The Kingdom Is Coming
August 17th, 1975 @ 10:50 AM
THE KINGDOM IS COMING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-17-75 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing, you who listen on the radio and watching on television, the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Coming Kingdom; The Kingdom is Coming.
It is an expounding of a prophecy in the latter part of the tenth chapter of Isaiah and the first part of the eleventh. Last Sunday, we spoke of the prophecy in the first part of the tenth chapter of Isaiah, and now we go to the latter part of that chapter and the beginning of the eleventh:
Behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts – the Lord of Sabaoth –
shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled.
And God shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and the cedars of Lebanon shall fall by the arm and hand of the Mighty One.
But there shall come forth a Rod, a shoot, out of the stem, the stump, the stalk of Jesse, and a Branch, a netzer, a Nazarene, shall grow out of his roots:
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.
And then it describes the person of the coming King. Beginning at verse 6 we have a description of the kingdom. First: a glorious King is coming; and second, the glorious kingdom over which He shall assuredly and triumphantly reign.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: And the carnivorous, ravenous lion will eat straw like an ox.
The sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, the adder; the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den, the cobra’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
Could you imagine a more glorious and optimistic prophecy than this; the King and the coming kingdom? All of it arose out of the exigency, tragic and sorrowful, of the day in which Isaiah lived. From horizon to horizon of the civilized world, Assyria held the earth in an iron grip, a merciless and cruel empire. It was Assyria that, invading Palestine, destroyed forever the Northern Kingdom with its capital at Samaria [2 Kings 17:18, 23]. And four times in the life of this Isaiah did he ravage and overrun Judah. Had it not been for an intervention of God in answer to the prayer of the good King Hezekiah [2 Kings 19:15-19, 32-36], Assyria would have destroyed little Judah.
But the prophecy begins and concludes in a violent and tremendously distinct contrast. First, the prophecy concerning Assyria, "God will lop off its boughs; the mighty hand of the Lord will cut it down like a cedar in Lebanon" [Isaiah 10:33-34]. It will be felled. Then, and isn’t it a shame there’s a chapter heading there? When Isaiah wrote it there was no chapter heading, just following through immediately. Contrasting the destruction of Assyria, then he speaks of the resurrection, the renaissance of Israel. "There shall come forth a Shoot, a Rod, out of the stem" – the stump, the stock – "of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" [Isaiah 11:1].
The contrast there is between a cedar and an oak. When a cedar is cut down, belonging as it does to the genus of the pine family, there are no shoots; there are no suckers; there are no outgrowths. When a cedar is cut down, like all the pine family, there’s nothing left but the stump, and it rots and decays in the ground.
The prophet Isaiah says the great, vast, merciless empire of Assyria will be like that. God Himself shall fell the giant cedar and when it is cut down, it shall be forever destroyed. So completely did the Assyrian Empire vanish from the earth that, in centuries after, the army of Alexander the Great marched over its great capital city of Nineveh unaware, absolutely unknowing, that a great empire and a great civilization lay buried beneath his feet.
God said Assyria shall be destroyed like a mighty cedar that is cut down and there will be no shoot, there will be no rod that will come out of the stump that remains. Then the prophet by inspiration contrastingly speaks of Israel as an oak tree. And when an oak is cut down, here from the roots and there from the stump will you see rods, shoots springing up. It still has life in its roots and in the stem, the stump [Isaiah 10:33-1:2].
And out of the destruction of Israel, and out of the final, ultimate captivity of Judah, there shall yet be God’s life remaining. And then the marvelous prophecy, "Out of that stump there will grow a Branch" [Isaiah 11:1]. Matthew refers to this, a netzer, a Nazarene; and He will be the Lord God of righteousness [Matthew 2:23].
The New Testament refers to that verse often. In the twenty-second, the last chapter of the Revelation, the Lord speaks of Himself as the Root and the Offspring of David, referring to this [Revelation 22:16]. Out of the root of David, the offspring of David, the Messiah shall rise. And then follows after, the description of the incomparably glorious triumphant kingdom [Isaiah 11:6-16].
Isn’t that a remarkable thing just to look at? And contrasting it with Assyria, let us contrast it also with the Greek culture and life that so pervaded the world, and still does. Without exception, the Greeks looked back to their golden days. Their heroes lived a long time ago. Even Plato thought of that utopian continent, named by him Atlantis, that once existed beyond the Pillars of Hercules, beyond the gates of Gibraltar, out in the vast ocean, now submerged, forever gone. The golden day to Plato, was a yesterday, forever destroyed.
All of the poets and dramatists of the ancient cultured world looked back to the primeval time for the day of bliss, and joy, and innocence. The Hebrew prophets and the apostles and the child of God in the Bible is just the opposite; never looking back but always forward. The great Hero is yet to come. And the marvelous and messianic kingdom is on its way, yet to be consummated, yet to be realized.
That spirit of hope and optimism, how ever abysmal and full of despair the present might be – that spirit of triumph is always writ large on the pages of the sacred Book. When Joseph dies in Egypt, he calls his brethren and makes them swear before God that they will take up his bones and carry them back to the Promised Land. "For," said Joseph, "God will surely visit you" [Genesis 50:24-25].
When Moses faced an ultimate decease, he called his brethren and said, "God shall raise up a Prophet" – capital "P" – "God shall raise up a Prophet like unto me, and to Him shall ye hearken" [Deuteronomy 18:15]. There is a great Messiah coming. When the children of Judah were carried into captivity, into Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah said, "Yet after seventy years, God will visit you, and you can return to the home in Canaan’s fair and happy land" [Jeremiah 29:10]. In 70 AD, Titus destroyed the earthly Jerusalem, but in the Revelation the seer sees a New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband [Revelation 21:2].
That spirit of hope and optimism, however dark the present hour may be, ever characterizes the upness, the God-wardness of these who are able to see, by eyes of faith, the purpose of God for the human race.
Now it is that kingdom that is coming of which we speak this holy and present moment. It is coming in time and in history under a twofold way, manner. First, the kingdom is coming in time and in history; slowly, gradually, but surely and really.
A thing that is hard for us to realize – God’s hand is in history. He never withdraws it; and what to us seems like blackness, and darkness, and despair, and failure, and destruction, and decay, and death has in it an ultimate purpose of Almighty God. For the kingdom is coming; and it comes, and it comes in God’s way and in God’s will, but surely and certainly.
In the first verse in the Bible, God created the heavens and the earth [Genesis 1:1]. But the second verse is a dark verse, "And the earth became waste and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep" [Genesis 1:2]. I think, when Lucifer fell, the whole universe fell with him. Great stars collided and burst. The whole creation of God was destroyed. Sin always destroys.
Then what? Does God leave it chaotic and dark and void and waste? No. For the verse continues, "And the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the deep" [Genesis 1:2], bringing order and beauty out of chaos. So it is with God’s hand in modern history. It is as dark in some places of this world as it can be. But the hand of God is in China. The hand of God is in Russia. The hand of God is in the nations of Africa and in the isles of the sea and, though America seems bound to a dissolution and disintegration, the hand of God is in America.
The kingdom is coming slowly, surely, secretly, clandestinely; it’s on its way. The Lord Himself said that. The Lord said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation" [Luke 17:20]. You can’t see it. It’s only God that can see it and understand, but the kingdom of God cometh not with our observation.
Again, in the fourth chapter of Mark He said the kingdom of God is like a man that plants a seed in the earth, and he goes to sleep, and he goes to sleep, and he arises and goes back to sleep [Mark 4:26-29]. And he doesn’t know how, he didn’t know the mystery of it, nor does any man ever know the mystery of it; but out of the dust of the ground the seed sprouts, germinates, a little blade, a stalk, a bloom, a fruit. It is God’s secret way of controlling the destiny of His created universe.
So the kingdom comes and it comes and it comes, and in time and in history, slowly, gradually, without observation. As the author of Hebrews says, "Do not be weary nor fall into despair; for He that shall come, shall surely come" [Hebrews 10:37]. I can’t understand. I don’t see it, but He does. And He has promised the kingdom to His people, to us. "Be of good cheer, little children," said the Lord. "It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom" [Luke 12:32]. Not only is the kingdom in time and in history, coming slowly, gradually, surely, in God’s infinite wisdom; but in time and in history the kingdom is coming suddenly, cataclysmically, triumphantly, openly, victoriously, personally.
In the Revelation, in the twenty-second chapter, three different times the Lord will say, "Behold, I come tachu" [Revelation 22:7, 12, 20]. "Behold, I come swiftly" – suddenly, cataclysmically. There is a thousand years in God’s clock that is as a moment, but as a day [2 Peter 3:8]. And when this time of consummation comes, the kingdom will come. We shall see our Lord, and His reign shall be established in the earth [Revelation 11:15]. He said it is as lightning that shines from the east to the west – openly and publicly [Matthew 24:27]. It is a glorious and triumphant day for the people of God; the intervention of God in human history.
Paul, in the eleventh chapter in the Book of Romans, said, "When the fullness of the Gentiles, when the plerōma," – plerōma is a simple Greek word meaning full number – "When the full number of the Gentiles be come in" [Romans 11:25], then, then, is the consummation of the age and the establishment of the kingdom. When the last man comes down this aisle whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:15]; when the last soul is saved who is known to God in His elective, predestinarian purpose; when that one responds, the consummation shall come. The Lord shall appear and establish His kingdom in the earth [Revelation 11:15].
But not only is the kingdom coming twofold: gradually, and without observation, and cataclysmically, openly and triumphantly; but the kingdom is also in its component constituency, in its human nature; it is also twofold. The kingdom is first, spiritual. The Lord said to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world" [John 18:36]. That is, it’s not like Rome, or Athens, or Assyrian’s Nineveh, or Babylonia’s Babylon. It is not like a Washington or a London or a Paris or a Peking or a Moscow. "My kingdom is not of this world." It is of a different order and of a different nature. The apostle Paul by inspiration wrote, "My brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption" [1 Corinthians 15:50]. It is of a different order. It is a spiritual kingdom.
But second, it is also spatial. It is in time. It is in history. It is in place. It is as real as anything we know that is real. There shall be a new heaven, but it will be a heaven, an actual heaven. There shall be a new city, a new capital, but it will be a real city, a capital city. There shall be a new earth, but it shall be a real earth, this earth, renovated [Revelation 21:1-2]. There shall be a new body, but we shall have a real body [1 Corinthians 15:44-].
I cannot understand the anomaly, the contradiction inherent in what the Bible will say – a spiritual body. Those two words are self-contradictory. You might as well say sweet-sour. You might as well say hot-cold as to say a spiritual body. They are contradictory, but God says it. We shall have a spiritual body in space, in time, in history; this body resurrected and glorified, but an actual body [1 Corinthians 15: 44-]. And this is the cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith.
Our Lord is marked out – horizō, as Paul wrote it in Romans 1:4. He is marked out. The word horizon, that’s where the line between the sky and the earth is marked out. Our Lord is marked out; He is designated as the Son of God by the resurrection from among the dead. When they came to Him in the days of His flesh and said, "What sign do You give us that You are the Son of God?" He said, "As Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights; so the Son of Man shall be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights" [Matthew 12:40]. His resurrection is the great sign of His deity.
When they came to Him on another occasion and said, "Give us a sign," He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" [John 2:19]. And John writes by inspiration, "But He spake of the temple of His body" [John 2:21]. The resurrection of our Lord is the great sign, is the great proof, is the great designation, the marking out that this is the Son of God, the Savior of the world [Romans 1:4].
Now, it is the same thing in His presentation of Himself to His disciples. It is that the real Jesus that gives authenticity to the Christian faith. It is not a metaphysic; it is not a philosophy; it is not a speculation; it is an actuality. It is real. The disciples, when they saw Him come into the room with the doors closed, were afraid. They were terrified, affrighted, thinking that they were looking upon a spirit [Luke 24:36-37; John 20:19].
And the Lord said, "Why, a spirit hath not flesh and bones such as ye see Me have. Come, handle Me and see that it is I, Myself." And when they believed not for joy, He said, "Have you here any meat, anything to eat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb, and He did eat before them" [Luke 24:39-43] – the actual Lord Jesus. It is a spiritual kingdom, but it also spatial; it is also real; it is also material. God invented matter. He created it; He must like it. God invented eating. He created it; He must like it, and I do, too.
In the kingdom, we shall set down at the banquet feast with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob and shall break bread with the Lord. We shall be party to the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-9]. The whole kingdom is as real in its realization, in its actualization, in its consummation, as of any part of human life that we know today, only it will be immortalized, and glorified.
The great cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith is the actual resurrection from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:50-51; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. All other religions practically believe in some kind of immortality, the continuing life of the spirit beyond the grave. But the only faith and the only religion that believes in the resurrection of this body from the dead is the Christian faith. And it is a cardinal doctrine because it is based upon Easter; it is based upon the Lord’s Day. It is based upon the triumphant resurrection of our Lord over death and sin and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:12-20]. Because He lives, the apostle says, we shall live also [John 14:19]. And as He has a glorified and risen body, immortalized, beautiful, so we shall have a raised and risen body glorified, immortalized and beautiful [1 John 3:2]. That’s what God says the Christian faith is.
You have a saying in physics that all of you are familiar with: nature abhors a vacuum. That is, wherever there might be a vacuum in the earth, the whole forces of the universe will rush to fill it. That’s why you have whirlwinds and tornadoes and cyclones and what have you in this earth. There is a rushing in order to fill a place that has somehow become under-pressurized. Nature abhors a vacuum is an axiom in physics.
Now here is an axiom no less factual and no less true. The Christian faith abhors disembodiment. Unclothing, nakedness, as the apostle calls it, the spirit without a body, the Christian faith abhors. Look at this glorious revelation in the fifth chapter of 2 Corinthians:
We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle – talking about his body – it is dissolved – if we die and it decays, we have another house, another tabernacle, made of God – a house not with human hands – but with God’s hands – eternal in the heavens.
For in this body we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked – disembodied.
[2 Corinthians 5:1-3]
Christianity abhors the idea of disembodiment. "If so be that being clothed, we shall not be found disembodied, naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened" [2 Corinthians 5:3-4]. We get sick, we get old, and we finally die. "Not that we would be unclothed" [2 Corinthians 5:4], even though we grow old and are sick and invalid and die in this house in which we now live. We don’t want to be unclothed, even though we hurt in this body. We grasp for breath. We don’t want to die.
"For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not that we would be unclothed" – disembodied – "but clothed upon" – in the spirit, embodied, incarnate – "that mortality might be swallowed up in life" [2 Corinthians 5:4]. God has promised those who trust in Him that He will raise them from the dead [John 6:40, 54]. This body, these atoms, these molecules, these muscles and tendons and the skin of the flesh, they shall be raised from the dead, from the dust, from the depths of the sea, from an oak tree that may thrust its root through my substance, and its flowers and leaves and sap and acorns. I don’t understand it. I cannot understand the power of God.
I don’t understand anything that God does. Mystery is His signature. If God does it, all we do is just observe it. We don’t explain it or understand it. So it is in the resurrection from the dead. God takes these very atoms and these very molecules and this body, and He raises it from the dead, glorified, immortalized [1 Corinthians 15:22-23], like to the glorious body of our own Savior when He was raised that Easter morning from among the dead [Matthew 28:1-7]. This is the kingdom that is coming. Spiritual? Yes, but spatial and real and actual; an actual city; an actual King [Revelation 21:1-5]; people who have actual bodies, who live in actual mansions [John 14:2-3]. This is the Christian faith.
When I first came to the church thirty-one years ago now, we had many funerals. And when I buried the people, I didn’t know them. It did not find repercussion in my heart then, as it does today. Now, when we bury our beloved dead, almost without exception, there are those that I have known for years and years. To me it’s like the dissolving of a family. Yesterday, I buried a man in our congregation. I had known him for thirty years almost.
Tomorrow, I bury a sweet mother, a godly mother. I have known her ever since I came to be undershepherd of the flock. And it has in my heart a repercussion. Maybe I cry anyway. I cannot keep back the tears when I lay these to rest, in the heart of the earth, in the dust of the ground, whom I have known and loved for over a quarter of a century.
We have in the church, a chapel that is dedicated to our Silent Friends, our deaf. And for these many, many years, they have had a pastor. We don’t have room in our congregation for them to meet with us as we used to do. So in order to find room for our people here, we took our deaf people and they have their own service, and they have their own pastor. In those times, there was a pastor of our Silent Friends named Brother Landon. And one of the members of his little deaf congregation became ill and lay dying.
So he took me to see the chapel member of our deaf who could not live and was dying. When we went into the room, there he lay on the bed, facing that final and inevitable hour that all of us some day shall face. Gathered around him were the members of his family, here, here, here, here. And Brother Landon, the pastor, and I took our places by the side of the members of the family looking down on his face.
And while we were there, that deaf mute – who couldn’t speak, because he couldn’t hear – that deaf mute pointed to this member of his family and then to this one and then to this one and went all around to each one, pointing with his finger, and pointed to Brother Landon and pointed to me. After he had pointed to each one, who was gathered around the bed, he pointed to himself like this, and then he pointed upward to heaven like that. And Brother Landon said to me, "What he means to tell you is, ‘You, my sweet family, and you, my pastor, I will meet you in heaven.’"
Do you believe that? If you do, you are a Christian. That’s the heart and the cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith, that in Christ we shall see one another again.
I will sing you a song of that beautiful land,
The faraway home of the soul,
Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand,
While the years of eternity roll.
Oh, how sweet it will be in that beautiful land,
So free from all sorrow and pain,
With songs on our lips and with palms in our hands,
To greet one another again.
["Home of the Soul," Ellen M. H. Gates]
An actual Savior; an actual kingdom; in an actual city; in an actual home; living in a real and resurrected body. "Blessed hope" [Titus 2:13], Paul calls it. Oh, precious faith! If you believe that and would trust God for it, would you give yourselves to Him, with us this solemn morning hour?
In a moment we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, trusting the Lord as your Savior; giving your life to Him; or a family coming into the fellowship of the church; or a couple, hand in hand, coming to the Savior and to us; or just one somebody you, make the decision now in your heart. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up walking down that stairway or coming down this aisle, "Pastor, I have decided and here I am." God speed you and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE KINGDOM IS COMING 11/47, 8/75
Isaiah 11:1-9 4/52 Palace Theatre
II Peter 3:13
CHRIST AND THE COMING KINGDOM
Isa. 11:1-5 a glorious King. 11:6-9 a glorious Kingdom.
Isa. 10:33,34 Assyria = cedar, cut down. No shorts. Israel = Oak, cut down, Shorts. Shorts= stumps, cedar stumps- no shoots or outgrowths, rots and decays in the ground. Oak stumps-there shall come forth a rod out of the stem and a branch whall grow out of his roots.
The undying hope, optimism, of the prophets, people of God.
-The tree is cut down, but it will live again; greater, mightier than ever.
-The present Davidic kingdom hasbeen, but the coming kingdom brighter, richer, than ever.
-The present ruler Ahaz, betrayed hopes, confidence of the people, but the coming kingdom..Rev. 22:16 “root and the offspring of David” is Prince Immanuel Himself. His name is wonderful.
-The present world, bathed in blood, wars, but the new world to come. 2:1-4
compare: the contrast with the Greeks.
Looked back to their great heroes, golden ages.
Lived long long ago.
Even Plato’s “Atlantis”, an island continent that once existed in the sea. Beyond the Pillars of Hercules, but now submerged.
The “Golden Age” of the ancient poets is a primeval age of joy, their innocence.
But to the prophets, apostles, people of God, the great hero, of the golden age has yet to come.
Looking forward. Whatever the condition now, God would visit His people.
Gen. 50:24,25 Joseph making them swear”……bones”.
Jer. 29:10 to capitivity in Babylon “….after seventy years, God….”
Rev. 22. Jerusalem destroyed in 70, but “the new Jerusalem….”
Deut. 18:15 “a Prophet….”
The kingdom is two-fold in its coming.
1. In time, history, it is coming slowly, gradually in the long-suffering patience of God.
God works, the Spirit broods. Gen. 1:1
Slowly, patiently, Luke 17:20 “not with observation”
Mark 4:26 “the seed growing secretly.”
Through the ages- (1) Israel a part. Not done yet with Jacob. Here to the consummation.
(2) Church a part. Evangelizing. The bride of Christ. Teaching. Baptizing.
(3) Those who have died a part. Children of God through all the ages. Resurrection, glory. Rev. 14:13
2. In the fullness of time, at the end of the ages, suddenly, quickly, cataclysmic, triumphantly, gloriously> Rev. 3:11;22:7,12,20.
“As the lightning shineth out of the East into the West…” With clouds and great glory.”
I Cor. 15:51,52 and following.
I Thess. 4:13 and following.
When the last one enrolled in God’s Book has been saved.
When the last prodigal son in God’s Book has come home.
We shall all be raised……
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