May 21st, 1972 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-21-72 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the last message from the long and extended series on Daniel. It would be hard for us to realize how long it has been, for with the sermon today, the fourth volume on the Book of Daniel will be written and published. And the volumes have been published once each year. So this is at the close of four years that we have been looking and studying the prophet Daniel.
The title of the sermon is Nunc Dimittis. That is the Latin translation of the word of aged Simeon when he held the Lord in his arms, and said, “Now lettest thou Thy servant depart” [Luke 2:28-29]. I want us to read together, if you will, the entire passage. Daniel 12, 4-13. This will close the prophecy. Daniel 12, verses 4 through 13, now all of us reading it out loud together. And if you listen on the radio and have your Bible, read it out loud with us. Daniel chapter 12, verses 4 through 13. Now together:
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
Then I Daniel looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on this side of the bank of the river, and the other on that side of the bank of the river.
And one said to the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?
And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by Him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.
And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?
And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.
Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.
But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.
Verse 4, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” [Daniel 12:4]. There the angel says two things to the prophet statesman. One: this is the end of the vision; it is finished, it is complete. This is the vision that began in chapter 10; 10, 11, and 12, this is the final revelation. It is finished [Daniel 10:1-12:13].
Second: when the scroll is rolled up, this time of the end and when it shall come to pass is sealed up in it. “Seal it up,” then the comment, “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” [Daniel 12:4]. That is an expression that you will find in Jeremiah [Jeremiah 5:1], and in Zechariah [Zechariah 4:10], and it refers to the intense and earnest scrutiny of the prophecy; but with all, it is sealed up to the time of the end [Daniel 12:4].
And twice in verse 6 and in verse 8, Daniel asks, “When shall that end time be? [Daniel 12:6, 8]. What shall accompany the consummation of the age? How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” And again, “O Lord, what shall be the end of these things?” [Daniel 12:8] These great movements of history and the interventions of God; what shall be the last one before the end of the age? When shall it be?
And the Lord replies to Daniel, “You cannot know; it is hid in the secrets and in the mysteries of God” [Daniel 12:9]. The end seems to be forever coming, but it never arrives. Daniel wonders at it, and in inquiry asked God to reveal it to him. And twice does the Lord say to him, “Go thy way, Daniel, for the words are closed and sealed,” and again, “But go thy way till the end be: and thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the age” [Daniel 12:13].
God does not choose to reveal it, and no man can know it. The Lord said, kindly, to Simon Peter when he was asking about the end in the twenty-first chapter of John, “What is that to thee? Follow thou Me” [John 21:22]. And in the passage that we read this morning in the tenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, when John sat down to write the utterances of the seven thunders, the Lord said, “Write it not, it is sealed forever in the heart of God” [Revelation 10:3-4]. So, Daniel writes [Daniel 12:4], and says in verse 8, “I heard the vision, but I understood not” [Daniel 12:8]. Is not that an astonishing thing for the statesman prophet to say? “What I write I do not understand. I’m saying words that I cannot comprehend. I saw the vision, but I don’t understand it.”
What about that? “I heard it, I saw it, but I do not understand it” [Daniel 12:5-8]. My reaction is that is the kind of a teacher that we’ve been wanting and needing. The professor who comes before his class, lays down the Book, takes off his spectacles and says, “My dear students, you know as much about this as I do, and I know nothing.” Isaiah wrote it dramatically in Isaiah 29:11-12:
And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed,
which men delivered to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot . . .
And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray: and he saith, I am not learned.
Isn’t that an astonishing thing? Whether the man is learned or unlearned, their both alike: “I cannot understand it.” Oh, I know, there are many, so many who could raise Daniel from the dead and explain to him all of these mysteries, and call him a fool for not seeing it at the time. But there are inexplicables in God that are unfathomable. “I heard, but I understood not” [Daniel 12:8].
May I speak of some of those things? One: the mystery unfathomable, unreachable, incomprehensible of God Himself; no one can be more perplexing than God. It is the glory of God to conceal a thing. The mountain of the truth of God no man can scale. If he could, he would vulgarize it.
The tall steeple and the pinnacle of the church were not made for a man to stand upon. They just point to the infinitude of the great Almighty above us. We can plow the earth, but the sky is reverently to be looked upon and to behold. There are many who think that if they could understand religion that they’d have it.
Religion is not made to be understood. It is not made to be categorized and analyzed and theologized. But religion is a fire in the soul! It’s a Pentecostal outpouring [Acts 2:1-41]. It’s a moving of the forces of God that get hold of our very souls and our lives. The great forces that move and control this earth are always unseen and invisible. The mass of men think that the materialities of life, the dirt and the ground and the planet are the great solid substantial realities. Not so! The true realities, the substantial ones, are always invisible and unseen [Hebrews 11:3]!
I think of the very planets in their orbits. What are the hands that hold them in place? We’re coming now into the summertime. In the great orbit of this earth around the sun, it swings out in wintertime and comes back, it’s closer time and closer yet, and it’s summertime. As it swings in that vast orbit, what are those invisible hands that bring it back? Hands that no man can see, but they are real. It is thus in human life and in our experience.
Plato the philosopher said that the eternities and the realities are the idea, the thought, not the matter. No greater philosophical truth was ever discussed than that. For example, walk down the streets of this city. These great towering buildings, what are they really? If all they are is steel, or iron, or masonry, or brick, or glass, then they are nothing but so many heaps of rubbish. But when you walk down the streets of the city and look at these great towering buildings, what they are is idea; the idea of the architect, the idea of the capitalist that built it, the idea of the construction contractor, the idea of the artist. And they are expressions of the souls of men. So the great moving forces of life are invisible and unseen. They’re of the heart and of the soul, these that move and stir within us.
Beneath the cover of the sod,
The lily heard the call of God
Within its bulb, so strangely sweet,
Answering pulse began to beat
The earth lay darkly damp and cold,
And held the smell of grave and mold
But never did the lily say,
“O who will roll the stone away?”
It heard the call, the call of God—
Invisible and unseen—
And up through prison house of sod,
It came from burial place of gloom
To find its life in perfect bloom.
[from “Fuller Life,” by Mary McGee Snell, 1894]
In this world, in this universe, in this planetary system, in our souls, in our lives there are those invisible forces and they belong to God; the mystery of the presence, and power, and sovereign grace of the Lord.
“I heard, but I understood not” [Daniel 12:8]. The mystery of the Bible; what mind can comprehend it? And what scholar or exegete can explain it? As long as it tabernacles the revelation of God it is an awesome sanctuary. As Paul wrote, “We look through a glass, darkly” [1 Corinthians 13:12]; we can see shadows and outlines; but no man can know fully.
Oh, the mystery of the atonement, the blood sacrifice! [Romans 5:11]. From the first page in the garden of Eden [Genesis 2:8] to the revelation of those who made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:14], the mystery of the atonement. How does the cross of Christ wash our sins away? In my doctoral work, for two years I studied the theological concept of the atonement. And I tell you truly, when I took the final examination, the doctor oral, having studied it two years and having passed it, it seemed to me I knew less about it than when I first began; the mystery of the revelation of the blood sacrifice that washes our sins away [1 John 1:7].
The mystery of the great denouement of the age, the coming of Christ and the millennium [Revelation 19:11-20:15]; many of you are old enough, have been in the church long enough to remember when I preached for two years through the Revelation. When I was in the middle chapters of the Revelation, I thought, “Oh, these are difficult. But when I get to the end of the Revelation, when I start preaching about the coming of the Lord and about the millennium [Revelation 19:11-20:15], and about the new heaven and new earth [Revelation 21:1-22:21], oh, it will be easy.” But when I came to the end of the Apocalypse [Revelation 22:21], I never fell into such perplexing inexplicables in my life! The questions that are unanswered, the mysteries I cannot fathom: “I heard, but I understood not!” [Daniel 12:8].
And the great mystery of iniquity; Paul uses that expression in the second Thessalonian letter and the second chapter; the mystery of iniquity [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. Why does God stand aside, seemingly with vast impervious indifference, and Satan has his day, Satan has his jubilee, Satan seemingly triumphs? Even in this last revelation, “The saints shall be tried, and the wicked shall do wickedly. And the sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate shall be set up [Daniel 12:10-11].
Seemingly, Satan, the power of evil, finds his way in the door, or through the window of the very sanctuary itself, and he destroys the fire on the altar and leaves nothing but cold, dead, white ashes. The power of evil, the triumph of Satan, why? The mystery of evil; in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, Satan is bound for a thousand years [Revelation 20:1-2]. Then the next verse, “And Satan shall be loosed out of his prison” [Revelation 20:3]. Why? Having bound him, having cast him in the abyss, having put him in prison, why doesn’t God leave him there? The mystery of iniquity [2 Thessalonians 2:7]––“I heard, but I understood not” [Daniel 12:8].
Then the final answer; the Nunc Dimittis: “And the angel said, Go thy way, Daniel” [Daniel 12:9]. Then again, “But thou go thy way till the end; for thou shalt rest, and shall stand in thy lot at the end of the days” [Daniel 12:13]. There are four things there I want you to see. Standing before the mysteries of the revelation of God, standing before the impenetrable mysteries of the presence and being of God, standing before the mysteries of the working and the power of evil, there are four things there.
One: reassurance; “Daniel, may it be rest to your heart and quiet to your soul [Daniel 12:9]; for all things are in the sovereign hands of Almighty God, and it shall be well” [Daniel 12:13] . . . “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” [John 16:33]. He says that to you. He says that to His church. He says that to the generation, and He says that to the world. “Leave it in My hands, and trust Me for it. It shall come to pass, and all of the rough places shall be made smooth. And all the crooked places shall be made straight” [Isaiah 40:4]. And He reassured His prophet, the times are in His hands, and He shall bring all things to their ultimate and final and glorious consummation; first; assurance.
Second: rest, rest; “Go thy way, Daniel, and find rest [Daniel 12:12]. Don’t be burdened as though, if you can’t understand and if you can’t see and if you can’t explain, as though God were dead or didn’t live or didn’t care. Rest, Daniel, rest. It is like quietude of heart; trust Me for it, Daniel, trust Me.”
Third: it is release, release. “Go thy way, Daniel, till the end; for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot” [Daniel 12:13]; it is release. It sounds that way. “Daniel, you’re now almost a hundred years old, you’re at least ninety-five years of age. Daniel, you’ve finished that work, the assignment given unto you. You’ve been faithful, now you’re released from these tasks.” Nunc Dimittis, “Let the servant depart in peace and in rest” [Luke 2:29]. “Go thy way, Daniel; you’ve finished your task. Leave it with God.”
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.
[2 Timothy 4:7- 8]
It is release.
And last, fourth: it is recompense. “Go thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand” [Daniel 12:13], isn’t that an amazing thing? “Thou shalt rest,” and then as though after a wonderful night’s sleep, “Thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days” [Daniel 12:13]. May I point out something to you there? “Thou shalt stand in thy lot at the end of the age” [Daniel 12:13]. There are two things there for us. One, the angel believed when he said this to Daniel that there should be a glorious, incomparable restoration of Israel. “For thou shalt stand in thy lot,” that refers to the days of Joshua . . . When “thy lot,” the land of Canaan, was divided to the children of God, each tribe had its lot, and each family in each tribe had its lot [Joshua 14-21].
And at the end time, there shall be the restoration of the family of God, and each shall stand in his lot. As Micah would say, “Each under his vine and under his fig tree; and there shall be none to make him afraid” [Micah 4:4]. Restoration of Israel; “Daniel, at the end time, thou shalt stand in thy lot. Your inheritance will be carefully preserved for you in the Promised Land” [Daniel 12-13]. Just think of that.
Second: what it means for us; Joshua is the Hebrew name for our Savior, Jesus. Joshua are the saved, and our Joshua will someday divide for us our inheritance in the Promised Land of Paradise [Isaiah 53:12]. Here we have just enough land, just enough space, just enough ground, just enough lot in which to bury our dead bones. That’s all we have in this life, and in this planet, and in this earth.
But oh, what an enlarged entrance shall God make for His saints in glory! And there, the Lord will divide for us our inheritances in that Promised Land. You shall have yours, and I shall have mine, and we shall have ours when God divides for us the inheritance of heaven [Isaiah 53:12].
You know, we sing about that so much.
There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar
For the Father waits over the way,
To prepare us that inheritance,
That dwelling place, there
[from “In the Sweet By and By,” Joseph Webster, 1868]
“Thou shalt stand in thy lot at the end of the day” [Daniel 12:13].
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand and cast a wistful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land, where my inheritance, my possessions, lie
O, who will come and go with me, I am bound for the Promised Land
[from, “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks,” Samuel Stennet, 1787]
“Daniel, go thy way [Daniel 12:13]. You don’t understand; wait till the end of the time and all of it will be made clear. Every mystery and inexplicable will be made plain. God Himself shall comment upon the words of His revelation. Rest in it Daniel, go thy way. And at the end time thou shalt stand in thy lot, receiving from God’s own hands the inheritance prepared for you and for those who love our Lord” [2 Timothy 4:8] Thus closes the benedictory words of the angel who revealed to Daniel the mysteries of God [Daniel 12:13].
In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal. In this balcony round, you; on this lower floor, you; among the throng of people who crowd this auditorium this morning; not that I understand, not that I could ever make it plain, but that we do know God. So high, so great, so wonderful, so mighty, so able, so adequate, so sufficient, and in call, in answer, “Here am I, Lord, and here I come.” A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, down one of these stairways, into the aisle and here to the front, “Pastor, today, I have decided for God and here I am. I don’t have all the answers either, but I’m trusting God for it. I don’t know the way clearly, but I believe He does. And I’m following after, in the quiet assurance that what God has promised, He is able to keep, and I’m coming. I’m trusting.” We walk by faith, not by sight [2 Corinthians 5:7]. “For by grace are you saved through faith” [Ephesians 2:8], through trust; “believe and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:30-31]. It is always that, it is, “Look and live” [John 3:14-16; Numbers 21:8-9]. It is, “Wash and be clean” [2 Kings 5:10-13; Revelation 7:14]. It is, “Believe, trust, and be saved” [John 3:16]. “And here I come, pastor, here I am.” Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE FINAL MYSTERIES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Shut up and sealed
II. How long to the end?
A. End always appears to be at hand
B. Not revealed, must wait
III. Heard but not understood
A. A grief to Daniel not to be able to understand
B. Tells us with great frankness
IV. We are not to deny the mysterious and unfathomable
A. The mystery of God
B. The mystery of the Bible
C. The mystery of iniquity
V. Nunc Dimittis – “Now dismiss”
A. Daniel’s lot – reassurance