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
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
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.