THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF THE WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-12-86 10:50 a.m.
It is a joy for us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to welcome the great throngs of you who share the hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church, beginning a series of nine messages. They are around the theme of “The Beginning and the End.”
We shall be as a man on a high promontory, on a great prominence, say, on a great mountain, and we are overlooking the panoramic scene of God’s creative hand and all the movement of history, from its beginning, from its inception, to its consummation, to its end. Today, The Beginning and End of the World, the created universe in which we live; next Sunday, The Beginning and the End of Sorrows; then, The Beginning and the End of Death; then, The Beginning and the End of Satan; then, The Beginning and the End of Grace; The Beginning and the End of the Church, [The Beginning and the End of Israel]; and The Beginning and the End of Dispensations; and the last will be The Beginning and the End of the Golden Millennium—these nine messages around the theme, “The Beginning and the End,” just a great vast overview of God’s hand and purpose in history.
The message today: The Beginning and the End of the World, the created universe. The Bible opens with these magnificent words: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” [Genesis 1:1-2]. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” I think reason would say to us that if God did it, He did not do it in imperfection. Imperfection would be incongruous with the character of the Lord God. If God created the heavens and the earth, then He did it in perfection. Imperfection would be impossible and unthinkable with the Lord God. Therefore, reason would say to us that God created this universe perfect, beautiful, magnificently formed in all of its parts.
Not only does reason say that, but revelation avows that, revelation confirms that, statedly. Isaiah 45:18 says: “The Lord that created the heavens; God that formed the earth and made it; He established it, He created it not tohu.” There’s that word tohu. And the earth was tohu, wa bohu, chaotic, without form, a void sterile mass. Isaiah says, “God did not create it sterile and formless and chaotic,” tohu wa bohu; God didn’t do it that way [Isaiah 45:18]. God created it in perfection, beautiful and in elegant symmetry and form, all of it [Genesis 1:31]. Then something must have happened to it. If God created the universe and the world beautiful and perfect, and it became formless and chaotic and empty [Genesis 1:1-2], something must have happened. Something did happen.
Sin entered God’s perfect creation. Sin did not begin with Adam and Eve [Genesis 3:1-6]. Even beyond them and beyond the Edenic garden, there is another character, there’s another person. The fourteenth chapter of the Book of Isaiah calls him Lucifer [Isaiah 14:12]. The twenty-eighth chapter of the Gospel of Ezekiel refers to him as the holy and heavenly cherub that was created over all God’s marvelous worlds. He’s the cherub that covereth, and in his hands God placed the dominion of all of His beautiful creation [Ezekiel 28:14].
But that same twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel says that that cherub that covereth, he was perfect until iniquity was found in him [Ezekiel 28:15]. And going back to the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah, Isaiah says that beautiful Lucifer, the head of all of the created dominions of God, the angelic hosts, and the work of God’s omnipotent hands, he was lifted up in pride, and he said, “I will be God” [Isaiah 14:13-14].
“Iniquity was found in him” [Ezekiel 28:15], as Ezekiel uses the word, and when sin entered the universe, the creation of God, sin tore it apart; sin rended it asunder, and it fell into a chaotic and formless mass [Genesis 1:2]. Is that something that is extraneous to our minds and is it alien to our experience? No. Whatever you read in the Bible will be confirmed in human experience, in your life. This is confirmed in our experience. Wherever sin enters, it tears apart. It rends asunder, always [Romans 7:9]. There’s no exception to that.
I know two businessmen in the city of Dallas, wonderful businessmen, successful in the extreme, and they were friends just like that—beautiful just to see them. One day one of those businessmen came back unexpectedly from a business trip, and he found his friend in bed with his wife. Sin rends asunder. Sin tears apart. It will do it wherever sin enters. It plows up. It destroys. It’ll destroy a home, any home.
Gambling, drunkenness, alcohol, anger; sin will tear up any home, any home. Sin will tear up a church. There are no bitternesses such as you’ll find when sin enters the congregation of a church. Sin will destroy a great banking corporation; embezzlement, deception, thievery. Sin will destroy a community; the Hatfields and the McCoys are proverbial.
Sin will divide nations and tear them apart. You’re witnessing now a confrontation between our beloved America and the terrorism sponsored by Libya. Sin, it’s no different, and sin destroyed God’s beautiful universe, and it fell into chaotic ruin [Genesis 1:1-2]. And the Lord looked upon the mass, the formless destruction wrought by Lucifer [Genesis 1:2], and the Lord God did a wonderful thing. He invented time, and time begins in the third verse of the first chapter of Genesis, and we have an evening and a morning [Genesis 1:3-5]. And in the creation of time, God re-created this fallen world. He did it in six days [Genesis 1:3-31].
It’s an interesting and beautiful thing that the Lord has done. Three times the word bara is used in the first chapter of Genesis. Bara means to create, to bring into existence something out of nothing, and only God can do that. Three times in the first chapter of Genesis, God creates. He brings into being something out of nothing. First: bara, God created the world [Genesis 1:1]. He created matter. In the beginning God created everything that exists, and nothing has been added since, and matter is indestructible. It will be here forever and ever. God bara, created, matter. In Genesis 1:21: God created life. No man creates life, nor ever shall. That’s a prerogative of the omnipotent God. Bara, God created life. And a third: in Genesis 1:27, God created the soul of a man, made him in the image of the Lord. He is morally sensitive. He can think God’s thoughts after Him, and he can love God and respond to the Lord God.
Those are the three great creations of God. All of the rest that you read in this first chapter of Genesis is asah. God rearranged. God refashioned. God remade; asah. A furniture man will asah. He’ll make a piece of furniture out of something already in existence. A woman will asah. She’ll make a meal out of something that already exists. So God, asah, in six days, He remade this beautiful world, and when He remade the beautiful world, He called it “Eden.” Eden, that’s the Hebrew world for delight. The world was a delight before God, and in the east of Eden, in Genesis 2:8, eastward in Eden, over there in the eastern part of this beautiful created Edenic world, God planted a garden. And in that garden, He placed a man and a woman [Genesis 1:27-28]. And He said to them, “I have made this for you, as I have made all of the new creation for you. This is yours, and you are to have dominion over it. It is your inheritance and you are to rule it” [Genesis 1:26-28].
That’s what God said to Adam and to his wife. “And you multiply” [Genesis 1:22], the Lord God said, “and possess it.” I think it was the purpose of God, that in the multiplication of the family, they were to have dominion over this Eden and that Eden, that star and that Eden, that galaxy and those Edens, those great sidereal spheres that bring light to the firmament above us. That was God’s intention. He made the man in order that he rule over all of the Edenic fullness and beauty of the Lord God. And that made Satan furious! You have a description of that in the twelfth chapter of the Revelation: “Woe unto you who inhabit the world, for Satan is come down to you, having great wrath” [Revelation 12:12]. And the rest of the story you know. He enticed the man and the woman to fall into that destructive disobedience of God [Genesis 3:1-6], and wherever sin enters, it tears apart. It ruins. And thereafter, and for the remainder of the centuries and the millennia, is the sad story of death, and of sorrow, and of separation from God [Isaiah 59:2]. That is the beginning.
How does it end? What is the end of this world? It is a twofold ending. One, it ends in fiery judgment, it ends in fury. And it ends in triumph for the man. Bless God! It ends in a glorious, dramatic survival and overcoming and victory for the man. Well, let’s look at it.
One thing that is universal throughout the Bible—I don’t have time but to just point it out—one thing that is repeated again and again and again in the Holy Scriptures is this: that the course of this world ends in fury. It ends in fire. It ends in burning and dissolution and judgment. That is throughout the Word of God.
Let me take just a moment. For example, in Isaiah 13:10: “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: and the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of these mighty ones” [Isaiah 13:10-11]. That’s from Isaiah.
A typical one from Ezekiel 32: “I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. And the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness over the land” [Ezekiel 32:7-8].
Look again, in Matthew, in the words of our Lord Jesus: “After the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars from heaven shall fall, and the powers of heaven be shaken” [Matthew 24:29].
Look again, as the apostle Paul will write in 2 Timothy. He will say, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” [2 Timothy 3:1].
And in 2 Peter, “The day of the Lord shall come, and the heaven shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. And the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” [2 Peter 3:10, 12].
That is universal in the Word of God. It’s not just an adventitious circumstance that is possibly developing in these future days. That’s the whole Word of God. This world and all that is in it faces a fiery dissolution, a fiery judgment. Well, didn’t I just get through saying that if there’s anything in the Bible, you’ll find it confirmed in human experience? You’ll find it confirmed in observation and life. Well, look at the kind of a world in which we live. These astronomers who train their telescopes to the stars above us, they will record the exploding of stars and the death of universes, and they write it down in observation. Not only that, but the geologist and the physicist, he says this earth on which we live, he says this earth is like a globular drop, and the inside of it is a mass, a vast mass of burning, of liquid fire. And we live on its crust, like the crust of an eggshell. Just beneath us is a fury, a flame, a burning. Not only does he speak of that, but the chemist will say our atmosphere is mostly nitrogen and a fourth oxygen, combustible gaseous substances. Nitroglycerin comes from one of them. And he will say also that water—water that covers so much of the face of the earth—water, water is hydrogen and oxygen. An H-bomb, a hell bomb is a hydrogen bomb. It’s combustible. Everything we see is combustible.
I notice in the sermon of Simon Peter at Pentecost: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great day of the Lord come” [Acts 2:20]. What does he mean by that? The moon turns red, the reflection of the fury of the burning of this earth, and the sun is darkened by the smoke from the destruction of the planet. Universally, I say, this earth moves toward a great fiery judgment of Almighty God. Not only do we find that physically, but we find that in the development of the human family. Omar Bradley, a five-star general who headed the chiefs of staff of the American armed forces, wrote, “With the monstrous weapons man already has, humanity is in danger of being trapped in this world of moral adolescence. Our knowledge of science has clearly outstripped our capacity to control it. We have too many men of science and too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. … Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace. We know more about killing than we know about living.”
That’s the world in which we live, and it moves increasingly in that direction. Don’t you ever persuade yourself that men invent weapons so destructive that they will not use them in war. That’s why Nobel Peace Prize [creator] Nobel discovered TNT and he said it is so destructive, we will never have war anymore. Men wouldn’t use so destructive an instrument in war, and so he inaugurated the Peace Prize; no more war. The first thing men did with TNT was to destroy one another with it, go to war with it. You’ll find the same thing with nuclear fission. Where did you ever hear of nuclear fission? I never heard of it until they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, first time I ever heard of it. And it was invented right out here in New Mexico. That is the story, and that is the pursuit and the direction of humankind! We are headed toward a great, fiery judgment of Almighty God in every area of life, whether it be physical, or chemical, or astronomical, or morally, or nationally, or scientifically. We are moving toward a great denouement of human history.
Well, as we face such a catastrophic conclusion, the end of the world, what do we do who look to God in hope and in faith? This is what we do. The most amazing thing you could read in the Bible is Simon Peter saying, after he describes the passing away of the heavens with a great noise, and the melting of the elements with fervent heat, and the world being burned up [2 Peter 3:10-11], he says in the next verse, “Looking for and hastening unto the coming of that day of the Lord” [2 Peter 3:12].
What in the world do you mean? That we are to look forward in anticipation and expectation and hope? We’re to look forward to that denouement of the human story, that dissolution of the human elements of the world? [2 Peter 3:12]. What do you mean? Well, this is what he means. He says here, and the whole Bible is this also, he says here that in the dissolution of this fallen world and in the destruction of evil, we’re going to have no more death, and no more sorrow, and no more pain, and no more evil, and no more war, and no more killing, and no more hurt, and no more tears [Revelation 21:4]. But we’re going to have a new and glorious world, remade for one more time, for the man, remade by the hands of God [Revelation 21:1-5].
And when you read in the first verse of the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, “And I beheld a new heaven and a new earth; for the old first heaven and the old first earth were passed away” [Revelation 21:1], that doesn’t mean this world is destroyed, these heavens are destroyed. Matter is indestructible. You never destroy it. Even God doesn’t destroy it. What it means is, God is reshaping it once more for us [Revelation 21:1]. It’s like a golden chalice, a golden vase that’s been crushed, and God reshapes it. He melts it again, and it’s a molten mess, and God reshapes it more beautiful than before. It’s like that brick from ancient Babylon in the British Museum. The king put his image on the brick and the king put his seal on the brick. Every one of those bricks has the king’s image and the king’s seal. But this brick, a dog stepped on it, and the king’s image and his seal is marred by the footprint of a dog! There’s a dog’s foot on this world, and it’s everywhere!
But not forever will the trail of the serpent be seen in the history of man. God’s going to make it anew, and it will be in His image, and it will be for us [Revelation 21:5]. “Do not be discouraged, little children,” Jesus says, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” [Luke 12:32]. All of it—all of it. God made it for His people, for His saints, and we are to inherit it [Luke 12:32].
The God of this universe is a man, the Man Christ Jesus. There are not three Gods. There is one God, and the only God you will ever see is the Man Christ Jesus. He is our Lord God, and He reigns forever and ever. Amen. Amen. And we are going to reign with Him [Revelation 22:3-5]. That’s why God created this new world, and that’s why Jesus is coming again, to bring victory to His people [1 Corinthians 15:57]. It’s not coming by science. It’s not coming by government. It’s not coming by sociological amelioration. It is coming in the personal and visible appearance and return of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ [Acts 1:11]. And He is coming to give the kingdom to us, a beautiful new world, remade after His own beautiful, perfect purpose and image [1 John 3:2]. Dear Lord, as the ninety-eighth Psalm and first verse says, by His right hand and by His holy arm God shall bring these things for Himself and to us [Psalm 98:1]. I stagger as I read the Word of God. Lord, could it be? Such marvelous, incomparable, heavenly celestial rewards that the Lord had prepared for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].
May I now make an appeal? Why is it—why is it that God doesn’t do something now? Why does death continue on, and sorrow, and suffering, and tears, heartache? O God, the whole world is drowned under the foot of that dog, the trail of the serpent. Lord, why don’t You come now?
Simon Peter, who describes this ending of the world [2 Peter 3:10-12], gives the reason. He says, “The Lord is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, to turning” [2 Peter 3:9]. That’s why He doesn’t come now. If He were to come now, there are millions who would be lost, so He delays His longsuffering, hoping that these who reject Him will turn and open their heart to receive Him. That’s like God. God is like the father of that prodigal boy, just waiting for him to come home [Luke 15:11-20].
God is like He is saying in Deuteronomy, “O that such a heart were in them, that they would obey My voice, that it might be well with them and their children for ever!” [Deuteronomy 5:29]. God is like Ezekiel 33:11: “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: oh, turn ye; for why will ye die?” That’s God. God waited one hundred twenty years in the preaching of Noah before He sent the Flood [Genesis 6:3, 7:17-24; 1 Peter 3:20]. God said to Abraham, “If there are ten in Sodom, I will spare the city for the ten’s sake” [Genesis 18:32]. God is just waiting for us to be saved, for us to come to Him, longsuffering and patient [2 Peter 3:9], but when it comes, when the fire falls and the judgment descends [2 Peter 3:10-12], when that day comes, it is those who have found refuge in Him who will escape the fury of the furnace [1 Thessalonians 5:9].
Wasn’t that true in the story of the three Hebrew children who were cast in the fiery furnace? [Daniel 3:21]. The king looked, and there was a fourth one walking with them, and the king said, “And His countenance is like the Son of God” [Daniel 3:24-25]. And when they were brought forth, there was not a hair of their head singed, nor was the smell of smoke on their garments [Daniel 3:27]. Saved, saved, saved! And that’s why God waits and God delays, waiting, praying, hoping that you will come. Give your heart to Him. Live with Him, die with Him, reign with Him; waiting just for you [2 Peter 3:9].
May we pray together? Our Lord in heaven, what a wondrous thing God hath done for us, redeeming us to Himself by the blood of His own Son [1 Peter 1:18-19], regenerating and remaking this vile world just for us [Revelation 21:1], a perfect man in a perfect world, worshiping our perfect Lord and Savior. O God, how full and rich and deep are the promises of heaven. And our Lord, we pray now that as we sing this hymn of appeal, that God will send us these today. Some, “I’m opening my heart heavenward and Christ-ward” [Romans 10:9-10]. Some, “I’m putting my heart and life in the circle and circumference and fellowship of this precious church.” And some, “I’m answering God’s call in a deeper commitment of my life to Thee.” And while we pray, make that decision in your heart: “Pastor, today I open my heart heavenward. Lord Jesus, come and live with me.” Some to come into the fellowship of our wonderful church, and welcome. And some, “Pastor, I am answering God’s call to my soul.” Make that decision now, and in this moment when we stand to sing, on that first note of that first stanza, down that stairway or down this aisle: “Pastor, this is God’s day for me.” And our Lord, we thank Thee for the sweet harvest You give us this precious hour. In Thy saving and keeping name, amen. While we stand and while we sing, a thousand times welcome.