In the Last Days
March 16th, 1975 @ 8:15 AM
IN THE LAST DAYS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-16-75 8:15 a.m.
As you know, I am so inordinately proud of our teenage, our older teenage choir, the Chapel Choir, that presides over the praise service at this early hour. I just want you to do one thing for me: you see those empty seats there, see them there? I always feel let down when I look at that. I count on you, depend on you; you do a great work for our Lord in coming here, to lead our congregation in these songs and hymns of glory and praise, and God be good to you as you do it.
On the radio, we are sharing together the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled In the Last Days. We are expounding the book called the prophecy of Isaiah, the longest book in the Bible. And having delivered four messages on the first chapter, we are now beginning chapter 2. And the encouragement that has come to us this week in the presence of our School of the Prophets makes the pastor in his soul long to do better for our blessed Lord. Next year, I look for us to have a thousand of these men and their wives and their staff members. It is truly, truly one of the great weeks of our Christian life. We have had a great time studying together, listening together, talking together, learning together. And next year it will be even better and greater when we come back and assemble here in convocation again.
This is the reading of the text: “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days,” and that is the subject of the sermon, “it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house,” and a mountain in Scripture stands for a kingdom, “It shall come to pass in the last days, that the kingdom, the mountain of the Lord’s house, shall be established in the top of the mountains”; that is, above all the kingdoms of the earth, “and shall be exalted above the hills,” the little kingdoms, the little nations, “and all the peoples of the world, all the kingdoms and empires and nations of the world shall flow unto it” [Isaiah 2:1-2]; shall receive their life, and strength, and guidance, and direction from it.
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the throne of God, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
As we begin, as we begin these messages, remember one of them was on the background against which Isaiah delivered the prophecies of the Lord; this is the vision which he saw in the days of kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, the kings of Judah [Isaiah 1:1]. And for us to understand the prophecy, it must be considered against the background of the day in which Isaiah delivered the word of the Lord; so for a moment, how is it that this vision came to the prophet and what was the providence, the turn of fortune that brought the word of God to his heart?
Briefly, it was this. Uzziah was one of the able administrators and mighty monarchs of the house of Judah. It was in the days of the prosperity and enlarged kingdom of Uzziah that Isaiah as a youth grew up [Isaiah 1:1]. This wonderful gifted and righteous king Uzziah won back for Judah the port of Elath on the Red Sea, built a navy, entered into commercial commerce with the Far East. The land was great, it was prosperous, it was enlarged [2 Chronicles 26:2, 6-15]. Uzziah was followed by his son Jotham [Isaiah 1:1; 2 Chronicles 26:23]; and far beyond a half a century were the policies of Uzziah, building, contributory, toward the greatness of the kingdom. Jotham inherited his father’s ability and he followed his father’s policies. He himself was a good and a righteous man of God. And in the days of those two kings, Uzziah and Jotham, in the days of Isaiah the prophet, the kingdom prospered and the people were blessed. Then in one of those strange turns of life, Jotham’s son, Ahaz, came to the throne [Isaiah 1:1]. A sorrier and a worse ruler could hardly have been found. He stepped to the throne as a youth from the midst of the harem [2 Kings 16:2]. He was a spoiled and petulant child, and his administration was as the superstition of an untaught woman. And the kingdom fell from majesty and glory into a leper’s grave. That is why Isaiah says: “As for My people, children are their oppressors,” their king is one, “and women rule over them,” not in strength, in administrative ability, but in untaught superstition, “O My people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” [Isaiah 3:12].
Isaiah was a city preacher. He identified with urban life. And his patriotic love for Jerusalem and for Judah knew no bounds. What Athens was to Demosthenes, what Rome was to Caesar, what Florence was to Dante, Jerusalem was to Isaiah, and to see the country fall into degradation and destructive despair brought infinite hurt and sorrow to his soul: “For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen; their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of His glory” [Isaiah 3:8]. What an amazing phrase: “to provoke the eyes of His glory.”
When I look then at the introduction of the vision: “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw” [Isaiah 1:1], there’s far more in that word “saw” than just our word of a past tense of “see.” “Saw,” the Hebrew word is like this: in the splitting and in the piercing, a man is able to see through and beyond. That is the word that is used here, and the background of the delivery of the message becomes immediately apparent. As Isaiah stands in the presence of Ahaz, weak, vacillating, evil, leprous, as Isaiah stands in the presence of Ahaz [Isaiah 7:3], Ahaz out of a cheap and peripheral fear has invited the winged bull of Asshur to come into his country [2 Kings 16:10-18]. And five times in the life of the prophet Isaiah did the scourge of Assyria destroy Judah [1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Kings 17:5-6, 18-23, 18:13-17; 2 Kings 17:6-23]. And Ahaz secretly has made appeal to Tiglath-pileser for help [2 Kings 16:7-9]. And Isaiah stands before him and pleads, “Look to God, trust in the Lord; in quietness and in confidence, in prayer and in returning, in repentance and in faith be your strength” [Isaiah 7:4, 30:15], and the weak king dissembles [Isaiah 7:12]. And Isaiah says, “Thus saith the Lord, Ask a sign from heaven, above, beneath, ask it, that God will stand by you” [Isaiah 7:11], and the weak king, having already decided in his heart to make appeal to Tiglath-pileser [2 Kings 16:7-9], weakly replies, hypocritically with pious words, replies, “I will not tempt the Lord” [Isaiah 7:12]. And it was then that Isaiah lifts up his eyes beyond the weak and vacillating king and sees the great Son of David who will be born: “Then God will give you a sign. A virgin will conceive, and bear a Son; and His name will be called God is with us” [Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23]. Over and beyond the weak and evil king, Isaiah sees “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw” [Isaiah 1:1]: Isaiah sees the great majesty of the coming King [Isaiah 2:1-4].
This prophecy is exactly alike. Isaiah is pleading with Ahaz to follow the God of his fathers, and the faith of the house of David that made Judah great [2 Chronicles 17:3, 34:2], but Ahaz fills Jerusalem with idols [2 Chronicles 28:23]. Strange prophets stand before the altars, and the house of the temple of the Lord is closed [2 Chronicles 28:24-25]. Enemies press them on every side [2 Chronicles 28:5-8]. They have no more strength than ignorant and weak and superstitious women; their oppressors are children [Isaiah 3:12]. Anyone can run over them. They are prey for any attack. And as Isaiah the prophet looks at the degradation and destruction of the kingdom [2 Chronicles 28:19], over and beyond he sees the coming glory of the Lord, and the marvelous King and kingdom that someday will rule over the earth in glory and in righteousness; “In the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established in the top of the mountains of the world, and the whole peoples of mankind will flow into it” [Isaiah 2:2]. The Messiah, God with us [Matthew 1:23], will be our King, and the kingdoms of the earth will live in peace, and in righteousness, and in hope, and in blessedness as the Lord Himself shall reign in Zion, and Jerusalem shall be the center of the government of God’s kingdom in the world [Isaiah 2:3].
Now today I have alike troubles; troubled, despair concerning us and our people and our nation. Our forefathers built here a mighty kingdom. Out of the howling wilderness and out of the rude and desperate frontier they carved a great nation, and God blessed it in righteousness and in prosperity, and God enlarged our borders, and the Lord blessed our people. I am beginning to see the same tragic disintegration in our nation as Isaiah lived to see in his under Ahaz. For alliterative purposes, I’m going to speak of three things that I see as disintegrative and destructive and finally, in despair, overwhelming America like a floodtide.
First, currency: when I was a youth, in the days of the building of our nation, I would often see a yellowback, a yellowback. When I mention a yellowback to our people today, they never heard of it, they never saw it. Yet when I was a youth, a yellowback was as common as that ten dollar bill I hold in my hand. It had a yellow back. What was a yellowback? It was a certificate that could be exchanged for gold, a yellowback, backed by gold. There was another color, a greenback. A greenback was a certificate that could be exchanged for silver. And the currency of the United States was as sound as a dollar. That was an expression, current over the world, “as sound as a dollar”; a yellowback, a certificate of gold; a greenback, a certificate of silver. What I hold in my hand today is a piece of paper, period! It represents nothing. It is backed by nothing. It is founded and built on nothing.
I saw a little quip in a funny paper. A herald comes and announces to the king, “Sir, we can print no more money.” And the king faints. And when he comes to, he asks the herald, “Why can we not print any more money?” And the herald replies, “Sir, we have no more gold.” And the king says, “Oh, I thought you were going to say we had no more paper.” The president of the United States has announced to an all too willing Congress that the budget into which we are preparing to enter will contain a deficit of over fifty-two billion dollars; that’s one billion dollars every week. Our people are so glib in saying the word “billion.” and in thinking of the word “billion.” they don’t realize what the word means. If you had a stack of crisp, new one thousand dollar bills, a stack six inches would be one million dollars. That is a million dollars. One thousand dollar bills, crisp and new, stacked six inches. A billion dollars is that same stack of crisp, new one thousand dollar bills, one hundred twenty-six feet higher than the Washington Monument! That is a billion every week! And the economists say the deficit will be something like one hundred billion instead of fifty-two billion. Every week the budget of the American government is; we will go in debt one billion dollars. What does that mean? That is, we’re calling the printing press to print paper, print it, print it, print it! Why? Because as between taking to our people the discipline of work, work, produce, it is easier for the politician to lift up the telephone and call the printing press of the Treasury Department and say, “Print it, print it, print it!” And the dollar is bringing to America a sure and certain economic collapse! And to see it, the waste, the fiscal irresponsibility of our nation would bring hurt and despair to any man who loved our nation, loved our country.
Welfare is a way of life now, for millions and millions and millions of our people. Try to get them to come down here and work. It is easier, and they make more money, on welfare. There are three generations now who have lived on the largess and the dole of the government. Print it, print it, print it! And America is facing a payday someday. There’s no institution in this world that can live in debt and fiscal irresponsibility and survive. Your home can’t. If you don’t solve the fiscal policies of your home, I don’t care how much you love one another, it’s headed for the rocks. If you don’t solve the fiscal responsibilities at the bank, you go bankrupt. If you don’t solve the fiscal responsibilities of the store, you’re going into the wall. The government is no different, and our government is facing an ultimate disaster! The currency, alliteratively, as I look over and beyond what our forefathers did in building our nation, I cry, I hurt in its disintegration.
Crime, crime, any nation, any city, any government can have just as much crime as they like, as they desire. You can get rid of it or you can be ridden by it; it’s the choice of the people. When I used to go to Times Square, until the wee hours of the morning, you’d see people there by the thousands and the thousands—the great white way, the Broadway shows, and the people milling around by the thousands and the thousands and the thousands. You go back to Times Square today, and it is empty, it is ratty, it is dirty, it is filthy, it is decayed. Why? It’s a rendezvous of the mugger, and the dope-pusher, and the pimp, and the procurer, and the prostitute, and the murderer, and people are afraid to visit Times Square in the evening. The bleeding heart for the criminal and the violent has brought a destruction to our courts and our judiciary system that is appalling.
Poignantly, traumatically did I find that in my own life one time. In the church there was an affluent family whose son had shot in cold blood the president of the First National Bank in an attempted robbery, and they sent him to the state penitentiary in Oklahoma. The parents of that son and the leading members of the church came to me and said, “The governor of the state, Governor Robert Kerr, is a great Baptist, and he’s a great Sunday school teacher. Go and make appeal that this boy be pardoned.” Not knowing, not realizing, having never thought it through, I went to the capital city and made appointment with the governor. And with the parent’s of the boy and with some of the leading members of the church, I made appeal to the governor that the boy be pardoned. And when I sat down after that appeal, there arose a silver-headed, white-headed man. Never can I forget the looks of that man. His hair was as white as the driven snow. By his side sat an older woman in black; her hat was black, her dress was black, her hose were black, her shoes were black, in solid black. That silver-headed, white-headed lawyer stood up and turned to the governor and said, “I know you’ve heard the plea of the pastor, but sir, but sir, when that boy shot down in cold blood the president of the bank, he left behind this widow to live the rest of her life in sorrow and in tears. And when we came to trial, when I was getting ready to ask for the electric chair, the father and mother who sit here by the side of the pastor, the father and mother said to me and to the court, ‘If you let our boy live, he can remain in the penitentiary the rest of his life, and we will never make appeal for his pardon, just don’t take his life.’ And I listened to the appeal of the father and mother, and we asked for a life sentence only, and it was given to the boy. And now their pastor comes and makes appeal to you that the boy be pardoned. Sir,” said the lawyer, “look at the sorrow and the tears of this woman who has been widowed and crushed by the cruel bloodthirsty hand of that boy.” When I walked out of that office, I said, “By the grace of God, they’ll never maneuver me in such a position until I die, never again!” That is the bleeding heart that wishes to mollify and coddle the criminal; and he proliferates in the earth and is beginning to destroy and to disintegrate our social order.
I have a friend who just went to New York City. I talked to him the other day. His boy was mugged; he’s a teenager, a young teenager. His boy was mugged on the way to school, and he went to the police and said, “What a come to pass that my boy cannot even walk to school without being attacked by robbers and beaten!” And the police said, “Sir, you must always give mug money to your boy. He must always have two or three dollars in his pocket, and when he’s mugged, when he’s attacked, he’ll have a little something to give the robbers, and they won’t beat him up. Mug money, he therefore must carry.” Nor does the police say, “By God’s grace this goes no further, this stops!” No, the police say you must have mug money, for the social order of American life includes muggery, violence, robbery, murder, blood.
I was, a few days ago, in Chicago. In the middle of the city, a tall skyscraper; I wanted to see a man in an office up there, and without thinking, I walked to the skyscraper. A man in uniform, with a gun on either side, stopped me. “What are you going to do?” I said, “I was just walking to the elevator to go up into the building.”
“You can’t do that.” Well, I said, “I want to see such and such man up there.” Well, he said, “You stand here.” He called up there and asked that man if he was looking for somebody that looked like me. Man never had seen me, so he described me, who I was. And the man said, “Yes.” I finally got to the elevator, just to the elevator. I missed the place, I wanted to ask where it was, and the door was locked and barred. And through the glass I hammered on the glass, and they had a machine there that’d unlock it. I stuck my head in and asked where such and such place and they said, “Over there.” So I went over there and I couldn’t get in. I beat on the door, and a man came to the door and said, “Who is it?” And I described who I was, and then he unbarred the door. That is business in a crime infested and crime ridden America! They said to me, “You want to see the streets of a great city at night?” I said, “Yes.” So they took me in the middle of the loop to Marshall Fields, and they said, “Look around you: it is deserted. Not a soul on the streets of a city of seven million people.” I said, “Where are the people?” They replied, “They are afraid to come. And when they get off from work, immediately they escape, lest they be murdered, lest they be mugged, lest they be robbed and beaten!” And the great city of Chicago is an empty tomb at night. What did I see in the heart of the city?
I saw X-rated movies by the rows and pornographic stalls by the dozens. There is a deacon in our church named Jack Hamm. He’s tried to mount a one- man vigilante posse against pornography, and has it that he’s picked up on the streets of Dallas by the stacks. Sodomy with little boys, little boys used for sodomitic purposes, pictured, pictured, pictured, and all of the rest that goes into a life of depravity and destruction. So they war against such pornography, and they take it to the courts, and they take it to the courts, and it finally reaches the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court says, “We are unable to define pornography!”
“But sir, look at this. These are little boys that are being used for purposes of sodomy! This is pornography!” And the Supreme Court replies, “But sir, we do not know. We are unable to define pornography”—the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
I listened to a great city’s police force, and they were being asked, “Why don’t you close up these X-rated movies in these districts where our people live? Why don’t you close them up?” And the policeman replied in an interview, “Sir, we raid the thing, we confiscate the cameras, we confiscate the projectors, we confiscate the film, we close it up. We’ve done it for months and years. They take it to court; we have never won the case yet, not one.” Why? Because when it reaches the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court says, “We don’t know what pornography is! We don’t know what it is. We can’t define it.” But look at this: here is a prostitute, committing sodomy at the same time she’s in prostitution, in group sex; that is pornography. And the Supreme Court of the United States says, “We don’t know, we can’t define it.”
Let me tell you what is happening to America. In the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians, defining the mystery of iniquity and the revealing of the man of sin, Paul says, “Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved; for this cause God sent them strong delusion that they should believe a lie” [2 Thessalonians 2:10-11]. The Supreme Court of the United States, nine men who are supposed to be versed in the law, say, “We cannot define it. We don’t know what it is.” And the country is buried in a flood tide, and a flood tide of evil and seduction and lust.
I have to close. Do you live in despair? Do you live in infinite sorrow and hurt? No, this is the Christian: over and beyond the puerility of the Supreme Court, over and beyond the politicians who are leading our nation into fiscal disaster, over and beyond the flood tide of crime that is turning our great cities into jungles of fear and horror, over and beyond, look, look, there’s a great day coming. “And it shall come to pass in the last days” [Isaiah 2:2], my brother, it will not be this way forever. There is coming a time when God shall intervene. God shall come down out of heaven, and He shall establish His kingdom in the earth, and King Jesus will be Lord over all the nations of the globe, King Jesus [Revelation 19:15].
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
[“Solid Rock,” by William B. Bradbury and Edward Mote]
I may look at our government and be so full of despair I don’t know where to turn. I may look at our cities and be so full of fear I don’t know how to do. I may look at an America that our forefathers bled and died for and see it pawned off to the welfare parasite and to the cheap politician. But lift up your eyes: there’s a great day coming, there’s a great King who’s preparing [Zechariah 9:9], and there’s a Holy Spirit who is calling out a people for His name [Acts 15:14]. The triumph and the victory and the glory belong to those who look up in prayer, in expectancy, in faith, in quietness, in assurance, and in hope; King Jesus is coming [Zechariah 9:9]. He is on the way. And the darker these nights, the more assuredly will He certainly soon come. “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely I come quickly. Even so, come, blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus” [Revelation 22:20].
Our time is so far spent. To give your heart to the faith, to give your life to the Lord, to bring your family into the circle and circumference of those who love Jesus, come, come, come. Welcome. Come. The kingdom is for you! The doors are wide open for you! The promises of God are for you! Come. Out of the balcony, the top row of the last seat, time and to spare yet, come. Into that aisle and down to the front, come. “Here I am, preacher, I’ve made the decision in my heart, and here I come.” Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The background against which Isaiah
delivered his prophecy
A. Isaiah grew up as a
youth under Uzziah
B. Unable and ungodly,
young Ahaz came to the throne (Isaiah 3:12)
C. Isaiah’s sorrow over
fall of the city and nation (Isaiah 3:8)
II. The judgment of God upon America today
1. Backed by
1. A nation
chooses how little or how much
Supreme court refuses to define pornography (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11)
1. Unwilling to
resist encroachments of communism