CHRIST IS COMING BACK
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-1-2001 10:30 a.m.
Our Lord is coming back. This is His word in John 14:3: “If I go, I will come again.” “If I go, I will come again.” This is the very fabric of the New Testament. Unless He comes back visibly, bodily, all is inevitably and indubitably lost. There are three words in the New Testament that describe the ultimate end of the world and the presence of our living Lord. The three words are atonement, advocacy, and advent.
On the cross He bore our sins; this is the word “atonement” [1 Peter 2:24]. In heaven He intercedes for us; He is our Advocate [Hebrews 7:25]. And He will complete the work and change our bodies like unto His own at His coming: this is His advent [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Philippians 3:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]. We speak first of the atonement of our Lord.
In all of my hundred and two years, I have never seen a drawn picture of Jesus as He actually died for us and promised to return for us [John 1 4:3]. Any picture I have ever seen of the Lord, He always has about Him a loincloth. He was never dressed like that. Our Lord died naked: He had no clothing whatsoever [John 19:23-24]. And His death was one of mutilation and tragic, tragic separation from us [Isaiah 53:5].
Our Lord died, I say, naked. He had no clothing whatsoever. He died without anything to separate Him from us. He died in mutilation. I suppose there was never a body that was so abused as the body of Jesus our Lord [Matthew 27:26], paying the price for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. His head was crushed; He was crowned with thorns [Matthew 27:29]. And His face was mutilated as the people struck Him, and accused Him of every vile and evil thing [Matthew 27:27-50; Mark 15:15-37]. And His body was mutilated. As you know, a soldier without any reverence at all, a soldier standing by thrust into His heart and into the interior of His body an iron sword [John 19:34]. And He was crucified [John 19:16-30]. And not only nailed with His hands and His feet to the cross, but His inward life was poured out; and blood and water poured out of His body [John 19:34], as He was nailed there to the cross [John 19:34].
Sweet people, if I can speak of this without appearing so inane—our Lord died a criminal’s death. His body was mutilated with every stroke that the harsh Roman army could apply [Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; John 19:1]. He was there nailed to the tree [John 19:16-30], and had no way or thought of defense.
Could I say, without being crude and abrupt, our Lord was there nailed to the cross, and had no way of defense. He suffered and died because of me [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He had the burden of all the sins of this world cast upon Him [2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2]. And let me be crude enough to describe His death. Every time I have seen a picture of the death of our Lord, He is always up there somewhere. He is raised up high. And over here on one side will be one of the tragic men who’s a thief, and in every way a violator of what is right; that’s on one side, is one of those men. On the other side is another one of those men, only this one is unrepentant. He is vile and vicious, and even in death he blasphemes the name of the Lord. And every picture I have ever seen of the death, the crucifixion of Jesus, is like that: He is raised up high, He is up here, and over here on one side is one of those men who is being crucified for his wrong and evil, and on this side is the other one who dies in blasphemy and in cursing [Luke 23:39-40]. Every picture I have ever seen of our Lord is like that, way up there.
Actually, the death of Jesus was just the opposite. Jesus died right there, right in front of me. And those evil men could speak to one another just right there to right there. And our Lord could reply right there, right there. I could touch Him. And when He bled, my hands could feel the cross. That’s the way Jesus died, right there, right in front of you, where He could talk to you, and you could talk to Him. And those two thieves could speak to one another from here to there, and there to there. But I have never seen, in all of my long life, I have never seen a picture of the death of our Lord as He actually died.
O God! how I feel when I think of the atonement of Jesus! That’s what He did for me. He took my sins and bore them on the cross [1 Peter 2:24]. That is God’s atonement [Romans 5:11]. And I must never forget it. I must kneel in His presence, as you all did a moment ago. And I must confess my wrong, and my trepidation, and my sins, and I must ask God to forgive me. I must come to the Lord on my face and on my knees, and with a broken heart. That is the atonement [1 John 1:9].
And that will be followed by His advocacy of me in heaven. He will complete the work of intercession and change, and my body awaits for that great and ultimate and final triumph: He is coming at His advent [Acts 1:11]. And when He comes, He is bringing me with Him. I am not coming alone; I am coming by the side of my Savior [1 Thessalonians 4:14; Revelation 19:14]. And He will present me to you, and to the world—the advent of our Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:14]. And He is coming for our advocacy [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]; to speak of our victory over sin, and over death, and over the grave.
Whenever we take the Lord’s Supper, we witness to His death and His abounding remembrance of us. “Ye do show His death till He come,” when we have the Lord’s Supper, in [1 Corinthians 11:26]. O God, how we bow in Thy presence!
In our text, our Lord said, “If I go, I will come again” [John 14:3]. The certainty of His coming is one of the avowals of the intrepid, indefensible Word of God. Heavenly messengers proclaimed it in Acts 1:9-11: Jesus, while talking to His disciples [Acts 1:6-8], was received into heaven [Acts 1:9]. And as the disciples looked upon Him lovingly, two witnesses came and stood by their side, and said, “This same Jesus shall come in like manner as ye have seen Him go. This same Jesus” [Acts 1:10-11]—not someone else, not something else, but the same Lord Jesus who suffered and died for our sins [John 19:16-30; 1 Corinthians 15:3]. It is that Lord who is coming back again [Acts 1:10-11].
Following Christ’s life from Bethlehem [Matthew 2:1], His manger to the cross [Acts 2:36, 4:10], are these ascension heights [Acts 1:9]. He, who after His life here in the earth, had eaten and drunk in their presence [Luke 24:41-43; John 21:12-15]; it is that Jesus who is coming again [Acts 1:11]. He will be here one of these days. I can hardly realize it! When we have the Lord’s Supper, He will be One who will partake of it. And when we sing our songs of loving remembrance, He will be One who will be singing with us. It will be the same Lord Jesus who lived here in this earth, who died here in that incomparably sad and tragic way. It will be that same Jesus who will be in our midst and will take the Lord’s Supper with us [Revelation 19:7-9]. I can hardly believe that it will be the same Jesus who went away [Acts 1:9-10], who is coming back again [John 14:3]. O God!
He went in a cloud [Acts 1:11]; “They shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud,” Luke 21:27. “So shall come again the Lord Jesus, as ye have seen Him go” [Acts 1:11]. As the disciples looked and the Lord rose from the earth, and a cloud received Him out of their sight [Acts 1:9], it will be like that when Jesus comes. He will come in one of those wonderful clouds: visible to the whole world [Revelation 1:7]. And we shall welcome Him lovingly, tenderly.
The parables teach that. Not only by personal promise and angelic messenger, but His coming back again is a central truth in the teaching of the parables. The Savior likened His return to a nobleman’s boy. And the nobleman received the lad with loving kindness [Luke 15:21-24, 32]. That’s going to be the way we receive our Lord: with loving kindness, thanking Him for dying for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], thanking Him for interceding for us; for He is right now up there in glory, naming my name and yours [Romans 8:34], and getting ready to come back to receive us to Himself [John 14:1-3]. O, what a day that will be, when the Lord shall come and bring with Him our glorious reward! [Isaiah 40:10; Revelation 22:12].
I repeat the text: our Lord said, “If I go, I will come again.” This is the rapture of the church. “If I will go, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself” [John 14:3]. Yes, Christ will come back for us. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout of the victory, and to be forever with us [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
There will be no more separation. There will be no more death. There will be no more graves. There will be no more crying and weeping [Revelation 21:4]. We’ll all be together. I’ll be with you, and have the rest of eternity to talk about our victory in Christ; and you’ll be with me, and we’ll have an eternity to enjoy together. This event is called the rapture of the church. Paul says, “We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]. It will be like this: “There shall be two in the field; one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill”—I often wonder at that, not two men, two women—“Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left” [Matthew 24:40-41]. That is the rapture of the church. Getting ready for Him, looking forward to His return [Titus 2:13], happy in Jesus, glad to be here with you today, and even gladder when our Lord comes and sits in our midst [2 Timothy 4:8].
At the sight of so much glory, no wonder one of our Christian men wrote:
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 receives His own.
O Lord Jesus, how long, how long
Ere we shout the glad song,
Christ returneth! Hallelujah!
[“Christ Returneth,” H. L. Turner]
We have that to look forward to. And with what joy and gladness shall we wait for His return. Remember my text: He said, “If I go, I will come back” [John 14:3].
Yes, when the Savior comes, the saints who have died will be raised from out the grave; and at the same time, living Christians will be caught up in their bodies, glorified [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17], made like Christ’s body. This is the promise, and I read it: “We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” [1 John 3:2]. God’s faithful word: I’ll be like Jesus. O God, could it be? Could it be?
“Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus: who shall change our weak body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” [Philippians 3:20-21. Someday I’ll have a body like my Lord’s. I can hardly realize such a thing. O God, not to be weak anymore, not to be sick anymore, not to wait for the coming of death anymore, but waiting for Jesus. And when He comes, I’ll be like Him, and you will be like Him, and we all shall be like Him and shall rejoice in the presence and the blessing and the goodness of God. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall also we appear with Him in God’s glory” [Colossians 3:4].
I shall be like Him, I shall be like Him,
When in His beauty and glory, I shall arise.
I shall be like Him, wondrously like Him,
Jesus, the Savior divine.
[“I Shall Be Like Him,” W. A. Spencer]
Oh, what a marvelous, marvelous day we await in this body of death, when we shall have our new body, and our new home, and our present Lord! [John 14:1-3; 1 John 3:2].
“The great multitude, which no man could number, of every kindred and tribe and tongue,” mentioned in Revelation the seventh chapter, will be with us; and we’ll all be together [Revelation 7:9]. O God! When the Antichrist shall be put to death [Revelation 19:19-20], and we shall be with our Lord, sharing the glorious reign of Christ on earth with His saints for a thousand years [Revelation 20:4-6], and when the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory [Matthew 25:31]; and we shall share that wonderful, triumphant moment with Him. When the Lord shall come, when the Lord shall come, we shall be like Him, all thrilled with the light, and the presence, and the glory of God [1 John 3:2].
And when we have been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ll have no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we have first begun.
[“Amazing Grace,” John Newton]
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come, come, come. And let him that is athirst come. And let him that is hungry come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” [Revelation 22:17]. “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, blessed Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22: 20].
If I know my heart, I am ready. Any day, any hour, any moment, Lord; You said You could come at any time [Mark 13:32]. If that time is now, I’m ready, Lord. If it is tonight, I’m ready. If it’s in the morning, I’m ready. Anytime You arrive, Lord, I’m ready. What a privilege to kneel in Thy presence and to kiss Thy hand, and to tell You with what joy and gladness I receive Your presence. O God, can I cease speaking? Won’t die, won’t be sick unto death, won’t know any of the trials of that separation; but all that remains will be to welcome my Lord, and to rejoice in His coming, and to be there with you, and to thank God that we have the privilege of being together at the return of Jesus. “If I go away,” He says, “I will come again” [John 14:3].
God bless you, love you in the faith [1 John 3:14], and look forward to the day of our separation when I die, or when one of you dies, and we go to meet with our blessed Lord in the wonderful world that is yet to come [2 Corinthians 5:8]. God be good to you, sweet and dear people, and give you every continuing victory.
A. On the cross He bore
naked, mutilated (John 19:34)
2. Died a
criminal’s death; between two thieves (Luke 23:39-40)
B. Must confess our
sins and ask God to forgive us
A. He intercedes for us
B. He will complete the
work and change our bodies at His coming
Supper witnesses to His death and promises His coming (1 Corinthians 11:26)
The certainty of His coming (John 14:3, Acts 1:9-11)
This same Jesus (Luke 24:41, John 21:12-15)
He went in a cloud; coming again same way (Luke 21:27, Acts 1:9, 11)
Parables teach His bodily return (Luke 15:21-24, 32)
Rapture of the church (John 14:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
We shall not all sleep (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Matthew 24:40-41)
Our glorified bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, 1 John 3:2, Philippians 3:20-21,
great tribulation (Revelation 13:1-18)
Closes with glorious coming in power of Jesus (Revelation 7:9, 19:20, 20:6,