The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ/Vision of the Apocalypse
January 8th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
THE APOCALYPSE OF JESUS CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-8-61 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the ten-fifty o’clock morning message. This is an epochal moment for us in this beloved congregation. For fifteen years the pastor has been preaching through the Bible. Beginning at the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis, and now after fifteen years, we have come to the last, the consummating, the climactic book of the Word of God.
This is the most meaningful of all of the revelations of the Lord in all of the Bible. It gathers up and it summarizes all of the plans and purposes of God through the ages. It speaks of things in heaven and things in earth, of Christ and of Satan, of the church and of Israel, of the war in heaven and the Armageddon in the earth, of the great climactic judgments of God in the end of the age, of the new heavens and the new earth, and of the destruction of hell and of the grave and of death. The message this morning is the first three words of the book: apokalupsis Iesou Christou, "The revelation, the unfolding, the uncovering, The Apocalypse Of Jesus Christ." The reading of the Word is the first three verses:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which much shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John:
Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
Blessed is he that readeth, and blessed are they that hear the words of this prophecy, and blessed are they that keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
We are in it now. The great denouement of the age is before us. And in that final consummation, you and I have a part: we shall live to see fulfilled every syllable of this Apocalypse, either in the body of this present flesh, or in the resurrection glories that God hath promised to them who love Him: "The time is at hand, the things which must shortly come to pass."
"The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ; apokalupsis Iesou Christou," the word apocalypse is compounded from a verb made out of a preposition and a verb. Apo, "from," kalupto, "to cover, to hide"; so apokalupto is the verbal form that means "to take away the covering, to reveal, to manifest, to present." The substantival form apokalupsis, an unveiling, an uncovering, a manifestation, a presentation. This then is the uncovering, the presentation, the unveiling of our majestic Lord in power and in glory. The word is a very common one in the Greek language. Apokalupto, used by Herodotus, referring to the uncovering of the head. Apokalupto, used by Plato, in a request he made for himself, "Reveal unto me the power of rhetoric." Apokalupto, a verb used by Plutarch, uncovering error. The only time it is used religiously is in the New Testament; but there it is always used to refer to a manifestation, an appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, not a communication about Him or a word from Him, but the Lord Christ Himself; the apokalupsis of Jesus our Lord.
There are two genitives, two kinds of genitives. There is a subjective genitive and an objective genitive. "Apocalypse of Jesus Christ," if it were subjective, it would be a communication from our Lord that He handed down. If it is an objective genitive, it is the unveiling, the presentation of the Lord God Himself. The difference in the two can be easily seen in passages out of the Bible. For example, "the words of Jesus": that is a subjective genitive, the words that belong to Him. He said them; He possesses them, the words of Christ. But when I say "the death of Christ," I use an objective genitive: He is the object of the mortality, and He experienced the suffering and the death; "the death of Christ," the object. So the use of the objective genitive here in the opening of the Revelation: "The Revelation, the Apocalypse, the unveiling of Jesus Christ"; He is the one that undergoes and experiences the great presentation. This is the uncovering of the Lord of glory, of the things in heaven, and the things in earth, and the things under the earth.
That phrase, apokalupsis Iesou Christou, is used several times in the New Testament, the exact construction and the exact words. And always they refer to an appearance of the Son of God, to the coming of the great Lord and Redeemer. For example, in 1 Corinthians [1:7], "Waiting for the apokalupsis Iesou Christou, waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ, for the manifestation of our Lord in glory." In 2 Thessalonians 1:7, , again, "To you who are troubled rest, for the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, apokalupsis Iesou Christou, with His mighty angels, when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe in Him." Or again, in 1 Peter 1:7, "Though the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that is tried with fire, may be found unto praise and honor and glory at the apokalupsis Iesou Christou, at the appearing of Jesus Christ." When I therefore read the title of the book, I find the key to its contents: this is no communication from our Lord; this is the presentation of our Lord Himself in power, in glory, in majesty, in flaming fire, with His angels and with His glorified saints. The title of the book is the same as the text and the theme of the book, which is stated in 1:7, "Behold, behold He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him." There is a day; there is a time when these eyes shall look upon that descending, returning, glorified Lord. And these eyes that look shall not look by themselves, but every man that was ever born and every man that now lives shall someday see the risen Christ returning in power and in great glory [Philippians 2:10-11]: the revelation of Jesus Christ, apokalupsis Iesou Christou, the unveiling, the uncovering of our Lord from glory.
For the first appearing of our Lord was in shame, and the flesh of His humanity veiled His deity and His glory; He first came born of a peasant girl, cradled in a manger [Luke 2:16], His companions were the sheep and the ox and the ass. And He grew up in poverty and in want; He knew what it was to hunger, what it was to thirst; at the end of His life, was in misery and in shame. They buffeted Him, they plucked out His beard, He wiped the spittle from His face, and they finally raised Him beneath the sky, where He died crucified as a felon. For you see, the last time that the world looked upon the Son of God was when He was hanged in misery and in anguish and in shame! [Matthew 27:27-50]. It was a part of the loving grace of our heavenly Father, that He might die for our sins, that we might be healed by His stripes, but, but, shall that be the last time that this world in unbelief and blasphemy shall see the Son of God, as He hangs on a cross, dying in blood and in misery and in anguish? God says, "No!" There shall come a time when the second of the Trinity, the Son of heaven, shall be presented in His true character, in His majesty and in His glory. There shall come a time when He shall be revealed as the rightful heir to the title deed of the world, and He shall hold that deed of the universe in His righteous and nail-pierced hands. That is the unfolding, the revelation, the uncovering of Jesus Christ in majesty and in glory. "And this is the reward that God hath given unto Him because He humbled Himself, and became a servant, and was obedient unto death. Wherefore God hath also highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Christ and Lord, to the glory of God the Father" [Philippians 2:8-11]. This is the reward that God hath given to His Son; and I am just following the text, "The apokalupsis of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him," because He descended from glory in the form and fashion of a servant, because He humbled Himself before men, because He was crucified and slain for our iniquities. God gave Him an earnest of His glory when He raised Him from the dead and when He received Him back at the glorious ascension from Mount Olivet [Luke 24: 6, 50-51], but that’s not all; that’s not all. Beyond the earnest that God gave to Christ when He raised Him from the dead, there is to be a day of glorious and final consummation! That day of final and glorious consummation is the apokalupsis Iesou Christou, the unveiling, the uncovering of the Son of God in glory, in majesty, in honor, and in power.
It is the same kind of a reward and the same kind of a thing that God is doing for Christ that the ancient Roman senate did for its great military heroes. When there went out into campaign a Pompey, or a Julius Caesar, or a Flavius Titus, and they came back in glory, the Roman senate awarded them, voted them, as a recompense for what they had done, a Roman triumph. And that hero, a Vespasian, a Titus, a Pompey, a Caesar, rode through the streets of the Eternal City in glory and in power. It was a reward that the Roman people and the Roman senate bestowed upon their conquering heroes. It is that same and identical thing that the Word of God here says about Jesus our Christ. Because He gave Himself unto death, and because He poured out His life for our sins, "Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name above every name: that at the name of Jesus, every knee someday shall bow, and every tongue someday shall confess" [Philippians 2:9-11]. The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, the great denouement and consummation of the age is the appearance of our Lord in glory and in power.
He shall be unveiled as the head of His churches in the earth. He is to be unveiled as the Lord of His church in glory. He is to be unveiled as the One who was able and worthy to take the title deed of the universe out of the hand of God and to administer the destiny and the judgments that are to come upon this unbelieving earth. He is to be unveiled as the One from whose hands those judgments fall, as He destroys His enemies, and forever puts under feet those who trample the mercies of Almighty God. And He is to be unveiled in that great and climactic day, in the battle of the great day of the Lord, when He comes to establish His kingdom in the earth and when He invests His saints with their rightful sovereignties. And He is to be unveiled as He chains Satan, and as finally He destroys death, and hell, and the grave, as He brings those who trust in Him into their final eternal consummating life, world without end in glory. For the Lamb of God is the center of the love, and the song, and the worship, forever, and ever, and ever, and ever. This is the revelation that God hath accorded Jesus, because He laid down His life for our sins.
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him"; and in these next long time, two years at least, we shall look upon what God hath in store for His people, for us, as we gather round the throne of the Son of God, our Savior. Oh, blessed contemplation! Oh, incomparable and heavenly prospect! Oh, final victory! God’s children, reigning with their rightful Lord forever and ever and ever.
Look at the origin of this Apocalypse. It doesn’t come from man; it comes from God. And the links in the chain of the divine origin are named here. "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, that we might see the things which are shortly to come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed, blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy" [Revelation 1:1-3]. Look at that linked chain. First it comes from God; and God gave it to Christ. "All authority," He said, "in heaven and in earth is given unto Me" [Mathew 28:18]. He alone was worthy to take the book out of the hand of Him that sat upon the throne, and to open the seals, and to look thereon" [Revelation 5:9]. He alone has the destiny of this earth and this universe in His hands. And the commitment of our final redemption is unto Him. God to Jesus Christ, "and Jesus our Lord sent and signified it by His angel unto His apostle John": it came through an angelic ministration. All of the other books of the Bible came through human instrumentality; but this book came through an angelic ministration and intermediary. This angel somehow was commissioned by Christ to make it possible for John to see these things that should portray the end of the age and the appearance in triumph and glory of our Lord. Who the angel messenger was, we do not know. There is no intimation except, in the twenty-second chapter and the eighth and the ninth verses, it says, "And when John saw and heard these things, he fell down before that angel guide to worship him at his feet. And the angel guide said, See thou do it not: for I am of thy fellow servants, and of thy brethren the prophets [and of them], who keep the sayings of this book." We don’t know who he was; just one of the messengers of Christ that the Lord sent down to this sainted apostle, that he might be the mediation between John’s senses and these great apocalypses that were to come upon the world. Nor can I understand how that is possible.
The same kind of a thing you find in the Book of Matthew, when Satan, who is an angel, when Satan, the archangel, the greatest cherub of them all, when Satan took Jesus upon a great and a high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them in a moment, in the second of the twinkling of an eye [Matthew 4:1-11]; I do not understand, but that same kind of a thing this angel did for the apostle John. He had pass in review before the eyes and in the hearing of John these great apocalyptic judgments and this great day of the Lord, and this great denouement and consummation of the age [Revelation 4:20], and this new heaven and the new earth, and John beheld our eternal and celestial home [Revelation 21-22]. It says in the tenth verse of the first chapter of [Revelation], that the angel guide took John in Patmos and showed him the vision of our glorified Lord. Think what a sermon that’ll be, to look upon our glorified Lord. Then in the fourth chapter of the book, in the first and the second verses, he takes John and carries him up into heaven. And there John saw from heaven the great eternal purposes of God. What sermons there, as we see before our very eyes the uncovering of the purposes of God for us through the ages. Then in the seventeenth chapter of the [Revelation], and the third verse, that angel guide takes the apostle into the wilderness, and there we see the harlot, and there we look upon the whore, and there we look upon the religion that damns this earth, who is drunk with fifty million martyrs of God’s saints and God’s people. And then finally, in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation and the tenth verse, there the angel guide takes John upon a great and a high mountain, and shows him the New Jerusalem, the celestial home of the soul, coming down from God out of heaven.
"The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him, to show His servants," to us, "these things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John" [Revelation 1:1]. And John saw these things as the angel made them pass in review before his eyes. And this sainted John who received from God by the loving hands of our Savior, through this angelic minister, when John saw them and heard them, he didn’t seal them up: "He bare record of the Word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw" [Revelation 1:2]; and he wrote them here in the Book, that we might see them, and hear them, and read them, and know them! An Apocalypse: not an apocrypha, not a hidden thing, but an unhidden thing, a revelation, an uncovering, a revealing of Jesus Christ.
And then the blessing, the first of the seven beatitudes in the book: "Blessed, blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein: for the time is at hand" [Revelation 1:3]. The time is at hand. The whole history of the world is conspiring to this great and final day of the Lord. "Blessed is he that readeth." In that day books were expensive; they were each one meticulously, laboriously copied by hand. They were very few and very costly. And in the church, a lector was appointed, who took the Book and who read it to the congregation. And the first beatitude is a blessing for the lector who stands in the presence of the people of God and reads the glorious triumph of our Lord that is yet to come. "Blessed is he that reads, that lector who reads the page with a believing heart." And I can see him as he stands in the presence of God’s people, as I stand this sacred hour in the presence of this vast congregation; and he reads the Apocalypse of the Son of God, and the tears roll off of his face, and there are times when he says, "And hallelujah!" The only place in the New Testament you will find the word "hallelujah," and when time comes for us to reach that, there are four great "hallelujah" in the Revelation. "Blessed is he that reads."
"And blessed are they that hear the words of this prophecy" [Revelation 1:3]; you, you. On that last row in that topmost balcony, blessed are you that come and attend the words of the unveiling of the Son of God. The only place in the Bible where such a benediction is invoked, just here: blessed are you, blessed are you as you make your way down to the congregation of the Lord to hear the words of this prophecy.
"And blessed are they that keep them in their hearts, that treasure them in their souls: for the time is at hand" [Revelation 1:3]. The day is nigh, the season has approached, "For the time is at hand." And as a people together, and as a congregation together, and as a family of believing children of God together, shall we lift up our faces to the glorious sun rising of the apokalupsis Iesou Christou, the appearing of the Lord in glory and in power. And when it comes and we’ve finished in God’s grace preaching through the Apocalypse, in the will that He tarries, may it be the humble reply of each one of our hearts, when our Lord made the great and final announcement, "Behold, behold, I come quickly," and we reply as a people "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" [Revelation 22:20]. If I know my heart, if I know my soul, I am ready. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus"; the unveiling of our glorious returning Lord.
Many, many of you prayed that the Lord would bless the pastor as he studies the Book, as he pores over those revelations. I know you will continue to pray, and Sunday by Sunday as we open it, may the Lord speak to us great and marvelous things, things we never thought of, things we never dreamed of, things we never knew, glorious things that pertain to the coming and eternal kingdom of our Savior.
Would you join us, would you? Maybe never in your life did you publicly, openly confess your faith in Christ; would you do it this morning? "In His grace, I’ll give Him my soul, and here I come." Is there a family to put your life with us in this beloved congregation, to march with us to Zion, from this world to that more glorious and better world that is yet to come? In the balcony round, there’s a stairway at the back on either side, there’s a stairway at the front on either side, come, come. In the press and the throng of the people on this lower floor, somebody you, come. Taking Jesus as Savior this morning, or putting your life in the fellowship of the church, would you make it now? On the first note of the first stanza, would you come? While we stand and while we sing.