Mt. Olivet: Mount of Christ’s Return
March 27th, 1997 @ 12:00 PM
MT. OLIVET – THE MOUNT OF CHRIST’S RETURN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-27-97 12:00 p.m.
Well, I have been preaching over seventy years, and this is the first time I have ever done such a thing as I am going to do this morning. All of these years I have stood up wherever, out in the street, out in the country, out in the city, in the White House, all over this earth, up and down these continents, I have preached without notes; I have just stood up and yelled, and hollered, and exclaimed, and beat the pulpit or beat the floor. But I thought today, instead of listening to the preacher, we would listen to the Word of God as we speak of and present the coming of our Christ. Tomorrow, closing our Easter week, I will speak of Mount Calvary—The Mount of Atonement; but this morning, speaking on Mount Olivet—The Mount of Christ’s Return, the second coming of Jesus.
My words may be mistaken, but the words of God are true forever. And as a background passage, I read from Matthew 24:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light…
And there shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven…and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory…
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When the branches are yet tender, and the leaves are yet green, ye know that summer is nigh:
So likewise you, when you shall see all these things, know that the coming of Christ, of Man, will be near…
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, not the angels in heaven, but My Father only…
Then shall there be in the field two men; one shall be taken, and the other left.
Two women shall be grinding at the mill; one shall be taken, and the other left.
Therefore be prepared: for ye know not what hour our Lord shall come…
Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.
So we shall speak of the promise, and of the person, and of the presence.
The key, the secret to the triumphant faith of the early Christians was the promised return of our Lord. Jesus is coming again. Paul wrote:
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that sleep.
[1 Corinthians 15:19-20]
And unto them that look for Him shall He appear, shall He come, the second time apart from sin unto salvation.
This faith and promise and assurance of the coming of our Lord is woven into every sentence of the New Testament. It is a part of the very warp and woof and fabric of the Christian message. One verse out of every four in the New Testament concerns the coming of our Lord. All the way through, that theme never changes. I have copied out of the series of the books of the Bible some of these glorious words.
- Matthew 16: “For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
- Matthew : “For as the lightning cometh out of the east and shines unto the west; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.”
- In John, “Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God”—we do—“believe also in Me. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” [John 14:1-3].
- In Acts 1:11: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, that you saw go away into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you saw Him go.”
- Philippians 3:20 [and 21]: “For our citizenship is in heaven; we look for Jesus from there. Our citizenship, as our home, is in heaven; and we are looking for the Lord Christ: who shall change this vile body, to be fashioned after the likeness of His glorious body.”
- First Thessalonians 4: “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.”
- Titus 2: “Looking for that blessed hope, and a glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.”
- James 5: “The patient establishment of the coming of Christ should reign in your heart: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”
- Second Peter 3: “There shall come in the last days scoffers, saying, Where is the promise of His coming?”—“I don’t see any sign of His coming,” I hear the scoffers say; he himself is a sign of the approach of our Lord—“One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day.” He has been gone two days: maybe He will come back the third.
- Jude 14: “Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints.” Revelation 1: Behold, He commeth with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, even they who pierced Him.”
- Revelation 22: “He who testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely I come quickly.” And the apostle answered, Revelation 22:20: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
It may be at noonday, it may be at twilight,
It may be, perhaps, that the blackness of midnight
Shall burst into light in the blaze of His glory,
When Jesus comes again.
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 again.
O Lord Jesus, how long, how long,
Ere we sing the glad song,
Christ returneth! Christ returneth!
Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah! Amen.
[“Christ Returneth”; H. L. Turner]
- So we speak of the place of His coming. Acts 1:11:
And being assembled together with them, they ask Him, Lord, Lord, when Thou art come, where, where? And He said, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons. But ye shall receive power, and ye shall be My witnesses to the ends of the earth. And while they beheld, a cloud received Him out of their sight. And two men stood by them in white apparel; who said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus shall so come in the same place as ye have seen Him go.
- So Zechariah 14:4 says, “And His feet shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem. And the Lord shall come, and all the saints with Him; and the Lord shall be King over all the earth.” How definite that is!
- The prophet Micah spoke of the exact place where Jesus would be born: Bethlehem [Micah 5:2].
- The prophet Isaiah spoke of the last place, where He should be crucified and rise again: Jerusalem [Isaiah 53:10-12].
- And the prophet Zechariah speaks of the exact place where Jesus will come back from heaven; namely, the Mount of Olives.
So let me speak now of the person who is coming. Who is coming? In my reading and reading and reading, I cannot imagine such things as some of these scholars of the Bible avow. They say, “This prophecy of the coming of our Lord was fulfilled in Jerusalem in 70 AD, when the nation was destroyed.” Some other say the prophecy of His coming was fulfilled in the diffusion of the gospel. Others say the coming of our Lord was destroyed in the Christian possession of civilization. And others say the coming of our Lord is fulfilled in death. But Christ has not lost His identity, nor has He merged it with war or history or providence, nor even in death. He says, “I will come again” [John 14:3]. He says, “Behold, I come quickly” [Revelation 22:12]. When His appearing shall be ushered in, it will be that of the same Christ Jesus our Lord and our Savior. It will be the same holy face. It will be the same precious hands. It will be the same gracious words. We are to wait for Him [Hebrews 9:28]. We are to look forward for Him [Titus 2:13]. And we are to be ready for Him [1 John 2:28].
After His death and resurrection, the Lord’s recognitions were still the same. Now you look at this. Mary of Magdala, Mary stood in His presence there in the garden, looking at Him: did not recognize Him; then He called her name, “Mary,” and she recognized Him by the way He spoke her name [John 20:16]. You look again: the apostles in the presence of the Lord were afraid, and didn’t know Him, and Jesus said, “Handle Me and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones such as you see Me have. Handle me, and see that it is I Myself, the same living, though resurrected, Lord Jesus” [Luke 24:39].
Remember again, two of the disciples were walking on the way to Emmaus, their home. And they were sad; their Lord had been crucified and had died. But they had heard that He was raised from the dead, but they couldn’t believe it. And as they walked on the way to Emmaus, Jesus, Jesus walked with them; just suddenly the third One appeared. And they talked together, their hearts burning within them. And when they sat down for the supper, they asked Him to lead the thanksgiving prayer. And they recognized Him in the way that He prayed: the same Lord Jesus that they knew in the days of His flesh [Luke 24:30-31]. And since that time, He is the same. Stephen saw Him standing by the throne of God. You know that’s the only place in the Bible that you see Jesus standing? He is always seated by the throne. Standing, and [Stephen] recognized Him [Acts 7:56].
On the way to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus, with bitterness and hatred in his heart, met the Lord: “And who are You, Lord? I am Jesus of Nazareth. I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting”; the same Lord Jesus [Acts 22:8]. And John on Patmos, [fell] down there as though one dead, John on Patmos; Jesus took His right hand and touched him [Revelation 1:17]. How many times in the days of His flesh had Jesus touched, put His right hand on His loved disciple? And the same glorified and risen Lord Jesus, as He had in the days of His flesh, put His right hand on His beloved apostle. He is the same, and He lives today [Hebrews 7:25].
Dr. Cook made mention of Dr. Truett, my world-famous, gifted, dedicated predecessor as pastor of this church for forty-seven years. In the days of the ministry of Dr. Truett, he accidentally killed the sheriff, the chief of police of the city of Dallas. Oh! What an indescribable sorrow and sadness! And the great pastor went to his home, and stayed there in the darkness, with a shut door and a lock, and the windows closed, darkened; and was there one day, two days, three days, six days, seventh day. And on the seventh day, in that darkness and despair, mourning over the fact that he had murdered the chief of police of our city, the Lord Jesus came to him. He had a face-to-face with the Lord Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “Fear not, do not be afraid; from now on you are My man!” And Truett stood up, and appeared here in this very place, behind this very pulpit, and began preaching as the world had never heard a man preach. And I am asked world without end, “Did you ever hear Dr. Truett preach?” And I reply, “From the days of my childhood, many times.” No man I have ever seen or heard was comparable.
O God! You, still alive, still our loving, caring Savior, and still our friend and helper in our ministry before Thee.
So we avow: the blessed Lord Jesus is whom we long to see, pray to see. It is not enough to have a letter from Him; He wrote seven to the churches of Asia [Revelations chapters 2 and 3]. It’s not enough that we have the story of His life; we have it four times told in the Bible. It is not enough that we have a record of His words and wisdom; it’s not enough that we have the wonderful baptism of the Holy Spirit [Acts 11:16]; it’s not enough that we rejoice in the spread of the gospel [Mark 13:10; Colossians 1:6]. We cry with the Greeks, “Sir, we would see Jesus!” It is Jesus we long to see, pray to see, live in the hope of His personal coming; it is Jesus [Acts 1:11]. And it is Jesus that we look forward to in the memorial of the Lord’s Supper. We’re doing this in the promise that He Himself will come again [John 14:3].
The answer of the Scriptures is certain, and I think true: through tears, and cares, and toils, and burdens, and pain, and sorrow, suffering, age, and death, there He is—“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” [Hebrews 13:5]; alive now, precious Jesus, and someday coming again.
I listened to a missionary one time—I could never think such a thing. Out there in the heart of Africa, he was captured by a cannibalistic tribe. They put him in a grass hut, and built in the evening a big fire and were preparing to cannibalize him, to eat him. And he was there in a little hut as they waited for the fire to boil the water, and to cook the missionary. And he was able to escape through the grass walls of that little hut. And fleeing away, climbed up into a high, high, high tree. And when the cannibals sought to find him, he was gone! And with torches burning, they searched the forest to find the missionary, to burn him up and to cannibalize him. And he said, as he was up there in the height of that tall tree, he said, “I never felt in my life the closeness, the nearness of my Savior, Oh, how dear and how sweet!” And then he added, “I would love to go back again to face those cannibals, if I could just be as near to my Savior as I was that night in the top of the tree.”
Sweet people, there is no experience in life comparable to Jesus close, close by! “I Will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
O blessed hope! O blessed promise!
Filling our hearts with rapture divine
O day of days! Hail Thy appearing!
Thy transcendent glory for ever shall shine.
Even so, come, precious Lord Jesus;
[Creation] waits redemption, that we may see;
Caught up in clouds, soon we shall meet Thee;
O blessed assurance, forever with Thee!
[adapted from “He is Coming Again”; Mable Johnston Camp]
And may I close?
I grew up in the top part of Texas, where the elevation was five thousand feet high. And it was cold, cold there in the wintertime; and cotton could not be grown. When I was a teenager—like a great throng of you kids up there—when I was a teenager and in the four years I was in the university, going to school, I was the pastor of little country churches down in Coryell County. And I was introduced there to cotton crops; all of those farmers raised cotton. And it was a new and precious experience to me, living in their homes, since I was not married. And that’s why this poem so moved my heart, having been for those years in the homes of those dear cotton farmers in Central Texas. It is this:
There’s a king and captain high,
Who will 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 will rise and answer to the drums
While the fires of His encampment stir the firmament on high
And the heavens are rolled asunder when He comes.
There’s a man they thrust aside
Who was tortured till He died;
And He’ll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.
He was hated and rejected,
He was scourged and crucified;
But 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 Hosannahs to the Man that men denied,
And I’ll kneel among my cotton when He comes.