The Finality of Christ
November 14th, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
THE FINALITY OF CHRIST
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
11-14-65 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are invited to turn to the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, and we shall read out loud the first ten verses, Matthew chapter 11, verses 1 through 10. You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Finality of Christ. Matthew 11:1-10; now sharing our Bibles, all of us read it out loud together the first ten verses:
And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding His twelve disciples, He departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
And said unto Him, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?
Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see:
The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.
And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear such clothing are in kings’ palaces.
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
General Sherman one time said, "As long as I am at the front and in the thick of the battle, I am filled with courage, and hope, and assurance. But when I am in the rear of the army where the stragglers are and the deserters are, I am filled with hopelessness, and fear, and foreboding." He reflected human life. As long as we are in the thick of the battle, we are filled with assurance and confidence. But when we are philosophizing, when we’re back away from where the action is, and when we are in repose, and disassociated from the thrust and the march of the kingdom of God, we begin to be filled with all kinds of things, and questions, and editorializing, and all the things that enter into the pale overcast of thought.
Now, John the Baptist is like that. He is in prison and he has been there for a good long while, several months. And while he is in prison, he is thinking through once again all of the things that are said and pertain to the Lord Messiah. He is there in prison for a very famous and much publicized reason. I don’t suppose there is anybody in the earth who ever heard of John the Baptist who does not know why he was in the dungeon at Machaerus. You see, there were three sons who outlived Herod the Great. He killed all the rest of his many sons. Slew them with his own commandment, had them slain in his presence but three of them lived. One of them was named Archelaus and he gave Judea to Archelaus. One of them was Herod Antipater, Herod Antipas he is called in the Bible, and he was given Perea and Galilee. The third son who lived was a private man who made his home in the imperial city of Rome.
His name was Philip. Now Philip had married the daughter of a son of Herod whom Herod had killed. He was the son of the beautiful Maccabean princess, Mariamne, and his name was Aristobulus. Aristobulus had a beautiful daughter whom he named Herodias. And Philip, the private living son of Herod, had married the beautiful Herodias. But Herodias was ambitious and she was not quite content to be the wife of a private man.
So upon a day there came to Rome, Herod Antipas. He came on business before the emperor but he was a king! He was a ruler and he had the insignia of his high office as the ruler and king of Galilee and Perea; little old principalities to us about the size of Dallas and Tarrant counties. But in those days a king was a king. And when Herodias saw him come into the city, and being a kinsman, and having an entrÃ©e into his life, she immediately seized the incomparable opportunities. And it wasn’t long until Herod Antipas was curled around her little finger, and she was molding, and guiding, and all the things that enter into the intrigues of that unscrupulous wench.
Well, the days passed and Herodias and Herod Antipas decided to go back to Galilee and to Perea, and to be together; she the queen and Herod Antipas the king. But you see Herod Antipas had been married to the daughter of Aretas. And Aretas was the king of the Arabians, the Nabataeans, and his capital was in the ancient and newly discovered city of Petra. So when he and Herodias combined in that incest, why, the daughter of Aretas heard about it and she asked permission if she could go to the castle at Machaerus. The king in Rome granted the permission for his queen to go to Machaerus. And Machaerus, being on the other side of the Dead Sea and down toward the principality of the Nabataeans, she escaped and fled to her father and revealed to the king of the Arabians all the things that Herod Antipas had connived and contrived. And that meant war! So the king of Galilee and Perea, when he returned from Rome with Herodias, finds himself plunged in war.
Now just to carry that thing on, the Roman emperor sent word to Vitalius to come down there, he was the legate, the governor of Syria, to come down there and stop that fighting between those two little roosters, those little bantams. And Vitalius sort of enjoyed the onslaught. And having contempt for Herod Antipas, why, he just let them fight it out. And it dragged on and on until finally Herod Antipas was deposed and that ended the war.
Anyway, the reason Antipas is at Machaerus, he has come down there to that fortress with his army. Now in the meantime there is a prophet of God, there is a preacher; there is a man sent from the glory of heaven. And he is bold, and rough, and straight, and fearless, and his name is Ioannes ho baptista, John the one who baptizes [John 1:25, 33]. First time the world had ever seen or heard that ordinance. And standing down there on the banks of the Jordan River when Herod Antipas came by with his banners, and his cavalry, and his horsemen, and his soldiers on his way to Machaerus, why, John the Baptist lifted up his voice, and pointed out the tyrant, and said, "It is not right for a man to marry his brother’s wife" [Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:16-18].
Oh, now I don’t think it bothered Herod a whole lot. But Herodias was a different matter. And there is no fierce, there is no villain, there is no hatred like the hatred of the female of the species. And the Greek says from that day on Herodias had it in for John the Baptist, and just waited and abided her time. So due to her instigation to shut up the mouth of the prophet, Herod Antipas seized John the Baptist and threw him into prison, there in Machaerus [Matthew 14:3; Mark 6:17].
Now the rest of the story has nothing to do with us in the sermon tonight. You remember as it continues in a banquet where they are feasting, and wining, and dancing, and reveling, and rioting, in an orgy of sin and lust – – while they are in all of that dissipation, Antipas with his noblemen and his warriors, why, in their drunkenness they ask for the daughter of Herodias, by Philip. Her name is Salome. They ask for the beautiful – I’d say a teenager, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old at the most – they ask for the supple, and lithe, and beautiful, and dancing Salome to come and to entertain the noblemen as they feast and drank that night [Mark 6:21-22].
And they are so delighted with her insinuations, and so thrilled with all of those things that go with the Oriental dance, that Antipas says, "I will give you to the half of my kingdom" [Mark 6:23]. Well, being a teenage girl she was overwhelmed by so wonderful, and magnificent, and unexpected response. So she goes to the mother and says, "And what shall I ask for ‘to the half of my kingdom’?" And the mother replies, "You ask for the head of John the Baptist" [Mark 6:24]. So the king gives commandment and the head is brought on a charger [Mark 6:25-28]. And Herodias, in her vicious and indescribable venom, is satiated in the blood and the death of the great Baptist preacher. Ah, what things, what things, what things.
And the poor prophet lying in the dungeon, not knowing what any day may bring forth, the poor prophet lying in the dungeon reviews his ministry, and reviews all of the things that concern the kingdom of God and the promised Messiah. So, John the Baptist begins to seek an answer to some questions that we ask to this very day [Matthew 11:2]. First of all, many times, in fact every time that I’ve ever read – – and I went through a whole group of them this week – – I have never yet read after a man but that said that John the Baptist was filled with doubt about the true Messiah being Jesus. I’ve never read one who discussed that yet that didn’t say "John there in prison is filled with doubt. The prison’s too hard for him. It’s undermined his conviction and it’s made him weak in the faith." I’ve never read one that didn’t say that. Does Jesus say that? You look:
And as they departed Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the winds? A man who bows before any storm, even a gentle zephyr? A man who bends with any wave of thought? Is that what you went out to see, a man that can be changed, and turned, and bought, and sold, and bent according to any wind or theology of fashion? What went ye out to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? A man who is discouraged by the hardships of life and who is filled with doubt because he is in a dungeon and in a prison?
Is that what you went out to see? No, nay a thousand times nay. This is a prophet of God. This is a man who grew up in the wilderness. This is a man who all his life had been dressed in rough clothing, who lived on grasshoppers and on wild honey [Matthew 3:4], who knew nothing else but a hard fare and a man of an unbending will and dedication.
[from Matthew 11:7-9]
You mean, this man is now filled with doubt because he is a prisoner and on the inside of a dungeon? "No," says the Lord, "a thousand times no."
Well then, what is this when, John the Baptist in the dungeon, sends word to the Christ and asks, "Art Thou He who should come, or do we look for another?" [Matthew 11:3]. What’s troubling John the Baptist? It’s the same almost inexplicable thing that troubles us today. I meet it very vocally among our Jewish people; very much so. Our Jewish people will almost without exception say to you, when you seek to present the Lord Christ our blessed Jesus, they will say almost without exception,
He cannot be the Messiah. He cannot be the Messiah, for when the Messiah comes, when the Lord God comes, when He the Prince comes, everything will be different, everything will be changed. There’ll be no more war. There’ll be no more hatred. There’ll be no more sorrow. There’ll be no more death. And He couldn’t be the Messiah, for these things are still in the earth, and we suffer, and we are persecuted, and we have no alleviation. The Messiah hasn’t yet come.
John the Baptist meant those same thoughts there as he went through the whole Bible in his mind and as he remembered his own prophetic ministry of introduction. For you see, there were two things in the prophecies. There were two things in the prophecies. One, the prophet said:
That He who is to come shall be despised and rejected; a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief . . .
Surely, surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.
[Isaiah 53:3, 4]
"Yea," said the prophet, "His visage is so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men" [Isaiah 52:14]. Now, that’s what the prophet will say. Listen to what the prophet as he also says:
Behold says the Lord, behold, I send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord Messiah, whom you seek, shall come suddenly to the temple; even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire . . .
And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.
He shall be a burning and a flaming judge. There shall be visitation from God when He comes. Both of those things in the prophets.
When I turn over here to the preaching of John the Baptist, John the Baptist is preaching both of them. Listen to John the Baptist as he stands on the banks of the Jordan River in the wilderness of Judea, and he says,
You, you, you, now the axe is laid unto the root of the trees, and every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire.
I baptize you with water unto repentance: but the One that cometh after me, mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire:
Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, gather the wheat unto the garner; and the chaff will He burn with unquenchable fire!
Oh, I can just hear John the Baptist thundering, "The Messiah is at hand, and He is going to cut down the unfruitful tree, and He is going to burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire!" I can just hear him preaching about Jesus coming.
And I turn the page, and here is that same John the Baptist introducing the Lord Messiah from heaven. "The next day, John seeth Jesus coming unto him and said, Behold, behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29]. And again, "And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!" [John 1:36]. Both of those things are in the old Bible. He shall come to bear the sins of His people, "bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace upon Him: by His stripes we are healed" [Isaiah 53:5], suffering, afflicted. That is in the prophets, "coming to die for our sins."
And in the next breath the prophet will say, "And He shall come as the Lord of all the earth, and He shall burn with unquenchable fire those who reject the presence and the kingdom of God" [Isaiah 66:23-24]. That is in the prophets. And it is in John the Baptist. In one breath, "And He shall burn the chaff with unquenchable fire [Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17], and His enemies shall He cut down like a man cuts down a tree" [Matthew 3:10]; and in the next breath, John the Baptist will say, "Look, behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29].
So, in prison John the Baptist hears of the ministry of Jesus [Matthew 11:2]. And He is healing the sick, and He is opening the eyes of the blind, and He is bearing the illnesses and the infirmities of the people, and He is preaching the gospel to the poor [Matthew 11:5]. But where is the mighty Judge? Where is the unquenchable fire? Where is the axe laid at the foot of the tree? Where is this other Messiah, this other one who is yet to come? [Matthew 11:3]. Is it Jesus also? So he sends words to the Christ, been the last thing in the world that John the Baptist would have done had he not believed in the ministry of Jesus. He wouldn’t have asked Jesus if he didn’t believe in Jesus. He sent word to the Christ, and notice Matthew calls Him "the Christ" [Matthew 11:3]. John the Baptist sent to the Christ and asked Him,
Are there two Messiahs? Is there one who is coming to bear the infirmities of the people? And is there another coming one who will be the judge and Lord of the earth, who will destroy His enemies with the breath of His presence and who shall set up the kingdom of God in righteousness? Art Thou that Coming One? Or do we look for another?
Is Jesus final? Is He final, or is there to be another Messiah and another Lord who is yet to come?
Now before I close the sermon, I want to answer that question briefly and according to the Word of God. You’ve heard me as I have tried to say this in days past; a Gemini, a Gemini will be two stars that look as though they are one. And yet, if you were to visit the stellar spheres, and the glorious infinitude of the heavens, you might see that one of those stars is five hundred trillion miles separated from the other one; one in front of the other. Yet from our vantage point as we look, they look like a Gemini, they look like two stars in one. They look like one star together. Sometimes, and you’ve had this experience, in a mountain there will be a mountain range and the peaks look as though they were side by side, but when you get to the mountain range you find one peak far in front of the other and a great valley in-between. Yet from a distance they look the same. So it is with the prophets.
This age of grace, the age of the church, the age of the Holy Spirit was hidden from the eyes of the prophets. Paul says it was not revealed until to His apostles. And in the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians he describes that [Ephesians 3:1-11]. But to the prophets they never saw that valley, that hiatus, that separation in-between. And when they looked in prophetic vision at the coming of the Lord Christ, it was an inexplicable thing to them. In one breath they would speak of the Lord who was coming, as being afflicted, and tormented, and dying [Isaiah 53:7-9]. And then in the next breath, they would say, "For unto us a Son is given, unto us a Child is born; and His name shall be Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6]; in the same breath, and the same prophet would be delivering that message: both.
They didn’t see that one time He is coming to bear the sins of the earth [Isaiah 53:5] and the next time He is coming to be the judge of all the nations of the world [Psalm 2:9]. And John belonged to the Old Testament prophets [Matthew 11:11]. He belonged to the old dispensation. And when John preached; with one breath, "He shall burn His enemies with unquenchable fire [Matthew 3:12], and will set up the kingdom of God" [Matthew 3:2], and in the next breath, "The Lamb that takes away the sin of the world" [John 1:29]. John the Baptist was but preaching the prophetic visions of the Old Testament. But today we are taught in the Word of the Lord that there are two comings: one, to wear a crown of thorns [John 19:2, 5] and again, to wear the royal diadem of glory [Revelation 14:14]. There is not another Christ. Finality reaches its ultimate in Jesus our Lord. There is no other.
Now a little summation of so many things that I had prepared to preach tonight, and the time has fled away. A little summation: the finality of Christ is almost an unknown, an unacceptable doctrine, in this modern world. The latest fad in the theology is that there is no God at all. We have outlived the necessity of the idea of God. That’s the latest theological fad. There is a new Christianity, one without a Lord Messiah. The Bible emptied of its miracles, of the supernatural, myth, legend and Jesus becomes just another fine, good, virtuous, and worthy man. There is another faith: the faith in pseudoscience and technology. There is another immortality: the immortality of the continuity of the inevitable progress of the human race. And there is another doctrine of rewards written in the history of the inevitable progress and achievements of men.
And sin, the idea of sin, they shrink it off with a shrug of their shoulders. Sin is nothing now but the drag of our evolutionary ancestry. Sin is nothing but a stumbling upward. And judgment, there’s no such thing as a man ever standing in the presence of God. Oh, when I think of the new religion I think of the Lord as He wrote the Ten Commandments with His own finger in tables of stone, and placed them in the hands of Moses [Exodus 31:18]. And while he was up there on Mount Sinai forty days and forty nights, and God speaking to him face to face, and delivering the commandments of the Almighty, and the judgments of the Lord, down below, below, below, Aaron the brother of Moses, Aaron was shaping a molten calf, a golden calf. And then cried, "These be thy gods, O Israel, that hath delivered thee out of the land of Egypt" [Exodus 32:4].
The same thing today. While God is speaking words of judgment we have a new religion and a golden calf. O, Lord, O God. But in the new religion and the new faith, always seeking and searching for an ultimate answer, the reply to anything that really your soul longs to know is empty and sterile. They have no answers. And they have no hope, always looking for another philosopher. And philosophers come and we expect still others. Always looking for other teachers, and teachers come and go, and we expect for others.
There’s no finality in any modern idea of religion, none. The new fad, the new theology, the new reasons, the new explanations, the new revelations, the new presentation, they are filled with all of the deceit found when Satan said to our first mother, "Yea, hath God said" [Genesis 3:1]. But the blessed, final answer in Jesus Christ there is the most soul satisfying finality in our Lord that mind could ever seek and that heart could ever pray for.
What shall I do with my sins? What shall I do with my sins? And the consciousness of sin is the one common factor of all the human race. People ask me a thousand times, "When you go down to the Auca’s, or the Jivaros, or when you are preaching there in darkened India or in the Orient; when you’re preaching to those heathen people, what do you preach about?" I say, "I always start on a common ground. And it is this: there is a blackness in our hearts. There is a blackness in our souls. And no place I’ve ever preached in this earth would I [but] meet common ground when I begin with our sins, our sins."
"All of us have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God" [Romans 3:23], some of us one way, some of us another way, some of us still another; but all sin, all. And there’s an answer in the finality of Christ. And He came to bear our sins away and to wash our souls white, pure as though we had never erred and never transgressed [Psalm 51:7]. And to those who commit their souls and lives to Him, there is unspeakable blessedness [John 10:10]: the divine presence in this life, and in the life that is yet to come [John 10:26-30]. This is the faith, the finality of our Lord, and it is the most inescapable truth, and verity, and experience in human life.
When I was in school, Dr. White, when I was in school down at Baylor, a school so large as that has all kinds of people in it, there was an atheist down there, an atheist, and he was my friend. There was an atheist there. And all the things he would say about the Lord, and the things he’d say about the Bible, and the things he’d say about the church, and the things he’d say about the faith, he was a blatant and vocal atheist. I was seated by his side in a little church in a revival meeting; took him with me. And we sat there in that church in a revival meeting. It was a white church house made out of wood just outside of the city of Waco. And the preacher, whom I so well remember, delivered a very ordinary and mediocre sermon.
But when he got through his message and gave an invitation, you would have thought that those people had prayed for that holy hour all their lives. I cannot remember how many came but it was a marvelous harvest. And there were grown men who were saved, marvelously saved. And the service was filled with tears and rejoicing. And after the benediction, being a Baptist church like ours, these who had responded stood up at the front and the church came by to welcome them. And we tarried. That atheist and I, we tarried. And we just stood there where we were seated. We stood there between the pews and just watched for a while, the people pass by. And there were wives who came by and put their arms around their husbands, and wept, and cried for joy. And there were children who came by who hugged and kissed their parents. And there were friends who came by who shook hands warmly, and rejoiced in the Lord. And standing there that atheist turned and said to me, he said, "Criswell, I can’t explain it but there is something about religion that just rises up and strikes you in the face." You know where that fellow is today? He’s a missionary. Hooten; he’s a missionary.
There are no answers from the lips of any other teacher, from the lips of any other philosopher, from the lips of any other scientist, from the lips of any other materialist, from the lips of any other worldly. There are no other answers. There is a finality in Christ that fits every human heart and blesses every human life. This is He who is coming again; our Lord ho erchomenos, the Coming One [Matthew 11:3]. And to those who love His appearing shall He come some day apart from sin [Hebrews 9:28], our living, and reigning and glorious Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
And while we sing this hymn of appeal tonight, you, somebody you, give your heart to Jesus, come, and stand by me. "Pastor, I offer you my hand. I give my life and soul to God." Come. In the balcony round, if you’re in that farthest seat, there is time and to spare, come. There’s a stairwell on either side, come. In this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." As God shall say the word and lead in the way, make it tonight. Make it now. A couple of you, a family of you, one somebody you, a youth, a child, as God shall open the door and lead in the way, make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE FINALITY OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. John the Baptist in prison for famous and publicized reason
1. Herod Antipas and Herodias
B. John the Baptist seeks answers
II. Are there two?
A. Two things in prophecies
1. Suffering servant (Isaiah 53:3-4)
2. Mighty judge (Malachi 3:1-3)
B. Two things in preaching of John the Baptist
1. Unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:10-12)
2. Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36)
C. Seeing the ministry of Jesus, John asks, "Is there another?"
III. One Christ, two comings
A. Age of the church was hidden from eyes of the prophets (Ephesians 3:3-6, Isaiah 9:6)
B. There is not another Christ: finality reaches its ultimate in Jesus our Lord
IV. Finality of Christ unacceptable doctrine in our modern world
A. New theology is one without God
B. New Christianity is one without the Lord Christ
1. Bible emptied of miracle
C. New faith is in pseudoscience and technology
1. New immortality is the continuity of the progress of the human race
2. Sin is a stumbling upward (Exodus 32:4)