The Two Comings
December 17th, 1972 @ 8:15 AM
THE TWO COMINGS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-17-72 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 Two Comings. And by that I would mean the first coming of our Lord [Luke 2:11], the celebration, the thanksgiving of which we enter into this Christmas time; the second coming, of course, is when the Lord shall return in glory as the King of all God’s universe [Acts 1:11; Revelation 19:11-16].
It is very difficult in our thinking to separate the two. We unconsciously mix them. We do not intend to be untrue to the first coming of our Lord in what happened and what followed. It is just that unconsciously we fall into those images and those hopes and those prayers that put both of them together, the first and the second. For example, I want you to look at this poem. I am going to read it, and I want you to see how without plan, without particular conscious thought, the poet will put both of those comings together:
Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
And Christ Jesus her little Child.
He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.
Now, without announcing or anything at all, you watch the poem as it goes on:
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He comes for His very own
From the place where He is gone
Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him, but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
When like stars His children crowned
All in white shall gather round.
[from “Once in Royal David’s City,” Cecil Francis Alexander]
They are right together; all the humility and condescension of the first coming, and all the hope and glory of the second coming. Now when I read the poem I do not sense that there’s anything wrong or out of character in it, it is just the way all of us think. We put both of them together; the humility of our Lord, the sweet bowing and condescension of God, and the incomparable blessedness of the hope that we have in Him.
Now, I did that in order to point out something in the Scriptures. If we unconsciously do that, when we think of the Lord we don’t think of Him alone as being just humble, born in a manger, but unconsciously and almost immediately when we speak of it, we also think of our Lord in His second coming, when He shall be crowned the Lord of all the universe [Revelation 19:11-16]. Now if we’re that way, how much more will you find that in the Old Testament prophets? They never separated, never; they never separated the first coming from the second coming. Always in the Old Testament Scriptures they’re in the same breath, and they are never differentiated. Now we are going to go through some of these examples in the Old Testament and look at it.
The protevangelium is Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel”; talking about Christ, the Seed, the promised Seed of the woman, and Satan. Now both comings are in that same sentence: “And thou shalt bruise His heel,” that’s the first coming, when Christ came and was crucified on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]; the second coming, “and that Seed of the woman, that Christ of heaven, shall crush Satan’s head” [Genesis 3:15]. He’s certainly not crushed now. That is at the second coming [Revelation 20:1-2].
All right, again; in the forty-ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis, when Jacob, being a prophet, when Israel turns to his fourth son, Judah, he says, Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.” Now there are both of those comings in the same breath. Here’s the first coming, “Judah will be an entity, a tribe, a nation, a government, until Shiloh come”; that’s the first coming [Genesis 49:10]. Here’s the second coming, “And unto Him shall the gathering of the people be”; that’s the second coming [Genesis 49:10].
Israel certainly is not gathering to the Lord Jesus now. They are in the diaspora. They’re scattered abroad. The first coming, “when Shiloh come,” the second coming, “and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be”; in the same breath.
All right, look again. In 2 Samuel, chapter 7, verses 12 and following, when Nathan the prophet announces to David, “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee . . . he shall build an house for My name” [2 Samuel 7:12-13]. That is a prophecy and a type of the first coming. Now in the same breath, here is the second coming, “And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever, and thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever [2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16], thy throne shall be established forever.” God says it again and again. That’s the second coming.
We certainly don’t have any throne of David in the earth today. But we’re going to have some glorious, millennial age. And both of those comings are in the same breath.
All right, now let’s look again, and we’re just taking typical Scriptures going through the Old Testament. In the ninth chapter of Isaiah, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” [Isaiah 9:6]; that is the first coming. Here is the second coming:
And the government shall rest upon His shoulder: … Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.
That is the second coming. In the same sentence and in the same breath, “Unto us a Child is born… and the government shall be upon His shoulder… to establish it with judgment and justice forever”; in the same breath.
Now look in the passage that you just read together. In the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, “And there shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots; and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” [Isaiah 11:1-2]; that’s the first coming. Now here’s the second coming, in the same breath:
And the wolf shall also 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 nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
[Isaiah 11:6,7, 9]
That is the second coming. In the same breath, they’re side by side. If the wolf dwells with the lamb now, the lamb’s on the inside of the wolf. That’s the way it is now. But it’s going to be a new day in a millennial age. Yet when the prophet speaks of it, he’ll do it in the same sentence and in the same breath.
All right, now look again. In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is the first coming, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” I am going to tell you something that you cannot believe it; “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, as a root out of the dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we shall desire Him” [Isaiah 53:1-2]. Now the chapter preceding, “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; from henceforth there shall no more come into thee the heathen, the uncircumcised, and the unclean” [Isaiah 52:1]. That’s the second coming in the prophecy, side by side.
Let’s take just once again, in Zechariah the ninth chapter, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” [Zechariah 9:9]; that is the first coming. Now in the same breath, “And His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” [Zechariah 9:10]; and the Lord God shall be King over the earth forever; that is the second coming; all of them side by side.
Could I take just one more? In Malachi, “Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me”—that’s John the Baptist—“and the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant whom ye delight in: behold He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts” [Malachi 3:1]. That’s the first coming.
But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap, like a laundryman’s soap: and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
That is the second coming.
All through the Old Covenant those two comings were side by side; they were ever in the same breath, and they never separated them.
Now that posited, that presented a quandary to the disciples and the figures in the New Testament. It was one they could not understand. For in the Old Testament those two comings are never separated. They’re in the same breath. It is like looking at a star, and you stand on the planet earth and look into the heavens and see a star, a glorious star; but if you get a telescope and look you will find that it is two stars, one is in front of the other, and the other is far beyond. But from our naked eyes it looks like one star.
Sometimes at a mountain range we will look and it all seems to be just there. But when you get to it you’ll find a mountain here and a mountain just beyond it, and a great valley in between; they’re two and not one. That’s exactly what happened to all of these personalities in the New Testament. They read the Old Covenant, and those comings were side by side. They were together, the first coming and the second coming, and it posited a great quandary for them in the New Testament.
Now I want you to look at that. Here in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Matthew; “When John heard”—John the Baptist—“heard in his prison the works of Christ”—now you look at that, “the works of Christ”: these words are inspired; they’re not put there just incidentally—“The Christ, when John the Baptist heard in prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said unto Him, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” [Matthew 11:2-3]
And then every Sunday school teacher in the land who teaches that lesson will say that John the Baptist in prison, he began to doubt whether Jesus was the Christ or not. I don’t understand people, nor do I understand commentaries. They’ll all say that.
When the Lord said just a few verses down, this John the Baptist was not a reed shaken by the wind [Matthew 11:7]. This John the Baptist was not somebody soft and effeminate, dressed in these gowns that they wear in the king’s palace. Man, John the Baptist was made out of iron! He lived out there subject to no man. He grew up under God, dressed in camel’s hair with a leather girdle about him, and his meat was locusts, and his food was locusts and wild honey [Matthew 3:4], as though a man like that would quail being put in prison, as though he were soft and effeminate. The Lord is saying the opposite of that!
Well, what is this thing that John the Baptist does? Well, the Scriptures say, “When John heard in prison the works of the Christ, of the Christ, of the Christ!” [Matthew 11:2], yet they say that he’s doubting whether he is the Christ or not. Why, He would have been the last one to ask. He would have been the last one to whom John would have sent one of his disciples had he been doubting Him. No!
What John the Baptist was doing was what all of the people in the New Testament did. John the Baptist preached the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ in the same breath! He preached both of them just as you find it in the Old Testament, in the Old Covenant. John the Baptist stood up and he preached the first coming of Christ. “Look,” said John the Baptist to his own disciples, “Look, look, behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, the meek, lowly, suffering, sacrifice Lamb of God, that takes our sins away” [John 1:29]. That’s the first coming!
But John the Baptist also preached the second coming in the same breath; he said, “The axe is laid at the foot of the tree, and if it does not bring forth good fruit He is going to cut it down and put it in the fire” [Matthew 3:10]. He said, “The winnowing fan is in His hand, and He is going to winnow the wheat and the chaff; and the wheat He will gather into His garner, but the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire” [Matthew 3:12]. That’s the second coming! And John the Baptist was preaching both of them in the same breath.
Now as time went on and as the days passed, John the Baptist could see the Lamb of God, the first coming. But what about that second coming? What about that fire? What about that fury of judgment? What about that cleansing of the earth, and making it a planet of righteousness? What about the second coming? So John the Baptist sent to Jesus and asked Him, “Are You both of those, or is there still another to come?” [Matthew 11:3]. Are there two Christs? Are You both of them? Or do we look yet for another one? Is there one who is coming to be the Lamb of God, to suffer for the sins of the world [John 1:29], and then is there another one who is coming to be the judge and the prince of all the earth? [Matthew 3:12]. What is this?
Well, everybody in the New Testament was like that. When the Lord in the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew announced to His disciples that He was going to be crucified, that He was going to die, Simon Peter took Him and said, “Lord, that be far from Thee; for the Messiah when He comes is going to be the Lord and King of all the earth. You cannot die and be crucified.” And the Lord said to Simon Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan. Get behind Me, Satan, for you savorest not the things of God, but of men” [Matthew 16:21-23]. Peter didn’t understand.
In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John you have an instance how the people didn’t understand. In the twelfth chapter of John, the Lord Jesus says, “And I, and if I be lifted up from the earth, shall draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32]. And the people said to Him, now look at what they say to Him, the people said to Him, “We have read”—and they’re talking about the Scriptures, and they were right in it—“that the Christ, when He cometh, abideth forever. What do You mean then, the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” [John 12:34]. They were in that same quandary.
All right, look at it again. In the first chapter of the Book of Acts, and the [sixth] verse: the disciples came unto Jesus after His whole ministry was ended, and when He was going back up to heaven, just before His ascension they came to Him and said, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? [Acts 1:6]. Where is that King that the Messiah is to be? And where is that kingdom over which You are to reign forever? What about the kingdom?” You see, to the very end those two together were in their minds, just as it is in the Old Testament prophets.
Now, what we understand and what we know is what Paul speaks in that entire third chapter of the letter to the church at Ephesus. Paul says that there is a great musterion, a secret that was in the heart of God. A great mustērion which is that between that first coming and between that second coming, there is a great interlude, a great interval [Ephesians 3:1-12]. It has lasted now for almost two thousand years.
But the prophets never saw it. It was a mustērion; not a mystery, an enigma wrapped in an inexplicable bundle, it is a mustērion, “it is a secret that God kept in His heart until He revealed it unto His apostles”; that there should be a great interlude, a great interval between the first coming of our Lord and the second coming of our Lord. And in that interval, God is going to do a marvelous thing. He is going to make the Gentiles fellow heirs of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ, in the Messiah, by the gospel [Ephesians 3:3-6].
He is going to create a new thing and we call it “the church” [Ephesians 3:7-11]. The ekklēsia the New Testament calls it; going to create a new thing. And in that period of time between the first coming and the second coming, an interlude that the prophets never saw—when you hear somebody say that they are prophesying about the church in the Old Testament, that’s not so! The prophets never saw the church, never. Nor did they ever prophesy about the church, never. It was a secret kept in the heart of God, that between the first coming and the second coming, there was a great interlude, that valley between those two mountains that you don’t see till you get there, that great distance between those two stars that you don’t see till you get your telescope.
There’s a great interval, a great interlude. And in that interlude, God is doing something marvelous. He’s preaching the gospel of the grace of the Son of God to anybody. Anyone who will listen and anyone who will respond, he can become a member of the household of faith, of the chosen family of the Almighty [John 6:37]. He can belong to the very sons and daughters of God Himself. That’s this glorious time now, this age of grace, this age of the Holy Spirit, this age of the church, this age of the preaching of the gospel [Ephesians 3:5-12].
Well, what about the kingdom? And what about the King? And what about all of these Old Testament prophecies? Why, just look at them. Reckon they’ll ever come to pass? Oh, how sweet they are, when I turn to them and I read:
And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid . . . and the ravenous, carnivorous lion shall eat straw like an ox; when a little child shall be the leader of God’s flock; when they do not war and hate anymore, and the whole earth is covered with the love of God, like the waters cover the sea
[Isaiah 11:6, 7, 9]
When’s that going to happen? Has God forgot that? Is there never to be a kingdom? And are we never to see Jesus as the Lord of all creation? Why, bless you, that’s what Paul calls “the blessed, blessed hope” [Titus 2:13]. That is the second coming.
Now, just as surely, surely, surely as God fulfilled every promise and prophecy that He made concerning the first coming––and you think how long that was––how long ago did God make Adam and Eve when He announced to them that protevangelium, in Genesis 3:15? Sometimes in a Bible you’ll have up here Bishop Ussher’s dating; and up here it will say, “ BC,” and then you look down there and you read about Adam and Eve. So you go away thinking, “Well, Adam and Eve lived [four] thousand years before Christ.”
Listen, there is no iota of an approach to truth in a thing like that. When we follow through those genealogies in the Old Testament, there may have been left out three thousand names that you don’t know anything about. For what the genealogical table is doing is following a line. Why, the first verse in the Gospel of Matthew will tell you that. Look how it will say it, “Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” [Genesis 1:1]—look how many genealogical generations are left out.
You don’t know how many generations are left out because what the Scriptures are doing is following a line. So we don’t know how far back Adam and Eve lived [Genesis 1:26-28; 2:21-25]. It was back, and back, and back, and back. Yet, in Genesis 3:15, God made the promise that the Seed of a woman, born of a virgin [Matthew 1:23]––as I preached last Sunday from Galatians 4:4––“In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, born of a virgin”; and think of the time, and the time, and the time, and the generations, and the thousands, and I don’t know how many thousands of years! But there came a day and a time when God fulfilled every little detail––promise––that He made about the first coming of our Lord [John 19:35-37].
Now can I also trust God that He will fulfill every detail of the second coming of our Lord? Can I? I can! I can trust the faithfulness of God! I can trust the promises of God! Thousands, and thousands, and thousands of years, God’s sovereign grace working through the centuries, finally, in the first coming, every promise was fulfilled! And that same Holy Spirit of God shall work, and work, and work, and work, and one glorious day, every promise that God has made concerning the second coming of our Lord will be fulfilled. Oh, it is incomparable!
It is not for a sign we are watching . . .
For wonders above and below
The pouring of vials of judgment,
The sounding of trumpets of woe;
It is not for a Day we are looking
Not even a time yet to be.
When the earth shall be filled with God’s glory,
As the waters cover the sea,
It is not for a King we are longing,
To make the world kingdoms His own;
It is not for a Judge who shall summon
The nations of earth to His throne.
We wait for our Lord, one Beloved,
Our Comforter, Master, and Friend,
The substance of all that we hoped for,
Beginning of faith, and its end;
We watch for our Savior and Bridegroom,
Who loved us and made us His own;
For Him we are looking and longing;
For Jesus, and Jesus alone.
[“The Lord Himself,” Annie Johnson Flint]
Oh, I love that! There is a reason why. In my reading, practically all of the, practically all, no, all of the liberal theologians say that we’re not to look for Jesus. That promise that He is coming again was fulfilled; and then here they go.
Some of them say Jesus came in 70 AD at the destruction of Jerusalem. Some of them will say that He came in the writing of the Constitution of the United States of America. Some of them will say that He comes in the advancement of science; and some of them say that He comes in the worldwide propagation of the gospel of the Son of God; and some of them will say that He comes in death.
Is that what I am to look for? I’m waiting for and then just name all those things. I’m waiting for the destruction of a city; or I’m waiting for the instruments of political documentation; or I’m waiting for the great achievements of science; or I’m waiting for the world wide propagation of the gospel. No, no! What does the Book say? First Thessalonians, chapter 4, “For the Lord Himself,” and that “Himself” surely is meaningful––like I spoke a moment ago, these words are inspired––“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God, Jesus Himself” [1 Thessalonians 4:16].
Or look again in the first chapter of Acts, “And while they stood looking up into heaven, whither the Lord had gone” [Acts 1:10], while they stood looking up into heaven, there came an angel, and said to those disciples, “Why are you standing, gazing up into heaven?” as though you had lost your hope and you had lost your Lord, and you had lost every dream of a better tomorrow? Why? “This same Jesus..” Now these words are inspired. They’re not just words. This is God’s inspired Word, “This same Jesus that you saw going up into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go” [Acts 1:10-11]. That is the second coming. And just as gloriously, and beautifully, and preciously as the Lord fulfilled every promise in the first coming, the Lord will do the same in the second coming. For in God’s sight, and in God’s mind, it is all one great, glorious, prophetic promise.
Well, that’s why we’re down here singing songs, clapping our hands, and shouting all over the place––if anybody gets happy enough to do it––and we are asking people to come to Jesus. And we are preaching the gospel. And we are teaching it in our Sunday school classes. And we are knocking at doors, telling people of the good news, the glorious news. Oh, the Lord lives! And the Lord reigns, and we His children are joint-heirs to reign with Him, amen [Romans 8:16-17; Revelation 22:3-5]. Glory to God, hallelujah! Now let’s sing us an invitation hymn.
Somebody you, give your heart to Jesus, come. Somebody you to put your life in the circle of this dear church, come. A couple, a family, or just you, in that balcony round, you, on this lower floor, you, down a stairway or into an aisle and here to the front: “Here I come, pastor, I’m making it now. This joyous, glad, triumphant Christmas season, I’m coming and here I am.” Do it now. Make it now. On the first stanza of this invitation hymn, come, while we stand and while we sing.