The Seven Mighty Miracles at the End of the World
July 13th, 1980 @ 8:15 AM
THE SEVEN MIGHTY MIRACLES AT THE END OF THE WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-13-80 8:15 a.m.
And God be good to all of you who over a vast area of the Southwest in which we live are listening to this service on the two radio stations that bear it. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the morning message entitled The Seven Mighty Miracles at the End of the World. This is one out of four that I have delivered, three of whom, three of which are, first, The Seven Mighty Miracles of the Old Testament; the second, The Seven Mighty Miracles of Calvary; the third, The Seven Mighty Miracles of All Time; and the title today, The Seven Mighty Miracles at the End of the World, at the close of human history.
There is much in the Bible about the end of the age, the intervention of God in the life of this world. And seven of them are presented with meticulous care and delineation in the Word of God. So we begin numbering them. First is the rapture. Without announcement, without advertisement, without anything previously known to the world, suddenly God’s people will be raptured out of this earth. That is the first marvelous miracle at the end of the age. Paul writes in I Corinthians chapter 15, verses 51 and 52:
Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be immortalized, changed.
[1 Corinthians 15:51-52]
There is a generation that will never die; they will experience that heavenly metamorphosis from carnality to incarnality, from mortality to immorality, from corruption to incorruption [1 Corinthians 15:53-54]. They will experience that change in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the archangel, at the sounding of the trumpet. Paul speaks of that again in I Thessalonians chapter 4, verses 13 through 18:
The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
[1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]
The first mighty miracle at the end of the world is the rapture of God’s people. Without announcement, just suddenly, they are taken up into heaven.
The symbol of that is found in the fourth chapter of the Revelation: "After this I looked, and behold, a door was opened in heaven: and a voice I heard as of a trumpet, saying, Come up hither" – that’s a symbol of the rapture of the church – "Come up hither, and I will show thee things which are to come after the rapture," meta tauta, the things after the things of the church. "And immediately I was in the Spirit: and in heaven" [Revelation 4:1-2]. In the Book of the Revelation, after the first glorious scene of the glorified Lord [Revelation 1:10-20], then comes chapter 2 and chapter 3, and they present the church age. Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea; all of it is the church age. At the end of chapter 3, the church disappears, and you don’t see it again until the church comes with Christ in chapter 19 of the Revelation [Revelation 19:6-9]. So in symbol, at the end of the third chapter of the Revelation, at the end of the church age, John is taken up through a door into heaven, a symbol of the rapture of the church, taken up into glory [Revelation 4:1-2]; and then follows the second great mighty miracle at the end of the world.
After the rapture [Revelation 4:1-2], which itself is a mighty miracle, the second miracle is the tribulation. In the Revelation chapter 7, verse 14, it’s called tēs thlipseōs tēs megalēs, "the tribulation, the great" [Revelation 7:14]. Matthew 24, verse 21, the Lord in the twenty-fourth chapter of this apocalyptic passage in Matthew, speaks of the great tribulation:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
The second great miracle at the end of the age is the tribulation. This is presented in the Apocalypse, in the Revelation, beginning at chapter 6 and continuing through chapter 19 [Revelation 6:1-19:21]. All of those chapters describe tēs thlipseōs tēs megalēs "the tribulation, the great." And it is presented under these symbols: the opening of the seven seals [Revelation 6:1-17, 8:1], and the blowing of the seven trumpets [Revelation 8:2-11:19]; and the pouring out of the seven vials of wrath [Revelation 15:1-16:21].
For example, to give us just a momentary idea of those awesome days that Jesus says "none like them before, nor ever shall be again" [Matthew 24:21]; in the sixth chapter of the Revelation, the opening of the first seal brings a rider on a white horse, "conquering, and to conquer" [Revelation 6:1-2]. This is that final world dictator called the Antichrist. He is followed, in the opening of the second seal, by a red horse which is the horse representing war, carnage, bloodshed [Revelation 6:3-4]. He is followed by the opening of the third seal; and there appears the rushing rider on a black horse . . . . . . earth [Revelation 6:5-6]. And this is followed by the opening of the fourth seal, which is the appearance of the pale horse; and the rider is called Death [Revelation 6:7-8]. This is followed by the opening of the fifth seal; and this is a scene of those souls in heaven who cry for God to avenge them,on those who have shed their blood in the earth [Revelation 6:9-11]. And the opening of the sixth seal [Revelation 6:12]:
I saw heaven rolled back like a scroll, the stars fall, every mountain and island is moved out of its place, and the kings of the earth, and the great, and the small, hide themselves in the dens and the rocks, crying, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
Isn’t that an unusual symbolism, "the wrath of the Lamb"? [Revelation 6:16]. The meek, lowly, bleating, little helpless lamb, "the wrath of the Lamb,For the great day of His wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?" [Revelation 6:16-17]. This is the second great miracle at the end of the world: the vast awesomeness of these chapters in the Revelation that describe tēs thlipseōs tēs megalēs, "the tribulation, the great."
The third mighty miracle at the end of the age is the intervention of Christ in human history and the battle of Armageddon. The tribulation ends in a world battle [Revelation 19:11-21]. While the church is in heaven, in chapter 19 of the Revelation, from those chapters, from 5 to 19, down in this earth is the tribulation, the pouring out of the judgment of God upon sinful and warring men [Revelation 5:1-19:21]. In the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, Christ comes; the intervention of our Lord in the story of men [Revelation 19:11-21]. It begins with a picture of God’s saints, the church, in heaven [Revelation 19:7-9]. In heaven, the bema of Christ, the judgment of God’s people, the handing out of the rewards for what we’ve done in the days of this flesh [2 Corinthians 5:10]; then the marriage supper of the Lamb, sitting down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God [Revelation 19:6-9]; and while the church is with her Lord in heaven, tribulation is in earth. And the tribulation finds its consummation and climax in what the Bible calls the battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16, 19:17-21]. It might be more fittingly translated and described as "the war of Armageddon." In the midst of that battle, the Lord Christ appears in glory. He intervenes in the battle of Armageddon. And beginning at verse 11 in chapter 19, that battle is described, and the coming of Christ is also presented [Revelation 19:11-21].
There is a great deal in the Bible concerning that battle of Armageddon. You will find it in Revelation 11:15, Revelation 14:17-20, Revelation 16:12, Revelation 16:9 and 6. You’ll find it in Isaiah 63:1, in Ezekiel 38 and 39, in Daniel 2, 7, 9 and 11, in Joel 3, in Zechariah 14; through the Bible, one of the most unusual studies in all God’s world, how often this final great conflict appears in the prophetic Word of God. This is the third mighty miracle at the end of the age: the battle of Armageddon.
Isn’t it an unusual thing that it should be there? From the time that great valley is presented to us in the Bible [Revelation 16:16], until this final conflict, confrontation, it is a scene of constant war. That valley Nazareth is on one side, Megiddo is on this side, the Mediterranean Sea is on that side, and the gorge of the Jordan River is on that side, a great, flat, beautiful plain. One of the things that this chapel choir will have opportunity to see next week is this valley of Armageddon. There, from the beginning of time, the wages of war have been fought. In that valley, Barak and Deborah fought against Sisera. In that valley, Gideon fought against the Midianites [Judges 4:1-24]. In that valley, Saul and Jonathan were slain by the Philistines [1 Samuel 31:1-6]. In that valley, Jehu, with his arrow, slew Ahaziah, the king of Judah [2 Kings 9:27]. In that valley, Josiah and his army confronted Pharaoh Necho and the armies of Egypt, and Josiah was slain [2 Chronicles 35:20-24]. In that valley was the lamentation like unto which no lamentation has ever been known in the world, at Hadad-rimmon, in the valley of Megiddo, weeping over the slain Josiah [2 Chronicles 25:34, Zechariah 12:11]. In that valley the Druse, and the Turks, and Napoleon Bonaparte met confrontation and war. It is in that valley that the last great confrontation of humanity will occur [Revelation 16:12, 19:17-21].
I remember one time lecturing on the top of the mountain of Megiddo. The Megiddo Valley: har is the word for "mountain," Megiddo, the name of the place – Har Megiddo – "the mountain of Megiddo." I remember lecturing for, oh, two hours on top of that mountain. And all the time that I was seeking to speak, the Phantom jets that America had given to Israel were roaring overhead in some kind of battle array, some kind of military exercises. And the roar of those jets sounded to me like the very end of the age.
In the current issue of Newsweek magazine, I tore out this page. The magazine concerns the gathering of the nations around Israel. They don’t name it that; they call it "the gathering of the nations, the build up of the warring nations around the great Gulf of Arabia, around the Gulf of Persia." And as I look at it, it is such a strange thing to me that the nations are gathering around Megiddo: on this side, United States building two air bases for the Israeli Air Force; little further down on this side, twelve United States F-4 fighters arrived this month for ninety day joint exercises with Egyptian Air Force; little further down, 395,000 troops, 1,600 tanks, 663 warplanes belonging to Egypt. Up here to the north are the forces of Russia; and they’re all listed here with their airfields and their naval bases. And all the way around and finally into the gulf, there is the British fleet with five warships and three support ships; the French fleet, with five warships and nine support ships; the United States fleet with thirteen warships, six supports ships, and two carriers; and the Soviet fleet with ten warships and sixteen support ships.
What I read in the daily newspapers and what I read in the news magazines is exactly what I read here in the Book. Written two thousand years ago, the gathering of the nations at Armageddon and the final confrontation will be in that place [Revelation 16:16], and in the midst of that awesome battle, the prophet Isaiah says for two hundred miles that battle rages, and the Revelation says blood is to the bridles of the horses [Isaiah 34:6; Revelation 14:20]. It is so awesome a war that were it not for the intervention of Christ, it would be the end of humanity and the end of the world. And until just in my lifetime, you could not conceive of so vast a carnage; not until the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. And it was then we entered into this age of the possibility of the destruction of this earth. I tacked on to this little page I tore out of Newsweek, I tacked on another article, glued it on up here. And it says, "Thirty-five countries will be able to make atomic weapons within these next immediate years; and nuclear war has become inevitable." These are awesome days in which we’re seeing these prophecies of the Lord fulfilled.
The fourth mighty miracle at the end of the world is the binding of Satan and the millennium. After the tribulation and after the battle of Armageddon [Revelation 19:17-21], at which time Christ intervenes in the history of the world openly and visible [Revelation 19:11-16], then the fourth mighty miracle at the end of the age is the millennium. In the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse:
I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled.
The bottomless pit is, we take the exact Greek word into our English, "abyss." The Greek pronunciation has it abussos, abussos a "u" becomes a "y" when you put it in the English language, abussos, abyss. That’s not hell; the abyss in which Satan is placed for this thousand years is the place, translated here "bottomless pit" [Revelation 20:3], in which some of the angels that fell are in prison awaiting the great judgment day of Almighty God [2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6]. "Hell" is the translation of the Greek word gehenna. There’s nobody in hell yet, nobody. When we die we go either to Paradise, Abraham’s bosom [Luke 16:22], or to torment, tartaros [Luke 16:23]. But the first one cast into hell, gehinnom, is the beast, the second one is the false prophet [Revelation 19:20]; the third one, we will see in a moment, is Satan [Revelation 20:10]; and the fourth are those who choose to identify their life, in rejection of Christ, with Satan. When his kingdom falls, those who follow him fall with him, and they are cast into hell [Revelation 20:11-15].
In this millennium, Satan is bound in the abyss where the evil angels are chained in darkness, and he is bound there for a thousand years [Revelation 20:1-2]. And when we are rid of Satan and his minions, the earth experiences what has been dreamed of from the beginning of time: it experiences a golden age [Revelation 20:1-6]. Mille is the Latin word for "thousand"; annum is the Latin word for "year." So "millennium" is the thousand years. If we had time, we would look at many of the Scriptures that describe it. It is described at length in prophets like Isaiah:
When the wolf shall dwell with the lamb; when the leopard shall lie down with the kid; when the ravenous carnivorous lion will eat straw like an ox; when they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain; when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
The golden age toward which all mankind has dreamed and prayed for and hoped for; it will come some glorious day when evil and Satan are removed from the earth. It will be then that every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord [Philippians 2:10-11]. He will be our visible King, reigning out of His city, the Holy One in Jerusalem, and His followers and disciples and believers will worship Him who liveth forever and ever [Revelation 4:10]. This is the fourth great miracle at the end of the age.
The fifth great miracle at the end of the age is the great white throne judgment. This is the judgment of the wicked dead who are raised to receive the reward of their deeds [Revelation 20:11-15]. You will find two great thrones presented here in the Revelation. In the fourth chapter, when John is raptured up into heaven – a symbol, I say, of the rapture of all of God’s people into heaven – when John is raptured up into heaven [Revelation 4:1], he sees a beautiful throne and Him who sat upon it, the Lord Jesus Christ. John describes that throne. It has a rainbow around it [Revelation 4:2-3]; it’s a picture of our covenant-keeping God who remembers His promises [Genesis 9:12-16]. But there’s no rainbow here in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation at this throne [Revelation 20:11]. He sees there in that first throne, he sees a sea of glass [Revelation 4:6]; that’s the placid sea upon which God’s redeemed shall stand [Revelation 4:4, 10]. But there’s no placid sea of glass around this throne [Revelation 20:11].
In that throne in heaven in the fourth chapter, John sees four and twenty elders who are bowing down before the great Lord God, representing the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, the saved of the old dispensation and the saved of the new dispensation [Revelation 4:4]. And they cast their crowns before Him that sits upon the throne, and they praise Him forever and ever [Revelation 4:10-11]. But you will find no four and twenty elders here [Revelation 20:11]. Around that throne in the fourth chapter of the Revelation, you will find the cherubim, four of them representing the four corners of the earth, representing all God’s creation; and they cry, "Holy, holy, holy, unto Him that reigns upon that throne" [Revelation 4:6-8]. But you’ll find no cherubim here [Revelation 20:11]; nothing but tragic and stony silence. This great white throne judgment is set for the resurrection of all of those who have rejected the Lord Jesus Christ [Revelation 20:11-15]. Is it a judgment throne concerning whether we’re saved or lost? No, for that judgment is in this earth, right now, right this morning, right this second. John 3:18 says, "He that believeth on Him is not condemned, not judged; but he that believeth not is condemned, is judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." We are already in this life judged: we’re either saved or we’re lost, one or the other. The only reason for the judgments in the world to come is to judge us according to the works done in this body.
The Christian stands at the bema of Christ to receive the rewards of his life [2 Corinthians 5:10]. Some receive a great reward, having done works that are described as "gold, silver, and precious stones." Some shall receive nothing at all, "wood, hay, and stubble" have been their works, and they are saved as if by fire" [1 Corinthians 3:11-15]; that is, as though a naked man ran out of the burning house. That’s the bema of Christ where the Christian receives his awards. The dead who are wicked are raised at the end of the millennium, and they stand at the great white throne judgment to receive the rewards of their deeds [Revelation 20:11-15]. Why is it that these great judgments are at the end of the age? It’s because a man doesn’t die when he dies: his influence lives on. And it is God alone who is able to unravel the influence of a man’s life and give him the reward at the end of the age. And the wicked standing before the great white throne judgment shall receive their rewards for the evil that they have done in this life [Revelation 20:11-15].
That a man doesn’t die when he dies . . . when I was in Amarillo, graduated from Amarillo high school, went to the First Baptist Church in Amarillo, for all the years I was there, I had a dear friend. We were in the same Sunday school class together, we were graduated from high school together, and we went to Baylor together. He turned to be an atheist; the most astonishing turning I think I ever witnessed as a boy. I went to see him one night, went up to his room and knocked at the door. And when I entered and looked at him at his study desk, he was reading the infidel Tom Paine’s Age of Reason. Tom Paine has been dead for a hundred fifty years or more, and yet that friend of mine who said he had become an atheist was reading Tom Paine. You don’t die when you die: the influence of your life goes on and on and on until the end of the age, and that’s why the judgments are at the end of the age; for the Christian it’s at the bema of Christ in heaven [2 Corinthians 5:10], and for the lost man at the great white throne judgment from whose face the heaven and the earth fled away [Revelation 20:11].
And I saw the small and great stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life; and the dead were judged out of those things written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead in them, and Death and Hell delivered up the dead in them, and they were judged every man according to their works. And Death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, this is hell. And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Oh! what an awesome responsibility we have to warn men and women of the evil of their ways and to find refuge and hope in the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ [Ephesians 2:5-9].
The sixth mighty miracle at the end of the age is the creation of the new heaven and the new earth. Revelation 21, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the old first heaven and the old first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea" [Revelation 21:1]. Now, I think – this is an interpretation – I think this is not the creation of a new heaven, an altogether different heaven and an altogether different earth; there are many expositors who believe that. I think this is the renovation, the palingenesis, the "regeneration," the remaking of heaven and earth. One of the reasons I believe that is this: the Greek word used here is parelthen; that’s the second aorist, third indicative of parerchomai, parerchomai means "to pass from one thing to another, to pass by"; parerchomai, like a ship will parerchomai over the horizon, it passes from here to there. Or a man will parerchomai through a door; he’ll pass from here to there. He doesn’t cease to exist; he just changes from here to there.
That’s the word that’s used here, and I think that it describes God’s renovation of this heaven. It’ll be the same heaven, it’ll be the same earth, but God will purge it and purify it. There’ll be no more burned out stars and planets, there’ll be no more desert places in the earth; but it will be lush as it was when it was first made, and the stars and the heavens will be perfect. And I think we’ll move from one place to another as fast as thought can go. I can think of Mars, I can think of Jupiter, I can think of the sidereal spheres, I can think of Dallas, and I think when we are in our immortalized spirits we can pass that quickly from one planet to another. And I think the whole earth and the whole heavens and the whole creation will be our eternal home.
"It will be a new heaven and a new earth,and there was no more sea" [Revelation2 1:1]. The sea to the ancient was an awesome, horrifying monster. They had no compass, and when the sky was stormy and dark, they had no idea where they were. They were lost. "There is no more sea." The sea separated Patmos [Revelation 1:9], from his [John’s] beloved church at Ephesus. There’ll be no more sea; we won’t be separated any longer, we won’t be hurt anymore, we won’t cry anymore [Revelation 21:4], we won’t die anymore. "It will be a new heaven and a new earth, and there is no more sea" [Revelation 21:1].
The last and final mighty miracle at the end of the age is our eternal and heavenly home. We’re going to live in a city. "I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice saying, Look, the dwelling place," translated here, "tabernacle, the dwelling place of God is with men, He will be their God, and they will be His people. And He that sat upon the throne said, Look, I make all things new" [Revelation 21:2-5]. And in this Revelation is described that beautiful city. What a glory! "The wall is," and they use a Greek word, but they didn’t know what it meant, so they just spelled it out: iasper is the Greek word. "The wall is made out of iasper," and it’s described as "clear as crystal" [Revelation 21:11]. So they just spelled it out in English: "i" becomes a "j," like Iēsous in Greek; Jesus is spelled I-s-o-u-s, Isous, it becomes a "j." So iasper becomes "jasper" when you just spell it out in English. They didn’t translate it; they didn’t know what it was, iasper. It’s clear as crystal. I think it’s diamond. Clear as crystal, imagine that! A city whose wall – it’s a perfect cube, a 1,500 miles one way, a 1,500 miles the other way, a 1,500 miles the other way; it’s a perfect cube – and the wall is made out of solid diamond [Revelation2 1:18]. And John looks at it from the outside, and he enters it, and he describes it as he progresses. And if the wall is diamond, what must the gates be? So he comes to the gates, and they are solid pearl [Revelation 21:21]. Well, if these are the gates, what must the streets of the city be? And he walks through the streets of the city, and they are solid gold [Revelation 21:21]. Well, if these are the streets of the city, what must the homes be? And the homes are mansions built by the hands of our Lord, like unto which we never saw a mansion in the earth [John 14:1-3]. And if the mansions are like this, what must the throne be? And he describes the throne with its rainbow and its sea of glass and all of the worshiping throng gathered around [Revelation 4:1-11]. And if this is the throne, what must the King be? And he can’t describe the glory of the face and the figure of Jesus our Lord [Revelation 21:23].
God must like color. All the colors of the rainbow, that’s God. All the colors of the sunset, that’s God. All the colors of the autumn, that’s God. God must like color. God has provided for us communion. Isn’t it remarkable that our final home is a city? [Revelation 21:1-5]. We are together world without end, forever and ever, never to be separated [Revelation 22:3-5]; there’s no more sea. And it represents our final conquest.
My latest sun is sinking fast,
My race is nearly run,
O come, angel band, come, and around me stand,
O bear me away on your snowy wings,
To my eternal home.
[from "My Latest Sun is Sinking Fast"; Jefferson Hascall, 1860]
This is God’s provision for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9]; the seven mighty miracles at the end of the world; God having provided some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40].
Now we’re going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And on the first note of that stanza, to give your heart to Jesus, to open your life to Him, to come into His church, to be numbered with His people, to be baptized, to place life and letter here, to answer God’s call, to accept Him as your Savior, make that decision in your heart. And in this moment when we sing our song, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, down a stairway, down an aisle: "Here I am, Lord. I make that decision now, and I stand before You and before angels and before this church." God bless you as you come, speed you in the way, angels attend you, while we stand and while we sing.