In the Last Days
March 16th, 1975 @ 10:50 AM
IN THE LAST DAYS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-16-75 10:50 a.m.
We welcome you who are listening on radio and watching on television to the services of the First Baptist Church, and this the pastor bringing the message from Isaiah entitled In The Last Days. Having delivered four messages on the first chapter of Isaiah, we have come to the second chapter, and the reading of the text is this:
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house—
and a mountain in Scripture represents a kingdom, a nation—
it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain, the kingdom of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, exalted above the kingdoms and nations of the earth. And shall be exalted above the hills, above the smaller kingdoms and nations. And all the peoples of the earth, all the nations of the earth shall flow unto it.
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, let us go up to the mountain, to the kingdom, to the throne of the Lord, 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.
[Isaiah 2:1-3, 5]
One of the messages that I prepared from the first verse was the background against which Isaiah delivered his prophetic message. And without an understanding of that background, we cannot enter into the depths of the meaning of the word of God that was delivered through him. So he started off, “The vision of Isaiah which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” [Isaiah 1:1].
Isaiah grew up as a youth under Uzziah, a good king and able administrator, a man of wonderful consecration and genius. Under him, the borders of the land were extended. He won back the port of Elath on the Red Sea, built a navy and carried on merchandising commerce with the Far East. His policies were blessed of God as he walked in humility before Jehovah, the Lord. Uzziah was followed by a worthy son named Jotham, and Jotham inherited the abilities and followed the national policies of his father. And under the hand of Jotham as under the hand of Uzziah, the kingdom was greatly blessed. The people lived in prosperity and in peace, and the hand of the Lord was with them. It was in those days that Isaiah lived as a young man, and it was in those days that he was called to be a messenger of the Lord.
But Jotham, in one of those strange and inexplicable providences of life, Jotham was followed by a son, his son, who of all men were unable, and unworthy, and unfit, and ungodly. [Ahaz] as a young man, very young, came to the throne from the harem. He was a petulant and a spoiled child; he governed in the ignorance and superstition of an untaught woman, and the country decayed. As Isaiah described it, “As for My people, children are her oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.” [Isaiah 3:12]
The glorious, magnificent kingdom of Judah that Isaiah knew under Uzziah and Jotham fell in disintegration into a leper’s grave. As the prophet said, “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]. But a tragedy to overwhelm the Holy City and the sacred nation brought untold sadness and sorrow to the heart of the young patriarch. Of all things, Isaiah loved the city and loved the nation; he was of all things a great patriarch, and what Athens was to Demosthenes, what Rome was to Caesar, what Florence was to Dante, Jerusalem was to Isaiah. And to see the city and the nation fall into disintegration and into disaster and into destruction brought grief unspeakable to his heart.
And he says, “Thus do they say, and thus do they do to provoke the eyes of the glory of the Lord” [Isaiah 3:8]. What a strange phrase: “to provoke the eyes of the glory of the Lord.” You see, my text begins, “The vision that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem” [Isaiah 1:1]. “Saw”: to us, that is just a plain little past tense of the verb “see,” but when you look at that word as Isaiah used it, the word “saw,” it is a word that means to split, to cleave, and to see through and beyond. And this is the vision that came to the prophet as he beheld before him the weak and the vacillating and the wicked king Ahaz [2 Kings 16:1-4], as Isaiah stood before Ahaz, knowing that Ahaz, in a time of national exigency, had turned to Tiglath-pileser, the cruel and merciless king of Assyria [2 Kings 16:7-9]. And no less than five times was the bitter and ruthless soldiers, mercenaries of the winged bull of Asshur let loose on the kingdom of the Judah. The days of the prophet were lived in dread of that awesome and monstrous and ravaging power. And there he stands before Ahaz who secretly has made a covenant, and thus invited Tiglath-pileser to come down into Judah [2 Kings 16:7-9].
And Isaiah pleads with the king saying: “Trust in the Lord. Look to God. In returning and in rest and quietness and confidence be your strength” [Isaiah 7:4, 30:15]. And Ahaz would not. And the prophet said: “Thus saith the Lord, ask any sign in heaven above or in earth beneath that I will be with you and strengthen you and give you victory” [Isaiah 7:10-11]. But the pusillanimous and hypocritically pious king—having already determined in his heart to seek refuge in Tiglath-pileser [2 Kings 16:7-9]—says: “I will not tempt the Lord” [Isaiah 7:12]. It was then that Isaiah saw above and beyond the weak and vacillating and compromising king, he saw a vision of the coming of the Lord. “A virgin shall be with child and bring forth a Son, and His name shall be called God With Us” [Isaiah 7:14]. And in His day, the people will dwell safely, and Jerusalem will be exalted, and God shall be King over all the earth” [Zechariah 14:9-11].
Now my text is that same likeness again, looking at Ahaz—who filled the Holy City with idols, who brought strange and heathen prophets to stand before pagan altars, who shut up and closed the temple of the Lord God, and who gave his children to be burned in the fire before Molech [2 Kings 16:2-4, 10-18]; who sowed Jerusalem with blood and disaster, and brought enemies who ravaged his people like the prey [2 Kings 16:5-6]—looking over fallen Jerusalem and destroyed Judah, beyond the king and the failing kingdom, he [Isaiah] saw the vision of the Lord God in the last days [Isaiah 2:1-22]. When Christ, the King of glory, shall come down to dwell among men, and the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be exalted above the kingdoms of the earth [Isaiah 2:2], and all of the nations of mankind shall flow unto it; when out of Zion shall go forth the law—wisdom and righteousness and justice—and when peace and the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth like the waters cover the sea [Isaiah 2:3-4, 11:9]; that is the vision of Isaiah that he saw in the last days, looking over and beyond the disintegrating and destroyed nation to the great kingdom of the majesty and righteousness and glory of the Lord [Isaiah 2:1-22].
In a like way and in a like manner do I do a like thing today: I am troubled beyond any way I can describe it, and fear grips my heart as I have never beheld fear before for my nation, and my people, and our beloved America. There is a disintegration and there is a destruction and there is a judgment of God that is beginning to visit America that spells the demise and the loss of our beloved country.
I have included them under three alliterated words. First, I speak of the currency; I speak of the economic life of our people. I hold in my hand a ten dollar bill. When I was a youth, when I was growing up as a boy, circulated among the people were bills on the back of which were yellow—they were yellow backs, that is, they could be exchanged for ten dollars in gold. The yellow back certificate was a gold certificate. When I speak to a youth today of a yellow back certificate, he never heard of it, much less saw it. Also when I was growing up, there were greenbacks; the greenback was supported by silver, it was a certificate of silver. If I had a yellow back in my hand, it represented that much gold. If I held a greenback in my hand, it represented a certificate, a demand deposit for that much silver. When I hold this thing in my hand, it is worth nothing more than the piece of paper out of which you might kindle a fire. It is backed, it is supported by nothing! Our great economic strength has been drained and zapped until our currency is backed by nothing.
I read a little cartoon. A herald comes before the king and says, “Your Majesty, Your Majesty, we can print no more money.” And the king faints. When they bring him to, he said, “Why can you not print more money?” The herald announces, “Sir, we have no more gold.”
“Oh,” said the king, relieved, “I thought you were going to say we have no more paper.” The president of the United States announces to an all too willing Congress the fiscal budget of the United States government will be, this coming fiscal year, $52 billion in debt! And the economists say it will be closer to $100 billion in one year. We’re so glib in speaking that a billion dollars to us is just almost nothing, the way we speak.
Listen, this is the difference between a million and a billion: if you had thousand dollar bills, crisp and new, and stacked them up—a stack of crisp, new thousand dollar bills for a million dollars would be six inches high—a million dollars would be six inches high, of crisp new one thousand dollar bills. But a billion dollars is a stack of crisp new one thousand dollar bills, one hundred twenty-six feet higher than the Washington monument; that’s the difference between a million and a billion. And the government announces, in this year alone we will go in debt $52 billion and more likely $100 billion. What is that? It is a telephone conversation to the United States Treasury: “Print an extra $52 billion, print it!”
“Oh, but sir, but sir, but that, that destroys the currency of the nation. That destroys the monetary system of the nation. That destroys the economic life of the nation. That robs the poor! That robs the pensioner! That robs the retired! That robs the people!” The government says, “Print it, I say. Print it!” And the printing presses in the Treasury Department at Washington D.C. grinds out these pieces of paper, grind them out and grind them out, and the economic life of a nation founders.
You listen to me, there is no institution under God’s heaven that can live without fiscal responsibility. You say, “I love my wife and I love my home.” If you don’t solve the fiscal policy, the monetary foundation of your home, I don’t care how much you love her, your home is headed for the rocks. If there is a bank that doesn’t have a sound fiscal policy, it is in for bankruptcy. If there is a merchandiser that doesn’t have a fine fiscal responsibility, he’s headed for the wall. And that goes for the government and nation of the United States of America! We are facing an economic disaster, one of the gravest, direst proportions. We have a new philosophy in America: the right to a dole from the government. Welfare now is looked upon as a right.
And there are instances, many of them in America, where there are one, two, three generations that are living on welfare. Beg them to come down here to work. No, it is easier to live on welfare from the government than it is to work! Every time a piece of money is printed, it ought to represent labor. There is ten dollars’ worth of labor that has been poured into our nation, and the ten dollars represents ten dollars’ labor.
Every time a piece of money is printed, it ought to represent something the nation has done to create the wealth. And when they print the money without the labor and without a representative of the wealth increase to the nation, you have what you call inflation—that is, the ultimate destruction of the people, the government, and the economic system. The day is coming in America when you’ll take a wheelbarrow full of money to buy a loaf of bread; it will be worthless, and it is becoming increasingly so with every passing day! And there’s not a politician among us seemingly that has the courage to stand up and say our nation is headed toward disaster! God help us! No, it’s easier to pick up the phone and say to the printing press, “Print it. Print it. Print it, because I have people to face, and they elect me and they want the dole.” It means disaster.
Number two: I look with fear and trepidation upon our America. We are infested with and ridden by a wave of increasing darkness of crime, and violence, and robbery, and blood. Any nation can have just as much crime as it chooses to have. You can have none of it, if you choose, or you can be drowned in it, as we are, if you choose. It’s up to the nation; they choose how much crime they want. In New York, I can remember when Times Square was a rendezvous for thousands and thousands of Americans. When you think of America, you’d think of Times Square; the great white way, the Broadway theaters, and the people there by the thousands and the thousands until the wee hours of the morning—walking unafraid, walking in liberty and freedom, walking in gladness and joy—Times Square in New York. Go to Times Square now! It’s deserted, it’s dirty, it’s filthy, it’s ragged! What has happened? Deserted and forsaken, it’s a rendezvous now of murderers, and muggers, and robbers, and violent men—the pusher, the dopester, the pimp, the procurer, the prostitute—nobody goes there. They’re afraid. They’re afraid.
One of my friends recently moved to New York City, and on the way to school, his boy was mugged and beat. And he went to the police, and the police said, “You don’t understand life in New York. You must keep your boy always with mug money. He must always have two or three dollars in his pocket for the mugger, so that when he’s attacked he’ll have something to give them, and they won’t beat him up, because if your boy doesn’t have mug money then they’ll beat him up.” And the police never say, “By the grace of God, this is enough! You can’t have our teenagers beat up as they go to school. That has to stop!” No, the word of the police is, “Keep your boy supplied with mug money, so that when he’s attacked and beat up he has money to give the robber and the violent.” This is America.
I went to Chicago. In the middle of the Loop, a tall skyscraper; I wanted to talk to a man. I had called him on the phone up there in the building. I never thought any such thing. I just started walking to the elevator. I was stopped by a man with a gun on each side.
“What’s are you going to do?”
I said, “Why, I was going to go up in the elevator.”
“What’s you going to do? Who are you going to see? You can’t do that.”
“You can’t go up in the elevator, a great public skyscraper?”
“No, what’s your business?”
So I told him. He went to the phone, kept me under guard, went to the phone. He called up there to that floor; this guy, the fellow in there that had seen me, described me to him. “All right. Let him in.” Pass the guard to an “open public” skyscraper in the middle of Chicago. Got on the elevator, couldn’t find the place, couldn’t find any door open. I beat on the door and asked where such a thing was. After the door was finally opened, I was directed—beat on the door, locked and barred—and I walked in and I said, “Do you live like this all the time, behind a locked, barred door?”
He said, “If we didn’t lock that door and keep it locked in this great office building, we’d be robbed dozens of times, and violently exposed to God only knows to how much fierce, awesome attack!” This is in Chicago. This is modern America!
They said, “Would you like to see Chicago at night?”
Well, I said, “Yes.”
So they took me down to Marshall Field in the heart of the Loop. When the evening comes, it is deserted; there is nobody on the street. Why? They are afraid. Men are afraid! Men are! To be in Chicago downtown in the Loop at night, they are afraid, and the city is dead and deserted at night. They are afraid; violence rules the land. What you’ll find is a cluster of interminable X-rated movie and pornographic-literary stalls, picture stalls.
We have in our church a deacon by the name of Jack Hamm, and he’s mounting a one-day crusade against pornography. And in the city of Dallas, he will pick up magazines by the armsful. And here are magazines, magazines, magazines portraying, depicting, presenting sodomy with little boys. So he says, “By the help of God, this is not right!” And they take it to the courts, and the courts go up to the Supreme Court, and it’s laid before the Supreme Court: “Look, these are children, these are boys, and they’re being prostituted by sodomy. This is pornography!” And the nine men on the Supreme Court of the United States says, “We cannot tell. We do not know. We are not able to define pornography. We don’t know what it is,” and refuse to do anything about it. What? Look at this: boys in positions of sodomy—that is pornography! The Supreme Court of the United States: “We do not know. We are unable to define it.”
I listened night before last to a long interview with a police chief in one of the great cities of America, and they were asking him, the people of the city were asking him, “Why don’t you do something about these X-rated movies that are in our neighborhoods? Why don’t you close them up?” And the police, he said, “Sirs, we have done it again and again and again. We have raided those houses, we have confiscated the cameras, we have confiscated the projectors, we have confiscated the films; we have closed them up. They take it to the courts. We’ve never won a case yet. We lose every one of them! Every one of them.” Why? Because the courts take it up and up and up to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court is shown the movie: “Look, these prostitutes, not only in the act of prostitution, but in the act of sodomy, look, look, look!” and the Supreme Court says, “We cannot define pornography, we don’t know what it is,” and the courts refuse to help with the floodtide of filth and dirt and lust that is sweeping America like a fire!
When I think of the Supreme Court of the United States—its chief justice and his nine fellow justices—I think of the word of the apostle Paul in the second chapter of the second Thessalonian letter, describing the mystery of iniquity and describing the working of the man of sin [2 Thessalonians 2:7-9]. Listen: “Because they receive not the love of the truth . . . for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” [2 Thessalonians 2:10-11]. They can’t tell, they don’t know, and the land suffers in a floodtide of filth and dirt; an increasing, overwhelming ocean of it. This is America. This is its judicial system. This is the violence of crime and robbery that overwhelms our people, living like cowering dogs in fear, in dens and dives.
Number three: communism. Last week, I listened to a United States senator say, “We have caused the blood bath in Indo-China, in Southeast Asia; all of that is due to us.” And last night, I heard a United States senator say, “What we should do is invite back to Cambodia the communist prince that was expelled when he was delivering his country to the communist.” This United States senator says, “We must invite him back and bring peace and prosperity to the nation.”
What will that United States senator say when the same thing happens to the Philippines? What will that United States senator say when the same thing happens to the islands of the Pacific? And what would the United States government say if it happened to the islands of the Caribbean? “Surely not Cuba? Why, Cuba is ninety miles—no, not Cuba. Ninety miles from there? No, not Cuba!” The United States helped deliver Cuba to communist Castro. Why, I can remember as though it were yesterday when Castro was dined, and wined, and feted all over America, including our own city of Houston. This is modern America.
If there is any will in us to resist the encroachments of communism, I have not been able to find it! And I wonder what will happen when they take over old Mexico, and we have a border with them for a thousand and more miles? The Soviet Union has enough nuclear powered submarines plying the Atlantic this minute to cut in seconds the lifeline of the United States for whatever it lives by: oil tankers, mineral boats, ore boats, anything. Our people live in a fool’s paradise. Whether we live or die, I think, is being decided not by our government, [but] by the men in the Kremlin.
When they choose, that’s it. “Good Lord, pastor, good God, what do you do?” Over, above, and beyond the destruction of our economic life, over and beyond the increasing floodtide of violence and blood and crime, and over and beyond the increasing victories of the communist world, I see the coming of the glory of the Lord. He will never fail, and these are but signs of His soon return.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean upon His name.
On Christ, the solid Rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
[“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less,” Edward Mote]
Man, you want a foundation upon which to build your home? Do it on Christ. You want a foundation upon which to build your life, do it on Christ. And would to God, you want a foundation upon which to build a nation, do it on Christ. And over and beyond the despair and the weakness of a national government and a judicial system that can find no answer to the awesome needs of our people, Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord and the coming kingdom of Christ our Savior [Isaiah 2:1-5].
O Lord, in youth as in age, in poverty as in affluence, in the night as in the day, we see Thy blessed face. Even so, come, precious Jesus, blessed Jesus [Revelation 22:20]. Our hope is in Him [Titus 2:13].
Our time is far spent, and we sing hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, to give himself to Jesus, to come into the fellowship of the church, to ask God’s blessings upon heart and home and life and destiny and every tomorrow, would you make it now? Would you make the decision now? And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up walking down one of those stairways or walking down one of these aisles: “Today, pastor, I give my life to God. I’m looking to Him, believing in Him, trusting in Him, and here I am.” Do it now. Make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.