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The Ascension of Messiah to Glory
Lift up your head, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.
T he institutions of the Levitical law were a “shadow” or “sketch” of good things to come. They exhibited a faint and general outline of the mediation and glory of MESSIAH. They may be compared to the delicate engravings on a seal, the beauty and proportions of which cannot be plainly discerned without the assistance of a magnifying glass. The Gospel answers to such a glass. Beheld through this medium, the miniature delineations of the law, which to the eye of unassisted un-humbled reason, appear confused and insignificant; display a precision of arrangement in the parts, and an importance of design in the whole, worthy the wisdom of their great Author.
From the similarity of the subject of this 24 th Psalm and the 68 th , it is at least probable that they were both composed upon the same occasion —the removal of the Ark of the Lord from its last stationary residence, to its fixed abode in Zion, when the king, the priests, the singers and the harpers all assisted in the procession; attended by a great concourse of the people. The language of the latter part of the Psalm is evidently alternate. And we may conceive that when the Ark approached the Tabernacle, the priests and Levites who accompanied it demanded admittance for it in these words, Lift up you heads, O ye gates, etc., and were answered by those who were waiting within to receive it, Who is the King of glory? To which question the proper reply is made, The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory.
This, if taken according to the letter of history, was a grand and solemn transaction. But at the same time it was a type [prophetic symbol] of an event unspeakably more glorious. They who know that the Scriptures of the Old Testament testify of Christ, that it is He of whom Moses in the Law, David in the Psalms, and all the succeeding prophets wrote, will I think, agree in considering this passage as referring to His ascension, in the nature in which He suffered, into the true holy place in the heavens, as the representative and High Priest of His people; when, after having by His own self purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Then having spoiled principalities and powers, He triumphed over them openly, though not in the view of mortal eyes. He lifted up His hands, and blessed His apostles, and while in this attitude He was parted from them (Luke 24:51) . He ascended gently and gradually, and they, admiring and adoring, beheld Him with fixed attention, till a cloud concealed them from their sight (Acts 1:9) . The pomp and triumph of His ascension were displayed in the invisible world. But this description, accommodated to our apprehensions, is given to assist the faith of His people; that their hearts may be comforted, their meditations enlarged, and that in the exercise of grateful love, they may follow Him in their thoughts, ascend with Him into the heavenly places, and rejoice in His glory.
We conceive of Him, therefore, from this sublime passage, as ascending to His Father and our Father; to His God and our God; accompanied with a train of worshipping angels, who demand admittance for MESSIAH the Saviour and friend of sinners, as the King of glory. The question is asked, who is He that claims this honour? An answer is given, asserting His character, His victories, and the justice of His claims — The LORD of Hosts, the LORD strong in battle, He is the King of glory!
The principal points which offer to our consideration, are,
I. His title, the LORD of Hosts
II. His victories, implied in the expression The LORD strong and mighty in battle.
III. His mediatorial title, the King of glory.
IV. His authoritative entrance into the holy place
MESSIAH , who humbled Himself to the death of the cross, is the LORD of Hosts. He is so, if the Scripture be true; I attempt no other proof. This is a point not referred to in the discussion of our fallen reason, but proposed by the authority of God in His Word, as the foundation of our faith and hope. He is the husband of the Church; and the husband of the Church is the LORD of Hosts (Isaiah 54:5) It was the LORD of Hosts whom Isaiah saw seated upon a throne, His train filling the temple (Isaiah 6:1) . The vision filled him with astonishment, and he cried out, Woe is me, I am undone; for mine eyes have seen the LORD of Hosts. But the Apostle John assures us, that when Isaiah said these things he saw His glory and spake of Him (John 12:41) . This is the title of God in the Old Testament; or, as some choose to speak, of the Supreme Being. And it is ascribed to MESSIAH in many places. Therefore if He were not the LORD of Hosts, the Scripture would be chargeable with authorizing, yea, with enjoining idolatry. But He is the true God and eternal life (I John 5:20) : and they who give Him the true honour due to His name, have everything to hope for, and nothing to fear.
He is the LORD, strong and mighty in battle. It was in His human nature that by Himself He engaged with His enemies and ours, and the victory was the LORD’s. Therefore, tho’ He trod the winepress alone , and of the people there was none with Him (Isaiah 63:3) , His own arm brought Him salvation. He is the Conqueror of Satan, sin, and death. We were under the domination of these, therefore for our sakes He engaged in conflict with their united force. He fought, He bled, He died; but in dying He conquered. The strength of sin is the law. He subdued this strength by obeying the precepts of the Law, and by sustaining the penalty due to our transgressions. He defeated death, and disarmed it of its sting. He destroyed him that had the power of death, Satan. He shook, He overturned the dominions of his kingdom, broke open the prison-doors, released his prisoners, delivered the prey out of the hand of the mighty, and having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it (Colossians 2:15) that is, His cross. The Apostle alludes to the manner of a Roman triumph, in which the conqueror was drawn in a chariot of state, attended by his officers and soldiers; the principal prisoners followed in chains, and all the treasures and trophies, gained from the vanquished enemy, were displayed to adorn the procession. Thus MESSIAH subdued the strength and policy of the powers of darkness, in the hour of His lowest humiliation, when He hung and expired upon the cross; and, when He ascended on high He triumphed over them, gloriously leading captivity captive (Psalm, 68:18) . Satan, though still an enemy to His Church and Cause, is despoiled of his dominion; his power is only permissive, and in his fiercest assaults, he is limited by bounds which he cannot pass; by a chain which he cannot break. And all his attempts are controlled and overruled, to the furtherance of the Cause he would suppress, and to the good of the persons whom he would worry and destroy. They are made acquainted with his devices, furnished with armour sufficient to repel him; and they fight under encouragement of a sure promise, that the God of peace will shortly and finally bruise Satan under their feet. As MESSIAH their King has conquered for them, so they in due time shall be made more than conquerors, by faith in His blood, and by the word of His testimony.
The title of ‘ King of glory,’ I understand as being peculiarly applicable to Him in the character of Mediator. The glory of His divine nature is essential to Him. But in consequence of His obedience unto death, He obtained in the human nature, a name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9). He suffered as a man, yea, as a malefactor; there was no appearance of glory in that form of a servant which He assumed for our sakes. Though without sin, He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, subject to poverty, disgrace, and death; but the same man who was crucified, dead, and buried, received glory and authority at His resurrection, and was highly exalted to the administration of all dominion and government. Perhaps the world glory is not easily defined. We conceive it as expressing brightness and splendour. The glory of Solomon was the combined effect of his wisdom, power, and riches; which distinguished him, from other men, in his character, conduct, and appearance. The glory of the sun, is its effulgence and influence. The word glory, when applied to the blessed God, seems to denote that manifestation of Himself by which His intelligent creatures are capable of knowing Him; for in Himself, He is infinite, inaccessible, and incomprehensible, and dwells in that light which no man, which no creature, can approach unto (I Timothy 6:16) . Of this manifestation there are various degrees. —His glory shines in the creation. Not only do the heavens declare it by their immensity (Psalm 19:1) , and furnish us with an idea of His unspeakable greatness, who has sent forth ten thousand worlds to tell us, that He resides above them all; but the smallest of His works, the grass and flowers of the field, the insects which creep upon the ground (Psalm 104:24, 25) , bear an impression of His wisdom and goodness, an inimitable criterion of His wonder-working hand, which so far displays His glory. —To an attentive and discerning mind, His glory shines in His Providence; in His preserving the world which He has made; in supplying the various wants of His creatures, and particularly in His moral government of mankind. Here, besides His wisdom, power, and general goodness, we discover some traces of His character as the righteous Judge of the earth. But to our limited capacities and views, this glory is obscured by many difficulties. Though righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne, yet clouds and darkness are round about Him (Psalm 97:2) . —By His holy Word, His revealed will, we are favoured with a still brighter display of His glory, in the perfections of holiness, justice, truth, and mercy, which fallen man is unable clearly to discover in His works of creation and providence. —But chiefly His Son is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His Person (Hebrews 1:3) . No one has seen God at any time, but the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father (John 1:1) , intimately acquainted with His counsels, He has declared Him. This was the great design of His Advent, to make God known to man: for it is life eternal to know the only true God, so He is only to be known in and by Jesus Christ, whom He has sent (John 17:3) , and who is the Way and the Door, and there is no entrance to the knowledge of God but by Him. In the Person and Work of MESSIAH , the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, the brightness and harmony of all His attributes, is transcendently revealed. In this sense He is the LORD, the King of glory. When we are enlightened by the Holy Spirit, to conceive of Him according to the testimony given of Him in the Scripture, we see the glory of God. Other discoveries of it are but scattered rays and emanations of light; but, in Jesus, the glory of God resides in its source and fulness, as light in the sun. He is therefore the King of glory.
He ascended, in the nature of man, as the acknowledged King of glory . The everlasting gates unfolded wide, and He entered into the holy place, not made with hands, there to appear in the presence of God for His people,
As their REPRESENTATIVE . The glory is properly His own, the benefit redounds to His people. Sin had excluded them from the Kingdom, but He claimed and took possession, in their name (Hebrews 6:20) . Hence He is styled their Forerunner, because by virtue of their relation to Him, and their interest in Him, they shall surely follow Him. This is the encouragement of Believers. He is the Head of His Body the Church; and though the Church, while in this world, is in a suffering perilous state, yet as the body of a man is not in danger of drowning, while his head is out of the water, so our Forerunner and Head being in heaven on their (our) behalf, He will assuredly draw all His living members to Himself. He has said, Because I live you shall live also (John 14:19) . And He has stipulated for them, that each in his appointed time, they shall be with Him where He is to behold His glory (John 17:24)
As their HIGH PRIEST and INTERCESSOR . He presents their persons and their prayers acceptable to God. He bears the iniquity of their holy things. With this encouragement, weak and unworthy as they are in themselves, and though their best services are polluted, they find a liberty of access; and because He ever lives, thus to make intercession for all who come to God by Him (Hebrews 7:25) , they know that He is able to save them to the uttermost.
Though the heavens must receive and contain the holy human nature, till the restitution of all things, He is not unmindful of them in their present circumstances. He is seated upon the Throne of universal dominion, and He exercises His authority and rule, with an especial view to their welfare. While He pleads for them on high, He is present with them below by the power of His Spirit. He comforts their hearts, enlivens their assembles, and manages their concerns. He is their Shepherd, who gives them food, controls their enemies, revives their fainting spirits, and restores their wanderings (Psalm 23) His ear is open to their prayers, His eye is upon them in every situation, and His arm stretched forth for their relief. Therefore, though persecuted, they are not forsaken; though cast down, they are not destroyed. And He has promised that He will not leave them, until He has done all that for them, which His Word has taught them to hope for; until He has made them victorious over all their enemies, and put the conqueror’s song in their mouths, and a crown of life upon their heads.
This High and Holy One, this King of glory, who is seated on the throne of heaven, dwells also in the humble and lowly spirit. He thus solemnly claims the throne of the heart of each of His people, which in a state of nature is usurped by self and Satan; and He is thus willingly acknowledged and admitted in the day of His power. Behold! He stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3:20) ; and because He is as yet unknown, He is for a while rejected. The bolts and bars of prejudice and unbelief withstand His entrance. But when He comes on a purpose of grace, He will take no denial. For a season He waits to be gracious. But He has an appointed hour, when He reveals His great name, and makes the soul sensible to who He is! Then the gates of brass and bars of iron are broken before Him. His greatness and His goodness, what He is in Himself, and what He has done and suffered for sinners, are motives which cannot be resisted when they are truly understood. Satan, who as the ‘strong one armed,’ long laboured to hinder Him from His rightful possession, is himself dispossessed. The soul laments its former obstinacy, throws down its arms, throws wide open its doors, and bids the King of glory welcome. Then old things pass away, and all things become new. Such was the change the poor man experienced, out of whom Jesus cast a legion of evil spirits. At first, if he could, he would have prevented His kind purpose; he was afraid of his Deliverer and said, I beseech Thee torment me not (Mark 5:7) . How wretched was his state then, miserable in himself, and a terror to others! But what a wonderful and happy alteration, when he sat quietly at his Saviour’s feet, clothed and in his right mind!
I close the subject with the Apostle’s inference, Seeing then that we have so great a High Priest, who is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession (Hebrews 4:14) . Let not those who know Him be ashamed of their attachment to Him. You will not repent in a dying hour, that you once thought too highly of Him, or devoted yourself with too much earnestness to His service. Nor yield to unbelief and fear. Though your enemies are many and mighty, and your trials great, greater is He that is with you. If the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the Lord strong and mighty in battle be for you, who can be against you, so as eventually to harm you? Continue instant in prayer, persevere in well-doing. Our ascended Lord will one day return; and then they who have lived for, and served and trusted Him here, shall appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4)
Others, if they can, must prepare to meet Him. But alas! How shall they stand before Him? Or whither shall they flee from Him whose presence fills heaven and earth? (Jeremiah 23:24) . Have they an arm like God? Or can they thunder with a voice like His? As yet He is proclaimed by the Gospel, as a Saviour, seated upon a throne of grace, stretching forth the golden sceptre of His love, and inviting sinners to be reconciled. Now is the accepted time. Hereafter He will be seen upon a Throne of Judgment, to take vengeance of His enemies.
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