The Child and the Kingdom
December 12th, 1982 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-12-82 8:15 a.m.
I had prepared a Christmas sermon for next Sunday, the Sunday before Christmas which is on Saturday this year, but because of the Christmas tree and because our much-taking of this coming of our Lord into the earth, I turned aside from what I had usually been following in the great doctrinal sermons of the Bible and have prepared a special message for this hour. It concerns the child and the kingdom. It’s a message concerning the two facets of the kingdom of our Lord: one which is patient and gradual growth and the other facet which is catastrophic consummation.
Now, as a background text, we are reading in the first chapter of Luke, and in the second chapter of Luke, and then in the eighteenth chapter of Luke. In the first chapter of Luke, beginning at verse 31, this is the word of the angel to the Virgin Mary. Luke 1, verse 31:
Thou salt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Joshua – Savior, Jesus –
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give Him the throne of his father David.
And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever and ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
That’s a beautiful, beautiful passage.
Now, in the second chapter of Luke, beginning at verse 6:
And so it was, that while they were (in Bethlehem), the days were accomplished that Mary should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes
– That’s because of their poverty. She just wrapped him in rags, didn’t have a little dress for Him –
and laid Him in a manger.
Now, verse 40 of that second chapter: "And the Child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him" [Luke 2:40].
Now, verse 51: "And Jesus went down with (Mary and Joseph) and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them . . . And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" [Luke 2:51-52].
Now, the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Luke. Luke Chapter 18. We shall read the three verses of 15, 16, and 17. "And they brought unto Him infants," little babies, "that He would touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked the mothers. But Jesus said unto them, "Suffer little children," allow little children, "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" [Luke 18:15-17].
So the message that God, I pray, will help me to deliver for our souls this morning: the kingdom of God has two facets. It is gradual. It grows like a child, and it has a consuming, cataclysmic, catastrophic consummation. It is both.
The dream of a kingdom of righteousness, and justice, and peace has been in the heart of mankind, I would suppose, from the beginning of the creation; and certainly, it is glowingly described in the prophets of the Old Testament.
Isaiah 11: that magnificent, millennial vision when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb [Isaiah 11:6], and the leopard shall lie down with the kid [Isaiah 11:6], and the lion shall eat straw like an ox [Isaiah 11:7], when they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain [Isaiah 11:9], when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea [Isaiah 11:9]. What a beautiful, beautiful vision.
In Daniel: in that vision of the end time – all the purview of human history before him – in the days of those last kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom [Daniel 2:36-45]. It shall never be destroyed, and it shall stand forever and ever [Daniel 2:44].
When I turn to Micah, in the beautiful vision of the fourth chapter of Micah [Micah 4:1-13], the law goes out of Zion to the whole earth [Micah 4:2] and the King shall be present:
And He shall judge among the people . . . and they shall beat their swords into plowshare, their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
And the like vision in Malachi that closes the Old Testament:
I send My messenger before My face, and he shall prepare the way of the Lord before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple . . . and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver (that My people may be pure before the Lord) and may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness.
[Malachi 3:1, 3]
The whole theme and substance of the tremendous burden of the prophetic message was, "There is a great, marvelous kingdom coming."
Can you imagine, therefore, the excitement engendered in Judah when John the Baptist announced that the kingdom of heaven was at hand? [Matthew 3:1-3] Ah, what a thrilling, exciting prospect: this glorious prophetic kingdom of the Old Testament was now to be realized in their midst and in their days!
Now, in our dispensation, in our New Testament time, that same marvelous kingdom is described. It is described at great length by our Lord in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, in Matthew 24 and 25 – those apocalyptic discourses. The Lord says in Matthew 13:43: "Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear!"
And, of course, in the glorious Apocalypse, which I haven’t time but just to refer to – when the angel is sent with the message from heaven: "The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" [Revelation 11:15]. Amen.
The whole message of the Bible always lifts up our faces and our hearts in eager anticipation and expectation of the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old and the New: there is a kingdom coming, but there is also something over and besides that cataclysmic, catastrophic coming of the kingdom of God.
When that stone that Daniel saw strikes those kings on their feet and the whole fabric of the nations of the world crumble and nothing remains but the kingdom of God [Daniel 2:34-35, 2:44-45], there are developments; there are patient growths. There are years and centuries and millennia that also accompany the kingdom of God.
It is not just that. It’s not just catastrophic. It’s not just at the end of the age when it is established by the power of the coming of our Lord, but it also has a gradual growth [Matthew 13:31-33]; and our misunderstanding of that truth will lead us into grievous hurt and misunderstanding.
I remember when the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City had a very famous evangelist as their pastor. He didn’t stay very long. There’s a whole lot of difference in being an evangelist and being a pastor of a people; but while he was there, he did something that made an impression upon me. He was an ardent believer in the Bible – you’d have to be to be an evangelist – and as such was a premillennialist.
Well, he was driving down the streets of Oklahoma City, and he saw one of his deacons planting a tree in his front yard; and the pastor stopped and got out of his car and walked over to the deacon and said, "You’re planting a tree."
And the deacon said, "Yes."
And the pastor said to his deacon, "This is a repudiation of my gospel – the message that I’m preaching – you planting a tree."
And the deacon said, "I don’t understand."
And the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City said to him, "Why, before that tree even begins to grow, the Lord is coming; and there’s no point in your planting a tree."
Well, the whole conception of the kingdom of God moves in a different category. That’s why Paul wrote the letter – the first letter – to Thessalonica. They were expecting the kingdom of God to come immediately and some of their people had died, so they sent to the Apostle Paul and said, "What becomes of these who have died? Will they have any part in the kingdom of God?" And that occasioned the first letter to Thessalonica answering that question [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18].
Now, the same kind of a thing happened again. In Thessalonica, there were those who felt, believed, that the kingdom of God was coming immediately, so they wouldn’t work. Why build a house? Why labor? Why toil? Jesus is coming back, and so they didn’t work [2 Thessalonians 3:6-15]; and that’s why Paul wrote the second letter to the church at Thessalonica. It is easy for us to fall into a misunderstanding and sometimes grievous impatience because Jesus doesn’t come and the kingdom doesn’t appear. So what we need to do is, reading the Bible and understanding the Word of God, let us understand the kingdom of our Lord.
First, God works through the centuries, through the millennia, through the thousands of years. Time is a creation like substance. It’s something in which we are enmeshed, but it’s not God. It is a creation of God, and the Lord moves in centuries and in thousands of years. The clock of God to us is an eternity [Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8].
The Lord prepared a family for the coming of the great King, and He did it through thousands of years. Among the many of Adam [Genesis 4:1-2, 4:25], Seth was chosen [Genesis 4:28-5:8]. Among the Sethites [Genesis 4:26-5:32], Noah was chosen [Genesis 5:7-29]. Among the descendants of Noah [Genesis 5:32, 10:1-32], Abraham was chosen [Genesis 5:32, 11:10-32, 12:1-3]. Of the sons of Abraham [Genesis 16:15, 21:1-8, 25:1-4], Isaac was chosen [Genesis 17:1-21, 25:5-6]. Of the sons of Isaac [Genesis 25:19-34], Israel was chosen – Jacob was chosen [Genesis 27:1-28:22, 32:24-32]. Of the sons of Jacob – Israel [Genesis 35:22-26], Judah was chosen [Genesis :8-10; Revelation 5:5]. Of the many of Judah [1 Chronicles 2:3-4], David was chosen [1 Chronicles 2:5-15]. Of the many of the captivity, the remnant was chosen [2 Chronicles 36:10-23; Jeremiah 6:9, 23:1-8]. Of the returning remnant, Mary was chosen and her husband, Joseph, over a period of thousands and thousands of years [Matthew 1:1-25; Luke 1:26-38, 3:23-28].
No less so do you see the hand of God in human history. In the thousands of those years, Greek culture and language developed; and Alexander the Great in his great conquering conquest made the culture and language of the Greek universal. Anywhere in civilization, people spoke Greek, understood Greek. In those many, many centuries was developed the Roman Empire, and there was a Pax Romana [Peace of Rome]. The whole world was at peace; and the Romans built roads, tied the Empire together, and they swept the pirates from the sea, and men traveled from one side of the civilized world to the other protected by the Roman army. And the Diaspora of the Hebrew scattered the monotheistic religion of the Jew wherever men lived: there was a synagogue; there were the Holy Scriptures; and there was the expectation of the Messiah.
God did that over thousands and thousands of years. Then when the King came, could you imagine such a thing as what God did? When the King came – the Prince of Glory, the King of Heaven – when He came, He came a baby, a baby, a babe [Matthew 1:18-2:23; Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-38; Philippians 2:5-8]. Not even born in Herod’s palace as the magi thought [Matthew 2:1-12]. He was born in a stable – the King of Glory [Luke 2:1-7]. And as though that were not humility enough, He only lived 33 years; but of those 33 years, 30 of them were spent in manual labor, a humble carpenter in obscurity [Mark 6:3; Luke 3:23]. And now, after 2,000 years, we are still waiting, and expecting, and looking forward to that millennial consummating kingdom [Revelation 20:1-6].
Well, what God is doing is very plain. First, there is a time of preparation; and in our dispensation, there is a time of preaching, a time of evangelism, a time of winning people to the faith and to the Lord, a time of building up the household of faith and the church of Jesus Christ. That is God’s purpose and will for us now at this moment [Romans 9:1-12:21].
And when I think of the programming of God in the preaching of the Word of the Gospel, I am filled with encouragement. Dear me: to see people saved; to see them come in faith to the Lord; to see families put together in Christ – I saw one this week. One of the most unbelievable, miraculous things I’ve ever witnessed – and to look upon the blessings of the preaching of the gospel now.
Do you realize that America used to be a nation of slavery? Did you ever realize that? Can you think about that?
My great-grandfather came to Texas in the 1820s, and he became Captain of the Texas Rangers, and was given a large piece of land by General Sam Houston, and he was a slave owner. He ran that plantation in South Texas with slaves; and my maternal grandfather was a physician in the Confederate Army fighting over those slaves. Can you think of that? Can you believe that? But that was America.
Did you know that when America was in its swaddling clothes, dueling was the accepted challenge of life? Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804, and he was killed in the same spot and in the same place that his eldest son, Alexander’s eldest son – Alexander Hamilton’s eldest son – 20 years of age, killed in a duel. Dueling was an accepted challenge in America. Can you think of that? Can you imagine two of our leading cabinet members today settling a quarrel with a duel?
It hasn’t been too long ago when debtors were placed in prison. If you owed a debt and couldn’t pay it, you were incarcerated and you were kept there until the debt was paid which could be the rest of your life. Can you think of that? And I could not have words to describe what in America we did with our insane and our mentally depraved.
The kingdom of God has a gradual growth in it. It has the preaching of the gospel in it. It has the conversion of people in it. It brings the blessings of heaven to families and to nations. Just look at what God has done through the preaching of the gospel in America, and that facet is in God’s purview and in God’s purpose and God’s will. The kingdom may come tomorrow. Jesus may come down from the sky before I finish this message [Matthew 24:36-39; Mark 13:29-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11]. It has a cataclysmic consummation in it [Revelation 19:11-22:21], but it also has the gradual, soft preciousness of the preaching of the gospel, winning people to Jesus, blessing our homes, our culture, our nation [Matthew 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 2:2] – all in which we are involved as a people of God.
Then, of course, it has a promise beyond death and the grave and all of the heartaches that afflict the human family. There is coming a day, God says, where there’ll be no more sorrow, and no more pain, and no more death for these have all passed away [Revelation 21:4]. We’ll have our King personal [Revelation 21:3]. Go see Him [Revelation 22:4]. Go talk to Him. Watch Him as He walks in and out of His glorious heavenly mansion in the New Jerusalem; and we also shall live on some marvelous street, right across from some glory square [John 14:2-3]; and we’ll drink at the fountain of the water of life [Revelation 7:17], and we’ll be with Him and one another forever and ever [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 22:5].
It has both the blessing now and the glory then.
When I think of our program here and our White Christmas packages, I live through so many remembrances – one tender one, this: You see, when I was graduated from the seminary and began my pastoral work in my first church, it was in the midst of the Depression. People, especially in western Oklahoma where I was pastor, were on the verge of starvation in the midst of the deepest depression.
So what I did in the church there, I organized a Good Shepherd department to minister to the poor of that county seat town; and on Christmas, I started a White Christmas program and asked everybody to bring something wrapped in white if they had clothing that wasn’t used or if they had food that they could share. And we piled that – at those White Christmas offerings – clear to the top of the church. It was unbelievable, the response, and we gave it out in the rest of the cold days of the winter to the poor of our town.
I loved doing that. Meant a lot to me personally.
Well, one of the waifs, one of the waifs that we picked up in that county seat town was a little girl about twelve years of age; and she was won to the Lord in that Good Shepherd mission, and I baptized her – the little girl about twelve years old. When Christmastime came, she went to see her grandparents who lived out in the country, poor and half-starving themselves; and while the little thing was there, she became very ill and died, and they brought her back for me to bury.
Well the man, the godly deacon who headed that Good Shepherd work, when the time came for me to bury the little thing, why, he said, "Preacher, let me tell you a wonderful thing. When the little child became so ill, they didn’t know what to do in that poor, starved farm family, and a neighbor brought a doctor. And when the doctor came, the child had a high and raging fever; and the little girl asked for water to drink, and the doctor said, ‘No, you cannot have water.’" He had some reason because of the kind of disease she had: "You cannot have any water to drink." "And that little girl looked into the face of the doctor and said, ‘You may not give me any water here, but I’m going to a place where there are rivers of water, and I shall drink out of a fountain of the water of life,’ and died."
It is both. It is both. It is a gentle and beautiful gospel of love, and care, and hope [Matthew 25:31-46; John 17:3], and it is also a kingdom in heaven with God [Revelation 20:11-22:1].
Ah, sweet people. There is nothing more precious, there’s nothing dearer than the message of Jesus our Lord. Came as a babe – the King a babe [Matthew 1:1-2:23; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-39], grew [Luke 2:40-52], lived our life, suffered all of the heartaches we ever know [Hebrews 4:15], died our death [1 Peter 2:24, 3:18]. But more: Lives in glory [Acts 2:33, 1 Timothy 3:16] and is coming again [Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 1:7]. Both: the Babe and the coming King.
Ah, Lord! What a happy assignment God has given us – to share in the kingdom of our Savior.
In a moment now we’ll sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing the song, a family, a couple, or just you: "This is God’s gracious day for me, and I’m coming." In the balcony round, there’s time and to spare, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: "Pastor, today, today I have decided for God, and here I stand." Make the decision now in your heart, and when we sing our hymn of appeal, take that first step – be the most meaningful you’ll ever make in your life – and a thousand times, welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
THE CHILD AND THE KINGDOM
DR. W. A. Criswell
Luke 1:31-33, 2:6-7, 40, 52, 18:15-17
I. The consummation of the kingdom
A. The Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 11:6-9, Daniel 2:34-35, 44, Micah 4:1-3, Malachi 3:1-2, 4:3, 5)
B. We in the New Testament (Matthew 13:42, Revelation 11:15)
II. A revelation besides
A. Kingdom also one of gradual growth
1. We must wait, work, watch, pray
B. The letters to Thessalonica
III. The patient working of God
A. Preparation of a family
B. Preparation of the world
C. Finally He came, as a baby
D. The purposeful ways of God in the earth
1. Growth – men being saved