The Panoply of God


The Panoply of God

December 12th, 1971 @ 10:50 AM

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ephesians 6:13-17

12-12-71     10:50 a.m.


On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  Ordinarily, this Sunday and next Sunday there would be some kind of a message on the incarnation, the nativity of Christ, but I have one sermon left to preach to close the long series on the Book of Ephesians, and I am going to deliver that message now.

And this spring, as I told you, these forty to fifty messages that I have preached from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church will be published; and we can keep them, and read them, and study them at leisure.  The title of the sermon is The Panoply of God, the armor of God.  The reading of the text is in the last chapter of Ephesians, chapter 6:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole panoply—

panoplia,” that is the Greek word—

put on the whole panoply, the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the machinations of the devil.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places, in the darkness of this world and in the heavenlies.

Wherefore take unto you the whole panoply, the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the [fiery] darts of the wicked one.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

[Ephesians 6:10-17]

Panoplia: pan—“all,” hoplo—“weapons,” the whole weapons of God, the panoply, the armor of God.  And he names it, all six of the pieces of armor and weaponry that a Roman legionnaire wore into war.

For many years, Paul was chained as a prisoner to a Roman soldier.  Many times, far beyond what I have opportunity to list, does Paul refer to that chain.  For example, he will say as he stood before King Agrippa, pleading the cause of Christ [Acts 26:1-32], and Agrippa says, “en oligos— in brief, “in summation,” translated in the King James Version, “Almost en oligos, you would persuade me to be a Christian” [Acts 26:28].  And Paul replies, “Not only en oligos but en [megalos], en oligos kai en [megalos]:


Not only in brief, but in everything, in much could I wish that both you, and all who hear me this day, be all together such as I am, except for this chain.

[Acts 26:29]

Acts closes with Paul’s address to his Jewish people, and he said, “For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain” [Acts 28:20].  In his last letter to Timothy Paul writes, “God grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus; for when he was in Rome he searched me out diligently, and found me, and was not ashamed of my chain” [2 Timothy 1:16-17].  In the years that Paul, as a prisoner, was chained to a Roman soldier, he daily looked upon the armor that the soldier wore.  And he names all of it here.

“Girt about” [Ephesians 6:14], the big heavy belt that braced the soldier and held the armor in position, and also made it possible for him to be freer and unfettered in his warring—that’s an interesting thing, that iron belt that held his armor in place.  I read where the Franks, the soldiers of Gaul, of now France, the Franks, when the soldier was young, they welded around him an iron band, and that was to keep him, Dr. Bagwell, from gaining weight all the rest of his life.  And when I read that I think of some of us, how we just bulge out there, bulge out here, if we had an iron band around us today; the girdle [Ephesians 6:14], the belt that held the armor in place; and then the breastplate [Ephesians 6:14], which was no decoration, but a grim reminder of the vital organs that had to be carefully protected.  And the third piece, the heavy shoes [Ephesians 6:15], the calcei ––remember Caligula, the Roman emperor? Little shoes, little boots––the calceithey were hobnailed and heavy in order to grip the road or the field, that the soldier might have a firm footing.  And the shield [Ephesians 6:16] that covered his entire body; and the helmet [Ephesians 6:17] that protected his head; and the sword [Ephesians 6:17] by which he attacked face to face the enemy; it was the short Roman two-edged sword that overwhelmed the civilized world.

You know that’s hard for me to realize.  I would think that the phalanx that was perfected by Philip of Macedonia and furthered by Alexander the Great would have been invincible and impregnable.  But what overwhelmed the phalanx was the short Roman sword, that two-edged sword.  With the shield they brushed aside the ranks of spears, and they attacked their enemy face to face, hand to hand.  And there was no match in the ancient Greco-Roman world for the Roman legionnaire.  And they overwhelmed the entire civilized, Mediterranean world with that short two-edged sword.

Now that brings us to an observation of the Christian faith.  In symbolism and in type, in the New Testament and in history, it is always martial.  Isn’t that an astonishing thing?  The imagery that is so often used, the symbolism that it follows is so largely martial; it belongs to war and to conflict.  Now not actual steel and iron, Paul will say in the second Corinthian letter in the tenth chapter, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty under God to the overthrowing of strongholds” [2 Corinthians 10:4].  Not actual sword or spear or steel, but the imagery of war and battle and conflict.

This is a part of the Christian faith from its inception.  The Christian religion was born in persecution, in martyrdom, in suffering, in imprisonment, in bloodshed, and in death!  It was so in the life of Christ; He suffered execution [Matthew 27:32-50; Luke 23:26-46].  It was so in the life of the apostles, all of them were martyred except one.  And it was so in the story of the Christian church; for the first centuries it endured unspeakable persecution, and thus so in many areas of the world today, and through all of the centuries preceding.

As a Spartan was born for soldiery, so a Christian is born into conflict.  His destiny is to be assailed and his duty is to attack.  Like David, who is described as running to meet Goliath [1 Samuel 17:48], why didn’t he stay in the sheepfold?  Because of the nature of the faith; that has always been true.  Listen to this ancient hymn:

Lift up your heads, ye gates of brass,

Ye bars of iron, yield.

Let the King of glory pass,

The cross is in the field.

That banner, brighter than the star

That leads the train of night

Shines on their march, and guides from far

His servants to the fight.

Uplifted are the gates of brass,

The bars of iron do yield.

Behold the King of Glory pass,

The cross has won the field.

[from “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Gates of Brass,” James Montgomery]

The spirit of that is like the sign that Constantine said he saw in the sky, in hoc signo vinces, “In this sign, conquer.”

Now, I took our hymnbook: in our hymnbook is a whole section on Christian warfare.  Listen to the title and to the nomenclature, the words of martial spirit that are in these songs that we sing.  The first one:

Am I a soldier of the Cross?

…Sure I must fight if I would reign.

[from “Am I A Soldier of the Cross?” Isaac Watts, 1724]

  The second one:

 Fight the good fight, with all thy might.

[from “Fight the Good Fight with All Thy Might,” John Monsell, 1863] 

The third one:  “Loyalty to Christ.”

“On to victory!” cries our great Commander, On!

We’ll move at His command;

We’ll soon possess the land

Thro’ loyalty to Christ.

[from “Loyalty to Christ,” Dr. E. Taylor Cassell]

The next one:  “The Banner of the Cross”:

There’s a royal banner given for display

To the soldiers of the King

Marching on, marching on.

[from “The Banner of the Cross,”  Daniel Webster Whittle (1840-1901)]

The next one:  “The Kingdom is Coming.”

The sunlight is glancing on armies advancing,

To conquer the kingdoms of sin.

[from “The Kingdom is Coming,” Mary B. Slade]

The next one:  “True Hearted, Whole Hearted.”

Under the standard, exalted and royal

Strong in Thy strength we will battle for Thee.

[from “True Hearted, Whole Hearted,”;Frances Havergal, 1878]

The next one:  “Dare to be Brave.”

Strive for the right,

Fight and be strong,

Christ is your Captain,

Fielding what’s wrong.

[from “Dare to be Brave,” W. J. Rooper]

The next one:

Onward Christian soldiers,

Marching as to war

Christ the royal Master

Leads against the foe,

Forward in the battle,

See His banner go.

[from “Onward Christian Soldiers,” Sabine Baring-Gould]

The next:  “Who’s on the Lord’s Side?”

Fierce may be the conflict,

Strong may be the foe

But the King’s own army,

None can overthrow.

[from “Who is on the Lord’s Side?” Frances R. Havergal, 1877]

The next one:

The Son of God goes forth to war,

A kingly crown to gain

His blood red banner streams afar,

Who follows in His train?

[from “The Son of God Goes Forth to War,” Reginald Heber, 1812]

The next one:

Stand up, stand up for Jesus,

Ye soldiers of the cross

From victory unto victory,

His army shall He lead,

Till every foe is vanquished,

And Christ is Lord, indeed.

[from “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,” George Duffield, Jr., 1858]

The next one:

Soldiers of Christ arise,

And put your armor on.

[from “Soldiers of Christ Arise,” Charles Wesley, 1749]

“Lead on O King Eternal,” the next one:

The day of march has come

Henceforth in fields of conquest,

Thy tents shall be our home.

[from “Lead on O King Eternal,” Ernest W. Shurtleff, 1888]


We bivouac out there on the battlefield.  The next:

My soul be on thy guard,

Ten thousand foes arise,

Fight on my soul, till death

Shall bring thee to thy God.

[from “My Soul, Be On Thy Guard,” George Heath]


The next one:

We’re living, we are dwelling, and age is telling…

Sworn to be Christ’s soldiers, ever….

Strike, let every nerve and sinew tell on ages, tell for God

[from “We are Living, We are Dwelling,”  Arthur Cleveland Coxe, 1840]

The next one:

March on, O soul, with strength,

As strong the battle rolls.

[from “March on My Soul, with Strength,” William Wright]

The next one:

Arise O youth of God,

March on to victory.

[from “Arise O Youth of God,” William Pierson Merrill]

I am pointing out to you that there is a facet of the Christian faith that is supremely martial; it speaks of war and of conflict.  As the birth of the faith itself, and into that conflict, as Christians all of us are born anew.  When, therefore, I read here, “Wherefore take unto you the whole panoply of God” [Ephesians 6:13]—the girdle, the heavy belt, the breastplate of righteousness, our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit [Ephesians 6:14-17]—when I read that, I am seeing here a symbolism of the Christian faith that has always and always shall characterize it.

Now, for the moment we’re going to take one of them.  “Above all,” epi pas, that is, “added to all,” having put on the whole armor, the whole panoply of God, then add to it the shield of faith [Ephesians 6:16].  And the reason he states it like that is this:  having put on the armor of God, the helmet, the breastplate, the belt, the shoes, having the sword in hand, it is not enough; it must also be protected by a shield.  “Having put on the armor of God, above all, added to all, besides all, epi pas, take you the shield of faith” [Ephesians 6:16].

Now the reason is because the armor in itself could not protect the soldier.  He says here, “Take the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts, belos, a missile, a javelin, a dart, an arrow, of the wicked one” [Ephesians 6:16].  A man’s armor in itself could not protect him from that.  He needed a shield.

Do you remember the story of Paris, the prince of Troy?  He abducted Helen, the wife of Menelaus the king of Sparta, whose brother was the great soldier Agamemnon; and in their army, the hero Achilles.  Achilles had been dipped by his mother in the River Styx, and he was invulnerable except for his heels, held by his mother.  And in the Trojan War—precipitated over Helen—in the Trojan War, Paris the prince of Troy drew back an arrow, poisoned, and struck Achilles in the heel, and he died.

In the ancient warfare, there were tiers and tiers of archers.  An ordinary arrow, when its force was spent, lay dead and harmless.  But many of those arrows were tipped with poison or with inflammable material.  And that’s what Paul refers to; the shield to protect from the fiery darts, the offense of the wicked one [Ephesians 6:16].  For the armor itself, as I said, is not enough to protect the soldier, he also needs something else.

You remember how King Ahab died?  When he went into war against the Syrians, underneath he had his armor, but on top he was dressed in peasant clothes to disguise himself from the enemy.  And the Scriptures say that as the battle raged, there was a man who took a bow and drew it back at a venture—that is, without aiming—and the arrow, speeding away, entered between the joints of Ahab’s armor, pierced his heart.  His blood fell out in the chariot; the dogs licked it up when it was clean, and Ahab died [1 Kings 22:30-38].

There must be some other instrument of protection besides the armor that the man, that the soldier wears, and that is his shield.  Now Paul calls that “the shield of faith” [Ephesians 6:16].  It protects the head against doubts.  Faith, it protects the heart against the love of the world.  And it protects the hand that wields the sword.  It protects the head; the intellectual processes by which, as reasonable creatures, we cannot help but weigh the evidence for or against God—for or against Christ—for or against the church.

Recently, there was a poll made, a survey made of the students in one of the great universities of America, and they were asked to write in order, one, two, three, three great questions that they faced in religion.  And those three ordered questions were these, and they’re in this order.  First the question:  the students said, “Is there a God?  Does He really exist?  Is He personal?  If there is a God, or is God impersonal cosmic law?”

The second question that perplexed them in the faith, in religion:  “Is Christ divine?  Is He different from other men or only in degree just more endowed and more gifted?  Is He unique and separate?  Is Christ deity?”  And the third question, and in this order: “Is it necessary to belong to the church or to any other religious organization?”

Now these are not the mouthings, and the rantings, and the ravings of atheists or even of agnostics.  These are the perplexities of university students as they look at the evidence for religion.  Is there a God?  Is there?  Does He speak?  Does He talk?  Does He see?  Does He understand?  Does He answer?  When the heavens are brass, is He still there?  Does He pity?  Does He have sympathy?  Is there a God?  If so, what is He like?

The second question:  Is Jesus Christ divine?  Is He deity?  Is He God?  Is He different from other beings who also are human?  I heard a skeptic say that, “If Jesus were God, the world would have been different.  Were He incarnate deity, it would not be the same.  But His influence is not commensurate with God being in human flesh.”  And as His own brethren of the Jewish religion say, “How could He be the Messiah, when the world continues on just the same?  For Messiah will change it.”

And then the church, “Is it necessary to belong to the church?”  I have said, that to me the tragedy in Russia is not the locking, the closing of the churches.  But the tragedy is that the great masses of the Russian people do not miss it.  It means nothing to them.  They are indifferent about it.

Now, how do you answer those questions?  These things arise from the mind.  They are intellectual doubts.  How do you answer them?  There is no answer except by faith.  Hebrews 11:6, “He that cometh to God must believe that He is”—that He exists—“and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

There are no arguments in the Bible regarding God.  It just begins, “In the beginning God” [Genesis 1:1].  And the only comment ever said about it is that “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” [Psalm 53:1].  You cannot prove God intellectually.  There are many, many arguments, and I have outlined them and spoken of them and delivered them here in this pulpit; but finally and ultimately, the man that comes to God comes to Him by faith, or he never comes.  God is a reality only to those who by faith accept Him, believe in Him, trust Him [Hebrews 11:6].

The same is true with Christ as a divine Savior.  All of the arguments in the world cannot prove the deity of Christ.  “No man cometh unto Me, except the Father draw him” [John 6:44].  It is the Spirit of God that convicts the heart, and brings to Jesus [John 16:7-15].  You cannot accept Jesus intellectually and be saved, it comes by faith!  It is something a man accepts as a gift from God, or he never ultimately accepts it [Ephesians 2:8-9].

Same way about the church; if the church has any meaning and any message, it arises in the spiritual response by faith of the people.  If a man doesn’t want to come, if he does not want to respond, there are no intellectual arguments in this earth that can draw him or convince him.  These things are by faith!

Paul says, “Above all, adding to it all, take the shield of faith” [Ephesians 6:16].  When Habakkuk laid before God the unanswerable question, “Why?” as much as Judah had sinned, and as much as Jerusalem had sinned, and as much as the people of God had sinned, “Why, Lord, do You punish us by these merciless Chaldeans; these bitter and hasty Babylonians who are heathen sinners above us?” [Habakkuk 1:13]  And the only answer you will find in the Book of Habakkuk is, “God answered saying, The just shall live by faith” [Habakkuk 2:4].  It lies in the mystery of the reality, and presence, and sovereignty of God.  “Above all, taking the shield of faith” [Ephesians 6:16], without which our minds are incapable of accepting, and receiving, and believing in God—in Christ, or His mission in the earth.

Could I pause here and say the alternative?  By faith I accept God; and by faith I accept the Lord Christ; and by faith I believe in the destiny of His church, or I don’t.  If I don’t, if I refuse, what are my alternatives?  They are very plain, and they’re very simple.  When I turn aside, and reject, and refuse to accept, I turn to face nothing but an abysmal night, and darkness, and ultimate despair.  Two university students shut themselves in a room, took their lives, and left a note:  “We have decided to go together.  There is nothing left.”  The daughter of a rich family took her life, wrote a note, saying, “I am sick and weary of social life.  It is empty and it is nothing to me.”

These things are not unusual or peculiar.  They are typical and expressive.  When I turn aside from the faith, I have no alternative but to face the darkness of despair and inevitable horror of nothingness.  It has no meaning.  It has no purpose.  It reaches toward nothing.  And I am enmeshed in it, and caught up with it.  So my life becomes without purpose, without meaning, and that is modern, existentialist, philosophical despair.  That’s why Paul says, “Above all, epi pasen, having put on all the rest [Ephesians 6:11-15], above all, take the armor of faith, take the shield of trust and belief” [Ephesians 6:16].

Not only the protection of the head—the mind—against intellectual doubt, but the protection of the heart, the breastplate of righteousness [Ephesians 6:14]; the shield of faith [Ephesians 6:16], a protection against the love of the world, against the waywardness of the heart.  James the Lord’s brother, pastor of the church at Jerusalem, wrote, in James 4:4, “For the friendship of the world is enmity against God.”  They are diametrical.  “You cannot serve God and mammon” [Matthew 6:24].  It is one or the other.

The world, the love of the world, is the glamour and the glory that Satan, that Lucifer offered to Jesus if He would bow down and worship him [Matthew 4:8-9].  And one enmeshed in the world, and one caught up in the love of the world, is therein taken away from God.  Like the rich young ruler, he could not enter in because the gate is too narrow [Mark 10:17-25].  You cannot hold the world in your heart and enter into the kingdom of God.  The gate isn’t wide enough, the road isn’t wide enough, you can’t go in with both.

The love of the world are those evil influences that take us away from God.  The love of the world are those influences that make us think more of ourselves than we think of others and of God.  And the shield of faith [Ephesians 6:16] is to guard us against the waywardness of our hearts, lest we lose ourselves in the glitter and the glamour and the glory of the world.  There is no sadder sentence in the Bible than this one that Paul writes in the last chapter of his last letter.  Listen to it:  “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” [2 Timothy 4:10]; the shield of faith, to guard our hearts against the love of the world.

And the shield of faith to guard our hands that wield “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” “the sword of the Spirit,” the sword given us by the Spirit, “which is the word of God” [Ephesians 6:16-17].  And the shield is to protect that wielding hand that holds the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  Oh, what a tragedy when we lose our convictions, and we lose our persuasion that this is the divine, inspired Word from heaven!  We immediately become like hollow reeds that bow before them, before every breeze of passing, waning opinion.

When we lose the conviction that this is the revelation of God, this is the sword of the Spirit, the church turns into a club.  The religious faith turns into speculative philosophy, and the whole experience of the Christian faith can be defined in simple do-gooding, just like any other club, a civic, an association that is dedicated somehow, some way to the social amelioration of the lot of men.  But it has no answer from heaven, it has no revelation from above, it has no marching thrusting drive of the power and Spirit of God; it has lost it!

There was a man that came up to his pastor and said, “You know, before you came I abhorred the flesh, the world, and the devil.  But under your fine preaching, I have come to love all three.”  The sword of the Spirit [Ephesians 6:17], the cutting edge of the Christian faith, is the conviction and the commitment to, that this is the revealed word of God, protected by the shield of faith [Ephesians 6:16].  [Hebrews 4:[12]:

For the word of God is quick, living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart . . .

For all things are open and naked before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

[Hebrews 4:12-13]

The living, quickening Spirit of God, which is found in the living, quickening word [Hebrews 4:12]; the Christian soldier is to be like those of Nehemiah who built the wall of Jerusalem.  In one hand they held the sword, and in the other hand they worked with the trowel [Nehemiah 4:17]; giving ourselves to the Bible, the inspired revelation of heaven [2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21], and giving ourselves to the building up of His kingdom in the earth.  “Put on the whole panoply of God, epi pasen, and above all, besides all, holding the shield of faith” [Ephesians 6:11, 16].

Now in the moment that remains, may I add a summation to the message of the morning, and to the long series on Ephesians?  Always in the Bible—never excepted in the Bible—there is ever that reaching out and that assurance of a great, and final, and consummating victory.  The Bible is a book of realism, grim realism.  It presents its heroes exactly as they are, and it presents human nature and human history exactly as it is.

But always with that note, constant, reiterated, consistent, that the whole story is moving toward some glorious consummation.  It may begin in blood.  It may begin in martyrdom.  It may begin in suffering.  It may continue in imprisonment and persecution, but always it reaches out toward a glorious consummation!  That note of victory is never absent in the Word of God, never!

Always, the Bible says there’s a greater day.  There’s a finer day.  There is something to be glad about, to be uplifted about.  There is singing, and rejoicing, and gladness.  That is the Christian faith!  It is found in the apostles; they saw Jesus die, they saw Him crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], but they also saw Him raised from the dead! [John 20:26-31; Acts 1:3-11] It was so in the experience of the apostles; they knew imprisonment, they knew persecution, but they also saw iron doors opened [Acts 12:5-17].

And even the sainted apostle John who outlived them all, the only one who wasn’t martyred, sat down as a broken old man to die in exile on the isle of Patmos.  How does the story end?  It begins:

I, your brother in tribulation…was on the isle of Patmos for the faith, for the gospel of Christ, and I heard a great voice behind me.  And I turned to see, and there stood the glorified Son of God!

[Revelation 1:9-12-13]

Then he says, what the angels sang,

Hallelujah:  for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

 [Revelation 19:6].

The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign forever and ever.

[Revelation 11:15]


 Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

That is the Christian faith—in exile, in triumph, in imprisonment, in victory, in crucifixion and death—but an ultimate singing and rejoicing in the presence of the great God, and our appearing Savior the Lord Jesus [Titus 2:13].  And that is the faith of the apostle Paul.  He knew the enemy, and describes him.  He never changes. In a thousand forms and disguises, he’s always Satan, Lucifer, diabolos, the accuser [Revelation 12:10].  But he also knew the power of Christ.  Christ is power embodied [Colossians 1:16], Christ is omnipotence incarnate! [Colossians 2:9].

He was that in His life; ruling wind, wave, water [Luke 8:22-24], the devils, casting out spirits [Mark 1:23-25; Luke 4:38-41], raising from the dead [John 11:43-44].  He was that in His death; our atonement and forgiveness of sin, in His death [Romans 4:25].  He was that in the resurrection; tearing apart the bonds of the grave [Luke 24:1-7].  He was that in the ascension; “He is able to save to the uttermost, them who come unto God by Him” [Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34].  And He is that in His glorious return, personally, visibly, the great pantokrator of the earth and all God’s creation [Revelation 1:7].

In the little book that I have our children read, there’s a question:  the Lord’s Supper ends with this verse, “For as oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26].  And then the question: “What does that mean, till He come?”  I have never had a child in these years fail to answer that question in the spirit in which it’s presented.  What does that mean, “‘till He come, ‘till He come”?

And the child will reply, “That means that Jesus is coming again.”  And then I always ask, “Do you believe that?  Do you believe you’ll see Jesus some day?”  And the child always answers, “I do, I do, I do!”  He is coming!  He is returning [Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16].  That is the glad triumphant note that Paul calls “the blessed hope, the great appearing of our God and Savior” [Titus 2:13].

Once He was despised [Isaiah 53:3]; then, every tongue shall confess [Philippians 2:11].  Once He was rejected [John 1:11]; then, every knee shall bow [Philippians 2:10].  Once He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, dumb [Isaiah 53:7]; then, His voice shall shake the foundations of heaven and earth! [Hebrews 12:26].  Once He was crowned with thorns [Matthew 27:29]; then shall they bring to Him, on His brow, the diadem of all God’s heaven and earth [Revelation 19:6].  Once He had eleven men to follow Him [Matthew 10:1-4]; then shall He appear in glory, descending with thousands and thousands of His angels and of His saints [Jude 14].

You who have attended the Baptist World Alliance know that there is hardly a session but that, when those people gather out of every race and nation and tongue and tribe in the earth, they’ll always sing,

All hail the power of Jesus’ name,

Let angels prostrate fall

Bring forth the royal diadem,

And crown Him Lord of all

Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,

Ye ransomed by the fall

Hail Him who saves you by His grace,

And crown Him Lord of all!

[from “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” Edward Perronet]

This is the incomparably glorious note upon which the Christian faith ever ends, the note that closes the Book of the [1 Thessalonians] [1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, 23], and the note that closes the Book of the Apocalypse [Revelation 22:20]:  the unveiling of the appearing of the Son of God.

I’ve asked Lee Roy to change our invitation hymn, and sing that, sing that.  And while we sing it, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” while we sing it—in the balcony round, you, on the lower floor, you, a family, a couple, or just you—while we sing that hymn, down one of these stairwells, into the aisle and here to the front, “Here I come.”  Make it now, make the decision in your heart now, and in a moment when we come, stand up coming.  The greatest step you’ll ever make in your life is that one.  Decide in your heart now, and when we stand up, stand up coming.  You and your wife, the two of you, “Pastor, this is my wife and our children, all of us.”  Or just you, while we sing that glorious hymn of diadem and praise, come.  Do it now, make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.