May 23rd, 1971 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-23-71 7:30 p.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Salvation Now, now. Could I add my own word of grateful appreciation for all of you who work in the high school Bible teaching ministry of our church? Rueben Schmidt, the superintendents, and the teachers, and these teenagers who respond so nobly and studiously, we are proud of you. There is no congregation in this city that has in it such devotedly brilliant young people as we have in that high school Bible department. They literally shine, and they are an example that has impressed, oh! untold numbers of churches and thousands of people. And no wonder these ministers who came here for the School of the Prophets wanted the literature that you study. This is just a harbinger of what is yet to come.
In our preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in the eleventh chapter, chapter 11. And take your Bible and turn with me to the eighteenth verse, and we shall read through the twenty-sixth verse. John 11, verses 18 through 26 [John 11:18-26]. The whole chapter concerns the resurrection, the raising, the resuscitation––actually he was not resurrected––the resuscitation of Lazarus. And the sermon tonight will be concerning that stupendous miracle.
He had been dead four days [John 11:17], and in a country like that, un-embalmed, you can imagine the corruption that would have overwhelmed the frame; dead four days! But it would be nothing in the sight of God to raise a man that had been dead four millennia, or four centuries, or four years, or four days, or four minutes, or four seconds. It would be the same with God.
Well, this is the miracle, and the sermon tonight concerns that miracle. John 11, verses 18 through 26, now all of us, let us read it out loud together:
Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house.
Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
But I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou shalt ask of God, God will give it Thee.
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?
The apostle John presents the miracle of the raising of Lazarus [John 11:43-44], as that final incident that brought about the death of Christ. In the eleventh chapter, this Gospel of John, after the stupendous miracle the Sanhedrinists—the Pharisees, the scribes, the Sadducees—gathered and the Scripture says, “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put Jesus to death” [John 11:53]. Then in the verses of the next chapter, John says that when the throngs came to see Lazarus raised, they also consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death [John 12:9-10].
You will not find a more poignant illustration of the observation of the apostle Paul that the gospel is the savor of life unto life to them that believe, and the savor of death unto death to them who do not believe [2 Corinthians 2:15-16]. You’ll find no more pointed, poignant illustration of it than in this instance here. For the raising of Lazarus [John 11:43-44] was so awesome a spectacle, it was so gigantic a miracle, that the Scriptures say when people came and saw it and looked upon it, that many of them believed! [John 11:45]. But it was this miracle that occasioned the counseling of the Sanhedrin, and the chief priests, and the Pharisees, and the scribes, and the Sadducees to put Jesus to death [John 11:53].
Well, you would think that a great miracle, a sign like this would just convince anyone of the power of God and the presence of the Almighty in the Lord Jesus; but it doesn’t work that way. I remember something out of Spinoza—he was a naturalist, a materialist; he was an infidel philosopher, he died in 1654—Spinoza said that if he could persuade himself to believe that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, that he would cast aside all of his philosophy and would embrace the Christian faith and would become an ordinary Christian believer.
Now what Spinoza said is not true, because a miracle is received according to the godliness and the spiritual constitution of the believer. And if a man is not a believer, a miracle will have no effect upon him! Let me illustrate that in the life of our Lord. When the Lord told a story of Dives and Lazarus [Luke 16:19-31]––Lazarus the poor beggar who was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom [Luke 16:22], and Dives the rich man who lifted up his eyes in torment in hell [Luke 16:22-23]––the man in torment, the rich man, said to Abraham, “Abraham, send Lazarus that he might speak to my five brothers, lest they come to this place of damnation and fire” [Luke 16:27-28].
And Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets [Luke 16:29]. They have the Bible. Let them read the Scriptures and be saved.”
But Dives said, “But father Abraham, they will not believe the Scriptures; but they would believe if one went to them raised from the dead [Luke 16:30]. If they were to see the miracle of Lazarus coming up out of the grave, and witnessing to them, they’d repent! They’d turn and be saved!” And father Abraham replied:
If they believe not Moses and the prophets, if they believe not the witness of the Scriptures, neither would they be convinced, neither would they be converted, neither would they repent, though one rose from the dead!
There is no power in a miracle as such, a sign or a wonder as such, to change the human heart. Our response to it is according to the human heart, and you have a magnificent illustration of that here. To those whose hearts were open to the Word of God—the resurrection, the resuscitation—the raising of Lazarus [John 11:43-44], was a stupendous miracle that confirmed them and encouraged them in the faith. But to those who rejected the Lord, the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus but confirmed them in their bitterness and antagonism. And as the Scriptures say, “From that moment on they took counsel together for to put Him to death” [John 11:53].
Now in this miracle, this marvelous miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, there are two questions that the Lord answers. And I speak of them in the message now. First: our Lord’s answer to His disciples after Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill unto death, He tarried several days:
Then He said to His disciples, Let us go into Judea again.
And His disciples said unto Him, Master the Jews have sought to stone Thee, slay Thee, murder Thee, are You going back into that lair again?
And Jesus answered and said, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.
But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
Now what did the Lord mean by that? He is speaking parabolically, but the parable is very obvious. What the Lord said to His disciples was, “You say that if I go back to Judea I will lose My life? I will be stoned as they sought to stone Me in My last visit there?” [John 10:31].
But listen, when a man walks in the light of the Lord, when a man walks in the will of God, he does not stumble because the light of God is in him [John 11:9-10]. But if a man walks in the night, that is away and outside of the will of God, he stumbleth because light comes from heaven, direction comes from God; and when a man seeks to walk according to the light and direction in himself, he walks in darkness. But if a man walks in the light, in the will of God, his life is immortal; he cannot die. He cannot stumble; he cannot fall until his work is done.
That is why the Lord was unafraid, and why any servant of God ought to be unafraid as he walks in the will of heaven. He cannot die, he cannot be destroyed, he cannot! He cannot. All the powers in hell, and in the heavens, and in the earth cannot destroy that man until his work is done! It’s that plain, it’s that simple, it’s that factual.
Born the year Shakespeare died, a contemporary of John Bunyan, and John Milton, and Oliver Cromwell; in those days there was a godly English theologian of great piety and devotion named Richard Baxter. Wish we had an hour to talk about him, a tremendously pious, and holy, and devout man, and a gifted servant of Christ, a theologian. He was sick, sickly all his life and he was hounded in most of his ministry. He was in prison, he was persecuted. But even hounded, and in prison, and persecuted, wherever Richard Baxter appeared, there were throngs that listened to him; one of the great, mighty men of God, Richard Baxter. Well, he lived in constant despair of his life—any day, any hour, any time, to be slain, to be murdered, to be ambushed, to be waylaid, to rot in prison—his whole life and ministry were like that. I want to show you how he lived. I copied this from him:
Lord, it belongs not to my care
whether I die or live.
To love and serve Thee is my desire,
and that Thy grace must give.
If life be long, I will be glad
that I may long delay;
If life be short, should I be sad
to soar to endless day?
[work unknown: Richard Baxter]
It is the same; if I live, the Lord lives with me; if I die, I live with Him. Whether I live or whether I die it is the same [Romans 14:8]. Either here, or there, our lives are hid with Christ in God [Colossians 3:3]. And that’s what the Lord meant when He answered the disciples about going back into Judea, to Bethany, where Lazarus was sick and where he died [John 11:7]. “You do not understand,” He says to the disciples. We are not to follow craven, cowardly patterns of life, to live in fear, fear of death, never! But the Christian is to live a life of immortality! [Philippians 3:20]. He cannot die until his work is finished [John 11:9-10]. Then when his work is finished—and the second part of my sermon—he doesn’t die! The Christian doesn’t die; he’s just translated with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And the life is the same here as it is there, and the salvation is the same here as it is yonder; the life is just the same.
Now we come to that second part of the message:
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
Jesus saith unto her, “Martha, I am not speaking about some far off consummation, some day that may be a thousand years—now, two thousand years—hence, maybe ten thousand years more, I am not talking about that.” Jesus said unto her the profoundest words that ever a man spake:
. . . I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me cannot die, shall never die . . .
Never die, never die! He doesn’t know death; to the Christian there is no death, there just isn’t. There is a change, there’s a metamorphosis. There is a translation, but there is no death! “He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never, ever die!” [John 11:25].
When the cast is broken, when the container is broken, when the case is broken, it just exposes the jewel, it is not lost. When a house falls down, the home is not destroyed. When the cocoon is broken, the butterfly is but liberated. The earthly shell in which I live may be broken, it may be cast aside, but the life does not cease to be or to exist; we just live in a metamorphic state, in a translated state, in a glorified state. “He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die, never” [John 11:26].
“I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life” [John 11:24-25]. Now! Now—salvation now, life now, Jesus now, happiness now, glory now, heaven now—everything godly, glorious, incomparable, celestial, superlative, now! Life now; the comfort of Christ is ours now! [John 11:25-26].
The communists mock and ridicule the Christian people speaking of their “pie in the sky, by and by.” Oh! That is a travesty, that is a ridicule. The comfort in the Christian is now. As He hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” [Hebrews 13:5] Or as Paul said, “There stood by me this night the angel of the Lord” [Acts 27:23]. He is with us, now. We can talk to Him and pray to Him and feel His presence, now! We can walk with the Lord, now. Everyday is a triumphant day as the choir sang this morning, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” [Psalm 118:24]. Now! Our salvation is now!
Oh! There are so many people that with heavy hearts, and dread, and foreboding, fear that hour of death and the great judgment day of Almighty God—no! Our salvation is now. Listen to the present tense of the verse: our Lord said in John 5:24:
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath—
hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life—
He that believeth on Him is not judged, is not condemned; he that believeth not is condemned already, because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
But he that believeth now is not condemned! Now! We’re not going to be saved—we are saved now! We are not going to be in Christ, we are in Christ now. We are not going to live, we are living now. Not going to heaven, we are in heaven now. “Well preacher, if this is heaven, dear me! What in the earth are you talking about?” I’m talking about, if you are in Christ, you are in God—you are in heaven—and it’s because of the drag of our mortal unbelief that we don’t just rejoice every day of our lives.
I’m just not the Christian I ought to be. I’m just not the glorious, triumphant believer I ought to be. I’m just like these worldlings, I’m like these sinners. I’m like all these people out here in the world. But the more I get unlike them, and the more I get like the Lord, the more I live a life of joy, and victory, gladness every day, happy every day, full of glory and life every day. Not going to live, living now! Not going to be saved, saved now. Same way about the forgiveness of our sins; we’re not going to be forgiven, we’re forgiven now.
I want to show you a little phrase in a verse that Jesus said that we so many times overlook. You look at this verse. When the paralytic was laid down before the Lord—open the roof and let him down before the Lord—the Lord looked upon him and said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee, rise, take up thy bed and walk.” And those who were listening were highly offended saying, “Who can forgive sins but God? This Man blasphemes!” [Luke 5:18-21]. Well, we’re so taken up in the story that we overlook the little phrase I’m going to point out to you. All right, now look at the verse:
And the Lord Jesus looked at that paralytic and said, That ye may know that the Son of Man hath power—and now the little phrase—on earth to forgive sins, I say unto thee, Arise, take up thy bed and walk.
Now that’s my little phrase, “on earth.” We’re not going to be forgiven, we are forgiven now! [Luke 5:24]. We’re not going to be absolved at the great judgment bar of Almighty God; we are absolved now! We’re not going to be delivered some day; we are delivered now!
And the presence of our blessed Lord is not some great, final, consummating hour––He is so far off; His words and His promises are like distant and receding echoes. It is not that way at all. We’re going to see the Lord face to face [Revelation 22:4]; but we’ll be no nearer to Him then than we are now; He is present with us now! [Matthew 28:20]. We can touch Him, and feel His presence, and we can talk to Him, and He can talk to us; and we can live by His side, and He can live with us. We can walk with Him, and He can walk with us; it’s a glorious thing!
He is the propitiation of the sins of the whole world [1 John 2:2]; but He is the propitiation for my sins! He died for the sins of the whole world [John 1:29]; but He died for my sins, too. And He blesses His people, and He blesses me; and He knows His people, and He knows me; and He loves His people, and He loves me; and He helps His people, and He helps me; walks with the people, walks with me; talks to His people, talks to me. It is just that dear and that near and that personal. Not someday, but now!
“I know he will rise again at the last day” [John 11:24].
“No!” said the Lord, “I am the resurrection, and the life: and he that believeth in Me never dies” [John 11:25]. He has life, he has it now, he has it forever! [John 10:28].
And it’s only as I compromise and let worldly things come between me and my Savior that He seems distant, and far off, sometimes almost untouchable. But these things I allow to come in between, for the way, the door is open; for as close to Jesus as I want to be, as wrapped up in glory as I would choose, just as precious as I will decide; now—not someday, but now, and for the having, for the asking, for you.
In a moment we’re going to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, to come to the Lord, to give your heart to Jesus, to be happy in Him; to find rest, and peace, and victory, and joy, and triumph, and everything precious, come. It is yours. God made it for a gift for you [Ephesians 2:8], for the having, for the asking, for the opening of your heart. There’s an answer in Him to every question. There is strength in Him for every trial. There is victory in God for every battle. You can’t lose, not in Christ. Come to Him. A family, a couple, or just you; in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, on this lower floor, into the aisle, while we sing this appeal, come. Make the decision now in your heart right where you’re seated. Make the decision now. “I decide for God now, and I’m coming; I am trusting Him,” then into that aisle, or down this stairway and here to the pastor, “I’m coming now.”
As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision and come. “Here I am. I’m on the way,” and when you stand up, stand up coming. That first step is the victory step in your life. It’s a glory road, it’s a happy way, it’s a heavenly way. God said it and God will see you through. Come while we sing, make the decision now, and come. God will bless you. Angels will attend you. Come, while we stand and while we sing.
I. John presents the miracle of the
raising of Lazarus
final incident that brought about the death of Christ (John 11:53, 12:10)
gospel the savor of life to them that believe (2
Infidel philosopher Spinoza
Miracle has no effect on the unbeliever (Luke
II. Jesus answers the disciples (John 11:7-10)
A. If a man walks in
the will of God, he cannot fall until his work is done
1. Richard Baxter
B. The Christian
III. Jesus answers Martha (John 11:23-26)
A. A present salvation,
2. His salvation
now (John 3:18)
B. Forgiven now (Matthew 9:2-6)
C. His presence now