THE SIGNS OF HIS COMING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-30-80 10:50 a.m.
It is a gladness for us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas to welcome the uncounted thousands of you who are sharing the services on television and on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Signs of His Coming. It is the introductory sermon for the messages of our pre-Easter week. This coming Lord’s Day is the highest Christian festival, celebration, praise day of the year. It is Easter Sunday; The Signs of His Coming.
In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, out of which you just read, the apostles came to the Lord and said, "What is the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" [Matthew 24: 3]. The Lord did not disdain that question, but He answered it in His apocalyptic discourses at great length [Matthew 24:4-51]. And not only in the days of His flesh did the Lord address Himself to the denouement of the age, but in the last book of the Bible, and in the last chapter of that book, and in the last verses of the Revelation, this is what He said: Revelation 22:7; "Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book."
Again, in verse 12 He repeats it: "Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give everyone according as his work shall be" [Revelation 22:12]. As though that were not enough, He closed with this last reminder: "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely I come quickly." And then John’s answering prayer: "Amen. Even so, come, blessed Lord Jesus" [Revelation 22:20].
"Behold, I come quickly." The New Testament word is tachu. It is an adverb. When you look through the use of that word in the New Testament, tachos is the substantive. It’s the noun form. It means, "quickness," "swiftness," "speed." The adjectival form of the substantive is tachanos, which means, "swift," "speedy."
But there are three adverbial forms of the word. One is, tacha, "quickly," "speedily." One is, tacheÃ´s, "quickly," "speedily." And, the third is tachu, "quickly," "speedily." It’s an unusual thing that the adverbial form takes three different words to express it. And the third one, tachu, is the one used here, all three times. "Behold, I come tachu."
Now it has one definite meaning and one overtone. The definite meaning is this: an adverb modifies a verb and expresses manner, way, how. So the Lord avows, "When I come, I will come quickly, speedily" [Revelation 22:7]. That is, the events will follow one another in rapid succession. But it has an overtone, also. The word, tachu could refer to the time of our Lord’s coming. And if it has that overtone, then the Lord said, "I am coming back soon" [Revelation 22:20].
We must remember that God’s clock is not our clock. In the third chapter of 2 Peter, the inspired apostle Paul writes that, "With the Lord a thousand years is as a day, and a day as a thousand years" [2 Peter 3:8]. In the Psalm, number 90, a prayer of Moses, the man of God, he says, "For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night" [Psalm 90:4]. If that is true, that a thousand years in the Lord’s sight is but a day, then the Lord has been gone two days. And maybe He will return on the third.
That gives rise to the message this morning which arose, not only in the years past that I have studied God’s Word, but especially and particularly in these last few weeks, when I have been confined to the hospital and to my study at home and have read in the Bible, and then the headlines of the daily papers. And however much I may have been persuaded of the fulfillment of the prophetic Word of the Lord in these days and years past, I have never been so astonishingly overwhelmed by the fulfillment of what God has said as I look at the developments in history today! Out of the multitude of the signs of our Lord’s coming and the denouement of the age – the consummation of the age – out of a multitude of them, I have chosen nine.
First: is Revelation 16:12-16; Revelation 16:12-16:
And the sixth angel poured out his vial of wrath, of judgment,
upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was
dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared
to cross over.
I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, of the beast, of the false prophet.
They are the spirits of demons, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
Har Megiddo, the mountain of Megiddo, which is located on the south side of the Esdraelon plain in the heart of Israel; that is, God says that the great consummation of the age and the denouement of history will be found in the Middle East [Revelation 16:16]. It is there that the great convocation of the nations will be gathered. And it is there that the last war will be fought.
I read that in the Bible. And then, I see it in the headlines of our papers: the determining factor – militarily, naval, economic, political – is going to be decided in the Middle East, God says. And that’s what I read in the papers. In 1973, in the oil crisis, we became aware of the fact that the Middle East has the answer for either the total destruction of our economy, or the prosperity of our people – a bitter lesson for us to learn.
In the days of the Vietnam War, the president of the United States invited a little handful of us to come to the White House. We were seated in the room next to the oval office, where the cabinet members sit. And as we sat there in those chairs where the cabinet members sit, the president of the United States introduced to us, presented to us, Henry Kissinger. And the purpose was that we be briefed on the foreign policies of the United States. And as the extended session continued, I asked Henry Kissinger, "Vietnam, is there a possibility that there will be nuclear confrontation by the great power in Vietnam?"
He said, "No, never!"
Well, I said, "Is there a place in the earth where such a possibility exists?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "Where is it?"
He said, "In the Middle East."
That’s what God says, that the great, final campaign, the military confrontation and the great gathering of the nations of the world will be in the Middle East.
In the Revelation 9:16, the apostle says that one of those nations will be present in that battle of Armageddon with an army of two hundred million men. And John says, in the next breath, "I heard the number of them." As though to say it was not enough, he emphasizes it in the next verse: "I heard the number of them" [Revelation 9:16]. That one army: two hundred million men! And, as you know, the Bible describes the blood of that awesome conflict, up to the horse’s bridles for two hundred miles [Revelation 14:20]. Dear me! What lies ahead for this earth?
Number two, number two: one of the most astonishing things that I read in the Bible and that I see in today’s world is the prophecy in Ezekiel 36, beginning at verse 24. The prophecy is that when the Jew returns to Palestine, to Israel, he will return in unbelief – in unbelief, which is an unthinkable thing to me! Ezekiel 36, 24-28:
I will take you from among the nations, gather you out
of all the countries of the earth. I will bring you into your
own land. Then,
And not until then:
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall
A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit,
Ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers;
ye shall be My people, and I will be your God.
[Ezekiel 36:24-26, 28]
What an unbelievable prediction, that when Israel turns to the land, they will come back in unbelief! I cannot tell you the vast, illimitable surprise, when you visit Israel, the impression is "They’re all atheists." This is a nation of people who belong to God, whose religion has been the teaching of the precepts of the Almighty to the earth. When the judge sits on his bench, the great foundational principles by which he says we have rights is founded and grounded and rooted in the Bible; in the Mosaic legislation, in the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29]. And yet these people who have taught us God, the Bible says, will gather back into Palestine, into the homeland, into Israel, and they will do so in unbelief [Ezekiel 36:24-28]. Look at them today. I say, my impression is they are practical atheists.
Again, an astonishing thing, Jeremiah chapter 31:23:
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: As yet
they shall use this Hebrew speech in the land of Judah
and in the cities thereof, when I bring again their captivity.
Why, my brother, the Hebrew tongue has been dead for two thousand five hundred years, a dead language, unspoken. When the Jews, when Judah returned back to their homeland in the Babylonian captivity [Ezra 1:1-2:70], they were speaking Aramaic. And the language of the Jew in his homeland became Aramaic. That’s why, when Ezra stood up and opened the book of the law of Moses and taught the people, he had to interpret it because the law of Moses is written in Hebrew, and the people were speaking Aramaic [Nehemiah 8:3-9].
For two thousand five hundred years, the Hebrew language has been a dead language! But today when you go to Israel, they’re all speaking Hebrew. They have brought it to life. According to the Word of God, they shall use this Hebrew speech, "in the land of Judah, and in the cities, thereof, when I bring again their captivity" [Jeremiah 31:23].
Once again, God writes in Ezekiel 38 and 39 that the great enemy of Israel and of the people of God are coming down from the north [Ezekiel 38:15, 39:2]. Where in the north? He spells it out in both chapters: chapter 38 and chapter 39. Listen to the Word of the prophecy:
The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Gog – that’s the king – of the land of Magog – that’s the country –
The prince of Rosh,
In my King James’ Version, it says the "chief prince of Meshech." Why they wanted to translate Rosh, "chief," I have no idea. The Hebrew text is the prince. This king of Magog is the prince of Rosh.
The prince of Meshech, the prince of Tubal, prophesy against him.
Thus saith the Lord God; I am against thee, O Gog,
The prince of Rosh, Meshech, Tubal:
I will turn thee back, and put hooks in thy jaws,
It begins the same way in chapter 39:
Thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, Thus saith the
Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the prince
of Rosh, Meshech, Tubal:
I will turn you back, leave but the sixth part of thee.
I will cause thee to come up from the north parts,
Wherever in the world, you go "up" to Jerusalem; from the land of Gog you go "up," always up. We’d say he is coming "down" from the north [Ezekiel 38:15]. Always you go "up" to Israel.
Coming up from the north parts, will bring thee upon
the mountains of Israel:
Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and
all thy bands, and the people with thee: I will give thee
unto the ravenous birds, to the beasts of the field to be
I will send a fire upon Magog,
[Ezekiel 39:1-2, 4, 6]
Where is Magog? In the days of Ezekiel, Magog was all of that vast area north of the Black and the Caspian Seas. But as though that were not enough, He spells it out: "I am speaking against the leader of Rosh," Russia; "Meshech," Moscow; "Tubal," Tobolsk.
These are the enemies of God and the enemies of the people of the Lord. And this great, final Armageddon confrontation is precipitated by the vast invasion of the country that we call Russia! [Ezekiel 38:15].
You know, it’s a strange thing about our people. It’s a funny quirk in our heads I’ve never been able to understand. All of us to the last man think of Hitler as being a blot upon the escutcheon of humanity – no darker page in human history than that written by bloody Hitler, that’s what we think.
It’s a funny thing to me; when Hitler invaded Poland, he did so in a conspiracy with Russia. And when Hitler invaded Poland from the west, Stalin and Russia invaded it from the east. And they divided up the spoils between them. As vile as Hitler was, Stalin and Russia [were] no less vile. The only difference is Hitler was destroyed, and Russia continues that annihilation of nations, one after another, to this present day.
While the attention of the world was focused on Hitler, Russia invaded Poland, invaded Finland, and then destroyed Estonia, and Latvia, and Lithuania, and took away from Romania, Bessarabia. And they’re in the Soviet orbit today, all except brave little Finland. And they just keep expanding. That’s what God said Russia would do. And I read it in the headlines of the papers today. The great enemy that will come down from the north, the prophecy says, is Russia [Ezekiel 38:15, 39:2]. She’s on the move.
Now another sign: In that thirty-eighth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, verse 5: the prophecy says that confederate will be Libya and Ethiopia and Persia [Ezekiel 38:5]; those three. I’m frank to tell you that for years and years and years I looked at that prophecy in askance. I couldn’t believe it. You see, I have been in Libya, in days past. And I was never more beautifully entreated in my life than I was in Libya. They were our friends. And some of the tremendously gifted citizens of this city of Dallas were drilling for oil, searching for oil, in the deserts of Libya. We were great friends, and had been through the years and the years. Yet, I read here in the Bible that Libya is to be an enemy to us. I couldn’t understand it.
The same thing happened in Ethiopia: as I spoke before, Mabel Ann and I went through East Africa, from north to south of that continent holding evangelistic services. And in no place were we more beautifully entreated, or more wonderfully received, than in Ethiopia. They had a beautiful dinner for us in their hotel, presided over by the greatest, most powerful political leader of the nation, a great Coptic Christian. They were our friends, Ethiopia. Today, when I ask about Ethiopia, I ask about those people who were our host and hostesses. They’ve either been executed, or they’re all in prison. Ethiopia is our enemy, just as God wrote it in the Book.
And Persia – Iran: Why, we were in Iran, never more beautifully entreated. One of those men there helped us buy the most beautiful rugs. They’re on every floor in the parsonage. Just beautifully entreated, beautifully helped – they were our friends. I met with them, spoke with them, shook hands with them, walked among them. They were our friends.
Today Ayatollah Khomeini says, "We must hate America, and we must hate America until we die!" That’s what the Book said. And it’s just exactly as the Book says. As I read it in the Bible, I see it on the headlines of the papers.
We must hastily continue. These tremendous signs – these tremendous signs of the intervention of God; and the most astonishing of all of them, this one; I don’t believe, even though I read it in the Bible, and I see it in the papers, and I look at pictures of it on television, I shake my head, I don’t believe it. It’s too wonderful to be true. Isaiah chapter 19, verse 19, Isaiah chapter 19, verse 19:
In that day shall there shall be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and an obelisk at the border thereof to the Jehovah God.
It shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt . . .
And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the
Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day.
In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt . . .
[Isaiah 19:19-21, 23]
Up there through the land of Israel – and those people, who live up there in the land of Israel, shall come into Egypt, and Egyptians shall go into their land.
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria,
Up there north, and in Israel:
Even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying,
Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance.
Can you believe that? Why, my brother, it’s been just yesterday when Egypt and Israel were at war! And it’s been just yesterday, when visiting in Cairo, every house, and business and institution had a big, big, big, wall that thick in front it. And I’d say, "What’s that for?" And [they’d say] "That’s in the day when Israel attacks again." And they live like that, hate each other, children brought up to hate each other. That’s what the whole world looked like just a little while ago.
And today Sadat has his arms around Begin, and they’re kissing each other on the cheek. What? I can’t believe my eyes! What? And when you get in an airplane in Tel Aviv, you’ve got to go early for the traffic down to Cairo. And when you’re in Cairo, if you’re going to Tel Aviv, you’ve got to go early to get on a plane to go to Tel Aviv. The highway – both on the ground and in the air between Egypt and Israel: just like it said in the Bible. You just – you can hardly believe what God is doing!
We must hasten. Daniel described how it will be in the end time. Daniel 12:4, the statesman, prophet is told: "Thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased."
What will the end time be like? The prophet says, there are two things that shall characterize it: one, knowledge; second, rapidity of transportation and movement [Daniel 12:4]. That is the key to the great, final prophetic Word, that at the end time, the nations of the world would be like one small neighborhood; and finally, will be seized by one tremendous dictator, called the son of perdition, the man of sin, the Antichrist [2 Thessalonians 2:3]. That prophecy of Daniel is what makes it possible.
A few years ago, just a few years ago, it would have been impossible for one man to control the destiny of the world. Today, it is easily possible. Why? Because of what Daniel said would come to pass: knowledge, increasing [Daniel 12:4]. My brother, there has been more additional knowledge added to the sum total of what we know in the last dozen years than in all of the thousands of years before. It is possible now for a computer to keep track of every single solid soul in this earth, whether they can buy or sell, whether they can go and come, what they’re doing, what they’re going to do. It is possible now to do so with a computer. For us to have an end time like that there had to be rapid communication, and rapid intelligence, and rapid knowledge. And we have it today, this minute. And it is increasing at a furious pace.
A second thing: in order for the world to come to that final place, there had to be rapid transportation, missiles that can carry a load of hydrogen bombs to any point on the earth just like that. And we have that today and getting more precise in it all the time. And the movement of troops and this awesomeness of this final war, I read in the prophet’s descriptions of that in Nahum 2:3-4:
The shield of his mighty men is made red with blood:
The chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation . . .
The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, and they shall run like lightnings.
That’s a description of the tanks, and of the bombers, and the missiles in our hands at this present moment. And Zechariah describes the results of those awful hydrogen and atomic confrontations. In Zechariah 14:12:
And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongues
shall consume away in their mouth.
I was in Hiroshima – Hiroshima, they call it there – not long after that atomic bomb. And some of those people said to me who were there and lived through that awesome holocaust, they said to me that a man could be standing, or working, and the results of that awful explosion, the liquid in his eyes would pour out. And he’d just have holes where his eyes ought to be. And the whole frame of his skin and flesh would seemingly evaporate. And he stands there with sockets without eyes, and a frame without flesh, just as Zechariah prophesied in the Bible. Ah! Ah!
Two more: Matthew 24 in the apocalyptic discourse of our Lord, verse 14: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" [Matthew 24:14].
That would never have been possible until today. Today, they have these satellites, swinging around this earth twenty-four hours every day. And off of those satellites, they bump those radio and television waves. And anywhere in the earth, you can hear the messages bumped off of those satellites.
When we were in Warsaw, the brethren of the First Baptist Church there were sponsoring a broadcast in Monaco, down there in the south of France, over a five hundred thousand watt station in forty different languages. They have one in Cyprus. There’s one in Quito, in South America. There’s one or two over there in the Near East. The whole earth can hear the gospel, and is.
When I was in the Fiji Islands, I saw one of those Fiji Islanders with his face and his ear on the ground. I thought, "Well, he must have an American Indian streak in him, he’s listening to the ground." I walked over there and looked closely, and the fellow had a little, tiny radio, and he had it on the ground. And he was lying there with his ear on the radio. I went over there where he was, and I got down by his side. And I listened to what he was listening to on that little, tiny radio. You know what he was listening to? He was listening to a sermon out of God’s Book. He was listening to a message bounced off of one of those satellites, and there listening to a message from God, just as the Lord said.
And the last one, the ninth one I have chosen is a sad one. Second Thessalonians 2: 3 – out of many such verses: "That final day shall not come, except there be a great he apostasia," except there be a falling away first, "And that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."
God’s Book says that at the end time there will be a great falling away from the faith and from our Lord. Dear God, why would such a thing overtake our people and our churches, that they’d deny the faith, and forsake Thy will and way and name? Why? I don’t understand. I don’t understand. God says that in the end time, Jesus will be on the outside of the door. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" [Revelation 3:20]. That’s the church at Laodicea. He is not inside. He is on the outside, knocking at the door. The Lord said, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith in the earth? [Luke 18:8], anywhere – the great apostasia. What I read in the paper – this is a news dispatch:
Churches are closing down for good all over Great Britain.
A recent exhibition at the Victorian Albert Museum in
London presented graphic evidence of the shut-downs.
In these last two years, the Anglican Church commissioners authorized the demolition of one church every nine days. The Advisory Board for Redundant Churches predicted in its annual report that between 1970 and 1980, the total number of Church of England churches declared redundant will exceed one thousand. And this rate will increase.
In the past forty years, about five thousand Methodist churches have been shut down. Many churches have simply been demolished. Others have been transformed into community centers, art centers, post offices, fish-and-chip shops, auctioneering houses, and wholesale groceries. A former Methodist chapel in East Sussex is now an office for a typewriter manufacturer. Another in Stratford on Avon – that’s Shakespeare’s town – is a museum, featuring vintage cars. A chapel in Davenport, Plymouth, has been turned into a pub – – into a liquor joint – and they call it, "The Old Chapel."
You couldn’t read that and not bow your head in anguish and sorrow. When I walked up and down the streets of Stockholm, inviting people to church, to the Lord, I had one universal reply. I never met an exception to it. It was this little sentence: "I am just not interested."
I suppose outside of a few islands, such as you find here in this queenly city and in this dear church, these churches look like mausoleums. The most beautiful Baptist church in New York – I counted them, they had eighteen present. A gorgeous, beautiful church, in a city of seventeen million people; they had eighteen there.
Ah! Master, this is a time to search our souls. And when we are tempted to turn aside from the blessed gospel and to find our values in materialities and temporalities, dear God, remind us that we’re the people upon whom the ends of the earth have come. These are the great destiny-determining days of all history and of all mankind. And Lord, may we be found faithful, like old Joshua, in his age standing before Israel in his last address, saying, "I know not what others may do, but as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord" [Joshua 24:15].
Let’s be that way in our lives, in our dedication, in our faithfulness to our wonderful and living Savior. Now may we stand together?
Our Lord, we are frank to say we stand appalled at what we see, what we hear, and now what we feel. Dear God, may it be today that the Spirit will knock at the doors of the hearts of many: some to accept Thee as Savior, some to bring their families into the fellowship of this dear church, some maybe to answer God’s call for their lives. May this be a day of salvation and rejoicing.
Out of that balcony round, down one of those stairways, in the great press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: "Pastor, today we have decided for God and here we are." Make that decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we sing the hymn of appeal, be the first to answer with your life. Bring your family, welcome; that friend or wife by your side, welcome; or just one somebody you. For this moment, while we pray, while we wait, while we sing, make it now. Do it now. Do it now.