The Interpretation of Prophecy: End of the World

Ezekiel

The Interpretation of Prophecy: End of the World

August 11th, 1985 @ 8:15 AM

Ezekiel 38:8-23

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.
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THE END OF THE WORLD

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ezekiel 38:8,16

8-11-85    8:15 a.m.

 

And once again, welcome to the great multitudes of you who share this hour on radio.  This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message entitled The End of the World.  It is a presentation of the interpretation of biblical prophecy.  In our preaching through the Book of Ezekiel, which is a book of prophecy, we are in those chapters that especially and particularly delineate the consummation of the age, chapters 36, 37, 38, 39, and, beginning at [chapter] 40 to the end of the book, the millennial temple.

You will notice—and this is just as a background remembrance—you will notice in Ezekiel 38, verse 8, he will twice speak of the fact in the first few words that these prophecies are to come to pass “after many days,” that is his phrase; and “in the latter years” [Ezekiel 38:8] that’s a description of the end of time.  Do you notice he refers to it again in verse 16, “It shall be in the latter days”? [Ezekiel 38:16].  What he is speaking is to come to pass in the years and the years and the years yet to come.

Prophecy is a unique concomitant of the Judeo-Christian faith.  No other religion has prophecy.  The reason is obvious: other religions are man-made; they are man-established, and if one of them sought to prophesy, to foretell events, it would be most flagrantly, emphatically recognizable that he is not speaking from God.  He has just concocted it of himself.  So no other faith, no other religion has prophecy; just the Jewish Christian faith.

Now prophecy is a characteristic of the Bible.  One-fourth of the Bible—that’s an enormous proportion of it—one-fourth of the Bible was unfulfilled prophecy when the author wrote it.  There are whole books in the Bible given to prophecy, such as Ezekiel, such as Zechariah, such as the Book of the Revelation.  In the Old Testament alone, there are 1845 references to the second coming of Christ.  In the New Testament, there are 314 of those references.  Ten out of every seventeen chapters will speak of that final and glorious age.

Now how do we put all of that together into one reasonable system?  What the prophet saw, or what he said by inspiration, he did by a small piece; he never saw the whole mosaic, only God did that.   God saw the whole picture, the whole pattern, the whole panorama, but the prophet saw just a small part of it.  Now he didn’t understand what he was prophesying.  In the first chapter of 1 Peter, he says that these prophets inquired and searched diligently, concerning their prophecies, searching what manner of time that their words did signify, which described Christ and the glory, the final consummation that should follow, and which things the angels  desire to look into [1 Peter 1:10-12].  The prophets did not understand all that they said; nor did the angels in heaven.  They looked at it in wonder and in amazement, not knowing what it was that the prophet described in this world that is yet to come.

Now, that prophet prophesied by the moving of the Spirit of God, in 2 Peter chapter 1, the last two verses:

Knowing this, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.

But 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.

[2 Peter 1:20-21]

 

That’s the King James translation: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is” ginetai: comes into being, comes into existence; is to us as a verb of the “to be.”  But in Greek, ginetai, no prophecy “came into existence,” private, idios, one’s own, private ownership, interpretation; epiluseōs, unloosing origination; “No prophecy came into existence by a prophet’s own origination, but the prophecy came when holy men of God were moved,” pherō, “were carried along by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21].  It didn’t come of them; it comes of the Lord God.

In the last group of pictures that are sent out by our wonderful, our glorious deacon, Jack Hamm—He’s the greatest Christian cartoonist in this earth—one of them is “On Schedule According to God’s Word, and he quotes this passage from the Twentieth Century New Testament:

 

There is no prophetic teaching found in the Scripture that can be interpreted by man’s unaided reason.

For no prophetic teaching ever came in the old days at the mere wish of man,

but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke direct from God.

 

            And I have here up in my study, I have two shelves of books just about that long filled with different translations of the Bible, and I copied out—and I don’t have time to read them—I copied out different translations of this passage in 2 Peter 1:20-21.  Phillips says, for example:

You must understand this at the outset

that no prophecy of Scripture arose from an individual’s interpretation of the truth.

No prophecy came because a man wanted it to. 

Men of God spoke because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

And the Living Bible:

No prophecy recorded in Scripture was ever thought up by the prophet himself.

It was the Holy Spirit within these godly men who gave them true messages from God.

 

And so on and on. 

Now the reason that is vital to us is what we’re now going to avow.   We must, if we understand prophecy, we must accept as from God what God says.  We are not to figure out by our own human reason, our own philosophical preconceived notions, what it is that God is doing and what God is wanting to do and proposes to do and reveals that He is going to do.  If we have any sense of the meaning of prophecy, we must accept it as from God.  This is not what a man thought up; this is not what a prognosticator foretells or predicts.  This is from God.  “This is what God says, and I’m going to listen.” 

All right, let’s begin with that.  If we are willing to let God speak to us, and if we are willing to listen to the Holy Spirit of God as He spoke through these prophets, then there are three great keys to the understanding of the prophetic message.  There are three great principles of prophetic interpretation, and I’m going to name them.  Now you realize this is I:  this is my studying and my praying and my understanding.  But I think these are the truth of God, these three keys, these three great principles of interpretation.  And if you will accept them, the whole panorama, the whole mosaic of prophecy will become a great meaning to you.  But if you don’t accept them, it will be a conglomerated, jumbled mess of senseless nothings, and you’ll quit reading it; you’ll find no meaning in it. 

All right, these three great keys of the understanding of prophecy: the first one is this, let us accept God’s division of all mankind into three groups: the Jew, the Gentile, and the church, made up of both Jews and Gentiles.  All right, let’s look at that.  First Corinthians 10:32, 1 Corinthians 10:32: “Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.”  Those are the three great divisions of mankind in God’s sight; the Jew, the Gentile, and the church.  Israel, and the people who are not Israel, and the church composed of both of them.  If you will keep those three separate; when God names Israel, He means Israel.  When God names the Gentile, He means the Gentile.  When God names the church, He means the church.  If you’ll just do that, you will have the first great foundational key to the meaning of all prophecy. 

“Well,” you say, “that is like A-B-C.”  That’s right.  God always is like A-B-C.  God’s message was meant to be understood, and it has meaning, and it will be simple if you will accept it.  The problem lies in man trying to pour into the simple message of God all of these configurations that he elucidates out of his own mind.  But let it be simple, let it be what it is.  So when God speaks of Israel, He means Israel.  When He speaks of the Gentile, He means the Gentile, the nations.  When God speaks of the church, He means the church.  Did you know there’s hardly anyone in Christendom who does that?  Isn’t that an astonishing thing?  Practically all of Christendom identifies Israel with the church, and they identify the church with Israel, and they give all the curses to the Jews, and they accept all the blessings for the church.  And when you do that, when you identify Israel with the church, and you identify the church with Israel, the whole prophetic panorama is going to become to you a jumbled mass of senseless nothings.  But if you’ll keep them separate, when God speaks to Israel, He means Israel.  When He speaks to the church, He means the church.  When He speaks to the Gentiles, He means the Gentiles, the nations.  If you’ll do that, the whole meaning of prophecy will become a beautiful mosaic.  Isn’t that a strange thing?  I tell you, truth is stranger than fiction.

Now when we do that, when we do that—when we let God speak to Israel, calling them Israel; when we let him speak to the church, calling them church—when we do that, there are some things that are very apparent.  The first thing that is apparent is this: you won’t find the church in Israel.  You won’t find the church in the Old Testament.  They never saw it.  Now, that’s an astonishing thing!  “You mean that the church was never seen by the prophets of the Old Testament?  That it was never mentioned?  That it was never described?”  That’s right.  That’s right.  We’re just taking it as God says. 

Well, what is the church?  The whole third chapter of the Book of Ephesians concerns that.  The church is a mustērion, a secret God kept in His heart until He revealed it to His apostles.  The prophets never saw the church.  The Old Testament never saw the church.  It was a secret that God kept in His heart until the day that He revealed the church to His holy apostles [Ephesians 3:5-11].  That’s what Paul says in the whole third chapter of the Book of Ephesians.  They never saw it in the Old Testament.  It is a New Testament revelation [Ephesians 3:5].  That’s a remarkable thing! 

You see, these people who say that Israel is the church and the church is Israel, they say, “God is done with Israel.  God is through with the Jew.  God has cast them away.  God has no purpose or plan now for the Jew.”  That is a direct contradiction of what Paul says in Romans 9, 10, and 11.  He starts off the eleventh chapter, “Has God cast away His people, Israel?” [Romans 11:1].  Has God thrown them overboard?  Is God done with Israel?  “God forbid.” 

Then the whole eleventh chapter says that “We are an unnatural branch, grafted into the root of Israel” [Romans 11:17].  But the day is coming when God’s going to take the natural branches and graft them back in [Romans 11:23-24].  And when that plērōma comes, so all Israel shall be saved [Romans 11:23-26].  God has a great purpose and God has a great plan for Israel, for His chosen people.  And so many of the prophecies concern Israel. 

And when we let Israel be Israel, God speaking to Israel, and the church be the church, the whole prophetic panorama will become clear and plain.  That means that in the prophetic picture of the Old Testament, there are great time gaps.  Time is a creation for man.  There’s no time with God.  When God sits on His throne, all of creation is there before Him.  Everything is present, whether it’s here, whether it’s there, whether it’s ten thousand years down the line, whether it’s a million years here, whether it’s a million years back here.  Whatever time is, it’s all present before God.  There’s no such thing as time with God.  Time is human.  It’s a creation down here for our finite world, and so those prophets, when they prophesied, sometimes there will be time gaps, and they didn’t see them.  

It’s an identical thing as a man looking at a great mountain range far, far in the yonder.  And when he looks at that mountain range, here’s a peak, and there’s a peak, and there’s a peak, and they all seem to be in a row; they all seem to be one great mountain range.   But when you get to it, this peak is here, and this peak is on the other side, and that peak is still yonder, and there’s a great valley in between.  But you didn’t see the valley, you just saw the peaks.  That’s the prophetic prophecy of the Old Testament.  He is talking about Israel in the Old Testament and Israel alone.  And there’s a great time gap in there, and that time gap is this mustērion that God kept in His heart, the church, until He revealed it to His holy apostles [Ephesians 3:5].

Now if we had all day long, and I wish we did, we’d just look at those prophetic pictures.  But I’m going to take two of them.  One of them is going to be in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel [Daniel 9:24-27].  Daniel says that there is four hundred ninety years; there are seventy weeks that God has allotted before the consummation of the age for His people [Daniel 9:24].  Then He pulls out the seventieth week [Daniel 9:25]; between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week there is a great time gap [Daniel 9:26].   That is the age of the church.  But Daniel didn’t see it.  No Old Testament prophet saw it.  It’s a time gap.  It’s one of those great valleys between the peak of the sixty-ninth week and the peak of the seventieth week. 

All right, I’m going to choose just one other in the many, many, many that we could choose.  Let’s take Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6, one of the great prophecies of the Old Testament.  Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” [Isaiah 9:6].  That’s the coming of our Savior into the world [Luke 2:11]

Then a time gap of already two thousand years: 

 

And the government shall be upon His shoulder . . . The increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. 

[Isaiah 9:6-7]

Would anybody say that the governments today are upon the shoulders of Jesus Christ, and that there is universal peace and justice?  You’d be crazy!  The governments today plan for nothing but universal annihilation.  We’re doing it ourselves.  Man, one-half of every piece of money that we pay to the taxes goes to develop bombs and airplanes.  They’re going to have a big show over here in Fort Worth; four hundred thousand people are going over there to look at those bombers that can spread destruction over the whole earth.  That’s this present government.

You see, there’s a great time gap here.  “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” [Isaiah 9:6].  That’s when the Lord came into the world [Luke 2:11].  Then that time gap.  Then He comes in the same sentence to the end of the world.   “And the government”—

that’s when Jesus comes—“the government shall be upon His shoulder [Isaiah 9:6], and upon the throne of David where He sits, and upon His kingdom, it will be established in judgment and justice and peace forever!” [Isaiah 9:7]. That’s in the same sentence. 

I want to show you just one other; just one other.  In Isaiah, in Isaiah chapter 61, this is the passage that Jesus read when He came to His home in Nazareth.  They gave Him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah [Luke 4:16-17], and He read the sixty-first chapter [Luke 4:18-19].  Now look what Jesus did:  He quoted it.  He read it, and He says,

 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me . . . the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings to the meek; He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted. . . to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord—

 and He stopped; He stopped—

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord—

now the next clause—

and the day of vengeance of our God. 

[Isaiah 61:1-2]

 

In Isaiah that’s all in one sentence [Isaiah 61:1-2].  The coming of the Lord to be the propitiation of our sins, the Savior of the world, to “proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” [Luke 4:19]; but in Isaiah, “and to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God” [Isaiah 61:2], the great final denouement of the age, the great judgment day of God. 

In the Old Testament it’s all just like that; just like that.  It’s all in one sentence [Isaiah 61:1-2].  The prophet never saw this age of grace.  It’s a great time gap [Isaiah 9:6].  The prophecies of the Old Testament are all directed to Israel; all of them.  Jesus is the Israeli Messiah. He is their Savior [Matthew 1:21].  The great end time has to do with Israel, when the law comes out of Zion [Isaiah 2:3], and they become the teachers of the nations of the world, and according to the seventh chapter of the Revelation, when they are the great evangelists of the world, 144,000 of them” [Revelation 7:4-17].  But all of it is to Israel.  

Now do you see what I mean when I say, if you’ll just accept what God says, the three divisions of mankind? [1 Corinthians 10:32].  And when God speaks of Israel, He means Israel; when God speaks of the church, He means the church; when God speaks of the Gentiles, He means the Gentiles.  If you’ll do that, the whole world of prophecy will open up to you like a beautiful mosaic. 

All right, the second great principal of interpretation.  The first one was if you’ll just accept what God has done in dividing mankind into those three groups: Jew, Gentile, the church [1 Corinthians 10:32].  All right, the second one: if you will accept, as from God, the great outline that He makes in the Revelation.  Revelation chapter 1, verse 19: our Lord said to the apostle John, “Write the things which thou hast seen,” that’s the first, “and the things which are,” that’s the second, “and the things which shall bemeta tauta—after these things” [Revelation 1:19]

Now if you will humbly accept that outline of the Revelation, the whole panorama of the end time will become plain.  First, “Write the things which thou hast seen,” and he had seen the glorified Lord [Revelation 1:9-18].  Second, “and the things which are,” that’s chapter 2, 3, and 4, the churches, this age, “the things which are,” the churches are, we are.  Right here we are; we’re one of them, the church age [Revelation 2:1-3:22].  Then “and the things which shall be,” meta tauta, “after these things” [Revelation 1:19], after the church age. 

So I’m looking for that meta tauta, and I turn to the fourth chapter of the Revelation, and there it is.  Meta tauta, meta tauta,  after this, “after these things, I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and a great voice as of a trumpet said, Come up hither” [Revelation 4:1].  And the church disappears—gone, church disappears [Revelation 4:1].  You have the church age, chapters 2, 3, and 4.  Then meta tauta, after the church age, he hears a voice, “Come up hither” [Revelation 4:1].  And there is a great door opened in heaven and the church disappears.  That’s the rapture; the people are taken away [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]

And from the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation to the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, the church is gone.  It’s in heaven; it’s raptured.  And in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, the church comes back.  It’s His bride, with Jesus her Lord, seven years later [Revelation 19:6-7].

Now, that means, if you follow the Word of God, if you’ll accept it, that means you’re a premillennialist: Jesus is coming before the millennium, and you’re a pre-tribulationist [1 Thessalonians 5:4-9].  He is coming to take you, He is going to rapture you before the Tribulation [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].  If you’ll just accept that simple outline that God gave us of the Revelation, if you’ll do that, that’s the second great key [Revelation 1:19].

All right, now the third one, the third great key.  The first one was to accept God’s division of mankind.  When He speaks to Israel, He means Israel.  When He speaks to the church, He means the church.  When He speaks to the nations, He means the nations, the Gentiles [1 Corinthians 10:32].  All right, the second was if you’ll just accept God’s outline of the Revelation, if you’ll just do it, that little simple outline of the Revelation [Revelation 1:19]; all of those things of the churches, then the things of the tribulation [Revelation 4:2-18:24], after the church is raptured away [Revelation 4:1], and then when the Lord comes with His saints [Revelation 19:11-14].  If you’ll just accept that, just as simple as A-B-C.  Trouble of it is, people won’t do it.  They’re smarter than God. 

All right, the third great key of prophetic interpretation: accept the revelation literally; accept it literally.  Accept it for what God said.  God meant what He said, and God said what He meant, and when I read the Bible, I accept it literally.  I wrote a book entitled Why I Preach that the Bible is Literally True.  Accept it literally: I’m not alone in that or peculiar in that.  Martin Luther said in his Table Talk, “I have grounded my preaching upon the literal Word; he that pleases may follow me; he that will not may stay.”  John Calvin, in his preface to the Book of Romans, lays down the golden rule of interpretation, which is this: “It is the first business of an interpreter to let the author say what he does say, instead of attributing to him what we think he ought to say.”  And Charles Spurgeon, warning his students about allegorizing the Scriptures, speaks thus about Origen, who followed Plato, who allegorized the Old Testament Scriptures.  And now Origen is allegorizing the New Testament Scriptures.  Charles Spurgeon said, “Gentleman, if you aspire to emulate Origen in wild, daring interpretations, it may be well to read his life and note attentively the follies under which even his marvelous mind was drawn.”  Origen was one of the greatest intellectual figures of all time, but he was an allegorizer, and he took the Scriptures and then he, oh, he just took off. 

The way to interpret Scripture is literally, literally!  Take what God says and accept it as such.  This is what God says, and God says what He means.  Now, in order to do that, you need to look at the context and the purpose and the reading.  In studying prophecy, the interpreter should have the help of the six honest serving men of Rudyard Kipling.  I quote Kipling, Rudyard Kipling:

 

I have six honest serving men.

They taught me all I knew;

Their names are What and Why and When

And Where and How and Who.

[from “I Keep Six Honest Serving Men,” Rudyard Kipling]

So when you read a Scripture, we’re going to look at it.  What is God’s saying?  What’s the context?  What is the meaning of it?  If you do that, the whole gamut of Scripture will just be meaningful to you, every syllable of it. 

“Well, now, let’s look at that, preacher.  Oh my, let’s look at that!  What about all those symbols in the Bible?”  All right, a symbol is a symbol of a literal truth.   A symbol means something, and that something is literally the truth of God.  So all I need to do is to see what that symbol symbolizes.  Now the symbol certainly does not symbolize the symbol that symbolizes the symbol, that symbolizes the symbol, that symbolizes the symbol, and it’ll finally become senseless and meaningless.  A symbol is a symbol of the truth, so what I need to do is to look at the meaning of the symbol, and there is no such thing as a symbol in the Bible that God does not define.  Always in the Bible there’s a definition of the symbol. 

Now, man, I’ve got to quit and I’ve just started!  But listen real fast, real fast, real fast.  Symbols in the Bible: take, for example, John, the apostle John.  He loved to write in symbols.  In the life of our Lord, he says in the Book of John, Jesus fed the five thousand [John 6:5-13].  Now, John always uses the word semeion, “sign.”  He never used the world “miracle,” even though in the King James Version it’s translated “these miracles did Jesus do” [John 6:14].  No, they were all signs.  He never uses the world “miracle.”  Always semeion, “sign.”  So He fed the five thousand, and the apostle John says, that means He is the bread of life [John 6:35].  Or He heals the eyes of a blind man [John 9:1-7], and then John says that means He is the light of the world [John 9:5].   Then He raised Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44], and John says that means He is the resurrection and the life [John 11:25].  Always the symbol is defined in Scripture; always.

Now the same thing in the Revelation: in the Book of the Revelation, why, there are bowls of incense, and John says those are the prayers of the saints that are going up to God [Revelation 5:8].  In the twelfth chapter, he says the big red dragon, the great dragon, that’s Satan, he says [Revelation 12:9].  And in the seventeenth chapter, he’ll say, “And the waters of the nations of the world,” the waters; that, he says, that refers to the multiplied families, and tongues, and nations, and peoples of the world [Revelation 17:15].   Always the symbol has a beautiful and wonderful meaning; always.  And if you will let it say what it says, just interpret its symbol—this symbol represents a literal truth, and then just read it as such. 

I just, oh, I wish we had time.  The Lord is standing before His disciples, and He says, “This is My body, broken for you.  This is My blood, shed for you.  This do until I come again” [Matthew 26:26-28; I Corinthians 11:23-26].  Man, the whole Roman Church is built upon that being an actuality.  That’s not so at all.  It is a symbol of a great truth, and the great truth is plain: “This bread represents, it is a symbol of, My body.”  He is standing there before them.  That’s not the actual body; that’s a symbol.  “This cup is a symbol.”  It’s not the actual blood of Jesus; He is standing right there before them.  “This cup is the symbol of My blood.”  And when you do this, when you partake of this bread and this fruit of the vine, you are proclaiming the coming of the Lord Jesus in the day of His triumph [Matthew 26:29; 1 Corinthians 11:26].  It’s a beautiful thing, if you’ll just let the symbol represent the truth.

Like the Lord when He was ascended, when He was ascended a cloud received Him out of their sight [Acts 1:9].  That’s not a rain cloud, that’s not a cloud of mist; that’s the shekinah glory of God.  It was up there on the mount with Moses [Exodus 24:15-16], and it filled the tabernacle [Exodus 40:34], and it filled the temple of Solomon; the shekinah glory looked like a cloud [1 Kings 8:10-11].  They called it a cloud.  It’s the glory of the Lord!  And when the Lord went up, the shekinah glory received Him [Acts 1:9]

And when He comes again—Revelation 1:7, “Behold, He cometh with clouds,” that’s not a raincloud.  He is coming with the glory of God upon Him.   In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, “He is enveloped with the shekinah glory” [Matthew 17:5].  It looked like a cloud, and they say it was a cloud.  No, that’s the shekinah glory of God.  It’s a symbol, and if you let the symbol stand for its literal truth, the Bible will come alive for you. 

It is now I’ve got to my sermon, The End of the World.  I’m just going to outline those things that happen in the world; then we’ll pick it up next Sunday.  The first three, I don’t know which is first.  The first three: the rapture [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], the regathering of Israel [Ezekiel 36:24-28], and the invasion of Russia [Ezekiel 38-39].  Those three are at the first, those three. If the rapture is first, then will come the invasion of Russia [Ezekiel 36-39].  Israel is already in the land when that happens, and she has her temple [Daniel 9:27; Revelation 11:1-2].  That’s the way the denouement starts in those three.

Then you have—after the rapture of the church, Israel’s in the land, they have a temple—you have that awful invasion from Russia.  Then you have seven years of war, the war of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16], and at the end of that seven years, Jesus comes with His saints and He establishes His millennial kingdom [Revelation 19:11-14].   Then you have the final rebellion [Revelation 20:7-9], and after that you have the eternity that is yet to come [Revelation 21:1-22:21].

Every once in a while somebody will say to me, “Preacher, I’ll see you here or there or in the air.”  I love that.  “Preacher, I’ll see you here,” maybe at a deacons meeting or at a conference meeting or at an evangelistic assembly.  “I’ll see you here,” somewhere here.  Or “I’ll see you there”: if I don’t see you, I’ll meet you in heaven, or I’ll meet you in the air, when God’s people are raptured.  If the Lord delays His coming and we’re raptured, “I’ll meet you in the air” [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].  That’s glorious.  It’s just triumphant, every syllable of it: “here, there, or in the air.”  It is wonderful to be a Christian, and it is wonderful to read God’s Holy Book and to let God speak to you; the truth that He reveals in those sacred pages. 

Now we must sing our song, and if God has put it in your heart, come forward immediately.  “I want to give my heart to Jesus.”  “I want to put my life in this dear church.”  “I want to answer a call from God, and I’m on the way.”  Do it now, while we stand and while we sing, while we stand and while we sing.

UNDERSTANDING PROPHECY

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ezekiel 38:8-16

8-11-85

I.          Introduction

A.  Prophecy is unique to the Judeo-Christian faith

B. The word “prophecy” in the sense of foretelling and prediction applies to Book of Ezekiel

C.  Ezekiel’s prophecy speaks to end times

D.  The prophet did not always understand the revelation he received

E. We must dismiss our own preconceived ideas

II.         Three principles of interpretation

A.  Accept from God His division of mankind

      1.  Israel, the Jew

      2.  Gentiles, the nations of the world

      3.  Church, both Jew and Gentile

B.  Accept as from God the outline of the Revelation

      1.  Revelation 1:19

C.  Accept the prophecies as literally true

      1. The use of symbols

III.       The events at the end