By William S. Plumer, 1867
"Come, let us shout joyfully to the Lord, shout
I. Christ in his exaltation.
1. His exaltation is DESERVED. He has merited all the honor and glory he has. He is the only one who has in the highest sense earned all that he has received of God. Originally possessed of infinite perfection, and freely consenting to great humiliation, his merit consists in his perfect obedience to the law, and in his bearing its curse for us. All Christ merited for us was as our Mediator, was by a blessed covenant with his Father, and was through the gift by grace, which has abounded unto many. Rom, 5:15. He is worthy to live and reign forever.
2. Christ's life is IMMORTAL. He was dead, but he dies no more. Rom 6:5. He says, "I am he who lives, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore." Rev. 1:18. It is greatly to the joy of the child of God, that his Savior can be spit upon no more, can be wounded no more, can be crucified no more, can be laid in the sepulcher no more. He has immortality.
3. Christ's exaltation is very GLORIOUS. His very scars are resplendent with light and radiance. Soon after his ascension Saul of Tarsus saw him, and his light was above the brightness of the sun, and such was the glory that it covered the persecutor's eyes with scales. John says, "When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were bright like flames of fire. His feet were as bright as bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was as bright as the sun in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave." Revelation 1:12-18
Among all the bright objects in glory, far the brightest is the Son of man, the Son of God, our great deliverer. There is no mistaking him for another, or another for him, in that bright world above.
4. Christ's exaltation is full of AUTHORITY. He has the keys of hell and of death. Rev. 1:18. On his vesture and on his thigh is a name written—King of kings, and Lord of lords. Rev. 19:16. He is far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. Eph. 1:21. He is the head of all principality and power. Col. 2:10. Indeed, before his ascension he said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Matt. 28:18. Blessed be God, our Savior sways the scepter of universal empire. There is none above him. He is Lord of all. He has no rivals. He shall never be superseded.
5. And yet his love is UNCHANGED. Great is the change in his state; but he is as meek, as lowly, as gentle, as tender-hearted as when he gave his face to spitting and his back to the smiter; as when he cried, "Learn of me;" as when he set a little child as the model he would have us copy; as when he wept at the grave of Lazarus; as when he prayed for his own murderers. Change of state has not changed—his heart, his love to his people, or his pity for sinners.
6. Christ's exaltation is full of holy ACTION. He is not sunk down into the repose so much celebrated in Hindu theology. His rest, like that of the spirits of just men made perfect, is consistent with eternal activity. His toils, and sorrows, and weariness are over. But his energy and operations remain.
He is still executing the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. No man knows the Father but as the Son reveals him. He ever lives to make intercession for us. "He must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet." He feeds, and guides, and protects all his people. He is the Angel that leads Israel in all the wilderness, and in the heavenly mansions.
Wherever and whenever a sinner is made penitent and is pardoned, it is by and through him. For he is on the hill of Zion to grant repentance and remission of sins. He leads his chosen like a flock. He gathers the lambs in his arm and carries them in his bosom.
He is present at every closet of secret devotion. He hears all our weeping and supplications. He says: "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." "He who loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
He is present at every meeting of his people, however small it may be. Two or three are enough to claim the fulfillment of his promise. Matt. 18:20. To all such gatherings he says, "Whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask anything in my name, I will do it." John 14:13, 14.
He is no less present at all our solemn assemblies. When he sent forth his disciples to preach the gospel to every creature, he said, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Many a time his servants have failed to meet their appointments; but our Lord has always been true to his word.
He is always ready to help his people in their temptations. His promise is: "My grace is sufficient for you." Never, in any case, does he fail to make good his engagement. A thousand times would their feet slip, and their profession be covered with reproach—but for his timely aid and succor. His peace is their solace when Satan roars. John 14:27.
He is also with his chosen in sorrow. Into deep affliction he often brings them. There for a long time he often keeps them. But never does he leave them to bear their sorrows alone. For intrepid consistency in fearing God, the three faithful Hebrews were cast into the burning fiery furnace. But though its intense heat consumed those who cast them in, yet the smell of fire was not on their garments. Not a hair of their heads was singed. Nor are we at a loss to account for their preservation. The tyrant of Chaldea, though a heathen, found out the cause of their preservation: "Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spoke, and said unto his counselors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." Dan. 3:24, 25. This explains the whole mystery, not only of this, but of all cases of Christian endurance. The presence of Christ shut the mouths of the lions, that they hurt not Daniel. It made Paul and Silas pray in the jail at Philippi, and sing praises, so that the prisoners heard them. Ten thousand times it has converted deserts into Bethels, and dungeons into sanctuaries.
The Lord Jesus also receives all departing saints. He said he would, John 14:3; and he keeps his word. Not a soul of a believer passes out of time, but Jesus does for it what he did for Stephen in his dying hour, though he does not always before death give like full evidence of his being at the gate of heaven ready to put forth his hand and take in his dove.
Christ is also building the heavenly Jerusalem. In the Divine purpose, this blessed abode was prepared from the foundation of the world. So also has its location long since been determined. But ever since his ascension, the Redeemer has been enlarging and beautifying it, and bringing the glory of the nations into it. To his sorrowing disciples he said, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:2, 3. In a sense, the works of creation were finished from the foundation of the world. Heb. 4:3. Yet Providence has in a thousand ways made great changes here. Had sin never entered, there is no telling to what heights of advancement things would before this have been carried on our globe.
As there is no sin in heaven, and as there is the abode of the Redeemer, and as there is the city of the living God, we know not what its glory is. Of this city we know some things, though the half is not told us. It is the city of the great King. It is his abode. He is its Builder and Maker. It is stable. It has foundations. Heb. 11:10. It is the true "Zion, the city of our solemnities . . . Jerusalem, a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no [enemy's] galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby." Isaiah 33:20, 21. It is the city of truth, Zech. 8:3; the perfection of beauty, Lam. 2:15; the city of praise and joy. Jer. 49:25. "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness." Psalm 48:1. It is the city of righteousness. Isaiah 1:26.
All its inhabitants are righteous. The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars are shut out of its pure precincts. Rev. 21:8, 27. Inside of its walls are no sickness, no poverty, no sorrow, no weeping, no tears, no crying, no pain, no death, no curse. Rev. 21:4; 22:3. This too is the greatest of all cities. Babylon was fifteen miles square; but this city is represented as fifteen hundred miles square. Rev. 21:16. This is the capital of Immanuel's dominions, that great city, the holy Jerusalem, having the glory of God. Her light is like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper-stone, clear as crystal. Rev. 21:10, 11. The walls of this city can never be scaled. "The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal." Rev. 21:16. They are walls of salvation, impregnable, girt with omnipotence. Isaiah 26:1. In it is no temple; for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And it has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it and the Lamb is the light thereof. Nor is it a desolate, uninhabited city; for it has in it those who are saved. Nor is it a poor, small city; for the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it. Rev. 21:22-24.
II. The BENEFITS received from Christ in his exaltation.These are expressed very forcibly in the last gospel: "Because I live, you shall live also." John 14:19.
1. Because he lives and reigns, all who believe shall be JUSTIFIED. Now if any rises up to condemn us, we cry, "It is Christ who died, yes rather, who is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." Romans 8:34. As he rose from the dead, so are believers risen with him from the death of sin. Col. 3:1. He sat not down at the right hand of God, until he had by himself purged our sins. Heb. 1:3. As the expiation of Christ was complete and perfect, so is the justification of all who have fled to him.
2. By the life of Christ his people are SANCTIFIED. We are dead—dead to the world, dead to sin—and our life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory. Col. 3:3, 4. Christ is made of God unto us sanctification. 1 Cor. 1:30. The Spirit of Christ, sent into our hearts by the Savior, purifies them. In so doing, he puts great honor on the death and life of Christ by using them as means and motives of our purification. Col. 3:1.
3. Sometimes the word live seems to be nearly synonymous with being happy; as where Paul says, "Now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord." 1 Thess. 3:8. So we live and are happy because Christ lives and is happy. He is beyond the reach of malice or misery. For thousands of years it has been for a song in Israel: "If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: if we believe not, yet he abides faithful: he cannot deny himself." 2 Tim. 2:11-13. Though we see him not, yet believing that he lives and is blessed, we live and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
4. By Christ's present glorious life, believers have every encouragement. They are fully authorized to expect that, as he has overcome and sat down with his Father on his throne, so they shall overcome, and sit down with Christ on his throne. Rev. 3:21. It is a reasonable duty and a great help to look unto Jesus, and to consider him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest we be wearied and faint in our minds. All good hopes spring from the cross, and center in the person of Christ.
5. By Christ's living and reigning above, the natural life of believers is continued and made safe. Each child of God is immortal until his work is done. The very hairs of his head are all numbered. Every believer may say to every persecutor as Christ said to Pilate: "You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above." John 19:11. Every lion is chained. Not a dog can move his tongue against God's people, unless God gives permission. Exod. 11:7. Daniel never spent a night more safely than that he spent in the lions' den.
6. It is by the life of Christ that the bodies of all his people shall be raised to life and beauty. So teach all the Scriptures: "Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." Isaiah 26:19. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of those who sleep." "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." 1 Cor. 15:20, 49. Christ's resurrection put the resurrection of his people beyond all doubt. Each one may shout and sing: "But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God." Job 19:25-27.
7. By the life of Christ his people are fully saved. So argues blessed Paul: "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 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 by his life." Romans 5:8-10. No man can find in mathematics more conclusive and irrefragable argument than this.
8. Because Christ lives, all his people have and shall have everlasting life. They cannot be condemned, because they are accepted in the Beloved. They cannot be overcome, because He overcame. They cannot fail of eternal life, because they hold their title to it through the merits of him who sits on the throne. If they could fail of salvation, Jesus would fail of his reward; for they are the purchase of his agonies.
1. Humility well befits the saints.They are less than the least of all God's mercies. In themselves they are poor creatures, yes, they are nothing. Christ is all. He is their life. It is easy for us to esteem Christ too little—and ourselves too much; but it is not possible for us to think too much of him, and too little of ourselves. In a life of faith the more we think of Christ, the lower do we put ourselves. We cannot be too low in self-esteem. The Lord gives grace unto the humble. Wisdom is with the lowly.
2. The true, blood-bought, blood-washed church of God is safe.She is loved by her Redeemer, and he is strong. The high priest carried the names of the twelve tribes inscribed on his breastplate. But his church is engraved on the palms of the hands of her Redeemer. Isaiah 49:16. If a dying Savior could redeem, a living Savior can give the victory.
3. The ministers of Christ have a peculiar interest in this subject.Let them hope in him forever. Each of them may say as Cyprian: "While I oversee the church, Christ oversees me." Most of the promises personally made by Christ when on earth, were first made to his ministers, and through them to all believers.
4. God's people are truly blessed.With them all is right. Nothing can harm them, nothing can destroy them, because they are in Christ, and he lives forever. If they die, they sleep in Jesus. If they leave this world, they go to be with Jesus. He is everything to them. A pious, sorrowful widow used to say, "Jesus lives!" Once a wretched state of nerves seemed to rob her of courage, and she burst into tears. Her little child, who knew her habits of cheerfulness and the ground of her courage, recalled her to her trust by saying, "Mamma, is Jesus dead?" The child supposed nothing could go wrong in life, if Jesus lived. The mother was thus reproved, and regained her Christian heroism. So blessed are the people of God, that even in this world a company of believers could not in a day or a year count up their privileges.
Some time since a number of eminent servants of Christ were together, and each one was asked to repeat as sweet a text of Scripture as he could then think of. One said: "Unto you therefore who believe, he is precious." This is, indeed, refreshing. Another said, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." What an eternal rock is this! Another, since gone to glory, said: "We know that all things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose." Another gave this as his text: "God is love." Another this: "As the Father has loved me, even so have I loved you." Another said: "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Such a string of pearls might be made ten times as long, and yet it would be but the beginning of all that God has said and done for his people.
5. But how sad is the state of the wicked. Instead of promises and assurances, the Scriptures are full of woes and threatenings to such, saying, "They shall not see life;" "God is angry with the wicked every day;" that Christ the judge of all will say, "Depart accursed;" that the Most High will laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear comes; and that they shall endure "the wrath of the Lamb." The Bible gives whole chapters to show the necessity and the dreadfulness of the doom of impenitent men. See Ezek. 15; Isaiah 14; Matt. 25. Surely the wicked must turn or burn; must repent now or mourn forever; must embrace Christ or embrace death. The very truths and principles which secure the eternal life of the righteous—make certain the eternal death of the wicked.