The Overwhelming Christ
March 19th, 1972 @ 10:50 AM
THE OVERWHELMING CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-19-72 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Overwhelming Christ. In our preaching through the Book of Daniel, we have come to chapter 10, and I shall read the first four verses.
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar –
a name given him by the Babylonians seventy years earlier [Daniel 1:7] –
and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood it, and had understanding of the vision.
In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks.
I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.
And in the four and twentieth day of the first month –
of Nisan –
as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel –
that is the ancient Akkadian name for the River Tigris –
then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen.
And then follows a description of the glorious christophanic, theophanic appearance of the Angel of Jehovah, the uncreated Messenger of the covenant, the Son of God, whom we know as Jehovah-Jesus [Daniel 10:5-6].
These things have transpired between the ninth chapter, out of which I completed preaching last Sunday morning, and the tenth chapter in which we begin today. In the previous chapter, in chapter 9, Daniel was reading the prophet Jeremiah, especially chapters 25 and 29, and there he found the Lord had said by the mouth of the holy prophet that the captivity of Israel would be for seventy years. And at the end of the seventy years, they would have opportunity to return home [Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10-14]. Daniel was taken captive in 605 BC [Jeremiah 25:1-7; Daniel 1:3-6], and Cyrus overwhelmed the Babylonian empire about 536 BC [Daniel 9:2]. So Daniel could see that the seventy years was about up – it had passed. And depending upon the time in which God computed the first year of the seventy, the day was drawing nigh when the captives could return home.
So he gave himself in confession in sackcloth and in ashes to an importunate, intercessory prayer in behalf of the people [Daniel 9:2-3] – that God might bring it to pass that they be liberated and allowed to go back to Canaan, the Promised Land. Now, Cyrus had written the decree in the first year of his reign. He had done it, and the people were at liberty to go back and to rebuild their sanctuary [Ezra 1:1-4]. But the response was disheartening in the extreme. The people had settled down in Babylon. They were prosperous and comfortable. They were immersed and enmeshed in the world. And the decree of Cyrus to return to Judah was greeted with indifference and unconcern.
Out of the multitude of the Jews who had been led away captive, there was an insignificant number of just forty-two thousand, three hundred that deigned to go back home [Ezra 2:64]. They were led by Zerubbabel [Ezra 2:2], who was of the line of David but unable to restore the monarchy, and by Joshua the high priest, their spiritual leader [Ezra 3:2]. And not only was the reception of the decree discouraging and disheartening, but the exiles who returned found their work difficult in the extreme. They were opposed and harassed by Tobias and Sanballat and by all of the local population [Nehemiah 4:7-8]. The exiles were greeted with contempt and scorn and disfavor. It took them seven months just to clear the rubbish and rubble away from Mt. Moriah and to find a level place on which they could base the restoration of the new sanctuary on the site of the old Solomonic temple [Ezra 3:6, 8].
Daniel therefore, in mourning, has given himself to prayer and fasting [Daniel 9:3-4]. After two full years, and now almost three since Cyrus placed his decree in writing, there still is no measurable response to the call of God for the people to return home. He prays two weeks before God, beginning on the first day of Nisan. He prayed through the time of the Passover sacrifice. And there was still no answer from heaven. He continued his intercession for one more full week; that is, through the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the twenty-first of Nisan, and there still was no response. God did not answer, and the heavens were brass. Daniel prayed three more days in fasting, and evidently had been sent by the state on some national mission sixty miles away to the Hiddekel, to the Tigris River. And on the twenty-fourth day [Daniel 10:2-4], there came an incomparable vision, an answer, an explanation from heaven. And the rest of the Book of Daniel – chapters 10, 11, 12 – all the rest of Daniel concerns this final vision that is introduced here with this christophany. For he writes:
As I stood by the side of the great river Tigris,
I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain Man clothed in linen, His loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz – Ophar, Arabia:
His body also was like the beryl, and His face as the appearance of lightning, and His eyes as lamps of fire, and His arms and His feet like in color to burnished polished brass, and the voice of His words like the voice of a multitude, like the sound of many waters . . .
And when I saw this great vision, there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.
[Daniel 10:5, 6, 8]
And Daniel is prostrate with his face toward the ground [Daniel 10:9]. This is a description of the pre-incarnate Lord. This is a christophany, it is a theophany. It is an appearance of God in the similitude of a man, in the likeness of human form; the morphos of God in the flesh. John saw the glorified Christ on Patmos after His incarnation [Revelation 1:12-18]. Here, Daniel sees the same glorified Lord before His incarnation, on the banks of the Tigris River [Daniel 10:4-6].
This is the third time that the Lord has appeared in the Book of Daniel. In the third chapter, in the story of the fiery furnace, as the three Hebrew children were walking free in the midst of the burning flames, Nebuchadnezzar looked and saw a fourth walking with the three. And the countenance and face of the fourth were like the Son of God [Daniel 3:25]. The second time the theophany is seen is in the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, when in the vision of the throne of the Ancient of Days there comes One like the Son of Man, and to Him is given an everlasting kingdom that shall never pass away [Daniel 7:13, 14]. And the third theophany is here in this vision – the glorious countenance, His face like the sun, like lightning, His eyes like flaming fire, His feet like polished, burnished brass, and His voice like the sound of roaring waters [Daniel 10:5-6].
This theophany, this pre-incarnate appearance of our Lord, is seen all throughout the Old Covenant again and again. In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis He appeared to Abraham [Genesis 15:1-6]. In the thirty-second chapter of Genesis at Peniel, He appeared to Jacob and changed his name to Israel [Genesis 32:28]. In the thirty-third chapter of the Book of Exodus He appears to Moses when He shut the great lawgiver in a clift of a rock, covered him there with His hand, and passed in glory before him, took away His hand and Moses saw the afterglow of the glory of the pre-incarnate Christ [Exodus 33:21-23]. He appears in the sixth chapter of Isaiah when the great prophet saw Him high and lifted up, and His train filled the earth [Isaiah 6:1]. He appears again in the first chapter of Ezekiel [Ezekiel 1:4-28], the glory, the indescribable glory of God on His throne – a theophany, the pre-incarnate Christ. And now the statesman prophet Daniel sees Him here, and looking upon Him is overwhelmed by the glory of His person [Daniel 10:5, 6, 8]. For this is God manifest in human form – in the likeness and in the similitude of a man. And as such, we see Him incomparable, indescribable. The words cannot bear the weight of the glory and the majesty of His person.
We have this morning then, this moment, to look at the glory of the person of the Lord Christ – the Angel of Jehovah, the uncreated Messenger of the covenant. Not a superman, not a superhuman, but God Himself manifested in the likeness of human flesh and human form; here seen before He took our nature in Bethlehem in the days of His flesh [Matthew 1:20-2:1]. What an incomparable person He is; a somebody. God is not an "it," He is not a "force." He is not an "element." He is not a "first cause." He is not the "great unknown and unknowable." He is somebody. He is a person. And He has revealed Himself in the Old Covenant and in the New Covenant as being a man – in the form and likeness of a man, and in heaven our great God and Savior is a man; here looked upon, revealed as in the other theophanies in the Bible in the similitude and likeness of a man; but oh, what a glorious personality! What an incomparable person. What a marvelous, indescribable Lord. There is no fault in Him.
In one of the beautiful passages that I read in Spurgeon, he described a visit to Trinity College Library in Cambridge, England. And there in the library is a statue of Lord Byron – the famous and dissolute English poet. The man who was taking Spurgeon through the library and showing him this particular statue said, "Come and look at it from this point of view." And when Spurgeon looked at the piece of bronze from this point of view, he saw the nobility of that English poet; so gifted – a magnificent representative of the finest literary genius of English literature. Then the man said, "Now come and look at it from this point of view." And from this point as Spurgeon looked, he saw the blasphemous, wicked, dissolute, debauched soul that had given himself to everything except devotion, and reverence, and honor before God. That was Lord Byron.
And Spurgeon pointed out that all of us are somewhat like that. There are points of view where we can be seen and we would exclaim how admirable, and how fine, how noble. But in all of us – look at us from another point of view – alas, and alas, and alas, there is fault and failure and mistake. All of us are like that. But how ever you look at the Lord Christ – from any vantage point, always He is perfect and flawless: in His childhood, in His ministry, in the good of the deeds of His life, in the gracious words of grace that He spoke, in His suffering and death, in His resurrection, and finally His reign, returning to glory. However you see Him, there is no fault in Him. As Pontius Pilate announced the final verdict, "I find in Him no fault at all" [John 18:38].
And when we classify the great Lord-God-Christ-Messiah with other men, somehow the Christian heart is offended. To us it is not only wrong, it is bad taste. I cannot help but sympathize with this word from Ian Maclaren, quote:
When one seriously recommends Jesus to the notice of the world by certification from a Rousseau or a Napoleon or when some lighthearted man of letters embroiders a needy paragraph with a string of names, where Jesus is wedged in between Zoroaster and Goethe, the Christian consciousness is aghast! This treatment is not merely bad taste, it is impossible by any canon of thought. It is as if one should compare the sun with an electric light bulb or the color of rouge with the bloom of a rose. Christ is not a subject of study. He is a revelation to the soul. He is that or nothing.
[from "The Mind of the Master," Ian Maclaren
(rev. John Watson), 1896]
As one man said,
If Jesus Christ is a man, –
And only a man – I say
That of all mankind I will follow Him.
And to Him will I follow always
But if Jesus Christ is a God,
And the only God – I swear
I will follow Him through heaven and hell,
The earth, the sea, and the air!
["The Song of a Heathen," Richard Watson Gilder]
He is the unique. He is the separate. He is the great unlike. He is the Messenger of Jehovah. He is the God-Christ in the likeness of human form.
Now, the reaction of any who have ever looked upon the Lord in His glory is always like this of Daniel: "And when I saw Him, I found no strength in me: and my comeliness was turned into corruption" [Daniel 10:8]. When a sinful man stands in the presence of God, he immediately finds himself bowed to the ground. That was true with Isaiah. When he looked upon the Lord high and lifted up [Isaiah 6:1], he said, "Mine eyes have seen the Lord of hosts"; and "I am undone: for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell amidst people of unclean lips" [Isaiah 6:5]. When Simon Peter saw the miracle, he fell at the feet of Jesus, and said, "Lord, depart from me; for I am a sinful man" [Luke 5:8]. When Saul of Tarsus met Him on the road to Damascus, he was blinded by the glory of that sight and fell down to the earth [Acts 9:3-4; 22:6, 11]. And in the first chapter of Revelation and in the passages that you read, when John the sainted disciple saw Him on the isle of Patmos, he fell at His feet as dead; the overwhelming Christ [Revelation 1:17].
But He is also the Lord God of compassion, and mercy, and sympathy. Three times does it say here in this tenth chapter of Daniel, in verse 10, in verse , in verse 19, three times does it say that that glorious Lord Christ reached forth His hands and touched him. He touched him, He touched his lips, and he touched him once again. Three times He touched him [Daniel 10:10, 16, 18].
He is kin to us. His heart is with us. In the first chapter of the Revelation, when John fell at His feet as one dead, the Lord stretched forth His right hand and touched him [Revelation 1:17], the same blessed Jesus. For His glory had made no difference in His heart. Could there be a richer, a deeper, or a finer comfort than to know that our Lord God in heaven has a human heart, and has human understanding, and was in all points tried as we are, though He was without sin? [Hebrews 4:15]. A sympathetic High Priest to whom we are invited to come and find grace to help in time of need [Hebrews 4:14, 16]. What a marvelous revelation that our God in heaven is a man with a human heart. Not that He is not God; He is God, as though He were not man, but He is man also as though He were not God. His Godhead is complete. His manhood is complete. We are not to separate the persons or to confuse the natures. He is the God-Man, the Jehovah-Jesus, the Angel of the Lord, the Son of God, who also is the Son of Man. And His sympathies, His kinship is with us. And seeing Daniel prostrate on his face, He reached forth His hand and touched him and lifted him up, raised him up [Daniel 9:9-10].
There was a historian who was seeking to illustrate why the soldiers of Alexander the Great loved him so much and followed him so faithfully. And the historian said that when the soldiers marched, always Alexander marched before them. Their sufferings he shared. And the historian said that marching through Asia Minor, Turkey today – some of you have been there, under the broiling sun and the endless dust and heat – marching before them, the army all lacked water and suffered with thirst. And when they came to water, the first refreshing cooling draft was brought to Alexander himself. Was he not their king and their general? But always Alexander would take it and asked, "Is there one of the soldiers who is sick? Alexander will not drink until first the cooling water is shared by that soldier who is sick."
Our Lord is like that. As long as one of us is sick, He is not well. As long as one of us is in want, He is not full. As long as one of us is in prison, He is not free. He has identified Himself with us. He is one with us. And our great Mediator, and Intercessor, and Savior, is the God-Man Christ Jesus, revealed here in the theophanic form before His incarnation. And in those days, and years since, glorified in heaven, the same Person in the Old Covenant; in the New Covenant, the God-Man, Christ Jesus.
Now, we have here an explanation brought to Daniel of why the delay in the answer to his prayer. He prayed two weeks and the heavens were brass. He prayed another full week – there was no reply from God. He prayed three more days, until the twenty-fourth day of the month, and then the answer came, and with it the explanation. This glorious Person that looked like beryl, and His face that was like the sun, and His voice like thundering, falling waters, He says to Daniel, "On the first day thy words were heard [Daniel 10:12]. When you prayed the first day, God heard. But," He says, "the prince of the king of Persia withstood Me. And it was only when Michael, your chief prince, who guards the fortunes of Israel, when he came to help Me, that the message came through" [Daniel 10:13].
Now, in my studying, I found what I suppose most – seemed to me it was most – most of the men who comment on this tenth chapter of Daniel say: that this glorious person could not be the Lord Christ, because He could not be hindered. He could not be thwarted. And yet, this person speaking says that "On the first day thy words were heard. They came before God. But the prince, the fallen angel that guides the destinies of Persia withstood Me" [Daniel 10:13]. So they say that this could not be the Christ, this could not be the Lord God, for He is omnipotent and could not be thwarted or hindered. I wish that were so. Or maybe, not having infinite wisdom, I cannot understand why it is so. I think it is true. I think the Lord God is omnipotent. I would be the last to deny that. All authority is in His hands [Matthew 26:14-16]. But I also am the first to avow that I also think that the purposes of God can be hindered, and that our prayers can be thwarted. I think there is another will in this universe beside the will of God. And I think God can be opposed. And I think our prayers can be hindered and frustrated. And I think God’s people can be harassed and attacked, and were it not for the sovereign grace of God, destroyed.
I find that in the Lord Himself when He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. The Scriptures say "He did no great work there because of their unbelief" [Matthew 13:58]. He was hindered and thwarted by their unbelief. When He came to Gadara, the swine keepers and the pig sty owners begged Him to leave [Mark 5:17], and He left. In the story of the parables in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, it says He was speaking in parables because "The hearts of the people have waxed gross, and their eyes they have closed; and their ears they have stopped; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and feel with their hearts, and be converted" [Matthew 13:15]. God’s will can be thwarted and hindered and frustrated.
And I suppose from what I can read here that the same frustration that is found in praying and in living in this world, I think I read in this text also that that is true in the unseen, invisible angelic world. There is opposition to God at the heart of the universe. Civil war and strife and division is at the very center of existence in creation and heaven itself. And there was war in heaven [Revelation 12:7]. There is a divided will in this universe. And here it is again. Satan opposes, and it took three weeks for the answer to come from God [Daniel 10:13], three full weeks and three days besides.
Why, I read that in the Scriptures, Satan opposes. Satan attacks. Where the good seed is sown, he oversows it with tares [Matthew 13:24-25]. He even slew the Lord; he entered in Judas and betrayed the Lord [Matthew 26:14-16]. There is such a thing, these commentators and scholars to the contrary, there is such a thing as opposing God, and hindering God, and thwarting the will of God. But it is temporary. Always there is ultimate and final triumph. We are not to be discouraged as though the battle is lost – that Satan has won and that the prince of the darkness has taken over the reins of government out of the hands of God, and we have nothing but frustration and despair for us.
He says "Michael, one of the chief princes, the archangel Michael, who stands for thy people, came to help Me" [Daniel 10:13]. Now is that unusual? In the temptation it says: "And the angels ministered unto Him" [Matthew 4:11]. And in the garden of Gethsemane it says, "And an angel came down and encouraged Him, ministered to Him" [Luke 22:43]. In the fourteenth verse of the first chapter of Hebrews it says that the angels are ministering spirits to encourage us and to help us who are the heirs of salvation [Hebrews 1:14]. That is not unusual. Michael came, who stands for the people of Israel, to help Him and stand by Him [Daniel 10:13]. And then the Lord avows an unusual thing. "And there is none that holdest with Me in these things, but Michael your prince" [Daniel 10:21].
The whole world seemingly was filled with discouragement against the plan and program of God for his people. And seemingly, from what I can understand, the whole world of darkness, the fallen world of Satan and Lucifer, also opposed the programming of God. It was His will – and I haven’t time to expatiate – it was His will for His people to return. It was out of that return that the great messianic hope was to be born and find fruition and realization in Bethlehem. And it is God’s will that, oh so many things in the future are yet to be given to Israel. So much was involved. But in that involvement, he says, "There is none that stands with Me in these things, but Michael your prince" [Daniel 13:21]. But what a noble and singular exception!
It is as if a young man were a musician and the world looks upon his compositions with contempt. There is no sale, there is no appreciation. And the young man writes, "There are none that hold with me in these things but Beethoven – just Beethoven." But his signature and his approval and approbation would be worth more than a whole world of contemptuous rivals, would it not? Or a young man is an artist and the world is blind. There is no sale for his pictures. There is no appreciation for his genius. And he could write, "But there are none that hold with me in these things but Raphael." But having the love and approval and encouragement and approbation of Raphael would be like having the world above and below. That is the way it is with us. "If God is with us," cried Paul in the eighth chapter of Romans, "who could be against us? [Romans 8:31]. . . Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? [Romans 8:33]. . . All things work together for good to them that love God" [Romans 8:28]. As the forty-second Psalm says, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God" [Psalm 42:11].
I have to close. That is why at the beginning of the verse – in the first verse of the revelation, that the thing was true, but the time appointed was long [Daniel 10:1]. Ah, the weary waiting. Would it ever come to pass? Will it? Will we ever see the day? Will we? The thing is true, but the time appointed was long, long, long. And to us, the division of the two is so needless and so severe and so grievous. It is not to God. To us it is two different things; this that we pray for and ask and believe and its fruition. The time is long. But it is not to God. To him it is an everlasting now. It is an everlasting present. He looks upon it all. And He bids us, "Be of good courage and of good cheer [Matthew 14:27; John 16:33; Acts 23:11]. For the divine will can never be ultimately and finally frustrated – never." God shall bring it to pass, and we shall live in hope and in assurance and in victory and in optimism, praying, "Thy will be done, in me, in this earth, as it is in heaven" [Matthew 6:10].
And that is our appeal to your heart – to open your soul God-ward and heavenward, to give yourself to the Word and work and purpose and plan and program of God for you and for your life. Will you do it today? In a moment, we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and in the balcony round; a family, a couple, or one somebody you; there is a stairway at the front and the back and on either side of the auditorium, and there is time and to spare for you to come. If you are seated on the last row of the top of the second balcony, come. Come. Make the decision now and come. The throng and press of people on this lower floor into that aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am and here I come. I make the decision now. I open my heart and my life to the purpose and plan and program of God for me. I accept it. If the Book says He died for my sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], I accept that forgiveness. If He said He was raised for my justification [Romans 4:25 ]to present me some day to heaven [Jude 1:24], I accept it as a free gift of grace. I open my heart God-ward and heavenward, and here I come." Families of you putting your life in the fellowship of this dear church, or a couple, or just you, as we sing our song and as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now and come. On the first note of that first stanza, come now. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.