The Beginning and the End of the World
January 12th, 1986 @ 8:15 AM
THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF THE WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-12-86 8:15 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the first in a series of nine messages on the theme “The Beginning and the End.” We shall be as one on a high elevation, on a mountaintop, overlooking the whole creation of God. The Beginning and the End, next Sunday, of Sorrows; then of Death; then of Satan; then of Grace; then of the Church; then of the Dispensations; finally, the Golden Millennium; today, The Beginning and the End of the World. The message is divided into those two parts.
First, the beginning: the Bible opens in Genesis 1:1 with the avowal: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Reason would say that if God did it, it was perfect. Revelation also so avows. Isaiah 45:18, “Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not tohu.” Yet the second verse says, “And the earth was tohu wabohu,” translated in the King James Version, “without form, and void” [Genesis 1:2]. God created the world, the universe, perfect; the Bible says so. But it became tohu wabohu. There is no word in the Hebrew language for “become”; they use the word “was,” hayetah, for the word “become.” The whole universe of God became tohu wabohu, formless, ruined, destroyed, fallen [Genesis 1:2]. How could such a thing be?
Sin did not begin with Adam. On the outside of the garden of Eden there is another character, there is another person [Genesis 3:1], and he is much described in the Bible. In the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, he’s called Lucifer [Isaiah 14:12]. In the twenty-eighth chapter of [Ezekiel] he’s described as “the glorious cherub that covereth,” but that same chapter says that “in him iniquity was found” [Ezekiel 28:14-15]. And when iniquity is brought into God’s beautiful, perfect creation, it destroyed the world [Genesis 1:2]. That’s nothing beyond our human experience. Sin always destroys. Sin tears apart. Sin renders asunder.
I know two businessmen: they were close friends, like that. One of them came back unexpectedly from a trip and found his friend in bed with his wife. Sin tears apart a friendship. Sin will tear apart your home. Gambling will do it. Drinking will do it. Anger will do it. Sin tears apart, always.
Sin will tear apart a business; great banks destroyed by embezzlement. Sin will tear apart a church. There are no bitternesses like those of hatred in a church. It’ll tear apart a community, like the Hatfields and McCoys. It’ll tear apart nations, as you see America and Libya this minute. Wherever sin enters, it destroys; it tears asunder. And when sin entered the universe, it destroyed it; it tore it apart. It became tohu wabohu. It fell.
Then God did an amazing and wondrous thing: in His love and in His mercy, God re-created this fallen world. He did it in a marvelous way. Time begins in, the third through the fifth verses of the Book of Genesis: an evening and a morning [Genesis 1:3-5]. And in six of those evenings and mornings, God re-created this fallen world [Genesis 1:3-31]. How long it was fallen, how long it remained in chaos, we do not know. Those glacial ages and those geological eras and those records of the rocks are all in that timeless period. But time began; re-creation began in the third through the fifth verses of the first chapter of Genesis [Genesis 1:3-5]. And God re-created this fallen mass, this ruined and destroyed world; God re-created it in six days—and He made it beautiful [Genesis 1:3-31].
It’s an interesting thing to read it here. Three times is the word bara used. God created, first verse of Genesis, God created matter. Everything that you see, bara, God created it. In the twenty-first verse, God created life [Genesis 1:21]. We cannot create life; God created life. And then the twenty-seventh verse, God created the soul of the man [Genesis 1:27]. But that’s the only time that He bara, He created; all the other times He made, asah, He reshaped. He took what was already created and remade it. Like a carpenter will make a piece of furniture, or a woman will make a meal, God took the fallen created mass, and He shaped it into a beautiful, beautiful world; and He called it Eden. Eden means “delight.” And eastward in Eden, in chapter 2 and verse 8, eastward in Eden, in this beautiful, new created world called Eden, He placed a garden; and on the inside of that garden He placed the man that He created [Genesis 2:8].
And Satan was furious. God said to this man, “You are to have dominion over the whole earth and all of My creation” [Genesis 1: 26-28], and beyond this earth, that meant the starry heavens above. We were to be the rulers of all God’s dominion. But Satan had been that ruler, and when he saw the hand of God displacing him, his fury knew no bounds, and he encompassed the destruction of the man. Sin always destroys. Sin tears asunder. And when Satan was able to entice the man and his wife to transgress the word of God, the man fell, and the earth fell, and once again we face darkness and death [Genesis 3:1-6]. That is the beginning.
Now the end; the end of the world, the end of the world is twofold: it ends in terrible tribulation, and it ends in terrific triumph. First, the terrible tribulation. All through the Bible, through the Word of God, without exception, every prophecy says the end of this world is in a fiery judgment; everywhere in the Bible, there is no exception to that.
- In Isaiah chapter , “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall cause her light not to shine” [Isaiah 13:10].
- I turn again, as typical, in Ezekiel, in Ezekiel: “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” [Ezekiel 32:7].
- I turn to Matthew, from the word of Jesus: “In the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken” [Matthew 24:29].
- I read from Acts: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord” [Acts 2:20].
- I read from Paul: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” [2 Timothy 3:1].
- I read from 2 Peter: “The day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night; and the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works thereof shall be burned up…the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” [2 Peter 3:10, 12].
There’s no exception to that: all through the Word of God, God says the ultimate end of this world is in fiery judgment, the dissolution of this earth.
When I look at that, I think of the kind of a world in which we live, and if experience and observation and study can confirm what God’s Word says. And I think of the astronomer—as he looks into the heavens, he sees stars burst in explosion and dissolution; in the heavens, in the eye of the astronomer. I think of the geologist, and I think of the physicist: he says our world is like a globular drop. On the inside is a molten mass, and the crust is like the shell of an egg; but just beneath us, for thousands of miles, is a fury and a burning. I think of the chemist. He speaks of all the atmosphere as being nitrogen and oxygen, two of the most combustible of gases, like nitroglycerin; or of the sea, made up of hydrogen and oxygen, again, an H-bomb, a hydrogen bomb. I think of the sun: it is a mass of explosions. Sometimes those explosions go out two hundred thousand miles into space. I think of the Word of the Lord, that the moon shall be turned to blood, and the sun shall be darkened [Acts 2:20]; that is, from the conflagration of this earth, the moon is red from the reflection of the burning of the earth, and the sun is darkened; the smoke of the burning earth darkens the very face of the sun. God says this world will end in a fiery judgment [2 Peter 3:10, 12].
I sat on the plane from Los Angeles to Chicago with General Omar Bradley, a five-star general, chief of staff. This is what he 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; 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. And we know more about killing than we know about living.
This world, the scientist says, the moralist says, the general says, the Bible says, this world faces an ultimate fiery judgment and dissolution—the end of the world.
But Simon Peter says the most astonishing and amazing thing. He says that, “We are looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” [2 Peter 3:12]. How could such a thing ever be, that a man of God could say, “We are anticipating and looking forward to that glorious final day, when the world will be destroyed and the elements shall be melted with fervent heat”? How could a man of God say that? Because, he says, “We, according to God’s promise, look for new heavens and a new earth” [2 Peter 3:13]. There is coming a day, God says, when there will be no more death, and no more pain, and no more sorrow, and no more separation. There is coming a day when Jesus will be in our midst [Revelation 21:1-4]. There is coming a day when we shall be like Him [1 John 3:2], and God will remake the atmospheric heavens above us and the starry universe beyond us, and God will remake this planet on which we dwell [Revelation 21:1]. Matter is indestructible; it cannot be destroyed. God will not un-create all of the world that He has made. God is going to reshape it. Like a golden vase that’s been crushed, He is going to remake it.
In the British Museum, there is a brick from ancient Babylon—and those bricks had on them the seal and the image of the king, but this brick has a dog’s foot over it, has a dog’s track over it, over the image of the king and the seal of the monarch. Not forever will there be a dog’s track on the face of this earth. Not forever will be there the mark of a Satan in human life. God is going to remake this earth, and God is going to give it to His saints [Matthew 5:5]. This earth and this whole universe, all of it is for the inheritance of God’s children. It’s going to be given to us. God is going to reshape it and remake it for us. The God of this world is a man. The God of the universe is a man. The God that is, is a man. His name is Christ Jesus. He is God. The only God you will ever see is Christ Jesus. And we are going to be like Him, and we are going to reign with Him [Revelation 5:10; 22:3-5], and the whole universe will be ours. That is the ultimate end and purpose of God for this world and for you.
Why doesn’t God do it now? Why doesn’t God give us this world now? Why doesn’t Jesus come now? Why does He delay? Lord, Lord! This rejuvenation, this reshaping, this regeneration that God purposes will not come by science or philosophy or human knowledge or effort, it will come by the return of Christ [Revelation 21:5]. God has to do it, and God will do it, as the ninety-eighth Psalm says, “By His mighty right hand and by His holy arm” [Psalm 98:1]. Why doesn’t God do it now? The reason is, He delays His coming because of “His longsuffering to us-ward; not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]. Then Peter describes that day that will ultimately come [2 Peter 3:10]. Why does God delay? Why doesn’t Jesus come and do it now? Why, Lord, why? The Bible says, the apostle says He is waiting on you to come to the Lord, to turn and be saved. He is waiting for us to accept Jesus that we might be saved, because when this end time comes, it’s too late. But now we have opportunity to turn [2 Peter 3:9].
God is always like that. When He gave the law to the people of Israel, in Deuteronomy, He says, “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would hear My word and live, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” [Deuteronomy 5:29]. God says in 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 evil way and live: turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?” Why doesn’t God do this now? Because He is waiting for us to turn, to be saved.
That’s God. He is like the father in the prodigal story: He is waiting for that prodigal boy to come home [Luke 15:11-32]. God is always like that. In the days of Noah, He delayed the Flood one hundred twenty years, hoping that the people would turn [Genesis 6:3, 7:13-24]. When you read the story of Abraham before God, pleading for wicked Sodom and Gomorrah, “Lord,” said Abraham, “if there are fifty righteous in Sodom, would You spare the city for fifty’s sake?” And God said, “I would.” Then Abraham says, “Would You spare the city for the sake of forty-five? for forty? for thirty? for twenty? for ten?” [Genesis 18:24-32]. Why did Abraham cease at ten? Because Abraham thought that Lot would surely, with his wife and family, have won at least ten to the Lord. Why didn’t he go on down to five? to one? I think God would have said, “Yes, I will spare it for one.” God does not rejoice in the agonies and cries of the damned. God wants all of us to be saved, all of us, and that’s why the delay: that the lost might turn, and that we might all be saved. And if there is a turning on our part, the fire cannot reach us, and the flames cannot touch us: we’re saved and we are safe.
In the story of the three Hebrew children who were cast into the fiery furnace, there was a fourth One who walked with them; and His form and His countenance was like the Son of God. Jesus was with them. God was with them. And when they were taken out of the fiery flame, there was not one hair of their head singed; and the smell of smoke was not on their garments. They were saved. They were saved [Daniel 3:19-27]. That’s God’s will for all of us, that’s God purpose for every one of us, and that’s why He delays His coming. That’s why He delays the fiery judgment of the world [2 Peter 3:10]: that we might have time to turn and be saved [2 Peter 3:9].
And that is our appeal to your heart today. This day, this holy, precious, heavenly, God-blessed, celestial moment, “Pastor, this day I open my heart heavenward and God-ward, and I ask Jesus to come in and to save my soul, to write my name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], and to stand by my side in the day of the fiery judgment that ends the world, and, pastor, here I am. I’m coming this morning.” A family to put life in the fellowship of our dear church; somebody you to answer God’s call in your heart, on the first note of the first stanza, make it now. Come now. Answer with your life now, and may angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF THE WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1. Created perfect by God
2. Fall of creation
3. Renewed creation
II. The End
1. Fiery judgment
2. Earth remade
III. Why the Delay?
1. God’s clock, not ours
2. Longsuffering, willing that no one should perish.
3. God is waiting for last believer in the church