The Cross and the Crown
February 26th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-26-89 10:50 a.m.
This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I am the pastor bringing the message entitled The Cross And The Crown. In our preaching through the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, we are in chapter 19. We are speaking of the passion and glory of our Savior. Reading from John 19:17-22:
And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the Place of a Skull, called in the Hebrew, Golgotha:
Where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, on either side one, Jesus in the midst.
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
This title then read many the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am theKking of the Jews.
Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
In some form, in one form or another, the cross in every age, universally has been a symbol in the life of the human race. It is found in tombs, and in caves, and dens, and on coins, and in jewelry. It is a sign of contradiction; its very shape brings to mind conflict and confrontation. At the basis of human life there is suffering, and sacrifice, and hurt, and sorrow. And yet, Jesus took that symbol of agony, and contradiction, and hurt, and suffering, and made it a symbol of triumph and of glory. Even Paul could write in Galatians, chapter 6, "God forbid that I should boast, that I should glory, that I should exalt in anything, except the cross of Jesus Christ" [Galatians 6:14].
The same race of humanity, from the beginning, in every age and universally, has been conscious of the weight and burden of sin. As Job cried, "I have sinned; what shall I do?" [Job 7:20] And the answer in every age and universally has been the same. The answer has been written in blood, in sacrifice, and in death.
The angels of heaven looked down from God’s sky, and while the Almighty lighted the stars in thick darkness of the universe, they looked down upon this weary world and saw an answer for the impenetrable mystery of the shedding of blood. Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; it’s pouring out never ceased. The Lord God in heaven continued that offering and that sacrifice of the crimson tide.
Finally, there was ordained men whose purpose was just to pour out blood before God. The Aaronic priesthood and the Levites stood before the altars of the Almighty making sacrifice and atonement for sin [Leviticus 17:11]. The number of sacrifices offered by David in one day numbered thousands, and by Solomon they numbered the tens of thousands. Hezekiah offered before God in those sacrifices, rivers of oil. And Hezekiah raised clouds of incense and intercession before God. And after the captivity those sacrifices continued. Blood poured out in expiation and atonement for the sins of the people.
Then, according to the Word of God, He came, the Prince of heaven, the God of glory; and He came, the antitype that all of those sacrifices prefigured [Hebrews 9:19-28]. He came and put a stop to all of the lines of priests and to all of the sacrifices of the world. He Himself was the High Priest, clad not in a linen ephod but in His own flesh [Hebrews 8:1]. He Himself was the sacrifice [Hebrews 9:28], not a ram or a bullock. He bore the altar of the cross, not made out of hewn stones. And He offered His own blood within the veil of heaven, not within a veil made with hands. He, God’s Son, was the sacrifice of God for our souls [Hebrews 10:5-14].
According to Scripture He was born into this world poor, "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" [Isaiah 53:3]. He was handed over to those who hated Him. He was robed in mockery and He was disrobed in shame. They crowned Him with thorns. They spit upon Him and buffeted Him. They tied Him to a pole and beat Him with Roman rods [Matthew 27:26-35]. The hands of fierce men nailed Him to a tree. God Himself turned His face away, and the sun refused to look upon it [Matthew 27:45-46]; and He died for the sin of the world [Matthew 27:47-50, 1 Corinthians 15:3, 1 John 2:2].
You have there a picture of the reality of iniquity and transgression and wrong and sin. Sin not only would destroy man, but it would murder God Himself. Where would you find the blackest picture of sin? Would you find it in broken homes and hearts and hopes? Where would you find the picture of the blackest sin? Would you find it in the pain-rent bodies of those stricken with venereal disease? Where is the blackest picture of sin? Would you find it in a brothel where chastity and virtue are forever destroyed? Would you find it in the marketplace where gold is god and men sell their souls for silver? Would you find it in the underworld where human life is no more sacred than that of a mongrel dog? No! The blackest picture of sin is seen in the day of the cross when Satan and sin crucified the Son of God [Matthew 27:32-50].
And yet, in the providences of the love and compassionate mercy of God, that is God’s greatest demonstration of the outpouring of His love for us. When sin did its worst, God did His best. There met the climax of all history: the love of God and the sin of Satan in mortal combat. And love won, delivered us in victory from the death and the judgment and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. And there we find the full faithfulness of our Lord.
All of those Old Testament saints were in heaven on credit, looking forward to the day when Christ would pay the penalty for their sins [Romans 5:20-21]. They were there on promise. Do you remember reading in the Scriptures the transfiguration of our Lord on the mount? And there appeared to Him Moses and Elijah talking with Him? Talking with Him about what? About His death [Luke 9:30-31]. And I can well think that Moses representing the law, and Elijah representing the prophets, and both of them representing the saints of the Old Testament, I can well think of their speaking to the Lord Jesus, and saying:
Lord Jesus, the reason we are in heaven is because of Your promise to pay the penalty and the debt for our sins. And if You don’t die for us and if You don’t pay that penalty, we will be thrust out of the presence of God and suffer for our sins forever and ever and ever. Lord Jesus, we are depending upon You, our life in heaven is a gift from You.
Dear me! What if He had failed? The very stones of the city would have been unloosed! The very city itself would have fallen. Heaven would have been disintegrated and destroyed. The atoning death of our Lord opened the door for them. He led captivity captive and set the prisoners free. [Ephesians 4:12], and what He did for those Old Testament saints He has done for us; He has died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3].
Then a wonderful thing. The apostle Paul described it in the second chapter of Philippians, verses  to 11, like this:
He, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped, to be equal with God:
But poured Himself out, made Himself of no reputation, and was formed in the likeness of a slave
And being in form like a slave He became obedient unto the death, even the death of the cross.
Then wherefore God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:
That at the name of the Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
And that every tongue should confess that He is Christ, Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The crown, the crown; He returned to heaven with the trophies of His grace and love. And Satan and sin were tied to His chariot wheels. The dramatic presentation of that in Revelation 19:
I saw heaven opened, a white horse; He that sat upon him, Faithful and True,
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns;
Clothed with a vesture dipped in blood,
And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
There He is on His throne in heaven, having conquered sin and having conquered Satan and having conquered death and having conquered the grave and now He is the Lord of life and the King of His saints.
O God, what a victory! When Satan fought with the angels of God in heaven, one-third of them were destroyed, cast down [Revelation 12:3-4]. When Satan confronted our first parents, Adam and Eve, they fell ingloriously and died [Genesis 3:1-6]. Satan since has confronted the whole human race! And this entire planet is nothing other than a place in which to bury our dead. It is one vast, illimitable cemetery. But when Satan confronted the Master, Jesus our Lord, it was like doing battle with lightning. It was like seeking to hold thunderbolts in His hand. It was like rebuking the billows and tides of the sea. It was like encompassing the storms and the winds of creation. He failed and was defeated, ignominiously and ingloriously. And the triumph was in the hands of our Lord and our Savior [Colossians 2:15].
Satan held the keys of life, and of death, and of the grave until He met Christ. And now according to the first chapter of the Revelation, the keys are at the girdle of our Savior. Do you remember the glorious passage? "I am the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega. I am He that was dead and is alive for evermore. And I, I have the keys of Death and of Hell." [Revelation 1:17-18] He is triumphant and victorious. And that victory of our Lord was complete, eternal forever. Tetelestai, tetelestai, He cried, "It is finished" [John 19:30], tetelestai. In the Greek version of the Bible that tetelestai is used three times. One: at the creation of the world [Genesis 1:1-31]. Tetelestai, it is done; it is complete. There are no more creative acts of God, everything that is, is forever, "it is finished." The second time it is used is at the end of the creation [Genesis 2:1]. In the Revelation 21:6, tetelestai, "It is done." The purpose of God in all life and living is finished. And the third time it is used is here, in the center of the Bible, when Christ bowed his head and cried, "It is finished" [John 19:30], tetelestai.
When Joshua, the Book of Joshua closes, it says, "And there was much land to be conquered" [Joshua 13:1], unfinished. When David sought to build the temple, as he began, he died [1 Chronicles 29:28]. It is unfinished. You remember when Raphael died? Young – he was painting the transfiguration. In the funeral procession of Raphael through the streets of Rome, there were two men who carried in front of his casket that unfinished painting, the transfiguration. Franz Schubert died so young, and left the unfinished symphony. Rudyard Kipling died penning a story, leaving us in everlasting suspense.
Not the work of our Lord: tetelestai, it is finished, "complete." Satan is overcome; death is conquered and we are delivered [Revelation 20:10-21]. And on His head are many crowns. I think of that in the life our Lord, "On His head many crowns" [Revelation 19:12]. I think of the head of our Savior when as an infant, He lay on the bosom of His peasant mother. His head: I think of Him as He bowed His head in obedience in the carpenter’s shop. I think of Him, His head a reservoir of tears; "Jesus wept" [John 11:35]. I think of Him in Gethsemane when His sweat was, as it were, drops of blood falling to the ground [Luke 22:44]. I think of His head spit upon [Matthew 27:30], and they tore out His beard [Isaiah 50:6].. I think of His head crowned with thorns [Matthew 27:29], bowing in death [John 19:30], and laid in the grave [John 19:38-41]..
And now, star-studded diadems crowned the head of our Lord [Revelation 19:12]. He wears the crown of grace. From beneath His throne streams of mercy flow out to the people. He wears the crown of praise. Forever, day and night, world without end, the cherubim and the seraphim and the saints of God magnify His majesty. And He wears the crown of glory. These saints and these angels are bright because they reflect His glorious radiance; He is the light of the city of God [Revelation 21:23]. The crowns of our Lord. And above all, and most of all, may I read from God’s holy revelation, what to me is one of the most dramatic revelations that mind could imagine? And we’re going to be there one day. Says here in the Revelation, chapter 4, "Round about His throne are the four and twenty elders clothed in white; and they had on their heads crowns of gold" [Revelation 4:4]. The twenty-four elders, twelve representing the saints of the Old Testament and twelve representing the saints of the New Testament; "The four and twenty elders, and on their heads crowns of gold." Now the tenth verse:
And the four and twenty elders fall down,and worship Him that liveth forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Thou art worthy, O God Lord, to receive honor and glory and power.
They cast their crowns at the feet of our blessed Savior. In that dramatic moment the patriarchs and the prophets of the Old Testament come before our Lord and cast their crowns at His blessed feet. And the apostles and preachers and saints of the New Testament come before our Lord and cast their crowns at His feet, saying, "Not unto us but unto Thee be the glory forever and ever."
And I think of the great sufferers of God’s sainted children, Job and these martyrs from the rack and from the stake and from the fire and from the gibbet and from the dungeon, casting their crowns at His precious feet. "It was by Thy love, and Thy blood, and Thy grace that we overcame" [Revelation 12:11]. And I can think of the soulwinners, these who named the name of Christ, coming and casting their crowns at the feet of our Lord. "We are not the Savior, Thou art. We are just but emissaries and witnesses. The crown is Thine, O God, O Christ the Lord."
And I can see a throng coming without number, cherubic spirits. And I see them come before our Lord on that glorious day. And I say, "Who are these resplendent in white radiant glory? Who are these?" And one of their leaders reply, "These are the babies; these are the infants; these are the children who fled to heaven from their mother’s breasts. And they are in glory because of His blood that cleansed from original sin" [1 John 1:7]. And they come, this vast multitude from every nation and tribe and family under the sun, and cast their crowns at His dear feet. "You saved us and washed us from original sin in Thine own blood, and opened the doors of heaven for us" [Revelation 1:5-6].
And I see another throng, an innumerable company. And as I look upon them they are the opposite from those children. These are the old, gray-headed reverential sires of our race. For all the years of their life, they fought trial, and trouble, and turmoil, and sorrow; and in their age, they come before our Lord and lay down their crowns at the feet of Jesus. "It was in Thy strength and in Thy love and compassionate care that we overcame."
And I can see the archenemies of God who were marvelously and gloriously saved, like Saul of Tarsus [Acts 9:1-18], like Rahab the harlot [Joshua 6:22-25, Hebrews 11:21], like penitent Peter [Luke 22:62], bowing at the feet of our Lord and laying their crowns before Him.
And last of all, I see you who have found refuge and hope in Jesus Christ our Savior. I see you and I want to be in your number, coming in that great and climactic day, laying our crowns at the feet of our Savior. Oh, how wonderful to be able to sing the song of praise and exaltation:
Let every kindred and every tribe,
On this terrestrial globe,
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him, crown Him Lord of all!
["All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!" by Edward Perronet]
Let me summarize, if I may take a moment, this last word: no cross, no crown. If I seek and hope for a crown in heaven, first, the cross:
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sail through bloody seas?
["Am I a Soldier of the Cross?" by Isaac Watts]
When James and John came to our Lord and said, "Lord, grant that one of us be on Your right hand in Your kingdom, and the other on Your left." The Lord said, "Can You be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? And can You drink the cup that I drink?" [Mark 10:37-38] First the cross and then the crown. There is no baby born in this world without first its travail and pain and tears: the cross then the crown.
That thief dying with our Lord, sēmeron, "This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise." [Luke 23:43] But first he experienced that terrible breaking of his bones, that second death, the cross and the crown. And heaven is described as a place where "God shall wipe away all of our tears; there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be anymore pain" [Revelation 21:4]. What would that be if I’d never cried? What would that be if I’d never died? What would that be if I’d never suffered? What would that be if I’d never experienced hurt and disappointment in this world? First, the cross and then the crown.
Did you ever read this?
Life is a burden, bear it;
Life is a duty, dare it;
Life is a thorn crown, wear it,
Though it break your heart in twain;
Though the burden crush you down;
Close your lips, and hide your pain,
First the Cross, and then the Crown.
["A Thought," by Abram J. Ryan]
God having purposed some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40]; and this is our appeal to you who have shared with us this message from God’s Word on television. How easy it is but how so determinating it is to find refuge in Christ, to open your heart to Him, and to take Him as your Lord and Savior. All of us realize the judgment of sin is upon us. We face inevitable death [Romans 6:23]. As I face the judgment of God, Lord what shall I do? That’s why Christ came into his world, that He might pay the penalty of our sin [Hebrews 10:4-14] that we might find eternal life and heaven in Him [John 10:27-29]. Sweet people who have listened, call us. One of our counselors will answer the phone and tell you how to be saved. Call us. The number is on the screen and the answer is in their hearts. God bless you as you seek the face of our Lord, and someday I’ll see you in heaven.
And to the great throng in the sanctuary of God, a family you coming into the fellowship of the church; or a couple you giving your life to the Lord Jesus; or one somebody you, taking the Lord as your Savior, on the first note of the first stanza, come. May angels attend you in the way and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The cross
A. Universally has been a symbol in the life of human race
1. A sign of contradiction
2. Jesus made it a symbol of triumph, glory (Galatians 6:14)
B. Universal consciousness of the weight, burden of sin (Job 7:20)
1. Answer has always been blood, sacrifice
2. Offering of sacrifices increases; Aaronic priesthood ordained
C. The Prince of heaven – the antitype all the sacrifices prefigured
1. Closes the line of priests; stops blood sacrifices forever
2. The Son of God Himself the sacrifice
a. Despised, rejected; handed over to those who hated Him (Isaiah 53:3)
D. This is sin at its worst
E. The unfathomable compassion and love of God (Ephesians 4:2, Philippians 2:6-11)
II. The crown
A. The mighty victor, returning home with His trophy (Revelation 19:11-16)
1. Satan a mighty foe, confronting whole human race
2. Christ now holds keys of death and the grave (Revelation 22:13, 1:18)
3. The victory complete (Genesis 2:1, John 19:30, Revelation 21:5-6)
B. The crowned head of Christ
C. Casting our crowns at His feet (Revelation 4:4, 10-11)
1. Companies of souls