« Prev Meditation 19 Next »

Meditation 19*

The Anchor for the Soul

We have this hope as an anchor
for the soul, firm and secure.
It enters the inner sanctuary
behind the curtain.
Hebrew 6:19

Jesus ascended into Heaven, into that Heaven that, like the earth here below, was created and thus was not from eternity. It is, to be sure, a totally different creation sphere, but that nevertheless offers a realm of life and activity, of enjoyment and beauty, but in a much richer sense. It is not a vague entity, purely spiritual, but a rich and glorious reality. It is a world much more real than our world in which we currently live. It is a created place that has a foundation; our actual fatherland. It is that magnificent creation where all of God’s good angels have their abode as well as those saved by the Lamb, the crowd that no one can count. This is the very goal of the existence of believers, their real home.

The ascension of Jesus to Heaven does not imply that He withdrew from earth as God and suddenly jumped back to the throne of glory. That is not possible, because as God He is omnipresent. Such a God can withdraw His revelation or His countenance, but He cannot move from place to place.

Hence it was not God as God who acted, but the Son of God, who as Mediator personally united with the man Christ Jesus. That’s how the Ascension became possible. The man Jesus Christ, like all humans, is restricted and limited to one place. Thus, as a human being Jesus was not in Heaven when He was on earth. In fact, He had never been in Heaven prior to His life on earth. As human being He could not be on earth and in Heaven simultaneously; it was either one or the other. His Ascension story clearly tells us that the Mediator between God and people, the human person Jesus Christ, started His journey of suffering, the Via Dolorosa, in Jerusalem, and from there He moved on to the Mount of Olives. It was there at the top that He ascended through the atmosphere surrounding our globe, going higher and higher until He, constantly on the move from one place to another, finally arrived in that totally different part of creation called “Heaven.”

We do not know how one enters Heaven or where it begins. We do not know the measurable limits of the universe. It could be that the heavenly creation, with its totally different contents and proportions, intrudes or penetrates our creation sphere in similar fashion that Jesus in His state of glorification penetrated walls and locked doors. Nor do we have any clue as to the time it took the Lord Jesus to ascend to Heaven. However, people should avoid the notion that there was no time involved. The ten days between Ascension and Pentecost suggest the contrary. Moving from one place to another always takes time. In the world of space, astronomers tell us that one flash of lightning may take years to complete its journey out there. With that in mind, I repeat that no one knows whether or not the sphere of Heaven penetrates into the lower creation sphere. Secondly, the Scriptures repeatedly make mention of sudden movements much faster than we experience. Think of the movement of angels, of the fast travel of the Prophet Elijah when he ran ahead of King Ahab (I Kings 18:46; II Kings 2:11) or ran to Mount Horeb (I Kings 19:7-8) and of the Prophet Elisha when he was as it were carried to Samaria (2 Kings 6:20). The story of Jesus’ sudden disappearance from the sight of the two disciples in Emmaus (Luke 24:31) gives a similar impression as does that of Philip and the eunuch (Acts 8:39-40).

With respect to all those events we have to keep ourselves to a minimum of details and explanations to avoid all spiritualization. We can only know the following for sure: that the restricted man Christ Jesus moved from place to place in normal restricted human fashion.

We know that, during the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3; Mark 9:2-9; Luke 9:28-36), He had one moment and then a series of moments during his transfer to Heaven and finally a glorious moment during which He reached the actual Heaven, passed through its portals and now arrived in that Heaven where the man Christ Jesus had never been. There, in that totally different, richer, more glorious world He accepted that high position of governing that the Father had laid on Him.

As to the circumstances in that Heaven, how the angels relate to the saved saints and the latter among each other or how they all connect with the man Christ Jesus, none of that is revealed to us. We do know certain things: Christ does not float or hover about in Heaven like a spirit, but He moves about as a human being with our flesh and blood and is never at more than one specific place at any given time. We also know that, if we were in Heaven now, we would indeed see Him there in a glorified state, but with a specific silhouette so that we would recognize the contours of His body.

God’s presence in Heaven is very different than it is on earth. The highest and most glorious Being is omnipresent. Thus He is at each point totally God. However, much of His creation acts like a veil that covers His countenance. His countenance is not revealed here but only in Heaven, for there that veil does not hide Him; there He reveals His presence in majestic details. This is the reason that, when we call upon God, we look up to Heaven. The Scriptures teach that we must not look for the throne of glory on earth but in Heaven. Seeing that the glory of the Highest Being is not revealed here but in Heaven, that the man Christ Jesus entered Heaven and received His power there, and that human Person has as substratum the eternal Son of God, the Scripture teaches that the man Jesus Christ is raised to the right hand of God and now lives with the Father in order to pray for us.

In this new state of glory and majesty, the man Christ Jesus has been assigned sovereignty over His Church by God. Since that Church is unthinkable without the world and that world unthinkable without all of nature, Christ’s sovereignty includes absolute power over all the rulers over the earth, over all peoples and nations as well as over all elements of nature.

After the Ascension of Jesus Christ, God remains God. However, from that moment on a totally new circumstance was introduced, namely that God no longer rules everything directly, but through the mediation of the man Christ Jesus.

This would not have been possible if the man Christ Jesus were not also Himself God. However large the terms in which we think of the power and speed of movement of the Human who lives in Heaven, that power never reaches omnipotence or that speed, omnipresence. And since the Church, the world and nature cannot be governed except with omnipotence and omnipresence, government over all these by the man Jesus Christ is unthinkable, unless the “divinity, majesty, grace and Spirit” (Heidelberg Catechism, question 48) can work through Him in a style that is marked by omnipotence and omnipresence.

During His state of humiliation, the Mediator supported His humanity with His divinity, so that He was not defeated and lost. Similarly, the same Mediator, now ascended to and living in Heaven, again supports His humanity with His divinity, in order to carry out the highest regiment of government over the Church, and indirectly also over the world and nature, doing so in the Name of God and under His orders. That is what He said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

If you now understand clearly the significance of Jesus’ Ascension to and entering Heaven, then you will also realize that with these new circumstances, the Church on earth had also to enter into a different situation from what she had experienced so far. The Church has been there ever since the beginning of the world, with Adam representing her in Paradise, then Adam, Eve and Abel and on down the generations. Throughout the ages during which God Almighty supported His people on earth by the Word of His power, He had His chosen ones. These chosen ones were not simply loose pearls strung together on a cord, but they belonged together by virtue of their mutual organic relationship in the Body of Christ. But, and this must be added immediately, that Church of the Old Covenant or Testament did not yet have the Mediator, the man Christ Jesus, who, later having entered into the innermost holy place of the Heavens, ruled her.

The Ascension was an actual event. Before His Ascension, there was no human Christ Jesus up there in Heaven. The Old Covenant Church could never say what God’s people confess now, namely that the human Christ Jesus lives in our flesh and blood in order to pray for and to govern us.

We in no way deny here that the Son of God had a relationship with His Church since the beginning. If dates were recorded from eternity, we might say that that relationship can be traced back to the eternal council of God. In addition, we know that the Son of God, already during the Old Covenant, watched over His Church in a special way as an Angel of His Presence.

But regardless of how highly we may rate that Old Covenant work of Christ, it was all provisional, preparatory, leading the way and intended to move up to empirical reality only in the fullness of time. That was the time after the Word had become flesh, the Golgotha phase had passed, the reconciling Mediator had ascended, and the man Christ Jesus sat at the right hand of the power of God in the Heavens.

It was then, with the Ascension of Jesus, that the household of the Church suddenly was transformed. Now that the real “thing” had come, the shadow faded and disappeared. In the temple, the altar fires were extinguished, the lamp of the eternal light was blown out, the curtain was torn in two (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38) 11   During the lifetime of Jesus, the holy temple in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life. The temple was the place where animal sacrifices were carried out and worship according to the Law of Moses was followed faithfully. Hebrews 9:1-9 tells us that in the temple a veil separated the Holy of Holies—the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence—from the rest of the temple where men dwelt. This signified that man was separated from God by sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). Only the high priest was permitted to pass beyond this veil once each year (Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7) to enter into God's presence for all of Israel and make atonement for their sins (Leviticus 16). Read more: and already the Roman legions were approaching to destroy city and temple according to God’s plan. The Church no longer needs her earthly fulcrum, the visible Jerusalem, now that she has her firm and glorious foundation directly in Heaven in the person of her King and Mediator, the human Christ Jesus.

While the small ship of the Church was anchored at the holy sanctuary of Zion during the past ages, that anchor has been lifted. She is now moored to a completely different anchor, that is to say, to the human Christ Jesus, who as the new anchor has been securely moored in the Heavens. This implies that the Church, that till then was pressed down in her earthly form with its national character, felt that oppressive form slide off her shoulders after Jesus’ Ascension, whereupon she dropped her national character and became the Church of the world.

In the past, the Church was on earth, merely looking out at Heaven from the outside, but now that her principal Person, her One and All, has entered Heaven, she herself has after a fashion also been carried there. Take the example of the royal court where the king resides, even though most of his hangers-on, while at the court, are still some distance from the king. So it is with the Church; Jesus is there, but most of His beloved are still on earth.

The government of the Church has been transferred. It is no longer the earthly David who reigns (2 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 5:3-5), but the heavenly “David.” The Church has been morphed from an earthly to a heavenly Church, since its government has been transferred from the city near the Mount of Olives to the city in Heaven. From this it flows necessarily and directly that the working of the Holy Spirit in the Church is very different before and after Jesus’ Ascension.

When the Church did not yet have the human Jesus Christ as its Head and King in Heaven, the working of the Spirit was ad hoc, passing, temporary and without identifiable central focus. True, the Kabod, that is, the glory of the Lord, revealed itself above the atonement cover of the Ark (Leviticus 16:14). However, this shadowy splendor pointed to and derived its meaning from a better and more glorious future when the atonement cover would reside in the very heart of the real High Priest, Jesus Christ, while the Holy Spirit would find in Him, the centre and head of the Church, His most glorious Temple.

The Jerusalem temple was nothing but an example or image of that better Temple. Thus, when that better Temple arose, the image imploded into ruins. From now on, the human Jesus Christ was the true, essential and always intended Temple that had finally come and opened up. Till Gethsemane and Golgotha that temple had hidden its beautiful treasures and ornaments in the pitch-dark of night, but now, through and by the Ascension of Jesus, the eternal light was lit in that Temple and all those treasures began to sparkle and glitter so bright, that all the angels were surprised and aghast.

Christ is the Church. Now that Christ, the human Jesus Christ, had the Holy Spirit dwelling in Him and radiating out of Him, He could not at this stage of His glory arrive in Heaven and establish the intended relationship with His Church without at once having the Holy Spirit radiate and emanate from Him, never to separate from her again. Now that is what took place on Pentecost.

This is what happened, when on the morning of Pentecost, sound and light broke into that upper room in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4). Having arrived in Heaven (Luke 24:50-51) and having the glory of the Holy Spirit ignited in Him as the Temple of God, the human Jesus Christ now entered into the normal relationship with His Church that had always been intended and was prophesied of old. He now elevated her out of her national, earthly and preparatory position into her heavenly place. He severed her from her earthly anchor and moored her to Himself as the heavenly anchor. From now on He would no longer approach her from the outside, but as a cascading stream working from within, He poured the Holy Spirit into the Church which then became the Spirit of life they shared, with Him as Head and they His members.

« Prev Meditation 19 Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection