The Heavens Closed and Opened

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Listen from:
WHAT remarkable scenes are these to which your attention is called, beloved reader, for a few moments. Have you ever, in the presence of God, looked at them? If not, lend your attention for a little while, and, in the mercy of God, may your heart be touched and attracted as you listen to this wondrous story of His love and grace.
Let us reverse the order of our title, and gaze for a moment on
as recorded in the third chapter of Matthew’s gospel. On whom do they open? Listen, for the answer to that question, to the voice coming out of the heights of heavenly glory, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Who is this to whom such wondrous words can be addressed? It is the Son of God become a man to accomplish the glory of His Father, and to do His will. It is the Lamb of God, who, previous to the event noted in this third chapter of Matthew, had been walking in secret with God His Father all through His life. This is He whom God can introduce to the world as the One in whom He finds all His delight. And for the first time in the world’s history the heavens are opened over the head of a man, and for what purpose? To let out God’s thoughts about His beloved Son.
But another scene. The heavens are opened again to the vision of one of the Lord’s servants. (See Acts 7:5656And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. (Acts 7:56)). Stephen has given his testimony to the council, and with such power that it has reached even to their hearts. They cannot stand this, and gnash upon him with their teeth. But he looks up, and the heaven’s are open. Why? To let the believer look in and see his Saviour.
On what ground can Stephen look in? Has he gained some eminence, reached some pinnacle of religion, from which he can gaze into heaven, while looking down upon everybody else? Has he by personal merit come up to the qualifications needed for one to stand in the holy place—to ascend into the hill of Jehovah? (See Psa. 15. 24). No, a thousand times no! Psalm 14. declares that such a thing is impossible. What then is the reason? Between Matt. 3 and Acts 7 a marvelous event has taken place—the heavens have been closed, and One has taken Stephen’s place, and borne the wrath of God that was Stephen’s due, so that now Stephen can look into the opened heavens and see his Saviour. Let us look for a moment at
What a scene! “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour,” and there in the midst of that darkness hangs One nailed to the cross. He has been brought here by the wicked hands of wicked man—the last dreadful act that formed the top-stone of man’s guilt—the highest point to which man’s iniquity had arisen. The governor had asked the question, “What evil hath He done?” He gets no reply to it, for there was nothing to bring against Him but false witness. No! God had declared His good pleasure in Him, man could bring nothing against Him but a lie! What then is the meaning of the scene under contemplation? He has become the Sin-bearer, and so the heavens are closed. He cries, but there is none to hearken; He looks for some to take pity, but there is none; for comforters but He finds none. (Psa. 69:2020Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. (Psalm 69:20)). Beyond all that the heavens are as brass. His prayer returns into His own bosom, and we hear His voice, through the prophet, that when He cried His prayer was shut out. (Lam. 3:88Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer. (Lamentations 3:8)). Surely, surely the heavens were closed.
Well, He lays down His life in the place of the sinner who believes; is put into the grave, and is raised for his justification. We leave these precious truths with the reader, and pass on to contemplate once more
In Acts 10 Peter sees the great sheet filled with creatures clean and unclean, and learns from God the lesson that what He has cleansed is not to be counted common. For the third time in the New Testament the heavens are opened, and for what? To let out God’s thoughts about sinners. Oh, how precious is this 1 There is a Saviour provided (as we have seen), and the door is thrown wide open to Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, to vile, lost, undone sinners—yea, “whosoever will.” The lesson we may learn now is that “God is no respecter of persons.” The Lamb of God has suffered for sin; He has been to the cross, and died for sins not His own. Whose then, beloved reader, whose then? Do you say, For the sins of those who pray, who take the sacrament, who do good works, and who try to serve God thus? Nay, dear friend, thou art thus making Him a “respecter of persons.” It was not for those who strive to do something to merit salvation, but for “all that believe.” Yes, “to Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:4343To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. (Acts 10:43). See also Acts 13:38, 3938Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38‑39); Rom. 5:88But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8); 1 Cor. 15:33For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (1 Corinthians 15:3); Gal. 1:44Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4); 1 Peter 2:2424Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1 Peter 2:24) and 3:18). These Scriptures should be enough to show that Christ has died for the sins of the believer, whoever he, or she, may be.
And now, dear reader, what about thyself? Hast thou, through believing, received this most precious assurance, that God has, for His Son’s name sake, forgiven thee thy sins? Or dost thou still despise His grace? If the latter, then beware! Be not a mocker, lest thy bands be made strong. (Isa. 28:2222Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth. (Isaiah 28:22)). Beware lest thou art left till the last time the heavens are opened. (Rev. 19:1111And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. (Revelation 19:11)). For in that day no mercy will await thee. Mercy does wait now; God is long-suffering NOW. Then nothing but judgment—swift, certain, unsparing judgment—will reach thee. Read the prophetic account of that scene where He, the One now offered to you as a Saviour, in righteousness judges and makes war. Yes, reader, then it will be judgment upon the sinner. Once it was judgment upon the Sinless One, so that the sinner who believes might never come into judgment, but might go free. Hast thou believed it? If not, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”
B. C.