Imagine an earthly situation where the heir-apparent to the throne meets with his closest friends on the eve of his own coronation. The new king’s friends would hardly desire that the king skip his own coronation. There is no greater benefit to the new king’s friends than that he ascends to the throne.
When Jesus left this world, He was not departing in exile. He was leaving for His coronation. He was passing from humiliation to exaltation. The extraordinary benefit in this for every Christian is that he can live in the full assurance that at this very moment the highest political office in the universe is being held by King Jesus. His term of office is forever. No revolution, no rebellion, no bloody coup can wrest Him from the throne. The Lord Christ omnipotent reigns.
The “where” partially explains the “why.” There is more to be added, though. The king serves in a dual capacity. He is not an ordinary monarch. At the same time He reigns as King, He serves His subjects as their Great High Priest. The King kneels before His own throne in supplication for His people. In addition to the session there is also intercession. Jesus’ throne is linked to the heavenly Holy of Holies. Daily, He makes intercession for you.
It was 3 a.m., Amsterdam, 1965. I couldn’t sleep. I was pacing the floor of our apartment like a caged lion. My body was more than ready for sleep, but my mind refused to shut down.
I had spent that day studying the doctrine of the ascension of Christ, the climactic moment of His departure from this world. One statement of Jesus gripped my mind in a vise. The statement was part of Jesus’ farewell discourse to His disciples in the upper room. He said: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).
I paced the floor mulling over this astonishing statement. How could it possibly be better for the church to experience an absentee Lord? Parting with loved ones is not a “sweet sorrow.” One would think that to part with the incarnate Jesus would be an utterly bitter sorrow, a total dissolution to the soul.
Yet Jesus spoke of a certain “expediency” of His departure. The word translated “advantage” or “expedient” in John 16 is the word sumpherei, the same word employed by Caiaphas in his ironic prophecy (John 18:14).
The advantage of Jesus’ departure from earth is found partially in answer to Peter’s earlier question: “Lord, where are you going?” (Quo vadis?). We might say that the entire farewell discourse of John 14 was given in answer to that question. But equally important is that Jesus answered Peter by telling him not only where He was going but why He was going.
When Jesus left this world, He went to the Father. His ascension was to a certain place for a particular reason. To ascend did not mean merely “to go up.” He was being elevated to the right hand of the Father. The seat He occupies since His departure is the royal throne of cosmic authority. It is the office of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
In a sense, we are fortunate that we cannot see God. If for one second the veil was removed and we caught a brief glimpse of the face of God, we would perish instantly. His effulgence is so brilliant, His glory so dazzling, that in our present corrupted state we could not bear the sight of Him. He remains invisible both as a curse and as an act of protecting grace. As long as we remain infected by sin, we are doomed to wander in His world sightless with respect to Him. We may be comforted by His Word and healed by the secret ministration of His Spirit, but we cannot see the supreme beauty of His face.
But we have a dream; nay, more than a dream. We have the sure and certain promise that someday we will see Him face to face. The heart of every Christian longs for the face of Christ. We yearn to look directly at God Himself without fear of being consumed. That deep yearning will be fulfilled one day.
The future vision of God is called the “Beatific Vision” because it will bring in its wake the consummate blessedness for which we were created and redeemed. One of the Beatitudes spoken by Jesus was, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). In heaven, we will be pure in heart. In heaven, we will see God.
How many times have you heard Christians say (or heard the words from your own mouth), “So-and-so is not a Christian but he’s searching”? It is a common statement among Christians. The idea is that there are people all over the place who are searching for God. Their problem is that they just haven’t been able to find Him. He is playing hide-and-seek. He is elusive.
In the Garden of Eden, when sin came into the world, who hid? Jesus came into the world to seek and to save the lost. Jesus wasn’t the one who was hiding. God is not a fugitive. We are the ones on the run. Scripture declares that the wicked flee when no man pursues. As Martin Luther remarked: “The pagan trembles at the rustling of a leaf. The uniform teaching of Scripture is that fallen men are fleeing from God.”
People do not seek God. They seek after the benefits that only God can give them. The sin of fallen man is this: Man seeks the benefits of God while fleeing from God Himself. We are, by nature, fugitives.
The Bible tells us repeatedly to seek after God. The conclusion we draw from these texts is that since we are called to seek after God it must mean that we, even in our fallen state, have the moral capacity to do that seeking. But who is being addressed in these texts? In the case of the Old Testament, it is the people of Israel who are called to seek the Lord. In the New Testament, it is believers who are called to seek the kingdom.
If you are of the truth, if you have learned the truth, if you see the sanctity of the truth, then speak truth. We are not called to be deceivers or liars. God is a God of truth, and His people are called to have an enormously high standard of truth.
In the New Testament, love is more of a verb than a noun. It has more to do with acting than with feeling. The call to love is not so much a call to a certain state of feeling as it is to a quality of action.
Throughout the ages, the church has understood that the most significant manifestation of true faith is love. Faith without love is not faith, only speculation or knowledge or mere intellectual assent. The fruit of authentic faith is always love.
Jesus’ life was a storm of controversy. The apostles, like the prophets before them, could hardly go a day without controversy. Paul said that he debated daily in the marketplace. To avoid controversy is to avoid Christ. We can have peace, but it is a servile and carnal peace where truth is slain in the streets.
I recently heard a young Christian remark, “I have no fear of dying.” When I heard this comment I thought to myself, “I wish I could say that.” I am not afraid of death. I believe that death for the Christian is a glorious transition to heaven. I am not afraid of going to heaven. It’s the process that frightens me. I don’t know by what means I will die. It may be via a process of suffering, and that frightens me. I know that even this shouldn’t frighten me. There are lots of things that frighten me that I shouldn’t let frighten me. The Scripture declares that perfect love casts out fear. But love is still imperfect, and fear hangs around.
There is one fear, however, that many of us do not have that we should have. It is the fear of God. Not only are we allowed to fear God, we are commanded to fear Him. A mark of reprobation is to have no fear of God before our eyes.
Martin Luther made an important distinction concerning the fear of God. He distinguished between servile fear and filial fear. He described servile fear as that kind of fear a prisoner has for his torturer. Filial fear is the fear of a son who loves his father and does not want to offend him or let him down. It is a fear born of respect. When the Bible calls us to fear God, it is issuing a call to a fear born of reverence, awe, and adoration. It is a respect of the highest magnitude.
Logic and God:
The logic for God is so overwhelming that the philosopher/theologian R. C. Sproul insists that a reasonable man must acquiesce to this conclusion. The evidence is so compelling, that one must override his senses to deny Him. It is only the person who is blinded by his own agenda that refuses to accept it. A thinking person who denies God must do so on the basis of preferring to believe there is no God in order to try to escape His judgment, thus irrationally seeking autonomy. Our challenge to the skeptic: At some point you must be willing to rationally consider the evidence and honestly seek with an open mind details about the God who made you.
“Jacob’s Ladder represents a bridge between Jacob’s secular mindset to make it in this world and the reality of Heavenly things.” (The Holiness of God)
“The more faithful preachers are to the Word of God in their preaching, the more liable they are to the charge of hypocrisy. Why? Because the more faithful people are to the Word of God the higher the message is that they will preach. The higher the message, the further they will be from obeying themselves.” (The Holiness of God)
“It is a profound political reality that Christ now occupies the supreme seat of cosmic authority. The kings of this world and all secular governments may ignore this reality, but they cannot undo it. The universe is no democracy. It is a monarchy. God himself has appointed his beloved Son as the preeminent King. Jesus does not rule by referendum, but by divine right. In the future every knee will bow before him, either willingly or unwillingly. Those who refuse to do so will have their knees broken with a rod of iron.” (What Is Reformed Theology? Understanding the Basics)
“The real crisis of worship today is not that the preaching is paltry or that it’s too drafty in church. It is that people have no sense of the presence of God, and if they have no sense of His presence, how can they be moved to express the deepest feelings of their souls to honor, revere, worship, and glorify God?” (A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity)
“You can grieve for me the week before I die, if I’m scared and hurting, but when I gasp that last fleeting breath and my immortal soul flees to heaven, I’m going to be jumping over fire hydrants down the golden streets, and my biggest concern, if I have any, will be my wife back here grieving. When I die, I will be identified with Christ’s exaltation. But right now, I’m identified with His affliction.” (A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity)