May 21st, 1972 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-21-72 10:50 a.m.
We have come to the last verses of the last chapter of the Book of Daniel. And this is the concluding and final sermon that I shall preach on the prophet statesman and the visions and revelations God gave to him. To show you how long it has been this message will be the last in the fourth volume which will be published this year. And they have been published one volume each year. So this is four full years that we have been studying, with intermissions, we have been studying the prophecy of Daniel.
Now, I am going to read the text. It is Daniel 12, verses 4 through 13; Daniel 12:4-13.
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.
Then I Daniel looked, and, behold, there stood two, one on one side of the bank of the river, and the other on the other,
And one said to the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?
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 sware by Him that liveth forever and ever that it shall be for a time, times, and a half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.
And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, 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.
Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
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 five and thirty days.
But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.
Thus concludes the vision; and the angel so said: "It is the end. O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end" [Daniel 12:4].
There are two things that he says there; one, that this concludes the vision. It began in the tenth chapter of Daniel and continues through the eleventh chapter and now the twelfth [Daniel 12:10-12]. It is finished; roll up the scroll, the revelation is ended. And a second thing: seal it to the time of the end. There are some things in the book and in the vision that cannot be known or understood until the consummation of the age. They are hid in the providences and in the sovereignty and in the mysteries of God.
And then he adds: "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased" [Daniel 12:4]. You’ll find that expression in Jeremiah [Jeremiah 5:1, :3] and in Zechariah [Zechariah 4:10, 6:7]. And it refers to those who earnestly and meticulously and painstakingly study the visions; but they still do not understand. So Daniel asks twice, what shall it be? How long shall it be to the end of these things? [Daniel 12:6]. And then he asks again: "What shall be the end of these things?" [Daniel 12:8]. These things, these wonders, these developments in history; what shall be the last one? Seemingly, the end is always coming, yet it never arrives. What is the last development before the final end time? What is it?
And Daniel says, in answer to the vision of the angel, "I heard, but I understood not." "I heard, but I understood not" [Daniel 12:8]. And twice does the angel say to Daniel: "Go thy way; for the words are sealed until the time of the end" [Daniel 12:9]. And again, "Go thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" [Daniel 12:13].
Apparently, it was a grief to Daniel that he could not understand. Twice, asking: "What shall be the end of the world? What wonders and signs and developments will accompany the consummation of the age, the denouement of human history; what shall it be like?" [Daniel 12:6, 8]. And when the angel answered, Daniel wrote: "I heard, but I could not understand" [Daniel 12:8]. And in his importunity to know – and all of us are like that: what is the future? What does it hold? And what are the signs of the end of the age? Daniel in his grief, being unable to understand, was twice told by the angel: "Go thy way, for it is sealed unto the end [Daniel 12:9]. Go thy way until the end be" [Daniel 12:13].
What do you think about a man like that? What do you think of this prophet statesman who sees the angel, who hears the words of the revelation, but he says, "I can’t comprehend. I don’t understand. I write what I know nothing about." What do you think about a man like that? I say that that is the kind of a teacher that we need and we have been waiting for. The professor who stands in the presence of his pupils and he says, "My students, I confess to you that you know as much as about this as I do, which is nothing at all. I don’t understand."
We have an instance of that in the magnificent portrayal of Isaiah in the twenty-ninth chapter of the prophecy:
And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of the book that is sealed, which men delivered to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot.
And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying: read this, I pray thee: and he saith: I am not learned.
It is taken to a man of letters and of cultures and of learning, an academician of the schools, what does it mean? And he says, "I don’t know. I don’t understand." And it’s taken to a man who is unlettered and unlearned, and the vision is given to him. What does this mean? And he says, "I do not know. I cannot understand."
Isn’t that strange? There are men by the scores who live in this generation as in every generation, who could raise Daniel from the dead after these two thousand five hundred years and say, "We know all about it. We understand every syllable of it. And what a fool you were not to see it at the time." But the prophet writes: "I heard the vision and I saw the angel, but I do not understand" [Daniel 12:8]. Do you think that’s a weakness in us, to confess our ineptitude and our inability to understand the mysteries of God and the revelation of the Lord, and even the forces that drive and move us in our own souls?
Do you think it is a weakness to confess before God and men, "I don’t see and I can’t understand"? It seems to me that that one is the most honest and the most forthright and the most wise who would thus stand before men and angels and say, "They are impenetrable and unfathomable mysteries in God and in God’s sovereign grace that I cannot enter into. I do not know them and I cannot understand them."
May I mention three areas in which that acknowledgment of abysmal, abased ignorance, and un-understanding, and incomprehensibility are most pertinent? One is the mystery of God Himself. There is no one who can be so inexplicable, and incomprehensible, and perplexing as God Himself. It is the sovereignty of God that He can conceal a thing, and He does. The fact of God, the truth of God, the revelation of God is like a mountain that no man can climb.
And if we could, we’d just vulgarize it; for somehow, the greatness of God lies in no small part in His infinitude, the unreachableness of God by the hands and the mind of a man. After all, is not the pinnacle of the church, is not the steeple of the house set there, not for a man to stand upon, but to rise, to point to the glory of the infinitudes of the great Creator? After all, we can plow the earth, but the sky above us and the heaven above it still are to be reverently looked upon and to behold.
You know, there are some people who think, "If I can just understand religion, I’d have it. I’ve got it, if I can just understand it." My soul, religion was never made for a man to understand it. You can never categorize it. You can never analyze it. You can never theologize it; for somehow, religion is a fire to be experienced. It is something in our souls. It is the forces of the unseen from heaven that get hold of our lives. Religion is to be felt. It is an atmosphere, not an overcoat.
You know, not that I am infallible; I can be so grossly mistaken in judgment and sensitivity, but I do believe if I had a choice of these two concerning the real reflection and sensitivity toward the faith; one, a cold, dead philosopher who stands with his categories outlining every revelation of God in his proper little niche and then in subtitles, if I had a choice between him and an unlettered man who had the fire of God in his soul, who did nothing but shout and sing and clap his hands, and rejoice in heaven, of the two, I think the latter is the one who has really found the celestial fire. He knows God in his soul who is a consuming and burning flame [Hebrews 12:29].
I would think, and I say, I can be mistaken; but what I would think people need in the church, and what the whole vista of Christendom seeks and needs, is not the theologian with his categories, his tomes, and his outlines, and his pat answers. But I think what it needs is the celestial baptism of Pentecostal fire; for religion is not something that can even be defined. It’s a faith. It’s a force. It’s a moving in the soul. I got it. I feel it. It’s real. After all, are not the great forces in life and in this world, are they not invisible and unseen? The apostle Paul closes the glorious fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians: "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" [2 Corinthians 4:18].
The great substantive, substantial realities and factualities of life and of time and of destiny are always invisible and unseen. The mass of men suppose that the substantialities of life, the realities of life, are this material universe; this ground, this solid earth. These are the substances of life. Why, they could not be more vastly or abysmally mistaken, for the great forces that move and control life and God’s creation are indefinable and undiscoverable. They are unseen and invisible.
It is approaching summertime. What does that mean? That means that this planet that has been flung out into the orbit of space; has gone ninety-three million miles that way, and then turning from its distance from the sun that brings winter to us, it is coming back and back, closer and closer, and now it is summertime. What invisible hand reached out into space across ninety-three million miles and pulled it back into the orbit on the other side? What hand? What force? Has anybody seen it? Has anybody defined it? Has anybody categorized it? Has anybody analyzed it? It is unfathomable and mysterious. Yet it is the force that keeps the whole universe together, invisible and unseen; but the reality that makes it possible, makes it viable, that is a picture of our life.
The great substantives, the substantiating realities in our life are always unseen and invisible; always. Walk through the streets of the city, and as you do, recall the basic fundamental philosophy of Plato who said the eternities, the realities, the substances are not the visible, but they are of the mind, of the nous. They are the idea. And these are just the expression of the idea, the reality. Walk through the streets of the city and think of that basic philosophy of Plato, who was a spiritualist, a man of the mind.
Look at these buildings. What are they, the church included? What are the buildings in the city as you walk through these great canyons? And look at these towering edifices. What are they? My friend, if they are nothing but steel, and iron, and stone, and glass, and height, and material, then they are nothing but heaps of rubbish. But what really are they? Entwined in every building in this city, including this one, is thought and purpose and mind. And the reality is the purpose that lies back of it, and the materiality is but the expression of the inner thought.
Look at this city. It is a material expression of the inward thought and fire and drive of the – and then name them; of the capitalist, of the banker, of the insurance executive, of the pastor, and the congregation, the architect, the artist. It is nothing but the expression of the inward soul and the inward fire of those who built it and created it. And the great reality is not the rubbish heap, but the great reality is the unseen force, mind, and heart of the men who created it. This church in its form and in its architecture, in its spire and its Gothic windows, are but an expression of the lofty upwardness of the faith of the people who in 1890 built this structure. The infinite mystery of God, the unseen; the invisible, that force that moves.
Beneath the cover of the sod
The lily heard the call of God;
Within its bulb so strangely sweet
Answering pulse began to beat.
The earth lay darkly damp and cold,.
And held the smell of grave and mold.
But never did the lily say:
"Oh, who will roll the stone away?"
It heard the call, the call of God.
And up through prison-house of sod
It came from burial place of gloom
To find its perfect life in bloom!
[from "Fuller Life," Mary McGee Snell, 1894]
Who did that? The invisible power and hand and presence of Almighty God; the mystery of God. "I heard, but I understood not" [Daniel 12:8]. A second mystery: the revelation, the vision, "I heard, but I understood not." The Bible itself; the Bible tabernacles the revelation, the self-disclosure of God, and as long as it is so, it is an awesome sanctuary, and no man can know it or understand it. The apostle Paul wrote: "For we see through a glass, darkly … I know just in part" [1 Corinthians 13:12].
In my doctoral work, I took a minor. I had a major and two minors. One of those minors was in the atonement, studying the atonement through the Scriptures; the blood sacrifice which is found in the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:21], continues through the Revelation, up until in heaven we, "these who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 7:14]. And after two years of study, I sat there before the faculty and passed a doctoral examination on the atonement. And I do not miss, or exaggerate, or belie my heart when I say that at the end of the two intense years of study, day and night, it seemed to me, I knew less about the atonement than when I first began.
How does the blood of Christ wash our sins away? How does the cross of Christ save us from death into heaven? I cannot understand. It is an inexplicable, it belongs in the revelation of God; "I heard, I read, but I understood not."
I was thus in preaching through the Apocalypse. Some of you were here in those seventeen years and eight months when I preached through the Bible. Coming to the Apocalypse, the last book of the New Testament, I preached two years through the Revelation. The middle part of the Revelation was very difficult for me, extremely difficult. I’d never been introduced to it. I’d never studied it nor had I ever sat under any teacher or heard anybody who had studied it. It was so new to me and difficult. And as I studied through the middle chapters of the Revelation, I thought, "Now when I come to the concluding chapters, when I come to Revelation 21, 22, the new heaven and the new earth, and the revelation pointing to the millennium, when I come there, it will be easy. It will be so sublime. It will just be like the dessert after the long repast."
When I came to the last of the Revelation, I not only found it more difficult, but after studying it, and reading, and praying, and striving my best to understand, I closed the book, and preached the last sermon with questions I could find no answers for. They are hid in the unfathomable infinitude of the purposes of God. "I heard, I read, but I understood not"; the mystery of the Bible itself.
A third: the mystery of iniquity, that is the expression that Paul uses in the second Thessalonian letter and the second chapter; "the mystery of iniquity" [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. Why does God stand by seemingly impervious to pain, and grief, and violence, and blood, and war? Why does God stand by, seemingly unmoved, and Satan triumphs? Satan has his jubilee. Satan has his victory. Here in the text it says: "The abomination that maketh desolate shall be set up when the sacrifice shall be taken away" [Daniel 12:11]. Ah, the power of evil! The enemy comes into the very door of the sanctuary, and he takes away the fire from off the altar, and leaves nothing but cold, dead, white ashes, and God stands by.
And not only that, but in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, there came down a strong angel from heaven and seized Satan and bound him with chains and cast him into a bottomless pit for a thousand years [Revelation 20:1-3]. Now the next verse: "And at the end of the thousand years, Satan shall be loosed," [Revelation 20:7] Why? He that has the power of disease and darkness and dungeon and death, he that has the power of waste, why does God let him loose? Having bound him and cast him in the pit, why doesn’t God put His foot on his neck and keep him bound forever? The next verse: "And he shall go forth to deceive the nations of the earth" [Revelation 20:8]. The mystery of iniquity [2 Thessalonians 2:7]; that is why I had you read the tenth chapter of the Revelation this morning in your passage of Scripture [Revelation 10:7].
For the time has come when the mystery of God’s patience has come to an end. And that concludes the Book of Daniel: "I heard, I could not understand it, and when I asked: But what shall the end be?" [Daniel 12:8], God said to Daniel twice: "Go thy way, the words are closed and sealed till the time of the end [Daniel 12:9]. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days [Daniel 12:12]. Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" [Daniel 12:13].
There are four things here that God has said in that benedictory, blessed commendation of Daniel. One: it is a word of reassurance. "Daniel, fret not. Daniel, be quiet. Daniel, leave it in My hands. For the whole destiny of humankind, the whole created universe lies in My sovereign will. Daniel, rest [Daniel 12:9]. Be quiet." And God says that to me. God says that to His church. God says that to the generation. God says that to the whole world, and worlds; rest in assurance. These things shall find their reason and their explanation though we understand not.
Why, look at it. "Blessed is he that cometh to the one thousand three hundred thirty-five days" [Daniel 12:12]. And then right above it: there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days after the abomination of desolations is set up [Daniel 12:11]. What do those mean? Nobody knows. Nobody shall ever know until the time of the end and their fulfillment. Just this in reassurance: my brother and my fellow pilgrim, anything that can be expressed in days is temporary. It is not finally triumphant. As the Lord said to the martyr-church at Smyrna: "Thou shalt be cast into tribulation for ten days: be not afraid, be faithful" [Revelation 2:10]. Anything expressed in days is temporary and will soon pass away; a word of reassurance. It is a word of release. "But go thou thy way till the end be" [Daniel 12:13].
Doesn’t that sound like a Nunc Dimittis? And the servant departs [Luke 2:29]. Zechariah said: "Where are the fathers and the prophets of old? Have they not all passed away?" [Zechariah 1:5] The final call ultimately and inevitably comes. Daniel is now at least five and ninety years of age. And having finished his course and done his work, God lets his servant rest in the faith [Daniel 12:13]. And how sweetly does God do it. God does not dismiss him as though he were a trespassing dog. But rather, quieting, a troubled heart: "Go thy way, statesman Daniel, until the end be." And then a word of rest: "For thou shalt rest." And finally, a word of recompense: "For thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" [Daniel 12:13]. Isn’t that a strange putting together, "For thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot?" What does that mean, "in thy lot"? Why it refers to the possession of Canaan by God’s chosen people Israel.
In the days of Joshua, when they crossed over Jordan, they cast lots and each tribe received its inheritance in the Promised Land by lot. And each family of each tribe received its inheritance by lot in the Promised Land [Joshua 14-22]. And the angel says to Daniel, "There shall be a restoration of Israel." The land is theirs. And in that final consummation, in that day of the end, God’s people Israel shall be in their land. And each one shall stand in his lot. Judah shall have her lot. Ephraim shall have her lot. Each tribe shall have its inheritance. And each family shall have its lot. As Micah said, "Each one shall sit under the vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid" [Micah 4:4].
And Daniel belonging to the tribe of Judah, somewhere in Judah there is a little garden, a little space, a little plot, a little lot, and that shall be Daniel’s forever. God said so. Do you believe that? God said so; the infinite mysteries of the Lord. "Rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" [Daniel 12:13].
And is there a lot for us? Is there an inheritance for us? As Joshua parted and separated by lot the inheritances of the family of God, our Joshua – for Jesus is Joshua. Joshua in Hebrew is Jesus in Greek – our Joshua shall someday divide to us our inheritance in the Paradise of heaven. Here we have so small a lot; just a space big enough to hold our dead bones, and that’s all. But our entrance into glory will be large and precious. It will be incomparably precious and heavenly. And God shall give us there our inheritance, dividing up the whole creation to His saints who have placed their trust in Him. Standing in our lot, in our day, and in our time [1 Peter 1:3-4]. That’s why the old people used to sing songs like this:
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand
And cast a wistful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.
I am bound for the Promised Land,
Oh, who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the Promised Land.
[Samuel Stennett, "On Jordan’s Stormy Banks"]
God’s eternal inheritance, reserved, kept for us, when we shall stand in our lot at the end of the way [1 Peter 1:3-4].
In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And in the balcony round, on this lower floor, you, a family, a couple, or just you to give your heart to God: "I may not understand, but I believe. I may not have all the answers, but He does. I may not have the strength, but He has it. And I cast myself upon the merciful, tender graces of God, and I’m coming." A whole family you, "Pastor, my wife, my children, we are all coming today." Putting your life in the fellowship of this dear church, giving your heart in faith to Christ, just trusting Him; is not that the gospel? Look and live [John 3:14-15]. Believe and be saved [Acts 16:30-31]. Wash and be clean [2 Kings 5:10; Revelation 7:14]. "Trusting, believing, accepting, and here I come" [Romans 10:9-10].
On the first note of this first stanza, make it now. Come now. Make the decision in your heart now. And in the moment when we stand to sing, stand up walking down one of these stairways, or into the aisle and here to the front. "Here I am, pastor, I’m coming now." On the first note of the first stanza, do it. Come, answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.