by T. Austin-Sparks
The Word teaches us very clearly that Christ has been taken right out of this old creation and set at God's right hand in the heavenlies. On the other hand, it shows us that His being there, and our being in spiritual union with Him, means that for all spiritual purposes and resources, we also are in the heavenlies in Christ. Of this truth there are, again, two sides.
There is the side of what Christ means to us in heaven as our own fulness; that is, as fulness for our own spiritual lives. There is also the side of what Christ being in heaven means as to our vocation, our ministry, our service.
It may be that we shall not deal with all that ground at this time, but we might consider very briefly, and in as simple a way as possible, the former of these two.
Baptism is union with Christ in death, burial and resurrection. It is the dividing line where the old things have passed away, and where all have become new; where the things which have been, in the main, out from ourselves and out from the world, have been concluded, and the all things out from God have had their commencement. That is the Testimony which we bear in our baptism, and it brings Christ into view in a very full, rich, and blessed way; in the four ways in which we need to know Him.
This may be illustrated for us by Israel's own history, the history which was divided at the Jordan. We have first those forty years of failing to enter by a living faith into the full provision of God, and of struggling, striving to live in self-satisfaction, self-pleasing, self-gratification, self-glory, the many-sided self life. The uppermost factor of the forty years is undoubtedly the self-life of Israel. In spite of all the Divine presence, and the Divine provision, self is in evidence, and self has certainly not been put out of sight. Hence there is a history of disappointment, of failure, of spiritual tragedy. Then there was the Jordan, and a new history; all things new. The features of that new life are the features of Christ in heaven for us, when we come by way of the Cross into heavenly union with Him. We look, then, to see what those features were and are, as illustrated in Israel's case.
1. Christ our Fulness
Deuteronomy 8 gives us the first. There we have the great presentation of the wealth of the land. The Word says it was "a good land," a land "flowing with milk and honey," a land of oil, a land of springs of water, a land out of whose hills they were to dig brass. It speaks of fulness of every kind, of resource.
But even it, as a type, pales before the antitype, and comes far short of that which it is intended to represent and illustrate. When we come to the antitype and spiritual counterpart, we can hear one saying "O the depth of the riches... how unsearchable... past finding out" (Rom. 11:33): "...in him dwelleth all the fulness... and in him ye are made full" (Col. 2:9-10). The Lord Jesus is a rich land, a wealthy land, a land of every kind of resource.
That is the other side of Jordan, not on this earth but, spiritually, above. The statement which sets that forth is Ephes. 1:3 "...who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ."
Familiar as these words and these thoughts are to us, there are tremendous possibilities of freshness, and newness, about the enjoyment of these things. I submit to you quite simply and definitely, that this is the Christ of the new creation in Whom we are by faith. All this is gathered up into Him - the new creation in its boundless resources of spiritual wealth at our disposal, at our command, to our account, for us - "in him ye are made full," "...every spiritual blessing... in Christ." If there is no fresh glimmer of light and glory associated with the reiteration of this truth, there is all the more reason why we should ask the Lord what has happened to us, that we could contemplate such a thing without a stirring of heart. Now, is that our Christ, the Christ of our experience, the Christ of our knowledge? Are we living in the realisation of that, not to its fulness - because that fulness will never be exhausted - but in the wonder of the fulness which lies before? - a land flowing with milk and honey, a good land indeed. Any fresh contemplation of our Lord in this way should ravish our hearts: Christ, the fulness of spiritual blessing now, the Sphere of our experience, our exploring, our enjoyment, our satisfaction. That is heavenly union with the Lord Jesus. Anybody who is in that is in heaven. You have not to define and explain to such people what it means to be in the heavenlies in Christ. They know of what you are speaking. Spiritual geography is understood by those who walk up and down in Him and enjoy His fulness.
If you are not there, all that we can do is to be like the spies, and report upon it, and it is left with you to say whether you are going in or not. It is left to the crisis of faith or unbelief, just as it was of old. Do you believe that that is the Christ Whom God has presented as the Sphere of your life? If so, go up and possess; appropriate by faith the fulness that is in Christ for every need which arises, for every demand which confronts you. Break free from any kind of stereotyped demands in the realm of special ministry. That may be the true requirement of some; but every one of us knows from day to day within our own life, without going outside into a circle beyond our own personal spiritual life, that we must be in the place of enjoying the Lord, having our own personal spiritual need met by Him. Then we must go in and possess. Let us face the whole issue in this definite way: Lord, it is clearly represented in the Word that You are the fulness of God for me! Here is a need, a spiritual need. In order that You should be glorified in me, I by faith take You to meet this need! That is very simple. That is almost the infant class of things, but it is a very effective way of proving the Lord. Do not sink back afterward and decline into discouragement and say, Nothing has happened! Stand your ground just as Israel had to stand their ground and prove thereby that the Lord had indeed given. They never knew experimental enjoyment, until they in faith had stood upon the gift and said it was theirs, and held on to it as theirs. Sometimes you have to dispute your rights in Christ with the enemy. He tries to take it, to drag it away, and rob you of it; but you have to hold on, and say, This is mine! So that the first presentation is Christ as our wealth, our exceeding great reward, our riches, our fulness.
2. Christ our Victory
The next is that which is represented by Jericho. Jericho is a matchless example and illustration of what Christ is to faith in the realm of victory. Jericho undoubtedly links with Jordan. Jordan represents God's miracle by which all things are secured on resurrection and ascension ground: and the Lord is saying, in effect, Now that you are on that ground, you have not to fight the battle of Calvary all over again; the battle has been fought. The holding up of the mighty waters of Jordan; the cleaving through the powers which could overwhelm, and drown, and destroy; the resistance, the overpowering might of God, as represented in the Jordan; the exceeding greatness of His power in making the place of death the place of life; all that is the scene of the full victory which for ever after is to be enjoyed, not by way of fighting for it, but by way of standing in it. Jericho was never a fighting for victory; Jericho ever witnesses to standing in a victory. You see how utterly the old creation is eliminated from a Jericho campaign.
Nowadays, in the natural realm, if you are going to seek to capture a city, you do not walk round it once a day and go home, and do that for seven days in the week. That is not the way of nature. You bring up all the resources at your command, every force at your disposal. You employ all the natural means you have, and focus everything upon the situation. Jericho was a scene where natural methods, natural means, natural processes were ruled out entirely. The people of that country, who were used to other kinds of warfare, no doubt looked over the wall and thought these people exceedingly foolish. Among themselves they must have reasoned, What do they expect to gain by that? They saw the children of Israel come out in the morning, and perhaps they expected there would be a stiff fight, but they watched them walk round without saying a word. Israel walked round quietly and silently, and went home again: and that seemingly was all that took place. The next morning Israel came out in the same way, and the people probably exclaimed, Here they come again! What are they going to do today? And in their perplexity Israel's foes must have thought, This is a strange way of making war! The next day Israel went round again as before.
You see how utterly foolish to this world is the wisdom of God, and how utterly weak to this world is the power of God. Christ crucified is the wisdom of God and the power of God. The old creation is set aside, and a new position, a heavenly position, is brought in. We know the sequel proved the power of God. They were not, then, fighting for a victory at Jericho; they were standing by faith in a victory already won.
That was the basis of their conquest of the land. There were seven days, a day for a nation. Principalities and powers were falling, while they silently walked round. Oh, the mighty power of a living faith in a victorious Lord because of His Cross! A nation fallen in a day, and that while a people silently moved in faith in what Calvary had already done. Seven days and the whole land is boxed! Seven times round and the gate is open, and they go up into the land! If ever an old creation element comes back, as it does sometimes, there is arrest. But whenever the old creation elements are kept out, there is progress.
That is Christ in heaven, our full and inclusive victory. I glory in this fact, that now Christ in heaven is far above all rule, and authority, and principality and power. Jordan meant that all those nations were already defeated under the power of God, and faith entered into what had already taken place. God hath set Christ at His Own right hand, far above all, and faith brings about the manifest downfall of the nations, whose downfall has been brought about by Him in His Cross; that is, as to the spiritual hierarchies that govern them. Christ is our complete victory in the whole spiritual realm. Do we believe that? We do not believe it sufficiently. Our difficulty is to arrive at that, but that is the position. If the Word of God means anything, that is the truth.
3. Christ our Sustenance
Then the Word says that, when they went into the land on a certain day, the manna ceased, and they did eat of the old corn of the land. We will only stay for one word on that. It is a word which comes to us in the New Testament, with which we are very familiar: "When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory" (Col. 3:4). Christ will be manifested from heaven, but as Christ in heaven He is our life. We understand "the old corn of the land" to be Christ in His ascended, heavenly place as the life of a heavenly people. The manna was for the wilderness, but the old corn for the land. The latter speaks of Christ in resurrection. It is not Christ coming down from heaven to us as an earthly people now, but Christ as sustaining us in a heavenly position. The truth is that Christ can keep us in a heavenly place, can maintain us there in the "above all" position.
4. Christ our Rest
We know what the third and fourth chapters of the letter to the Hebrews have to say about their going in. Those who failed to go in failed, it says, to enter into His rest. Those to whom the Gospel was afore preached failed to enter in. That is remarkable! The Gospel was preached to them. These are they to whom the Gospel was afore preached. What is the Gospel? To answer the inquiry in that connection, it is Christ as our rest. That is the Gospel: and the Gospel of Christ as our rest was preached to them in type, and they to whom the Gospel was afore preached failed to enter in. Then, says the Apostle, "Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience." They failed! God set forth another day, saying, "Today if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts..." The Gospel is preached to believers to enter into His rest. The Lord Jesus put this in the germ form of truth when He said: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Christ in heaven is our spiritual rest, heart rest.
What is the essence of rest? It is satisfaction and assurance. If you are satisfied, you are at rest, no matter how much work you have to do. And if you are quite sure that your work is going to be successful, you have assurance, and you are in rest. Everything for us is based upon Christ having entered as the Forerunner, and having become our Rest. We shall labour: we shall pour ourselves out; we shall spend; we shall be spent; but in it all there can be real heart rest. We shall be assailed: we shall be pressed on every side; we shall be cast down; we shall be tried; but Christ can still remain our rest: for in the first place, we know that these things are not going to be to our destruction, since He has destroyed the power of destruction; and, in the second place, that our labours are not in vain, because He has swallowed up death victoriously. He is our Rest.
Faith is the Basis
Here you have the four sides of Christ in heaven, and of what He is for us as there. Faith is the ground upon which Christ as all that becomes real to us. Let us ask the Lord to give us a real, spiritual, quick, living apprehension of this great truth concerning our Lord Jesus, the great realm of the new creation into which we are brought, and let us apply it, practise it, put it into operation from day to day.
You may have to go into a place where there is not much spiritual wealth on the outside, not much upon which to feed. Remember you have Christ, the whole land, lying before you. You may have to go into scenes where there is anything but rest, spiritual rest; where all is fret, care, drive, strain. Remember that you are in the land; you are in Christ; you have Him as your Rest. You may have to go into the conflict, into the battle, into the tremendous activities of the enemy to overthrow you. Remember you are in Christ, Who is victory, complete, final victory. That remains true, whatever the enemy may say about it.
Christ is all that we need for a life which is glorifying to Him. It is what Christ is, what we have in the new creation.