there are songs, we can sing them best! If there are devotions and consecrations, ours will be the deepest and the most meaningful and the most precious. It was for us that Christ died [1 Corinthians 15:3].
In a moment, we shall sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing that song of invitation, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, make the decision now to give your heart to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13], to follow the will and the call of God, and come and stand by me. In the balcony round, you, there is a stairway at the front and at the back and on either side. There is time and to spare; come.
The press of people on this lower floor, a family together, a couple, or just you, make the decision now. Do it now. And in a moment, when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. And angels in glory will attend you in the way while you come, as we stand and as we sing.