The Golden Tomorrow
September 10th, 1972 @ 10:50 AM
THE GOLDEN TOMORROW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Philippians 3:12-14, 20
9-10-72 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Golden Tomorrow. It is a message taken out of the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, and it comes from a juxtaposition of two things that the apostle presents almost in the same breath. And they are so diverse; yet, when you think upon them as we shall this morning, they are so beautifully and gloriously and triumphantly enmeshed. In the twelfth verse:
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfected: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and stretching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Then after a parenthesis [Philippians 3:15-19], “For,” and the “For” refers to what he has just said:
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.
To read that passage is to be almost astonished at the two things that he places side by side. Almost in the same breath, and certainly in the same passage, he speaks of his getting hold of the thing for which God got hold of him, “Not as though I had already got it”—or already perfected—”but I follow after, if that I may apprehend”—reading out of the King James Version—katalambanō—”if I may get hold of,” “if I may seize” [Philippians 3:12]. The whole passage is taken from the imagery in the Greek public games; from the Olympics.
One of the Olympiads we are watching now on television. It was watching those games on the part of the apostle Paul, that he uses the words and the language of the contest: “that I may katalambanō”—that I may seize and grasp, which is the word the Greeks used for the seizing of the prize, the taking of the prize, the winning of the prize—”that I may get hold of that for which also Christ got hold of me. Brethren, I have not done it yet”—I count not myself to have apprehended, to have seized it yet, I have not won it yet—”but this one thing I do, I diokō, diokō”—I press, I reach, I stretch, diokō—” I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, for…” [Philippians 3:12-14]. And here is the other side of that golden triumph, “For our conversation,” our politeuma—politēs is the Greek word for citizen, politeuma, the commonwealth; we say “the citizenship.” “For our politeuma, our citizenship, is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who,” when He comes,” “He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” [Philippians 3:20-21].
The golden tomorrow: here we have our assignment and our work, reaching forth to get hold of the thing for which God got hold of us; to do the things to which Christ has called us. We stretch, we run, we reach forth [Philippians 3:12-14]; and at the same time, we are watching, and waiting, and believing for the personal, visible, triumphant return of our Lord from heaven [Philippians 3:20-21]. The juxtaposition of those two thoughts: to work, to be faithful, to strive; at the same time, to wait, and to believe, and to pray, and to watch for the return of our Christ from glory. I think of the old farmer who was out in the field plowing and a neighbor came by to visit with him, and evidently, having a service on the second coming of the Lord at church, he asked his friend, he said, “If you knew that the Lord would come back in the next thirty minutes, what would you do?” And the farmer replied, “I would plow this furrow to the end of the row,” working, striving, serving; at the same time, watching, waiting, praying, believing; the golden tomorrow.
First, we shall speak of the work, of the striving, of the getting ahold, of the doing of that thing for which Christ has called us [Philippians 3:12-14]. Recently, in Philadelphia, in Independence Hall, I looked again at the chair in which George Washington sat as he presided over the Constitutional Convention. And the back of that chair is a sunburst, the sun at the horizon and then the rays of light that flute out from it. When the Convention had written the greatest political document of human history, the Constitution of the United States of America, aged Ben Franklin stood up and said, “During these days and days I have been looking at that sunburst, and I have been wondering whether it was a sunset or a sunrise.” Then the aged Ben Franklin added, “After seeing what has been done and the adoption of this instrument, the Constitution of America, I have come to see that it is a sunrise.” How little did the aged Benjamin Franklin realize that America would grow in power and in strength far beyond any man’s wildest, extremist imagination back there in the 1700s, when that document was framed. So it is, I think, of the work of our people in this great church; there is a sunrise here, a golden tomorrow, seeking after, striving after, doing the thing for which God hath chosen us. I mention a few.
One of the dreams of my life here in the twenty-eight years of this pastorate—one of the dreams of my life for years and years has been to have a school here, using these vast facilities in the daytime. A school where the children can be taught, not by a thirty-minute period on a Sunday morning in Sunday school, but hours every day. Oh, what an incomparable opportunity if it can be seized, if we could grasp it and take it! Last Wednesday, Wednesday of last week, Mel Carter said, “Pastor, would you speak to our first chapel service?” I went to Embree Hall and sat down in the pulpit, and I saw one hundred twenty children come in. There they were with their Christian principal and their dedicated Christian teachers. First of all, they quoted for me my favorite Bible verse—Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever.” Then they sang songs of heaven; then the message of the pastor. As I sat there and looked at the teachers and looked at the children and thought of the years of the dream and the vision, I brushed the tears from my eyes; and this is just the beginning. We must have more pupils. God will send them to us; this is the start, and this is the harbinger and the earnest of the more glorious day that is yet to come—another golden tomorrow.
Tonight at six o’clock in this auditorium, there shall be a convocation of our people as we prepare for the fall semester of our Bible Institute. It had been my thought for years to have such a school here in our church and to invite pastors and church leaders and staff members from the ends of the earth to come and to share the richness of its teaching ministries together. I had not thought to begin it so soon; we started it September of last year. Some of the people around me said, “Pastor, why don’t you just start?”
Well, I said, “We do not have anything. We have not prepared.”
“Well, just begin.”
So we did. With volunteer help, with our own staff employed in other areas of the church—with volunteer help, we just began our Bible Institute September a year ago. We started off with about 440, and then the spring semester, the last semester of this year, we had about 550. And from the beginning, from the start, from the first day, the infinite pleasure, the celestial, benedictory blessing of God was upon it! So we prayed—our trustees and board members prayed—that God would lead us to just that man, that one man that the Lord had chosen to head this work. And to my own gladness, beyond any way for me to say it or describe it, the Lord led to a man, and he responded. And one of the most famous and gifted and experienced theologians in our generation, Dr. H. Leo Eddleman, is already here to help us build that glorious institution. Oh, what is bound up in the possibilities of that work! Teaching preachers, staff members, Sunday school leaders, deacons, church leaders, teaching them the way of the Lord: its content, its Bible basis, its primary meanings, its functional uses, its methods. Oh, in a thousand ways is that door opened to us by the Spirit of God, and it portends another golden tomorrow!
And I think of our own teaching ministries here in the church, our Sunday school, our Training Union, our missionary organizations, our music program, our recreational, Christian recreational program—on and on—the vast outreach of our mission work, both in the city and beyond. Oh, how wonderful just to look upon it! The last Sunday in August, the last Sunday for which I have a report, a hot August day—the last Sunday in August—there was registered in Sunday school here more than five thousand five hundred. Today, this day, we organized not two new departments, but two new divisions. And there are three of our staff members that will be placing life and letter—dedication, love, consecration—here in the fellowship of our church this very glorious day. And, Oh! What lies ahead in the expanding of that teaching ministry!
Just across the way, across Patterson Street, the steel is already almost up for a $3,300,000 Christian Education Building. And so dynamic and viable and quickened is the onrush and the outreach, the seizing, the katalambanō of this church, that before that building is done we shall have more than enough people to fill it to overflowing. We will need another one; it is astonishing! It is overwhelming what is happening in this church. I just thank God I was around when the Lord chose to do it: another golden tomorrow!
Last Friday night, Friday night of this last week, at the deacons meeting in our new, beautiful, refurbished, effective Coleman Hall—our dining hall—our deacons assembled in their annual budget meeting, and they adopted—and it will be presented to you next Sunday at this hour—they adopted a budget, a giving outline for this one church of over $3,000,000. Oh, such a vast sum! I do not know how much $3,000,000 is, but I just know that if we are to do this thing for which God got hold of us to do—”If I can seize that for which also I am seized of the Lord Jesus—” if we can reach out and possess the things for which God hath called us to possess, if we can do it; oh, it involves such a vast consecration on our part. As the apostle says here, “Brethren, I have not got it yet, I have not arrived yet, but this one thing I do, I diokō, I press, I strive toward the prize for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:13-14].
I need not point out to you, my fellow soldiers in Christ, that we cannot do these things peripherally, lightsomely, indifferently, or even optionally. It demands of us a dynamic, fundamental commitment to this ministry in Christ. I must support it largely, greatly, deeply, Sunday by Sunday, month by the month, year after year. It must command from me my utmost, my best—if there is to be a golden tomorrow. Things cost so much. Why, when we thought about our elementary school, I had no other thought but that we would make congruent the facilities of the school here to fit our elementary school. That is, where the first grade pupils are here, we’d have the first grade school; where the second grade pupils are here, we’d have them in the second grade there. It was an astonishing thing when the city came down and said, “You cannot do that. You cannot do that.” So we have had to pay more than a hundred thousand dollars to make possible the first and the second grades meeting in the Burt Building.
Our institute: we cannot build an institute unless we have professors that can teach in the daytime. We cannot invite or receive in request—they have already made it from afar—young men and young women who want to come here to attend the institute, and we cannot invite them to come and say to them, “In the daytime there are no classes. There are just classes on Sunday night and on Tuesday night.” The institute cannot be built like that. There have to be professors who teach all the day long, as well as at night. And the support of those professors must come from the dedicated people who love God. It must come from us. But it will come; I have the assurance in my soul that from our people will come inevitably, as from heaven, that great largess, that dedicated remembrance that will make possible the invitation to the professors to come, that they may be paid and live here and teach in the daytime and in the evening. And when the young man writes, as he has from Montana, saying, “I am a born-again Catholic, and I’d like to come to the institute”; we would write him back and say, “You are welcome.” Any young man, any young woman, anywhere, “Come to Dallas and spend those two or three years with us, living here and attending our institute: it’s the golden tomorrow.”
Working, striving, reaching out; at the same time, watching, waiting, working, praying, for our politeuma is in heaven, “Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” [Philippians 3:20]. This is also our incomparable, and what Paul calls, “our blessed hope” [Titus 2:13]; watching, waiting, working, and another golden tomorrow, when the ultimate day shall finally come, and He shall subdue all things unto Himself [Philippians 3:21]. The coming of our Lord is always imminent—i-m-m-i-n-e-n-t, always imminent, always at hand—always. We are to live in every generation, however long He may tarry; we are to live in the “imminency,” in the immediacy, of return of our Christ. Revelation 22:20: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely—surely, surely, surely—I come quickly!” The imminency of the return of our Lord, and the triumph that He bears with Him in His gracious and nail-pierced hands; “For our politeuma is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior” [Philippians 3:20]; “I press toward the mark, striving” [Philippians 3:14], working, looking, waiting, believing; the golden tomorrow.
On Mt. Zion in Jerusalem is the traditional tomb of King David [Acts 2:29]. On Mt. Zion in Jerusalem is the traditional place of the upper room where the Holy Spirit came down on the one hundred twenty disciples [Acts 1:13-15, 2:1-4]. On Mt. Zion there is also a display of the horrors that the Jewish people suffered in the Nazi and communist persecutions. Oh, from exhibit to exhibit to exhibit: here is the Torah, the books of the Mosaic law, bathed in human blood as the officiating rabbis were slain, presiding over their synagogue services. Here are the vestments that were ripped to shreds as the bayonets cut the rabbis to pieces, stained in Jewish blood.
Exhibit after exhibit, but this one—but this one, in a great circle containing the ashes of many of those who were forced into the gas chambers and shot down before the firing squads—in the center, there is a glass case—and the case is full of soap made of human flesh, human fat, Jewish bodies—soap made out of Jewish flesh. And by the side of that glass case, kind of formed in a triangle with the upwardness toward heaven in it, there is in Hebrew the song that the Jewish people sang as they faced martyrdom, faced the gas chamber, faced the firing squad, faced the decimation of bullet and bayonet. There is a song that they sang, in large Hebrew letters. And a literal translation of the song by the side of that case of soap, pointing up to heaven, a literal translation of that Hebrew song is this:
Of all the truth, this is the truth that we most believe.
That Messiah is coming soon.
Despite the fact He has not come today,
Despite any other fact in life,
This is the truth that we believe,
Messiah is coming soon.
[source and title unknown]
And facing martyrdom and death, they sang that song. This is what Paul is speaking of, striving, reaching, apprehending God’s choice and will for us [Philippians 3:12-14]; at the same time, strengthened and comforted in the knowledge that our Messiah Christ is coming soon [Philippians 3:20-21]. As I think of those Jewish people, millions of them martyred, persecuted, slain, decimated—still in certain areas of the earth, hated and slaughtered—as I think of them and their devotion to the faith of Moses and the old covenant, O God, what of us? What of me?
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To carry me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
[“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?”; Isaac Watts]
“Brethren, I count not myself to have got hold of it yet; but this one thing I do, I diōkō—I press, I strain—I reach forth to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:13-14], the mandate from heaven God hath given to me, for my “politeuma—citizenship—is in heaven; from whence we are looking for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” [Philippians 3:20]: a golden tomorrow. Oh, what blessedness and fullness and glory God has promised to us who love Him; to work, to watch, to wait, to believe, to trust and to walk into the future in the confidence and assurance that the victory in Christ shall faithfully be placed in our hands.
In a moment we shall stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, to give your heart to the Lord, to decide for Christ, to answer God’s mandate for you, to give yourself for that for which God calls you, to take hold of that for which God hath taken hold of you [Philippians 3:12]—created you, made you—to give yourself to the purpose and plan of God for you, to put your life into the fellowship of the church, the family, the couple, or just you, while we sing this hymn of appeal, would you come and stand by me? Down a stairway, to the right, to the left, to the front, to the back, and there is time and to spare; if you are on that topmost seat in the topmost balcony, come; in the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Make the decision now in your heart. Make it now, and in a moment when we stand up, stand up, walking down that stairway. Stand up, walking down that aisle. Stand up: “Here I am pastor. I have decided and I am coming now.” Do it, do it, do it, while we stand and while we sing.
lambano – “to seize, grasp, lay hold of”
Passage taken from imagery in the Greek games, Olympics
– “commonwealth, citizenship”
The message from the juxtaposition of the two – to work and to watch
forth, pressing forward
Watching, believing, waiting for the return of our Lord
Farmer asked what he’d do if he knew the Lord was coming back in the next
thirty minutes – “Plow to the end of the rowâ€¦”
II. Our work
Hall, Philadelphia – rising sun carving on George Washington’s chair
Our elementary school
years of waiting, had our first chapel service Wednesday
Our Bible Institute
Coming of Dr. Eddleman
Our teaching and educational ministries
Before Christian Education Building done we will have more than enough people
to fill it to overflowing
budget of over $3 million
things demand a dynamic, fundamental commitment to this ministry
Facilities to accommodate elementary school
Cannot build institute without day classes, and professors to teach
III. Our watching and waiting
The coming of the Lord is always imminent(Revelation
Museum in Jerusalem – song Jewish victims sang as they faced death
sacrifice unto death – what of us?