The Risen Lord and the Things Which Cannot be Shaken

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The Meaning and Values of Christ Risen

Reading: Ex. 26:31-36; Matt. 27:45-51; Luke 3:21-22; Heb. 6:19-20; 9:3,12; 10:20; John 14:6.

That which is to form the subject of our meditation at this time has very closely to do with the question of our partaking in a spiritual and living way of the resources that are now at our disposal in Christ. Christ on resurrection ground and in resurrection life makes available to us all these secret resources of His Own life when here on earth. The triumph of His life - and indeed it was a great triumph - and the triumph of His Cross are to be accounted for by His access to secret resources upon which He was continually drawing, and those secret resources are now made available to us on the ground of His resurrection, and through living union with Him in a spiritual way as the risen Lord. Now our part is to inquire what those resources were, and how they become available to us. We shall only be occupied with one of these at this time, but it is the one out of which all the others spring, with which all the others are bound up.

An Opened Heaven

Luke 3 tells us that Jesus, having been baptized and praying, the heaven was opened, and it is with the meaning and value of the opened heaven that we want to dwell for a little while.

If there is one thing more than another which the Word of God makes clear it is that heaven is closed to man in his unregenerate state. You will find that to be the case wherever you may look in the Word of God. The very elaborate provision made for man to draw near to God at all is itself a declaration that access to God cannot be taken for granted. It is not a thing available without very special provision. Associated with everything provided for man in the Old Testament is the warning: Stand back! This is for you only on very special grounds. There is no advance. There is no approach. There is no access. I think it hardly needs labouring that the Word of God hammers out this fact, that to man in his unregenerate state heaven is closed.

Heaven is not only a place to which we may go. So many people have but one idea of heaven as the place to which you go at last if you are good. Well, it may be. We are all hoping to go there, but it is not in that particular sense that we are speaking of its being closed. The question of a closed or opened heaven is a very much greater matter than that. Heaven is a realm of God. A realm of everything belonging to and related to God; the realm of God and His things. It is the realm of fellowship with God, communion with God. Everything of meaning and value, of necessity and blessing for man's spiritual good, for man's eternal well-being, is bound up with heaven.

That is not something future, that is something for the present. God's thought is not merely that we might go at last to heaven, not just that, but that now we should know what life in heavenly union with Himself means, and what all the resources of heaven mean for our lives here on this earth, that we should enjoy now every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ. That is a great word of the Apostle Paul. Heaven is something vast for present enjoyment, for present experience. The Psalmist said of Zion: "All my wellsprings are in thee." That is what the believer says of heaven, of Christ in heaven. That is heaven in present possession, and present enjoyment, and unless that is true now, before we leave this world, there is not much hope of our going to heaven at last.

These things of eternal value for our well-being, these things of God for our blessing, for our good, are not to be found in the world. Men have searched for them, and sought them in the world, but they have never been found there. They are in heaven, and can only come to us through an opened way to heaven.

But all this - and it is far more than ever we could detail, even were we to stay to speak of it for a very extended period - all that heaven means of resource and of blessing and value for time and for eternity is closed, is behind a closed door, as regards unregenerate men and women, even though they may be religious. One of the great snares which will keep multitudes out of heaven is religion. To be religious does not necessarily mean to have a heavenly life in union with the risen Lord.

We must see what this means in the light of an opened heaven. Clearly this is the significance of Christ's words to Nicodemus. Nicodemus came to Christ seeking light about heavenly things. He wanted to apprehend heavenly things, to have touch with heavenly things, and the Lord Jesus quite definitely and deliberately said at once to him, in effect: Nicodemus, that door is closed to you! Closed to Nicodemus, a ruler in Israel, a very religious man, a representative of God's chosen people? Yes, to him the Master says clearly, The door is closed, Nicodemus, there is no way through for you. If you want to enter into that realm, if you want to know, to understand those things, if you want to come into those blessings, you must be born from above. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." These two are altogether different. They belong to different realms. One belongs to earth, and the other belongs to heaven, and there is no passing from one to the other. You must be born into the kingdom of heavenly things.

The Veil of the Tabernacle

We turn to the letter to the Hebrews, bearing in mind the passages that were brought before us, all of which made reference to the veil. We know from our reading in the book of Exodus to what the veil relates. In the instructions given to Moses for the building of the Tabernacle there were certain detailed directions for the erection at a given point of a veil to divide the Tabernacle into two compartments, of which the one before or outside the veil was to be called the Holy Place, and the other behind or within the veil the Most Holy Place. Now, turning to the letter to the Hebrews, and calling to mind the several passages referring to the veil, we note that here the Holy Place of the Tabernacle and the Most Holy Place are represented as earth and heaven respectively. It says that Christ, when He ascended, went into the Most Holy Place. He passed from the Holy Place to the Most Holy Place. The former is represented by His life here. The latter is represented by His entering into heaven. So that the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place are here set forth as earth and heaven respectively. In one, that is, in the Holy Place, there were the types of the things of God, in the Most Holy Place was God Himself. The veil hung between, and death overtook anyone who dared to attempt to pass through that veil into the Most Holy Place where God was, unless bidden and by special provision. God said concerning that place that none was to go in lest he died, and but once a year could the High Priest himself go in, and only then with the most precise governing rules and provision for his protection. It was said, even concerning him, that if he did not observe most strictly, and accurately, and meticulously those provisions, those governing rules, he would die, High Priest though he were. Thus the veil declared that heaven was closed. On the one side were the types of heavenly things, on the other side was God Himself.

Further, the veil in these passages is said to be typical of Christ's flesh. Because Christ has entered into the Most Holy Place, we are likewise bidden to enter - "through the veil, that is to say, His flesh." Then, going back to the passage in Matthew, we see the veil rent asunder in the hour of the Cross. When He cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit, the veil of the temple, typical of His flesh, was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

Let us take a look back for a moment. Israel was chosen to maintain a representation of the things of God on the earth, but only a representation, chosen to be the custodian of a pattern of heavenly things. It was as though there was entrusted to this people a model, which was to be exhibited for all to see. It was a model of something in heaven. And Israel was called to maintain that pattern, that model of heavenly things intact on the earth. It was but a reflection of something else and between the two there was a veil of flesh: that is, there was human limitation, a veil of human limitation between the pattern, the types, and the reality of God Himself. The Day of Atonement in the Old Testament was a suggestion of a fuller thought and intention of God. When one day in a Year the High Priest on the specified ground went through the veil into the Most Holy Place, it was an intimation from God that He had a fuller thought, that His thought was not fully and finally for exclusion, but for access. Human limitation was, so to speak, suspended for a moment once a year when the veil was parted and the High Priest went through, just for a moment, on certain grounds, and then it was closed again. Then the human limitation prevailed again, and for a whole long year the reality was out of reach, and they were bound with symbols, types, patterns.

When we turn to Christ we have the explanation of all this. He came in the flesh. He took upon Him a fleshly form. John's Gospel opens with the statement: "...the Word was made flesh and tabernacled amongst us." In so coming in the flesh He accepted voluntarily human limitation as the Son of Man. There was another side to Him, His essential nature, which still remained in union with heaven. He used that extraordinary word which sounds so much like a contradiction: "The Son of man who is in heaven." He said that, when talking to His disciples here on the earth. Mark the present tense, "is in heaven." There was a side of Him, still in heaven, but now there is this other side, which manifested in flesh, has accepted human limitation as representing man. It is tremendously important for us to remember that as representative Man, as Son of Man, the Lord Jesus allowed Himself to become subject to our conditions of dependence upon God, put Himself in the same position as ourselves, where the resource was not in Himself but in God, and that He was dependent, as utterly dependent as we are, upon God. Human limitation is that which is suggested or implied by His having taken flesh. The veil is His flesh, and that veil for man means that heaven is closed unless something happens. It is that great "something" to which we come as the heart of our message.

All the sin which had occasioned the limitation of man in his relationship with God, the exclusion of man from God; all that had kept heaven closed to man was dealt with and atoned for on the one great all-inclusive Day of Atonement, the Day of His Cross. On that great Day of Atonement in His Cross, as High Priest and Sacrifice together, He dealt with all that and entered into the full meaning of a closed heaven - for when He cried, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani," did not that speak of a closed door, of a barrier between? Yes, He was forsaken of God in that hour when He bore our sin. He entered into the full realisation of what it means to have heaven closed. You and I have never entered into the knowledge of what that means. God has marvellously spared us that, while He offers to us the way of an opened heaven. May we not refuse it. When in His Cross He was thus made an offering and a sacrifice for sin, then in that hour the veil of His flesh was rent from the top to the bottom. The human limitation was riven, torn asunder.

Resurrection and Life

When Christ is raised from the dead, all that is gone. He still has flesh and bones, He still has a body, but the typical meaning of His being made in the likeness of sinful flesh has all been fulfilled, carried out, and is now past. On resurrection ground He is released from every kind of human limitation. See, the limitations are gone! The time factor no longer counts. He is now truly in heaven while He is here. The first thing He said on His rising as He met Mary was: "Touch me not: for I am not yet ascended unto the Father: But go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God, and your God" (John 20:17). The meaning of that saying is not readily apparent, but there is an immediate ascension. There is no division between heaven and earth now; the veil has gone. Heaven and earth are one for Him. On resurrection ground the heavens were opened. Those heavens which were fast closed, those heavens which were to Him as brass in that moment when He cried the cry of despair, are now opened.

All that was typified in His baptism. Right at the commencement He set that forth in a typical way as the basis of everything. "Jesus also having been baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened." In His baptism he had in type gone down into death, been buried and raised again, and on resurrection ground the heaven was opened. There is a way through by the Blood of His atonement. When Christ was raised the veil was removed, and the heavens were cleft. All the patterns were gone, and the reality was entered into. While that veil remained man was occupied with but the patterns of heavenly things.

Does it not strike you as significant, and very impressive, that when the veil was rent Israel was set aside? Israel had been called in to maintain a testimony in types. Christ had come and fulfilled all the types, and being the centre of all the types, the veil, all that kept God shut off from man, was now dealt with, and the way was open. There was no need for types now. So the custodian of the types departs with the types. This is not the dispensation of the types: this is the dispensation of the reality, the dispensation of a heavenly union with a risen Lord, and of all that that means. Our danger is of bringing back types. The types have gone and that is the whole message of this letter to the Hebrews. Christ is everything. The outward order of the Old Testament is set aside, and now all that obtains is Christ Himself. He is the Priest; you no longer have priests on earth in the Old Testament sense. He is the Sacrifice: there is no need for any other sacrifices. He is the Tabernacle; He is the Temple; He is the Church.

What is the Church?

What is the Church? It is Christ in living union with His own, that wheresoever two or three are gathered together in His name there He is in the midst. That is the Church. You do not build special buildings and call them "the Church." You do not have special organisations, religious institutions, which you call "the Church." Believers in living union with the risen Lord constitute the Church. This is the reality, not the figure. That is to say, His flesh, human limitation, is done away. Now in union with Christ risen all human limitations are transcended. This is one of the wonders of Christ risen as a living reality. We are brought into a realm of capacities which are more than human capacities, where, because of Christ in us, we can do what we never could do naturally. Our relationships are new relationships; they are with heaven. Our resources are new resources: they are in heaven. That is why the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians and said that God hath chosen the weak things, the foolish things. The things which are despised, and the things which are not, that He by them might bring to naught the wise, the mighty, the things which are. Why did God appoint it so? Because it is not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit; and to show that there are powers, energies, abilities for His own which transcend all the greatest powers and abilities of this world.

That is the history of God's people, and that is where so many people go wrong. Men of the world look upon Christians and for the most part do not think much of them. They measure them by the standards of the world, and say: Well, they are rather a poor lot; their calibre, is not much! But men of the world are unable to measure spiritual and heavenly forces. They are unable to see what is happening when a few of these poor, weak, foolish, despised things get together and pray. They cannot see through there and observe that when these few weak believers are together before God, governed by the Holy Spirit, things are being moved to the bounds of the universe, the whole hierarchy of Satan is being stirred to its depths, and the powers of heaven are being brought into operation. That is God's way, and the world never can measure that. Nor can that be done by human wisdom, strength, ability at its greatest. God has chosen weak things for that. Why? Simply because weak things in their dependence are the best instruments, the best means of giving God a chance of showing that such works are not of any human sufficiency at all, but all of Himself.

Please take no comfort from the fact that God has chosen weak things and foolish things and say: Well, I am that, and therefore it is all right! The point is, Are you in God's hand bringing to naught the mighty, the wise? It is not a case of a resting back on our weakness, and our foolishness, and our nothingness, and saying: That applies to me; that is all right; that is all that matters! That is not all that matters. The thing which matters is that I, being a weak, foolish nobody, may know resurrection union with Christ in all His mighty power, and in that union with Him mighty spiritual things should be done through me. That is the positive side.

Heaven and earth are united in Christ risen. Yes, He is in heaven, and yet He says: "I am with you all the days." Or again, we have the statement" "I go to the Father," and at the same time the promise: "I will take up my abode in you." Stephen, in the hour of his death, saw the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God, and yet that Son of Man by His Spirit was in Stephen, for Stephen is declared to have been a man full of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Christ. So Christ Who is in heaven is also within, and heaven is also within, and heaven and earth are one in the risen Christ. Christ was seen in heaven by Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus, and yet He says to Saul: "Why persecutest thou me?" When Saul was persecuting believers the Lord Jesus clearly intimated that while He was up there He was also here, and that when Saul touched believers he touched Him. Heaven and earth are one in the risen Lord.

Typically this is represented by Jacob's ladder. Jacob lighted upon a certain place, and took of the stones of that place and lay down, making them his pillow. "And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth and the top of it reached to heaven: and, behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it: and, behold, the Lord stood above it..." Heaven and earth had become united in that ladder. Carry that right over, and mark the spiritual interpretation given in the Lord's words to Nathaniel: "Afterward thou shalt see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." What is the meaning of this? It is plainly that Christ is the ladder. Christ has joined heaven and earth in His risen Person. The heavens are opened because of the work of His Cross. The limitation has gone, the barrier has been removed, and in Christ we are joined again with heaven.

That means that with an opened heaven the Holy Spirit of anointing is given. In Him we come to share in Christ's anointing. The heavens were opened, and the Spirit descended and lighted upon Him. That is the type. After His death, burial, and resurrection the heavens were opened to Him, and the Spirit was given to Him without measure. Then from that time believers were baptized into Christ, and, being baptized into Christ, they came under the anointing of Christ. Be careful that you do not strain after a personal anointing. Remember your anointing is always in Christ, under Christ as the Head upon Whom the anointing rests. Many perils are bound up with a seeking for a personal anointing as such. However, that is just by the way. Baptized into Christ, in union with the risen Lord, the Spirit of the anointing rests upon us, because it rests upon Him. We are baptized in one Spirit into one Body.

Thereafter everything is from God. Everything is directly of God; no types now, no intermediaries, but everything directly of God. That means that the opened heaven gives us immediate access to God, and that God is not now far off, away from us there in heaven apart. Heaven and earth are united in Christ, and God is here by His Spirit in our hearts, with all the resources that He has. We may know the Lord in a personal and inward way. We may draw upon the Lord's resources in a personal and inward way. All that the Lord has is available to us inwardly. That is the meaning of an opened heaven. All that followed in the life of Christ here on this earth, of secret resource, was simply indicative of this meaning of His baptism, that is, of an opened heaven.

We shall see more of those resources as we go on, but the opened heaven is a wonderful thing, a tremendous thing. Heaven is no longer closed when we are united with Christ on the ground of His atoning work, by which the veil has been removed and we are brought right through into God's very presence. We avail ourselves of, and give heed to, the exhortation of the Apostle: "Let us draw near in full assurance of faith." We have access through His Blood. This is the new and living way which He has opened for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh. Ours now may be an opened heaven, and all that the opened heaven means.

The Lord teach us what it means, and bring us into the good of it.

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