The great work which the Lord Jesus Christ, God's well beloved Son, came to do was to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. This finished work of the cross is the basis of His present work and His future work. What mind can estimate the value and preciousness of that work in which the Holy One offered Himself through the eternal Spirit without spot unto God! He procured redemption by His death on the cross. In His present work and much more in His future work, He works out this great redemption into result.
There is much confusion in the minds of Christians about the present and future work of Christ. Many speak of the Lord being now the Kings of kings and Lord of lords, reigning over the earth. They speak of Him as occupying the throne of His father David in heaven. The church, according to this teaching, is His Kingdom, and that kingdom is gradually being enlarged under His spiritual reign until the whole world has been brought into this kingdom. All this is wrong. The Lord Jesus Christ will reign over the earth; He will have a kingdom of glory, of righteousness and peace on this earth; the nations of the earth will have to submit to His government, but all this is still to come. It will be accomplished with His visible Return to the earth, when He will claim as the second Man the dominion of the earth. His kingly rule is future. His present work is of another nature.
Our blessed Lord gave on the cross the body, which He had taken in incarnation. That body died. It was the only part of Him, which could die. But that body so dishonored by man, scourged and nailed to the cross, could not see corruption. He arose from the dead. The mighty power of God opened that grave and raised Him from the dead. This mighty power of God, which brought Him forth is the power which is towards us who believe. It is on our side (Eph. 1 :19). And God not alone raised Him from the dead, but He gave Him glory (1 Peter 1:21).
If I were to teach on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, I would demonstrate two things. First, that He actually arose; the indisputable fact, that He who had really died, who was dead bodily, arose bodily, and, in the second place, the all important meaning of His resurrection.
The Apostle Paul writes in that great chapter in First Corinthians, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished" (1 Cor. 15:18). In other words, if the Lord Jesus Christ came not forth from the tomb, where His blessed body had been laid and where it rested for three days, if He did not leave that grave in a bodily form, His death on the cross would have no more meaning than the death of any other human being. Then that blood which was shed could never take away our sins and give the guilty conscience rest. Furthermore, the countless beings, who passed out of this life trusting in Christ, would have all perished. But Christ rose from the dead. There can be no doubt about it. The witnesses for it are simply unanswerable.
His resurrection from the dead was God's answer to His prayers with strong crying and tears.
"Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared" (Heb. 5 :27).
This took place in Gethsemane. The answer to His prayers and tears came from God on the morning of the first day. His resurrection from the dead was the "Amen" of God to His triumphant shout on the cross, "It is finished." By raising Him from the dead, God set His seal to the work of Christ on the cross. God gave His witness by it that the work, which was demanded by His holiness and righteousness, had been fully accomplished. Guilty man can now be righteously acquitted from His guilt because God's eternal righteousness was upheld and satisfied by His own Son in that He paid the penalty.
Even before God rolled away the stone, He had shown that the work done was pleasing to Him. It seemed as if God could not wait for the third day. His hand took hold of the veil, which hid the Holy of Holies from the eyes of man. He rent that veil from top to bottom. He showed thereby that He, the Holy God, could now come forth in fullest blessing to man, and man bought by such a price, can approach into the presence of God and be at home with Him, a loving Father. Sinners saved by grace can enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way.
And how did He come forth from the grave? It has already been stated. He arose with the body He had taken on in incarnation, the body which could not see corruption. He left the grave in a corporeal form. It was not a phantom, but a tangible body. The nail prints were still seen in His hands and in His feet. The side showed the place where the spear had entered. He appeared in that body in the midst of His disciples and showed unto them His hands and His side. And when at another time they cried out for fear, He said, "Behold, my hands and my feet, that it is myself; handle me and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39-40). And while they believed not for joy, He proved His corporeality by eating a piece of broiled fish and of a honeycomb. But while it was the same body it was also a glorified body. Such a body, like unto His own glorious body, we shall receive some blessed day in exchange for the body of humiliation; for this redemption of the body we still wait as well as those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
In this body He left the earth and passed through the heavens into heaven itself. What a scene that must have been! What must have taken place after He had been lifted up and disappeared out of sight from the gazing disciples! They saw Him as He was lifted up, the same Lord Jesus, until the glory cloud, the Shekinah, took Him up and in that cloud He was taken into the heavens, where the physical eye could not follow. What a triumphant entrance into the heavens it must have been! Perhaps the mighty Archangel accompanied Him, the victor over Sin, Death, the Grave and Satan; for the Archangel will accompany Him some day in His descent out of heaven. The Lord went up with a shout (Psalm 47:5). He will return with the victor's shout. When He comes back, He will be attended by the mighty angels. May not these heavenly hosts have been present as He ascended on high? And as the Man Christ Jesus passed upward through the territory, which is still the domain of Satan, the prince of the power in the air, the wicked tenants of the air fell back in fear and trembling. The glorified Man passed on, upward, higher and higher. Nothing could arrest His progress. The mighty power of God raised Him up. Through the second heaven He passed, where the wonderful stars, the creation of His own power, describe their great orbits around their fiery suns. He is still attended by angels, and the angelic hosts beheld Him, who were also the witnesses of His sufferings, His death and resurrection. At last a place was reached where every angel had to halt. Even the Archangel had to cover His face and cry, "Holy! Holy!" Yonder is the third heaven and there stands the glorious throne of God. The glorified Man advances alone; He ascended on high into the immediate presence of His God and our God, His Father and our Father. The welcoming voice of God Himself bade Him to take His seat on His own right hand until His enemies are made His footstool. What must it have been when the only begotten Son returned to His eternal dwelling place as the First begotten, and God as well as He Himself beheld the host of redeemed sinners brought by Him into that Glory!
The highest place was given to Him, who died on the cross, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named. There He is now the Man in the Glory. Once more let me state it, the Lord Jesus Christ is corporeally present in the highest heaven. Everything depends on this. If His physical resurrection and corporeal presence in the highest heaven is denied, His present work and future work are an impossibility, and we rob ourselves of every comfort joy and peace. Then, too, His atoning work on the cross has no meaning for us.
And too often this great truth of the bodily presence of Christ in heaven is denied in these days of departure from the faith. They teach, His resurrection was a spiritual one, that He lives only by His words. The denial of the literal resurrection of our blessed Lord and His presence in heaven has become very widespread. Three evil systems especially deny it.
Unitarianism. As a sect this denomination is small, but the leaven of Unitarianism is leavening Christendom. All this criticism of the Bible, the new theology, a more liberal religion, but all aiming at the essential Deity of our blessed Lord, His incarnation and resurrection from the dead, is the leaven of Unitarianism. At a recent annual service of the British and Foreign Unitarian Association the chairman observed that "earnest and thoughtful men, occupying pulpits once dedicated to the propagation of doctrines strictly orthodox, were now preaching a Gospel, which for liberality and broadmindedness even surpassed the Unitarianism of three or four generations ago."
Christian Science. This new science is not new, but is the revival, through satanic powers, of ancient Gnosticism, a denial of every article of the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints. Prominent in this system is the denial of the physical resurrection, and the bodily presence of the Lord Jesus in Glory. It is the masterpiece of Satan. Its phenomenal growth attracts to its ranks such of the Christian profession, who were never saved or whose knowledge of the truth of God is insufficient. There will be no abatement of this great delusion. It will continue to grow and become more powerful as the Gospel is denied and God's Word rejected.
Millennial Dawnism. This is another great and widespread system. In it Satan appears even more so than in Christian Science as an angel of light. It is offered throughout this land as "food for Christians" and goes by the name of "Bible Study." One meets it everywhere. What is it? It is an amalgamation of several of the evil theories concerning the Person of Christ, denying, like Unitarianism and Christian Science, the absolute Deity of our Lord. "Pastor" Russell in his books also denies the physical resurrection of Christ. According to this system the body of our Lord was either dissolved in its natural gases or is preserved as a memorial somewhere. This, of course, means the denial of His bodily presence in heaven. But think of it! To say that the body of our Lord was dissolved in its natural gases, when the Word so clearly states "He could not see corruption."
We must also think of the angels, the heavenly hosts. He has been made, after His passion, so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they (Heb. 1:4). What may go on in this great world above, the world of unseen spirits, who can tell? But they are all under His control. How He sends them forth and uses them in His providential dealings with His people on earth, and how He restrains through these unseen agencies the wrath of the enemy and the evil work of demons, we do not know fully. "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them, who shall be heirs of salvation" (Heb. 1:14). This and much else, though not fully revealed, and hidden from us, belongs also to His present work. We mention th~s that we might have a higher estimate of our Lord and realize anew what a mighty and wonderful Lord we have.
But there is a present work of our Lord in Glory, which is fully revealed in His Word.
In the first place, He is the Mediator between God and Man and being preached as such to the world, He exercises His office as the Mediator throughout this present age (1 Tim. 2 :5-6). Besides this Mediatorship, He has a service which concerns those for whom He died and who, by personal faith. have accepted Him as their Saviour.
"The Lord knoweth them that are His." What a blessed thought of comfort and cheer it is, which should forever banish fear and unbelief! The Lord, the One seated there in the Holiest, knows us personally. He knew us before we ever were in existence. He saw us before the foundation of the world. He knew all our vileness and the depths of degradation. He knew us as we wandered in our sins. His loving eyes followed us then. He sought us in His love and brought us to Himself. He gave us His life and dwells in us. Each believing sinner, saved by grace, is one Spirit with the Lord. "I know my sheep." He calleth each by name, like a Shepherd calleth his own sheep. Again He said "I know them." What a comfort it should be to our hearts, that He knows each of us by name. He knows our circumstances, trials, difficulties and temptations. He knows our conflicts and our tears. "He knoweth the way, which I take."
It is very precious! In the 32 Psalm we find the comforting word for one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, "I will guide thee with mine eye," or as it should read, "I will guide thee with mine eye upon thee." That eye up yonder, that eye which measures the depths of the universe, which follows every planet, that eye which neither sleeps nor slumbers, that all-seeing eye rests upon us. He is occupied with each. The millions of His people who have lived and died, who passed through life and are now at home with Him, were each individually the objects of His care. His loving eye was upon the multitudes of martyrs. He knew and watched that poor tortured saint, who was cast with broken bones into a dungeon to starve to death. His power and love rested upon those who were burned or cast before the wild animals. For each He served and worked. And so He does still. Oh, the preciousness that each believer is under the loving care of the Man in Glory, the object of His love. Let us turn to a few Scriptures which reveal this fact.
In Romans 5:10 we read: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved His life."
What life is meant by which we are saved? Some have applied it to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ before His death on the cross, as if that righteous life, that perfect life, had any saving power in it for us. Hence the teaching that the righteousness of His life is imputed unto us. This is wrong. The life, of which this verse speaks, is the life which He lives now in the Presence of God. When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. And now being reconciled, much more are we saved by His life. By His life there, because He is there. we are saved and kept down here.
Another passage in Romans may be linked with this. Romans 8 :34: "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
The risen Christ is at the right hand of God and maketh intercession for us. However, not in the Epistle to the Romans is this present work of Christ as the intercessor of His redeemed people revealed, but in the Epistle to the Hebrews. There we read in the ninth chapter, "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true: but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." (Heb.9:24).
And again in chapter 7:24, 25: "But this man, because he continueth forever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."
But notice all this is not spoken of those who are unsaved and live in sin. The unsaved who are not yet Christ's, have no share in all this. For the unsaved world the Lord is not the intercessor. He declared this truth first of all in His high-priestly prayer, when He said, "I pray for them, I pray not for the world" (John 17:9).
This was also foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The High Priest in His garments of Beauty and Glory had upon his shoulders two onyx stones, and upon his breast a breastplate with twelve stones. Upon both the onyx stones upon the shoulder and the twelve stones on the breastplate there were names engraven. But these were not the names of the Egyptians, the Jebusites, the Amorites or the Hittites, but the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Our high priest in the highest heaven carries His own upon His shoulders, which typify His power and upon His bosom He carrieth them; the bosom tells us of His love. We are the objects of the power and the love of Him who appears in the presence of God for us. The fact that the names of the Israelites were engraven upon these precious stones also has a meaning. If they had been written there, they might be blotted out. They were engraven and could never be erased. It tells out the blessed truth of our security.
Two other passages in Hebrews reveal some of the blessed details of the present priestly work of the Lord in our behalf. "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2: 17, 18). "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like we are apart from sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
The first passage tells of the propitiation He made for the sins of the people. He suffered, being tempted, and this is the basis of His intercessory service. The passage from the fourth chapter tells us how He was fitted while on earth for this great office work. While down here He was tempted in all points as we are, apart from sin. From sin within He could never be tempted for no sin was in Him. He has gone through the trials, the difficulties and sufferings a man, who depends on God is subject to while in this world, with the exception of sin. He has known while on earth every possible difficulty. Now He can be the merciful and faithful high priest and as such enter into all our sorrows and trials. He sympathizes with us in all our conflicts and difficulties down here. However, He does not intercede for the flesh-He has no sympathy with sin. By His gracious and unbroken intercession in the sanctuary, He upholds us individually in the path down here. He gives strength to endure. If it were not for that intercession, we all would fall by the way. How often God's people fear troubles and difficulties, losses and bereavements, which might possibly come. What, if this favored child should be taken from me, how could I stand it? Or, if I should lose her whom I love? Or my health should fail? Perhaps my business and income stops, how could I ever stand it? Often that which we fear comes upon us. That loved one is taken and is put into a grave. Health fails and the income stops; instead of plenty there is want. But with the trial, with the loss, there comes such a strength to bear it all, and more than that, real joy and songs of praise. It is because the great High Priest lives and intercedes. He knows all about it and in the tenderness of His love and the might of His power, He takes us in His loving arms whenever trials and troubles come upon us. At all times under all circumstances He is our representative before God and thinks of us.
And so it is with our temptations and our warfare with the wicked spirits. The enemy we have is most powerful and intelligent. He knows how to spread his nets. His wiles are most subtle. If Satan had his way he would overthrow and destroy completely the people of God on earth. If it depended on our strength, we would soon fall. But He knows. His eyes watch the enemy as they watch us. Peter's case illustrates this perfectly. He saw the old serpent as he moved on his way towards Peter. He knew the cunning plan Satan had conceived to ensnare Peter. In Judas he had entered and taken complete possession of the disciple, who was never born again. He planned to fell Peter completely and rush him afterwards into despair. But Satan did not reckon with Peter's Lord. Before the plan could ever be carried out, the Lord had prayed for Peter that His faith may not fail. And though Peter denied the Lord and fell, the Lord's gracious intercession kept him through it all. And this is still the case with us. He prays for us before that foe can ever approach us and thus we can be victorious in the conflict and should we stumble and fall, as it is so often the case, then He is the great shepherd "who restoreth my soul." How much we owe to this blessed, precious present work of our Lord in Glory no one knows. What blessed revelation there will come to us when we shall know as we are known, when we look back over our lives and behold what the intercession of the Lord Jesus accomplished for us and all the Saints of God! We have a great high priest who is passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.
Another phase of His priestly present work is recorded in Heb. xiii:1 5. "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." He presents our spiritual sacrifices to God. Our worship, our praise and our prayers we address to God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, are all imperfect, but as they are presented to God by Him, they are acceptable unto God and delight the heart of God for that reason.
But there is a second aspect of His work in Glory in the presence of God for His people. He is our advocate with the Father. Some Christians think that the Priesthood and Advocacy of Christ are one and the same. They are not.. His advocacy is that which restores us. In the first Epistle of John we read of this phase of His present work. "My little children, these things write .1 unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" ( 1 John 2: 1).
In the preceding chapter our wonderful privilege as the children of God is made known. We are to be in fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. What does that mean? Fellowship with the Father is when we delight ourselves in His blessed Son, who is His delight, when we share the Father's own thoughts about Him. The Son knoweth the Father and He has revealed Him and brought us into His own relationship with the Father. Fellowship with His Son is to enjoy this relationship with the Father. The condition for the enjoyment of this privilege in reality, fellowship with the Father and with His Son is, that we walk in the light as He is in the light. These blessed things were written that we sin not. Sin cannot rob us of our salvation, but it mars the enjoyment of that fellowship. The standard is that we sin not, and if we live in constant enjoyment of that blessed fellowship into which grace has brought us, we do not sin. But how often this is not the case. We fall into sin. Then the blessed revelation is given: "If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous: How grateful we ought to be that it does not say: If any man repent. The Lord's intercession as advocate is independent of our repentance or of our asking Him to do this for us. It is the exercise of grace in His own loving heart toward us to restore our souls, to put us back into the place where we can enjoy His fellowship. The moment the believer sins on earth, He acts as the Advocate above. The Holy Spirit then likewise acts in that He applies the Word to convict and cleanse. The cleansing is by the water, the Word, and not a second time by the blood. Then follows confession from our side and the restoration is effected. Also notice that it does not say we have an Advocate with Cod," but "with the Father." It is a family matter, and the Father is a Father who can do nothing but love those whom He has brought to Himself through His Son. The conception that the Father is angry with His sinning child on earth, and that the Son of God by His pleadings inclines the heart of God to be merciful, is an unscriptural one. Another reason why He acts thus as Advocate is Satan, the accuser of the brethren. He still has access into the presence of God. The day will come when He is cast out of heaven, but that day will not come until the church has been caught up to meet the Lord in the air
"And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accusod them before our God day and night" (Rev. xii:9-10).
Because Satan accuses God's people before God day and night, the Advocate is there to rebuke him. Every attack by accusation of the sinning children of God, the Lord Jesus Christ meets with the fact that He made propitiation; He died for their sins.
And this work of Himself as our Priest, the merciful and faithful High Priest and our Advocate goes on up yonder uninterruptedly. In Isaiah we find a word which speaks of Him, "He shall not fail nor be discouraged." Well may we apply this to His present work as Priest and Advocate of His own9 As Priest He will never fail.
He will never fail in being about His own, in keeping them and sustaining them, in sending them help from the sanctuary in time of need. As Advocate He will not be discouraged. The same old failures in our lives, which humble us and break us down, but He continues in this service in behalf of His poor sinning people. Some Christians do not believe in the fundamental doctrine of the Gospel, that a child of God in possession of eternal life can never be lost. They think it depends on their walk and service. If one of His own could ever be lost again, if even the weakest, the most imperfect could be snatched out of His hands, His present work would be a failure as well as His finished work on the cross. But read the great highpriestly prayer He left for us in John 17. There He prays the Father, who heareth Him always, that His own may be kept.
Another aspect of His present work is what He does for His church. We can but briefly indicate what this means.
He is in glory the Head of the church. The church is His body, the fullness of Him, that filleth all in all.
Every believing sinner is a member in that body. The risen Lord Himself adds new members to that body. He puts each member into the body as it pleases Him. Each member is guided and directed by Himself. He supplies this body with gifts.
"And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
"For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-13).
Thus He builds up from the Glory His own body. Some day that body will be complete. Then we all come unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That will be when we see Him as He is. Then His present work in behalf of His own, His coheirs, will be finished. Brought home from this wilderness to the Father's housesafe hom~there will be no need any longer for His power and love to sustain us. No more tears will then be shod, no more wounds of pain and sorrow to be soothed, no more help is needed for the time of need; all that is passed. Nor does He then need to exercise His office as Advocate, for we are delivered forever from the presence of sin and sanctified wholly body, soul and spirit. Sinning is then an impossibility. What a happy, glorious day that will be!
The fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is in Glory occupied with us should lead us into a holy life which glorifies Him. That loving eye is never withdrawn from us. If we were to remember this constantly, what a power this would be in our lives! How many things would remain undone, how many words unspoken, and how many other things done, if we were constantly conscious of that eye which is upon us individually. He represents us before God, and we are to represent Him before men. A Christian is called to manifest Christ to be His representative. And such a life, which is unto His Praise and Glory, is made possible through His blessed intercessory work and His presence in heaven. A true Christian life depends much on this heart occupation with the Person and work of Christ. As His presence up yonder and His service for us is a reality to our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit, we shall walk worthy of the Lord, and His blessed work for us will constantly be felt in our lives here on earth. What a joy it is then, as we reckon only with Him, who knows us, to serve Him, to depend on Him. And how we should shun anything which grieves Him.
These blessed facts of the Lord's loving interest in us and our life in this present evil age, surrounded by dangers and evils of all kinds, will be a great encouragement to us in our prayer life. We can go and tell Him all about that which troubles us. If He is interested in everything which happens to us, down to the smallest matter, then we can go to Him in prayer and tell Him about it. Some Christians teach that we should not do this, but leave it all in His hands without praying for it, satisfied that His will be done. But this is contrary to Scripture, for it says that in every-thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we are to make our requests known (Phil. iv:6). He delights to have us tell Him, and like John's disciples we can go to Him and tell Him. His ear is always open. If in His service we become tired and weary, we can tell Him, for He was tired on account of the way. If hungry or without a resting place, He knows what that means, for He passed through this. If lonely and our best services are misunderstood, or the fiery darts of the enemy are aimed against us, we can speak to Him about it. All this can be so very real to us if we but go on led by His Spirit.
It should make an end of all worry and anxiety. We may possess a divine carelessness. Be careful for nothing. Have no anxiety. Why should we worry or be anxious? Worry is the child of unbelief. Anxiety can never stay if the eyes of the heart behold the man in Glory and faith realizes that all is in the hands of One "who doeth all things well." Worry and anxiety accuse Him. Martha did that when she was encumbered with much service and then said to Him, "Doest Thou not care?" Each time we give way to anxiety, we act as if He did not care. But He does; and He would have us rest in faith and comnut all to Himself.
In conclusion we must not forget that He permits us to have some share in this blessed work of His. While He prays for us, we can pray one for another, and for all the saints. He intercedes; we can intercede. He washes our feet, typical of the cleansing by the Word. We are to wash one another's feet. He carries our burdens, but the exhortation also is that we carry one another's burden. He forgives and restores. We are to forbear one another, and forgive one another, even as Christ forgave us" (Col. iii:13).