The Coming Christ
January 30th, 1972 @ 8:15 AM
THE COMING CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-30-72 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Great Interposition, The Great Intervention: The Coming Christ. In our preaching through the Book of Daniel, we are in the middle of the seventh chapter, and this is a description of the coming, conquering 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 pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire.
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.
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.
And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, 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.
[Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14]
In the encompassing seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, the prophet sees the whole sweep of human history to the end of the age. He sees these nations and empires and kingdoms as God sees them. They are bestial and murderous and martial, they are full of violence and blood; one he described somewhat like a lion; one like a bear; one like a leopard; and the fourth, a nondescript with terrible teeth [Daniel 7:3-7]. Then, after the last great empire of iron, the breaking up of the kingdoms; the multiplying of the individual nations in the earth, then finally the Antichrist; and then the coming of the conquering King, our Savior from heaven [Daniel 7:15-28].
As we look at the prophecy and the vision, there are several aspects of the coming of Christ that are here most vivid and dramatic, and we shall speak of them this morning. First: the coming of Christ is judgmental. In the tenth verse the judgment was set, and the books were opened [Daniel 7:10]. In the fifth chapter of the Book of John we are told that "The Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" [John 5:22]. One aspect, therefore, of the coming of Christ will be to preside over the judgment of all of the nations and peoples of the earth. All of us someday shall stand before God [Acts 17:31].
Its proximity is as near as the day of our death. The whole universe is moving toward that great assize. These astronomers say that all creation is moving at a furious pace through space. Where is it going? To that rendezvous with Almighty God! History and destiny, in which our lives are inexorably enmeshed, moves onward and carries us with it. However our lives may be diverse here, somewhere, someday, we shall all converge at the great common center, the judgment seat of Almighty God. All of us someday shall stand in the presence of God, there to give an account for what we have done in the days of our flesh [Matthew 12:36].
The baby in the cradle, reaching up its tiny hands is reaching toward the great judgment day of Almighty God. That youth, passing by with elastic tread, is moving toward the great judgment day of Almighty God. That old feeble man, tottering with his cane, is moving toward the judgment day of Almighty God. That rich man, riding in splendid equipage, is riding toward the great rendezvous with Almighty God. That poor man, in rags and barefoot, is walking to the great judgment day of Almighty God. The Christian, with songs of praise on his lips, is pilgrimaging to the great judgment day of Almighty God. And the lost, the one who rejects the proffered grace and mercy of the Lord, doing despite to His love, and treading underfoot the blood of the covenant [Hebrews 10:29], is moving toward the great judgment day of Almighty God. All of us shall stand someday in the presence of the Judge of all the earth. "The judgment was set, and the books were opened" [Daniel 7:10].
In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel there is described for us the judgment of Israel, the people of God. In the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of the Book of Matthew there is described the judgment of the Gentiles. In the fifth chapter of the second Corinthian letter there is described the judgment of the Christians. And in the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation there is described the judgment of the wicked dead.
All of us shall someday stand in the presence of Almighty God. "The judgment was set, and the books were opened" [Daniel 7:10]. There are three books that are everlasting and eternal. One is the Bible. "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever" [Isaiah 40:8]. "Heaven and earth may pass away: but God’s word will never pass away" [Mark 13:31]. One is the Bible. The second everlasting book is the book of the rewards, wherein God writes down with a pen of diamond all the deeds of our lives, and we shall be judged out of those things that are written in the book [Revelation 20:12]. And the third book that stands forever is the Lamb’s Book of Life in which the Lord God writes the names of those who are the heirs of salvation [Revelation 21:27]. "On that page, bright and fair, is my name written there?" Someday all of us shall stand in the presence of Almighty God, and that day is when Christ comes again [Romans 14:10].
His coming first is judgmental. He is coming to judge the nations and the peoples of the world [Joel 3:2]. Second, His coming is premillennial; it is always that in the Word of God [Revelation 19:11-20:6]. Never is the millennium of peace and joy covering the faces of the earth, and then Christ comes; but always it is first. Christ comes, and then the kingdom, the millennium.
The millennium is not a dawn that ushers in the presence of Christ and the coming of the Lord, but rather Christ is the Sun of Righteousness who rises above the horizon [Malachi 4:2], who comes down from heaven and whose unshaded, unfaded glory covers the whole earth. We are not looking for a program. We are not looking for a great tribulation. We are not looking for the battle of Armageddon. We are not looking for a system created out of the earth, whether economic or military or political or national, but we are looking for Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, coming down from heaven!
As Philippians 3:20 avows, "For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." Always, the coming of the King, and then the millennium; always, the coming of Christ, then the establishment of the kingdom, "I beheld. . .and the Ancient of Days did sit. . . and then the thousands and thousands ministering before Him [Daniel 7:9-10]. Again, "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven" [Daniel 7:13]. That first, "And then there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom" [Daniel 7:14].
It is always premillennial. In the second chapter of the Book of Daniel, in the vision of the great image, there is the course of human history and finally the ten toes; the nations broken up in the world [Daniel 2:37-43]. And then the great stone cut without hands smites the image on its feet, and the stone grows into a mighty kingdom that fills the earth [Daniel 2:34, 44-45]. The coming of Christ is always presented in the Bible as premillennial.
Third: the coming of Christ is interventional and interpositional. The greatest lesson that I can see in the prophecies of the Bible and especially in these in Daniel is this: that the restoration of humanity never comes of itself but always from the outside. The course of human history continues on in murder, and warfare, and blood, and violence. And then there is the great intervention when Christ comes and establishes the kingdom of God in the earth. Always it is that intervention, that interposition that brings victory, and hope, and gladness, and singing to the earth. Here in the Bible; "I beheld the course of human history; these great nations and kingdoms, following one after another. I beheld, until. . .the Ancient of Days did sit" [Daniel 7:9]. The great intervention and interposition is from heaven; it is from God! How is it that peace and joy and gladness, victory, triumph, salvation, deliverance are brought to the sons of men? Always in the personal intervention of God.
Here these great beasts, Daniel interpreter says, are four great kingdoms, but the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom and possess it forever and ever [Daniel 7:27]. How is it that the kingdom is transferred from the grasp of the beast nations into the glorious kingdom of Christ? How is it that the times of the Gentiles is changed into the millennium kingdom? How is it that the terrestrial rulers of this earth and their subjects are transferred to the celestial kingdom, under the great Lord God who reigns in peace and glory?
Always it comes about through the personal intervention of God, when Christ enters, interposes, in human history. And there is no exception to that in the Bible. Always our hope lies in the intervention of God, never of ourselves! Never in any development of human history! Never in any genius of mankind! Never in any advancement of technology, or science, or knowledge, or culture, or social fabric! Always the kingdom comes in the intervention of Christ from heaven.
We see this in our own helplessness before the very enemies and tragic foes that we face. One is death. One is death. Death is so final, and we are so helpless before it. As Abraham said to the sons of Heth, "Sell me the cave of Machpelah for a burying place, that I might bury my dead out of my sight" [Genesis 23:4, 9]. He was speaking of his beloved Sarah. Who seems so helpless as he who stands in the presence of his beloved dead? If there is a resurrection it must come from outside ourselves; it must come from an intervention from God.
It is so with our spiritual natures. We are a fallen humanity. The second chapter of Ephesians begins, "We are dead in trespasses and in sins" [Ephesians 2:1, 5]. It is so final, our fallen natures, and there is no possibility or hope for a new birth, for a spiritual resurrection outside of the interposition of God. The Lord must raise us from the dead. He must make us quicken and anew and born again. We are helpless outside of His grace and presence.
It is so in the course of human history. There is no hope in the development of national life or international life for that millennial kingdom. There is no system that the world can develop that brings deliverance from violence, and blood, and sin, and grief, and conflict! If our deliverance ever comes, it must come from an intervention of God! And this is ever the vision that is presented in the Bible. The interposition, the intervention, the coming of Christ is the great signal for the creation of the new order and the establishment of a new kingdom.
"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with clouds of heaven. . .And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom" [Daniel 7:13-14]. It comes instantaneously. It comes as a flash of lightning across the bosom of the sky [Matthew 24:27].
When the Lord Jesus stood before the high priest, the high priest put Him on oath and asked Him, "Tell us, Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" [Mark 14:61].
And the Lord, under oath, replied to the high priest, before the Sanhedrin, "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]. The Lord was quoting this seventh chapter and the fourteenth verse of the Book of Daniel. The great interposition from heaven is the only hope we shall ever have of resurrection from the dead, of a millennial kingdom in the earth, and a world filled with the knowledge of God and the righteousness of heaven. There is no other presentation in the Bible.
Fourth: not only is the coming of Christ judgmental, not only is it pre-millennial, not only is it interpositional, interventional, but it is triumphal. "I saw in the night visions, and One like unto 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" [Daniel 7:13-14].
What a complexity in this millennial kingdom over which Christ shall reign. That all people and nations and languages – it is not without color, it is not without life, it is not without drama, but the kingdom of God, when it comes, is filled with intensest being, serving the great Redeemer forever!
You have a picture of that in the creation that God has made – fallen, but around us now. It isn’t one colorless, uninteresting, undramatic piece, but it is filled with diversity. There is the sky. There is the earth. There is the day. There is the night. There are the seasons. There are the colors. There are dimensions. God has filled it with such diversity that not even one leaf of the billions and uncounted billions of leaves is ever like any other leaf, nor one snowflake like any other snowflake. God has filled His world of creation with diversity.
And that same glorious diversity and complexity we find in the millennial kingdom of our Lord. Look at it. Look at it. It has in it both the angelic and the human. "I saw the Ancient of Days sit,A fiery stream issued from before Him,and thousands and thousands ministered unto Him: And ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him" [Daniel 7:9-10]. Who are they? They are the angels of heaven. They are the cherubim and the seraphim, and they are the redeemed of all ages.
They are described in the fifth chapter of the Book of the Revelation: the four zōa, the four living ones, the four cherubim who represent the creation of God, they are there; the twenty-four elders representing the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles; and the angels by the uncounted myriads; and myriads, and the redeemed of all ages, of the Old Covenant, of the New Covenant, of the family of God in Abraham, and the redeemed of Christ in His grace [Revelation 5:6-13].
Ah, the great complexity and diversity in that millennial kingdom of our Lord! Is it not a wonderful thing that they who are the angelic spirits, who stand even now in the presence of God, do not disdain to call themselves brothers with us? However poor or humble or degraded we may be, the angels count themselves as our fellow servants.
Do you remember what the angel said to the apostle John in the twenty-second chapter of the Revelation, when the Revelation had been mediated to John through the angel? John said, "And I fell down at his feet to worship, but the angel said, ‘See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren of the prophets, and of them who keep the sayings of this book’" [Revelation 22:8-9]. What a diversity in the millennial kingdom of Christ, God’s angels and God’s redeemed all mingling together, singing the songs of praise and worship, "Worthy is the Lamb!"
Not only that, but in the complexity and diversity of that kingdom – national and international – can I accept this word as being true? Can I believe it literally? If I may, then let’s see what the vision given to Daniel contains, describing those who are in that kingdom: "And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people" [Daniel 7:14]. People! I shall be I, and you shall be you. There is no thought in the Word of God that in the great millennial kingdom of Christ we become blobs and globs. If I am not I when we are raised from the dead, immortalized and glorified, if I am not I, then the resurrection has no meaning whatsoever. Words have lost their content. If the resurrection means anything at all, then it means that I shall live, and I shall be raised from the dead, and I shall be a citizen in that kingdom. And that is exactly what God says. You will be you, and I shall be I, and we shall be we. In that kingdom, people are there, you! Not only that but nations; nations, national life.
In that kingdom, flower shall differ from flower, and star shall differ from star. And country shall differ from country. And nation shall differ from nation. As the sainted John said, "And the nations of the world shall bring their glory into it" [Revelation 21:24-26]; there shall be that diversity of national life; people, and nations, and languages.
It is a part of the curse, I know, that the language of the man of the race was diversified. But the reversal of that does not necessarily mean that we shall all speak the same language; rather that we shall understand one another. The miracle of Pentecost was not that everybody spoke the same language, but the miracle of Pentecost was that everybody understood in his own tongue, the message that was delivered [Acts 2:4-12]. I think that is the way it shall be in the millennial kingdom. People, nations, and languages; each one shall speak his own language. The miracle will be that everybody can understand everybody else.
What is the glory of the language of heaven? Is it Italian? Is it Spanish? Is it English? Is it Hebrew? Jesus spoke to Saul on the way to Damascus in Hebrew. Is it Aramaic? That is the language Jesus spoke in the days of His flesh. My beloved, it is all of it! All of it! And each one of us shall understand each other of us; the languages in the kingdom of God. And in that diversity there shall be no destructive, violent forces. However we differ, as nations or as peoples or as languages, however diversified, it is non-destructive.
There shall be many peoples with one sentiment. There shall be many nations with one Lord. And there shall be one glorious harmony with many languages; like an orchestra, like music. The harmony creates its fullness and its glory. It isn’t all strings. It isn’t all brass. It isn’t all drums. All of it together, the diversity of it makes for the glory of the musical program. So it is in heaven. In the diversity there is no destructiveness.
And the most beautiful prophecies in the Bible are those that describe the glory of that kingdom of joy and peace. "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. They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain" [Isaiah 11:6-7, 9]; at peace, in glory, in diversity, living in non-destruction.
Why, bless you, the history of civilization is largely nothing other than a recital of the murderous, ambitious wars that have destroyed mankind. Our civilization goes back, as far as we can know, to about 6000 or 7000 BC. And as far back as the story of civilization extends, there do you have those awful periods of violence and conflict, murder and blood. The great names that stand out in history have immortalized themselves not because they were philosophers but because they were warriors. Not because they were statesmen but because they were fighters. Cyrus, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Genghis Kahn, Tamerlane, Saladin: all of them leading armies. Nor is there any indication that wars will cease; rather the story of mankind is the story of wars that are more fierce and more destructive. Isn’t it a tragedy in this present life that scientific achievement, unbaptized, is without pity? The napalm that falls upon women and children and villages, the awful destructive power of the bomb; helpless before it.
But in this millennial kingdom, diverse as it is, it is also non-destructive. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain [Isaiah 11:9], in all God’s holy kingdom; there will not be national strife. "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" [Isaiah 2:4]. There will not be internal strife. "Judah will not vex Ephraim, and Ephraim will not envy Judah" [Isaiah 11:13].
And there will be no hopelessness and helplessness and darkness. Those who sit in the valley of the shadow of death will see a great light [Isaiah 9:2]. "They need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they reign forever and ever" [Revelation 22:5]. "And there will be no more hurt, and no more sorrow: for these things are all passed away" [Revelation 21:4].
Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the glory of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.
Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thy eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly!
Eternal God, come down!
["Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending," by Charles Wesley]
"I saw One like the Son of Man come with the clouds of heaven. . .And there was given Him dominion, and glory, that all people, and nations, and languages, should serve Him forever and ever" [Daniel 7:13-14].
There is no other hope. This is the evangel, the good news. And when we pray, "Thy kingdom come," that’s what we pray. That’s what we mean. Christ, come, Oh! come quickly. Eternal God, come down.
Let’s sing that song; is it number 123? Charles Wesley wrote it. While we sing the song, somebody you, give your heart to the Lord, come into the fellowship of the church, answer God’s call for you. While we sing the song, come and stand by me. "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.