« הקודםהמשך »
nor hell were made for man;" while it is sin that has opened hell to the human family (see Matt. xxv. 41), and grace that has taken occasion from man's sin, to open heaven to redeemed and blood-washed sinners; the purpose according to which these wonders are accomplished, is an eternal purpose. God, foreseeing the fall of man, purposed from all eternity to raise some from among the ruined race to occupy, with his glorified son, the heavens, which the Psalmist informs us are the Lord's," while it is the earth he has given to the children of men.” It is not by accident then, but according to God's eternal purpose, that we find ourselves, instead of being blessed with temporal favours in earthly places, “ blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." And if the thought arises in each one of our wondering hearts, “Why have I found (such] grace in thine let the answer at once satisfy and assure us, and give us courage to look around by faith on the inheritance of which we are with Christ co-heirs," that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his
grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
Save in the way of typical illustration, the Old Testament does not furnish much instruction as to heaven. We do read there indeed of Enoch, that “he walked with God, and that he was not, for God took him.” But it is in the New Testament we find that “ he was translated that he should not see death.” It is in the New Testament we are thus taught the meaning of the words, " God took him”—he “ was not found, because God had translated him” (Heb. xi. 5). So as to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; we read in Genesis of their pilgrim-character and course, and feel that there must have been some wondrously powerful attraction to act thus on their souls, and make them strangers on the earth. But it is in the Epistle to the Hebrews we learn the secret of it all. Of Abraham it is said, “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Of the whole of those who in these early days of the world's history “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” we are told," They that say such things declare plainly that they seek a
country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.” The patriarchs themselves, and the other saints of the Old Testament, did no doubt look forward to a heavenly country and a better resurrection; but it was in the exercise of a faith which went beyond the dispensation under which they were placed; and hence it is not from their history, but from the notices of them which the New Testament contains, that we gather the heavenly character of their prospects and their hopes. The dispensation itself (that, at least, under which Israel was placed), was essentially an earthly one; and the notices of heaven which are scattered through the Old Testament regard it simply as the dwelling-place of God, and of the angelic messengers of his power; or else, as the place where the sources of those influences are which affect the state of things here below, whether that state be viewed as actually existent, or viewed prophetically as anticipative of the future. read of Jehovah, as “ He that sitteth in the heavens". “ The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven"-"The Lord looked down from heaven"-"He will hear him from His holy heaven.”—“Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens"_* Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens”—“Sing unto God, sing praises to His name; extol Him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH”—“ To Him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens which were of old"-"The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens"_" Praise God in His sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of His power"-"God is in heaven, and thou upon earth." These are a specimen of the passages which speak of heaven as the dwelling-place of God, and the throne of his glory. As the place whence those influences proceed which regulate the course of events below, we have mention of heaven thus. Nebuchadnezzar was to be driven out until he had learned this solemn, salutary lesson ; and then, it was said to him," Thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after
that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule." This, of course, would apply to the then existing, as well as to the present state of things. The connexion of the heavens with the earth as the source of holy, benign influences in the future millennial kingdom, is more largely treated of. " And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel (or the seed of God]” (Hos. ii. 21, 22). "O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens” (Ps. viii. 1). • Ascribe ye strength unto God: His excellency is over Israel, and His strength is in the clouds. O God, thou art terrible out of Thy holy places: the God of Israel is He that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God" (Ps. lxviii, 34, 35).
“ Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still, when God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth” (Ps. Ixxvi. 8,9).“ Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.” “For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth; to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to loose those that are appointed to death; to declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem; when the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord" (Ps. cii. 19-22). "Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I, the Lord, have created it” (Isa. xlv. 8). Such is the light shed on this subject in the scriptures of the Old Testament. Heaven is regarded as God's dwelling-place-his throne; and whether the present or the future be treated of, Heaven is only viewed as the source and depository of influences which affect the earth. That heaven should be in
part peopled by inhabitants chosen from among earth's ruined race; and that in those glorious days to come, when the heavens shall so beneficially influence the earth, it should be by men, not angels, that these influences should be
applied – these were truths, the revelation of which was reserved for another and brighter economy than the last. It is to us that it is now made known in the words of the Apostle: “For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak" (Heb. ii.5). The habitable earth to come (for such is the meaning of the word) is not to be under the government of angels; but, as the Apostle goes on to shew, of man. First, of that blessed Son of Man, spoken of in the eighth Psalm, here quoted by Paul. Then, further, to those many sons who
are being brought to glory, and as to whom it is said of the captain of their salvation, that " he is not ashamed to call them brethren." But here I find myself in danger of anticipating what more properly belongs to a further stage of the present inquiry.
We have not to read far in the New Testament, before we find ourselves in another element, so to speak, than that which pervades and characterises the Old. It is no longer exclusively, or even chiefly, man, and his world, and his trial in it, with God in the distance, and behind a veil ; no, not even accompanied, as all this is in the Old Testament, with bright promises of future, but distant, glory and blessing. It is the Son of God Himself, come here from heaven, manifesting what heaven is in His own ways, opening heaven to view, and becoming by His death and resurrection the way of access to heaven for sinful man. And though this new and heavenly light does not burst immediately upon us in its fulness though the first Gospel we read presents Christ more in Jewish connection, as the son of David and the seed of Abraham, “a minister," too, “of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers” (Rom. xv. 8)-still He is, as to His Person, “ Immanuel, God with us,” and His glory cannot be hid. Yea, when He seeks to hide it under the veil of a lowliness in which He, sinless, and indeed the Holy One of God, stoops to identify Himself with the repenting remnant of Israel in the very act in which they confess their sins, then heaven opens, the Spirit of God descends as a dove and lights upon Him, and a voice from heaven
proclaims, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. iii. 16, 17). How the light of heaven begins to break upon us here! How we begin to learn what the inind, the heart, of heaven is ! First, the blessed One Himself is from heaven; and in Him we see the perfect moral display of what heaven is. Man—and earth has hitherto taken its character from man-seeks to exalt himself. Here is One who so deeply humbles Himself, that, sinless and infinitely holy as He is, He condescends to take His place amid those who were confessing their sins. He had no sin; and, in the still more emphatic language of Scripture, “knew no sin"; yet does He identify Himself with the repenting remnant in this first movement of their hearts towards God; and to all that the Baptist urges to deter Him, He meekly replies, “ Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” What a contrast between heaven and earth! The only persons on earth in whom the Spirit of God was then working, took the place not of justifying or exalting themselves, but of confessing their sins and justifying God. Here was One from heaven, who, I need not repeat, had no sins of His own to confess; but whither do the instincts, the mind, the heart of heaven lead Him? To this broken-hearted, contrite, confessing company. Amid them He takes His lowly place of self-emptying, self-renunciation ; and
! heaven-responsive to this perfect exhibition of the mind and ways of heaven in Him who came from heaven -opens, to declare its approbation and delight; while a voice from heaven proclaims, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is heaven's delight, as well as heaven's perfect moral manifestation and display. Blessed Jesus, draw us towards and after Thyself!
But this light of heaven is too pure and unearthly for the self-will and pride of man; and any who receive and reflect it, must expect no better treatment from mankind than that which He received, who in His own Person brought this light of life into the world. But if rejected by earth, heaven smiles but the more; and it is interesting to see how early in His ministay the blessed Lord