Series: Great Doctrines
In our preaching through the Bible, we are in the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter. And in that chapter is a part of the apocalyptic revelation of the will of God in this earth, when our Lord comes again. So all three sermons today are taken from this fifteenth chapter; the one now, at eight-thirty, regarding The Coming Again of the Lord; and the other two, first, at eleven o’clock, at ten-fifty, The Body that We Have When We Come, the spiritual, the resurrection body; and the message tonight, The Last and Final Battle, victory in the last battle.
Now, in the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, Paul gives a definition of the gospel: “I make known unto you the gospel; I declare unto you the gospel”[1 Corinthians 15:1]. And there are three parts in it. Right there you would say the three are Christ dying for our sins, Christ buried, Christ raised again for our resurrection[1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. But if I could look at the whole chapter, I would put the three like this: the gospel is that Christ died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], the gospel is that He was raised for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:4-21], and the gospel is, He is coming again for His own [1 Corinthians 15:23-25, 50-52]. Now in that third definition, that third category, “He is coming again for His own,” in the twenty-third chapter, in the twenty-third verse of this fifteenth chapter:
But every man in his own order; Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.
Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. [1 Corinthians 15:23-25]
Now the other section is at the fiftieth verse, in the fifteenth of 1 Corinthians:
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
But I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed. [1 Corinthians 15:50-52]
Now that is the text, the basis, the background for the message this morning. I could not tell you the number of people who constantly ask me, this battle of Armageddon, “When is that battle?” And this first resurrection from the dead, and this second resurrection from the dead, and this change, when all of us shall be changed, and the Lord’s coming, and when we receive our rewards, and when is that great white throne judgment? And when are these other judgments? Just constantly, and that’s fine. That’s good. That’s blessed.
The Lord is placing in the hearts of our people a holy interest in the Word of God. So this morning I’m going to summarize, briefly, this whole resume of the future, as God shall unfold the final things in this world. Now when I do that, you have to remember that I do it with a certain theological bias. I have a certain interpretational prejudice. I do it in a certain way; another man can read the same Scriptures, he can lovingly pore over the same Book, and he can stand in this same place and give you an altogether different outline and approach.
The only defense that I have to make for what I do is this. Spiritualizing, to me, is the sorriest, poorest, most unprofitable, finally leading to all kinds of vagaries and far-flung theoretical suppositions; spiritualizing, to me is diametrically the opposite of how we ought to take the Bible and read it, and seek to understand it, and preach it. To me, what we ought to do is to let the Bible say exactly what it says. Then if there is an obvious symbol in it, if there is an obvious reference to some other thing, why, then let’s find that obvious reference. Like I saw, “a Lamb had been slain” [Revelation 5:6], when I see that, read that, I know from the Bible that refers to Christ; an obvious symbol we’ll take for just what the symbol is.
But when the Bible says “a Jew,” and apparently he’s talking about a Jew, and he furthers defines it saying, a Jew according to the flesh, according to the seed of Abraham, then for me to spiritualize that, to say, “Now that Jew means God’s Christian people.” Now I can’t do that. Now some other man can, and do it very lovingly and very beautifully; he can spiritualize it. That is, he can take the Word of the Bible and make it mean some other thing.
All right, that’s one thing about your pastor that you have to remember: when he’s up there preaching, he has a loathsome for spiritualizing. Now that’s just I, I’m not condemning a man who does spiritualize. If he can spiritualize, and he can, I’ve heard them endlessly, and do it in great devout loving spirit, why, God bless him and the message that he brings. He loves Christ. But it is just I. I cannot do that. When I read in the Bible, the thing has to mean to me exactly what it says, unless, as I say, there is a symbol that I also can clearly and faithfully and simply understand. Otherwise, I’ll still take it just as it says. All right, now that’s one thing.
Now the other thing about this present pastor that you have – in his reading of the Bible, practically all of these prophecies of the Old Testament fall to the ground unless somewhere, sometime, out in the future, there is a fulfilling of them. They are not fulfilled. In no wise and in no way are they fulfilled. I don’t believe a man could even spiritualize that much, and make those prophecies of the Old Testament fulfilled. Not In this life, not in this generation, not in this Christian era, not in this age of the church. They don’t fit. They’re a thousand miles away and apart.
If there is a fulfilling of the great promises of God to the chosen people of the Lord, to Israel, it is yet to come. It is out there in the future. So that comes back again to a quirk in the make up of your present pastor. If those Old Testament prophecies fall to the ground, if they’re never to be fulfilled, then I can’t believe the Book. How do I know but that Christ’s prophecies also will fall to the ground? If God said something by Isaiah, and by Daniel, and by Jeremiah, to His people back yonder, two thousand eight hundred years ago, and God doesn’t fulfill His word, then how am I going to say that I believe God will fulfill His word through the apostles, when Paul makes a promise under the Spirit of God to me today?
To me, it’s all together; it lives together, or it’s just another book. It’s all the Word of God or none of it is the Word of God. It lives or it dies together. So I say, when you listen to this preacher, you’ve got to remember that’s a bias in him. That’s a persuasion in him; that’s a prejudice in him. He believes, he believes under God, that all of those prophecies and all of those promises that were made by the prophets to the children of Israel – to the seed of Abraham – that every one of them, someday, will be fulfilled and not a word of the Lord will ever fall to the ground. Now when you start with a persuasion like that, my brother, you’ve got something on your hands. You just read the prophecies, read them, pore all over them; there’s got to be some other day and some other time. So to put it all together is what I do, try to do.
So we’re going to start now. This is a brief resume, a putting together of all of these things of the end time, and I do it now, in humility. I do it just telling you these things from me, saying, and I want to say, that there are many, many Godly, devout men who differ from me, as night differs from day, in this interpretation. But God bless them. I fellowship with them, they’re here in our church. I love them. And they pray for me and this ministry.
How these things are interpreted, if a man prayerfully, lovingly is given to God, in these things that we see distantly, Paul said, “Through a glass darkly” [1 Corinthians 13:12], when we look through that opaque glass and see these great things just delineated, and a man says, “I see it this way,” and another one, “I see it this way,” we’re not going to despise one another or refuse to countenance one another because these things in the great final hour we don’t look at alike.
And when finally they come, they may surprise us all; be so different from what now we’re able to see or to understand. Even the prophets of the Old Testament could hardly see the coming of Christ into the world as He actually was. And when He came, the people were surprised, they were not prepared – though God had prepared them for two thousand years – still it was an amazement and an astonishment! So this thing is as your pastor looks at it.
All right, let’s start: the end time begins quietly, furtively, clandestinely, secretly. The end time comes, as Paul says in the fifth chapter of 1 Thessalonians, the end time comes when people are crying, “Peace and safety.” The Lord is coming, first for His children as a thief in the night; there will be no adumbration, there will be no harbinger, there will be no messenger beforehand. In the nighttime, in the daytime, we do not know; just suddenly, just immediately, just quickly, the Lord comes for His own. He is coming as a thief in the night to steal [1 Thessalonians 5:2-3]; He is going to steal away the pearl of price [Matthew 13:45-46].
When anyone interprets that parable, the pearl of price, that’s a picture of our buying our salvation, you don’t read the Book. That is, I don’t think you read the Book. For you don’t buy your salvation. It’s a gift of God [Ephesians 2:8]. It is Christ who purchases the pearl of price, which is you, which is His people. Down here in this world is a pearl of price, and Christ purchased it with His own blood [1 Peter 1:18-19]. It’s His people, it’s His bride. It’s His church. It’s you. And He is coming as a thief in the night to steal something away. In this world is the pearl of price. Some of our bodies be in the ground, some of us still living, but it’s precious in His sight. And He is coming secretly [1 Thessalonians 5:2-3] to take away out of the world, to steal out of the world, the pearl of price [Matthew 13:45-46].
They that loved the Lord thought oft upon His name, and the Lord caused a book of remembrance to be written before Him for them that thought oft upon His name and spake often one to another. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels. [Malachi 3: 16, 17]
He is going to steal them away. “There will be two sleeping in a bed; one shall be taken, and the other left. Two will be grinding at a mill; one shall be taken, and the other left. Two will be working out in the field; one shall be taken, and the other left” [Luke 17:34-36]. The Lord is coming for His own; and that is the first resurrection.
This I say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep.
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first;
Then we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall rise up to meet them in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. [1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17]
Or in the words of my text,
I show you a mystery; We may not all sleep –
we may not all die –
but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible . . . [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]
Now secretly, nobody knows when or at what time, therefore watch, secretly, furtively, without adumbration, the Lord God comes; and the dead are raised, and then all of us who are alive are changed in that moment, and we rise to meet the glorious Lord God in the shekinah clouds in the air [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
Now there are three parts of that first resurrection. Some of them have already risen – – I call them “the firstfruit saints” – – when the Lord was raised from the dead, when Christ was crucified, God shook this earth and broke open the graves of some of the saints. And after His resurrection they were raised and appeared to many, and they’re with Jesus in glory now, with their bodies [Matthew 27:51-53]. Then the great mass of us at His coming, raised from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]; and then finally, at the end of the tribulation, all of the tribulation saints are going to be raised and be with the Lord [Revelation 20:4].
Then up there with God, up there with Christ, taken out of this world, all of His people, the pearl of price, up there with God, there’s going to be the rewards of the Lord for us as He comes. There’s going to be the believer’s judgment. We’re going to stand at the judgment seat of Christ, and each one is going to receive the reward of the works done in his flesh [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And that’s going to be the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-9].
When the last one is saved, when the last child of God that is going to be saved is saved, and when the great body of Christ is finally completed, all of its members are one, then, up there in glory, we’re going to have a great banquet and the Lord is going to give to each one according to his works, the reward of his life[Luke 13:24-30]. And that ends the church age, that ends the times of the Gentiles, that ends the age of the Gentiles; that closes the time for us, that’s the end[Revelation 19:6-10].
But it’s not the end for another people, nor is it the end of the world. For there is an interval between the time the Lord Jesus comes for His pearl of price, to take out His people – we’re going to rise to meet Him in the air [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18], there’s a time, there’s an interval in there – and the time that He comes again openly to judge the wicked of the world [Revelation 19:11]. And in that interval, in that inter-time between the day when we rise to meet the Lord in the air [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:11] and that time that He comes back into this earth again, the clock is going to start again for Israel.
Right now it’s in abeyance. Right now, Israel is no more than any other nation or any other people in the purposes of God, none at all. You preach the gospel to a Jew like you preach the gospel to an Arab, or like you preach a gospel to a Russian. Right now, the clock is stopped for Israel. But some of these days, after God is done with us, after God is done with His church, some of these days after we’re up with the Lord in glory, He is going to pick up again, He is going to start again.
And the way it’s going to start is this. It’s already begun. God’s chosen people are going back to Palestine. They’re going back to Palestine. There’s going to be a regathering out of all of the nations where they’re buried, this treasure hid in a field [Matthew 13:44]. They’re going back to Palestine, the Jewish people and the Jewish nation [Amos 9:15]. And they’re going back to Palestine, and they’re going to rebuild that temple [Ezekiel 40-48].
I can make a human prophecy: the very minute that the Jew gets Jerusalem and Mt. Moriah, that day he’s going to start rebuilding His temple. That, I would say, being a mortal, that I’d say reading the Bible. The Jew is going back to Palestine. He’s going back to Palestine. He’s going back in unbelief [Ezekiel 36:24-28]. He’s going back just as he is now. He’s going back to Palestine, and he’s going to rebuild that temple, and he’s going to rebuild that altar [Ezekiel 40-48].
And then, somewhere in there – – I do now know the interval of time – – but somewhere in there is going to be the final seven years, the seventieth week of Daniel [Daniel 9:27]. And in the middle of that seven years, there’s going to be a war in heaven, and Michael and his archangel are going to cast out Satan [Revelation 12:7-9]. Satan now has access to God. Satan accuses God’s people, you and me, day and night before the throne of grace [Hebrews 4:16]; and Jesus is making intercession for us [Hebrews 7:25].
But some of these days, in the midst of that week, Michael is going to war against Satan, and Satan’s going to fight against Michael, and they’re going to cast Satan out of heaven. They are going to close it to him and all of his angels, and they’re going to be cast down into this earth [Revelation 12:7-9]. And when Satan comes down into this earth, he’s going to incarnate himself in an antichrist [Revelation 12:9, 16:13]. And that Antichrist is going to break that covenant with the Jews [Daniel 9:27], whereby they’re back in their home country, and whereby they’ve started the worship again. And then it’s going to be what you call the great tribulation [Matthew 24:15-28].
There’s going to be horror and sorrow, “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” as the Bible says [Jeremiah 30:7]. And in those terrible days, in those terrible days, you would think nobody’s going to be saved; but it’s the opposite. In those terrible days there’s going to be sealed unto God one hundred forty-four thousand Jews, who turn to Christ, who accept their Messiah, and they’re going to be the world’s evangelists [Revelation 7:1-8]. Now you are up in glory; the church is in its rapture. It’s in heaven [1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17].
God’s now dealing again with His people, the Jewish, chosen people. And they’re preaching the gospel; one hundred forty-four thousand of them, sealed unto God. And they’re around this earth; they’re in every nation, they’re in ever city, they’re everywhere proclaiming the gospel of the Son of God in those terrible days of tribulation. And people are saved by the thousands, and the thousands, and the thousands, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:9-14].
And then finally, that period ends with all of Satan’s cohorts, and all of his hosts, gathered together against God’s people, and against God’s children, and that is the final battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16, 19:17-21]. And it ends like this; Jesus Christ comes down from heaven, and He comes openly, and visibly, and bodily, and personally [Acts 1:11], and His feet touch the Mount of Olives and it cleaves – it breaks apart into a great valley – and that’ll be the Valley of Jehoshaphat [Zechariah 14:4].
“In those days,” says Joel:
And at time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nation; I will bring them down into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, I will plead with them there for My people, and for My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, when they parted My land . . .
Let the nations awaken, come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat: there will I sit in judgment over the nations round about.
Put in the sickle, the harvest is ripe: come, get you down: for the press is full; the vats overflow: their wickedness is great.
Multitudes and multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
The sun and the moon shall be darkened, the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake; but the Lord will be the hope of His people, the strength of Israel.
So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her anymore. [Joel 3:1-2, 12-17]
The battle of Armageddon is going to end with a personal triumph of Jesus Christ, when He comes openly with His saints, with His church [Revelation 19:11-16], with all of us who’ve been at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-10]. And the Lord God is going to sit there in the Valley of Jehoshaphat and before Him are gathered all the nations of the world [Joel 3:2].
Then is that judgment in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, when the nations are all before Christ, and they’re going to be judged according to the way they received these Jewish evangels [Matthew 25:31-46]. When they came preaching the gospel, did you hear? When they came proclaiming the blood of Christ, did you believe? And those that mistreated Christ’s brethren are going to be sent away into everlasting perdition. And those that accepted Christ’s brethren, and the message they preached, are going to be received into an eternal kingdom of bliss, and that forever. And then at that time, when the Lord comes openly as the champion of His people, Israel is going to be born in a day [Isaiah 66:8]. There’s a nation born in a day. Israel is going to be saved [Romans 11:26]. The Jewish people are going to live in His sight, and accept Him as their rightful King and Lord.
“Foolishness, preacher, foolishness.”
Listen to the apostle Paul:
I would not, brethren –
in the eleventh [chapter] of Romans –
that ye be ignorant of this mystery, this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; [Romans 11:25]
lest you Gentiles say, We are the chosen of God; we’ve been grafted in, and these Jews, these types, bah! We are the people of God, and they’re nothing now.”
If thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and was grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, the chosen people of God, be grafted into their own olive tree?
I would not, brethren, that ye be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
But all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election. [Romans 11:24-28]
– the election! You believe in election? I believe in God, and that means the elective purposes of God. Listen to Paul:
But as concerning the gospel, enemies for your sake –
crucified Him, died that we might live –
but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
A man changes, but God doesn’t change [Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8]. I may fail in my promises, but He doesn’t fail.
Every promise that He has written back here, every one of those great prophecies in the Old Bible, every one of them will be fulfilled. “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” [Romans 11:29], so all Israel is going to be saved” [Romans 11:26]. And that’s when they are going to be saved; they are going to look on Him whom they pierced, and they are going to ask Him, “Where did You get those wounds in your hands, and in Your side?” And He is going to say, “You did it. You did it. My own brethren did it. In the house of My friends was I betrayed and slain” [Zechariah 12:10, 13:6].
And they’re going to receive Him. They’re going to weep before Him. They’re going to take Him back as a man would received back his only brother, and the Jews are going to be saved [Zechariah 13:7-9; Matthew 23:39; Romans 11:26].
And that is the millennium. They’re going to dwell under their own vine, under their own fig tree [Micah 4:4]. And they’re not going to make war anymore [Isaiah 2:4]. There’s going to be peace in this earth and for a thousand years, the millennium [Revelation 20:1-6]. Then, the final things, briefly this; a mystery I cannot understand. At the end of that thousand years, Satan is going to be loosed for a season [Revelation 20:7]. He’s going to be unchained. At the beginning of the thousand years, there he was, down in the bottomless pit with the seal of God upon him [Revelation 20:1-3].
But God’s going to open the bottomless pit. He is going to break that seal; and Satan’s going to be loosed for a little while [Revelation 20:7]. And he’s going out into the world, at the end of the millennium, at the end of that thousand years. And he’s going out to deceive the nations once again, and he’s going to gather all of those that are deceived by him. He’s going to gather them to a great and final battle, the battle of Gog and Magog [Revelation 20:8].
And then this: the Lord God is coming down in awful judgment; that will be the second resurrection [Revelation 20:9-10]. The dead, the wicked dead are going to be raised out of their graves, and at the great white judgment throne of God, every man’s name who’s not found in the Book of Life, he’ll be right there. He’s going to be judged according to his wicked deeds, and he’s going to be sent into the fires of hell. And into that hell forever and ever, there is cast Satan, and there is cast the false beast, and there is cast the false prophet [Revelation 19:17-21]. And there is death, and there is hell, and there is the grave, all cast into that awful pit of fire and brimstone [Revelation 20:10-14]. Whosoever name was not found written in the Book of Life, all of them together, Satan and his angels and those deceived by him, are in that fire forever and ever [Revelation 20:15].
Now while that horror is going on, that fire, that flame, that awful day and hour of judgment, God’s people have been taken out of this world. They have been taken away [1 Thessalonians 5:5]. Then is going to be the renovation of this world; it’s going to be dissolved by fire [2 Peter 3:10]. According to Peter [2 Peter 3:13], and according to Revelation [Revelation 21:1], there’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth, for the old, first heaven and the old, first earth have been purged by fire; the awful final conflagration [2 Peter 3:10-11]. And in the place of this old sinful earth, full of germs, full of disease, full of tears, full of sorrow, and full of death, there’s going to be another earth, a new one, and another heaven above us, a new one [Revelation 21:1-2].
And John saw, coming out of the glory of God, once again, the Holy City of the redeemed, coming down to this new earth and this new heaven, without sin, without night. No more sorrow, no more crying, no more tears, no more death, for in the fire of the wrath and judgment of God and in the sealing of Satan, all those things have passed away [Revelation 21:1-4]. And out of heaven, coming down, the New Jerusalem, the city of God [Revelation 21:2], and here in this holy place, renewed, purged by fire, we shall live with Him and one another, world without end [Revelation 21:5-7, 22:3-5].
Well, I repeat: that’s your pastor’s looking through the glass dimly [1 Corinthians 13:12], that’s the outline that I can see. But whether it follows that course or some other that I do not understand and could not enter into, all of us know that He will be King, and we shall reign with Him [Revelation 22:3-5]; and it’ll be heaven just to worship our Lord and to be with one another again.
Now, we sing one stanza of a hymn, just one. One stanza of a hymn, let’s all stay for the singing of that one stanza. Nobody leave until that one stanza is sung. And while we sing that one stanza, somebody give his heart to Jesus. Somebody come into the fellowship of this church. While we make this appeal, would you come? Would you make it now? While we stand and sing.
For more sermons by W.A Criswell, please visit www.wacriswell.com