The Day of Christ’s Return
April 14th, 1954 @ 12:00 PM
THE DAY OF CHRIST’S RETURN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-14-54 12:00 p.m.
Welcome once again to the thirty-fifth consecutive year that our First Baptist Church has conducted services in a pre-Easter week at a downtown theater. Ever since the Palace Theater has been built, they have been held in this auditorium. Now remember, you may leave at any time. We have not come here for you to pay honor or deference to us; we are not here to be ministered unto, but to minister. If you can stay five minutes, welcome, and fine. If you can stay half of the service, good; if you have to leave in the midst of my closing remarks, that is all right. You will not disturb me at all. When you invite others to come, tell them that. They can stay and listen just to the song, then if they have to go, they are at liberty to leave. Do not be bashful to get up in the middle of what I am saying and walk out, that is all right. This is a noonday lunch hour service; and come as often as you can, stay as long as you can, and leave when you must. This year the theme of the five messages is built around the five fateful days of all time and eternity. Monday, it was The Day of the Fall; yesterday, The Day of Grace; today, The Day of Christ’s Second Coming; tomorrow, The Day of Judgment; and Friday, The Day of the Cross. The message today: The Day of Christ’s Return, the day of our Lord’s second coming.
“The blessed hope” [Titus 2:13], as Paul called it, was much on the lips of Jesus, much in the hearts of the apostles, and much in the writing of the sacred Word. In the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, our Savior said:
Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me.
In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again. I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
And on the night that He was betrayed into the hands of sinners, He took bread and blessed it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body. And He took the cup, and blessed it, and said, All of you drink of it.
This is My blood shed for the remission of sins.
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come, till He come.
[MRRHWQ 16:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26]
And in the great apocalyptic discourse in Matthew, Matthew 24:44, “Watch ye, therefore, be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of
It was on the lips of the angels of glory: “Ye men of Galilee,” in Acts 1:11, “why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Lord Jesus, that is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go.”
It was much in the hearts of the apostles. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20-21, “For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence we expect, we wait for the appearing of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change this vile body into the fashion of His own glorious body.” And again, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” In his closing letter, 2 Timothy 4:7-8:
For I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that Day: and not unto me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.
It was on the lips of the apostle Peter. In 2 Peter, the third chapter:
For there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking in their own lusts,
And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
[2 Peter 3:3-4]
Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day before the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day.
For the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
For the day of the Lord will come, for the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; into which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise . . . and the earth and the works therein shall be burned with fire
[2 Peter 3:8-10]
But we, according to His promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth.
[2 Peter 3:13]
It was on the lips of James, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, and the brother of our Lord:
- James 5:8, “Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the day of the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”
- It was in the lips and the heart of Jude: Jude 14, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints” [Jude 1:14].
- And in the Revelation, from the apostle John, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him” [Revelation 1:7].
- And the closing of the sacred Book is the word from the Lord Jesus Himself: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly” [Revelation 22:20].
- And the Book is sealed with the closing prayer, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20].
There is something beyond what I see and what I know in this world and in this life. If this is all, what I now see and what I now know in this world and in this life, it is a miserable, wretched, war-weary world, and this life descends in ultimate despair and defeat and indescribable failure. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” [1 Corinthians 15:19]. In this world, tyranny and villainy and wickedness are forever on the throne. Herod Antipas reigns, while the headless John the Baptist dies in his own blood [Mark 6:14-28]. It is a world where death is forever triumphant.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
All that beauty, and all that wealth e’er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
[“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” Thomas Gray]
Once beautiful, but beautiful no more; once strong, but strong no more; once eloquent, but eloquent no more: the pale horseman has cut them down; and he rides for us, he comes, he inevitably comes. This is a world of death. But by the word of God and by the promise of the Holy Scriptures, there is another world, there is another kingdom, there is another heaven, there is another city [Revelation 21:1-22:21].
We are taught in God’s Book to lift up our eyes, to wait for the glorious coming and kingdom of our Savior Christ Jesus [Luke 21:28; Titus 2:13]. Here we have no abiding place; our citizenship is in heaven [Philippians 3:20-21]. We are strangers and pilgrims in the earth [Hebrews 11:13]; we seek a city that is to come, whose builder and whose foundation is God [Hebrews 11:10].
I am a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home;
Sorrows and dangers stand
Round me on every hand;
Heaven is our fatherland,
Heaven is our home.
[“I’m But a Stranger Here,” Thomas R. Taylor]
And that great and final and consummating event toward which all time and history, the vast rendezvous with God, is the return, the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ [Hebrews 9:28]. It involves the entire creation. Paul, in the eighth chapter of Romans, says, “For the whole creation,” the heavens above, the earth below, all that God hath made, “for the whole creation shall be redeemed from the bondage of corruption, and delivered into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the creation travaileth and groaneth in pain until now” [Romans 8:21-22]. There shall be a new world, there shall be a new heaven, there shall be a new life [Revelation 21:1-5]; we shall look full into the face of God our Savior and live forever [Revelation 22:3-5].
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid…They shall hurt nor destroy any more in God’s holy mountain: for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall the learn war anymore.
For every kingdom walks in the name of the lord his god; but we shall walk in the name of Jehovah our Savior for ever and ever.
The return, the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, it involves our rewards. “Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man as his work shall be” [Revelation 22:12]. Why are not our rewards given to us when we die, when our souls go out to meet God in heaven? Because a man doesn’t die when his body ceases to breathe; but his life and his influence live on and on.
I had a dear friend, lost his faith, turned infidel. I went to see him, to plead for Christ. Seated there by his desk, he was reading Tom Paine’s Age of Reason. Tom Paine has been dead for a hundred years; but his life lives on and on and on. At that end time, God shall unravel all of the strands of our life and follow its influence through the unending ages. Our reward cannot be given us, for good or for evil, until the time of the end.
It involves the great separation: Satan someday shall be cast out. Satan someday shall be bound in the bottomless pit [Revelation 20:1-3]. Satan someday shall be forever thrown away from the tracks, and the lives, and the churches, and the homes, and the hearts, and the destiny of God’s people in the earth.
And God shall give us new bodies. And the Lord shall give us a new fellowship. There’ll be righteousness and holiness. There’ll be light, and love, and laughter, and joy, and gladness, and worship, and redemption forever and forever. The Lord someday shall separate tare, and sin, and hurt, and lust, and war, and greed from the world; a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1].
How shall He come, that great and final day of the Lord? He is coming in a twofold manner. One, He is coming as a thief in the night, clandestinely, furtively, secretly; He is coming to steal away His jewels in the earth [1 Thessalonians 5:2]. “The kingdom of heaven is like,” said our Savior, “to a merchant prince, seeking goodly pearls; who, when he found one pearl of great price, sold all that he had, and bought it” [Matthew 13:45-46]. “The kingdom of heaven,” said Jesus, “is like unto a man who found a treasure in a field, and he sold all that he had and bought it” [Matthew 13:44]. There is a treasure, there is a pearl of price in this earth, in this world: it’s God’s holy bride, it’s His church, it’s His redeemed, it’s the saved of the Lord; and someday, in the quietness of the night, or in the moment of a midday, without herald, without harbinger, without announcement, like a thief [1 Thessalonians 5:2], the Lord shall come and steal out of the world the pearl of price [Matthew 13:45-46], for whom He paid His life, for whom Jesus died [Romans 5:6]. “Two shall be working in a field; one shall be taken, and the other left. Two shall be grinding at a mill; one shall be taken, and the other left. Two shall be sleeping in a bed; one shall be taken, and the other left” [Luke 17:34-36]. It’s the rapture of the church of Jesus Christ, caught up with the clouds of the Lord into glory, suddenly, furtively, secretly [1 Thessalonians 5:2]. He shall come first as a thief in the night and take away His saints to glory [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
The manner of His coming is again openly, publicly, with great heraldry and power: He is coming as the lightning flashes from the east unto the west, across the livid bosom of the sky; and every eye shall see Him [Matthew 24:27-30]. And He is coming then to establish His kingdom in the earth and to reign forever and ever the King of all kings, and the Lord of all lords, the pantokrator, the Lord God Creator [Revelation 19:11-16].
There are two reactions to the announced coming of our Lord. One is terror and fear. When I was a boy, I woke up in the middle of the night crying piteously. Went to the room where my mother was sleeping, she put her arms around me and said, “Son, what’s the matter? What’s the matter?” I said, “Mother, I dreamed that the Lord had come, and I stood at the judgment bar of Almighty God, I was lost, sent away, sent away.” She comforted my heart, and I fell asleep again. The days passed, and I became a Christian, gave my heart to Jesus. Since that hour until now, I look upon the return of the Lord Jesus as the only and ultimate hope of our world.
What solution could a UN or a Congress ever find to war? What solution could science or conventions of learned men ever find to age and death? What solution has mankind ever been able to discover for sin? But I know One who is able by the fiat of His word, by the glory of His presence, by the word of His mouth, I know One who can destroy war [Isaiah 2:4], and sin, and sickness, and disease, and death forever and forever; and He will do it, He said He would [Revelation 21:4-5]. And it’ll be done in the glorious day of His appearing [2 Timothy 4:8].
I look upon it now as the ultimate denouement of all of the ramifications of life. I look upon it now as the great triumph and consummation of the age. I look upon His return now as the hope of one who wishes someday to look full into the face of God our Savior, and live [1 John 3:2]. “This same Jesus,” this same Lord Jesus, our Friend and our Savior, “this same Lord Jesus that is taken from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go” [Acts 1:11]. And like Mary Magdalene [John 20:16], it will be our privilege to bow at His feet and call Him our Lord, our Lord [Philippians 2:10-11].
It may be at midday, it may be at twilight,
It may be, perchance, that the blackness of midnight
Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory,
When Jesus receives His own.
Oh joy! Oh delight! Could we go without dying;
No sickness, no sadness, no dread, and no crying.
Caught up through the clouds with the Lord into glory,
When Jesus receives His own.
[“It May Be at Morn,” H. L. Turner]
O Lord Jesus, how long, how long
E’er we shout the glad song
Christ returneth! Christ returneth!
Hallelujah, amen! Hallelujah, amen!
[“Christ Returneth,” H.L. Turner, 1878]
And our answering prayer to the glorious announcement of our risen Lord, “Even so, come, Christ Jesus” [Revelation 22:20]. If we know our hearts, we are ready.
Our Savior, as we stand by the side of the open grave, as we look through the vistas of the years of our own life, and if Jesus tarries see our own age approaching and the inevitable death, help us, Lord, not to wince, not to be afraid; for we know that our Lord has conquered, that the keys of Hell and of Death are in His hands [Revelation 1:18], and someday He is to return to be our living, reigning Lord in this new heaven and this new earth [Revelation 21:1-5]. And we shall be like Him [1 John 3:2]: a better body, a better fellowship, a better home, living forever in the presence of Christ our Lord [John 14:1-3], our hope and our Savior in this world and in the world to come [John 3:16, 10:27-30]. Without loss of one, O Christ Jesus, may we answer to our names when the roll is called in glory [Revelation 20:12]. Amen.
And good day.