The Golden Tomorrow
September 10th, 1972 @ 8:15 AM
THE GOLDEN TOMORROW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-10-72 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the first sermon of our new year. It is entitled The Golden Tomorrow. The sermon is from the juxtaposition of two thoughts in a passage in the third chapter of Philippians. The thoughts are so different, yet Paul puts them side by side. One concerns himself and his work, and the other concerns the parousia of our Lord. Beginning at verse 12:
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 reaching 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 following a parenthesis [Philippians 3:15-19], he continues:
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.
The golden tomorrow: side by side, almost in the same breath, and certainly in the same passage and thought; he has these two things. “I follow after, if that I may katalambanō [Philippians 3:12]—get hold of, seize, grasp, obtain, as a man running in a Greek race. The whole passage here is taken from the public games, and one of those Olympiads is being held today in Munich, Germany. And out of the imagery of those contests Paul speaks these words, “I follow after, if that I may katalambanō—if that I may seize, grasp, reaching out—toward that prize”:
If I may get hold of, that for which also I was got hold of by Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I count not myself to have got hold of it: but this one thing I do, I diokō, I press,
and here again is that same imagery of the runner in the race:
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Then in the same thought and breath, this other: “For our politeuma.” Politeuma, translated here “our conversation,” our politeuma—politēs is the word for citizen; politeuma, the commonwealth, let’s say the citizenship. “For our politeuma, our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” [Philippians 3:20].
Those two things, side by side. The golden tomorrow, pressing toward the prize, getting hold of that for which God got hold of me [Philippians 3:12-14]; and side by side with it, the glorious triumph in the personal appearing of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus [Philippians 3:20-21]. Doing the work, pressing, striving, reaching out; watching, waiting, and believing in the ultimate triumph of the coming of our Lord who shall be able to subdue all things unto Himself [Philippians 3:21].
A farmer was out in the field, plowing, and a neighbor coming by stopped to visit with him and asked him, “If you knew that the Lord Jesus was coming back to earth 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, pressing, expending ourselves, seizing, grasping what God has assigned to us; watching, waiting, believing that one ultimate moment—today, tomorrow—He will come in glory and in triumph; the golden tomorrow. I speak of those two things, first then, our work.
In Philadelphia, I looked at the chair in which George Washington sat as he presided over the Constitutional Convention, those men who under God framed for us the greatest political document the world has ever seen, the Constitution of the United States of America. In Independence Hall, there that chair sits. And if you have seen it, on the back of the chair is a sunburst, the orb of the sun just at the horizon and the rays of light from it.
When the Constitutional Convention was done and the document was framed, old Benjamin Franklin stood up and said, “All through these days I have been looking at that sun and have wondered whether or not it was rising or setting. “Now,” said the aged Franklin, “I can see that it is a rising sun!”
He little dreamed of the power and strength and growth of the America who was to follow after the days of those 1700s; the golden tomorrow. I have the same persuasion about us. It is not a setting sun. It is the dawn of a new and a more glorious day; and I think beyond our fondest, wildest, extremist imagination and dreams is God bringing these things to pass. Pressing toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; katalambanō –getting hold, seizing those things for which God katalambanō–seized us [Philippians 3:12-14].
I think of our elementary school. For the years and the years have I dreamed and hoped for and tried to begin a day school here in the great facilities of our church. Many years ago editor Lynn Landrum of the Dallas News, a Methodist, a devout Methodist, encouraged me by day and night to build a Christian school in this church. He would write of it editorially in the papers. After the passing of many, many years, last Wednesday morning, Mel Carter invited me to speak at the first chapel service of our elementary school, our Christian school.
I sat in Embree Hall, our largest chapel, and watched the children as they came in, a hundred twenty of them, and then heard them as they repeated for me my favorite verse, Isaiah 40:8, and sing songs of Zion, and then speak of the blessed Jesus. As I sat there in the pulpit and looked at those children and their devout Christian teachers, I brushed away the tears out of my eyes. Oh, what that portends! We shall grow. We begin with a one hundred twenty. We need more students to make it really viable, and God will do that for us; a golden tomorrow.
Announcement was made by Dr. Bryant a moment ago concerning our Bible Institute. It was begun September of last year on a voluntary basis. It had not been my thought to launch it so soon, but some of the compatriots with whom I work said, why don’t you just do it, just start?
So, with volunteer help, we began that work, just by announcement. And to start off with, we had something like four hundred forty students. And then in the spring semester this last spring, we had about five hundred fifty. Then two summer semesters, last summer and this summer, and now this fall we really begin. God has given to us one of the most illustrious and gifted and famed theologians in our generation, Dr. H. Leo Eddleman, who is on the platform this morning. He’s the new president of our institute.
And as we dream of that golden tomorrow, first we’re asking God to make it possible for us to have two full-time professors. And then four, and then six, and with Dr. Eddleman and Dr. Bryant and others of us teaching in the school, we are thinking and planning and believing that we can have the school in the day time as well as now in the evening time. If we are to expect students to come from the fifty states and from across the seas, there must be classes for them through the day as well as in the night. And that is our golden tomorrow. We are believing under God that this is Christ’s will for us. This is the goal for which we press, diokō—“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:14]. This is our dream we are seeing, under the hands of the Lord and ours, coming to fruition and reality; the golden tomorrow.
I think of the educational ministries in our own church. Sunday by Sunday and week by week, it is nothing short of astonishing to me how God blesses and increases this work of teaching here in our church. The last Sunday in August, on a hot August day, we had over five thousand, five hundred registered here in Bible study in our Sunday schools. Today, we are organizing two new divisions, not two departments; two new divisions.
And just across the street, there is going up now—and the steel is almost in place—a $3,300,000 Christian Education Building in preparation for our elementary school. There is now being spent on the Burt Building something like one hundred and more thousands of dollars, preparing the building for this teaching in the weekday.
God is giving His blessing as we strive in those outreach ministries. Last year we had the greatest number of baptisms in our church history. We had about four hundred thirty-five, and if God gives us a wonderful month this September, we shall exceed that in baptisms in our church. There are not six churches in the earth—and there are one-quarter million churches on the North American continent—there are not six churches in the earth that baptize as many as three hundred souls a year. But we’re baptizing over four hundred and reaching out, winning more to the Lord, the day to baptize over five hundred, maybe someday a thousand a year.
Oh, the golden tomorrow! All of these things, of course, seek from us a supreme dedication. At the deacon’s meeting last Friday night, they adopted a budget of more than $3,000,000 for 1973, the new year. That budget will be presented to our church this coming Lord’s Day. Three million dollars for just one church, this church, but when we look at the work and the expansiveness of it, and believing it to be God’s will, it demands of us a supreme commitment. I cannot belong to God’s house; I cannot be a fellow worker in God’s vineyard and look upon it as being optional and incidental. It must be primary and dynamic. “Brethren, I count not myself to have got hold of it, but this one thing I do, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:13-14]. And I am assured in praying, in my own soul before God, that our people will respond. This is a dedication for us forever.
I have spoken of the work. I now speak of the coming of our Lord for, and the word “for” refers to what he’s just said—pressing, reaching out, striving [Philippians 3:14]—“For,” he says, our politeuma, “our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” [Philippians 3:20]. We are working, we are striving, we are believing, we are reaching out; and we are watching and waiting, this golden tomorrow.
The coming of our Lord is always imminent, always imminent, I-M-M-I-N-E-N-T. It is always imminent. It is always just at hand, always. Revelation 22:20, “He which saith these things saith, Surely, surely, surely, I come quickly.”
Maranatha, the first Christian centuries would say, as they greeted each other, as they bid one another farewell, “maranatha, maranatha. The Lord is at hand.” An Aramaic word, “The Lord is at hand” [1 Corinthians 16:22].
Or achri hos erchomai, “till He come, till He come, till He come” [1 Corinthians 11:26]. Always those first century Christians who knew the Lord and knew the apostles, always they lived in the imminency of the return of our blessed Savior, working, watching, waiting, believing, expecting the golden tomorrow.
On Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, there is the traditional tomb of King David [Acts 2:29]. There is the traditional site of the upper room where the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost [Acts 1:13-15, 2:1-4]. On Mt. Zion, there is also an extensive display of the sufferings of the Jewish people in the Nazi and communist persecutions. Ah, those horrible things! As you look at the Torahs covered in blood, at the vestments of the rabbis torn by bayonets, and one exhibit especially, ringed around with the ashes of those who had been gassed or shot down before firing squads, there is a glass case full of soap made of human flesh, Jewish flesh, soap; and by the side of the glass case, in a triangular form, pointing upward and heavenward, there is in Hebrew the song that the Jewish people sang as they faced martyrdom. And a literal rendering of that song is this:
Of all the truth, this is the truth we most believe.
That Messiah is coming soon.
Despite the fact He has not come today,
And despite any other fact in life,
Of all the truth, this is the truth we most believe,
Messiah is coming soon.
They sang that song as they faced death. The golden tomorrow; Jesus, our Lord and Messiah Christ, is coming soon. And as I think of those people who have suffered so much, who have laid down their lives for the faith and have done so through the centuries, I think of us:
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]
Pressing toward the prize of the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus [Philippians 3:14]; watching, waiting, working, believing in that ultimate golden tomorrow when Jesus shall come from heaven and subdue all things unto Himself [Philippians 3:21].
Ah, my fellow workers, my comrades in the faith, my compeers in the ministry of Christ, my brothers and sisters in Jesus, do we not have in our Lord, in our church, and in the open door He has set before us [Revelation 3:8], the incomparable hope, the blessed hope [Titus 2:13], the sweet privilege of working for Him now, striving for Him now, and sharing someday in the glory of His triumph?
Lo! He comes on clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
God comes down on earth to reign.
[Adapted from, “Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending,” John Cennick, 1752]
For our citizenship is in heaven; from which we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall subdue all things unto Himself [Philippians 3:20-21]; our golden tomorrow.
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 himself to Jesus, “Here I come, pastor. I decide for Christ now and here I am.” To put your life in the fellowship of this church, to walk with us, to march with us, to pray with us, in the balcony round, on the lower floor, down a stairway, into the aisle, here to the front, “Here I am, pastor. I’m coming today.” Make it now. Do it now. I am told that at these 8:15 services, that Embree Hall is filled and that there are other areas in the church where people congregate who can’t get into the auditorium itself. If you are in one of the areas such as Coleman Hall, if you are in Embree Hall, and today you’d come to be with God and with us, come over from Embree Hall or come up from Coleman Hall, or from wherever, and stand here with us. Make the decision now in your heart. There’s time and to spare for you to come, while we stand and while we sing.