THE COMING KINGDOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-24-72 7:30 p.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church, and we invite you to turn in your Bible to the Gospel of John chapter 19, and read out loud with us verses 13 through 16. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church bringing the message entitled The Kingdom of Christ, the coming kingdom of our Lord. The Gospel of John, the Fourth Gospel, chapter 19, all of us reading out loud together verses 13 through 16. Now all of us together, out loud, verse 13:
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
And it was the Preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
But they cried out, Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.
This is a scene of grim irony. Pilate saw the possibility of belittling, slapping, holding in derision the Jewish people whom he hated. So he brought Jesus forth. The Lord had been hurt. He had been beat. He had been mocked. He had been derided. He was a pitiful figure [John 19:1-3]. And Pilate, in irony, in derision brought Him forth [John 19:13], set Him there before the people and cried to them, “Behold your King!” [John 19:14].
It was the same type of a thing, except in a different kind of a feeling, when in the same chapter and the fifth verse he brought Jesus forth and said, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. That time he was trying to seek to move the populous, the crowd, to pity because the Roman procurator sought to let Him go; didn’t want to condemn Him, sought His liberty.
So he set Jesus before them, crying, “Behold the Man!” Ecce homo; hoping that such an innocent looking man, so humble and unresisting, that He would be liberated from the ravenous cry for blood on the part of the maddening crowd [John 19:5]. But this time, later on in the chapter, when the Lord is brought forth before the people, the Roman procurator sets Him before the crowd, and cries, “Behold your King!” in irony, in derision [John 19:14]. And isn’t that the most astonishing turn of fortune in human history?
Forgotten are the insults and the cries of hatred and the jeers and the blasphemies, forgotten. But what is remembered is the kingly crown that graces the brow of our blessed Lord and the incomparable kingdom over which He presides. And that is the message tonight: The Kingdom of Christ.
All other kingdoms and kings fail in time, all of them. They crumble into the dust and are forgotten. Upon a time when I was in Egypt, I asked, “Can you tell me where the capital of ancient Egypt was located? Where was the site of ancient Memphis?”
So forgotten was the location of Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria, that the armies of Alexander the Great marched over it and never realized that an ancient empire and an ancient capital, Nineveh, lay beneath their feet. Or what should I speak of the crumbling empires that Daniel saw in the great vision of the man with his head of gold? [Daniel 2:38]. The Babylonian Empire is gone. With the breast and arms of silver [Daniel 2:32, 39], the Medo-Persian Empire is gone. I don’t know whether or not we could find the capital of Shushan, Susa, or not [Nehemiah 1:2].
The Greek Empire, the thighs of brass [Daniel 2:32, 39], has so long crumbled and gone. The Roman Empire of iron [Daniel 2:33, 40-43], with its east and west, it’s gone! All other empires fail in time! But the kingdom of our Lord endures in increasing meaning, now and forever! [Daniel 2:44-45]. “Behold your King!” [John 19:14], said Pilate in derision, in blasphemy. But to us there is but one kingdom and one King. His name is King Jesus, and His kingdom is that of the kingdom of God; and it shall endure forever [Luke 1:30-33].
You know, it’s a rare thing. It would only be somebody like Dr. Eddleman who would ever read it, and I think, know what it means. In Matthew 16:18 the Lord says, “I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, petros; and upon this petra I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Just what does that mean? “And the gates of Hades, katischuō,” translated in the King James Version, “shall not prevail against it.” What does that mean?
Well, katischuō is a common Greek word meaning, “power to hold it down”; kata, down, eschuō, the power to hold it down. Now the gates of Hades, what are they? Hades is the grave. It’s the word for death, the under land, the nether land, death.
What do gates do? They shut out or they hold in; gates. We say gates storm and gates fight. The imagery is ridiculous. It’s inane. It’s silly. It has no pertinency at all. And what the Lord said was, “The gates of Hades, the gates of death, katischuō, have no power to hold it down” [Matthew 16:18].
What the Lord was saying is simple. All of the relationships we make in life are dissolved in death. There’s no more Assyria. There’s no more ancient empire of Egyptian, or Babylon, or Persian, and every other relationship in life is dissolved in death, all of them. But there is a relationship that we can make in Christ that the power of death has no effect upon it! In fact, in death it is but, number one, wondrously, gloriously sealed and strengthened, and made quick and alive, and resurrected in Christ [1 Thessalonians 4:16].
That’s what that passage means. Isn’t that right, Dr. Eddleman? I don’t know what I’d have done if he’d have said, “That’s not right.” How did I know that he would say, “That’s right?” Because he reads it in the Greek language. That’s what Christ was saying: that the kingdom that He has, and the kingdom He builds, and the relationships that we have with Christ, if they’re in Him, they are forever! The power of death has no prevailing against it; katischuō [Matthew 16:18]. They can’t hold it down. The kingdom of Christ is an eternal kingdom [Daniel 2:44-45]. All other kingdoms pass away.
Second: all other kingdoms fail in principle, all of them. The kingdoms of this world are built upon might and strength, so many of them upon war and bloodshed and conquest. Now I’m a citizen of America—and you’d call me a hawk, I suppose, for I believe in keeping America strong. And the reason I believe in keeping America strong is because we live in a depraved and ravenous world!
When I see the American government spending money on these space programs, I am happy for it. When I see America trying to protect this country by making it possible to know how to put a space platform up there in the sky, a satellite around the earth, I’m in favor of it. When I see America making those Polaris submarines and those bombers and those aircraft carriers, I’m in favor of it. I don’t think we can exist apart from being strong militarily. I don’t think we can. I think our enemies, I think our enemies would destroy us overnight if we are not strong. But that is an illustration of the kingdoms of this world. They are vicious. They are bestial.
It is not without reason––and when I was preaching through the Book of Daniel, do you remember I preached a sermon on this? In the second chapter of the Book of Daniel, when the man saw the vision of the kingdoms of the world it was in the form of a great giant golden image [Daniel 2:31-35]. But in the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, when God sees those same kingdoms, they are there depicted as ravenous beasts! [Daniel 7:3-7]. And I don’t know any depiction that is more true than the world of nations in which we live. Literally, I do believe that Russia would destroy us overnight if she could. I think the vicious government of Mao Tse-tung would overwhelm us in a moment if they could. It is a ravenous world in which we live. It is built upon the principle of might, and of strength, and of war, and of conquest, of murder and bloodshed. But the kingdom of our Lord, it is a different world in Him; and what a different kind of a king, the gentle and lowly Jesus. “A bruised reed He will not break; a smoking flax He will not quench; until He bring peace to the ends of the earth” [Matthew 12:20; Isaiah 42:3].
You know, there are two great kingdoms that are at war in this world in which we live now. One is the kingdom of night, of darkness; and the other is the kingdom of day and of light; one is the kingdom of Satan, and one is the kingdom of Christ [Colossians 1:13]. One is the kingdom of the blessed Jesus, and the other is the kingdom of communism and Karl Marx. And think of the difference between the two.
The shadow of Karl Marx falls across and around this earth. Who was Karl Marx? He was a wretch who let all six of his children starve to death. Karl Marx was a perverted renegade who sat down in the British library of the British Museum, National Museum, and wrote Das Kapital. And he wrote it saying that the world from now on is to be characterized by class warfare, and he was advocating bloodshed and revolution.
And that kind of a doctrine and that kind of a spirit of terror has seized the whole earth. We live in a world of terror. Why, the day is fast coming, it seems to me, when you will be afraid to accept a letter through the mail. The day is fast coming when these terrorists enter into halls of music, when they enter Olympic athletic contests, when the skyjacker lurks around every corner and seeks an entrance into any plane, any time.
It’s a world when a woman is afraid to walk down the streets. Oh, the terror that this world is plunged into! And it is fostered and fomented by government, statedly so. The kingdoms of this earth fail in principle. How different the kingdom of light, and peace, and blessedness of our gentle Jesus, the King of glory [Matthew 13:41].
Last; all of the kingdoms fail in human hope, all of them; all of them. Dr. Eddleman, way back yonder in the years gone by, reading history, I would come across Demetrius Soter, Demetrius Soter, Ptolemy Soter, Seleucus Soter, Antiochus Soter. Well, I thought, “That’s the funniest name, Soter.” Oh, they were endless. So and so Soter. Well, I had no idea why he was named Soter, until I started reading Greek, and then I saw in the Greek language: s, omega, t, eta, [rho]; sōtēr, savior, the simple word for savior. Demetrius Savior, Antiochus Savior, Seleucus Savior, Ptolemy Savior; by the uncounted numbers those ancient rulers presented themselves to the people as the savior and champion of the nation.
Did they save their people without instance, without exception? All of them led the people down into degradation, or poverty, or war, or distress, or trouble, or trial, or tribulation. Sōtēr, it’s an ironic name when you read it in history. Every hope they brought changed to dust and to ashes.
Well, let’s not talk about Demetrius who lived two hundred years before Christ, or the Ptolemies or the Seleucids. Let’s not talk about them. Let’s talk about today. Let’s talk about our people in our generation, in our century. I read––and you’ve heard me mention this––I read the minutes of the Baptist World Alliance in Philadelphia in 1911, and there was gathered there the great Baptist leaders of the world.
And they made marvelous addresses, and without exception, every address was filled with incomparable hope and optimism! The twentieth century was to be the century of the common man. We were ushering in the millennium. And without exception, every major theologian that I can find was a postmillennialist. They were preaching the doctrine that we are soon to see war outlawed, the kingdom come in, and Christ to be King over all of the earth through the preaching of the gospel.
Let me tell you something. There was a man who made a survey of all the philosophers, and all the poets, and all the political leaders, and all the statesman from the last half of the nineteenth century to the first part of the present twentieth century. And he saw something that I had also seen as I was reading. That shows he’s a smart man to be able to see it. There was not a poet, there was not a philosopher, there was not a statesman, there was not a politician, there was not a anybody who in the last half of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century, foresaw the tragic upheaval, and revolution, and war, and terror into which this world has been plunged in our lifetime.
The First World War, not a one saw it. The Second World War, not a one saw it. Communism, not a one saw it. And the days and years of terror in which this earth has been plunged, the revolutions in Africa, around the earth, not a one of them foresaw it. But there they were, prophesying the postmillennial hope that we’re going to preach the kingdom in, and Christ is going to be reigning, Lord Sovereign over all the earth because of the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God.
And isn’t this a strange come to pass? In my study, just before I came into this service today, in my study were two young people. They have a little family; and he comes out of one denomination, and she comes out of another denomination. And both of them said to me, “We don’t recognize our churches, and we don’t recognize our preachers.”
One of them said, “The pastor of the church where I grew up, he preaches out of the Reader’s Digest. That’s where he gets his sermons. Not out of the Bible, not out of God’s Word, but he preaches out of Reader’s Digest.” And the other one said, “And the pastors that I have known in my denomination are so far out in liberal left field until the church has died.” Why, not only did they not foresee the national disintegration of this earth, but they didn’t foresee the waning, the apostasy, in the Christian pulpit itself. The power of the Christian church has gone down just like that. And the preacher doesn’t preach the Bible anymore, and he doesn’t give an invitation anymore.
Did you know there’s a doctor that came here this morning? He’s an ophthalmologist from Cincinnati, Ohio. He was visiting the church. He came to the eight-fifteen service. And he said to me, “You cannot know how I felt today, sitting in this service, when you got through preaching, that you gave an invitation.” He said, “Where I go to church, there has not been an invitation extended in memory.” And he said, “As I sat there and listened to you preach today, this morning, and then give an invitation for people to accept Christ as Savior,” he said, “I couldn’t help but brush the tears out of my eyes.”
All of these other kingdoms fail in human hope. They say things. They present things, and they offer things. Some of them are fantastic what they promise, but they all fail, all of them.
There’s one Somebody who doesn’t fail. There’s a King who is royal. He doesn’t mislead us. Oh, how worthy He is! And He tells us the truth. He says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, do not get discouraged; I have overcome the world” [John 16:33]. He says, “Let not your heart be troubled [John 14:1], peace I leave with you; not as the world giveth [John 14:27]. Let not your heart be troubled” [John 14:27]; King Jesus, with a kingdom that shall last forever [Luke 1:33].
In our hearts, in this earth where we live, there can be the sweetness and the blessedness of the presence of the blessed Lord. And then in the kingdom that is yet to come—and next Sunday morning, I’m going to preach about that kingdom that is going to come, when the King comes. O God be praised! What a blessedness, what an openness, what a future, what a door does God set before us; all of us who look in faith to the precious Lord [Galatians 3:11; Ephesians 2:8].
Our time is much spent. We’re going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, or a couple you, or a one somebody you to give himself in faith to Christ, will you come and stand by me? To take the Lord as your Savior, to trust in Him, to believe in Him, would you come and stand by me? “Here I am, pastor, I’m making that decision now.” Do it in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming down one of these stairways or walking down one of these aisles. And God bless you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE KING OF FOREVER
A. Contrast of grim
irony in Pilate presenting Christ
1. In pity (John
2. In derision
B. The ultimate meaning
II. All other kingdoms fail in time
A. The vision of Daniel
B. Kingdom of Jesus
shall endure forever (Matthew 16:18)
1. Power of death
has no prevailing against it
III. All other kingdoms fail in principle
A. Built on war,
1. America today
B. The kingdom of
Christ different; a gentle and lowly King (Matthew 12:20)
1. The kingdom of
IV. All other kingdoms fail in human hope
A. The name “Soter”
B. Post-millennial hope
of preaching the kingdom in