Before The Coming of Christ

Ezekiel

Before The Coming of Christ

August 18th, 1985 @ 8:15 AM

Ezekiel 36-39

Also, thou son of man, prophesy unto the mountains of Israel, and say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD: Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the enemy hath said against you, Aha, even the ancient high places are ours in possession: Therefore prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the heathen, and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people: Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about; Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey. Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because ye have borne the shame of the heathen: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I have lifted up mine hand, Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame. But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come. For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown: And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded: And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men. Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because they say unto you, Thou land devourest up men, and hast bereaved thy nations; Therefore thou shalt devour men no more, neither bereave thy nations any more, saith the Lord GOD. Neither will I cause men to hear in thee the shame of the heathen any more, neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the people any more, neither shalt thou cause thy nations to fall any more, saith the Lord GOD. Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it: And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land. But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it. Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD. The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD. The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these? Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes. And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee. Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them. After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee. Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land. Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil? Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it? And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes. Thus saith the Lord GOD; Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days many years that I would bring thee against them? And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face. For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: every man’s sword shall be against his brother. And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD. Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel: And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. Thou shalt fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD. And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the LORD. So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord GOD; this is the day whereof I have spoken. And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall burn them with fire seven years: So that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire: and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord GOD. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the noses of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it The valley of Hamongog. And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land. Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them; and it shall be to them a renown the day that I shall be glorified, saith the Lord GOD. And they shall sever out men of continual employment, passing through the land to bury with the passengers those that remain upon the face of the earth, to cleanse it: after the end of seven months shall they search. And the passengers that pass through the land, when any seeth a man’s bone, then shall he set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamongog. And also the name of the city shall be Hamonah. Thus shall they cleanse the land. And, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord GOD. And I will set my glory among the heathen, and all the heathen shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward. And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions have I done unto them, and hid my face from them. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name; After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid. When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations; Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there. Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
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BEFORE THE COMING OF CHRIST

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ezekiel 36-39

8-18-85     8:15 a.m.

 

We welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who share this hour on radio.  This is the pastor bringing the message from the thirty-sixth to the thirty-ninth chapters of the Book of Ezekiel [Ezekiel 36:39:29].  It is entitled Before the Coming of Christ, Before the Millennium.  Next Sunday we begin in Ezekiel chapter 40 through 48, The Millennial Temple [Ezekiel 40:1-48:35].

This morning, what happens before the return of our Lord, before the establishment of the final, beautiful, ultimate kingdom of Christ [Revelation 19:11-21].  There are eight great acts in the final denouement of the age.  Three of them are right together, the first three, and the rest follow after: the rapture of the church [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], the regathering of Israel [Isaiah 43:5-7], the invasion of the Holy Land from Magog—Rosh, Russia [Ezekiel 38-39]; then the tribulation [Matthew 24:21], the great war of Armageddon [Revelation 16:15-16].  It closes with the coming of Christ and the establishment under His personal supervision, and wisdom, and justice, and righteousness, and grace, and all the wonderful things that pour from the heart of our Lord, the millennial kingdom [Isaiah 11:6-9; Revelation 20:4-6]; then a final rebellion [Revelation 16:15-16], then the eternity that is to come [Revelation 21:1-22:21].  Those eight great acts in the final scene in this world history.

Now following Ezekiel, we’re going to take two of those from him.  And the third is a mustērion, a secret that God kept in His heart until He revealed it to His holy apostles [Ephesians 3:5].  In the thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh chapters of Ezekiel, there is the rebirth and the regeneration and the regathering of Israel in the Holy Land [Ezekiel 36:1-37:28]; that’s the first.  In chapters 38 and 39 there is the prophecy, the unveiling of the great vast invasion of the Holy Land from the North, from Magog, by the prince of Rosh, by Russia [Ezekiel 38:1-39:29].

The third is a mustērion.  The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians that God kept this secret in His heart.  He never revealed it to the prophets of the Old Testament.  He kept it a secret in His heart until He revealed it to His holy apostles [Ephesians 3:3-6].  And in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 51, Paul says, “Behold, I show you a mustērion. I show you a mystery” [1 Corinthians 15:51].  Mystery doesn’t translate that word, though it’s transliterated mystery.  “I show you a secret”; We shall not all sleep.”  There’s going to be a generation at the end time that is going to be raptured away to meet our descending Lord from heaven [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].    Now those are the three things that we’re going to speak about in the few minutes that we have this morning.

First of all, in Ezekiel 36 and 37 he speaks of the regathering, and the regeneration, and the revival, and the assembling of the people of God in the Holy Land [Ezekiel 36:24-28].  God said to Israel, “You keep My word and you will have this home forever and ever [Leviticus 26:1-13].  But if you disobey My word, you will be scattered to the far reaches of the earth” [Leviticus 26:33].  That’s called the Palestinian covenant.  And it is written at great length in the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy beginning at verse 15 to the end of that long chapter [Deuteronomy 28:15-68]. Israel is to live in the land only in accordance with their obedience to the word of God [Deuteronomy 28:1-14].  And when they disobeyed the word of the Lord, they were scattered abroad [Ezekiel 36:19].  They became strangers and foreigners in the earth.

Now God said to Israel in Amos 3:2, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all of our iniquities.”  “You only out of all of the nations of this earth, you are the only one that I have especially and particularly chosen and set apart for Me.  You are.  And because I have done that, therefore I will punish you for your transgressions and your disobedience” [Amos 3:2].  Now I want you to follow that just for a moment.  The Book of Judges has a recurring theme like a symphony, like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  It will occur again and again and again.  The Book of Judges is like that.  It goes like this:  “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord sold them into the hands of…” [Judges 6:1].  And then it’s just one after another; sold them in the hands of the Moabites, sold them in the hands of the Midianites [Judges 3:12-14, 6:1-6], just again and again and again.  Because they disobeyed God, God punished them [Ezekiel 20:23-24].

And the whole history of Israel throughout the centuries is that same reiterated story.  They disobeyed God and the Lord sold them in the hands of their enemies.  According to the prophecies of Amos [Amos 4:1-2], and Micah [Micah 1:5-7] and according to the prophecies of Isaiah [Isaiah 7:17-20], and Hosea [Hosea 11:5-6], in 722 BC, Sargon came with those terrible Assyrians.  And they carried the northern ten tribes, the tribes of Israel, they carried them into captivity and scattered them over the face of the earth [Deuteronomy 28:64].  And they have been scattered to this day over the face of the earth, since 722 BC, that Northern Kingdom of Israel, according to the word of God.

According to the word of God delivered to the people of Judah—the kingdom of Judah, the Southern Kingdom—according to the word of God, delivered by Jeremiah [Jeremiah 25:11-13] and Ezekiel [Ezekiel 4-7], in 605 BC [2 Kings 24:1-9; Daniel 1:1-6], in 598 BC, [2 Kings 24:10-20], in 587 BC [2 Kings 25:1-21; Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30], the Babylonians came and they carried the people away into Babylon.  And they became slaves over there in a foreign country.  And very few of them ever returned to the Holy Land.  God scattered them for their disobedience.  In 70 AD, according to the word of our Lord Jesus, because they rejected their Messiah, the Romans came and destroyed the temple, destroyed the nation, and scattered the people again [Deuteronomy 28:64].  There is to be one other tremendous visitation of the punishment of God upon Israel.  And the Lord is getting ready for that final age and act now.  It will come in the days of the tribulation because of their disobedience [Matthew 24:21].  Israel today is a pagan nation.  There’s not a handful of people over there that even believe in the existence of God.  And the Lord said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all of your iniquities” [Amos 3:2].   That’s the first thing God says.

Another thing that has come to pass is the persecution of the Jew throughout the endless ages of human story, all the way through.  Antiochus Epiphanes, the great ruler of Syria in 175-164 BC slew 40,000 Jews and sold 40,000 others into slavery simply because they had begun to celebrate his supposed death.  There was a rumor that he’d died, and he was such a bitter persecutor of the saints that they began to celebrate his death.  And when Antiochus Epiphanes heard about it, he slew 40,000 of them and sold 40,000 others into slavery.

The Romans, coming before Christ, the Romans slew thousands of Jews and sold other thousands into slavery.  They killed 20,000 of them in one day in Ceasarea, and 10,000 of them, their throats were cut in Damascus.  Rome, after the death of Christ, when they destroyed the city in 70 AD, there were 1,000,000 Jews who perished in that siege of Jerusalem.  The emperor Hadrian of the Roman Empire in 117 to 138 AD, he destroyed 985 towns in the Holy Land.  He slew 580,000 Jewish men, and he sold uncounted thousands of others into slavery. 

In the Crusades, in 1090 AD and the crusade years that followed after, in the Holy Wars, they almost exterminated all of the Jews in Europe.  As late as the thirteenth century, the English and French wiped out whole communities of Jews.  When Columbus discovered America, all Jews had been driven out of Western Europe.  And when Shakespeare wrote the Merchant of Venice and created the character Shylock there was not a Jew who lived in England. 

And is any one of you old enough to have lived through the Second World War?  Hitler burned and slew more than six million Jews! Through the years and the years, not only the punishment of God, selling them into the hands of their enemies, but the persecution of the Jewish people by the nations, among whom they had been buried as a people.  But they are beloved of God!  It is a miracle, and there’s no historian but will avowal it, it is a miracle the survival of the Hebrew people.  How could they exist through the centuries and the centuries as a nation without a home, strangers and foreigners in the land of the people who largely hated them and persecuted them?

The reason for that is found in God.  In Romans 9:4, Paul, speaking of the Jews said, “The Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises,” and the promises.  May I speak of them briefly?  An unconditional promise made to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob that they should have a people forever; God said that unconditionally.  It is not if anything or if any other thing; an unconditional promise made to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and repeated again and again in Genesis is that “Your seed will multiply like the stars in the sky, and they will abide, they will live, forever” [Genesis 13:14-17, 15:5-6, 26:3-4; Exodus 32:13]. 

Another thing, God made an unconditional promise to Abraham, Isaac, to Jacob, and to all the people that followed after that they should have a land.  And that land God described; we call it the land of Palestine.  And the prophets say that they will return to that land, scattered over the face of the earth, they will return [Ezekiel 36:24-28].  And I live in the day when those prophecies are coming to pass.  A statesman says, I quote, “The greatest miracle of all the twentieth century is not the invention of a thermal nuclear device, the atomic bomb, but the return to the ancient homeland of the Jewish people.” 

From 70 AD to the present, every generation of Bible students has spoken and written about the return of the Jews to their homeland.  Increase Mather, the great Puritan preacher up there in Boston, Increase Mather—also the president of Harvard University from 1685 to 1701—in his book, The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation;  at the time, he’s writing at a time when Palestine was a desolate wilderness in the hands of the Turks and virtually, completely devoid of Jews.  He wrote with regard to the regathering of Israel to their ancient homeland—now this is back there in the 1600s.  Increase Mather, the president of Harvard, wrote, “The Scripture is very clear and full in this, so much so until you see not how it can be justly denied or questioned, that these Jewish people are returning to the homeland.”  And [Cotton] Mather, his son, was so astonishingly perceptive of Biblical prediction that he foresaw that, and I quote, “The Israelites at their return shall even fly.”   Have you ever been to Tel Aviv?  Have you been to the airport at Lod?   Anyone at that airport can see this, six days out of seven, every week: the Jews flying back into Palestine, the Holy Land.

John Owen, thought by many to be the foremost of all Congregational ministers, wrote in 1673, quote, “The Jew shall be gathered from all parts of the earth where they now are scattered and brought home into their homeland.”  Now these preachers, these great divines, wrote those things and preached those things when there wasn’t a Jew there.   And when the land was a wilderness, and as I said a moment ago in the hands of the Turks, they said, “According to the Word of God the Jew is coming back.”   

Now, we come to the awesome part of Ezekiel’s prophecy, 38 and 39, 38 and 39, the invasion of Gog, the invasion of the prince of Rosh [Ezekiel 38:1-39:29].  We haven’t time to speak of it.  I point out just one thing, just one thing.  When is that going to happen, when this invasion from the North, from Magog?  When that happens, that begins the final acts in the drama in world history.  Now when is that going to happen?  I thought it was going to happen a half a dozen times in the last few years.  Every time they’ve had a war over there in Israel, I thought Russia would intervene.  They send them equipment, bombers, tanks, military arms, but they don’t come down.  Their navies pour into the Mediterranean, but they don’t come down.  When’s that going to happen?  Russian communism baffles its watchers.  Winston Churchill exclaimed, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia.  It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”   It’s going to happen in God’s time.  But when that happens, when the armies of Russia come down and invade the Holy Land [Ezekiel 38-39], that’s going to be the beginning of the great tribulation [Matthew 24:21] and the war of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16].  And we watch it, the whole world watches it.  And when that happens, you’re going to find the raging conflict of war bringing together all the nations of the earth.  That’s what God says. 

Now I have just a moment left to speak of the mystery, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” [1 Corinthians 15:51], we shall all be immortalized; talking about us who are Christians.  We shall be gathered to the Lord [1 Corinthians 15:54]; we shall all be raptured [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].  “Now pastor, what makes you think that that’s going to be before that tribulation?   That when this awesome conflict begins to rage in the Holy Land at Armageddon [Revelation 16:16], and when the blood is up to the bridles of the horses [Revelation 14:20], when there are two hundred million soldiers there from the East, from China [Revelation 9:16], when Russia is completely destroyed [Ezekiel 39:1-5], when the conflict rages like fire from heaven, when the sickle, as the Book of the Revelation describes it, reaps the harvest of the earth [Revelation 14:14-16], and the blood flows [Revelation 14:17-19], what makes you think that we’ll not be in it?”

Well, I am what a theologian calls a pretribulation rapturist; I am a pretribulationist.   I believe, according to the Word of God, and I’m going to tell you that right now if you’ll just sit there a minute.  I’m going to tell you why, according to the Word of God, I think we’re going to be raptured before. I’ve got six theological reasons from the Word of the Lord.  Number one is this: the rapture, the taking away of God’s people [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], can happen at any time. There is no intervening sign or circumstance or development between us and that gathering of God’s people to the Lord.  That’s called the doctrine of Imminency, Imminency.   The calling of God’s people to Himself is imminent; it could happen today.  It could happen before I’m done with this message.  It could happen before the evening comes.  Imminency, anytime, any day, any moment, we can be raptured to our Lord.  That’s the first reason.

The second reason is in the outline of the Revelation.  In the outline of the Revelation, in Revelation 1:19 he gives God’s outline of this great final book.  And the third thing he writes, after the age of the church, write the things which shall be meta tauta after these things [Revelation 1:19].  “And I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven.   And I heard a voice as of a trumpet talking with me, saying, Come up hither” [Revelation 4:1].  And John was raptured up to the Lord in heaven [Revelation 4:2-3].  And beginning there at verse 1 in chapter 4 [Revelation 4:1], the church disappears.   You never see it again until the church comes with the Lord, His bride, in the nineteenth chapter after the war of the Revelation, after the war of Armageddon [Revelation 19:11-16].  He is caught up [Revelation 4:1]—we are caught up into heaven before that awful tribulation [1 Thessalonians 5:4-5]

All right, number three: the Lord said to the church at Philadelphia, in Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept My word, I also will keep thee from that hour of trial, of tribulation, that shall over sweep the whole world.”    God’s people are not going to be in that trial; they’re not going to be in that tribulation.  They’re not going to be in that bloodletting.  “Because you have listened to My word, and you have kept My word, I am going to keep you from that trial that will cover the whole earth.”

Number four: what am I to look for?  You tell me.  Am I to look for the tribulation?  Am I waiting for the tribulation?  No.  I’m looking for Jesus [Titus 2:13].  According to the Word of God I am to watch and to wait for the blessed Savior [Matthew 25:13], not for some war, not for some terrible trial; I am to watch and to wait for the Lord Jesus.  He may come for us anytime. 

Number five—why I’m a pretribulationist, why I think the Lord could come for His people anytime—number five: all of the types of the Old Testament are just like that.  Before the Flood came, God put Noah in an ark [Genesis 7:1, 7]; and who shut that door?  The Bible says God shut that door [Genesis 7:16].  God did it. God told him it’s time to go in; and when Noah and his family entered the ark, God shut the door.  And the flood did not fall until Noah was safely inside the ark [Genesis 7:17-24]

All right, take, just once again.  The angel said to Lot, “Come, escape before the judgment falls upon Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 19:15-22].  And when Lot hesitated, God, through that angel, said to Lot, “I can do nothing until thou be come thither” [Genesis 19:22].  The fire can’t fall, the judgment of God cannot descend as long as righteous Lot is in Sodom.  And God takes him out, took him by the hand and led him out [Genesis 19:16].   And after Lot was out, then the judgment fell, but not until Lot was taken away [Genesis 19:24-29]

And I have one other; I want you to look at this.  In the fourth chapter of the Revelation, turn to it.  In chapter 4 of the Revelation, when John is raptured up to heaven, he sees a throne set in heaven [Revelation 4:1-2].  Chapter 4, verse 2, he sees a throne.  And he sees Him who sits upon the throne [Revelation 4:3].  Now look at verse 4, “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders, clothed in white raiment; and their heads were crowned with gold” [Revelation 4:4].  Do you see that?  My brother, look at this.  In the Bible, all the way through it, there are angelic beings that are described in the Word of God.  There are angels there [Revelation 5:11], they’re in heaven.   There are archangels there; some of them are named, like Michael [Daniel 10:13], they are in heaven.  There are cherubim [Ezekiel 10:1-20]; they are in heaven.  There are seraphim [Isaiah 6:2, 6]; they are in heaven.   There are those living creatures that Ezekiel describes in the first chapter; they are in heaven [Ezekiel 1:5-14]

But my sweet people, in the fourth verse of the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, there is a new somebody up there in heaven.  The four and twenty elders [Revelation 4:4, 10]—twelve of them representing the saints of the Old Testament and twelve of them representing the saints of the New Testament—the four and twenty elders; that’s a new thing, those creatures, those people, those beings, those celestial creations of God round about the throne. 

In the first chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 1:1] it says, “God “sign”-ified this.  You pronounce it “signified.”  God “sign-ified” it to John; that is, what you read in the Revelation is a sign of something else.  It’s a symbol of something else.  And when John saw, when he was raptured [Revelation 4:1-3], when John saw the four and twenty elders [Revelation 4:4], it was a symbol of God’s saints who have been added to the angels of glory. 

 

It may be at midday, it may be at twilight, 

It may be, perchance, that the blackness of midnight 

Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory, 

When Jesus comes for “His own.” 

 

Oh, joy! oh, delight! should we go without dying, 

No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying. 

Caught up with our Lord through the clouds into glory, 

When Jesus comes for “His own.” 

 

 

O Lord Jesus, how long, how long

Ere we shout the glad song

Christ returneth!  Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!  Amen.

 

[“Christ Returneth,” by H.L. Turner, 1878]

That’s the blessing God hath in store for His people.  Lord, Lord, what a precious thing You have done for us, to open for us the gates of grace and someday the gates of glory.

We’re going to sing our song of appeal.  And while we sing it, to give your heart in faith and trust to the wonderful Jesus, or to put your life with us in the circle of this dear church, or to answer a call from God in your heart, in this moment when we sing our song, you come.  On the first note of the first stanza, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.

BEFORE THE COMING OF CHRIST

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ezekiel 36-39

8-18-85

I.          Introduction

A.  Eight things happen at the end of the world

      1.  Rapture

      2.  Regathering of Israel in Holy Land

      3.  Invasion of Magog (Russia)

      4.  Tribulation

      5.  Coming of Christ

      6.  Millennium

      7.  Rebellion

      8.  Eternity

B.  A musterion the prophets did not see

II.         The regathering of Israel out of the nations of the earth

A.  Their punishment

B.  Their persecution

C.  Their promises from God

III.        There will be war

A.  Begins with invasion of Russia

B.  Nations of the world drawn in

IV.       The rapture

A.  Scriptures supports pre-tribulation rapture