God has brought us into the closest relationship to Himself, and He has brought us there in Christ; whose message to His disciples sets this relationship clearly before us. “I ascend unto My Father, and your Father, and to My God, and your God.” Christ was going there; His word is “I ascend.” It is not now to be “Our Father which art in heaven,” and we upon earth, which was all that could be known of this relationship in the days of Christ’s flesh. Up to the cross it was God in heaven as Father, and Man upon earth as Son in the person of Christ. Heaven was opened upon Him at His baptism and the Father’s voice proclaimed the relationship. “Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
But this did not bring to light the full thought of God as regards sonship. Christ was in flesh and blood here, a Man upon earth, and as far as flesh and blood was concerned linked up with the old order—not morally, but as come of a woman; yet though come of a woman, “That Holy Thing” and “The Son of God.” Because the children, those who were the subjects of divine purpose, were partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same (Heb. 2:14), but this was to accomplish the will of God, and in order to carry into effect what God had purposed for man before the world was. The old order of man, upon which the righteous judgment of God lay on account of sin, was in His death brought to an end, and the One who had the might of death destroyed, and death itself rendered powerless; and in Christ risen from the dead we see a completely new order of man (not that He was not always that, but) now absolutely severed from the old in every way; the life of flesh and blood given up, and by this propitiation made, and nothing in common between this risen Man and the man who had his origin out of the dust of the ground. But even this does not set before us man’s true place in the counsels of God. The disciples now can be spoken of as His brethren, because they can be viewed in His life apart from the life of flesh; all that having been set aside in His cross; the Sanctifier and the sanctified can be spoken of as “all of One,” and He can declare the Father’s name to them, and put them in the same relationship with the Father as He is in Himself. But we would lose immensely if we did not pay great heed to those two words which stand at the beginning of His message to them by Mary of Magdala: “I ASCEND.”
It may be said by some who may read this paper, that we do not get His ascension in the gospel of John. It is true that we do not get an account of His taking up, but nothing in the gospel which relates to our blessing could be true of us if He were not taken up. It is Christ in the gospel, and Christ in us in the first epistle; but He could not be in us apart from the gift of the Spirit, and the Spirit could not come down until He went up (John 16:7). As to the blessed Lord, and as to ourselves down here, it is “a life divine below;” but as to us the life divine below has its spring in the life divine above (John 14:19). In no other gospel do we find the truth brought so clearly and distinctly before the soul of saint or sinner that the blessed Son of God was about to go back again to “where He was before.”
And now the message to His beloved disciples is, “I ascend unto My Father, and to your Father,” etc. There is a new place for man, and that a heavenly one. The order of man is absolutely new. As there was nothing of the new in the old, so is there nothing of the old in the new, except personal identity—but that does not properly belong to either old or new. The relationship is new. It is not merely the Creator and the creature (as in innocence), although it is that, for we never cease to be creatures; but it is sonship with the Son of God, and the Spirit of the Son in our hearts producing in us the affections that belong to this relationship; and it is not merely human affections, for we are partakers of the divine nature, and the love wherewith we love is the love of God, become our life and nature. Neither is it man upon earth in flesh and blood looking up to heaven whose Father is in the heavens, but it is Man gone up, ascended and gone into heaven itself, and established in the place that was man’s in the counsels of God from all eternity. Thus the relationships are new and heavenly, the affections are new and heavenly, the place is new and heavenly, and the man is of a new order and heavenly. It is all set forth in Christ, who is gone into heaven to appear before the face of God for us; and if we are to learn anything of these things we must learn them in Him, for “as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:48).
There are other truths put forth by other apostles than John, which only support and confirm what I am seeking to bring before the reader, that all our blessings and everything that pertains to us in the shape of blessing are of a heavenly order. Paul speaks of the body of Christ, and of the bride of Christ. A man’s body is part of himself. It is that in which he is displayed, but it is because it is himself that he can be displayed in it. Every man is known in his body, and I believe it will be in the body of Christ that He will be displayed in the coming day; indeed it is so even now. His bride is composed of the same individuals as His body, for both are His assembly for which He gave Himself, but the thought in the bride is, that He is to have a companion, and one through whom He will fill the universe with life and light and blessing. But His body is Himself, and cannot be other than heavenly, and His bride is of His kindred, as Rebecca was of the kindred of Isaac. It has been taken out of Him, as Eve was taken out of Adam. “Bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23).
Christ now occupies the place that is ours; He is gone “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” This is our place, and He is our Forerunner who has secured the place for us, and who calls us into the place where He has gone. Hence He says to His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you.” “In My Father’s house.” The word of the glad tidings calls us to that place, hence it is said to be a heavenly calling; and we are exhorted to “Lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus,” who is “Set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2); and “Our conversation (associations of life) is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). The powers of the world to come were exercised by the disciples through the name of Jesus when He was amongst them on earth, and they were very greatly elated on account of this, but the Lord tells them that they were rather to rejoice “Because your names are written in heaven.”
I desire that the reader should see clearly the peculiar nature of the blessing that is ours in Christ in this present dispensation; how completely it is bound up with Christ; we are His heavenly brethren, His body and His bride—
“In Him we stand a heavenly band
Where He Himself has gone.”
Now God having given us this place of nearness to Himself, He has also taken us into His confidence, and made known His mind to us as to things to come. He has given us to know, that in the coming age He will gather together all things in heaven and earth under one head, and that Head Christ. Christ is to possess all things, and we are to be His associates in the day of His glory. It opens up before our souls a wonderful vista, everything in heaven and upon earth brought together under the Headship of Christ. The thoughts of the disciples when Christ was here and even after He rose from the dead, were narrowed up to the earthly kingdom, which was to be restored to Israel; and not until after the Holy Spirit came down from the ascended Lord, did such a prospect as this open up before their hearts.
But it is only as we learn the greatness of this Person under whose Headship everything is to be gathered, that we can be in any measure prepared for such a revelation. It is of all importance to see that the One who is Head over all things, is the One who created all things. The creation looked at as a whole, is His creature; it was by the putting forth of His own intrinsic power that it exists. It is true that God created everything by Him; He was the instrument by which the Deity brought creation into existence, but it was by His power it was done. Then again it was created for Him. It was and is His, and it was and is to serve His purpose and His pleasure. He has now come into it as Man, and His object in coming into it is that it may all be brought under His sway, and thus into accord with God fully revealed. But having come into it, and having taken a place in the creation, He could not take a less place than First-born, for in everything He must of necessity be pre-eminent. This whole creation must be filled with the light which radiates from His glorious Person; the creation shall eventually by His power rejoice in the full light of God perfectly declared.
In that day when everything is gathered together under Him there will be the things in heaven and the things in earth; there will be those who will be blessed upon earth, and who will have their portion there, as those who have an earthly calling; but there will also be those in heaven who will have their portion there, as those who have a heavenly calling. The heavenly people will be in heaven and the earthly people will be in earth. But the heavenly company will inherit all things. It is not that they will not have to do with earth, for they will have to do with both earth and heaven; for all things will be theirs, but they will have a more exalted position than those who have their portion upon earth. The church will have the most exalted place in the universe, for she will be next to Christ Himself. What Eve was to Adam in the thought of God in the old creation, the church will be to Christ in the day of His glory. When He sits upon His throne, she will sit with Him. The church will judge the world, and angels, and exercise her beneficent influence throughout the whole realm of God. Through the church God will take the whole inheritance, and through her the knowledge of His glory shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
But this will all be because she is the bride and body of Christ. It is not what the church is in herself, but because of what she is to Christ. It will be His beauty and excellency that shall be seen in her, as a precious stone itself becomes invisible by the glory of the sun reflected in it, so the church will present, not her own glory, but the glory of her husband, and her glory will be to make His glory known.
We will have to do with earth, but we will not therefore be earthly. We shall judge the world, but from a heavenly position. We shall shed the light of God into the darkest corners of the earth, and dispel the hurtful gloom, but it will be from the heavens we shall do it, as the sun when it arises to illuminate and warm the world wrapt in its heavenly radiance. I do not mean that we must all be as it were chained to one spot in the expanse of blue, for though the sun is in the heavens, and walks through them in its pathway of glory, it sends its beams of light everywhere throughout the solar system, yet its place is in the heavens, above all that is blessed by its beams; so we like those beams of light may go hither and thither throughout all the vast sphere which shall be placed under Christ, but wherever we may go at the direction of our glorious Head, it will only be like a member of Christ stretched out in blessing over the vast area under His control. He will use us as pleases Him, and all His members shall be at the direction of the Head, and it will be our blessed privilege and eternal delight to serve Him, but His position will forever determine ours and if He stretches out His members in blessing to the ends of the earth, or to the utmost limits of the vast creation, not one of us will ever be less than members of that heavenly man, part of Himself, indissolubly united to Him.
This great truth makes the rapture of the church a necessity. He cannot show Himself to the world without His bride, for whom He left His father and mother (Israel after the flesh); for it will be His bride in the same glory as Himself that will be the explanation of His separation from His earthly people, during the time He is hid in the heavens. When He appears He must have the “pearl of great price” with Him, that all may know the object for which He sold all that He had. At His appearing the world will get to know two great facts together; first, that the Father sent the Son, and second, that He loved the church as He loved Christ, but this can only be known by the church being with Him glorified, when He shows Himself to the world. Another thing regarding the rapture. What is manifested from heaven in the day of Christ’s glory will be perfection, and therefore the last Adam cannot come without His Eve with Him, for “It is not good for man to be alone.” Indeed when He takes His great power and shows Himself to the world, and everything is manifestly put under His Headship, His bride must be with Him, for “He called their name Adam.” In the day of His glory you cannot have the man without the woman.
But the catching up of the saints is only a means to an end. I mean it is not the consummation of all our hopes. It forms part of our hope, because you cannot have the appearing without it, neither could you have the dispensation of the fullness of times. When God said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” it was not merely Adam He was thinking about, it was Christ, and when He said, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,” it was not Adam that was before His mind, for Adam could not leave his father and mother. It was the last Adam and His Eve, of whom the first Adam and Eve were only figures.
Again, how could it be expected that Christ would appear without His body? If He is to show Himself as Head over all things it cannot be otherwise than in connection with His body, for He is given to be Head over all things to the church, which is His body. If He displays Himself it seems to me the vessel in which He is to do it must be with Him, for I suppose He will appear in His body; He certainly is to be wondered at in all them that believe. All that God is in the revelation of Himself came out in Christ, and the church is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. No one but God can fill all in all. It may be said that Christ does. This is so, but it is because He is God.
I do not bring all this forward to prove that the church must be taken up before the appearing takes place. If I thought it necessary to prove this to the reader, I should go direct to a passage of scripture (1 Thess. 4:13-17); but I bring these things forward as confirmatory of that bright and blessed expectation. My object in writing this paper is to make clear to the reader that all our relationships, affections, place, order of man, home and everything else are heavenly, and in the heavenlies, and that there is not one element of the earthly in them, and I desire that the reader along with myself shall be found of the Lord at His coming, holding this great truth in the power of God, dearer than even life itself. At the same time the world to come is kept very clearly before our souls, but our heavenly position, with all its heavenly joys and associations and blessings, is to be enjoyed by us even during the time of our reign with Christ over the earth. The Father’s love and the love of Christ in our heavenly home of love, must be greater than all we inherit in the creation.