The Cross and the Eternal Glory

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 5 - The Necessity of Supreme Government being Established

It may interest those friends who were with us on Saturday and who were unable to be with us yesterday, to know that we have not moved on in this particular matter before us, from the point where we left it on Saturday evening. Yesterday was occupied with other things, so that we are able to go on together from that point in relation to this matter of the Cross and the Eternal Glory.

But here again, just a preliminary word. It is of immense help and value to be able to see the Bible as a whole... to have all that is in it from the first to the last page, gathered up under one thing, so that we can see that everything in it is governed by that one thing, or relates to that one thing. The Bible has become, so largely, a book of texts or promises for peculiar needs and situations, and little bits for devotional purposes, or subjects for preaching and teaching, and in the main, these all just detach as fragments. Now, of course, that's all right. We want our promises for our special needs, we want our portions, our daily portions, and we want to understand the distinctive subjects, but it is very much more profitable to be able to see that everything in the Bible relates to one thing, and to see how it does relate to that one thing. In some way or another, everything in the Bible focuses upon one thing. If we can just get our hand upon that one thing, then we have the key for every door in the Bible; every book and every subject. And we are at this time seeking to bring that one comprehensive and all-inclusive thing into view, and I trust that you will take your Bible in the future and always see its parts in relation to the whole. It will make your Bible live for you in a new way, if you do that. Many parts that you won't understand, in themselves far too complex, or difficult or deep, or even meaningless... if you can just see how that fits into a whole, it will take on new meaning and new life.

The whole is the Eternal Glory. From eternity to eternity, God's object has been a creation with man at its centre, reflecting Himself as the God of glory. The end to which He is working, and which He will most assuredly realise, is such a universe just filled with His glory. The Bible, then, must be seen, pro and con, in the light of that. It must be seen, either as setting forth that which can be glorified, which can come to glory, or on the other hand, that which must go in order that God may reach His end. Those two aspects, then, are governing our thought and our consideration at this time.

We reached the point on Saturday night in that first section, going back before times eternal, before the foundation of the world, and taking account of those intimations given us, especially by our Lord Jesus Himself, as to His place in the pre-creation glory, as He sought the Father, to glorify Him with the glory which He had with Him before the world was. Alongside of that we took another passage, indicating that He was not to be alone in that glory, but that God had made known the mystery of His will, now in this dispensation, that we should be "unto the praise of His glory" and that, as you know, is a phrase connected with an elect people, the church - "unto the praise of His glory". So Christ and His church are united in those pre-creation thoughts and intentions of God, what we are made to know as the will, "the mystery of His will", "Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will", and we have thrown that word "WILL" up into capitals and quotes, because it is governing. The "WILL", then, leading to creative activity, bringing in a new world order at the beginning of this history.

We went on to note the rift, the rift in heaven by a great revolt which took place there, and then its repercussion, or shall we say: its reproduction, in human history in the capture of man made for God's glory. And we ended up with the forward thrust of the "WILL". We saw coming right down from the eternity to come, yet to be, the shadow of a Man - The Man - thrown right down the ages, right down to the beginning of the creation. Adam was a figure of Him that was to come, we are told. From that intimation the figure of the Man is discernible right through the Bible, in some way or another; what He really is, and what is the caricature of Him, or the contradiction of Him. By all contradictions God is forcefully found to be saying, "This is not according to My Man. The shadow of the Man. And then, to reach that end, to realise that glorified Man as filling the whole creation: the shadow of the Cross. I am not an artist. If I were an artist, I would like to show this diagram in this way: having the effulgent light coming down from the eternity yet to be, and throwing its rays upon that Cross and then through that Cross, the shadow of the Cross right back over Old Testament history, for that's what it is, it's the glory taking hold of the Cross and making the Cross its instrument of bringing man to where God intended him to be, and intends him to be to the eternal glory. It's the gloryofthe Cross and the glory by the Cross. The shadow of the Cross therefore, is thrown by the very light of eternity down the ages. You can't have a shadow without light! If you are going to have a shadow of the Cross, it must be made by light, and it is the light of the glory. The Cross becomes illumined in its meaning and significance by the glory.

Well, that leads us then to this morning and our next phase and stage in this whole matter which is only in the first place an enlargement of what we have just said:-

Mediation and the Glory.

This peculiarly characterises that first section of the Bible, the first five books, Genesis to Deuteronomy. Immediately, because of that revolt, that rebellion, in man's heart, the glory was withdrawn and put into reserve against the great work of redemption and recovery. Immediately the glory was withdrawn, the altar came into view, or shall I say: sacrifice came into view. It's but the simplest hint that is given. The word "altar" is not used, neither is the word "sacrifice", but it is certainly implied. You have it in the third chapter of Genesis, verse 21: "And Jehovah God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins, and clothed them" - the first intimation of sacrifice, of death, in order to... shall we say, repair the damage, to meet the situation which had come in. A covering was demanded. I'm not going into all the details, it's not possible to do that, simply, simply state the fact; there is a lot behind it. A covering is demanded and that covering is provided through death, the death of those animals provided the skins. Most probably, if the rest of Scripture is to be taken as giving meaning to this: it was lambs slain, and their skins providing this covering. There is a vast amount of the Bible gathered into that, but you will realise at once how full and how rich it is when you are reminded that the word which runs right through the whole Bible: "atonement", means "covering". The very word itself means covering. And when God clothed and covered He signified that atonement was necessary and was the way back to the glory, or for the recovering of the glory.

Now there is a very interesting and instructive allusion to this at the other end of the Bible. You go right through to the book of the Revelation and you turn to chapter 3, at verse 16: "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of My mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the wretched one and miserable and poor and blind and... naked: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold refined by fire, that thou mayest become rich; and white garments, that thou mayest clothe thyself, that the shame of thy nakedness be not made manifest." That would suggest that the physical nakedness of Genesis 3:21 is but a symbol of spiritual nakedness. And if the white garments (which throughout the whole of the Bible are symbolic of righteousness) are the covering of the nakedness, then it is perfectly clear that this nakedness was a state of unrighteousness which had got to be covered, and to be covered with the garments of righteousness.

So here you have the whole work of atonement - covering - which is the putting away of a state of spiritual nakedness that is unrighteousness and the placing, in its place, of the covering: the garments of righteousness. "The fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." All this and of course, heaps more, gathered just into this very simple indication that God made an atonement in principle, in type immediately the glory was withdrawn. A covering by sacrifice, by death, a covering for a stripped, naked, bare condition as before Him. And remember: it's in that direction that this thing has its real seriousness. There was not another man, woman or child in the garden to behold these two - no one else to see their nakedness - it was only God, only God. And true to principle, you see, this is all a matter of how we stand before God! It is God in Christ challenging Laodicea about this nakedness, it's how we are in the sight of God, not first how we appear before men. We may be making artificial covering before men and pretending, covering up and making believe, and deceiving them, but we can't do that before God. No, Christ was very true to principle always, even in His illustrations, and when He put words into the mouth of the repentant, conscience-stricken prodigal son, He made him say: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in Thy sight." That's a tremendous principle that covers all the ages. Not just "I have sinned against other people" or, "I have sinned against myself", sin and unrighteousness is something that strikes at God, because it strikes at God's very intention in making man, and sin, therefore, strikes at the very purpose of man's creation. It is against God, it's against heaven. But isn't it a very blessed thing to see that, although it is against God, and the nakedness is open and bare to God, it is God that takes the action to cover it. And so God Himself introduced in person the:-

Function of the Altar and the Priest.

If it will not be misunderstood, I will say that God became the first active priest. He took this matter in hand. And is not this a part of that which is included in "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world"? Here you are right at the beginning of creation and the Lamb is slain there to cover, to cover this departure from righteousness which always involves the departure of glory.

So, we come to the altar and the priest in this first section and can only note it in general, for the detail is too much. It's interesting perhaps just to note that in these five books, these first five books of the Bible, the word "altar" itself occurs no fewer than 88 times. That's impressive, that's impressive! And then you find that in all the outstanding characters, on God's side, the altar has a place. It evidently has a place with Abel, although it is not mentioned that he put his offering upon an altar, it is clearly shown that both he and Cain offered in some way, and they must have had something that corresponded to an altar, so that we can say that the altar was there with Abel, in his blood-sacrifice. It is there and mentioned definitely with Noah: "Noah builded an altar". Again with Abraham, it is very much in view in his life, more than once. And with Moses... how much the altar is in view. Of the 88 times to which I have referred, by far the greater number are connected with the life and work of Moses. I am only pointing out that in this first section the predominant idea is the altar - the figure of the Cross. And it is an emphasis upon this: that right in the first place where the glory has been covered, has been suspended, it is the Cross in symbol and type that is brought so fully into view as the way of dealing with that and opening a path for the glory again.

So we have to look at the altar, or the Cross, the function of the altar, and as you know (most of you do, and I am always at this time bearing in mind that there are those who don't know, as others do, what is in the Bible) the Cross, or its representation in the old dispensation: the altar, the altar has a double side, a double meaning. On the one side, it sets forth the consuming from the presence of God of that which is incapable of being accepted by Him and being glorified. The sacrifice was brought in in that dispensation and in a symbolic act the offerer laid his hands upon the head of the sacrifice and by so doing in type transferred himself and his sin to that sacrifice. He declared as he laid his hands upon that sacrifice that he was a sinner, and that being a sinner, he merited judgment and death at the hands of God. As a sinner he had no standing with God, no acceptance with God, no place with God. His only hope was that he as a sinner, with his sin, should be put out of the way. That is one half, only one half, but that is the half. And so, with the transference of himself and his sin to that offering, it was consumed wholly upon the altar, nothing left but ashes... consumed from the presence of God. That is one side of the meaning of the Cross of Christ that we know. We haven't grasped it yet, we really haven't apprehended that yet, we are not in the good of that yet; only in part. But there it is. It stands as the one side: consumed from God by transmission of sin to the offering.

There is the other side:

Consumed Unto God

Because this offering must in itself be without spot or blemish, without sin; in itself it must be perfect. And because God sees that side of the offering, it is not annihilation; there is prospect. You see dear friends, if you and I, as we are, took that place on the Cross, then nothing would come back, nothing would survive. That would be the end forever of every vestige of us, we would be blotted right out, and there would be no afterward. But because the sacrifice was perfect, without spot, without blemish, while it took on itself the sin, in itself it was not sinful, therefore there's another side and there can be that which comes back. Well of course you see Christ at once, the Sin-Bearer, but the sinless Sin-Bearer. And while, in that representative capacity as the sinner, He was consumed from God, as indicated in that terrible moment when He sensed His God-forsakenness and said: "My God, Thou hast forsaken Me. Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" That is, consumed from the presence of God in the place of sinful man. On the other hand, that's done! That is done, and the same Person is heard in the last breath saying, "Into Thy hands, Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." It is all done, it is all over that side and now He can commend Himself to God. I think He is the only one in this universe who has the right to use that word. I notice, I notice... of course it's inadvertent and unintentional, but those of us who are rather finicky about words notice things... I so often hear people say, "Lord we commend ourselves to Your care, to You" and so on. No, we don't! We commit ourselves. There is nothing about us to be commended to God and we can't commend ourselves, and there is no commendation where we are concerned. But He could commend Himself to God. Not only commit. But that by the way, if it sounds pedantic, don't worry. But you see, He could do that, because there is another side to Him. Well, here is the consuming unto God just as completely and utterly as the altar fire consumed the sacrifice to the last bit, away from God, so it consumed unto God that which was according to God's mind. And by the transmission of sin to the sacrifice it was cut off from God, so by the remission of sin, it is brought unto God. The function of the altar, is that two-fold, much more than that, of course, but I just stay with that for this morning.

The Function of the Priest

The function of the priest; what was that, and what is that? It is gathered into one word: intercession. Intercession. We are using the word "mediation". It means the same thing. Now, intercession, dear friends, has a wider meaning than just praying. We have reduced the meaning of intercession to praying, to think that praying is all that intercession means. Well, praying is only a part of intercession. Intercession is something very much more than praying for one another. It means coming and standing right in between and taking responsibility for both. The word in the Old Testament is a very much stronger word, it's a very strong word. It means "to fall upon". There is one occasion when it is used, where intercession was made to the king, see, in a certain matter. Intercession was made unto the king. And the word means (and it gives us a very great picture) a person has come and thrown himself upon the king and said, "Oh, king, here is this situation, here is this need" see, throwing upon... It is difficult to describe, but that is the word that is used, it just means "to throw upon".

If you get into the Old Testament intercession, you will find that it wasn't just men standing up and offering prayers on behalf of other people. They had come right into a situation and they had fallen upon God, they had cast themselves upon God over that situation. They themselves are in between, as a matter of life and death, in these two parts of the case - the need and the supply, the helpless and the helper. Intercession is not just passive prayer and asking for ourselves or for others, intercession is nothing merely official. The priest is not just an official with God who performs certain rites and reads certain prayers. No, it is not official. It certainly is not professional, something that you are paid to do because you belong to a priestly order. No, intercession which is the function of the priest, is personal responsibility for the situation that exists - a stepping right into it. You have several very vivid illustrations of this in this first section of the Bible. You can just take out one from the book of Numbers chapter 16. Remember that it says the people murmured against Moses and Aaron. They had done it so often and they had only just done it very seriously and grievously and now they are doing it again, and the Lord says to Moses, "Get out of the way, stand aside, let Me destroy this people. I will destroy this people." And Moses falls on his face before the Lord, and then he says to Aaron, the priest, "Take a censer, take fire from the altar, put it in the censer and go in amongst the people." And Aaron did so, and as he went in, it says the plague had already begun, people were dying, and Aaron moved between the dead and the living with his fire from the altar, and so the plague was stayed. That's intercession! Getting in between the dead and the living. A very vivid illustration of priesthood isn't it? And the function of priesthood. Inter... cession.

Now you notice as introductory tothat very episode it says, "The glory appeared in the door of the tabernacle." The glory appeared. Here the glory appeared against rebellion, against this thing which had risen up, contrary to God. And it was testifying to the fact that this, this, this can never, never come into the realm of the glory, the glory is against this, the glory is against this; therefore it must be dealt with, it must be put out of the way, it must be consumed and unless a covering is made, total destruction will take place. And the fire from the altar provided the atonement so that the glory was not unto destruction, but the atonement kept the way open for these people to live and not die and the plague was stayed. So we see the shadow of the Cross. Christ is both Sacrifice and Priest. Both Sacrifice and Priest, well you need not that I enlarge upon that I'm quite sure. God is the God of glory and as such He comes down to man through the sacrifice and the priest, through the Cross and the One who offers Himself unto God. On the one side: made sin for us, He who knew no sin, on the other side: offering Himself without blemish unto God. And so the way of the glory is opened up.

I put a note about the conservation of values; I don't think I can take the time to dwell upon those, but it's quite clear that while these are types, these are figures, these are symbols in the Old Testament, they carry on something. They carry on something of value to us. I put it like this: you know, the Jewish nation, the Jewish nation now lying under the judgment of God, and having been so for these many centuries (and it's a terrible judgment of God) lies under that judgment not only because of what it did to God's Son, Jesus Christ, but because of what, in their doing to Jesus Christ, they did in relation to the whole of their history of sacrifices. "That upon this generation", is the word, "may come the blood from Abel to Zechariah whom they slew between the horns of the altar." The whole story of the whole history of sacrifice from Abel right to the end of the Old Testament was gathered into their act against Jesus Christ, because He summarized the whole, but they were accounted responsible for Abel's blood, for the blood of every sacrifice all the way through the old dispensation. No wonder their judgment is so terrible! See? All that.

The values, the values from Abel onwards were carried forward into Christ. But look round the other way: where there has been faith, as in Abel, as in Noah, as in Abraham - faith in relation to this work of the altar, of the sacrifice, of the blood - that is attributed to those men in Christ. I am not one of those who believe that the Old Testament saints have no place in the new dispensation. I believe their faith in the symbolic sacrifice meant as much, or now means as much to them as our faith in the real sacrifice means. "They", says the apostle, "without us could not be made complete", which is a clear implication that with us they are made complete, and it is their faith, it is the conservation and transmission of these values. It is not all an Old Testament story that has passed forever. It is being carried on both ways now. You and I are going to be responsible for the Old Testament in this sense: that we have got a vast document which says that God has intervened in the history of this world all the way through with an atonement, an atonement to save us; He has done it. So the things that were written aforetime were written for our learning.

Well, what does it all mean? The atonement, the covering is renewed giving effect to God's original purpose. It is God coming back and saying, "The purpose then, the purpose of glory holds good, and by this means we give effect to it, we ratify it, we confirm it, by the Cross, by the sacrifice, by the mediation, by the altar, by the priesthood, in spiritual meaning and value. We are only setting our hand to the fact that we have not given up the original intention, we are going however, and whatever it means, we are going to have the glory! Going to have the glory!" And the atonement, or the Cross, if you like, is rather a ratification of the original purpose of God than anything else.

Shall we pass for a few minutes to this next section, only a few minutes I think.

Authority and the Glory

Joshua to the book ofEsther is a long, long stretch. There's a lot in it, and we are not going to attempt to take up all those books, but just to seek to summarise the message. Here again, you have only got to glance at a concordance to see what a large place the altar has in this section in relation to what comes in with this new section from Joshua right on to the book of Esther, that is, the matter of authority.

The book of Joshua brings in a new feature. Up to this point it has been Moses, and the function of Moses, or the work of Moses, was the leading out of a people, the formation of that people into a nation, the instruction of that people as to the things of God, and the establishing of the mediatorial system. That was all the work of Moses and what he was called to do. And when that is done, his service is finished and he is taken. Joshua, his successor, comes in and brings in a new phase of things, now the function and the work is conquest and dominion. And that necessitates another phase of ministry. This means the work of subduing a whole realm of antagonism, of possessing a whole realm of covenant promise and of ruling in that realm. That is what covers this whole section of the Bible: subduing, possessing, ruling. And that all necessitates authority and the fact that it is a necessity, that this thing has got to be done, there has got to be a subduing and a ruling. That itself implies that there is a system of things that is contrary, and that being so, there can be no glory until that is dealt with and brought under. Until there is a subduing of a whole world of antagonism to God's mind, there can be no glory.

A lot of people have found difficulty (if you have come up against this difficulty at any time let me say this word to you), difficulty in understanding that God could be such a God as He is and command that utter, complete wiping out destruction of nations, even to the little children. Now, I could spend some time in dealing with that, and if I did so, I don't think you would have any ground left for any argument at all. You would say, "God was just". For history has disclosed and investigation has made abundantly manifest that such a state of iniquity beyond all description existed amongst those nations, that almost every infant was impregnated with venereal disease! Forgive me even mentioning it, but such a state of vileness, of vileness, the violation of every moral law and every decency existed, so that their very religion was founded upon moral iniquity, that the very temple could have two thousand priestesses, every one of which was a prostitute! Is God justified in wiping that out? Can any fragment of it be to His glory? Now I could give you the data for that, but you don't want more than that. Many have said, "The God of righteousness commanding the destruction of people wholesale like that?" Dear friends, dear friends, you and I know enough about ourselves, without, without all that, to say that the only thing that rightly should be done with me is that I should be wiped out. Have you ever come there? Well, I put it in this way, and I mean it, I mean what I say these are not like words, there are times when we could apologise to God for having a being, as we know ourselves. That is no exaggeration. At any rate, if you don't feel like that, I have often felt like that and asked the Lord to forgive me for being alive at all, such a creature as I am. Well, there you are, that cannot be glorified.

They had the opportunity, they had the opportunity to repent. They knew! Rahab, one of the countless harlots of the land, was right at the very gateway of the land, and she told the spies that they had heard all that God had done for their deliverance from Egypt and what the Lord had done with them again and again. They knew in the land all about it! They could have repented. The Gibeonites themselves confessed, confessed that they knew God was with this people and they resorted to a subterfuge to evade their own destruction because they knew, they knew what God's attitude was toward them and their country. They could have repented, but they chose not to. And it was not destruction without opportunity. Well, forgive all that, terrible, terrible, but we've got to not be superficial about these things, we have got to justify God, and if that is a terrible parenthesis, it only emphasises this new phase of things. There has got to be a subduing, there has got to be established a government, a rule, that will give no place to anything like that. There has got to come in authority, and men have got to recognise it.

So, in principle it came in with Joshua and the altar here takes on this extra feature; this extra feature: the principle of kingship, kingship is introduced although the person is not yet mentioned by that name or title. Joshua in principle was that, and it shows that the principle was already recognised, although the title or name was not used, because the book of Judges follows the book of Joshua, flows on, indeed it overlaps. If you look at the beginning of the book of Judges, you will find that it overlaps the book of Joshua and there the book of Judges says: "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes because there was no king" [Judges 21:25]. There was no king. Well, Joshua introduces then the principle of authority and that book shows what is possible when authority is established. My word, it's a testimony is the book of Joshua, to what tremendous things can be when there is a central government, a central authority. It was conquest. It was victory. It was subduing. It was possessing. It was exploiting. But the book of Judges follows immediately, as I have said, it overlaps, and here all we can say about it is as one of the most terrible books in the whole Bible, it in contrast shows the disasters and the tragedies that come about when there is no central authority, when the principle of kingship is not there operating. It's a terrible story. But, mark you, it's always true, it's always true in principle. This is the Old Testament way of illustrating great spiritual divine truths. The principle obtains today, as we shall see. The little book of Ruth overlaps Judges, or is written as depicting some interlude in the tragedies of the book of Judges, it is written right in the situation now: "Now it came to pass in the days when the Judges ruled..." and that is the book of Ruth. But, in the midst of it all, God reacting to this state without authority, without government, without kingship, God reacting and in the little book of Ruth the king coming into view: Boaz and Ruth, and David. God reacting to lawlessness in this beautiful, quiet, sovereign way, to bring in His king. And so this whole section, in the first place, presents us with the call for authority.

[Unfortunately the recorded message ended here.]

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