THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF THE WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-28-91 10:50 a.m.
Once again we welcome 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. In keeping with the glorious rendition of Haydn’s “Creation” presented by our church, by our wonderful choir and orchestra tonight at 7:00 o’clock, this will be the fourth of the sermons prepared by your senior pastor on the beginning of God’s creation. The title of the message is The Beginning and the End of the World.
Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Bara, used three times in this first chapter; bara, the creation by the hand of the omnipotent God out of nothing. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”; the creation of substance, of what you see, materiality. Bara, used again in Genesis 1:21, “God created every living creature that moveth.” First, bara, the creation of substance out of nothing. Second, the creation of everything that lives and moves, the animal world. Third, “So God bara, created man in His own image, in the image of God, bara, created He him; male and female created He them,” Genesis 1:27. Three times the word bara, “created,” is used in this beginning of the world in which we live.
All of the rest of the time in this first chapter of Genesis asah is the word used; asah, the remolding, the remaking of what God had created. Like a furniture manufacturer: he takes what is already created and he makes something of it, he rearranges it. Or like a chef: he takes substances and creates a delicious dinner. Or like an assembly line: he takes what is already created and he makes it into something else, he arranges it into something else. So God created substance, and God created animal life, and God created man. And all of the other things that you see in this physical world have been arranged by God out of those creations.
Now sin came into the world that God had made and destroyed it. There are two ways that you can look upon the entrance of sin into God’s creation. You can look upon it first as the gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. “God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was,” and several times in the Bible that verb is translated “became,” “and the earth was, or the earth became, tohu wabohu”; translated here, “without form, and void” [Genesis 1:1-2]. When I turn to Isaiah 45:18, “Thus saith the Lord, that bara the heavens, God Himself that bara the earth. He establishes it. He created it. He bara not tohu wabohu”; lo tohu, emphatically. “He did not create it empty, and void, and vain.” What happened? Sin came into God’s creation, and it became dark, and formless, and void, and vain [Isaiah 45:18].
If you do not wish to believe that, then you have a second choice. In the third chapter of this Book of Genesis, outside of the garden of Eden lies the serpent, Satan [Genesis 3:1]. Where did he come from? I think that the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Isaiah [Isaiah 14:3-23], addressing the king of Babylon, and the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of the prophecy of Ezekiel, addressed to the king of Tyre [Ezekiel 28:1-26], those words in the prophecies go far beyond the king of Babylon or of Tyre. And I think they refer to the entrance of sin, pride, into the heart of God’s chief angel, Satan [Ezekiel 28:15]. And Satan fell, and when Satan fell, sin entered into God’s universe and the whole universe fell because of sin [Isaiah 14:12].
One thing that is certain, not only in reading the Word of God, but in human experience, wherever sin enters there is damnation, and destruction, and a falling from God. There is no exception to that in human experience, in human life, and certainly in the Word of the Lord. I could name these two men and you would know them, prominent, wonderfully gifted businessmen in the city of Dallas. They were bosom friends. And upon a day one of them came to his home unexpectedly, unannouncedly, and found his friend in bed with his wife. Sin destroyed that friendship. Tragic. Wherever sin enters, it destroys. A home can be beautiful, paradisiacal, heavenly, and sin can make it a damnation and a torment.
A mother; her husband died, and she married again. This time he was volatile, and full of anger, and violence. At the breakfast table, because the preparation of the food did not please him, he picked up his bowl of hot oatmeal and slammed it into the face of his wife and stomped out.
And her little boy turned to his mother and said, “Mother let’s leave. Let’s leave.”
And the mother replied, “Son, there has never been a divorce in our family. I’ll soon die, I’ll not live long.” The prophecy came to pass. She soon died, and the little boy grew up an orphan. Wherever sin enters, it destroys, it damns. Like our universe, like all the experience of life, even in the church, world without end, our churches rent apart by bitter enmity, those vicious confrontations.
One of the strangest things that ever happened to me here as the undershepherd of this church; we have, as you know, thirty-one missions. One of them was so gloriously blessed of God, grew, grew prodigiously. And I said, “Let’s organize them into a separate entity and do their own church and deed them their property.” We did that. We organized that chapel into a church and deeded to them the property. It was no time at all until they came to me and said, “There’s not one in attendance.” Not one! Not one! Not one somebody, anybody attend the chapel, it is empty! In bitterness and confrontation the people who were attending the chapel finally ruined it. I took it back. Now it is one of the flourishing thirty-one chapels in the ministry of our dear church. Wherever sin enters, even in God’s house, it damns and destroys.
These savings and loan associations; in one of them I’ve lost thousands and thousands of dollars. These savings and loan associations, think of the fraud and the dishonesty that lies back of so much of that bankruptcy. Sin damns, and it destroys.
I think of the nations of the world. I went through Libya one time, was graciously received. I preached through Ethiopia, one of the most unhappy, destructive movements in this earth, even entertained by the state. Had one of the sweetest experiences of life in Iran; preached through Chile. Great God, how sin destroys and damns!
And that’s what happened to our universe. Satan in fury inveighs against God, and hates the man that God created. Like 2 Corinthians 4:4 refers to him as the god of this world, and I can see the truth of that tragic characterization. He presides over a world of death. And I live in that kind of a world. Dear God, in the sixty-four years I’ve been a pastor, how endlessly do I live in that world of death. In my first little pastorate a little baby died, belonged to a poverty-stricken tenant farmer. Made a homemade casket, put the little child in that casket, put the little thing on a flatbed truck. Took it out where we dug a hole in the ground to bury the child. That was my first one. Last week I had three funeral services for three of the sweetest members of our dear church. We live in a world of death, in a world of damnation, in a world of darkness, in a world of tears and sorrow, the beginning of the world.
The end of the world; the end of the world is twofold. One, in terrible tribulation, the confrontation of evil and darkness and damnation in the kingdom of Satan [Matthew 24:21; Revelation 13:1-18]. And second, the triumphant victory of God our Lord who is coming in grace and in glory, our reigning King [Matthew 25:31]. Without exception the Bible presents the picture of the end of this world, first, in confrontation in terrible tribulation. Ezekiel 32:7, “‘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. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark. . .and set darkness upon the land, saith the Lord God” [Ezekiel 32:7-8].
And look again in Joel chapter 1:
Alas for the day! The day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come [Joel 1:15].
Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, sound an alarm in My holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh . . .
A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as blackening spreads over the mountains . . .
A fire devoureth before them; behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness…
The sun shall be turned into darkness, the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord.
[Joel 2:1-3, 31]
Out of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew out of which you read:
Then shall there be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor shall ever shall be.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened,
the moon shall not give her light, the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers from heaven shall be destroyed.
In 2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up” [2 Peter 3:10]. O God, the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat! And the closing verse of the sixth chapter of Revelation, “For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” [Revelation 6:17]. There’s no exception to that. From the beginning of the revelation of God to the end time, always the denouement of history lies in confrontation and terrible judgment.
I look upon the make-up of this world and think and see how the possibility of fire and fury is built into the very planet itself, into the very heavens itself. The astronomer looks up into the skies, as Dr. Gregory preached about it in the 8:15 service, and he sees those stars in the heavens explode and die. The physicist and the geologist looks at this planet on which we live. It is a molten globular spherical planet of fire. And we live on a crust, on an eggshell. Just beneath us is indescribable heat and fury. The chemist speaks of the atmosphere. It is made of oxygen and nitrogen. And put it together: nitroglycerin. He looks at the water, H2O, hydrogen-oxygen, explosive!
In this passage that we read out of Joel and repeated in the blessed prophecies of our Lord, “The sun shall be turned into darkness.” That’s the smoke from this destroyed planet. “And the moon shall be turned into blood” [Joel 2:31; Acts 2:20]. That’s the reflection of the fury of the burning fire in this world. It ends in damnation and confrontation, in awful fire and disintegration, not only the physical world in which our lives have been cast, but the very existence of the race to which we belong [2 Peter 3:10].
One time coming from California I was furious in that the airline had put me on another plane. I had a reservation on this one that was going to Detroit, and I was going to speak to a great convention that night. And they said they had oversold and they put me on that plane there. And when the time came for me to get on the thing, I found out it came in an hour later and I missed my, oh, I was just seething on the inside. So I walked on that plane, and it was full except the second row of seats up there on the aisle seat. That was the only one empty. I went up there and I sat down, furious!
When finally, I opened my eyes and looked around, there was a general and there was a colonel and there was big commander from the Pentagon. And I looked to see the man that I was seated by, and he had five stars on him right there. Five stars. And I looked into his face. It was General Omar Bradley. Well, to make it brief, he had been to California. His son-in-law had just been killed. He was a test pilot, and he had been out there with his sweet daughter and the little children, planning to take care of the family. Well anyway, when he learned that I was a pastor, that I was a preacher, it seemed to him to be a gift from heaven. He just poured out his heart to me for the hours that we were there seated there on that plane.
Well anyway, he was on his way to make an address in Boston. And I have copied from this chief of staff a paragraph out of his address.
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 more about living.
The whole earth moves in that tragic denouement of human history. I must hasten in the moment left to speak of the triumph of God at the end of the world.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the old first heaven and the old first earth were passed away…
And I John, I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Look, the dwelling place of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears, all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall be any more pain: for these things are all passed away.
There are scholars who say that means this present world will be completely annihilated, and God’s going to remake it, God’s going to create it. Again, I don’t believe that. To me, matter is indestructible. God created it, and it is there forever. And this new heaven and this new earth is this world and the heavens above it and all the planets around us remade, recreated, like a golden vase that is crushed and it is put in the fire, and out of the gold that is melted a new beautiful creation is formed.
Or even more pertinent, like our bodies, we’re going, if He delays His coming, to be laid in the dust of the ground and we shall return to dust. But God is going to recreate these human bodies, and we’re going to have a resurrected anatomical life like that of our glorious and living Lord [Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2].
God is going to take away the blot of sin [Romans 8:21]. In the British Museum is a brick from ancient Babylon. The king on every brick stamped his image and stamped his seal. And this particular brick has a dog’s track over the image of the king. That’s this modern world. But God is going to take away the blot [Romans 8:21]. He is going to take away the death, and the hurt, and the tears, and the crying, and the sorrow [Revelation 21:4], and God’s going to remake this glorious creation [Revelation 21:1]. And we, according to the Word of the Lord and the unfailing promise of God, we are going to inherit it; the saints are going to inherit the earth [Matthew 5:5].
Why won’t God do it now? Why does He delay? The apostle Peter says it correctly, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]. Why is not the denouement of this age now, this minute? Why is it not on fire? Why is Satan not destroyed? Why is not sin confronted? The reason is God is waiting on us according to the Word of the Lord. God is waiting on us to come to Him. He is waiting on us to turn, to repent, to accept our Lord, to be saved. I think of the story of our Lord in Luke 15, the parable of the story of the prodigal boy, the father is waiting, looking down that road, just waiting and waiting and waiting [Luke 15:20].
Could I make an aside? Do you notice that when the boy came the father put on him a ring? He put a ring on his finger, and he put shoes on his feet [Luke 15:22]. I can understand the shoes on his feet, that’s for the journey, that was for the work. The ring on his finger, that was first. That’s just a picture of the luxury and the joy of heaven, of God, of the church, of the faith. Nobody has the fullness of life and the joy unspeakable and indescribable as a child of God. Put a ring on his finger, that’s first, and then shoes on his feet. And God’s heart is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures.
Deuteronomy 5, “O that there was such a heart in them, that they would obey My voice and keep My commandments, that it might be well with them and their children for ever!” [Deuteronomy 5:29]. Or Ezekiel 33:11, “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked would turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye: for why will you die?” That’s God. The reason God delays His judgment upon this earth is because of us, just waiting for us to come home to Him, to accept His love [John 3:16], and grace, to be saved [2 Peter 3:9].
One of the strangest things you read in the Bible, God said through Noah, “One-hundred twenty years, I am going to destroy this evil, wicked earth by flood” [Genesis 6:3, 17]. Well, why didn’t He destroy then? Noah preached and pled for one hundred twenty years [2 Peter 2:5]. Preacher, what would you think if you preached one hundred twenty years and not one convert? Not one convert. God said, “I am going to destroy this world by flood” [Genesis 6:3, 17] but He waited one hundred twenty years. Maybe somebody will repent [2 Peter 3:9].
Same thing about Abraham and Sodom; God says He is going to destroy the city. And through Abraham’s intercession, “If I can find ten righteous in the city, I will spare it” [Genesis 18:32]. And God sent His angels and only found four, Lot and his wife and their two daughters. [Genesis 19:15-17] Same kind of a Lord in the days of Jonah and Nineveh, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed!” And when Nineveh repented, God repented. When Nineveh changed, God changed [Jonah 3:4-10]. He is that kind of a God.
Like the Lord Jesus seated on the mount, looking on the city and wept [Luke 19:41], “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . How oft would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathered her brood under her wing, but you would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” [Matthew 23:37-38]. God always begs. God always pleads, God always begs, God always bows, the Almighty kneeling before us, weeping over us, hoping that we will turn.
O my loving brother, when the world’s on fire,
Don’t you want God’s bosom to be your pillow?
O hide me over in the Rock of God, rock of ages cleft for me.
[“When the World’s On Fire,” by Bob Waltz]
It’s time to come and God waits, and prays, and hopes, if you have heard Him in these days. And sweet people who listen on radio and on television that is God’s invitation for you. The Lord Jesus came into this world to deliver us from the judgment upon our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14]. And if we will open our hearts to Him and receive Him in His goodness and grace [Ephesians 2:8], He will wash our sins away [Revelation 1:5; 1 John 1:7]; He will write our names in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], and we will be saved and I will meet you with God’s people in heaven some glorious day.
And in the great throng of people in this sanctuary this hour, to give you heart to the Lord [Romans 10:9-13], to come into the fellowship of this church, to answer the appeal of the Spirit in your heart, on the first note of the first stanza come, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing. “This is God’s day for me and I am coming. I am coming. I am on the way. I am on the way.”
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