This Same Jesus
January 9th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
THIS SAME JESUS
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1-9-77 10:50 a.m.
It is with gladness, with praise, with love for Jesus that we welcome you who are watching this service on television and listening to the message on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message out of the Book of Acts.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have come to the eleventh chapter in the first—the [ninth] verse in the first chapter. And this is the context. Acts chapter 1:
And when Jesus had spoken these things, while the disciples 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—
that is the text, that is the title—
this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go.
This same Jesus—and our message will be divided into three parts. Number one: the place. Number two: the promise. And number three: the person.
The place; “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner” [Acts 1:11]. And the following verse says, “And returned they unto Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives—from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem, a Sabbath’s day journey” [Acts 1:12]. Just beyond the Brook Kidron, on this side Mount Moriah with its temple; then the valley, in which the winepress—in Aramaic, Gethsemane—is located; then up the slope to the heights of the mountain on the east of the city called the Mount of Olives. It is that mount that will receive the feet of our Lord when He comes down from the sky [Zechariah 14:4]. The prophecies in the Bible are not only sometimes general, covering vast eras and millennia, but many of them are decidedly specific; sometimes in smallest detail, and it is thus with the return of our Lord. In the fourteenth chapter of the prophecy of Zechariah:
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.”
This same Jesus, as He went away from the Mount of Olives, shall some day return to that same place [Acts 1:11]. And when His feet touch the mountain, it shall be riven, split in two [Zechariah 14:4]. Ah, the wonder of the infinitude of the power and presence of Christ the Lord when He comes back to this earth!
When He came the first time, the place was specifically identified. Micah the prophet in the fifth chapter of his word, in the second verse said, “And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the cities of Judah. Bethlehem Ephratah, in Judah . . . out of thee shall He come forth who shall rule My people; whose goings forth have been from of old even from everlasting” [Micah 5:2]. The eternal God, the Prince of Glory shall be incarnate, and the prophet said in that little town, Bethlehem [Micah 5:2]. So it is the prophecy is specific. In the glorious, incomparable, marvelous, triumphant return of our Lord, it will be on the Mount of Olives [Acts 1:11], on the east side of the Holy City, Jerusalem.
Second: the promise—“this same Jesus, who is taken away from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go” [Acts 1:11]. There is a secret in the life of those first century Christians. They suffered indescribable, merciless persecution. They were burned at the stake. They were fed to the lions. They were exiled and exposed. They had their property confiscated. They were hated and hounded and hunted. But they faced their martyrdom with songs on their lips and with praises in their hearts. What was the secret of those first century Christians who laid down their lives gladly for the faith? They have a promise; one sweet and dear. As they would bid each other a farewell, when maybe the group was fed on the lions, they would say, Maranatha, Maranatha—“the Lord cometh” ; or achri hou elthe, “till He come,” until He come [1 Corinthians 11:26]. Beyond the blood and the suffering and the persecution and the tears of this life, they saw the glorious return of their living Lord. It was their hope. It was their strength. The apostle Paul wrote, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” [1 Corinthians 15:19]. But beyond the grave and the death and the night, there is the light of the glorious coming of Christ our Savior.
When you look at the philosophies and religions of this world, many of them have many excellent and fine things. They have good teachings. They have splendid morality. There are many fine things in Confucius, in Shintoism, in Hinduism, in Buddhism, in Brahmanism; but they are like a bridge that starts on this side and rises, but in the middle of the abyss it breaks off. There is nothing beyond. Christianity, the faith of our Lord is so fulsome and complete, not only is it grounded in this life and this earth where we now live, it has a great ethic. It has a magnificent spirit. Every man is a better man and a finer man for being a Christian. It is not only fulsome in this life, but as it rises and as it soars, it goes over and beyond the dark abyss and finds its other foundation in life on the shores of the kingdom of God, in heaven. And the secret of that faith is woven into the warp and woof of the Christian religion itself.
All through the Scriptures will you find that promise of the coming, victorious reign of our Lord. In Matthew “He comes in the glory of the Father with all of the holy angels” [Matthew 16:27]. In John, “Because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your hearts” [John 16:6]. But “Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God”—we do—“believe also in Me”—we shall, Lord Jesus [John 14:1]—and He said, “If I go away . . . I will come again” [John 14:3]. In the Book of Acts, “This same Jesus shall so come in like manner” [Acts 1:11]. In Philippians, “For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” [Philippians 3:20]. In 1 Thessalonians, this Lord shall descend from heaven, “the Lord Himself”—this very Jesus—“shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. In his last letter to Timothy, his son in the ministry:
I have fought a good fight, I have 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 them that also who love His appearing.
[2 Timothy 4:7, 8]
In Titus, “Looking for that blessed hope, the appearing of Jesus Christ” [Titus 2:13]. In the Book of Hebrews, “unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time apart from sin unto salvation” [Hebrews 9:28]. In James, my brethren, “Be ye also patient: stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” [James 5:8]. In the Book of Jude, the Lord cometh, “Behold, He cometh with ten thousands of His saints” [Jude 1:14]. And the Book of Apocalypse is framed with the text on one side and the benedictory prayer on the other. The text Revelation 1:7: “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him: and all the families and tribes of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen” [Revelation 1:7]. And the benediction that closes the Revelation, “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely, I come quickly”—and the benedictory response and reply—“Even so, come, blessed Jesus” [Revelation 22:20]. The secret of the Christian faith lies in its eternal and unbounded and never-dying optimism. There is a great day coming. The Lord, “This same Jesus . . . shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go” [Acts 1:11].
Now: the Person—who is this that is coming? So many have thus spiritualized and rationalized that promise until the Lord Himself is lost in it. I am not speaking now of those men of the higher critical school who look upon the Bible as a collection of legends and myths. I am speaking now about men of great spiritual stature, who spiritualize this incomparable promise of the return of this same Jesus [Acts 1:11]. And they do it in many, many ways. Some of them say the Lord came in the destruction of Jerusalem, in 70 AD. There are others who say that the Lord came in conversion of Constantine, or when in [380 AD] the Christian faith became the official religion of the Roman Empire. There are those who say that the Lord Jesus comes in the diffusion of the Christian gospel message in the world. There are those who say that Jesus has come in the advancement of Christian civilization and culture. There are those who say that the Lord comes in death. Oh, in how many ways do they spiritualize and rationalize this incomparable promise, “this same Jesus . . . shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go away!” [Acts 1:11]. But my brethren, we need not so spiritualize the coming of our Lord as that He is enmeshed and lost in history or war or destruction or death.
When His glorious appearing shall be ushered in, it will be the same Lord Jesus who went away; the same holy face; the same blessed voice; the same nail-pierced hands. “If I go away, I will come again” [John 14:3]. Who is that “I”? “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely, I come quickly” [Revelation 22:20]. Who is that I? It is Jesus for whom we pray. It is Jesus for whom we wait. It is Jesus whom we expect. He has not lost His identity. He is still the same blessed Lord Jesus, though immortalized in flesh and bones [Revelation 1:13]; though transfigured, though glorified, He is still the same blessed Jesus, this same Jesus [Acts 1:11].
His identifications never vary. Always His recognitions are the same. When He was raised from the dead, Mary recognized Him by the way He pronounced her name [John 20:16]. The two on the way to Emmaus recognized Him by the way that He said the blessing at the table [Luke 24:30-31, 35]. When John entered the empty tomb, he believed because he recognized the way Jesus folded up the napkin [John 20:4-8]. And Thomas, the twin—Thomas Didymus—when Jesus held up His hands, there were nail prints in His hands; and when the Lord bared His side, there was a great riven scar in His side [John 20:27]; and Thomas cried: “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28], the same Lord Jesus [Acts 1:11]. And through these centuries since there have been those who have seen Him, the same Lord Jesus. When Stephen, the first martyr was beat to the ground by the stones thrown against him, he looked up and saw the Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of Majesty on high [Acts 7:55-56]. Saul of Tarsus, reaching out in threatening and slaughter against the church [Acts 9:1], met Him in the glory of a light above the Syrian midday sun. And blinded by that light, fell at his feet and asked, “Who art Thou, Lord? And He replied: I am Jesus of Nazareth” [Acts 9:2-5, Acts 22:6-8], the same blessed Jesus [Acts 1:11]. And on the lonely isle of Patmos, exiled there to die of exposure and starvation, he saw a vision: the Lord walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands [Revelation 1:9-13]. And in the glory of that vision, he fell at the feet of the Lord as one dead [Revelation 1:14-17]. And the Lord reached forth His hand and touched him; put His hand on his shoulder—how many times did the Lord do that in the days of His flesh?—put His arm around the apostle John, touched him as in the days of old saying, “Be not afraid” [Revelation 1:17], the same Lord Jesus [Acts 1:11].
Nor has there been anything in the lives of God’s great servants that I have ever read that moved me more than the story I had heard a thousand times as a youth growing up in the life of the great far-famed pastor of this church. Accidentally, his gun went off on a hunting trip, and from the wound the chief of police of the city of Dallas had died, and it threw the great pastor into an indescribable and abysmal sorrow. And in those days when he thought because he had killed a man, never to preach again, the Lord appeared to him in the night, and he awakened. Finally returning to sleep, the Lord appeared to him and spoke to him a second time in the night. Startled and awakened, he went back to sleep. And the third time, the Lord spoke to him and called him again to the incomparable ministry that for forty-seven years the Holy Spirit endowed him in this sacred place, the same Lord Jesus [Acts 1:11].
His recognitions are ever the same. He has not changed; here or there and coming again. And last in that person, who is it we want to see? It is not enough to have letters from Him. We have seven of them here in the Revelation [Revelation 2:1-3:22]. It is not enough that we have the story of His life so beautifully portrayed in the four Gospels; not enough that we read His words of wisdom, how deeply are they meaningful to us; not enough even to have His Spirit in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19]. We are like those Greeks: “Sir, we would see Jesus” [John 12:21].
And some day, God’s Book says, we shall be seated at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Matthew 26:29; Revelation 19:7-9]. But what would it be without the Bridegroom; if the bride is there and the Groom is absent. There is no marriage. There is no joy. There is no gladness. It is when He comes for His own [John 14:2-3] that we are seated at the marriage Supper of the Lamb, and we shall look full into His glorious face [Revelation 19:7-9], and rejoice as we break bread together. It is Jesus we want to see, and it is Jesus some day we shall see [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. “This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go” [Acts 1:11]. Like Job, I know: “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and at the latter day He shall stand upon this earth: And though through my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom mine eyes shall behold, and not another” [Job 19:25-27]—this same Jesus.
As we give appeal, to give heart and life to our Lord in this great sanctuary, God’s Spirit bearing the message to you who listen on radio and have shared the service on television; and in the company of people God hath sent us this Sunday morning hour; somebody you, to give himself to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13]; somebody to put his life with us in the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; a family, a couple, or just you; as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand walking down one of these stairways, or coming down one of these aisles. May the angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.