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Dear friend, below is a shortened and revised version of Dr. W. A. Criswell's great sermon, "The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible."  At the end of my version of Dr. Criswell's sermon, I provide hyperlinks to the transcript of the actual sermon by Dr. Criswell, as well as a recording of him preaching it.  Dr. Criswell's version was over four hours long, preached at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas on December 31, 1961.  You can click here to read a list of hundreds of my sermon manuscripts, which I hope are a blessing to you.   Go to the bottom of my sermon and follow the instructions to read or hear Dr. Criswell's actual sermon.  My version of the sermon contains almost all of the Criswell material and can be preached in 45 minutes instead of more than 4 hours, as his great sermon was.   


by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, February 17, 2002

"Thou shalt bind [or tie] this line of scarlet thread in the window" (Joshua 2:18).

Dr. W. A. Criswell said, "Rahab the harlot is an example of the grace of God at work. Her salvation was not based on her character or merits: she lived in a doomed city, practiced a condemned profession, engaged in subversive activities, and falsified [lied about] her actions. Nevertheless she…acted upon faith, and was spared the judgment of God which was executed at the hands of the Israelites. In addition to her deliverance, Rahab was rewarded beyond measure when she married into the household of Nahshon…By Salmon, Rahab became the mother of Boaz and ancestress of David in the Messianic line [of those who were the ancestors of Jesus]. As one of four women listed in the genealogy of Matthew 1, Rahab is in the company of Tamar, who was also a harlot, and Ruth, who was a virtuous Gentile" (W. A. Criswell, Editor, The Criswell Study Bible, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1979, note on Joshua 2:1).

In the New Testament we read:

"By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace"

(Hebrews 11:31).

Dr. Criswell comments on the scarlet-colored blood-red thread that Rahab hung out of her window, "The scarlet line of Rahab is a symbol of her faith that God will provide deliverance in the time of judgment. Throughout the Bible 'scarlet' speaks of sacrifice made on the behalf of the believer, and it is seen in the vestments of the tabernacle and in the priestly garments in Exodus" (ibid., note on Joshua 2:18-21). This message is not based on Dr. Criswell's famous sermon, "The Scarlet Thread of Redemption," but the basic idea came from it.

Rahab was saved from destruction because she had enough faith in God to hang a red rope out of her window. This blood-red rope is a type (or picture) of the blood-red scarlet thread that runs through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. The Scofield note on Joshua 2:21 says, "The scarlet line of Rahab speaks, by its color, of safety through sacrifice (Hebrews 9:19, 22)." That red rope pictures the scarlet thread that runs from one end of the Bible to the other.

I. The Blood pictured in the Old Testament.

The scarlet thread running through the Bible is a picture of the Blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the Cross to wash away sin. The Old Testament Book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, gives us the earliest picture of the Blood. God Himself killed an animal and clothed Adam and Eve with skin. Blood had to be spilled for our first parents to have the nakedness of their sins covered, "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21). Their sins were covered up and forgotten, but "not without blood" (Hebrews 9:7).

Our first parents had two sons, Cain and Abel.

"And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect" (Genesis 4:2-5).

Some modern commentators miss the point here. Charles C. Ryrie incorrectly says, "A bloodless offering was perfectly appropriate; it was Cain's attitude of unbelief that displeased God" ( Ryrie Study Bible, note on Genesis 4:3). But the Bible says, "Unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect" (Genesis 4:5). God did not respect Cain's offering. Why? The reason is obvious: because no blood had been shed. The Scofield Reference Bible makes this clear, "This type is brought into prominence by contrast with Cain's bloodless offering of the fruit of his own works, and proclaims, in the very infancy of the race, the primal truth that 'without shedding of blood is no remission' (Hebrews 9:22)" (note on Genesis 4:4). Dr. Ryrie was not correct when he said that Cain's offering was "perfectly appropriate."

Dr. J. Vernon McGee correctly says of Cain's offering:

And the offering he brought denied that human nature is evil. God said, "Bring that little blood sacrifice which will point to the Redeemer who is coming into the world"… The difference between Cain and Abel was not a character difference at all, but the difference was in the offerings which they brought (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, volume I, p. 29).

Abel brought a blood offering. Cain did not bring a blood offering. "But unto Cain and to his offering he [God] had not respect" (Genesis 4:5). No blood - no respect - end of argument! Cain's offering was rejected. Abel's offering was accepted, but "not without blood" (Hebrews 9:7).

After the Great Flood, the first thing Noah did was to offer a blood sacrifice.

"Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake…" (Genesis 8:20-21).

Just as Abel brought a blood sacrifice, so did Noah. The scarlet line of blood, pointing to the Blood of Christ, continued.

With the call of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), God began forming the nation of Israel to serve Him. But Abraham had to understand the importance of a blood sacrifice for sin. When Abraham took his son Isaac and went up to Mount Moriah, the boy Isaac said, "Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" (Genesis 22:7). The little boy knew they had to have a blood offering. He had learned it. God had told Abraham to offer Isaac (Genesis 22:2). But when Abraham raised his knife, God said:

"Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son" (Genesis 22:12-13).

The scarlet thread of blood sacrifice continued - pointing to the Blood sacrifice of Christ. John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

After the time of Abraham, the Hebrew people went down into Egypt during a great famine, because there was food in Egypt. They grew into a great nation there, but the Pharaoh enslaved them. God called Moses to lead them out of Egyptian slavery, back into the promised land.

On the night before the Hebrews left Egypt, God said He would send death to the firstborn children of the Egyptians. This was a judgment from God, given because Pharaoh would not let the Hebrews go. That night, God told Moses to institute the Passover. God told Moses to have the Hebrews put the blood of a lamb on "the two side posts and on the upper door post" of their houses (Exodus 12:7). Then God said:

"And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:13).

The Scofield note on Exodus 12:11 says, "The Passover, type of Christ our Redeemer." The scarlet line continued, pointing forward to the Blood of Christ.

The Hebrew people left Egypt and went out into the wilderness. They came to Mount Sinai. Moses went up the mountain and God gave him the Ten Commandments, written "with the finger of God" on two tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18). The covenant of the Law was established with a blood sacrifice:

"And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words" (Exodus 24:8).

Andrew Murray said, "It was in that blood the covenant had its foundation and power. It is by the blood alone, that man can be brought into covenant fellowship [with God]. That which had been foreshadowed at the gate of Eden, on Mount Ararat [by Noah], on Moriah [by Abraham], and in Egypt, was now confirmed at the foot of Sinai in a most solemn manner. Without blood there could be no access by sinful man to a Holy God. There is, however, a marked difference…On Moriah the life was redeemed by the shedding of blood. In Egypt it was sprinkled on the door posts of the houses; but [here] at Sinai, it was sprinkled on the persons themselves. The contact was closer, the application more powerful" (Andrew Murray, The Power of the Blood of Jesus, New Kensington, Pennsylvania: Whitaker House, 1993, p. 12). The scarlet thread continued through the Bible. "And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people" (Exodus 24:8). The old hymn says:

There is a fountain filled with blood Drawn from Emmanuel's veins,
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains.

("There Is a Fountain," by William Cowper, 1731-1800).

And another old song asks,

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you washed in the blood, in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

("Are You Washed in the Blood?" by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929).

We must come one more time to the scarlet thread of the Blood in the Old Testament. This last time, we are thinking of the Day of Atonement, called Yom Kippur. The Hebrew word "kaphar" is translated "atonement" in our English Bible. This word literally means "to cover." God covers our sins by the Blood of Christ. The Day of Atonement points to that. Our sins are covered when we trust Jesus - and God will never see them. In Leviticus 17 God said:

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement [a covering] for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11).

This obviously points to the Blood of Christ. "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Hebrews 10:19).

With the clear understanding that the blood in Leviticus 17 points forward to the Blood of Jesus, we have a very clear statement:

"For it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul"

(Leviticus 17:11).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said:

I consider verse 11 one of the key verses of this book [of Leviticus]. The life is in the blood. This is restated in verse 14. This is the basis of all sacrifice…This is a great, eternal truth. This explains why Abel's sacrifice was more excellent than Cain's. It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. The blood of Christ is the only thing that can wash away sin (ibid., pp. 405-406).

Then Dr. McGee quotes this song:

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow That makes me white as snow,
No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

("Nothing But the Blood" by Robert Lowry, 1826-1899).

Are you beginning to see the importance of the blood? Do you see the type, or illustration, of the blood in the words "Thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window"? (Joshua 2:18). As we continue to follow the scarlet thread through the Bible, we turn now to the New Testament, where we see that salvation comes through the death of Christ, but "not without blood" (Hebrews 9:7).

II. The Blood described by Jesus Christ.

We cannot give you all that Jesus said about His Blood in this one sermon. But we will look at two instances: first, what He said in the "Bread of Life Discourse," and second, what He said when He instituted the Lord's Supper. These two instances trace the scarlet line in the Bible to Christ Himself.

At the end of Jesus' "Bread of Life sermon," He said:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you…He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him" (John 6:53, 56).

Jesus had said concerning His flesh that he would give it "for the life of the world" (John 6:51). Then He said, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53). Jesus was saying that He fulfilled all of the types and illustrations of the Old Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament taught again and again that life and the forgiveness of sins could only come through the death and the blood of a sacrifice. Salvation was "not without blood" (Hebrews 9:7).

When Jesus told them to eat His flesh and drink His Blood, He was not telling them to practice cannibalism. Dr. J. Vernon McGee comments:

He is not saying to them to begin to eat Him and to drink His blood! What He is saying is that He is going to give His life…He will shed His blood upon the cross and give His life. Salvation is by accepting and receiving Him in a most intimate way (ibid., p. 407).

At the beginning of the Gospel of John we read:

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God…" (John 1:12).

These words "eat my flesh and drink my blood" are pictures of "receiving" Christ (John 1:12). The Bible tells us to believe on Him, to come to Him, to trust Him, to receive Him, to eat His flesh and drink His Blood. These are human expressions which explain to you that you must personally contact Jesus Christ to be saved. You must have a living relationship to Him! "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).

But notice that Jesus said, "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life" (John 6:54). He makes a clear distinction between His death and His Blood in this verse.

In The MacArthur Study Bible, John MacArthur repeats his error that the Blood of Christ is only "a substitute word" for His death. In footnote number 44, on page 190 of Preaching to a Dying Nation, Dr. Cagan and I list 8 citations in The MacArthur Study Bible where Dr. MacArthur says that the Blood is merely another word for the death of Christ. MacArthur says, "Blood is used as a substitute word for death" (cf. p. 1911, The MacArthur Study Bible). But Dr. MacArthur is wrong. "Blood" is not "a substitute word" for death in John 6:53-56. It is clear in John 6:54 that the death of His flesh and His Blood are two separate things, "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life" (John 6:54). You must have the death of Christ to pay the penalty for your sin (Romans 5:10). But you must also have the Blood of Christ to cleanse you from sin (I John 1:7). "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53). You must have your sins paid for by His death, and you must have your sins washed, cleansed by His Blood!

On page 237 of The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Hebrews (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), Dr. MacArthur said, "It was not Jesus' physical blood which saves us. Christ's own physical blood, in itself, does not cleanse from sin." This is a direct contradiction of I John 1:7,

"The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."

Our forefathers answered the liberals concerning the Blood of Christ. Liberals like Harry Emerson Fosdick denied the Blood, while our Bible-believing forefathers, like Dr. R. A. Torrey and Dr. J. Gresham Machen, proclaimed and defended the Blood. Why has this issue been raised anew by Dr. MacArthur? These are days when Bible-believing Christians should stand once again for "The Book, the Blood, and the Blessed Hope." It is as wrong for us to sit in quiet silence while the Blood of Christ is denied as it would have been if R. A. Torrey or J. Gresham Machen had remained silent when the liberals attacked the Blood in their day. The Bible still says:

"The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin"

(I John 1:7).

Now think about what Jesus said when He instituted the Lord's Supper:

"And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins"

(Matthew 26:27-28).

The scarlet line of blood takes us to the Lord's Supper, as we follow that blood-red cord through the Bible.

Paul gives us the two elements in the Lord's Supper in I Corinthians 11:23-26. He tells us that Jesus said, "Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me" (11:24). Then we are told, "After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (11:25).

These verses tell us two things. First, the Lord's Supper is done "in remembrance" of what Jesus did on the Cross. It does not impart grace to us, as the Catholics say. It is done "in remembrance of me." Second, there are two elements in the Lord's Supper, to remind us of the death of Christ's Body, and, secondly, to remind us of His Blood. There are two elements in the Lord's Supper. Dr. John MacArthur said:

I believe that to speak of Christ's blood, as it was shed on the cross, is the same as referring to his death. They aren't two elements as some people are trying to teach (see Preaching to a Dying Nation by R. L. Hymers, Jr. and Christopher Cagan for the reference, p. 173).

But the Lord's Supper shows clearly that Dr. MacArthur is wrong. Every time we take the Lord's Supper we are clearly shown that he is wrong. The bread reminds us of the death of Christ. The cup reminds us of the Blood of Christ. They are two separate elements in the Bible (cf. Matthew 26:27-28; I Corinthians 11:23-25). The scarlet thread runs through the teachings of Christ Himself on the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper shows that salvation comes by the death of Jesus, but "not without blood" (Hebrews 9:7).

If you read what I have written carefully, you will see that I have not attacked John MacArthur.  I have made no attack whatsoever on him as a person.  All I have done is answer his doctrines on the Blood, which he has given publicly for several years.  It is not wrong for me to correct false doctrine, particularly on cardinal doctrines like the Blood of Christ.  Every pastor in America ought to make sure that he teaches his people correct doctrine.  Every pastor should make sure that he corrects false doctrines on fundamental subjects like the Blood.  It is not unloving or unscriptural to make sure that people understand what the Bible says about the Blood of Christ, and to correct those who misrepresent Christ's Blood.

III. The Blood in the teachings of the Apostles.

I only have time to list a few of the places where the Apostles spoke of the Blood of Christ. We read of the importance of the Blood in Romans 3:24-25 and Romans 5:9. We read of the Blood in I Corinthians 10:16; in Galatians 6:14; in Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; in Colossians 1:20; in Hebrews 9:12; 9:14; 10:19; 12:24; 13:12-13; and 13:20. We read of Christ's Blood in I Peter 1:2, and in 1:18-19; and in I John 1:7. In the Book of Revelation the Blood of Christ is spoken of many times, in Revelation 1:5; 5:8-9; 7:14; and 12:11. The harlot Rahab "bound the scarlet line in the window" (Joshua 2:21). And that scarlet red line runs from one end of the Bible to the other - telling us about the precious Blood of Jesus Christ - that washes away sin.

I close this message by quoting from the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible:

"Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood" (Revelation 1:5).

In his great sermon on this subject, Dr. W. A. Criswell said, "This is the scarlet thread of redemption that began with the blood of covering in the Garden of Eden and finds its ultimate and final consummation in the blood-washed throng before the throne of God in glory" (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., "The Scarlet Thread of Redemption," p. xvi, The Criswell Study Bible). Those in Heaven will be saved, but "not without blood" (Hebrews 9:7).

And I ask you this morning, "Have you been washed from your sins by the Blood of Jesus?"

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you washed in the blood, in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

("Are You Washed in the Blood?" by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929).

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon: Joshua 2:8-21; 6:17, 20, 2:21.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"There Is a Fountain" by William Cowper (1731-1800)/
"Are You Washed in the Blood?" by Elisha A. Hoffman (1839-1929).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"Thou shalt bind (or tie) this line of scarlet thread in the window" (Joshua 2:18).

(Hebrews 11:31).

I.   The Blood pictured in the Old Testament

1. Adam and Eve, Genesis 3:21; Hebrews 9:7.

2. Cain and Abel, Genesis 4:2-5; Hebrews 9:22.

3. Noah, Genesis 8:20-21.

4. Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 22:7, 2, 12-13;
John 1:29.

5. Moses at the Passover, Exodus 12:7, 13.

6. Moses at Sinai, Exodus 31:18; 24:8.

7. Moses in the dietary law, Leviticus 17:11;
Hebrews 10:4; Hebrews 10:19.

II.  The Blood described by Jesus Christ

1. In the "Bread of Life Discourse," John 6:53-56;
John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Romans 5:10; I John 1:7.

2. In instituting the Lord's Supper, Matthew 26:27-28;
I Corinthians 11:23-26.

III. The Blood in the teaching of the Apostles, Romans 3:24-25;
Romans 5:9; I Corinthians 10:16; Galatians 6:14;
Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:13; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:12;
Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:19; Hebrews 12:24; Hebrews 13:12-13; Hebrews 13:20; I Peter 1:2; I Peter 1:18-19; I John 1:7;
Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:8-9; Revelation 7:14;
Revelation 12:11; Joshua 2:21.