When Jesus Comes Again
December 12th, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
WHEN JESUS COMES AGAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-12-76 8:15 a.m.
We are happy for you who have tuned in to this service on KCBI and on the radio of the city of Dallas, WRR. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled When Jesus Comes Again. In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have come to the tenth and the eleventh verses; and this is the reading of the Scripture:
And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as Jesus went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go.
When Jesus comes again, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, shall so return, in like manner as ye have seen Him go." When Jesus Comes Again.
There has been no time in recorded history when men have not dreamed of a golden age. The poets and the philosophers of the ancient East, as well as the poets and philosophers of the Western world, in Greece and in Rome, often spoke of the day that was yet to come: a day when there would be no more wars and peace would cover the earth; a day when iniquity would be abolished and righteousness would fully reign: a day when the earth would bring forth her increase and storms would rage no more.
And the Old Testament prophets repeated by inspiration that incomparable refrain, "There is coming a golden age." Micah wrote of it in his famous fourth chapter like this: "When we shall beat our swords into plowshares, and our spears into pruninghooks: when nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will we learn war anymore" [Micah 4:3]. And Isaiah wrote of it like this, in the eleventh chapter of his prophecy:
When the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the carnivorous lion will eat straw like an ox.
When they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain: when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
[Isaiah 11:6-7, 9]
And the New Testament carried that refrain to its ultimate and final consummation. In the New Testament they used a word which we have taken over into our English language out of the Vulgate Latin called "the millennium." Mile, "a thousand," annus, "year"; a thousand years; all history, the New Testament says, is moving toward and reaching up to that great final consummation called the millennium, and that to be followed by new heavens and a new earth. The very heavens shall be purged and purified, and this planet will find its rest in the harmony of the spheres. These are the golden dreams of the golden age of the poets and the philosophers and by inspiration of the prophets and the apostles.
Now, how shall that be achieved? Who shall introduce and usher in that golden era? When I was a boy, all through the years of my upbringing and when I was a student, all through the years of my college and seminary training, I heard one doctrine, just one. I was never introduced to any other doctrine. I listened to one explanation and one supposed inspired revelation of how that new era is to be introduced.
And without exception, all through the days of my upbringing and education I was taught by the pulpit and by the teacher’s lecture chair, I was taught one thing; it will be introduced by the preaching of the gospel. Their watch word was, "The world is growing better and better." And their affirmation of the gospel was seen, they said, in the progress that humanity was making in the arts and in the sciences and in the cultures of the nation. By the operation of the Holy Spirit and by the preaching of the message of Christ, and by the diffusion of the gospel of peace we were going to usher in that new millennial age. Christ shall reign in the hearts of men, and the Lord shall lead in the councils of the nations, and the tiger will forget to bear its fangs, and the leopard will change his spots. I heard no other doctrine or no other preaching than that all the years of my young life.
Indeed, it is a glorious vision. We, by our preaching; and we, by our counseling; and we, by our progress in all of the areas of human life, we shall introduce this glorious golden age of a thousand years: the millennium, at the end of which Christ shall come. The only thing the matter with the doctrine I found out in my study of the Book was this: it contradicted the plain Word of God. There is no intimation to me as I read the Book of any such doctrine in the Bible.
Take for example the plain, simple parable of our Lord of the sower. The sower went out to sow and only one-fourth of what he did bore fruit unto God. A fourth of it, part of it fell by the wayside and the birds ate it up. Some of it fell on stony ground and the sun scorched it. Some of it fell among thorns and the worldly cares choked it to death. And just some, a part, fell upon good ground. There is no preacher in the earth who has ever lived or ever will live who will convert a whole people. They will not turn.
Another thing I found about the doctrine was it forever precludes the coming of our Lord for any practical doctrinal purpose in human life. If we are going to get better and better and better, and finally we usher in the kingdom at the end of which thousand years the Lord comes, then for all practical purposes the coming of the Lord has no meaning to us at all. And the Lord’s admonition when He said, "Watch therefore: for ye know not what day or hour your Lord doth come" [Matthew 24:42], that is an extraneous and impertinent statement by our Savior because He is not going to come until at the end of a thousand years, when we have ushered in the millennial reign.
Another thing I found; in my reading of history and in my looking at the world in human experience, it is denied by everything I read and everything that I know – the world is not getting better, period! There are millions and millions and millions more who do not know the Lord than when Christianity began.
And as for progress, you see progress from a T-Model Tin Lizzy to a beautiful limousine made by that same motor company. And you see progress in radio. And you see progress in television. And you see progress in the incandescent lamp. And you see progress in scientific achievements. But you also see progress in atomic warfare! And you see progress in the use of media for the propagation of lies and the destruction of the liberties of a people. Progress in human life is a sorry illusion. It does not exist. Men, when they were in the Stone Age killed with an axe and with a club. Then in their progress they killed with a bow and an arrow. Then in their progress they killed with gun powder and bullet. And today we kill with atomic bombs and atomic-headed missiles. There is no evidence in human life or experience that the world is getting better.
Now let us return to the Word of the Lord. What does God say about the human race? And what does God say about the millennial age? And what does the Lord say about the coming of our Christ? Let us therefore build our hopes, and preach our doctrine, and teach our Word according to as the Lord hath written it on the sacred page. So we do that in these few moments this morning.
When Jesus shall come again: How is this age going to be introduced? And how are we to enter this millennial reign of our Lord? "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner" [Acts 1:11]. So He is coming again in "like manner" as we have seen Him go. Therefore we shall look at that "in like manner."
What kind of a world was it when He came the first time? He is coming in like manner. What kind of a world was it into which the Lord came the first time? Well, as I read the Book, I see Caesar Augustus. Who is Caesar Augustus? Caesar Augustus is the first undisputed Fuhrer and dictator of the civilized world. Caesar Augustus liquidated his rivals, Antony and Lepidus. Caesar Augustus assassinated three hundred senators and three thousand knights. Caesar Augustus confiscated the lands of the aristocrats and gave it to his soldiers. Caesar Augustus forever destroyed the Republic of Rome and made it into a dictatorship. And he took unto himself a word that was reserved only for God, namely "Augustus," Kaisar Augustus, Sebasthe. That kind of sounds like a world dictator, doesn’t it? And that sort of fits the picture of the great and final Antichrist. That’s the kind of a world into which Jesus came the first time.
As I read through the pages of the Book, when the Lord came I’m introduced to Herod the Great. Herod the king, who is he? Herod the king is doubtless the bloodiest, petty monarch who ever lived. Someone asked, "Why is it not in Josephus, who wrote so meticulously of the life of Herod, why is it not in Josephus the story of the slaughter of the babes at Bethlehem?" The answer is very obvious. The reason Josephus never mentioned it is it was a peccadillo in the life of Herod. He killed so many thousands and thousands and thousands as his daily menu of hatred and jealousy, including his own family, that to speak of that little thing of killing the babes in Bethlehem would have been a detail not worthy of mention in the bloody life of Herod. That’s the kind of a world into which Jesus came.
What kind of a world was it into which the Lord was born? I read in the Book and I see here scribes and elders and chief priests. Who were they? There never was any time in the era of Judaism when their religion was as low as it was when Jesus was born into the world. Simony and intrigue and murder were on every hand in the life of the religious Jewish nation. So He is coming in like manner.
What kind of a world was it when the Lord went away? The last time that the unbelieving world ever saw of the Lord Jesus was when they watched Him die in shame on the cross. And their voices were raised, "Away with Him! Crucify Him!" And no unbeliever has ever seen Him since. Nor will any unbeliever ever see Him before He comes in power and glory. When the Lord was tried before Caiaphas, the high priest said, "I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God." And the Lord answered, "Thou hast said," that is, "I am" [Matthew 26:63-64].
In the most emphatic affirmation that the Greek language can avow it, "Thou sayest that I am. And henceforth shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Power, coming in the clouds of glory" [Matthew 26:64]. The next time the unbelieving world will see the Lord Jesus will be when He comes again, introducing the kingdom among men.
What kind of a world will it be like when the Lord returns in like manner? And the Lord has plainly revealed it unto us; "as it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Lot." And the Lord expressly taught us the parables, the musterion, the mysteries of the kingdom. It will be as wheat and tares that are separated and the tares are burned with unquenchable fire. It will be as fish caught in a net and the bad are cast away. It will be as a shepherd gathering his flock and separating the sheep from the goats. It will be as the sixth seal in the sixth chapter of the Apocalypse:
I beheld heaven rolled back as a scroll.
And they cried for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them, and to hide them from the face of Him that sits upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?
[Revelation 6:14, 16-17]
Doesn’t that reveal something to us? The great millennial reign of our Lord is introduced not by the preaching of the gospel, but by the judgments of Almighty God. And that is climaxed in the Revelation. First is that terrible tribulation, from Revelation chapter 6 through Revelation chapter 19, that finds its ultimate bloodbath in the battle of Armageddon, in which battle the Lord interferes in human history, when Jesus Christ comes and the kingdom is introduced by His omnipotent and almighty hands: "In like manner" [Acts 1:11], when Jesus comes again.
Then what of us who have looked in faith to the Lord? What is our destiny? And what is our hope? And what of these who have fallen asleep in Jesus, who have died and are buried, and the Lord still hasn’t come? What of them? This is the blessedness of the hope that God has placed in our hearts.
We who live in a world that faces inexorable and inevitable judgment, and we who live in a body that is decaying and is dying, what is our hope when the Lord comes? First, He comes clandestinely, secretly, furtively, unannouncedly, unheraldly. He is coming for His people. He is coming for His saints. Before the judgment falls, before the terrible tribulation, before the awesomeness of Armageddon, first the Lord comes to take away, to catch away, to rapture, using an old Anglo-Saxon word, to "rapture" His people. And it will be, as the Book says, like Enoch: walking along, walking with God, and then suddenly he was gone; raptured to the Lord [Genesis 5:24], it will be as it was in the days of Noah. God took him and those who believed with him, just one family, but God took him and put him in the ark. And God, the Book says, and God shut the door, and God shut the door [Genesis 7:16]. No flood could fall. No judgment could come until first Noah is safely hidden away.
It shall be as it was in the days of Lot: "And the angels seized him, laid hold upon him, and said, We can do nothing until thou be come thither" [Genesis 19:16, 22]. Judgment cannot fall until God’s people are safely tucked away. "And they laid hands upon Lot, and took him out of Sodom." The fire could not fall, and the brimstone could not burn as long as righteous Lot was in the city.
It shall be as it was in the days of the Passover. Before the death angel passes over, God’s people must be hidden under the blood, under the blood, under the blood [Exodus 12:12, 23]. It shall be as it was in the days of Rahab. Before the trumpet sounds and the city falls down, she must be hidden behind the scarlet line [Joshua 2"18-21: Joshua 6:17, 22-25].
So it is with God’s people in the earth. Before the judgment falls and before these terrible indescribable visitations of judgment, God’s people must be taken away. They must be hidden out of sight. They must be caught up to God in heaven. And look around you my brethren, as long as the dead are in their graves, He hasn’t come. And as long as God’s saints are living in the earth, He hasn’t come; "For when the Lord comes, the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. When Jesus comes "in like manner," the world unbelieving will be lost and men blaspheming will be judged. But God’s saints shall be taken up to their everlasting home in heaven.
No Christian is ever fully Christian when he’s discouraged and dismayed. We may die, but God shall raise us up again. We may be weak and feeble before the tyranny of a whole world, but God is the refuge and defense of His own. And we may face incomparable problems and the darkness is so thick, as it was in Egypt, it could be felt. But the light of the Lord shined in the homes of the people of Israel, and the light of the hope of Christ shines in our hearts to that beautiful and perfect and glorious day when Jesus is coming again.
We’re going to sing now our song of appeal. And while we sing it, in the balcony round, somebody you, on this lower floor somebody you; a family, a couple, make the decision, "I’m going to give my life to Christ, and I’m coming now." "I’m going to be baptized as the Lord hath written in the Book." "I want God to enroll me among those who’ve looked in faith to Him. I want to belong to the church of God’s redeemed." As the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart, come now. Make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.
WHEN JESUS COMES AGAIN
I. The Dream of a Golden Age
1. Ancient poets, philosophers of the ancient East wars cease
Greek, Roman of the West . . . . . . peace prevail
storms no longer rage
2. Verified by the Hebrew prophets
Micah 4:3 "swords into plowshares. . spears . . ."
Isa. 11:6-9 "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard . . ."
35:1-6 "desert shall blossom like the rose. . . ."
3. The New Testament word
(1) "millennium" "mille" "annus"
(2) Finally, the heavens purified
the earth at rest in the harmony of the spheres
II. How Achieved!
1. My boyhood, student days: Post-millennialism
Bought about by the preaching of the gospel
the operation of the Spirit
the regeneration of the heart
Righteousness will rule the nation.
Christ will reign in the councils of men.
All peace and perfection through spread of kingdom.
the tiger will cease to bare his fangs
the leopard will change his spots
Then the golden millennium!
The watchword, "The world is growing better."
Indisputable evidence, progress in arts, science, culture,
evolution of the natural man, along utilitarian lines.
After the 1000 years, Christ shall come:: Post (after) millennium
2. But some obvious things about the doctrine
(1) Contradicted the plain Scriptures
e.g. Matt. 13:3-8 the sowers ¼ – wayside birds
stony place, sun-scorched
e.g. Matt. 24:42 "Watch ye therefore . . ." removed as a practical
factor in our living
(2) Contradicted history and plain experience
e.g. hundreds, millions more pagans, unbelievers than when
e.g. Progress in auto, electric light, TV – but also in atomic warfare,
propaganda by radio, satellite
III. Then How Shall He Come?
What will the world be like?
How shall He be introduced into it?
1. What kind of a world when Jesus came the first time?
(1) Caesar Augustus – Who was he?
Rome’s first undisputed dictator
Liquidated rivals Anthony, Lepidus.
Assassinated 700 senators, 3,000 knights, destroyed
forever the Republic.
Chose epithet "Augustus" reserved for the gods.
(2) Herod the King – Who was he?
Why not Matt. 2 not in Josephus? A mere peccadillo.
(3) "Chief priests and elders" – Who they?
Judah lowest in all history – intrigue
– 70 years later destroyed
2. What kind of a world when He left?
(1) Last night, forsaken by the world, in shame on the cross
crying "Away with him, crucify him!"
Since time of his burial, not seen by any unbeliever
or will be until he comes in glory: Matt. 26:63, 64
3. What kind of a world when he comes the 2nd time?
(1) Lk. 17:26-37 "As it was in the days of Noah . . . ."
"As it was in the days of Lot . . . ."
(2) Matt. 13:24-30, 37-43 – tares
:47-50 – fish in a net
25:31ff. – sheep, goats
Rev. 6:12-17 – rocks & mountains
19 through 20
Christ and the millennium introduced not by the Gospel,
but by judgment
IV. What of the Christian Believers?
The awesome judgments, depicted in Matt. 24, 25; Rev. 6-19
But his people, caught away Appeared secretly to his disciples
coming for them secretly (not to the world) "in like manner"
caught up (raptured) Will appear again to his disciples
secretly, without announcement.
e.g. Enoch Rapture them away.
e.g. Rahab before blast of the trumpet
God always secures their safety before judgments fall.