The Cross and the Crown

Revelation

The Cross and the Crown

April 22nd, 1962 @ 10:50 AM

Revelation 1:17-18

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
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Easter Morning Message

THE CROSS AND THE CROWN

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 1:17-18

4-22-62    10:50 a.m.

 

 

On the radio and on television you’re listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, this Easter, triumphant Lord’s Day held in the Municipal Auditorium of our city.  This is the pastor bringing the Easter morning message entitled The Cross and the Crown.  The reading of the Word of God is two-fold.  They are identical passages, one written by the apostle John in the first chapter of the Revelation and the other written by the apostle Paul in the second chapter of the letter to the Philippians:

 

His feet was like unto fine brass.

And He had in His right hand seven stars.  Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.  His countenance was as the sun shineth in His strength. 

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.  And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me: Fear not; I am the first and the last.

I am He that liveth, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore.  Amen.  And I, I have the keys of hell and of death.

 

The apostle Paul wrote that same thing this way:

 

Jesus Christ, who being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be held on, to be equal with God,

But made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men. 

And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 

Wherefore, wherefore, God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name,

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in earth, and things in heaven, and things under the earth, 

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. 

 

The descent and the exaltation, The Cross And The Crown, for these are the prerogatives and the attributes of God, "I am the first and the last.  I am the living One." And again, "Jesus Christ, being in the form of God, thinking it not a thing to be held on to, to be equal to God."  Our highest thoughts cannot comprehend the heights from whence He came.  Nor can our most vivid imaginations enter into the descent of His death. 

Down and down and down, from the heaven above to this sinful world below; made like a man, made out of dust, made in the form of a servant.  The poorest among the poor, like a slave, obedient unto death, even the death of the cross devised by the Roman government for felons and murderers and slaves. 

And He was crucified between thieves.  He was raised between the earth and the sky, as though rejected by both.  Despised by man, refused by God, reviled and cursed; as though abuse was not vile enough, He was covered with spittle.  As though to spit upon Him was not contemptuous enough, they plucked out His beard.  As though to tear off His beard was not brutal enough, they pressed on His brow the crown of thorns.  But the thorns were not sharp enough, they drove in the nails.  But the nails did not pierce enough, they thrust Him through with a Roman spear.  At three o’clock that afternoon it was over.  He bowed His head and gave up the spirit and the light of the world flickered out.

 

Tread softly, tread softly around the cross, for Jesus, the Son of God, is dead. 

The head that was anointed in the love of Mary of Bethany is bowed, with a crown of thorns. 

The lips that called Lazarus from the grave are silent as the tomb. 

The eyes that went over Jerusalem, are glazed in death. 

The hands that blessed little children are nailed to a tree. 

The feet that walked on the waters of Galilee are fastened to the wood. 

And the heart that beat in love for a lost world is broken in two. 

Jesus is dead. 

[author and work unknown]

 

And that sad refrain seemed to be repeated by the whole earth.  The mob that clamored for His life looked and said, "Now He’s dead!" and they drifted apart.  The sojourner, passing by, paused to look, "He’s dead," and continued on into the city.  The Pharisee with a smile of self-satisfaction and rubbing his hands in self-congratulation, said, "He’s dead," and returned to the city.  And the Sadducee, with sigh of relief said, "He’s dead," and returned to his coffers in the temple.  And the Roman centurion made his official report to Pontius Pilate, "He is dead." 

And the soldiers who were dispatched to break their legs, seeing Jesus on the center cross so certainly dead, no use to break His legs, and with a spear they thrust into His heart when blood and water flowed out. 

And Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, fellow Sanhedrinists, went to Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, and asked for His body, "He is dead."  The mother of our Lord and the women who ministered unto Him in Galilee, in sobs and in tears said, "He is dead."  The two on the road to Emmaus, as they walked and were sad, said to one another, "He’s dead."  And the eleven apostles, like frightened sheep, crowd into eleven shadows, hiding from the pointing finger of Jerusalem, cry in their solitude and despair, "He is dead."  Wherever they met in upper rooms, on lonely roads, behind closed doors, in hiding places, that same sobbing refrain, "He is dead, buried, sealed in a tomb; even a guard at the grave.  He is dead."  Peter the Rock, is a rock no longer.  James and John, sons of Boanerges, are sons of thunder no more.  Simon the Zealot, a zealot no longer.  In the depths of despair the hope and the light of life went out. 

Then one day, men stopped dead in their tracks.  There is a message like liquid fire leaping from tongue to tongue and heart to heart.  An angel says, "He is alive!"  Mary of Magdala says, "I have seen the Lord!"  The two on the road to Emmaus said, "He was known unto us in the breaking of bread."  And soon, Simon Peter – the rock that he was – and the eleven apostles by his side are filling Jerusalem with the bold and unashamed and heaven-sent announcement, "He has raised from the dead!"  And in the byways and the highways of Judah, and along the shores of the blue Galilee, and around the coast of the great Mediterranean, and on the road to Athens and to Rome, in every poor man’s cottage, and in every rich man’s palace, there is repeated that message of the Christ raised from the tomb, "He is alive!  He is alive!" 

Triumphant over death and the grave, Christ who cannot die, He has come back to rule the hearts of men forever.  How marvelously close together are those two, His humiliation and His exaltation, the cross and the crown.  "Obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

"Wherefore, wherefore, God also hath highly exalted Him." 

"I am He that was dead that became dead and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen." 

 

Lift up your heads, ye sorrowing ones,

Lift up your heads, ye sorrowing ones,

And be ye glad of heart!

For Calvary’s day and Easter,

Earth’s saddest day

And earth’s gladdest day,

Are but one day apart.

["The Gladdest Day," Susan Coolidge]]

 

The bitter seed brought forth this glorious and precious flower.  The cross is none other than the glory of our risen Savior and it honors His name now and forever. Every thorn is a diadem of brilliance that shines in the crown that graces our Savior in heaven.  The crimson flow of His wounds is but the purple that stains His royal robes.  The iron of the nails and of the spear has been forged into the scepter by which He shall rule the nations of the earth.  The very wood has become a symbol of His identification with the lost humanity.  The very hill on which His cross was raised is the most sacred spot this side of glory.  And the cross itself is now the sign and the insignia of the Christian hope and the Christian faith, "I became dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen.  And I have in My hands the keys of hell and of death."  If He is alive for evermore, then He must be alive today.  And if He’s alive today, then now He must be somewhere alive, more alive now than 2,000 years ago. 

"But what proof and what evidence do you declare? If He is alive, where is He now?  And the proof and the evidence of His living presence?" Man, man!  If every citizen of the Roman Empire had seen Him in the days He was raised from the tomb, if Caesar and the officers of his court had beheld Him raised from the dead, if Josephus, and if Suetonius, and if Tacitus had recorded in their historical annals that they had seen Him alive, it is nothing corroborative, it is nothing comparable to the evidence that we have today, that our Lord is alive, that He lives!

What evidence?  This evidence: the evidence of His present healing power.  Down by the side of the sick and the dying, have I looked time without number and listened to God as He spake His will.  And if God answered prayer, those in the shadow of death itself [were] raised back to life in His healing presence.  In answered prayer, there is an ear that bows down to hear.  There is an eye to see.  And there is a heart to care alive and manifest in the saving power by which He has redeemed us from sin and the grave.  He saved Simon Peter.  He saved Matthew the publican.  He saved Zacchaeus.  He saved Mary of Magdala in the days of His flesh.  Raised from the dead, our triumphant and living Lord, He saved Saul of Tarsus who became Paul, the preacher of Christ. 

He saved Polycarp of Ephesus.  He saved Justin Martyr of Antioch.  He saved Chrysostom of Constantinople.  He saved Savonarola of Florence.  He saved Wesley of England.  He saved Spurgeon of London.  He saved B. H. Carroll of Texas.  He saved George W. Truett, the mountain boy of North Carolina.  He saves you, and you, and one day He saved me. 

 

Happy day, happy day,

When Jesus washed my sins away!

He taught me how to watch and pray

And live rejoicing every day.

Happy day, happy day,

When Jesus washed my sins away!

["O Happy Day That Fixed My Choice"; Philip Doddridge, 1755]

 

And He lives as He walks among His people and in His churches, "Wherever two or three are gathered together, there am I," the unseen Third.  And we feel His presence in the great congregation. 

 

I love Thy church, O God,

Whose walls before Thee stand,

Dear as the apple of Thine eye

And graven on Thy hand.

[from "I Love Thy Kingdom Lord"; Timothy Dwight, 1800]

 

And if He’s alive, if He’s alive, then some day He is coming again.  The great text of the Revelation is 1:7, "Behold, behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him." 

 

Though the way of our journey

May oft’ times be drear,

We shall see the King some day.

And on that blessed morning

Clouds will disappear.

We shall see the King some day.

We shall see the King some day.

We shall shout and sing some day.

Gathered around His throne,

When Christ shall call us home,

We shall see the King some day.

["Thou Wilt Keep Him In Perfect Peace," author unknown]

 

"Behold, behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him." 

"And I, I have in my hands the keys of hell and of death.  I have in my hands the keys of Hades and the grave." 

The sovereignty of the universe lies in the hands of Christ our Savior.  The keys are with Him lest anyone might suppose they were possessed by other hands.  And the issues of life and of death are with Him.  I shall not die, we shall not die, until He wills it.  In flame, and in fire, and in war, and in pestilence, and in quake, our lives are immortal until our task and our work is done, for the keys are in His hands.  And death is no longer death to the Christian.  He entered into the realm of the grave and in that darkness He destroyed forever death and the grave.  And the Christian now falls asleep in Jesus.  He opens the door and one by one God’s sainted children enter in, and in His time, and in His choice, and in His grace, when that day shall come for me, it is His gracious hand that will unlock the gate and open the door and let His child enter in. 

In the heart of our Sunday school was a precious little girl, and in the bud time of life the doctor said she couldn’t live.  And when that inevitable hour came, the little child said to her mother, "O mother, O mother, everything is getting dark.  Mother come closer, come closer, for I am afraid." And the mother, holding to her heart that precious little girl, replied, "Sweetheart, Jesus is with us in the dark as He is with us in the light.  And He safely keeps those who’ve placed their trust in Him."  And our little girl went through that door at the bidding, at the shepherdly keeping care of our living Lord.  Our finest hour will be the hour of our departure.  Our richest moment will be the moment of our translation.  "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is a gain" [Philippians 1:21]. 

"For I am now ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand. Henceforth," said the apostle of God, "henceforth, there is laid up for me the crown, the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but to all them also that love His appearing" [2 Timothy 4:6,8].  The cross of this weary and sinful world and the crown God shall give those who love His appearing. 

 

Oh, precious cross,

Oh, glorious crown,

Oh, resurrection day!

The angels from the stars come down

And bear my soul away.

["Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?"; Thomas Shepherd]

 

This is the Christian hope, the Christian faith, and the assurance, given to us, the humblest among us who trust in Him. 

As I have prayed for this sacred moment, I have felt led of the Holy Spirit of God to do a different thing in this invitation.  As most of you would know, after I am done with the sermon; I always go down to the front, there to exhort the people, to receive those God gives in His grace to us.  Today I thought I would ask Brother Melvin Carter to go and stand on that side and Brother Bill Cox to go and stand on that side, and then – nobody leaving, nobody moving except toward this sacred altar – for just a moment, in the prayer and in the song of appeal, if you will take Jesus today, this triumphant Easter day, if you’ll give your heart and trust to Jesus, come and stand here. If you feel in your heart God would have you put your life with us in the fellowship of our precious church, would you come and stand down here? 

And then, and then, "Preacher, I’d like to be a Christian.  I don’t quite know how."  Or, "I battle in my heart."  Would you come?  And after the benediction, I will meet with you, we’ll have a prayer together; I have a tract to put in your hand, I have a book to give you.  And we shall just let God lead in the way.  But come, but come.  And no one will leave this vast auditorium for just a moment.  Then after these have come, we’ll have our benediction.  And I want to meet with these God will give us today, as the Spirit shall lead and as His Word shall say, before we sing. 

May all 10,000 of us here today join in this humble intercession: O blessed Lord, Who lives, Who looks down upon us from the ramparts of glory, Who is in the presence of this great congregation, somebody, Lord, give his heart to Jesus.  Somebody, Lord, put his life with us in the fellowship of this precious church. Somebody Lord, who’ll ask, "What must I do to be saved?" who would come to receive a word of appeal, a tract, a book from the pastor.  Lord, as we sing this song, may they come?  May they come?  And down that center stairway on either side, make it now. 

And bless them, Lord, as they come in Thy dear name, Amen.  While we stand, for the moment and while we sing. 

CHRIST AND DEATH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 1:17-18, Philippians 2:6-11

4-22-62

 

I.          The cross – the descent of Christ

A.  Our highest thoughts cannot comprehend the heights from which He came, nor the depths to which He descended

B.  The immeasurable distance between the heaven of His glory and the shame of His death

1.  Became a man made of the dust of the ground; a slave, poor among the poor

2.  Died the death of a criminal, rejected of God, despised of men, cursed and abused

3.  Earth’s saddest day; humanity’s darkest hour(John 19:30)

B.  Tread softly around the cross, for Jesus is dead

1. "He is dead" – sad refrain seemed to be repeated by the whole earth

a. The mob dispersing and passers-by

b. The Pharisees and Sadducees

c. The Roman centurion sending official word to Pilate(John 19:32-33)

d. Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus asking for the body(John 19:38-39)

e. Mary, His mother and the other women weeping

f. The apostles hiding in the shadows

g. The two on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-20)

h. The sorrowful refrain wherever His followers met

2.  Indescribable heartache

 

II.         The crown – the exaltation of Christ

A.  One glorious day men stood dead in their tracks – like liquid fire the word leaps from mouth to mouth, heart to heart, "He is alive!"

1.  An angel, Mary Magdalene, Cleopas, Peter(John 20:18, Luke 24:30-31)

2.  Up and down every path in Judea, along the shores of Galilee, on the coasts of the Mediterranean, on the road to Rome and to all the world

B.  How close togetherHis humiliation and His exaltation(Philippians 2:8-9)

1.  Poem, "The Gladdest Day"

2.  Bitter seed brought forth beautiful flower

3.  Cross itself brings glory to His name and is a symbol of faith and hope

 

III.        Evidence He is alive today

A.  Healing presence

B.  Saving power

1.  Hymn, "O Happy Day"

B.  He walks in grace and blessing among His churches(Matthew 18:20, Revelation 1:13)

1.  Poem, "I Love Thy Kingdom Lord"

C.  The promise of His coming again(Revelation 1:7)

1.  Poem, "Though the way of our journey…"

 

IV.       He holds the keys of the grave and of death(Revelation 1:17-18)

A.  We shall not die until He wills

B.  Death no longer death to the Christian(Philippians 1:21, 2 Timothy 4:6, 8)

1.  Little girl dying, "It’s getting dark…I am afraid…" – her mother replied, "Jesus is with us in the dark just as He is in the light…"(Psalm 23:4)

2.  Hymn, "Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?"