You are here: Home / Part 6 New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy (Lessons #151–224) / Chapter 1 (#155–161) / Lesson 155 – Ascension and Session of Christ: Hebrews 4:14; 1 Peter 3:21–22; Ephesians 1:20, Psalm 68
Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 1: The Heavenly Origin of the Church
Lesson 155 – Ascension and Session of Christ: Hebrews 4:14; 1 Peter 3:21–22; Ephesians 1:20; Psalm 68
02 Nov 2000
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Let’s start by turning in to Romans 8:28, again we’re going to go through the faith-rest drill; I like to go through it each time before we get into the lesson because this is one of the chief tactics or coping devices in the Christian life. We looked at this faith-rest drill, it’s in three parts; we remember or recall a fragment of Scripture, a promise, a verse, chapter, whatever we have carried around in our memory and when we’re in the middle of a situation we pull out that fragment of Scripture. The second step is to go through a rationale of circulating that verse in your mind’s eye until you can come to the third step which is a relaxed confidence that that is going to hold, that that verse, that truth, is an absolute truth, there’s nothing in our circumstance that’s going to change it, nobody can change it, it’s God’s Word and there is no alternative to that truth.
So step one is claim the promise, recall the promise, the second one is working through the rationale of the promise, and the third is to get to the point where you can trust and have that resting trust in the Word. We’ve looked at some of the verses. We went through Isaiah 40, we looked at the verses about God shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. That dealt largely with the mental attitude of a believer.
Romans 8:28 is far more complicated so we’re going to spend the front end of a few lessons on Romans 8:28. If you look at this verse you’ll see that it makes a very stupendous claim. It’s claiming that “all things,” not some things, so that’s the first thing you notice about Romans 8:28, that “all things work together for good,” but they work together for good to a class of people, namely “those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose.” It doesn’t say all things work together for good for all people. It says “all thinks work together for good to them that are called according to God’s purpose,” that is believers. When we look at this, we notice one of the rationale things that may be in a situation where you would claim this, there would be a problem accepting it and relaxing and trusting it at the point where it says “all things work together for good to them that love God.” You might have a grasp of the fact that God is sovereign, God is in control, the question however might be in a tactical situation in life that well, I’m not so sure this thing is working together for good. If that’s the situation, then what do you do?
Again, step one, we recall the promise and the promise is going around in our head in the middle of this situation that we may be involved with, but it just sticks right there at “good,” that you really, if you’re honest with yourself, can’t say that I really believe it’s working together for good right now. So if that’s the case, you can’t get to step three in the drill because you can’t get to the point where you can relax and trust and rest and faith-rest in that verse at that point. So you have to go back around step two again, and cycle around and say okay, now why am I having a problem with this? Why is it that I cannot believe that this situation, this circumstance, is working for good? By the way, notice what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say the situation is good. It says it works together for good. So watch the language in that verse, it’s saying there’s a good purpose in it, it doesn’t say the thing itself is good.
We want to review something and go back because our purpose for this, you’ll see later on as we go further into the ascension and the Pentecost thing with the Church Age, etc. why I’m doing this. It won’t be apparent right now but there is a purpose. When we do these rationales the thing to do is go back into the frame of reference that we’ve developed, go back and think through some event and a cluster of doctrine associated with that event that applies. If we’re dealing with something good and we can’t believe it, what does that tell you? Where does that lead you in the framework? If you have a problem with saying that this thing is working together for good, it’s a case of good and evil. Now wait a minute, good and evil, where does that fit as you go back to the frame of reference.
Where was it that we dealt with evil first? It was the fall. And if you remember when we dealt with the fall, we had a little section in the notes in which I identified some nine rationales for coping with the good/evil situation. We want to review these because this would be part, you wouldn’t have all nine of these going but you might be able to think of one or two of them in a situation. Let’s review those and remember that when we dealt with the fall we’re dealing with the fact that God is superintending a purpose in history to bring about the ultimate separation of good and evil, the eternal separation of good and evil. That’s where history is going. When He created there was no evil there, so we’re in this bracketed area of history right now.
Since we’re dealing with that, while we’re living inside that zone, what can we say about the purposes that God is working inside that? We know He’s working eternally but what is He doing right now. We divided it up into areas where the suffering that I am encountering is directly my responsibility, I’ve caused the problem, versus some situations that are indirect, in that really you didn’t cause the problem, it seems to just all of a sudden have entered your life. Under the direct situation there are at least four categories, you might be able to find more but we just listed these four, four illustrations, four case studies of situations where we caused our own misery.
The first one, if you think about it, what’s the first one in history, because we all share that. We were all “in Adam” and we all fell in him. So the first category is Genesis 2:17 which says “in the day that you eat thereof you will die.” You remember that, the next time you read something… somebody in the navy sent me what it looked in the mess hall five minutes after the explosion of the U. S. S. Cole and this female officer, the first thing she saw was a piece of leg hanging off the ceiling, and everything went downhill from that point. When you see that kind of thing and this is very graphic and it’s very shocking because it happens quickly, it happens with no fore warning whatsoever, when you face that kind of situation, the thing to do is think back instead of getting angry at God about it, which people intuitively try to do that because that’s the flesh. What did God say back in Genesis 2:17, He said in the day that you eat thereof you’re going to die. When that sentence was executed it includes all this, it includes genetic defects, it includes all kinds of accidents that happen, it includes horrible suffering, it includes sickness, it includes all the rest of it. Whose fault is this now? Let’s get the shoe on the right foot.
Satan will often cause you to get off balance right at this point, because the first thought that you will find bouncing around you head, how did God let this happen? What did He say? He said yeah, I’m going to let it happen, you eat thereof, you defy My words as the human race and the human race shares the destiny and the destiny is shared right there. See it goes back to personal responsibility and this time the personal responsibility for the whole human race, corporately speaking. We don’t like to hear that kind of words, it’s not really nice because remember the pagan mind, the flesh, the mind of the flesh always tries to get rid of responsibility in some way, some gimmick, some argument, some phony rationale to get rid of responsibility before God.
So the first thing we can do in “all things work together for good,” if you were the female officer, and apparently she was a Christian, walks in there, does this work together for good? It’s kind of hard to claim that one in the middle of a mess. The first thing you have to realize is that the suffering was directly induced at the fall; as a Christian you can claim that and the non-Christian can’t because the non-Christian doesn’t accept the fall, so the non-Christian, while he may laugh at you and he may attack the Scriptures and make fun of your faith, he’s the one that is pathetic. He actually sits out there and has no explanation whatsoever, for all they know this has gone on for millions of years. You know, when the apes were eating bananas they fell out of the tree and broke their neck and before them something happened in the evolutionary chain. It’s always been going on, so hey, what’s the problem; why you got a problem, it’s always been here, always will be here, so what’s your problem. That’s the non-Christian’s only alternative to this; there aren’t too many alternatives in life. If you think down to the basics there’s only one or two ways you can go.
Another way, Galatians 6:7-8, “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” There’s a direct consequence and that can be applied to individuals and families, and we can also repeat it on a larger scale, that nations get what they deserve. So individuals and families get what they deserve and nations get what they deserve. “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” Whatsoever a marriage sows, that shall it also reap. Whatsoever a nation sows, that shall it also reap. It’s the law of the harvest. God has harvesting time, and that’s cause/effect, and we don’t like to hear that one either because again, personal responsibility.
Then the one thing that we hate, Matthew 25:41 which is the sentence of every unbeliever in the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels. We don’t like to hear that either. We don’t like to hear any of this, this is all politically incorrect stuff, because the flesh wants an excuse, always wants an excuse. And you see in the coping strategy of Romans 8:28 one of these four, number four won’t be because Romans 8:28 excludes the fourth category because this is talking about those who love God, those who are the called according to His purpose, but the first three can all be involved. In order to manage those thoughts, you have to subdue them with the Word of God. Here are three rationales that at least begin to give an order to what would appear to be just a chaotic meaningless shocking unpredicted mess that’s happened. And it may not be a total chaos because we have these rules, these are principles that operate.
Then we have a stranger set of cases, we have five and we went through these back when we went through the fall, I’m just repeating them. There are five reasons why suffering can come into our lives, maybe more, this is not an exclusive list. One reason for suffering coming into a life is a wake-up call evangelistically. I’ll bet there are some here tonight that came to know Jesus Christ because of some wake-up call - something went wrong, something got your attention. So there can be an evangelical wake-up call. An example of that is Acts 16 with the jailor, he got a wake-up call and apparently he was the kind of guy that the only way God could get his attention was hit him over the head with a 2×4. So in that case that was an evangelistic wake-up call. This man was in danger of losing his life because of the prisoners escaping from his jail. That’s one reason. It’s undeserved in the sense that God’s being very gracious to allow it to happen, to call us to Himself. That’s what we call the evangelistic wake-up call, and that’s one reason why something can happen. Again, thinking of say a sailor on the U. S. S. Cole, what would be one purpose for him maybe having his leg amputated, getting pulled out and going to the hospital and never being able to walk on that leg again. Maybe it was because God said hey, are you looking up or are you looking down. That’s a pretty cruel way of getting his attention. Well maybe that’s the only thing that would get his attention. We don’t know and we’re not saying this happens to everybody. All I’m saying is that when we analyze suffering you have to think of at least nine different ways, maybe you can think of some more but there are at least nine in the Scripture.
A second one, and this is a good one, this applies so often to each of us, so turn to Psalm 119:71. We’re going through the faith-rest drill and asking ourselves, “Why is this true for me, in my situation? I’ve got to think.” The Christian life is not some drugged zombaic existence. We’re going to get into the filling of the Holy Spirit later on, it says “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess,” you could say today what are you smoking, what are you taking? Whatever it is it’s always some form of anesthesia if you think about it. Every drug, every undue use of alcohol, all of that ultimately is an anesthetization against the pain of life and it’s an admission that we can’t cope. It’s an admission that we’re not managing pain, and we live in a fallen world, and so we’re going to cop out and tune out as creatures made in God’s image and go the animal route of anesthetizing our brains, frying them probably so that it creates permanent brain damage for the rest of our life.
The Bible says there are reasons for this and we have to be alert to those reasons. Psalm 119:71 is a classic. “It is good for me that I was afflicted,” see, that was the good there, it worked together for good. “It is good for me that I was afflicted,” why? “That I may learn Thy statutes.” That’s an excellent memory verse, Psalm 119:71, “It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes.” In other words, I don’t learn them any other way. It’s the hard way but reason number two is it’s a nudging, I call that the nudging, the nudging to growth. Psalm 119:71, we could spend a lot of time on that but we don’t’ have time because this is just a review drill.
Another reason is 1 Timothy 1:16 which says, we have a pattern for those who look on our lives who are unbelievers, and it acts as a witness to neighbors and friends and acquaintances with our live who are unbelievers. That’s another reason why this—whatever it is—can “work together for good to them that love God and them who are the called according to His purpose.” Part of a ministry of witnessing, different from reason, in reason one it’s the person that’s suffering, in reason three it’s for an onlooker to the person that’s suffering. So reason number three is a witness to unbeliever.
2 Corinthians 1:4 is the fourth reason that we can comfort others with the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted. And that’s the idea of being able to minister to other believers out of what you have learned in a suffering situation—that you can pass on the truth, and it’s real because you’ve gone through it, you’ve walked down that hallway and you can share that with someone else. Whether they accept it or not is another story, but the point is that there is a purpose in this.
The most mysterious of all, Ephesians 3:10, a fifth reason we may be suffering has absolutely nothing to do with us, it has absolutely nothing to do with onlookers, it has nothing to do whatsoever with other believers, it has to do with unseen principalities and powers that are watching.
Think about these when you go through a faith-rest drill with something like Romans 8:28. Here are nine different reasons, nine different things, actually nine minus one, eight that you can think about. Does this situation work together for good? Well gee, I never thought about Mary, maybe I’m getting clobbered because she’s going to learn something from this. What this does, it opens up your mind to the possibilities of what God can be doing in this situation. And it becomes easier now to believe Romans 8:28. The more you look at this you’ll see, those of you who have been Christians for some time probably have already concluded, have you ever noticed when God does one thing He does a hundred other things at the same time. We have a hard time doing more than two or three things at the same time. But it’s interesting if you look back at different events in your life or different situations you know about and you watch how the Spirit has worked you’ll see that He works multiply in a very complex fashion.
Based on my experience years ago as a pastor was that …, and you get this flack all this time in Christian preaching courses and stuff, well you can’t go verse by verse, nonsense! The Scriptures were written verse by verse and of course you can go verse by verse, that’s what the Holy Spirit did. Well it might not meet the needs of the congregation if you do that. Yes it will, the most amazing thing is if you teach the Word of God verse by verse for some strange reason the sanctification of the people in that local church get synced up somehow with the Scriptures. One Christmas, Carol and I laugh about it, I was going through Deuteronomy, and I was bound and determined I was going verse by verse and it got into Christmas and I was on the latrines in Genesis 20 something, the public health laws and I wondered how the heck am I going to get a Christmas message out of latrines. But the point was that as I was faithful to go through the text, I would have people come up and say you know, I don’t know who told you about my problem but … an then they’d go on to narrate how that passage somehow fit their situation. I didn’t know what their situation was, I just did the passage. That’s the point of going through the Scripture. The Spirit wrote it, the Spirit is in charge, the Spirit controls history, it all fits together so just do it.
So we’ve gone through again a repetition of the faith-rest drill, the three points, grab a verse, work with the verse until step three you can relax in faith and trust Him.
I want to go to about three verses before we get to the Old Testament imagery on the session. One of these verses is found in Hebrews 4, we want to look at how the New Testament authors describe the ascension and session. We’re studying event and it’s one that isn’t often mentioned; I have yet to hear a sermon on the ascension and session of Christ. Remember this has several parts to it. First the Lord Jesus Christ went to the mount of the ascension. Jerusalem and the Temple is over here, He walked down the Kidron Valley, you walk around the road, Bethany is over on the other side of this hill, and it’s that hill from which the Lord Jesus Christ ascended, His disciples watching it, all three Gospels writers mention it, they’re watching, watching, watching for some minutes, we don’t know how long they were watching, whether it was three minutes, five minutes, two angels appeared after the Lord Jesus Christ was taken up in a cloud, and it’s passive voice in the original text, meaning that He was taken, meaning that a cloud sort of enveloped Him, and then He disappeared. And they’re standing there with their mouths open and two angels say hey guys, He’s going to come back the same way.
That little remark by those angels is very important in the interpretation of this whole thing. That means that Pentecost is not the Second Advent of Jesus Christ, because what did the angels say? He went into a cloud. Was Jesus in His body then? Yes, He was; resurrection body, physically, He was physically ascending from the mountain. He physically left the top of the hill, He ascended. The angels, both of them insist to the apostles, that He’s going to descend the same way He ascended. That being the case we now know … I mention this because liberals in the early 20s kept arguing that the real meaning of Jesus coming again was the ascending of the Holy Spirit, and Pentecost was the fulfillment of the Second Advent. Some people even in the evangelical camp that seem to border on this same thing, except instead of making Pentecost the fulfillment of the Second Advent of Christ they’re trying to make the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 the fulfillment. There’s a whole group of evangelicals that got on the bandwagon, AD 70, that’s the fulfillment of the Second Advent of Christ. Really? Did Jesus come back in AD 70 like He ascended? I don’t think so; there are no reports of that. Does anybody have any historical report that Jesus came back? There’s not one report, so how does AD 70 fulfill the Second Advent of Christ.
We want to be careful to watch the text. We’re studying the ascension up to this point, we don’t know if that’s 500 feet, 1,000 feet or how far it was, but whatever it was there was a finite interval, both in time and space, and Jesus disappeared. At that point all the resurrection appearances of Christ stopped. And from that point on every other time you see Jesus appear to anybody it’s always appearing to them from heaven. He never walks around anymore, He never appears in rooms anymore, He never reaches out and says touch Me, feel that I am not a spirit, I have flesh and bones. None of that any more. Paul, on the Damascus road, sees Him as a great light. Stephen, while he’s being stoned He opens his eyes, etc.
This is the ascension. The ascension was physically watched. What next happens no man has seen other than in a vision form, and that is what happened after Jesus ascended 500 feet, 800 feet, or however high it was off that mountain, what happened then? He disappeared, He’s not empirically observable, but the Bible goes on to add a whole new picture called the session. This session is not reported as an eyewitness event. The apostles are not saying I saw Jesus sit at the Father’s right hand. What they’re doing is they’re using Old Testament images, but in order to go from the ascension to the session, the Bible in at least three places insists that something strange went on between the time of the end of the ascension and the time of the session and the seating at the Father’s right hand.
In Hebrews 4:14, “Since then we have a great high priest,” and I ask you to observe something in that verse, “who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” Then he goes on with that wonderful encouragement to prayer in verse 16. Verse 15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace,” because we have a priest who knows everything about us, all our warts, all our problems, and He accepts us. In verse 14 what is strange about that verse? Look carefully. See if you don’t notice something about that observation about what happened between the time that Jesus left the hill, and the time that He sat down at the Father’s right hand.
[someone answers] Exactly, and that’s an interesting observation. He’s passing through multiple heavens, and Bible scholars over the years have interpreted that to mean it wasn’t just the atmosphere, the physical atmosphere of planet earth, it included that, but in the ancient world, if you look at Paul’s writings and some of the first century writings they would refer to things like the second heaven, and the third heaven. It’s kind of greasy in one sense because you kind of got to get the meaning from the usage, but it seems that they thought of the first heaven as the heavens that we can see, the heavens that are the weather area, the clouds. And the second one was the starry heaven, where the sun and the moon were. That’s the second heaven. The question is, “What’s the third heaven?” The third heaven is pictured as Paul …, remember, he says I don’t know whether I went to the third heaven or not, apparently that’s what they meant by wherever this place is that God’s presence and His throne is.
What am I driving at? I’m driving at a geometry problem, and this is a challenge. Here’s a case where God’s incomprehensibility plays a role, because I don’t know whether it’s happened to you yet, but you always sometime will run across some skeptic that will sit there and laugh at you and say ha-ha, people in the northern hemisphere look up and pray to God, people in the southern hemisphere look up and pray to God, and they’re both looking in opposite directions, so how can they look at the same point? We don’t know how they can look at the same point. We do know that there’s a geometry that’s implied by this. What do I mean a geometry that’s implied by this?
The geometry that most of us learned in school was Euclid’s geometry, and it was constructed, it had axioms, and you have to prove theorems, etc. I don’t even know if they teach geometry any more it probably got pushed out of the curriculum by all of the other urgent life-changing courses. In Euclidean geometry there were a set of axioms. One of the axioms was this one: if you have a line, and you have a point not on the line, how many parallel lines can you draw through the point, and Euclid said one because the axiom is supposedly intuitively obvious. Well, it was intuitively obvious up until the 19th century when some mathematicians got to saying wait a minute, how do we know that there’s only one parallel line that can be drawn through that point? They got to thinking, well you know, there’s no way to check that because we can’t go out far enough to see. And if you want to look at it, look at the globe, if you have a globe at home and you can see on the globe because of spherical geometry problems, it’s not true, Euclid doesn’t work there.
In non-Euclidean geometry, there’s one geometry that says there are two or more lines that can be drawn through there that turn out to be parallel. Another geometry says there are no lines that you can draw through the point. And both of these can be completely and rigorously proved. So the problem is you can build all kinds of geometries and prove that they have internal consistency, theorem A follows from theorem B, etc. etc. etc., all logically consistent. But it depends on what axioms you feed in at the beginning.
And what may be is that if this is the earth, and you have someone here praying and someone here praying, that in effect our line of sight is bent, so that no matter where you are, if you could look infinitely far, all lines would converge on the throne of God. There’s some sort of weird geometry that goes on here because we know scripturally that whenever God appears people are looking up. He doesn’t say go pray to the earth, He says look to Me, look up. So this is just another little thing about don’t laugh at Scripture prematurely and don’t buy into people that are skeptic. It just means that the universe isn’t Euclidean, so tell me some more. Try that one and see what happens.
Ephesians 1:20-21 is another section of Scripture. Let’s observe this text, “which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead,” there’s resurrection, by the way, now that we’ve studied the cross of Christ and the resurrection, and now we’re studying the ascension and session, do you see how slowly you need to read the New Testament text. You can’t speed read this stuff, there is so much packed in every one of these verses. Paul, in verse 20 spins through this stuff at forty miles an hour. Talk about a guy that packed his teaching. After you listen to Paul I can’t imagine not having to listen to this guy four or five times without a Bible, this wasn’t Scripture when he wrote this. You’re sitting there and if you were literate and had a very expensive parchment you might be able to take shorthand, you didn’t have any tape recorder and this guy spins off this stuff to you. No wonder it takes the church centuries to regurgitate and think about well what did the guy say. This is thick stuff. He says the Father raised the Son “from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand” some place, called “the heavenlies” or the spiritual area.
Verse 21 qualifies what those “heavenlies” are, so here we go again, this strange area. In verse 20 when it says “He raised Him from the dead” are we talking about Jesus deity or His humanity? His humanity, we’re talking about a physical body. What’s the implication then about location? It has to be located somewhere. Jesus’ body has to be located at some point; it’s not an infinitely big body. Jesus may have been less than six feet tall, that’s all we’re talking about here, a body that may be 5’11”, and it’s located some place and it’s still 5’11”, it’s not 5,000 feet, it’s still the same body, resurrection body, located somewhere.
That’s the problem, we can’t see where it’s located, but Paul describes the scene, he says it’s “at His right hand,” so wherever this is, it’s in the very throne room of God, the place surrounded by the rainbow, signature for the Noahic Covenant, He’s at the Father’s right hand, verse 21, “far above,” wherever this place is, notice its locus, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.” Isn’t that pretty encompassing? What is that saying? It’s saying that above all powers and principalities and angels and everything, about all the creation Jesus Christ is now in the high ground.
In the military one of the objectives always in a battle is to take the high ground. This is why there was such trauma when I was going to college, and I never will forget the evening when Sputnik went up. The funny part was that very evening the head of NASA was going to come, we had all the student body at MIT in the auditorium and this guy was supposed to speak on America’s space program. If you’re old enough to remember, you remember that we had some very bad failures because we had this thing, the Viking rocket, etc. and we had it on the pad in Florida and the thing got off the pad and blew up. I mean, America’s space program was a real problem, and all of a sudden bam, here comes Sputnik, which by the way was observed first at Aberdeen Proving Ground about 500 feet from my building, so now all of a sudden Russia has taken the high ground. There was such an air of depression when that happened, I can remember it, it was just like the day Kennedy got shot, it was that kind of an emotional upheaval that oh, man, communism has got the high ground. So we fought to get back into the space race.
The space race is a military race; it’s a race to who controls the high ground. And the same thing, you can go into the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, who controlled the high ground. It’s always that, again and again, the high ground. Keep that in mind it’s going to come up again and again in the session of Jesus Christ, and here in verse 21 it’s part of the high ground, that in this battle, and this is where the Church Age, I’m taking you through this slowly because I’m laying the foundation for this Church Age thing, this inter-advent between the First and Second Advent of Christ, the church and what the church is all about, and what we’re all about as individuals.
But we’ve got to get the cosmic setting, there’s something new that happens in verse 21 that was not true in the Old Testament. We have a human being at the Father’s right hand. We never had a human being at the throne of the universe, ever before! Jesus Christ, in His humanity, sits at the helm of the universe. What a cosmic picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. And “far above all rule and authority,” yes Satan is here, yes there are evil powers, yes Daniel saw them as the demons that control Persia and the demons that would control Greece and the great empires, the principalities and the powers of darkness. But the high ground has already been taken by a member, not of the angelic creation, but a member of the human race that was made lower than the angels.
Are you starting to see there was a revolutionary thing being proclaimed here? This is the first time in history that the creation under the angels is now above the angels, a transform has happened. Verse 21 goes so far as to say “not only in this age,” but for all time Jesus Christ is Lord. When we say Jesus Christ is Lord, by the way, here is a picture of what the Lordship is talking about; He out ranks every creature in the humanity of Jesus Christ.
Verse 22, “And He put all things in subjection under His feet,” now we’re going to see that’s not quite literally true yet, He put all things potentially under Jesus Christ’s feet. This gets into the rationale of why things happen in our lives in the Church Age, there’s something going on in the Church Age that’s related to the ascension and session. So that’s why we’re making a big deal with this. That’s Ephesians and it describes Jesus, after He gets there He’s in a place called “heavenlies.” And wherever that place is, geometrically in rank and privilege and power and authority it’s above all evil forces.
One of the things that you’ll notice happening to you if you follow through these Scriptures that we’re going through as we go through this event, I think what you’re going to find as you meditate on this, pray about it and think about it and read Scripture, is that you will find your vision is less of what the Spirit is doing in your own heart and you think more outwardly as to what is going on in the big scheme of things. We’ll come back to the Christian life but at this point relate to a cosmic thing going on here. This is greater than the solar system; this is greater than our galaxy. This is for the entire universe. Talk about thinking big, the most brilliant astrophysicist of our time hasn’t got anything compared to this concept. Big Bang, all the rest of the cosmological speculation that goes on funded by tax paying Christians so that they can get non-Christian theories made, that whole schema is peanuts compared to what the Bible is saying.
These guys haven’t even given a thought… out in Arizona in the desert we have these big radio telescopes waiting to hear if there’s life in the universe. Of course there’s life in the universe, they’re called angels and they’re not some weird creatures from the nth dimension because at the helm above them is Jesus Christ. It’s amazing the irony of a generation of people who have a technology never before in the history of the human race trying to find if there’s life in the universe, listening to antennas for peeps and signals of noise ratios that are in the right domain, when the Lord Jesus Christ sits, probably laughing at them, saying to the Father, gee, why don’t you send a peep down to them.
1 Peter 3:22, here’s Peter’s version. We’ve had the writer to Hebrews tell us, we’ve had Paul tell us, now Peter joins in. This was not some Pauline thing, this permeates the New Testament. He describes it, he says “who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” There’s that angelic warfare going on again and who has the high ground in that warfare? It is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Does this give you some inkling of what the first century Christians must have been thinking when they were faced with the dilemma, are you going to worship Kurios Kaisar, or are you going to be one of those stubborn right-wing .... [blank spot]… said He is Kurios, that’s the Greek word for Lord. When they said He was Lord all this rich vision was incorporated inside that word “Lord.” It wasn’t just He’s lord in the sense of a king. It was greater than that. The Lord Jesus Christ was LORD because He was above the stars.
Think how it hits a Roman. A Roman sits there and they had some idea of the stars, and Caesar, he was the great human ruler on earth, but still we don’t know for sure, Mount Olympus, Zeus and all the rest of these gods and goddesses and the destiny of Rome and gee, what’s going to happen. The Christians could go way above that, WAY above that. And they could say that ultimately it’s not Caesar or Zeus, I should say Jupiter for the Romans, ultimately it’s who is LORD, and the person who is LORD isn’t Caesar, he sits in Rome.
We worship the Kurios at the right hand of the Father of the universe, no comparison. Therefore we are not going to be intimidated by some ghoul squad that Caesar sends down here. See what it does, it shakes up loyalties. It put steel in backbones, to have this vision of the universe because nothing can stop it because if you are in union with the Lord Jesus Christ who is in the heavenlies, far above principalities and powers, ultimately they don’t have a say in this. Whatever they do is filtered down through bureaucracy, a Scriptural bureaucracy, but they don’t originate it. So the ferocity of Satan who seeks whom he may devour as a roaring lion is largely a façade. It’s a grand act, trying desperately to distract our attention from the risen, ascended and seated Lord Jesus Christ, trying to make us think that he has all this wonderful great power and we ought to be afraid, we ought to do what he wants, and we have to walk around fearful that something might happen and it’s all out of control, when our Savior, who died on the cross, is at the Father’s right hand. This sets up the basis for the Church Age.
We want to go to Ephesians 4 and spend the rest of our time looking at Ephesians 4 and Psalm 68; we’ll go back and forth between these two passages. In Ephesians 4 this is a passage on the church, here again is one of those neat things you read in Paul, he’s dealing with a real church, real people, real situation. And he’s trying to deal with the problem of lack of unity in the congregation. So he comes to what we would call a sociological problem, and instead of taking three courses in sociology at the University of Athens Paul invokes Old Testament doctrine, and the way he does that, in a most marvelous way, to introduce the issue of spiritual gifts. We’re not going to go into spiritual gifts right now, but in verse 7 he makes the point that every believer has a grace that if you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ your gifted, and that gift isn’t for you, that gift is for other people. You may have the gift of mercy, the gift of discernment, the gift of wisdom, the gift of teaching, but they are all service gifts. They’re where you sit in the overall body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:7 says “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift,” now he stops. He doesn’t go any further and for the next verse, verses 8, 9, 10, he stops and he deals with what is Christ’s gift. This is amazing. That’s why I say Paul must have been the kind of guy that you couldn’t discuss how you brush your teeth without getting involved into the Trinity. He gets into deep theology at every point. We’re talking about inter-personal relationships, how’s that one for a nice politically correct way of saying it. And instead of going the sociological psychological route, all of a sudden he pulls up this passage out of the Old Testament with some weird thing about Yahweh God and says now you understand about gifts. I do? What’s the gift? Let’s see if we can follow his logic.
Christ’s gift, and that gift is grace, given to a believer; he’s saying every believer has a grace. Verse 8, “Therefore, it says,” the Scripture says, “ ‘When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.  (Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above” there’s the phrase, remember we went to these previous three verses, Ephesians 1, Hebrews 4, 1 Peter 3, and we read the language, we’ve seen that language before, it’s stereotypical language that classifies this ascension and session thing. Is everybody convinced of that, you see that in the text, there’s a standard way of referring to this. So here it comes, “He ascended far above all the heavens,” there’s that plural heavens again, “that He might fill all things.)”
In verse 11 he goes right back to the church at Ephesus and he says “And” by the way “He gave some apostles, prophets” and these gifted people. When we read in our margin where that quote came from we read it came from Psalm 68 so now we’ve got to go back to Psalm 68 and get a drift of what is going on in Psalm 68. We’re not going to finish this tonight because it involves quite a bit of Old Testament imagery. Let’s just get a running head start into Psalm 68. If you have a study Bible you will have it keyed and you’ll see the key over in Ephesians, it keys you back to Psalm 68:18, so let’s read that verse. By the way, I want an observation, as we read that verse notice there’s something different in the way it reads from Ephesians. Paul changed something.
Psalm 68:18, “Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captive Thy captives, Thou hast received gifts among men, even among the rebellious also, that the LORD God may dwell there.” The first two clauses are what he quotes, “Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captive Thy captives, and You have received gifts among men.” Anybody see something different the way Paul quotes it. Check the last clause. What’s the verb in Psalm 68:18? It’s “receive.” But when he quotes it in Ephesians 4 what does he do? He changes the verb, “He gave gifts to men.” When you see that kind of thing going on, it’s what we call an apostolic commentary. What the apostles do is they cite an Old Testament text and they see truths in that that they want us to see, and so it’s almost like the paraphrase it.
So now we’ve got to figure out, before we figure out what’s going on with the “receive” and the “gift,” we’ve got to go to what’s the context of verse 18 in Psalm 68. The safe thing to do is look at the first verse. Who wrote the Psalm? It is “A Psalm of David.” Now that you know Psalm 68 is a Davidic Psalm, you go back to the frame of reference, the Bible frame of reference we’ve been talking about, and where does that place it in Old Testament history? Before, or after the exile? Before the exile. This is at what time? How would you characterize Israel’s history at the time of the rise and reign of David? Think about the events that have occurred historically. When was the nation born? In Egypt, the Exodus. What has the nation gone through? It went through the desert, picked up the Law, and from the time it picked up the Law until the time of David, has the nation really been settled? No, it’s been in upheaval and things have gone wrong, they’ve tried the conquest, they got it half done, the ark has gotten captured by the Philistines, all kinds of things have happened.
So in Psalm 68 if this is Davidic, and this is a time of David’s reign, what are we going to do when we say in verse 1, where he says, “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; and let those who hate Him flee before Him.  As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before the fir, so let the wicked perish before God.  But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; yes, let them rejoice with gladness.” And it goes on, in verse 6, “God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.” Verse 7, “O God, when Thou didst go forth before Thy people, When Thou didst march through the wilderness,” what event is that; let’s start linking it up with Old Testament history, right in here, conquest and settlement. So it says,  “The earth quaked; the heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God; Sinai itself quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel.  Thou didst shed abroad a plentiful rain, O God; Thou didst confirm Thine inheritance…” so on and so forth.
Verse 12, “Kings of armies flee, they flee, and she who remains at home will divide the spoil!” Verse 14, “When the Almighty scattered the kings there, it was snowing in Zalmon.” This is all during the conquest period.  “A mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan; a mountain of many peaks is the mountain of Bashan.  Why do you look with envy, O mountains with many peaks, at the mountain which God has desired for His abode? Surely, the LORD will dwell there forever.  The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; The Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness.” Then verse 18.
What you want to do is just think about Psalm 68 and try to put yourself in David’s position and while you do, on the bottom of page 8 in the notes are two verses, two sections I want you to look at, and after you look at those two verses I want you to compare what you find with Psalm 68:1, “Rise up O God.” If you want to take a pencil and just note this, on page 8 look at the verse reference, Numbers 10:35 and Joshua 3:3. Look at the language in those passages, then compare and see if you notice any parallels between those two passages of Scripture and what you see in Psalm 68:1. What this will do is it starts to shape what we’re going to do next week where we’re going to go into this business of what is going on that God has ascended, what’s David’s talking about here. Something has happened in David’s time, not in Sinai, not in the conquest and settlement period, but something went on in David’s time that he’s looking at and then he sees this and in vision he goes beyond what he sees to this great truth, and then Paul picks this up and applies it to Christ.
Something that you want to look at also as you do this is ask yourself, if you were a lowly believer in the Ephesian congregation and you had enough background in Judaism to know Psalm 68, what would you have thought when Paul applies that Psalm to Jesus Christ as Jew? You’re looking at Psalm 68, we’re going to work with that, and then all of a sudden here’s this apostle, he walks into the synagogue, and he quotes Psalm 68 and he applies it to Jesus Christ. What would happen to your thinking if you were there?