The Coming Christ
January 30th, 1972 @ 10:50 AM
THE COMING CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-30-72 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Coming Christ or The Great Intervention. In our preaching through the Book of Daniel, we are in the seventh chapter. And in the middle of the seventh chapter, in the middle of the vision of the great sweep of human history, he sees the coming Christ:
I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like wool . . .
A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened . . . And I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven . . .
And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, and nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed forever.
In the seventh chapter of Daniel [Daniel 7:1-28], as in the second chapter of the prophecy [Daniel 2:1-45], God gave to him, in interpretation and in vision, the whole story of human history to the end of the age. In the seventh chapter, he sees the nations of the world as vicious, ferocious, carnivorous animals. There’s the lion, the first one. There’s the bear, the second one. There’s the leopard, the third one. There’s the nondescript with great iron teeth, the fourth one [Daniel 7:4-7]. Thereafter, there are no worldwide dominions, empires; but the empire is broken into separate nations, represented in the second chapter by the ten toes of a great image of a man [Daniel 2:33-35, 41-44], and in this chapter, chapter 7, represented by ten horns out of which one comes up separate, diverse, apart, the Antichrist who shall be the last, final world dictator [Daniel 7:7-8]. Now in the midst of that prophecy of the course of human story, he sees the coming of the Lord [Daniel 7:13]. And He comes as a great interposition, intervention, catastrophically, cataclysmically, in the twinkling of an eye, as the lightning flashes across the bosom of the sky [Matthew 24:27]. In this revelation of the coming of our Lord, there are several facets that are dramatically and vividly portrayed here in this passage I’ve just read, and I speak of them now.
First: the coming of Christ is judgmental. “The judgment was set, and the books were opened” [Daniel 7:10]. In the fifth chapter of John, we are told that “The Father judges no one, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” [John 5:22]. When Christ comes, therefore, it shall signal the gathering together of the nations and peoples of the earth: “And the judgment is set, and the books were opened” [Daniel 7:10; Revelation 20:12]. All of us, someday shall stand in the presence of Almighty God [2 Corinthians 5:10], and our proximity to that hour is as near as the day of our death [Hebrews 9:27]. All of us are moving toward that vast assize.
The astronomers say that the entire universe is rapidly moving through space. Going where? To that ultimate, final confrontation with God. All of us are enmeshed in history. Our destiny is here. We are buried in this planet, and destiny, and history, and the planet itself is moving toward that great final consummation, the judgment day of Almighty God [2 Peter 3:10]. However diverse our paths may be here, they shall converge at that one common center when we stand in the presence of Almighty God [Romans 2:16; 2 Corinthians 5:10].
The baby in the cradle reaching up its tiny arms is reaching toward the great judgment of God. The youth striding by with elastic tread is moving to the great judgment of Almighty God. That old man tottering with his cane is falling toward the judgment of Almighty God. That rich man driving by with splendid equipage is driving to the judgment day of Almighty God. That poor man dressed in rags, barefoot, is walking to the great judgment of Almighty God. The Christian, with songs on his lips and praises in his heart, is pilgrimaging to the great assize. And that lost man, doing despite to the Spirit of grace, treading under foot the blood of the covenant wherewith Christ was sanctified [Hebrews 10:29], is moving to the great judgment day of Almighty God. All of us shall stand in the presence of the Lord someday. “And the judgment was set, and the books were opened” [Daniel 7:10].
In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, there is the judgment of Israel, God’s chosen family [Ezekiel 20:33-38]. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is portrayed the judgment of all the Gentiles of the earth [Matthew 25:31-46]. In the fifth chapter of the second Corinthian letter is described the judgment of the Christians who shall stand before the bema of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And in the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse, there is described the great white throne judgment before which every lost man shall appear [Revelation 20:11-15]. All of us shall stand someday before the judgment seat of Almighty God. “The judgment was set, and the books were opened” [Daniel 7:10].
There are three books that are everlasting. One is the Bible: “The flower fadeth, the grass withereth: but the word of God shall stand for ever” [Isaiah 40:8]. Heaven and earth shall pass away; but God’s word shall never pass away [Luke 21:33]. The second book that is everlasting is the book of rewards. Up there in glory, there is a recording angel, and on the pages of that book are written all the deeds of our lives [Revelation 20:12]. And when we stand at the judgment seat of Christ, we shall be rewarded according to what we have done in the days of our flesh [2 Corinthians 5:10]. The third book that is everlasting is the Lamb’s Book of Life; and on those pages are recorded the names of all those who are the heirs of salvation [Revelation 17:8, 21:27]. “On the page, bright and fair, are our names written there.” The judgment is set, and the books are opened” [Daniel 7:10].
Not only is the coming of Christ judgmental, but the coming of our Lord is also premillennial. It is never presented in any other way in the Bible. And if I preach the Bible, that is what I shall preach. Always, there is the coming of Christ and the establishment of the kingdom, never the establishment of the kingdom and then the coming of Christ. The millennium is not the dawn that ushers in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, but Jesus rather is the Sun of Righteousness [Malachi 4:2], rising above the horizon and flooding the world with His unshaded, undiminished glory. Always it is that. First, there is the coming of the Ancient of Days, then the thousands of thousands who gather to minister before Him [Daniel 7:9-10]. First, there is the coming of the Son of Man with the clouds of heaven, and then there is given to Him dominion and glory and a kingdom [Daniel 7:13-14]. There is the great image, down to the ten toes, smitten by the Rock, cut out of the mountain without hands, and then there is the growth of the stone to fill the earth, the kingdom of God [Daniel 2:34-35]. Always, it is that.
There is nothing separating us from Christ—no intervention between us and the coming of the Lord. We are not to look for a great tribulation, or the battle of Armageddon, or the development of the social fabric of national life, or some system whereby men are ameliorated in their pain, or suffering, or desire in prayer for peace. Rather, we are to look for the great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus. Even as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20: “For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence we look for Jesus our Christ.” “Always” in the Bible the coming of the Lord is premillennial; first, the Savior, and then the establishment of the kingdom.
Not only is the coming of Christ judgmental, and not only is it premillennial, but it is also interventional. It is the great interposition of God in human history. If there is any one thing that the prophets teach us, it is this, that the restoration of humanity is never found in itself, but it is found in a power beyond itself, outside itself, above itself; and that power “always” is in God. And in the prophecy of the consummation of the age, always it is the intervention of Christ in human history, the coming of the Lord from heaven down to earth. For example, here in the vision he beholds, he says, “I watched the panorama of human history, and then the Ancient of Days did sit, His garment white as snow, and His head like pure wool, and the stream of fire issuing before Him: and the thousands and thousands ministering unto Him” [Daniel 7:9-10]. There is the course of human history down to that great, final, cataclysmic day, and “always” it is that intervention in human history that brings amelioration to mankind.
It is thus here. “These great beasts, which represent the nations and kingdoms of the earth”—they reigned and they followed their course in history—“but the saints of the Most High, shall take the kingdom, and shall possess it for ever and ever” [Daniel 7:17-18]. How do they take it? How is it transferred from terrestrial to celestial? How are the times of the Gentiles changed into the possession of the saints? How is it that these vicious governments suddenly are made docile, and domestic, and peaceful, and joyful? It comes not from the nation itself, or the human stream of life itself, but “always” it comes as an intervention from God; and in the Scriptures it is always the second coming of our Lord.
“Without exception, the apostles and the prophets and the apocalyptic visions” present the course of human history as continuing as it is, full of murder, and blood, and war, and trouble, and sorrow, and death, until the great, cataclysmic intervention of Christ from heaven. The reason for that, to me, apart from the Bible, is most explicit and plain. We are helpless before the providences that overwhelm us; we have no power against them. Death—God calls death an enemy [1 Corinthians 15:26]. Death is so final and we are so helpless before it. Abraham said to the sons of Heth, “Sell me the cave of Machpelah for a burying place for my dead” [Genesis 23:3-9]. Who is his dead? It is his beloved Sarah. And he says, “that I might bury my dead out of my sight” [Genesis 23:4] Who can resurrect the dead? It is not in us, it is only in the power of God. If there is a resurrection, it comes from an intervention of heaven [Genesis 5:21; Acts 26:8].
Our death in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1]—who can resurrect us spiritually? Who can give us a new birth? Never in ourselves, we are lost and fallen. If we are born again, if we are saved, if we are forgiven, it must be in an interposition from God. God must do it [Ephesians 1:7]. So in the stream of human history there is no indication, in the thousands of years of history, of civilization, of culture, of the development of human life, there is no indication that we get better and better. Rather, we exchange a club and a stone ax for weapons that fall upon us from the sky in horror! Instead of a man deceiving another man by word of mouth, now we have great networks by which nations deceive other nations. How is it that the stream of humanity today ever rises to peace, or joy, or felicitousness and blessedness? It lies in the intervention of God, and “without exception,” that is the prophetic message of the Holy Scriptures. The restoration of the race, the amelioration of mankind, the hope we have for any better world, never arises in us—we are incapable of it—but it rises from God and is expressed in the great, triumphant appearing of our Lord. This is what the apostle Pauls calls “the blessed hope” [Titus 2:13]. There shall appear, without announcement, without herald, there shall appear suddenly, as the lightning cleaves the bosom of the sky, like a great sudden flash there shall suddenly appear, the coming of the Son of Man from heaven [Matthew 24:27], interposing in human history, setting up the kingdom of God. “Behold, He cometh with clouds” [Revelation1:7]. “And there in the vision was One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven … and there was given Him the dominion, and the glory, and the kingdom” [Daniel 7:13-14]. It is set up by God Himself and not by the genius of man.
When the Lord stood before the high priest and is tried before the Sanhedrin, the high priest put Him on oath and said, “I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether or not Thou be Christ, the Son of the Blessed” [Matthew 26:63; Mark 14:61], and, on oath, the answer of the Lord was this: “I am. And henceforth shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Power, coming in the clouds of heaven” [Mark 14:62]. There the Lord is quoting this vision, in the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel [Daniel 7:13]. Ah, what an overwhelming, and astonishing, and unbelievable faith! He who was despised and rejected, spit upon and scorned, crucified and mocked, nailed on a cross between malefactors [Matthew 27:22-50], He shall come in glory and in power! [Matthew 25:31]. I think that is why the apostle John, when he wrote the text of the Revelation: “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him” [Revelation 1:7]. John stood that day by the cross [John 19:26]. He saw the bitter, bitter faces, and the scornful words, and the hard hearts of the Roman soldiers and they who mocked Him. And he is saying that someday, at the great judgment seat of God, these who crucified the Christ, who mocked Him, they shall be forced to face Him—“they also who pierced Him” [Revelation 1:7]. And the families of the earth shall wail because of Him [Revelation 1:7], these who look to other sources of hope, and salvation, and amelioration but don’t look to God, when the Bible says, and the Scriptures say, that all of our hope for any better tomorrow lies in the intervention of Christ from heaven [Matthew 13:41].
Not only is His coming judgmental, and not only is it premillennial, and not only is it interventional—the intervention, the coming down, suddenly, cataclysmically, the coming down of God from heaven—but it is also triumphal. Think of the diverse complexity of this millennial kingdom—in it, the angels, the redeemed, the saints of the Old Testament, the saints of the New Testament, all of them there. “But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess it even for ever [Daniel 7:18]… And the Ancient of Days came, judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time [came] that they should possess the kingdom [Daniel 7:22]… And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom” [Daniel 7:27].
Think of the diversity in it. And in the passage and in the vision, he describes some of that diversification, that diversity. I think of the creation first, this first and fallen creation, how diverse it is. There is the sky above us, and the earth beneath us. There are the stars, and the moon, and the sun. There are the verdant, emerald meadows. There’s the autumnal foliage clothing of the trees. There is the water and the land. There is the day and the night. There are the seasons. There are colors, and sounds, and dimensions. Not two leaves are alike out of the untold billions that fall to the earth. There are not two snowflakes that are alike. Think of the diversity of God in the great creation fallen about us.
Then, it is no less so—the diversity, the complexity of diversity—in the millennial kingdom, in the new creation, when Christ shall come again. Some of these things are spoken of in the text, in the vision, and in the Bible. For example, in the complexity of the kingdom, it is both angelic and human, all are there, and all mingle and all have a part, and all praise God the Savior. In the fifth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, for example, there praising the Lord are the four zōa, the four cherubim, representing the creation. There, praising God in that millennial kingdom, there you will find the twenty-four elders, the twelve patriarchs, and the twelve apostles. There you will find the myriads upon myriads of angels [Revelation 5:8-11]. And there you will find the redeemed, the blood-bought of all ages, mingling together in the kingdom of Christ, singing, “Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor, and glory, and dominion for ever and ever” [Revelation 5:12].
Ah, think of it! These angelic and celestial spirits do not disdain to look upon us as their brethren, even though we are so poor, and degraded, and made of the dust of the ground. What could be more beautiful or more precious than in the twenty-second chapter of the Apocalypse, when John had seen through the angel the vision of the consummation of the age [Revelation 22:1-7], and seeing those visions, he “fell down at the feet of the angel to worship him … And the angel replied, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the sayings of this book” [Revelation 22:8-9]. The angels do not disdain fellowshipping with us as fellow servants in the great kingdom, and glory, and city of our Savior.
The complexity, the diversity: not only that, but the nations and the inter-nations who are there; ah, what God hath wrought in gathering together all of these who share in the kingdom! “And there was given unto Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, and nations, and languages, should serve Him” [Daniel 7:14]. In the kingdom of our Christ, the people—you will be you, and I shall be I, and we shall be we. If that is not true, the resurrection and glorification mean nothing at all. If it is not I who is resurrected, if it is not I who is glorified, if I am not I in the kingdom, then resurrection has no meaning; if it refers to something else, if there is another mass, if there is another entity, if there is another person and it is not I, then resurrection has lost its meaning, and the Word has no pertinency at all; but if resurrection has any meaning, it must be that I am resurrected [1 Corinthians 15:42-44; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. It is I who senses and feels and knows, who loves. It is I who is resurrected. People, we’re not going to be globs and gobs. You will be you, and we shall be we in the kingdom, the people who love the Lord. And the nations: as flower differs from flower, as the star differs from star, so country and nation shall differ from country and nation. The nations will be there, and each, as the Bible says, will bring into the glorious city, the glory and honor of its history [Revelation 21:24-26]. The nations will be there; not only people and nations, but languages [Daniel 7:14].
I realize that a part of the curse was the breaking up of the one common language [Genesis 11:1, 5-9], but the reversal of that curse does not mean that we shall have just one tongue with which to speak. Rather, it means that each nation, possessing its own language and own tongue, each nation can understand every other nation [Daniel 7:14]. The miracle of Pentecost was not that they all spoke one tongue, but the miracle of Pentecost was that each one understood whatever the tongue in which the message was presented [Acts 2:4-8]. So it shall be in the kingdom of our Savior, each one speaks his own language and his own tongue, but all of us understand [Daniel 7:14].
What is the language of heaven? Spanish? Italian? English? Greek? Latin? It shall be all of it. Our Lord spoke to Saul, on the way to Damascus, in the Hebrew tongue [Acts 9:1-6]. In the days of His flesh, He spoke the Aramaic language [Mark 5:41]. Languages—we shall all be speaking in our tongue, and all of us shall understand everyone else [Daniel 7:14]. In that kingdom there are many peoples, but one sentiment. There are many nations, but one Lord; and many languages, but one harmonious understanding. It shall be like a beautiful orchestra, it isn’t all violins, it isn’t all woodwinds, it isn’t all percussion instruments. In an orchestra, it is all of the instruments making a glorious contribution, each one. So it is in the kingdom of our Savior, each one has his part to contribute. Each one brings a glory into it, every nation, every land, every tongue, every people, every gift, you! And without you, it is just that much lacking.
And one other thing: in that diversity, it is also nondestructive [Isaiah 11:9]. As it is now, so many times black people hate white people. So many times poor people are envious of affluent people. So many times nations are greedy and covetous, and they hate, and rape, and rob, and destroy, and overrun other nations. So many times the diversities in the human family bring sorrow, and conflict, and altercation, but in the kingdom of God, the diversity is nondestructive. “The wolf will dwell with the lamb”—they’ll both be there—“the leopard shall lie down with the kid”—they’ll both be there—“the lion shall eat straw like an ox” [Isaiah 11:6-7], he will be there; all in its Edenic, primeval, pristine, beauty and form. No animal was made carnivorous, to eat another animal, but as it was in the beginning, in domestic tranquility, the whole creation, diverse, shall move in the pattern, and the purpose, and the plan, and the glory of God. “And they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain” [Isaiah 11:9].
Civilization, in history, goes back about six thousand years before Christ. Isn’t it a strange thing? That’s what the Book says, and that’s exactly what the archeologist says. And as far back as we can trace the story of the nations of the world, the story is blood red; it is marred with murder, and blood, and war. The immortal names that are on that story book, Cyrus, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Charlemagne, Tamerlane, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, those men were made immortal not because they were philosophers, but because they were fighters; not because they were statesman, but because they were warriors. Blessed is the nation whose history is short, for the story of mankind is one of blood, and of avarice, and of greed, and of violence, and of invasion and war. Nor is there any indication or any hope that as the civilization progresses, our wars will become less fierce, or less ferocious, or less destructive. It is the opposite. As the story of mankind progresses, our wars become more ferocious and more fierce; we just trade a stone ax or a wooden club for a submachine gun or a bomb that falls out of the sky.
Does that continue forever? In the diversity of the kingdom of Christ, “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”; the swords will be used for plowshares and these spears for pruninghooks [Isaiah 2:4]. And in that millennial kingdom, there will be no internal strife. “Judah will not vex Ephraim, and Ephraim will not envy Judah” [Isaiah 11:13]. And in that millennial kingdom, there will be no more those who sit helpless in the valley of the shadow of death, but upon them, the light shall shine [Isaiah 9:2]. “And they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light”—in their helplessness, and hopelessness, and darkness—“and they shall live and reign with God for ever and ever” [Revelation 22:5]. “And there will be no more sorrow, and no more crying: for these things are all passed away” [Revelation 21:4].
Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousands thousands saints attending
Swell the triumph of His train:
God appears on earth to reign. Amen.
Yea, let all adore Him,
High on His eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own:
O, come quickly, O, come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!
[from “Lo, He Comes in Clouds Descending,” Charles Wesley]
This, Paul says, is “the blessed hope” [Titus 2:13], when sorrow and sighing flee away, and there is no more sorrow or death. “Behold, He saith, I make all things new” [Revelation 21:4-5]. Do it, God, for me, for the people, for all of us, that we might live in faith, and in hope, and in the love, and goodness, and mercy of Christ our Lord [John 10:10].
In a moment we shall stand and sing our appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, or a couple you, or just one somebody you, while we sing this song, would you answer God’s call with your life and come stand by me? “Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to the Lord. We’ve decided in our hearts and we’re coming now.” Do it on the first note of the first stanza, while we stand and sing.
THE COMING CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The time is surely coming when the whole world will be judged
B. Judgment of Israel, Gentiles, Christians, lost
C. Books opened
II. Judgment is always pre-millennial
III. Coming of Christ is interventional and interpositional
A. Per prophecy, the restoration of humanity always comes from the outside, not from itself
B. Intervention of Christ
A. Angelic and human
B. National and international
C. Diversified but not destructive