Christ the King of Forever
July 22nd, 1984 @ 8:15 AM
CHRIST THE KING OF FOREVER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-22-84 8:15 a.m.
Thank you choir. We appreciate your taking time out and place out to come and to sing with us this morning, when practically all of our regular choir is on a missionary journey; God bless them in their witness in Mexico. And may the Lord, no less, wonderfully bless the multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message entitled Jesus Christ: The King of Forever. In the seventeenth chapter—what is the matter with me? Got to praying up there in the pulpit and did not open my Bible in the right place. In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of John; John, chapter 18, we are going to read as our background text, verses 33-37. John chapter 18, beginning at verse 33:
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews?
Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?
Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me: what hast Thou done?
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is not My kingdom from hence.
Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.
And the sermon comes out of the incredulous question of Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, of the Prince of Judea; “Art Thou a king? You?” [John 18:37]. And the answer of the Lord is the most emphatic affirmation that could be made in the Greek language. To repeat what the interrogator has said; “Thou sayest that I am a king.” We would say it like this, “Yes, indeed; I am a king” [John 18:37]. I can understand and you can also the incredulity of Pontius Pilate when he asked Jesus that question. “You? Are you a king?” [John 18:37].
The prophet Isaiah says that His visage, His face, His countenance was more marred than that of any man [Isaiah 52:14]. And the Lord had been up all night long in that trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin [Matthew 26:57-66; John 18:12-14, 19-21]. And they had abused Him; they took their fists and smote Him [Matthew 26:67-68; John 18:22]. And His face must have been bruised. And it says they plucked out His beard [Isaiah 50:6]. And I can’t see how a beard could be torn from the face and not leave behind a bloody mass. And being a peasant anyway, and humbly dressed, no royal robes, no regalia of court, I can easily see why Pontius Pilate would ask in amazement and astonishment, “You? Are you a king?” And the Lord replied that affirmation, “Thou sayest, yes, I am a king” [John 18:37]. So the sermon comes out of the incredulity of Pontius Pilate. Just how and when and where and what is Jesus a king. We shall begin.
First of all, how is it that Jesus is a king? And how is He assembling and gathering His kingdom? He is doing it through the centuries, slowly, gradually, quietly, patiently. In the fourth chapter of the Book of Mark, He describes His kingdom in its growing like a seed that grows secretly [Mark 4:26-29]. Then He describes it as a mustard seed that grows gradually, quietly [Mark 4:30-32]. So the kingdom of our Lord is being assembled slowly and quietly and gradually.
He describes it in an unusual way in Luke 17:20-21:
And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said,
The kingdom of God cometh not with paratērēsis—
then He says—
Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is entos.
Now those are unusual descriptive words of what God is doing in gathering the assembly of His kingdom, “The kingdom of God cometh not with paratērēsis,” not with watching, not with observing, not with observation. Then He says, “And the kingdom of God is entos.” That’s an adverb. It is inwardly appearing, consummating. It’s on the inside; it’s not outside; it’s not observable.
Well, when I look at the life of our Lord and when I look at the building of His kingdom in the earth, I can see that. It is done secretly. It is done unobtrusively. It is done inwardly. I look at it in the life of Jesus. I hope when I do this now, that I’m not offensive or crude. I don’t mean it to be that way. But these are just things that I can’t help but think of. And if you’ve ever studied biology and eugenics, I don’t see how you can escape thinking of things like this. His life was like that. When He was incarnate there was a time in His life when He was a cell, a cell. There were twenty-three chromosomes from the womb of the virgin Mary; there were twenty-three chromosomes from deity. And they became a cell. And in the process of mitosis that cell became two cells. And those two became four. And those four became eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four. And finally the Son of God became shaped and formed in the life of a babe and was born. Out of all of the mysteries of the world, I don’t know of one comparable to that.
Then He grew as a little child and as a youth, then as a young man and finally into the stature of the Prophet Jesus. And His kingdom has taken the same form and shape, so the Bible says, as I just read out of Luke 17 [Luke 17:20-21]. Let me start over again with it. The Lord Jesus, when He began His work building up the kingdom of heaven, called a humble fisherman out there in the lake, Simon, and gave him the name Peter, petros, rock [Matthew 16:18; John 1:42]. And He called a tax clerk out of the tax office [Matthew 9:9]. And He called Philip and Nathanael [John 1:43-49]. Whoever heard of them? Yet that’s the way He built His kingdom.
And while that was going on, I can’t help but think of the contrast of our Lord with, say, the Roman imperial Caesar. You never heard in Rome or in Athens, you never heard what Jesus was doing, so unobtrusively, so quietly, so humbly. It certainly was not a Cato or a Scipio or a Pompey or a Caesar storming the ramparts of Carthage or of Gaul or of Parthia. Nobody ever heard of Him. Nor was it even like the University of Athens with its academy under Plato or its Lyceum under Aristotle or its stoa under Zeno the Stoic. Think of how humble this was! That is the way Jesus builds His kingdom. No wonder Pilate incredulously asked, “You? Are You a king?” [John 18:37]. Compare Him with a Roman Caesar or even with Aristotle or Plato.
Number two: who are His subjects? Who are these kingdom citizens? They are the humblest people who through the centuries have found refuge, and trust, and salvation, and hope in Him [Matthew 5:3-9].
This last Friday I held an evangelistic service here in this very place, stood in this very pulpit, made an appeal. And there were fifteen children who came forward to accept Jesus as their Lord. And the day before that, I held another service up there on the sixth floor of our children’s building, and there were thirty-seven little children that accepted the Lord as their Savior, these little ones, humble people who bow before the Lord and name His name. I think of our forefathers when they became citizens of the kingdom of God, when they acknowledged the Lord Jesus as their Savior.
Being in London two or three weeks ago, two weeks ago, I looked through the London directory to see the Criswells over there, Criswells. And when I think of those people where my folks came from, when did they become Christians, to love Jesus, to give their hearts and lives to the blessed Jesus? Was it when the missionary, Augustine, went to Canterbury in the 500s AD? Was that when my forefathers became Christian? Or was it when Paulinus went to Northumbria and won King Edwin to the Lord? Was that when my forefathers became Christians in the 600s AD? Or was it when Patrick went to Western England and to Ireland and won Western England and Ireland to the Lord Jesus in the 400s AD?
Patrick was a Baptist preacher, and somebody has stolen our saint away from us. He baptized his converts; he preached the gospel just as we do, and he organized Baptist churches. Was that when my forefathers became Christian? I just wonder. I just wonder. And certainly this: when I was a little boy, a small boy out there on the plains in West Texas, I would listen to those old pioneer preachers. Went around on horseback with an open Bible and a hymn book and they preached the gospel to those cowpokes out there. My father was a cowpoke. That’s when they were won to the Lord. Then I think about the day in my own life when I accepted Jesus as my Savior. These are they who are citizens of the kingdom of Jesus, these who through the centuries and the years have given their hearts to Him, you and I, the children of God.
Number three: when is He to be acknowledged as a king? When is His great coronation? When will we look upon the Lord in all of His royalty and acclaim Him and crown Him the King of the whole universe? When is His coronation? Well, the Bible tells us, “When the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” [Romans 11:25], plērōma, when the last one that is to be saved comes down that aisle.
I listened to Paige Patterson just a moment ago. He says, I’m a Calvinist. That means God knows and the sovereign purpose of God will be worked out in the civilized and cultural life of men. And there is a time when the last one written in the Lambs Book of Life [Revelation 17:8] will come down that aisle, called the plērōma, “When the plērōma of the Gentiles be come in,” when the last one God hath purposed to be saved and in the kingdom, when that last one comes down that aisle [Romans 11:25]. Second: when Israel accepts Jesus as their Messiah and so “all Israel shall be saved” [Romans 11:26], and he quotes from Isaiah here [Isaiah 59:20-21], and he could have quoted from Zechariah, [chapters] 12 [Zechariah 12:10-14] and 13 [Zechariah 13:7-9]; when Israel accepts their Messiah as their Lord and Savior. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, when the dead are called to life and are raised from the grave, and when those who remain until the coming of the Lord are raptured up to meet the Lord with them in the air, and according to the Revelation, when the days of the judgment of the tribulation is passed [Revelation 19:11-13], then—and you read it just now—then will be the coronation of our Lord. “And I saw heaven opened,” remember you read it just now?
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon it was [called] Faithful and True. . .His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. . .and He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
The coronation of our Lord.
In the earlier years of this century, I can remember this, Japan overran Korea; brutal, vicious, uncompromising, unsympathetic. And when Japan was ruling Korea with an iron hand, the military became suspicious of the assembling of our little Baptist churches there. There were forty of them and they had a membership of about five thousand. So they called in the president of the Baptist Association of Baptist churches in Korea. They called him in before the military, before the police. And they interrogated him hours and hours and hours.
Finally, in their interrogation with that minister, that pastor of a church, and the president of their association, they came to the second coming of Christ. “He died crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], He was buried [Matthew 27:57-59], He rose again [Matthew 28:1-7], He ascended into heaven” [Acts 1:9-10].
“And then what?” And the pastor replied, “He is coming again” [Acts 1:10-11].
“And then what?”
“He is coming to be the King over all of the earth” [Revelation 19:16].
“And what about our emperor?” Who was deity to the Japanese army, “What about him?” And the pastor replied, “He will be King over your emperor and over the Japanese nation. He is going to be King over all the earth” [Revelation 19:16].
“And what about our emperor?” said the Japanese military interrogator. “According to the Word of God and the promise of the Lord, ‘Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father’” [Romans 14:11]. And the interrogator said, “Does that mean our emperor will bow? He’s going to kneel?” And the Baptist pastor said, “Yes. That includes your emperor. He’s going to bow; he’s going to kneel before the Lord God in heaven.” And the interrogator said to the pastor, “Do you believe this alone? Is this peculiar and unique to you? Or do all of you believe it?” And the Baptist pastor replied to the Japanese military interrogator, “All of us believe it; all of us.”
And the Japanese military arrested all forty of those pastors and put them in prison. The president of the association of churches died there. Many of the other pastors died there. And they were liberated only when American forces opened the door of hope to those poor, tragically persecuted, suffering, benighted Baptist pastors in Korea.
Do you believe it like that? He and He alone will be King over all of the earth [Revelation 19:16]. And even the Japanese deified emperor will bow down. “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess when He is coronated and crowned the King of the universe” [Philippians 2:10-11].
One other: what is the extent of His dominion? Over what will Jesus be King forever? First, He will be King of our souls and of our hearts. As we read in the passage, the kingdom of God is on the inside of us; it’s spiritual [Luke 17:20-21]. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15: 50, “This I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” He is going to be King over our souls and over our hearts and over our spirits. But my brother, there is much more to it than that. And if God will help me now in these moments, I want to describe it. There is also a spacious, physical, visible kingdom over which Jesus is going to rule as the Lord and King of the universe, Lord God Pantokrator, Almighty.
I see that in so many places in Holy Scripture. For example, in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of John, when the Lord was comforting His disciples because He was going away, and He said, “Let not your heart be troubled” [John 14:1]. You remember that precious comforting verse? Then He said, “I go to prepare a tópos for you. And if I go and prepare a topos for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself” [John 14:2-3].
What is a topos, a topos? That is the plain, ordinary, simple Greek word for an area, a place, a “dwelling place,” a place. “I go to prepare a place for you,” a real, actual place; a house, a home, a place where you live. “I go to prepare a place for you.” There in the King James Version, it’s called “a mansion, a mansion, a home, a dwelling place” [John 14:2]. You see, a body has to have a place. You can’t be a body, Charles, and not be in a place; you can’t be. If you are a body, you are in a place. Well, that’s the way with the kingdom of our Lord. We are going to be people. You’re going to be you, and I’m going to be I, and we’re going to have a body, a resurrected, immortalized, spiritualized, glorified, transfigured body. And a body is in a place!
Now the Bible says, there’s going to be a new heaven, but it will be a heaven. The Bible says there will be a new earth, but it will be an earth [Revelation 21:1]. The Bible says we will have a new resurrected body, but it will be a body, actually, really, spatially [1 Corinthians 15:42-44]. I don’t know of a more poignant affirmation of that than the resurrection of our Lord in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke:
When they saw Him, they were terrified and affrighted, thinking they had seen a spirit, a spook, a ghost! And the Lord said to them, do not be afraid. Handle Me and see. Handle Me and see that it is I, Myself, for a spirit, a ghost, a specter hath not flesh and bone, such as you see Me have. I am real—
And then to affirm it, a sign, He said—
Children have you had anything to eat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of a honeycomb. And He did eat before them.
Jesus is real; He has a body, and a body must have a place [Luke 24:39].
The great horror of the Holy Scriptures is disembodiment! In the fifth chapter of the second Corinthian letter, Paul discusses that to be “unclothed” he calls it, to be “naked” he calls it [2 Corinthians 5:1-4], for us to be spirits or ghosts or specters is to be a contradiction to the will of God for us. We’re to be people. God likes matter; He created it. He made all of this matter [Hebrews 11:3]. And for us to be persuaded of that dichotomy in Greek philosophy, that “Matter by nature is evil,” is an affront to the Lord God who made it and made us!
Jesus was incarnate in matter! [John 1:14]. God likes it [Hebrews 11:3]; He invented it; He created it. And the great, I say, the great affirmation of the Christian faith is this: that God in His power is able to raise the dead, to give us a new body! [2 Corinthians 5:1-2]. That’s the heart of the Christian faith, the resurrection of the body from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:12-14]. Jesus was raised [Matthew 28:5-7]. That’s the affirmation, the benedictory conclusion, the imprimatur of His deity [Romans 1:4]. He was raised from the dead, and because He lives, we shall live also [John 14:19]. And we’re going to have a new body. And we’re going to live in a new city. And we’re going to walk a planet called “a new earth” [Revelation 21:1-5]. And we’re going to look up into a new heaven. In the center of that city is the throne of the Lamb of God [Revelation 22:3-5], and we’re going to reign with Him; we’re going to be like Him [1 John 3:2].
My brother, there’s not anything in imagination; not in fiction, not in wondrous thought or fancy or fairy. There’s not anything in imagination that can rival the truth of the gospel of the hope of God that is given us in Christ Jesus and in this Holy Book.
I have to conclude. You know what? Sometimes I think of our being like Moses, who on the top of Mt. Pisgah, looked over into the Promised Land, and there he saw it afar [Deuteronomy 34:1-4]. There it is. And I think of our being like that. We look over into the Promised Land. There is the beautiful city, and there is our eternal home, and there is our fellowship with Jesus, Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the people of God [Hebrews 12:22-23].
When I say we look “over” into that Promised Land, I’m talking about we’re looking over the cemetery, and we’re looking over the grave, and we’re looking over death, and we’re looking over the corruption of the dust of the ground. We’re looking over the mortality of our life. And we’re looking over into that beautiful home, God has prepared for those who love Him [John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 2:9].
I will sing you a song of that beautiful land,
The far away home of the soul,
Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand,
While the years of eternity roll.
O how sweet it will be in that beautiful land,
So free from all sorrow and pain,
With songs on our lips and with harps in our hands,
To greet one another again.
[from “I Will Sing You a Song of that Beautiful Land,” author unknown]
That’s the kingdom of our Lord Jesus. And we’re in it; praise His name. We’ll be with Him; bless His name forever and ever; glory to God.
In this moment that we sing our hymn of appeal, to trust Jesus as your Savior [Ephesians 2:8], to come into the fellowship of our dear church, to give your life in a new and a deeper way to Him, while we sing this song, a thousand times welcome, as you come. In the balcony round, down a stairway, in the throng on this lower floor, down an aisle, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I am.” May angels attend you in the way while you come, while we stand and while we sing.