The Time on God’s Clock
May 20th, 1984 @ 8:15 AM
THE TIME ON GOD’S CLOCK
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-20-84 8:15 a.m.
God bless the great throng in the house of the Lord this morning and the multitudes of you who are sharing the hour on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled The Time on God’s Clock. It is again a message in the series on eschatology, on the second coming of Christ. And this message is a message concerning “when”; the time of Christ’s coming.
In Revelation 22, the last book and the last chapter in the Bible, verse 6 says that “The Lord hath sent His angel to show unto us the things which en tachei,” translated here “must shortly be done” [Revelation 22:6]. In the first verse of the first chapter, it says, “He is to show unto His servants things which must en tachei,” translated there “shortly come to pass” [Revelation 1:1]. Then in chapter 22, verse 7, “Behold, I come tachu,” translated “quickly” [Revelation 22:7]. In verse 12, “Behold, I come tachu,” quickly [Revelation 22:12]. And then the twentieth verse, “He which testifieth these things saith Surely, surely I come tachu,” quickly [Revelation 22:20]. What does that actually mean? Well, tachos is the noun form of it, which means “swiftness, speed.” Tacheios is the adjectival form of it, which means “speedily, swiftly.” Then tacha is an adverb, which means “quickly, speedily.” And tachias is an adverb, which means “speedily, quickly.” And the word in the text, tachu, is an adverb, which means “speedily, quickly.”
So Jesus says—not one time but four times: in the third chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 3:1], and three times in the last chapter of the Book of the Revelation and in the final benediction—“Surely I come tachu; I come quickly” [Revelation 22:7, 12, 20]. What does that mean? Well, an adverb modifies a verb, so it refers to one of two things. If it’s an adverb of time, it refers to “when” He is coming. If it’s an adverb of manner, it is “how” He is coming. So let’s take it both ways, for we are not told in the text which way we are to understand it, and maybe we are to understand it both ways. Tachu, first an adverb of “time”; “when” the Lord is coming. There is no doubt but it seems to us that the Lord is late in arriving; He tarries. Time has now multiplied into almost two thousand years. And He hasn’t come yet.
It’s like a trip you would make on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. As you travel along in the boat, it seems as though the point of the lake comes together. Then when you get there and round the bend, it opens again. Then it will seemingly come together, and you’re arriving at the end of the water. Then it opens again and again and again. That’s the way with the Lord. There are times when it seems He will surely come. Then the days extend into the years and finally into the centuries and now into two millennia.
If it’s an adverb of “time,” “when” is the Lord coming? “I come quickly.” When is that? In the parable of the bridegroom, the marriage of the groom in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew, it says, “The Lord tarrieth” [Matthew 25:5]. The Lord delays His coming.
In the reason for the writing of the first Thessalonian letter, their people had died, and the Lord hadn’t come, and it brought great consternation to the hearts of the Christians in Thessalonica [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]. That’s why he wrote the letter. In the sixth chapter of the Revelation, under the opening of the fifth seal, those who were martyred for God cry, “O Lord, how long, how long?” [Revelation 6:10] And in the third chapter of Simon Peter’s second letter, he says, “There shall come, in the latter days, scoffers saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the beginning of the creation, all things continue as they have been” [2 Peter 3:3-4]. That’s why the skeptics today, the modern skeptics today, the modern critics today, say, “Even the Lord Jesus was mistaken. He did not know when He was coming. And when He said He was coming quickly, He was mistaken.” Or else they say, “The apostles and the disciples misunderstood, and they misinterpreted, and they were mistaken. In either event,” they say, “they are mistaken, either the Lord was or the apostles were.”
When is He coming? There has to be a remembrance on our part that time is altogether different to God than it is to us. In that third chapter of 2 Peter, the apostle says, a thousand years in His sight are but a day [2 Peter 3:8]. Time is different between us and God. We are imprisoned in it. We are fettered by it. We are bound and dragged down with it. We are all creatures of time. The entire animal world is, and we’re part of it.
In certain times, by the clock, animals hibernate, they mate, they shed their fur, or they put on a heavier coat of fur. They live by the clock. The whole vegetable world, the whole world of life is the same. There comes a time when they shed their leaves or when they bud or when they fruit. And we are bound up just like that. We run by a clock, an anatomical clock. And if you speedily go from one time zone to another, you’ll experience a jet lag. You’re life is bound up with a clock. And the years to us turn into a life and finally into death. We are creatures of time.
But even to us, time is relative. If we had a mile before us, to a snail that would be a long time, that mile. To a stag or a hound, it would be very much shorter. To a racing car, it’d still be shorter. To a jet, it’d still be shorter. To a light wave going one hundred eighty-six thousand miles a second, it would be very, very brief. And to an ether wave, it is nonexistent. Time is relative. And time depends upon our position. If you go out at night and look at one of the stars and Andromeda, the great constellation up there in the sky, that sun that you’re looking at is one billion light years away. And what you’re looking at is that star in Andromeda as it was a billion years ago.
But if you had somebody living on a star or a planet half way or two thirds of the way or almost there, or there, time would be altogether different. What had happened there, here half a billion years, here three-quarter a billion years, here a billion years, has no meaning. Time has no meaning. And it certainly doesn’t in our reaction to it; in our condition. If I’m sick or if I’m heavy-hearted or brokenhearted, time seemingly never ends. In the morning we say, “Would God in the evening.” And in the evening we say, “Would God it were morning.” Or if we’re happy and glad, time passes so quickly. And if I’m dead, here again it is not existent.
As some of you, I’ve looked upon those mummies in Cairo, Egypt, and I thought, “If this mummy could awaken now, what would he think?” It would have been one second in the time that he died three thousand years BC and five thousand years later. Time is relative. How much more is that true with Almighty God? To Him, time is timeless. He created it, and He is above time. He is the everlasting and eternal “I Am” [Exodus 3:14]. He is the “I Am” of yesterday. He is the “I Am of today.” And He is the “I Am” of tomorrow. Time is before Him, endlessly. He sees the end from the beginning.
When Joshua prayed in the tenth chapter of the Book of Joshua, “Sun, stand thou still over Gibeon; and thou, Moon, stand thou still over the valley of Ajalon” [Joshua 10:12], be the same with God, either way, He can say, “Sun stand thou still forever and eternally,” for there’s no going down of the sun with Him. It’s just the same, forever the same. In the thirty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, He sends word to Hezekiah and says, “On the dial of Ahaz, for a sign, do you want Me to turn the shadow back ten degrees or forward ten degrees?” [Isaiah 38:8-9; 2 Kings 20:9] Doesn’t make any difference with God; the sun never goes down with God. He never hastens to accomplish His purposes. Same way with history; history is ever present before God. He sees the end from the beginning, and all time and all history are ever present before Him.
One time I was drifting with one of my deacons in Oklahoma down the beautiful Illinois River. And as we went down the river, we would go around one bend and another bend and another bend, and to me the river opened up to me bend at a time. But if a man stood on a high mountain, he could see the whole thing from beginning to end. God is like that. He sees all of it as in the present. There is no time; things don’t happen with Him. There’s no ambush on the part of His enemies to surprise Him. And there are no weapons that men discover that annihilate His purpose. And there are no unseen difficulties that interdict His great and eternal purpose; it’s all present before God. Even in the Book, even in the Book, even in the Bible, He outlines the whole course of human history. And it always climaxes in the coming of our Lord. He sees the whole thing.
In the second chapter of the Book of Daniel there’s the head of gold, that’s Babylon [Daniel 2:32, 38]. There is the shoulders and the arms of the Medo-Persians [Daniel 2:32, 39]. There’s the thigh of brass of the Greeks [Daniel 2:32, 39]. There’s the great double-legged empire of the Romans [Daniel 2:33, 40]. And then there are the broken up toes of iron and clay [Daniel 2:34, 42]. And at the last, a stone is cut without hands from the mountain that crashes the image [Daniel 2:34, 44-45]. And Christ is the King of all the earth [Daniel 2:31-45]. That’s the whole story of history in God’s sight.
In the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel he goes through the same whole course of history again. Over a raging sea there appears a tremendous lion, and that is the Babylonian kingdom [Daniel 7:4]. Then out of the sea arises a bear, and that’s the Medo-Persian kingdom [Daniel 7:5]. Then out of the sea a leopard, and that’s the Alexandrian kingdom [Daniel 7:6]. Then there arises a fierce, terrible, non-descript animal, and that’s the Roman kingdom [Daniel 7:7]. And then follows ten horns [Daniel 7:7], and in that day the Lord Christ, the Ancient of Days, comes forward and builds a kingdom that covers the whole earth; that is the coming of our Lord [Daniel 7:9-14]. Always it climaxes in history in the coming of Jesus. And the Lord sees that from beginning to end. There’s no time with Him.
We are never to despair, we’re never to be pessimistic, we are never to be down-hearted about the course of human history. It’s in God’s hands. And blessed are the eyes, blessed are the eyes that see in time, the timeless; and in the temporary and the transitory, the eternal. Blessed are the eyes that can see in waiting, the coming; that can see in the winter the spring; that can see in death, life; that can see in the grave, the resurrection! If it means “when,” then in God’s time, which for Him is just there; in the story of human history, it’s just there––from here and He sees it there. It is tachu, quick.
Number two: if the adverb tachu refers to “manner,” how is He coming? Then in the Bible we are plainly told “how” the Lord is coming: tachu, quickly, speedily. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew, there is given to us a parable of the kingdom of our Lord and the coming of the Bridegroom, our Savior. And He tarried. But at midnight, there was a cry, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh” [Matthew 25:6], tachu, quickly, speedily. When these consummating, climactic days arrive for the coming of our Lord, the events will happen speedily, they will happen quickly. In this parable here, there is no interval between the midnight cry and the appearance of the bridegroom. And of course the parable, in the twenty-fifth chapter here of Matthew, is “there is no time to prepare” [Matthew 25:6-13]. When He comes, He will come speedily and quickly! And when the events described in the Revelation come to pass, they will all come to pass furiously fast! [Revelation 3:1, 22:7, 12, 20].
That’s a remarkable thing, a remarkable thing. If you will study carefully the Word of God you will find that throughout Scripture the impression is given to us, and the revelation is made to us, that when the end time comes, it will come speedily; it will come quickly. All of the impressions of the Bible are like that. Here in this parable—the midnight cry, and immediately the bridegroom comes [Matthew 25:6-10]. Or sometimes, as in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Luke, the Lord’s coming is described as a great eagle swooping out of the sky [Luke 17:37]. Or as in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of [Matthew], His coming is described as the vivid forked lightening, thrusting suddenly itself in the earth [Matthew 24:27]. Or again it is described as the bursting of the flood in the days of Noah, or as the sudden destruction of fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah [[Luke 17:26-30]. It is sudden; there is no time to prepare. Or as the Lord—and I’d say this is universal in the Bible—as the Lord closed the Sermon on the Mount, the man built his house on the rock and a man built his house on the sand. And upon both of them, both of them the rains descend and the floods rose and the winds beat, but there is no time to prepare [Matthew 7:24-27].
That’s the point of the Word of God. When the day comes it will come suddenly; it will come unannouncedly; it will come swiftly; it will come quickly; it will come tachu; “Behold, I come quickly” [Revelation 3:1, 22:7, 12, 20]. You know I could illustrate that in a thousand ways in our own lifetime. When men are in the ring, they’re in the boxing ring, there’s no time to prepare––bother, that’s it! Or when an athletic team is out on the field playing, there’s no time to prepare; that’s it! Or when a nation is at war, there’s no time to prepare; that’s it! All of life is like that. It’s tachu. There comes a moment when it is as though it were a thousand years, just like that, immediately, speedily [2 Peter 3:8]. He is coming!
Well, the parable here in Matthew 25 ends with, “Watch you therefore; watch!” [Matthew 25:13] Well, how shall I watch? Two thousand years now and He says I am to “watch.” “Watch you therefore.” What does that mean? Am I to be in a frenzy of anticipation? Am I to be in a stance of daily, momentarily, intense expectancy, looking up at the sky, waiting for the coming Lord.
Well, in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, you have a story about that. The disciples, when the Lord ascended, they stood there gazing up into heaven! [Acts 1:9-10]. And the angel from God came down to them and said, “You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven?” [Acts 1:11] Are we to be in a frenzy of expectation and in sleepless nights looking for the Lord? Is that what God wills for us? Well, my brother, that’s the point of the parable; that’s what Jesus is saying here. It says, “The bridegroom tarried, and they all enustaksan and ekatheudon” [Matthew 25:5]. Isn’t that something? Enustaksan and ekatheudon. They all enustaksan; they began to nod, to nod. And ekatheudon, now that’s the word that they use when they talk about death. Death is “deep sleep,” Now that’s what it says here. “They began to nod; the bridegroom tarried and they all enustaksan, began to nod,” and finally ekatheudon, fell into a deep, deep sleep [Matthew 25:5].
Well, are they blamed because they began to nod? And are they judged and condemned because they fell into a deep sleep? You won’t find that in the Bible at all, not at all. They all, both the wise and the foolish, began to nod, and they both, the wise and the foolish, fell into a deep sleep [Matthew 25:5]. And there’s no condemnation of either one of them, not at all, not at all. And it didn’t interfere with the preparation of the wise virgins, of the bridesmaids, that they nodded and they fell into a deep sleep because the bridegroom tarried.
Well, what is watchfulness? Watchfulness is: they had their lamps burning and oil in reserve [Matthew 25:7-8]. The oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit, and the lamp, of course, shining, is the beautiful Christian life. They had a marvelous commitment to Jesus, and they were nourished by the Holy Spirit. And they could rest in that. They were ready. And when the midnight cry came, and the bridegroom appeared, they were awakened from their sleep, their rest, and their lamps were lit, and they had oil in store, and they went out to meet the Lord! [Matthew 25:6-10]. And that’s the way we are to be, with a beautiful light, shining for Jesus, and fed by the illimitable, immeasurable resources of the Holy Spirit of God. And that’s ready any time, any day, any moment; may He come. So true watchfulness then is to be busy, the light shining in your heart and life and ministry and word and deed; your light shining for Jesus, just ready anytime, any day, any hour, doesn’t matter.
Like the prayer that closes the Bible in the Revelation, “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely I come quickly.” And John answers, “Amen; amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20]. Any day, any hour, any time, I’m ready. My heart is ready, any time. That’s true watchfulness. Or let me illustrate it one other way. We love beautiful—I certainly do—nineteenth century English figure paintings; paintings done a century ago in England, about people doing things. And when the day was you could buy one of those beautiful paintings at a most reasonable price, we bought many of them and they’re in our house; our house is full of them, nineteenth-century English figure paintings. Well, one of them in the parsonage out there, one of them that I look at just endlessly, one of them is entitled The Fisherman’s Return; painted about one hundred fifty years ago; The Fisherman’s Return. There’s a thatched English cottage by the open sea. And the fisherman—that’s his home—has returned from the sea. And there are the little children with their arms outstretched to their father, just so happy and glad to have him home again. And there is the dear and tender wife just in ecstasy, welcoming her husband home again. And as I look at that picture, I think about this: what is true watchfulness? For that mother to be standing by the side of the sea, gazing, peering over that vast expanse of ocean water, standing there waiting for her husband to return, or is it true watchfulness that she be busy around the house and taking care of the children while he’s gone, and then once in a while, glancing through the door to see if there’s a sight of the sail.
You tell me, wouldn’t it be true watchfulness that she’s busy about the house, taking care of the children, and ready to receive her fisherman husband when he comes back from the sea? That’s tachu; that’s quickly. When He comes, there will be no time to prepare; it’ll be quickly; it’ll be swiftly! The events will follow one after another, from the midnight cry to the appearance of the Bridegroom, then no time at all [Matthew 25:5-13]. No matter; we’re ready; we’re busy, we’re working for Jesus, we’re doing good for God. And today or tomorrow or tonight or any time, even so come, blessed, wonderful Lord Jesus! [Revelation 22:20].
We’re going to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, to give your heart to the Lord, “Lord, Lord, come into my life and into my heart and be my Friend, and Companion and my Savior forever” [Romans 10:9-10]. Or to renew your vow of commitment to our wonderful Savior, or to put your life in the fellowship of this glorious church, or to answer a call from heaven in your life, while we sing this appeal, a thousand times, welcome. God bless, angels attend as you come, while we stand and while we sing.