The Coming of the Lord Secretly and Openly
March 12th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
THE COMING OF THE LORD SECRETLY AND OPENLY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Revelation 1:7; 16:15
3-12-61 10:50 a.m.
I feel like reading the last of my text first: “Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7, which is the text of the Book; it is the great theme of the Word. Revelation 1:7, “Behold, ecce, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.” The last time I preached in this pulpit, I spoke on the first part of this great theme and text of the Apocalypse, “Behold—behold—He cometh with clouds” [Revelation 1:7]. That was the last sermon. And the sermon today is the remainder of the text, “And every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen” [Revelation 1:7]. This is the great and the sublime announcement of the consummation of this age. This is the first chapter of the second Thessalonian letter, beginning at verse 7: “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power…” [2 Thessalonians 1:7-9]. That great announcement is this: in Matthew 24:27:
For as lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.
After the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
That is the sublime announcement, the great theme in Revelation 1:7: “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.”
But, there is in the Word of God, an altogether different description, and presentation, and delineation, and outline of the coming of our Lord, and seemingly, diametrically, categorically contradictory. For example, in Revelation 16:15, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. I come as a thief.” That same thing is found in Matthew 24:42: “Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman had known in what watch the thief—there’s that word again—the thief would come, he would have watched, and he would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of Man cometh” [Matthew 24:42-44]. That is the same thing that you find in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, “Of the times and the seasons…you have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” [1 Thessalonians 5:1, 2]. That is the same thing that you find in 2 Peter, chapter 3 and verse 10, “But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night”; secretly, furtively, quietly, clandestinely, unannouncedly, “as a thief in the night” [2 Peter 3:10].
Is that a contradiction? He is coming, the Book says, like lightning across the livid sky [Matthew 24:27]. And He is coming as a thief, with sandaled feet, softly, quietly [Revelation 16:15]. No, this is no contradiction. These are just two acts in the great and final drama. He is coming as a thief, quietly, without announcement, suddenly [1 Thessalonians 5:2]. Then He is also coming like lightning, with great publicity, when the whole earth shall behold the King in His beauty and His glory [Matthew 24:27-30]. You see, we often times read in the text what is not there. We read it, “Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him simultaneously.” But the Word of God in nowise presents it like that. We shall not all see Him simultaneously. There will be those who see Him in one time and in one place, and there will be others who see Him at another time and in another place. Our text does not say that all shall see Him at the same time; in the same place, in the same manner, with the same feelings. Our text here is avowing that every eye shall see Him—every eye, that ever has, that every human being born—nor shall there ever be a human being born who shall not sometime, someplace look upon the face of Jesus Christ. The dead shall hear His voice and shall be raised, and they shall stand in His presence [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. And at the great coming of the Lord, those who remain shall look up and see the glorious Savior descending with ten thousands of His saints [Jude 1:14]. Coming when some shall say, “Our great God and Savior”; and others shall wail in the horror and the despair of that awful judgment. You see, He is coming twofold. He is coming secretly, furtively, softly, quietly, without announcement for His people [1 Thessalonians 5:2]; then, He is coming openly, publicly, like the livid lightning, with His people [Matthew 24:27-30]: two acts in that great drama that closes the consummation of the age.
He is coming first without announcement, suddenly, this hour, this evening, in the twilight, in the midnight, at the early dawn. He is coming first secretly as a thief to steal away His jewels [1 Thessalonians 5:2]. In this earth is the heart of our Lord. Our Savior is with His people. He is identified with His own. The most precious thing God has in this world is not His universes, and it’s not the earth, and it’s not this creation. The most precious thing and the most costly that God has in this earth is you. You’re called the pearl of price [Matthew 13:45-46].
God by fiat spoke these universes into existence. “Let them be!” and they were [Genesis 1:3-28]. But for you, Christ died [1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; Hebrews 2:9]. You cost the blood, the tears, and the sobs, and the agony, and the wounds, and the death of God’s Son. And in this earth is that precious jewel—you. And He is coming like a thief to steal it away, to take it out of the world [1 Thessalonians 5:2]. And God’s people are waiting for that hour when He comes. And our Savior is waiting for that hour when He cometh. That is the reason I had you read Romans 8: “And the entire creation—you have it translated in the King James Version “creature.” The word is creation—“and the entire creation waiteth.” That was the text you read, “And the entire creation waiteth for the manifestation of the children of God” [Romans 8:19], when our Savior descends with ten thousands of His saints [Jude 1:14, Revelation 1:7] and the whole earth, in this grand incomparably glorious announcement, shall be recreated and restored [Romans 8:19-21]. “Behold! He cometh with His saints” [Jude 1:14]. After secretly, furtively, quietly He has come for them to take them out of the world and away from those horrible, indescribable judgments that shall fall upon the impenitent and unbelieving. So the great denouement begins. This great drama begins—first without announcement—when the Lord shall come quietly, secretly to take His people out of the world [1 Thessalonians 5:2], the pearl of price, to steal it away and to heaven [Matthew 13:45-46].
And that is presented in so many figures and in so many types and in so many texts in the Word of God. Like Enoch, he just suddenly was translated [Genesis 5:24]. The world did not know. The world did not see. Enoch was just gone. Here he was, there he lived, then suddenly, he was taken away. The translation of Enoch, a type of the rapture, of the gathering of the church of God to their Savior in glory; that is the meaning of the word “church.” You have it translated “church” [Ephesians 1:22] which means nothing to us in the translation. The word is ekklesia, an ekklesia. An ekklesia is a “called out, a called away, a called forth,” a church is the called forth, “called out assembly” of God [1 Corinthians 1:2]. Two shall be sleeping in a bed, one shall be taken and the other left. Two shall be grinding in a mill, one shall be taken and the other left. Two shall be working in a field, one shall be taken and the other left [Luke 17:34-36], coming as a thief, quietly, for His own [1 Thessalonians 5:2].
A type of that is in Noah, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man” [Matthew 24:37]. For in the days of Noah, the world was riotous in its pleasure, and in its madness, and in its iniquity, and villainy, and rascality, and sin, and greed, and war, and hate [Genesis 6:5-8]. And in midst of those corrupt and tragic days, without anyone, without any announcement, God called Noah into the ark [Genesis 7:1], and He shut the door. God shut the door [Genesis 7:16]. Like the five wise virgins who entered in and God shut the door—without announcement [Matthew 25:1-10]. After one hundred years of preaching and pleading and nobody turned, nobody repent, nobody believe, God says: It is enough! And He called Noah into the ark out of the world of judgment [Genesis 6:8, 7:1, 7] and shut the door [Genesis 7:16]. And after Noah entered into the ark, while the world was in its blasphemy, and in its impenitence, and in its cursing, and in its barren challenge to God in heaven, then the fountains of the deep broke up and the skies rained flood [Genesis 7:17-24]. “So shall it be in the days of the Son of Man” [Luke 17:26-27], called away secretly, furtively [1 Thessalonians 5:2].
As it was in the days of Lot, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man [Luke 17:28-30]. When the Sodomites in their villainy and indescribable filth and iniquity, while they were in their drunkenness and rascality and sodomy, the Lord snatched Lot away [Genesis 19:15-21]. For—and this is one of the strangest things in the Word of God—for said God, “I can do nothing until thou be come hence” [Genesis 19:22]. As compromised as Lot was, the judgment could not fall upon that city until he was taken out! Lot looked toward Sodom [Genesis 13:12-13]. He pitched his tent toward Sodom. He entered Sodom. He took an office in Sodom. He sat at the gate of Sodom [Genesis 19:1]. He lost his pilgrim spirit in Sodom. He was compromised in Sodom. He lost his testimony in Sodom. He vexed his soul with the filthy conversation of Sodom [2 Peter 2:7]. But as compromised as he was, God said: “I can do nothing until thou be come hence” [Genesis 19:22]. And He took Lot and snatched him away! [Genesis 19:15-21]. And when Lot was taken out, secretly, without announcement, while the Sodomites were in their revelry and wickedness, after he’s taken away, the judgment of God fell in fire, in fury, and in flame and in brimstone [Genesis 19:24-29].
And it is thus with the compromised people of God and the worldly church. As compromised as it is, and as worldly as it is, and as full of every kind of worldly pleasure and desire as it is, living in Sodom as it does, the judgment of God does not fall upon this world as long as His church is here, as long as His people are here. But when those people are taken away [2 Thessalonians 2:7], the only thing that stands between the judgment day of God and the awful fire and brimstone in these plagues and these judgments that shall fall upon this world in this Apocalypse, the only thing that stands between that and this world are the people of God. And when those people are taken away, called to meet the Lord in the air [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], coming as a thief in the night [1 Thessalonians 5:2], then is the beginning of the great tribulation! [Matthew 24:21]. Coming first as a thief, quietly, without announcement to steal away His people. Suddenly, just gone.
For this 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. 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 hear the voice, they alone shall hear it and shall rise to meet their Lord in the air: then we, then we who are alive and remain at the coming of the Lord shall rise to meet them also: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
[1 Thessalonians 4:15-17].
Coming first secretly, calling His people out of the world [1 Thessalonians 5:2].
And then, and then, the days of the judgment, and the days of the visitation, and the days of the awful consummation of God in this earth which is climaxed by this glorious apocalyptic announcement: Behold, behold here is an ecce beyond compare, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they who pierced Him: and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” [Revelation 1:7]! That is the Apocalypse, that is the great last book of the Bible. This last Apocalypse, this last Revelation, this last book, does not speak of the furtive, secret coming of the Lord. This is the great public announcement. This is the unveiling of that final appearing of the Lord God in heaven. And He shall appear as the livid lightning across the bosom of the sky [Matthew 24:27]. “Behold, He cometh; and every eye shall see Him” [Revelation 1:7]. The floodlight of the throne of His presence and the glory of His countenance shall cover the earth, the mountains, the valleys, the hills, the seas, and every tribe in the earth shall look upon our descending and coming Lord. All heaven shall be fascinated, full of adoration in the presence of that great and indescribable glory, when the Lord shall come. “Behold, He cometh,” when the Lord shall come in the glory of the Father [Matthew 16:27]; God the Son and the Son of God [Matthew 16:16]; when He shall come in the glory of the angels [Matthew 25:31], their Lord and Master, the Captain of the heavenly hosts; when He shall come in the glory of the church [Ephesians 5:27], coming with His saints, as Jude says, “Coming with ten thousand times ten thousands of His saints” [Jude 14]; when He shall come in His own glory as the Son of God, as the Son of Abraham, as the Son of David, as the Son of Man [Matthew 24:30], the immortal Man, the risen Man, the eternal Man, the resurrected Man, the God-Man, Christ Jesus [Revelation 1:18]; when He shall come to be the King of Israel [John 1:49], and the King of the nations of the earth [Psalm 2:9, Revelation 2:27] and the restorer of this world [Acts 3:21]—its rightful Creator, its Prince and its manifest and eternal God [John 8:58, Revelation 1:8]. “Behold, He cometh . . . every eye shall see Him” [Revelation 1:7]. That is the grand announcement, the great theme of the Apocalypse, the Revelation, the last and climatic word of the Bible.
Then John speaks of those who are remaining. In that tragic day, that judgment day, that horrible day, when in impenitence, and in unbelief, and in rejection, they look up and see the church of all the earth, and they stand unwashed, unforgiven in impenitence, naked, full of shame and condemnation, “and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” [Revelation 1:7]. That is the sixth chapter of the Revelation, when we shall come to it, when “the heavens shall be rolled back like a scroll. . .” [Revelation 6:14], when the fires and the glories of the stars of the heavens above shall fall and fail, and when men everywhere shall cry for the rocks and mountains to fall upon them “for the great day of His wrath has come: and who shall be able to stand?” [Revelation 6:14-17]. “And all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” [Revelation 1:7]. That word “wail” is strong in our language, but it is nothing comparable to the word John uses in this Greek text. “And all the peoples and kindreds shall koptō, ‘cut’ themselves.” Koptō is the simple Greek word for “cut”—like you cut off a branch, like you cut down a tree. And in Oriental grief, in despair, and in horror they cut themselves. So John says in that great and climatic hour, the kindreds of the earth, in their unbelief and rejection, lost men everywhere, shall “cut” themselves, shall “wail” in despair, in the presence of the throne of His judgment. And John picks out one especial group. “And they also who pierced Him” [Revelation 1:7]. I used to wonder at that, and it was just the last day or so that it came to my heart. “And they who pierced Him.” Why did John single them out, these who especially murdered Him? John says they who crucified Him, who nailed Him to the tree, who drove the nails in His hands, who thrust the spear in His side, who shared in the condemnation that brought His death [John 19:16-37], they shall confront someday the Lord Glory in the hour of judgment. Why singled them out? And it came to my heart. John was there when Jesus was crucified. He was standing at the foot of the cross when they raised Him between the earth and the sky. And he saw their hard looks, and he heard their blasphemous voices, and he beheld their impenitences. John could never forget it, and in writing the great day of the judgment that is yet to come, he said, “And they too shall look upon the face of the risen, redeemed, glorified Lord, those who nailed Him to the tree” [Zechariah 12:10].
“And all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” [Revelation 1:7]. There are those who say, see, he uses the word phule, translated here “kindreds.” Phule is the word for “tribe”: “And all the tribes of the earth shall wail.” Some people see in that Zechariah 12:10 and following, when Israel shall look upon their Messiah whom they crucified and shall be in bitterness of spirit and shall lament [Ezekiel 20:42-43]. And a nation shall be born in a day [Isaiah 66:8]. It includes that, but I think it also includes all mankind everywhere. God’s people shall be taken out [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. And in this earth, there is wickedness. In this world, there is vile iniquity. In this world, they blaspheme and curse the name of God. In this world, in the days of those horrible tribulations, they shall, even those that God raises up to testify, as Noah did to that gainsaying generation, they are slain, martyred in those days when men shall curse God [Revelation 6:9]. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven [Matthew 24:30]. And then shall every eye look upon Him, and then shall these impenitent and unbelieving and lost curse themselves, wail because of Him, damned and lost forever and ever [Revelation 1:7]. Is our Lord ultimately coming to a world that will be glad to receive Him, singing and music when He appears? No. No! Not in that great final climactic denouement, for He comes finally bringing His children with Him [Revelation 19:11-14] to a world that curses God and blasphemes God!
And their music and their singing and their blasphemy shall be turned into crying and wailing and sobbing [Revelation 1:7], as it was when the Titanic went down. And the dance orchestra that was playing in the middle of the night to those people who were happy in their worldly pleasures, as the ship began to sink, gathered on the bow as it began to go down, and they changed their melody. They began to play that plaintive melody, “Nearer My God to Thee.” For somehow “Red Hot Henry Brown” doesn’t quite fit when the ship is a-going down. Somehow the cheap tinsel and tinfoil and reward of this world just does not fit when a man stands naked in the presence of the great God and reigning Judge, Jesus Christ [Romans 2:16]. For you see, God doesn’t deceive His people with dreams of opportunities to repent and opportunities for restoration after death. If a man dies without Christ and if he faces that ultimate judgment without Christ, there is nothing left but the sob and the wail of the lost of the earth, who cry for the rocks and the mountains [Revelation 6:16]. And they cried for the rocks and the mountains.
Oh, in that day, what a weeping and wailing,
When the lost are told of their fate,
When they cry for the rocks and the mountains
And they prayed, but their prayers are too late.
[“I Dreamed of That Great Judgment Morning”; Bertram H. Shadduck 1894]
If you are ever saved, you will be saved now. If you are ever saved, you will be saved by the first coming of our Lord [Matthew 18:11; Luke 19:10]—not by the second. “Oh, then to the Rock let me fly, To the Rock that is higher than I.” [“The Rock That Is Higher than I”; Erastus Johnson] “For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” [Revelation 6:17]. “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment” [Hebrews 9:27].
Somewhere, sometime, we shall die, and somewhere, sometime, we shall stand face to face with Christ [Romans 14:12, 2 Corinthians 5:10]. Shall it be in terror, or shall be it in triumph? Which shall it be? If I am impenitent, if I reject His mercy, if I spurn His overtures of grace, if I trample underfeet the blood of the covenant [Hebrews 10:29], if I say no to the pastor, and no to the Holy Spirit, and no to the church, and no to God, and no to Jesus, then someday—for there shall certainly be that day, God hath said it [Revelation 20:11-15], everything in time and tide conspires toward that rendezvous—the great judgment of Almighty God, we shall stand there in terror and in despair and in weeping and in wailing [Revelation 1:7]. “O God, O God, I gave my life for the cheap tinsel, for the cheap return of this empty world, and now time is lost, and my life is lost, and my soul is lost, and eternity is lost. O God, what shall I do and what shall I say? Lost, lost, forever lost!” That is why, “and they wailed because of Him” [Revelation 1:7]. “And they wailed because of Him.” Our great Savior is now Judge! [Matthew 28:28, 2 Timothy 4:1] The day of grace is passed, and we are not saved, we are not saved. “And they wailed because of Him.” Shall it be that, or shall it be the glorious song of the pilgrim, sung by this choir, even this hour? We shall see the King someday. Oh, glory, glory, glory!
Christ returneth! Hallelujah!
[“Christ Returneth,” H. L. Turner]
Which shall it be? To those who are lost, it is a tragic thought—the coming of Christ. But to those who are saved, it is the great hope of the world that is yet to come. Not forever will sin be triumphant. Not forever shall Satan reign over God’s earth [Revelation 12:12]. Some day, our King shall come, shall establish His rightful, righteous reign [2 Peter 3:13], and we shall be fellow citizens [Philippians 3:20] and fellow heirs in the kingdom and household of the great God and our Savior [Romans 8:17]. Oh, what a blessedness, what a preciousness. What a destiny unfolding for those who trust in Him [Psalm 2:12]. Whether it’s today or tomorrow, we are ready. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20]. That is what John said. “Even so, Amen” [Revelation 1:7]. And he closed the Book with that same, with that same prayer. When the Lord said, “Behold, I come quickly,” he closed it with that same benediction: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20]. On the lonely isle of Patmos, ready; in the busy pastorate of Ephesus, ready; in the figure of his manhood, ready; down to old age and to death, ready— “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
If I know my heart, if I know my soul, I am ready. What a triumphant way to live! What a glorious way to face the evening tide of life! What a marvelous vista in the days and in the years and in the eternities God shall unfold for His own. I’m ready. I’m ready. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Back there when I was a boy, I gave my heart to Thee. In that First Baptist Church in Dallas, on that second Sunday in March, I walked down the aisle and gave the pastor my hand, and I gave my heart to God. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Is it thus with your soul? Are you ready? Are you ready? That’s why God sends us to preach the gospel. That’s why God calls us into this work and ministry. That’s why God builds His church, the light and the hope of the earth in the heart of the world that you might be saved. And that’s why we make this invitation. “The Spirit of God says, Come. And the bride of Christ, His church, says, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come” [Revelation 22:17]. And whosoever will, down that stairwell, into this aisle. “Here I am, preacher, here I come.”
Will you make it now? As we sing this song of appeal, down that stairway, front or back, into this aisle from side to side, “Preacher, I take Jesus as my Savior, and here I am, here I come.” “My whole family is coming with me. Here we are, pastor. This is my wife, these are our children, all of us, we are all coming.” Or just one you, you come. At our 8:15 o’clock service, God gave us such a gracious harvest. And our people have prayed for this holy hour that you will come. Placing your trust and faith in Jesus, or putting your life with us in the circumference of this glorious church, will you make it now? “Here I am, preacher, here we come.” While we stand and while we sing.
THE COMING OF THE LORD SECRETLY AND OPENLY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The great and sublime announcement of the consummation of this age
1. When every eye shall see Him(Revelation 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, Matthew 24:27-30)
2. As a thief in the night(Revelation 16:15, Matthew 24:42-44, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, 2 Peter 3:10)
B. Is this a contradiction?(Matthew 24:27, Revelation 16:14)
1. No – there are two acts in the great and final drama
2. Every eye shall see Him – but not all simultaneously(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Jude 14)II. Secretly
A. He is coming first secretly, as a thief, to steal away His jewels
1. Most precious and costly thing God has in this earth is you (Matthew 13:45-46, Genesis 1:3-28)
B. All God’s people are waiting, our Savior is waiting, the entire creation is waiting for His appearing (Romans 8:19, Matthew 25:31)
C. Presented in many figures, types and texts in the Word of God
1. Enoch, who was suddenly translated, a type of the rapture(Genesis 5:24, Matthew 24:40-41)
2. Noah called into the ark secretly, God closed the door(Genesis 7:16)
a. Like the five wise virgins who entered in and God shut the door(Matthew 25:1-13)
3. Lot, snatched away by the angels of God out of Sodom
a. As compromised as Lot was, the judgment could not fall upon the city until he was taken out(Genesis 19:22, 24-29)
b. Thus with compromised people of God and the worldly church – as compromised as it is, the judgment does not fall as long as His church, His people are here
D. Coming secretly, calling His people out of the world(1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)III. Openly
A. He is coming in clouds of glory, in judgment to set up His kingdom in the earth(Revelation 1:7)
1. The unveiling of that final appearing of the Lord God
2. He shall appear as lightning across the sky (Matthew 24:27)
B. The floodlight of His presence and glory shall cover the earth
1. Before the gaze of a fascinated, adoring universe, He is comingIV. The two-fold response to His coming
A. Terror, sorrow, wailing(Revelation 1:7, 6:14-17)
1. Kopto, translated “wail” – the lost shall “cut” themselves
2. An awful distinction with reference to “those who pierced Him”
3. Phule, translated “kindreds” – the word for “tribe”
a. Some think that refers to Israel(Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 66:8)
b. I think it also includes all mankind everywhere
4. He comes to a world that curses and blasphemes God
a. Their music, singing and blasphemy shall be turned into crying
i. The orchestra on the Titanic
i. Poem, “I Dreamed of That Great Judgment Morning”
5. If you are ever saved, you will be now – by the first coming of our Lord(Revelation 6:17, Hebrews 9:27)
a. Poem, “The Rock that is Higher Than I”
B. To those who are saved it is the great hope of the world yet to come – a blessedness and triumph(Revelation 22:20)