The Unfailing Word of God
May 17th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
THE UNFAILING WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-17-70 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing a message from the second chapter of the Book of Daniel, and it is entitled The Unfailing and Sure Word of God. I shall read one verse out of that second chapter, verse 45: “The great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure” [Daniel 2:45].
That word “sure,” God likes to use it. In the passage that we read for our Scripture today, “We have a more sure word of prophecy” [2 Peter 1:19]. And that is the most astonishing observation. I don’t know whether you followed it as you read it or not, but Simon Peter in the first chapter of his second letter says that they looked upon the glory of God in Christ Jesus on the holy mount [2 Peter 1:16-17] when He was transfigured [Matthew 17:1-5], and they saw the deity of Christ shining through [Matthew 17:2]. And they heard the voice of the Father from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son” [Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17]. And yet, after he has described what he has seen with his very eyes [2 Peter 1:16-18], he says, “We have a more sure word of prophecy” [2 Peter 1:19].
Far beyond the testimony of the apostle who looks at the glorified Lord with his own eyes, far beyond that is the confirmation of the Word of God [2 Peter 1:16-21]. Now that is kind of the background of what I am going to preach about this morning: the unfailing and sure Word of God. “The dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure” [Daniel 2:45].
The second chapter of the Book of Daniel is the story of the king of Babylon who dreams a dream. Then he calls in his astrologers and his magicians and his Chaldeans, the priests of Baal Marduk, the great high temple there, and they served Baal Marduk; and they’re supposed to be able to know the mind of the gods. He calls in all of those men and asks them for an interpretation of the dream [Daniel 2:1-3]. Well, they said, “Tell us the dream, and we will show you the interpretation thereof” [Daniel 2:4].
Now, I don’t know whether the king actually forgot the dream or whether he feigned forgetfulness in order to test the magic of his astrologers. All I know is, when I read it here in the Bible, the forgetfulness of the king is belabored. It doesn’t say he forgot it and then goes on. But from the fourth verse in the second chapter through the twelfth verse in the second chapter, that’s how long the discussion is given to the fact that the king said, “I cannot remember the dream” [Daniel 2:4-12]. Now, I have a, it’s just as likely that he forgot it as that he didn’t. But it is also as likely that he didn’t forget it as that he did, and he feigned forgetfulness. He made as though he had forgotten it to see if these astrologers could tell it to him. And finally, he said to them, “If you cannot tell me the dream, how can I be assured that if I told you what it was you would know the interpretation thereof? So you tell me the dream, then I will know that you have interpreted it correctly” [Daniel 2:9]. Well, that’s a pretty shrewd thing to do. And God says, “Put it to the test…try Me…prove Me” [Malachi 3:10] and see: is it genuine or not?
I sometimes think of these people who speak in tongues. Ah! There were three miracles at Pentecost! “There was a sound as of a rushing mighty wind” [Acts 2:2]. There was not a mighty rushing wind; there was a sound as of a rushing mighty wind. And there was the letting down out of heaven a great lambent flame of fire, and it divided and burned on the top of each one of the heads of the witnesses [Acts 2:3]. Then there was the gift of speaking in another glossa, another tongue, another language, and all the people there from all over the earth heard the gospel in their own language [Acts 2:4-6]. Now these people come today and say, “We can speak with tongues.” Well, why in the world do you want to pick out the third miracle? Why don’t you pick out the first one, the sound of a rushing mighty wind? Or why don’t you pick out the second one? Let’s see a great lambent flame of fire come down from heaven. But the reason you pick out the third one is you think I’m stupid and you can dupe me as though you were talking in tongues. Ah!
One of the seminary boys out here went to a tongue-speaking service. And he got up, and like a school boy, we all memorize, rashiyth bara Elohim, b’reshith bara ha Elohim et ha shemayim va et ha eretz—Genesis 1:1, you know. And he went right on through. Well, he got up and he quoted, as though he were speaking in tongues, he quoted the first verses of the first chapter of Genesis. Then he sat down. They all waited for the interpreter to stand up and interpret what he said. And the interpreter stood up and said, “He said something about the glory of Christ in the church.” Paul said, “Seek the best gifts” [1 Corinthians 12:31] and that’s not one of them.
Well, I think what the king did was surely smart. “Is it genuine what you’re saying to me? And is it genuine, the interpretation?” Well, if it comes from God, then one is just as easy as the other. And I say, if it comes from God, it’s just as easy to have the sound of the rushing mighty wind, or to have a fire that burned out of heaven, as it is to speak in another language without studying it, a gift of tongues [Acts 2:2-6]. So that’s what the king did here, and it was shrewd. Now, as you know, in the story what he saw was the image of a great man [Daniel 2:31]. And then it was of different metals, and the feet and the toes were of clay and iron [Daniel 2:32-33]. And Daniel, God’s servant, asked God for the gift [Daniel 2:17-18]. And God revealed it to Daniel and what it meant [Daniel 2:19]. And the second chapter of Daniel is the interpretation of that tremendous vision [Daniel 2:26-45]. And when he got through, he said the words of my text, “The dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure” [Daniel 2:45].
Now the message this morning concerns why God gives us prophecy, and why God writes down in His Book the revelation of these future things. And I have three reasons for it, among forty that we could give. And the first reason is this—the reason God writes prophecy and you find it here in this Holy Book. The first reason is that we might be delivered from mistaken judgments. It is a revelation of God to us, that we might understand the life in which we live, the history in which our lot is cast, and all that pertains to values in judgment. For we’re so limited in our vision, our understanding is so circumscribed and so diminutive. We are limited in time. We just see such a small part of it.
I read in a geological book that if you had the Empire State Building and start at the bottom, and that represents time; start at the bottom and that represents the geological ages. And when you got to the top of it, 1,255 feet up there, put a nickel on top of it and the breadth of that nickel represents the entire age of man in this geological time. We’re limited in time. We’re limited in space. This little speck of a world on which we ride is tucked away in an infinitesimal corner of God’s great, spacious creation. We’re limited in space.
We’re limited in our knowledge of truth. Truth is like a great mountain, and you can see just one side of it, just a piece of it. And we are limited in purpose. We live in tension and frustration. A man’s mind simply cannot comprehend the great sweep of God’s story in creation. Therefore, God reveals to us in this sacred Book, God reveals to us these great prophetic revelations in order that we might be correct in our judgments and we might not fall into grievous error.
Now I want to show you how failing to know the Word of God has led almost the destruction of our nation into an abyss that is indescribably horrible. Now I’ll give you one. Do you remember in the story of the life of Jeremiah when Jeremiah said, “The Babylonians are coming” [Jeremiah 25:9] and he counseled the king to get ready? But the false prophets said, “Peace, peace;” but Jeremiah said, “There will not be peace” [Jeremiah 6:13-15]. There will be war [2 Kings 25:1-2]; and of course the story is part of Daniel [Daniel 1:1-2]. The Babylonians came and destroyed the city and the nation, carried the people into captivity [2 Kings 25:10-11].
Now that same thing happened in my lifetime. I can remember the post-millennialists when I was a boy. And practically all of our preachers were post-millennialists, that is, the world’s getting better, and better, and better, and soon we’ll reach the millennial age through the preaching of the gospel. I can remember that. And then I can remember the illimitable pacifistic optimism of the 1920s and the 1930s. There was “a war to end all wars, and we’re going to have peace forever.” I can remember that. And listening to the preachers, and listening to those who said they knew the Word of God, and didn’t, the United States threw away its army, threw away its navy, threw away its battleships, and when 1939 came and Hitler unleashed those dogs of war on the world, it looked to me for years that we were going to be crushed!
We dangle by a shoestring over that dark abyss. God says, and it’s here in Daniel in the ninth chapter, that “Wars are determined to the end” [Daniel 9:26]. And God says that the denouement of this world, the consummation of this world and world history, will be when Christ intervenes at Armageddon, the great battle of the Almighty [Revelation 16:13-16, 19:17-21]. And that’s why God reveals these things to us in the Book; that we might not be mistaken in our judgments. And there’s no man in this earth that reads God’s Book but that knows that these wars are determined to the end. And for America, as we did in the 1920s, to throw our guard away is to jeopardize the very life of the nation. And a man who knows God’s Word would never be led into such a grievous and abysmal error.
All right, again, how the revelation delivers us from mistaken judgments: almost until this very minute––they’re beginning to see what God says is true––almost to this very minute, the sociologists have said that the cause of crime and violence is poverty. And all we need to do in order to deliver our nation from violence and from crime is that everybody get rich. Everybody be affluent, that the causes of crime are found in economic factors, and you ameliorate those economic factors and you make people affluent, and then they won’t be criminals anymore. And there won’t be any violence anymore. And there won’t be any law breaking anymore. Now that’s what the sociologists have said almost to this minute.
But this last week I happened to turn the television on to a station I didn’t know was on––is it 39, or something? I didn’t even know there was such a thing, just happened to turn it on––and I turned it on in the midst of a panel. And the panel was discussing crime. And what stuck in my mind in the few minutes I looked at it was this: the panelists said there was an enormous increase in crime, and as they discussed where it was, is it among the poor? No. Is it in a ghetto? No. Is it among the submargin? No, it is among the affluent. It is among the affluent.
The reason we have an upward graph in crime is because we have so much affluence in America that they are giving themselves to drugs and sexual promiscuity and a thousand other dark things! And so this week I read something else. One of the finest, astute observers in America said, “The only thing that will heal the rioting and the violence in America is a depression!” Now doesn’t that beat you? Isn’t that the beatinest thing you ever heard in your life? All these sociologists telling us that the thing that would cure crime and violence in America is for all of us to be affluent. Now we’re all getting affluent, and then they turn around and say, “Our affluence makes us wicked,” it introduces us to leisure time and all kinds of sin and debauchery, and what we need is to be poor again.
Now where does all that come from? It comes from our aberrations, not understanding the Word of God; for God’s Word says whether you are poor or whether you’re rich has nothing to do with it. Whether you are sinful or not is because of the depravity of your heart. And Jeremiah the prophet said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]. God’s Word says the problem of sin is not in poverty, or in riches, or in anything else; but the problem of sin lies in an unregenerate heart. And a man needs to be born again [John 3:3, 7]. He needs to have a spiritual rebirth; and till he has a spiritual rebirth, he’s going to be a wicked man and a sinful man. That’s what the Book says, and that’s why God reveals these things to us. Oh dear, I must hasten.
Let me show you another mistake in judgment. God said to Abraham, God said to Abraham, “I will multiply thy seed in the earth, and I will bless them that bless you, and I will curse them that curse you” [Genesis 12:3; 22:17-18]; there has never been a nation in history that persecuted Abraham’s seed but that was cursed. You just look at Nazi Germany and look at the pain and horror of the divided household in Germany today; and I don’t know whether they’ll ever get together again or not. Got an East Germany, and got a West Germany, just like you’d divide America down the Mississippi River, and our fathers and mothers are on that side, and we their children are on this side. It’s a national grievance for the years and maybe for the centuries.
That came because of the Nazis persecution of the children of Abraham. And I think one of the reasons God has blessed America is because of our kindness and friendship to the seed of Abraham. As the Book says in the one hundred twenty second Psalm, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” [Psalm 122:6]. We could just go on and on, but I must cease. The reason for the prophecy given in the Bible is that we might be delivered from false judgments. And a man who studies the Bible does not fall into those tragic judgments.
All right, a second reason for prophecy. Why the vision, why the dream, and why the interpretation written out there for us to read? The second reason lies in this. Prophecy honors and glorifies God. He alone knows the secrets of the future, He alone, no one other. “I am God, and there is none other beside” [Isaiah 45:5, 21]. And prophecy honors the Lord. The only Book in the world and the only religion in the world that has prophecy is our faith and our religion. Why don’t you find it in these other religions? Because they’re man-made and had they attempted to prophesy and write the vision and the dream of the future in those books like the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, all the rest of them, had they attempted to write prophecy in those books, their lack of being able to know would have been gross, and it would have been plain there on the page that they were of men. But God is not a man, and God does not hesitate to write the story of human history unto the end of the age because He sees the end from the beginning. That’s God, and prophecy glorifies the Lord. It points Him up, it points Him out, “This is the Lord God, and this is His Word” [Ezekiel 12:25].
Another thing about the prophecy: it presents God and reveals God as the great Ruler of the universe [Isaiah 44:7-8, 24]. I had several things worked here through the Book of Daniel to show that to you, how many, many times it says “God did it, and God has made it known.” For example, it starts off like that. “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians” [Daniel 1:1-2]; God did that, God did that. The great ruler of the universe is the Lord God [Isaiah 45:12]. In the Book of Daniel here, he uses the term Adonai Elohim all the way through except one little passage in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel where he speaks of God as Jehovah in His covenant relationship with His people [Daniel 9:4]. Adonai, Adonai the great mighty Lord, Elohim the great mighty God; and He rules in this universe. And the prophecy is revealed to us that we might know that the kingdoms belong to God now and forever and forever [Psalm 82:8]. He sets up rulers. He casts down rulers. He guides with His own imponderables the destiny of the nation [Psalm 148:5-6, 11].
Now, a third reason––the first reason for prophecy: that we might be delivered from mistaken judgments, that we might understand. Second, the great God is exalted and honored in prophecy; He shows us that He knows the future and the events that are yet to come. And third: the reason for the prophecy is for our encouragement and our assurance and our comfort, because we live in a dark world. Do you ever consider these things? God’s people fall into tragedy because of the judgments of God upon the world.
Take these four Hebrew children: Daniel, and Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego [Daniel 1:6-7]. Take those four Hebrew children, weren’t they fine? They honored God, yet they are slaves. They’re captives in Babylon. Why? Because of the sins of Judah and because of the sins of the king and because of the transgression of the people [2 Kings 24:2-4], yet, those are the finest boys that mind could imagine. And when the judgment of God fell upon Jerusalem [2 Kings 24:13-14], and the judgment of God fell upon Judah [2 Kings 24:2-4], and the people were destroyed [2 Chronicles 36:17], and many of them carried in to captivity [2 Chronicles 36:20], those four marvelous boys went down under that same judgment [Daniel 1:1-7].
And the judgments of God that fall upon this sinful earth fall upon us too. The righteous suffer with the wicked. And that’s why the righteous lift up their voices and say, “Where is God?” and, “I don’t understand, I can’t see.” That same thing was true of the whole nation of Israel. God blessed Abraham and promised him [Genesis 12:1-3, 15:4-5], and God blessed Isaac and promised him [Genesis 26:1-5], God blessed Jacob and promised him [Genesis 28:3-5], God blessed David and promised him, they should have a king and a nation and a kingdom forever. God promised them. And then 722 [BC] came along, and the northern ten tribes were destroyed and carried to captivity [2 Kings 17:3-6]. Then in 587 [BC], along came the Babylonians and destroyed the southern two tribes and carried them away captive [2 Chronicles 36:20]. And when finally they rebuilt the nation in 70 AD the whole nation was destroyed and ceased to exist. So the people of God, the righteous people of God have a right to say, “Lord we don’t understand and we don’t see. These things have befallen us, and the judgments of God are upon us, and we ourselves are in suffering.” Well, God has to reply. We need an answer. “What is happening Lord, and we don’t understand why the suffering and why the tragedy that has befallen us?” And so God writes it here in the Book that we might have encouragement [Romans 15:4].
God reveals His will to us who love Him, and read and love this Holy Book. God says things to us even though we may be a part of the judgment of God upon a sinful America. And it’s going to come someday. God forever will not allow America to forget Him, to blaspheme His name. There’s a judgment coming. And when those judgments come, and they come in individual lives, and they come in homes and families, they’ll come everywhere, “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. And God put that link together and judgment comes. And when it comes, we’re caught up in it.
“Then Lord, what about us? And what is God doing and what of the future?” Well, the Lord writes it out here on the page for our comfort. And what a comfort it is. Now you look at it. God puts the prophecy here for us to look at, and we can test it. We’ve got two thousand six hundred years of history to test the prophecy that God gave here in the second chapter of Daniel [Daniel 2:1-45]. And our comfort is this. If part of it has already been fulfilled, that’s an earnest and a harbinger and a promise that the rest of it is going to be fulfilled.
Now let’s take this second chapter just briefly and look at it. What he saw was that head of gold and said, “That is the kingdom, Babylon” [Daniel 2:32, 38]. Then what he saw was the breast and arms of silver, and he said, “That is the Medo-Persian Empire” [Daniel 2:32, 39]. Then he saw the thighs of brass and said, “That is Greece” [Daniel 2:32, 39]. And then he saw the legs of iron and said, “That is Rome” [Daniel 2:33, 40]. Then he saw iron and clay in the feet and the toes [Daniel 2:33, 41-43]. Now you have got two thousand six hundred years of history to test it. Is it true? Is it true? Did it come to pass? Two thousand six hundred years, we can look at it. It is exactly that!
First there was the Babylonian kingdom, which is the one he started with. Then there was the Medo-Persian [Daniel 2:39]; then there was the Greek [Daniel 2:38]; then there was the Roman [Daniel 2:41-43]. Then he said there shall never be another worldwide kingdom [Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45]. Now you’ve got two thousand six hundred years to look at it. Has there ever been a worldwide kingdom since Rome? Time and again have they tried to establish a world dominion. The Bavarians who sacked Rome tried and they failed. The Arabs tried and they failed. Napoleon tried and he failed. And Hitler tried and he failed. And the world of communism is trying it today, and they’re going to fail. Just look at it. Just look at it, just like it says there in the Book.
And Daniel said that at the end time these nations will be divided. And I would suppose since the rest of it is literal, we’ll get literal right down there into those toes [Daniel 2:33, 41-43]. There’s going to be two great ideologies at the end time represented by these nations that are on one side and these nations that are on the other side. And I am seeing that today, the great nations of democratic order and political life, the democracies, and the nations that are likewise tremendous, like the giant China that’s awakening and the giant Russia that’s coming into modern life; these are the totalitarian nations, and there are those two great ideologies.
Two thousand, six hundred years, just to see if the prophecy comes to pass. All right, if I see that the prophecies come to pass, testing it by history what God would say, then can’t I have the assurance that the rest of it is going to be fulfilled? Can’t I? For it says here that at the end time a great stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and smote those political governments on the feet, and it became a great millennial kingdom itself, the kingdom of Christ [Daniel 2:34-35]. And in the seventh chapter it says in his vision he saw the Son of Man:
One like unto the Son of Man, the Son of Man come to the Ancient of Days;
and there was given to Him a kingdom, and dominion, and power,
and glory forever and ever and ever
Can’t I believe that? Can’t I believe that? The first part of it’s been fulfilled. Cannot I, because of that assurance and earnest pledge, can’t I believe the rest of it? That’s why the prophecy is given; for our encouragement. We’re not going to lose. We’re not going to fail. God’s Word will faithfully be kept down to the last promise and syllable in that Book.
Just like the first coming of Christ; how many little old tiny details of the prophecy were fulfilled in the first coming of Christ? Well, if the prophecy was true in the first coming of Christ and fulfilled to the smallest detail, can’t I believe the same prophecy when it speaks of the second coming of our Lord in power and great glory? [Matthew 24:30]. It’s written for our assurance. Just like we know Jesus in this life, we can test Him and try Him. He is in our hearts, and we can pray to Him, and we can feel He listens. Then can’t I have the same assurance that the same Lord God will see me through in the next life? That’s why it’s written large here on the page for our comfort and for our assurance. Whatever happens, whatever judgment falls, whatever comes, the people of God have a promise from the Lord: He is going to see us through [Hebrews 4:15].
Like Jesus said, “Be of good cheer, little children, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” [Luke 12:32]. You’re going to have it. You’re going to have it. God’s going to give it to you. So we’re going to trust the Word. We’re going to read the prophecy. We’re going to see the vision. And having the assurance in that part of it’s already fulfilled just like God said [Acts 3:18], we’re going to have the full assurance the rest of it’s going to be fulfilled just like God says in the same Book [Matthew 5:18]. We are believing in the faithfulness of the Almighty God who spoke the Word [1 Thessalonians 5:24].
This week, while I was preparing this sermon, this week I had a long distance telephone call from a young man in Chicago. He told me his name and who he was. He said I had never heard of him. But he talked so fine, he used splendid language and English; and he just seemed so fine. And here’s what he called me about. He’d had an experience of conversion when he was eleven years of age, and he’d given his heart to the Lord. And God have forgiven his sins, and he was baptized. But some people up there had gotten a hold of him and were questioning the authenticity of his conversion, and they found it faulty.
So he said, “I’m in such distress that I have come to you. Can you tell me whether I’m saved or not?”
“Well,” I said, “Son, did you trust the Lord? Did you?”
He said, “I did the best I know how.”
“Well,” I said, “Let’s take John 1:12, ‘Came unto His own and His own received Him not, but to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name’” [John 1:11-12]. I said, “Son, you quit examining yourself, because that’s a discouraging thing anytime, any point in your life. You quit looking at yourself because that’s defeat and weakness.” I said, “Get your eyes on Jesus, and accept His word and His promise. And if you awaken at two o’clock in the morning that promise is still there, and down to old age and death that promise is still there. And don’t look to yourself, or don’t try to measure it by whether you had a certain kind of experience or not; but measure your conversion by God’s faithfulness, and you’ll have peace and rest because His Word doesn’t change [Psalm 119:89; Hebrews 13:8]. And no syllable of it will fall to the ground. ‘The flower may fade, and the grass may wither, but the Word of God shall stand forever’ [Isaiah 40:8].” I said, “You base your hope on that, on God’s promise and God’s Word, and you’ll have peace in your heart forever.”
Well the young fellow burst out into a sob over the telephone, just hear him cry. “Oh,” he said, “thank you, thank you, thank you.”
That’s what we base our lives upon. That’s why we have assurance. That’s why we are comforted and strengthened. Whatever the vicissitudes and fortunes of life, God and God’s Word and promise do not fail.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His blessed Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flames shall not hurt thee;
When we get to the third chapter of Daniel and the fiery furnace:
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I’ll never, no never desert to it’s foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
[from “How Firm A Foundation”; George Keith,1787]
“For the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof is sure” [Daniel 2:45]. That’s why, in the passage you read, Peter said, “We have a more sure word of prophecy” [2 Peter 1:19], God’s unfailing promise.
Well, I just get so glad thinking about these things I want to cry, I want to shout. I want to shake hands. And I want to I don’t know what. I just feel full and so blessed when I get to thinking about the things of the Lord.
Now we must sing our hymn of appeal, and a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, into that aisle and down here to the front, come now. Make the decision in your heart now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. “Here I am, pastor, going to do it today, to pray, to serve, to love God with you and this dear congregation. I’m on the way and here I am.” Do it, while we stand and while we sing.