The Public Work of the Cross, The Private Work of the Grave

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Colossae. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fourteen through twenty-three of the second chapter. When you come to this latter part of the second chapter within the New Testament epistle written unto the saints at Colossae you find the apostle Paul continuing to write about and reveal the work of Christ which He performed decades earlier when He allowed Himswlf to be hung and crucified upon the cruel Roman tree. One thing I find to be incredibly interesting when reading the words of the apostle Paul concerning the work of Christ upon the cross I can’t help but consider the fact that he had not personally walked with Christ, nor did He follow Him those three and a half years. It was not the apostle Paul who stood at the foot of the cross and watched as Christ hung there naked, bleeding, bruised, and struggling in front of all those who stood by watching. The apostle Paul was not there at the foot of the cross receiving some special revelation while Christ was hanging there on the cross. In fact, I can’t help but wonder how old Paul was at the time of Christ being crucified upon that cruel Roman tree. It’s absolutely incredible to read the tremendous and powerful revelation the apostle Paul received concerning the death of Jesus Christ and the work that was performed and accomplished while He hung there upon the cross. If you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote to the churches which were in Galatia you will find that the revelation he received cane not from man but was received deep in the heart of the Arabian desert. The apostle Paul wrote to the churches which were in Galatia and spoke of how the revelation He received came directly from Christ as He spent those three years in the wilderness and desert. It is actually quite remarkable that everything the apostle Paul preached and everything the apostle wrote came directly from a revelation which was given directly from Christ Himself. Much like the apostle Peter who received revelation concerning the identity of Jesus directly from the Father, so also did the apostle Paul receive revelation directly from Christ.

The more I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote to the churches which were in Asia the more I am completely and utterly amazed at the depth of the revelation he received from the Lord Himself. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to receive revelation concerning the death of Jesus Christ from the very One who walked through, experienced and endured it. During those three years in the desert and wilderness of Arabia the apostle Paul was being taught and tutored by Christ Himself, and the revelation he received cane not from man, but rather directly from Christ through and according to the Spirit who was released and poured out on the day of Pentecost. I absolutely love the depth and magnitude of the revelation the apostle Paul received concerning the death of Jesus upon the cross, for the revelation he received wasn’t simply that Christ died and that He was buried and that He rose again on the third day. While the revelation and proclamation of Jesus’ death upon the cross, His burial in the borrowed tomb and His being raised from death to life is in fact sufficient, the apostle Paul would write of a deeper work—one that was not visible on the surface in the physical and natural realm. When the apostle Paul wrote to the churches he wrote of that which we know and that which we we believe concerning what took place in the physically and natural realm, but he would write of the deeper reality and work of the cross. I am convinced the starting point concerning the cross of Christ does I fact begin with His actually death upon that cross, as well as His subsequent burial and resurrection, but the very fact that the apostle Paul wrote of a deeper revelation suggests the tremendous reality that with a deeper revelation comes a deeper work. I am convinced that more often than not we get caught up in the surface revelation and even in and with the surface work and we never move for are and move beyond to the place or deeper revelation and the deeper work that comes as a direct result of that revelation.

When I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote to the various churches which were in Asia I am absolutely gripped and captivated by the revelation he received concerning the work which Christ did while upon the cross—and not just the work He did while on the cross, but also the work which He did during those three days within the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, as well as the work which He accomplished when He rose from the grave on the third day. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this second chapter, for there is a tremendous amount of language which the apostle Paul presented his audience with concerning the work of Christ upon and through the cross. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this chapter beginning with the eighth verse of this second chapter: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philopsphy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of All principality and power: in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of you flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:8-15). The words and reality which we find in this particular passage within the epistle written unto the Colossian saints is further echoed in the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Ephesus. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus concerning the work of Christ with and through His cross:

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made night by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ HImself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together growth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:11-22).

It is quite clear and quite obvious when reading each of these passages written by the apostle Paul that it was true Christ died upon the cross, and it was true that Christ was buried in the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and it was true that Jesus rose again on the third day after being raised from death to life by the Spirit of God. What’s worth noting is that when Christ was hanging there upon the cross naked and bleeding those who were present at the cross knew that He was going to die, however, they weren’t aware of the deeper work that was being performed on that day. Even those various times Jesus spoke unto His disciples and revealed unto them that He must be crucified, and that He must die at the hands of sinful men, He didn’t immediately reveal the purpose for the cross, or the work which would be performed behind the scenes in the spiritual realm. In other words, the disciples were permitted to become aware of the reality that would take place in the natural realm, however, it wouldn’t be until years after Christ died on the cross, was buried in the tomb, was raised from death to life, and ascended to the right hand of the Father that the deeper work which was accomplished through the events of those three days was revealed. Immediately after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead word and report began spreading and circulating that He had in fact risen from the dead, and that He was in fact alive. What’s more, is that immediately after the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost we find the apostles proclaiming the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact, consider if you will the words which the apostle Peter proclaimed unto all those who were present in the city of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost concerning this Jesus Christ who was just crucified, and who was raised from death to life:

“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning Him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption; This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:22-36).

The reality of the proclamation of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ was again preached and proclaimed in the very next chapter after Jesus through the Spirit present with the apostles Peter and John had healed a man who was lame from birth. Seizing the moment and capitalizing on the wonder and astonishment of those in the Temple, the apostle Peter once more found opportunity to preach Jesus Christ crucified and raised from death to life. Consider the following words found within the third chapter of the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the eleventh verse: “And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s greatly wondering. And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel use at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered jump, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when He was determined to let him go. But y denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised form the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, was did also your rulers. But those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must received until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken but the mouth of all His holy prophets, since the world began” (Acts 3:11-21). With these words the apostle Peter not only declared that it was faith in the name of Jesus which healed this man, but He also once more took this as an opportunity to preach Christ—and not only preach Christ, but also to preach Christ crucified, buried and resurrected from death to life. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the preaching of the apostles immediately following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus—particularly and especially after the day of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit—for that which they preached was the physical death of Jesus upon the cross, the physical burial of Jesus’ body in the tomb, and the physical resurrection of Jesus on the third day from the grave. The apostles emphatically and boldly declared that this same Jesus whom they crucified was the same Jesus who was raised on the third day, and was the same Jesus whom they now preached unto them.

As I sit here right now I can’t help but wonder if it was immediately understood by the apostles the tremendous weight and magnitude of what took place on the cross and in the tomb. It was true that the apostles did know and were aware of the fact that Jesus was crucified upon the cross atop Calvary outside Jerusalem, and it was true that the apostles did know and were aware of the fact that Jesus was in fact buried in the heart of the earth, yet raised from death to life on the third day, but we don’ find them speaking of the reality and work which took place while Christ hung there naked and bleeding upon the cross. We do not immediately find the apostles preaching and speaking of the work which was done on the cross as Jesus hung there naked and bleeding, nor do we immediately find the apostles preaching and speaking of the work which was done in the tomb as Jesus’ lifeless body lie buried there for three days. What is so incredibly interesting is that when you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote, and when you consider the reality of Jesus Christ—not only being crucified upon the cross, but also buried in the tomb—you will notice and discover that there was in fact a real work which was seen on the surface in the natural and physical realm, but there was in fact another work that was unseen in the spiritual realm. I love the reality of the cross and the grave, for through the cross we see a work that is on the surface and is visible to the eyes of men who would witness it, but it is through the tomb where we see a work that is done beneath the surface—one which takes place in the realm of the unseen and in secret. There is the public work of the cross which is visible on the surface, but there is a private work of the tomb and the grave which is unseen by the natural eye. There was in fact a work which was performed by Jesus as He hung there naked and bleeding upon the cross, but there was another work which was done beneath the surface and behind the scenes as Jesus’ lifeless body lie buried there in the borrowed tomb. In fact, the apostle Paul seems to write about and suggest these two works in the epistle to the Colossians, as well as the epistle to the saints which were at Colossae. In this second chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Colossae we read of the work which was done while Christ was on the cross, as well as within the second chapter of the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus. What’s more, is that in the fourth chapter of the same epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus we read of the work which was done behind the scenes and beneath the surface. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in each of these epistles concerning the work which was performed by Christ—both on the cross and in the grave:

“And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power: in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead. And thou, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:13-15).

“Fort He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:16-18).

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the l owner parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things)” (Ephesians 4:7-10).

I have to admit that I absolutely love what we read in the epistles which were written unto the saints at Colossae and Ephesus, for within these two epistles we read of a work which not only took place while Christ hung upon the cross, but we also read of a work which took place while Christ was buried in the tomb. In fact, the apostle Peter seems to hint at and suggest a work that was performed beneath the surface as Christ’s lifeless body lie buried in the borrowed tomb, for the apostle Peter references how the Lord would not allow Christ to remain in hell. When writing to the saints which were at Colossae we find that Christ spoiled principalities and powers by making a public show of them openly at the time of His death, as He triumphed over them. What was unknown and what wasn’t immediately made available to those who stood at the foot of the cross watching Jesus die a slow and agonizing death was made known at a later time, as the apostle Paul proclaimed that while Christ hung there upon the cross, he spoiled principalities and powers by making a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. This actually should not surprise us when we read the words which the apostle Paul wrote, for Christ spoiled the kingdom of darkness continually and repeatedly during the three and a half years He walked upon the earth. You cannot read the four gospel accounts of His life and ministry without reading of Christ’s authority and dominion over evil spirits, demonic forces and the powers of darkness. Time and time again we read of Jesus triumphing over the powers of darkness, and this even before He was nailed to the cross atop Calvary outside of Jerusalem. I can’t help but be reminded of the account which is found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark. Consider if you will the words which Mark records in the fifth chapter beginning with the first verse:

“And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, and cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there night unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding., And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid” (Mark 5:1-15).

It is quite obvious and clear when reading this particular account—an account which is one of many—that Jesus Christ exercised dominion and authority over the powers of darkness, principalities, demonic forces and evil spirits within and upon the earth. You cannot read the gospels without understanding that Jesus the Christ had complete and total authority over the demonic forces and evil spirits which were manifested within and upon the earth. What’s more, is that when Jesus spoke to those who accused him of casting out devils by the Beelzebub, he suggested something which was absolutely incredible concerning the the strength of one who is able to enter into a strong man’s house, overthrow him, plunder his goods, and exercise complete and total authority and dominion over him. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke in response to perceiving within Himself the thoughts of those who thought that He Himself was possessed by Beelzebub, and by Beelzebub cast out devils: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? Because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:17-26).

It is quite clear that when Jesus hung there naked and bleeding upon the cross that He was spoiling principalities and powers, and doing so openly by triumphing over them openly. In fact, both he author of the epistle to the Hebrews, as well as the apostle John suggested that through His death upon the cross Jesus did more than spoil principalities and powers, but even destroyed the work of the devil himself. Consider if you will the words which the author of the epistle to the Hebrews wrote in the second chapter of the epistle: “Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are parameters of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but he took on Him the seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:13-16). In the third chapter of the first epistle which the apostle John wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus we find the following words: “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). This reality is expressed even further in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, for when the resurrected, ascended and glorified Jesus spoke unto the apostle John on the isle of Patmos, He revealed something which he wasn’t aware of—either when he experienced Christ after His resurrection from the dead, or even immediately after the outpouring of the Spirit not the day of Pentecost. When appearing unto the apostle John on the isle of Patmos the risen, resurrected, ascended and glorified Christ spoke the following words: “Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:17-18). In the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews we find that through Jesus’ death He destroyed the him that had the power of death, which was the devil. In the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus the apostle John wrote that the Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil. In the New Testament prophetic book fo the Revelation Jesus Christ not only revealed that He was dead and was now alive, but He also revealed how He now had the keys of hell and death.

I recently wrote concerning Jesus how He rose with the scars of His suffering, but how He ascended with the keys of His triumph. I wrote how even though Jesus Christ was raised from death to life, He did not leave the scars of His suffering behind, but chose instead to carry them with Him into heaven and to the right hand of the Father who is in heaven. What’s more, is that I wrote how Jesus ascended with keys, for He Himself declares how He seized and laid hold of the keys of death and of hell. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize how Jesus openly spoiled principalities and powers through His death upon the cross, and that through His death He might destroy him who had the power of death. With that being said, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that when Jesus rose from the grave He did so after triumphing in hell and after leading captivity captive. When Jesus’ body lie buried in the heart of the earth for three years there was a deeper work that was being performed and accomplished—a work that was not seen in the natural and physical realm. It was that deeper work—the deeper work of burial—that not only cause captivity to be led captive, but also brought about the triumph over him who had the power of death and of hell. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this, for there was a work of authority and dominion that was performed while His body hung there upon the cross—a work that was open, and public, and in the natural—but there was another work that was done secretly and in private. When Christ rose from the grave He did so bearing in His body the scars of His suffering, and when He ascended He ascended with the keys of His triumph firmly in toe. What’s more, is that through his death upon the cross the tombs of the saints were opened, but as a result of His resurrection the saints which were buried within those tombs were brought forth once more upon the earth. Consider the fact that during those forty days after Christ’s resurrection—not only was Jesus Himself walking as a resurrected one, not only was Lazarus walking as a resurrected one, but there were other saints who were walking about as resurrected ones. Oh that we would firmly grasp and understand the tremendous work which Jesus performed while on the cross—and not only the work which He performed on the cross, but also the work which He performed beneath the surface while His body lie buried within the borrowed tomb. What’s more, is that we must not only make ourselves available to and for the public work of the cross, but we must also make ourselves available for the personal and private work of the grave. It is only when we open ourselves to the public work of the cross and the private work of the grave we can experience the power of resurrection and enter into the reality of ascension.

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