The Beast from the Raging Sea
November 25th, 1962 @ 10:50 AM
THE BEAST FROM THE RAGING SEA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-25-62 10:50 a.m.
In your Bible, turn to the last Book, the Revelation, chapter 13 and the first ten verses. If you are listening on the radio, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. The title of the sermon this morning is The Beast From the Raging Sea. In our preaching through the Bible, after many, many years, we have come to the Apocalypse; in our preaching throughout Revelation, to chapter 13, and the message this morning is an exposition of the first ten verses. And this is the reading of the vision:
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority.
And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?
And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.
And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.
If any man have an ear, let him hear.
He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
In the preceding chapter, chapter 12, John described the war in heaven between Michael and his angels and the dragon – that ancient serpent, the devil and Satan – and his angels. And Michael prevailed and Satan was cast out and down to the earth [Revelation 12:7-9]. No longer does he have access to God or the throne of His glory. No longer can he enter in with the sons of the Lord. He is cast out of the heavenlies, and in wrath he comes down into this earth, knowing that he has but a short time; Revelation 12:12: "Woe unto the inhabitants of the earth,for the devil is come down to you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he have but a short time." In Revelation 13:5: "forty and two months": three and half years, a thousand two hundred sixty days, a time, times, and a dividing of times.
In this last stand, earth enters its final and greatest crisis. And this wrathful dragon, this red seven-headed enemy of God, works his final malice and rage through two of his ministers in the earth. One, we have just described in the first ten verses of the Revelation; one is the political leader of this world, the final and ultimate Antichrist [Revelation 13:1-10]. And the other, the second beast, is described in the thirteenth chapter beginning at verse 11 to the end [Revelation 13:11-18]. And the second is the final religious leader of this world, the false prophet. And the dragon, warring against God and the saints of the Most High, through these two ministers, finally eggs on his dupes until they declare war against Christ and the heavenly armies, and are forever and completely destroyed in the intervention of Christ at the great battle of Armageddon, which is described in the nineteenth chapter of this Revelation [Revelation 19:11-21].
It begins with the vision of the seer. The apostle John, "in the Spirit" [Revelation 1:10], stood on the Isle of Patmos. He was taken up into heaven [Revelation 4:1-2]. He was taken out in the wilderness, and upon a high mountain. There he saw these differing visions. Here, in the Spirit, John stands on the shore of a raging sea [Revelation 13:1]. That sea is described in the passage you just read, in the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel [Daniel 7:2-3]. And as John stands on the sands of that turbulent and fearful sea, he sees rising out of it anabainon, a perfect present participle of anabainÃ³: "to rise, to ascend"; an anabainÃ³ , "rising." It is a very graphic vision [Revelation 13:1-10]. As he watches the storm and the fury of that raging sea, out of its deep he sees a monster emerging. There appear ten horns, each one wearing a diadem. There appear seven heads supporting those ten horns. Then there finally emerges the whole terrible creature himself. He looks like a panther, a leopard. His feet are like the feet of a bear. His mouth is like the mouth of a lion. His heads have onomata, plural: "names" of blasphemy. And he speaks blasphemous things against God, and against God’s dwelling place, and against those who tabernacle in heaven. And he wars with those who trust in Jesus. This is the vision, and as God shall give us ableness, this is the interpretation thereof.
God has given us in this vision of a monstrous beast – God has given us a symbol of the last and ultimate and final world political power that shall hold sway in this earth and over all nations at the time of the end. I would know that because when this beast is destroyed, in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, there is none succeeding [Revelation 19:10-21]. That is the end of world government, and the sovereignty of the nations, and the kingdoms, and the kings, and the rulers of this earth. So when I see this vision [Revelation 13], I am looking at the last and final form of political dominion and sovereignty in the earth. I would know it also from the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, for there this vision is seen, and this little horn speaking blasphemous things is presented [Daniel 7:8]. And those were political kingdoms and a great and final empire.
I would know it also as I read the interpretation of that vision in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation. The seventeenth chapter describes the great scarlet whore; a picture of the decadence and the debauchery and the prostitution of God’s faith and religion in the earth. And she rides this beast! [Revelation 17:3]. And there he is delineated in the seventeenth chapter of the Revelation. The seven heads are seven mountains – describing the capital city. And the seven heads "Are also seven kings: five are fallen, one is, and the other is yet to come" [Revelation 17:10]. Now, this is my personal persuasion of those five fallen, the one that was in the days when John wrote, and the one that is yet to come: the five fallen are the five ancient empires that preceded the day of the apostle – that is, the Egyptian, the Assyrian, the Babylonian, the Persian, the Greek – the five fallen. "And one is": the one that was in John’s day, the one "that is" when he wrote, is the Roman Empire. And the one that is yet to come is this great and final political dominion, presided over by this Antichrist, which is world government in its last and ultimate form. And the beast had ten horns – and "The ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have yet received no kingdom" [Revelation 17:12]. They are in the future.
This ultimate and final form of the governments of this world will be divided into nations, into ten kingdoms, and these ten kings "have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast" [Revelation 17:13]. They shall willingly yield their sovereignty and their dominion to this great arch-regent – who will preside in authority and in power over this entire earth, who is here described as a beast, who is here described as the ultimate and final Antichrist. This is God’s symbol of the last political government in this world.
All right – again, this is God’s symbol of a man, of a particular person, of that ultimate and final Antichrist. This is God’s delineation of him. All of these things are symbols that describe him. But, he is a man, not just a government. He is a particular person, the ultimate and final ruler and sovereign of this world system. I would know that because in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, in their ultimate and final overthrow: "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet . . . . These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" [Revelation 19:20]. All the nomenclature of the Bible, the language of the Bible, refers to the beast (the political ruler) and the false prophet (the religious leader) as being persons. They are people. They are individuals, and as such they are cast alive into the burning pit where they go into perdition: everlasting damnation and horror.
There is no such thing as a kingdom without a king. There is no such thing as an empire without an emperor. There is no such thing as dominion and sovereignty and power without somebody to wield them. So it is here in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation. When you have depicted the final sovereignty and political form of this world government, it implies – it necessitates, it is impossible to think of it aside from – a leader! You cannot have two presidents of the United States, as vast a country as our nation is. You cannot have two ministers who head the government of the Soviet Empire. The very fact of a kingdom demands a king! And the very fact of sovereignty and dominion demands somebody to wield it. So it is here in the thirteenth of the Apocalypse. This beast is not only a figure of – God’s symbol of, God’s description of – a final world government, but it is also a description of a man, that ultimate and final Antichrist [Revelation 13:1-10]. I would also know that from what Paul says about him in 2 Thessalonians, the second chapter and the [third] verse. Paul, in describing that Antichrist, called him "that man of sin" [2 Thessalonians 2:3].
I would know that he was a person, that he was a man, from another of many such passages in the Bible. One of the most remarkable statements in all of the Word of God is written by this same apostle John in a general epistle, a letter to all of the churches – to no particular church. But writing generally, writing a Catholic epistle, an epistle to all of the people, he said in 1 John 2:18, "Little children,ye have heard Antichrist shall come," Well, when did they hear that Antichrist was to come? They heard that Antichrist was to come because all of the teaching and testimony of the Word of God spake of that coming final antagonist of the Lord Christ. It was common doctrine. It was common revelation. It was common teaching. It was common knowledge. And wherever the Word of God was preached, wherever the Bible was taught, wherever the message of Christ was delivered, that also was a part of the very framework of the holy revelation of God – that there is an ultimate and final Antichrist who is coming.
Through all of the prophets, through all of the Gospels and Christ, and through all of the apostles, that same revelation was made to God’s people of the ultimate and final antagonist of the Lord. In the beginning, when the promise was made of an ultimate and final Deliverer, there was also that dark adumbration of an antagonist that would bruise His heel – the brood of a viper that would assail and war against the Seed of the mother [Genesis 3:15]. And that has been true all of the centuries since. There has never been an Abel without a Cain. There has never been a Moses and an Aaron without Jannes and a Jambres. There has never been a Jerusalem without a Babylon. There has never been a John the Baptist without a Herod Antipas. There has never been an apostle Paul without a Nero. And when Christ seeks to reign in this earth, there is an Antichrist who is His antagonist and who lifts himself up speaking blasphemous things against God, and against the throne of the Lord, and against the dwelling place of the Almighty, and against those who tabernacle, who rest in Jesus. So from the Word of the Lord itself, this delineation is of a somebody. It is a person – a final and ultimate Antichrist.
Another thing revealed here in the Word of the Lord; this man, this Antichrist, this ultimate world ruler is superlatively fascinating, and intriguing, and bewitching in his personal power and prowess. Don’t forget that when the Lord, here in the Revelation, described Satan as a dragon [Revelation 12:3] – fiery red with seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems upon his head – don’t forget that is God’s symbol of his character. Actually, Satan is like an angel of light [2 Corinthians 11:14] – Lucifer, the morning-star [Isaiah 14:12], the rising of God’s glorious creation. So it is in this delineation of the beast. You have here a symbol of him. When you see him, you won’t see a creature like a panther, like a leopard, with feet like a bear, with a mouth like a lion. What you will see is – when he appears you will see the most fascinating, the most scintillating, the most iridescent, the most marvelous personality that has ever walked across the stage of human history. I know that because the delineation here says: "And the dragon, Satan, gave unto him his power and his throne and his authority [Revelation 13:2],And the whole world wondered after the beast, and worshiped, him saying, who is like the beast and who can make war against him?" [Revelation 13:3-4] In all time and tide and history, there never appears a man with the glory, and the personality, and the intriguing, bewitching, ingratiating manner – a veritable god of wisdom, and of insight, and of accomplishment and achievement; none like him in time or in history.
And Satan gave him his power and his throne and his authority, the thing that Jesus spurned when Satan offered Him all of the glories of the kingdoms of this world [Matthew 4:8-10]. The things that Satan offered to Jesus, and Jesus spurned, this man receives! And the whole earth acclaims him as the very incarnation of glory, and wisdom, and might, and power, and honor [Revelation 13:3-4]. Had I read that with understanding when I was a youth, I would have thought: "Not in our enlightened age; such a thing is impossible." But I stood day after day at those radios listening to hundreds of thousands of Italians crying: "Il Duche! Il Duche!" I stood before those same radios listening to hundreds of thousands of Germans crying: "Der FÃ¼hrer! Der FÃ¼hrer!" These are the most cultured, and the most enlightened, and the most civilized, and the most taught, and the most literate of all of the nations who have ever existed! And they looked upon their heroes and their leaders as they looked upon their God! And this final Antichrist shall be received in gladness, and the kings of the earth shall yield peaceably their authority to him – none like him!
How shall that come to pass? Here is another instance of how. If you interpret this Revelation correctly, every little odd detail thereafter will fit in precisely. Here is an instance. John says he stood upon the sand of a raging sea [Revelation 13:1]. That raging sea – pictured in Daniel [Daniel 7:2-3], pictured in the Revelation, the sand itself – that raging sea and its multitudinous sands, they are pictures of the violent chaotic masses in a day of crisis and revolution! And out of these horrible and terrible chaotic revolutions arise these great tyrannical leaders, without exception. Out of the chaos of the blood and mass of the French Revolution, a Napoleon was born. Out of the vast chaotic revolution of the Soviet government, a Lenin was born. Out of the chaos and mass of a revolution, a Hitler was born. Always, out of the raging turmoil of social chaos, these great antichrists come. It is so with this one.
In a day of revolution, in a day of chaos, in a day of storm and fury, here comes and is presented to the world this great and final ruler, and that is the opening of the first seal [Revelation 6:1-2]. Says here in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation that those ten kings willingly, with one mind, gave to him their power, their strength, and their authority [Revelation 17:12-13]. So when you open that first seal, this ultimate denouement began with the appearance of that final Antichrist [Revelation 6:1].
He comes riding a white horse, a bow and no arrows. Conquering and to conquer, he is a bloodless conqueror [Revelation 6:2]. There is no war. There is no battle. There is no resistance. In the midst of their chaos and their despair, these kings of the earth, the rulers of the earth, gladly yield to him the authority and the dominion of the governments of all creation [Revelation 17:12-13], and they hail him: "This is the savior of the race. This is the man who can lead us out. This is the man who has the answer for our questions. This is the man that can bring peace and prosperity to all mankind. All hail!" [Revelation 13:3-4]. And people shall be attracted to him and shall love him. And they shall wonder after him, and wonder shall turn into ultimate and final worship; this great and final ruler of the earth.
You see in another place, John beholds him arise out of the abyss, when he sees him rise out of the sand of a raging sea – that is his political origin. He arises out of social turmoil and trouble. And when he sees him arise out of the abyss, that is his actual origin – diabolical. And it describes his actual character – a son of damnation and perdition – this ultimate and final Antichrist. And he was like a leopard; he was like a bear; he was like a lion; this whole nondescript beast [Revelation 13:1-2].
Now look at what he means by that. In the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel that you read – when Daniel looks ahead in prophecy, when Daniel looks ahead and describes those great kingdoms and their glories, he has first the lion; he has second the bear; he has third the leopard; then last the nondescript [Daniel 7:4-7]. In the Book of the Revelation, John is looking back. So looking back, he has first the leopard, then he has second, the bear, then he has third the lion, then the whole thing, the nondescript [Revelation 13:1-3].
Now, look at this – when Daniel saw them, they succeeded each other. But when John looks upon this great and final Antichrist, he is a conglomerate of all of them. He is a summation of all of them. And what John is saying to us, in the symbolism of God about this final Antichrist, is that he will sum up in himself – in that one sovereignty and in that one dominion – he will sum up the honor and the glory of the entire world and its great and magnificent past! All of it summed up in him whom the world wonders after and finally worships saying: "Who is like him? Who is like him? Or who could stand in his presence?" [Revelation 13:4]
You know, when you get to thinking about the honor and the glory of this ancient earth, you cannot help but somewhat share in the wonder of it and the marvel of it. Think, man, all of the classics were produced in that ancient world – all of them; all of them – the great classics. Think, man, the seven great architectural triumphs of the world were in the Seven Wonders of that ancient day. Think of it. Think of it. Think of it, the golden majesty of Babylon. Think of it, the mighty ponderous massiveness of Cyrus and Persia. Think of it. Think of the beauty and elegance and intellect of the ancient Greek world. Think of the Roman with his law and his order and his idea of justice. Think of it. And all of these glories, summed up in that one great, final Antichrist: like a Nebuchadnezzar and a Cyrus and a Tiglath-Pileser and a Shalmaneser; like a Caesar Julius and a Caesar Augustus, like an Alexander the Great and a Napoleon Bonaparte, like a Frederick and like a Charlemagne, all bound up in one! I tell you, it is impressive, what God writes here in this His Book of that ultimate and final, fascinating, attractive, bewitching, glorious final ruler of this world system. He is Satan’s masterpiece! This is the best that Satan can do. And Satan gave to him his glory, and his power, and his throne, and his authority [Revelation 13:2]: all of the things that Christ spurned, bestowed upon him.
Oh, we must hasten. We must hasten. He is the arch-persecutor of all times: "And upon his heads" – plural – "the name of blasphemy" [Revelation 13:9]. "And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies,and he blasphemed against God, and against His name and against His dwelling place and then that tabernacle in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints" [Revelation 13:5-7]. And all who did not receive his mark in their right hands or on their forehead were put to death. And no one stood before him to resist him, save those who were "written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" [Revelation 13:10].
He’s the great archenemy of God. And he comes in glory and in peace. But in the midst of that final seventieth week, he breaks that covenant he makes with God’s people there when they built their temple in Jerusalem, and his true character immediately is seen [Daniel 9:27]. And in a bloodbath, he wars against God and God’s people [Revelation 13:7]. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation, it is this beast that slays God’s two great witnesses in the earth [Revelation 11:7]. And in the twelfth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, he is used by the dragon to persecute the woman and the remnant of her seed [Revelation 12:17]. And here in the thirteenth chapter, the third picture of that violent and vile persecution, there he is slaying the saints and those who war against him, those who oppose him, those who name the name of the true God, and those who worship Jesus and seal that testimony with their blood in martyrdom [Revelation 13:7].
Now, what does God say? What does God say? Listen how God closes this: "If any man have an ear, let him hear" [Revelation 13:9]. "If any man have an ear, let him hear." That is a phrase I found many times in the Word of the Lord. In, in the Book of Matthew, in the Book of Luke, when the Lord Christ had something significant, serious, all-important to say, He would emphasis it: "He that hath an ear, let him hear!" Then I see that same passage in the Book of the Revelation. In the second and the third chapters, seven times did I read it, each one speaking to the church of Asia, seven times: "He that hath an ear, let him hear!" Then again if you interpret this Book correctly, every little odd piece and detail will fall in place. "If a man hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches!" [Revelation 2:7-29; 3:6-22]. That is seven times. You do not have that last phrase here: "what the Spirit saith to the churches," for they are gone. God has taken them out of this horrible and awful and indescribable trial and tribulation. But to the saints who turn to God in that fearful and bloody hour, "any man here hath an ear, let him hear" [Revelation 13:9].
God has a word in His prophecy and in the lessons He seeks to teach us by these adumbrations and these outlines and these symbols. God has a message for His people. Now, what is it? "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with a sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the endurance" – hupomonē – the patience, the endurance, the steadfastness – "and the faith of the saints" [Revelation 13:10]. Hode, here it is. As terrible as the saints suffered under the Seleucids when they were fried on hot pans, as terrible as it was in the days of the bloody Caesars, as terrible as it was in the days of the awful Inquisition under the papal leaders, it is nothing as compared to here, here in these trying days.
And God has a message to His people. Look, the first concerns judgment. "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword." That is according to the moral government by which God has framed this universe! When Simon Peter pulled out his sword and struck off the right ear of Malchus when Jesus was being arrested – he meant to cut off his head – but the Lord said: "Peter, put it back in the sheath…" Put it back in the sheath; "for they that take the sword must perish by the sword…" I have "twelve legions of angels" [Matthew 26:51-53], "at My command;" seventy-two thousand of them, when just one of them was all that was necessary to slay a hundred and eighty-five thousand of the solders of Sennacherib [Isaiah 37:36]. "Put it back, for the weapons of the people of God are not blood, and they are not violence, and they are not war. They are faith and trust in God. He that leadeth into captivity must go into captivity; and he that killed with the sword must be killed with the sword." Inherent in every system of tyranny and blood and war is its own destruction. God made it that way.
Another thing: "Here is the endurance and the patience, and here is the faith of the saints" [Revelation 13:10]. These are limited: "And there was given unto him to continue forty and two months" [Revelation 13:5]. The Lord limits. The Lord limits. As the Lord Christ said to His disciples, "Except those days should be shortened, not even the elect would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened" [Matthew 24:22]. No tyrant can endure but according to the permissive will of God. For a while, for a while, known to the Lord, and then he is caught by the judgment of God Almighty. "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killed with the sword must be killed with the sword. There was given unto him to continue forty and two months," just forty and two months in the permissive will of God.
And then the last. I haven’t time to point it out to you. I will just count them here. In, in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation, describing this beast – one, two, three, four, five, six times – it says: "It was given unto him." It was given unto him. Even Satan has no authority and no might and no destiny in himself. Why the permissive will of God in the purging of this world in blood, I do not understand. The Book of Revelation calls it the mystery of God that shall be finished in the days of the voice of this seventh angel [Revelation 10:7]. It is not for us to understand why God permits the war, and the blood, and the persecution, and the martyrdom, and the death of His children. There is no answer from heaven. But all of these things that come to pass, come to pass in the permissive will of the Almighty. "It was given unto him." And God holds the earth, and God holds the world, and God holds the creation, and God holds all destiny in His hand. Here is the hupomonē, the patience, the endurance, the steadfastness, and the faith of the saints [Revelation 13:10]. Oh, if you just had time to apply it. For the same principles that govern here in the last book, govern through all of the rest. And the same Lord God that reigns here, reigns through all of the rest. And He is the same Lord God that presides above the circle of the heavens in our day and in our generation. And to look up in faith and in trust is the patience, the steadfastness, the endurance of the saints. It belongs to God.
Now, while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, give his heart in trust to Jesus; a family you, coming into the fellowship of our church; just one somebody you, down this aisle: "Here I come, preacher. I take Jesus as my Savior today," or "We are putting our lives in the fellowship of this church today." A couple you, a family, or one, if you are in this balcony, there is a stairway on either side at front and at back, and there is time and to spare, come. Come. And on this lower floor, somebody you, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Preacher, I give you my hand. I give my heart in faith and in trust to God." Make it now. Make it this morning, while we stand and while we sing.
THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
4-12-76 12:00 p.m.
Downtown on the street of Dallas this morning, there was a young fellow at a corner who was giving out these invitations. And there are several of our R.A. boys who are on the city streets inviting the people to come to this noonday service. What a gracious, precious thing for our boys to do.
A man down there said, "I could only come and stay at the most for fifteen minutes; that would disturb the service, and certainly disturb you." I said, "Not at all. You come and welcome." This is a busy noonday hour, and if you can come and stay just a moment, do so. You will not disturb us. We will all understand. Least of all, would you disturb me. So anytime you have to leave, you feel free to do so.
The theme of our services this year is "Around the Christ of the Cross": tomorrow, The Witnesses Against Him; Wednesday, Can Christ Make Good His Claims, for He said, "I am the Son of God"; Thursday, What Shall I do with Jesus; and Friday, Eli Lama Sabachthani, My God, Why; and today, The Shadow of the Cross.
There is a very famous painting. It is of the Lord Jesus as a youth. He looks to be, in the picture, something like eighteen years of age. He is in the carpenter’s shop. He is making yokes. Tradition has it that the easiest yokes to bear were those that were fashioned by the hands of our Lord. And in this picture as He stands a youth of eighteen years, working in the carpenter’s shop, in the way that He works, and in the way that He stands, over and beyond and behind Him there is a shadow cast on the wall; and it is the shadow of the cross. All the days of the life of our Lord did He live in that shadow of suffering and execution.
In the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord has just said to Simon Peter that "on this rock" He would build His church [Matthew 16:18]. Then from that time forth, He began to show His disciples how He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things, and be killed [Matthew 16:21]. It was then that Simon Peter took Him and rebuked Him, saying, "Lord, such a thing could not happen to Thee." But He turned and said to Simon Peter, "Simon, you are an instrument of Satan now, get behind Me: thou art an offense unto Me: thou savorest not the things that be of God, but of men" [Matthew 16:22-23].
I turn the page to the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, and after the glorious transfiguration, the Lord, identifying John the Baptist as Elijah who had already come and to whom "they had done whatsoever they listed," He says, "Likewise also shall the Son of Man suffer of them" [Matthew 17:10-12]. I turn the page to the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, and beginning at verse 17:
Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart. . .and said unto them,
We go up to Jerusalem; and there the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death,
And they shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, to scourge, and to crucify Him: and the third day He shall rise from the dead.
I have chosen those passages in the center of the ministry of our Lord, turning those pages so few in number, just to present how much the suffering death of our Lord was in His heart and before His face. He lived His life in the shadow of the cross. He was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the earth [Revelation 13:8].
The great prophecies of the Old Testament, such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, by prophecy depict the sufferings of our Lord. When He was introduced to the world by John the Baptist, it was with the words, "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29]. When He spoke to Nicodemus in the third chapter of John, He said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up" [John 3:14]. When He was anointed by Mary in the supper at Bethany, the Lord said, "This is an anointing for My burial" [Matthew 26:12].
When the Greeks came to see Him from afar, He said, "Except a corn of wheat fall unto the ground and die, it abideth alone; and I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto Me. This spake He signifying by what death He should glorify God" [John 12:24, 32-33]. When He observed the Passover, He instituted the Lord’s Supper. "This is My body, broken for you; this is My blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26]. And in Gethsemane, He agonized before the cup that God had given Him to drink [Matthew 26:38-39]. And finally, the day of the cross came; cruel, and harsh, and awesome. Alone did He tread the winepress of the wrath and fierceness of Almighty God for our sins, and rich red blood poured out.
When Jesus came to Golgotha
They hanged Him on a tree
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns;
Red were His wounds and deep
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.
[from "Indifference," by G. A. Studdart-Kennedy]
The shadow of that cross not only overshadowed the life of our Lord in all of His ministry, but the shadow of the cross has fallen across this world and the centuries of time. In the center of the world, and in the heart of time, our Lord has planted His cross. And the world can never be the same again because He lived here and died here.
These scientists speak of worlds that are beyond, and search to find if there might be life and other living creatures and maybe human races on other planets and in other spheres. I do not think so but however the discovery may be made, there will never be another planet or another sphere like this because this is the world in which Christ died, and this is the earth that drank up His atoning blood. Nor can we ever be the same again because Christ lived here, and died here, and gave His life for us here.
Going through the heart of France one time, I stopped and walked through a British military cemetery. This was soon after the Second World War. And as I walked through that British cemetery, there was a grave of an RAF pilot, a Royal Air Force pilot, who had been shot down over France. And evidently his wife had made a visit to the grave of her husband, from England, and she had laid on the mound a little bouquet of straw flowers, and had written in the wreath these words, and I read them, "To," and called her husband’s name, and then added, "Your wife and boys will never forget." What a wonderful and a precious sentiment. But how infinitely elevated when it’s addressed to God; we shall never forget. Out of all of the things in the life of our Lord, it was this that He asked for us to remember: "This do," when we break bread and drink the cup, "This do in remembrance of Me" [1 Corinthians 11:24-25].
Isn’t it a strange thing that beginning at the cross, the whole world flows out on either side? When you place the cross in this earth, all of the languages east of it read from the right to the left; and all of the languages west of it read from the left to the right. They all converge in the cross, the very center of the earth. And in the center of time, all the centuries before this day are BC, before His cross; and all of the centuries after His day are anno Domini, in the year of our Lord. In the very heart of the earth and in the very center of time, stands the cross of the Son of God. And in the shadow of that cross, every Christian apostle, and witness, and martyr, and preacher proclaims the glory of our grace and salvation found in His love and sobs and tears. In the shadow of the cross every apostle stood to preach. One of them declared, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" [Galatians 6:14].
In the record of the New Testament they left behind, every word and every syllable is inspired by His sufferings and stained by His blood. And in the love and grace of the shadow of the cross that has fallen over the earth, it has blessed the hearts, and the homes, and the lives of the people for whom He gave His life and poured out the crimson of His blood. What a marvelous and wonderful thing!
The sin-sick soul, the despised and forgotten, those in sorrow and perplexity with insoluble problems to face and burdens that the heart can hardly bear, to them the message of the cross comes with hope and grace, heavenly remembrance, and eternal salvation. It has become a very sign of our hope of heaven. "If in Flanders Fields the poppies grow, it will be between crosses, row on row" ["In Flanders Field," Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae]. Over the fallen form of these who have loved Jesus, is a little cross raised high: a sign of our hope in God.
And the shadow of that cross falling upon all mankind has made us in Him all equal and alike. There are no big and there are no little. There are no wise and unwise. There are no poor and rich. There are no far off and coming nigh, but all of us are alike, loved alike, cherished alike, accepted alike, received alike, saved alike in the shadow of the cross.
In the Anglican Church, as their habit of communion is, these who worship the Lord come forward and kneel to receive the elements of bread and the fruit of the cup. And in the great cathedral in London, there came forward the Iron Duke of Wellington; a hero in British eyes beyond what we could think for. This is the man that delivered England and the continent from the ravages of Napoleon. And England almost idolized the Iron Duke of Wellington. And he came forward in the Anglican Church and knelt at the altar to receive the bread and the wine. As he knelt there before the officiating Anglican minister, a ragged, wretched, poor, flotsam, jetsam of a waif from the streets of London, unaware, came and knelt by his side. And when the officiating minister saw it, he came to the unaware youth and touched him on the shoulder and said, "You must move away, for you are kneeling by the Iron Duke of Wellington." And the great British commander overheard what the Anglican minister was saying, and looking up, said to him, "Sir, leave him alone. Leave him alone. We’re all the same before the Lord. The ground is level at the cross." What a comfort that is to the poor and the lost of the world. We all alike are loved of God. The entry, the entrance before the majesty of His glorious and eternal presence is open alike, not just to an officiating priest, not just to a presiding minister, not just to the great and mighty of the earth, but to the least and the smallest amongst us.
When the Lord died, and bowed His head, and cried, "Lord, into Thy hands I commit My spirit" [Luke 23:46]; when the Lord died, there was a great shaking of the earth, and the rocks were rent, and the graves were opened, and the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom [Matthew 27:51-52]. Not from the bottom to the top as though a man’s hand had done it, but from the top to the bottom as though God had done it; and the Holy of Holies was open for the first time to view.
The commonest man could see the sanctuary of God, and the foulest could walk into the very presence of the Lord God and call upon His name. What a marvelous thing God in Christ hath done for us! We all are welcome. As the eloquent author of the Book of Hebrews has said:
We are not come unto Mount Sinai, the mount that burned with fire and was shaken by the power of God.
So that even if a creature, an animal touched it he died,
And when the sound of the trumpet roared through the earth, Moses did say, I exceedingly quake and tremble.
"But we," the author says, "are come unto Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the New Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels" [Hebrews 12:22]. They’re here, worshiping with us today; and they’re by your side when you kneel in prayer. "And to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven," you, "and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, whose blood speaketh better things than that of Abel" [Hebrews 12: 23-24]. Come and kneel and pray, and lay before Him all of the problems and burdens of life; grace to help in time of need. Come, and welcome.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, Come unto Me, and rest
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down thy head upon My breast
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad
I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.
[Horatius Bonar and John Bacchus Dykes]
Come, come, come.
And our Lord, kneeling at the cross, oh may the floodtides of grace poured out into the world reach even unto us. And in Thy remembrance, Lord, make us strong to do Thy will in the earth, and give us a greater heart to love Thee better, in Thy saving name, amen. And thank you.