The Blessing of an Absent Christ
Mr. John W. Bramhall, a resident of Charlotte, N. C., and an esteemed servant of the Lord, is a frequent contributor to Focus. In this helpful article, he reminds us of the rich spiritual blessings which are ours as a result of Christ having enshrined Himself invisibly at the right hand of God the Father.
Have we fully appreciated the meaning of our Saviour’s words when He said to His disciples, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you” (John 16:7)? The announcement of His departure to the Father in preceding chapters had produced great sorrow of heart to the disciples. His coming absence troubled them greatly and now He tells them it would be more profitable for them to be without His bodily presence on the earth. Do we have greater blessings because of this today? Let us consider in quiet meditation some reasons for His absence.
His Presence Is Nearer
In Christ’s incarnate flesh we know He was confined to one locality at a time when on earth. Now, He is beyond the boundaries of time and sense, filling all things above and is accessible by faith and prayer to all of His own (Ephesians 1:22-23). We all have access into His immediate presence today no matter where on earth we live. Furthermore, His presence with us is also assured, for has He not said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20; see also Philippians 4:5; Hebrews 13:5-6). Is it not true today that we can know the preciousness in our daily walk of those words recorded in Luke 24:15, saying “that Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them”? Though absent from earth, there is not a child of God in the whole world out of His reach; to every one of His own His presence is nearer!
His Godhead Is Clearer
There were occasions when the hearts and minds of our Lord’s disciples who walked with Him could not grasp His great Godhead as He walked and lived with them each day. Occasional glimpses of His glorious deity were visible to their eyes, but often the question was raised, “What manner of Man is this?” (Mark 4:41). Yet when His resurrection and exaltation in Heaven was established, beyond all controversy His glorious deity was more fully comprehended by His disciples than if He had stayed upon the earth. All the subsequent ministry and writings of His apostles indicate that to them His absolute Godhead was better understood. Then He was “declared the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). When Christ took His place “on the right hand of the majesty on high,” then they knew with absolute assurance that He was “higher than the angels” (see Hebrews 1:3-5). For them, and for us today, His Godhead is clearer!
His Salvation Is Surer
How precious to know the strong and eternal assurance we now have concerning Christ’s perfect redemption that is ours, all because He is absent from earth and present in Heaven. The evidence is perfect that His redemptive work is complete. Listen to the words of Hebrews 10:12 and 14: “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God… For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” Again, “He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). Yes, because He is there in Heaven, His great salvation is surer!
His Heaven Is Dearer
There would be no attraction to the Father’s home above if Christ had stayed on the earth among men; but by His presence above He is the greatest attraction there to the hearts of His own. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3; see also1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 5:6-14). All the outward display of Heaven’s glory cannot compare with the preciousness of His blessed Person. He Himself will be the centrality of all the heavenly glories. Beloved Samuel Rutherford has well written his conviction of this, saying: “I would be in Heaven, if I had no other reason but to see that golden Ark, and God inhabiting a body such as we sinners have, that I might adore Him forevermore.” Is not this our conviction, too?
Though we have loved ones in His presence above waiting for the glad reunion of saints at His coming when we shall see them again, yet without Him being there it never could be Heaven either for them or for us. Because He is not here, but there, our departed saints are enjoying Him. To them Heaven is dearer, and for us who await the glad day when we too shall be taken home to glory, it is also blessedly true — His Heaven is dearer!
His Church Is Richer
Our Lord Jesus Christ’s departure has not robbed us at all, but has made us richer on the earth because of the indwelling presence and the power of His Holy Spirit. Did He not say, “For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you” (John 16:7)? Has He not kept this promise? Has He not sent an equally divine Person who is not limited to the body of humanity as our Saviour was? One whose presence is not only with us but in us? The Church is richer because of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the earth, coming at Pentecost and continuing with the Church until the blessed rapture of the saints.
With the redemption work now fully completed by Christ, the presence now of the Holy Spirit on the earth, the Lord Jesus Christ can now in the most blessed and intimate manner bring our hearts into all the eternal values that flow from Christ and His work, all that is now ours in an exalted Christ in Heaven above. It is His delight to reveal to us God the Father’s estimation of His Son who is in Heaven. This could never be done until our Lord’s absence from the earth and His presence in Heaven. It was a necessary change of ministry, changing it from the visible to the invisible, from the earthly to the heavenly, from the external to the internal, and from the occasional to the perpetual. For all of this has the Holy Spirit been given to bring to the hearts of His own what we have in that blessed Man in the glory.
Properly has the Apostle Paul written: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). All those unsearchable riches in Christ that are ours now should be enjoyed by us on the earth. This could never have been possible had it not been necessary for that blessed Man to be absent from the earth and present in Heaven above.
“He shall glorify me; for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, that He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:14-15). The riches of His Church are not measured by earthly standards, but only by the heavenly — they are all in that Man in the glory at the right hand of God! But the Revealer of all those riches in Him is the Holy Spirit of God Himself. There is no doubt that Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, delighted in telling Rebecca, the espoused wife of Isaac, of his master’s riches as they travelled the long desert journey toward the land of Canaan. Does the Holy Spirit have the present delight and opportunity to speak to our hearts of our riches in that blessed One in Heaven above? As we travel through this wilderness, are we enjoying our riches in that exalted Lord in Heaven? God grant that we are and that we shall do so more and more.
This world is a wilderness wide,
I have nothing to seek or to choose;
I’ve no tho’t in the waste to abide;
I’ve naught to regret or to lose.
The path where my Saviour is gone,
Has led up to His Father and God;
To the place where He’s now on the throne,
And His strength shall be mine on the road.
— J. N. Darby