The Coming Christ
December 19th, 1982 @ 10:50 AM
THE COMING CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-19-82 10:50 a.m.
The sermon today is a subject that I pray that with open heart you will listen. We are speaking of The Coming Messiah, Christ. And I want you to notice how both comings in the Bible, in the Old Testament, are contained, comprised in one breath. They are not separated. Isaiah 52 and Isaiah 53, this is a background text:
Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! King over all the earth.
The Lord hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Now listen, verse 14:
His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.
Then the whole chapter of Isaiah that follows:
He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief . . . Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.
[Isaiah 53: 3-5]
In the same breath, in the same word, the Lord God coming to be King over all the earth [Isaiah 52:7], and in the same breath He is to be stricken, and smitten, and afflicted of God,[Isaiah 53:4]. That combination of the Lord Christ as being One who is lowly and afflicted, carrying our sorrows and our hurts, and also the King of glory, Lord in heaven and on earth, that feeling, that response of both is found in us, as well as in the Scriptures.
Look at this poem:
Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus [Christ] her little Child.
He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.
. . .
And our eyes some day shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He has gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
When like stars His children crowned
All in white shall gather round.
["Once in Royal David’s City," Cecil F. Alexander]
In the same breath, in the same thought, in the same response, our Lord meek and lowly, born in a cattle shed, the accompanying witnessing of His birth, a sheep and oxen and donkeys, and poor, unlettered shepherds [Luke 2:7-16]; then at the same time, in the same breath, He is the Lord of all creation, and some day shall be King in heaven and in earth [Isaiah 52:7; Revelation 3:21]. Now, that you will find in the Bible, all the way through it.
The first great promise, in Genesis 3:15, is called protevangelium, the first evangelistic promise. God says to Satan, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed"; our salvation is to come of a woman, "And the Seed of the woman shall crush your head; but thou shalt bruise His heel." So Somebody is coming. Someday, somewhere, sometime, Somebody is coming: the Seed of a woman. And that twofold appearance of the coming Lord Messiah is always mentioned in the same breath; coming in the lowly form and figure of a man and coming also to be King and Lord of all God’s creation.
Now look at it, and these that I read will be just typical of the prophets: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come." That’s the first coming [Genesis :10]. Judah will be a tribe and a nation and a people until that Coming One is born. Then the next clause in the same breath: "And unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" [Genesis :10], from the ends of the earth, worshipping and adoring that glorious Lord [that’s the second coming]. Isn’t that a strange thing, in the same breath those two comings?
It’s like our looking at a star: to us it looks like one star shining brightly in the sky; but under a magnifying telescope, when they look at it, it’s two stars: it’s one star here and maybe a hundred million light years beyond it’s another star. But to us it looks to be one star. Or in our traveling: afar appears to be a mountain, one mountain; but when we draw near, it’s not one, it’s a mountain this side and a great valley in between, and a mountain the other side. But to us it looks like one mountain. So it is with the coming of the Christ: in the Bible as they looked at His coming, it was one, and they didn’t see that great distance, that deep valley in between. And the prophets never saw but that one coming of our Lord, and they described it without fail. "Being humble and lowly," and in the same breath, "glorious and triumphant."
For example, again:
· In 2 Samuel, chapter 7, God says to David, "When thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy body"; that’s the first coming: He is coming of the family and seed of David [2 Samuel 7:12]. Then in the same breath, the next clause, "And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever; thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever. Thy throne shall be established forever"; the second coming of our Lord [2 Samuel 7:12-16].
· The eighty-ninth Psalm is filled with that. I haven’t time to read it. I made a covenant with David, I have sworn unto David My servant, thy seed," that’s His first coming. Then the second: "I will establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations" [Psalm 89:3-4].
· I turn the pages of the holy prophets to Isaiah, chapter 9, "For unto us a Child is born"; that’s the first coming. But He is more than just a lowly child. The next clause, the next breath, "Unto us a Son is given," that’s His deity; "And His name shall be called the Everlasting God. And of the increase of His government,upon the throne of David, to establish it with judgment and justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it"; that’s the second coming. Both of them there in the same breath [Isaiah 9:6-7].
· I turn the page of Isaiah. The first coming, "There shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Brach shall grow out of his roots; and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him . . . With righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity the meek of the earth" [Isaiah 11:1-4]. That’s the first coming [Isaiah 11:1-4]. Now, in the same breath, the sentence continues: "And He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked [Isaiah 11:4],The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; they shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. That’s the second coming [Isaiah 11:6-9]. All together there in the same breath [Isaiah 11:1-9].
· Look again at Zechariah chapter 9, verse 9, the first coming: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon the colt, the foal of an ass." That’s the first coming now the second coming: "He shall speak unto the nations: and His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth [Zechariah 9:10].
· "His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem; and the Lord shall be King over all the earth" [Zechariah 14:4, 9]. That is the second coming, in the same breath.
· I turn just once again to Malachi, out of which you just read. The first coming, "Behold, I send My messenger; he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant"; that’s the first coming [Malachi 3:1]. Now in the same breath, the next clause, the second coming, "But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire: He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver"; the great judgment day of the Almighty God [Malachi 3:2-3].
Now, that same prophetic picture of the Lord coming in lowly guise, and at the same time to be King and Lord over all the earth; that same double picture of our Savior created confusion and misunderstanding in the New Testament.
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Matthew: "It came to pass, that when John who was in prison heard of the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto Him, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" [Matthew 11:2-3]. And all of your life you have been taught that John asked that question because he was overtaken with tragic doubt, as he lay there incarcerated in Machaerus, the castle of Herod Antipas, where he finally died as a martyr [Matthew 14:1-11]; that his incarceration caused him to doubt whether the Lord Jesus was the Christ or not. That’s what you’ve been taught all your life. There is nothing further from the truth. Our Lord Himself said of John the Baptist, in that same chapter, in His answer, "What went ye out in the wilderness of Judea for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?" [Matthew 11:8]. No! He was rough and rugged, clothed in camel’s hair [Matthew 3:4]. "But what went ye out for to see? A reed shaken by the wind?" [Matthew 11:7]. A man filled with doubt and vacillation? No! John the Baptist was sent of the Lord God [John 1:6], like the prophet Elijah in Malachi, in the passage you just read, to announce the appearing of the Lord [Malachi 4:5].
But when John the Baptist announced the coming of our Lord Christ, he did it in the same way that he had read in the Prophets of the Old Testament: he introduced Him as both! He said, "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29], the gentle, lowly, non, unresisting Lord Jesus, who died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. That’s what John said, "The Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29]. And the same time, in the same breath, John the Baptist spoke of the Lord Jesus as he introduced Him, saying, "This is He whose axe is laid at the [root] of the tree [Matthew 3:10], and He will gather the wheat into the garner, but burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" [Matthew 3:12], the great judgment day of the Lord God, "and He is the everlasting Judge [Acts 10:42]. Now, as John followed the life and ministry of our Lord, he couldn’t understand: "How is it that this Christ whom I have introduced is to be the Lamb of God [John 1:29] – suffering and dying [Matthew 16:21] and taking away the sins of the world – and at the same time, He is to be the Judge of all the earth [Acts 10:42]; ruling the world with a rod of iron [Psalm 2:9], and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire?" [Matthew 3:10-12]. He couldn’t understand, so he sends to the Lord Jesus; that shows his confidence in the Lord Jesus. Why didn’t he ask somebody else? He asked the Lord because he has infinite confidence and assurance in the answer of the Lord. He sends to Him and says, "Are there to be two Christs? Are You the both or do we look for another? [Matthew 11:3]. Is there a Christ who is coming, lowly and humble and to die for our sins [John 1:29], and then is there another Christ who is coming to be the Lord God of all the earth?" [Luke 1:76, 3:4]. That’s what John wanted to know. "Is it one, or is it two?" [Matthew 11:2-3].
Now that same confusion in the understanding of John the Baptist is found throughout the ministry of our Lord.
· When Jesus announced to His apostles in Matthew 16 that He was to suffer and to be killed, Peter took Him and said, "Lord, that is not for Thee. That cannot be to Thee!" And Jesus turned and rebuked Peter [Matthew 16:21-23]. You see, to Peter the Christ who was coming was to be Lord over all, and that He should suffer and die was unthinkable to him.
· Same thing of the people in the twelfth chapter of the Book of John: the Lord said, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. This spake He, signifying by what death He should die" [John 12:32-33]. "But the people answered Him, saying, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever: how is it then that You say, You are to be lifted up on a cross and to die? We do not understand" [John 12:34].
· Same thing is found in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, as our Lord, raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-6], is ascending now into heaven [Acts 1:3, 9-10]. His disciples come together, and they ask Him, saying, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" [Acts 1:6]. "Is there to be a kingdom? We see You, the propitiation, the sacrifice, the offering for our sins [1 John 2:2]; and we see You now triumphant from the grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57], but what of the kingdom? Is there to be no kingdom? [Acts 1:6]. Is there to be no Lord who is coming to reign forever and ever? [Revelation 11:15]. What of that prophetic promise, that not only would there be Someone to bear our iniquities, and to carry our sorrows, and to forgive us our sins [Mark 2:10], but also Somebody who is coming to make everything wrong right, and to establish the kingdom in the earth and to be Lord and Ruler over all God’s creation? [Isaiah 52:7, 10]. What of the kingdom? What of the kingdom?"
· Then that great, great, unusual, amazing word of Simon Peter: "That salvation that the prophets spoke of, they inquired and searched diligently, who spoke of that grace, and who testified of the Christ that He should suffer beforehand, and the glory that should follow, which things the angels desired to look into" [1 Peter 1:10-12.]
The prophets couldn’t understand it, and even the angels couldn’t understand it. They looked into that double prophecy of a Christ who was coming to suffer for our sins [Isaiah 53:5], and in the same breath, at the same time, the prophecy that He should be Lord and King over all [Isaiah 52:7, 10]. Paul calls that a great mustērion, a secret that God kept in His heart. I haven’t time to expound on the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians, but in this chapter, Paul says that great mustērion – that secret God kept in His heart between the first coming and the second coming – there is a great valley, there is a great distance of time. And in the first coming, our Lord is meek and lowly, a Man, suffering for our sins, dying in our stead; the first coming [2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:5-14]. And then there is a time in between; he calls it a "dispensation of grace" [Ephesians 3:1-5], this is the era in which we live. The dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God; there is this time period in between the first coming when He died for our sins [Hebrews 9:28], and the second coming, when He shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God, and when our beloved dead shall rise first, and we who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall be caught up together with them in the clouds forever to be with our Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. It is twofold, it is like those two stars and the distance in between; it’s like those two mountain peaks and a valley in between. He is coming again. The first time He came to die for our sins, and the second time He is coming to take us to heaven.
The Bible, in its New Testament, is so full of that assurance. In Hebrews 10:37, "For yet a little while," that’s an Old Testament phrase for the coming Christ, "For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." And in the previous chapter, 9, he closed the chapter, "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many"; that’s His first coming. Now the second, "But unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time apart from sin unto salvation" [Hebrews 9:28]. He is coming again [Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7].
Now may I speak theologically for just a moment? This is why I am a premillenialist and a pretribulationist. I’m not looking for the battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16; 19:16-21], though it’s inexorably coming. I’m not looking for the seven vials of wrath to be poured out upon the earth; though that’s coming [Revelation 15:1-16:21]. I’m not looking for the Antichrist, though he is inexorably to appear [2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; 1 John 2:18]. I’m not looking for the great tribulation; though that is certainly coming [Matthew 24:6; Revelation 4:17]. I’m looking for the Lord Jesus Christ! [Matthew 24:42]. These signs may appear, and all history may move toward that great denouement described in the Apocalypse; but I’m not going to be here when the battle of Armageddon is fought [Revelation 19:16-21], and I’m not going to be here when the seven vials of wrath are poured out [Revelation 15:1-16:21], and I’m not going to be here when Antichrist rules the earth [Daniel 7:25; Revelation 13:1-10], and I’m not going to be here in the great tribulation [Matthew 24:21]. For I am looking for the Lord who is going to take us up to heaven to be with Him [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], and if I die before He comes, He will speak to that very dust in the grave, and raise me up to glory. Or if I’m alive when He comes, it will be in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we will all be changed, and God will take us up to Himself [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]. I’m looking for the Lord Jesus [Matthew 24:42]. Isn’t that what He asked us to do? "Watch; you do not know the day, you do not know the hour that your Lord cometh" [Matthew 24:42]. But it is He that we’re waiting for and watching for.
It is not for a sign we are watching,
For wonders above and below;
The pouring of vials of judgment,
The sounding of trumpets of woe.
It is not for a day we are looking,
Not even a time yet to be
When the earth shall be filled with God’s glory,
As the waters cover the sea
It is not for a king we are longing,
To make the world kingdoms his own,
It is not for a judge who shall summon
The nations of earth to his throne.
We wait for our Lord, our beloved,
Our Comforter, Master, and Friend,
The substance of all that we hope for,
The beginning of faith and its end
We watch for our Savior, our Bridegroom,
Who loved us and made us His own
For Him we are looking and longing,
For Jesus, and Jesus alone.
["The Lord Himself," Annie Johnson Flint]
And that’s the most comforting thing to me that I could ever think for. All of the trials and tribulations and the vials of judgment and the wrath of God poured out upon this sinful earth, I’m not looking for those things. What I’m looking for and waiting for and praying for is the Lord Jesus. We’re looking for Him [Matthew 24:42].
And just as the Lord fulfilled in every minutest detail the prophecies of His first coming, so and no less will the Lord fulfill every prophecy and every detail of His second coming. The apostle John closed the Revelation with that blessed hope: quoting the Lord Jesus, "He that testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely, I come quickly." And John’s answering prayer, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" [Revelation 22:20]. If I know my heart, I’m ready. Come.
It may be at noonday, it may be at twilight
It may be perchance that the blackness of midnight
Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory,
When Jesus comes for His own.
O joy, O delight, should we go without dying
No sickness, no sadness, no dread, and no crying
Caught up with our Lord through the clouds into glory,
When Jesus comes for His own.
["Christ Returneth," H.L. Turner]
Waiting for our Lord; and as He came the first time to die for our sins – the Lamb of God [John 1:29] – so shall He come the second time to be Lord and King over all the earth [Revelation 19:11-16]. And we shall see Him, and praise Him, and love Him, and worship Him, world without end, forever and ever.
What a glorious gospel, and what a precious hope! I’m not looking forward to the grave. I’m not looking forward to the dust. I’m not looking forward to death. I’m not looking forward to the blackness of midnight. I’m looking forward to Jesus, and the glory, and the light, and the life, and the hope, and the immortality that He brings [2 Timothy 1:10]. God be praised for such a Savior who is promised so endearingly, preciously much to us.
May we stand together? Our Lord in heaven, one time down here in the earth, at this season of the year when we celebrate Thy first coming [Luke 2:11], we also are encouraged to remember, "This same Jesus, that is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go" [Acts 1:11]. "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel" [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. It will be that same Lord Jesus. His body is glorified, immortalized [Philippians 3:21]; but His heart hasn’t changed. He will be the same loving Lord [Hebrews 13:8]. O Christ in glory, how could we ever thank Thee and praise Thee and adore Thee in keeping with the everlasting debt of hope and gratitude we owe to Thee? Lord, give us greater capacity to love Thee more, and a willingness and a yieldedness to serve Thee better.
And while our people pray and while we wait, a couple you, a family you, or just one somebody you, "This day, pastor, we have decided for God, and we’re answering with our lives." In the balcony round, there’s time and to spare; down one of those stairways and to us here at the front. In the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, we have decided for God and here we stand." Make that decision in your heart, and when we sing our appeal, that first step will be the most meaningful you’ve ever made. Do it today, make it now. Come now. And the angels will attend you in the way as you come. It is God who said it is they who rejoice in heaven, when we turn our faces heavenward and God-ward [Luke 15:10].
And our Lord, thank Thee for the sweet harvest You will give us this precious hour. In Thy saving, adorable, and keeping name, amen. While we sing, welcome. Welcome. Welcome.