Chapter 5

 •  46 min. read  •  grade level: 7
In the opening of the Gospel of Luke, one is struck by the deep and vivid expression of intimacy between heaven and earth which is found and felt to be there. It is man’s necessity and weakness which open the heavenly door; but once open, it is thrown wide open.
Zacharias and Elizabeth were both righteous before God, walking blameless in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord. They were of the priestly family, the seed of Aaron. But it was not their righteousness that opened heaven to them, but their need and infirmities. Elizabeth was barren, and they were both now well stricken in age; and their point of real blessing lay there, lay in their sorrow and weakness. For to the barren wife and the childless husband, Gabriel comes with a word of promise from heaven. But, as we said, the door of heaven being once opened, is flung wide open. Angels are all action and joy; and no matter whether it be the temple in the royal, holy city, or a distant village in despised Galilee, Gabriel with equal readiness visits either and both. The glory of God, as well as hosts of angels, fills also the fields of Bethlehem. The Holy Spirit, in His divine light and power, fills His elect vessels, and the Son Himself assumes flesh. Heaven and earth are very near each other. The action and the joy, which had begun on high, are felt and answered from the scene here below. The shepherds, the favored women, the aged priest, and the unborn child, share the holy enthusiasm of the moment; and waiting saints go forth from the place of expectation.
I know no scripture finer than Luke 1-2 in this character. It was as in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye; but a blessed transition was accomplished—“Heaven comes down to greet our soul.”
Earth learns, and learns in the mouth of these wondrous witnesses, that the door of heaven was indeed thrown wide open to her. And the intimacy was deep, as the services and grace were precious. The angel calls Zacharias and Mary by their names and speaks to them also of Elizabeth by name—a language or style which lets the heart know its meaning at once.
We might bless the Lord for this; and we should do so, did we a little more simply and a little more believingly, walk on in the sense of the nearness and reality of heaven.
Jacob and Stephen, in their day and in like manner, had heaven opened to them and were given also to know their own personal interest in it. A ladder was set up in the sight of Jacob, and as the top of it entered heaven, the foot of it rested just on the spot where he was lying. It was a mean, dishonored place; the witness also of his wrong, as well as of his misery. But the ladder adopted it; and the voice of the Lord, who was in His glory above it, spoke to Jacob of blessing, of security, of guidance and of inheritance.
Stephen, likewise, saw the heaven opened and the glory there; but the Son of man was standing at the right hand of God. And this told the martyr, as the ladder had told the patriarch, that he and his circumstances at that very moment were the thought and object of heaven.
Thus was it after these same ways, in these distant days of Jacob and Stephen—distant from each other as well as distant from us. But time makes no difference. Faith sees these same opened heavens now; and learns, too, like those of old, that they are ours. It learns that there are links between them and our circumstances. In the eye of faith there is a ladder; heaven stands open before it, and “the Man Christ Jesus” is seen there—the Mediator of the new covenant, the High-Priest, the Advocate with the Father, the One who sympathizes, the Forerunner also into those places of glory.
Jesus has ascended, and the present action in the heavens where He is gone, is known by faith to be all “for us.” Our need, as well as our sorrow, is in remembrance there. Jacob’s sufferings were those of a penitent; Stephen’s were a martyr’s: but heaven was the heaven of Jacob as well as of Stephen.
But, though this is so, this is not all. Faith knows another secret or mystery in heaven. It knows that if the Lord took, as He surely did take His seat there in these characters of grace for us, He took it likewise as the One whom man had despised and the world rejected. This is equally among the apprehensions which faith takes of the heavens where the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, is now seated.
The Lord Jesus died under the hand of God; His soul was made an offering for sin. “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him” (Isa. 53:1010Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:10)). And He rose as the One who had thus died, His resurrection witnessing the acceptance of the sacrifice; and He ascended the heavens in the same character also, there to carry on the purpose of the grace of God in such a death and such a resurrection.
But the Lord Jesus died also under the hand of man; that is, man’s wicked hand was in that death, as well and as surely as God’s infinite grace. He was refused by the husbandmen, hated by the world, cast out, crucified, and slain. This is another character of His death. And His resurrection and ascension were in that character also, parts or stages in the history of One whom the world had rejected; His resurrection, consequently, pledging the judgment of the world (Acts 17:3131Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)); and His ascension leading Him to the expectation of a day when His enemies are to be made His footstool (Heb. 10:1313From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. (Hebrews 10:13)).
These distinctions give us to understand the different sights which faith gets, in the light of the Word, of the ascended Jesus; seeing Him, as it does, in priestly grace there, making intercession for us, and, at the same time, awaiting, as in expectation, the judgment of His enemies.
The gospel publishes the first of these mysteries; that is, the death of the Lord Jesus under the hand of God for us and His resurrection and ascension as in character with such a death. And this gospel is rightly gloried in as all our salvation.* But the second of these mysteries, the death of the Lord under the hand of man, may be somewhat forgotten, while the first of them is thus rightly gloried in. But this is a serious mistake in the soul of a saint or in the calculations and testimony of the Church. For let this great fact, this second mystery, as we have called it, the death of the Lord Jesus under the hand of man, be forgotten, as it may be on earth, it is surely not forgotten in heaven. It is not, it is true, the occasion of present action there; it is the death of the Victim, and the intercessions of the Priest upon such death, which form the action that is there now. But as surely it will be the death of the divine Martyr, the death of the Son of God at the hand of man, that will give character to the action there by and by.
(* In preaching the gospel, the sin of man in putting the Lord of glory to death will surely be declared; but it is the death of the Lord as the Lamb of God which is the ground of the grace published by the gospel; and that is what I mean here.)
These distinctions are very clearly preserved in Scripture. Heaven, as it is opened to us in Revelation 4, is a very different heaven, differently minded, I mean, differently moved and occupied, from the heaven presented to us in the Epistle to the Hebrews; just as different, I may say, as the death of the Lord Jesus looked at as under man’s hand (that is, perpetrated by us), and as under God’s hand; that is, accomplished for us. We may have the same objects or materials in each, but they will be seen in very different connections. We have, for instance, a throne and a temple in each of these heavens, the heaven of Hebrews and the heaven of the Apocalypse; but the contrasts between them are very solemnly preserved. In Hebrews, the throne is a throne of grace, and whatever our present time of need and sorrow may require is found there and obtained there. In the Apocalypse, the throne is one of judgment, and the instruments and agencies of wrath and of vengeance are seen to be lying before and around it. In Hebrews, the sanctuary, or temple, is occupied by the High-Priest of our profession, the Mediator of the better covenant, serving there in the virtue of His own most precious blood. In the Apocalypse, the temple gives fearful notes of preparation for judgment. Lightning and earthquake and voices attend the opening of it. It is as the temple seen by the prophet, filled with smoke, and the pillars of it shaking in token that the God to whom vengeance belongs was there in His glory (Isa. 6).
The sight we get of heaven in the Apocalypse is thus very solemn. It is the place of power furnishing itself with the instruments of judgment. Seals are opened, trumpets are blown, vials are emptied; but all this introducing some awful visitation of the earth. The altar that is there is not the altar of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the heavenly priesthood eat of the bread of life, but an altar that supplies penal fire for the earth. And there is also war there; and at the last it opens for Him whose name is called, “The Word of God,” whose vesture is dipped in blood and who carries a sharp sword in His mouth, that with it He may smite the nations.
Surely this is heaven in a new character. And the contrast is very solemn. This is not the heaven which faith now apprehends, a sanctuary of peace filled with the provisions and witnesses of grace, but a heaven which tells us that though judgment is the Lord’s strange work, yet that it is His work in due season. For heaven in its revolutions, is, as we may say, the place of the witness of grace, of judgment, and of glory. It is the heaven of grace now; it will become the heaven of judgment in the day of Revelation 4, and so continue throughout the action of the book of Apocalypse; and then at the close of that book, as we see in Revelation 21-22, it becomes the heaven of glory.
The soul should be accustomed to this serious truth, that judgment precedes glory. I speak of these things in the progress of the history of the earth or the world. The believer has passed from death into life. There is no condemnation for him. He rises not to judgment but to life. But he ought to know, that in the progress of the divine history of the earth or the world, judgment precedes glory. The kingdom will be seen in the sword or “rod of iron,” ere it be seen in the scepter. The Ancient of Days sits in white garments on a throne of fiery flame with the books opened before Him, ere the Son of Man comes to Him with the clouds of heaven to receive dominion (Psa. 2; Dan. 7).
These lessons are very clearly taught and marked in Scripture. In the day of Revelation 4, it is Christ rejected by man, and not Christ accepted of God for sinners, that has become its thought and object. And accordingly, preparations are being made to avenge the wrongs of the Lord Jesus on the world and to vindicate His rights in the earth: In other words, it is heaven beginning that action which is to seat Him in His Kingdom upon the judgment of His enemies.
But all this shows us again, according to my leading thought in these meditations on “the Son of God,” how it is the same Person that is kept before us and to be known by us, in each and all of the stages or periods of the same great mystery. We are still, at whatever point we may have arrived, in company with the same Jesus. For these distinctions, which I have been now noticing, tell us that He has been received up into heaven, and is now seated there in the very characters in which He had been before known and manifested here on earth. For He had been here as the One who accomplished the grace of God toward us sinners to perfection, and as the One who endured the enmity of the world in its full measure, and it is in these two characters, as we have now seen, that He is seated in heaven.
He does not quickly take this second character or appear actively in heaven as the One who had been despised and rejected on earth. He lingers ere He reaches the heaven of the Apocalypse. And in this feature of character, in this delaying of His approaches to judgment and tarrying in the place of grace, we have a very sweet expression of the Jesus whom faith has already known. For, when He was here as the God of judgment, He approached Jerusalem with a very measured step. He said to her, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,” before He said, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt. 23:37-3837O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. (Matthew 23:37‑38)). He lingered in the plains below, visiting every city and village of the land, in patient service of grace, ere He took His seat on the mount, to speak of judgment and of the desolations of Zion (Matt. 24:33And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Matthew 24:3)). And now of Him who, after this manner, trod softly the road which led Him to the Mount of Olives, the place of judgment, is it written, “The long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:1010But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)). (“Son of Man” is the characteristic of His person when presented in His judicial glory, as also in His place of dominion in the earth (Psa. 8; John 5:2727And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. (John 5:27); Matt. 19:2828And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28)).)
How do we thus hold in view the same Person with like character attaching to Him, whether when He was here on earth or as He is now in heaven,—the Person one, the moral one, though scenes and conditions change! “The grace that was in Christ in this world is the same with that which is in Him now in heaven.” Comforting words! How truly should we know we speak truly when we say, “We know Him!” We have been considering Him from the beginning. He came down from heaven; He lay in the Virgin’s womb, and in the manger at Bethlehem; He traversed the earth in full, unsullied glory, though veiled; He died, and was buried; rose, and returned to heaven; and, as we have now been meditating, faith sees Him there, the One whom faith had known to be here, the very One, the Minister and Witness of the grace of God to man, the Bearer of man’s full enmity against God, and yet the reluctant God of judgment.
But I must notice still more of this same Jesus, and something still more immediately in connection with my present meditation.
When the Lord Jesus Christ was here, He looked for His Kingdom. He offered Himself as her King, the Son of David, to the daughter of Zion. He took the form of the One who had been promised of old by the prophets, and entered the city “meek, and sitting upon an ass.” In a still earlier day, His star, the star of the kingly Bethlehemite, had appeared in the eastern world, summoning the Gentiles to the Son of David, born in the city of David. But what He then looked for He did not find: “His own received Him not.” But He carried with Him to heaven this very same mind, this desire for His Kingdom! “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom.” He thinks of His Kingdom, though now on the throne of the Father, as He had thought of it and looked for it when here. And I may again say, “How strictly, in this fine characteristic, are we kept in communion with the same Jesus still!” Once on earth He was, and now in heaven He is; but we know Him, after these manners, as the same Lord—in person one, in purpose and desire one, though places and conditions change. He was King of Israel when here, and with desire claimed His Kingdom; and being refused it at the hands of the citizens, He has received it in heaven. And in due time He will return, in a day of the gladness of His heart, to administer it here where at the first He sought it: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a Kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7).
We are, after this manner, viewing the one Person, the same Jesus; and the heart prizes this when we think upon it. And there is one other feature of this identity, surpassing, yea, far surpassing, all that I have already noticed.
When He was here, He desired to be known by His disciples, to be discovered by them, sinners as they were, in some of His hidden glories. He rejoiced likewise in all the communications of His grace to faith. The faith which drew upon Him without reserve, the faith which used Him without ceremony, the faith which could outlive, apparent neglect or repulse, was precious to Him. The sinner who would cling to Him in the face of the world’s scorn or would trust in Him all alone, without countenance or encouragement from others, was deeply welcome to Him. The soul that with freedom would ask for His presence or seek communion with Him, seated at His feet or standing by His side, might get from Him what it would, or, like interceding Abraham, have Him as long as it pleased.
He desired oneness with His elect, full, personal, abiding oneness, ready as He was to share with them His name with the Father, the love in which He stood, and the glory of which He was Heir.
He sought for sympathy, He longed for companionship in both His joys and His sorrows. And we can by no means appreciate the disappointings of His heart, when this He sought but found it not; deeper, at the least we may say, far deeper than when He claimed a kingdom, as we have already seen, and received it not. “Could ye not watch with Me one hour?” spoke a lonely heart.
And further still. He purposed when He was here, that He would share His throne with His people. He would not abide alone. He would share His honors and His dominions with His elect, as He would that they, in sympathy, should understand and share His joys and sorrows with Him.
And now (excellent and wonderful as is the mystery which speaks it to us) all this is, or is to be, made good to Him in and by the church. The church is called to answer the desires of the Lord Jesus in all these things, to be all this to Him, either in the Holy Spirit now or in the Kingdom by and by; to enter now in spirit into His thoughts and affections, His joys and His sorrows, and hereafter to shine in His glory and to sit on His throne.
What a mystery! The church, now endowed with the indwelling Spirit and destined to sit, glorious herself, in the inheritance of His dominion, is the answer to these deepest desires of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in the days of His flesh. And again I say, “What a mystery!” We may well admire those harmonies which tell us of the SAME Jesus, the ONE Person in these different parts of His wondrous ways. He sought and claimed a kingdom when He was here, and when He was here, He desired the sympathies of His saints. But His people were not prepared to own His royalty; His saints were not able to give Him this fellowship. A kingdom, however, He is receiving now in heaven, and He will return and administer it here. This fellowship He is beginning to find now through the Spirit indwelling His elect; and it will be in its fuller measure made good to Him in the day of their perfection. The Kingdom will be His glory and His joy. It is called “The joy of the Lord,” for it will be said to them who share it with Him, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” But this fellowship, in which the church will stand with Him, will be still more to Him. It was His deepest desire here, and it will be His richest enjoyment by and by. Eve was more to Adam than all his possessions beside.
Have we, beloved, any power in our souls to rejoice in the thought of the heart of the Lord Jesus being thus satisfied? We may trace the forms of these joys that thus await Him as in the day of His espousals, the day of the gladness of His heart; but have we capacity in spirit to do more? It is humbling to put such inquiries to one’s own soul, we may surely say with all unfeignedness. But these will be His, the Kingdom and the church.
The Kingdom will be His by many titles. He will take it UNDER COVENANT, or, according to counsels which were taken in God before the foundation of the world. He will take it BY PERSONAL RIGHT; for He, the Son of man, never lost the image of God. Of course, He could not; because, though Son of man, He was Son of the Father. But He did not; and having that image, dominion is His by personal title, according to the first great ordinances of power and rule: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:2626And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26)). He will take it likewise by title of OBEDIENCE; as we read of Him: “Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 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” (Phil. 2). He will take it, too, by title of DEATH; for we read again: “And having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself ... .whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Col. 1). And the cross, on which He accomplished that death, had written upon it, and kept there unblotted, uncanceled, in a single letter of it, by the strong prevailing hand of God Himself, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:3737And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. (Matthew 27:37)).
Thus, dominion is the Son of Man’s by covenant, by personal title, by title of service or obedience, and by title of death or purchase: and, I may add, BY CONQUEST also; for the judgments which are to clear His way to the throne and take out of the Kingdom all that offends, are, as we know, executed by His hand. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” (Psa. 24).
What foundations are thus laid for the dominion of the Son of man! How does every title join in subscribing itself to His honored and glorious name! As we see in Revelation 5, none in heaven or earth could take the book but the Lamb that was slain, who was the Lion of Judah: but into His hand He that sits on the throne lets it pass at once; and then the church in glory, angels, and all creatures in all parts of the great dominions, triumph in the Lamb’s rights and title. And if the title is thus sure, sealed by a thousand witnesses and wondrous too, so will be the power and kingdom which it sustains. In the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, “the Lord from heaven,” as well as “the Son of Man,” all the great purpose of God in the rule of all things stands revived and established. We may say, “As ‘all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen,’ so all the destinies of man under God are alike in Him yea, and in Him Amen.”
There was dominion in Adam; government in Noah; fatherhood in Abraham; judgment in David; and royalty in Solomon. In Christ all these glories will meet and shine together. In Him and under Him will be “the restitution of all things.” Many crowns He will wear, and many names He will bear. His name of “Lord” in Psalm 8, is not His name of “King” in Psalm 72. The form of glory in each is peculiar. The crowns are different, but both are His. And He is likewise “the Father of the everlasting age”; a King and yet a Father—the Solomon and the Abraham of God. In Him all shall be blessed; and yet to Him all shall bow. The sword, too, is His; the “rod of iron,” as well as the “scepter of righteousness.” He will judge with David and rule with Solomon.
As Son of David, He takes power to exercise it in a given sphere of glory. As Son of Man, He takes power and exercises it in a wider sphere of glory. He comes likewise in His own glory, in the glory of the Father, and in the glory of the holy angels. And as the risen Man, He takes power. This is shown us in 1 Corinthians 15:23-2723But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. 24Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. (1 Corinthians 15:23‑27). And in that character, He has His peculiar sphere also. He puts death, the last enemy, under His feet. And this is so fitting, like everything else, perfect in its place and season, that as the risen Man He should put down death.
Scenes of various glory will surround Him, and characters of various glory will attach to Him. The very bearing of the Kingdom will be this: It will be full of the glories of Christ; varied, yet consistent and blending. The cross has already presented a sample of this perfect workmanship. “Mercy and truth” met together there. There God was “just,” and yet a “Justifier.” And it is to be after this same manner in coming days of strength, as it has been thus in past days of weakness. As mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, once met and embraced each other, so authority and service, blessing and yet rule, a name of all majesty and power, and yet such a name as shall come down like showers on the mown grass shall be known and enjoyed together. There shall be the universal dominion of man in the whole range of the works of God; the honors of the Kingdom in holding all nations under rule, together with the presence of “the Father of the everlasting age” holding them all in blessing. “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:66For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)).
All is tending to this blessed and glorious lordship and headship of the Son of God, though it be through “seas of tribulation” to some, and through the full judgment of “this present evil world.” God is leading this way, and man cannot hinder it, though he seek to fix the earth on its present foundations, refusing to learn that they are all out of course, that the earth and its inhabitants are dissolved, and that Christ alone bears up its pillars. “The bundle of life” (as she spoke who confessed to David’s glory in the day of David’s humiliation) is a firm bundle, well compacted and sure, because the Lord Himself is in it, as of old He was in the burning bush. But beyond the measure of that bundle (weak and despised in the thoughts of man, like a bramble-bush), all is tottering; and times are surely at hand that will teach this in history to those who will not learn it, nor seek to learn it, watch and pray to learn it in spirit.
The sword and the scepter of this coming day of power are alone in their glories. There is no other sword, no other scepter, that is or can be like them. The sword is to be “bathed in heaven” (Isa. 34:55For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. (Isaiah 34:5)). What an expression! The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood; the powers of heaven shall be shaken; darkness shall be under His feet; and thick clouds of the sky shall accompany Him in the day when that sword is drawn for the slaughter. And the power of it is the treading of the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. Everything that is high and lifted up, the principalities and powers that rule the darkness of this world, the beast and his prophet, kings, captains, and mighty men, as well as the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, are among the enemies which are made to feel it: “The host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.” The sources, as well as the agencies, of evil, are searched out and visited by the light and strength of it.
Is not such a sword alone in its glory? Could Joshua’s or David’s have wrought such conquests as these? Would principalities of darkness have yielded to them? Would death and hell have submitted themselves? “Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?” But “He that made him can make His sword to approach unto him.”
In whose hand then, I ask, must that sword be, which can quell hosts like these? The very service in that day of power, like every other service of His, whether in weakness or in strength, tells us who He is. There is this beautiful and divine self-evidencing light and power to Him, and about Him, and around Him, let Him act as He may, yea, let Him suffer as He may, which we have been feebly tracing and admiring, but which we will still acknowledge, and worship. The victories of this God of battles, in other days, were of the same high character. For of old, His warfare bespoke His person and glory, as it is still to do. Therefore is it written of Him, “The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is His name” (Ex. 15:33The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name. (Exodus 15:3)). His warfare, in this utterance of the Spirit, is said to reveal His lordship, His glory, His name, His person. In Egypt the gods felt His hand, as they did afterward among the Philistines, and again in Babylon. Dagon fell before the ark, Bel bowed down, Nebo stooped. These were days of the same hand.
And as is the sword, so is the scepter. Solomon’s was but a distant shadow of it, and Noah’s government and Adam’s dominion shall be thought of no more in comparison with it.
All shall be the subject world then, the subject creation, as well as the subject nations. “O sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, bless His name: show forth His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the heathen, His wonders among all people” (Psa. 96). Under the shadow of this scepter and in the light of this throne of glory, from one end of the earth to the other, shall dwell the “willing” and the “righteous” nations. There shall be a covenant between men and the beasts of the field.
The wilderness too shall rejoice. The lame shall leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing. The sun of that Kingdom shall not go down, nor the moon withdraw herself, for the Lord shall be its everlasting light. Nothing shall hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
Israel shall revive, the dry bones shall live. The stick of Judah and the stick of Ephraim shall be one again. The city shall be called, “The Lord is there.” Of the land it shall be said, “This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden.” And again, she shall be saluted in words that speak her holy dignities: “The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness” (Jer. 31:2323Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness. (Jeremiah 31:23)).
The Gentiles shall be brought to a right mind. Their reason will return to them. The senseless world, though “made by Him,” yet “knew Him not.” The kings of the earth and the rulers stood up against the Anointed. They kicked against the pricks, betraying their madness and folly. But their reason will return to them. The story of Nebuchadnezzar will be found to be a mystery as well as a history. The reason of that head of gold, that great head of Gentile power, returned to him after his term of judicial folly; and he knew and owned that the heavens did rule. And so the world by and by will no longer senselessly not know its Maker, but as deeply own Him as once it madly refused Him. For “kings shall shut their mouths at Him,” in token of this deep and worshiping acknowledgment. The beast’s heart shall be taken away from them, and a man’s heart be given them. No longer shall they be rebuked as by the ox that knoweth his owner, and by the crane, the turtle, and the swallow, that observe the time of their coming, but they shall fly “as doves to their windows.” “Behold, these shall come from far; and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim” (Isa. 49:1212Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. (Isaiah 49:12)).
The works of God’s hand, as well as Israel and the Gentiles, shall rejoice in the same scepter. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid” (Isa. 11:66The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)). The very soil shall own again the early and the latter rain, and the tillage as of a divine husbandman. “Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: Thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: Thou preparest them corn, when Thou hast so provided for it” (Psa. 65:99Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. (Psalm 65:9)).
What a scepter! Is not such a scepter, as well as such a sword, alone in its glory? Was ever a scepter like it? Could power in any hand but one be such as this? What Adam lost in the earth; what Israel lost in the land of election and of promise; what Abraham lost in a degraded, disowned, and outcast seed; what the house of David lost in the throne; what the creation itself lost by reason of him who subjected it to bondage and corruption,—all shall be gathered up and held and presented in the presence and power of the days of the Son of Man, “The Son” alone could take such a kingdom. The virtue of the sacrifice already accomplished, as we have seen in earlier meditations on this blessed Object, rests on the person of the Victim; the acceptableness of the sanctuary now filled and served, rests, in like manner, on the person of the High-Priest and Mediator who is there; the glories and the virtues of the Kingdom that is to be could be displayed and exercised and ministered only in and by the same Person. The Son of God serves in the lowest and in the highest; in poverty and in wealth; in honor and dishonor; as the Nazarene and as the Bethlehemite; in earth and in heaven; and in a world of millennial glories both earthly and heavenly. but all service from beginning to end, in all stages and changes in the great mystery, tell who He is. He could no more have been what He was on the cross, were He not there the One He was, than He could now be sitting on the Father’s throne were He not the same. Faith cares not where it sees Him nor where it follows Him: It has the one bright, ineffably blessed Object before it and resents the word that would presume to soil Him, even though ignorantly.
We must still, however, look at other glories of this coming Kingdom of His.
“The Second Man is the Lord from heaven,” and a glory must attend on the rising of such a One, which the throne of Solomon could never have measured. Yea, in the presence of this “Lord from heaven,” far brighter glories than that of Solomon will be outdone. “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients, gloriously” (Isa. 24:2323Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously. (Isaiah 24:23)). There will be heavenly things in His Kingdom, as well as restored earthly things. Adam had the garden, and all its teeming beauty and fruitfulness. But beyond that, the Lord God walked there with him. Noah, Abraham and others, in patriarchal days, had possession of flocks and herds, and in Noah we see power and lordship in the earth. But beyond all this, they had angel visits, yea, and visits and visions and audiences of the Lord of angels. The land of Canaan was a goodly land, a land of milk and of oil and of honey; but more than that, the glory was there, and the witness of the divine presence dwelt between the cherubim.
So will it be in the coming days of the power of the Son of God. Heaven will grace the scene with a new and peculiar glory, as surely as of old the Lord God walked in the garden of Eden, or as surely as angels passed up and down in the sight of the patriarch, or as surely as the divine presence was known in the sanctuary in Jerusalem in the land of promise. And not merely will there be this visitation of the earth again and the glory from heaven again, but this will all be of a new and wondrous character. The earth will have the witness of this strange, surpassing mystery that she herself, from her very dust and bonds, has supplied a family for the heavens, who, in their glories, shall revisit her, more welcome than angels, and, in their appointed authorities and powers, shall be over her in government and in blessing. “For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?” (Heb. 5:66As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 5:6)).
What links between the highest and the lowest are these! “The Second Man is the Lord from heaven.” The holy city will descend out of heaven, having the glory of God, and in the presence of it will the rule of the kingdom or power over the earth be ministered. This shall be something outreaching Adam’s sovereignty and Solomon’s brightness.
In the scene on the holy hill in Matthew 17, and in that of the royal visitation of the holy city in Matthew 21, this day of the power of the Son of God, this “world to come,” is entered (in a mystery) in both its heavenly and its earthly places. The heavenly glory shines on the holy hill. Jesus is transfigured. His face shines as the sun, and His raiment is white as the light; and Moses and Elias appear in glory with Him. So, on the occasion of the royal entrance into the holy city, the same lowly Jesus assumes a character of glory. He becomes the Lord of the earth and its fullness, and the accepted, triumphant Son of David. Here, on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, He is seen, for a mystic moment, in His rights and dignities in the earth; as, for another like moment, He had appeared on the “high mountain apart” in His personal, heavenly glory. These solemn occasions were, each of them in its way, as I may say, a transfiguration; though the glory of the celestial was one, and the glory of the terrestrial was another. But equally, on each occasion, Jesus was glorified; borne away for a moment from His then lowly path as the humbled, toiling, rejected Son of God. The two great regions of the millennial world spread themselves out before us, then in vision or in mystery. Such sights were but passing and quickly lost to us; but what they pledged and presented are to abide in their brightness and strength in the coming day of glory. For that bright day, that happy world, will be full of the glories of the Son of God. It is that fullness which will give it its bearing and its import, as we have said before. Head of the risen family, or Sun of the celestial glory, He will then be Lord of the earth and its fullness; and King of Israel and the nations He will then be also. Strangely, mysteriously, in that system of glories, will all be linked together—“ the lower parts of the earth” and “far above all heavens.” “God was manifest in the flesh  ... received up into glory.” “The Second Man” is no less than “the Lord from heaven.”*
(* The happy, gladdening virtue of that millennial world is also strikingly witnessed. Peter, on the holy hill, speaks of the common joy which it imparted; so that he and his companions would have remained there forever, if they might. But it was not he who spoke, but the power of the place which spoke in him. So on the king’s highway from Jericho to Jerusalem, the owner of the ass bows with full readiness of heart to the claims of the Lord of the earth; and the multitudes of Israel triumph in the Son of David, their palm branches and their garments strewn in the way, bespeaking their homage and their joy, as in a feast of tabernacles. But here again, it was not so properly they who act and speak, as the power of the occasion acting and speaking in them.)
What mysteries! What counsels of God touching the ends of creation, in the hidden ages before the beginnings of creation! Would that the affection and worship of the heart followed the meditations of the soul! The Son, who lay in the bosom of the Father from all eternity, lay in the Virgin’s womb, assuming flesh and blood with the children; as Son of Man, God in flesh, He journeyed along the rugged paths of human life, ending them in the death of the cross: He left the grave for the glory, the lowest parts of the earth for the highest places in heaven: and He will come again on the earth in dignities and praise, in rights, honors, and authorities, of ineffable, surpassing greatness and brightness, to make glad “the world to come.”
But there is another mystery ere this scene of glories, “the world to come,” can, in the way of God, be reached. The Church must be linked with the heavens, as her Lord has already been.
The path of the Church across the earth is that of an unnoticed stranger. “The world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not” (1 John 3:11Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1)). And as her path across the earth is thus untracked, so is her path from it to be. All about her is “the stranger here.” And as the world around knows not the Church, nor will be a witness of the act of her translation, she herself knows not the time of such translation. But we know this link between us and the heavens will be formed ere the Kingdom, or “the world to come,” be manifested; because the saints are to be the companions of the King of that Kingdom in the first acts of it; that is, when He bears the sword of judgment, which is to clear the scene for the scepter of peace and righteousness; as He has promised: “He that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 2:26-2726And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. (Revelation 2:26‑27)).
“I will give him the morning star” (vs. 28).
Is there not something of a link, something of an intermediate, connecting action, intimated by this? The sun is that light in the heavens which connects itself with the earth, with the interests and the doings of the children of men. The sun rules the day, the moon and the stars the night. But “the morning star” receives no appointment in such a system. “He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down. Thou makest darkness, and it is night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. Man goeth forth unto his work, and to his labor, until the evening” (Psa. 104). The morning star has no place in such arrangement. The children of men have laid them down, and their sleep, in divine mercy, is still sweet to them, while the morning star is decking the face of the sky.
The season in which the sun shines is ours. I mean, the sun is the companion of man. But the morning star does not, in this way, recall man to his labor. It appears rather at an hour which is quite its own, neither day nor night. The child of the earlier morning, the one who is up before the sun, or the watchman who has gone through the night, sees it, but none else.
I ask, then, “Is there not to be expected by us a light before the light of the Kingdom? Are not these signs in the heavens set there for times and seasons? Are there not voices in such spheres? Is there not a mystery in the morning star, in the hour of its solitary shining, as well as in the sun when he rises in his strength upon the earth? Is not the morning star the sign in the heavens of One whose appearing is not for the world, but for a people who wait for an early, unearthly Lord?” The hope of Israel, the earthly people, greets the “day-spring” (Luke 1:7878Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, (Luke 1:78)); but the Church welcomes “the morning star.” “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come” (Rev. 22:16-1716I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. 17And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:16‑17)). All is ours; and among this glorious all,” the morning star” for our transfiguration to be like Jesus, and “the rising sun” for our day of power with Jesus.
How are the mysterious link thus formed, and the wondrous journeys thus tracked and followed, from first to last, from everlasting to everlasting I We never lose them, nor our interest in them, even in the most sacred, intimate moment.
We have now, in the progress of our meditations along this glorious pathway of the Son of God, watched a light in the heavens earlier than that of the day-spring, a light which Jesus, the Son of God, amid His other glories, claims to be, and to share with His saints: “I will give him the morning star.”
And after the morning star has shone for its brief hour, the sun in his appointed season will rise: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:4343Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13:43)). And it shall be “a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord: for He cometh, for He cometh to judge the earth” (Psa. 96).
“Scenes surpassing fable, and yet true.”
One has said, “Faith has a world of its own.” Surely we may say, after tracking these ascendings and descendings of the Son of God, linking all together, the highest and the lowest, and introducing all into the brightness of such a Kingdom, This is so: faith has indeed “a world of its own.” Oh for that power in the soul to walk there! and that power lies in the earnestness and fervor of faith, which is but the simplicity and reality of faith.
David and Abigail walked in the world which was faith’s world, when they met in the wilderness of Paran. To all appearance, or in the reckoning of men, David at that time was but the sport of the wicked, and wandering in caves and dens of the earth: he would have been debtor, if it might be so, to a rich neighbor for a loaf of bread. But faith discovered another in David; and in the eyes of Abigail, all was new. In that favored though unnoticed hour, when the saints of God thus met in the desert, the Kingdom, in spirit, was entered. The wilderness of Paran was the Kingdom in the communion of the saints. The needy, hunted, persecuted fugitive was, in his own eyes, and in the eyes of Abigail, the lord of the coming Kingdom, and the “anointed of the God of Jacob.” Abigail bowed before him as her king, and he, in the grace of a king, “accepted her person.” The provisions she brought in her hand, her bread, and her wine, her clusters of raisins, and cakes of figs, were not her bountifulness to the needy David, but the tribute of a willing subject to the royal David. She deemed herself too happy and too honored if she might but minister to his servants. It was after this manner, that by faith she entered another world on this fine and beautiful occasion, as I may call it; witnessing to us that faith has indeed “a world of its own.” And that world was far more important to Abigail’s heart than all the advantages of her wealthy husband’s house. The wilderness was more to her than the fields and flocks of Mount Carmel. For there her spirit drank of those pleasures which faith had discovered in the pure though distant regions of glory.
Blessed, beloved, when we have like power to enter and dwell in our own world! Had not Noah such a world when he built a ship apparently for the land, and not for the water? Had not Abraham such a world when he left country and kindred and father’s house? Had not Paul such a world when he could say, “Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body”? Have we not all our own world at this moment, when by faith our souls have access “into this grace wherein we stand”? This grace is the present, peaceful, happy dwelling-place of the conscience sprinkled and purified, and the bright dwelling-place of hope, whence it looks out for “the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-21Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1‑2)). It is but poorly known, if one may speak for others; but it is ours. And amid all this conscious infirmity, our faith has but to glorify the Son of God; for deeper enjoyment of Him is the diviner progress.
In closing this meditation, in which we have looked (according to our measure), at “the world to come,” I would say, that few lessons lie more on the heart at the present day, than the rejection of Christ. I might naturally say so in this place; for if He shall be thus glorious, as we have seen, in “the world to come,” so surely is He rejected in “this present evil world.”
But this is easily forgotten; and the god of this world would have it so. There is large and increasing accommodation and refinement abroad; social, intellectual, moral, and religious improvement; and all helping to keep an unworldly Christ out of sight. But faith eyes a rejected Jesus and a judged world. Faith knows that though the house be swept, and emptied, and garnished, it has not changed its master or owner, but is only made the more fit for the ends and purposes of its master.
Solemn mistake, beloved, to think of refining and cultivating “this present world” for the Son of God? If David, on one occasion, were careless about the mind of God as to the carriage of the ark, so was he, on another occasion, ignorant of the mind of God as to the building for the ark a house of cedars. He sought to give the Lord an abiding habitation in an uncleansed, uncircumcised land. He therefore did greatly err, not knowing the purity of the glory of the Lord; and so with those who link the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with the earth as it is now, or with the kingdoms of “this present world.” With whatever right desire of the heart this may be, as with David, again we say (and how surely, in our own convictions), They do greatly err, not knowing the purity of the glory of the Lord. This is a lesson we need to learn with increasing power. The Son of God is still a Stranger on the earth; and He is not seeking it, but seeking a people out of it, to be strangers for a while longer with Him, on the face of it, and amid all the vanities and ambitions which constitute the history of its every hour.
“Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a Kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me” (Luke 22:28-2928Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. 29And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; (Luke 22:28‑29)).
“Through the dark path of sorrow which Jesus has trod,
Thy feeble ones wander, our Father, our God!
And the thick clouds that gather but turn us away
From the waste, howling desert where He could not stay.”