THE SEVEN MIGHTIEST MIRACLES OF ALL TIME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Genesis 1:11, 20,14; 2 Peter 1:20-21
6-29-80 8:15 a.m.
On the radio, the uncounted thousands of you, who are listening to this service, are sharing with us the hour in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. I hear from so many of you preparing your Sunday School lesson, going to church to an early service, or dressing for the hours of the day, you turn on the radio and you listen to the message brought at this early morning service. It does my heart good to know that you listen, and the message today has been so meaningful to me, preparing it. It is entitled The Seven Mightiest Miracles of All Time.
We began in a series of four: The Seven Mighty Miracles of the Old Testament; and then the second one, The Seven Mighty Miracles of Calvary; the next one, the fourth one, will be The Seven Mighty Miracles at the End of the Age; and today, The Seven Mightiest Miracles of All Time. Six of them are observable now. We look at them now. The last and the seventh one we believe and we receive by faith. Now that we might have opportunity to look at the seven, let us start immediately; The Seven Mightiest Miracles of All Time.
The first: the creation of existence, of substance, of matter, of the universe, of the world. Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." The atheist and the infidel and the secular, materialistic scientist heretofore in these years past have always avowed that matter, substance, existence was eternal. It was never created. It was always here, and what you see and what you feel and what you observe are things that were always and always – they never had an existence. They are eternal. That’s what the atheist and the materialistically-secular scientist have always said. But today, even in these last few years, they have been turned into turmoil because it is manifestly demonstrable today, by the physicist and the observing scientist, that the universe – matter, substance – had a beginning in time and in place.
For example, Dr. Steven Weinberg, professor of physics at Harvard University, recently wrote a book entitled The First Three Minutes: a Modern View of the Origin of the Universe. This great scientist was recently awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. And in that book, The First Three Minutes, he avows three things. Number one: that the universe had a beginning, a point of origin in time and in space. That’s the first denial of the atheistic and the secular materialistic scientist through all of these generations past. Matter is not eternal. It was created at a place and at a time. Number two of the great avowals that this marvelous scientist avows in that book: he says the universe is governed by a cosmological principle, meaning there are definite and observable laws throughout the universe which are universal and which are uniform. He says, "The universe is isotropic and homogenous." By saying it is isotropic, we mean that it appears the same in all directions. By saying that it is homogenous, we mean that it appears the same to all observers. No matter who it is – an atheist, an infidel, or a Christian theologian – what he sees out there is observably alike. It is the same. It is uniform.
The cosmological principle is the foundation for all scientific research. When we sent our men to the moon, we did it on the basis that the same laws by which we exist here would exist up there. And we found that to be true. When Neil Armstrong spoke into his microphone on the moon, we could hear his words, we could see his lips, and in just a second or two hear his words. The laws throughout the universe are uniform and universal. Somebody created them at a time and at a place, and they are the same everywhere.
The third great avowal that Dr. Weinberg says is, "The universe is a unity." It is more than a huge conglomeration of atoms and molecules wildly gyrating and randomly colliding with each other. It has cohesion; therefore, it has meaning. All of this is a denial of what the atheist and the secular scientist has said through all of the generations past. They say that the universe is nothing but an adventitious collocation of atoms and molecules that move without meaning and purpose and just happen to produce what we see in the world today. The scientist who is true to what he observes now says just what Dr. Weinberg has avowed. The marvelous creation of our universe – which is something that I will take up at length when I begin that long series on the great doctrines of the Bible – the marvelous universe above us and around us is filled with purpose and design. There is some intelligence that lies back of it.
Now I want to read to you, and I’ll have to close from this first point, or we’ll spend all our time on the first mighty miracle. I want to read to you an admission by an atheist concerning these latest discoveries, as they affect the secular atheistic scientist. Dr. Robert Jastrow, a professor and a great astronomer whose textbook on astronomy is taught in so many universities, he recently said in the New York Times – and I quote him:
For the scientist, who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends
– this thing that they found, that the universe had a creation in time and in
space, is universally uniform, cohesive throughout –
these discoveries end like a bad dream to us. This scientist has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer his highest peak; and as he pulls himself over the highest rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries, Saying, "God did it. See, didn’t I tell you?"
The first great, mighty miracle is that God created substance, existence, the universe, the world in which we live and which we observe all around us.
Number two, the mightiest miracles of all time: the creation of life. In the first chapter of Genesis, verse 11: God made all of these herbs and grasses and trees "after his kind, with seed in itself." That’s the first creation of life. Verse 20, "Let the waters bring forth abundantly," and let every winged fowl after his kind. First vegetation, then the abounding waters, then the birds in the air, then third – verse 24: "Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind." Cattle, all of these animals – and God made the beasts of the earth after his kind: the cattle of their kind, everything upon the earth after his kind. And then, last, and the crowning creation: "And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them" [Genesis 1:26-27]. The second mightiest miracle of all time is the creation of life.
The atheistic evolutionist, the secular scientist have been saying for their generations – all of these atoms and all of these molecules that they said were from eternity, we now know there was a time when they were created. But they said, "All of these random atoms and molecules colliding one another in this universe, they finally brought forth the world that we see, and finally brought forth life itself, and finally the intelligent personality of man." What an amazing, what an amazing credulous faith those men had to have in the random collision of atoms and molecules! It’s beyond imagination! It’s beyond possibility! And yet that’s the thing that is taught in practically all of the great schools and university systems of the world.
I want you to look and see how impossible such a thing is. In order for there to be life without a Creator, there would have to come together those thousands and thousands of factors that make life possible. By those factors, I mean such things as the earth revolves, it turns over, at a thousand miles an hour. If that were changed, life would be impossible. Suppose it turned at a hundred miles an hour. Then the day would be ten times longer and the night ten times longer, and if those days were longer, the sun would burn us up. It’s about to do it now, even at twelve hours. It would burn us up in the daytime, and in the nighttime we’d all freeze to death. Life would be impossible. Or take again another factor: if that moon out there were just a little closer, the great tides of the oceans would sweep over our continents twice every day.
And there are thousands of factors just like that. Now, I want you to see for a moment how that is impossible that all of those factors just by chance got together and created the possibility of life. Suppose I had ten pennies, just ten, and I number the ten, one to ten, and I stick them in my pocket, and I shake them up, and then I draw out those pennies. There’s one chance in ten that I draw out the first one in a sequence. I put that back in my pocket and shake it. And then there’s one chance in a hundred that I draw out penny number one, penny number two – put it back in my pocket and I shake it. Then there is one chance in a thousand that I would pull out in sequence one, two, three. And I put those three back in my pocket and shake them. There is one chance in ten billion that I would draw out all ten in sequence! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Now, the factors that make possible life are thousands of factors! And to put them all together by chance would be an impossible conception! The second great mighty miracle of God is the creation of life itself, that it exists in this universe.
The third mighty miracle of God is the creation of the Bible. Second Peter 1:20-21:
Knowing this, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of
man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look at that. "No word of the Scripture is of any private . . . ." Let’s look at that, "private": idios. That means "one’s own": idios. It refers to something personal and individual and private. So that’s the first word we’re going to look at. Now look at this word translated "interpretation": epilupsis, epilupsis – an unloosing as a disclosure, a releasing. All right, let’s look at the third word there, which is the verb, "is." That’s genetai, "comes into being." Let’s look at that word, "moved" by the Holy Spirit: That’s phero, that’s "borne along."
Now let me translate that literally: "No prophecy, no word of God, ever comes into being out of one’s own personal, private, disclosure or releasing." It didn’t come by a man thinking it up or figuring it out. "For," then he gives the reason for the avowal. "For the word of God, the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man" ; he didn’t think it up, "but holy men of God spake as they were phero" – moved along, borne along – "by the Holy Spirit."
He is avowing there that the Bible is a creation of the Holy Spirit of God, and when I look at it, when I hold it in my hand, it is a mighty miracle. The man that began writing, Moses – he never dreamed nor knew of those that were following after him. Moses never knew Samuel, and Samuel never thought of Isaiah, and Isaiah never dreamed of Jeremiah, and Jeremiah didn’t know Malachi, and Malachi never thought there would ever be a Matthew or a Paul or a John. Some of those men are separated by a thousand six hundred years, and yet the Holy Scriptures that they wrote have one great unifying theme: namely, the redemptive, scarlet thread through the Bible! It’s a miracle of God!
And it is characterized by three Greek words: one, apokalupsis: that is, "unveiling revelation." That refers to content: what’s written in the Bible. Man, some of the things that are in the Bible are prophecies that concern events thousands of years in advance! How could that be? It’s because God is the Alpha and the Omega. He sees the end from the beginning, and He inspired those men to write that. That’s the first, apokalupsis: the content, revelation.
The second is theopneustos, "God-breathed." That’s the inspiration of the Bible. The Holy Spirit of God guided its transmission, guided its writing. And the third is teresis, "the preservation of the Word of God." Man, we could just stand here by the hour and marvel at the hand of God in preserving His Holy Word!
There went out an edict from the king himself that anyone found with the Wycliffe Bible, [they should] hang it around his neck, burn him at the stake. Wycliffe died before they could get to him. They dug up his body and they burned it, and they threw the ashes on the River Swift. But the Swift runs into the Avon, and the Avon runs into the Severn, and the Severn runs into the sea, and the sea bathes the coasts of the world. So the Word of God was scattered abroad.
Voltaire – atheistic infidel, philosopher – Voltaire said, "A hundred years from now the Bible will be a museum piece looked upon as an ancient piece of antique literature." That’s what he said! And a hundred years later in the place where he said it, the Bible Society was building a printing press to print the Word of God. And a hundred years later, the British government paid the czar of Russia five hundred thousand dollars for Codex Sinaiticus. You can see it in the British museum, Olaf. And that same day that the British government paid five hundred thousand dollars for Codex Sinaiticus – on that same day – a first edition of Voltaire sold on the streets of Paris for seventeen cents! It’s a miracle of God, the writing, and the content, and the revelation, and the preservation of God’s immutable, infallible, inerrant and Holy Word. That’s a third great miracle.
The fourth great miracle is the creation of the body of Christ: Hebrews 10, verse 4 and following:
It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared for Me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast
had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book
It is written of Me,) to do Thy will, O God.
The fourth mightiest miracle of all time is the body of Jesus Christ, the coming of God into human flesh, the entrance of the Lord Almighty Jehovah into the likeness and form of a man. "A body hast Thou prepared for Me." A spirit could not offer sacrifice for sins. A body had to offer sacrifice for sins, and that body was created. This is the fourth mightiest miracle in the universe, the coming of our Lord. That body was created. "A body has Thou prepared for Me."
That body was created by the Holy Spirit of God in the womb of the virgin Mary, and He came born the Son of God. "Wherefore that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" [Luke 1:35].
And He came forth teaching the way of life everlasting. And in accordance with all the Holy Scriptures, He offered Himself a living sacrifice, and then, finally, a sacrifice offering for our sins – raised from the dead, back up into heaven to make intercession for us on the basis of His saving sacrifice, His poured-out crimson of life and blood. The marvel of the coming of Christ in the world is beyond anything you could ever read in literature. You look at this. All other men in the earth – all of them – are known, are glorified, are famous because of their lives. But Jesus is famous, and glorified, and worshipped, and honored because of His death! There’s nothing like that in the history of mankind.
When you read the life of our Lord in the synoptic Gospels, one-third of it is given to the last few days of His death. In the Gospel of John, one-half of the Gospel of John is given to the death of our Lord. He said, "There are so many things He did, I suppose the world itself could not hold the books that should be written" [John 21:25]. And yet, out of all the things that Jesus did, he gives half of his Gospel to the death of our Lord! It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle of God.
And the influence on the Lord God on the world in Jesus is beyond anything the world has ever known. John Paul Richter said:
He, the holiest among the mighty, and the mightiest among the holy, has lifted with His pierced hands empires off their hinges, has turned the stream of centuries out of its channel, and still governs the ages.
Mark Hopkins, I one time heard a man say that his idea of his university is a log with a student on one end and Mark Hopkins on the other end. "Christ," wrote Mark Hopkins:
Christ was placed midmost in the world’s history, and in that central position, He towers like some vast mount unto heaven, the farthest slope stretching backward toward the creation, the hither slope toward the consummation of all things.
The ages before looked to Him with prophetic gaze. The ages since behold Him by historic faith. By both He is seen in common as the brightness of the Father’s glory and the unspeakable gift of God to the human race.
Robert Browning – God’s great English poet of the last century – he wrote a poem called "A Death in the Desert." That’s a description – just fictitious, his imagination – of the death of John, pastor of the church at Ephesus. And he wrote that poem to combat the rationalistic, anti-supernatural teachings of David Frederick Straus, the radical German theologian, who was one of the men that brought rationalistic higher criticism into the earth.
Now you listen to Robert Browning as he says:
"I say the acknowledgement of God in Christ, accepted by thy reason, solves for thee all questions in the earth and out of it, and has so far advanced thee to be wise."
There are no questions, Robert Browning avows, that cannot be answered in the life, and ministry, and death, and resurrection, and intercession, and coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ – the fourth mightiest miracle of all time.
The fifth mightiest miracle of all time is the creation of the church. "When the day of Pentecost was fully come," Luke writes in the second chapter of Acts:
they were all with one accord in one place. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house . . . there appeared unto them cloven parting
tongues of fire, and it sat lambently burning on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit . . . .
Then after the sermon, they that gladly received the testimony of Simon Peter were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
And the closing verse of that chapter,
Praising God . . . . And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
The fifth tremendous miracle of all time is the existence of the church itself. Can you realize that all of those people there were Jews? They were Jews. Every one of them was Jewish, and out of those Jewish people – a hated and despised little tribe tucked over there in one corner of the Roman Empire – out of that came this little band. And after the Pentecost, the change wrought in the apostles, in the disciples; a few days before, Simon Peter had cringed before a little girl who said, "I have seen you with the Lord Jesus." He cursed like a sailor, and said, "I never saw Him. I never heard of Him" [Matthew 26:69-74]. Now, he stands up like a lion, and they carried that message of salvation in the teeth of and in the face of the persecution of the mightiest empire the world had ever known, the Roman Empire.
Isn’t it a strange thing that the Roman Empire persecuted the Christians? The Roman Empire was, of all governments in the world, pantheistic, altruistic, sympathetic. No matter where they found a god, why, they brought him to the Pantheon, their great center of worship in Rome, and were happy to receive him. They conquered Egypt; they brought Isis and Osiris. They conquered Greece; they brought Jove and Juno and Neptune. And if they conquered Ephesus, they brought Diana or Nemorensis. Wherever they conquered, they were happy to receive all their gods.
Why did they conquer the Christians? Because the Roman Empire developed a persuasion that if there was to be cohesion in the empire, it had to be pulled together by a common religion, so they made their common religion a matter of patriotism. They worshipped the emperor, and the worship of the emperor was not only the worship of god but also a matter of loyalty to the Roman Empire and the Roman government.
And the Christian, when he was faced with the demand of the empire to bow down and worship the Roman Caesar, he said, "No!" And they had a little word of testing. "Is it kurios kaisar – is it Lord Caesar? Or is it kurios Iēsous, Lord Jesus?"
And you remember the story of the martyrdom of Polycarp. "Eighty-six years," he says, "I have served the Lord Jesus – eighty-six years, and now shall I repudiate the Lord who saved me?" And the old pastor of the church at Smyrna – all he had to do to save his life was to say, "kurios kaisar." He laid down his life. They threw him into the lions, or they burned him at the stake. That was the church; it was a miracle! They challenged the very power of the seat of government itself! When you go to the Roman Coliseum, part of that thing was built in order to feed Christians to the lions. It’s a miracle, the church. It’s a miracle today. It’ll be here to receive Jesus when He comes – the great fifth miracle of all time.
The sixth great miracle of all time is the re-creation of the human soul. Second Corinthians 5 and 17: "Therefore if anyone be in Christ, that one is a new creation: old things are passed away; look, all things are become new." The sixth greatest miracle of all time is God’s recreation of the fallen, human soul. A man who had found the Lord – and he was being quizzed and ridiculed about it – he said, "Either I am a new creation or the whole world has been altered, for something has changed." When a man gives his life to Christ, he’s somebody else. God has regenerated him, remade him, recreated him. "If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation." It begins with the marvelous story of the conversion of Paul, Saul of Tarsus, breathing out threatening and slaughter against the Lord, meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, and now preaching the faith that he once condemned and persecuted [Acts 9:1-22]. And that’s been going on ever since. God’s doing that today.
I remember one time, years and years ago, when I went back to Amarillo, First Baptist Church in Amarillo where I was licensed and ordained to preach. I went back to The First Baptist Church of Amarillo, and I looked around that congregation, and some of the leading deacons and some of the leading men in the church were fellows that I had gone to high school with there. And in high school, they were the opposite of anything Christian or holy or godly, and now I looked at them, and I asked some of the friends that I know, "What’s happened to these men?" And the answer was, "They’ve been marvelously saved. They’ve been converted. They’re new men."
There was a man that wrote a book entitled Twice Born Men. And he took some of the most dastardly and despicable and fallen of all of the men of his generation, and now they are preaching the gospel, and they are witnessing for Christ. I have seen them myself. I have heard them myself. I have sat in services world without end and listened to men who had fallen into the depths of degradation and evil, and now they are up there preaching the gospel that once they destroyed. It’s a miracle what God is able to do with a man.
Let me tell you right here, right here, if you ever go to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Sir Christopher Wren, the great architect who created the marvelous temple of worship, is buried in it, and above his tomb you can read these words: Lector si monumentum requiris circumspice. "Peter, if ye seek a monument, look around you!" This is his creation, that marvelous house of worship.
My brother, if you seek evidence of the power of God to save, look around you! Right next to you may be one of the vilest men that ever lived, and now he’s a deacon in this church. Right next to you may be a woman who was anything but a servant of Jesus, and now she’s marvelously a humble disciple of the Lord. All through this congregation, people who have been wondrously saved. I have been saved. You have been saved. It’s a miracle of God, one of the mightiest in the world: the regeneration and the recreation of the human soul. I said one of them we take by faith. All of the other six, just look around you, circumspice, just look around you: the mightiest miracles of all time.
The seventh one we take by faith. In the tenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation:
I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow upon his head, his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: and he . . . set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot upon the earth.
And . . . he lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth forever and ever . . . that there should be time no longer – delay no longer:
But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets.
Now it’s that word, "declare," evangelizo, evangelizo: "as God hath announced," "as God has evangelized," "as God hath told the good tidings to all of the prophets," in the generations past, that the mystery of God should be finished; and in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, these things shall be the creation of a new heaven and a new earth:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
God shall wipe away the tears from our eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for these things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.
Sin, and death, and the grave, and wrong, and war will not obtain or rule forever. Someday there shall be an intervention from God out of heaven, and we shall have a new world, and a new heaven, and a new city, and a new earth, and a new fellowship, and a new body, and a new family of God, the coming of God in human history: the descent, personable, visible, of our Lord from heaven.
Lo! He comes on clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of his train:
God comes down on earth to reign.
["Lo, He Comes on Clouds Descending," John Cennick]
And our eyes shall see it! These stalwart eyes shall look upon it. God shall create. "In the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, the mystery of God shall be finished" [Revelation 10:7]. Things that I don’t understand, He will make clear, and it will be a new day, and a new life, and a new heaven, and a new earth, and we will be new, too [Revelation 21].
Now may we stand together? Our Lord, when we look at the Word of God and the world around us, out of [seven] of the mightiest miracles of all time that impressed themselves upon my heart, six of them – six of them I see with my own eyes.
Lord, why should I stagger and stumble at the prospect and the promise and the evangelizo of the seventh one? God having demonstrated six of them, that "I am able and mighty," why should I stagger at the seventh one, the remaining one? Lord, I believe, and if I don’t, help Thou mine unbelief.
Beyond tears, and sorrow, and death, and the grave, help me to see the living Son of God, who is able to raise us from the dead and "to present us faultless in the presence of His great glory" [Jude 1:24]. O God, increase and multiply in abounding proportions our commitment of faith. And our Lord, even this hour, give us souls, and we’ll love Thee and thank Thee, praise Thee for the answered prayer, for the gift from heaven, in Thy wonderful name, amen.
Now while we wait just for this moment, out of the balcony, down a stairway, into the aisle and down to the front: "Pastor, today I’m giving my heart to Jesus," or "I’m bringing my family into the fellowship of the church," or answering some call of the Spirit in your heart. While our choir sings, while we wait this moment and pray, make it now. Answer now. Come now. We’re glad to welcome you. God in heaven is happy when you decide for Him. Do it now, while we sing, while we wait, while we pray.