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Meditation 20*

Clothed with Power from on High

I am going to send you
what My Father has promised;
but stay in the city until
you have been clothed
with power from on high.
Luke 24:49

Jesus ascended into Heaven to inherit a Kingdom. The time that has elapsed since has not been one of rest but of struggle and war and victory. He has ascended the throne. The scepter of the Kingdom has been placed in His hand and He has magnificently ruled amid His enemies throughout these ages.

He did not rule dressed in robes fashioned after earthly rule. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, My servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now My kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). No, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ does not come with the ostentation, the external glitter or facade of an earthly kingdom. His conquests are within you; the character of His triumph, spiritual. He does not operate by force of sword or fire or stake, but by bending one’s consciousness and by transforming the heart.

Oh, yes, the Kingdom of Jesus also has an external face, of course. But that external form is derived from that other part of creation that we know as Heaven, not from the lower part called earth or “the world.” If only you could be transferred from here to the above and possessed organs capable of admiring the beauty and the radiance of what blazes in that unseen light. How amazed you would be at the heart-gripping impression of that heavenly external face of Jesus’ Kingdom. You would kneel in worshipful ecstasy.

The mightiest rulers on earth all have magnificent courts, where everything flaunts its splendour and displays its wealth of the most exquisite stonework.. However, all this magnificence and splendour is pale and lacklustre in contrast to the glory of Jesus sitting on His heavenly throne.

The Apostle John saw something of all this on the island of Patmos and promptly fell as if dead at Jesus’ feet because of this overwhelming light (Revelation 1:17). The Prophet Isaiah peeked at it when he witnessed the splendour of the Seraphs on the throne (Isaiah 6:1-5). The Apostle Paul caught a glimpse of it when he was breathing murderous threats on his Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-2). What kind of person, even if he felt only a shadow of such glory coming over him, would not be overcome by consternation and lose control over himself?

Don’t make a mistake. Up there in Heaven you will no longer find that Child “wrapped in cloths” (Luke 2:7, 12), or the Son of Man who has no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58), or the Man of Sorrows resembling a bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3; Matthew 12:20). To the contrary, there above He is the laurelled Conqueror, the King of glory, who has a crown of finest gold pressed on His head, the mighty Ruler who fills all the Heavens with His glory. And not only that. Outwardly, externally, that glory of Jesus’ Kingdom is not only up there above, but it also descends down to this earth and one day, at the appropriate moment, the illustrious day will dawn when all rulers on earth will experience the power and force of this King of glory in a visible external way on earth. Leave them to their mockery; let them laughingly declare that they refuse to worry about the Lord and His Anointed. He, who sits on the throne, knows that the Lord has anointed His King over Zion and that one day all those Pagans will become His inheritance.

Those who over-spiritualize things will see the truth. Their fanatic spiritualization will bring them in open conflict with the Holy Scriptures and lead them to deceive the people that things in heaven are already very different and that one day things on earth will also reveal themselves very differently. In this spiritual mysticism the external hardly counts so that everything withdraws itself into the internal. They forget that if everything were purely spiritual, there would be no need for anything physical: the physical incarnation, physical death, physical resurrection or even a visible sacrament. This puts us on the road to the antichrist, for, says the Apostle John, he is the antichrist who denies that Jesus came in the flesh (I John 2:22; 4:3; II John 1:7).

May the Church of God therefore free itself from this sinful one-sided imbalance and confess, as the Heidelberg Catechism does so gloriously, that there is but one comfort, one solace, one balm for soul and body, in death as well as in life. Let us also in Christ constantly have an appreciation for the full, rich and versatile glory; glory in the spirit, but also in the visible; your innermost, but also with your external face. All of this holds with the provision that this “external face” is for now only in Heaven, but destined to be revealed later here below in the resplendent regimen of the Anointed of the Lord.

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The life of God’s children is not to be one monotonous continuum, plodding and struggling from one day to the next, one generation dying off as the next emerges, as if we can expect nothing but to meaninglessly spin out the thread of our lives and, at the end, to be taken up into some spiritual vacuum. By no means. Our motto, our struggle, our enthusiasm must have a goal, a prospect or vista, a solid hope and a firm expectation.

Of course, we have to accept that the struggle may last long, even centuries perhaps, while in the meantime there must be much suffering of the saints before that great and illustrious day arrives. But no matter how excellent this suffering of the saints may be, it becomes unholy if it is separated from the glorious anticipation of Jesus’ Kingdom. It would also become unholy if we were to think that we are presently, after all these centuries, on a sort of stagnant plateau, and that perhaps many centuries later our King, the Anointed of the Lord, will arise from His slumber in order to establish His Kingdom on earth.

Israel’s Watchman never slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4)!

Now as well as throughout all these ages, it is one mighty work, one holy dynamic activity, one majestic continuous struggle, one restless pursuit towards that glorious goal. Put in other terms, it is a never ceasing victory, a steady triumph, a sure approach with certain steps day after day towards the intended goal. Not for one moment should we entertain the thought that the struggle of King Jesus for the further development of His Kingdom is ever suspended for even a minute. Our King never negotiates a truce with his enemy. Never does He pull back from the battlefield.

Restlessly He pits His power against that of His adversaries. That’s how it was when you were a child; so it is still today now that you are a mature adult; and so it will remain till your senior years. When you pass on to better regions, that struggle will continue over your grave. It will not end until He comes for whom all graves will unlock themselves. Thus all God’s children are steadily involved in a battle and, while battling, they are constantly on the way to an abiding triumph and lasting victory. All their struggle is merely one mighty preparation for that one great future day, when the clouds shall break and the Kingdom of our King descend to earth.

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Thus a child of God here on earth may never think that the Kingdom of God has actually already arrived and that all we have above in Heaven is a shelter and protection of this earthly kingdom. To the contrary, he must live and struggle in the steadfast and living realization that he is not in his own country but in the Kingdom of God. At best, he has been sent to a distant dependency in order to fight and struggle for the honour of his King, constantly remembering that the triumph does not belong to that far island or that lonely and forsaken dependency, but that it will be celebrated in the true realm of the King—in the Heavens above.

This should easily be understood, especially in countries with far-flung dependencies or colonies. Their citizens live in their own land along with their ruler, whether king, prime-minister or president. But far off somewhere, there are those dependencies, colonies or overseas possessions. Citizens of the metropolis go live and work in those distant places, not for themselves nor for that dependency; they go there to fulfill their national calling. Their orders and directions come from the metropolis; they send their tributes and profits back home. They live far away, but it is a life from and for the metropolis. Should the colony obtain its independence, the metropolis citizens will immediately return home. That is their country and that’s where they belong.

That’s how it is with the children of God on earth with respect to their King, who is in Heaven. The Kingdom is with Him. From Him come the orders. They do not live for themselves nor for this earth. Everything comes from above and returns there. The land, the Kingdom for which they strive and struggle, is not for them on earth but above in the Heavens. Jesus does not exist for the world, but all the world exists for Him. That’s why Pentecost follows on the heels of the Lord’s Ascension.

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He ascended to inherit a Kingdom, but He had hardly ascended the throne when an amazing miracle occurred through which He made His reign on earth invincible with one stroke and prepared for His assured triumph on that great and illustrious day. If He is the substantive and real King on the throne up there above and (1) His Church on earth must battle for Him and (2) He must be revealed there as the victorious King on earth, then there has to be community and commonality between this King and His redeemed here below. The battle for His Kingdom on earth and the triumph of that Kingdom in the Heavens cannot be a mere figment of the imagination. It cannot exist only in theory or amount to mere pondering or dreamed-up invention. It must be real; it must actually exist in power.

Now, that’s what it finally became through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That outpouring is not a mere enlargement or permutation in the world of spirits. No, it is a sudden invasive invasion into the human heart by the power from on high, of such a power that outrivals all other powers with irresistible force. Our King Himself said to His disciples before He ascended to His throne that they would be clothed “with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

Every battle is a struggle between opposing powers. Therefore, over against His honour and glory, the world combines all of her forces in order, if at all possible, to resist the victory of our King. Of course, our King has to counter that extremely great power of the world with an even stronger force.

As the world derives her power from her kingdom, so must our King derive His power and make it effective from His kingdom. For the world it is a matter of having her supporters and faithful empowered out of the depth, but for our King, those He redeemed and purchased are empowered from on high. His power thus came and comes from on high. From that realm “on high” emerged a real and effective power, a power that neither fights with a sword nor uses physical violence to restrain the spirits, but one that penetrates into the deepest pores of the human soul. From there it influences the innermost of his consciousness, from that consciousness his life, his muscles, and everything he accomplishes.

This is not a power from the outside to the inside, but the reverse, from the inside to the outside! It is for that reason that it is an irresistible and all-victorious power. After all, it is the power of the Holy Spirit, the One which the entire Church worships and Who, together with the Father and the Son, comprises the only and majestic God, Who is worthy to be praised throughout eternity!

Pentecost is thus the flowing of the power of the Lord of Lords into the world of human hearts in order to gain the victory and to rule first those hearts and, through the hearts, gradually the world. This is not a temporary sensation of higher power. No, the rule of King Jesus in that world of human hearts continues restlessly without ever ceasing. Ever since that great Pentecost day, that power of the Holy Spirit has never ever been lacking in either our human lives or in that of the Church of Christ.

That which was once poured out, stayed and shall stay; it is inseparably tied to the Lord’s Church. Even in times when the glow of the gold seemed obscured and people were under the delusion that the entire Church was destroyed, on hindsight it was clear that it never ceased its work, perhaps not above ground, but certainly at least underground. This is a forever advancing triumph of our King in the hearts of the children of mankind.

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Do remember: All this does not depend on massive crowds of people. The power and glory of our King would not diminish one bit, even if He had in this entire world rescued only one single human heart from death, turned him towards Him and won him for eternity as the gem of choice in His crown. The multiplication of restored hearts is, of course, glorious, but it remains multiplication. Jesus’ real glory lies in the essence of His victory and reign, not in the continuous increase of His subjects.

All human power on earth combined has constantly proved itself powerless to affect root change in the heart of even one single person that resisted it. All tyrannic and despotic violence, even in its most cruel format, proved completely helpless over against the tough resistance of even one single human will. It is only that unique “power from on high” dating from Pentecost, with which our King has succeeded for many centuries. That continues and will continue to turn even the most fanatic opponent into His bosom friend, turn the Sauls into Pauls (Acts 12:9), thistles into a myrtle trees (Isaiah 41:19, 55:13), eventually to establish for Himself a permanent and imperishable sign and established monument in human hearts.

The dynamic of “being clothed with power from on high” continues to operate till this day. The decisive question for our lives is one of two things. Whether the main direction of the labour of our souls and our struggles is in sync with that power and in line with the channel it follows or whether we fortify ourselves against God with power from the depth of our own hearts, obstructing the progress of the flow of the Spirit whether consciously or subconsciously. For whoever follows the flow of that river there is a Pentecost in that life. That life becomes one continuous pilgrimage from his Pentecost to his eternal Paradise. Whoever is not carried along by this flowing river or does not bow before our King, goes upstream against that power and will one day, as sure as the irresistibility of that power, be sucked under by this river.

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Ah, “being clothed with power from on high” has such deep meaning.

Negatively, the mark and sign that the King up there above has pointed His scepter to you and shown you His favour is not merely being “clothed from on high” or a purely emotional experience. To be sure, our feelings must not be allowed to petrify or be blunted. Neither may we despise the blessedness of an emotional life in the love of God. Nevertheless, though such an experience is indeed the effect of being so “clothed,” it is not that operation itself.

More positively, “being clothed with power” constitutes an escape from your spineless, tepid, mindless dullness. It does away with limp hands and languid knees, but puts power into those hands and energizes those knees. It once again animates the blood and creates a blessed glow in the arteries of our souls. Yes, clothed “with power!” There is no more the fearful shaking reed every time satan lurks around the corner or sin tempts you even before you are actually assailed. It is to be clothed with power to ward off, to resist, to battle and to overcome in the Name of your God.

If there is need to render help to someone, being clothed with power will prevent you from shirking your responsibility and thinking that others will jump into the fray, since your strength will accomplish nothing and you are helpless in your languor. No! You have been “clothed with power from on high” in order to step in and to generously give assistance, to lovingly offer support and to compassionately apply a dedicated heart.

“Clothed with power from on high” has as its goal for you to reach out beyond yourself in the Name of God in any number of situations. Where you used to keep quiet, now you can speak up. Where previously there was no prayer, now you lead in prayer. In short, “clothed with power from on high” means that the crippled now jump like deer and the dumb sing of the mercies of the God of Jacob. All of that is the operation of the Holy Spirit, who therefore is our soul-refreshing Comforter, for He comes into our hearts as a messenger from the King and pours our hearts full with fresh vigour and oil till they overflow.

In all of this the wonderful mystery is that He does two seemingly opposite things simultaneously. He girds the weak with glorious power, while at the same time turning this new powerful hero into a small child before his Lord and King.

Abba, our Father who is in Heaven!

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