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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
John Stock, LL. D.
From the book, A Handbook of Revealed Theology, 1883
It is our mercy that we have now to do with a living Saviour. The grandeur of the work achieved in Gethsemane and on Calvary, will ever make it pleasant and profitable for us to linger by those scenes of mingled woe and triumph. The cross and the sepulchre will always be to us the symbols of our redemption. But we may not tarry forever here, for the sepulchre is now empty, and as we stand in thought at its mouth we seem to hear the angel say, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen." (Luke 24:6) While the voice of the Master Himself is heard proclaiming, "I am He that liveth and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen, and have the keys of death and of Hades." (Rev. 1:18)
We have then to consider our Lord in His risen glory. We shall examine the Scripture testimony to His present position and offices.
1. The risen Saviour is alive, never to die again. His own words are, "Behold, I am alive again FOR EVERMORE." (Rev. 1:18) "This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, FOR EVER sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Heb. 10:12-14)
This great fact is the evidence of the truth of an important theological doctrine, for it demonstrates the perfection of the Redeemer's work. It proves that there is no need for any other sacrifice for sin; and hence the immortality of the risen Christ is, to all who trust in His great propitiation, a proof of the reality of their acceptance by God. "He was raised again for our justification;" (Rom. 4:25), because His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of power are irresistible evidences of the acceptance by eternal justice of that work in which we trust. An enthroned Christ is to us a pledge of security; for the acceptance of His work being thus declared, the safety of all those who trust in that work is at the same time made manifest.
2. The risen Redeemer is constituted the head of the resurrection. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept." (I Cor. 15:20) "The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." (John 5:28, 29) Having triumphed over death and the grave, the keys of both are now in His hands. They have been surrendered to His authority. "He has the keys of death and of Hades." (Rev. 1:18) "He openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth." (Rev. 3:7)
The entire control of the invisible world, and of the entrances into it, as well as of egress out of it, is with Him. He fixeth the hour when the breath shall quit our nostrils, and the body shall return to the earth from which it was taken. He, too, will speak the word which shall call the bodies of all men from the slumbers of the tomb. And, verily, to the believer who knows that he must soon die, it is an encouraging thought that fearful death and the dark grave are under the absolute control of "Him who was dead, and is alive again for evermore." Surely we need not fear entering upon any territory where HE reigns, however gloomy it may look in the distance! Will not His supremacy, presence, and grace convert it into a region of light?
"In each of the three grand epochs of the Church, an example has been given of a man raised to heaven in both body and soul, to sustain the hope which all the faithful possess of arriving at the same happiness. Enoch furnished the first of these examples before the law; Elias the next, under the legal economy; and Jesus Christ, our great leader, the last, under the dispensation of the gospel God has so ordered the light in each of these three periods, that it has appeared by degrees, until it has shone in all its lustre. It was a propitious sign for believers of the first world, when they saw a good man disappear, and receive a residence, after his sojourn upon the earth, in another place than the tomb.
"It was a still greater presumption in favour of those who lived under the second period, when they saw the heavens open to receive one of their prophets, who was carried thither in a chariot of fire.
"But it is a demonstration to Christians, and like a taking possession of that which they are expecting, to see the finisher of their faith traversing the vast spaces which separate the heaven and the earth, listening to the Church triumphant, which summons the gates of the palace of glory to open to receive Him (Ps. 24:7), and entering there Himself, to prepare in that blessed region the ‘places which He destines for them. It became us to have such a sovereign priest, holy, innocent, without fault, separate from sinners, exalted above all the heavens.'" (Heb. 7:26). Discours Historiques, Critiques, Theologiques, et Moraux," par M. Saurin, vol. i. pp. 72, 73.
3. Our ascended Lord is invested with dominion over the universe. "He has all power in heaven and in earth." (Matt. 28:18) "He has power over all flesh." (John 17:2) "All things are put under Him." (Heb. 2:8) "The government is upon His shoulders." (Isa. 9:6, 7) "The Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son." (John 5:22) He is "Head over all things." (Ephes. 1:22) He has the "seven horns” of unlimited dominion. (Rev. 5:6) "He is over all." (Rom. 9:5) "He sits in the midst of the throne." (Rev. 5:6). "Let all the angels of God worship Him." (Heb. 1:6)
And this universal authority over every element, world, and creature, the Redeemer exercises for a special end—namely, the everlasting salvation and well-being of the Church. Has He "power over all flesh?" It is, "that He should give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given Him." (John 17:2) "Is He head over all things?" He is so, "for His body, the Church." (Ephes. 1:22, 23) All things are in His hands, and hence "all things work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28)
Let the pious reader refresh himself with the thought that the hands once pierced upon the cross now grasp and wield the thunders of retribution; and the voice once feeble and tremulous in death, now" speaketh, and it is done; commandeth, and it standeth fast." If thou who readest these pages belongest to Christ, then all things are thine, and thou art with the Lord a joint heir of the universe. (Rom. 8:17) Every atom, every world, and every event, is ruled for thy good; all are advancing the glorious consummation when thou shalt stand before the throne without spot, or blemish, or any such thing, for all are in the hands of Him who loved thee unto the death!
4. Though thus enthroned, our Lord is still the one Mediator between God and man. For it is of Christ as glorified that the Scripture affirms, that "there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ." (I Tim. 2:5) "If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (I John 2:1) "He also maketh intercession for us." (Rom. 8:34) "Christ has entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." (Heb. 9:24) "He ever liveth to make intercession for us." (Heb. 7:25) "The forerunner is for us entered within the vail, even Jesus, made a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." (Heb. 6:20); agreeably with the prediction of Zechariah, "He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both." (Zech. 6:13), that is, between the Father and the Son.
Thus, the Saviour, though invested with universal dominion, condescends to act the part of an Intercessor. He is still the Mediator, or daysman, between God and us. But the Mediatorial office includes every other usually ascribed to Jesus:
a. It includes the kingly function. Our Lord is the Mediatorial King of the universe and of the Church. "The Father judgeth no man (personally and directly), but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." (John 5:22) Hence Christ is both "the wisdom of God and the power of God." (I Cor. 1:24) All divine rule is now administered in the name and by the authority of the God-man, on whose shoulders the government is laid (Isa. 9:6). "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." (Ephes. 1:10) Thus the whole universe is placed under a Mediatorial King, and will remain so for ever. For heaven is "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (II Pet. 1:11) And after the millennium and the judgment, Jesus will still be in the throne.
For thus John the Apostle describes the final state of all things: "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." (Rev. 22:1) "And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him (the Lamb); and they shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads," (Rev. 22:3, 4). "I saw no temple therein; for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." (Rev. 21:22) "The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." (Rev. 21:23) Thus, even after He has rendered up a final account of His administration of divine government at the last day (See I Cor. 15:24-28), and has, in the presence of an assembled universe, done homage to His Eternal Father as the Original Fountain of all authority, He will retain His regal supremacy, and will be confirmed in His kingdom forever.
And in the Church pre-eminently Jesus reigns as a Mediatorial King. He represents the entire Godhead. He is Lord of ordinances and of influences. (Matt. 5:21-48) He is the Lord of the Sabbath-day (Mark 2:28), and of all other divine institutions. He is seated as King on God's holy hill of Sion. (Psa. 2:6) He is the Head of His body the Church. By His presence He renders the assemblies of His saints pleasant and profitable. He sheds forth the influences of the Holy Spirit to make the word effectual to the conversion of souls. (John 14:16-18, and 16:7-14) He gives His servants wisdom wherewith to confound all gainsayers. (Luke 21:15) He holdeth in His right hand the ministerial stars which shine in the spiritual firmament, sustaining their brilliancy, and fixing the sphere in which they shall move. (Rev. 1:16) He walketh in the midst of the golden lamps, the Churches, to feed them with the oil of His grace, and to trim them with a godly discipline and watchfulness. (Rev. 2:1)
Every saint is sustained by His power and is governed by His laws. The strongest can do nothing without Him, and the weakest can do all things through Him, when He strengthens them. (Compare John 15:4, 5, and Phil. 4:13) Every step in their pilgrimage is ordered by His providence; and He will at last say to them, "It is enough; come up hither." And in His Father's house, He is now preparing a mansion for each of His disciples to which He will introduce its destined tenant. (John 14:2, 3) His hand will place the diadem of righteousness and life and glory upon the brow of each saint (II Tim. 4:8); and His name will be the burden of heaven's never-dying anthems. (Rev. 5:9-14)
Ecclesiastically, the Church has no head, no king, but Jesus, and the ascription of such a title to anyone but Him is an impiety and a blasphemy. On Him she depends for the laws by which she is to be governed, and the grace by which she is to be saved. No earthly monarch can intrude into the territories of Immanuel without grievous sin; and we deeply regret that our beloved Queen (whom may Heaven long preserve, and whose life is adorned so richly with private and public virtues) should retain so terrible a title as that of Head of the Church. May the day soon come when the Sovereign of these realms shall no longer be addressed by one of the peculiar and distinctive names of the Lord Jesus Christ!
b. The Mediatorial office includes the prophetical. Jesus Christ is that other Prophet like unto Moses, but infinitely greater than he, whom the Lord promised to raise up for His people. (Deut. 18:15-19) He is the Mediatorial Prophet, who teaches us with irresistible authority, for He is the incarnate Logos, or Wisdom of God. "Never man spake as He spake." (John 7:46) He executed the functions of the prophetical office in the days of His flesh, by the delivery of those marvellous discourses of His on God, and morals, and salvation. On all divine themes "He spake as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matt. 7:28, 29) On the most recondite questions, pertaining to the Divine nature, will, government, and grace, He spake with unfaltering ease and confidence. The profoundest mysteries which had baffled the wisdom of all the sages of preceding ages, He solved in a few sentences. Grace was poured into His lips, and all His communications were pregnant with wisdom and truth.
And His teaching still lives among us by the records of the four gospels—those graphic chronicles of His sayings and doings! In them is preserved the ministry of our Lord; in their pages we seem still to hear the echo of His voice, and to see the footprints of His eventful pilgrimage!
The Apostles, too, spake in the name of Jesus. They were inspired by His Spirit, and were succoured by His grace. They were to perfect the exhibition of Christian truth; to consummate the work which their Master had commenced; and to give form and organization to the societies of the faithful. For Christ promised that He would be with them and would speak through them. (Matt. 10: 19, 20) And their instructions, too, like their Master's, have been preserved in the New Testament. So that the Spirit of Christ still speaks in the recorded acts and epistles of His Apostles.
With Mary we may now sit at His feet, and hear His voice. And the Holy Spirit, as the glorifier of Jesus, is still among us to apply the word of inspiration to our hearts, by opening the eyes of our understanding to perceive its majesty. He clothes His own word with might, and renders it the power of God unto salvation. Jesus, the Son of God, is still the mediatorial prophet of the whole Church. He is made unto us "wisdom" as well as "righteousness." (I Cor. 1: 30)
c. The Mediatorial office is pre-eminently priestly in its character. Jesus Christ is our "advocate with the Father" (I John 2:1); our "great High Priest" who "ever liveth to make intercession for us." (Heb. 7:25). His intercession is now carried on within the veil in heaven itself (Heb. 8:1); and it is to this principally that the Apostle refers when he says, "There is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (I Tim. 2:5)
The very presence of Christ in heaven is to us a propitiatory or mercy seat. "He is set forth as a propitiatory offering." (Rom. 3:25) And as the mercy seat was the appointed place of intercourse between God and the Israelites, so Christ Jesus is the medium of our approach to God, and of the acceptance of our prayers. But the ancient mercy seat was only approached at stated intervals on the annual day of expiation; our mercy seat is always accessible, because the Redeemer's one sacrifice is infinitely perfect and of everlasting efficacy. "Through Him (Jesus) we, both Jew and Gentile, have access by one Spirit unto the Father." (Ephes. 2:18)
Our prayers may ascend in our darkest seasons, because Jesus is in heaven. We may always come secure of a gracious reception because our Mediator is not merely before the throne, but upon it. (Rev. 3:21) He is the mediatorial angel whom John beheld in vision at heaven's altar, having a golden censer. "And there was given unto Him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand." (Rev. 8:3, 4) Though He is in the midst of the throne, He is still "the lamb" there. (Rev. 5:6) He retains His priestly character, though encompassed with all the splendours and royalties of heaven. "He is a priest upon His throne!" (Zech. 6:13)
John beheld a representation of His coronation in vision. Jesus came to Him that sat upon the throne, and challenged His right to take the book of Divine Providence, and unloose its seven seals of inscrutable mystery. And John saw Him as "a lamb that had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes." (Rev. 5:6). Not that Jesus literally carries His scars now in glory, any more than He has literally seven horns or seven eyes. We shall see no holes in His hands or His feet when we behold Him, for His hands now hold the seven stars, and His feet are like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace. (Rev. 1:15, 16)
The body in which our Lord appeared to His disciples on earth after His resurrection, but before His ascension, was not His glorified body, for it was still flesh and blood (Luke 24:39); and "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." (I Cor. 15:50) He had not yet ascended. (John 20:17) John beheld a symbolic representation of our Lord's glorified body, and it prostrated him as a dead man. (Rev. 1:12-17) There were no signs of ignominy upon that form: all traces of the cross and the tomb were gone. His countenance was no longer overspread with the pallor of death, but was as the sun shining in his strength; and His voice was no longer feeble and tremulous with soul anguish, but was majestic and powerful, as the rushing of many waters.
But though all traces of His wounds are gone, the efficacy of the blood which they once poured out still lives, and shall live forever. He is the Lamb in heaven! His sacrifice is still fragrant there! His voice is yet heard as an intercessor with God.
The intercession of Christ in heaven is not intended to supply any supposed defect in His atoning work; for, "by His one offering, He hath perfected for ever them who are sanctified." (Heb. 10:14) His intercession is simply the presentation of His already perfected sacrifice. His advocacy is founded upon the fact that He hath finished the work given Him to do upon earth. The intercession of Christ is the voice of the blood of sprinkling speaking within the veil, and that voice can never speak in vain.
Nor does the Redeemer plead because the Father is averse to our salvation, but simply that the Father may be glorified in all ages as the upholder of the rights of law and justice, a position which He occupies throughout the economy of our redemption. The Redeemer's sacrifice was offered to the Father; and His intercession is presented to Him, that cherubim and seraphim may ever recognise the connection between the propitiation and forgiveness. The standing intercession of Christ in heaven is an everlasting memorial of the fact that "without shedding of blood there is no remission." (Heb. 9:22)
The great blessings for which our Lord prays are set forth in the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th chapters of St. John's gospel, and in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. They include the following things:
the coming of the Holy Spirit as the convincer of the world (John 16:8)
the teacher of believers (John 14:26)
the comforter of saints (John 14:16)
the continuance of this divine Paraclete with the Church for ever (John 14:16)
the justification of all who trust in the atonement (Isa. 53:11, 12);
their preservation from the evil influences of a corrupt world (John 17:11-15)
their sanctification by means of revealed truth (John 17:17); and
their preservation to behold their Lord face to face, and to share in His glory (John 17:24)
As to the peculiar method in which this intercession is carried on, the Scriptures are silent. Whether the great Mediator utters vocal prayer—prayer that is audible to the angels and redeemed spirits—or whether the whole is purely a mental process, we know not. All that is revealed is that the intercession is continually going on, and that all the inhabitants of heaven are cognizant of the fact.
It is important that the intercession of the Son should be distinguished from the intercession of the Spirit. The former is carried on in heaven, the latter upon earth; the former is for us, the latter is in us; the former pleads our cause before the throne of God, the latter sustains the cause of Christ in our souls; the former is an intercession of merit, the latter of power; in the former we are prayed for by the Mediator; by the latter the spirit of prayer is kindled and kept alive in our own hearts.
d. As Mediator, our Lord will dispense the awards of the last day. The Father hath committed all judgment to the Son. (John 5:22) Our Lord did not come to execute this judgment at His first appearance. Then He said, "I judge no man." (John 8:15) He had then to present Himself as an atonement for our sins, and had thus to lay the foundations of our salvation. "The Father sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:17)
But at the last day Jesus will descend to execute judgment. "The Father hath given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man." (John 5:27) That is to say the Son of Man whose regal investiture is described by Daniel the prophet. (Dan. 7:13, 14) Jesus Christ is the Mediatorial Judge of the universe. At His bar all generations of men will have to stand. (Matt. 25:31-46) The tremendous alternative of endless joy or woe will be decided for each by His award. Now He wears the priestly vest and girdle (Rev. 1:13), but then He will array Himself in the robes of judgment, and will preside at the last general assize of the universe. "The Father hath appointed a day, in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead." (Acts 17:31)
And surely this arrangement will be appropriate. It will be but right that the Bridegroom should welcome His spouse into the palace which He has by His blood and death purchased for her everlasting residence; and it will be equally becoming that He whom the world has for ages rejected, should sentence His enemies to eternal perdition! Let Him whom the nations have despised, vindicate His right to the homage which He has claimed. Let outraged mercy and love incarnate sit in judgment upon those who have daringly rejected this unspeakable gift!
It will be appropriate that He, in whose nature the Godhead and humanity combine, should pronounce the final sentence of each member of our race. The Redeemer of men, Himself a man, will not be needlessly severe in His judgment of men. Terrible indeed will be the wrath of Jesus, when His long-suffering is over, and the day of vengeance has arrived. What more fearful than the spectacle of mercy arrayed for judgment! Nothing is so dreadful as exasperated love! The Lord Jesus will appear all the more terrible when He assumes the character of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, because He has so long been the Lamb of God!
Thus, Jesus is the Mediatorial King, Prophet, Priest, and Judge of men. And for ever will He be our medium of communion with the Godhead, for it is a truth, and will ever remain so, that "God dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, NOR CAN SEE" (I Tim. 6:16), in this or in any other state. Through eternity, then, we shall not approach an abstract Deity, but shall ever worship God in Christ.