The Rule of the Heavens
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - Sovereignty

We now pass to the second main significance of the "Heavens," which is sovereignty or transcendence or ascendancy. It does not require a very profound study of the Scriptures to arrive very clearly at that conclusion that the heavens symbolically represent the universality of things spiritually, and then that they represent sovereignty - that which governs or rules.

Beginning at Genesis we know that God put great lights in the heavens to govern day and night - the heavens rule in that sense, and throughout Scripture that principle is carried on in the symbols and types - heavenly bodies and heavenly orders. We know quite well that the visible universe is governed by the orders of the heavens. We know that our ocean tides and our ocean courses and everything on this earth is governed by heavenly bodies. We should not be here today if there were no sun in the heavens. Man has found some of his greatest inventions along the line of appropriating that which the sun gives forth. The stars guide - the heavens do rule.

This is a representation of spiritual things which govern in relation to all that is of God, so that sovereignty comes in and with sovereignty seen as of the heavens, you have ascendancy. "As the heavens are higher than the earth..." "When I consider Thy heavens the work of Thy hands," there is ascendancy, elevation, transcendence - that which is above all. These are spiritual principles and it is in the realm of these spiritual realities that we are dwelling just now.

When you come to the realities themselves, away from types and representations, the position to which you are brought by this fact that the heavens do rule is that you have become possessed of spiritual secrets - spiritual revelation. When God has revealed to you the inner side of things spiritual, you have been placed in a position of spiritual ascendancy and authority. You have been lifted right above everything and you are in a position of authority, of government, of sovereignty.

Now, our way has been to gather up everything in the Person of the Lord Jesus. He represents this whole heavenly system and we have seen that everything related to Him bears out these spiritual principles. Taking this principle of sovereignty and ascendancy, you find the heavens so very much in evidence as ruling sovereignly in connection with His representative Person and vocation.

It is interesting and not without considerable significance that the Gospel is introduced with what is in the heavens governing man and governing things. I refer to the beginning of Matthew. Of course, you know I am referring to the star. The Gospel is introduced by what is seen in the heavens and that has taken charge of men to guide their course and the course governed by the heavens brings them to Christ. That is the principle in relation to everyone who is brought to the Lord Jesus by the Gospel or who is brought into the Gospel "concerning His Son." It is heaven's action, heaven's initiative, and we shall never come fully into the Gospel "concerning His Son" until we have come to some apprehension and appreciation of the rule of the heavens.

I mean that the man who used that very phrase "concerning His Son" came to the Son by that which was in heaven, and he was brought into experimental knowledge of the Lord Jesus. The most astonishing thing ever a man has seen - He who was considered to be a Nazarene impostor suddenly revealed as the Son of God bringing this one down on his face and the first word uttered by him, "Lord..." The heavens do rule. We never come into the fulness of the Gospel until we see the heavenly side of the Gospel. Until then we only see Him as Saviour and not a Prince, God's order is "Prince and Saviour." Many people see Him as Saviour and accept Him as such and perhaps many years afterward come to see Him as Lord, then surrendering fully to Him. That is out of order and in the meantime you have lost so much that God intended. We need to put it God's way - first the Prince, that is, the Lord Jesus exalted and enthroned above everything in our lives, and having Him as Saviour included in that. Those who accept Christ only for salvation's sake only get part of the Gospel.

Paul came into the Gospel by first of all seeing Jesus Christ as Lord. He saw what was in heaven and came to the Saviour by way of the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, and that is the way into full salvation. At the beginning the Gospel is symbolically represented in the star - that which was seen in the heavens as ruling and controlling the course of men bringing them to the Saviour. That is very simple but represents a very important principle and law to be carried right through. The close of Matthew strikes the very same note, but with all the development that has come in between. "All authority has been given unto Me in the heavens and the earth, you therefore go." That which is seen in the heavens governing in the beginning has now developed until you come to the blessed position of seeing that all political divisions of this earth are under the sovereign rulership of Jesus Christ. "All authority given unto me in the heavens and in the earth" and the government of this world, though unseen, is in the hands of the Lord Jesus. There is a sovereignty back of it which will issue in His being King of Kings and Lord of Lords one day.

The Gospel comes in with Matthew as the Gospel of sovereignty, and there are various symbols of the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus in this book. You find the very word "heavens" occurs no less than seventy-five times in Matthew, and angels abound in this Gospel, for we meet with them no fewer than seventeen times. Another factor which always speaks of transcendency, elevation, ascendancy, sovereignty, is the reference to mountains, which occurs fourteen times in Matthew, and a study of these mountains will show them as coming in in some governing capacity. In some way the Lord is bringing home the fact of His government - His control. You finish the book in a mountain.

Luke is the Gospel of grace and Luke finishes up in Jerusalem. That is grace - grace to those who have rejected the Lord Jesus. Matthew sets Jerusalem aside and goes to the mountain in Galilee. Sovereignty is no longer vested in Jerusalem, but is now vested in the Lord Jesus. "All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" - that principle is running all the way through - transcendency, elevation, ascendancy, sovereignty all vested in the Person of the Lord Jesus.

Now, then, Matthew begins with the principle that it is what is seen in heaven that governs, and ends with all authority vested in the Person of the Lord Jesus, and in between, the instrument of administration is introduced. It is most significant that the Church comes into Matthew. In chapter 16 we read, "on this rock will I build My Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Sovereignty is related to the Church, so that the instrument of administration and this sovereignty of the heavens in the Person of the Lord Jesus are so bound up that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against them. Then the Lord begins to speak about the authority of the Church - "whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in the heavens and whatsoever shall be loosed on earth shall be loosed in the heavens." This is the authority of Christ in the Church.

When you come to grasp mentally some truth about the Lord Jesus it is one thing, but when you come by revelation of the Holy Spirit experimentally into the things of Christ you come into a strong position of ascendancy - of being above all government. There is all the difference between taking a truth, sound, orthodox and Scriptural as it is, and giving it out as truth, and having had revealed in your heart the inner meaning of that truth and giving it out. Take two men: one takes something of the Word of God and gives it as a message. No fault can be found in it, it is sound doctrine, but there is something missing. Another man takes exactly the same truth and gives forth the message and as he gives it forth you are conscious of life - something that reaches you. One message was just as true as the other, but one was speaking out of the Bible as a Book, and the other out of revelation of the Scripture given to his heart by the Holy Spirit. The latter had not sat down and prepared a sermon that was sound, but had gone with the Word of God on his knees and waited before the Lord until truth had been revealed to his heart from an open heaven.

There are plenty of fine preachers but they are not feeding, not building up, not nourishing and satisfying: not channels of life, there is no sense of the heavens coming in. It is the heavens that do rule and you have got to see what is in the heavens. You will remember Ezekiel being taken by an angel around the temple in Jerusalem with a measuring reed, and it has just got to be like that if we are to have a ministry like that. How can we show what is according to God until we have had it shown to us? There must be that counterpart where the Holy Spirit shows us things according to God by revelation. Not something extra to Scripture by way of revelation, but what is in the Scripture that we cannot see until the Holy Spirit opens it up - taking us around and showing us just as the angel showed Ezekiel. That is what the Holy Spirit has come for, because the temple is only a type of Christ, and it is the Spirit revealing Christ, "shall take of mine and show it unto you" - "He shall lead you into all truth." It is the revelation of things according to God's mind that brings you into the place of spiritual authority and ascendancy.

We need to ask the Lord to reveal to us what it means to be in the heavenlies. Not a place we are to come to, but a position we have come to and have not realised it - not to make us officious, but to give spiritual and moral ascendancy. The Lord makes others to take account of that. It is a strong position to be in, to be in the place of revelation of things according to God.

In this present hour the sovereignty and authority of Jesus Christ is not political on this earth - not manifest among men - "My kingdom is not of this world," but His sovereignty is a spiritual sovereignty. He is secretly governing and there is a mighty impact.

To come into the heavenlies means you are to have a spiritual and moral ascendancy. What is the way out with God? Out of difficulty, out of suffering? It is the way through. Here you are in the midst of some suffering, difficulty, adversity. You cry to the Lord to deliver you and the Lord does not do it. Then you get into all kinds of mental fogs. Why doesn't the Lord deliver you out? Because He is trying to train you to rule and your way of deliverance is by your spirit taking ascendancy over it. You say, "Lord, I take government over this thing to make it serve Your end and I refuse to be under it in spirit." When you have taken that position you have come out of it - God comes in. We want to be delivered from our troubles and the Lord wants us to take ascendancy over them in Him.

That is what Paul did. His thorn in the flesh was just as painful to him in some senses but he was on top of it - it was serving him and he was not a prey to it. That is the rule of the heavens. It works - I have proved it again and again. The trouble is that sometimes we are so silly and foolish and blindly go on. We yield to it or the enemy blinds us concerning it and then it suddenly breaks upon us that we should not be under it and say, "In His Name I take ascendancy over this thing" - we come out by the heavens.

The Lord would show us first of all that the heavens do rule and then bring us into that elevated place with Himself spiritually and governmentally, where the gates of Hell shall not prevail against us, and lead on to the great position where all authority on earth and in heaven is in His hands.

The purpose of God now is the securing of an administrative instrument and the training of that instrument to govern. People wonder why the Lord does not wipe the devil out of the universe, why He does not stop suffering and affliction, for the Word tells us that our Lord Jesus was "manifested to destroy the works of the devil." All this has been permitted in order to bring the Church individually and corporately to the place of spiritual ascendancy over trial. God intended to put us into some higher position and that is our rightful position in Christ where the heavens do rule. You are only down and out and under when your spirit is under. God would have us take ascendancy over conditions that are. Revelation is bound up with this very thing. It is wonderful how you go dragging on, hardly holding your ground and then suddenly the Lord gives you a flash - why don't you take your position in Christ?

The great fact is that sovereignty is in the heavenly position and heavenly position is secured for us now in the Lord Jesus for "we have been made to sit in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus." Sovereignty, government, ascendancy, elevation - all in our Lord Jesus and in that position we should be governors over things - spiritual governors. Not the volume of voice or the phraseology, not the clenching of the fist. It is your spirit being in a position where you can perhaps very quietly and deeply but strongly in your spirit say, "No, I refuse that in the Name of the Sovereign Lord." We weaken the forces of darkness by a quiet definite position in Christ. Not a mental thing but spiritual, because the heavens represent that which is spiritual.

I was impressed by reading the seventh chapter of Ezra which is the chapter of the mandate. The king had given Ezra a mandate and the enemies sought to frustrate the work, but he came in on the ground of his mandate and the words which the king used three times about the carrying out of the work at Jerusalem were "the God of heaven." Because of the God of heaven Ezra had his mandate and anybody who tried to prevent the accomplishment of that work was met accordingly. When you have a mandate from the God of heaven God will see that your commission is fulfilled - your enemies will not prevail against you. If you are put out of one place God will open other doors. It is a great thing to be a minister of the God of heaven. A committee, or board or synod may turn you out of every church on earth but they cannot turn you out of the Church of heaven, for the heavens do rule.

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