Chapter 8: Christ Our Intercessor (continued)

The question is: how must we conceive of this intercessory prayer of our Lord as our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary? How does He intercede for us at the throne of grace?

In answer to this question, we must, on the one hand, eliminate from our conception of this heavenly mystery all that is earthy, temporal, and imperfect. Even though Scripture necessarily employs figurative language, and speaks in earthly language, to aid our understanding of the heavenly realities, yet we must never forget that all these terms and symbols have a deeper, spiritual, heavenly meaning. There is, of course, no material throne in heaven, on the which there is seated a visible manifestation of the invisible God, and before which our Savior appears occasionally to utter a prayer in behalf of His redeemed people. Christ, let us remember, is Himself the person of the Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, God of God, in His divine nature one in essence with the Father and the Holy Ghost, eternally dwelling in the Father’s bosom. And in His glorified human nature He has the most intimate fellowship with the Father. He took our human nature into the most intimate communion with God that is possible, and the union of the divine and human natures in Him is rooted in and rests in the divine Person. It is, therefore, not partial but perfect and complete; not temporal and occasional, but everlasting and constant; not mediate but immediate. Hence, all that is imperfect, temporal, earthy, mediate, must be eliminated from this communion of Christ with the Father, and from its expression in the intercessory prayer of our Lord in our behalf. And, on the other hand, we dare not speak about this sacerdotal intercession as if it were a mere figure of speech, without a corresponding reality, but we must rather insist that it is highest and deepest reality: as a petition it is the most perfect and highest possible realization of true prayer; and as intercession it is the richest and ultimate expression and function of His mediatorial office of High Priest.

Two aspects, therefore, there are to this intercessory prayer.

As prayer it is directed to God. And it is highest reality. Even as with us prayer signifies that we seek and find the Father, that we exercise fellowship with Him, that we speak to Him in adoration and petition, that we open our hearts and pour them out before Him, and that we approach Him as the overflowing fount of all good, in order that we may drink from that fountain and be satisfied, that we may receive His grace and Spirit; so the prayer of Christ as our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary is a real seeking and finding of the most blessed, fellowship with Him, a pouring out of His Mediator’s heart before Him, to receive from Him and out of Him all the fullness of the blessings of salvation for His people. Only, while with us this fellowship with God, this drinking out of the eternal and overflowing Fount of all good, is very much in part and imperfect, with Christ it is perfect and constant. Constantly He stands in the attitude and relation of prayer to God, and constantly He receives from the Father the full answer to His prayer.

And as intercession it is directed to the salvation of His people as its end. In this prayer the Lord is ever conscious of His inseparable union with the elect. Not for one moment is this prayer concerned with Himself alone. He prays for His own, for those whom the Father has given Him. He prays as the High Priest over the whole house of God, as the representative of all those for whom He shed His lifeblood on the accursed tree, as the Head of the Church, which is His body. And He prays in order that He may bestow the fullness of grace and blessings He receives from the Father upon His people.

It is strictly a mediatorial prayer.

We must remember the relation which He sustains to His people, and the relation in which He, with His people, stands to the Father.

He and His people are inseparably united. They are one. He is their Head, they are members of His body.

And this unity is both legal and spiritual, forensic and organic.

His people are, so to speak, a legal corporation of which Christ is the Head in the representative sense of the word.

But they are also a living spiritual body, united with Christ as their Head in the organic sense.

Only when we bear this in mind can we somewhat understand the necessity and significance of Christ’s intercession with the Father in behalf of His people.

As their Head in the representative sense of the word He was authorized to accomplish all the work of salvation for them, in their stead, and in their behalf, and with it to appear before the Father as the ground of His intercessory prayer. In this capacity, our only High Priest took upon Himself the guilt of our sins, and in the hour of wrath and judgment bore them away on the accursed tree. As such He could enter into death in their stead, and blot out all their sins, yea, obtain for them eternal righteousness, the right to all the blessings of salvation, eternal life and glory. Our righteousness, our right to redemption and liberation from the power of sin and death, and to the glory of God’s eternal tabernacle, is never in us, it is always and only in Him. We lie in the midst of death, Apart from Christ, we are not righteous for one moment. On the contrary, we are guilty, and worthy of eternal damnation. We must never overlook or distort this truth. Perhaps, we are inclined to imagine that, when once we are justified by faith, we have a certain ground of righteousness in ourselves. But it is never so. Christ is and remains our only righteousness for even If it were possible that we could even for one moment be separated from Christ as our Head in the juridical sense of the word, that moment we would be damnable in our sin and guilt. However, this is for ever impossible, because this relationship between Christ and His people is rooted in sovereign election. Christ’s perfect obedience, therefore, is our only righteousness. Hence, on the basis of that obedience He also represents us as our Intercessor with the Father. On the ground of His perfect righteousness, merited for us, He can say: “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24. And this implies that on the basis of His merits He prays the Father for all those spiritual blessings that are indispensable to bring them where He is, and to place them in a position to behold His glory.

It is true, this prayer also becomes our own, but this is possible only through Him, in His name, and on the basis of His perfect right to intercede for us.

But even so all is not said.

If we do not say more we create the impression that Christ’s intercession simply means that He petitions the Father to bestow all the blessings of salvation upon us, but that with the actual bestowal of these blessings our High Priest has nothing to do. Upon His prayer God makes us partakers of His grace without Christ. The river of the water of life flows directly from the throne of God, apart from Christ, into the New Jerusalem.

But this is not according to Scripture.

It belonged to the calling of the High Priest under the old dispensation, not only to sacrifice and pray for the people, but also to bless them.

The river of the water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It is true, indeed, that Christ promised that He would pray the Father, and He would send us another Comforter, that He might abide with us for ever, John 14:16. It is equally true, however, that He said that He Himself would send the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, unto us, John 16:7. And on the day of Pentecost it is, indeed, He, the exalted Christ, that pours out the Spirit, Acts 2:33. He is the water of life, which we must drink; the bread of life, which we must eat unto eternal life. He is made unto us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Hence, we receive all the blessings of salvation out of Him.

He bestows them upon us.

He imparts Himself to all the elect. For He is their Head, not only in the juridical sense of the word, but also in the spiritual, organic sense. He is the vine, they are the branches. He is the Head, they are the members of His body. There is a spiritual bond that unites them to Him. Hence, they live out of Him, and He, as the quickening Spirit, lives in them. All the spiritual blessings they need as sinners, guilty and damnable, corrupt and defiled, dead through trespasses and sins in themselves, to become living children of God, liberated, justified, sanctified, and glorified, flow from Him unto them. He is ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, to give gifts unto men, Eph. 4:8. He it is that gives to His Church in the world “some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists ; and some, pastors and teachers. For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Eph. 4:11, 12. For he “fills all things.” Eph. 4:10. And He it is, too, out of whom we receive “even grace for grace.” John 1:16. And “as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:12. And so, the grace of salvation in all its implications, redemption and forgiveness of sins, adoption unto children and eternal righteousness, sanctification and preservation, perseverance and glorification, reaches us, flows unto us from the Christ, the Son of God come into the flesh, crucified and slain, raised from the dead, and exalted in the highest heavens; Christ, the resurrection and the life, our Intercessor with the Father!

But they come unto us from Him as the Mediator.

The only and deepest fount of all the blessings of salvation is the triune God. Out of God, but through Christ as the Mediator, the stream of the water of life reaches us.

God is the limitless ocean of life and bliss; Christ is the reservoir that is constantly filled from the divine ocean; and out of the reservoir Christ, the river of the water of life flows into the Church. “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.”

Of God, through Him, and unto Him, are all things, also the Christ in all the riches of His salvation.

In the light of all this, we can somewhat understand the intercessory prayer of Christ. He prays the Father, and upon His prayer He receives the Spirit and the power to send His Spirit into the Church. He prays the Father, He, as the Son of God in the exalted human nature; and upon His prayer He Himself receives all the spiritual blessings from God, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” in order that He may bestow the blessings of salvation upon His people, and “fill all things.”

Thus it is constantly.

And thus it will be for ever. The living stream of the water of life flows out of God, through Christ, into the Church.

Thus the intercessory prayer is very real.

It is the perfect prayer. It is characterized by none of the imperfections that cleave unto our prayers. We know not what we should pray for as we ought; Christ knows all our needs.

It is a constant prayer. Constantly, Christ stands in the attitude of prayer before the Father, that out of Him as the Fount He may receive all the blessings of grace to bestow them upon His people.

It is a prayer that is based on strictest justice and perfect righteousness, the righteousness of His own perfect sacrifice.

And it is always, and constantly heard!

Chapter 9: Our Eternal King.

In its explanation of the name Christ, “that is anointed,” the Heidelberg Catechism finally points to Christ’s eternal kingship. He is not only our chief Prophet and Teacher, and our only High Priest, but “also our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in (the enjoyment of) that salvation He has purchased for us.”

The words in parentheses do not belong in the text. The original reads: “und bei der erworbenen Erlosung schiitzet und erhalt,” that is: “and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.”

Christ, then, according to this confession, is the King of His Church. As such He rules over her and in her by His Word and Spirit, preserves and defends her in the midst of the world over against all the forces of darkness, and leads her unto the glory prepared for her before the foundation of the world. Unto this end, He is also King over all things, even over all the powers of evil, all principalities and powers are made subject unto Him. He has received a name above all names, and all power in heaven and in earth. And He uses His mighty power for the preservation of the elect, and unto the coming of the day of His return and the establishment of His eternal kingdom in glory.

He is King over His Church by grace.

But He is also the* Lord of lords, and the King of kings by His power.

This glorious and comforting truth is denied by the Chiliasts, or Pre-millennialists.

According to them, Christ is not the King of the Church, but merely her Head in the organic sense. He is the King of the Jews, of the nation of Israel, and as such He must still be revealed in the future. This national Israel, the kingdom-people proper, rejected Him in His first advent. He came unto His own, but His own received Him not. On the contrary, they crucified the Lord of glory, their King. Because of this the Jews are for the time being rejected. They are in captivity, in exile, in the diaspora, scattered over the face of the earth among all nations. And during this, period that the kingdom-people are in the diaspora and God does not deal with them unto salvation, He gathers another people out of the Gentiles. This other people, gathered in the interim of Israel’s captivity, is the Church, the body of Christ, the Bride of the Lamb, that will be taken up in heavenly glory when it is complete. This Church is not the kingdom of Christ. On the contrary, the Jews are and remain forever the royal people of Christ, and Christ is their anointed King. And when the Church shall have been gathered and the fullness of the Gentiles shall have come in, Christ shall, once more turn to His own, gather them out of all nations, cause them to return to their own land, the Old Testament land of Canaan, and rule over the house of Jacob and on the throne of David for ever.

We cannot in this connection refute this theory in detail. Fact is that it is based on a fundamentally wrong conception of the relation between the old and the new dispensation, between the Old and the New Testament, between the Church and the kingdom of heaven. As to this last, there can be no question about the fact that the only kingdom of which the New Testament ever speaks is the kingdom of heaven. And that the relation between this kingdom and the Church is such that the members of the latter are also the citizens of the former, cannot be subject to doubt. Concerning the kingdom of heaven, the Lord taught the people in parables. Thus He explains that the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while men slept an enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. And He interprets that the field is the world, the good seed are the children of the kingdom, and the tares are the children of the wicked one. Surely, according to this, the children of the kingdom are not the Jews, but the believers out of all nations, for “the field is the world.” The enemy that sowed the tares is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world, so that nothing can be expected after that harvest; and the reapers are the angels. And when the time for the harvest is ripe, “the Son of man shall gather out of his kingdom (established in all the world) all things that offend and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Matt. 13:87-43. Surely, these righteous, these children of the kingdom, are not the Jews, but the elect gathered by Christ’s word and Spirit out of all the nations of the world. The Church is also His kingdom, and He is our eternal King!