The Vision Of Our Glorified Lord
April 23rd, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
THE VISION OF OUR GLORIFIED LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-23-61 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us on television and radio the morning service of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Glorified Vision of the Lord Jesus. In our preaching through the Bible, we are in the first chapter of the Apocalypse. And the message is taken from verses 10 through 16. Beginning at verse 9:
I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Christ.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden lampstands;
And in the midst of the seven lampstands One like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breast with a golden girdle.
His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire;
His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters.
And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength
This is the first vision of the Apocalypse. And significantly and appropriately, it is a vision of our reigning Lord Christ. On the isle of Patmos, an exile for preaching the word of God, somewhere on that rocky mount rising out of the Aegean Sea, on the Lord’s Day he was in the Spirit of worship, and praise, and adoration. And while he was worshipping God, he heard behind him a great voice as of a trumpet [Revelation 1:9-10]. And the One who speaks first identifies Himself [Revelation 1:11]. This is all-important because of the amazing, incredulous chronicle that is to follow. These apocalyptic revelations of the consummation of the age are beyond what mind could imagine or heart could conceive. And it was vitally important that the author of these apocalyptic revelations first be identified.
Who is the authority for this unusual open door that gives to us in these words the vistas of all of the future ages? And who is it that says that He executes this divine plan and in time it will faithfully come to pass? The signature, the Author, the authority, the great voice that speaks as a trumpet is the voice of the Lord God, eternal Christ Himself [Revelation 1:10]. And twice in these few words, in these few verses, does He identify Himself. Here in verse 11 [Revelation 1:11], and He did the same thing in verse 8, the voice of as of a trumpet [Revelation 1:10], "I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty" [Revelation 1:8].
So the author of this great Apocalypse is the eternal God, Christ Himself, "I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending" [Revelation 1:8]. All of the words of wisdom from heaven and all of the revelations from God are in Him. He is the great absolute and the only touch that we have with heaven lies in the revelation in Christ. He is the sum of the words and the wisdom and the revelation of God. The Alpha, the first of the alphabet, the Omega, the last of the alphabet, and all of the words in between, "I am," then He describes Himself, "which is, which was, and which is to come" [Revelation 1:8].
In the first chapter and in the fourth verse is the greeting, "John to the seven churches in Asia: Grace to you . . . from Him which is, which was, which is to come, the Father; and from the seven Spirits . . . and from Jesus Christ" [Revelation 1:4-5]. Then in that great trumpet voice, this Christ identifies Himself as that holy God, the Father "which is, which was, and which is to come." He is the great I AM [Exodus 3:14], "the same yesterday, today, and forever" [Hebrews 13:8], the unqualified, unchangeable God [Malachi 3:6], the Almighty! And that is the final and conclusive name, the Almighty, the Pantokratōr, beyond which there is no other one. This is the author of the Book, and this is the voice that speaks like a trumpet [Revelation 1:10].
Then He also said, "What thou seest, write in a book" [Revelation 1:11]. In the nineteenth verse He repeated the same mandate, "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be, meta tauta, after these things, hereafter" [Revelation 1:19]. Daniel was commanded not to write, "Seal up the revelation, until the appointed time" [Daniel 12:9]. But John is commanded to write [Revelation 1:19]. It is now, in Christ, an open vision. Write it so that every man can look upon its page and see.
And the commandment came in the voice of a trumpet [Revelation 1:10]. That means an all-important message, an all-important revelation. When God spake from Mount Sinai, the mountain that burned with the presence of God, He spake to them in a voice of a trumpet. When the door was opened, the great door was opened in the temple, and the people were called to worship each morning, it was with the sound of a trumpet [Exodus 20:18-19]. When the great and final resurrection day of the Lord shall come, it shall be with the voice of the trumpet of God. The great Day of Jubilee was announced by a trumpet [Leviticus 25:9]. And when that final silence of the dead, of the grave, of the tomb of the sepulcher is broken, it shall be with the voice of a trumpet calling God’s people to the great, final, and eternal jubilee [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. The voice of a trumpet, "Write these things for the people of God." Then he said, "and send it to unto the seven churches which are in Asia" [Revelation 1:11].
The seven churches in Asia are a rough geographical circle, located in a rough geographical circle in the Roman province of Asia. The first church is Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province. And all of them were connected by those ancient Roman roads. And the messenger who carried the document from one church to another could easily make the journey by the day, going from one church to the other over the Roman roads: from Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, to Laodicea, and back to Ephesus [Revelation 1:11].
And you have here in this Revelation, the apocalyptic vision of what God’s intention is for His churches in this church age, in this present age, until He shall come again. There are seven churches. There were many more churches in the province of Asia, but these seven – and if you do not have those sermons on the symbolic meaning of numbers, go to the library and get them, there are two of them, and without an understanding of the symbolic meaning of numbers, the Bible does not mean as much to you nearly as it ought – seven, that word seven, the seven churches of Asia, that is the whole, the whole complete. It represents all of them, the divine, full and completed number. When He addresses the message to the seven churches of Asia, that is the churches of all ages and of all time.
There was one great government in the Roman province of Asia, but there is no such thing as the church of Asia. There are churches of Asia just as there are churches of Judea. There are churches of Macedonia, there are churches of Galatia, there are churches of Asia, but no church of Judea, no church of Macedonia, no church of Galatia, no church of Asia. There is no such thing in the Word of God. The only time that the Word of God will use the word church as such is like we use a word to symbolize the abstract idea of an institution. Like a great orator in his speech will refer to the family or to the home or to the state or to the school, so he may also refer to the church, that is, the idea of the institution of the church, like it is used in Matthew 16:18, ",on this rock I will build My church." But when the church is actually materialized, when the idea comes out of the abstract into an organized form, it is always a local independent congregation, the churches of Asia, the church at Ephesus, the church at Philadelphia, the church at Thyatira, or at Laodicea. And in these churches there is individual responsibility with their pastors, with their deacons, with their people.
And any time churches cooperate it has to be voluntary. There is no such thing as a hierarchy in the New Testament. And there is no such thing as a bishop in the New Testament. And there’s no such thing as an over-organization in the New Testament. These churches are all free, independent, local congregations, and there is nothing else in the Word of God except those individually organized and responsible churches. "Send the message," He says, "to the churches of the Roman province of Asia" [Revelation 1:11]. Just like this is one of God’s independent congregations, in its pastor, in its deacon, in its organization, responsible to God alone, chargeable to no man that lives, whether he is high in government or high in princely, self-arrogated authorities. This church is free, is independent, and is responsible to God alone, just like the church in Ephesus, the church in Smyrna, the church in Pergamos, the churches, plural, of the Roman province of Asia. That’s God’s conception of His church for all of this age.
"And I turned to see the voice that spake with me" [Revelation 1:12]. "And I turned to see the voice," you could preach a sermon there, our eyes on the wrong things most of the time, and especially now. How easy it is to fall into despair and into discouragement. And especially for people like us, who believe as we do, whose great principles are such as we have found in the Word of God and almost stand alone defending in this modern world. But don’t get your eye on a crack-pot Napoleon or a batty dictator or a prince who arrogates to himself these lordly virtues over the house of God. Get your eye upon the Lord, turn and look!
And I turned . . . And being turned, I saw . . .
in the midst of the churches, in the midst of the seven lampstands, for the lampstands are the churches [Revelation 1:20], I saw in the midst of the seven lampstands, I saw, and this is the apocalyptic vision of the Son of God, of the Lord in glory in the midst of the churches, I saw One like unto the Son of Man.
Every syllable of that is meaningful. This vision,John had not seen the Lord for over sixty years. The last time he saw Him, He was ascending up into heaven [Acts 1:9-10]. And he sees in the midst of the churches, the lampstands, he sees "One like unto the Son of Man" [Revelation 1:12-13].
And there are two things most emphasized in that little passage, "One like unto the Son of Man" [Revelation 1:13]. First, he saw the humanity, the human form of God: the Son of Man. Eighty-five times that phrase is used in the gospels. And eighty-three of those eighty-five times Jesus uses it Himself, referring to Himself, the Son of Man, God in His humanity, in His human form. And yet he says, "One like unto the Son of Man." This is highly mystical and highly symbolical, deeply so.
In the description that follows, which is the only description you will find of the Lord in the New Testament, in the description that follows no man can put it on canvas. No man can translate it into light, and delineation, and into color. For God is unrealizable by a finite mind, inconceivable by a finite heart, and undelineable by however genius of a painter’s brush. Isn’t it strange there is no description of the Lord in the Bible? None. None. In the days of His flesh, no word as to how He looked. And in this description we have of Him in glory, "One like unto the Son of Man" [Revelation 1:13], a semblance, a mystery, a symbol, glorious beyond compare. This is the way that He shall look when we look upon Him. But it is beyond what a man could describe or what he could put down on canvas. And that figure that he saw in glory is the "Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, which was, which is, which is to come, the Almighty, the Lord God Pantokratōr," God Himself [Revelation 1:8].
I often wonder at these people who think that in heaven they are going to see three Gods. If you ever see three gods then what the Mohammedan says about you is true. And what the Jewish neighbor says about you is true. You are not a monotheist. You are a polytheist; you believe in a multiplication of gods, plural. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord thy God is one God! [Deuteronomy 6:4] One God! And we know God as our Father, we know God as our Savior, and we know God by His Spirit in our hearts. But there are not three Gods! The true Christian is a monotheist; there is one God! "I and My Father are one [John 10:30]; He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" [John 14:9]. And the Lord God-Pantokratōr is He that speaks. And it is He that John saw when he turned about and looked in the midst of the churches of the Lord God [Revelation 1:12-13]. The only God you will ever see is the Lord God-Pantokratōr, whom John saw in the vision of the lampstands. And the only God you will ever feel is the Lord God’s Spirit in your heart. And the only God there is, is the great Father of us all; the one Lord God, Christ. In the Old Bible we called Him Jehovah. In the New Testament, the New Covenant, we call Him Jesus: the one great God, standing in authority, and in judgment, and in judicial dignity among His churches, here today, watching over us. "I saw One like," a great mystical symbol, "like unto the Son of Man" [Revelation 1:12-13].
Then in the description he describes Him with a symbol of function and then with the symbols of character. The symbols of function, "clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breast with a golden girdle" [Revelation 1:13]. Clothed with a long, flowing garment; that refers to His dignity, that refers to His judicial authority, that refers to His kingly mien and presence. "In the year when King Uzziah died," said Isaiah, "I saw the "Lord,high and lifted up, and His train," His robes, His dress, His skirts, "filled the temple" [Isaiah 6:1], the dignity of the presence of God. And He was clothed with a garment, a flowing garment down to the foot [Revelation 1:13]; the priestly dress of a priest, the regal robes of a king, the judicial attire of a judge. This is His celestial majesty and His judicial authority and His kingly priestly presence.
"Girt about the breast with a golden girdle" [Revelation 1:13]. That refers to the way they dressed in that time. When a man was to serve, when he was to run, when he was to work, he girded up his lions. He gathered the skirts of his flowing garments underneath the girdle in order that he might serve or work. But this girdle is about His breast. He is in repose, the kingly repose of the Son of God who sits down upon the throne of the Almighty. And it refers to His affection, and His understanding, and His sympathy, and His love for His people. Though exalted, glorified, and immortalized, His heart is still the same, the same Lord who took babes in His arm and blessed them [Mark 10:16], who put His [hands] upon the blind and they could see [Matthew 9:27-30], who forgave sin [Matthew 9:1-7], "girt about the breast, the heart with a golden girdle" [Revelation 1:13].
Then you have seven things in these symbols of character. His head, His hair, white like wool, white as snow [Revelation 1:14]. That refers to the purity, and the elevation, and the nobility of His thought, and it refers to the eternity of His character, "the Ancient of Days" [Revelation 1:14]. Here is patriarchal honor and here is eternal dignity: His head, His hair, white, white as snow. "And His eyes were as a flame of fire" [Revelation 1:14], the all-knowing omniscience of the Almighty God. As the author of Hebrews says in 4:13, "for all things are opened and naked before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" [Hebrews 4:13]; the knowledge, the omniscience, the eyes, the burning flame.
"And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace" [Revelation 1:15]. All of the instruments in the outer court were made out of brass because they had to do with the judgment of God upon sin. The altar where the fire burned, brass. The laver where they washed, brass. The tongs and all of the instruments made out of brass, the judgment of God upon human iniquity [Exodus 38]. "And His feet likened unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace" [Revelation 1:15]. No man could look upon the holy righteousness of the presence of God. And here He treads upon His enemies, He walks upon sin, He condemns iniquity. "His feet likened to brass, as if it burned in a furnace . . ." treading the winepress of the wrath of Almighty God [Revelation 19:15]; the judgment of Christ upon human sin.
"And His voice as the sound of many waters" [Revelation 1:15]; many waters, many messages, many messengers, many prophets, but one great eternal Word: one great voice. As a great river falling over the falls is gathered from many streams and many sources, so His voice is as the sound of many, many waters. The great eternal Word of God, "God, who in times past spake unto the fathers by the prophets in divers manners and in different times, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son," the inheritor of all things, by whom He created the whole world, "the express image" of the invisible God, many others, many others, many waters, but one great voice [Hebrews 1:1-3].
"And He had in His right hand seven stars" [Revelation 1:16]. And the seven stars are the aggeloi, translated "angels, messengers, pastors of the seven churches [Revelation 1:20]. And He had in His right hand the seven stars [Revelation 1:16]. In the hand of authority, in the hand of command, in the hand of might and skill and strength and power, God holds up, God holds out, God holds fast His servants. Maybe way out there, twinkling somewhere, maybe way beyond yonder, nobody observes, in obscurity, no matter, He is held up by the right hand of God, and is dear to the heart of the Lord God-Pantokrator.
You have a vision here of the ministry of the servants of Christ in all of this church age. There he stands as a star [Revelation 1:20], upheld by the hand of Christ, the star to guide through the trackless waste, the star heralding the morning, the Morning Star [Revelation 22:16]. That is the great commission of a true preacher of Christ, heralding the coming of Christ: coming the first time to die for our sins [Romans 4:25], coming the second time in victorious splendor and in triumphant amazement to rule over this creation and to take God’s people home Himself [1 Corinthians 15:24-25]. A star, as they look upon a star, Mars or Venus, reflecting the light of the glory of God. The minister does not create the light; the lampstand just is a place to hold it up. And the star [Revelation 1:20] reflects the glory of the light of the Son of God; preaching Christ, preaching the Lord, preaching Jesus the Savior and the hope of the world, held in the right hand of the Son of God.
One of the most effective pieces of statuary I have ever looked upon in my life is that of Phillip Brooks, set there by the side of Trinity Church in Boston. There is a pulpit, there is an open Bible, and there stands Phillip Brooks with his hands outstretched, preaching the gospel of the Son of God. And back of him, the man who created the piece placed a picture, a statue, a likeness of Jesus. And the right hand of the Lord is placed on the shoulder of Phillip Brooks, God’s preacher! And He had in His right hand the seven stars [Revelation 1:16], and the stars are the pastors of the churches [Revelation 1:20].
"And out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword." That is the power of the delivered message of Christ. Did you ever think of this? You could bring any, any, any, any comedian, any actress, any politician, any economist, you could bring anybody you could name and set him in an auditorium this large, and there would be somebody there to hear him, one time. And they would come back another time, and they would come back a third time and maybe a fourth and a fifth, but after that the sixth or seventh or eighth or ninth or the tenth, they would get so tired of his jokes. And they would get so weary of his stale theories, that they would be like Jesus said to Laodicea, "You make Me," He said, "spew thee out of My mouth!" [Revelation 3:16]. The Greek is, "You make me vomit!" We are that way about anything. You can listen to a comedian, and listen to him, and listen to him, and listen to him, until you are sick of him. And you can listen to an economist and a politician until you are sick of him. And the most astonishing and amazing thing in this world, you let any faithful preacher, any faithful preacher, stand up anywhere, in a theater, in an empty store building or a vacant lot, under a tabernacle with sawdust on the floor, let him preach the gospel of the Son of God, and let him do it faithfully, and they will be back there and come again. And they will be back there the next Lord’s Day and come again. And like this congregation, seventeen years, and it grows and it grows and it grows; the power of the preached Word of Christ!
How to reach the masses, men of every birth,
For an answer, Jesus gave the key:
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,
Will draw all men unto Me."
["Lift Him Up," by Johnson Oatman, Jr.]
"And out of His mouth a sharp two-edged sword, the word of God" [Revelation 1:16].
The word of God is quick, living, powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The Word of God, "a sharp two-edged sword" [Hebrews 4:12]. There is a judicial process in the preaching of the Son of God that is inevitable. It is the word of life unto life to them that believe; it is also the word of death, unto death to them that refuse [2 Corinthians 2:15-16]; a sharp two-edged sword. And the sixth chapter of Ephesians, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" [Ephesians 6:17]. In the second Thessalonian letter, and I will smite that Antichrist "with the spirit of My mouth" [2 Thessalonians 2:8]. In the Revelation, "lest I come quickly and destroy thee with the sword of My mouth" [Revelation 2:16]. "And out of His mouth a sharp two-edged sword" [Revelation 1:16]; the Word of God, the living, burning Word of God.
"And His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength" [Revelation 1:16]. The stars [Revelation 1:20], preaching the word; but Christ is the power, and the glory, and the triumph, and the victory, and the life and light of it all. "And His countenance, as the sun shineth in his strength" [Revelation 1:16]. And on the Mount of Transfiguration, and His face was as bright as the sun, "His face did shine as the sun" [Matthew 17:2]. And on the road to Damascus when Saul of Tarsus met Him, "above the brightness of the sun" [Acts 26:13]. And in the New Jerusalem, there is not any starry sun, and there is not any moon that shines, and there is not any other light, "For the light of the Lamb is the glory thereof" [Revelation 21:23]. And we shall walk in the glory of His presence, world without end [Revelation2 1:24]. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" [2 Corinthians 4:6].
,and His countenance was as the sun shineth in its strength.
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, and said, Fear not; I am the First and the Last: I have the whole world, its destiny, its future in My hands,
I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and I, I have the keys of Hell and of Death.
And we will start there next Lord’s Day morning, as we lay before our Lord Christ the tribute of our best thinking, of our deepest emotions, and of the consecration of our lives. While we sing this hymn of invitation, in this balcony round, somebody you, giving your life in trust to Jesus; on this lower floor, somebody you, coming into the fellowship of the church, placing your life with us in this incomparably precious and glorious congregation, would you come on the first note of this first stanza? If you are in the balcony, to the last row, there is a stairway on either side at the front and at the back. In this lower floor, a family you, or one somebody you coming, giving your hearts to Christ, or putting your lives with us in the fellowship of the church, while we sing this invitation hymn, would you make it today? Make it this morning. Make it now.
We are still on television and on radio. If you have been driving in a car, listening to the sermon, pull to the side of the road, bow your head over the wheel and give your heart, give your life to the great God who made us, and calls us, and died for us, whose face some day we’ll see again. And if you have been listening to television, kneel by the side of the chair or the bed, and give your life now and forever into the keeping care of the Son of God. "He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him" [Hebrews 7:25]. And here in this great throng this morning, somebody trusting Jesus as Savior, or a whole family of you coming into the fellowship of the church, while we make appeal, while we sing the song, while we prayerfully wait, make it now. We look for you, we invite you in the name of Christ, "The Spirit and the bride say, Come" [Revelation 22:17]. "And here I come. Here I am"; while we stand and while we sing.
THE VISION OF OUR GLORIFIED LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. John is on the isle of Patmos, in exile for preaching the Word of God
1. Was in the spirit of worship on the Lord’s day when he had this vision
B. Christ’s identification and declaration concerning Himself(Revelation 1:4, 8-11)
1. Important to establish His authority
2. Describes Himself as being the complete and perfect and eternal revelation of God
C. John is commanded to write (Revelation 1:11, 19)
1. Daniel commanded not to write, but now an open vision(Daniel 12:9)
2. Commandment came in the voice of a trumpet – means an all-important message, revelation (Exodus 19:16, 19)
D. The message to the seven churches of Asia(Revelation 1:11)
1. They are seven actual churches in Roman province of Asia
2. Apocalyptic vision of God’s intention for His churches in this church age until He comes again
3. Seven number of completion – seven churches represent all of them
4. Sometimes we refer to "the church" as an institution, but there is no such thing as an over-organization in New Testament(Matthew 16:18)
a. There is individual responsibility with each church
II. The apocalyptic vision of Christ
A. John turned to see the voice – saw one like unto the Son of Man (Revelation 1:12-13)
1. Saw the humanity of the Son of Man – highly symbolical
2. Nowhere in the Gospels is there a description of Christ’s personal appearance
3. Scripture interdicts an image beyond the grasp of imagination
4. True Christian is a monotheist (Deuteronomy 6:4, John 10:30, 14:9)
B. Symbolism of function
1. The sacramental dress of a priest, regal robes of a king, the judicial attire of a judge(Revelation 1:13, Isaiah 6:1)
2. The girdlenot around the loins as of service, but about the heart
C. Symbolism of character(Revelation 1:13-16)
1. His head of white hair refers to purity of thought and patriarchal honor
2. Eyes of fire refers to His omniscience(Hebrews 4:13)
3. Feet like brass – treading the winepress of the wrath of God, the judgment of Christ upon human sin
4. Voice as the sound of many waters – many messages, messengers, prophets, but one Word, one voice(Hebrews 1:1-3)
5. Seven stars in His right hand – God holds His servants in the hand of authority, of strength and power
a. The seven stars are the pastors of the churches
6. The sword out of His mouth – the power of the delivered message of Christ(Revelation 2:16, 3:16, Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17, 2 Thessalonians 2:8)
a. Poem, "Lift Him Up"
7. Countenance as the sun – Christ is the life and light of it all(Matthew 17:2, Acts 26:13, 2 Corinthians 4:6)