Sunday, February 05, 2006

Without Him, we are nothing but sincere. With Him, the Nations will come!

Once again I have benefited so much from a comment made by one of my friends - it is from there I derive the title of this thought for the day. Slightly earlier in his comment, Luke said; "It is so important to be living in the utter fullness of everything the cross achieved for us". And I wonder - we are very good at using phrases like; "Cross" or "Gospel" but I wonder how much thought is given to actually considering (to use Luke's words) "the utter fulness of everything the cross achieved for us"?

I would like to include a portion of Dr Ern Baxter's sermon entitled "Thy Kingdom Come". He preached this at a Shepherds Conference in Kansas City in 1975. It is arguably (at least in my opinion) the most powerful message he ever preached. There were reports of signs and wonders in the conference - angelic visitations and sightings, and the response from the gathered thousand show that the men there stood as one. The section is not particularly exposition - but rather amplified narrative - and I find it incredibly stirring, for it weaves together the life of Christ and His work, His death on the Cross and His victorious resurrection.

He said:

The Incarnation.

"When Jesus came into the world in the humiliation of the Incarnation, He started on a route of conquest that took Him through the lonely years prior to His introduction at the muddy waters of Jordan, when the bony prophet-like finger of John the Baptist was pointed at Him and those significant words were uttered; "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). For some thirty-three and a half years He overcame and lived an impeccable life so that it was said of Him, "that He was tempted in all points like as we, yet without sin".

To Calvary.

His impeccable life was followed a decisive death. He went to Calvary to endure inexplicable and incomparable suffering: suffering that we can only have a hint of. Suffering that we can only look at curiously and with a sob in our throats. Suffering veiled in the mystery of the bearing of sin. Suffering surrounded by torn rocks and a sun that refuses to shine and an earth that writhed in agony. And as He hangs there alone, God reaches down His giant fist and gathers the accumulated sin of men and places it upon Him. He became the sin-centre of the universe so that it is later said of Him, "He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him".

In the awful loneliness of Calvary, He made His soul an offering for sin and the sin of the world was placed upon him, and the waves of God's wrath were released upon Him. He became an offering for sin, and He gave up the ghost and came down from the mystery of His sufferings - having finished the work. What men saw was a man hanging limp - every bone out of joint, a swollen tongue protuding from burning lips as He cried out, "It is finished!". They didn't know what was going on.

But the veil of revelation is drawn back for us, and we're told by Paul that something was going on in the darkness of that awful hour. Jesus was tying a chain around the neck of the demonic world. He was dragging them across the stage of the cosmos. The Bible says, "He was destroying principalities and powers and making a show of them openly ... triumphing over them in His Cross". He was dealing with sin. He was dealing with the old Adamic society. And whne He had done it in the mystery of His Cross, He said, "It is finished!".

To Hades.

Then He went down to make His announcement. The Apostle's Creed says, "He descended into hell" or Hades. I'm not going to take time to document these things or enter into argument about them. But I believe that He went down and through the authority of what He had just accomplished at Calvary, He confronted Satan himself as He stood at the portals of the world of hades, and He said to him; "I'll take the keys". Satan retorted, "I have been waiting for You for about 4, 000 years; I was there in the Garden of Eden and I heard my sentence. I was told somebody was going to come along and crush my head. I've been waiting for You, and I've been killing people off all through history because I thought they were the ones. But here You are. Now get in there with the rest of them.

Who was in there? Abraham and Issac and Jacob and Isaiah and Malachi - they were all waiting in Paradise. In fact just before our Lord had gone through His Cross, two of them - Moses and Elija - came up on the Mount of Transfiguration to have a conversation with the Messiah. The Bible tells us what they talked about. They "spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luke 9:31). And they said to the Lord, "Everybody's excited down in Paradise. There's great excitement down there Maschiach. We've been appointed as a committee to come up and tell you that everything's all astir down there. When we left, Isaiah wanted to come. He said, "This is the greatest day. I wrote about this and now it's coming to pass". Abraham was right behind ... he ... he wanted to come too. But we were appointed to come and tell You that we're so grateful for what You're doing. There are thousands down there! Everythings all astir!".

Sacrifices Were Not Enough.

Why? Because under the Old Covenant, the blood of bulls and of goats couldn't take away sin. There were men down in paradise clenching in their fists their credit notes ... for there down there with promissary notes. Everytime an Israelite laid his hands on a lamb and transmitted his sin, that lamb died in his place. But at best that ritual was just a credit note to be redeemed by the most precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. And they had been waiting for the time when their credit notes would be redeemed - and the time had finally come.

The Moment of Triumph.

So Jesus came down from His Cross and He confronted the satanic prince and He said; "I'll take those keys". And Satan said, "No one has ever talked to me like this". Jesus replied, "No one ever had the authority to before. But as God's King, as the One who has been given authority as His delegated Sovereign, I am in charge now. I'll take the keys". And Satan handed Him the keys. Then Jesus went into the unrighteous section, opened the door and looked in and He pronounced to those inside that they had been righteously judged for having rejected God's counsel under the old economy. Then He shut the door and left them there. But then He turned to the gate of paradise, opened it and said, "Come on - let's go!".

The Graves Broke Open.

They started up the steps of ascension and when they got as far as Jerusalem, some of those Old Testament saints said, "Master do you mind if we have a stop over ticket? We'd like to spend a few hours in the old home town. We haven't seen it for centuries!". According to the Bible, the bodies of many of the saints were seen in the streets of Jerusalem (Matthew 27:52, 53).

Bringing Many Sons to Glory.

After visiting the old home town, they continued their journey. And up and up they went until they came in sights of the ramparts of Glory. And then this great crowd of Old Testament redeemed, who were moving Paradise into better quarters, cried out; "Lift up your heads O gates and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in".

However it wasn't that easy, for the angelic protectors hurled back their challenge over the ramparts of Glory saying, "Who is the King of Glory?". The saints replied; "He is the Lord strong and mighty! The Lord mighty in battle! He is the One who has just come freshly from the battlefield of Golgotha, where single handledly He dealt a death blow to all of Satan's plans and purposes. Where single handedly He bore the sins of men, where single handedly He died a decisive death - meeting the demands of God and the requirements for man. He is the Lord strong and mighty! The Lord mighty in battle! Now ... will you lift up your heads oh ye gates? Lift them up O ancient doors that the King of Glory may come in?".

And again unsatisfied the challenge rang out, "Who is this King of Glory?" Again the triumphant response came, "He is the Lord of hosts! He is the King of Glory! He is the One who is in charge of all the angelic hosts! But not only that, He is the King now of a multitude that no man can number. He is God's delegated authority. He is the One to bring to God the fruit of His purposes. He is the King of Glory! Now swing back those gates and let the King of Glory come in!".

Sit Down and Reign Until ... !

And the gates swing back and He enters in, steps up to the Father's throne and presents the tokens of His redemption. And the Father says, "Sit down Son at My right hand and reign until Your enemies are made Your footstool!".


Ollie said...

Awesomeeeeee!! Wow, yes - it is rare that we get to read an account of the "fulness" of what happened in Christ's work. I can only imagine the atmosphere as he recounted this.

One thing I was quite interested in was the "Going down to Hades" bit - I didn't realise that or consider that before.

V v awesome and thank you for writing that!

jul said...

Thanks again! I can't wait to hear that one preached again, I'm going to request it in heaven.

SJ said...

Yes indeed! Only this time there will be ten thousand times ten thousand and thousand of thousands cheering and applauding and exalting in that moment when the victorious and ascended and risen Christ was told to sit and reign - not just the thousands who were at Kansas City!!

And there will be angelic hordes!!

apwbd said...

This is one of the most awesome parts of preaching I think I have ever heard. It is so full of truth. So full of victory. And so full of hope!! It is on this basis that we can go to the nations. Jesus has the keys. satan has been stripped of his authority. Jesus tells us "all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore..."

The "therefore" is so key. We go because of the authority.

What glorious fulness. This glorious victory reminds us that the Father's promise to Messiah will surely be answered: "Ask of Me and I shall give You the nations for Your inheritance."

Glory. Let's continue to remind each other of these things.

Baxter's Boy said...

In terms of the "Hades" situation, I'm aware that most orthodox evangelical teaching suggests that Christ didn't go down to Hades from the Cross - in particular see Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones series in Ephesians and Terry Virgo's message on Ephesians at Brighton 2002.

But I have to point out in Ern Baxter's defence that these views that argue against the Hades view, dont suggest a viable alternative! I kind of like it. It's very stirring and dramatic.

So on the Hades issue - I'm still not quite sure.

jules said...

Well I love the idea of Christ marching into Hades and declaring His victory!! Really appeals to my latent Pentecostalism!