JESUS IS COMING AGAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-24-88 10:50 a.m.
We welcome once again the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message. We have entered the Holy of Holies in all God’s sacred Word in the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth chapters of the Gospel of John [John 14-17]. And the message today concerns the triumph of our Lord at the denouement of the age, the return of Christ, the second coming of our Savior, and it could be entitled “God’s Purposes of Grace for Us.”
The fourteenth chapter begins: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a topos for you” [John 14:1-2]. You live in a topos. It is an actual place. He is preparing for us in heaven an actual place, a home. “And if I go and prepare that place, I will come again, take you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” [John 14:3]. That’s the way it begins. In the sixteenth chapter of those same marvelous words, He closes in verse 33: “These things have I spoken unto you . . . that you might have peace”—that you not be troubled—“In the world ye shall have tribulation”—this world is no friend to grace—“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” [John 16:33].
The sermon arises out of the triumphant spirit, the victorious attitude, of our Lord, as He faced His suffering and death. These words that I have just spoken were said the very night He was betrayed and tried and, at nine o’clock the next morning, crucified [Mark 15:25]. But His every thought is one of triumph and victory, God having purpose in His death, a glorious thing for us [John 3:16]. And thinking of that triumph of our Lord in the middle of the long history of creation, I think of the beginning of our Lord’s ministry: God in Christ. “By Him all things were made that were made; and without Him was not any thing made that was made” [John 1:3].
And I think of our Lord in the beginning of His work and ministry here in the world, “In the beginning” [John 1:1]. Then I think of the end of it, the ultimate and final climax, the consummation of the age [Matthew 24:3]. And as I read of what God in Christ did in the beginning, and as I read what God in Christ shall do at the ending, I find in the beginning three great cataclysmic conditions, confrontations, each one of which God purposed some wonderful thing for us. Then when I come to the end, three great climactic consummating events in which God’s grace purposes something good for us.
So we look at them. The three catastrophic events in the beginning, out of which God purposed some better thing for us. One: the creation of the world, the universe and its fall, because of sin and disobedience, this in the life of God’s first great archangel, Lucifer. The Bible begins in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If God did it, then He did it gloriously, beautifully, perfectly. It would be unthinkable and unimaginable if what God did, He did chaotically, imperfectly. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and they were beautiful and perfect [Genesis 1:1]. Then something happened. The second verse: “And the earth became tohu wa bohu” chaotic, formless, ruined, destroyed [Genesis 1:2]. What happened?
In the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Isaiah—and I intended reading that part, but I haven’t time—and repeated again in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel—there we are told that, among all of God’s creation, there was one tremendous archangel that God placed over the heaven and the earth. Everything, the angelic orders, the whole visible creation, all of it was presided over and responsible to him [Ezekiel 28:14].
And because of his beauty [Ezekiel 28:17], because of his power, and because of his marvelous place, the Bible says his heart was filled with pride and rebellion [Isaiah 14:13-14]. And sin entered the universe through Lucifer, through Satan [John 8:44]. And wherever sin enters, there is destruction and desecration and death. And that’s what happened to the universe. And the world “became tohu wabohu, chaotic, formless, void, and darkness covered the face of the deep” [Genesis 1:2].
But God purposes some good thing for us, some greater thing for us. That’s the word in Hebrews 11:40: “God having purposed some better thing for us.” And out of the chaos and the darkness, the Revelation says that God will make for us a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1]. It will be perfect and pure and holy. There will be no more burned-out stars. And there will be no more blasted and sterile planets. But everything will be glorious. That’s God’s purpose of grace for us who live in this universe.
The second tremendous catastrophic event that happened in the beginning: the curse of the earth in its recreation [Genesis 3:17-18], and the curse of Adam and the race [Genesis 3:19]. The first chapter of the Book of Genesis describes the recreation of this planet earth. God took it, as it fell in chaos and in darkness, and the Lord God made it beautiful, Edenic [Genesis 1:2-23]. Last Sunday I spoke—no, Wednesday night I spoke of the canopy that God placed over the earth [Genesis 1:7]. It was a greenhouse. It was a beautiful place, all of it. Even today, when you dig down in the earth, in the Arctic, in the Antarctic, there you will find flora and fauna of tropical temperatures. The whole earth was beautiful [Genesis 1:9-13]. It was Edenic. It was precious. And God put the man in it [Genesis 2:15]. And outside of the gate of the garden of Eden, there was that same sinister serpent [Genesis 3:1].
And he entered into the gate and to the man and his wife. And in temptation and deception, they fell again into disobedience and death [Genesis 3:1-6, 2:17]. But out of that tragedy and the curse of the earth and the dissolution and death of Adam and Eve [Genesis 3:16-19], out of that, God purposed some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40]. He exalted the man and the race above the angels, above the angels [1 Corinthians 6:3].
Romans 8 says that we now are joint heirs with Jesus Christ [Romans 8:17]. He is the Lord God who made it all. We are now joint heirs with Him, fellow heirs with Him. And Hebrews 1:14 says, that the angels themselves are now to be “ministering spirits unto us who are the heirs of salvation.” We are raised above the angelic orders in glory: the seraphim, the cherubim, the archangels, we are. They are our ministering spirits [Hebrews 1:14]. Can you imagine in heaven, in our mansions [John 14:2-3], saying to Gabriel, “Gabriel, bring me my slippers?” Can you imagine saying to Michael, “Michael, prepare my golden chariot?” Can you imagine saying to Raphael, “Raphael, get me the morning paper?” That’s what God says, out of the tragedy of that awful loss, God having purposed some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40], exalting us above the angels.
The third great catastrophic tragedy in the beginning was the death, the curse of death [Genesis 3:19; Romans 5:12]. The third chapter ends: God took the tree of life [Genesis 3:24]; and the Revelation reveals to us He took it to heaven. It’s up there, growing by the river of life [Revelation 22:2]. And God put cherubim to guard it, lest the man put forth his hand and partake of the fruit of the tree of life and live forever [Genesis 3:22-24]. God purposing some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40], that is, we are not to be confirmed in this body of death forever and ever. But we are going to have a new body and a better body, a resurrected body, a transformed, immortalized body like, exactly like that of the Lord Jesus Christ [1 John 3:2].
One of the most glorious passages in the Bible, the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians speaks of the death and the new life we’ll have, the new body we’ll have, the new existence we’ll have, in Christ Jesus [1 Corinthians 15:35-58]. This body is buried in corruption and is raised in incorruption. This body is buried in dishonor; it is raised in glory. This body is buried in weakness; it is raised in power. This body is raised a natural body, a decaying body; it is raised a spiritual body, like that of our Lord [1 Corinthians 15:42-45].
I think of my sweet mother in her seventy-ninth year, and I’m in that year now. In her seventy-ninth year, my mother was stricken with a tragic stroke, cerebral hemorrhage. And for six and a half years, when I’d go see her, my heart was laden with an indescribable sadness—her body invalid, destroyed, her mind gone. Think what that would be were she confined and confirmed in that body forever. Death is our open door into a beautiful and wonderful new house, new body; God having purposed some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40].
I think of that sweet child, Joni [Eareckson Tada], testifying to us so beautifully just now. Think, were she confined and confirmed in that body forever and ever and ever! O God! What a glorious salvation and an incomparable hope, assurance, she’ll have a new body and she can raise her arms, raise her arms, praising God, and be made anew. That’s God’s grace, purpose for us [Revelation 21:3-5].
Now to the end: three tremendous events at the end of the age—God purposing some wonderful thing for us.
Number one: the Bible reveals that the nations are driving toward Armageddon [Revelation 16:13-16], toward the Middle East, toward Megiddo, Har-Megiddon, the mountain of Megiddo. The denouement of the age will be fought over there in the Middle East. And however we may turn history again and again and again, we’re brought back to the Middle East. That’s God.
And in that awesome time, the Bible calls it the terrible tribulation [Revelation 7:14], the opening of the seven seals, the blowing of the seven trumpets, and the pouring out of the bowls of wrath—the seven bowls of wrath [Revelation 6:1-16:21]. However you may think, and however you may suppose or hope, the Bible says we are facing an awesome confrontation in this world.
Do you ever think about the Nobel Prize? When Nobel invented dynamite and TNT, he said, “The explosive power is so vast, men would never use it against one another. And there will be no more war.” And he instituted the Nobel Peace Prize, having invented dynamite and TNT and, forever, there would be no more war. My sweet friends, the first time TNT and dynamite were used they were used in armed conflict to kill one another. The first time I ever heard of the atomic bomb was when it was dropped on Hiroshima, on Hiroshima. I never knew we had such a thing. It was used in war.
Don’t you ever persuade yourself that these nations are stockpiling these missiles and these hydrogen bombs and they’ll not be used someday in the confrontation that ends human history. It’s in that awesome day that Jesus comes. First: clandestinely, secretly, furtively, with unsandaled feet, coming for His own; in the beautiful passage you just read, 1 Thessalonians: “Rising to meet our Lord in the air” [1 Thessalonians 4:17], that is the rapture of God’s saints. Then in the midst of the battle of Armageddon, He comes openly and publicly. All the earth shall see Him, and they who crucified Him [Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 1:7]. Jesus, the Lord of heaven above and earth below, and we shall reign with Him forever and ever [Revelation 22:5], God having purposed some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40].
The second tremendous event at the end of the age: Satan, after the millennium—when he’s bound for a thousand years [Revelation 20:1-2]—Satan will be loosed for a season, to go out and to tempt and to deceive the nations once again [Revelation 20:7-9]. Why, Lord? You have got him bound and he’s in a pit [Revelation 20:1-2]. And we have the millennium, we have peace in the earth [Revelation 20:3-6]. Why do You unloose him? The answer’s very plain. He is unloosed to try those who have looked in faith to the Lord and have sought to follow Him. There’s no such thing as a child of God ever not being tempted and tested and tried. You will find that in your life. We find it all of us, in our lives. And these that were born during the thousand years of the millennium, they will be tested and tried. What a sorrow that most of them will deny our Lord and follow him. O God, O God! May He find us faithful in the day of our trial [Revelation 2:10-11].
Now, the last: God having provided some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40]. At the end of that awesome, awesome judgment, the final judgment, described in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation. At the end of the judgment, there shall be taken out of this world all that hurt and that offend and that destroy [Revelation 20:11-15]. And then, and then there will come down from heaven the New Jerusalem, the city of God, our eternal home [Revelation 21:1-2]. That is the purpose of God’s grace [Ephesians 2:8]. And that is the climax and culmination of the ultimate goodness of God for His people, our heavenly home [Revelation 21:3-5].
Jesus is up there now preparing that place, that topos, that place for us. That’s where He is now: in that heaven, preparing our home [John 14:2-3]. And when it’s done, when it’s complete, God will let it down to this earth, a beautiful city, the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:1-2]: streets of gold, gates of pearl [Revelation 21:21], the home of our Lord and your home and mine. Dear me!
My heav’nly home is so bright and fair,
I feel like traveling on;
No harm or death can enter there,
And I feel like traveling on.
Oh, the Lord has been so good to me.
I feel like traveling on;
Until those mansions I can see.
I feel like traveling on.
[from “I Feel Like Traveling On,” James David Vaughn]
God having provided some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40], the goodness of His grace [Ephesians 2:8]. May we pray?
Dear Lord in heaven, how could it be that such goodness and grace could ever be poured out upon us poor, dying sinners? [Ephesians 2:6-8]. But, O Lord, what a comfort to know You love us [Galatians 2:20]; You died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], You are coming again to receive us [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], and some day we will live with Thee in our new and heavenly home forever and ever [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:1-3]. O blessed be the name of the Lord, amen.
And to you who are listening on television, we invite you to open your hearts to that same precious, blessed Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-13]. He is in heaven preparing a place for you [John 14:1-3], and someday He is coming for His own [John 14:3]. If you belong to Him, we will all go up together, and we will be with our precious Savior and with the saints, and worship and praise the Lord, world without end [Revelation 22:3]. Come and join us. Be one with us, and we will exalt and rejoice in the goodness of God our Savior throughout all the endless eternity.
And to the throng in this sanctuary, as we sing in a moment our hymn of appeal, “Pastor, today I open my heart to the loving invitation of Jesus. I am following Him in life, in the grave and in the world to come.” Or a family you coming into the fellowship of our dear church, or answering a call of God in your heart, make the decision now. And in this moment when we sing, a thousand times welcome as you come, while we stand and while we sing.