The Triumph of Christ Over the World
April 12th, 1990 @ 12:00 PM
THE TRIUMPH OF CHRIST OVER THE WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15
4-12-90 12:00 p.m.
We have conducted these noonday services, and this is the forty-sixth year that I have presided over them. The theme this year is: The Triumph of Christ. On Monday: Over Satan; Tuesday: Over Sin And Hell; yesterday: Over Death; tomorrow: The Triumph of Christ from The Cross; and today: The Triumph of Christ Over The World. And I pray that you will listen today not only with your heart but also with your mind.
The fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians begins:
Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached,which you received,
Wherein you are saved,
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I received: how that Christ died for our sins according to Scriptures,
He was buried, and the third day He rose again – for our justification
[1 Corinthians 15:1-4]
Then the rest of the long chapter concerns the ultimate coming of our Lord and the resurrections from among the dead.
The return of Christ to be king and ruler over all of God’s creation is first of all secretly, clandestinely, furtively wrought in our midst. He is coming, He says, as a thief in the night [Matthew 24:42-44; Luke 12:39-40; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3, 16:15] – without announcement, at any moment, even while I’m speaking, while you eat lunch, before you go to bed tonight. Any day, any time, our Lord says, He may come. "Two will be grinding in a mill: one will be taken and the other left. Two will be working in a field: one will be taken and the other left" [Matthew 24:41, 40]. "Two will be sleeping in a bed: one will be taken and the other left" [Luke 17:34].
Suddenly, without announcement, our Lord secretly comes in rapture [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17] to take away His pearl of price [Matthew 13:46], His treasure hid in a field [Matthew 13:44]. The outline of that coming of our Lord secretly is in this fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. Paul speaks of it as a tagma. Tagma translated here "an order" [1 Corinthians 15:23]. The word refers to troops as they pass by – a company, a battalion, an order. There is an order that will be followed when our Lord comes secretly to rapture His own.
Paul delineates it here as "Christ the firstfruits": He was the first one to be raised from the dead. Then, "afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming" [1 Corinthians 15:23]: the rapture of the saints. Then the end ones: the gatherings at the end of the tribulation when He comes to reign over all the earth. So in a beautiful passage in 1 Thessalonians, he describes that order:
We say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep – which have fallen in the grave.
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.
[1 Thessalonians 4:15-17]
There is an order in our rapture: first, Paul says, there will be those who are raised from the dead:
Behold, I show you a mystery: We may not all sleep, but we will all be changed–
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpets shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.
[1 Corinthians 15:51-52]
These that are buried will be the first ones to see our Lord, to meet our Lord. Then we who are alive, at the coming of our Savior, will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. I one time read where [Charles Haddon] Spurgeon said:
If I had a choice between being raptured and falling asleep and being buried, I’d rather fall asleep and be buried. My Lord died, He was buried, and He was raised from the dead. I would love to be in the way of our Lord. I’d like to die as He died, be buried, and be resurrected from the dead as He was.
[likely paraphrased from "Death – A Sleep," sermon by C. H. Spurgeon, pub. January 1908]
So when our Lord comes secretly, clandestinely, furtively, He will first call from the depths of the earth these who have fallen asleep in Jesus [1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16]. Isn’t that a beautiful way to refer to death? They have "fallen asleep in the Lord" [1 Corinthians 15:6, 18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14]. They’ll be the first to be raised from the grave. "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up with them to meet our Lord in the air" [1 Thessalonians 4:17]; and in that great rendezvous, we find the end of the Gentile age. We find the end of the church age, and our Lord will take His saints, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, into heaven. And for the tribulation period [Revelation 7:14], for seven years, we shall be up there with our Savior doing two things. One: we shall receive the reward of our works. There’ll be a judgment for all of the children of God [2 Corinthians 5:10; Colossians 3:23-25]. And second: we shall sit down with our Savior at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:7-9].
Now, in that period, second – in that period of time when we are with our Lord in heaven, the seven years of our being in the presence of our wonderful Savior in glory. In that period of time, there is what is called the Great Tribulation down here in the earth. In that seven-year period described in the Apocalypse, from chapter 4 to chapter 19, in that seven year period [Revelation 4 – 19], the clock begins again for Israel. The Lord once again turns His love and grace toward His people.
Paul writes, "I would not have you, brethren, ignorant of this mustērion," a secret that He kept in His heart until He revealed it to His apostles, "how that blindness in part is happened to Israel," until the plērōma, "until the full purpose of God for the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved" [Romans 11:25-26].
There will come a time, when we are raptured and with our Lord in heaven, when the Lord will deal with His people Israel. Daniel describes that in the ninth chapter of his prophecy and refers to it as the seventieth week [Daniel 9:24-27]. There are sixty-nine weeks in secular ecclesiastical history. Then there is one week that is set apart, broken apart, and that final and climactic week concerns Israel [Daniel 9:27]. First of all, Israel will be back in their holy land. I think we are coming to the times that close the history of this world because of several things one of which Israel is going back home.
I was in Israel as you know – about oh, two months ago, three; something like that. And while I was there, the nation was getting ready for 300,000 immigrants from Russia alone. In my lifetime and if you are of any age at all, in your lifetime you have seen Israel become a nation. After 1,900 years of being destroyed, God said: "Israel will be coming back home. They’ll rebuild their temple; they’ll rebuild their altar. Israel will be returning to the holy land" [Jeremiah 16:15, 23:3;; Amos 9:1]. They are already going back.
Now, in that period of time called the Great Tribulation, there is war in heaven: Michael and his angels fighting against the devil and his angels [Revelation 12:7-8]. And Satan, the devil, is cast out [Revelation 12:9-10], and he comes down into the world having great wrath [Revelation 12:12]; and he incarnates himself in what the Revelation calls the beast, the great final ruler of evil and darkness in this earth, and in the false prophet [Revelation 13:1-18].
And at that time, the first three and a half years, that beast makes a covenant with Israel, but in the midst of the seven years – after three and a half years – he breaks that covenant [Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:1-6, 14-15]. And there is what is called in the Bible: he thlipsis, he megalē "the tribulation, the great" [Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14]. There is a vast persecution against the people of God [Matthew 24:15-28; Revelation 6:9-11, 13:7]. And one of the strangest things that the Bible reveals is in the seventh chapter of the Apocalypse. In that time, there are 144,000 Jewish evangelists – converts to the faith of Christ – who are going to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth [Revelation 7:2-8], and there are uncounted multitudes who are won to the Lord even in that great and indescribable persecution [Revelation 7:9-17].
It ends, as you know, in the battle of Armageddon – the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation – when Jesus comes with His saints [Revelation 16:13-16, 19:11-19]. Now we speak of what the Bible refers to as the Second Coming of Christ when the Lord returns from heaven with His people in the midst of the battle of Armageddon. When our Lord returns from heaven, first the Gentiles – all the Gentile nations – will be gathered together in the valley of Jehoshaphat; and there they will be judged [Joel 3:1-17]. The twenty-fifth chapter of the gospel of Matthew describes that judgment:
Inasmuch as you’ve done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you’ve done it unto Me,
I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me,I was hungry, and you fed Me.
[from Matthew 25:31-45]
If we have been kind in that Tribulation – the Gentile nations – if we’ve been kind to His people, God will be kind to us.
The other is Israel’s response to their coming King. In the Book of Zechariah is described their response: "They look upon Him whom they have pierced . . . And there’ll be a great mourning . . . as there was in Hadad Rimmon" [Zechariah 12:10, 11] upon the death of King Josiah [2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:24]. And Israel will accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior, and their Lord, and their King. And, as the Bible says: "A nation will be born in a day" [Isaiah 66:8]. What a wonderful promise from God that the Jewish nation will someday accept Jesus as their Savior, and they will worship Him as their Lord and King.
That era ends in a great tragedy, and a great promise, and a great, marvelous millennium. Our Lord seizes the beast and the false prophet, and He casts them into the lake of fire into hell; and our Lord seizes Satan and casts him into the abyss; then follows the glorious millennium [Revelation 20:1-3]. For a thousand years, Satan is bound; and there will be peace, and joy, and happiness, and gladness in this earth – the glorious millennium [Revelation 20:4-6].
Now, we come to the denouement of the age, the consummation of all time and history – the unfolding of final things. At the end of the millennium, at the end of the thousand years, Satan is loosed for a season [Revelation 20:7], and he goes out to deceive the people and the nations of the world [Revelation 20:8]. Why should he be released? The answer is very obvious. In that thousand year period of the millennium, there are many, many, many, many uncounted thousands who are born, and every man who ever lives has to be tried. And, if he’s saved, he must accept Jesus as his wonderful Forgiver of sins [Acts 4:10-12]. Nobody ever enters heaven who is not tried. You, me, I, they – all of us are tried; and no one enters heaven who is not consciously accepting Jesus overtly, publicly, as his Savior. And Satan is released in order that he might try these that have been born in the millennium. And of course, those that repent and accept the Lord are saved, and those who refuse His overtures of grace are lost. So Satan goes out into this world once again after the millennium, and he deceives the nations of the world [Revelation 20:8].
That is the most amazing thing how Satan can find dupes among the people of this earth. How about you? Doesn’t he lure you and deceive you? And don’t we, sometimes, choose Satan above what is holy, and right, and precious, and godly in the sight of the Lord? That’s what he’ll do. He goes out into this world after the millennium, and he deceives the nations of the world.
And then comes that final and ultimate confrontation between the devil and our Lord – between Satan and Jesus [Revelation 20:10] – and the Lord Jesus seizes Satan and thrusts him, casts him, into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet are. And there they are in hell forever, and ever, and forever.
And at that time is the resurrection of those who have refused God’s love and grace, and they are tried before what the Bible calls the great white throne [Revelation 20:11-13]. And those who have refused to receive the love of the Lord Jesus are cast into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet and Satan are [Revelation 10:14-15]; there to be tormented forever and forever. Oh, what a tragedy, an unspeakable tragedy, to die lost, without hope, without grace, without the forgiveness of sins. Just to face an eternity in damnation – Oh, God, save our poor souls! That is the cleansing of the universe: there is no more Satan; there’s no more false prophet; there’s no more beast; there’s no more sin. The whole creation has been purged by fire.
And at the glorious consummation, down from God’s heaven comes the New Jerusalem, the city of God. There is a new heaven and a new earth: a new creation purged of all darkness and sin [Revelation 21:1-22:7]. And down from God’s heaven comes this beautiful city of the Lord, and that is our home. "I go to prepare a place for you," says Jesus, "That ye may be where I am" [John 14:3]. A mansion in the sky: and in that city, in that beautiful city, we have our eternal home, a mansion. Whatever kind of a beautiful house you may live in here in this earth, it is nothing comparable to the glorious home Jesus is preparing for us in heaven. That is our home; that is our address forever and ever in the beautiful city of God.
And in my humble opinion, we’ll be – from that house, from that home, from that mansion in the capital city, we’ll be rulers of the whole universe. "These who have been faithful, may be ruler over ten cities," as Jesus says [Luke 19:17]. "These who have been faithful – over five cities," Jesus says [Luke 19:19].
The whole universe will be recreated, and I think we’ll be able to go from place to place just as in my mind I can go from place to place in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. I can be, in this moment, in my mind, in memory, I can be in Rio de Janeiro. In my mind and memory, I can be now in Hong Kong. In my mind and memory, I can now be in Istanbul. I think we can move in God’s universe in our spiritual bodies. I think we can move like that [Luke 24:31; Acts 8:39].
And we shall inherit the whole creation of God [Matthew 5:5, 25:34; Revelation 21:7]. The Lord made it for us, and the Lord intends it for us. And some glorious and final and triumphant day, God is going to give it to us. He and we, the servants of Christ, and He, our King, rejoicing in one another forever and forever.
Oh, what a glorious prospect! What a marvelous promise! What an incomparably precious life. Right now, we’re waiting for the Lord; serving, praying, waiting for that day when He comes for His own.
It may be at noonday, it may be at twilight,
It may be, perchance, that the blackness of midnight
Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory
When Jesus comes for "His own."
Oh, joy! Oh, delight! should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying.
Caught up with our Lord and His people into glory,
When Jesus comes for "His own."
O, Lord Jesus, how long, how long
Ere we shout the glad song?
Christ returneth! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah. Amen!
["Christ Returneth," by H.L. Turner, 1878]
This is the gospel of the triumph of our Lord.
Our Savior, in that faith, may we never be discouraged. In the hands of our able and capable and omnipotent Lord are all the issues and destinies of life, and we are in His love and grace. Blessed Lord! And may we live in triumph and glory in the precious love and grace of our Lord Jesus. Amen.