The Coming King
December 24th, 1967 @ 10:50 AM
THE COMING KING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-24-67 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are sharing and enjoying the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Once in a while, I will prepare a message that sort of, kind of sums up the doctrine of the Christian faith, the whole hope of the Christian, and I have done that in the message this morning. Somebody might ask, “Well, why would you do it on a day like this?” For one reason: people who come to church on a day like this, when so many are in a holiday festival, and are away—people who come to church on a day like this deserve the best sermon that any pastor could ever preach.
So if God will help me, I want to do that this morning. I want to preach as fine a sermon today as I am capable of delivering. The title of the sermon is The Coming King, or The King and the Kingdom.
In the second chapter of the Book of Matthew:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came magi—Parsi priests, wise men from the East to Jerusalem,
Saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.
[Matthew 2:1, 2]
The other passage is in the eighteenth chapter of the Book of John:
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews?
Jesus answered him, My kingdom is not of this world…
Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king.
[John 18:33, 36, 37]
In the Greek language that is the most emphatic way to say an affirmation. We would say, “Indeed, yes.” In Greek, they repeat it. “Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world” [John 18: 37]—the King and the kingdom.
In an unconditional promise, in a covenant never to be abrogated, God promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and to their seed that the land of Palestine should be theirs forever [Genesis 13:14-15, Psalm 106:8-11]. The same Lord God promised to David that he should have a Son, who would be seated upon His throne and reign forever [2 Samuel 7:12, 16]. The prophet Isaiah spoke of that promised Child. In the ninth chapter of his glorious prophecy, he said:
For unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given; and the government shall rest upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
And of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of His father David… to establish it in justice and in judgment for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform it.
Seven hundred fifty years later, the angel Gabriel was sent to a little village in Galilee by the name of Nazareth to a virgin Jewess by the name of Mary, and announced to her that she should be the mother of this foretold and foreordained Child. And the angel saith unto her:
Behold, the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
And the Lord shall give unto Him the throne of His father David:
And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever and ever.
[Luke 1:35, 32, 33]
And upon a night of nights, when the heavens were filled with the harmonies of the glories of God, when the very air was resonant with the mysteries of the fullness of God’s grace and mercy, that Child was born.
An angel came to the startled watchers of the sheep on the plains of Bethlehem and said:
For unto you is born this day in the city of Bethlehem a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be the sign; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.
And suddenly, the doors of glory burst open, and the choirs who had been in training from the dawn of creation flung upward to the throne of the Almighty their glorious salutation, “Glory to God in the highest.” and, then, flung earthward their heavenly benediction, “And on earth peace, good will to men!” [Luke 2:14]. The Child, the King, was born. [Luke 2:16].
In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar [Luke 3:1], Jesus, being then about thirty years of age [Luke 3:23], was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River [Luke 3:21-22] and then went forth to His people and announced to them that He was the promised King and announced the coming kingdom [Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14-15]. He carried with Him the credentials of His exalted office. Through His mother, He was descended from David, through the line of Nathan [Luke 3:23-38]. Through Joseph, the husband of Mary, He was descended from David, through Solomon [Matthew 1: 1-16]. By birth, and by legal right, He was a King.
And there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, to the palace of Herod,
Saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the East, and are come to bow down before Him.
He carried with Him, also, the credentials of a sinless life [Hebrews 4:15]. He carried with Him the credentials of marvelous words—“Never man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]. And He carried with Him the credentials of miraculous power. Never did one work like that Man [Matthew 9:33].
Then, at the exact time foretold by Daniel the prophet [Daniel 9:24-27], in the exact way described by Zechariah the prophet [Zechariah 9:9], the promised King presented Himself as the Messiah of God to the chosen people of the Lord. And when, on that Palm Sunday, He entered into Jerusalem, the holy and capital city of heaven, they began to shout and to sing and to say, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Blessed be the Son of David” [Matthew 21:9, Luke 19:38]. And when the scribes and the Pharisees and the temple officers heard what the children and what the people were saying, they came up to the Master and said, “Have these be still” [Luke 19:39].
And the Lord replied, “If these were to hold their peace, the very stones in the pavement would cry out” [Luke 19:40], for that was the great covenant day in the history of Israel. Their promised King had come! [Matthew 21:5].
He is not only the promised covenant King of Israel, He is a rejected king [Mark 12:10, Luke 9:22, John 19:15]. And they carried the Lord before Annas, and before Caiaphas, the president of the Sanhedrin [John 18:12-13], and before the members of the highest court of Judaism [Matthew 26:57]. And they arraigned Him there, because He said He was the Son of God [Matthew 26:63-66].
And the high priest and the president of the Sanhedrin placed the Lord under oath and said, “I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of the Highest” [Matthew 26:63, Mark 14:61], and under oath, the Lord Jesus replied, “I am” [Mark 14:62]. And when He so presented Himself as the promised King of Israel, the high priest and the president of the Sanhedrin ripped his garments and said, “What need have ye for further witness, for ye yourself have heard His blasphemy. What think ye? And they cried, He is worthy of death” [Matthew 26:63-66, Mark 14:63-64].
At that time, capital punishment had been taken from the power and the hands of Judah, and had been vested in a Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate. They therefore took the Lord before Pontius Pilate and accused Him of sedition. And when Pilate examined Him, he went back to the accusers and said, “But, this Man is the King of the Jews. Shall I crucify your King?” [John 19:15]. And they replied, “We have no king but Caesar. Away with Him! Crucify Him!” [John 19:15] And Jesus was crucified a King [John 19:19]. In the language of culture and philosophy and poetry—in Greek; in the language of religion and devotion—in Hebrew; and in the language of law and of courts—in Latin, it was written above His head this superscription: “This is Jesus, a King” [John 19:19-20]. And He died a King, a rejected King [Matthew 2:2, 27:37].
He is not only the covenant King [2 Chronicles 6:16], the promised King [Zechariah 9:9], the Messiah King of God [Daniel 9:25-26]; He is not only a rejected King [Mark 12:10, Luke 9:22, John 19:15], a despised and crucified King [Matthew 2:2, 27:37]; He is an exiled King [Luke 19:11-27]. As He told in the famous parable in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Luke: a nobleman went away into a far country to receive a kingdom for himself, and said to His subjects, “Occupy till I come” [Luke 19:13]. And that nobleman went away until a set and an appointed time when he should receive the kingdom [Luke 19:15-17].
And a cloud received Him out of their sight [Acts 1:9], and the Lord went away from this earth, uncrowned, except for thorns; without scepter, except for a broken reed [Matthew 27:29]; without robes of royalty, except a filthy and cast-off palace garment. He is a “gone-away,” an exiled King [Acts 1:9].
How Satan must have laughed! How he must have exulted! How he must have danced! How the whole kingdom of darkness must have rejoiced when Jesus died like a felon [Luke 23:3-46], hanged on a gibbet, crucified on a tree! [Acts 2:23, 1 Peter 2:24]. The imps of darkness, the demons of hell, and Satan, their arch-lord, must have said, “Look! Look! Israel has slain her own Son. The chosen people and the family of God is in unbelief. Every promise of Jehovah shall fall to the ground! Sin shall reign forever! Death shall be dominant forever, and Satan shall be king forever!”
But there was a mustērion. There was a secret hid in the heart of God that was not revealed unto the prophets, nor did anyone know until God showed it to His holy apostles: that there should be an interlude, that there should be an intermission, between the coming of the King and the kingdom, that the kingdom should be postponed to another day, another set and determined hour [Ephesians 3: 3-12]. And, in the meantime, the interlude, the intermission—there should be created a fellowship, a koinōnia, a body, a church, that should belong peculiarly to the Lord God Christ, Messiah, the King Himself [Ephesians 3:9-11].
Oh, and what an amazing mustērion did God reserve against this present hour and this day: that there should be a fellowship, that there should be a household of faith, into which all men every where might freely belong, the Greek as well as the Jew ; the woman as well as the man; the child as well as the adult; the bondsman, the slave, as well as the free [Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11]; the learned as well as the unlearned—into which all men everywhere would be invited to come! And, in the mercy and in the grace and in the remembrance and in the blessing and in the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus, that all men everywhere might be made partakers of the goodness and the mercy of the Lord God [Ephesians 2:4-8]; and this is the great intermission, the great interlude, in which you and I live. This is the day of grace, when the gospel of the Son of God is preached to the ends of the earth, and all men everywhere alike are privileged and invited and urged to come and belong to the household of God. The Holy Spirit is calling out in this age in which we live [John 16:8]—these, who are members of the body of Christ; He, our Lord, the head; and we, the members of His body [Ephesians 5:30].
But what of the kingdom? Will there ever be a kingdom? What of the promises of God? Will they ever come to pass? Will God remember what He has sworn by no one other greater than Himself—He swore by Himself? [Hebrews 6:13]. Has God forgotten His covenant promises? Has He? Will there ever be a kingdom? Will we ever see a King? Will we?
In my speaking to these little children, when the fathers bring, and the mothers bring, them to me, one question I always ask them, “What does it mean when the Lord closed the Lord’s Supper with the words, ‘For as oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come’ [1 Corinthians 11:26]—What does that mean: ‘Till He come?’”
I’ve never had a child yet to fail to answer “That means,” they say to me, “Jesus is coming again” [Acts 1:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:16]. And I always follow with an immediate question, “Do you believe you will see Jesus someday?” And I’ve never had a child yet fail to answer, “Yes, pastor, someday, I believe I will see Jesus face to face. I will see the Lord. He is a coming King” [Revelation 1:7, 22:4].
God has not forgotten. He has exiled Himself, but He is coming back. When the thief died on the cross, he turned his head to the Lord and said, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom” [Luke 23:42]. And when a cloud received Him out of their sight, the last questions the disciples asked was this, “Lord, what of the kingdom? What of the kingdom? Lord, wilt Thou restore the kingdom to Israel? [Acts 1:6]. When?” Someday, some triumphant and glorious day.
He is not only a promised King [Zechariah 9:9]; He is not only a rejected King [Mark 12:10, Luke 9:22, John 19:15]; He is not only an exiled King [Luke 19:11-27]; He is also, bless God, a coming king! [Matthew 25:31]. And He is coming under a twofold simile. He is coming under the simile the likeness of a thief in the night [1 Thessalonians 5:2], and He is coming under the simile and the likeness of lightning across the livid sky [Matthew 24:27]. He is coming under the likeness, in the simile, of a thief: unheralded, unannounced, any day, any time, any moment, with unsandaled feet. Furtively, clandestinely, stealthily, secretly is He coming. He is coming as a thief to steal away His jewels [Malachi 3:17]. In this earth are the pearls of price for whom He laid down His life [Matthew 13:45-46]. He bought us with His own blood [Acts 20:28]. And someday He is coming for His people, to steal away the jewels out of this earth, to take them to Himself [John 14:3].
And we shall all be chosen. We shall all be taken. We shall all be raptured. Not the least saint who has placed his trust in Jesus will God leave behind, whether he has fallen into the grave, or whether he lives to the time of the coming of the Lord. All of us shall be changed [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17].
That missionary who fell on a foreign field, and lies today in an unmarked grave, God saw it, and God marked the place. And in that coming and triumphant day, all of God’s saints shall be raised, and all of us shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed, all of us, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” [1 Corinthians 15:52]. As it was with Enoch—suddenly, he was raptured. He was snatched away. He was translated [Genesis 5:24]; as it was in the days Noah shut in the ark, and the judgment fell [Genesis 7: 13, 16-24]; as it was in the days of Lot—snatched out of the city of Sodom, and the brimstone and fire fell [Genesis 19:15-16, 24]; so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Lord. Suddenly, without announcement, God’s people shall be taken away. Two shall be sleeping in a bed; one shall be taken, and the other left. Two shall be grinding at a mill; one shall be taken, and the other left. Two shall be working in a field; one shall be taken, and the other left [Luke 17:34-36].
Coming for His own—raptured to heaven; coming as a thief to steal away His own [1 Thessalonians 5:2]. He is coming under the simile of the vivid lightning that bursts across the bosom of the sky [Matthew 24:27]. The text of Revelation is Revelation 1:7:
Behold—behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him: and the families of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Or, as Jude has written: “Behold, He cometh with ten thousands of His saints” [Jude 1:14], when the Lord comes with His own—visible, personal—to be the King over all the earth.
He is coming in the glory of the Father: God the Son and the Son of God [Luke 9:26]. He is coming in the glory of the angels: their Prince and the leader of their hosts [Matthew 26:53]. He is coming in the glory of the church: as the Bridegroom with the bride [Ephesians 5:2]. He is coming in His own glory: as the Son of God [Matthew 16:16], as the Son of Abraham [Luke 3:34], as the Son of David [Luke 3:31], as the Son of Man [Matthew 25:31], the virgin-born Man [Matthew 1:23], the crucified Man [2 Corinthians 13:4], the risen Man, the ascended Man, and the coming-again-Lord God Man of all the earth [Titus 2:13]. He is coming as the Restorer and Re-creator of this fallen race and this war-weary world [Acts 3:21].
Then shall be brought to pass those marvelous and incomparable prophecies and promises of God. We shall beat our swords into plowshares, our spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall we learn war any more [Isaiah 2:4]. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid…and the lion shall eat straw like an ox [Isaiah 11:6-7]. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge, and the glory, and the peace, and the mercy, and the forgiveness and the goodness of God, like the waters cover the sea [Isaiah 11: 9]—our coming King!
“Where is He that is born King?” [Matthew 2:2].
“Art Thou a king then?”
“Thou sayest I am a king” [John 18:37].
And someday we shall be His subjects. Someday we shall see Him face to face [1 Corinthians 13:12, 2 Corinthians 3:18; Revelation 22:3-4]. And someday, He shall reign over all God’s creation [Revelation 11:15], and we shall rejoice with Him and reign with Him forever and ever [2 Timothy 2:12]. Hallelujah! Amen.
And while we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, coming into the fellowship of our dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; a couple you, or one somebody you, giving your heart to Jesus, taking the Lord as your Savior [Romans 10:8-13], coming for baptism [Matthew 28:19], coming to accept Him as your Savior [Ephesians 2:8], giving your life to Him; as the Spirit of God shall say the word to your heart, come now.
In the balcony round, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I come, pastor. I make it now. I give you my hand. I give my heart to God.” As the Spirit shall press the appeal, answer with your life, and may the angels attend your way as you come. Decide now, and, in a moment, when we stand up, stand up coming down one of these stairwells from the balcony, into the aisle on the lower floor and to the pastor, “Here I am, pastor. I make it now. I come today.” Do it. Do it, while we stand and while we sing.