The Signs of God
April 29th, 1984 @ 8:15 AM
THE SIGNS OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-29-84 8:15 a.m.
And God bless the great numbers of you who have come into the house of the Lord this morning, and the Lord bless no less the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio. Our clock up there says it is 7:30, so that means I get to preach 7:30, 8:30, 9:00 o’clock. So let us all just find a comfortable place to relax while the pastor delivers his soul this morning. Goodness! I wish it could be that way.
In our doctrinal series on the second coming of Christ, the section in which we are studying these present days, I found it impossible to encompass the message in this one sermon. I have broken it up, therefore, into two messages. Next Sunday will be The Signs of the Coming of Our Lord. There are seventeen of them that are being fulfilled today before our very eyes. We can see them in our newspapers; listen to them on our radios. We can watch them on our television sets—next Sunday, the seventeen signs in this present day of the coming of our Lord.
The message this morning is a message on The Signs of God. In the twenty-fourth chapter of [Matthew], verse 3 says, “And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” [Matthew 24:3]. The signs of God—there are two words in the Hebrew Old Testament that are used for “signs.” One is oth and the other is mophet. In the New Testament the word is sēmeion. And those words refer to the acts and the phenomena by which God confirms and reveals and makes known His will to His people. The Bible is a book of signs. It opens that way. In the fourteenth verse of the first chapter of Genesis, “The Lord God said, Let these lights in the firmament,” this sun that shines by day and the moon that shines by night, “let these lights in the firmament be for signs, be for signs” [Genesis 1:14]. When the sun moves south of the equator, get ready for winter; when the sun moves north of the equator, get ready to plant and to plow and to sow and finally to reap. They are for signs, says God. And they speak to us that wonderful psalmist, in number 8, “When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy hands … What is man, that Thou are mindful of him? and the son of man, that You visit him?” [Psalm 8:3-4]. They speak to us, the grandeur and omnipotent greatness of Almighty God, and the infinitesimal, inconsequential smallness of man.
Not only does the Bible begin with signs but it closes with signs. Revelation1:1—now I’m going to pronounce this word exactly as it ought to be pronounced—apokalupsis, “Revelation, the uncovering of Jesus Christ, which God gave to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and sign-ified it by His angel unto His servant John” [Revelation 1:1]. Remember that Greek word for sign? Sēmeion, the verbal form of it is sēmainō. And that’s the word that is used here, and it is translated beautifully in the Bible. “And He sent and sign-ified it to His servant John.” You miss the point when you mispronounce the word. We pronounce it “signified it.” He said “and signified it.” It ought to be “sign-ified it.” In Revelation 15:1, for example, “I saw another great sēmeion—great sign—in the heaven.”
Not only is the Bible a Bible of signs, but God is a giver of signs. God is a God of signs. One of the most remarkable testimonies you’ll read it in literature is that of King Nebuchadnezzar in the fourth chapter of Daniel, when he tells how he lost his mind and ate grass in the field like an ox [Daniel 4:32-33]. And he prayed to God and humbled himself, and God restored to him his reason and his kingdom and his throne [Daniel 4:34-36]. Now in that testimony, Nebuchadnezzar begins in Daniel 4:3, “How great are Thy signs!” Same thing, sort of, in the sixth chapter of the Book of Daniel, when the marvelous deliverance is seen before him in Daniel being delivered from the den of lions [Daniel 6:16-22]. In the decree that Darius, the king of Persia, sent to the whole civilized world, he speaks of the wonder of God who worketh by signs [Daniel 6:25-27].
God is a God of signs. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis it says that after the world was destroyed by a flood, God put a sign, oth, sign in the sky, that He would never destroy the world again by water. And that sign is the rainbow [Genesis 9:11-16]. In the second letter of Simon Peter, chapter 3, verses 4-8, he says the final judgment will not be by water, but by fire [2 Peter 3:4-8]. For God’s sign in the sky to the world is, “He will never destroy the world by water” [Genesis 9:11-16].
One of the most unusual passages you’ll read in the Bible is in the seventh chapter of the Book of Isaiah. That’s that wonderful sign of the coming of a Lord Immanuel. Where that came from was this: Ahaz the king is as weak and unstable as water. Now beginning at verse 10, in Isaiah 7:
The Lord spake unto Ahaz, saying,
Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God;
ask it either in the depth below, or in the height above.
“Ask it.” God challenges him to ask any kind of a sign, and weak Ahaz says, “I will not ask” [Isaiah 7:12].
Now I’ve not time to expatiate on that. He had secretly already made his mind up that he was going to bring in Assyria to deliver him from his enemies [2 Kings 16:7-9], a thing that proved disastrous for the kingdom. So the Lord gave a sign anyway [Isaiah 7:14]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? He challenges us to ask God for a sign. You want to know God’s will? You want to know God’s purpose? You want to know God’s decision for you and choice for you? Ask a sign; ask it in heaven above or in earth beneath [Isaiah 7:10-11]. The great authenticating ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ was by signs. John, the Gospel of John, you’ll not find the word “miracle” in it, though when you read your Bible, the King James Version, it will use “miracle” all the way through. There’s no such thing as that. The word is sēmeion, sign. No word “miracle” in the Gospel of John; always it is “sign.” He writes in John 20:30, “Many other signs truly did Jesus, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God” [John 20:31].
John chose seven signs—you call them miracles—seven signs that He was the Immanuel, the Prince of heaven, the Son of God. And the gospel is authenticated by signs. In [Hebrews 2:4], “God also bearing them witness,” those who preach the gospel at first, “by signs.” This is the way God confirms His word to His people. God reveals His purposes to His people by signs and by words [Hebrews 2:4]. In Genesis 18:17 the Lord says, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” And God revealed to him what He proposed to do [Genesis 18:20-32]. In Amos 3:7 God says, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.” Whatever God is going to do, He reveals it to His people by words and by signs.
From Genesis to Revelation God has done that. He tells us the meaning of what He says, and He affirms by signs His intention to do it. Isaiah, Isaiah says, “Look, these are the children whom the Lord hath given me for signs in Israel” [Isaiah 8:18]. And he named the children those names that you read in the Bible [Isaiah 7:3, 8:3]. And as the children walked up and down all the days of their lives before Israel, they were signs of the will of God for the people. One of the most unusual things again you’ll read in the Bible is Isaiah 20:3. Let me read it:
And the Lord said, Like as My servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign to Egypt and Ethiopia;
So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot.
Just as Isaiah was walking around naked and barefoot for three years—it was a sign upon Egypt and Ethiopia.
In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, God tells Ezekiel to take his goods, all of them, and to dig through the wall and to carry them out in the middle of the night. And when the people of God asked Ezekiel, “What are you doing?” Ezekiel replied, “By the word of the Lord, I am your sign! As God has told me to do this, it is a sign to you that God is going to move you out. You are going captive into the land of Babylon” [Ezekiel 12:1-11].
Signs: God is a God of signs, and the Bible is a Bible of signs. And He challenges us to ask His will and to confirm it by signs [Isaiah 7:11]. There are covenant signs; circumcision is a covenant sign. God said to Abraham, “I will make thee exceeding fruitful” [Genesis 17:6]. And number two: “I will give you unto your seed the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession” [Genesis 17:8]. And He gave them a sign: “Ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. It shall be a sign of the covenant betwixt Me and thee” [Genesis 17:9-14]. Circumcision is a sign of God that Abraham would be blessed in his seed and that the land of Israel belongs to them [Genesis 17:6-14]. In Romans 4:11 the apostle Paul wrote about that: “And Abraham received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith.”
The Sabbath is a sign for Israel; not for us, for Israel. In Exodus 31:13, “Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you”—Israel—“throughout your generations.” For one of us to try to keep the Sabbath day is ridiculous; I am not a Jew, I am not of the seed of Abraham. The Sabbath is a sign between God and Israel. Ezekiel 20:12, “I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and Israel, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctifies them.”
The Passover is a sign. Exodus 13 says, “Thou shalt show thy son when he asks you, What is this? You tell him, This is what God did when He delivered us out of Egypt. And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes” [Exodus 13:8-9]. In that sense the Lord’s Supper is a sign for us. When we hold the cup aloft, it is a sign of the new covenant in the blood of Jesus [Matthew 26:27-28].
There are confirming signs; confirming signs; signs by which we can know this is God’s will and God’s purpose and God’s choice for us. The burning bush was a sign to Moses [Exodus 3:1-3]. It was a sign of triumphant deliverance for the people. The Lord God said to Moses out of that bush, “I will be with thee; and this is the sign, in this place. You and the people of Israel will worship God” [Exodus 3:1-12; Acts 7:30-36]. And they’re down there slaves in Egypt. No! They’re going to worship God in this place where the bush burns [Exodus 19:1-25]. Moses was reluctant, and he said, “They will not believe me, and they will say to me, The Lord hath not appeared unto Thee.” And the Lord God said, “Moses, what is in your hand? A rod. Put it down.” He cast it down, and it was serpent [Exodus 4:1-3].
“Pick it up.” It turned a rod again [Exodus 4:4].
“Take your hand; put it in your bosom.” It turned leprous [Exodus 4:6].
“Put it back in your bosom.” It turned whole again [Exodus 4:7].
Then the Lord said, “If they believe not the first sign, they will believe the latter sign. And if they believe not these two signs, then take water from the river and pour it on the dry land, and it will be blood” [Exodus 4:8-9]. And the last of that chapter 4 in Exodus, and Moses did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed him; and they followed him [Exodus 4:28-31].
All of us are familiar with Gideon. In Judges 6:17, Gideon says, “Lord show me a sign that You have called me.” And the Lord God made the dew on the fleece [wet], and all the ground around was dry. Then the next sign, He made the fleece dry, and all around the ground was wet [Judges 6:36-40].
Signs: God uses signs to express His unhappiness and displeasure and judgment on people. I haven’t time to read them, but in the Book of Exodus, all through, it says, “The plagues”—there were ten of them [Exodus 7:14-12:30]—“the plagues were signs that God was displeased with Pharaoh and with the people of Egypt.” In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Numbers, the earth opened itself and swallowed Korah and his company, and the Book of Numbers 26:10 says that they became a sign; they were a sign that God had chosen Moses and was displeased with Korah and his company who rebelled against God’s servant.
In the forty-fourth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah it says that God was displeased with those of Judah who forsook their land and went down into Egypt. And the Lord gave them a sign. This Pharaoh Hophra, ruler of Egypt, this man shall be a sign unto you. “Behold I have given Hophra into the hands of his enemies” [Jeremiah 44:30]. And they strangled him to death. That was a sign from God of His displeasure with what the people were doing in the land of Egypt.
There are confirming signs of God, that He is with His people and that He will deliver them. In the thirty-seventh chapter of the Book of Isaiah, Hezekiah offers before God a desperate prayer [Isaiah 37:15-20]. He is surrounded by the Assyrian army of Sennacherib, and he lays the letter of Sennacherib before the Lord God in the house of the Lord [Isaiah 37:14]. “Look on it, Lord. Look at this. They’re going to destroy us, slay us and carry us away captive and plow up our city.” And the Lord God said to him a whole lot of words [Isaiah 37:21-29]. And finally added, “This shall be a sign unto you: this very year you are going to reap a gracious harvest. And the next year you’re going to reap a gracious harvest. And the following year I have given you another gracious harvest” [Isaiah 37:30]. And that night, 185,000 soldiers of Sennacherib lay dead corpses around the city; a sign of God’s deliverance [Isaiah 37:36]. It came again in Isaiah 38, chapter 38, when Hezekiah’s sick and he turns his face to the wall and he weeps [Isaiah 38:1-2]. And Isaiah is turned around, who has just been speaking to Hezekiah, saying, “Set your house in order. You are going to die and not live!” [Isaiah 38:1].
And God sent back Isaiah [Isaiah 38:4], when Hezekiah wept and repented and pled with God [Isaiah 38:2-3], and the Lord God said, “I will give you fifteen more years” [Isaiah 38:5]. Then He gave him a sign [Isaiah 38:7]. God is a God of signs. “This shall be a sign unto thee from the Lord God. I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down on the sundial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward” [Isaiah 38:8]. Can you believe that? That’s a sign of Almighty God.
Same thing happened again in the life of Ahaz when he was king, beset by Rezin of Syria and [Pekah] the son of Remaliah of Samaria [Isaiah 7:1]. That’s when Isaiah wanted to give him a sign that God would deliver him [Isaiah 7:10-11, 14]. God’s confirmation and leadership in the lives of His servants is always present, always.
When Saul was chosen king in the tenth chapter of 1 Samuel, Samuel gives the new young crowned, anointed king three signs, and they are called that: “And let it be when these signs are come upon thee that you know that God is with you” [1 Samuel 10:2-7]. And the apostles were confirmed in their ministries by the signs from God. In 2 Corinthians 12:12 the apostle Paul writes, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought in your presence, in your sight.” An apostle could not heal anybody just by healing, or do a miracle just by doing it; they were confirming signs from heaven. For example, in the last chapter of the last letter that Paul wrote, 2 Timothy 4, he says, “Trophimus have I left it Miletus sick” [2 Timothy 4:20]. Why didn’t he heal him? That’s the unkindest thing that you could imagine. Trophimus was one of his right-hand men, yet he goes off and leaves him sick, simply because no apostle could heal and no apostle could do a sign unless first God gave it to him as a confirmation of his faith, of his gospel. The Bible is confirmed in the will of God by signs, and the signs of an apostle authenticated those men of God to the people.
I have said before you so many times, so many times, I believe in signs. I believe in confirming signs because I believe the Bible; I believe the Word of God and the power and the presence of God with His people. When I came to Dallas forty years ago, it was after a great confirming sign that I’m going to speak of on my fortieth anniversary, a confirming sign from God, a vision from heaven.
Now I’m asked by everybody, “What are you going to do with your ministry here in the First Baptist Church in Dallas?” There won’t be a reporter, such as two days ago—there won’t be a reporter talking to me; there won’t be anybody that speaks to me who knows me but will ask me that question, “What are you going to do?” In these days past, I have said, “I’m seeking a sign from God, and it will come. I’m seeking a sign from the Lord.” It had been my own human thinking that when my fortieth anniversary came, the first Sunday in October, when my fortieth anniversary came, I would announce my retirement.
One of the fine men in our church came to me and said, “Pastor, that’d be a disastrous thing to do to us. We’re in the midst, the very midst, of our tremendous stewardship program. And for you to announce your retirement in the midst of our great stewardship program would hurt us disastrously.”
I remembered the deacons at Muskogee before I came here. I was called here the first Sunday in October. And that’s a Sunday. I was called the twenty-seventh day of September in 1944. And I preached here the first Sunday in October, and it was such a high marvelous day. It was my first appearance after they’d called me as pastor of the church, and Bob Coleman walked out with me and said, “Pastor, this is your anniversary. We’ve never had a day like this.” So on the first Sunday in October, we were in the midst of our stewardship program in Muskogee, and the deacons came to me and said, “Pastor, don’t go now. Wait.” And I stayed in Muskogee until November, to move down here to Dallas, in order to help the church there in their great stewardship appeal.
So that gave me pause. Here I am planning to retire the first Sunday in October. And one of our wonderful men says, “Pastor, that will hurt. That will hurt. We’re in the midst of our great stewardship program. You can’t do it then.” So I paused and continued to pray, and then to look to God, “Lord, what shall I do? It is my human purpose to retire. I’ve been here forty years, and it’s time for me to retire. And I need a sign from heaven; what shall I do?” And then the providence came—several million dollars given to us here in the church, with the proviso, number one: that we build this building now, and number two proviso: that it be done in my ministry, while I’m here. If we don’t do it now, we’re not given the several millions of dollars. And if it’s not done in my ministry, we’ll not be given those several millions of dollars. So there’s not anything for me to do. If I have any interest in the church at all, and any belief in the will of God at all, and a confirming sign that I asked for, there is not anything to do, but right now, we forget about retirement; we forget about quitting; we forget about resting; we forget about taking it easy, and we go to work here and build that building now! Remember that song of Kenny Rogers, the gamblers advice? Remember that song? “You’ve got to know when to hold them, and you’ve got to know when to fold them, and you’ve got to know when to run. There’s time and aplenty to count your money after the deal is done.” Remember that? Remember that?
We’ve got to know how to pray for it. And we’ve got to know how to pay for it. And we’ve got to work till the building is done. And there’s no time for rest and for leisure until the race is run. So we’re going to finish it. We’re going to build that building. And we’re going to raise it to the glory of God and let it stand as a monument to the love and grace of our wonderful Savior.
I have to quit; I’m not done. We’re going to sing us a song of appeal. And as we sing our appeal, to give your heart to Jesus, to come into the fellowship of the church, to walk closer with our Lord, to re-avow and to reconsecrate and to regive your life, to reaffirm your commitment to our Lord, while we sing this song, come. We’ll have a prayer together. We’ll look to God together. We’ll ask God to bless us together. Make it now. Make the decision in your heart now. In the balcony, down one of those stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “This is God’s day and God’s time for me, pastor, and here I am.” May angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
THE SIGNS OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The Bible is a book of signs(Genesis 1:14, Psalm 8:3, Revelation 1:1, 15:1)
C. Jesus the Son of God authenticated by signs(John 3:2, 20:30-31)
D. Gospel authenticated by signs(Hebrews 2:3-4, Matthew 12:38-40, John 2:18-19)
E. God reveals His purposes to His people by words and signs(Genesis 18:17, Amos 3:7, John 14:29, Revelation 1:1, Isaiah 8:18, 20:3, Ezekiel 12:6, 9-11)II. Covenant signs
A. Circumcision(Genesis 17:6, 8, 11, Romans 4:11)
B. Sabbath(Exodus 31:13, Ezekiel 20:12)
C. Passover(Exodus 13:8-9, Matthew 26:28)III. Confirming signs
A. God’s call(Exodus 3:1-10, 12, 4:2-5, 6-9, 29-31, Judges 6:17, 36, 39)
B. God’s unhappiness, displeasure, judgment(Exodus 7:3, 8:23, 10:1-2, Joshua 24:17, Numbers 26:10, Jeremiah 44:29-30)
C. God’s deliverance of His people(Isaiah 7:10-16, 37:30, 38:1-8)
D. God’s leadership in the lives of His servants(1 Samuel 10:1, 2-7, 2 Corinthians 12:12, 2 Timothy 4:20)
E. My pastorateIV. Signs of Christ’s coming and of the end of the world(Matthew 24:3)
A. Jesus did not rebuke them for asking(Matthew 24, 25, Mark 13, Luke 21)
B. Thief in the night(1 Thessalonians 5:1-6)
C. List of signs of Christ’s return – Dr. Norman B. Harrison
D. Our ignoring them(Matthew 16:1-3, 2:1-18)