Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the Old Testament book of Proverbs which was written by Solomon the son of David and king of Israel. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters twenty-nine through thirty-one of this Old Testament book. When you come to the final three chapters of the Old Testament book of Proverbs you will essentially find three different and three distinct authors of the proverbs which are before you. The words which are found in the twenty-ninth chapter of this Old Testament book were the final words and wise sayings of Solomon as written and recorded within the Old Testament poetic book of Proverbs. The words which are found in the twenty-ninth chapter of this Old Testament book are words which were written by Agua the son of Jakeh, and were the prophecy he spoke unto Ithiel and Ucal. The thirty-first and final chapter of this Old Testament book is comprised of words which were written by king Lemuel, and were words of the prophecy which his mother taught him—words which concerned a virtuous woman within the earth, and finding such a woman. What is quite interesting and unique about the words found within these chapters is when you consider those words which were spoken b y Agur in the thirtieth chapter. As you read the words which are found and contained within this chapter you will find it beginning with Agur expressing his frailty as a man before and in the sight of the living God. If you begin reading with and from the second verse of this passage you will find Agur speaking of and referring to himself as being more brutish than any man, and that he had not the understanding of a man. Moreover, you will find Agur writing how he neither learned wisdom, nor had the knowledge of the holy—a knowledge which Solomon wrote about earlier on in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. What makes the words which Agur the son of Jakeh even more remarkable and intriguing is when you consider the words which he spoke in the fourth verse—words which not only express his frailty, his finiteness and humanity as a man, but also the greatness, the splendor, the majesty and the power of the living God. Consider if you will the words which are found in the fourth verse of the thirtieth chapter—words which take on an even greater meaning when you consider them in light of the LORD’s response to Job when He finally answered him out of the whirlwind:
“Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?” (Proverbs 30:4).
These words which Agur the son of Jakeh might not seem like they are at all significant, nor have any specific meaning when reading and considering them, and yet the truth of the matter is that the words which are found within this chapter bring us face to face with our frailty and our humanity as mere men when compared to the infinite wonder, splendor and majesty of the true and living God. It’s actually quite interesting when you consider all the words and language that is found within this poetic book that towards the very end when it is brought to a close we find a powerful invitation to explore our own humanity and our own finiteness. We must make absolutely no mistake about it when reading the words found in this passage that there is a great need within our hearts and lives to acknowledge and come face to face with who we are as the creation of God as set against the infinite and eternal wonder and splendor of the living God. Even as I sit here I can’t help but be reminded of the words which David the psalmist wrote in the Old Testament book of the Psalms, for if you read both the eighth and one-hundred and thirty-ninth chapters of the Old Testament book of Psalms you will find David encountering his frailty and finiteness when set against that of the living and eternal God. When we consider the words found within this Old Testament passage of Scripture it is absolutely necessary to consider the words which David the son of Jesse and king of Israel wrote in both of these psalms, as well as the words which the LORD spoke unto Job out of the whirlwind—words which expressed and spoke of His infinite greatness, splendor and majesty. Moreover, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the prophet Isaiah wrote and prophesied, which are recorded for us in the fortieth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book which bears his name. Consider if you will the following words which are first found in the eighth and one-hundred and thirty-ninth chapters of the Old Testament book of the Psalms:
“O LORD our LORD, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our LORD, how excellent is thy names in all the earth” (Psalm 8:1-9).
“O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassestt my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully madam: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hide from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being in perfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as ye there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: Depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? Annd am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:1-24).
I sit here this morning and I can’t help but be absolutely drawn to the words which Agur would write in this particular section of Scripture, for within the Old Testament book of Proverbs we are introduced to this character whom we would otherwise have absolutely no clue who he was. I find it absolutely remarkable and astonishing to think about the fact that within the poetic book of Proverbs we find Agur speaking of himself as being more brutish than any man, and how he had not the understanding of man, nor learned wisdom, nor even had the knowledge of the holy, and yet the words we find him writing immediately after that are truly captivating when you take the time to think about them. With the words Agur wrote we almost get the sense that he found himself grappling and wrestling with the divinity and the infiniteness of the living God. Agur admitted that he didn’t have the knowledge of the holy, and yet the words we find him writing in this passage of Scripture seem to speak directly to the eternal and divine nature of the living God. What’s more, is the words we find within this passage of Scripture speak directly to the greatness, the majesty and the wonder of the living God—the God who is able to gather the wind in His fists, the God who is able to bind the water in a garment, and the God who established all the ends of the earth. What’s quite interesting and intriguing when you think about the words of Agur is when you read the latter portion of the fourth verse when he asked what is his name, and what is his son’s name—the name of that one who ascended up into heaven, and who descended from the same. The more I read these words, the more I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle John wrote in the opening chapter of the gospel narrative he wrote concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, as well as the words which Jesus Himself spoke while He walked upon the earth. What’s more, is I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote—not only in the epistle which was written unto the Ephesian congregation, but also the words which were written unto the Colossian congregation. I invite you first and foremost to consider the words found within these two epistles written by the apostle Paul, and then turn and direct your attention back to that which is found within the New Testament gospel written by the apostle John:
“I therefore, the prisoner of the LORD, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all loveliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 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 lower 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 4:1-10).
“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the LORD unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and he is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:9-20).
The words which are found in both of these passages not only point to the preeminence of Jesus the Christ, but the words found within these passages also point to Jesus as being that One who not only descended into the depths of hell, and also ascended into the heights of heaven. It’s interesting and worth noting that when Jesus gave up the ghost upon the cross and was buried in the earth for three days He carried out and performed an invisible work—one that would not be seen in the natural and physical realm. While His physical and earthly body lie lifeless in the grave, Jesus’ spirit descended into the depths of hell and further continued his decimation of the kingdom and powers of darkness. We know from the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Colossian saints that through His death upon the cross Jesus spoiled principalities, and powers, and made a show of them openly, as He triumphed over them in the work that was done on the cross. We know that for three hours—from the sixth hour unto the ninth hour—there was a great darkness which descended upon Golgotha, and completely enveloped the sight of the cross. We know that it was during these three hours Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” I have believed and continue to believe that it was during these three hours when all the forces of hell, all the powers of darkness, all the unclean and foul spirits which were upon the earth descended upon Calvary in a fury and rage against the eternal Son of God. What is actually quite astonishing about this is that Scripture records how darkness covered the land for a three hour period of time from the sixth hour unto the ninth hour, and we know from the words which the apostle Paul wrote that Jesus spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly as he triumphed over them through the cross. We also know from the writing of the apostle John that Jesus Christ was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. Moreover, we find from the words which are found in the epistle written unto the Hebrews that Jesus partook of the nature of human flesh that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. We dare not miss the truly awesome and spectacular nature of these words and the truth contained within them, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that there on the cross the greatest trap ever set in the history of mankind, and in the history of the heavens, for I am convinced that all the forces of hell and all the powers of darkness descended upon that place to mock, to ridicule, to scorn and to criticize the eternal Son of God as He hung there upon the cross. With that being said, however—while the forces of hell and powers of darkness thought they had triumphed and were triumphing over the Son of God, they were actually being baited into descending upon that location that the eternal Son of God might triumph over them and spoil them through His death upon that cross.
What I so absolutely love about the work of Jesus Christ—not only in life upon the cross but also in death in the grave—is that both on the earth at Calvary and in hell itself, Jesus triumphed over sin, Jesus triumphed over death, Jesus triumphed over hell, and Jesus triumphed over the devil and all the forces of darkness and powers of hell. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there was a very public work that was performed and completed as Jesus hung there suspended between earth and sky on the cross of Calvary, while there was also a very personal and private work that was done as His lifeless body lie in the borrowed tomb of Joseph Arimathaea. THE WORK HANGING ON THE CROSS! THE WORK BEING BURIED IN THE TOMB! It is truly something spectacular to think about and consider the fact that while He was alive upon the cross Jesus spoiled principalities and powers of darkness when they attempted to descend upon Him to gloat, to boast, to mock, to scorn, to ridicule, and to condemn and criticize the Son of God. How absolutely wonderful and awesome it is to think about the fact that there was a work which Jesus the Christ performed and completed upon the cross as His body hung there suspended between earth and sky, and yet there was also a work which Jesus performed as His physical body lie lifeless in that borrowed tomb. There was a work which Jesus could do in the physical form of human flesh, yet there was something else He would do in spirit form as He descended into the depths of hell itself and led captivity captive. The apostle Paul spoke of Jesus descending and leading captivity captive and giving gifts unto men, and we must recognize and understand that this is truly something worth considering, for as Jesus’ lifeless physical body lie buried in the heart of the earth for three days, His spirit would descend into the depths of hell, preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, preach unto all those who were bound within the depths of the earth, and would bring about a great deliverance and freedom. What’s more, is that even when you read the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto the apostle John when he was on the isle of Patmos you will find Him emphatically and boldly declaring that He had the keys of death, hell and the grave. The question then becomes how did He and how would He obtain the keys of death, hell and the grave if He did not descend to the depths of hell, did not directly confront the devil and him who had the power of death, triumph over him, and ascend with the keys of death, hell and the grave. Consider if you will the words which are written and found in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ in the first three chapters of the book:
“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven g olden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And He laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:12-20).
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (Revelation 3:7-8).
Within these two passages of Scripture—more specifically the words which are found in the first and opening chapter of the prophetic book of Revelation—we find Jesus speaking unto the apostle John and declaring unto Him that He had the keys of death, hell and the grave. These words and this declaration must be carefully considered, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that the only way Jesus could have the keys of death, hell and the grave is if He triumphed over each of them. Jesus triumphed over death and the grave when through the Spirit He was raised from death to life, and Jesus triumphed over hell when He descended into the very depths and bowels of hell, completely and utterly triumphed over the devil who is also known as the serpent, the dragon and Satan. It’s truly something spectacular to read the words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ, for Jesus would profess and proclaim victory of death, over hell and the grave, and that He had keys to all three. Oh how absolutely wonderful and amazing it is to consider the awesome truth that despite the fact that Jesus’ lifeless body lie buried in that borrowed tomb—when He was raised from death to life and would emerge victorious and triumphant over death, hell and the grave, he would not only have the marks, the prints and the scars where the nails had been and where the spear had pierced, but He would also emerge from the tomb and the grave victorious and triumphant having the keys of death, hell and the grave. It is absolutely wonderful to consider the fact that while He hung there half naked, bleeding, bruised, beaten, wounded, and completely unrecognizable to the human eye, Jesus would triumph over principalities and powers of darkness as he would completely and utterly spoil them. There was a work that was done as Jesus hung there upon the cross of Calvary, however, there was a different and deeper work that would be done while His lifeless physical body lie buried in the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. It would be while Jesus’ lifeless body lie buried in that tomb that His spirit would descend into the very depths of hell itself, and would not only preach, but would also lead captivity captive. Moreover, when Jesus emerged from the tomb He would emerge completely and utterly victorious, and would have in His possession the keys of death, hell and the grave.
When we speak of Jesus the Christ we must not only speak of Him as the one who ascended into heaven and unto the right hand of all authority and power, but we must also speak of Him as the one who descended. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize that Jesus Christ did in fact ascend unto the right hand of the Father in heaven, however, before Jesus would ascended unto that place of honor, glory and power, He would descend into the very depths and bowels of hell itself. It would be while His physical and lifeless body lie buried in the earth in a borrowed tomb from the sixth day unto the first day that Jesus would descend into the depths of hell where He would directly confront death, hell and the grave. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews emphatically states that Jesus destroyed him who had the power of death, which was the devil. It is worth noting and pointing out that when Jesus ascended, He first ascended from the depths of hell before He ever ascended into the heights of heaven. ONCE BURIED, TWICE ASCENDED! I sit here this morning and I find myself being absolutely and completely gripped and captivated with the fact that when Jesus was buried in the heart of the earth His spirit descended into the depths of hell itself. We know that Jesus would in fact be raised from death to life by the power, the person and presence of the Holy Spirit, and with that being said we also know that before Jesus ever ascended unto the right hand of the Father, he first ascended from the depths of hell—ascended from that place where He would defeat the devil and take from him the keys of death, hell and the grave. I find it to be something truly powerful to think that when Jesus descended into the depths of hell, He did so bearing the scars and prints of both the nails which pierced His hands and His feet, as well as the spear which pierced His side. As He descended into the very depths of hell itself Jesus would bring the scars of His suffering directly into the depths and bowels of hell itself and would powerfully show those scars at the very gates of hell. Please don’t miss the importance of this, for I am convinced that those scars were retained and held on to for three distinct reasons and purposes. The first is to show those scars in the depths of hell before the very gates of hell itself, and before the one who had the power of death, that is, the devil. Secondly, I am convinced Jesus retained and held on those scars to show unto His disciples when He appeared unto them after His resurrection that they might believe and trust in Him. The third and final reason Jesus would have retained the scars would have been to show those scars in heaven before the throne of God, and before all the saints and great cloud of witnesses. The scars of Jesus’ suffering were wonderfully and powerfully showed in the very depths of hell itself, and when He ascended out of the depths of hell, He would ascend with those scars still very much in tact.
RISING WITH SCARS, ASCENDING WITH KEYS! When we think about the fact that Jesus descended into the very depths of hell itself we must understand that He descended bearing and carrying the scars of His suffering, which He would put on full display at the gates of hell—and undoubtedly within hell itself. What’s more, is Jesus would put those scars on full display before the devil and all the forces of hell and powers of darkness demonstrating the tremendous triumph of the cross, and how His death wasn’t the end, but was only the beginning. When Jesus had finished the unseen and invisible work while His lifeless body lie buried in the midst of the tomb upon the earth, He would not only ascend from the depths of hell with those same scars, but he would also ascend with the keys of death, hell and the grave. I absolutely love the fact that when Jesus ascended from death, hell and the grave—not only did He ascend with the scars of His suffering, but He also ascended with the triumph of His suffering as well. How incredibly beautiful and powerful it is to not only consider the scars of the suffering which points to that which we went through, but also to consider the triumph of our suffering which demonstrates the power and glory of the true and living God. Jesus ascended from the depths of hell having triumphed over death, hell and the grave, and with Him were the keys to all three. For forty days Jesus would walk upon the earth as He revealed and manifested Himself unto His disciples and to upwards of five-hundred at one time. I can’t help but wonder if Jesus showed His scars and the print of the nails and the spear to more than just Thomas who was also called Didymus. Is it possible that the five-hundred people whom Jesus showed and revealed Himself unto might have possibly seen those same scars which He had showed unto Thomas? Is it possible that during those forty days Jesus showed Himself very much alive, as well as the scars of His suffering which would indeed confirm all He endured leading up to the cross, as well as actually being nailed to the cross and crucified at the hands of the Roman soldiers. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the words which are found within the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints beginning to read with and from the first verse:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labour Ed more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
With these words the apostle Paul brings us face to face with the fact that not only did Jesus rise from the grave on the third day after being raised from death to life by the Holy Spirit of God, but Jesus also appeared and manifested Himself unto countless individuals after His resurrection. Even the final chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle John points to the fact that Jesus Christ appeared and manifested Himself unto His disciples at least three times after His resurrection—twice in the upper room when He appeared behind locked and closed doors, and once at the lake when Peter and others went fishing. How absolutely wonderful it is to consider the fact that not only did Jesus rise from the grave on the third day, but when and after He arose He appeared first unto Mary there in the garden, and would also appear unto the disciples. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly awesome reality, for to do so would be to miss the tremendous power of appearance, manifestation and revelation in addition to resurrection. I continue to be absolutely blown away by the fact that Jesus could have very easily been raised from death to life and ascended unto the right hand of the Father in heaven without any type of revelation and manifestation, however, to do so would have been to completely destroy the power and message of the gospel. The gospel hinges upon the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, and I am convinced that the revelation after the resurrection is just as important and vital as the resurrection itself. I firmly believe that the revelation and manifestation of Jesus the Christ after He had been raised from death to life is as much a part of the resurrection itself, for the revelation was needed to secure the message of the gospel, as well as to ensure the trust, the confidence and the belief of the disciples who be those who would be the first to preach the gospel concerning the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Even the entire gospel and doctrine of the apostle Paul would be centered upon the death of Jesus and Him crucified—and not only Jesus Christ crucified, but also His being raised from death to life. It would be when writing unto the Corinthian saints the apostle Paul would speak in great measure—not only about the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, but also the significance and impact of that resurrection within our hearts and our lives. It is the resurrection of Jesus that is the very heart and central theme of the gospel which the apostle Paul preached, and everything he preached hinged on that direct truth and reality. Without the resurrection of Jesus there would be no gospel which the apostles would preach, and the gospel which the apostle Paul preached would be in vain. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote—not only concerning the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, but also the revelation of that resurrection unto His disciples and followers:
“Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the d dad rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for to morrow e die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:12-35).
It’s incredibly interesting to read and consider the words which are found in the twenty-first chapter of the New Testament gospel of John you will find that it begins with the statement and declaration that “Jesus shewed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias,” while in the fourteenth verse of the chapter you will find the apostle John writing and recorded how this revelation, this manifestation, this appearance at the sea of Tiberias was “the third time that Jesus shewed Himself to His disciples, after that He was risen from the dead.’ It’s important that we recognize this particular reality, for within the final chapter of the gospel narrative written and recorded by the apostle John we find that Jesus appeared unto and manifested Himself before the disciples on three different occasions with the previous two visitations and appearances being behind closed doors when the disciples were shut in due to fear. This concept of the revelation and manifestation of Jesus Christ after His resurrection is just as critical and just as vital as the resurrection itself, for it would be the revelation after the resurrection, and quite honestly—the revelation of the resurrection—that would be the very heart of the gospel which the apostle Paul would preach. What’s more, is that it would be the revelation of the resurrection, and the revelation after the resurrection that would be the heart and foundation of the gospel which the apostles themselves would preach—a gospel that would be preached just ten days after the ascension of Jesus the Christ. For forty days Jesus appeared unto the disciples and some of His followers, and at the end of those forty days He would ascend unto the right hand of the Father in heaven. Just ten days after that ascension when He was taken up into heaven and hidden from their sight be a cloud the apostle Peter would not only preach Christ crucified, but would also preach Christ resurrected from the dead. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely wonderful and tremendous reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the supreme importance of the resurrection—and not only the resurrection, but also the revelation surrounding the resurrection. How absolutely beautiful it is to think about and consider the fact that not only did Jesus the Christ rise from the dead, but after that resurrection He would appear unto both disciples and followers alike during and over a forty day period of time.
The more I think about and consider the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the more I can’t help but consider the fact that when He was raised from death to life He rose with the scars of His suffering, as well as the reward of His suffering—a reward that would continue to be given unto Jesus the Christ from that day on. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when you focus your attention on the fact that when Jesus was raised from death to life He rose and ascended from the depths of hell with the scars of His suffering still very much in tact, as well as the reward and triumph of His suffering. Having the keys of death, hell and the grave Jesus the Christ would demonstrate the awesome and tremendous reality that He triumphed over all three, and that He had triumphed over he who had the power of death—that is, the devil. I find it absolutely wonderful to consider the awesome truth and reality that when Jesus Christ rose from the grave He would ascend from the very depths and bowels of heaven, and would ultimately ascend unto the right hand of the Father. Stop for a moment and consider this truth, for Jesus would essentially ascend twice—once within the resurrection of the dead, and the other after the revelation of the resurrection. There would be an ascension that would be directly linked and tied to the resurrection itself, and there would be another ascension that would be linked to the revelation after the resurrection. It would be after Jesus appeared unto His disciples and manifested Himself unto them over a period of forty days as He made himself known unto them that He would ascend unto the right hand of the Father in heaven before one day returning to rapture His saints and believers unto Himself in the eternal glory. Oh how awesome it is to consider the fact that Jesus ascended from the very depths of hell, thus demonstrating that hell itself could not contain Him; and He would ascend unto the right hand of the Father in heaven, thus demonstrating both the authority of the Father, as well as the authority that had been given unto Him. Jesus would ascend from the depths of hell as his spirit and physical body would be reunited, and after that ascension from hell He would emerge triumphant and victorious from the grave. Oh, I can’t help but wonder what that sight must have been like as Jesus Christ emerged from the tomb as the stone was rolled away. I wonder if all heaven watched in silent wonder and amazement as the stone was rolled away, and as he emerged fully alive and fully triumphant over death, heal and the grave. Did the angels watch and behold as Jesus emerged from the grave with the keys of death, hell and the grave? Did the angel who rolled away the stone watch as Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God burst forth from the grave with all authority and all power which was given unto him?
What an absolutely wonderful and powerful truth it is to think about the fact that Jesus Christ did in fact ascend unto the Father, however, that ascension was in all reality a return to the Father—a return to that place in eternal glory which He inhabited and dwelt in with the Father before time and the world began. In order to understand the ascension of Jesus you must first understand the descending of Jesus—not merely His descending into hell, but His descending into the earth. If you think about it—there would be no ascension unto the right hand of the Father if there had not been and if there first was not a descending from the Father in the first place. It was Jesus the Christ who descended from the Father as He took on the form of human flesh, which clearly indicates the tremendous reality that His ascension unto the right hand of the Father was a return to that place in glory and that place of honor which He shared with the Father before the world and time began. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, the thirteenth chapter of the same gospel, the words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of that book, as well as the words which are written and recorded in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me. And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him” (John 1:1-18).
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (John 13:1-5).
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life I to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:1-5).
“For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the Son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedest him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet. For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we see not yet all things put under Him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me, Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise 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. Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:5-18).
With these words which are found in the New Testament gospel of John in mind I also invite you to consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Philippians. If you turn and direct your attention to the second chapter of this New Testament epistle you will find the apostle Paul not only speaking of the great humility of Jesus, but you will also find the apostle Paul speaking of the ascension of Jesus the Christ after He humbled Himself by taking on the form of human flesh. Consider if you will the following words which are found within the second chapter of this New Testament epistle beginning to read with and from the first verse of the chapter:
“IF there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in loneliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on His own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and b ring found in fashion as a man, he humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-11).
THE DESCENDING BEFORE THE ASCENSION! In order for us to truly understand the ascension of Jesus the Christ we must not only understand it in terms of His descending from heaven in the form of human flesh having been born of a a virgin, but we must also understand His ascension in terms of His ascending from the very depths of hell. It is absolutely remarkable to think about and consider the awesome reality that Jesus descended from heaven having taken on the form of human flesh that He might through death destroy him who had the power of death. What’s more, is that having died and been crucified upon the cross at Calvary, Jesus’ physical body would be buried in the heart of the earth until the third day—burned in the secret and hidden place while His spirit would descend into the very depths of hell itself. Jesus would descend into the depths of hell, would preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, would lead captivity captive, would give gifts unto men, and would rise with the keys of death hell and the grave. We dare not think about Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of the Father without first recognizing His descending from that place of honor and glory in the first place, as He took on the form of human flesh that He might be a sacrifice and propitiation for your sins, for my sins, and for the sins of the world. What we must realize is that Jesus ascended twice in the process of resurrection, for He would first ascend from the depths of hell itself, and would ascend after forty days revealing and manifesting Himself unto His disciples and followers. It would be this second ascension that would be an ascension—not from hell to the earth, but from earth to heaven. ASCENSION: FROM HELL TO THE EARTH! ASCENSION: FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN! ASCENSION: FROM HELL TO THE EARTH, FROM THE EARTH TO HEAVEN! When Jesus would ascend to the Father we must recognize and understand that that wasn’t His first ascension, for Jesus would ascend from the depths and bowels of hell itself having triumphed over death, hell and the grave. Jesus’ resurrection must be understood in terms of His descending into hell, and how the Father would not allow His spirit to remain in hell, but would bring Him forth from hell and would reunite spirit and body once more. It would be after this reuniting of spirit and body that Jesus would emerge from the tomb fully triumphant and victorious over death, over hell and over the grave. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the following passages which are found in the New Testament concerning Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of eternal glory and power in heaven:
“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark 16:19-20).
“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: Therefeore 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).
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him” (Acts 5:29-32).
“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus tending on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:54-56).
“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is He that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:33-34).
“…and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is name, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:19-23).
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
“Now of the etchings which we have spoken this is the sum: we have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the LORD pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve unto the sample and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when He was about to make the tabernacle: for see, saith he, that thou makest all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also is He a mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Hebrews 8:1-6).
“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:11-18).
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him” (1 Peter 3:18-22).