The Two Great Apocalypses Of The Bible
September 15th, 1996 @ 8:15 AM
THE TWO GREAT APOCALYPSES OF THE BIBLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
09-15-96 Sunday School
I am very sensitive to any kind of rain. As a little boy, we lived on a farm just across the line from Texline. And that is a desert country to me as I look at it now. And I remember one time my father, who was so quiet and reserved – my father was standing in the back door of that house he had built on the farm. And he was shouting to the top of his voice. And I looked up into his face and I said, "Daddy, why are you shouting so?" And he took his hand and made a gesture and said, "The rain – son, look at the rain. God has sent us rain!" You know, I have never gotten over that. Any time it rains, I look up and say, "God, thank you. You have sent us rain." And that is everlastingly true, I think, from all of our souls. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing that God sends us rain.
Now, I have an apology to make. Last Sunday – I had no plan for it, no thought for it at all – just incidentally, I mentioned this passage in Romans 11:26: "And so all Israel will be saved." I had not planned on any such thing, but – I can’t even remember why it was I incidentally referred to that passage. And several people have come up to me and said, "Pastor, we don’t understand. This is what you said."
Well, I was not thinking. It was just incidental, as I was talking about something else, so this morning I wanted to clarify what is the truth of God in that avowal of the apostle Paul in Romans 11:26 that all Israel will be saved. Now it goes back to this Book of Daniel that we are studying today. Daniel, in the ninth chapter of his prophecy, Daniel speaks of the course of human history, all of it. And in that course of human history, it is translated 70 weeks; 70 heptads until the end of the age from Daniel’s day is 70 heptads, 70 weeks of years.
And Daniel divides it into three parts. There are seven heptads that he starts off with, and that is the period of time from Artaxerxes, the Persian king to the rebuilding of the Temple, the rebuilding of the walls, and the dedication of the sanctuary; the seven heptads, the seven weeks of years. Then the second division numbers 62, and multiply that and that’s 434 years. It will be 434 years when we come to the death of Christ. Then, in an amazing prophecy, he adds one other heptad all by itself, not identified with the other at all. There is a week of seven years that encompasses the consummation of the age, the end of time. Those are the three groups of that 70 heptads.
Now when we look at that, as it is presented and as it has come to pass, that last heptad, those last seven years, are separated from the other 483 years. And that is the age in which we live. We live in that vast expansive time – it is 2000 years now – between the death of our Lord, the end of the second group of heptads, to the days of the consummation, the end time. We live in that expanse of time. The Jews never saw it. The Lord never revealed it to them, this expanse of time in which we live, now 2000 years from the death of our Lord, the Christian era. This vast time, in which the gospel is preached between that day of our Lord’s death and the last heptad, are these present generations in which we live.
The apostle Paul commented on that, expatiated on that, in the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians, and he calls this era in which we live a musterion. We have taken the Greek word exactly and spelled it out in English, and it comes out "mystery." But the word did not carry with it, when it was spelled out in English, the meaning. To us, a mystery is something that is un-understandable; a musterion in the Bible is a secret that God kept in His heart until He revealed it unto His apostles. And this era, this Christian dispensation in which we live, was never mentioned; it is never referred to in the Bible, in the Old Testament. It was a secret that God kept in His heart until it came to pass in revelation.
So in that musterion the Book of the Revelation reveals what that last heptad is. It is the consummation of the age, and the age in which we live comes to a climax and an end in the glorious transfer to the Lord’s kingdom in heaven, into heaven. It is going to be in a glorious, glorious day when the Lord calls all of our dear people. You call it the rapture of the church. And when you come to the rapture of the church, when we are translated to heaven, you begin then that last heptad – that last seven years. And those last seven years are described and presented by revelation in the Book of the Apocalypse, in the Book of Revelation, from chapter 4 to chapter 19.
Now you look at this. We are coming to why Paul wrote that: "So all Israel will be saved." When you come to those seven years, this last heptad, it is divided into two parts. There is a "time, times and half a time" – a "time," a year; "times," two years; and then half a year – three and a half years. Now, the first three and a half years of that heptad – in the Book of the Revelation, hidden back yonder, remember I say, but now revealed – when you come to the first half of that heptad, you are introduced to the greatest revival that mind could imagine, the greatest revival that mankind has ever known, three and one-half years of it.
In the seventh chapter of that heptad, it describes what happens. There are 144,000 Jews that are going to evangelize this world; 144,000 of them. And after we are presented with those 144,000 Jewish evangelists, then you have the rest of that chapter recounting the thousands and the thousands and the thousands multiplied by other thousands, hundreds of thousands that are going to be saved. There is nothing like it in the mind of man: that seventh chapter of the Book of Revelation, those 144,000 Jewish evangelists all over this world preaching the gospel.
Now it also reveals a coming to pass of what Daniel speaks of again and again: the coming of the man of sin, or the antichrist. And in that last time, times, and half; in that last three and a half years, this man of sin, having arisen before; this man of sin, this antichrist arrogates to himself godhood. He is the god of the creation; he is the god of this world. And in that declaration of his deity, he persecutes the Jewish Christians. He is slaying them. They are being slaughtered all over this earth.
Now, the consummation of that is – according to Daniel and according to the Revelation, the consummation of that is the Prince of glory, the Son of God, the Son of Man. At the end of that, in what the heptad says is the battle, the conflict of Armageddon, in the end of that the Lord Jesus comes, and He brings victory and life to His people. And that’s what Paul was referring to when he said: "And so all Israel will be saved." There at that last heptad they are being faced with death wherever they are in this earth by the man of sin, the antichrist. But, the Lord looks down, and the Lord comes, and the Lord saves His people, those Jewish Christians. And so Paul writes, "and so all Israel will be saved." Now that’s what that passage refers to. I tell you, the Bible is beyond anything you could ever imagine as it predicts the consummation of the age.
Now, the Lord help us. There was no intention in preparing this lesson today for any such expatiation such as that. Now, the title for the study today is The Two Great Apocalypses of the Bible – Daniel and the Revelation. The Book of Daniel had a tremendous influence upon the life and literature of the Jewish people during the centuries following its writing – also in the New Testament in the Christian community through the years. The Book was loved, studied, known, and quoted by our Savior.
For example, in Matthew 24:15, the Lord refers to Daniel the prophet. In Matthew 24:21, quoting Daniel 12:1, there is a "great tribulation." In Matthew 24:30 and 26:64 there is quoted, from Daniel 7:13-14, the coming of the Son of Man at the end of the age. In Matthew 13:43, quoting Daniel 12:3, the righteous shine as the stars in that consummation. And in John 5:28-29, He refers to Daniel 12 and verse 2: the resurrection of the righteous. And Paul, in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 verse 2, refers to Daniel 7:22, that the saints will judge the world. In Hebrews 11:33, referring to Daniel 6:22, he speaks of those who stopped the mouths of lions. In Hebrews 11:34, referring to Daniel 3:27, he speaks of those who quench the violence of the sword. In 1 Peter 1:10, quoting Daniel 9:3 and Daniel 12:8, he refers to the man of God [seeking] the mind of God.
So the book was loved by the apostle John and quoted by him in the Revelation. From a heavenly viewpoint the Revelation is from Christ, but from an earthly viewpoint the Revelation is from the Book of Daniel. And when you read the Book of Daniel – I just wish we had time to see how the words that are used in the Book of Daniel are copied and repeated in the Book of the Revelation. So in the little time we have, we’re going to compare the two men and the book.
Both men, Daniel and John, were favored of heaven. They were greatly loved by men and angels. Daniel three times is called "greatly beloved," Daniel 9:25, Daniel 10:11 and 19. John five times is called "the disciple whom Jesus loved," John 19:26, John 20:2, John 21:7 and 20. These men were chosen of heaven to see the vision of the whole course of human history from 605 BC down to the second coming of Christ and the consummation of the age. I just can’t imagine such a thing. Think of those men seeing that much time; 2,600 years. They saw it all; beyond my imagination.
And both men wrote apocalyptically. Both were unique among the authors of the Bible. There are just two of them. Daniel occupies the same office among the Old Testament writers as John does among the New Testament writers. The Book of Daniel is the apocalypse of the Old Testament, the first of the centuries of apocalyptic literature that followed after. The Book of the Revelation is the first apocalypse of New Testament literature. After that there was a flood of them. One cannot be understood without the other. You can’t understand Revelation without Daniel. And what Daniel says comes to pass, to fruition in the Book of Revelation.
Now what is apocalyptic writing? Apocalyptic writing is with signs and symbols and visions, carrying a message of hope and victory and encouragement for a persecuted and distressed people. Both saw their vision in exile: Daniel in Babylon and John on the isle of Patmos. Both men used the apocalyptic method to write their books of prophecy. Revelation is a book of prophecy. Five times it is so described. Consequently, the things I read have a meaning beyond themselves. They represent something else.
May I give you an illustration? The seven churches of Asia; why is not Heirapolis in there, right across the Lycus River from Laodicea? John’s disciple, Papias, was the pastor of that wonderful church. The reason for it is, there was a prophetic purpose in those seven churches, and they represent the history of this era of the church in which we live. Each one of those seven churches was chosen in order to present a facet of the developing history in the story of the church. And we live, I think, in the Laodicean age. Dear me! How many of these churches, and these great cathedrals, and these marvelous buildings say that. "We are rich and increased with goods and do not lack anything," but God says, "You are poor and wretched and you ought to buy of Me." I just – ah, I’ve been over this world again and again, and I just see that everywhere. At ease in Zion, not wanting anything; they’ve got it all.
So John’s Gospel never uses the word "miracle," but semeion, "signs." Everything you read in John’s Gospel is a sign of something else. For example, the wine made out of water: that’s a picture of the filling up of the Old Testament. In Jericho a blind man is given his sight; that’s Jesus, the light of the world. In the raising of Lazarus from the dead, that’s the resurrection and the life. Whatever you read in John, he says it is a semeion. So we are to remember in the study of Daniel that it is primarily a book of prophecy. It is apocalyptic. It represents something else.
Daniel was a statesman but he was also a prophet.
Now, the Book is divided in two divisions – two very separate divisions: chapters 1 through 6 and chapters 7 through 12. Let’s see if I’ve got enough time just to review. Let’s take the first division.
Chapter 1 – The Captivity, God’s care for His distressed people
Chapter 2 – The Times of the Gentiles, that great image
Chapter 3 – Israel in the Tribulation, in the fiery furnace
Chapter 4 – The Tree Is Cut Down, yet raised up to glorify God; so we in our troubles. God out of it always brings glory to Himself.
Chapter 5 – The Writing on the Wall; that’s the judgment on Gentile governments.
Chapter 6 – Israel’s Preservation, though buried in Gentile dominance. That’s in the lion’s den, and an encouragement for all who suffer. There is always a word beyond it.
And now, chapters 7 through 12: these are prophecies, and I just ought not to take time to read them. I’d like to take a minute about chapter 11. Chapter 11 foretells the struggles of Persia and Greece, and the terrible war between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria and how it affects the people of God. And chapter 12 refers to the great tribulation, the two resurrections, and the prophecy of the end times, which is hidden away. The twelfth chapter of the Book of Daniel closes that way: "Daniel, you go your way and it will be sealed until the end time."
Now as you can see, both prophets, Daniel and John, deal with the events of this age in which we live, and of the end of the world. There’s just this difference: so much that was sealed in Daniel is openly revealed, opened up in the Revelation. This accounts for the differing emphases in the two books. In Daniel the course of Gentile history to the consummation of itself is largely hid from his eyes. It is in that seventh, that last heptad, and Daniel of course never saw it.
But in the Revelation is the unsealing of the course of the end times. How is this world and this civilization – how is it going to end? That is revealed to us in the Revelation. Revelation [chapters] 2 and 3 follows the history of the church unknown to the Old Testament, never referred to, never seen. Revelation 4 [through] 19 details Daniel’s seventieth week. Both present a most graphic description of the chief actor in the tribulation: the antichrist, the final man of sin. And both describe the glorious coming kingdom of our Lord. I’m going to try to read that, if I can.
Now, if we have a minute, let’s make a comparison of the two books; just see how we come out with it. Here, in the Book of Daniel, I’m going to read from chapter 7, beginning at verse 9 – Daniel 7, verse 9:
I beheld till the thrones were cut down, and the Ancient of days – that’s the Lord – did sit, whose garment was as white as snow, and His hair, pure wool; His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire.
A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him; thousands, thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him; and the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
Then, 13 and 14:
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him.
And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom; that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Now, remembering that language, I’m going to turn to the Book of the Revelation, chapter 1. And you see if – I don’t have time to read all of it – and you see if you don’t find here in the Revelation the same type of language and vision that you just heard me read in the Book of Daniel.
In the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment, girt about with a golden girdle.
His head and His hairs were white like wool, white as snow; His eyes were as a flame of fire.
His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; His voice as the sound of many waters.
He had in His right hand seven stars; out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; His countenance was as the sun shineth in His strength.
And I never read this in Daniel, but when [John] saw that, he fell down as one dead [Revelation 1:13-17]. And of course, the Lord raised him up and gave him the message he was to write. Now that is just like Daniel. It’s just over and over and over again like that. So I make the mention that so much of Daniel is in the Revelation. We’re not surprised, for the great God of heaven reveals to them both these vast programs of the end times.
Now, here are passages in the historical section of Daniel. Remember the chapters 1 through 6. Now these are passages that are re-echoed in the Revelation. Quote: "the things that will come to pass hereafter"; that from Daniel 2:9, 15, and quoted in Revelation 1:19. The "ten days of trial" – that’s in Revelation 2:10, quoting Daniel 1:12 and 15. "Worshiping the gods of gold and silver"; that’s in Revelation 9 and Daniel 5. The "forty-two months,” the “one thousand, two hundred sixty days,” the "time, times and half a time"; you will see that several times, in Revelation 11:2 and 3, and in Revelation 12:14; you will find it in Daniel 7:25 and Daniel 12:7.
"Compelling all men to worship the image": you read that in Revelation 13:15, you will read it in Daniel 3:6. "The great Babylon": you will find that in Revelation chapter 18; you will find it in the same way in Daniel chapter 4. The sweeping away of the fragments of world power: you will find that described in Revelation 20 and verse 11; you will find it exactly the same way in Daniel 2:35. They are just so much like each other.
Now, passages in the prophetic section of Daniel, that is [chapters] 7 through 12. Daniel 7:13-14 is Revelation 1:7: the coming of the King of glory, also referred to in Matthew :64. Now in Daniel 7:13 you have Revelation 14:14: "One like unto the Son of Man," the very expression; you have it, "the One coming to reap the harvest of the earth, coming in a white cloud." So much of Daniel you will find in the Revelation.
Now, the prophecies are of our times and of our days. In Daniel 2:44 and 45 and in Daniel 7:9-14, you have a description of the coming King. In Daniel 2:34 and 35, you have this great God of glory, smiting the feet of the nations of the world, and the fragments are swept away. Remember that first avowal that I spoke of in looking at the Book of Daniel as a whole: it prophesies that there will be no more world empires. You have the Greek. You have the Babylon. You have the Persian. You have the Greek. You have the two-legged Roman Empire, east and west. But you never have another one. That also is in the Revelation.
Then in the coming King, you have the Lord smiting the feet of that great image: the divided nations, that increasingly become anti-God. That refers to a time when the Lord will come. And then, in Revelation 19:1 and following, and Revelation 20:1 and following, you have the intervention in human history of the coming of the Son of Man. Both of them conclude the history of the world exactly alike.
Now, may I make one other observation. In 2 Peter 3 verse 8, he says, "A thousand years in God’s sight is as a day, and a day as a thousand years." You have to remember, when you start following the mind of God: to us, time is very pertinent; your age, how long you live, all the things that concern you. You know, when I look at that I think of the United States. The United States is about two hundred years old. My land! Some of these prophecies that are still continuing are 2,600 years old. When you come into the presence of God, time is of a different quality than it is to you and to us. So the apostle writes, "A thousand years is as a day, and a day is as a thousand years." And we must remember that when we look at prophecy and when we look at the development in this world of what God has to say.
Now may I make a brief comment, and then I will quit. May I make a brief comment about that? "A thousand years is a day in God’s sight, and a day is a thousand years." Our precious Savior has been gone two days in God’s sight. A thousand years: a day; our Lord has been gone two days. And I just wonder in my heart if He will return the third day. That will be the day in which we live, the third millennium since our Lord went away.
O dear God, how we ought to live in the prophetic future, so open to us in the Bible; and so, again and again and again, consummating in the coming of the Son of glory, the King of heaven, the Lord God our Savior. So come, Lord Jesus. Whether its midday or midnight, we’re ready. We’re ready. And God bless us as we pour our lives into His blessed service, and live according to His beautiful and wonderful will.