The Child and the Kingdom
December 12th, 1982 @ 10:50 AM
THE CHILD AND THE KINGDOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-12-82 10:50 a.m.
We welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio and on television. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Child and the Kingdom. As a background text let us turn to Luke chapter 1, Luke chapter 1, and we read beginning at verse 31; Luke chapter 1:31:
The angel said to Mary,
Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and you are to call His name Joshua, Savior, Jesus.
He shall be great, He shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David:
And He shall reign. . .for ever; and of His kingdom, there shall be no end.
Now turn the page to chapter 2, beginning at verse 6. Luke chapter 2, beginning at verse 6:
And so it was, that, while they were in Bethlehem, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her first born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger…
Verse 40 of chapter 2:
And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him.
Verse 51 of chapter 2:
And Jesus went down with His parents, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them…
One other, turn to Luke 18, chapter 18, and we read verses 15, 16, and 17; Luke chapter 18:15, 16, 17:
And they brought unto Him little babies, infants, that He should touch them and bless them: and when His disciples saw it, they rebuked those mothers who brought the little babes to Jesus.
But Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto Me, allow them, invite them to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
The summation of the purpose of this sermon is to remind us that there are two tremendous facets to the kingdom of God. One speaks of gradual growth, as a child is born, and as the child grows. And the other speaks of the catastrophic consummation, apocalyptic coming-down of the kingdom of God in the person of Jesus Christ, out of heaven.
It has two sides to it, like a coin. One side is a growing side, a patient side, one that continues through the centuries and the thousands of millennia. And the other is catastrophic. It is consummating. It is the kingdom of God in its ultimate realization. There has never been a time in the history of the human race that the human heart has not been lifted up in prayer, in hope, in dream of a golden age.
It is the theme of the prophets of the Old Testament, a time when the kingdom shall come. Isaiah speaks of it eloquently in the eleventh chapter of his prophecy,
When the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. . .
When the wild carnivorous lion shall eat straw like an ox. . .
When they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain. . .
When the world and the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
Daniel spoke of that glorious consummation when, in the days of the final reigning kings, God sets up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. And it shall stand for ever and ever [Daniel 2:44].
And Micah beautifully speaks of that coming consummation when he speaks that God shall reign in Zion. “And He shall judge among the people…And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” [Micah 4:3].
And [Malachi], the last of the Old Testament prophets, closes the Old Testament with the promise of the soon-coming kingdom: “I send My messenger before My face, saith the Lord, and the great God-Messiah whom you seek shall suddenly come to His temple” [Malachi 3:1]. Then he closes: “The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. And I will send you Elijah before the coming of the great and mighty day of the Lord” [Malachi 4:2, 5].
Can you imagine therefore the thrill in the hearts of the people of Judea when John the Baptist appeared and announced that the kingdom of heaven was at hand? [Matthew 3:1-2]. It was coming. All of the dreams of that golden age were to be fulfilled in the coming King. Our New Testament, in the dispensation and age in which we live, is no less filled with the wonder and the grandeur of that coming kingdom.
Our Lord spoke of it in the tremendous apocalyptic discourses in the Book of Matthew [Matthew 24:3-44] and in the thirteenth chapter, where He speaks of the mysteries of the kingdom [Matthew 13:3-42], “Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of our Father. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” [Matthew 13:43].
And in the whole course of the Apocalypse, the last book in the Bible, the whole message of that glorious revelation is “the kingdom is coming” [Revelation 4:1-22:21]. An angel is sent forth, described in the eleventh chapter of that glorious unveiling of our Lord. And the angel’s message is this, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ: And He shall reign for ever and for ever” [Revelation 11:15]. This is the beautiful and golden dream throughout the history of mankind and throughout the Holy Scriptures themselves.
But there is also a revelation besides; there is also preparation, patience, and the working of God in an eternal purpose. The kingdom has two facets: one of gradual growth, and the other of its apocalyptic realization and sometimes our misunderstanding of that brings real hurt to our hearts. We must wait. We must work. We must watch. We must pray. The kingdom will surely come, but in the meantime God is working an eternal purpose through us.
I remember when the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City called a world-famous evangelist for their pastor. Whole lot of difference between being an evangelist, an itinerant preacher, and being the pastor of a church over years and years.
This great wonderful evangelist, now pastor of that church, being a believer of the Bible, which an evangelist would have to be, and being a premillennial, also, preacher, driving down the streets of the city of Oklahoma City, he saw one of his deacons out in the yard, planting a tree. The preacher stopped his car, and got out of the car, and said to his deacon, “What are you doing?”
And the man replied, “Pastor, I’m planting a tree.”
And the pastor said to him, “Don’t you know that is a repudiation and interdiction of all that I’m preaching? You don’t have time for a tree to grow. Jesus is coming soon, and planting of a tree is unthinkable. It won’t have time to grow.” That’s a misunderstanding. There’s more to the kingdom of God than its apocalyptic descent from heaven.
The occasion for the writing of the first letter of Paul, the letter to the church at Thessalonica, was this: they were looking for the kingdom of God to appear immediately, and some of their beloved had died. So they wrote to the apostle, saying, “What of these who have died? Will they have a part in the kingdom?” [1 Thessalonians 4:13]. And that occasioned the letter, 1 Thessalonians. Then there were others who said, “No need to work, no need to build a house, no need to toil, Jesus is coming soon. The kingdom is at hand.” And they didn’t work.
And that occasioned the second letter of the apostle Paul to the church at Thessalonica. It has two facets. And the first facet, and the one in which we now live, is one of the patient preparation and working out of the eternal purposes of God in our hearts, in our lives, and in our nation. God takes His time in working out His purposes. Time is a creation, like substance, and, to us, we live in it, but there’s no time to God. He dwells in eternity. And the purposes of our Lord are worked out through thousands of years. He was preparing a family for the coming King.
- Of the many of Adam, Seth is chosen.
- Of the many of the Sethites, Noah is chosen.
- Of the family of Noah, Shem is chosen.
- Of the many Shemites, Abraham is chosen.
- Of the sons of Abraham, Isaac is chosen.
- Of the sons of Isaac, Israel, Jacob, is chosen.
- Of the many of Jacob, Judah is chosen.
- Of the thousands of Judah, David is chosen.
- Of the families of the captivity, the remnant returning is chosen.
- And out of the returning remnant, Mary is chosen, whose husband is Joseph.
The purposes of God, working out through the centuries and the thousands of years.
Thus God, in the preparation for the world, for the coming of Christ, thousands and thousands of years in that preparation, hundreds and hundreds of years creating the culture and the language of the Greek people. And Alexander the Great conquering the civilized world, and the whole earth understood and spoke Greek. And the hundreds and hundreds of years in the development of the Roman people, and the realization of the Roman Empire laced together with roads. Pirates and robbers swept from the sea and from the land. And the whole earth under one law, where a man could travel from one side of the civilized world to the other, ready for the preaching of the gospel.
And the Diaspora of the people of God, the Jewish people, and wherever they went, there was the synagogue, and there were the Holy Scriptures, and there was the monotheistic expectation of the coming Messiah, God preparing the world through thousands of years.
And when finally the day came, and the King descended from heaven, He came in the form of a Baby, a little Baby. Not born in a king’s palace, as the magi thought [Matthew 2:1-3], but born in a stable and laid in a manger [Luke 2:10-16]. For thirty years did the Child live and grow up to manhood, in obscurity, a manual laborer [Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3], and for three brief years, His ministry and atoning death [Matthew 27:32-50]. And now, after His return to heaven [Acts 1:9-10], for two thousand years, we still look for that kingdom yet to come. But we pray and we wait: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in this earth, as it is in heaven” [Matthew 6:10]. And someday, some glorious day, Jesus is coming again [Acts 1:11]. And the kingdom will bring life and light and immortality [2 Timothy 1:10]. There will be no more sorrow, nor death, nor crying. And we shall live in His presence, and glorify and adore Him, world without end [Revelation 21:3-5].
But there are two sides. And in one of those facets we now live. The blessing of the preaching of the gospel, ah, ah, how dear and how beautiful! This last week I saw a home so terribly destroyed. I saw a home put together in Jesus. And the children, the mother’s gone to Alabama now to bring back her children. The preaching of the gospel. We hardly realize what the message of Christ brings to us today.
Did you know? Don’t you know? America was a nation of slavery. My great grandfather who came to Texas from Kentucky in the 1820s was captain of the Texas Rangers. Sam Houston gave him a great tract of land, and he formed that plantation with slaves, my great grandfather. My maternal grandfather was a physician in the Confederate army, warring over slavery. Can you believe that, in America? Can you believe that politicians settled their differences in duels in America? Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton, one of the greatest lights of the birth of our nation, in a duel. And in the same spot where Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel in 1804, in that very spot, the exact place, Alexander Hamilton’s eldest son, twenty years of age, was slain in a duel. Can you believe that? In America? Can you believe in America that debtors were placed in prison? Aren’t you glad Jesus has done something about that? Man, we would all be in jail. Debtors were placed in prison. And they stayed there until the debt was paid which in some instances was the remainder of their lives. Can you believe that? And I haven’t time to speak of what we did in generations past with our insane, and these who were mentally afflicted. I don’t have time to speak of the beautiful, gracious, ameliorating blessing of the gospel of Christ, winning people to Jesus, blessing homes and heart and family. Then a victory in its marvelous care for little children. Of such Jesus said is the kingdom of God [Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16].
But it also has its final consummation. Someday Jesus will come [Acts 1:11], maybe before I’m through, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, and the kingdom will come in all of its final glorious heavenly realization. O Lord!
After I was graduated from the seminary, I became pastor of a church in western Oklahoma, my first church out of school. It was in the days of the deepest Depression. And the people were very poor. As I walked in and out before the people in that county seat town of about fifteen thousand people, my heart went out to the poor, cold, hungry, just pitiful. So I organized in the church a Good Shepherd department. And we went among those poor, poor, poor people, telling them of the love of Jesus and taking care of them the best we could.
That gave rise to something that I did over forty years ago. I had in the church a White Christmas program, and invited all of our people who could to bring used clothing and staple groceries, and wrap them in white packages, and bring them and put them at the foot of the Christmas tree. And then, in the cold winter months, we took what our people brought, and we helped our poor in that little county seat town. We fed them and we clothed them. Those White Christmas programs, I could never forget, of course, this church wasn’t as large as this, but those white packages went clear to the ceiling in the church. It was just a beautiful thing to see.
In that work of the Good Shepherd department, we won to Jesus a little waif of a girl about twelve years of age. When Christmas time came she went to her grandparents to spend Christmas. Her grandparents were as poor as she was, lived out in the country in a hovel, untaught, uneducated, poor, untrained. And while the little girl was there, she became desperately ill. And those people didn’t know where to turn or what to do with the little girl like that, so terribly ill. And she died there. And they brought her back to me to bury.
When time came for the memorial service for that precious little girl, the godly deacon, who headed our Good Shepherd ministry, said, “Pastor, when I went to get her body, to bring it back here for you to bury, they told me down there in that poor farm house, that a neighbor, learning that the little child was so desperately ill, brought a doctor to see her. And the child had a raging burning fever. And I’m not doctor enough to explain why, but the doctor would not give her any water to drink. And the little child begged for water to drink, in that high fever. And the doctor refused. And she said to the doctor, ‘You may not give me any water here, but I’m going to a place where there are rivers of water [Revelation 21:6]. And I shall drink at the fountain of the water of life.’ And died.”
It has two sides. There is the preaching side, the soul-winning side, the quiet tender mercies of the blessed Jesus [Matthew 11:28]. And it has an apocalyptic side. It has a great consummating side [John 3:36].
Now, we pray. We work. We serve. We preach. We plead. We invite. We tell about Jesus. Then someday all of us shall be translated into the beautiful kingdom of our Lord, where we shall worship and praise God forever and ever and ever [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. Ah, what a beautiful gospel, and what a wonderful Lord, and how precious to know Him now!
And that is our invitation to you. A family, to decide for God and for us, come today and welcome. If you are in the balcony round there is time and to spare. Make the decision now in your heart, and when the invitation hymn is sung, answer with your life [Romans 10:8-13]. “Here we stand pastor. We are coming today.” A couple, a man, his wife, somebody and his friend, “We are deciding for God today. The Lord has spoken to us and we are on the way.” Or just one somebody you, “This is God’s time for me, pastor; and I am coming.” That first step will be the most precious and the most meaningful in your life, come. Welcome, a thousand times. God love you and angels attend you in the way as you respond, while we stand and while we sing.
AND THE KINGDOM
2:6-7, 40, 52, 18:15-17
I. The consummation of the kingdom
Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 11:6-9, Daniel 2:34-35, 44, Micah 4:1-3, Malachi
3:1-2, 4:3, 5)
We in the New Testament (Matthew 13:42, Revelation 11:15)
II. A revelation besides
A. Kingdom also one of
1. We must wait,
work, watch, pray
B. The letters to
III. The patient working of God
A. Preparation of a
B. Preparation of the
C. Finally He came, as
D. The purposeful ways
of God in the earth
1. Growth – men
2. Consummation –
kingdom will come in all of its final glory