The Eternal Consummation Of The Age
January 5th, 1997
THE ETERNAL CONSUMMATION OF THE AGE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
01-05-97 Sunday School
The weeks have been very, very meaningful to me. And I envy you the months that lie ahead. I have looked at Mrs. C. every day. She has studied by the hours, every day. And I asked her, "What in the earth are you studying every day, all through these months, and you’re not teaching until January?"
And she said to me that she gathers from every source from our large theological library the things that pertain to the Word of God and that she prepares the message that she’s going to bring. So, I envy you and all of those that are listening on radio. And this will be the last lesson that I am privileged to teach on the Book of Daniel. So, if you will, turn to the last chapter of the Book of Daniel. That’s Daniel, chapter 12. And I wish we had a month just to look at it. So, looking at Daniel 12:
At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince that represents the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one found in the Book of life.
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the ground shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt, .
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and swore by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and a half of a time; and when that shall have been accomplished, why, all these things shall be finished.
And I heard, but I understood not; then I said, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?
And he said, Go thy way, Daniel; for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end, .
And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.
Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.
But go thy way till the end, and then shall thou rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.
So, we begin an exposition of that unusual chapter. You will notice wherever you read it in the Word of God, that the times end in one of terrible trouble – the tribulation of the days in the Book of Daniel, the dreadful antichrist. And that time of trouble, even Michael – as you read in the first verse, even Michael, the great archangel does not avert those tragic days. He helps the people to endure it, but the conflict is on earth. And in the Revelation, chapter 12, the conflict is also in heaven.
But, he says to Daniel, "Thy people – "Thy people" – the refrain of all Hebrew prophecy is the all-prediction of Israel’s sorrow and salvation of her tribulation and triumph. The whole Word of God, without exception, avows that the end of the age, the consummation of all time, is in terrible trouble. Israel will continue to be a perplexity to the nations. Zechariah 12:2-3 says that there is no permanent settlement of the Israeli problem.
I remember, one time, when Nixon was President of the United States, I was invited to the White House. And in that office where the Cabinet meets with the President, we sat down with Kissinger, who was then the leader of the foreign program of our great nation. And at that time, there was the announcement that Russia was coming down to help the Communists in that Indonesian nation. And I said to Henry Kissinger – I said, "Do you think that this might be the trouble time that will mark the end of the age?"
And to my amazement, he replied, "No, it will not be in the Indonesian Peninsula. But, the end of the age will come in the conflict that involves Israel, the nation of God." Well, that’s the greatest avowal that a statesman could say concerning the culmination of all history. It’s going to end in Israel.
And as I have said over and over again – when these media present the thought that, now that Arafat and the Israeli Prime Minister are together and they are going to have a great peace, I have always said there will no peace be in Israel, not until the end of the time when Jesus comes and she repents and accepts her Lord as her Messiah. And these things that are happening over there now, I’m even praying that Dr. Hawkins and those pilgrims with him will come back in peace and in health. I don’t care what happens. It’s not going to be peace there in Israel, but trouble until the end of the age.
So, in this book – in Daniel, it speaks of those whose names are written in the Book of life. Not only Israel, but it is avowed that the enlarged deliverance for all of God’s people will be for "everyone found in the book." The book is in God’s keeping, upon which the final judgment will be based.
And Daniel 7:10 avows, before God stood 10,000 times 10,000 and judgment was set and the books were opened. We’re all going to be judged out of the things that are written in those books in the hand of God. Revelation 20:12-15: "And I saw the dead stand before God and the books were opened, And whosoever was not found written in the Book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Some day, all of us shall stand before the judgment seat of Almighty God and the books will be opened and we’ll be judged out of those things written of us in that everlasting record.
Now, in Daniel 12 and verse 2 it speaks of the resurrections – "many" it speaks of: the contrast between the many who sleep and the comparatively few who will be alive and remain at His coming, but all of us will be resurrected. There is a partial resurrection, a fractional resurrection. Let me look at these avowals in the Word of the Lord. There will be a resurrection. Jesus spoke of that in John 11:24. There will someday be a resurrection.
Number two; there will be a divided resurrection – the just and the unjust. We will not be raised together. There will be a great separation. In Matthew 13, the wheat and the tares are separated. In Matthew 25, the sheep and the goats are separated. And according to the Book of Revelation, there will be a time differential between the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust of a thousand years. The saints will be resurrected at the rapture and the lost at the final judgment. Then, there will be bestowed upon us our everlasting reward.
The language in Daniel 12:3 is full of poetic beauty and is most striking. The statement is all the more remarkable when we notice the context in which it is found. The thing ends – the whole story of human life and history ends in a dark vision. It is repeated in Daniel chapters 10 and 12. There will be great tribulation. There will be the Antichrist. There will be the war of Armageddon. Oh, dear! But, there will be souls saved through it all.
That’s a remarkable thing to me. For example, in the Book of the Revelation, in chapter 7, in the midst of the tribulation, there is the greatest revival that the world has ever known or will ever know. I just can’t imagine it. Well, there was soul-saving then and there is soul-saving through the ages and even today.
So, the rewards here on earth so often bestowed on men are written in the tributes of war, conflict and destruction. In history, you know there is Caesar and there’s the Kaiser and there’s the Czar. All of those are the same word in Greek. In Paris, there’s the tomb of Napoleon. And in the history of the world, we all – good night! – magnify these men of war. In London, there’s Trafalgar Square, with Lord Nelson standing on top of it. In our America, in New York, on Riverside Drive, prominently, is Grant’s Tomb. And in South America, all over it are statues of Bolivar. But, there in heaven, the rewards and recognition is for those who win souls to Christ.
Did you ever think about this: that in the Bible there is hardly anything about the nations of the world? Hardly anything. For example, the great Roman Empire – you read the Bible – it is hardly referred to. And the whole history of God is like that. We magnify the great things that happen in human history: the wars and the rewards of whatever it is that men are capable of doing. But, in God’s Book, they’re hardly mentioned. That’s an amazing thing to me.
So, we speak of the rewards for those who love the souls of men. To win one somebody is a blessing. James writes, "He that converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall have an everlasting reward." [James 5:20] But, to win many, oh, how wonderful! God writes of that in the Book. Christ says to the Christian He wanted hearts to love the masses, hearts to seek the lost, hearts to win all classes, hearts to save the lost. For everyone, however humble, anyone who witnesses for Christ has an everlasting reward.
I came across a Christian businessman who lay dying. And his Christian wife said, "Shall I send for the president of the bank, the deacon in the church?"
"No," said the dying man, "call John the porter. He has loved Christ before my eyes for these years. I had rather he pray for my soul." I think that is true. We magnify the people who govern the nation or the president of the corporations or elected and exalted. In the Book, God doesn’t even mention them. His eye is on that humble somebody who loves Him and wins souls to Christ. So, the eternal reward forever and ever, as in Philippians 4:1, Paul writes, "My brethren, dearly beloved, you’re my joy and my crown." The soul-winner shines forever and ever.
Now, I want you to look at this. Earth’s ability is soon forgotten. Look, who were the dukes and the lords and viscounts in 1370? Does anybody know? But, everybody knows of John Wycliffe. Look in 1660. Who were the dukes and the lords and the viscounts in 1660? But everybody knows of John Bunyan. Who were the dukes and the lords and viscounts in 1750? Did you ever hear of anybody who ever heard of anybody who ever heard of anybody – Did you ever? But good night alive, think of John Wesley and the marvelous work under God that he did. I tell you, if you’ll read the Bible, you’ll sure get a different view of the meaning of history.
So, I close with this last lecture: the final mysteries – nun apolueis – that’s what Simeon said when he saw the baby Jesus. Now, nun apolueis, "let me depart" in peace. So, we’re going to read of the nun apolueis of the life of Daniel and, ultimately, of our lives.
Daniel 12:4 reads, "Shut up the book and seal it." The vision of world history that began in the tenth chapter of Daniel is now ended. And the angel tells him to roll up the book and to seal it. The revelation is not made plain – not now – and will be understood only in the far-off times of their fulfillment. The fulfillment will make the revelation clear and unambiguous, but you will certainly not see it now.
When is the end? Daniel 12:8-9: The end always appears to be at hand, but it never comes. How long will this continue? Which of these wonders will be the last one before the end? It is not revealed. We must wait. It is not answered. It is an amazing thing how God, in His mysterious conclusion, leaves us without understanding.
For example, in John 21, when John and Peter are there at the resurrection of the Lord, and God says to so-and-so, to Peter, you remember the chapter. And Simon Peter says, "You say this about me and me and me, what about him? What about John?" And the Lord answers, "If I never reply, what is that to thee. You just be faithful to Me."
So, Daniel 12:8 says, "I heard, but I did not understand." It was a grief to Daniel not to be able to understand. It is repeated in that twelfth chapter, in verses 9 and 13: "You go your way," said the angel. When Daniel wanted to know, he was not told. What about this future? What about us? Oh, God is mysterious and we’re not to deny the mysterious and unfathomable in the providences of God. We just cannot understand it.
The mystery of God is inexplicable. Who can be so perplexing as God? The glory of God is that He can conceal a thing and does. And we cannot enter into it. There is a mountain of truth in God that we can never scale. And if we could, we would just live in debate. The steeple of the church, the pinnacle of the church, is not made for us to stand on. You can’t do it. The earth can be plowed, but the sky and the heavens – all we can do is just reverently look upon it. That’s it.
Sometimes, if we think we could just understand, we would have achieved it. But, the faith is not made to be categorized or analyzed. It is an inward fire in your soul. It is an atmosphere, not an overcoat. It is a force moving in the soul.
The greatest of all forces are unseen and mysterious. Men suppose the material universe depicts the solid substantiality of all things. That is not true, nor the beginning of the truth. The truth is the invisible and the unseen are far more substantial. For example, the gravity that controls this planet is unseen and heaven- held. That’s gravity. As Plato said the eternities, the realities, the substances are not visible, but they are of the mind.
Take your city of Dallas – the city streets. Look at these buildings. If there is nothing but steel and iron, then they are ultimately nothing but heaps of rubbish. That’s this town and everything in it. But, behind the materiality there is thought and purpose and mind: the inward invisible force that lives forever. I can never forget 2 Corinthians 4:18: "We look at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal – they pass away; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
So, I speak of the mystery of the Bible. The Bible holds the revelation, the self-disclosure of God. The Bible is an awesome sanctuary, "for now we see through a glass darkly." I don’t care who you are, how smart you are, you see through a glass darkly. It is not until then that we see face to face. For example: the atonement – the sacrifice of Christ by which our sins are washed away and we are saved. You can make a Ph.D., a doctor of philosophy in studying that. But, you still don’t understand it. And you still don’t know it.
Take the Book of the Revelation. The middle chapters are most difficult, but the concluding chapters are even more difficult. There are so many unanswered questions in the mystery of God. For example, 2 Thessalonians 2:7 and Daniel 12:10-11 speak of "the mystery of iniquity." The devil has a season of triumph, of jubilee. The sacrifice shall be taken away. The abomination that maketh desolate is set up. The enemy himself comes in the very doors of the sanctuary and takes away the fire of the altar and leaves nothing but cold, dead white ashes. That’s the devil. He does it in all history and he does it in the church. Evil power, according to Daniel 12:11, is horrible.
How is it that God, seemingly, just stands by – just watches it? He’ll watch you die. He’ll watch you in tragedy and in sorrow, just standing by. And in the Revelation, even after the Millennium, the devil is loosed. Why under high heaven? God has him in the pit, in hell, in damnation. Why let him out? You don’t know. And you never will until the mystery is revealed to you at the end of the age. So, I say, nun apolueis.
Daniel 12:13: Do not disquiet yourself, God says to Daniel about the fates. Leave it in God’s hand. This He says to you and to me. For example, in those last days, they number 1,290 days. Then, in the next verse, they number 1,335 days. What is that and what does that mean? The only thing I know is, whenever God numbers the days, He always is assuring us of His love and His grace and His precious providence. For example, in Revelation 2:10, He says to the church at Smyrna, "You will be afflicted and suffering for ten days."
Now, all that can come to my mind is that it is always numbered. I don’t care what the tragedy or what the suffering or what the hurt, it is numbered. God has a reason for it. I cannot understand or enter into it. I just know that God has it numbered. And there is an end to it. And there is a great and final consummation – revelation, triumph.
For example: Daniel 12:13 – he speaks of the release – sounds like a dismissal for the prophet. He’s then about 95 years old. And he speaks of release.
But, the man is not ordered off like a trespassing dog. Rather, God speaks to him in the fact that he can’t understand and can’t enter into the ultimate. God gives him quiet as to a troubled heart. Daniel wanted to know. He wanted to understand the end. That’s what we all want to know. Dear me, as I have pastored for seventy years, the things that happen in human life I cannot understand. I don’t understand it. But, God says it will be well. All the crooked places will be made straight and all the rough places will be made plain. The end comes at last. It surely will.
God has numbered the days of this earth. And God has numbered our days. And there is an end to this earth, as we know it. And there is an end to our life as we are so sensitive to. But, we are to rest in God. Revelation 14:13: "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me: Write blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." All we can do is just trust – just trust!
So, God’s unfailing remembrance and reward lie before us. The close and the end is revealed, is said, to us in Daniel 12:13: "At the end you’ll stand in your lot." That is a figure that comes out of the partition of Palestine "by lot" in the days of Joshua. Each tribe was given its lot. In the restoration of Israel, there will be a partition of all that is known and dear to the people of God. So, Daniel has his lot. Each one, the Bible says, will have his vine and his fig tree.
So our Joshua, Jesus will divide to us our inheritance in the paradise of heaven. Here we have so small a lot, just space enough to hold our dead bones. That’s all. There’s nothing beyond and beside. But, there, someday – there, God shall someday give us, in heaven, our inheritance – not here, but there. He will divide up the whole universe – all of all creation is remade. And God will divide up the whole creation and give it to us who have placed our trust in Him – going to divide it up by lot. You will have a lot. You will have a place. You will have an inheritance. You will have a reward then and, O God, think of what will be.
You know, I read about the astronomers. They take their microscopes and they take their telescopes and they look into the vast infinitude. And after they have done their utmost, they come to a place beyond all infinity. And there are still other courses and other universes and other planets out there beyond what they have ever, thus far, been able to discover with those telescopes.
And God’s going to divide all of that. And by lot, you and you and you, we’re going to have our inheritance and our rewards in the vast, unbelievable recreation – refurbishing, reconstruction – of this fallen world. And that’s why Mrs. C. refers to my saying that I think God will give me one of those planets. And I’m going to get me a soapbox, I say, and I’m going to stand on that thing and preach the love and grace of Jesus forever.
Now, when I stand up to preach, I’ve got a clock right there in front of me. I won’t even have a calendar then. I’ll just go on forever. Ah, it’s beyond our thinking: the promise of God to us. So, these songs that we sing:
There’s a land that is fairer than day
And by faith we can see it afar.
For the Father waits over the way,
To prepare us a dwelling place there.
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and promised land.
And I’ll inherit by and by.
I tell you, the world is inexplicable – I know. And the providences of life are ununderstandable, as God said to Daniel. But, someday there will be a full revelation and understanding of it all, when we inherit what God hath prepared for us who love Him.
Well, I’ve enjoyed being with you. And the Lord be good to you and grant you to grow in grace until we see Him and, up there, one another again.