November 24th, 1996
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-24 -96 Sunday School
Well, the God you for listening. And the Lord heal us all. Now, the lesson today is the conclusion of the one that we were attempting to deliver last Lord’s Day morning. I was speaking about the purpose of prophecy, the reason for revelation. And, in your goodness and grace, I would like to finish that this morning. And if we have any time, go into the next lesson. We are studying the Book of Daniel. And in our reading through the Book, we have come to the second chapter. And that chapter of course, is the recounting of a tremendously pertinent revelation, prophecy, given to the king.
So, what I started off with was why the prophetic revelation that God has written here in our Bible – I said that one-half of the Bible is revelation, is prophecy – one-half of it – and why does God do that, write that? So, the first avowal was that God writes that prophetic revelation in the Bible in order that we could be delivered from mistaken judgments. And I went through some of the things that characterized modern culture and society – that if we listen to God, we wouldn’t fall into those unbelievable misjudgments.
Now, my second avowal is – Why does God place all of these revelations in His Bible? – and my second reason is in order to honor and exalt our Lord God. He is above all and everything. And one of the great signs of the glorious presence of the Lord God in this world and in our lives is the things that He speaks in revelation, in prophecy. God alone knows the secrets of the future. And the Bible points them out.
Why does the Bible alone have revelation, prophecy? What about these other religions – these other faiths – and their sacred books? There’s not a sacred book in any of the religions of the world that contain prophecy, that contain revelation. The reason is very obvious. If one of those Buddhists, or one of those Muhammadans, or one of those Mahaveras deigned to write prophecy in the sacred book, his inanity would be perfectly and absolutely and finally and grotesquely exhibited.
A man does not know what the future holds. He just doesn’t, no matter who he is! But, there is One who does, and that’s the Lord God. The Bible knows the end from the beginning, and all of the providences in between. And we have it there for us in order to exalt and honor our wonderful Lord. God rules in the destinies of men! And that’s you, and all like us. Daniel, the second verse of the first chapter begins: "God gave," He did! Then, Daniel, 5:27 – that prophecy: "You’re weighed in the balances and found wanting." Who weighs him in the balances? Who could do it?
Well, another reason: The purpose of revelation is to give assurance to us, God’s people, concerning the future. What lies ahead for you? For us? Who knows? God knows! And He writes these great prophecies in the Bible in order that we might be assured that He knows the future for us.
Look at the tragedies that befall all of us. Death! Good night alive! I live in that world. The last thing that happened to me before I was picked up at the parsonage to be brought here this morning – the last thing was I received a telephone call. And one of our dear, dear, faithful deacons, Earnest Filter, had just died. I live in that world. A week before last, there were eight of our members who died. This last week, two of our members have died. And this week, we start off with a death of one of our members. What does that mean? What does that hold before us? Who knows? What is it out there beyond the grave, in the eternity that is yet to come? Nobody could reveal that except God. And that’s why the Bible is full of the prophecies and revelations in order that we might know of the future.
Let’s take this Book of Daniel – these four young men: Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego. The guilt of Judah, the sins of Judah, brought that tragedy. These young men were caught in it. They are in captivity because of the sins of Israel. Where is God? And why does God allow it? And what of the future? And what of the promises? And what of the purposes of revelation for our own comfort and answer? What does God say? Well, God made promises to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to David: there should be a kingdom forever.
Now, you look at that promise. There is to be a kingdom for Israel forever. Then, we came to 722 BC and the northern kingdom was absolutely destroyed. They were taken into Assyrian captivity. Then came 587 BC and the southern kingdom was carried into captivity. Then came 70 AD and the whole nation was scattered throughout the world.
Has God broken His covenant? God said there would be a kingdom for Israel forever. And look at them: destroyed, destroyed, destroyed and destroyed! Was God mistaken? No! And that’s why the Bible! God has not forgotten. Every word of His promise to Israel will be faithfully kept. And in your lifetime, a little piece of it has come to pass. I say did you ever see a Hittite, or a Jebusite, or a Hivite, or an Amorite, or any other of those "ites?" Did you ever see anybody, who ever heard of anybody, who ever met anybody, who saw one of them? But, I can take you up and down the streets of Dallas, and of all the cities in the world, and show you those Jews by the thousands. We have thousands of them here in our city. That’s God! That’s God!
And what you saw come to pass in the fifteenth of May in 1948, the creation of Israel, why, that was said by the Lord God 2,600 years ago – then before that, 2,000 before Christ, that would be 4,000 years ago. That’s in the Bible, in order that we can be assured that God will keep His promise, even unto death. So, the revelation is assigned in earnest and a pledge of the faithfulness of God. And the portion of prophecy of Revelation that is already fulfilled is an earnest, and a harbinger, and a promise of the fulfillment of all the rest of it in the future.
We, today, have 2,600 years to check on the promises made by Daniel. He said these following kingdoms, you know are going; empires are going. But, after that, there won’t be any. The last one is Rome: the Roman Empire. There will never be another one.
Now, you look what has happened. The Barbarians sacked Rome, destroyed it, that empire; Charlemagne built an empire; Napoleon built an empire; Kaiser Wilhelm, even in my lifetime, tried to build an empire. He was followed by Hitler, who tried to build an empire. Communist Russia sought to build an empire. Good night alive! It has been almost yesterday when the Communist empire broke up – absolutely fell apart. It isn’t anymore. That is in keeping with the prophecy of God that starting up there with Babylon in the head, Medo-Persia in the arms, Greek in the thighs, eastern and western Roman empire down there in the legs. Then, the breaking up into the ten toes, some of it clay, some of it iron. There’ll never be another empire.
Oh, what God has done in revealing, in prophetically opening for our eyes, what lies ahead in the future! Now, we have, of course, in those wonderful prophecies – every one of them closes alike. There is a stone, in the second chapter of the Book of Daniel that grows and grows and grows. It’s cut out without hands and it destroys all of the kingdoms of the world and it grows to fill the world earth – the kingdom of Christ! Then, in the seventh chapter, he’s described as the Son of Man. And all of these other kingdoms have disappeared and the kingdom of Christ remains.
The revelations of God in the first coming of Christ – it hasn’t been but about a day or two ago, that I saw about two pages, two printed pages, of the revelations of the coming Messiah that have come to pass in the Lord Jesus Christ. They were fulfilled in Him – about two pages of them, one right after another. It is unbelievable, even the slightest little things about the coming Messiah revealed back there in the prophetic Scriptures of the Old Testament. And they were fulfilled in Christ in His first coming.
Then, I have a sentence here that follows it: what of the revelations of the second coming of Christ? They will be fulfilled in their smallest details. As the prophecies of the first coming of our Lord were fulfilled, the prophecies of the second coming of our Lord will also be fulfilled.
Now, in our lives today, we have opportunity to test the things that are revealed to us about our Lord. Every day, we have opportunity to test them. And every day, we see them brought to pass. It will be no less in the saving gospel of Christ. At the denouement of the age, at the consummation of the years, that is one of the tremendous purposes of prophecy: to give assurance to us about the future, what lies ahead for us.
Now, to conclude: about the written Word for our assurance – just looking at the Bible and standing on those promises. While I was preparing this message, I received a long distance telephone call from a young man in Chicago, Illinois. And he was weeping when he called me – weeping on the telephone. He had been accosted by some critters that he was not saved – that he faced damnation. He had not been saved. And he wanted to know from me how he could be filled with assurance that he was going to heaven when he died. He was so troubled. Well, the answer is simple. If you look at yourself for the assurance of salvation, you will tremble. You’ll be disastrously in complexity and tragedy all the rest of your days, if you look at yourself. I don’t care who you are. You’ll be conscious in your heart of fault and failure and weakness and sin. You just are that way. We are human and the flesh is weak. And when you look at yourself, you will fall into that disorganization of thought, of heart and mind.
Same way about everything else; "I’m going to join the church and the church will save me." Dear me – the faults and the failures that are found among all the people of God, on and on and on! Well, what assurance do you have that you’re saved? It lies in the person of Christ. He saves us. Our salvation is a gift from His hand; not of works, lest one would say, "I did it!" and he boast. We’re saved by looking to Jesus – looking to Him. And He will not fail us. And one of the assurances of his kingly infinite ableness is found in the prophecies and the revelations of the Bible. Not one of them ever falls to the ground. Not one of them ever fails.
And if I base my salvation on me, O God, what a tragedy! But, if I base my salvation and assurance upon Jesus – just looking to Him, a gift from His gracious hands – dear me, what a comfort and what a strength, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead – that He lives – thou shalt be saved;" [Romans 10:9] in Him! "For with the heart man believeth unto – a God kind of – righteousness – not of man’s kind, but God’s kind of righteousness – and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation." [Romans 10:10] "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." [Romans 10:13] That’s God! And it is such an assurance to know that He’s our Lord and He will see us through. And the evidence of it is those marvelous "come-to-passes" in the Word of Christ. Oh dear, we sing:
How firm a foundation,
Ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith
In His excellent Word!
What more can He say
Than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge,
In Jesus hath fled?
The soul that on Jesus
Hath leaned for repose
I’ll never, no never,
Desert to its foes;
That soul, tho’ all hell
Shall endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never,
No never, forsake!
[John Keene, "How Firm a Foundation"]
Isn’t that the most glorious gospel that mind could think for? The hope and the assurance we have in Jesus our Christ and the evidence of it is in that Book. Praise His name! Glory to our Lord!
Well, I have just now come to the lesson that I wanted to deliver today. Let me take a leaf out of my life and I have, I pray, a moment to present it. When we come to the second chapter of Daniel, we come to the dreams. And the second chapter is concerning the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. And I want to take a leaf out of my life concerning dreams.
Dr. Truett died in July of 1944. I was called as pastor of this church in September, 1944. There was one full month between the death of Dr. Truett and my calling to be his successor. He was, by far, the most famous preacher our Baptist people in this continent has every produced. He was the great unlike. There just wasn’t anybody like Dr. Truett. He pastored here for 47 years. When Dr. Truett died, I had a dream. And we’re talking about dreams. The whole Book of Daniel is about dreams; dreams!
When Dr. Truett died, I had a dream. I had never been in this church sanctuary but one time; in 1927. The Baptist Student Union convened here. The state Convention assembled here in this church. And on Sunday morning, we went to church here. That’s when I heard Dr. Truett here. And in that dream – now, remember, this is 1944. And I was here in one time in 1927. I walked into the auditorium between two men. And I saw every detail of that sanctuary vividly when I walked into the sanctuary in this dream. I saw every detail of that auditorium; every detail. There was a man who walked in front of me and a man who followed me in this dream. And we sat, when I’m in the pulpit, we sat in the bend of the balcony right up there.
And the people were weeping and there were flowers from one side of the front of the sanctuary to the other. I turned to the man on my left and I said, "Why are these people weeping and why are all of those flowers filling the front of the sanctuary?" And he said to me, "The great pastor, Dr. Truett, has died. And this is his memorial service and the people are crying. And that’s why the flowers up at the front." I looked more closely. And there in the center, with the flowers on either side, was the casket. Dr. Truett had died.
And as I sat there and looked, the man on my right put his hand on my knee and I turned to see who it was. It was George W. Truett! And with his hand on my knee, he said, "You must go down and preach to my people." I said to Dr. Truett, "Oh, I could not do that. I could not follow the most famous Baptist preacher in the world. I could not be the pastor of this glorious church." He put his hand back on my knee and said, “You must go down and preach to my people." And the dream closed.
The pulpit committee, presided over by Judge Frank Ryburn, had seven members. John L. Hill, of the Sunday School Board in Nashville, Tennessee, had come down here many times to speak. He was a layman, but he was a glorious, great big giant of a man. The pulpit committee wrote John L. Hill and said, "Whom would you recommend to be pastor of this church to follow Dr. Truett?" And he wrote back and said, "There’s one man in this world to follow Dr. Truett. And his name is W. A. Criswell, pastor of the church in Muskogee, Oklahoma."
They took the letter and read it to the pulpit committee. And Frank Ryburn asked, "Did you ever hear of him?"
"Did you ever hear of him?"
"Did you ever hear of him? Did you ever hear of him?"
Not one of the seven on the committee ever heard of me. And they took the letter and put it in the wastebasket. But, what did that man in the dream say to me? With his hand on my knee, he said, "You must go down and preach to my people." So, the days passed. And they called John L. Hill once more. They had come to think of three different preachers to be pastor of the church. So they called Dr. Hill and asked him about those three.
He had a contemptible remark to make about this one. He had a supercilious description to make about the second one. And he had a no less contemptible word to say about the third one. Then, he had had it. "But, I wrote you a letter and told you there was one man to follow Dr. Truett! And his name is W. A. Criswell, in Muskogee, Oklahoma!” So, the pulpit committee said, "We’ll send half of our committee up there."
They came. They sat in the congregation. They came back. They said, "The pulpit committee of the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls was there. And when we ate in the hotel on this side, they were on the other side. And if we’re going to have him, we have to call him right now." So, the pulpit committee made a recommendation to the church that they call me as pastor of this congregation. And that was a little more than 52 years ago!
What about dreams? I believe in them! I believe in them! Many, many, times of course, they are extraneous. They are superfluous. But, sometimes, as in the Bible, God speaks to us in a dream. So He did to Abraham. So He did to Jacob. So He did to David. So He did to Joseph. A dream! And we’re going to look at them in these days that lie ahead. God bless you, sweet people!