If I be Lifted Up
"If I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." (John 12:32)
The triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matt.21:1‑9) came not long after the raising of Lazarus at Bethany. It was no wonder a great crowd followed him especially as the Passover was just 5 days away thus swelling the crowds. Without fail year after year this ordinance of Jehovah was to be kept as a reminder of deliverance and salvation under the protection of the blood. How the people acknowledged Jesus as he rode upon the colt of an ass, an incident unusual in itself by our Lord’s authority over nature, unbroken and still with its mother. It was perhaps no surprise to the disciples, hadn’t the Lord stilled the angry sea and wind, and commanded the first fish that was caught to have a coin (tribute money) in its mouth? (Matt.17:24‑27)
Old Testament Prophecy
One wonders how many if any would have been aware of the Zechariah prophecy (Zech.9:9) as the crowd spread their garments and palm branches before Jesus as he rode by:‑"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass." The inhabitants of Jerusalem ("Zion’s Daughter") indeed all of Israel were promised a king and the people lived in expectation. But was their King the kind that Zechariah and Isaiah sees? Behold "Thy king", who comes to her–to Zion, for the good of the people of Jerusalem, to Israel he is just, and righteous, without sin and not only so, but as Isaiah (32:1) describes "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness". He comes having "salvation"—a Saviour King—Deliverer and Redeemer.
Therefore, there was real cause for rejoicing "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest" (Matt.21:9). Hosanna meaning ‘save us, bestow blessing’. Had the people not acknowledged him, and had they listened to the Pharisees who complained and not done so the very stones would have shouted out in celebration so that the prophecy be fulfilled, in every jot and tittle.
Coming from the Mount of Olives approaching the city from the East, our Lord it is said entered by way of the ‘sheep gate’, that which sheep and goats came in for sacrifice and market. How fitting this seems. However, as the people rejoiced and spread palm fronds the Prince of Peace knew his triumph would be short‑lived.
Shutting up the Kingdom
Indeed, Jesus wept for the glorious city, and for the people misled by those who should have taught them in the ways of God, the Scribes and Pharisees. There were seven woes indicted upon the Pharisees (Matt.23) by our Lord. They had been so quick to criticize him for sitting down with publicans and sinners, and felt they had no need of a spiritual physician themselves. All too often the words of Jesus are treated as just historical, the first of the woes is a case in question "woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" (v.13)
John (12:42‑43) also comments on the adverse influence of the Pharisees. "among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God".
Which phase of the kingdom is this? And can some still enter in? Jesus says, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." (Luke 16:16) And we can see the connection with the apostle John’s testimony of our Saviour "as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name". (John 1:12) "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24)
Recent shutting up
In recent times there has been a doctrine which has closed the door i.e. "shut up the Kingdom of heaven against (to) men (many)" (Matt.23:13) howbeit perhaps not in the harsh manner of the Pharisees. Nevertheless, we are assured that it is impossible to "shut up the kingdom of heaven", but like the Pharisees it is possible to hinder some who would believe and press to enter the kingdom. No outside agency would have prevented the apostle Paul from "pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
There is only one hope of the Gospel and even if an angel from heaven preach any other gospel let him be anathema. (Gal.1:8) Strong words. However, the Adversary may here have tried to prevent the ‘promised seed’, the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s purpose to separate to Himself a people for His name. It shall not fail for they are the very inheritance of God Himself.
Acts and residue of men
Acts 15:17 uses the phrase the "residue of men". This was the occasion that a Christian council was convened at Jerusalem to discuss certain important matters, that at first it seemed would split the church, but was wonderfully and harmoniously resolved and with good spirit.
It is to this occasion that the apostle Paul refers to in Galatians 2: when he says he went with Barnabas and Titus, and says "I went up by revelation" (v.2) i.e. The Lord sent him with special revelations to communicate His will concerning Jew and Gentile. The Holy Spirit speaking through Paul and Barnabas so convinces the assembly that James was compelled to respond and makes one think that all these things were already there in scripture, ready to be brought out in the Lord’s due time (Amos 9:11‑15; Acts 15:14‑18)
What a powerful statement this is and for the first time a body of people are enlightened to the purpose of God respecting the nations. And the key expression "after this" (v.16) i.e. after the work and the purpose of the Gospel age is completed and the fulness of the Gentiles come in, then and only then Israel returns to favour again.
It’s not only Israel’s ‘residue’ who have missed the call of this age, but all the Gentiles will have opportunity to call and seek after the Lord, and so receive of His wondrous grace. (Isa.2:3) Acts 3:19‑21 talks of a time of "refreshing" from the presence of the Lord. "And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."
Restitution for all
Restitution is not a new message; it is one that runs through from Genesis to Revelation as does the efficacy of the Red thread, both of which have their glorious fulfilment in Christ Jesus our Lord. Our risen Lord alone was worthy to receive the Revelation from God. The only one worthy to open the book and to break the seven seals. i.e. within which was hid the mystery of the will of God. That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are in earth, even in him. (Eph.1:10)
When might this be? It is hidden but it will be as is preordained of God. So much of the unsearchable riches of Christ our Lord has been made known to those obedient to him. Our Lord’s epistle is his Epistle to you and to me; his service to the things which must shortly come to pass, because it is only in recent times things pertaining to the end times have been revealed. Having received it from the Lord Jesus the angel revealed the things therein to John.
From the great crowd prophesied, rejoicing at the coming of Messiah and spreading palms before the Lord Jesus, one is drawn to another wonderful prophecy, and occasion, similar in that this great crowd also have palms in their hands. (Rev.7:9‑17) These things are an enlargement of those things revealed by the Holy Spirit at the council at Jerusalem. The apostle John after describing the sealed ones, the true ‘Israel of God’ and the specific number of 144,000 also mentioned in Rev.14:3 that he seals and is thus able to record the ‘seed of the promise’ since Pentecost. "Redeemed from among men, firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb." (v.4) The work for the sealing of God’s servants is finished and another work follows it. After this John says he sees a great crowd of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues which no man could number! The multitude are clothed in white robes and carry palm branches in their hands; tokens of triumph for they have every cause for thanksgiving and rejoicing.
First fruits & after fruits
The same James the brother of Jesus who spoke for the assembly at the council in his epistle (1:18) when speaking of God, the Father "of His own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." If there are first fruits, there must be as it were ‘after‑fruits’. Indeed, these after fruits are dependent upon the first fruits being harvested not forgetting the ancient and faithful worthies of Hebrews 11. Those "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (v.40)
Feast of Tabernacles
The scene reminds one of the Feast of Tabernacles, commemorating God’s care and the gratitude of God’s people for the harvest each year. For seven days the feast lasted, during which time the people took to living in booths (tents), which were made of palm branches and olive and myrtle. All these natural things were for all; whether high born or not, as a reminder how they were dependent on the Lord when he brought them out of Egypt, when they lived in tents.
The 8th day was very special, a ‘holy convocation’.19 times we see this word in the Pentateuch, and it is always called ‘holy’—a holy assembly or holy calling together—because it was the feast of the Lord. The feast appears so typical of the millennium when all enter into full blessing and that great 8th day a communion of the earth and heaven itself! Zech.14:16 reads "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles." One can hardly imagine so many billions actually there, but every nation represented, restored to harmony which was broken in Eden. The human race is a Residue.
John in his vision sees the New Jerusalem–and hears also a great voice out of heaven. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." (Rev.21:3)
In Rev.20:12 it says, "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." Also, with the same thought in mind in Matt.25:31‑32 and similar language "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats."
Vision in Isaiah
This vision is beautifully expressed by Isa.49:9‑12: "They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim." The remotest part perhaps China.
From the earliest it was God’s wish and design to create man and that His tabernacle might be with them. In the garden God communed with Adam until such time as sin separated that ultimate relationship. But God had a way and a purpose to bring up his creation out of the miry pit, by the intervention and sacrifice of His only begotten Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
Work committed to the Lord Jesus Christ
The work of Restoration is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ because God has ordained it in that "he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:31) Especially at this time we are reminded of the authority vested in the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul said, "This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (no more purification for sin) from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool." (Heb.10:12‑13)
2,000 years ago, this work began at our Lord’s resurrection. Since that time, he has been winning the hearts and minds of people indeed who look upon Jesus as Saviour, friend and brother, having sat down because of the one offering for sin, the work of subduing his enemies began. All were enemies and under sentence because there were "none righteous, no, not one"! (Rom.3:10) "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom.5:6) Yes, at one time we were without Christ aliens with no hope and without God in the world. (Eph.2:12)
Even the Jews who were never without Christ, Messiah of whom all the prophets spoke, they had all the oracles of God. They became enemies by their disloyalty as constant law breakers and even put to death their king, the Prince of Peace. "Yet now hath he reconciled"! (Col.1:21) Both Jew and Gentile. And "the time is come that judgement must begin at the house of God" (1 Pet.4:17). While our Lord remains seated on the right hand of the Father "waiting" for his enemies to be his footstool, the work for his people, his church, has been going on—that silent chiselling of each member; as advocate and Great Shepherd leading his brethren and helping them to "finish their course and keep the faith" that they might also gain the victory.
There is yet more work to do, in blessing the nations. Remember his promise "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me". This is the work of a victorious and faithful Lamb of God, who came to save even those who spitefully used him. John 3:16 tells us that this was the great and marvellous love of God for His creation. So that the lifting up of the Son on the cross for all, made possible the fulfilment of the promise concerning the blessing of every nation.
Similarly the apostle Peter, teaching in the name of Jesus of the resurrection, said "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted (i.e. lifted up – same word) with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." Acts 5:30‑31
Many still gaze upon the ‘lifted up’ Saviour and see the way of life, and are cured of the guilt of sin and its sting, and endeavour to "run the race that is set before them." So then all who accept the message of the Gospel of grace, are and should be very eager to enter the kingdom.