The Eternal Christ
August 3rd, 1986 @ 8:15 AM
THE ETERNAL CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-3-86 8:15 a.m.
And it is a joy to welcome the multitudes of you who share the hour on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Eternal Christ. I do not know how God will bless it, but I can tell you this: there is not anything I have ever prepared in my life that means more to me than the sermon that you are going to listen to this morning. Let us turn to the first chapter of John; and in a minute we are going to stand and read these verses together. John chapter 1, first chapter of John, we are going to read the first three verses; then we are going to pause, and then we will go to another section. You have it? All right, let us stand together, everybody. John, the first chapter, the first three verses, first; all right, together:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
Now we are going to read verses 14 through 18, now together:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me.
And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.
Now we may be seated.
“No man hath seen God at any time” [John 1:18]. The Lord God said, “No one can see My face, and live” [Exodus 33:20]. No one ever has ever seen God. But there is a phenomenon in the Bible that is beyond imagination, beyond comprehension; a remarkable presentation and revelation in the Word of God. All through the Old Testament, from the beginning to the end, there is a glorious, ineffable Somebody, Someone that appears again and again and again. He is a theophanic Angel; an Angel of the theophany. He is the Angel of the presence of the Lord God. And you see Him appearing here, there, yonder, all through the pages of the Old Testament. Now, I’m going to read, going to point out the passages, but I can’t take time for you to find them unless you are real agile with your Bible. So we are going to start, and if you’d like to follow in the Scriptures, wonderful; if not, just listen and I’ll point them out. We are going to speak of that ineffable, glorious Somebody.
You see Him in Genesis 31:11-13. Jacob is getting ready to go back to the land of Canaan, and he says in verse 11, “The Angel of God spake unto me, and He said, I am the God of Bethel” [Genesis 3:11]. Isn’t that an amazing thing? “The Angel of God spake unto me. And when He spake, this is what He said: I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the altar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto Me: now arise, get thee from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred” [Genesis 31:13]. Who is that Angel of God?
Look again, in Genesis 48: Jacob is speaking to his grandchildren, to the children of Joseph, and he says in verses 15 and 16, “The God who fed me all my life long unto this day,” then he adds, “The Angel who redeemed me from all evil” [Genesis 48:15-16]. Who is that Angel that redeemed him from all evil, the God who fed him all his days? There is again and again a remarkable Person appearing in the Old Testament.
In the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews [Hebrews 7:1-8], the author speaks of the appearance of a priest in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis, named Melchizedek [Genesis 14:17-20]. And he writes about this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, to whom Abraham gave a tenth of everything he possessed, “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abiding a priest forever. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth” [Hebrews 7:1-8]. Who is that Melchizedek? Without father, without mother, without descent, without beginning of days, nor end of life [Hebrews 7:3], who is this priest of the Most High God? [Hebrews 7:1]. Who is he?
Look again, in the third chapter of Exodus: starts off, “Moses kept the flock of Jethro, and he came to the mountain of God, to Horeb” [Exodus 3:1]. Now look: “And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush [Exodus 3:2]. And that Angel of the Lord said, Take off your shoes, for the place whereon you stand is holy ground” [Exodus 3:5]. Now look at the next verse: “Moreover He said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob” [Exodus 3:6]. But the Book says He is an Angel of the Lord [Exodus 3:2]; yet He says of Himself, “I am the God of thy father” [Exodus 3:6]. Then He calls His name in verse 14, and this Angel of the Lord who is speaking to Moses, and says, “I am the God of thy father [Exodus 3:6]. And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am [Exodus 3:14], Yahweh, Jehovah. And He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am, Jehovah the Lord God, hath sent me” [Exodus 3:14]. But it is an Angel of the Lord that is appearing unto Moses [Exodus 24:9-10]. Who is that Angel of the Lord?
Look again, in Exodus, Exodus 24: “There went up,” in verse 9, “there went up Moses, and Aaron, and Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel” [Exodus 24:9-10]. But the Book says no man hath seen God at any time [John 1:18]; and God says, “No man shall see My face, and live” [Exodus 33:20]. But here they saw the God of Israel [Exodus 24:10]: “And there was under His feet a paved work as of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness [Exodus 24:10]. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel God laid not His hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink” [Exodus 24:11]. Whom did they see? Whom did they see? No man can see God, and live [Exodus 33:20]. Whom did they see?
Look once again, in the fifth chapter of Joshua, the fifth chapter of Joshua, verse 13: “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and there was a Man standing with His sword drawn: and Joshua went unto Him, and said, Are You for us, or against us? He said, Nay; but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I come. And Joshua fell on his face, and worshiped” [Joshua 5:13-14]. Now that’s idolatry if this Somebody he is worshiping is not the Lord God. “Joshua fell on his face, and worshiped. And the Captain of the host said unto Joshua, Take off your shoes; for the place whereon you stand is holy ground” [Joshua 5:14-15]. Who is that appearing here as the Captain of the armies of Israel? Who is that?
In Isaiah 6, Isaiah 6, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. And above that throne stood the seraphim: with six wings, covering his face, covering his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried to another, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory” [Isaiah 6:1-3]. Who is that Lord of hosts? Who is He? An amazing identification in the Gospel of John, chapter 12, verse 41: John says he saw Jesus; he saw the Lord Christ [John 12:41]. It is not only a theophany, an appearance of God, it is a Christophany: it is an appearance of Christ.
Look again in Ezekiel chapter 1, verse 26:
And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, and as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man, of a man. And I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire, from the appearance of His loins even upward, from the appearance of His loins even downward, I saw it was the appearance of fire. And the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of One that spake.
Who is that? Looked like a man, had the appearance of a man, He looked like a flame of fire, with all the colors of the rainbow—who is that incomparable Lord seated there upon a throne? [Ezekiel 1:126-28].
Look again, in Daniel chapter 3: Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego are thrown into the furnace of fire [Daniel 3:20-23]; now in verse 24, “And Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste, and said unto his counselors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered, True, O king. Then he answered and said, But I see four men loose, four men, walking in the midst of the fire; and the form of the fourth is like unto the Son of God” [Daniel 3:24-25]. Who is that Man, that fourth Man? Then Daniel writes in chapter 7, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days. And there was given unto Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom one that shall never be destroyed” [Daniel 7:13-14]. Who is that Someone who comes to the Ancient of Days? Who is He? That is that glorious theophanic, marvelous, ineffable Being that appears again, and again, and again, and again in the Old Testament.
Now look at that same glorious Someone in the New Testament, look at Him: in the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts, “And as Saul journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And he said, Who art Thou, Lord?” Who is this glorious Someone? “And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” [Acts 9:3-5]. And just once again, just once again: “I was in Patmos for the patience and kingdom and love of Jesus, and I heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last [Revelation 1:9-11]. And I turned to see the voice that spake unto me. And being turned, I saw seven golden lampstands; And in the midst of the seven golden lampstands I saw One walking, His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength [Revelation 1:12-16]. And I fell at His feet as one dead. And He laid His right hand upon me,” a gesture that John had felt innumerable times, “He put His right hand upon me, and He said unto me, Do not be afraid, fear not; I am the First and the Last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore; and I, I have the keys, I have the keys of Hell and of Death, of the grave and of the world to come” [Revelation 1:17-18].
Who is that glorious Person who appears from the beginning, all through the revelation of God to His people, and to the end of time? This glorious theophanic Angel, this Epiphany of the Lord God, who is He? He is our wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus, “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” [Hebrews 13:8]. The One who made this world [John 1:3; Colossians 1:16], and keeps it in the hollow of His hand; the One who is shaping all history and destiny, and the One who is coming again some glorious and triumphant day [Acts 1:11], it’s our Savior, the Lord Jesus.
Between those two great ages of the Old Testament and this age in which we live of the New Testament, between those two great ages is this valley of condescension in between. And for a moment of time that glorious Epiphany, that marvelous Somebody came down into this world in human flesh, to make atonement for our sins [Romans 5:11]; He came to die that we might be saved [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He came into this world to open for us the doors of heaven [John 14:3], that we might, beyond the judgment and punishment of sin and death, that we might live with Him in heaven forever and ever and ever [1 Thessalonians 4:17]. He came into this world, that glorious Somebody, He came into this world that He might be our Savior [Hebrews 10:5-14]. And He became in His condescension, and humiliation, and suffering, and incarnation [Philippians 2:5-8], He became our great Friend and Intercessor [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]; slain, crucified for our sins [Matthew 27:32-50], but raised for our justification [Romans 4:25], to keep us safe, to deliver us, to present us someday faultless in the presence of the great Glory, that we might be in heaven forever [Jude 1:24]. As the Book of Hebrews so eloquently says in the closing verses of chapter 2: “Forasmuch, forasmuch as the children are flesh and blood, He likewise took part of the same” [Hebrews 2:14]. He became one of us, flesh and blood:
That He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God. For verily He took not upon Him the nature of angels; but He took upon Him the seed of Abraham. Therefore it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren. For that in that He was tempted, He is able to succor them who are tempted.
For we have not a High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried as we are, though He without sin.
Therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that ye may find grace to help in time of need.
Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us.
There is not in human thought anything as sweet and dear and precious as the gospel of the Son of God. He came from glory, that marvelous, ineffable Lord God of heaven and earth [Hebrews 10:5-14], He came and was made in human flesh [Philippians 2:5-8], and lived our lives, tried in all points just as we are [Hebrews 4:15].
Is there any one of us broken-hearted, and He was not broken-hearted? Does any one of us cry, and He did not cry? Is any one of us disappointed, and He was not disappointed? Any one of us suffer, and He did not suffer? Any one of us rejected and cast out, and He was not rejected? Any one of us die, and He did not die? In all of the areas of our life, He was one of us. He is not out there somewhere, separated from us; nor is He over yonder somewhere condemning us. He is our friend. Jesus is for us. He is the great Intercessor and Pleader before the great, mighty throne of God [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 12:2, 7:25]. He is our counselor and our representative. He is our Savior unto death and into the forever [John 10:27-30]. What a wonderful gospel! What an incomparable message: Jesus, the friend of sinners [Luke 7:34]; Jesus, raised for our justification [Romans 4:25], to declare us righteous, to present us someday without fault or failure in the presence of the great Glory [Jude 24]. And He is ours for the receiving [John 1:12]. That’s the gospel. That’s why they call it the good news: it’s the most precious of all the messages that God Himself could ever have brought to men. “Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life” [John 14:6]. He is our door into glory, our entrance into heaven [John 10:7, 9]. I must close.
If you’ve never received the Lord as your Savior, do it now. “Pastor, this is my day and this is God’s hour for me. And I’m opening my heart for the Lord to be my friend and my counselor and my yokefellow and my companion, and for glory. And I am receiving Him as such today. To pray to Him, to talk to Him, to walk with Him, to seek His face and counsel in every decision that I make, to stand by me in trial, to be with me when I die, and to see me through in the world that is yet to come. I’m taking the Lord as my Savior today; and here I stand.” We welcome you into this dear church. Oh! I love this place, everything about it. We welcome you as a fellow pilgrim in this wonderful church. If God speaks to your heart, in calling in any area of life, come. And we praise God for you. Make that decision now in your heart. As we stand to sing our appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, the first step you take will be the most precious and meaningful in your life. Do it. A thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Old Testament appearances
A. Theophanic angelic
presence appears again and again
1. The God of
Bethel (Genesis 31:11, 13)
2. Jacob sees God
face to face (Genesis 32:30)
3. Melchizedek (Genesis
14:18-20, Hebrews 7:1-3)
Angel of the Lord unto Hagar and Abraham (Genesis 16:7, 9-11, 13, 22:11, 15-16)
of the Lord unto Moses (Exodus 3:2)
a. I am the God of thy
fathers (Exodus 3:5-6)
b. I am that I am
6. God of Israel
7. Captain of the host
to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-15)
8. In the calling of
Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-5)
preexistent Word of God (John 12:41)
10. Glorified on the
throne (Ezekiel 1:26-28, Daniel 3:24-25)
11. In the fiery furnace
II. In the new dispensation and age
A. Saul on the road to
Damascus (Acts 9:5)
B. John on the isle of
Patmos (Revelation 1:9-18)
III. The purpose of the Incarnation
A. That we might be