Report on Israel and the Coming of Christ
December 10th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
A REPORT FROM ISRAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-10-89 10:50 a.m.
Once again, welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing a special message: A Report from Israel. As a background text, just for this season, I read Isaiah chapter 9, verses 6 and 7:
For unto us a Child is born – that’s His humanity – unto us a Son is given – that’s His deity – and the government shall rest upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David – Jerusalem, the capital of the world – and upon His kingdom, to order it, to establish it with justice and judgment from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it.
And following the pattern of these godly men in the New Testament, in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, the closing verse: "And when they were come" – these emissaries from heaven – "and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith to the lost world" [verse 27].
So, A Report on Israel. I was asked to go on a mission to Israel by one of the wealthiest men in the British Empire. His name is Graham Ferguson Lacey, and he was to meet us there in Israel for the purpose of this mission to which we were invited to go. And he sent also Mrs. Criswell and Bob and Patsy Wallace, two of the sweetest, dearest traveling companions in all the earth. And the mission assignment is this: I was to stand in and on the holy places in Israel that have to do with the second coming of our Lord; and standing in those holy places, I am to recite the things in the Bible concerning the return of our blessed Lord Jesus. It was a tremendous assignment. All of it was outdoors; there was no indoor lighting, nothing that could be controlled. It was just as God in His heavens would help us do this unusual thing of standing in a holy place and reciting what God has revealed to us concerning the end of the world, the consummation of the age, and the coming of our Savior.
I chose five places. One: on the Mount of Olives. In Zechariah 14: "And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which on the east side of Jerusalem, and the Lord our God shall come, and His saints with Him" [verse 4 and 5]. That was the first one. The second that I chose was before the Golden Gate that enters into the holy city of Jerusalem. That’s the only gate that enters on the side where the holy temple was built. That’s the gate through which our Lord in His triumphal entry came into Jerusalem, and that will be the gate through which our Lord will enter when He comes back to this earth again.
Do you remember the twenty-fourth Psalm? "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory will come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord great and mighty, He is the King of glory." Think of standing there where one day our Lord shall come triumphantly into the capital of the earth and assume the prerogative of the government of all creation, as you just read, upon the throne of His father David.
As you know, Suleiman, the sultan of Turkey, because of this prophecy of the coming of the Lord through that gate, the sultan, in 1530, sealed it up. He closed it with great heavy stones. But that will be as nothing to the touch of Almighty God, when Jesus comes again. That’s the second place.
The third place I chose was in the Valley of Hinnom, Gehenna. That was the place of the burning of the refuse of the city, and it was the place where dead carcasses were cast, thrown. And in the ninth chapter of the Book of Mark, our Lord says, that, "Gehenna is a place where the fire is never extinguished and the worm never dies" [Mark 9:43-44]. And I stood there in that Gehenna and spoke of the ultimate judgment of hell.
Then I turned my face upward, and following the Revelation 21:2, "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride for her husband." And I stood there and spoke of the ultimate condemnation of those who spurned the mercies of God, spoke of Gehenna; and then lifted up my heart to heaven, and spoke of the glories of the eternal city God is preparing for those who love Him.
The fourth place I chose was the Garden Tomb. I stood there in that holy and sacred place and recounted the Book of the Revelation. Our Lord came forth in that very place. And in the first chapter of the Revelation He says, "Behold, I am He that liveth, and was dead; and I am alive forevermore; and I have the keys of Hell and of Death." And I recounted there the apocalyptic disclosure of the glorious return of our Lord.
And the fifth and the last that I chose was at Megiddo, the Mount of Megiddo. In the Revelation it says there comes forth unclean spirits to all the kings of the earth and of the world, to gather them together for the great battle of the Lord God Almighty. And He gathered them in the place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon [Revelation 16:13-16]. And I spoke there of this last great battle of the Lord, the final battle of Armageddon.
Those are the five places that I chose; and the men who were present to record them in movie cameras were very faithful and meticulous in doing so. Graham Lacey is spending $350,000 on this providence. And he chose trained and professional men, five men and two women, to do all of the work. And they took twenty hours of filming, and they are now reducing it to five hours and finally to one which will be distributed to all the world. And I have asked Graham Lacey if he would send to me those five fundamental hours of the filming. And on New Year’s Eve, which this year falls on Sunday night, on New Year’s Eve we’ll gather here in this very sanctuary and we’ll look at those films, as the pastor stands in those holy places and recounts and repeats what God has revealed in His Holy Word concerning the coming of Christ in that holy place. It will be, I pray, one of the most interesting and exciting of all of the religious experiences of our lives.
While we were in Israel, we were entertained by the family of Zalli Jaffe. He gathered his clan together, eighteen of them, and we all ate dinner in his mother’s home. Zalli Jaffe is the president of the great synagogue in Jerusalem and is one of the most dynamic men I have ever met in all of my life. The dinner was at Shabbat, it was Friday evening; and I had never before eaten dinner with an Orthodox Jewish family on Shabbat. It was a new experience to me. They sing and they pray and they testify: it is one of the most religious experiences that you could ever know.
And he had there a guest: the Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach. And this supreme court justice sat right in front of me. And while we were visiting together, he began recounting a famous case in Israel. There came to the nation a Christian fundamentalist from Australia. And I am a Christian fundamentalist: I believe every syllable of this Word and every verse in the Bible. I even believe the outside is inspired. What he did was, he brought a can of kerosene, and he dashed it on the Mosque of Omar that stands today where the holy temple stood, and he set fire to it. And when they arrested him, he said God told him to do it. God told him to burn that mosque down, and the holy temple of the Lord is to be erected in that holy place.
Well, when he was tried before this judge, and he said God told him to do it, why the prosecutor said, "You are demented. You are insane. You’ve lost your mind. How could you say God told you to burn down this mosque?" And the Australian replied, "Sir, let me ask you a question: in this place, Mount Moriah, God told Abraham to slay his only begotten son by Sarah, through whose seed the earth is to be saved. Ten minutes before Abraham lowered that knife to take the life of his son, ten minutes before, if you had asked Abraham, ‘Why are you about to slay your son Isaac?’ and Abraham replied, ‘Sir, God told me to do it’; would you have said to Abraham, ‘You are demented. You’ve lost your mind. You are insane’? Well why then do you think that I am insane when I say God told me to burn this mosque down?"
Well, the Supreme Court judge said to me, "I didn’t know how to answer." And he said, "That’s been years ago, and I still don’t know how to answer." Then he said to me, "Do you know how to answer?" And I said, "I don’t. I don’t." God told Abraham to slay his son; and that Australian fundamentalist said, "God told me to burn this mosque down." And what the judge did, he said, he assigned him to an asylum, and then deported him back to Australia.
Well, it’s an interesting world over there. As I stood and looked at that mosque, as I have many times before – this is the eighth time I’ve been to Israel – in the Book of Zechariah, in the Revelation, in the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians there is the holy temple of God there; there in that place, the temple is there, the rebuilt temple is there. And yet, the mosque of Omar stands there today, sacred to eight hundred million Mohammedans. What’s going to happen? How is that mosque going to be taken away? God only knows. I just know this: that the day is coming when the Mosque of Omar will not be there, and the day is coming when the temple of God will be erected in that place and the denouement of the age will come.
Well, Zalli Jaffe took me to visit the prime minister of Israel, Prime Minister Shamir. He is a small man; seemingly shy and reticent. But it was a beautiful moment for me. We had tea together with him and two of his highest officials in government. And he wanted me to talk to him about the democracy in the Middle East. He said that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and they desperately need peace, and they need America’s help in achieving it. Then he asked me if I had ever been to Russia. And I said, "Yes." And he asked me, "Are there Baptists there?" And I said, "Yes." And he asked me if I had preached to them, and I said, "Yes. Some of the most moving services I’ve ever shared in my life have been in those Baptist churches in Russia."
You know, just to give you an idea of how things are in the world, I was speaking in the Baptist church in Moscow. I was speaking about this last great war. And I said, "You know, it is strange how alike all humanity is. Whether it be an English mother weeping over her boy who has been killed in the war, or whether it is a French mother weeping over her boy who has been killed in the war, or a German mother weeping over her boy killed in the war, or a Russian mother weeping over her boy who HAs been killed in the war," I said, "whether it is English, or French, or German, or Russian, those tears are strangely alike." When I said that, that throng burst into wailing, crying, lamenting. It amazed me! The attendance is largely older women, and there’s no family in Russia but was touched by that terrible war. And, after the service was over, I asked, "How is it that when I spoke of those tears of these mothers over these fallen soldiers, the throng burst into lamentable crying?" And the answer was that there was no household there but had lost a son in the war.
Well, out of Russia there are forty thousand Jews, so Shamir said, who are immigrating to Israel. Then he asked me about our Baptist mission work in Israel. And, of course, we have one of the most effective of all of the mission compounds in the world, in Israel. They call it Petah Tikva, just out of Tel Aviv. And I told him about David Ben Gurion, who talked to me about our Baptist mission work in Israel. And David Ben Gurion, the famous first prime minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion said to me, "You just send all the missionaries you want to. It won’t do you any good and won’t do us any harm, so you just are welcome to come, as many of you as would like."
And that reminded me of a story that I’ve told many times about David Ben Gurion. The Time Magazine published an article about a worldwide conference in Jerusalem, held in the big city auditorium. And Time Magazine took about a third of a page to print a picture of David Ben Gurion and me; and he is saying something to me, and I’m just dying a-laughing. So they ask me world without end, "What did David Ben Gurion say to you that made you laugh so, that was so funny?" Well, I said, "In this worldwide conference, there was a scientist standing up there on the platform right in front of us, and he said, ‘The day is coming when we will conceive children in a test tube.’" I had never heard of anything like that in my life. As you know, since then, why, it’s just common conceiving children in a test tube. But I never had heard it before. And when that scientist said that, "The day is coming when we’re going to conceive children in a test tube," why, David Ben Gurion punched me, and said, "Preacher, did you hear that?" I said, "Yes, sir." Then he repeated it: "He said the day is coming when we are going to conceive children in a test tube." I said, "Yes, I heard him say that." Well, he turned back and then looked at me again, and said, "But preacher, I’m telling you, the old way is still the best." Well, I’ve been looking at these two boys up here, and I think they have an inclination to affirm what David Ben Gurion said. Yes. And I invited the prime minister to Dallas, and I look for him to come. And when he comes, we’ll have a great time together.
Now, Zalli, as I say, is the president of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, and his twin brother is the leader of the choir. And that Great Synagogue in Jerusalem is one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen in the earth. It’s enormous. And only the men are allowed to sit on the first floor. It has the highest balcony I’ve ever seen in my life: that balcony is way up there, then goes up to the top of the ceiling. And that’s where the women sit, way up there. They don’t have any female trouble in the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. The women are all up there. And it’s the beatenest thing I ever heard in my life: the rabbi is not allowed to speak more than seven minutes! Seven minutes. And if he goes over one minute, they stop him. Seven minutes. Dear me! I don’t know what to think. The service, fifty-three minutes of the hour is conducted by the cantor, the song leader, and I’ve just been thinking about you, oh dear! It’s a remarkable thing, the service. And that cantor, an enormously big man, and one of the handsomest men I ever saw in my life, I visited with him after the service was over, and for four hundred years there has been a series of cantors in his family, four hundred years. And he’s got a boy twelve years of age, and he’s getting ready for that boy to take his place. It’s a remarkable, remarkable thing. And they sing psalms and Talmudic praises. It is a marvelous, marvelous, marvelous thing.
Well, the country is just like this: they exist in constant danger. When we landed in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post had a big dark headline: "A Bomb Blast Kills the President of Lebanon," and I’m sure you had a headline here like that. On the trip to Megiddo, for example, if you can go to Megiddo from Jerusalem, Jerusalem is here and Megiddo right there, you just go straight. Well, you don’t dare do that. I talked to the driver; he wouldn’t dare go through that West Bank up there. And he goes clear down to the coast, and then up the coastal plain, and then back over here to Megiddo; hours and hours because of the fear of what could happen. The long finger of land that comes from the coastland up to Jerusalem, a long finger of land that includes Jerusalem, then on either side of that finger and in front of the finger is the West Bank: bitter, bitter enemies, Arab enemies, and they’re just right there, and they’re just right there. And, of course, old Jerusalem is Arabic. And this is typical: they took me on top of the Tower of Antonio later in the day. They wanted to take a filming session as the sun went down, and I was to speak. The temple is just right there, the temple area, the Mosque of Omar, and all the things around. Well, when the evening was come and time to cease filming, why, one of the young women was asked to take me to the car which was parked down there on the street. So when we walked to the car, the young woman said to me, "Wait, wait, don’t you dare touch it!" And I said, "Well, why not?" Well, she said, "The car is supposed to be locked, but somebody has gotten into it." So she pulled me back and took me inside of that tower. And then in a little while, well, the crew came down, those five men and the two women. And they went to the car, and they looked under the hood, and they looked underneath, and they looked in the trunk, and they looked throughout the whole mechanism. And when I finally got in the car with them, why, I said, "You are afraid of a bomb, aren’t you?" And he replied, "Yes. I am afraid of a bomb."
Now that’s just parking your car. Can you imagine going down the street here and park your car, and you are afraid that while you were gone someone had placed a bomb in it? The whole thing is just like that. Wherever we went in that filming session, there were four security men that went along also. A fellow said to me, "You see on the top of that hill? See that man standing there? Then over here, you see that man standing? And then one here, and one here? They are security men, and they are seeking to preserve life"; all the things that attend the life in Israel. It is difficult and it is hard, and those people are to be commended beyond any in the earth, as they seek to build a homeland for Abraham’s chosen seed.
I have to conclude. The first time in over fifty years of traveling by plane all over the earth, for the first time in over fifty years we lost our luggage. On the wing of the trip from Tel Aviv to Istanbul, it disappeared. It was gone four days, four days. Everything that we had, you know to live, and on and on and on, was in the luggage. If I don’t smell good when you get close to me, you know it is because all of my clothes, underwear and all, are in that luggage. Well, they finally located it in New York City, and we are in London. I think of that joke, when the guy said, "This is an unbelievable civilization in advanced technology: you can eat breakfast in London, you can eat lunch in San Francisco, you can eat dinner in Hong Kong, and your luggage be in Old Mexico City." It’s a new age.
But, being a preacher, being a preacher, and always thinking in terms of the kingdom of God and the revelation of Christ, I thought and thought and thought of that lost luggage, lost. And apply that word to anything, and it spells tragedy, "lost." Here’s a man who has lost his health, cut down in the very strength of life. Here is someone who hass lost his eyesight; blind and groping for the wall. Here is one who has lost his mind. Apply it to anything, it spells tragedy.
I never heard a sadder story in all of my life than I heard from the lips of an insane asylum guard. He took a young wife to see her husband, who was inside of the asylum, locked up in a cell. And watching the time, when the time of her visit was to close, why, he opened the door. And when he did, there was that young woman, that young wife down on her knees in the presence of her young husband, and looking up piteously into his face, crying and saying, "Husband, don’t you know me? I’m your wife. Don’t you know me?" And the guard said, "There was no light of recognition in his face at all. He had lost his mind." But there is nothing comparable to the tragedy as when you apply that word to the soul: a lost soul, shut out from God.
A wayward boy, young man, died drunk in an automobile accident. And the family said to me, "When you bury him, don’t call his name, don’t read a scripture, just lead a prayer and we’ll bury him away." No tragedy in the earth like that as when you apply the word to the lost soul. And my impression of the world is it is lost. That vast Middle East, from the beginning of western Africa all the way through the Levant, all the way through Asia, lost.
And when you come to the Western world, unbelievably materialistic and secular; I picked up the London Times and it caught my eye, the leading large editorial: "Joined to a Corpse," and it was an editorial on the Church of England. Not two percent of the people go to church. And they lay the fault at the door of the priesthood of the English established Church. And when I come to America, it is the same secular turn of the culture of our people.
The customs man at the airport said to me, "I am not a believer. I am not a Christian. I’m an agnostic." I pled with him to listen to this Channel 11 service, and he said he would. Oh, how I pray that maybe God would touch his heart. But here in America, not only taking prayer out of the schools, not only taking the Bible out of the school, but I read about a day ago, they’re going to try to take Christian Christmas music out of the school; and instead of "Away in a Manger" we are to sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Oh! these things.
I heard a few moments ago, before coming into this pulpit, about John Maisal, our great Christian friend. John Maisal has just come back from Russia; and he preached Christ in four great high schools in Russia. You can’t do that in America. There is becoming more liberty to name the name of God and the name of Christ in atheistic Russia than there is in supposedly Christian United States. We need a great turning to God. We need to go back to the foundations upon which our forefathers built our country, and to rear our children in the love and nurture of the Lord Jesus. God grant it, and the Lord use us here in this dear church to be a pivot around which God can bring revival and salvation to our city, to our state, to our nation, and O God, to the world!
Now, Brother Fred, I want us to sing a song. And our ministers will be here at the front. And while we sing that song, a family you to come into the fellowship of the church, a couple you to accept Jesus as your Savior, a one somebody you to answer God’s call in your heart, on the first note of the first stanza, come. And a thousand times welcome. We’re on the way to heaven, God bless us. We’re singing His praises along the pilgrim way, the Lord meeting with us. Come and join us, and here in this world loving Jesus, and in the world to come praising Him forever, we’ll rejoice in His love and grace. Welcome, while we stand and while we sing.