TILL HE COME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Matthew 26:17,19, 26-30
2-4-68 10:50 a.m.
You who are listening on the radio and who are looking at television are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Till He Come. It is a message preparing our hearts for the breaking of bread, the memorial of the Lord’s Supper. In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Matthew:
Now the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?
And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body.
And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of you of it;
For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for the remission of sins.
But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.
[Matthew 26:17,19, 26-30]
At the Feast of the Passover and the institution of the memorial supper—the Feast of the Passover was a memorial that God’s chosen people Israel were to honor and observe forever. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus. “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever” [Exodus 12:14]. As long as the Jew is a Jew, he is to keep this ordinance, the Feast of the Passover. “And, it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, ‘What mean ye by this service?’” [Exodus 12:26]—ten thousand times in every generation has the question been asked. How do these Jews, who are buried in the nations of the earth, like the Gulf Stream through the Atlantic, keep their identity? Why are they never absorbed? Why are they never lost in the great streams of humanity? This is the reason: they teach their children.
And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered us. And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.
The memorial of the Lord’s Passover: it looked to the past [Exodus 12:14]. They were to remember forever God’s delivering hand took them out of bondage, and out of slavery, and out of the darkness of Egypt [Exodus 12:17], and placed them in a land flowing with milk and honey, a deliverance. The past, the present, these children in their families belong to the household of faith, to the family of God [Exodus 12:26-27].
And it looked to the future [John 1:29]. What an amazing ordinance! What an astonishing command, when God said, “This night I judge all of the land of Egypt, and My angel shall pass over. And in every house in this land committed unto judgment, the firstborn shall die, the firstborn of man, the firstborn of beast, and there shall be sorrow and lamentation as was never heard in any nation in the earth [Exodus 11:4-6].
Can you imagine such a judgment? Do you have a child in your house? Every house that had in it a child, the firstborn would die. “But,” God said, “to you who would look in faith to Me, if you will take the blood of a lamb and sprinkle it with hyssop”—take a reed-looking kind of a plant and dip it in blood and strike on the front of your house in the form of a cross, the lintel at the top and the doorposts on either side—“when the angel passes over, when he sees the blood, there will be no death in that house, but life and forgiveness and the heavenly presence of God” [Exodus 12:22-23].
Isn’t that an astonishing thing? Why? At the evangelistic conference in Alabama that I preached through this week, I was a guest in a little circle breaking bread, and one of young ministers there who’s in school was having a hard time with one of these modern theological liberals who doesn’t believe anything. Why they’re in the ministry I cannot understand, but there they are. They’re in our schools. They’re in our pulpits dragging God’s power and miracle and inspiration down into doubt and deceit and dust.
Well, one of those young preachers—that’s the reason I go to these places. Every time I have an opportunity to say a good word for Jesus, or a good word for the Bible, or a good word for the prophecies of God, I do the best I can with it–well, this young fellow was in one of those schools, and one of the men said to him, one of these theological theologues, liberals, said, “Let me ask you, would you put blood on the front of your house, would you?” And the young fellow replied, “Sir, if it meant the saving of my house, I’d get me a spray gun, and I’d paint the whole thing red!” Well, I don’t guess God meant that I’m sure, but I like the spirit of his answer.
It was a matter of trust. It was a matter of faith. God said, “If you will take the blood of the lamb and sprinkle it on the lintels and on the doorposts, when My angel passes over, there will be life for death, and light for dark in your house, and you will be saved” [Exodus 12:22-23]. Now to us and to them, I would suppose, that was a very unusual ordinance, mandate from God, but it had a future meaning.
As the memorial had a past, as it had a present meaning, so it had a future meaning. It looked toward the day of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. It was a picture, it was a dramatic portrayal of the Son of heaven who would be our Lamb, and in whose blood and sacrifice and cross and the pouring out of His life, we might have remission from our sins [Hebrews 9:22].
Now, a like meaning is in the memorial that our Lord instituted when, with His disciples, He ate the Passover. “While they were eating, He took bread, and blessed it; this is My body. He took the cup and blessed it; this is My blood, this for the remission of sins. And as oft as you eat it, and as oft as you drink it, you portray, you dramatize, you show forth the Savior’s death until He come.” Achri hou elthe, “Till He come” [Matthew 26:26-28;1 Corinthians 11:23-26].
Now, the memorial of the Lords Supper looks back, and it looks forward. It’s prophetic. It binds yesterday, today, and tomorrow together in the love and mercy of Jesus. It looks back. “This do in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24, 25]. All the busyness of life; and how easy for us to forget, and neglect, and pass by. “This do in remembrance of Me.”
I am, by these elements and by these symbols, I am to call back to mind and live over again the sacrifice of God for my soul, that I might be saved, that my sins might be remissed, that I might see God’s face and live [Exodus 33:20; 1 John 3:2]. I am to think of it. I am to remember it. As old Isaac Watts wrote two hundred fifty years ago:
Alas! and did my Savior bleed,
And did my Sov’reign die!
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When the Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature’s sin.
But drops of grief could ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do.
[“Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed,”Isaac Watts, 1707]
A memorial, a remembrance, this did He for me. It has a present significance. We, who live before the Lord, who belong to this precious church, who are members of the household of faith, who look to God for the forgiveness of our sins; a present meaning.
I am that bread of life.
This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.
Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, shall dwell in Me, and I in him.
As the living Father hath sent Me, and as I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.
[John 6:48, 50-51,53-57]
This is our strength. As eating food nourishes the human body, so we feed upon Christ for the nourishment and the enrichment and the blessings of our soul.
Bread of Heaven, on Thee we feed,
For Thy flesh is meat indeed:
Ever let our souls be fed
With this true and living bread.
Vine of Heaven, Thy blood supplies
This blest cup of sacrifice;
Lord Thy wounds our healing give,
To Thy cross we look and live:
Day by day with strength supplied
Through the life of Him who died.
Lord of life, O let me be
Rooted, grafted, built in Thee!
[“Bread of Heaven on Thee We Feed,” Josiah Conder, 1824]
A present meaning, we feed upon the Lord. He is our daily strength.
It has a future meaning. “For as often as eat this bread, and drink this cup, you portray, dramatize, set forth, show forth the Lord’s death till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. There were two words, two ways of saying that our Christian people used in the first centuries when they were so persecuted, lived in the catacombs, held their meetings clandestinely in the dark of the night, in the heart of a forest, or hidden away in a cave.
One of them was maranatha, maranatha, “the Lord cometh” [1 Corinthians 16:22]. “Maranatha,” secretly greet a fellow Christian. “Maranatha, maranatha, the Lord cometh.” The other was achris hou elthe. Mar ana tha is Aramaic, the Hebrew they spoke in Palestine. Achri hou elthe, of course, is Greek: “Till He come, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. And the Christians of those first persecuted centuries, oh ten thousand times was the phrase on their lips, “till He come.” And they’d separate, “Till He come, I hope to see you again, achri hou elthe, God bless you till He come, till He come.”
The Christian faith is of all things optimistic, upward. Yesterday afternoon driving home, our little grandson said to me, “What is optimist? What does it mean?” Optimism, optimist, that’s such a strange word, isn’t it? “Optimist, what does that mean?” Why, I said, “Son, a pessimist, pessimism is a man who thinks things are always worse and going to be worse, that the whole universe and all of life runs down. That is a pessimist. But an optimist and optimism is when somebody believes that life ultimately rises upward, that things someday will be better.”
That is the Christian. A down in the mouth Christian, a pessimistic Christian, a bitter, hopeless Christian is an anomaly in the kingdom of God. My brother, however it is now, give God time, and it will be better. “If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him” [2 Timothy 2:12]. “If we die with Him, someday, please God, someday we shall live with Him” [2 Timothy 2:11]. Achri hou elthe. It looks forward till He come; [1 Corinthians 11:26]. “He that eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, I give unto him eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” [John 6:54]. As with the Feast of the Passover, we eat, some of us now, all of us eventually, we eat with unbidden tears, bitter herbs, vacant seats.
Why, dear people, there have been men of God who have set in that chair. There have been men of God who have set in that chair, and as I presided over the service, feed them, feed them. Where are they now? They are taken away. They’re gone. They’re not here. They have died. But there is another chapter; there is something else to be added.
There is a message to herald. There is a word to preach. There is a hope to share. There is a glorious prospect that unfolds. “Till He come. Till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. Sorrow and tears, empty seats, death and the grave, the whole world like a vast, illimitable cemetery. Achri hou elthe, “Till He come. Till He come.”
Then we shall sing, and rejoice, and shout, and praise God, “And the dead in Christ shall rise first: and we who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall be changed” [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:52]. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed” [1 Corinthians 15:52]. All of us, it shall be a new heaven, and a new earth, and a new body, and a new home and a new life, and a new fellowship [Revelation 21:1].
Achri hou elthe, “Till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. Cheer up my brother; God hath ordained, it is His sovereign purpose that His saints shall inherit the earth [Luke 12:32]. This is one of the sweetest poems I have ever stumbled into. It is entitled “That Blessed Hope Till He Come.” That’s what Paul called it in Titus, that blessed hope [Titus 2:13]. Listen to it.
“Till He come,” O precious promise
To the pilgrim on his way
Like the twinkling star of morning
Pointing to a perfect day
Till He come, O wondrous whisper
To the heart by sorrow tried
Giving glimpses of that moment
When the tears of earth are dried
Till He come, O staring signal
To the soldier in the fight
Giving courage for the conflict
In the darkest hour of night
Till He come, O heavenly music
‘Mid the medley of the earth
Turning me from gilded pleasure
To the pearl of priceless worth
Till He come, O mighty moment
Moving nearer on time’s wing
When the earth shall rise triumphant
To her marriage with the King
Till He come, O let me hear it
Till the storms of life are past
And I see Him in His beauty
On the advent morn at last.
[author and source unknown]
“This do in remembrance of me. For as oft as you break this bread and share this cup, you portray, declare, set forth our Lord’s death achri hou elthe, till He come, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:25b-26].
We’re going to sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, you, somebody you, give himself to Jesus, come and stand by me. A family you, coming into the fellowship of this dear church, you come. A couple you, make it now. On the first note of this first stanza, come. Or one somebody you, in the balcony round, on the lower floor, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Come this morning. Decide now. And in a moment when we stand, on the first note of the first stanza, into that aisle and down to the front, do it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.