The Seven Mighty Miracles at the End of the World
July 13th, 1980 @ 10:50 AM
THE SEVEN MIGHTY MIRACLES AT THE END OF THE WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-13-80 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing the services on radio and television of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Seven Mighty Miracles at the End of the World. This is the last in a series of four messages. The first was The Seven Mighty Miracles in the Old Testament; the second, The Seven Mighty Miracles at Calvary; the third, The Seven Mighty Miracles of All Time; and today, The Seven Mighty Miracles at the End of the World.
Miracle number one: without announcement, suddenly, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the first tremendous miracle at the end of the age is the rapture of God’s people to heaven. Paul speaks of it often. In 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, verses 51 and 52, he writes:
Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep—
we shall not all die—
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 first, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we, we shall all be changed.
[1 Corinthians 15:51-52]
There is a generation—could it be we?—there is a generation that shall never taste of death. In a moment, at the sound of the trumpet, at the voice of the archangel, we shall be caught up to meet our Lord in the sky: the rapture of the church [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. Can you believe how the earth will be, where there is not a Christian left in it? This week, a man gave me his card, and when I turned it over I read this, and I glued it to this piece of paper so I wouldn’t lose it. “Are you pestered,” question, “are you pestered by sincere people who are forever wanting to save your soul, giving you tracts, inviting you to church, talking about salvation? Well, it won’t be long until their kind won’t be allowed to bother you any longer. The proper authorities are soon to take action and see it to that they are taken care of. There is a place for them. There won’t be any of them allowed in hell.” The earth without a Christian: you won’t be bothered by any invitation, or any prayer, or any solicitation, or any tract, or any invitation to the Lord. God’s people will be gone. This is the first great miracle at the end of the age [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
The second great miracle at the end of the age is the tribulation. In the Book of the Revelation, after the first introductory chapter, which is a scene of our glorified Lord [Revelation 1:9-20], the second and the third chapters are a presentation of the seven church ages [Revelation 2:1-3:22]. Each one of the churches of Asia represents a time period in the church dispensation, this dispensation of grace: the first one, Ephesus; the second one, Smyrna: the third one, Pergamos; the fourth one, Thyatira; the fifth one, Sardis; the sixth one, Philadelphia; and the last one, Laodicea. And at the end of that time period, at the end of the church age, the church is taken up; it is “raptured.” God’s people are in heaven and now on the earth is tribulation. That is introduced like this: at the end of chapter 3 of the Apocalypse, at the end of the church age, John says, “I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and I heard a voice as of trumpet, saying, Come up hither” [Revelation 4:1]; the sound of the trumpet, “Come up hither”—that is a symbol of the taking up of the church—“and immediately I was in the Spirit and in heaven” [Revelation 4:2].
And while the church is in heaven at the bēma of our Lord [2 Corinthians 5:10]—to receive the rewards of our deeds, and seated down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:7-9]—while we are in heaven, the earth is filled with vast and illimitable sorrow, and trouble, and bloodshed, and war. The Bible calls it hē thlipsis hē megalē: “the tribulation, the great” [Matthew 24:21]. It begins at the sixth chapter and continues through the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 6:1-19:21]. The church is gone, it is in glory with God [Revelation 4:1-2], and down here in the earth are these vast outpourings of the judgment of the Almighty [Revelation 6:15-17]. They are followed and they are presented under three series of symbols: the seven seals [Revelation 6:1-8:1], the seven trumpets [Revelation 8:2-11:19], and the seven vials of wrath [Revelation 15:1-16:21].
You get an idea of the awesomeness of it in the first seal: there is a white horse, and its rider is the tyrant of creation; he is the Antichrist [Revelation 6:2]. The second seal is broken and there is a red horse: the power of war and of blood [Revelation 6:3-4]. The third seal is opened, a black horse: famine and want, starvation and death [Revelation 6:5-6]. The fourth seal, a pale horse, and the rider is death [Revelation 6:7-8]. The fifth seal, the cry of the souls in heaven for a day of justification [Revelation 6:9-11]. And the sixth seal:
The heavens and the earth are rolled back like a scroll; and every island is moved out of its place.
And the kings of the earth and the great …and the mighty … hide themselves in the dens and the rocks,
Crying for the mountains to fall on them and to hide them…
from the face of Him that sits on 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?
What an unusual symbol, the wrath of the Lamb, the poured out judgment of Almighty God. That is the second great miracle at the end of the age.
The third great miracle at the end of the age is the coming of Christ at the battle of Armageddon. After the poured-out fury of the judgment of the Almighty upon this sin-cursed earth [Revelation 19:17-21], in chapter 19 the church appears with her Lord from heaven [Revelation 19:11-16]. And Christ appears with His church, with His bride, with His people in the midst of an awesome conflagration [Revelation 19:11-16]. The Lord comes in the midst of the battle of Armageddon, described in vivid terms in the nineteenth chapter of the Apocalypse [Revelation 19:17-21]. This battle of Armageddon is one of the most frequent of all of the appearing prophecies in the Word of God. It is described in Revelation 11:15, Revelation 14:17-20, Revelation 16:12-16, Revelation 9:6, Isaiah 63:1, Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 [Ezekiel 38:1-39:29], Daniel chapters 2, 7, 9, and 11, Joel chapter 3, and Zechariah chapter 14, among others. All through the prophetic story of the revelation of God are prophecies that describe this awful end of human history, and it says it will occur in Armageddon, the Plain of Esdraelon in northern Israel [Revelation 16:16].
That has been the scene of battle after battle throughout the millennia, throughout the generations. It was in the Valley of Megiddo that Barak and Deborah conquered Sisera [Judges 4:1-24]. It was in that same Valley of Armageddon that Gideon defeated the Midianites [Judges 7:1-24]. It was in that same Valley of Armageddon that Saul and Jonathan were slain by the Philistines [1 Samuel 31:2-6]. It was in that same Armageddon that Jehu slew Ahaziah, the king of Judah and the grandson of Jezebel [2 Kings 9:27]. It was in that same valley that Josiah took his little army to stop the northward progress of Pharaoh Necho and the Egyptians—and Josiah was slain [2 Chronicles 35:20-24]. It was in that same valley that the great memorable lamentation of Jeremiah and the people of Israel was heard at Hadadrimmon in the Valley of Megiddo [2 Chronicles 35:25; Zechariah 12:11]. It is in that valley that, through the ages since, that wars have been fought: the Druse, the Turks, even a campaign of Napoleon Bonaparte. And today, we see a fulfillment of this prophecy in the gathering of the armies and the navies together around that part of the Middle East, in the heart of which is “Har Megiddo”: har, “mountain of,” Megiddo; the name of that town on the top of that hill, “Armageddon.”
I lectured one time on top of Armageddon for about two hours. And all through those two hours, those Phantom jets that the United States had given to Israel were roaring overhead, and the thunderous sound of those jets breaking the [sound] barrier sounded to me as though the very end of the world had come. In the current issue of Newsweek magazine, I tore out this leaf. There is an article in there of the tremendous world military naval buildup around Armageddon, and on this side is a map. Up here to the north of Armageddon are the troops of the Soviet republics, and it numbers their men by the thousands, their airfields. Over here, swinging in a big circle, the United States is building two air bases for the Israeli air force. Swinging around, twelve United States F-4 fighters arrived this month for a ninety-day joint exercises with Egyptian air forces.
That is one of the strangest prophecies in the Bible—and I don’t have time, because even this morning at the early hour I spoke forty-five minutes and just got started, and I have fifteen minutes left for a three-hour message. One of the strangest prophecies in the Bible is in Isaiah chapter 19, where Egypt is numbered with Israel [Isaiah 19:24-25]. Who would have ever thought a thing like that in the history of mankind? And yet, we have seen it before our very eyes. Down here, the United States is now in joint exercises, now, this moment, with Egyptian forces. And in Egypt, there are 395,000 troops, 1,600 tanks, 563 warplanes, and so it goes all the way around. And then in that great Persian Gulf, the Arabian Gulf, the British fleet has five warships and three support ships. The French fleet has five warships and nine support ships. The United States fleet has thirteen warships and six support ships and two aircraft carriers. And the Soviet fleet has ten warships and sixteen support ships.
Just as God’s Word says, the armed might of the world is gathering around Megiddo [Revelation 16:16]. And in the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah, that war—it is a better translation to call it a war than a battle—that war is two hundred miles long [Revelation 19:20], from Edom, Bozrah and Edom, up to Megiddo [Isaiah 63:1-6]. And the Revelation says, “And the blood of that carnage is up to the bridles of the horses” [Revelation 14:20]. I one time wondered, as you did, how could such vast, illimitable destruction be possible? Then the bomb fell on Hiroshima, and the world is increasingly faced with the awesomeness of the catastrophic tragedy of nuclear confrontation. I stuck on the page that I tore out, another little article from another magazine. It says, “About thirty-five countries will be able to make atomic weapons within these immediate years, and nuclear war will become inevitable.” We face what the Bible says; we face an Armageddon. And the intervention of Christ in the battle of Armageddon is the third great miracle at the end of the age. In the midst of that carnage, Jesus appears with His people [Revelation 19:11-21].
Now, that ushers in the fourth tremendous miracle at the end of the world. It is the binding of Satan for a thousand years that we call the millennium. “I saw an angel come down from heaven; he had the key of the bottomless pit” [Revelation 20:1]. The Greek word is exactly like our English word: abussos, “abyss.” When you take the Greek word and spell it out in English, it is “abyss”:
Having the key to the bottomless pit, the abyss, 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.
This is the golden age of mankind, when Satan is sealed in the bottomless pit in the abyss. Not in hell, “abyss” is the Greek word describing the place where the evil angels are imprisoned in darkness against the day of judgment. The Greek word for “hell” is gehenna. No one is in hell yet. When we die, we go to one of two places. In Hades, which is a Greek word for the netherworld, we can either—in Christ we are in Paradise [Luke 23:43]; another name for it is Abraham’s bosom—or we are in Tartarus, we are in torment [Luke 16:22-23], but no one is in a final state. We are in an intermediate state now. No one, when he dies, is in that final state. The first one who is cast into hell is the beast, the second is the false prophet [Revelation 19:20], the third is Satan [Revelation 20:10, 14]—in a moment we shall see—and the fourth are those who refuse the overtures of grace and are condemned with Satan and his fallen kingdom [Revelation 20:15]. This is the thousand-year period when he is imprisoned in the bottomless pit in the abyss [Revelation 20:3].
All through the literature of mankind there is the dream of a golden age, and especially do you find it in the Bible, when “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid …”; when the carnivorous “lion will eat straw like an ox”; when “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain” and the earth is “filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” [Isaiah 11:6-9]. There is a day coming when Christ shall visibly be seen in this stolid earth, and our eyes will look upon Him, and He will reign over the whole kingdom of this earth which belongs to Him and forever [Psalm 146:10]. 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. In the closing part of the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse:
I saw a great white throne, and He that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away …
And I saw the dead, 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 which were written in the books, according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead in them; and Death and Hell—Death and the Grave delivered up the dead in them: and they were judged every one according to their works.
And Death and the Grave were cast into the lake of fire—into hell. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
This is the fifth great miracle at the end of the age. The dead, the unbelieving dead, the lost dead will be raised and will appear before the great white throne judgment to receive the deeds that they have done, the reward for the deeds they have done in the flesh [Revelation 20:11-15]. You see, we are not judged in the world to come according to whether we are lost or saved. That judgment is now. John expressly describes it when he says in John 3:18 “He that believeth is not condemned.” The Greek word is “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” [John 3:18]. We are judged already. I am not “going to be lost” or I am not “going to be saved”; I am either saved or I am lost now, this moment. I am one or the other. That judgment is now [John 3:17-18]. The judgments in the world to come are solely for the purpose of being rewarded according to our deeds [Revelation 20:12-13].
The Christian shall stand, when he is raptured up to heaven [John 14:3], the Christian shall stand at the bēma of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10]. That’s the Greek word for the judgment seat of our Lord. We shall stand at the bēma of Christ. If our works are precious—gold, silver, precious stones—we shall receive a reward. If our works for God are wood, hay, and stubble, they will be burned up. But Paul says we shall be saved as though by fire; as though a man naked runs out of the house burning [1 Corinthians 3:11-15], has no reward at all. That is the Christian standing at the bēma of Christ in heaven. But the lost are judged according to their works at this great white throne judgment at the end of the age [Revelation 20:11-15].
Why are these judgments at the end of the age? Why aren’t you judged when you die? Because you don’t die when you die; your influence does not cease when you cease to breathe. Your life continues on, and only God can unravel the influence of all of those skeins of influence in life at the end of the age. Let me show you. When I was in Amarillo, going to the First Baptist Church in Amarillo, I had a dear friend, and he and I were in the same Sunday school class through all those years. We were in the same high school class, and he and I graduated together. We went down to Baylor together, and to my astonishment and amazement and sorrow of heart, he finally announced that he was an atheist. One night at Baylor I went to see him and I walked into his room, and he was there at his study desk reading infidel Tom Paine’s Age of Reason. Why, my brother, Tom Paine has been dead over a hundred and fifty years, but his influence for evil continues on, and he will be judged at the end of the age. Not when he dies; at the end of the age, for all of the influence of our deeds and of our works. The resurrection of the evil dead and their judgment is the fifth great, mighty miracle at the end of the age [Revelation 20:11-15].
The sixth mighty miracle at the end of the world is the recreation, the palingenesis, the rejuvenation of this earth and this heaven. Revelation 21: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the old first heaven was passed away, and the old first earth; and there was no more sea” [Revelation 21:1]. There are many expositors and many scholars who think that this entire universe will be destroyed. I don’t think so; I think it is going to be a purging and a renewal. I don’t think anything God has made will ever be destroyed, and I based that on an interpretation, to me, of the Greek word. “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old first heaven and the old first earth were parelthen”: that is a second aorist indicative of parerchomai. Parerchomai means “to go from here to there.” A man is here, and he walks to the door, and he is there. Parerchomai does not mean annihilation. He changed from being here to being there. Or you could say a ship: a ship is here, and parerchomai, it goes over the horizon. It—parerchomai, over the horizon—it does not cease to exist; it changes place. That is the word that is used here, and to me it means that God is going to make a new heaven and a new earth. That is, it will be beautiful as He made it in Genesis 1:1, as He first created it. This whole earth will look lush like the garden of Eden [Genesis 2:8-17], like the paradise it is called, and the heavens above us will be perfect. There will be no burned out stars, no black holes. There will be no thing to hurt in all God’s universe, but it will be whole and complete as God made it in the beginning: a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1].
And he says there’s no more sea [Revelation 21:1]. To the ancient, the sea was an awesome monster. They had no compass, and when the sky was stormy or cloudy, they were lost. No more sea. It was a sea that separated between John and his beloved people at Ephesus that he pastored in his old age. There will be no more sea. There will be no more separating. There will be no more tears of sorrow [Revelation 1:4]. We will be together forever and ever. That is the sixth great miracle at the end of the age [Revelation 21:1].
And the last and the seventh one is our holy city: “And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” [Revelation 21:2]. And then he describes that city [Revelation 21:10-27]. He starts on the outside and he walks in, and as he progresses, he describes what he sees. He looks at it first on the outside and says it has a wall, iaspis, clear as crystal [Revelation 21:12-19]. Now, the ancient people had an idea for that; we have lost it, so what we do, instead of translating the word iaspis, well, we just spell it out. An “I” in Greek becomes a “J” in English, so iaspis, spell it out, it is “jasper”; jasper, clear as crystal. What you call jasper today is not clear as crystal; they did not know what that was, so they just spelled it out. I think I know what it is. Iaspis, clear as crystal, is diamond. The wall is solid diamond, a thousand five hundred miles this way, a thousand five hundred miles, a thousand five hundred miles: it is a perfect cube [Revelation 21:16].
But look, if the wall is like this, what of the gates? What could they be? And he comes to the gates, and they are solid pearl [Revelation 21:21]. Well, if the gates are like this, what are the streets of the city? He walks down the streets; they are solid gold [Revelation 21:21]. But if the streets are like this, what of the homes? They are mansions, built for us by the precious hands of our Lord [John 14:2-3]. And if the mansions are like this, like none we have ever seen in this world, what is the throne? The throne is described in the glory of all of the grandeur of God with its rainbow and its sea of glass on which the redeemed of God shall stand [Revelation 4:2-6, 15:2]. And if the throne is like this, what must the King be? Oh, the glory of our Lord whose face is the brightness of the sun, at whose feet John fell as one dead! [Revelation 1:12-17]. Think of the glory of that beautiful home God hath prepared for those who love Him.
My latest sun is sinking fast;
My race is nearly run;
My strongest trials now are past;
My triumph is begun.
O come, angel band,
Come and around us stand;
O bear me away on your snowy wings
To my immortal home.
[from “My Latest Sun is Sinking Fast,” Jefferson Hascall]
It is a communion. It is a koinōnia. It is a city. Isn’t that a glorious thing God hath promised us? We won’t be separated anymore, and we won’t know death anymore, and we won’t carve up this earth into graves anymore, and we won’t water this ground with tears anymore, and we won’t stain it with blood anymore. It will be beautiful and perfect, and we shall live in that holy and beautiful city and the whole world and the whole creation will be recreated [2 Peter 3:12-13]. I think that we will live in the whole creation. Our home will be in the holy city, our mansion will be in that beautiful city, but we will live all over this creation, and I think we will go from one to the other in the speed of thought. I can think: there is Mars. I can think: there is Jupiter. I can think: there is Dallas. And I can think—we can go from one to the other just as rapidly. And I think God’s going to answer my prayer and give me my own planet, and I am going to get me a little soapbox, and I am going to preach forever and not have to watch that clock, just go on and on and on. And all of you who want to visit me on this Criswellian planet, you just come and say, “Look, pastor, here I am.” Be together forever and ever with our Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:17]; that is heaven in itself. Now may we stand?
Our Lord, beyond any way we could say it in syllable or sentence are we humbled by what God hath prepared for us who love Thee [1 Corinthians 2:9]. Oh, that when we stand at the bēma of Christ [1 Corinthians 3:11-13; 2 Corinthians 5:10], we might have somewhat to lay at Thy dear feet: these are souls we have won, testimonies we have offered; this is the work we sought to do in Thy dear name. And then, Lord, grant that no one of us is raised in that final resurrection to stand before the white throne judgment [Revelation 20:11]; and He that sits upon it, even the earth and the sky flee from His presence, and these whose names are not in the Lamb’s Book of Life are separated from God forever and ever [Revelation 20:15]. O God, save our souls and have pity upon us. And our Lord, may this be a day of salvation [Romans 10:9-10], may this moment be a moment of grace, and may the Lord touch the hearts of our people, and may all of us find our names in the Book of Life, without loss of one [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27; Luke 1:20].
And our Master, now, as we pray, as we stand before Thee, may God give us families, may God give us children, may God give us young people, strong men and women, some to accept Thee as Savior, some to put their lives in the fellowship of our dear church, some to answer God’s call, some to be baptized, some following Jesus in the pilgrim way. In a moment we shall sing our song of appeal, and all of us staying, praying, waiting, and believing that God will give us a gracious harvest. And from the balcony round, from the press of people side by side, down a stairway, down one of these aisles: “Here I am, pastor. I am coming.” Make that decision in your heart, and we’re waiting: ministers, deacons, prayer partners, thanking God for you even before you come. Into that aisle, down to this front, standing before men and angels: “Here I am, pastor,” and our Lord grant it in an abounding harvest. Send us these for whom we have prayed; in Thy precious name, amen. While we sing, make it now, while we sing.