Rev. Miersma is pastor of the Loveland Protestant Reformed Church in Loveland, Colorado.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
In just a few days we will be observing, as the church of Christ, Ascension Day. This is forty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Most of the church world does not pay attention to this day, but if it were not for the ascension of Christ into heaven, all that was accomplished before would be in vain.
Very appealing to us, therefore, is the confident statement, “We see Jesus.” He was seen by the church in the old dispensation, but not as we see Him now. They saw Jesus in the types and shadows that were given them. In the temple they saw and were assured that someday God would tabernacle in the flesh when Jesus would come. They saw the king sitting on the throne in Jerusalem, witnessed the priest sacrificing in the temple, and heard the Word of God from the mouths of the prophets. All this reminded them that the day was not far off when their great King would come, who at the same time would be the perfect High Priest and the greatest of all Prophets. But as long as He had not come, they saw Him only imperfectly, and they continued to long and pray for His day and for the better things to come.
But we see Jesus as He is exalted with power at the Father’s right hand in the heavens. Our eye of faith is fixed upon Him who is crowned with glory and honor at the Father’s right hand. The very sight of Him thrills our souls with present joy and blessed hope for our future glory with Him. In all our anxieties and cares, we can always know and profess that we see Jesus as only we today are privileged to see Him.
This glorification of Christ could come only by way of humiliation. This could only be by the grace of God. As God’s Son He was holy and without sin. Tender compassion filled His soul as He came to save His people from their sins. Filled with God’s grace He came to us in the weakness of sinful flesh. His whole life on earth was one of humiliation. He was born in poverty and despised among men. His own family did not understand Him, nor did His disciples. He was rejected by the whole world, as seen by the betrayal by Judas, Peter’s denial, His condemnation by the Sanhedrin, and His being sentenced to death by the worldly magistrate. All this culminated in His being nailed to the cross and even being forsaken of God.
All this He bore willingly because He came to bear the wrath of God against our sins and to bear that wrath away. He was the Good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep, that He might ransom them from sin and death and bring them along with Him into glory. Exactly because of His suffering and death He was crowned with glory and honor. This was the reward of God to Him for the work that He had accomplished for us while He was in the flesh. This was the crowning point of His entire earthly ministry.
His glorification is that He sits at the right hand of God, radiating the glory of God, which is far more dazzling than the sun at noonday. All God’s virtues shine forth upon Christ. There on the throne next to God sits Christ, with the scepter of authority in His hands. All the authority of God is entrusted to Christ, so that Christ carries out all the work of God in all His wide creation. Obviously all power is given to Christ in heaven and on earth, and thus we behold Him today with the eye of faith.
We understand very little of that great fact, that God has entrusted to Christ all power in heaven and on earth. He is Lord over the angels and saints in heaven, and over the devil and wicked in hell. He is Lord also over the sun, moon, and stars, as well as over the entire earth and all its creatures. On the earth He is Lord over the wicked that rebel against Him, and over the church of which He is the head.
This glorious ascension of Christ certainly had its effect, in heaven, in hell, and on earth. In heaven, first of all, which had its own tragic history. All the angels had been created good. But under Satan many of them fell, causing a breach in the angelic host. The devil and all his angels were placed under arrest, to be brought to trial when Christ would come.
The faithful angels had a very personal interest in the coming of Christ, for they then would be united in perfect harmony under Him. Eagerly they longed for His coming and watched intently the development of history. Gladly they brought their messages to the saints on earth, for in that way they, too, were serving toward Christ’s coming. No wonder they sang for joy in the presence of the shepherds on that wonderful night that Jesus was born. Readily they came to comfort Him at Gethsemane. They needed no encouragement to go forth to announce His resurrection. And they gave full vent to their pent-up feelings when they accompanied Him as Victor from battle and brought Him to the Ancient of Days, from whom Christ received the authority to sit at God’s right hand in the heavens.
For the saints already in heaven there was also enrichment. They had entered heaven with the promise that God would send the Savior to merit salvation for them. Meanwhile, the devil entered into heaven as the accuser of the brethren, saying that they had no right to be there. But when Christ came, that accuser was cast out. The right of the saints in heaven was sealed by the death and exaltation of their Head, Jesus Christ. They are now with Christ in glory in intimate fellowship with Him. Indeed, Christ is in heaven, and His saints rejoice in that forevermore.
Christ’s exaltation was no less felt in hell, the place of everlasting defeat and despair. All through the old dispensation, the devils had the power to assault those who were on earth. Satan attacked our first parents in Paradise. After the Mother Promise was given, he exerted all his effort to prevent the coming of Christ. To no avail, for in the fullness of time He came. During the life of Christ on earth, Satan tried to have Him killed. Finally, he brought Christ to the cross, and it looked as if Satan had succeeded. However, while the devil bruises the heel of Christ, the Christ stamps down on his head, crushing that head forever. The power of darkness is condemned, and Christ is victorious over all His foes.
This victory is announced in hell, when Christ ascends into heaven. Having been condemned, those in hell know that they have but a little while before their death sentence will be executed. All their fuming rage against the church today results from the fact that they know that their cause is lost. Knowing this they put forth a desperate effort to wipe out the cause of Christ from the earth. Yet, when these powers of darkness have served their purpose, they will be sent to hell, where their death sentence will be fully executed. Their torment and despair will be intensified by the exaltation of Christ as Lord over all.
And, finally, the exaltation of Christ means that His power and authority also extends over the earthly creation. God through Christ causes the sun to rise and to set; He sends the rain, the earthquakes, and the floods. He has power over the nations, so that in spite of themselves they serve His purpose toward the coming of the Lord. The nations rage and the people imagine a vain thing, but God has set His Son in heaven as Lord over all. While the world is making the measure of its iniquity full, Christ is preparing to come again and to take His own unto Himself.
For Christ as exalted Lord is Head of His church. Christ is there for the sake of His people. All things are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. That fact is now established be yond dispute. Therefore, the exaltation of Christ has its rich and blessed significance particularly for us as His church that is still on the earth. We see Jesus crowned with glory and honor! What else can that mean than that our Savior is in heaven, and that as our Savior He has all power entrusted to Him to work out our salvation?
As our Savior He instructs the angels, in order that they, too, in their own way, may serve toward the ingathering of God’s church. As Savior, He controls the ragings of Satan and of the wicked, so that their wicked attempts to destroy us can only be turned to our welfare. We are in the midst of the battle against all the forces of darkness, but we stand victorious, for we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. As our Savior, He provides every good thing and turns all things for our sanctification and for our ultimate glorification. “God is for us, who can be against us?”
And this same Lord blesses us with every spiritual blessing from heaven. We have His Spirit in our hearts. We are made into sons of God. And if sons, then heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Now we suffer with Him for a little while, to be glorified with Him forever. In that confidence we wait for His return and His final glory in the new creation.