WHEN CHRIST SHALL APPEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-29-57 7:30 p.m.
Now, in our Book, the third chapter of Colossians, we’ll read the first eleven verses. Colossians 3:1-11: the third chapter of Colossians, the first eleven verses. The text is the fourth one. Are we ready to read? Colossians 3:1-11. Now, together:
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience,
In the which ye also walked some time when ye lived in them.
But now ye also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds,
And have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him,
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
Our text is one of the rich and beautiful and meaningful texts in the Bible. This morning we left off with the third verse. Tonight the fourth: "When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye" – we – "also appear with Him in glory" [Colossians 3:4].
You would think reading that that you were reading in John. It is so like John: "When Christ, who is our life . . ." [Colossians 3:4]. John, in the first chapter: "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" [John 1:4]. In the eleventh chapter of John: "I am the resurrection and the life" [John 11:25]. In 1 John 1:1-2: "That which . . . our hands have handled . . . the Word of life. And the life was manifest . . ." Sounds like John.
Like Moses [Exodus 33:18-23], they look upon God Himself. They see the excellent glory. They go in where God is: "When Christ who is our life" [Colossians 3:4]. Christ is the source of our life. In John 5:24-25, there are four "verilys":
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hearethMy word and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life, [and] shall not come into condemnation, but is passed out of death into life.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.
Christ is the source of our life. As God in Christ in the beginning created the heavens and the earth and the light [Genesis 1:1-4; Colossians 1:16], so Christ creates life in us. The source of life is in Him. Christ is the substance of our life.
What is it – life? The anatomist with his scalpel can probe and divide and dissect, but he’ll never find it. And the physician and the surgeon may seek, but they’ll never discover it. There is an elusive thing in us that no man has ever seen. Mind can think of it and thought can grasp it, but no man can describe it: life.
The Hebrew word ruach, the Greek word pneuma, "breath," "the wind," "the spirit" – we do not know, but the substance of life is God. It is Christ. Christ is the sustenance of our life.
You who come to these 8:15 services, I’ve been trying out of that Old Testament Scriptures to present to our hearts what God taught those ancient people: Christ, the sustenance of our life, the manna from heaven, the first fruits, the golden grain. All else is chaff to be blown away. He is the fine, white, pure flour, the Bread of Life [John 6:35] and the Rock that followed them of whence they drank [1 Corinthians 10:4], and that Rock was Christ, the sustenance of our life.
Christ is the solace of our life. "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And whom do I desire in earth if not Thee?" [Psalm 73:25] Upon a day, all life comes to age: family gone, friend gone. He is the solace of our life. He is the exemplar of our life.
The old-time schoolboy had a copybook. "Write like that," the teacher said. Jesus is the portrait’s model, exemplar in our soul [John 13:15]. "Be like that" [1 Corinthians 11:1]. But after I’ve said it all, like the choir sang last Sunday, "I’ve just been wading in the water, children." I couldn’t begin to say all that that means "when Christ who is our life" [Colossians 3:4] – life in heaven, life in earth. It’s the same. The flame is the same whether it burns in the kingdom of grace or in the kingdom of glory. Christ is our life.
Now, look: "When Christ who is our life shall appear," then shall ye be like Him – "ye also shall appear with Him in glory" [Colossians 3:4]. "Then" – then, not now; then, not here; then. The life of the believer is hidden away [Colossians 3:3]. It is not manifest yet. The world cannot see it, and the world cannot understand it. The life of the believer is hidden away from the world. It is not made manifest. How true that is.
The worldling, the unbeliever, listens to the preacher as he preaches, and he goes away and he shrugs his shoulder: "Perhaps it is so. Perhaps, maybe." He listens to the Word of God, and like the Epicurean at Athens [Acts 17:18], when they listened to Paul, they scoffed and they laughed and they derided [Acts 17:32]. And some of them – the Stoics who were more courteous – they said, "We’ll hear thee again of this matter" [Acts 17:32] and went away.
The world cannot understand and it cannot see the hidden life of Christ in the believer. They could not see it in Jesus Himself nor could they understand Him when He came into the world. "He was despised and rejected of men" [Isaiah 53:3]. They blasphemed Him [Luke 22:63-65] and spit upon Him [Mark 14:65] and crucified Him [John 19:17-18]. And had it not been for a borrowed tomb [Matthew 27:57-60], I know not what would have become of His corpse. But how different the life in the heart of the believer seeing Jesus: seeing Him, believing in Jesus, believing in Him, hearing the word of Jesus, listening to Him, raised with our Lord [Colossians 3:1] and living with Him [John 15:5] – the hidden life of the believer.
They don’t understand why you’re here tonight. Why, the television’s going on full blast. I don’t know what particular moron is up there acting like an idiot tonight, but there’s something going on in television right now. And many, many of this people are enamored of it, greatly thrilled by it – had rather sit there at the television than to be here listening to the Word of God and to these glorious songs. Not you, not I. I’d be so miserable and uncomfortable seated there knowing that my pastor and my people in the church were down here lifting up Jesus. The hidden life of the believer they don’t understand. We do.
It’s a resurrection. It’s a quickening. It’s an opening. It’s a sensitivity. It’s glory. It’s heaven. It’s Jesus: "When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory" [Colossians 3:4].
Now, look. He says something here that he states as a fact. He doesn’t argue it. He doesn’t even defend it. He just says it. He does the same kind of a thing that the Bible does in Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning, God." You will look through that Bible from page to page and front to back, and you’ll never find a discussion whether or not God is. They take it for granted. Every author, every inspired book, they take it for granted. The great fact is God. They don’t debate it. It just is.
Paul does the same thing here about our Lord. Look: "When Christ who is our life shall appear" [Colossians 3:4]. He just says it. He just states it – not argue it, not defend it – just avows it, declares it: "When Christ who is our life shall appear, then [ye] shall appear" [Colossians 3:4].
Now, he refers to an appearance there in a way that we have never known. It is said in the Scriptures that Christ, God, was manifest in the flesh [1 Timothy 3:16]. That is true, but it is also true that the flesh shrouded and veiled His glory. That also is in the Bible: The veil of His flesh, when it was broken – pulled apart – He entered through the veil into the excellent glory, into heaven for us [from Hebrews 10:19-20].
Now, God was manifest in the flesh. True, I say, but that flesh also veiled the glory of the Lord. Outside of the transfiguration [Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36] when that glory for a moment burst through, the real glory of Jesus has never been seen [Philippians 2:6-8].
There is a meaning in that Greek word parousia, which is translated "appearing," that has never been fulfilled. There is to be a glory. There’s to be an honor. There is to be a splendor, a shekinah [2 Chronicles 7:1-3], a revelation of God in Christ that the world has never, never, never yet seen, and that is that glorious and final day when the Lord Himself shall appear in all of the light and glory of heaven [Daniel 7:13; Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26]: "When Christ who is our life shall appear" [Colossians 3:4].
How shall He appear? He shall appear personally, in resplendent glory, in iridescent, indescribable beauty, in the wonder of all God’s heaven. He shall appear gloriously [Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27; Revelation 1:7].
When somebody says, "That is spiritually, not personally and actually and really – Christ shall appear spiritually," listen to me. Christ is already here spiritually. When we observe the Lord’s Supper, when we keep the ordinance of baptism, when we teach and preach to the people, "Lo," He says, "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" [Matthew 28:20].
Look at this. When we have the Lord’s Supper as we shall observe it next Sunday morning, when we have the Lord’s Supper, Jesus will be with us spiritually. He will be in our midst. But look what He says: "For as often ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come" [1 Corinthians 11:26].
Then, there is another coming [John 14:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]. There is another appearing that will do away with the Lord’s Supper. We won’t need it any longer. Christ is with us spiritually now. He will be with us at the observance and at offering if He delays His coming until then. But there is another coming, another appearing, and when that appearance is made, we’ll not observe the Lord’s Supper any longer. Don’t need to. Won’t need to be reminded of His wounds, of His blood, of His suffering, of His scars [Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26], of the Savior Himself, for there He will be in our midst [Revelation 21:3, 22] – the appearing of the Lord. "When Christ who is our life shall appear" [Colossians 3:4], He shall appear personally. He shall appear as a thief in the night [1 Thessalonians 5:2] to steal away His jewels: you, you, and you caught up with the Lord into glory [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
When both the wise and the foolish virgins are asleep [Matthew 25:1-13], when the steward, thinking the lord delays His coming, begins to be drunken and to be beat his fellow stewards [Luke 12:42-48], when they cry "peace and safety" [1 Thessalonians 5:3], like a thief in the night [1 Thessalonians 5:2], shall the Lord come and steal away His jewels. He shall come openly and publicly [Luke 21:27; Revelation 1:7]. As the livid lightning across the bosom of the sky [Matthew 24:27; Luke 17:24], so shall the Lord be seen in light and in glory, coming with His holy angels and with His saints [Matthew 25:31; 1 Thessalonians 3:13]. And there is our appearance before the world with Christ: "When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye" – we – "also appear with Him in glory" [Colossians 3:4] – taken away to meet the Lord in the air [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], coming back with the Lord in the clouds of heaven and with all of His holy angels [1 Thessalonians 3:13]. "When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory" [Colossians 3:4].
The manifestation of the life of Christ is the manifestation of our life [John 15:4-5]. We are one in Him [John 17:22-23]. If He is glorified, we shall be glorified. If He is raised, we are raised [Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:12]. If He lives, we shall live [John 6:57, 14:19]. If He comes again, we shall come with Him [1 Thessalonians 3:13]. If He shall never die, we shall never die [John 10:27-28, 14:19; 1 John 5:11-13]. If He is in heaven, we shall be in heaven [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:3-4]. If He is honored by those of the celestial hosts, we shall be honored as kings and priests unto God our Father forever and ever [1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:10].
When He appears, then shall we also appear with Him in glory [Colossians 3:4]. We are like an acorn. In that acorn, hidden away, are all of the great bows and branches and glory of the tree hidden away in that acorn. All of the glory and life of immortality are hidden away in us to be manifested – to be revealed – at that day, at that hour, at that time [Colossians 3:4].
As of now, we are like an eagle trapped and chained to the earth. The great bird of the heaven lifts up its face, looks into the sun, into the blue of God’s sky, flaps its wings to rise, but is remorselessly held down and bound down by that terrible chain. So with God’s people in the earth: how we would soar, how we would live, how we would be with God, but we are bound down. We are chained in this body of mortality and death.
But some day, some glorious and incomparable day, God shall liberate us, and body and spirit shall be made immortal and glorified like our own living Savior, and we shall be as He [1 John 3:2]. "When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory" [Colossians 3:4].
What a word! What a faith! What a hope! What a message! But the man who doesn’t see it – and he can’t find it because his eyes are holden and the world has seized him and Satan has blinded him [2 Corinthians 4:4] – and he turns aside from the living Lord. Then he dies, and he dies. He dies, and he dies. He dies in this flesh, in this life, in this body [Hebrews 9:27]. He dies. And then he dies; he dies in his soul. He dies the second death [Revelation 21:8]. He dies shut out from God. He dies away from Christ. He dies in the darkness of damnation in the pit of perdition and hell [Revelation 20:11-15]. He dies, and he dies.
O, God, what a burden, what a message! How could a man sit? How would a man dare to mention it were it not for the love of God that would reveal such a fate to a soul, lest the fallen perish?
O, my brother, my brother, have you looked to Jesus? Have you? Have you hid your life in the hand of Jesus? Have you? Have you looked in faith to Jesus? Have you? Have you confessed your faith in Him who can save us now and keep us forever? Have you? Have you turned aside from the call of the world and listened to the call of Jesus? Have you? Have you put your life in the hands of God? Have you? Have you made a confession of Him openly and boldly? Have you? Have you been baptized in obedience to His command? Have you? Have you been raised in the likeness of His resurrection? Have you? As you look forward to the day that inevitably comes, have you a faith and a trust that shall outshine the stars and outlast the tides of time? Have you?
Are you looking for Jesus? Are you thinking of glory? Is your life hid with Christ? Oh, while our people pray, while we sing this appeal, in this balcony, down these stairwells: "Here I come, Pastor, and here I am giving my heart to Christ, giving you my hand."
In this great throng, from side to side, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come. Tonight, by faith, I look to Jesus. I give my heart to Him, and in obedience to that call and will of heaven, here I come and here I am. I want to be baptized. I want to belong to His faith and His church and His people. Here I am." A family of you to come into the church, one somebody you to put his life with us in this ministry; while our people prayerfully, earnestly sing this song, will you make it now? "Here I am, and here I come" while we stand and while we sing.
WHEN CHRIST SHALL APPEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. "Christ our life"
A. Rich expression so like writing of John(John 1:4, 11:25, 1 John 1:1-2)
B. Christ is the source of our life(John 5:24-25)
C. Christ is the substance of our life
D. Christ is the sustenance of our life(1 Corinthians 10:4)
E. Christ is the solace of our life(Psalm 73:25)
F. Christ is the exemplar of our life
II. "Then" – not now
A. As our Lord has not yet appeared in His glory, so our life has not been completely manifest(Romans 8:19-23)
1. Believer’s life hidden from the unspiritual eye
B. Unconverted man sees Christ without saving meaning(Isaiah 53:3)
1. To the believer He is Christ dying for our sins, interceding in glory and coming again
III. He will appear
A. He states it as a fact(Genesis 1:1)
1. No discussion found in Bible whether or not God is’
B. He will appear personally, in glory(Matthew 28:20, 1 Corinthian’s 11:26)
C. He will appear as a thief in the night
IV. We shall appear with Him
A. Christ coming again with His people
B. We shall be as He