The Second Coming of Christ
September 1st, 1991 @ 10:50 AM
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-1-91 10:50 a.m.
You a part of our precious and God-blessed First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message on the second coming of our reigning Lord. It is an exposition of the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Mark.
In our preaching through the Book of Mark, last Sunday we concluded with the beautiful presentation of this widow and her two mites offering in the sanctuary in Jerusalem. And today, we speak from the entire thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark. It is sometimes called the "second apocalypse," the first little apocalypse being in Matthew 24, and now this second one in the thirteenth of Mark.
There came a father and mother to me here in our dear church, and said, "Would you talk to our daughter and our son-in-law? They refuse to have children. They refuse to have a family. And they base it upon the Word of God, upon Scripture. And could we bring the couple to you and you talk to them?"
So I was delighted to welcome them, and that gives me opportunity to make a like appeal to you, to listen this morning with your mind and understanding as well as with your heart. So they brought this daughter and son-in-law to me, who refused to have a family. And I asked them, "Why is it that you say you base your refusal to have a child on Holy Scripture?"
And they read to me the seventeenth verse of this thirteenth chapter of Mark: "Woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!" [Mark 13:17]. And they said, "We believe that the coming of our Lord is imminent, and we don’t want to be with child when that return of our Lord comes to pass. So we do not think or plan in having children."
Now our Lord said in this chapter, in verse 14, "Let him that readeth understand" [Mark 13:14]. And it is prayer and a intercession that pleases Him, to ask that God bless our minds and our understanding, as well as the love of our hearts. Well, what I said to the young couple was, "You do not understand. Our Lord was speaking here of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and He was using that as a type and a background of the great tribulation that ends the age. And you don’t live in this destruction of Jerusalem, 70 AD, and you certainly are not in the great tribulation."
Well, how do you know that our Lord was speaking thus? He plainly avows so.
As they went out of the temple, the disciples said: Master, look at these great buildings.
Jesus answering said unto them: You look at these great buildings. There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be cast down.
And as He sat on the Mount of Olives, they came and said,
Tell us what these things be. And what shall be the sign when all that You have said shall be fulfilled?
Then follows this apocalypse in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Mark describing the second coming of our Lord against the background of the destruction of Jerusalem. That terrible, indescribably bloody, awesome judgment of God upon the holy city in 70 AD was beyond anything that you could think for. Jerusalem was the capital of God’s kingdom in the visible earth. And that time of the year was Passover, and there were something like three million Jews that crowded into that great sanctuary. The temple itself was impressive beyond compare. If you stood on the Kidron side of the temple, it was five hundred twenty-five feet, that great wall.
Do you remember in the second temptation, Satan took our Lord and sat Him on the top of that temple wall, and asked Him to cast Himself down? [Matthew 4:5-7]. And the miraculous preservation of His life would certainly be an impressive thing on the people, so Satan said to the Lord Jesus. That was the temple. It was surrounded by a gorgeous colonnade called the Solomonic Porch. And the top of the temple was covered with golden spikes that shined in the sun. It was a phenomenal building and structure.
What happened was, in 66 AD, the Jews of Galilee revolted against Roman rule. And Vespasian, the head of the Roman army, with a great army, was sent to Galilee to suppress the revolt. While Vespasian was in that suppression in Galilee, the emperor of the Roman Empire was slain. And they called Vespasian back to Rome to assume the leadership of the empire. They crowned him as emperor. And Vespasian sent his son Titus to conclude the suppression of the revolt. Titus did so.
The head of the revolting army of Jews in Galilee was Josephus, the great historian. And they captured Josephus and kept him a captive during the siege. And what you have in the Antiquities, the volume written by Josephus, is a bird’s eye view, a personal view of every little detail that happened.
So the Roman army after it had conquered Galilee came down through Palestine and besieged Jerusalem. And the siege lasted one hundred thirty-four days. The city, I say, filled with hundreds of thousands of people, of Jews from the ends of the earth. The city was surrounded by three great walls. And in the course of the siege, those that died on the inside of the city, those dead corpses, were thrown over the wall, out into the midst of the Roman army.
And the savagery of the Roman soldiers, because of the length of that siege, when they finally broke into the city, knew no bounds. Titus had given command that the temple was to be spared. But the Roman soldiers, infuriated, when they entered into the city, not only slew the vast population, but they burned the temple and destroyed it. This was in 70 AD. And the Lord uses that prophecy – He is speaking here in 33 AD. The Lord is using that prophecy of the destruction of the city to outline the consummation of the age. And the first thing we notice, of course, is that the age does not end in peace and in quiet, but it ends in thunder, and in war, and in bloodshed.
The whole world confirms that apocalyptic prophecy of our Savior. There is a response of unregenerate mankind to the days in which humanity lives that is inexpressibly terrible. For example, this thing that it is happening over there in Russia, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, every day they broadcast another republic has disassociated itself from the union, has declared its freedom. You know, you look at that and you think, "Well, well." But you look at it another way. Some of those republics are solidly Muslim. They are one hundred percent Islamic. They are Mohammedans. And what that means for the Middle East, and what that means for Israel, God only knows.
The whole world everlastingly is involved in some kind of terrible confrontation. In my lifetime, I’ve lived through the First World War. I’ve lived through the Second World War, through the war in Korea, through the war in Vietnam, listening to the broadcasts of the wars in Yugoslavia, in South Africa, in Ceylon, in India, in Indonesia, these going on right now in Central America. And the Lord says that leads to the consummation of the age; all beside our unregenerate nature, all beside the war of Satan against God.
Now, in these tragic days that are presented here in the apocalypse, in those tragic days, God always takes care of His own, always. In the day of the destruction of Jerusalem, in 70 AD, when that great conflict broke out in 66 in Galilee, that’s when John, the sainted apostle, went to Ephesus and began to prophesy and to write his Gospel and his letters and the Apocalypse, the Revelation, in Ephesus. That’s when he left. So all of the Christians of Palestine left. And when the siege of Jerusalem was in progress, not a Christian lost his life, not one. They listened to the word of the prophets, of the Holy Spirit and they all fled to Pella on the other side of the Jordan River. Not a Christian was slain in that awful conflict.
And that’s the story of the Lord God through the ages. God always prepares and takes care of His own. Was it not true in the days of Noah? Before the rain could fall, and before the floods could rise, Noah, righteous, and his family had to be safely placed in the ark. No destruction could come until Noah was safely under God’s hand, under God’s care [Genesis 7:1, 7-16].
Same thing in the story here in the Bible about Sodom. God sent the angel to destroy Sodom [Genesis 19:12-13]. But the angel said to Lot, righteous Lot, Lot and his family, "I can do nothing until ye become thither" [Genesis 19:22]. God’s fire couldn’t fall even as long as one family was in Sodom. And the flood could not rise as long as one righteous family was in the earth [Genesis 7:1, 15-16]. God always takes care of His own. And that is what happens, according to the Word of the Lord, regarding the second coming of Christ. It begins first with the translation of the church; God’s people are taken out [1 Thessalonians 5:4-5]. They are raptured up to heaven then follows those terrible years of the great tribulation.
Well, so somebody comes up to me this last week and says, "You believe in the rapture of the church? And you believe that that is the first that shall introduce the second coming of Christ, when He comes secretly for His people? And the terrible tribulation after the rapture, do you believe that? Well, my professor who teaches me in the seminary" – thank God it isn’t yours – "my professor who teaches me in the seminary says that the church is going through the tribulation. And you say no." Then he said to me, "I want you to show me in the Bible, Scripture and verse, that the church will not go through the tribulation, that we’re going to be raptured before that awful judgment of God."
I said, "I don’t have time right now to give it all to you. But you be at church Sunday morning and listen and you’ll find out what God says." I hope he’s here.
All right, what does God’s Book say that the church that will be raptured before the awful judgment of the tribulation? First of all, there is to be a rapture of God’s people, the taking out of God’s sainted church in the earth. First Thessalonians 4:16:
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 which 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 4:16-17]
There is a rapture of God’s people, a calling up and a calling out of God’s people in the earth. It will begin first with a resurrection of the dead. These who have died in the Lord will be raised first. They will be presented to our glorious Lord in their new resurrection bodies. That’s first.
First Corinthians, chapter 15, the greatest chapter in the Bible, says that they are to be risen, raised first. "Then we who are alive at that time will be translated, we’ll be transformed, we’ll be glorified in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we shall all be changed" [1 Corinthians 15:52]. Now that’s the way it all begins. That’s the denouement of age. It starts with the rapture. It starts with the resurrection. It starts with the glorious transfiguration of our human bodies.
Then after the rapture comes – and I’m going to read it for you – in the first chapter of the Revelation, in the verse after you finished reading with Charles McLaughlin, verse 19, the angel said to John [Revelation 1:19]: "Write, write, first, the things which thou hast seen." And John wrote that down. He had seen the vision of the glorified Lord. And you read that, the marvelous vision of our Savior in glory. "Write the things which thou hast seen." And John wrote that. That’s the first chapter of the Revelation.
Second, "And write the things which are." Then, he wrote the things which are, the churches. In chapters 2 and 3 he writes about the things that are. We live in that dispensation. We live in this administration. We live in this era, the time of the churches. And John writes that down. He writes to the church at Ephesus, up there at Smyrna, there to Pergamos, there to Thyatira, there to Sardis, there to Philadelphia, there to Laodicea [Revelation 2:1-3:22]. He writes the things that are, just following the admonition and command of the angel. He writes of the churches, the dispensation in which we live.
Then, third, "And write the things which shall be meta tauta." Write the things which shall be after – meta tauta – the things of the churches, after the churches are gone. So I turn to the Revelation to find out what he writes about the things meta tauta, after the things of the churches. And here in chapter 4, there it is: meta tauta, meta tauta, meta tauta, after the things of the churches: "I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and I heard a voice saying: Come up, come up hither. And I was transformed, I was raptured up to heaven" [Revelation 4:1-2]. And as you know, the Book of the Revelation starts off saying God is going to reveal the truth of God in signs and in symbols [Revelation 1:1]. And when John was raptured up to heaven, that was a sign and a symbol of the rapture of God’s people.
And from the fourth chapter of the Revelation to the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, the church disappears. You’ve got the church, the church, the church before, but after – meta tauta – after that fourth chapter, the church is never seen. Why? Because it is in heaven. It has been raptured. We’re up there receiving the judgment of our rewards [2 Corinthians 5:10]. We’re up there at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-10]. We’re rejoicing with God our Savior. But down here in this earth, it is judgment [Revelation 5-19].
Well, that’s dispensationalism. God takes away His church, and He begins dealing with Israel. Haven’t you heard me say in all your coming here to church that you never saw a Hittite, you never saw a Jebusite, you never saw a Girgashite, you never saw a Hivite? But you walk up and down the streets of Dallas, and I’ll show you Jews. And you come with me to North Dallas, and I’ll show you synagogues of them. Jesus said he’s going to be here till I come. And after the church is raptured and caught away, God starts dealing with the Jew. He starts with the Jew. The dispensation of grace is ended, and God starts dealing with the Jew.
Well, you say, "I don’t believe in dispensationalism." And practically all of those out there in that half-heathen world tell me that. "I don’t believe in dispensationalism." You know, I don’t understand them. You say you don’t believe in dispensations? Look at your Bible. You have an old dispensation and a new dispensation. It says that in the Bible. This is the Old Testament; this is the New Testament. You’ve got an old dispensation and a new dispensation.
And when you read the Bible, and look at the revelation of God, there you have Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, perfect, sinless. And they live under one dispensation [Genesis 2:8-25]. Then there is a fall, and there is another dispensation. They are full of sin and confined to a world of death and face the grave [Genesis 3:19]. You’ve got another one there, another way, another dispensation, another treating of the children of God. I’d call that the age of promise. You’ve got Enoch, and you have Abraham, and you have Jacob. You’ve got a dispensation of promise [Deuteronomy 34:4].
Then you have the law, and there’s another dispensation. "Do this," God says, "and live," and He gives them the law [Leviticus 18:5]. Then you have another dispensation, the age of grace. If you don’t believe in a dispensation, why is it that you’re not on the way to Jerusalem with a goat or with a lamb to offer a sacrifice like the law commands? Because you live in a dispensation of grace; you live in a new age [Romans 6:14-16].
Then this age, the dispensation of grace, ends with the rapture of God’s people and the great tribulation, when God starts dealing with those Jews [Revelation 4:1]. Then you have, at the end of that tribulation, you have the millennium when Christ comes, and you’ve got a new administration [Revelation 20:2, 5]. Then, after that final rebellion [Revelation 20:8], you have the new heaven and the new earth, forever and forever [Revelation 21:1].
"Well, preacher, what makes you think you are in a new dispensation of the Jews over there in the Book of the Revelation?" Well, it says so. I’m just reading it that’s all.
In the Revelation 7:4: "I heard the number them which were sealed and there were sealed a hundred forty and four thousand of all of the tribes of the children of Israel." It has to do, this dispensation, with Israel. God is turning back to the Jew of the tribes of the children of Israel. Then there’s another group in that tribulation, out of that marvelously glorifying preaching of these 144,000 Jewish evangelists. Imagine that.
"I saw a great number that no man could number – multitude of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues – stood before the throne, and before God, clothed with white robes, and crying with a loud voice, ‘Salvation to our God’" [Revelation 7:9-10].
"And I said to him: ‘Who are these and where did they come from?’" Now, this is the Gentiles out of all of the nations and peoples and tribes and families of the earth, saved by those Jewish evangelists.
"I said to him: ‘Who are these people, this multitude?’"
"And he replied, ‘These are they who erchomenoi, who are coming out of he thlipsis he megale, the tribulation, the great. These are they, the converts coming out, erchomenoi, coming out, present tense, coming out of he thlipsis, the tribulation, he megale, the great’" [from Revelation 7:13-14].
Gracious Lord, what a day that lies before us! So the Lord addresses, in this Apocalypse, He addresses first the Jew. In the tremendous tribulation, when the church is gone, He addresses the Jew. Second, in that Apocalypse, He is addressing that great multitude that are won to Jesus in the preaching of those Jewish converts. And third, in that Apocalypse, He is addressing those who experience persecution and martyrdom in our own age of grace.
As you know about a week ago, we were in England and in Oxford. In Oxford, when you go into the city, into the university city of Oxford, there is that tremendous monument to those who were burned on that exact spot, burned. They were preachers. They were men of God. One, Cranmer, Bishop Cranmer, when the fire was kindled he extended his hand that it might burn first, and said, "This is the hand that signed that recantation, that repudiation of the faith. Let it burn first!" And he held his hand and it burned.
Then as the flames were kindled, Ridley said to Latimer, "I’m so afraid. I’m so afraid." And Latimer said to Ridley as the flames rose, "Be of good cheer. Lift up your heart and your spirit, Ridley, for today we kindle a light and a flame that shall never die."
That’s the reason I’m preaching today the glorious gospel of this blessed Book. Out of that reformation in England came the glorious freedom, the light that cannot die. That’s what he’s talking about in the great revelation: of that tribulation; the raptured church up there in heaven, and God’s faithfulness to the Jewish people from the days of Abraham until then, and the great Gentile converts that are won to the Lord by those Jewish evangelists, and God’s remembrance of these persecuted martyrs who have been true to the faith even in this age of grace.
I tell you people, it’s a wonderful gospel, and a glorious and undying hope, what God purposes for His people. So we live in the promise of the coming rapture of the saints, any day, any time, any moment. As we sing in our song:
It may be at midday, 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 through the clouds with our Lord into glory
When Jesus comes for His own.
O Lord Jesus, how long, how long?
Ere we shout the glad song,
Christ returneth! Hallelujah!
["Christ Returneth" by H. L. Turner]
Even so, come, blessed Lord Jesus!
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Hearing with our minds as well as our hearts
A. Understand (Mark 13:14)
1. Couple do not plan on children because of Mark 13:17
a. But this destruction spoken of was Jerusalem (Mark 13:1-4)
2. This apocalypse against background of that judgment
B. The destruction of Jerusalem
1. Time of the Passover; three million Jews present
2. Jews of Galilee revolted against Roman rule in 66 A.D.
3. Titus and his army destroy the city, temple in 70 A.D.
C. Prophecy a picture of the consummation of the age
1. Does not end in peace, but in war, bloodshed
D. World confirms that apocalyptic prophecy
1. Response of unregenerate mankind
2. War of Satan against God
II. God’s care for His own
A. War of 66 – 70 A.D.
1. Apostle John escapes to Ephesus in 66 A.D.
a. Christians fled to Pella; not one perished
B. Story of the Lord through the ages
1. True in the days of Noah
2. True in the story of Sodom
C. Regarding the second coming of Christ
1. Begins with translation of the church – the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, 1 Corinthians 15:52)
2. Then the Revelation (Revelation 1:19, 4:1, 19:11)