Things Which Are Most Surely Believed Among Us
The phrase, “Things which are most surely believed among us” is to be interpreted in no sectarian sense. “Food for the Flock” does not foster sectarianism. The phrase has been extracted from Luke 1:1, and, in using it as a caption for a series of articles touching our Faith, we wish to imply that those responsible for the production of the magazine unreservedly believe all that is contained in “the Scriptures of Truth,” and they write for that large body of Christians who share their like faith. All over the world, and at all times, God has those who like Paul say, “I believe God.”
Seeing that our beliefs are based on Holy Scripture, it follows that we should first consider the nature of those Scriptures, in order to satisfy ourselves that our faith is well-founded. Our ninth paper, therefore, will relate to …
The Work of Christ in Heaven
Having considered the resurrection of Christ, it follows naturally that we should now think of His present work.
The resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus not only vindicated Him, but also compensated Him for what He endured. Man gave to Him the lowest place of dishonour on earth, for no more shameful end to man’s life could be than that which is ended on a gallows (Gal. 3:13). But brutal men were prevented from disposing of His body “with the wicked”: He was “with the rich in His death” by the providential intervention of God, (Isa. 53:9). They would, however, have had it otherwise had they been able. He was despised and rejected of man, yet He was the Man that God “delighted to honour” (Esther 6:11). Is it any marvel, then, that God should have given to Him the highest place of honour in Heaven. He is seated at His right hand there. This is the point of Peter’s remark to the Sanhedrin, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted at His right hand,” (Acts 5:31). The lowest position of dishonour was “the tree” — the dead tree stump on which the Lord was suspended by wicked hands: the highest point of honour is at the right hand of God in Heaven.
Not only so. “Consider and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow” (Lam. 1:12), are words, not only applicable to Jerusalem, but also, in full measure, to the Lord Jesus. His soul was “exceeding sorrowful” (Matt. 26:38). He exceeded all others in it. But God has now “anointed” Him “with the oil of gladness above His fellows” (Heb. 1:9). He has a commensurate exceeding joy. All the darkness and the sorrow and the shame of the cross are over for ever.
Although He came as the King of the Jews and despite the fact that that claim was valid, yet He was given a cross outside the city of Jerusalem instead of a throne inside. Notwithstanding that, God has received Him into Heaven and He has “sat down with His Father in His throne,” (Rev. 3:21), pending the time when He will return to earth and occupy His own throne. He is, there, “from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool” (Heb. 10:13).
One of the offices He now fills is that of
The word prince connotes dignity, supremacy, authorship, leadership; it indicates priority of importance of rank. He who, in order to achieve the counsels of the Godhead, willingly took the subordinate place, nevertheless stands next in rank to the Father, administratively, though equal essentially.
This title is used four times of the Lord. Peter calls Him the “Prince of life”, (Acts 3:15), “a Prince and Saviour” (Acts 5:31), and the writer to the Hebrews calls Him “the Captain of our salvation” (Heb, 2:10), and “the Author of Faith” (Heb. 12:2). The same Greek word is used in each case.
As ‘Prince of life’ He is contrasted with Barabbas who was a murderer — he took life, the Lord alone could give it. As ‘Prince and Saviour’ He stands in relation to Christ — rejecting Israel, and His exaltation is in view of their later repentance and forgiveness. For repent they will, and their Confessional is prophetically given in Isaiah 53. Their national salvation can be in none other: for ‘there is no other name given under Heaven among men whereby they, as a nation, “can ever be saved” (Acts 4:12). No doubt these words can be extended in their application to all mankind, and in relation to salvation from sin and judgment, but in stressing this we must not lose sight of its other bearing. It is because of this possible extension that He is called “the Captain of our Salvation” — He originated it: made it righteously possible. He, too, is the ‘Author of Faith’ standing at the head of the column of the innumerable number of those who have lived, or are living lives of faith.
He is “exalted at God’s right hand” (Acts 5:31). Thus the position has been reversed. When here, in distress, God was at His right hand to help (Psa. 109:31). But now, having done all the will of God, costing Him as it did the pangs of Calvary and all that was involved therein, He has been received up into Heaven and has taken His seat at the right hand of God. This is the position of special honour and power,
And not only so: but He is sitting there, for His work on earth is done. This is stressed both in the Old Testament and in the New.
The notion of a sitting high priest was altogether foreign to Israel. No seat was provided either in the tabernacle or temple, for, because of the inefficacy of animal sacrifices, the work of the priests was never done. But Christ, by His one offering, has perfected for ever them that are sanctified (Heb. 10:14) and, in consequence, there is no more offering for sin (Heb. 10:18). Our Great High Priest may, therefore, sit down. It would take far too much space to discuss fully the high-priestly work of Christ, but there are features about it which stand in striking contrast to the Aaronic priesthood of old. This is a royal priesthood, for the Lord Jesus is both King as well as Priest (Heb. 7:14). It is a perpetual Priesthood, for He lives by the power of an endless life. He ‘ever liveth” and, therefore the transmission (Heb. 7:24), of His priesthood to a successor does not come into question. In every way it is superior to the Levitical priesthood. The writer to the Hebrews argues this effectively by referring to the payment of tithes by Abram to Melchizedek (Heb. 7:5), Levi not yet being born.
Another one of His offices is that of Saviour
This is a title used of the Lord Jesus, not only when here on earth, but now that He is in Heaven. He is the “Saviour of the body” (Eph. 5:23). He is the Saviour whom we are expecting from Heaven (Phil. 3:20), to change our bodies of humiliation into the likeness of His body of glory. We are looking for the “appearing of the great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13).
This closely impinges on His Priesthood, for “He is able to save to the uttermost … because He ever liveth” (Heb. 7:25). The reader can readily develop this theme for himself.
Yet another office that He occupies is that of Forerunner (Heb. 6:20).
He is the first Man to have entered Heaven in a glorified body, and He is, therefore, the Guarantor that others will follow Him. As the First-fruit, so the harvest. As the Fore-runner so the followers. Departed saints are certainly “with Christ” now, but they lack their glorified bodies: they are in a disembodied state awaiting, like ourselves, the full realization of “the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:18). They cannot “without us” be made perfect (Heb. 11:40).
And again, He is the Head.
He is Head of the body, the Church, as well as “Head over all things” (Eph. 1:22). From Him come all nourishment, and direction. We will not dwell on the subject here, because when we consider the doctrine of the Church this will be involved. His present position in Heaven as “Head” is however, only the beginning, for it is the purpose of God to “head up in Him all things, both which are in Heaven and which are on earth” (Eph. 1:10). This He will do in the “dispensation of the fullness of times” and Christ will stand supreme over all things.
In the person of Christ in Heaven “we have an Advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ, the righteous” (1 John 2:2). The Advocacy of Christ is to be distinguished from His Priesthood. Priesthood depends on His likeness to us, Advocacy upon His unlikeness. Priesthood has to do with our relationship with God: Advocacy, of that with the Father. Priesthood has to do both with sins and weaknesses: Advocacy with sins alone. The Advocacy of Christ, as also His priesthood, is based upon His “propitiatory offering” which furnishes the Righteous Advocate with a righteous ground on which to plead with a Righteous Father. It is unthinkable that such a plea could fail.
This word Bishop is used by Peter, and it means “Overseer” (1 Pet. 2:25). He links with it the word “Shepherd” and the phrase may be rendered “the Shepherd, that is Bishop, of your souls,” He was once on earth the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep, (John 10:11), now in Heaven He is the Great Shepherd who is caring for the sheep, (Heb. 13:20), and soon He will appear as the Chief Shepherd, rewarding the under-shepherds (1 Pet. 5:4).
It would take us too long to dilate on the duties of a shepherd and the marks of a good shepherd. The reader should do this for himself.
These then are some of the offices that our Lord and Saviour fills now He is in Heaven. He is not indifferent to the well-being of those for whom He died and who are on their way ‘to glory’ (Heb. 2:10). He has, as a good Shepherd, left them in “the hand of a Keeper” — the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 17:20), — and in addition, is Himself continually acting on their behalf in Heaven.
It is not to be supposed that He is in Heaven interminably, for time and again we are reminded that He is there “until” the time comes for the accomplishment of the purpose of God concerning Him. “The heavens must receive Him until the times of the restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21). He is to sit at God’s right hand “until” all His enemies have been placed beneath His feet, (Psa. 110:1). He has “sat down on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting” till this subjugation of His foes takes place (Heb. 10:13).
We should not think of this as a bodily posture, but more as a position of honour which He occupies.
Just as a monarch occupies the throne but bodily may be in any place, so, too, Christ occupies the highest position of heavenly honour, which He will never vacate.
God’s King in Reserve
Joash was hidden away in the temple, during the wicked reign of Athaliah, (2 Kings 11), so too, the Lord Jesus — earth’s rightful King — is hidden away in Heaven until the time arrives when God will bring again into the world His Firstborn. It may appear that everything has gone awry on earth, and that the promises of God seem unlikely of fulfilment, but God has His own appointed time for bringing His Son into those rights of which He was deprived when He was crucified. God, then, temporarily, broke off His dealings with Israel, and through them with the world, and brought in the reign of grace, the duration of which he has not disclosed. While grace is reigning on earth, Christ is enthroned in Heaven. And while grace is reigning all national barriers are ignored; it flows out to whosoever will accept it. Thus God has over-ruled the wickedness of man to the accomplishment of the designs of His mercy, but of that we must speak in a separate chapter.