The Time On God’s Clock


The Time On God’s Clock

March 31st, 1988 @ 12:00 PM

Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell 

Revelation 22:7-20

3-31-88    12:00 p.m.


The theme for this year, the seventy-second year our church has conducted these noon day services, the theme this year is the “Second Coming of Christ,” the return of our Lord from heaven: on Monday, The Glory of the Premillennial Faith; on Tuesday, Why I Became a Premillennialist; yesterday, The Signs of His Coming.  Out of many in the Bible, we chose nine, The Signs of His Coming; today, The Time on God’s Clock; and tomorrow, on Friday, Jesus Christ, the King of Forever.

Today, The Time on God’s Clock and I hope, I pray that you will listen with your mind as well as with your heart.  It is not quite the usual sermon that is presented.  The Revelation closes in the twenty-second chapter of the Apocalypse in verse 7:

Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.

[Revelation 22:7]

Verse 12—

And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me,

to give every one as according as his work shall be.

[Revelation 22:12]

And verse 20—

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely, I come quickly.  Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

[Revelation 22:20]

Three times in this climactic and closing chapter of the Apocalypse does the living, resurrected Lord announce, “I come tachu.”  Tachu, it is an adverb.  If it is an adverb, of when?  Of time.  Then thus shall we look at it.  If it is an adverb of manner, how?  Then we shall look at it: first, if it is an adverb of time, when?  “Behold, I come quickly.”  It seems He has delayed His coming.  In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, in the story of the parable of the ten bridesmaids, the ten virgins, it says, “Behold, the bridegroom tarrieth” [Matthew 25:5].  In the sixth chapter of this Apocalypse, the souls under the altar in the fifth seal cry saying, “O Lord, how long? [Revelation 6:9-10].  How long?”  The reason for the writing of I and 2 Thessalonians was this: the Lord had delayed His coming.  And these beloved members of the family had died and were buried.  And they sent word to the apostles saying, “And what of these, He has not come and they have died” [1 Thessalonians 4:13].  That’s why the reading and the writing of I and 2 Thessalonians.  The reason we are bound up and fettered in that question of the delay of the coming of our Lord is because we are creatures of time, bound in it, imprisoned in it, cannot escape it.

I was amazed at the prayer of Eugene Green.  You would have thought I had coached him in the intercession he offered before God.  The whole creation is bound up, imprisoned in time.  The animal kingdom, they mate, they hibernate, they shed their fur, they put on a new fur according to seasons and times.  The entire vegetable kingdom is bound up in time.  There is a time and a season when they bud, when they fruit, when they shed their leaves.  And we also are likewise imprisoned and bound up and fettered in time.  There is a time when we are young, like these academy children.  There are times when we are adolescent, there are times when we are mature, and there is a time when we die [Ecclesiastes 3:1-8].

But to God, there is no time.  He is timeless; He is above time.  Time is a creation of God, just as our material universe.  The ninetieth Psalm, the prayer of Moses, says, “A thousand years in Thy sight is but a watch in the night” [Psalm 90:4].  In the third chapter of 2 Peter, the apostle writes, “For a thousand years is but a day” [2 Peter 3:8].  You know what I sometimes think?  Two thousand years now, our Lord has been gone; He has been gone two days, maybe He will return on the third, tomorrow.  Time has no meaning before a timeless God; He looks at all time, He looks at all history, in the present.  It is all before Him, the beginning and the ending.

I, one time on a Labor Day, I sat in the Soldier’s Stadium in Chicago and watched an enormously long parade come in.  If you have been there, you know that the stadium is a horseshoe and one end of it is open.  And I sat there.  Alfalfa Bill Murray of Oklahoma was then running for president and the labor unions were for him, and they staged that enormous parade in behalf of his candidacy.  Being an Oklahoman, I was there and watching the parade come in: marching, one band, one group, one union after another.  Finally wearying of the watching, I climbed to the top of the stadium.  And there in that high prominence, I looked up Michigan Avenue—the great main street of Chicago—and standing in that eminence, I could see the entire parade way up Michigan Avenue as it moved down and down and down and through the horseshoe opening in Soldier Stadium.  I could see the whole thing moving together.  God is exactly like that in human history.  He sees all time and all story from the beginning to the ending.  Here I am born, here I die; here you were born, here you die.  And God sees all of it in the present.

Time, in deference and in reference to different creatures, means different things.  Here is a mile before us, and think of what it is to a snail, a mile; a mile to a snail.  Think of what it is to a stag, to a reindeer.  Think of what a mile is to a diesel locomotive.  Think of what it is to a jet.  Think of what it is: one hundred eighty-six thousand miles a second, think what it is to the light, and think what it is to the ether wave.  Time has relevance so different to different creatures.  So it is in an amazing thing, if you’ll think, time with reference to our position, our position in history, our position in the universe.  The great galaxy Andromeda is one billion light years away, Andromeda.  I stand at the nighttime and look, and what I see happened one billion years ago.  It took that long for the light to bring the providence to me.  If I’m halfway there, that same incident, that same providence has happened one-half billion years ago, five hundred million years ago.  If I am three-quarters there, the same incident has happened two hundred fifty million years ago.  And if I am there at Andromeda, that same incident that to me happened one billion years ago, happened just the moment before.

Time, so relative and so in our experience; if I am marvelously happy, caught up say, in a beautiful evening, the time passes!  But if I’m agonizingly sick, hurting—O God, when shall the morning come?  And when the morning comes—O Lord, when shall the evening come?  Time is so relative.  It has no meaning.  Thus, with the coming of our Lord; He will surely come, and the time on God’s clock has no meaning, neither to Him nor to us.  It is just that He comes.

In the second chapter of Daniel there is the head of gold in the kingdom.  There are the arms and breasts of silver in the kingdom.  And there are the thighs of brass in the kingdom.  And there are the legs of gold, there are legs of iron in the kingdom.  And there are the feet made of iron and of clay.  And in those days there is a stone cut without hands that strikes the image on the feet of the clay and iron and the kingdom has come [Daniel 2:31-35, 38-45].  Blessed is that soul that can see in temporality the  eternal; in the transitory, the timeless; in the autumn, the spring; in death, life; in the grave, resurrection; and in this present world, the new creation, the new world that is yet to come.  Tachu, an adverb of time, “when.”

One other, and we must hasten.  If it is an adverb of manner, how?  “Behold, I come” tachu.  If it is an adverb of manner, then it refers to the “how” of His coming.  “I come quickly.  I come swiftly.”  Immediately.  There is no time between the cry of the midnight hour, “the bridegroom cometh” [Matthew 25:6] and His presence.  The Bible uses so many figures, similes to represent that “quickly,” tachu, swiftly, like an eagle sweeping out of the sky to the prey [Job 9:26], like the lightning livid,  splits the bosom of the sky [Matthew 24:27].  Like the rising of the flood water, it is as in the days of Noah [Genesis 7:17-20, Matthew 24:37, Luke 17:26, 1 Peter 3:20].  Like the judgment of God upon Sodom as in the days of Lot [Genesis 19:24-25], so the coming of our Lord.

In this twenty-fifth chapter of this Gospel of Matthew, there is no time when the announcement was made that the bridegroom cometh.  There was no time to prepare.  These who have their lamps lighted are ready to greet the groom.  These who had no oil in their lamps, darkened, were left behind [Matthew 25:5-10].  O God—when He comes all of those prophecies and all of these things that are written in God’s Word will happen quickly, they’ll happen swiftly.  The fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians says, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump” [1 Corinthians 15:52].  Think of how quickly, “in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye.”

What is true watchfulness?  He closes that parable, “Watch therefore, for you know not the day nor the hour when the Son of Man cometh [Matthew 25:13].  What is true watchfulness?  Is it that in anxious tension, I am waiting?  Is it in fervent and feverish anxiety that I watch and peer into the darkness of the night?  Is that the true watchfulness?  Not at all.  It says here in the fifth verse that all ten of those bridesmaids, all of them slumbered and slept [Matthew 25:5].  What is true watchfulness?  Sweet people, verily, verily, it is a set of the soul.  It is a readiness.  Wherever I am, whatever task to which, I have given heart and hand.  I am ready any day, any time, any hour.  And in the meantime, busy in the work of our Lord.

In my bedroom on the right, there on the wall, is a beautiful painting.  A nineteenth century English figure painting by an academy artist.  There is a cottage by the sea.  The infinite expanse of the water beyond.  There’s a door open from the cottage toward the sea.  There is a mother there and two darling children.  There is a ship that has come in; and up from the ship is the fisherman with his nets and his gear.  And he is come, come home, and the children are there like this: eagerly, loving and waiting and welcoming their fisherman father.  And the wife with inexpressible joy.  What is watching?  “Watch therefore, you know not the day nor the hour” [Matthew 25:13].  What is true watchfulness?  Is it that the mother sits there day after day, peering in anxious tension and concern over the expanse of the water?  Or is it she’s busy about the house?  She’s busy with the children, and she is waiting in love and readiness for the fisherman, her husband, when he comes from the depths and the expanse of the sea.  That’s true watchfulness, “I’m ready.”

May I take time to speak of that in one other simile?  The reason it’s so deeply impressed upon my heart, for the first several years of my pastoral life, I lived with cotton farmers.  I was single and I literally lived with those dear, wonderful, saintly people raising cotton.  And listen to the hymn:

There’s a King and Captain high, who’ll be coming by and by;

And He’ll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.

You will hear His legions charging in the thunders of the sky;

And He’ll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.

When He comes!

When He comes!

All the dead shall rise and answer to His drums,

While the fires of His encampment star the firmament on high;

And the heavens are rolled asunder when He comes.

There’s a man they thrust aside

Who was tortured until He died,

And He’ll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.

He was hated and rejected; He was scourged and crucified,

And He’ll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.

When He comes!

When He comes!

He’ll be ringed with saints and angels when He comes.

They’ll be shouting out hosannas to the Man that men denied;

And I’ll kneel among my cotton, when He comes.

When He comes,

When He comes.

[“When He Comes,” Bertrand Shadwell, 1910]

Could we change that last expectant word?

When He comes, when He comes,

He’ll find me at my task when He comes.

When He comes, when He comes,

He’ll find me mending the door,

He’ll find me minding the store,

When He comes!

He’ll find me teaching school when He comes.

He’ll find me preaching the gospel when He comes.

We’re ready, and that is our true watchfulness.  At our tasks, at our assignments, “Ready, Lord, any day, any time; Even so, Lord Jesus, come” [Revelation 22:20].  May we stand together?