Our Crucified and Ascended Lord
January 13th, 1974 @ 10:50 AM
1 Peter 3:18-22
OUR CRUCIFIED AND ASCENDED LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 3:18-22
1-13-74 10:50 a.m.
We welcome you who listen to this service on radio and are watching it on television. The First Baptist Church in Dallas counts itself one of the most fortunate of all of the congregations of the Lord because of this television program. There are hundreds of thousands of you who listen to it and watch it every Sunday, and multitudes of you who pray for us. And God in heaven answer your prayers for you and for us.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled the Crucifixion and Ascension of Our Lord. In our preaching through the First Epistle of Simon Peter, we are in the third chapter [1 Peter 3:18-22], beginning at verse 18 to the end of the chapter. The last time that I preached on this passage in the pulpit, we spoke of the descent of Christ into hell, into Hades [1 Peter 3;19].
Now we are going to take the first and the last part of the passage as Simon Peter writes, verse 18:
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God . . .
By the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Who is gone into heaven, and is sat on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him.
[1 Peter 3:18, 21, 22]
This is a startling and tragic statement—”that He might bring us to God” [1 Peter 3:18]. It means, therefore, that we were away from God; we were someplace else. We were not with God. We were lost. We were not saved. Our cherished friends not saved. Fathers and mothers not saved. Our children not saved. Our own lives and souls not saved. You apply those two words to any soul, “not saved,” and it brings deep emotion. In one of his lamentations, Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, cried saying, “The harvest past, and the summer is ended, and we are not saved” [Jeremiah 8:20]. He cried again, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the lost of the daughter of my people!” [Jeremiah 9:1]. That He might bring us to God; then, we were away from God—lost and not saved.
Could I also point out a corollary? This is a direct and explicit interdiction and contradiction of the cheap, shallow, modern theology that says all of us are saved and all of us are children of God. And the assignment of a preacher is just to make a man aware that he is saved. Make him cognizant of the fact that he is a child of God.
Without exception the entire revelation of the Holy Scriptures says to us that by nature we are not children of God, but that by nature we are children of wrath [Ephesians 2:3]. There is no such thing in the Bible as that cliché of the cheap, shallow doctrinal teaching of the modern academic, ecclesiastical world—that of the universal fatherhood of God. There is no such thing in the Bible. What an amazing come-to-pass, if Christ should die that He might bring us to God and we were already there with God. What an idiocy, these apostles and prophets who write that we are lost like sheep [1 Peter 2:25], that we are dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1-3], that by nature we are children of wrath [Ephesians 2: 3], and that Christ came into the world to deliver us from our offenses and to present us in justification to God [1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 4:25; Hebrews 10:5-14], when all the time we already were justified, we already were saved, and we were already sons of heaven. There is no such teaching as that in the Bible. Without exception, the Scriptures say that we are lost and we need to be redeemed.
In John 1:11, the apostle writes that the Lord “came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But, verse 12: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the sons of God—the children of God—even to them that believe, trust on His name” [John 1:12]. We become the sons of God by trusting in Christ. “Who were born not of flesh, nor of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:13]. A fleshly, carnal nature—a one birth—is to be lost. We must be “born again” to become a child of God [John 3:3, 7]. Or take just one other instance of this universal presentation of the Scriptures: in the fourth chapter of the Book of Galatians, the apostle Paul writes that “God sent forth His Son into the world . . . that we might receive the adoption of sons” [Galatians 4:4, 5]—the adoption of sons. And then the next verse Paul says, wherefore “God hath sent the Spirit of adoption into our hearts, whereby we cry Abba! Father” [Galatians 4:6]. Tell me. Tell me. Did you ever hear of a man adopting his own son? It would be inane, ridiculous. He is already his son. The father would adopt the boy who is not his son. So it is with our relationship to God. We were not children of the Father. We were not sons of glory. We were lost. And in Christ we have found redemption, and forgiveness, and atonement, and salvation, and we have been adopted into the family of God: “For Christ also hath once suffered for our sins . . . that He might bring us to God” [1 Peter 3:18].
There are three ways, any one of which God could have dealt with us in our sins. One: in inexorable justice. The Lord could have condemned and consigned us all to perdition. He could have destroyed us. That is one way. Second: the Lord could have disregarded His law, disregarded His righteousness, absolutely turned aside from His own moral character, in which event He would have plunged the world into chaos and would have denied Himself. There is a third way that God could have dealt with us in our sins, and that is He could have paid the debt of our wrongdoing Himself. He could have substituted a sacrifice for us who dies in our stead. He could make atonement for our sins. He could wash them away in the payment of blood of death. And that is what God chose to do. “For Christ suffered for our sins, the just, huper, in behalf of the unjust that He might bring us to God” [1 Peter 3:18]. Oh, bless His name! Praise His name that God did not damn us. And God, paying full service to His moral law, not retracting an iota of His moral righteousness, God justifies us, treats us as though we have never sinned, in the substitutionary payment and death and blood of His own Son [Romans 5:11]. That is the gospel and that is our hope of heaven.
The great, far-famed, noble English preacher, London pastor, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in the latter years of his life—and he died when he was barely 58—became seriously ill, and they took him to Menton, a city on the French Riviera, where the salubrious clime and the soft breezes and the sunshine of the Mediterranean might bring health to the great pastor. But instead, he grew steadily worse, and died. And a friend of the great preacher, seated by his side as he lay dying, said to him, “Mr. Spurgeon, facing death, what is your gospel now?” And the London preacher replied four little simple words and these were the last that he spoke, “Christ died for me” [1 Corinthians 15:3] That is the gospel that shall save us from our sins and bring us in salvation to God. Christ suffered for our sins, the just in behalf of the unjust, that He might bring us to God [1 Peter 3:18].
The old divines, the preachers of the long ago, used to speak in their confessions of faith and in their sermons of our Lord’s known and unknown sufferings. The known sufferings of our Lord are placed before our souls in constant song and poetry and sermon. They are dramatized: the crucifixion of the Lord [John 19:16-30], the driving in of the nails, the piercing of the spear, the blood poured out on the ground [John 19:34]. These known sufferings of our Lord we often see depicted. What are those unknown sufferings of our Lord? Isaiah in chapter 53 speaks of the cross as though he stood on Mount Calvary [Isaiah 53:1-12]—though he was speaking 750 years before the day of atonement; the prophet Isaiah, looking by faith, by the eye of revelation, to the day when Christ should atone for our sins—the prophet said: “God shall see the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied [Isaiah 53:11] and again God shall make His soul an offering for our sins” [Isaiah 53:10]. What is that—”God shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied”? [Isaiah 53:11]. The debt shall be paid, and God shall be satisfied. Our sins shall be washed away and we shall be clean and white [Psalm 51:7]. God shall be satisfied. What is that? I do not know. Our minds cannot enter into the propitiatory, the expiatory, the atoning grace of our Lord that God saw in the pure white soul of the blessed Jesus. It is just that our Lord is the lifeline from God to us who are perishing. The cross is the great dividing point between God and man, between heaven and hell, between hopelessness and despair and salvation. Christ suffered for our sins that He bring us to God [1 Peter 3:18].
How did He do that? By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the apostle says; the Lord brings us to God in His resurrection [1 Peter 3:21]. And when you think of that, immediately it comes to your heart what the apostle means. Our Lord was incarnate; down and down and down from heaven, until He became a lowly man, a slave, a servant among us. Then He was exalted for us, raised for us [Philippians 2:5-8]. His falling down was for us, and His rising again is for us. He came down and down, and wore the robes of our humility and our poverty, that we might be clothed with the robes of His splendor. Our Lord became a man subject to death [Matthew 27:32-50], suffered as we suffer, “tried in all points as we are tried” [Hebrews 4:15]. Then He was raised for us [Romans 4:25] and in His resurrection we also are raised [Romans 8:11]. That is why the ordinance of baptism is so fraught with gospel meaning. We are dead with Christ and buried. We are raised with Christ in a new triumphant resurrection life [Romans 6:3-5]. That is how He did it. He dies for our sins, pays the debt on our behalf, and is raised for our justification [Romans 4:25] to present us as righteous in the presence of the great glory, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Jude 1:24].
There is no authenticated fact in history more certainly sure, more demonstrable than the raising of Christ from the dead. As the sea could not hold Jonah, but on the third day give him up [Jonah 1:17, 2:10], so the grave could not hold our Lord. The seal of the Roman Empire, the stone, the watch, the mandate of the procurator [Matthew 27:62-66], the very cold clay hands of corruption; these could not hold our Lord. He was raised the third day from among the dead [Matthew 28:1-7], and He appeared to one, and then to two, and then to several, then to ten, then to eleven, then to above five hundred at one time [1 Corinthians 15:4-8]. And He appeared to those disciples for a period of forty days [Acts 1:3].
There are two things that are brought to us in the appearance of our Lord those forty days. Number one: those forty days of the resurrection appearances of our Lord among His people [Acts 1:3] demonstrate to us that the powers of darkness and of the presiding king, Satan, their powers are forever destroyed. They are crushed and vanquished, all of them. Look. Look at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry in the days of His flesh. He was assailed and attack by Satan forty days in the wilderness [Matthew 4:1-11].
“Come,” said Satan, “undo the incarnation. Be God, since You are. See these stones? Turn them into bread” [Matthew 4:3]. But a man does not live like that. God said a man shall live by the sweat of his brow [Genesis 3:19]. He cannot turn stones into bread. And Satan was seeking to undo the incarnation. “Come,” says Satan, “undo the incarnation. Don’t be a man, be God.”
Another thing, and Satan said to the Lord Jesus, “The glory of the kingdoms of the world, all of it, I will give to You. Don’t go to the cross; no need for suffering and expiation. Just bow down and worship me, and I will give it all into your hands” [Matthew 4:8-9]. And again, “Look,” says Satan, “before the admiring astonished gaze of the world, cast Yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple [Matthew 4:5-6]. Live a dramatic life. Let the whole world cry in wonder and astonishing adulation before You. Forget that humbleness. Forget that humility. Forget those things of service, and of love, and of charity, and of ministry, and of healing, and of helping; forget all that, and be an astonishment to the eyes of the world. Cast yourself down, and let the angels bear you up” [Matthew 4:5-6]. That’s Satan.
He assailed our Lord. He buffeted our Lord. He finally encompassed His death. That’s Satan. Now the last forty days, what does Satan do and what do the powers of darkness do? Where are they? What has become of them? Why did not Satan assail the Lord when He was raised from the dead in the garden tomb? [Matthew 28:1-7]. Why did not Satan attack and accost our Lord when He was in Galilee at the breakfast on the coals of fire? [John 21:9-14]. Why did he not interdict our Lord, challenge our Lord, impede our Lord, when through the air He ascended up to heaven? [Acts 1:9-10]. Why? The answer is very plain. The power of Satan and the powers of the kingdom of darkness are vanquished; they are destroyed; they are baffled; they are ruined [Colossians 2:14-15]. Christ is triumphant over sin and death and Satan and the grave [Revelation 1:18], and they live in defeat, knowing their time is short [Revelation 12:12].
The second thing of those forty days: what is the meaning of those forty days? [Acts 1:3]. The second, those forty days that our Lord appeared before His disciples, those days are an adumbration. They are an anticipation. They are harbingers of the millennial reign of our Lord God Christ, when He shall come down and His feet shall touch this earth [Zechariah 14:4]. Immortalized, glorified, He will appear to His people. We shall see Him. These eyes shall look upon Him and the Lord will walk in and out before His people in resurrection glory [1 John 3:2]. He will bring peace to the earth, and the dove of praise and holiness and hallowedness shall rest upon the bosom of the waters, and there will be no storms and no troubles, and there will be no sorrows and no wars [Isaiah 2:4]. There will be nothing but the calm, sweet millennial reign of the great King of Glory, just as it was in the forty days when the Lord appeared glorified among His people [Acts 1:3].
“By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead who is gone into heaven” [1 Peter 3:21-22]; our Lord now has ascended into heaven, and with what joy and glory and exaltation and exultation did the angels of the glory of heaven receive Him. In the Book of Genesis we are told that when Israel, when Jacob returned back to the Promised Land, that companies, that hosts of angels met him and Jacob called the name of the place Mahanaim [Genesis 32:1-2]; that is, two companies, two hosts, two troops. The angels met Him in great waves, welcoming back Israel to the Promised Land. It is some such thing that happened in heaven when the Lord was welcomed back to glory by the angels of heaven. And that is our home. Joseph is no longer in Egypt. It is time for God’s people to be up and away. Our inheritance is not here, it is there [1 Peter 1:4]. Our home is not in this earth, it is in heaven [Philippians 3:20]. There has the Lord gone to prepare a place for us [John 14:2-3]. As the old song used to sing—
I am a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home.
Sorrow and dangers stand
‘Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home.
[“I’m But a Stranger Here,” T. R. Taylor]
Our King and our Head and our Savior is gone into heaven [Acts 1:9-10], and there is our permanent abiding place [John 14:2-3]; there, and not here. I think that explains a phenomenon that you find in the disciples in the going away of our Lord. Wouldn’t you think that when Christ went away that they would lament, that they would cry, that they would weep, that they would fall into self-pity, being orphans, forsaken, alone? No, there is not a hint, there is not an approach of that. But in the Scriptures the disciples are depicted, as when the Lord went away, they were filled with praise and thanksgiving and assurance and peace and hope; for our great Redeemer has passed within the veil there to make atonement for our souls [Luke 24:52-53].
“Who is gone into heaven, and is set down on the right hand of God” [Hebrews 12:2]; that is a picture of the power, the authority of our Lord. The battle is won, the war is over, and as victor He sits down on the right hand of authority and glory. Think of that for a moment—the great God of this universe is now a Man. He took with Him our nature and our body. And He is the same Lord even though He is there and not here. The Christ of the cross is also the Christ of the throne, and the Christ over whom the women of Jerusalem wept is the same Lord Christ that the angels rejoiced over and welcomed Him back to glory. He is just the same. The God of the universe is our Savior and our Friend.
When David was a refugee, seeking life away from the cruel hands of Saul, there were men who came to David in the cave [1 Samuel 22:1-2]. And when later David was exalted to the throne of Israel, I would think those same men felt free to approach the king on his throne, as they had done when he was a refugee in the cave. This is our Lord. The same blessed Jesus who shared our sorrows, who knew our trials, who cried our tears, who died our death [Hebrews 4:14-15], is the same Lord God, our Friend and Redeemer in glory.
The silvery sun, the golden moon,
And all the stars that shine
Were made by His omnipotent hands,
And He’s a friend of mine
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
To head the conquering line,
The whole earth shall bow before His feet,
And He a friend of mine.
[“He’s A Friend of Mine,” John H. Sammis]
The Lord God of the universe is a man: the God Man, the Lord Man, the Christ Man, the crucified Man, the virgin-born Man, the eternal Savior Man, Jesus, our Friend. He is gone into heaven. He is set down on the right hand of God [Hebrews 12:2] and “angels, and authorities and power are made subject unto Him” [1 Peter 3:22]. All of God’s universe up there in glory are now in obeisance, in worship before the great Lord Christ. And some day, some triumphant day, some consummating day, all earth shall bow in the presence of that same Lord Christ, acknowledging Him to be King and God over all creation [Philippians 2:10-11].
Ah, ah, that we might do it now, when to bow before the Lord means to be saved, to be forgiven, to be justified, to be accepted by the blood. Why not now? If someday, why not now? When Christ can bring to us forgiveness, and hope, and happiness, and assurance, and salvation, why not now? Let God see you through. Let God fight your battles. Let God stand by you in strength. In the hour of your death, look in faith to Him. And at the judgment bar [2 Corinthians 5:10], a mediator, a pleader, an advocate, a lawyer, a counselor to stand by your side, and in the world that is to come to worship and to serve Him there, as we seek to do now here.
Do it. Do it now and God bless you now. In a moment we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and in the balcony around, you, and on this lower floor, you, down a stairway, down an aisle. “Pastor, I have decided in my heart and here I come. I make it today. I make it now. This is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming.” Or just you, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, decide now; and when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. And may the angels that welcomed Jacob to Canaan—the Promised Land—welcome you into the kingdom of God [Romans 10:8-13] and into the fellowship of His dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25]. Come. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.