The Second Coming of Christ
April 20th, 1973 @ 12:00 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-20-73 12:00 p.m.
The theme of the week has been "The Great Doctrines of the Faith": Monday, The Reality of God; Tuesday, The Incarnation of the Word, Christ; and Wednesday, The Remission of Sins: The Atonement for our Souls; and yesterday, The Resurrection From Among the Dead; and today, the triumphant message, the climax of all the ages, The Coming of Christ.
The Revelation begins as John wrote it in a startling way, apokalupsis. There is no article, there is no definitive word, it just begins like that; apokalupsis, translated here, "the Revelation," apokalupsis, the unveiling of Jesus Christ [Revelation 1:1]:
John to the seven churches of Asia which are in the grace and love and mercy and peace of God…and of the seven Spirits
And of Jesus Christ,
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. Even so, Amen.
[Revelation 1:4, 5, 7]]
"Behold, He cometh with clouds" [Revelation 1:7]. This is the grand and startling announcement that shall reach down to the bottom of every grave. It will probe the very depths of the seas and shall search out the uttermost parts of the world. The King is coming. "Behold, He cometh with clouds." And the millions and the millions who sleep in the dust of the earth will arise [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17] – "Behold, He cometh." The voice of the Holy Spirit crying, "Look, behold." It is the voice of the inspired apostle crying, "Look, He is coming." It is the voice of inspiration itself, "Look, behold, idou, He is coming." It is the voice of the enraptured church, "He is on His way. He is coming." And it is the voice of the hosts of heaven itself, "Behold, He cometh with clouds." This is the exalted and grand and celestial announcement, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him."
This is the theme of the apocalyptic book itself. The text of the Revelation is this passage, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]. And all the rest of the book is but a development of that theme and that sublime and exalted announcement. It is the theme of the first three chapters, to the churches – "He is coming" [Revelation 1:1-3:22]. It is the theme and the great climax, the intervention of Christ in the following chapters from chapter 4 through chapter 19 – when the coming of Christ, the intervention of the Lord brings the denouement of the age [Revelation 4:1-19:21]; it is the glorious announcement that shall bring to pass the catastrophic confrontation between God and Satan [Revelation 19:11-20:3]. And this announcement is the introduction of a new and heavenly order of things that God hath prepared for His own redeemed [Revelation 20:4-22:21]. The theme and the text of the Revelation is Revelation 1:7, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him."
One could almost say that it is the theme and the text of the whole Bible. He is coming. He is coming. In the garden of Eden in the first sin [Genesis 3:1-6], there is Someone who is coming. All through the typology of the Old Testament, He is coming. As it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Lot, He is coming. Someone is coming. It is the theme in the life of David, whose greater Son is promised. And of the Psalms they wrote, there is Someone coming. It is the theme and the text of the prophetic visions, who saw in the unfolding ages, the millennial reign of our Lord Christ, He is coming. He is certainly coming. And it is the exalted theme of the entire New Testament. The parables of our Lord, His words of comfort to His disciples, "If I go away,I will come again" [John 14:3]. It is the theme of the apostles themselves. For example, every chapter of the first and second Thessalonian letters closes with a promise of the coming of our Lord. And it is the sublime announcement in this apocalyptic vision – "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]. The theme of the prophets, of the apostles, of the angels, of the enraptured, translated church, the creeds of Christendom, the songs that we sing, the prayers of our litanies, all center around this ultimate hope that Paul calls the blessed hope [Titus 2:13] – "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]. Without this great doctrine, the Christian religion is but a relic of an antique past. It is but a shambles. The hope that we have of Christ in the future makes the Christian faith relevant to every life, to every generation, and to every church service. He is coming!
This sublime announcement in the Apocalypse is the final consummation of all of the sovereign grace and work of God in human history. What has begun in Genesis finds its consummation in the return of Christ in the Revelation [Revelation 19:11-16], and the full-orbed work of Christ, and the full-orbed work of God is outlined here in these blessed pages. As in the Book of Genesis, we have the creation of the heaven and the earth [Genesis 1:1-25]; so in the Book of the Apocalypse at the coming of Christ, we have the new heaven and the new earth [Revelation 21:1-22:21]. As in the Book of Genesis, we are told the story of paradise and how we lost it [Genesis 2:8-3:24], in the Book of the Revelation, paradise has been given back to us who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 21:1-22:2]. In the Book of Genesis is recorded the story of the tree of life and how it was taken away from the grasp of man [Genesis 2:9, 3:22-23]. In the Apocalypse, it is given back to the man who has been saved, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the people [Revelation 22:2]. In the Book of Genesis, the story of Satan and how he wrought the despair and the destruction of God’s creation [Genesis 3:1-6]; in the Book of [Revelation] is the binding of Satan [Revelation 20:1-10] and our liberty from sin and the curse forever. In the Book of Genesis is the story of the sorrow and suffering that was afflicted on mankind in the judgment upon our fallen nature [Genesis 3:15-19]. But in the Revelation, sorrow and crying and pain are no more [Revelation 21:4]. In the Book of Genesis is the story of the first tragic death [Genesis 4:8-9]. In the Book of the Revelation, and there shall be no more death [Revelation 21:4]. In the Book of Genesis, there is the story of the first rebellion of man against God at the tower of Babel – Babylon [Genesis 11:1-9]. In the Book of Revelation is the destruction of Babylon and the whole world system that it stands for [Revelation 17:1-18:24]. In the Book of Genesis is the story of the dominion that God gave to man [Genesis 1:28], and how he lost it [Genesis 3:17-24]. In the story in the Revelation is presented the Second Adam and the whole sovereignty of God’s universe given unto Him and unto us [Genesis 21:1-22:21]. And in Genesis is the story of Adam and the helpmeet made for him, his wife [Genesis 2:18-25]. And in the story of the Revelation is the presentation of the bride of our Lord, His church, His redeemed, clothed in righteous garments, pure and white [Revelation 19:6-9, 22:17]. The whole circle of God’s redemptive program finds its ultimate meaning and significance in consummation and climax in this bold and glorious announcement: "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7].
In whatever language that announcement is made, it is overwhelming and startling. In the Greek, idou – idou, erchetai – erchetai, ton nephelon meta. In the Latin, Ecce – ecce, "look, behold" – Ecce, venit cum nebula. In German, Siehe – siehe, er kommt mit den Wolken. Or in English, "Behold, He cometh with clouds" [Revelation 1:7]. It is a startling and amazing announcement. He is coming. He is coming. And the glorious vista of the uncovering of Jesus Christ in His glory is beyond anything that the earth could ever imagine or that could ever be seen. This is not the jubilee of a great monarch or the sesquicentennial of a mighty nation, but it is the crowning of the King of Kings and the investiture in Him of the sovereignty of all God’s created universe [Luke 19:12].
Think of the startling sight of looking upon Mount Sinai when it burned with fire [Exodus 19:18]. Think of the glorious sight when the glory of God came down at the dedication of Solomon’s temple [2 Chronicles 7:1-2]. Think of the gripping nature of the fire that fell from heaven when Elijah commanded it down from God on Mount Carmel [1 Kings 18:24-39]. Think of the glory of the vision of Isaiah when he saw the Lord high and lifted up and the seraphim crying, "Holy, holy, holy" [Isaiah 6:1-3]. Think of the transcendent vision of the transfigured face of our Lord before His three disciples, Peter, James, and John [Matthew 17:1-3]. But all of this is as nothing compared to the glory of the coming of the Lord Christ when He descends from heaven with the sign of His appearing – "Behold, He cometh with clouds" [Revelation 1:7].
In every instance where the coming, the return of our Lord is delineated, it is always with a sign. With the shekinah glory of God, the garments with which the Lord Jehovah clothes Himself [Psalm93:1]. And when Jesus comes, He will come not alone. He will come in the glory of the Father. He will come in the glory of the church. He will come in the glory of the redeemed. He will come in the glory of the angelic hosts of heaven – "Behold, He cometh with clouds." He went away and a cloud received Him out of our sight [Acts 1:11]. He will come again in clouds [Revelation 1:7]. Only this time, the cloud will be the glorious garments of God. The cloud will be the uncounted myriads of the angelic hosts of heaven, and the clouds will be the thousands upon thousands of the Lord’s redeemed [Revelation 5:6-11] – "Behold, He cometh with clouds" [Revelation 1:7].
Can you think, can you imagine the comparison between the lowly life of our Lord in this world and the second time when He comes in the glory of God’s universe and the glory of all God’s redeemed and angelic creatures? [Matthew 25:31]. He came the first time in swaddling bands [Luke 2:11-16]. He came the first time in the weariness of His manhood. He came the first time in the suffering and sorrow of crucifixion and death [Matthew 27:26-50]. But He comes the second time with clouds in the glory of the angelic and redeemed host of earth and of heaven – "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him."
This is a literal and actual and visual sight of the Lord Jesus. We are not to see Him in our mind. In our mind and spirits, He is already seen. This is open and actual and visible, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]. As certainly and as literally as He came the first time and the human, naked eye could behold Him, He will also come the second time and the naked human eye shall see Him. As He came to Bethlehem and we could look at Him [Luke 2:10-16], He shall also come to the Mount of Olives and our eyes shall behold Him [Zechariah 14:4]. As He came the first time to die, He shall come the second time to be glorified [Hebrews 9:28]. As He came actually the first time to be the sufferer and sin bearer of the world [Matthew 20:28], He shall come the second time to be crowned the King of all God’s redeemed [Matthew 25:31] – "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]. In the song that you sang at the beginning of the service, the cry of Job, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though through this skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom mine eyes shall behold, and not another" [Job 19:25, 26].
"Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him; and they also who pierced Him" [Revelation 1:7]. I think by inspiration that is a little note, a personal addendum of the sainted apostle John. He was there that day when he saw the Lord crucified. He was present, standing at the foot of the cross [John 19:26], when he saw the looks of those who had delivered Him unto death. When he saw the cruel faces of those Roman soldiers and that harsh and hard legionnaire who took the Roman spear and thrust it into His hear [John 19:34], John was there, and he saw those hard, harsh, cruel, and merciless looks. And I think John wrote that personally by inspiration. When He comes, every eye shall see Him and these who crucified Him and who pierced Him, that day they will confront the risen and glorified Son of God.
"Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him: and all the kindreds of the world shall wail because of Him" [Revelation 1:7]. These are they who are left behind after the rapture, and seeing the glorious Son of God, lost, undone, they shall wail and cry and lament in His presence. Isn’t it the tragedy of all tragedies that the coming of the Lord there should be that otherfold, reaction and reception to the Master when He comes? For some, it is the consummation. It is the holy, heavenly realization of all the promises of God. It is heaven. It is the millennial kingdom. It is the new earth. It is God’s holy presence in our midst. But for others who are lost, it is the end of all hope and the beginning of all sorrow.
Oh, while we have today, "if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart" [Hebrews 4:7]. And may it be that if the midnight cry is heard tonight, or if the Lord’s announcement of His coming is at the dawn, is it in the early afternoon, or is it at dusk when the revelation is finished and the book is closed and the grand announcement is repeated, "Behold, He which testify these things saith surely – surely I come quickly" [Revelation 22:20], could it be that the answering prayer and the answering cry of all of us before that sublime announcement is the humble prayer that closes the Revelation and closes the Bible, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus"? [Revelation 22:20]. If I know my heart, I’m ready any time, any day, any day, any hour, Come, blessed Lord.
Can you pray that? Is that your heart? Are you ready? For somewhere, sometime, someday that announcement will be heard by all of our ears. Somewhere, sometime, someday that vision of Christ descending from heaven will be seen by all of our eyes [Revelation 1:7]. Are we ready? Is your family ready? Is the circle of all whom you know and love, are they ready? Are you ready? If you have never given your heart to Christ, would you do it now in the quiet solemnity of this holy hour, and then at the first opportunity that God will give you, make a public confession of that faith and find in Jesus, now, that holy helper and comforter that He has promised to be to us? And then someday beyond death and the grave to enter that millennial kingdom with all God’s redeemed [Matthew 8:11].
Grant it so, Lord, in the lives of all of us in divine presence today, and through our preaching and teaching and personal witnessing that all might be ready who might come under the influence of our lives and the sound of our voices. And our Lord, in the blessedness of that hope and promise of a better world, and a better life, and a better day, and a better body, and a better home, may we live triumphantly, victoriously in the faith. In the love and grace of Jesus, in His Holy Spirit, and in His dear name, amen. Bless you and keep you.
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Behold, He cometh with clouds
A. This is the grand announcement
B. This is the theme and climax of the apocalyptic Book of Revelation
C. This is the recurring theme of the whole Bible
1. Eden – the divine promise to crush the serpent’s head
2. The typology of the Old Testament
3. The life and psalms of David
4. The exalted voice of the prophets
5. The theme of the New Testament
a. The parables of Jesus
b. The words of comfort of Jesus(John 14:3)
c. The preaching of the apostles
D. Without this doctrine, the Christian religion is a relic of an antique past
E. Marks the final consummation of sovereign grace and work of God in human history
1. What began in Genesis finds it consummation in the return of Christ in the Revelation
II. The startling announcement
A. Behold, He cometh!
1. In whatever language it is made, the announcement is amazing
2. Not the jubilee of a great monarch, but the crowning of the King of Kings
3. Nothing comparable to the glory of the coming of the Lord Christ
B. With clouds
1. His coming attended by a sign
C. And every eye shall see Him
1. This coming is a literal, actual, visual sight of the Lord Jesus(Job 19:25-27)
D. And they also who pierced Him
1. By inspiration, a personal addendum of the sainted Apostle John
E. All the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him
2. Tragedy to those who are lost
F. Are you ready?(Hebrews 4:7, Revelation 22:20)