Behold He Cometh With Clouds
February 26th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
BEHOLD, HE COMETH WITH CLOUDS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-26-61 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled Behold, He Cometh with Clouds. In preaching in the Book of the Revelation [chapter 1], reading verses 4 through 7:
John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne;
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and forever. Amen.
Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.
And the sermon, because it cannot be placed in so short a time, the sermon is divided into two parts: the first delivered this morning, and the next, the next time the pastor preaches here Sunday week. The first part is the sublime and exalted announcement, this morning’s message, and the second part is the coming of our Lord, secretly and openly. The first, the grand and sublime and exalted announcement: "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]. This is the cry that shall reach the bottom of every grave. It is the cry that shall descend to the deepest caverns of every sea. It is the cry that shall reach to the farthest ends of the earth. It is the trumpet call of the archangel that shall raise the dead who sleep in the heart of the earth. "Behold, He cometh with clouds" [Revelation 1:7].
The heart of the apostle is set aflame and afire as he beholds the grand consummation of the age, and as he announces the grand climacteric of all time. "Behold, He cometh with clouds." This is the text and the theme of the Book of the Revelation. This is the heart and the burden and the substance of the Apocalypse. This is the center of the vision that John beheld on the isle of Patmos [Revelation 1:9-13]. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him." This is the text and the theme of the Revelation, the coming back again, the return, the second advent of our Lord. In the first vision, His coming is announced to the churches. In the succeeding visions, His coming is the climax of the judgments of God upon the earth. In the following visions, His coming is the catastrophic culmination of the conflict between God and Satan. And in the concluding visions, His coming is the introduction of the new order of heavenly things, the new heaven and the new earth [Revelation 21 and 22].
But actually, and in a real sense, this text and this theme of the Book of the Revelation is not peculiar or unique or alone. It is the theme, high and exalted, sublime and recurring throughout all of the text of the whole Word of God. In the beginning when God said to Satan, "the Seed of the woman shall bruise thy head" [Genesis 3:15], that is nothing but a sublime and exalted promise that some day He is coming. All of the types of the Old Testament are adumbrations and prefigurations of the return of our Lord. "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man" [Matthew 24:37; Luke 17:26]. "As it was in the days of Lot . . . so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man" [Luke 17:28-30]. These incidents and these historical presentations in the Old Testament are earnests of the great advent of our coming and reigning King. The life and the trials, the songs and the psalms of David are but prefigurations of the toil of the way that we know now, but of the inevitable enthronement of our coming and greater King. The sublime and exalted proclamations and pronouncements of the prophets as they spake of the golden millennial age are but poetic, glorious prefigurations and announcements of the reign of our coming Lord, "when they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and when they learn war no more [Isaiah 2:4]; when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid [Isaiah 11:6]; when they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain. And when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters do cover the sea" [Isaiah 11:9]. The glorious millennial prophetic announcement of the Old Testament seer, "He is coming; behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7].
This is the great text and the great theme of the New Testament Scriptures. One passage out of every twenty announces or describes the coming of our Lord. When our Savior spake in parables, He delineated His return to the earth, as in Luke 19 when He likened Himself to a nobleman that goes away into a far country, to receive a kingdom for himself. And he calls his ten servants unto him, and he gives them ten pounds, and he says, unto them, "Occupy till I come, till I come" [Luke 19:12-13]. When He sought to comfort His disciples in His going away, He said, "Let not your heart be troubled . . . If I go away . . . I will come again, and receive you unto Myself" [John 14:1-3].
That is the same thing and the glorious announcement and the substance of the preaching of the apostles: "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7].
· The exalted and inspired apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:50-52, "Now this I say, brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. But behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall be raised incorruptible, and we, we shall all be changed" [1 Corinthians 15:50-52]. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye – even those who sleep in the depths of the earth – every eye – even those who are consumed in the caverns of the sea – and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7].
· Paul continued in Philippians 3:20: "For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change this vile body into the likeness of His glorious body" [Philippians 3:20-21].
· In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Paul concludes every chapter in both epistles with a discussion of and a reference to the return of our blessed Lord.
· In Titus 2:13, he said, "Waiting for, looking for that blessed hope; the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ."
· The unknown but eloquent author of the epistle to the Hebrews said in Hebrews 9:28, "And unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin [apart from sin] unto salvation."
· And Jude, in his little epistle in the fourteenth verse wrote, "Behold, He cometh with ten thousands of His saints" [Jude 1:14].
This is not unique or peculiar. It is the text of the whole Word of God: "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]. It is the immutable word and promise and truth of God, prophesied by the prophets, confirmed by the Lord Jesus, confirmed by the testimony of the angels, the substance of the preaching of the apostles, believed by all of the early Christians, in every creed of every church through all of the ages, in our hymn books sung by our people who love the Lord, the prayer in every liturgy that was ever written: it is the sum and substance of the hope of the churches of Jesus Christ. Apart from the promise and the prophetic announcement and this text and theme of the Bible, Christianity is but a maimed fragment, it is but a crippled piece. There is not any Christianity that does not know and does not embrace the blessed hope that someday our Lord who is gone away shall return in glory, and in triumph, and in blessing, and in dominion. If He left us for our justification, He shall also return for our ultimate and complete and final redemption [Ephesians 1:14].
"Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]. This is the great consummation of the age. This is the final denouement in the elective purpose of God through the ages and the millenniums. This is the completion of the cycle and the circle of the Holy Scriptures. What is begun in Genesis finds the ultimate end and consummation in the Apocalypse, the Revelation, the unveiling, the presentation, the appearing of our glorious God and Savior Jesus Christ [Titus 2:13; Revelation 1:7].
· In the Book of Genesis the story is told of the creation of the heavens and the earth [Genesis 1:1-31]. In the Book of the Apocalypse is delineated the recreation in the new heavens and the new earth [Revelation 2:1-22:21].
· In the Book of Genesis man has lost his first paradise and is driven out because of sin [Genesis 3:1-24], but in the Revelation Eden is again given to the man who hath fallen, and he is invited to come back [Revelation 22:2-5].
· In the Book of Genesis is the story of the tree of life and how man was denied access to it [Genesis 2:15-17]. In the Book of the Revelation, by the side of the river of life is a tree that bears twelve manner of fruits, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations, and man is invited to partake of it [Revelation 22:2].
· In the Book of Genesis is the story of Satan’s entrance into the world and our first introduction to him [Genesis 23:1-6, 14-15]. In the Book of Revelation is the last appearance of Satan, with the story of his final doom and destruction [Revelation 20:10, 14].
· In the Book of Genesis is the story of sin with the sorrow and heartache it brought into our world [Genesis 3:14-24]. In the Book of the Revelation is the sublime announcement, "and there shall be no more sin. And there shall be no more sorrow nor crying, for these things are all passed away" [Revelation 21:4].
· In the Book of Genesis there is the story of the first death [Genesis 4:8-9]. In the Book of the Revelation is the grand and sublime announcement, "and there shall be no more death" [Revelation2 1:4], no graves on the hillsides of glory, no funeral processions through the golden streets, no wreaths hung on our mansions waiting for us in the sky, and death shall be no more.
· In the Book of Genesis there is the story of man’s first disobedience [Genesis 3:1-6], and the building of the tower of Babel – Babylon [Genesis 11:1-9]. In the Book of Revelation is the final and ultimate destruction of Babylon and the world system that it represents [Revelation 17:1-18:24].
· In the Book of Genesis is the story of the first Adam and how God made him to have dominion over all of the works of God’s hands [Genesis 1:26-28]. In the Book of the Revelation is the story and the revelation of the second and greater Adam, and how God hath given Him the dominion over things in heaven above and in earth beneath [Revelation 5:12].
· In the Book of Genesis is the presentation of the first bride and how she was made a help meet for the first Adam [Genesis 1:18, 21-23]. In the Book of the Revelation there is presented the bride without fault and without blemish, the church of Jesus Christ [Revelation 19:6-8], and how she shall share with Him in all of the glory of the millenniums and of the ages that are yet to come [Revelation 5:9-10, 22:3-5].
It is a broken fragment. It is a crippled piece without the Apocalypse, the Revelation, the grand and ultimate climax of what God hath elected for His people in the earth. As Genesis is the beginning of all things, so Revelation is the ultimate end and consummation and climax of all things. This is the exalted and sublime announcement and theme: "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7].
What a startling word: "Behold, He cometh with clouds." "Idou, idou, erchetai meta ton nephelon." "Ecce, ecce, venit cum nubibus." "Er Konnp, Er Konnp Mit Den Wolken." In whatever language, in Greek or in Latin or in German, it is an astonishing announcement! It is the cry of the Holy Spirit of God, "Come, come and see." It is the cry of the holy apostle John, "Come, come and see." It is the cry of inspiration, "Come, come and see." It is the cry of the enraptured church and of the armies and of the host of heaven, "Come, come and see. Look upon this exalted and glorious thing." Not a king in his jubilee, not a nation in its sesquicentennial, but come and behold, the King of kings in His glory! Come and see if there be any glory like unto this glory. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7].
· When the children of Israel stood at the base of Mt. Sinai and saw the mount that burned with fire, what a glorious sight [Exodus 19:16-18]. Moses looking upon it said, "I do exceedingly quake and tremble" [Hebrews 12:21].
· When Israel gathered at the dedication of Solomon’s temple and the shekinah glory of God filled it and flamed above it, what a marvelous, marvelous thing to have seen [1 Kings 8:10-11].
· When Elijah was on Mt. Carmel and the fire fell from heaven to consume the altar, the sacrifice, the stones, the dirt, to lick up the water in the trench, what a marvelous beholding [1 Kings 18:38].
· When Isaiah saw the Lord in the temple, high and lifted up, what an enraptured vision [Isaiah 6:1].
· When the disciples beheld the face of our Savior, radiant like the sun on the transfiguration mount, what a, what an explicable thing when Peter says, "Lord, let us stay." Such a sight, such a glory [Mark 9:2-5].
But these are but dim adumbrations of the full glory and incomparable light of the final consummation of this age and this time, when our Lord shall appear in heaven with clouds; and every eye shall behold Him. There are not words to describe it. There is not poetry to contain it. There is not song equal to it. "Behold, He cometh with clouds" [Revelation 1:7].
It’s a remarkable thing in the Bible, wherever that coming and appearing is presented, with clouds, with clouds. John was present on Mount Olivet when our Savior went away. And as the disciples beheld, looking steadfastly as He ascended upward, behold, a cloud received Him out of their sight. And the same Jesus shall come again in like manner as you saw Him go, with clouds [Acts 1:9-11]. "Behold, He cometh with clouds" [Revelation 1:7]. That is, His coming shall be attended by a glorious and marvelous sign. The cloud is the shekinah glory of God. In the wilderness journey of God’s people, He attended their way with a pillar of fire by night and a column of cloud by day [Exodus 13:21]. It was the shekinah glory of God. It was the chariot in which God drives through His universe and rides through His stellar spheres and all of His creation. It is thus that our Lord shall come. In the chariot and flame and shekinah glory of God descending: "Behold, He cometh with clouds" [Revelation 1:7]. Thousands, upon thousands, upon ten of thousands of angels; seraphim and cherubim coming with the clouds of the heavenly hosts with ten thousand times ten thousands of His saints coming with the clouds of witnesses: the personal appearing and glory of our Lord [Daniel 7:10; Jude 1:14]. All the pageantry of heaven assembles to greet the personal return and triumph of Jesus our Lord: "Behold, He cometh with clouds" [Revelation 1:7].
· As Daniel wrote in the seventh chapter of his book and the thirteenth verse: "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like unto the Son of Man" [Daniel 7:13].
· He came with clouds. He came with clouds, with the clouds of heaven. And He came to Him, "the Ancient of Days, and there was given unto Him dominion, and power, and glory, and blessing, and a kingdom that should never, ever end" [Daniel 7:13-14].
· And in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give her light, the stars shall fall from heaven, the powers of the sphere shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign, and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in glory; then shall the tribes of the earth mourn because of Him when they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" [Matthew 24:29-30]. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7].
· Or in the twenty-sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, "And the high priest arose, and said, ‘Answer us Thou nothing? What are these that witness against Thee?’ Jesus holding His peace, the high priest answered and said, ‘I adjure Thee, I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God!’" [Matthew 26:62-63].
· And upon the witness stand in that final trial, the Lord answered, "Thou hast said" – the most affirmative that the Greek language can say – "Thou hast said: nevertheless, I say unto thee, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" [Matthew 26:64],
The sign of the shekinah glory of God, coming with clouds. Coming not in the swaddling bands of His infancy [Luke 2:7-16], coming not in the weariness of His manhood [John 4:6], coming not in the shame, and suffering, and blood, and sobs, and tears, and death of His crucifixion [Matthew 27:32-50], but coming in the high pageantry of heaven, coming in victory, and in triumph, and in glory, and in dominion, and in power [Revelation 1:6].
"Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]. That’s why I have broken the sermon into two parts. It doesn’t say we’ll all see Him at the same time, in the same way, in the same place, for some who see Him shall wail because of Him [Revelation 1:7]. But we shall all see Him. For this coming is to be actually and visibly realized. We shall see Him. This great congregation shall see Him. This greater congregation that listens on the radio and watches over television shall see Him. The dead who sleep in the heart of the earth shall see Him. All who have ever lived, all who were ever created and born in the image of God, every eye shall see Him. This is an actual appearance and an actual coming. It is not an appearance to the mind. It is not a subjective experience. It is not a phantom or an apparition. And every eye – not every mind or every imagination–every eye shall see Him. Our Savior is here spiritually already. We shall see Him physically, actually, our living, glorified, immortalized, reigning, blessed Lord. And every eye shall see Him. As the faith of Job eloquently expressed in the nineteenth chapter of his book, "I know, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom my eyes shall behold, and not another!" [Job 19:25-27].
"And every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]. As there was a real actual coming the first time in keeping with the announcement of the prophets, so there’ll be an actual and real coming the second time in keeping with the glorious proclamation of the whole Word of God. As He came the first time, God in the flesh, "and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father" [John 1:14], so He shall come the second time in the shekinah clouds of heaven, and we shall look upon Him [Revelation 1:7]. As surely as He came to Bethlehem [Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1], He shall also as surely come to Olivet, and His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives [Zechariah 14:4]. As surely as He came to suffer and to die [Mark 10:45], He shall come to reign forever and forever [Revelation 11:15]. As surely as He came to be nailed to the cross [Psalm 22:16], shall He come to be raised in glory and to be enthroned in triumph [Matthew 25:31]. As He went away in clouds and the eyes of the apostles beheld Him ascending [Acts 1:9-11], so some glorious and triumphant day shall He return in clouds, and the eyes of the world shall behold Him [Revelation 1:7]. As He went away, so shall He return [Acts 1:11], the same Lord Jesus, glorified, immortalized, iridescent, radiant, the King of heaven, and our Lord and our Savior, bearing in His body yet the stigmata, the scars and wounds of His cross [John 20:27], dying for me [1 Corinthians 15:3], resurrected for me [1 Corinthians 15:20-21], ascending for me [Romans 8:34], and some day, coming back for me [John 14:2-3]: the God that would leave in the dust of the ground the least of His saints is not the Lord of the New Testament. All of us shall be raised, and every eye shall behold Him. Not a bone left in the regions of death. Not a relic for Satan to gloat over. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7].
It may be at noon day, it could be at twilight,
It may be, perchance, that the darkness of midnight
Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory,
When Jesus receives "His own."
O, Joy! oh, delight! should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread, and no crying;
Caught up with our Lord with the clouds into glory,
When Jesus receives "His own."
O Lord Jesus, How long, How long
Ere we shout the glad song –
Christ returneth! Hallelujah!
["Christ Returneth," H. L. Turner, 1878]
"Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]; the grand text and the glorious announcement of the Book, the promise of our Savior, the coming of our Lord.
And while we sing our song of appeal, in this balcony round, somebody you, giving your heart in faith and trust to Jesus, down one of these stairways at the front and the back, would you come? The host of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, would you make it this morning? "Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to God." Or, "Pastor, this is my wife and these are my children, my whole family, all of us are coming." And you who listen on the radio, and who have shared in watching the service on television, if you’ve never given your heart in trust to Jesus, would you do it now? Kneel by the side of the chair or by the side of the bed, and look up in faith to Jesus. "Lord, some day, when I see Thee face to face, may it be as one who has trusted in Thee, one who has waited for Thee, one who has lifted up his face from the dust and the clay of the ground, and as a child of God, hopes and prays and in faith lives eternally in heaven. Would you this day? "By God’s help, I take Jesus as my Savior, and in faith and in trust; I give to Him the soul and destiny of my life now and forever." Would you make it this morning, that committal of trust in Christ, wherever you are? And you who are here in keeping with the word and admonition of our Lord, to confess Him openly, unashamedly, as He shall confess us some day openly [Matthew 10:32-33], unashamedly, so we confess Him and in trust and in faith this day, "Here I stand. God save my soul." "Here I come. God keep me forever. Forgive my sins. Wash me in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 1:5]. Write my name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. Here I am, here I come. I make it now." If you will, while we sing this song, come and give your hand to the pastor, while all of us stand and while we sing.