THE ETERNAL CHRIST THROUGH THE AGES
Dr. W.A. Criswell
6-21-64 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Eternal Christ Through the Ages. When I first began studying for this message and preparing it, I had in my mind a title which is published in the Reminder and in our church bulletin, The One God Through the Bible.
I wanted to follow the life of our Lord through all of the Scriptures. I am very much of the persuasion, as you know, that there is one God and not three. And we know that God only in the revelation of Jesus Christ, whether He is called Jehovah in the Old Testament, or Jesus in the New Testament, or the Lord God Almighty in the Revelation and the age that is to come.
So in studying this revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures, it turned a little different from what I had first planned. And when the message was completed, I renamed it The Eternal Christ, The Eternal Christ Through the Ages. And I shall seek to follow the work and ministry and life of our living Lord through seven of those ages; the eternal Christ in the ages past, in the eternity before creation; second, the eternal Christ in creation; third, the eternal Christ in the Old Testament dispensation, in the age of law; fourth, the eternal Christ in the days of His flesh; fifth, the eternal Christ in His presence status, and work, and ministry; sixth, the eternal Christ in the day of the Lord; and seventh and last, the eternal Christ in the eternal future. How one could encompass such a message in a few minutes, I do not know, but we’re going to try.
First: the Christ, God our Lord, in the eternal past. A materialist faces a melancholy and dismal assignment. To him the past is incomprehensible, far more than the future, because the future will be a continuation of the present and shares many of our present characteristics and elements. But the eternal past to a materialist is dark, and silent, and empty. It is an infinitude of nothingness. It is incomprehensible to him. But to a believer there is a significant and a glorious and meaningful revelation. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” So Genesis carries us back to the creation. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Genesis carries us back to the day of creation. John carries us back to the remotest point revealed to us, the presence of the Lord God. And we know Him and His name; that is Jesus.
There never was a time when God was not. There never was a time when Jesus was not. And in the Old Testament He is called Jehovah God [Genesis 2:4]. In the New Testament He is called the Word, the logos, Christ Jesus our Savior [John 1:1]. John 12:41 identifies the Lord high and lifted up, Jehovah “high and lifted up,” that Isaiah saw in the sixth chapter of his prophecy [Isaiah 6:1]. John 12:41 identifies that Jehovah God, high and lifted up, as the Lord Christ. In the tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul says that the children of Israel through the wilderness drank of that spiritual Rock; and that spiritual Rock was Christ [1 Corinthians 10:4].
So in the remotest past, in the ages past, there is the word Jehovah God, our Christ. That almighty word Jehovah, that almighty Christ of the eternities of the past framed the ages that were yet to come. The author of Hebrews begins, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom He made the worlds.” You have it translated in the Kings James Version, “by whom He framed the aionas, the ages” [Hebrews 1:1-2].
In the remotest time of the eternity past, through Christ all of the ages that were yet to come were envisioned. They were envisaged. They were framed according to the divine fiat, the ages of the life of the creation of this world and of the heavens above [Genesis 1:1]. The antediluvian age [Matthew 24:38], the age of the Old Testament [Romans 9:4-5], the age of grace in which we now live [Romans 6:14], the age that is yet to come [Ephesians 2:7], and the eternity to follow it [1 Corinthians 15:24]; each one of those ages was framed to be a predecessor to the one that followed it. And each one bore fruit in the results that were yet to be reaped. All of the ages that were yet to come were framed by that Lord Christ in the beginning [Hebrews 1:2].
And another thing: in the beginning the Lord Christ prepared to give Himself for an expiation of the sins of the world. Time and again He is described as the Lamb that was slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:19-20]. That Lord Christ foresaw and He foreknew all of the things that were to transpire: you, and your life, the sins of the world, our sins, our need, all that was to happen. There are no surprises to God. It is not as though He is rectifying a mistake or He is remedying a situation that adventitiously developed. All was foreseen by the great Lord God of heaven in the beginning, at the remotest point of the eternity that is past [Isaiah 46:10].
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews there is given a scene of the volunteering of the Lord Christ to die as an expiation for the sins of the world that was yet to be created [Hebrews 10:5-14]. “Lo, I come (in the roll of the book it is written of Me,) to do Thy will, O God” [Hebrews 10:7]. All that was to be was foreseen, and foreknown, and provided for, and its developments assured by the great Mighty God who reigns in heaven, even Christ. This is the Christ of the eternal past.
I now speak of the Christ: the eternal Christ of creation. Colossians 1:16 says, “All things were created by Him, and for Him.” In Him all things consist [Colossians 1:17]. Everything that is created has in it the inwrought life of Christ. And all creation declares the life of our Lord. The processes of nature demonstrate, and exhibit, and dramatize the life of their great Creator, even Jesus. There is birth in nature just as He was born [Ecclesiastes 3:2]. In the solitude and the silence of the depths, birth comes to pass. In plants and in animals there is a time of waiting until their hour is come.
All nature lives by faith, the life of faith as His life was. When the seed sprouts, it trusts for the showers to fall and the sun to shine. And when a little ground sparrow builds its nest by the clod, it trusts no heavy foot will crush its life. All nature demonstrates the ministry of our Lord.
Christ is inwrought and His life is inwoven in nature itself. He is present in a thousand miracles every day. On a thousand hillsides He turns the water into the fruit of the vine [John 2:1-11]. Every repast we enjoy is a manna spread for us in the wilderness [Exodus 16:15-19]. Every storm that is quieted is quieted as He stilled the waves on the Sea of Galilee [Luke 8:24]. All healing is God’s healing [Exodus 15:26]. This is the life the great Creator wrought in this world.
And His death, His vicarious atonement [Romans 5:11], is the basic principle of all nature. “Except a grain of wheat die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” [John 12:24]. Every seed that is sown is a picture of the vicarious atonement of our Lord. The whole plan of the ages is seen in every field that is sown and that is reaped.
And all nature speaks of a resurrection. The incomparable resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 is stated by Paul in the language of the processes of nature, the rebirth of life, the beauty that rises out of the muck and the mire and the dirt of the ground. All creation itself speaks. The very stars are prophecies of other worlds, worlds that are yet to come. Every sunset is a vision of an apocalypse when the weary shall rest. And every sunrise speaks in language beautiful, and heavenly, and glorious: He is coming [Jude 14; Revelation 1:7].
The life of Christ is inwrought in the creation of His hands. And the great somber tones of nature speak of His great judgment day. The earthquake, the avalanche, the fire, and the hail speak of the time when God shall judge the world. And when that awful hour arises and the sinner cries, “But I did not know,” a thousand voices from nature shall say, “I told you every day!” Unbelief is insanity. Disbelief is criminal. The undevout astronomer and scientist is mad.
And the whole earth speaks of God’s care for His children. We are in the Lord’s temple everywhere. This is the work of His hands, and the very chalice of the sky is the Lord tabernacling over us. Every stone is sacred. Every foot of ground is consecrated, and the whole creation, in voices multitudinous, praises Christ our great Lord Creator. Inwrought in creation itself, this mighty Lord our Christ.
I speak third of our eternal Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures, in the Old Testament age. When time came for the Lord God to create the man, He paused and there was a consultation. “Let Us, let Us,” they said in their deliberation, “Let Us make man in Our image” [Genesis 1:26]. For you see, the Christ was to bring into being a somebody with whose nature He was to be identified forever. He was to bring into being a race out of which He should call an assembly for Himself. And He was never to leave or to become less identified with the creature He was to create.
And there in the garden of Eden, the Lord Christ created the man and his wife [Genesis 1:27-28]. And thereafter the life of the Lord God is identified with the man that He made. The life of Christ changes in the creation of man from creation to providence. And the name of God changes from Elohim, “God,” to Yahweh, “Jehovah,” which is the name, the covenant name of the Lord as He shepherdly cares for His people [Exodus 34:6-7].
And thereafter through the pages of the [Old] Testament you have the Christophanies, the appearances of Christ to His people. It was Christ who walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day [Genesis 3:8]. It was Christ who called to Abraham out of heaven [Genesis 12:1-3]. It was Christ with whom Jacob wrestled at Peniel when he saw the face of God [Genesis 32:24-30]. It was Christ; it was the Lord Christ that Isaiah saw high and lifted up [Isaiah 6:1]. It was Christ that the three Hebrew children saw when He walked with them in the fiery furnace [Daniel 3:21-28].
It was the Lord Christ who appeared to Joshua and said, “As Captain of the host of the Lord I come. Take off thy shoes; the ground whereon thou standest is holy ground” [Joshua 5:13-15]. It was the Lord Christ who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and said, “My name is Yahweh, Jehovah, the great I AM” [Exodus 3:2, 14].
And it was the Lord Christ who witnessed the fall of the man that He made [Genesis 3:1-6]. For sin did not begin in earth. Sin began in heaven [Ezekiel 28:15]. And before Satan stabbed the man he first stung the Lord Christ. Those two were intimately associated in the beginning of the creation of the hosts of heaven, that glorious being who afterward was known as Satan, and his Lord and Master, the Christ of God [Ezekiel 28:14].
And when the man fell and became a dupe of that deceiving archangel the devil [Genesis 3:1-6], Satan, the Lord Christ took coats of skin and covered the nakedness of the man that He made [Genesis 3:21]. And thereafter in the shedding of blood was the promise of the remission of our sins [Genesis 4:4]. And every lamb, as of Abel, and every sacrifice thereafter was a pledge that someday Christ would come and give His life as an atonement, as an expiation for the sins of the people [Matthew 26:28; Galatians 4:4].
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah spake with Jesus [Luke 9:28-35], glorified, transfigured with that glory He had before the world was and what did they speak to Him of? They spake unto Him about His death [Luke 9:31], saying, “We are here in heaven, O Lord Christ, because of the pledge You have made, someday in Thy blood an atonement to wash our sins away” [Matthew 20:28].
I now speak of the eternal Christ in the days of His flesh [Luke 1:5-25]. And upon a time, and upon a time, and in the fullness of time when all of the angels watched, when Zacharias was visited by the angel Gabriel [Luke 1:5-25], and Mary was visited by the same angel in the city of Nazareth [Luke 1:26-38], upon a time, all heaven burst into glory and into singing when Christ the Word was made flesh [Luke 2:12-14]. When He humiliated Himself, “being in the form of God, thought it not a robbery, a thing to be grasped, to be equal with God: but poured Himself out, and made Himself of no reputation, and became obedient, even unto the death of the cross” [Philippians 2:6-8].
He was born in a stable [Luke 2:10-16], and He lived all His life in poverty. He was literally penniless. When He needed a penny for an illustration, He had to borrow one [Mark 12:15]. He accepted invitations to eat [Mark 14:3], and for a place to sleep, and many times slept out in the open [Matthew 8:20]. He was hungry [Mark 11:12]. He would search a tree for a few overlooked figs [Mark 11:13]. He would eat the raw grain out of the field [Mark 2:23]. And He died the death of a malefactor [Isaiah 53:8-9; Luke 23:32-33], and the earth drank up His blood [John 19:30-34].
But in His resurrection, in His resurrection, as before His resurrection, His disciples fell down and owned Him as God [Matthew 28:9, 16-17]. He lived the life of God [John 1:4]. He said the words of God [John 7:16, 12:49]. He did the works of God [John 9:4], and He was declared the Lord God by the power of the Holy Spirit in His resurrection from the dead [Romans 1:4].
And then He ascended up into heaven. And as He rose, He saw at His feet the little band of disciples in whose hearts He placed the deposit of the truth of the gospel of Christ [Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:8-10]. And when He rose a little higher, the great city Jerusalem was spread before Him, and rising a little higher He saw the whole length and breadth of Palestine, where someday His people shall see Him whom they have pierced and shall own their Lord and Messiah [Zechariah 12:10]. And rising higher, He saw before Him the vast world that He came to redeem [John 3:16; 1 John 2:2]. And rising higher, He entered into glory. There is much in the Bible of the reception of the Lord Christ as He returned to glory. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory will come in” [Psalm 24:7].
“He hath ascended up high. He hath taken captivity captive. He hath given gifts unto men” [Ephesians 4:8].
And I beheld, and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne. . .and about the elders, and about the cherubim; and there number was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb. . .to receive power, and riches. . .and honor, and glory, and dominion. . .
And they fell down and worshiped Him.
And the four cherubim said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped Him that liveth for ever and ever.
So the Lord ascended into glory.
I now speak of the eternal Christ in His work and ministry now. Our Christ, our God is in heaven. He is seated at the right hand of the throne of glory [Hebrews 1:3]. That is a picture of His rest from His work. He has completed His work. It is a picture of His glory and His authority. “Wherefore also God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus, the Lord God of the ages, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, things in earth, and things in the netherworld; And every tongue shall confess that He is Lord and Christ and God” [Philippians 2:9-11].
He is seated at the right hand of the Father, waiting until His enemies be made His footstool [Hebrews 1:13]. He is seated the right hand of the Father as our Advocate and our Intercessor. “Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” [Hebrews 7:25]. And He is seated there in authority to prepare that dwelling place that we shall inherit in the golden by and by [John 14:3].
The status and ministry of our Lord now among His churches, He walks among His churches [Revelation 1:20-2:1]. He looks at His Sunday school teachers. He looks at the pastor. He guides those who pray and seek His will as they pore through the pages of His Word. And He bows down His ear to hear His people when they pray. And He gives strength and succor, and He is a refuge for His people. And, He dwells in our hearts: “For I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” [Galatians 2:20].
He identifies Himself with His people. And on the road to Damascus Saul saw a light above the brightness of the meridian, midday Syrian sun [Acts 9:1-3]. And blinded by the glory of that light he fell down, and a voice said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” [Acts 9:4]. Christ is identified with His people.
I now speak of the eternal Christ in the great day of the Lord, the age immediately to follow our own. All of the Scriptures speak of a coming day of the Lord. It is the burden of the New Testament Scriptures. It is the burden of the Old Testament Scriptures. The first promise, “He shall be born of the Seed of the woman who shall crush Satan’s head” [Genesis 3:15]. And the first prophet was “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, who prophesied, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints” [Jude14].
And in the Book of the Apocalypse there is unveiled the coming of our Lord in the great day of Jehovah. And He introduces Himself and identifies Himself as, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End [Revelation 1:8], the First and the Last [Revelation 22:13], the One who was, and is, and shall be. The Lord God, pantokrator, Almighty” [Revelation 1:8]. That’s the same eternal Christ! [Revelation 1:5-6].
And suddenly the whole world of God above bursts upon us, breaks in upon this stolid and weary world. Christ now sits in heaven waiting, and His people are blasphemed, and persecuted, and martyred, and the truth is denied and vilified. But there is coming a time when He shall openly appear, when He shall visibly be present [Revelation 1:7]. And when He comes He shall lead His armies [Revelation 19:11-14], and the figure of the Lord Christ in His presence shall smite the wicked [Revelation 19:15-21]. And He shall exalt His own and crown His people with glory and honor, bringing His rewards with Him [Revelation 22:12].
I now speak of our Lord Christ in the eternal future. When time shall end—do you remember how Paul ends one of those glorious prayers in Ephesians? “Unto Him be glory in the church,” in the bride of Christ, “through all ages,” all the eons, all the eternities, “world without end” [Ephesians 3:21]. When time shall end in the eternity that is yet to come, there is the Lamb of God. There are His people, and in their midst He tabernacles, His shepherdly love and care with His own forever, and ever, and ever, and ever [Revelation 21:3].
There is the throne of God in the center, the Lord Christ [Revelation 22:3]. And around Him, the beautiful city; and beyond, the new earth; and wider beyond still, the new heavens; and wider beyond still, the infinitude the Lord is preparing for us [Revelation 21:1-2]. For the great prophet Isaiah when he said, “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace—also added—of the increase, and of the increase of His government there shall be no end” [Isaiah 9:6-7]. And we shall reign with Him and share with Him His throne and these dominions, and these other worlds, and these other universes [Revelation 3:21, 22:5]. Wherever we are, it will be in the center, for there’s not any circumference. “What God hath prepared for those who love Him, eye has never seen, ear has never heard, nor hath it entered into the mind of a man” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. And our eternal home is described as a golden and shining city, the mountain of the Lord, the city of God [Revelation 21:10-17].
At the base of it there’s a great wall made of solid diamond [Revelation 21:18]. From the twelve gates of solid pearl, there are avenues of pure gold [Revelation 21:21]. And down and on either side of every avenue there flows the river of life. And the avenues are lined with the trees of salvation and healing [Revelation 22:1-2]. And on the terrace of the terraces of the terraces are the mansions God hath prepared for His own [John 14:3; Revelation 21:2-3]. And all the windows look toward and all the avenues move toward the great central summit, the home, the throne of our visible Savior [Revelation 22:3].
There’s no need of a temple there [Revelation 21:22]. For a temple with its veil conceals and shuts out. The Lord God is manifest and present, and He tabernacles among us [Revelation 21:3]. His sheltering love is ever over us. And we shall look into His face, and be as He is [1 John 3:2; Revelation 22:4]. For we shall behold the glory of the Lord as in a glass, and we shall be changed into the same image from glory unto glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord [2 Corinthians 3:18]. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus” [2 Corinthians 4:6].
This is our God forever and ever, hallelujah, amen, the eternal Christ through the ages, “Jesus the same yesterday, and today, and forever” [Hebrews 13:8]. What an incomparable thing! What a glorious revelation! Ah, that with tongues of angels we could speak it, with the voice of a seraph that we could describe it. And all is ours made in the image of God, and all is ours for the taking, for the asking, for the believing, for the having, for the receiving, for the accepting.
And while we sing our song of appeal this morning, somebody you give his heart to Jesus, somebody you put his life in the fellowship of the church. A family you, one somebody you, as the Spirit of God shall say the word and shall lead in the way, while we sing the song, would you come? On the first note of the first stanza, come and stand by me, while all of us stand and sing our hymn of appeal together.