This Same Jesus
January 9th, 1977 @ 8:15 AM
THIS SAME JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-9-77 8:15 a.m.
On the radio, again we welcome you who are listening to this service in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. The pastor in these days is preaching through the Book of Acts, and we have come to verse 11 in chapter 1. And the title of the message is This Same Jesus. Reading the context in the first chapter of the Book of Acts:
And when Jesus had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus—
and that is our text and our title—
this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go.
The sermon is in three parts: first, the place; second, the promise; and third, the Person. The place: in the following verse we learn that these apostles are on the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day’s journey [Acts 1:12], just about below a mile, across the Kidron Valley, up to the top of the mountain. Jerusalem on this side, on Mt. Moriah, and the valley in between that holds in it the winepress, in Aramaic “Gethsemane” and then up the slope of the mountain, Olivet. And they were standing on the top of the Mount of Olives and there, as the Lord spoke to them, the shekinah garments of the Lord, the glory of the Lord, hid Him out of their sight as He ascended upward into heaven [Acts 1:9]. And as they stood transfixed, in holy hush and awe, there were two messengers, aggeloi, two angels, two men who stood by them in their glorious and holy white apparel and said, “Why stand ye here looking up into heaven? This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go away” [Acts 1:10-11]. Therefore, when He returns, if He comes back in the exact way as He left, He will come to the Mount of Olives. And this is the prediction of the holy prophet, Zechariah. In the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Zechariah, beginning at verse 4:
And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east…and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Him . . . And it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light…And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one.
The exact place, according to the prophet Zechariah, when God shall come down out of the heavens, the exact place is the Mount of Olives. And according to those two messengers who were sent to the apostles as they gazed steadfastly up into heaven, “When He returns He shall come to this exact place” [Acts 1:11].
The Lord in the Bible so many times prophesies in the specifics as well as the generalities. For example, when the Lord was born the prophet Micah pointed out the exact place:
and lest there be any other doubt about which Bethlehem—
and thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the cities of Judah—
Bethlehem Ephratah in Judah—
though thou be little, yet out of thee shall He come who shall rule My people Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, even from everlasting.
That is, long before He was incarnate in Bethlehem [Matthew 1:20-2:1; John 1:1, 14], from everlasting has He walked and reigned as the Prince of Glory [John 8:58]. In the exact place, Bethlehem in Judea: thus does God specify in the particular some of these things that His sovereign grace shall bring to pass. And as the Lord specifically pointed out the place of the birth of the Son of God [Micah 5:2], so the Lord specifically points out the place when He shall return to the earth [Acts 1:11]: on the Mount of Olives.
We speak now of the promise. “This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” [Acts 1:11]. There is a secret in the life of the early Christians, who endured unbelievable suffering and persecution. They were burned, they were fed to wild beasts, they were sport for those who filled the Coliseum as they were fed to the lions. Their property was confiscated; they were hounded and hunted to death. And for over three hundred years the Christians in the Roman Empire knew the fate of martyrdom and the suffering of persecution. But they died at the stake, and they faced ravenous lions, and they endured persecution with songs on their lips and with praises in their hearts. What is this deep abiding secret that so held up in faith and in hope those first and persecuted children of the Lord? They had a promise, a holy and heavenly promise.
Paul stated it like this: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” [1 Corinthians 15:19]. For the end of life is death, the grave, the darkness of the night. But to these who had found a faith, and an assurance, and a heavenly life, and a promise in Christ, the sufferings of this life, he said, were but for a moment, and worketh for us a far more enduring faith and promise and inheritance of glory [2 Corinthians 4:17]. So in the promise of the Lord, He is coming, and He shall establish His kingdom in the earth, and we shall live in His sight [Luke 21:27-28], their persecutions and their sufferings were as nothing. They were held in the hands of God by the holy purpose of the Lord, this”better thing” He hath prepared for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9, Hebrews 11:40].
And that is such a contrast to the philosophies of the religions of this world. Sometimes they are beautifully framed, and sometimes they are exotically presented. And sometimes they have great ethical content; there are many things in Confucianism, many things in Shintoism, many things in Hinduism, many things in Buddhism, there are many things in these false philosophies and false religions that are very beautiful to read. But they are like a bridge over a great chasm, and they rise and extend, then in the midst of the abyss they are broken, they fall off, there is nothing beyond. In contrast, the Christian faith not only is anchored in this life and in this world—it is pragmatic, it is practical, it is good, it is right, it is blessed—a man is better off being a Christian than any other way to live in the earth. It not only has a great foundation here in this life, but the bridge extends over and beyond, even the dark abyss of the grave, and extends to the heavenly shore on the other side [John 14:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. And it’s the other part of that bridge, it’s the promise of the Lord in His coming kingdom that gives such assurance to us in the hour of our deepest trial and our greatest need, whatever our suffering [Matthew 5:3-12].
This man who stood up here as a visitor, he came to me before the service and said, “Pray for me. I am here bringing my wife to the hospital for a serious operation. Pray for me.” The Lord bows down His ear to hear His servants when they pray. And if it is God’s will that our life is ended and our task is done, He rises in heaven to receive us to Himself on the other side of that dark and swollen stream. There is a promise: He has not forsaken us [Hebrews 13:5], He has not forgotten us, nor has He gone away to leave us orphans and strangers in the earth [John 16:7-15]; He is coming back for us [John 14:2-3]. And that promise is woven into the very woof and warp of the revelation of God in this blessed Book.
In Matthew, the Lord will say: “He is coming again in the glory of the Father with all the holy angels” [Matthew 16:27]. In John He will say, “Because I have spoken these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart [John 16:6]. But let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God,” we do, “believe also in Me.” Lord, we shall. “For if I go away, I will come again” [John 14:1-3]. In Acts, the angels say, “This same Jesus shall come in like manner as ye have seen Him go” [Acts 1:11]. In the Book of Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” [Philippians 3:20]. In the Book of 1 Thessalonians, “For the Lord Himself shall descend . . . with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God” [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. In the swan song, the last of his letters to Timothy:
I fought a good fight, I finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that Day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.
[2 Timothy 4:7-8]
In the Book of Hebrews, “He shall come apart from sin unto salvation” [Hebrews 9:28]. In the Book of James, “My brethren, be patient; stablish your hearts: for the drawing, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” [James 5:8]. In the Book of Jude, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints” [Jude 1:14]. And the Apocalypse is framed with the great text on one side, and the benedictory prayer on the other side. The text, Revelation 1:7:
Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him; and the tribes and families of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen—
and then the benedictory prayer—
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, blessed Jesus.
There is a promise, a holy and heavenly promise, in the very warp and woof of the Christian faith. It is this: our Lord is coming again. The kingdom of God shall be realized in this earth, and He will reign, our Prince, visibly, openly, eternally [Luke 21:27; Philippians 2:10-11].
And that brings us to our third section of the message: the place His feet shall touch, the Mount of Olives, and the very mountain will cleave when His gracious feet touch the mountain [Zechariah 14:4]; the promise repeated for our encouragement and our hope [Revelation 1:7, 22:20]; and now, the Person. Who is it that is coming? Oh, oh! In how many areas of the Christian faith do I read the spiritualization of that promise, the rationalization of that promise? And I’m not talking about these higher critics who scoff at the inspiration of the Book [2 Timothy 3:16], who ridicule its proposed infallibility. I’m not talking about them. I am talking about some of the Lord’s great and devoted theologians: they spiritualize the return of our Lord. They say, “He came in the destruction of Jerusalem.” They say, “His coming was the conversion of Constantine and the establishment of the Christian faith as the religion of the Roman Empire.” They say, “The second coming of Christ is the diffusion of the gospel in the world.” They say, “The return of our Lord is the advancement of Christian culture and civilization.” They say, “The coming of the Lord is in death,” and in how many other ways do they spiritualize and rationalize this promise of the return of Christ? Who is it that is to return? Who is coming back? When the Lord says, “If I go away, I will come again,” who is that “I”? [John 14:3]. When the Lord says, “Surely, surely I come quickly,” who is that “I”? [Revelation 22:20]. Sweet people, when His blessed appearing is ushered in it will be “this same Jesus” who went away, the same holy face, the same gracious voice, the same nail-pierced hands, “this same Jesus” [Acts 1:11].
You see, His identifications are always the same. He hasn’t changed; He is just been glorified, transfigured, immortalized in flesh and bone [Revelation 1:13]. But He is the same Jesus [Hebrews 13:8]. His recognitions are ever the same. They were there when He was raised from the dead. Mary knew Him by the way He pronounced her name [John 20:16]. The two on the way to Emmaus [Luke 24:13] knew Him by the way that He said a blessing [Luke 24:30-31, 35]. John, when he went into the empty sepulcher, believed that He was raised from the dead by the way that He folded up the napkin [John 20:3-8]. His recognitions are still the same. He said to Thomas, “Put your finger in the print of the nails in My hands.” So His hands have scars in them. “And thrust your hand into My side” [John 20:27]. So His side has a scar in it. His recognitions remain the same. “This same Jesus” [Acts 1:11], and He is been the same ever since.
When the first martyr, Stephen, laid down his life in this earth, he saw the Lord standing at the right hand of Glory, the same Jesus [Acts 7:55-56]. And when Paul, threatening and swearing slaughter against the children of Christ, journeyed to Damascus with authority to hale them into prison, he was met in the way by this same Jesus [Acts 9:1-5]. He said so. When the persecuting Saul of Tarsus, blinded by the glory of that presence, said, “Who art Thou, Lord?” He replied, “I am Jesus of Nazareth” [Acts 22:6-8]; the same Jesus [Acts 1:11]. And when John the apostle, on lonely Patmos Island, saw the glory of the transfigured Christ, in the midst of the seven golden lampstands [Revelation 1:9-13], he fell at His feet as dead; and the Lord put His hand on his shoulder [Revelation 1:17]. I presume the Lord had put His arm around the shoulder of John many times. In the same fashion, in like manner, He put His hand on the shoulder of John, “Be not afraid” [Revelation 1:17]; the same Jesus [Acts 1:11]. Who is it that we’re looking for? “This same Jesus” [Acts 1:11], and it is this same Jesus we want to see.
It’s wonderful to have a letter from Him. There are seven letters from the blessed Jesus in the Book of the Revelation alone [Revelation 2:1-3:22]. It is wonderful to have a letter from Him. It is wonderful to read His life. There are four lives, little biographies, of our blessed Lord here in the New Testament alone [Matthew, Mark, Luke, John]. And to read them is so blessed. And His words of wisdom and encouragement are so infinitely precious; they are divine. And to have His Spirit with us in our services [1 Corinthians 3:16], and in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19-20], oh, how heavenly the quiet communion with God! But Lord, it’s not just a letter we want to read, or a Gospel we want to peruse, or the Word of wisdom that we seek to follow, or even the Spirit we feel in our hearts; we are like those pagan Greeks who heard about Jesus, and came to Jerusalem, saying, “Sir, we would see Jesus” [John 12:20-21]. We are like that. “We would see the Lord Himself.” And is not that the beautiful imagery of this holy and precious Revelation? The marriage supper of the Lamb shall present the bride of Christ to the Bridegroom. I couldn’t think of a wedding without a groom. Nor is it conceivable to have the glorious consummation of the kingdom of God and He not be there, the Bridegroom with the bride, the wedding supper of the Lamb, when we shall see our Lord in all of His glory [Revelation 19:7-9]; “this same Jesus” [Acts 1:11]. As Job said:
Whom mine eyes shall behold, and not another…I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that in the latter day He shall stand upon the earth;
this same Jesus—
And though worms through my skin destroy my body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom mine eyes shall behold, and not another.
Think of it! I shall see His face some day. We shall see Him descend in glory, with all of the holy angels [Matthew 25:31]. And if we die before He comes, we shall be among that throng of redeemed who return in the kingdom to this earth with our Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:14]; precious hope! No wonder Paul says in Titus, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” [Titus 2:13]; this same Jesus [Acts 1:11].
And for us here in the sanctuary this hour, somebody you, give his life to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-13], a family you, to come into the church, a couple or just one, as God might lay the appeal upon your heart, answer now. Come now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing our invitation hymn.