The Living Glory
April 22nd, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
THE LIVING GLORY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-22-73 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Living Glory. It is an exposition of a passage in the first chapter of the Apocalypse, and I read the context beginning at verse 9:
I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, on Sunday,
and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden lampstands:
And in the midst of the seven lampstands One like unto the Son of God, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breast with a golden girdle.
His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire;
His feet like unto fine brass, molten brass, as if it burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters.
And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the First and the Last:
I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and I, I have the keys of hell, of Hades, of the grave, and of Death.
It is easy to see where the title of the message comes from, The Living Glory.
That is a strong expression, "And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet hos nekros, as dead" [Revelation 1:17]. He could not see; the blaze of the glory of the face of Jesus blinded his eyes. He could not hear; the voice "like unto the sound of many waters" [Revelation 1:15] stunned his ears. He was overwhelmed; the very life of his soul ebbed out of him in the presence of the exceeding great Glory.
And is not this an astonishing thing? For John most certainly had known intimately the Lord Jesus all of his life; they were first cousins; their mothers were sisters. He was one of the first disciples of the Lord, having been a disciple of John the Baptist [John 1:35-40]. He had followed the Lord through all the days of His ministry.
· At the Last Supper he laid his head upon the bosom of Jesus [John 13:23].
· He was standing by the cross when the Lord committed to him the Lord’s mother, Mary [John 19:26-27].
· He was there when the Roman soldier pierced His heart and he followed the spear as it poured out blood and water [John 19:34-35].
· He was there at the tomb and believed when he saw the napkin folded as Jesus would fold a napkin in a place by itself and the grave clothes carefully undisturbed [John 20:4-8].
· He had seen Jesus raised from the dead and ascended up into heaven [Acts 1:9-10].
Through all of the days of the life of our Lord in this earth, John almost certainly was intimately and conversantly acquainted with Him. And yet, when he sees the Lord here, he becomes hos nekros, as one dead [Revelation 1:17]. Would you not have thought that seeing the immortalized and glorified and living Lord he would have been overwhelmed with ecstatic joy, gladness, just as the disciples in Luke 24, "When they saw the Lord they believed not for joy"? [Luke 24:41]. You would have thought that he would have met the Savior on that lonely isle of Patmos with an overwhelming gladness, with a welcome indescribably full and deep. But the text says, "And when I saw Him, I fell at His face hos nekros, as one dead" [Revelation 1:17].
Why this unusual, amazing response of the apostle when he looked upon the face of the living Glory? Number one: it was in this confrontation that the apostle John, still a man in human flesh, gazed upon undisguised deity. All through the days of the ministry of our Lord His deity was covered over, shadowed, framed, hidden in flesh. Just once in a while would the undimmed glory shine through His incarnate body, such as the transfiguration: there for just a moment did they see the Godhead Christ Jesus, deity, Christ Jesus [Matthew 17:1-2; Luke 9:32]. And just once in a while, as He ministered, would they look upon the evidences of the God Christ the Lord. But the veil of His flesh covered over the exceeding glory. But here the apostle John sees Christ as He is and was and ever shall be. Here His face is as the countenance of the sun. Here His eyes are like flames of fire; His feet as molten brass, burning in a furnace. And as the apostle looks upon deity he becomes hos nekros, as one dead [Revelation 1:13-17].
That’s a remarkable thing, again, when I read through the Apocalyptic verses, this same apostle John looked upon the jasper throne with undimmed eye. He looked upon the emerald rainbow [Revelation 4:2-3], didn’t faint. He rejoiced when he looked upon the crystal sea, it was as fire mingled with clear glass [Revelation 4:6]. He did not quail before the seven lamps, the seven Spirits of God burning before the throne of the Almighty [Revelation 4:5]. He looked through the door into heaven itself and into the abyss of hell itself and did not cringe or quail or tremble [Revelation 4:1]. And yet, when he looks upon the undisguised, unshadowed deity and glory of the Son of God, the text says, "I fell at His feet as dead" [Revelation 1:17].
Another reason why John in the presence of the living glory fell at His feet hos nekros, as dead: how does a finite, sinful soul, how does a man made out of dust and ashes stand in the presence of Almighty God and live? How does an insect exist in the burning fury of the sun? Clothed mortal, sinful from the days of our birth, laden with transgressions and weakness and carnality, how does a man made out of dust, born of a woman, conceived in iniquity, shaped in sin [Psalm 51:5], know no other thing all of the days of our life but weakness and mistake and transgression – how does he stand in the presence of the brilliance of the white holiness and glory of God? "I fell at His feet as dead" [Revelation 1:17].
When the children of Israel stood in the presence of Mt. Sinai that burned with fire and heard the awful voice of God, they said to Moses, "You speak to Him, and let God speak to you. And you tell us what God says. But let not the Lord speak to us, lest we die" [Exodus 19:18-19]. When Isaiah saw the Lord lifted up he cried, "Woe, woe, woe is me; I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips" [Isaiah 6:1, 5]. In the tenth chapter of Daniel, as he stood by the River Hiddekel [Daniel 10:4], the Tigris River, seeing the vision, the theophany of God, of Christ, Daniel says, "My comeliness turned to corruption, and I became dead" [Daniel 10:8].
"And when I saw Him, I, a man made of dust and ashes, I fell at His feet as dead." Now, "And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Do not be afraid, fear not" [Revelation 1:17]. There is such a disparity between the risen Lord before whose feet Mary Magdalene fell [John 20:17], who was greeted by the women who followed Him from Galilee [Matthew 28:9-10], who led the grace, the prayer, at Emmaus, when the two disciples broke bread with the unknown Stranger [Luke 24:13-16, 29-31]; there seems such a disparity between the Lord Jesus when He ministered in Galilee [Luke 4:14-9:50] and even after He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7], and this glorious immortalized Creature, Being, God, Deity, whose eyes are like fire and His feet like molten brass and His countenance like the shining sun [Revelation 1:13-16]. Who is this glorious One? He is still the same, the Lord Jesus [Hebrews 13:8]; the humble, and sweet and loving Savior, "and He laid His right hand upon me" [Revelation 1:17].
That was a way of the Lord. He needed not the weight of His hand to do those marvelous miracles; yet when the Lord opened the eyes of the blind He would touch them with His hand [Matthew 9:27-30]; when He would open the ears of the deaf, He would touch them with His hand [Mark 7:32-35]. The eighth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is one of the most moving stories, "And behold, a leper came up to Him, and the Lord was surrounded and crowded on every side" [Matthew 8:1-2]. How could a leper just walk up to the Lord? Well, you know, wherever the leper appeared, he had to cover his lips and cry, "Unclean! Unclean!" [Leviticus 13:45]. Wherever the leper walked, there was that icy circle falling away from him. When the leper saw the Lord Jesus with a throng around Him, he just walked up to the Lord; always that awesome circle, that circle, that circle of the people bending away, fleeing away. Did the Lord bend away? The Scriptures say when the leper came up to the Lord Jesus, the Master, just standing there, the Lord reached forth His hand, and touched him [Matthew 8:3]. I can hear the crowd gasp as the Lord reached forth His hand and touched him. My brother, it was half the cure! That loathsome, foul outcast had forgotten what it felt like, the warmth of the touch of a loving hand. And laying His hands upon the sick, it was His way of doing [Luke 4:40]. Taking little babes in His arms and blessing them, it was His way of loving [Mark 10:16]. And it is the same Lord Jesus here, "And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, Do not be afraid" [Revelation 1:17]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing?
The heart that beats under the golden girdle [Revelation 1:13] is the same blessed heart that was moved in compassion upon the multitudes [Matthew 9:36]. Those eyes that flame with fire [Revelation 1:14] are the same eyes that burst into tears at the tomb of Lazarus [John 11:35] and over the city of Jerusalem [Luke 19:41] and in the Garden of Gethsemane [Hebrews 5:7]. And that tongue that shall rule the nations of the earth as with a rod of iron [Revelation 12:5] is the same voice that said, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" [Matthew 11:28]. It is the same blessed Lord Jesus. "And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, Fear not, do not be afraid" [Revelation 1:17]. It is better for us to be dead at the feet of Jesus than to be alive anywhere else in the earth. "Do not be afraid."
Then here is a self-description of the Lord God, the living glory. He says to the sainted apostle, "I am the First and the Last." We have just read that: this is deity; alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet; omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet. "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, which was, which is, and which is to come" [Revelation 1:8]. That was the greeting to the churches from God the Father, and it is the same word that this glorious living Christ uses of Himself, "I am the First and the Last" [Revelation 1:17]; and only God is that, "I am the First." When John the Baptist introduced Him, he said, "He is preferred before me because He was before me" [John 1:15], the pre-existent Christ. Our Lord said to the Jewish people, "Before Abraham was, I Am. I Am that I Am" [John 8:58; Exodus 3:14]. And when the apostle began his Gospel, he said, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; and all things were made by Him [John 1:1, 3]. And the Word was made flesh" [John 1:14]. This is deity: "I am the First, I am the Last" [Revelation 1:17].
When kings have died and perish in the dust of the ground, when the great monuments of the earth have turned back to their elemental forms, and when the memory of man has wasted through the centuries, He is from everlasting to everlasting, the same yesterday, today, and forever; Jesus Christ, the living Glory [Hebrews 13:8]. "I am the First and the Last; and I am He that liveth" [Revelation 1:17-18], all other creatures get their life and their breath from God. Their breath is borrowed, their life is not of themselves; it comes from other source. But not He, "I am the living One, zōn, ho zōn, the living One" [Revelation 1:18]. He is self existent, forever from forever. And, "I was dead – egenomēn, I became dead [Revelation 1:18] – and the word, egenomēn. "And the Word became flesh" [John 1:14]; "and I became dead." This did God do for us: He became incarnate that He might die for our sins, crucified for our iniquities, raised for our justification [Hebrews 10:5-14; John 12:27; Luke 19:10; Romans 4:25], "And I became dead, and behold I am alive forevermore." Idou, behold! [Eimi]! Behold! Zoe! Behold! Look, behold! That’s a magnificent expression there, "I am alive forevermore, Eis tous aiōnas tōn aiōnōn, into the ages of the ages, into the always of the always, into the forever of the forevers, "I am alive forevermore [Revelation 1:18]. And I have the keys of Death and of the Grave" [Revelation 1:18]. I shall not die until He wills it. And when that time comes, it will be the nail pierced hands of our Lord that shall open for us the gates of grace and of glory. "I have the keys of the Grave and of Death." And it will be that gracious voice of our Lord that shall raise us from the dust of the ground and the heart of the earth [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
Will you bear me one other moment? "And I am alive forevermore, amen" [Revelation 1:18]. Then if He is alive, He is somewhere. How do I know? If there should have been in Caesar’s household scribes who recorded in secular history the resurrection of the Lord, and if all of the temple leaders and officers of the Sadducees had been present and borne witness to the resurrection of Christ, it is nothing like the testimony of now, right now. If you were in a trial court about a man who had been murdered, and while the arguments were going on the supposedly murdered man walked into the court, can you imagine the substantiating evidence of such a thing as that? The man who is supposed to be murdered stands before the judge! The same thing: if He is alive forevermore, then He is somewhere. Where is He? And how do you know that He is alive?
One: He heals, He heals. Someone said to me as I was going to church this morning, to this service, "I’ll go into the hospital soon. Pastor, would you pray for me?" I may not believe in paid divine healers, but there is no other healing but God’s. I know He lives, for He heals us. And we pray to Him for healing. How do you know that He lives? The evidence now: He bows down His ear to hear His children when they pray. He answers prayer. How do you know that He lives? What is the evidence now, not just two thousand years ago? I know He lives because He saves. He saves the apostles; He saved Polycarp, Papias, Irenaeus, Savonarola, Wycliffe, Hubmaier, Felix Manz, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Dwight L. Moody, B. H. Carroll, George W. Truett. One day, He spoke to me and saved me, and He saves you. And I felt His presence, and I became a child of God and a Christian. He lives; the evidence today. How do you know He lives? "And I saw One like unto the Son of God, in the midst of the seven golden lampstands," and the seven lampstands are the seven churches [Revelation 1:13, 20]. The Savior, walking among His people; the Savior’s presence in the congregation and when we assemble, I feel His presence. The great glory, God here; Immanuel is His blessed name, God with us [Matthew 1:23]. "And I am with you forevermore" [Matthew 28:20].
Ah! The blessedness of looking in faith to the holy and risen and immortalized Lord Jesus. Have you given your heart to Him? Have you opened the door of your soul to Him? Would you do it today? "This Easter Sunday, I make the decision for Christ; here I am, and here I come." In a moment, when we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, in the balcony round, you, in the press of people on this lower floor, you, a family, a couple, or just you, somebody to give himself to Jesus, or to put your life in the fellowship of this dear church; on the first note of the first stanza come, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Hos nekros – "as dead"
very strong expression
The weight of the exceeding glory was too much
one writing this testimony was John, who had been close to the Lord
Would think seeing the risen Lord glorified he’d have been overcome with
ecstatic joy(Luke 24:41)
he was filled with fear and became as one dead
Why this reaction from John?
was beholding unveiled and undimmed deity
own sense of weakness, smallness in presence of divine greatness
Like children of Israel before Mount Sinai(Exodus
Like Isaiah in his vision(Isaiah 6:5)
Like Daniel at the Hiddekel River (Daniel
II. "And He laid His right hand upon me"
Christ pictured here seems at first to have little in common with the Christ of
a gesture so typical of Jesus – He puts His right hand on John
touch of Jesus(Matthew 8:1-3)
Christ in heaven is the same Savior as He was here – His heart is still the
III. Our Lord’s description of Himself
am the first and the last"
– pre-existence(John 1:1-14, 30, 8:58, Exodus
Last – eternity(Psalm 102:27-28)
"He that liveth"
zon – "the living one"
Our breath is borrowed
1. Egenomen –
"became dead"; verb is in the past(John 1:14)
is an empty cross
"Behold, I am alive forevermore"
– "behold, look"
– "into the always of the always"
have the keys of hell and of death"
I shall not die until He wills it
IV. How do we know that He is alive?
evidence of two thousand years ago is not as dynamic, central or pertinent as
is still healing
He is still answering prayer
is still saving souls
is still reigning (Revelation 1:7)
walks among His churches (Revelation 1:12-13)