FROM CHRIST’S RESURRECTION TO THE END OF THE WORLD
IN discoursing on this subject, we have already shown how the work of redemption was carried on through the first two of the three periods into which we divided the whole space of time from the fall to the end of the world.
And we are now come to the third and last period, beginning with Christ’s resurrection, and reaching to the end of the world, and would now show how this work was also carried on through this period, from this proposition, that the space of time from the end of Christ’s humiliation to the end of the world, is all taken up in bringing about the great effect or success of Christ’s purchase.
Not but that there were great effects and glorious success of Christ’s purchase or redemption before, even from the beginning of the generations of men. But all that success of Christ’s redemption which was before, was only preparatory, and was by way of anticipation, as some few fruits are gathered before the harvest. There was no more success before Christ came than God saw needful to prepare the way for his coming. The proper time of the success or effect of Christ’s purchase of redemption is after the purchase has been made, as the proper time for the world to enjoy the light of the sun is the daytime, after the sun is risen, though we may have some small matter of it reflected from the moon and planets before. And even the success of Christ’s redemption while he himself was on earth, was very small in comparison of what it was after the conclusion of his humiliation.
But Christ having finished that greatest and most difficult of all works, the work of the purchase of redemption, now is come the time for obtaining the end of it, the glorious effect of it. This is the next work he goes about. Having gone through the whole course of his sufferings and humiliation, there is an end to all things of that nature. He is never to suffer anymore. But now is the time for him to obtain the joy that was set before him. Having made his soul an offering for sin, now is the time for him to see his seed, and to have a portion divided to him with the great, and to divide the spoil with the strong.
One design of Christ in what he did in his humiliation, was to lay a foundation for the overthrow of Satan’s kingdom. And now is come the time to effect it, as Christ, a little before his crucifixion, said, John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” Another design was, to gather together in one all things in Christ. Now is come the time for this also, John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me,” which is agreeable to Jacob’s prophecy of Christ, that when “Shiloh should come, to him should the gathering of the people be,” Gen. 49:10. Another design is the salvation of the elect. Now when his sufferings are finished, and his humiliation is perfected, the time is come for that also, Heb. 5:8, 9, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered: and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Another design was, to accomplish by these things great glory to the persons of the Trinity. Now also is come the time for that, John 17:1, “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” Another design was the glory of the saints. Now is the time also for this, John 17:2, “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” And all the dispensations of God’s providence henceforward, even to the final consummation of all things, are to give Christ his reward, and fulfill his end in what he did and suffered upon earth, and to fulfill the joy that was set before him.
BEFORE I enter on the consideration of any particular things accomplished in this period, I would briefly observe some things in general concerning it, and particularly how the times of this period are represented in Scripture.
I. The times of this period, for the most part, are those which in the Old Testament are called the latter days. We often, in the prophets of the Old Testament, read of such and such things that should come to pass in the latter days, and sometimes in the last days. Now these expressions of the prophets are most commonly to be understood of the times of the period that we are now upon. They are called the latter days, and the last days, because this is the last period of the series of God’s provisions on earth, the last period of that great work of providence, the work of redemption, which is as it were the sum of God’s works of providence, the time wherein the church is under the last dispensation of the covenant of grace that ever it will be under on earth.
II. The whole time of this period is sometimes in Scripture called the end of the world, as, 1 Cor. 10:11, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” And the apostle, Heb. 9:26, in this expression of the end of the world, means the whole of the gospel day, from the birth of Christ to the finishing of the day of judgment, “but now once in the end of the world, hath he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” This space of time may well be called the end of the world. For this whole time is taken up in bringing things to their great end and issue, to that great issue that God had been preparing the way for, in all the great dispensations of providence, from the first fall of man to this time. Before, things were in a kind of preparatory state, but now they are in a finishing state. It is the winding up of things which is all this while accomplishing. An end is now brought to the former carnal state of things, which by degrees vanishes, and a spiritual state begins to be established, and to be established more and more. First, an end is brought to the former state of the church, which may be called its worldly state, the state wherein it was subject to carnal ordinances, and the rudiments of the world. And then an end is brought to the Jewish state, in the destruction of their city and country. And then, after that, an end is brought to the old heathen empire in Constantine’s time, which is another and further degree of the winding up and finishing of the world. And the next step is the finishing of Satan’s visible kingdom in the world, upon the fall of Antichrist, and the calling of the Jews. And last will come the destruction of the outward frame of the world itself, at the conclusion of the day of judgment. But the world is all this while as it were a finishing, though it comes to an end by several steps and degrees. Heaven and earth began to shake, in order to a dissolution, according to the prophecy of Haggai, before Christ came, that so only those things that cannot be shaken may remain, i.e. that those things that are come to an end may come to an end, and that only those things may remain which are to remain to all eternity.
So, in the first place, the carnal ordinances of the Jewish worship came to an end, to make way for the establishment of that spiritual worship, the worship of the heart, which is to endure to all eternity, John 4:21, “Jesus saith unto the woman, Believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.” Verse 23, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” This is one instance of the temporary world’s coming to an end, and the eternal world’s beginning. And then, after that, the outward temple, and the outward city Jerusalem, came to an end, to give place to the setting up of the spiritual temple and the spiritual city, which are to last to eternity, which is another instance of removing those things which are ready to vanish away, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. And then, after that, the old heathen empire comes to an end, to make way for the empire of Christ, which shall last to all eternity, which is another step of bringing the temporal world to an end, and of the beginning of the world to come, which is an eternal world. And after that, upon the fall of Antichrist, an end is put to Satan’s visible kingdom on earth, to establish Christ’s kingdom, which is an eternal kingdom, as the prophet Daniel says, Dan 7:27, “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him,” which is another instance of the ending of the temporary world, and the beginning of the eternal one. And then, lastly, the very frame of this corruptible world shall come to an end, to make way for the church to dwell in another dwelling place, which shall last to eternity, which is the last instance of the same thing.
Because the world is thus coming to an end by various steps and degrees, the apostle perhaps uses this expression, that the ends of the world are come on us, not the end but the ends, of the plural number, as though the world has several endings one after another.
The gospel dispensation is the last state of things in the world. And this state is a finishing state. It is all spent in finishing things off which before had been preparing, or abolishing things which before had stood. It is all spent as it were in summing things up, and bringing them to their issues, and their proper fulfillment. Now all the old types are fulfilled, and all the prophecies of all the prophets from the beginning of the world shall be accomplished in this period.
III. That state of things which is attained in the events of this period is called a new heaven and a new earth, Isa. 65:17, 18, “For behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be you glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” And Isa. 66:22, “For as the new heavens and the new earth which I make, shall remain before me, so shall your seed and your name remain.” See also Isa. 51:16. As the former state of things, or the old world, by one step after another, is through this period coming to an end, so the new state of things, or the new world, which is a spiritual world, is beginning and setting up.
The heaven and earth which are corruptible, are shaking, that the new heavens and new earth, which cannot be shaken, may be established and remain.
In consequence of each of these finishings of the old state of things, there is a new beginning of a new and eternal state of things. So was that which accompanied the destruction of Jerusalem, which was an establishing of the spiritual Jerusalem, instead of the literal. So with respect to the destruction of the old heathen empire, and all the other endings of the old state of things, until at length the very outward frame of the old world itself shall come to an end. And the church shall dwell in a world new to it, or to a great part of it, even heaven, which will be a new habitation. And then shall the utmost be accomplished that is meant by the new heavens and the new earth. See Rev. 21:1.
The end of God’s creating the world was to prepare a kingdom for his Son (for he is appointed heir of the world), and that he might have the possession of it, and a kingdom in it, which should remain to all eternity. So that, so far forth as the kingdom of Christ is set up in the world, so far is the world brought to its end, and the eternal state of things set up. So far are all the great changes and revolutions of the ages of the world brought to their everlasting issue, and all things come to their ultimate period. So far are the waters of the long channel of divine providence, which has so many branches, and so many windings and turnings, emptied out into their proper ocean, which they have been seeking from the beginning and head of their course, and so are come to their rest. So far as Christ’s kingdom is established in the world, so far are things wound up and settled in their everlasting state, and a period put to the course of things in this changeable world. So far are the first heavens and the first earth come to an end, and the new heavens and the new earth, the everlasting heavens and earth, established in their room.
This leads me to observe,
IV. That the state of things which is attained by the events of this period, is what is so often called the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God. We very often read in the New Testament of the kingdom of heaven. John the Baptist preached, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and so did Christ, and his disciples after him, referring to something that the Jews in those days expected, and very much talked of, which they called by that name. They seem to have taken their expectation and the name chiefly from that prophecy of Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Dan. 2:44, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom,” together with that in chap. 7:13, 14.
Now this kingdom of heaven is that evangelical state of things in his church, and in the world, wherein consists the success of Christ’s redemption in this period. There had been often great kingdoms set up before, which were earthly kingdoms, as the Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman monarchies. But Christ came to set up the last kingdom, which is not an earthly kingdom, but an heavenly, and so is the kingdom of heaven, John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” This is the kingdom of which Christ speaks, Luke 22:29, “My Father hath appointed to me a kingdom.” This kingdom began soon after Christ’s resurrection, and was accomplished in various steps from that time to the end of the world. Sometimes by the kingdom or heaven, is meant that spiritual state of the church which began soon after Christ’s resurrection. Sometimes that more perfect state of the church which shall obtain after the downfall of Antichrist. And sometimes that glorious and blessed state to which the church shall be received at the day of judgment, 1 Cor. 15:50, the apostle, speaking of the resurrection, says, “This I say, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”
Under this head I would observe several things particularly, for the clearer understanding of What the Scripture says concerning this period.
1. The setting up of the kingdom of Christ is chiefly accomplished by four successive great events, each of which is in Scripture called Christ’s coming in his kingdom. The whole success of Christ’s redemption is comprehended in one word, viz. his setting up his kingdom. This is chiefly done by four great successive dispensations of providence. And everyone of them is represented in Scripture as Christ’s coming in his kingdom. The first is Christ’s appearing in those wonderful dispensations of providence in the apostles’ days, in setting up his kingdom, and destroying the enemies of his kingdom, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem. This is called Christ’s coming in his kingdom, Mat. 16:28, “Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” And so it is represented in Mat. 24. The second is that which was accomplished in Constantine’s time, in the destruction of the heathen Roman empire. This is represented as Christ’s coming, and is compared to his coming to judgment, in Revelation 6 at the latter end. The third is that which is to he accomplished at the destruction of Antichrist. This also is represented as Christ’s coming in his kingdom in Daniel 7, and in other places, as I may possibly show hereafter, when I come to speak of it. The fourth and last is his coming to the last judgment, which is the event principally signified in Scripture by Christ’s coming in his kingdom.
2. I would observe, that each of the three former of these is a lively image or type of the fourth and last, viz. Christ’s coming to the final judgment, as the principal dispensations of providence before Christ’s first coming, were types of that first coming. — As Christ’s last coming to judgment is accompanied with a resurrection of the dead, so is each of the three foregoing with a spiritual resurrection. That coming of Christ which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, was preceded by a glorious spiritual resurrection of souls in the calling of the Gentiles, and bringing home such multitudes of souls to Christ by the preaching of the gospel. So Christ’s coming in Constantine’s time, was accompanied with a glorious spiritual resurrection of the greater part of the known world, in a restoration of it to a visible church state, from a state of heathenism. So Christ’s coming at the destruction of Antichrist, will be attended with a spiritual resurrection of the church after it had been long as it were dead, in the times of Antichrist. This is called the first resurrection in Revelation 20.
Again, as Christ in the last judgment will gloriously manifest himself, coming in the glory of his Father, so in each of the three foregoing events, Christ gloriously manifested himself in sending judgments upon his enemies, and in showing grace and favor to his church. And as the last coming of Christ will be attended with a literal gathering together of the elect from the four winds of heaven, so were each of the preceding attended with a spiritual gathering in of the elect. As this gathering together of the elect will be effected by God’s angels, with a great sound of a trumpet, as in Mat. 24:31, so were each of the preceding spiritual ingatherings effected by the trumpet of the gospel, sounded by the ministers of Christ. As there shall precede the last appearance of Christ, a time of great degeneracy and wickedness, so this has been, or will be, the case with each of the other appearances. Before each of them is a time of great opposition to the church. Before the first, by the Jews, in their persecutions that we read of in the New Testament, before the second, viz. in Constantine’s time, by the heathen, in several successive persecutions raised by the Roman emperors against the Christians, before the third, by Antichrist, and before the last, by Gog and Magog, as described in the Revelation.
By each of these comings of Christ, God works a glorious deliverance for his church. Each of them is accompanied with a glorious advancement of the state of the church. The first, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, was attended with bringing the church into the glorious state of the gospel, a glorious state of the church very much prophesied of old, whereby the church was advanced into far more glorious circumstances than it was in before under the Jewish dispensation. The second, which was in Constantine’s time, was accompanied with an advancement of the church into a state of liberty from persecution, and the countenance of civil authority, and triumph over their heathen persecutors. The third, which shall be at the downfall of Antichrist, will be accompanied with an advancement of the church into that state of the glorious prevalence of truth, liberty, peace, and joy, that we so often read of in the prophetic parts of Scripture. The last will be attended with the advancement of the church to consummate glory in both soul and body in heaven.
Each of these comings of Christ is accompanied with a terrible destruction of the wicked, and the enemies of the church, the first, with the destruction of the persecuting Jews, which was amazingly terrible, the second, with dreadful judgments on the heathen persecutors of the church, of which more hereafter, the third, with the awful destruction of Antichrist, the most cruel and bitter enemy that ever the church had, the fourth, with divine wrath and vengeance on all the ungodly.
Further, there is in each of these comings of Christ an ending of the old heavens and the old earth, and a beginning of new heavens and a new earth, or an end of a temporal state of things, and a beginning of an eternal state.
3. I would observe, that each of those four great dispensations which are represented as Christ’s coming in kingdom, are but so many steps and degrees of the accomplishment of one event. They are not the setting up of so many distinct kingdoms of Christ. They are all of them only several degrees of the accomplishment of that one event prophesied of, Dan. 7:13, 14, “And I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man, came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” This is what the Jews expected, and called “the coming of the kingdom of heaven,” and what John the Baptist and Christ had respect to, when they said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This great event is gradually accomplished, or is accomplished by several steps. Those four great events which have been mentioned, were several steps towards the accomplishment of this grand event.
When Christ came with the preaching of the apostles, to set up his kingdom in the world, which dispensation ended with the destruction of Jerusalem, then it was accomplished in a glorious degree. When the heathen empire was destroyed in Constantine’s time, it was fulfilled in a further degree. When Antichrist shall be destroyed, it will be accomplished in a yet higher degree. But when the end of the world is come, then will it be accomplished in its most perfect degree of all. Then it will be finally and completely accomplished. And because these four great events are but images one of another, and the three former but types of the last, and since they are all only several steps of the accomplishment of the same thing, hence we find them all from time to time prophesied of under one, as they are in the prophecies of Daniel, and as they are in Matthew 24, where some things seem more applicable to one of them, and others to another.
4. I would observe, that as there are several steps of the accomplishment of the kingdom of Christ, so in each one of them the event is accomplished in a further degree than in the foregoing. That in the time of Constantine was a greater and further accomplishment of the kingdom of Christ, than that which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem. That which shall be at the fall of Antichrist, will be a further accomplishment of the same thing, than that which took place in the time of Constantine, and so on with regard to each. So that the kingdom of Christ is gradually prevailing and growing by these several great steps of its fulfillment, from the time of Christ’s resurrection, to the end of the world.
5. And lastly, it may be observed, that the great provisions of God between these four great events, are to make way for the kingdom and glory of Christ in the great event following. Those dispensations of providence which were towards the church of God and the world, before the destruction of the heathen empire in the time of Constantine, seem all to have been to make way for the glory of Christ, and the happiness of the church in that event. And so the great provisions of God which are after that, until the destruction of Antichrist, and the beginning of the glorious times of the church which follow, seem all to be to prepare the way for the greater glory of Christ and his church in that event. And the provisions of God which shall be after that to the end of the world, seem to be for the greater manifestation of Christ’s glory at the end of the world, and in the consummation of all things.
Thus I thought it needful to observe those things in general concerning this last period of the series of God’s providence, before I take notice of the particular provisions by which the work of redemption is carried on through this period, in their order. And before I do that, I will also briefly answer to an inquiry, viz. Why the setting up of Christ’s kingdom after his humiliation, should be so gradual, by so many steps that are so long in accomplishing, since God could easily have finished it at once.
Though it would be presumption in us to pretend to declare all the ends of God in this, yet doubtless much of the wisdom of God may be seen in it by us, and particularly in these two things.
1. In this way the glory of God’s wisdom, in the manner of doing this, is more visible to the observation of creatures. If it had been done at once, in an instant, or in a very short time, there would not have been such opportunities for creatures to perceive and observe the particular steps of divine wisdom, as when the work is gradually accomplished, and one effect of his wisdom is held forth to observation after another. It is wisely determined of God, to accomplish his great design by a wonderful and long series of events, that the glory of his wisdom may be displayed in the whole series, and that the glory of his perfections may be seen, appearing, as it were, by parts, and in particular successive manifestations. For if all that glory which appears in all these events had been manifested at once, it would have been too much for us, and more than we at once could take notice of. It would have dazzled our eyes, and overpowered our sight.
2. Satan is more gloriously triumphed over. — God could easily, by an act of almighty power, at once have crushed Satan. But by giving him time to use his utmost subtlety to hinder the success of what Christ had done and suffered, he is not defeated merely by surprise, but has large opportunity to ply his utmost power and subtlety again and again, to strengthen his own interest all that he can by the work of many ages. Thus God destroys and confounds him, and sets up Christ’s kingdom time after time, in spite of all his subtle machinations and great works, and by every step advances it still higher and higher, until at length it is fully set up, and Satan perfectly and eternally vanquished in the end of all things.
I now proceed to take notice of the particular events whereby, from the end of Christ’s humiliation to the end of the world, the success of Christ’s purchase has been or shall be accomplished.
1. I would take notice of those things whereby Christ was put into an immediate capacity for accomplishing the end of his purchase.
2. I would show how he obtained or accomplished that success.
OF THOSE THINGS WHEREBY CHRIST WAS PUT INTO AN IMMEDIATE CAPACITY FOR ACCOMPLISHING THE ENDS OF HIS PURCHASE
I WOULD take notice, first, of those things by which Christ was put into a capacity for accomplishing the end of his purchase. And they are two things, viz. his resurrection, and his ascension. As we observed before, the incarnation of Christ was necessary in order to Christ’s being in a near capacity for the purchase of redemption. So the resurrection and ascension of Christ were requisite, in order to his accomplishing the success of his purchase.
I. His resurrection. It was necessary, in order to Christ’s obtaining the end and effect of his purchase of redemption, that he should rise from the dead. For God the Father had committed the whole affair of redemption, not only the purchasing of it, but the bestowing of the blessings purchased, to his Son, that he should not only purchase it as priest, but actually bring it about as king, and that he should do this as God-man. For God the Father would have nothing to do with fallen man, in a way of mercy, but by a mediator. But in order that Christ might carry on the work of redemption, and accomplish the success of his own purchase as God-man, it was necessary that he should be alive, and so that he should rise from the dead. Therefore Christ, after he had finished this purchase by death, and by continuing for a time under the power of death, rises from the dead, to fulfill the end of his purchase, and himself to bring about that for which he died: for this matter God the Father had committed unto him, that he might, as Lord of all, manage all to his own purposes: Rom. 14:9, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living.”
Indeed Christ’s resurrection, and so his ascension, was part of the success of what Christ did and suffered in his humiliation. For though Christ did not properly purchase redemption for himself, yet he purchased eternal life and glory for himself, by what he did and suffered. And this eternal life and glory was given him as a reward of what he did and suffered, Phil. 2:8, 9, “He humbled himself; and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him.” And it may be looked upon as part of the success of Christ’s purchase, if it be considered, that Christ did not rise as a private person, but as the head of the elect church, so that they did, as it were, all rise with him. Christ was justified in his resurrection, i.e. God acquitted and discharged him hereby, as having done and suffered enough for the sins of all the elect, Rom. 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” And God put him in possession of eternal life, as the head of the church, as a sure earnest that they should follow. For when Christ rose from the dead, that was the beginning of eternal life in him. His life before his death was a mortal life, a temporal life. but his life after his resurrection was an eternal life, Rom. 6:9, “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” Rev. 1:18, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen.” — But he was put in possession of this eternal life, as the head of the body, and took possession of it, not only to enjoy himself, but to bestow on all who believe in him, so that the whole church, as it were, rises in him. And now he who lately suffered so much, after this is to suffer no more forever, but to enter into eternal glory God the Father neither expects nor desires any more suffering.
This resurrection of Christ is the most joyful event that ever came to pass, because hereby Christ rested from the great and difficult work of purchasing redemption and received God’s testimony, that it was finished. The death of Christ was the greatest and most wonderful event that ever came to pass, but that has a great deal in it that is sorrowful. But by the resurrection of Christ, that sorrow is turned into joy. The head of the whole church, in that great event, enters on the possession of eternal life. And the whole church is, as it were “begotten again to a lively hope.” 1 Pet. 1:3. Weeping had continued for a night, but now joy cometh in the morning, the most joyful morning that ever was. This is the day of the reigning of the head of the church, and all the church reigns with him. This is spoken of as a day which was worthy to be commemorated with the greatest joy of all days, Psa. 118:24, “This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” And therefore this above all other days is appointed for the day of the church’s spiritual rejoicing to the end of the world, to be weekly sanctified, as their day of holy rest and joy, that the church therein may rest and rejoice with her head. And as the 3d chapter of Genesis is the most sorrowful chapter in the Bible. So those chapters in the evangelists that give an account of the resurrection of Christ, may be looked upon as the most joyful chapter of all the Bible. For those chapters give an account of the finishing of the purchase of redemption, and the beginning of the glory of the head of the church, as the greatest seal and earnest of the eternal glory of all the rest.
It is further to be observed, that the day of the gospel most properly begins with the resurrection of Christ. Until Christ rose from the dead, the Old Testament dispensation remained. But now it ceases, all being fulfilled that was shadowed forth in the typical ordinances of that dispensation. So that here most properly is the end of the Old Testament night, and Christ rising from the grave with joy and glory, was as the joyful bridegroom of the church, as a glorious conqueror to subdue their enemies under their feet, or was like the sun rising as it were from under the earth, after a long night of darkness, and coming forth as a bridegroom, prepared as a strong man to run his race, appearing in joyful light to enlighten the world. Now that joyful and excellent dispensation begins, that glorious dispensation, of which the prophets prophesied so much. Now the gospel sun is risen in glory, “and with healing in his wings,” that those who fear God’s name, may “go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.”
II. Christ’s ascension into heaven. In this I would include his sitting at the right hand of God. For Christ’s ascension, and sitting at the right hand of God, can scarcely be looked upon as two distinct things. For Christ’s ascension was nothing else, but ascending to God’s right hand. It was his coming to sit down at his Father’s right hand in glory. This was another thing whereby Christ was put into a capacity for the accomplishing the effect of his purchase, as one that comes to be a deliverer of a people as their king, in order to it, and that he may be under the best capacity for it, is first installed in his throne. We are told, that Christ was exalted for this end, that he might accomplish the success of his redemption, Acts 5:31, “Him hath God exalted with his right hand, for to give repentance unto Israel, and the remission of sins.”
Christ’s ascension into heaven was, as it were, his solemn enthronement, whereby the Father did set him upon the throne, and invest him with the glory of his kingdom which he had purchased for himself, that he might thereby obtain the success of his redemption in conquering all his enemies, Psa. 110:1, “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Christ entered into heaven, in order to obtain the success of his purchase, as the high priest of old, after he had offered sacrifice, entered into the holy of holies with the blood of the sacrifice, in order to obtain the success of the sacrifice which he had offered. See Heb. 9:12. He entered into heaven, there to make intercession for his people, to plead the sacrifice which he had made in order to the success of it, Heb. 7:25.
And as he ascended into heaven, God the Father did in a visible manner set him on the throne as king of the universe. He then put the angels all under him, and subjected heaven and earth under him, that he might govern them for the good of the people for whom he had died, Eph. 1:20, 21, 22.
And as Christ rose from the dead, so he ascended into heaven as the head of the body and forerunner of all the church. And, so they, as it were, ascend with him, as well as rise with him. So that we are both raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ, Eph. 2:6.
The day of Christ’s ascension into heaven was doubtless a joyful, glorious day in heaven. And as heaven received Christ, God-man, as its king, so doubtless it received a great accession of glory and happiness, far beyond what it had before. So that the times in both parts of the church, both that part which is in heaven and also that which is on earth, are become more glorious since Christ’s humiliation than before.
So much for those things whereby Christ was put into the best capacity for obtaining the success of redemption.