The History of the Doctrine of the Lord’s Return

The History of the Doctrine of the Lord’s Return

March 25th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM

Matthew 24:1-3

And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
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A HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE LORD’S RETURN

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Matthew 24:1-3

3-25-84    10:50 a.m.

 

 

It’s a gladness to welcome you who are sharing this hour with us on radio and on television.  This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled A History of the Doctrine of the Return of Our Lord.  Our background text is the apocalyptic discourse of Jesus in Matthew 24. Reading the first three verses, Matthew 24:

 

And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and His disciples came to Him for to show Him the buildings of the temple.

And Jesus said unto them: See ye not all these things? Verily, I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.

And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately saying: Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world?

[Matthew 24:1-3]

 

We’re going to follow this doctrine of our Lord’s return first as it is taught in the New Testament Scriptures, the doctrine of the early church; second, the return of our Lord as the doctrine was taught by the church fathers in the pilgrim-persecuted primitive church. Third, we shall follow the doctrine of the return of our Lord as it was drowned and denied by the lavish imperial Roman church.  Fourth, we shall follow the doctrine of the return of our Lord as the hope of the morning stars of the Reformation, the precursors of the Reformation.  Fifth, we shall follow the doctrine of the return of our Lord as it was taught by the leaders of the great Reformation; and lastly, we shall look at the doctrine of the return of our Lord as it is preached by the great revivalists of the last two centuries.

First, then, the presentation of the doctrine of the return of our Lord in the New Testament: in the New Testament, the apostles and the disciples of Christ believed in and looked forward to the imminent return of Christ.  Without exception, the doctrine of the New Testament is pre-chiliastic and premillennial.  When you use the Greek characterization of the return of our Lord, you use the word chiliasm.  The Greek word for thousand is chiliad. And the doctrine of the return of Christ is called chiliasm, and the people were chiliasts.

The thousand-year period is mentioned six times in the first few verses of the twentieth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 20:2-7]. Now that is in the Greek church. They were called chiliasts.  In the Latin Church, they were called millenarians, millennialists.  The word millennium, when you come to the Latin language, is from two words: mili which means thousand and anus which means year.  So millennium is a thousand years.

And the people in the Latin language that believed the Bible were called millenarians as the people who spoke Greek were called chiliasts.  Now, a pre-millenarian, a premillennialist, a pre-chiliast, is someone who believes the Bible and believes that Christ is coming before the millennium.  His coming is imminent: any moment, any day, any hour, any time.

A post-chiliast, a postmillenarian, a postmillennialist, is someone who believes that we’re going to get better, and better, and better.  We’re going to win the world by preaching the gospel, and after we have brought in the millennium then Christ will come.

The amillennialist, the achiliast, is someone who doesn’t believe any of it.  He is a spiritualizer.  He is an allegorizer, and to him there is no such thing as a millennium.  There’s no such thing as a literal interpretation of the Word of God. 

Now, we are going to look first at what the Scriptures say about the return of our Savior, namely, that it is premillennial – that the coming of Christ is imminent: i-m-m-i-n-e-n-t: any moment, any day, any hour.

Our Lord Jesus said in John 14:3: "If I go away, I will come again and receive you unto Myself."  And in Mark 8, in the last verse, verse 38, He said, "The Son of Man cometh in the glory of the Father with His holy angels."  The apostle Paul wrote the first and the second letters to the church at Thessalonica and in every chapter, all five of them in 1 Thessalonians, all three of them in 2 Thessalonians, with every chapter, Paul closed with a promise and a description of the glorious second return of our Lord [1 Thessalonians 1:10, 2:19, 3:13, 4:14-17, 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, 2:1-14].

In the Book of Hebrews – in Hebrews 9:28, "Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time apart from sin unto salvation."  James, the Lord’s brother and the pastor of the mother church at Jerusalem, wrote in James 5:8, "Be ye patient, establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."  Imminency – the doctrine of the imminent return of our Lord; His coming draweth nigh.

Simon Peter wrote in 2 Peter, chapter 3, verses 3 and 4, "There shall come in the last days scoffers . . . saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’" Verse 9: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise." Verse 10, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night . . . " without advertisement, without any notice.  He will come clandestinely, furtively, secretly, soft-sandaledly, as a thief in the night.  And the apostle John, the text of the Apocalypse, is Revelation 1:7: "Behold, He cometh with clouds and every eye shall see Him."

In the fourth chapter of the Apocalypse, John sees a door opened in heaven and the invitation, "Come up hither," and John is raptured [Revelation 4:1].  He’s caught away to heaven – a type, a picture of the catching away, the rapture of the church.  And we see in the Apocalypse, in chapter 19 and verse 11, our Lord returning to earth with His saints [Revelation 19:11].  And the Apocalypse closes with this benediction, Revelation 22, verse 20: "He which testifieth these things saith, ‘Surely, surely, I come quickly,’" and the answering prayer of the sainted apostle John, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."  This is the doctrine of the coming of our Lord in the New Testament church.

We turn now to the church fathers – those who lived and ministered and preached in the days of the persecuted pilgrim primitive church. First, the Didachē, the teaching of the twelve apostles.  The document was discovered in 1873, and there are many scholars who assign its writing to about 100 AD about the same time that John wrote the Revelation.  From the [sixteenth] chapter of the Didachē are these words, "Watch for your life’s sake.  Let not your lamps be quenched nor your loins unloosed; be ye ready, for you know not the hour in which the Lord cometh" [Didachē 16:1].  And the Didachē has a post-communion prayer ending with maranatha [Didachē 10:14]; that is Aramaic for the Lord cometh. That is the way Paul ended his first Corinthian letter [1 Corinthians 16:22].

We turn now, second, to the epistle of Barnabas.  It was written in about 130 AD. It’s a pseudonymous letter.  It is not written by Barnabas; it is just written in his name.  It was found at the close of Codex Siniaticus which was discovered by Tishendorf in St. Catherine’s monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai.  Now, in this document written about 130 AD., addressed to the Gentile Christians, the epistle says:

 

The Sabbath rests will come when the Son of God shall appear and destroy the lawless one; the Antichrist. The true Sabbath is the Sabbath of the one thousand years, the millennium. Then all will have been sanctified completely, when Christ comes back to reign.

[Barnabas 15:5]

 

Our third is, Clement of Rome.  There are many who think that Clement that Paul mentions in Philippians 4:3 is this Clement.  He wrote two letters to the church at Corinth.  In the first letter he said, "Let us be followers of those who went about in sheepskins and goatskins preaching the coming of Christ" [Clement’s First Letter  17:1].  In the second letter he wrote to the church at Corinth he said, "Let us every hour expect the kingdom of God because we know not the day of Christ’s appearing" [2 Clement 12:1].

Another one of those early documents is named the Shepherd of Hermas. There are many scholars who believe that this is the Hermas mentioned by Paul in Romans 16, verse 14.  That also was discovered by Tishendorf in 1859 when he discovered Codex Siniaticus in the monastery on Mount Sinai.

The Coptic Church, the African church, in the third century placed this Shepherd of Hermas as a part of the New Testament.  Hermas writes that in a vision he was told, quote, "Go tell the elect, the Lord, go tell the elect of the Lord that this beast, this imperial persecutor, the Roman Caesar, is a type of the great tribulation that is coming" [Shepherd of Hermas, Vision 4].

Number five, Ignatius: Ignatius was a disciple of Peter and of John. He was pastor of the church at Antioch. He was thrown to the lions in 107 AD.  And after he was condemned to die, he made the journey, a martyr’s journey, from Antioch, around the Mediterranean, to Rome where he was martyred by being fed to the lions in the Coliseum.  And along the way, he wrote letters to the churches and to the great men of God.  And here is the letter, a sentence from the letter he wrote to Polycarp who was pastor of the church at Smyrna.  "Be every day better than another. Consider the times and expect Him who is above all time" ["Ignatius to Polycarp" 3:2].

The next one, Polycarp:  Polycarp was the disciple of John.  He was pastor of the church at Smyrna, and he was burned at the stake at 155 AD.  His writings have perished but some of his sentences are quoted by others, and this is one:  "If we obey Christ, we shall receive the age to come.  Christ will raise us from the dead and we shall live and reign with Him.  The saints shall judge the world" ["Polycarp to the Philippians," 5:27].

The next is Papias:  Papias along with Polycarp were disciples of the apostle John.  Papias was the pastor at Hierapolis.  Hierapolis is just there on that side of the Lycus River from Laodicea which is located here; the two Greek cities in ancient Asia, the province of Asia, the Roman province of Asia were right across the river from each other.  Only fragments of what Papias wrote are known to us, but here is one sentence which is quoted by the ancient historian Eusebius. Papias said, "There will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead when the personal reign of Christ will be established on the earth" [Eusebius, "The Writings of Papias," in Church History].

We next cite Justin Martyr.  Justin Martyr was born at Shechem in ancient Samaria.  He was born in 89 AD.  He was martyred in 163.  In his book Dialogue with [Trypho], he wrote, "I and all of the Christians know there will be a resurrection of the dead and a thousand years in Jerusalem, built, adorned, broadened as the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel and others declare" [Chapter LXXX – "The Opinion of Justin with Regard to the Reign of a Thousand Years. Several Catholics Reject It," in Dialogue with Trypho].

Irenaeus:  Irenaeus was pastor of the church at Lyon, Gaul, now called France. He was a disciple of Polycarp.  You have here these three men clasping hands.  John, the disciple of the Lord who lay on His breast at the Lord’s Supper, John, and the disciple of John, Polycarp, and the disciple of Polycarp, Irenaeus.  Those three men clasp hands in an unbroken testimony.  Irenaeus writes:

 

When Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world; he will reign for three years and six months and sit in the temple at Jerusalem.

And then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this Antichrist to the lake of fire, but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, the rest, the hallowed seventh day.

[Against Heresies, ch xxx]

 

And I quote just one other.  All of these others are from the East.  I quote one from the West, the greatest Latin father was Tertullian.  He was the son of a Roman centurion.  He was an eminent lawyer.  He was born 160 AD.  He was born in Carthage in northern Africa.  Here are two sentences that I copied from Tertullian: "We do confess that a kingdom is promised us on earth before that in heaven.  After its one thousand years are over, there will ensue the destruction of the world and the conflagration of all things, at the judgment" [Chapter XXV – "Christ’s Millennial and Heavenly Glory in Company with His Saints" in Against Marcion, Book III].  This is the millenarian stance of the preaching of those fathers who labored in the persecuted pilgrim, primitive church.

Now, the next section: then came Constantine, Roman emperor from 306 to 337. And he came with the story of his having seen the shining cross in the sky with the Latin inscription beneath:  in hoc signo vinces, "In this sign, conquer."  He was an adroit, an ambitious politician.  He saw in the Christian church a powerful ally for his personal advancement.  His conversion paid off wonderfully.  He was received as the defender and promoter of the faith whom heaven had raised up to exalt the church.

The change in the church was terrific and cataclysmic.  It was phenomenal.  A magician’s wand could not have evoked no mightier a change.  From being persecuted and despised, the church became the admired and adored lapdog of the court.  Men of all classes from the highest dignitary to the lowest slave rushed into her arms.  As it became fashionable in the court to be a Christian, it became no less honorable in the hut to display the cross.  The whole pagan world was baptized into the Christian faith: temples, basilicas, priests, liturgy, rituals, images, relics, icons – the whole thing, east and west, Greek and Latin was baptized into the church.  The whole thing became a part of the church. 

The church found herself facing a new creation.  No longer poor but laden with wealth and worldly honors, she saw clearly that to maintain the doctrine of pilgrimage and separation from the enticements of the world would displease the Emperor and the pagan masses.  Such a procedure might do while she was poor and persecuted but not now that she was rich and lordly. Satan offered the church the kingdom of this world if only she would bow down before him.  The church accepted the worldly power and support.  The union of church and state was the burial of true Christianity.  Dante, the great Italian, Florentine poet, in his Inferno, refers to this time:

 

Ah, Constantine, of how much ill was cause.

Not thy conversion, but those rich domains

That the first Roman bishop received of thee.

 

There upon and therein and therewith the church rejected the millennial doctrine of the Bible and suppressed all millennial literature.  The new doctrine opposed the teaching of a personal reign of Christ upon earth.  Augustine, himself once a millenarian, took up the new principle and carried it to the full.  He taught, and the rest followed, that the church was the kingdom; that the millennium dates from the rise and conversion of Constantine; that we are in the millennium now, and the coming of Christ is not to be expected but in a spiritual way.  The personal presence of Christ is no longer needed.  The millennium has come without Him.  The imperial church has overcome the world and as the scarlet harlot, as I add say, as the scarlet whore, as the scarlet harlot, she rides on the back of the beast.  Revelation 17, verse 3 and verse 7.  Isn’t that the strangest prophecy you could ever read in the Bible – the church likened to a scarlet prostitute riding on the back of the imperial beast, the Roman Caesar?

As long as the pilgrim persecuted church looked heavenward where her Lord lived, as long as she remembered that her citizenship was in glory, she looked forward to the second coming of the Lord.  But now, in wealth and in prosperity, stretching her limbs upon ivory couches, sitting in her palace in the sun, she said, "I am a queen.  I shall see no more sorrow.  My kingdom has come." 

And what of the doctrine of the return of our Lord?  Counsel after counsel denounced any attempt to revive so unsettling a promise.  Having spiritualized and allegorized the Holy Scriptures, making all its golden prophecies apply to the Roman church, the Word of God was discounted and reckoned as a thing safe only in the hands of the hierarchy.  The knowledge of the Word of God perished among the people. Ignorance, darkness, hopelessness, superstition reigned supreme and the dark ages of western Christian civilization had come.

We turn now to the morning stars of the Reformation, to the precursors of those who brought the Scriptures back to the people.  First, Joachim of Florence; he was the abbot of Calabria.  Calabria is the heel of the Italian boot.  He resigned his position as abbot in order to study the Scriptures.  He preached great sermons from the Apocalypse on the coming of Christ.  He preached the millennium beginning with the personal advent of our Lord.

Second, Peter Waldo who founded the Waldensians.  By the way, in some of those Waldensian churches you had to memorize the entire New Testament in order to be received as members of the church.  What would my brethren think about that? Those Waldensian preachers preached conversion, and consecration, and the coming of the Lord; and they were martyred by the untold thousands.

Next, John Wycliff 1324 to 1384; he’s one called the morning star of the Reformation.  He wrote a book entitled The Last Age of the Church.  He regarded the Redeemer’s appearing as the object of the hope and constant expectation of the true church.  He translated the Bible into English.  He escaped martyrdom.  John Wycliff did, but in 1428 at the demand of Pope Clement the VIII, his body was exhumed.  It was dug up.  It was burned and his ashes were scattered on the River Swift.  But the River Swift runs into the Avon.  And the River Avon runs into the Severn and the River Severn runs into the sea.  And the seas bathe the continents of the world.  And they carried John Wycliff’s doctrine of the coming of our Lord and the inspiration of the Bible to the peoples of the world.  One of his converts and followers was John Huss of Bohemia and Jerome in Prague.  I have stood there in Prague before the tremendous marvelous tribute in bronze to John Huss and Jerome.  They were burned at the stake, but they preached the coming of the Lord.  Then we name Savonarola of Florence, 1452-18.  He was a bugle blast that ushered in the Reformation.

I went to the Duomo in Florence, the great cathedral in Florence, just to stand there where Savonarola preached.  He preached from the Apocalypse.  He preached from the Revelation.  He preached the return of Christ.  He preached the Tribulation.  He preached the judgment and visitation of God.  I have heard it.  I have read it is impossible, they say, to describe the preaching of Savonarola.  Thousands and thousands crowded into that Duomo to hear Savonarola declare the Word of the Lord.  They came to hear him as they came to hear John Chrysostom a century before in Antioch.  Critics coming to scorn, to report his sermons, dropped their pens to weep in repentance and contrition.  He was a mighty pentecostal revivalist, and he brought revival to the land.

Rome was stirred, of course.  Savonarola refused the bribe of a cardinal’s hat.  Excommunicated, he was horribly tortured.  He was hanged in the public square of Florence until he died. Then his body was burned.

William Tyndale, 1480-1536: He caught the refrain of the brilliant, dynamic preaching of Savonarola in Florence, and he said, "I’m going to make it possible for every ploughboy in England to know more of the Bible than these who are taught in the hierarchy" [recorded in Actes and Monuments, John Foxe, 1563]. He was strangled; he was burned at the stake.  But he wrote, "Christ and His apostles taught us no other thing than to look for the coming of our Lord any hour."  These are the morning stars and the precursors of the Reformation.  

Then the Reformation: the doctrine of the coming of our Lord through these centuries.  Martin Luther, 1483-1546, in his commentary on John 10:19, Luther wrote:

 

Some say that before the latter day, the whole world shall become Christian, post-millennialism.  This is a falsehood forged by Satan to darken sound doctrine.  Beware of the deceiver.  Let us not think that the coming of Christ is far off.  Let us look up with our heads lifted high.  Let us expect our Redeemer’s coming with longing and with a joyous mind.

 

[quoted in "A Summary of the Argument in Defence of Pre-Millenarianism," Rev. John T. Duffield, D.D. in The Second Coming of Christ: Premillennial Essays [etc.], Nathaniel West, 1879, p. 425.]

 

John Calvin, 1509 – 1564, he wrote, "Scripture uniformly enjoins us to look with expectation for the advent of Christ" [Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter 25, section 6.]  John Knox, 1505 – 1572, he wrote:

 

The Lord Jesus shall return and that with expedition."  What were that but to reform the face of the whole earth, which never was nor yet shall be till that righteous judge shall appear for the restoration of all things.

 

[quoted in "A Summary of the Argument in Defence of Pre-Millenarianism," Rev. John T. Duffield, D.D. in The Second Coming of Christ: Premillennial Essays [etc.], Nathaniel West, 1879, p. 425.]

 

 And these two great English Bishops: Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer.  When you go to Oxford, when you enter Oxford, you will see there a great monument to Master Ridley and to Hugh Latimer – one, the Bishop of London, Ridley, and the other the Bishop of Worcester.  They were burned at the stake there in 1555. 

Hugh Latimer was one of the greatest preachers of all time and the most fearless of the English reformers.  A mighty, influential preacher of the Word of God, he said, "Let us not think of Christ coming as far off. When Paul thought that this day would come in his time, how much more shall we think that it shall come in our time?  Christ saith not in vain, watch and pray" [from "On the Gospel for the Second Sunday in Advent," Sermons and Remains: Hugh Latimer, vol. 2, Ed. George Elwes Corrie, p. 59].  He would have us to be watchers and to have it that all men are in remembrance of His coming. 

Master Ridley, who was burned with him said, "Let us with the apostle John, the servant of God, cry in our hearts unto the Savior Christ, ‘Come Lord Jesus, come’" ["A Lamentation for the Change of Religion in England"].

The Anabaptists:  Ana is the Greek word for again, and they were called Anabaptists because they baptized their converts.  The whole world, the whole Christian world, the whole western world, had been sprinkled into the state church; but these Anabaptists preached that you had to be converted before you were baptized.  So upon a confession of faith, as you saw this morning, they were baptized.  So they were called Anabaptists.  Multitudes of them were martyred by drowning.  They said, "You like water?  Here’s lots of water!"  And they drowned them!  All of them, without exception, were millenarians.  They were premillennialists – every Anabaptist that lived. 

Now the Baptists:  in 1660, an assembly of English Baptists presented to King Charles II in London a confession of faith for which they declared they were ready to suffer persecution unto death.  And in that confession they presented to King Charles II, they wrote:

 

Concerning the Kingdom and the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we do believe that He is now in heaven, at His Father’s right hand, so we do believe, that at the time appointed by the Father, He shall come again, in power and great glory.  Raise the dead, judge and restore the world and according to the Scripture, reign on the throne of His Father David, on Mt. Zion, in Jerusalem, forever.  We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself will be alone, the visible, supreme God and King of the whole earth.  We believe that the New Jerusalem that shall come down from heaven will be the metropolitan city of the Kingdom and will be the glorious palace of the residence of both Christ and His saints forever.

 

["Standard or Brief Confession of Faith," General Baptist assembly, 1660]

 

That’s what our forefathers believed. 

Now we come to the last:  the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ as preached by the great revivalists.

John Wesley:  1703 – 1791.  Wesley lived every day and hour as though it were his last.  He was always ready, waiting for the coming of the Lord.  He said, "Perhaps He will appear as the dayspring from on high, before the morning light.  Expect Him every hour.  Now He is nigh, even at the door" ["The Righteousness of Faith" in The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M.]. 

When Wesley was buried, his friend, Walter Churchey, spoke in broken tones and said, "I have lost my friend, but I shall see him again – perhaps soon – even upon the earth where the sufferers for Christ are to rise and to reign in His spiritual kingdom for a thousand years" [from a letter to Joseph Benson, Walter Chruchey, 1801].  Good Methodist doctrine. 

Charles Wesley wrote, 1708 – 1788, wrote so many hymns.  Here’s a stanza:

 

            Trusting in the literal word

            We look for Christ on earth again,

            Come our everlasting Lord

            With all Thy saints, to reign.

 

[Short Hymns (1762), 2:56, Hymn 1284]  

        

George Whitefield:  don’t you wish you could have heard that man?  They say he could pronounce the word Mesopotamia and bring a congregation to tears!   George Whitefield.  George Whitefield said, "Where is the promise of His coming? … Perhaps today, perhaps this midnight, the cry will be made … ‘Behold the Bridegroom cometh!’  Let that cry be continually sounding in your ears, and begin now to live as though you were assured that this night you were to go forth to meet Him" [from "The Wise and Foolish Vigins," pub. in Selected Sermons of George Whitefield, 1904].

Augustus Toplady, who wrote the "Rock of Ages," in honest English he said, "I am one of those old fashioned people who believe in the doctrine of the millennium, and that there will be two distinct resurrections of the dead:  one, the resurrection of the just; second, the resurrection of the unjust.  This last resurrection of the reprobate will not commence until a thousand years after the resurrection of the Just.  In this glorious interval of a thousand years, Christ will reign in person over the kingdom of the Just" ["Speech [etc]," pub. In The Works of Augustus M. Toplady, 1825, p. 470].

There were two great preachers in the last century who were good friends, though they labored on opposite sides of the Atlantic.  One was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who died in 1892, and the other was Dwight L. Moody, here in America, who died in 1899.  I have in my library a book by Spurgeon entitled Twelve Sermons on the Second Coming.  Spurgeon said, "I do look for his premillennial advent and expect He will come again, Jesus our Lord, to be King of all the earth and to rule all nations in a glorious, personal reign" ["The Kingly Priesthood of the Saints," sermon by C. H. Spurgeon, 1855]. 

And Dwight L. Moody:  "Paul’s epistles speak about the return of the Lord fifty times and yet the church has very little to say about it.  Now, I can see a reason for this.  The devil does not want us to see this truth for nothing would wake up the church so much.  The moment a man takes hold of the truth that Jesus Christ is coming again to receive His followers to Himself, this world loses its hold upon him., The church is cold and formal.  May God wake it up!  And I know of no better way to do it than to get the church to look for the return of our Lord."  Dwight L. Moody.  ["The Return of Our Lord," Moody: his words, work, and workers, Ed. Rev. W. H. Daniels, p. 468, 475]

And last, our own fellow churchman here in this First Baptist of Dallas, Billy Graham.  He has presented the gospel face to face to more people than any other man in history.  One of his books is entitled Till Armageddon.  And his latest book, just off the press, is entitled Approaching Hoof Beats:  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  The last chapter in that book is called "The Grand Finale," and in it Billy Graham says:

 

Christ’s triumph over Antichrist and the forces of evil will be a reign of Jesus Christ and His saints of all ages over our earth, an earth that will know unprecedented prosperity and peace.  There can be no new world under present conditions.  Something dramatic must happen to alter man and the world.  That leaves us with one absolute certainty about the future, Christ, as the Prince of Peace, with the government upon His shoulders.  Without the Messiah the human enterprise crashes into darkness forever.  But thank God the Messiah is coming!  He saves individuals today.  In the great tomorrow he will remake all creation.

 

This is a great review of the doctrine of the coming of our Lord from the day of the Savior, Jesus, to our latest, great evangelist Billy Graham. 

There is something about the teaching and the preaching of the doctrine of the coming of Christ that lifts up our souls heavenward.  When our lives and our interests are immersed in this world, somehow we lose touch with God and we lose touch with the glorious hope of redemption.  For when our souls and our hopes and our visions and our prayers are centered in this life and in this world, there is nothing to look forward to but death and the grave and the darkness of the midnight.   The world is hopeless – pitiful and to be pitied if all of our life is just this.  But when we open God’s Book and read there of the redemption that is yet to come, of the resurrection of the dead, of the kingdom of our Savior where He will live and reign with His saints forever and ever, no matter what our estate or what our suffering or what our troubles, there’s a better day tomorrow.  There’s a more glorious life yet to come God having prepared some better day for us.  There is nothing comparable to the preciousness of the hope that we have in Christ Jesus.  And He is ours for the having, for the asking, for the inviting:  "I stand at the door of your heart and your life, and I knock.  And if you will hear My voice and open the door, I will come in and sup with you and you with Me" [Revelation 3:20].  Do it.  Our Lord will bless your house.  He’ll bless your home.  He’ll bless your heart.  He’ll bless the work of your hands.  He’ll be your friend to the hour of death.  He’ll stand by you in that ultimate and final tragic moment.  And He’ll send His angels for us to take us to heaven when we die, and He will comfort us – raise us from the dead one glorious day.

And this is our invitation to you: to give your heart in faith to the wonderful Savior, or to put your family in the circle of this glorious church, or to re-consecrate your life to Jesus. This is God’s moment. This is God’s time.  Listen to the Spirit of the Lord and answer with your life.  Do it now.  Do it now.

Now, Brother Ed Poole, I want you to come and stand over here.  Every Sunday, we have members of our staff who re-consecrate and recommit their lives to the Lord Jesus.  Then we have a prayer of consecration and commitment, and if you would like to come and to be a part of that recommital of your life to the wonderful Savior, so welcome you.  Come and we’ll kneel and pray together. 

Then, of course, to give your heart and faith to Christ or to put your life in the circle of this wonderful church, a thousand times welcome as the Spirit of God will lead you in the way.  Make it now.  Make the decision in your heart now, and when we stand up, stand up taking that first step down a stairway, down an aisle: "Here I am pastor.  I am on the way."  May angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.