Resurrection: No. 5 - The Pattern of the Believer's Place

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F. B. Hole
No. 5 — The Pattern of the Believer’s Place
Bearing in mind that, as we have seen, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus was the great test case in which all that concerns us was settled, we shall readily perceive that since He stands as the great pattern or representative for us, His place and position before God must be ours, both as regards our actual resurrection by and by, and as regards our souls now in this present time of faith.
This is indeed just what we find explicitly stated in Scripture. “Risen with Him” (Col. 2:1212Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12)) gives us in three words the new place or status of the believer upon earth whilst waiting either for translation or actual resurrection at the resurrection day; and Romans 8:1111But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (Romans 8:11) clearly teaches that our resurrection shall then be after the pattern of His: “He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
Let us seek to get some idea of this side of our vast subject.
His resurrection is seen to be the pattern of ours in several different connections.
1. As to the power of it. The Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer is this (see Rom. 8:2,2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2) already quoted).
2. As to the manner of it. He rose from among the dead as the first-fruits. We too shall rise, not as the first-fruits, but out from amongst the dead even as He did. The first resurrection, that of the saints, will leave the multitude of those who died in their sins, untouched. They will remain in the grip of death while the saints come forth (see Rev. 20:55But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. (Revelation 20:5)).
3. As to the character of it. There was a marked difference, for instance, between the raising of Lazarus and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Lazarus was raised up to live a little longer under the ordinary conditions of life in this world. He moved amongst men after it just as he did before (John 12:22There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. (John 12:2)). In keeping with this, Jesus ordered that the stone be removed from the tomb before He spoke the life-giving word (John 11:39-4139Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. 40Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? 41Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. (John 11:39‑41)), for Lazarus was raised a natural body, subject to earthly limitations, fitted for earth, and not for heaven.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus carried Him as man into a new region and order of life altogether. An angel descended from heaven and rolled back the stone from His tomb, but it was in order that there might be no doubt on the part of His disciples as to His resurrection, but that they might see and believe (John 20:88Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. (John 20:8)). The first words of the angel were “He is not here, He is risen.” It was not needed in order that Jesus might come out, as was plainly proved on the evening of that very day (see John 20:1919Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. (John 20:19)). He had come forth from the dead clothed in a spiritual body, fitted for the heavenly resurrection sphere into which now He had entered, and the great stone presented no greater hindrance to His movements very early in the morning than the shut door did at the evening of the day.
Now the resurrection of the saints will agree in character with that of their Lord. Lazarus evidently died again, else he would be on earth today: but “Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more death hath no more dominion over Him” (Rom. 6:99Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. (Romans 6:9)); and of the saints it is said, “They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more” (Luke 20:35, 3635But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 36Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. (Luke 20:35‑36)).
The change which will be needful in the case of the living saints when the Lord comes will find its counterpart in the resurrection of the dead. Both classes will reach the same blessed goal — a body of glory like Christ’s (Phil. 3:2121Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:21)), though by a somewhat different route in detail.
It is impossible in this connection to separate between the resurrection of Christ, and His ascension and glorification in heaven. In Him, risen and glorified, we see expressed God’s full thought for the saints of this church dispensation. We must of course make one reservation, namely, that in this as in all else, He has the pre-eminence. He is glorified at God’s right hand. We shall know the fullness of joy which dwells in the presence of God, though there be “pleasures for evermore” at His right hand which will be the special portion of the Savior alone (cf. Psa. 16:1111Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11) and Heb. 1:99Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Hebrews 1:9)). This special place we gladly yield Him, with eternal homage to His blessed Name!
Allowing fully for this, however, we may truly say as we gaze in faith at the risen and glorified Jesus, “His place is the pattern of ours.” “As He is, so are we in this world” (I. John 4:1717The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: (John 4:17)) already as to our souls and our position before God, and with regard to judgment; and what He is so shall we be as to our bodies at the resurrection day. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:22Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)).
The Present Bearing of the Truth
In all this every true lover of Christ will assuredly rejoice, yet we must not overlook the present bearing and application of this truth.
The Epistle to the Colossians deals with the privileges and responsibilities of Christians while still on earth. We are “risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God who hath raised Him from the dead” (chap 2:12). In His resurrection, faith already sees ours in association with Him. Inasmuch as we are circumcised, or cut off, in His “cutting off” (Col. 2:1111In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: (Colossians 2:11)), we have lost the old status or position we once held before God as men in the flesh connected with Adam. In being “risen with Christ,” we have obtained through grace a new status in connection with Him, altogether different to the old, and the bearing and character of that new position is all expressed in Him as the risen One.
Forty days elapsed between the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus, and a very remarkable and peculiar position was His during that time. He had not left the earth, in bodily presence for heaven, yet He was no more of the earth than He was of the great world-system which had crucified Him, and which then as now dominated the earth and held it in subjection. He never had been of the world, and though He had been on earth and moved in earthly surroundings and relationships, He was always a heavenly Man, but these earthly links were now snapped. Mary, His mother after the flesh, was committed to the keeping of John (John 19:26-2726When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (John 19:26‑27)), and Mary Magdalene was not allowed to touch Him as the One in whom earthly hopes were centered (Chapter 20:17). He is no more known after the flesh (2 Cor. 5:1616Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. (2 Corinthians 5:16)). In the list of His appearances during those forty days recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:5-85And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:5‑8) and elsewhere, there is no mention of His ever having been seen by the world or any who were of the world, but only by His own. He was “other-worldly” indeed.
His interests were not here but there, and all His conversations with His disciples during that time were “pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:33To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: (Acts 1:3)).
We are “risen with Him,” yet we are still here upon earth. We walk through the old surroundings and find ourselves subject to adverse circumstances as much as ever. We are still in our natural condition, with bodies subject to death and decay, but our souls have been quickened into the life of the risen Christ, and we can enter in spirit into the new region where Christ actually is. The Christian, properly speaking, is a man whose thoughts, interests, and affections are outside the vain show of this world and lifted above the plane of earthly things. His politics are in heaven (Phil. 3:2020For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (Philippians 3:20)).
With this truth before us, let us survey the actual condition of things in the church of God. How lamentable it appears. The whole effort of many who take the place of being Christian teachers and preachers seems to be to drag Christianity down to an earthly level, to lop off every branch which stretches itself forth heavenward, to pare down — if not to falsify — its truth, so that it shall be palatable to unclean and unregenerate man, altogether apart from new birth. The Savior may indeed have said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”: they mean, however, so to shape their teachings that a man shall “see” them without any such change!
The result of this is equally sad! Multitudes live today who, deceived by these teachings, go on complacently in the world and in their sins, with vague hopes and expectations that all will be right, and that eventually an improved world system will be evolved, wherein they will be perfectly happy without God and without Christ, Man (written by them with large capitals), world and earth, are the center and circumference of their religion.
But what about true Christians? Alas! the leaven of all this has spread.
Once having been inserted in the three measures of meal, the whole has been leavened (see Matt. 13:3333Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matthew 13:33)). We are none of us altogether free from it. We very easily drop in our thoughts and ways from a heavenly to an earthly level.
The thought is all too common even amongst true believers that the mission of the Christian is to improve, and in this way, if possible, convert the world; hence they fling themselves, often with great ardor, into all sorts of schemes for the betterment of humanity, and plunge earnestly into political controversy, endeavoring to further the cause which they deem to be right.
If we could draw such aside from their busy endeavors for a moment, and bid them take time to gaze in faith upon the risen One whom they call Savior and Lord, and breathe into their ears those words, “Ye are risen with Him,” what would they say?
Some would say — almost shout at us — “ Unpractical!” They would adopt those ancient words from Genesis, “Behold this dreamer cometh!” and accuse us of diverting attention from positive works of charity and civic righteousness to visionary ideas which nobody quite understands.
Others would admit the truth of what we say, for there it stands on the page of Scripture, and they accept the Scripture, but they would tell us, it is a beautiful theory set before us for contemplation and admiration, but not intended to practically affect us, to be woven into the warp and woof of daily living.
The third and fourth chapters of Colossians completely answer all such. In Colossians 2 we are risen, and Colossians 3 begins, “If ye then be risen with Christ.” It is the “if” of argument introducing the consequences and results flowing from this fact. As risen with Christ we are bidden to “seek those things which are above” and to set our “affection [mind] on things above, not on things on the earth.”
It is noticeable that even when on earth the Lord Jesus refused to touch, or interfere with, men’s social inequalities (see Luke 12:13-1513And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. 14And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? 15And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. (Luke 12:13‑15)) or their political affairs (see Luke 20:20-2620And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. 21And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: 22Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? 23But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? 24Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's. 25And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's. 26And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace. (Luke 20:20‑26)). As risen He is entirely apart from the course of this world — “hid in God.” As risen with Him, our life “is hid with Christ in God,” and our attitude towards these matters should be the same as His.
Let not anybody say that to speak thus is to put an extinguisher upon all Christian sympathy and effort, and upon all zeal in evangelization. It does nothing of the kind. Nothing that is of God is extinguished if the light of God’s truth fall upon it. Indeed, to get hold of God’s thoughts acts as a great incentive to well-doing, while it saves one from running unsent and wasting valuable time.
The Life of Those Who Are Risen With Christ
Read Colossians 3 and 4. Mark the kind of life lived upon earth by the saint who is risen with Christ, and whose mind is set on things above.
First of all, he is marked by intense personal holiness (vers. 5-12). He puts to death his members upon the earth — certain grosser forms of evil are mentioned; but inasmuch as the risen man is a new kind of man in nature, he puts off many other things, not so often branded as sin amongst men, and he puts on the very graces and features which marked the blessed Lord.
His relations with his fellow believers are of a gracious and heavenly order (vers. 13-17). The divisions, the endless contentions and bickerings of Christendom are the direct products of our not having retained this truth in our souls.
He carries out all the relationships of life with the Lord before him (3:18; 4:1). He is no fanatic. He quietly goes on through life, and carries out his responsibilities in a very much better way than he otherwise would. Domestic relationships — wives, husbands, children, fathers — and business relationships — servants and masters, are mentioned. Nothing is said as to any other. No directions are given as to how to behave when trying to help govern this world’s affairs, or how to conduct one’s self becomingly during the hurly-burly of an election campaign. The silence of Scripture is eloquent! It does not suppose evidently that the risen man will put himself in either of these positions. He is a pilgrim and a stranger, and does not undertake to meddle with the noisy affairs of “Vanity Fair,” though he passes through it.
But though that be so, he earnestly labors, both by prayer and preaching, to declare the truth and the grace of the gospel, so as to rescue men out of the world on the one hand, and establish them in the truth on the other (4:2-6). Does then the truth of “risen with Christ” slacken our zeal in the gospel. No! It takes a man whose heart is already outside the world to rescue people from the world, and to show, even to the worst, the grace of God.
These are some of the results flowing from the practical acceptance of this great truth. Who would not desire to enter a little more into its power and blessedness? For this we must turn our eyes not in upon ourselves, but up to Christ, and learn our new place as risen, in the contemplation of Him.
The Lord has bound up the rod of correction in our bundle of blessings.
God sometimes sends us a wintry season that we may the better bring forth summer fruit.