Category Archives: Ascension

“He is, after all, the God of the exodus” by L. Michael Morales

“Among the last words he would ever pen, the apostle Paul wrote: “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8).

The resurrection: this is the hope, the living hope, set forth in all the Scriptures and embraced by all of God’s people throughout the history of the world. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Peter exclaims, “who by his abundant mercy has given us new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!” (1 Peter 1:3).

The sureness of this hope is grounded not only in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus but ultimately in the very being and character of God, who is the endless wellspring of life.

Jesus, rebuking severely the religious elite who were denying the resurrection from the dead, confessed that God “is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” (Mark 12:27). His own glorious resurrection was itself, then, a profession of the nature and goodness of God.

One blessed day God’s people will find themselves at last blinking in the dawn’s light of a new creation, together on the other side of history, on the other side of their own graves, experiencing the inexpressible joy of the redeemed, the nearly incomprehensible reality that, yes, the fear and the battle and death are done forever, and there will be no more tears or afflictions or tragedies or sadness—no more Satan, wickedness, sin, or decay.

All evil, within and without, along with its bedfellows of gloom and sorrow, will be forever banished. God’s people will be raised up in glory and brought into that life of cheer and peace in the land, for our Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep, says, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Revelation 21:5), and he is well able.

“I am the Living One,” he says, “I was dead, and, look! now I am alive for ever and ever and I hold the keys of Hades and Death!” (Revelation 1:18). He has in himself already brought our humanity to its destined beatific end before the face of God.

Every soul who turns to Jesus Christ in sincerity will partake of the same glory, even the culmination of the Messiah’s exodus: “Behold, the Dwelling of God is with humanity, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples—and God himself will be with them and be their God!” (Revelation 21:3).

Until that day breaks, Paul’s question remains: Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? He is, after all, the God of the exodus.

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.”

–L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 195-196.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ascension, Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Christology, Exegesis, Exodus, Glory of Christ, Holiness, Incarnation, Jesus Christ, L. Michael Morales, Old Testament, Passover, Pierced For Our Transgressions, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Resurrection, The Gospel

“He is the Rock through whom every divine promise pours out as a rushing river” by L. Michael Morales

“Coming to the fourth song, we enter through the veil of divine mystery and onto hallowed ground— we behold the servant led like a lamb to the slaughter, despised by men and crushed by Yahweh.

Here the eternal plans of divine wisdom—infinitely vast—for the redemption of Israel and the nations unfold, like so many rungs of a celestial ladder unrolling down onto the earth-and-dust of human history. While Isaiah 49–52 resounds with the anticipation of Israel’s salvation, and Isaiah 54–55 comprises a divine invitation for people to participate in Yahweh’s salvation, Isaiah 53 forms the bridge from anticipation to invitation.

This servant song sets forth the means of redemption, the unexpected, divinely orchestrated way of humanity’s restoration to God—namely atonement through the sacrificial suffering of the servant of Yahweh.

Structurally, the song has five stanzas, beginning and ending with the servant’s exaltation. Enveloped by this frame his rejection is described, with the heart and center of the poem unfolding the significance of the servant’s suffering (Isaiah 53:4–6).

“My servant,” Yahweh declares in the song’s opening verse, “will be high and lifted up and very exalted,” using terms of glory by way of contrast to the depths of lowliness his servant has endured. In the last stanza the servant’s exaltation is presented as his seeing his offspring, obtaining life, and succeeding in his mission, with Yahweh’s will prospering in his hand.

After his suffering, death, and burial, he is raised up, living and victorious, and “will divide the spoil” with the strong. The servant, therefore, fulfills the hope prophesied of the Messiah earlier in Isaiah, when the people are said to rejoice as when they “divide the spoil,” a joy ushered in with the kingdom of the child who is born for us, the son who is given for us (Isaiah 9:3, 6). What a son given for us means finds an awe-inspiring answer in this fourth song.

The servant’s rejection and suffering is described with language both unrelentingly brutal and intensely sympathetic, describing him as despised and rejected, acquainted with grief, a man of sorrows who was smitten, stricken, afflicted, wounded, and bruised, who bore chastisement and was lacerated with stripes.

Surprisingly, aside from the servant’s rejection by people, the ultimate actor against the servant—the one who planned the smiting, afflicting, wounding, and striking—is none other than Yahweh God himself, for it was “the will of Yahweh to crush him, to make him grief-stricken” (Isaiah 53:10).

Nevertheless, the servant was thoroughly rejected by many among Israel. Yahweh had judged Israel for its rebellion, hardening the people in their blindness and deafness (Isaiah 6:10) so that the servant’s rejection is understood as an outworking of Israel’s own spiritual blindness (Isaiah 53:1) but also as the ordained means for Israel’s remedy.

God’s own judgment on Israel, having given them over to their willful blindness, led to the despising and abuse of the servant, which in turn opened up the channel of divine forgiveness for Israel. The severe hammer-blow of justice cleft open the fissure through which heavenly mercy would flow, for the servant is God’s own sacrificial provision, the promised Lamb of God given as Abraham’s seed, Israel.

Just here it is crucial to understand how the servant as new Israel relates to his servants as the renewed Israel. Aside from Yahweh’s speeches in the frame, the fourth song is written from the later perspective of this renewed Israel. We hear, as it were, the confession of Israelites who had once despised and rejected this servant, assuming him damned of God.

They have since discovered to their shock that this same one, from whom they had hidden their faces, has been exalted, vindicated, and set forth by Yahweh as his faithful servant, the One through whom Israel would be raised up—even the seed of Abraham through whom the nations would be restored finally to God.

That is the incredible proclamation of the central stanza as it unfolds the significance of the servant’s life (Isaiah 53:4–6). With the awe-filled understanding of hindsight, through the lens of the servant’s divine vindication and exaltation, these Israelites turn their faces to look once more, fully on the sufferings of the despised One.

Healed of their blindness by the servant’s exaltation, they are enabled now to see clearly the wonders of Yahweh’s profound wisdom and provision: it was, in fact, our sorrows that he bore, it was for our transgressions that he was wounded! Although we had all gone astray, each one of us to his own way, yet Yahweh has laid on him all our iniquity.

The scorned servant was actually born for us; he was the Son given for us. No mere substitution, the servant dies for Israel to die with him; he is raised up for Israel to be raised up with him—herein lies the crux of Zion’s transformation.

Ultimately, it is Israel’s sacrificial system that illumines the theology of the servant’s suffering, that provides the categories for Israel to understand that Yahweh has redeemed his people through the Servant, by making “his soul a guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:10).

The guilt offering, like the purification offering, was a sacrifice given by Yahweh for cleansing Israel from sin, making divine forgiveness possible (see Leviticus 4–5). Beyond purification from sin, the guilt offering also included the notion of making restitution for one’s offence against God—it brought in more fully the idea of restoration along with purification.

Signifying atonement and cleansing from sin, the purification and guilt offerings focused especially on the blood rite of the ritual—the collecting and sprinkling or smearing of blood. As Yahweh declared in Leviticus, he had given Israel blood on the altar as life for life (nefesh), or soul for soul, to make atonement for the sins of his people (Leviticus 17:11).

In Isaiah 53, Yahweh, having laid on his blameless servant the iniquity of his people, crushes him, making “his soul [nefesh] a guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:10).

The servant suffers, then, as a vicarious substitute for the people of God, claiming for himself the depth and fullness of Israel’s judgement—this is the new revelation that dawns on the “we” who speak from within Israel and who now form the servants of Yahweh, disciples of the servant.

In seeing the significance of the servant’s suffering, these Israelites come to discern themselves and their own sinfulness more deeply. Indeed, the Israelites say as much about themselves, by way of confession, as they do about the servant:

However, it was our griefs that he bore and our sorrows he carried,
Yet we ourselves had thought him struck, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.
Upon him was the chastisement for our peace, by his wounds, there is healing for us.
All we like sheep had gone astray, we had each one turned to his own way,
But Yahweh himself laid upon him the iniquity of all of us. (Isaiah 53:4–6)

Through the servant, through his suffering and exaltation, they have come to see their own blindness and to condemn their own self-justification. In the light of his suffering, they are enabled to see the darkness of their own condition and, with profound humility, confess their own guilt, completely absolving the servant as blameless: our griefs, our sorrows, our transgressions, our iniquities, our need of chastisement and healing, our waywardness from Yahweh’s paths of righteousness—our iniquity.

And in the darkness of their need, they see the light in his suffering, that by his chastisement they find peace, that by his wounds they find healing. The servant’s suffering as a vicarious, sacrificial substitute is inescapable, for he “will bear their iniquities,” he “carried the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:11, 12). His soul serving as a guilt offering, he was “led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).

Here Yahweh’s own lamb undergoes the cultic exodus. What was once said even of the scapegoat’s role on the Day of Atonement—that it would “bear (nasa’) upon him all their iniquities” (Leviticus 16:22)—is echoed in the labor of the servant who “bore [nasa’] the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:12).

The servant has been sent to deal with the ultimate problem of Israel and of all humanity, sin, which makes exile from God absolutely and unalterably necessary. Sin separates humanity from God and leads to death—to an eternal exile from the only fountain of life.

True restoration to God, a definitive exodus, must raise humanity up from sin and death and not only cleanse but finally transform—sanctify and glorify—human beings into true children of God, a path that will be pioneered and opened by the servant for Israel’s sake.

The summation of the servant’s labor, for it was a God-ordained mission, is that he made intercession for transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). For this reason, many have likened the servant to the figure of Moses, whose entire life was an act of intercession on behalf of Israel.

As those who have benefited from his redemption, the servants are given to penetrate to the profound reality that this servant’s suffering and vindication are the very means of God whereby both Israel’s restoration and Israel’s vocation among the nations will be fulfilled.

But the servant must indeed suffer and die and then be raised again—the suffering and the exaltation fill each other with significance and power, and it is only from his royal exaltation that the servant leads his people through the new exodus of his own suffering and glory.

By the New Testament’s illumination, we see that as a function of the servant’s exalted glory, so emphasized in Isaiah, he is enabled to pour out the Spirit upon the peoples for whom he was made an atoning sacrifice, uniting them to his own death and resurrection.

The servants of the servant who speak in the fourth song do so from the vantage point of their own spiritual resurrection. With the eyes of the old creation, as it were, they had only looked with loathing and scorn on the servant.

But now, having their sight healed and enlightened by the outpoured Spirit, their eyes see him as their Lord and Savior, who with unsearchable love laid down his own life to ransom them from the grave and redeem them from death.

All the streams of heavenly blessings converge through the one unifying sieve of this servant, the Messiah. He is the Rock through whom every divine promise pours out as a rushing river, transforming the wilderness of this age into the paradise of a new creation.”

–L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 141-145.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ascension, Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Christology, Exegesis, Exodus, Glory of Christ, Holiness, Incarnation, Jesus Christ, L. Michael Morales, Old Testament, Passover, Pierced For Our Transgressions, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel

“Allusions to Eden in the Gospel of John” by L. Michael Morales

“Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection are situated more deeply within the Gospel’s creation theology by allusions to the Garden of Eden. Before His crucifixion, we read that Jesus and His disciples “entered a garden” (John 18:1).

The particular name Gethsemane supplied by Mark and Matthew is left out in John’s Gospel, which offers garden as something of a type-scene echoing Eden. The garden locale is mentioned throughout this section of John’s Gospel, as a contextual backdrop to the narrative (see John 18:1, 26; 19:41; 20:15), a usage all the more notable when we realize that the word “garden” (kēpos) is not used whatsoever in any of the other three Gospels, with one exception (in a parable in Luke 13:19).

Later we discover that “in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb wherein no one had ever been laid” (John 19:41). Within this setting of the garden, John’s Gospel adds the detail that Jesus was crucified “in the middle,” that is, between two others (John 19:17–18).

As Mary Coloe explains, the phrase “in the middle” (meson) “echoes the phrase in Genesis where God plants ‘the tree of life in the middle of the garden’ (Genesis 2:9). The evangelist depicts the Crucifixion with the iconography of Genesis 2: there is a garden, and in the middle of the garden is the cross, the tree of life.”

As a supporting argument, John uses similar Eden motifs in his Apocalypse, but in a more obvious manner. We read that a pure river of life flowed out from the throne of God and the Lamb, and “in the middle (mesō) … was the tree of life” (Revelation 22:1–2).

Grasping the Gospel’s layered depths, early church fathers understood the opening of Jesus’ side after his death in relation to Adam’s “sleep of death” within the Garden, when Yahweh had opened his side to create the woman for his bride (Genesis 2:21–25)—Jesus’ blood and water were poured out for the creation of the church as his bride.

Such Adam typology is evident already in the writings of the apostle Paul (Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22; Ephesians 5:25–33) and, as we have observed, informs John’s depiction of Jesus before his crucifixion when, robed in purple and wearing a crown of thorns, he is presented by Pilate with the words, “Look! The Man!” (John 19:5), alluding, as Jeannine Brown observes, “to that first man, Adam, in the first creation story.”

This creation theology also explains Jesus’ use of “woman” (rather than their names) for the various women that appear throughout the Gospel of John, including his own mother. As the last Adam, He has come to redeem His bride: Jesus calls his mother “woman” within the context of a wedding in Cana (John 2:1–12);

His encounter with the “woman” in Samaria takes place at a well, a familiar locale in Scripture for betrothal (John 4:1–26; see Genesis 24:10–28; 29:1–30; Exodus 2:15–22); and finally Jesus the “gardener” and a “woman” are found within a garden on the first day of the week (John 20:11–18).

“He who has the bride,” John the Baptizer had said, “is the bridegroom” (John 3:29)—indeed. That Jesus’ mother is called “woman” (John 2:4; 19:26) and designated “mother” (John 2:1; 19:25) may allude to the names given to the first woman: “She shall be called Woman” (Genesis 2:23); “The man called his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20).

In any case, the mother of Jesus, the Samaritan woman, and Mary Magdalene, and possibly the woman caught in adultery as well (John 8:2–11), each being called “woman” by Jesus, likely serve to recall Eve as archetypes—theological portraits—of the church, the bride of Adam, the only Son of God.

Jesus even compares His disciples’ sorrow at his death to the woman (hē gynē) in birth pangs, who finally rejoices with the birth of a “man” (anthrōpos, John 16:21), an image strikingly similar to that found in John’s Apocalypse where the Eve-like “woman” who represents the church cries with labor pangs and gives birth to a child, the risen Jesus, who ascends to God and his throne (Revelation 12:1–6).

Then in glory the church is described “as a Bride prepared” for the marriage and wedding supper of the Lamb, a “Bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 19:7–9; 21:2). Jesus is the last Adam; the church is both the children of God and the last Adam’s bride, the new Eve. Since the true exodus forms a reversal of the exile from Eden and a passage from the old creation to the new, this creation imagery is especially relevant to the Gospel’s message about Jesus’ new exodus.

The Eden imagery is developed even more richly for Jesus’ resurrection and appearances to his disciples (John 20). Early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, having approached the garden tomb, sees Jesus standing before her and supposes him to be “the gardener” (John 20:15), an allusion to Adam within the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8–9; 9:20)—and he calls her “woman” (John 20:15).

Then, for the first and only time, Jesus calls a woman by name, “Mary!” (John 20:16). As the Greek form of Miriam, the name of Moses’ sister who rejoiced over the original exodus out of Egypt (Exodus 15:20–21), the use of her name at just this point—the new exodus of Jesus’ resurrection—may be part of the Gospel’s exodus motif. Later in the same chapter, Jesus breathes the Spirit on his disciples (John 20:21–22) just as Yahweh had once breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of the first human in the Eden narrative (Genesis 2:7).

A garden, a tree in the middle, two angelic beings, a gardener, and a woman—these aspects of the Eden narrative are equally present in John’s telling of Jesus’ passion and resurrection. Perhaps most telling, even the tomb is located “within the garden,” and described as “new, wherein no one had ever been laid” (John 19:41)—the tomb, in other words, is not associated with death at all but with newness and life, ultimately with the indestructible resurrection life of the Lord Jesus in the garden.

The Garden of Eden allusions with which John’s Gospel concludes enable readers to grasp the theological reality of Jesus’ crucifixion death, burial, resurrection, and ascension as the new exodus out of the old creation and into the new creation, out of this world and into the heavenly reality of the Father’s presence—all from the angle of the Bible’s main plotline: an exodus out of the primal exile and into paradise with God.

In chapter seven we observed the same plotline in how the Day of Atonement ritual portrayed the high priest as an Adam figure who once a year reentered the cultic Garden of Eden (the holy of holies) through the cherubim-laden veil with the blood of atonement.

One may discern a similar theological portrait in the Fourth Gospel: an allusion to the atonement lid of the holy of holies within John’s presentation of the garden tomb. Mary looks within the tomb and sees two angels sitting “one at the head and one at the feet” of where Jesus had lain (John 20:12), perhaps symbolizing the two cherubim positioned at the two ends of the atonement lid, with “one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end” (Exodus 25:18–19).

Outside the tabernacle texts, the only other place where cherubim are found in the Pentateuch is at the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24). Because the cherubim on the tabernacle’s veil and on the atonement lid of the ark are themselves allusions to Eden’s gateway, it seems probable that John’s Gospel also has both in mind: Jesus’ resurrection from the grave fulfills the Day of Atonement, for Jesus as a new Adam has reentered the garden of paradise.

It is perhaps not too much to say, then, that for John’s Gospel the taking away of the stone from the tomb forms the theological parallel to the rending of the temple veil in the other Gospels.

In sum, through allusions to Eden the Gospel of John presents the reality of Jesus’ new exodus as a reversal of humanity’s exile and an entry into the new creation. The first day of the week signifies the theological reality of the new creation and finds a man and a woman (back) inside a garden.

As with the historical exodus of Israel out of Egypt, the new exodus is the deliverance of God’s firstborn Son from death. And even as the sea crossing was narrated with creation imagery to convey that Israel had become a new people (Exodus 14), John’s Gospel uses creation imagery to convey the reality of the new creation ushered in with Jesus’ resurrection as a new humanity.”

–L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption, The Essential Studies in Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 169–172.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ascension, Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Christology, Exegesis, Exodus, Glory of Christ, Holiness, Incarnation, Jesus Christ, L. Michael Morales, Old Testament, Passover, Pierced For Our Transgressions, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel

“The resurrection life of the new exodus is found only through the new Passover Lamb” by L. Michael Morales

“Even as the original Passover formed the rite of departure, so too Jesus’ sacrifice opened the doorway of the new exodus– namely His resurrection from the grave.

In the historical exodus of Israel, there had been no way out of Egypt apart from the sacrificed Passover lamb– its shed blood was the only means of departure.

The resurrection life of the new exodus is likewise found only through the new Passover Lamb, through the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jesus’ advent is presented in the Fourth Gospel in terms of descent and ascent: the Son descends from the bosom of the Father, who sent Him through the incarnation, and then He returns to the house of the Father through His resurrection and ascension.

Within this scheme, Jesus begins His return to the Father through His pascal crucifixion, which is bound up with His resurrection and ascension as their basis. This, in John’s Gospel, is the glory of Jesus’ death.

The cross is the means by which He departs, by which He accomplishes an exodus for Himself out of this world and returns to His Father’s heavenly abode. Jesus’ crucifixion not only begins but is the means of His return to the Father.

To be more precise, and in the words of Susan Humble, ‘Jesus’ crucifixion was the means by which He departed from the world, and His resurrection, and particularly His ascension, was the means by which He returned to God,’ so that ‘the resurrection results in a condition where Jesus has departed from the world, though not yet returned/ascended to God.’

By analogy one may suggest that the Passover sacrifice was for the sake of Israel’s departure out of Egypt (death to the old life), and the sea crossing symbolized Israel’s rebirth (or resurrection), with the ascent to God’s presence at Sinai corresponding to Jesus’ ascension.

Such an exodus is all the more wondrous when it is firmly grasped that Jesus was transformed through His crucifixion-death, burial, and resurrection, that is, His exodus was out of the old creation, under the judgment of God, and into the new creation of glory.

In chapter seven, we observed a similar exodus pattern for the daily whole burnt offering: the lamb was offered to God through the altar fire and taken up to God’s heavenly abode, having been transformed into a pleasing aroma.

For this function the whole burnt offering was more properly– and literally– called the ‘ascension offering.’

Just as the altar of the whole burnt offering was the means for Israel’s cultic ascent into God’s heavenly presence, so in John’s Gospel the cross was the means for the Son’s ascent, for His exodus return to the Father’s side in heaven– and, through spiritual union with Jesus, for the ascent of all God’s people.”

–L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 164-166.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ascension, Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Christology, Exegesis, Exodus, Glory of Christ, Holiness, Incarnation, Jesus Christ, L. Michael Morales, Old Testament, Passover, Pierced For Our Transgressions, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel

“We know who the real King is” by Rankin Wilbourne

“It may not look like Christ is ruling the universe. Today it might look like just a crack of light under a door.

But the New Testament writers were confident because they knew the light had dawned (Rom. 13: 12) and that one day the door will open, and that light, the Sun of Glory, will flood the whole room.

The gravity of Christ being King is often lost on those of us who have no earthly king. But in the Roman Empire, the tiny church not only survived, but flourished, even amid terrible persecution.

They were willing to die because they knew who the real king was. And they believed He was worth dying for.

King David’s men once said to David, ‘You are worth ten thousand of us’ (2 Sam. 18: 3), and we can now say that to our King and make our lives wholly expendable to Him and His cause.

When you know that Christ is the seated and enthroned King, you too will be willing to surrender all your plans and ambitions into His hands.

Perhaps, with the persecuted church, you can even rejoice when you are counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name (Acts 5:41) because we know who the real King is, and He is worthy.”

–Rankin Wilbourne, Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2016), 165.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ascension, Christian Theology, Heaven, Jesus Christ, Providence, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, salvation, Sovereignty, The Gospel, Union with Christ

“The crucified, resurrected, and exalted Christ” by Herman Bavinck

“It is the crucified but also the resurrected and exalted Christ whom the apostles proclaim. From that vantage point of the exaltation of Christ, they view and describe His earthly life, suffering, and death.

For the work He now carries out as the exalted mediator, He laid the foundations in His cross. In His battle with sin, the world, and Satan, the cross has been His only weapon.

By the cross He triumphed in the sphere of justice over all powers that are hostile to God. But in the state of exaltation, consequently, He has also been given the divine right, the divine appointment, the royal power and prerogatives to carry out the work of re-creation in full, to conquer all His enemies, to save all those who have been given Him, and to perfect the entire kingdom of God.

On the basis of the one, perfect sacrifice made on the cross, He now—in keeping with the will of the Father—distributes all His benefits. Those benefits are not the physical or magical aftereffect of His earthly life and death; the history of the kingdom of God is not an evolutionistic process.

It is the living and exalted Christ, seated at the right hand of God, who deliberately and with authority distributes all these benefits, gathers His elect, overcomes His enemies, and directs the history of the world toward the day of His parousia.

He is still consistently at work in heaven as the mediator. He not only was but still is our chief prophet, our only high priest, and our eternal king. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

There is, of course, an enormous difference between the work Christ did in His humiliation and what He accomplishes in His exaltation. Just as after the resurrection, His person appeared in another form, so also His work assumed another form.

He is now no longer a servant but Lord and Ruler, and His work is now no longer a sacrifice of obedience, but the conduct of royal dominion until He has gathered all His own and put all His enemies under His feet.

Nevertheless, His mediatorial work is continued in heaven. Christ did not ascend to heaven in order to enjoy a quiet vacation at the right hand of God, for, like the Father, He always works (John 5:17).

He went to heaven to prepare a place for His own there and to fill them here on earth with the fullness that He acquired by His perfect obedience. What He received as a reward for His labor for Himself and what He received for His own cannot be separated. He is all and in all (Col. 3:11).

The pleroma (fullness) that dwells in Christ must also dwell in the church. It is being filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19; Col. 2:2, 10).

It is God whose fullness fills Christ (Col. 1:19), and it is Christ whose fullness in turn fills the church (Eph. 1:23). The church can therefore be described as His pleroma, that which He perfects and gradually, from within Himself, fills with himself (Eph. 4:10), and is therefore itself being filled by degrees.

As the church does not exist apart from Christ, so Christ does not exist without the church. He is ‘the head over all things’ (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18), and the church is the body (σωμα) formed from Him and from Him receives its growth (Eph. 4:16; Col. 2:19), thus growing to maturity ‘to the measure of the full stature of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13).

The union between Christ and the church is as close as that between the vine and the branches, between bridegroom and bride, husband and wife, cornerstone and building.

Together with Him it can be called the one Christ (1 Cor. 12:12). It is to perfect the church that He is exalted to the Father’s right hand.

Just as through His suffering and death Christ was exalted in His resurrection and ascension to be head of the church, so now the church has to be formed into the body of Christ.

The work of the Mediator is one grand, mighty, divine work that began in eternity and will only be completed in eternity.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3Ed. John Bolt, and trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 473–475.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ascension, Christian Theology, Glory of Christ, Herman Bavinck, Jesus Christ, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Church, The Gospel

“The ascension of our Lord” by Peter Toon

“Heaven is the place and sphere from where the universe is sustained and ruled. Heaven is the place and sphere from where salvation goes forth into the world of space and time.

For God’s salvation to be a universal and everlasting salvation, the incarnate Son, Jesus the Messiah, returned to heaven where He could be the source of salvation everywhere to all who believe.

From heaven, through the agency of the Holy Spirit the incarnate Son preaches the Word of God, builds up God’s church, and continues the divine work that began in the restricted area of Palestine.”

–Peter Toon, The Ascension of Our LORD (Nashville: Nelson, 1984), xiii.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ascension, Christian Theology, Jesus Christ, Quotable Quotes