THE THREE APPOINTMENTS OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-27-59 10:50 a.m.
You who share with us these services on the radio are listening to the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Three Appointments of God. In our preaching through the Bible we are in the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. And the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews closes with these words:
As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many;
and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
The text, "As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many" [Hebrews 9:27-28]. The Three Appointments of God: an appointed death; an appointed judgment; and an appointed Savior. The appointments of God, the decrees and mandates of God are certain and inevitable. The mandates and appointments of God in creation are sure and steadfast.
It is the boast of the Elgin Watch Company that they set their time by the stars. The spheres in their orbits find their motion according to the appointed time of God. When a certain star is supposed to appear at a certain time, it will always be there without a second of variation, for untold ages in the millenniums and the eons of the past, and however long God shall decree the destiny of a future. They move according to the mandates of God, the appointment of God. Those appointments of God are no less sure and steadfast in the world of revelation. When God says in His Word that a certain thing will come to pass hundreds of years later, in the fullness of time that thing will come to pass according to the appointment of God.
When the Spirit of the Lord fell upon Jacob and Jacob said to his son Judah, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come" [Genesis :10]. God was appointing the tribe of Judah that it have an existence and a government and an entity and a nationality until the promised Messiah should come. That promise covered two thousand years, but it was sure according to the appointment of God.
When the Spirit of the Lord came upon Micah and the great prophet prophesied that in Bethlehem, a little town in Judah, He should be born [Micah 5:2] – though that prophecy was uttered seven hundred fifty years before Christ – the appointments of God are sure; in Bethlehem was He born [Matthew 1:20-2:1].
When the Spirit of God came upon the prophet Zechariah and he prophesied of the royal entry of the King into Jerusalem [Zechariah 9:9-10] – though that was five hundred years before – yet according to the appointment of God, in the fullness of time, exactly according to the Word of the Lord, the prophecy came to pass [Matthew 21:2, 4, 5-16]. And the King, Messiah, entered royally, triumphantly, down the slopes of Olivet, up the slopes of Zion, and into the City of David.
So the appointments of God that are mentioned in this text are certain and sure. The first one is this, "It is appointed unto men to die" [Hebrews 9:27]. There is a day. There is an hour known to God, appointed by the Lord, when you will face the pale horseman.
Sometimes, in an intercession such as Hezekiah made before God, when the Lord sent Isaiah the prophet to say to him, "I have heard your prayers, I have seen your tears. I have added fifteen years unto your life" [Isaiah 38:5, 2 Kings 20:5-6]. Sometimes an appointment of God can be turned in intercession; but however it is turned, there is still yet that inevitable and final day and mandate and decree of God. There is an hour, there is a time, there is a day, there is a place where you will face an inevitable rendezvous with death.
I never had a story make an impression upon me in my life as this one: in Basra, a servant came to his master saying, "Lend me your horse that I may flee to Baghdad, for I met Death on the streets this morning, and he looked at me." And the master, out of the goodness of his heart, gave to his servant his finest steed that his servant might flee from the face of Death to Baghdad. That afternoon the master met Death on the street of Basra. And the master said to Death, "What do you mean by frightening my servant?" And Death replied, "Sir, I did not mean to frighten him. I was merely surprised to see him here in Basra, for I have an appointment with him tomorrow in Baghdad!"
You have an appointment according to the decree and mandate of God with death at a certain time at a certain place. It is appointed, apokeimai, laid up, reserved. "It is appointed unto man to die" [Hebrews 9:27]. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes:
There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit;
Neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war.
My earliest remembrance of a funeral as a child, a small, small child, was of a man in our little town who, when time came for him to die, cried out before the doctor, "I am not ready to die. I don’t want to die!" But he died anyway. There is no man that hath power over death; there is no discharge from that inevitable rendezvous. In the sixth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, you have a presentation of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. The white horseman is followed by the red horseman; hard behind him, the black horseman, and inevitably behind him, the pale horseman of death [Revelation 6:2-8].
Going through the Art Institute of Chicago one time years ago, I saw a picture. The Race of Death, it was captioned. In the circle of the track there was just one rider – hooded skeleton with a scythe in his hand, just that one – called The Race of Death. The artist meant by that, that he has no competitors, he always wins. It is an inevitable and certain outcome, "It is appointed unto men to die" [Hebrews 9:27]. There is an hour, a place, a time when you shall die.
The second great and certain appointment of God is this: it is appointed unto men to appear at the judgment [Hebrews 9:27]. We shall stand at the judgment of God, not krima, "the sentence that is passed," but krisis. You have that exact word in English. There’s no "c" in the Greek. It is k-r-i-s-i-s; when you make an English word out of it, c-r-i-s-i-s, crisis; that’s the word used here, translated "judgment," krisis. It is appointed unto God that you shall stand at the "crisis" of life, the judgment day of God. Krima is the sentence; krisis, "crisis," is the process, the act, the occasion. You shall be there.
If a man died like the unreasonable brute, if a man fell like the insensible tree, if when a man died, that were all – then there would be no need to think or to hesitate or to pause or to reconsider. But it is an appointment of God, a certain day and a certain time that you shall meet death. And it is the appointment of God that at a certain day and at a certain time you shall stand in the "crisis," the great judgment day of your life. You shall stand there [Hebrews 9:27].
In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts and the thirty-first verse, God hath "appointed a day." And God hath appointed in righteousness a "Man whom He has ordained." Another translation could be, "whom He hath appointed,whereof He hath given proof." King James Version translates that word as "assurance," "Whereof He hath given pistin, a proof, in that He hath raised Him from the dead" [Acts 17:31]. There is an appointed day of judgment.
We now live in the day of grace when God is seeking the conversion of men’s souls. There will come a time when the day of grace shall forever end and the day of judgment begin. God hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world. And God hath appointed a Man, a great Judge, and "He hath given proof of that appointment in that He raised that Man from the dead" [Acts 17:31]. We shall all stand in the presence of Christ, the Judge of life. We shall die; we shall stand in the presence of Christ, to be judged – all of us.
Whether we go to church or not is an election; whether we believe in Christ or not is an election. We can choose it. Whether we read the Bible or not, whether we pray or not, whether we believe or not, whether we trust or not, whether we look to heaven in mercy and grace or not, all of those things are electives. I may, I may not. I can, or I cannot. I choose yes, or I choose no. I will or I won’t.
But there is one thing about which I have no election, I have no choice. I shall meet that appointed day of death and I shall stand in the presence of Almighty God in the day of judgment; I shall be there. You shall be there. In the second chapter of the Book of Corinthians, the fifth chapter and the tenth verse that you just read, it says, "For we must all stand in the presence of God. We shall all stand at the judgment seat of Christ. We shall all appear at the judgment seat of Christ," all of us, all of us [2 Corinthians 5:10]. That great judgment day is not whether I’m lost or saved; that judgment is already, "He that believeth on Him is not judged; he that believeth not is judged already . . ." [John 3:18]. I am either saved or lost here – right now, in this moment. But we shall all stand at the judgment seat of Christ that we may be given the reward, the sentence, according to the deeds done in the flesh, whether it be good or bad [2 Corinthians 5:10].
According to the third chapter of 1 Corinthians, some of us shall be "saved as if by fire" [1 Corinthians 3:15]. Building on the foundation "wood, hay, and stubble" [1 Corinthians 3:12] and the day of fire, "the day of judgment shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is." And all of the works of the man’s life shall be burned up and perished [1 Corinthians 3:12-15]. But you shall stand there. Some of us, we pray, shall build of "gold, silver, and precious stones" [1 Corinthians 3:12], and the day of fire shall not destroy it. And we shall have a reward in that day of crisis and judgment. But we shall stand there, all of us, whether we have done good or whether we have done bad [2 Corinthians 5:10]. "Therefore, knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" [2 Corinthians 5:11]. We have an appointment with God. All of us shall appear at the judgment bar of Christ.
The wicked shall stand in that other great and awful judgment of Almighty God. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation it closes with this word:
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and Death and Hell, Death and the Grave, gave up the dead which were in them . . .
And whosoever’s name was not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
[Revelation 20:13, 15]
The wicked shall stand at the great white throne judgment of Almighty God [Revelation 20:11-15]. There is no escape, that final and inevitable appointment with the Lord. Whether I am saved and stand at the judgment seat of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10], or whether I am lost and stand at the great white throne judgment of the damned [Revelation 20:11-15], we shall all stand in that appointed crisis, in that appointed judgment, in that appointed day. We shall all stand before God.
Were it not for this third appointment, I would not preach on the other two. It is appointed unto men to die [Hebrews 9:27]. It is appointed unto men to stand at the judgment [Hebrews 9:27], the crisis of life. It is appointed unto men that they have a Savior. As it is appointed for men to die, as it is appointed unto men to stand at the judgment day of God, "so just as," says this author, so likewise, there is an appointed Savior. "Christ was offered to bear our sins: and to them that wait for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation" [Hebrews 9:28]. There is an appointed Savior.
I would not like to preach on the certainty of an appointed death and the certainty of an appointed judgment were it not also that there is a great evangel message in the Book. There is an appointed redemption, an appointed Savior, an appointed way whereby a man can stand in the presence of the great God without spot, and without blemish, without sin, without condemnation and without judgment [Ephesians 5:27, Jude 1:24].
This is one of the saddest poems you could ever read, were it not for the last two stanzas: "Five Minutes After I Die":
Loved ones will weep o’er my silent face,
Dear ones will clasp me in sad embrace,
Shadows and darkness will fill the place,
Five minutes after I die.
Faces that sorrow I will not see,
Voices that murmur will not reach me,
Where, oh where, will my soul be,
Five minutes after I die?
Quickly the years of my life have flown,
Gathering treasures I thought my own,
There I must reap the seeds I have sown,
Five minutes after I die.
Nor to repair the good I lack,
Fixed to the goal of my chosen track,
No room to repent, no turning back,
Five minutes after I die
Now I can stifle conviction stirred,
Now I can silence the voice oft’ heard,
Then the fulfillment if God’s sure word,
Five minutes after I die.
Mated forever with my chosen throng
Long is eternity, oh so long,
Woe is me, if my soul be wrong,
Five minutes after I die.
Oh, what a fool – hard the word, but true,
Passing the Savior with death in view,
Doing a deed I can never undo,
Five minutes after I die.
But there is another word:
Thanks to the Lord Jesus for pardon free,
He paid my debt on Calvary’s tree,
Heaven’s gates will unfold for even me,
Five minutes after I die
Oh marvelous grace that has rescued me,
Oh joyous moment when Jesus I see,
Oh happy day when with Him I shall be,
Five minutes after I die.
["Five Minutes After I Die"]
And I do not think this author would have said the other two had he not said the third, for he words it as though the other two were but assets to the great avowal of the third: "As it is appointed unto men once to die," the certainty of it; "and as after this, there is that appointed judgment," the certainty of it [Hebrews 9:27]; "So," and he is emphasizes the glory and the assurance of it, "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him, that wait for Him, shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation" [Hebrews 9:28].
The imagery the author uses in keeping with all of the Book of Hebrews following the example, the type, the picture, the symbolism of the tabernacle, when the high priest went into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement offering blood of expiation unto God [Hebrews 9:7], the people all waited outside looking for the high priest to return out of the Holy of Holies. Or at the time of the evening sacrifice when the priest went in to burn incense on the golden altar of prayer, and while the people were bowed in prayer, the high priest Zechariah upon that day, went in to burn incense – the prayers of the people, rising up unto God [Luke 1:9-10]. And the people marveled that he had tarried so long; they were waiting for him to come back, out of the Holy Place [Luke 1:21].
We are like that, waiting for our great High Priest to come out of the Holy of Holies. And He tarries, and we marvel sometimes that He tarries so long. But unto them that wait, that look for Him, shall He appear, shall He come out, out of the throne of His glory, out of the heaven of the heavens, out of the holy sanctuary of God. To those who look and wait shall He appear, shall He come, apart from sin [Hebrews 9:28]. Next time He comes not to bear the cross [John 19:16-18], or to be crowned with thorns [Matthew 27:29], or to be weighted down with the sin of the world [2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2], "apart from sin," having the glorious fullness of salvation in His hands unto them that wait and look for Him, shall He come [Hebrews 9:27].
All of you know that Dr. Truett pastored this church, preached in this pulpit behind this sacred desk for forty-seven years. He had a brother named Jim Truett. I visited with Jim Truett in his old age just before he died, lived at Whitewright. Once in a while Mother Truett used to come here to this church. I never did see her. The folks around here who knew her tell me she was an old-fashioned little woman. Always wore a bonnet – never appeared without a bonnet, wore that little bonnet to church – wherever she appeared, she wore that little bonnet, old-fashioned mother from the mountains of North Carolina. People would say to her sometimes, "What a glorious son in the ministry you have, George W. Truett." And Mother Truett would reply, "Yes, I know. But have you ever heard my boy Jim?" Isn’t that like a mother? "Great preacher, George Truett." "Yes, I know, but you ought to hear my boy Jim."
Well, I visited with Jim. You know what that old blessed soldier of the Cross did? Every morning of the earth, every morning of the age of his life, he got out of bed, went to the east window, rolled up the shade and, looking at the dawn of a new day, said perhaps today, maybe today, perhaps today, "And unto them that look for Him, wait for Him, shall He appear the second time apart from sin unto salvation" [Hebrews 9:28].
And that is an appointment of God. As surely as there is an appointed day of our death, as surely as there is an appointed day of our judgment, so is there an appointed day of the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Christ Jesus [Hebrews 9:27-28; Titus 2:13]. How tragic, all of it – apart from Christ, to die without our Lord, to be judged without our Savior – the great final denouement of the age, and we’re lost. How tragic without Him. But in Him, in Him, if it is to die, it is to gain [Philippians 1:21] , if it’s to be judged, it’s to receive from His blessed hands the reward of our ministry and our service unto Him [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And it is to see Him come in the clouds [Revelation 1:7], in the shekinah of glory,
O joy, O delight, should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying,
Caught up through the clouds with our Lord into glory,
When Jesus receives His own.
["Christ Returneth"; H. L. Turner, 1878]
Whether to die, whether He comes again, whether to stand at the judgment bar of God – if we are saved it is all the glory of His presence, the majesty of His appearing, the hallelujah of our final victory – if you are saved, if you know Jesus, if you’ve given your heart to the Lord. And that’s why we pray and sing and make appeal that you might be saved, that you might come to Jesus, that you might know the Lord.
If you have never given your heart to Christ, would you this morning? Would you now? In this balcony round, on this lower floor, somebody you, one somebody you, on this last day of the old year, on this last Lord’s Day of the old year, into that aisle or down one of these steps, would you come and take the hand of the pastor? "Pastor, today, this last Sunday of the old year, I give my heart to Jesus. I shall begin next Sunday, the Lord’s first Sunday of the new year; I shall begin it with Jesus."
Would you? "Today, today I take Jesus as Savior. Here I am and here I come." Would you this morning? Is there a family you to put your life with us in the fellowship of the church? However the Lord shall say the word and lead the way, would you come? Would you make it now; while we stand and while we sing?
YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT WITH
I. SOME – IF HAVE TO MEET HIM – AFRAID
Some going one – walking on
the Bible; trampling under feet the Son of God; spitting in the face of Jesus;
the blood of the covenant unholy. Then
Some going on – shunning,
passing by. Carefully keeping away.
Some going on – laughing,
talking, playing, dancing, sinning, drinking, carousing.
Some going on – just
drifting, busy going on. Just don’t get
needy. Passed by Calvary.
Then the appointment and
Second Coming – a frightful
II. SOME – ASHAMED
Jack Vaughn. He says, "I cannot come to church my wife
insists." And yet to N.Y., New Mexico,
to Oklahoma City, look all day at the store, to the Civic club – but cannot
come to church.
III. SOME RELUCTANT
IV. SOME – HAPPY
Paul "I have fought…"