The Christian Faith: Our Hope of Heaven
September 30th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: OUR ETERNAL GLORY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-30-84 10:50 a.m.
Welcome to the multitudes of you who share this hour with us on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled The Christian Faith: Our Hope In Glory. Reading as a background text, in Hebrews chapter 11, beginning at verse 8. The Book of Hebrews chapter 11, verse 8:
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
And truly, if they had been mindful of the country where whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them that city.
Remember reading up here in verse 10?
He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
,wherefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them that heavenly city.
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
Of whom it was said, That in Isaac thy seed shall be called:
Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure
Resurrected, raised from the dead; this, the heart of the Christian faith is looked upon with ridicule and scorn, not only by fools and madmen, but by great scholars and brilliant philosophers and the finest thinkers in the human race. The idea, the whole conception of life beyond the grave – of heaven, of immortality – all that pertains to the glory that God has promised us is ridiculed and scorned by these learned men. It surprises me, the continuing unbelief that has characterized the human family through the centuries and the years.
For example, I am amazed, stupefied, dumbfounded by the little word added here in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in verse 17, wherein the Lord is described as being raised from the dead. And He stands there, before them, the Lord Jesus, immortalized, glorified, alive, raised. There He stands and the little word here says, "But some doubted."
Can you think of that? But some doubted when the living Lord stood before them, raised from the dead, there were some of them who doubted. That unbelief has characterized the human race through all the centuries and the years. I repeat; not by stupid idiots or crazy madmen but by the most brilliant thinkers and philosophers that the race has ever produced.
Through all the years, in the days of our Lord Jesus, the Sadducees directed the life of the nation. The priesthood came from them. The governing high priest who presided over the Sanhedrin belonged to the Sadducees. They were pragmatists. They were secularists. They were materialists. And they laughed and scoffed at the idea of a resurrection from the dead and a life to come.
In the twenty-second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, you have their confrontation with the Lord Jesus, and their old stock story of this man who had seven wives and in the resurrection, which one of them would belong to him, all seven of them? They disdained the very idea of the thought of a resurrection, of immortality, and of heaven to come. The whole world of angels and of the wonders that God has promised in His Word was repudiated by them.
In the days of the apostle Paul, when he stood before the supreme court of the Athenians, called the Areopagus, and as he spoke to them, when Paul mentioned the resurrection from the dead, the Athenians’ philosophers scoffed at him [Acts 17:19-32]. They burst into laughing ridicule.
The seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts mentions two of the groups. One of them, it says, were the Epicureans [Acts 17:18]. They were hedonists. They thought pleasure was the highest good. You’ve heard their motto all your life; "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die." They were brilliant men. They were the first atomic scientists. They believed that the body was made up of atoms, and the coarser atoms made up the human frame, and the finer atoms made up the soul, and upon death, the atoms just dispersed – no such thing or thought of a resurrection and a life to come.
The other group of philosophers mentioned there who listened to Paul were the Stoics. The Stoics were secularists. They were materialists. They were pantheists. They believed that everything belonged to the world’s soul which they named god, and we were a part of that, and upon our death, we are reabsorbed into that world’s soul, the pantheistic world you see around you. And the thought or the idea of a personal resurrection and a beautiful life to come was ridiculous to them.
In the days of the Latin and Greek fathers in about 170 AD, there was a brilliant, brilliant Greek author named Celsus. And there are no arguments against God in the Christian faith in the days since Celsus that Celsus did not employ against the idea of all the things contained in the Christian home. The smartest, the most brilliant of the church fathers was Origen. And the great work of Origen is entitled Against Celsus, trying to answer Celsus.
As the days passed, in the early reformers, the morning star of the reformation, Savonarola, was the incomparable preacher in Florence, Italy. The great Duomo, the vast cathedral there; people thronged by the thousands and the thousands to hear Savonarola. So effective was he at preaching the gospel that the Roman church put him to death, Savonarola, the incomparable preacher.
Machiavelli, who lived in Florence, whose idol and idea of states craft was Cesarer Borgia, Cesarer Borgia, whom Shakespeare refers to as a model and a superlative of murderous treachery. Machiavelli who has given his name to Machiavellian policies of statecraft, treachery, fraud, anything debased. Machiavelli would listen to Savonarola preach with a sneer, with inane contempt, with ridicule and sarcasm.
And we come to the days of our modern social reformers. The great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, ultimately gave birth to the Nazi party in Germany, he glorified war and looked upon the victor as being supermen. And Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in his Will to Power,
I have searched the New Testament. All of it is cowardice. All is closed eyes and self-delusion. Christianity is a typical form of decadence, of moral softening, of hysteria amid a general hodgepodge of race and people that has lost all aim and grown weary and sick. Christianity is a degenerative movement, consisting of all kinds of decaying and excremental elements. It is opposed to every form of intellectual movement, to all philosophy. It takes up the cudgels for idiots and utters curses upon all intellect.
Now the great continuing opposite of Nazi national socialism, of course, is communism. And communism, also totalitarian, had its birth in Karl Marx and his Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto. And there is nobody but is familiar with the sentence from Karl Marx, "Religion is the opiate of the people. And in order to achieve this communist, classic, classless society, we must do away with all religion." And, of course, the card-carrying communist is a vitriolic atheist. That’s Karl Marx.
Now in our day and in our generation, when I was a youth I listened to Clarence Darrow on radio. He was as brilliant a lawyer as ever lived in America and as vitriolic an atheist. And from The Story of My Life, his autobiography, on page 400 and 406 and 409, he writes:
If there is one scrap of proof that we are alive after we are dead, why is not that scrap given to the world? Certainly, under all the rules of logic, the one who assumes that an apparently dead person is still alive should be able to produce substantial proof. Not only is there no evidence of immortality, but the facts show it is utterly impossible for us that there should be a life beyond this earth. The whole conception of immortality and heaven is too illogical, absurd, and impossible to find lodgment in any healthy brain.
These are not madmen. These are not fools that I have quoted through the years. They are the brilliant philosophers and thinkers of the generations. Well, what do you say? They seem to be so finally conclusive and so conclusively final in what they avow. What do you say?
Could it be that there is some other dimension of life and living of the soul and of the heart? Could it be that there might be something other and else and besides of their so final conclusions? Could it be? Well, out of a thousand things that I’d like to say, may I choose three, just three?
The first: I’d like to speak of the self-revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, the Word of God. There has been no century in English history when the nation was so low and devoid of religious persuasion as the eighteenth century. It seems to me as I read of the culture and political life of the nation, it was guided and ruled by infidels, by atheists.
And this those days, there were two of them: George Littleton, who was raised to the peerage and called Lord Littleton. He was a brilliant man of letters. Samuel Johnson writes of him in his Lives of the Poets. Lord Littleton, a member of the parliament, Chancellor of the Exchequer, lord commissioner, a brilliant speaker and writer; Lord Littleton was an infidel.
He had a dear friend named Gilbert West who was just like him – brilliant and an infidel. And they had close converse with the great infidels of the age in which they lived, like Bolingbroke, and Chesterfield, and Alexander Pope, the poet. Upon a day, Lord Littleton said to Gilbert West, "Let us write and expose the idiocy of the Bible."
They agreed and Lord Littleton chose the conversion of Paul and the writings of Paul. And Gilbert West chose the resurrection of Christ, the deity of our Lord. After their period of study and after their proposed books, exposing the fallacies of the Bible, they met to compare their notes.
And Lord Littleton said to his friend Gilbert West, "I have a confession to make. I have found the Lord. I am a Christian. I’ve been converted. And I repent me of the folly of my previous years. And I have found joy and gladness in the Lord. I repent me."
And Gilbert West replied, "Your lordship, I too, have been saved. I’ve been converted. I have found the Lord. I’m a Christian now."
Lest you think that happened a long time ago, if you have ever been to Santa Fe, New Mexico, they will show you the governor’s mansion where General Lou Wallace, the governor of the territory of New Mexico, lived and wrote. He was a gifted military leader, a gifted political leader, and he loved to write. He was an infidel.
This was another one just like him in those days named Robert Ingersoll, Bob Ingersoll. Bob Ingersoll went all over this nation lecturing concerning the foolishness and the fallacies of the Bible. Upon a time when Bob Ingersoll was with this illustrious American leader, General Lou Wallace, Bob Ingersoll said to him, "General, why don’t you study the New Testament and write a book exposing the idiocy of those who would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Why don’t you do that?"
General Lou turned it over in his mind and decided to do that, to study the New Testament and to write a novel exposing the fallacies and the idiocies of the life of Christ. What he wrote was the famous novel that magnifies the Lord entitled Ben Hur, a Story of the Christ. He was converted. He was saved. And when he wrote his novel, it was one of the most dramatic of American literature.
These things are not far out. We can read it for ourselves. We can feel the throb, and the truth, and the march of the revelation of God in these Holy Scriptures. They are undeniable. There is no book like this Book. That’s why once a year the nation gives itself to the celebration of a Bible Translation Day. It tells us of Christ, of the resurrection of our Lord, of the glories of heaven, and of our sonship and heirship with Him.
Number two: what about the caustic, critical castigation of the infidel who for this century has denied the faith, and the hope, and the resurrection, and the heaven to come? A second reason: I find it in the duty of the Christian life, what it does to the human heart, the human soul, the human homes, the human life; what the message of Christ does for us, the beautiful Christian.
Not long after the Second World War, I was in what they call Hiroshima. We call it Hiroshima. The town was mostly devastated when I was there, where that atomic bomb fell right over the center of the city. I was the guest in the home of a sweet missionary couple. And while I was there, there came a fine looking Japanese man who taught them the Japanese language. He was their teacher.
I got acquainted with him. He was an amazing somebody. He had been a great general in the Japanese army in their conquest of China. And, of course, after the plunging of the nation into the Second World War, he was a mighty leader in the military, opposing the counter attack of the United States.
When Japan lost the war, they literally debased and defaced their military leaders. For one thing, they’d brought humility to the nation. For the other thing, they were repudiating their military posture. And as you know, they executed Tojo, who was their military prime leader, and all of the military officials, they ostracized. They by law prohibited their holding office. By law they prohibited their taking part in an open forum and in public matters.
Now this great general was caught up in that debasement. And as a means just to take care of himself and his family, he was a humble teacher of the American missionaries, teaching them Japanese, the language.
Well, that interested me. It would anybody. So I got acquainted with him. And to my surprise, I learned he was a Christian. He was a Christian. And I asked, “How did you become a Christian, you who were a leader in the Shintoist religion, worshipping the emperor and a great general in the army? How is it you were a Christian?”
And his reply was, "In the conquest of China, I met people there I had never known before. They were called Christians, and there was a difference in them beyond anything I had ever seen. And when Japan lost the war and the Americans came, I met those same people again. I met Christian people – so different from any I’d ever known or ever been with. And I listened to them, and I read of them, and I looked in the Word of God that they preached. And I have been converted. I am a Christian."
There is no comparison in the earth with the beauty and the sanctity and the holiness of a beautiful Christian life. Put it against any other faith in the world, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Muslim, the Confucianist, the Shintoist, the animist, any comparison in the eart, and the Christian life will shine like the morning star. It will rise like the dawn of the sun. There’s no life comparable to the glory and beauty of the Christian faith.
In these few moments that remain, let me mention the third. What we are doing is trying to find an answer to these conclusive and final words of the infidel who says there is no resurrection, there’s no life beyond the grave, and there’s no heaven.
My third one: the church itself, the church, you, the assemblies of the Lord. In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, there is a verse that is as famous as any in the world, "I say unto thee, that thou art petros, a stone, a rock, and upon this petra, a great ledge, the confession of faith in the deity of Christ: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, and upon this petra, this great foundation, I will build My ekklesia; and the gates of hell, the gates of hades, the gates of death, shall not katischuo, translated here, shall not prevail against it" [Matthew 16:16-18].
The word katischuo, literally, "It will not have power to hold it down. It will not have power to overcome it, to overwhelm it." Death, the grave, the gates of hades, death cannot divide it, cannot separate it, cannot overcome it, overwhelm it, prevail against it. Death has no power to divide the ekklesia of God, the church of God.
Some of them are over there. Some of them are down here. But whether they’re over there or whether they’re down here, they’re just the same. They belong to the family of God. And death does not separate them. It does not divide them. It is one gathering of the Lord, one ekklesia, one family of God’s wonderful chosen called out people.
In the Holy Scriptures the church is called, as it is there, the ekklesia, the chosen elect, the called out, the gathering of the people of the Lord, the ekklesia; there and here, just the same.
I have in my hand a beautiful coin that Robert Burmingham gave me. He said to me, when we were in Hamburg, when our choir was in Hamburg, he said, “They gave us this coin that honors Oncken, who was the great founder of our Baptist faith in Europe – built churches all over Europe.” And when I looked at the the coin, I was surprised to see on the front of it, on the face of it, Oncken, Gemeinde, Gemeinde, Gemeinde. That is the word that Martin Luther used to translate the word church, ekklesia in the Scriptures.
The German word for church is Kirche, Kirche. Luther never used it. That’s the strangest thing. When Luther wrote; translated his great German Bible, never did he use the word Kirche, church. He used the word Gemeinde, Gemeinde.
Gemeinde can mean a low, vulgar convivial group in a pub, in a beer joint – people gathered together. Or he exalted it to refer to the assembly of the people of God, the family of the Lord; a people that loves the Lord, a Gemeinde, an ekklesia, a gathering. Whether they’re up there or whether they’re down here, they’re just the same. It’s the ekklesia. It’s the church. It’s the Gemeinde of the Lord.
Another word used in the Bible to refer to the church is koinonia. It is a fellowship. It is a communion. It is a partnership. It is a participating-ship.
They sit down at the table of the Lord up there. We sit down at the table of the Lord down here. We shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We shall sit down at the married supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-10]. Whether we sit with them up there someday or sit with the saints down here now, we are one koinonia, we are one fellowship. We are one participating-partnership in the love and grace of our Lord.
Another word to describe the church is polis, polis. You have it in Indianapolis or Annapolis. It’s the word for city. We are described as a great thronging group of people, a city.
In the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, the angel said to the apostle John, "Come and I will show you the bride of the Lamb, the bride of the Lamb. And he showed me the beautiful city, the New Jerusalem" [Revelation 21:9-10]. The first verse of the twelfth chapter of this Book of Hebrews says, "Wherefore seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses," talking about the saints in glory. Whether they’re up there, the great cloud of witnesses, or whether we’re down here, we are a great congregation, a great meeting, a great gathering, a great city of the Lord, there and here, just the same.
Again, the Bible refers to us as a politeuma, from that word city, politics, polis, politeuma. In the third chapter of the Book of Philippians, the twentieth verse, Paul says, "For our politeuma is in heaven." You can translate that, "For our commonwealth is in heaven." Or you can translate it, "Our citizenship is in heaven." Not here, but in heaven. Our citizenship, our politeuma, our commonwealth is in heaven. We are citizens of glory. Some of them are already there, some of them still down here, but whether there or whether here, all of us are citizens of the politeuma of the great commonwealth of God.
Are their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Our names are, too. What they have on the great scrolls in glory, those names, we have on that same great scroll in glory, our names. We belong to the same politeuma. Whether they’re there in heaven or we’re here in earth, our names are inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
We live under the same government. The laws of glory that govern them are the same laws of God that govern us, just the same. The same Lord Christ that is their King there is our King here; just the same, just the same; the same politeuma, the same commonwealth, the same citizens, there are here. The riches that they enjoy there, we enjoy here. The angels are our ministering spirits [Hebrews 1:14]. The saints are our companions.
Jesus is our elder Brother, and God is our Father whether there or here. It’s just the same; the politeuma, the commonwealth, the citizens of the kingdom of God. And the beautiful things that God hath promised them, He hath promised us.
There’s no finer or moving verse in the Bible than the one that closes the third chapter of 1 Corinthians. There the apostle says, "All things are ours," whether things past, whether things present, whether things to come, all are ours; "And we are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s" [1 Corinthians 3:21-23]. Everything that God has done and everything that God possesses belongs to us; for them and for us.
Those azure, glorious, beautiful things we read about in heaven, the jasper foundation, and the pearly gates, and the golden streets, and all of the marvelous things that attend the river of life and the tree of life with its twelve fruits [Revelation 21:9-22:3], there’s not anything that God hath done that is not ours, theirs and ours; they belong to us.
A final word about it. The happinesses, and the gladnesses, and the glories, and the joys that they experience, we experience, too. We’re in the same politeuma. We’re in the same commonwealth. We’re citizens of the same kingdom. And whatever makes their hearts glad makes our hearts glad.
Do they sit down in sweet communion? We do, too. Do they rejoice in Jesus their Savior? We do, too. Do they love to hear the words of grace and salvation? We do, too. Do they sing “Worthy Is the Lamb?" [Revelation 5:9-14]. We do, too! We do too! Just like them, we sing it, too. Do they cast their golden crowns at the feet of Jesus? [Revelation 4:10]. Such honors as we have, we cast them down at the feet of our Lord, too. Do they rejoice in sinners who are saved? We do, too.
"There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth" [Luke 15:10], up there. There’s joy among the people of the Lord down here when just one somebody comes down this aisle. "Today I’m taking my stand for Christ." Just the same, just the same; there is no difference. It’s just that they’re there and we’re here. And the gates of death, of hades, katischeuo, has no power to divide us [Matthew 16:18]. We’re one in the faith, and in the Lord, and in the hope of heaven.
Oh, my sweet people, what a comfort, and what an encouragement, and what
a blessing loving Jesus, serving in His kingdom, encouraging each other in the faith! And that’s our appeal to your heart.
A family you, all of you coming, "Pastor, this is God’s day for us, and we’re on the way." Welcome. Oh, a thousand times welcome! A couple you, coming to the Lord and to us, a one somebody you, "Pastor, this day I take the Lord as my Savior. I ask Him to come into my heart and to live in my life." To give your life in a new way to the wonderful Savior; all of us waiting, no one leaving, all of us praying, and then as we sing our song of appeal, in the balcony, down one of these stairways, on the lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I’m answering with my life." Make the decision now in your heart, and when we sing the song, may angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing. God bless you as you come.
THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: OUR HOPE OF HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Concept of resurrection ridiculed and scorned(Matthew 28:17)
A. In the days of Christ(Matthew 22:27-33)
B. In the days of Paul (Acts 17:18-32)
C. In the days of the church fathers
D. In the days of the early reformers
II. The witness of the Scripture
A. George Littleton and Gilbert West set out to write and expose idiocy of the Bible, studying conversion of Paul and resurrection of Christ
1. Both converted
B. General Lou Wallace set out to expose fallacies and idiocies of the life of Christ, studying the New Testament
1. He was converted; wrote Ben Hur, a Story of the Christ
III. The witness of the Christian life
A. Japanese teacher in Hiroshima
IV. The witness of the church
A. Katischuo – death has no power to divide it(Matthew 16:18)
B. It is called an ekklesia – a gathering, a called out company
C. It is called a koinonia – a fellowship, a communion, a participation
D. It is called a polis – a city, a great throng (Revelation 21:9-10, Hebrews 12:1)
E. It is called a politeuma – a commonwealth (Philippians 3:20)
1. Our commonwealth is in heaven – some are already there
a. Our names are written in same Book of Life
b. We are under the same government
c. We share the same honor (Hebrews 1:14, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, Revelation 21:9-22:3)
d. We share the same joy (Revelation 4:10, 5:9-14, Luke 15:10)