Our Lord’s Entrance Into Heaven
June 28th, 1981 @ 8:15 AM
THE ENTRANCE OF OUR LORD INTO HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-28-81 8:15 a.m.
And welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who are listening to this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor delivering the morning sermon entitled The Entrance of Our Lord into Heaven. In these last several Sundays, in the long series of doctrinal messages on the Bible, "The Great Doctrines Of The Bible," in the section on Christology: Our Lord’s Entrance Into This Earth, our Lord’s descent from heaven His virgin birth; Our Lord’s Entrance Into Suffering, His atoning death; Our Lord’s Entrance Into The Grave; Our Lord’s Entrance Into Resurrection Life, the message last Sunday morning; and today, Our Lord’s Entrance Into Heaven, the ascension of Christ into glory. In the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians verse 8:
Wherefore He saith –
the Holy Spirit, through Isaiah, through the psalmists –
wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
(Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.)
And the verse especially, "When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" [Ephesians 4:8].
There are eight tremendous epochs in the life of our Lord: His eternal pre-existence in heaven, His descent into the earth the virgin birth, His mighty ministry in word and in deed, His atoning death, His resurrection from among the dead, His ascent into heaven, His return someday in triumphant glory, and last, His eternal session as King and Lord over heaven and earth. In those eight events, epochs, in the life of our Lord, this morning, our Lord’s ascent into heaven.
Those eight mighty epochs are like a Jacob’s ladder from earth to heaven, the heaven of heavens [Genesis 28:12]. Not the heaven where the birds fly and the clouds go by; not the heaven where the sidereal spheres and the Milky Ways and the stars shine, but the third heaven where God has His throne; the ascent, the ascension of our Lord into heaven. And we’re going to follow it as we see it from the earth, as the angels watched it from heaven, as the Old Testament saints waited for it in promise, and as the New Testament church received the Lord in ecstatic glory.
First, the ascension of our Lord as we look upon it from earth. In the dim, primeval, unknown ages of the past, the Holy Scriptures say that Christ was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the earth [Revelation 13:8]. He is described in the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews as having volunteered in those primeval ages to be the Savior of the world [Hebrews 10:5-14]. In the foreknowledge of God before the universe was spoken by fiat into existence [Genesis 1:1-31], the Lord foresaw, foreknew the fall of man; and Christ, the crown Prince of glory, volunteered to be the Savior of a fallen race.
And in the foreknowledge and providence of God there was rebellion in heaven, Lucifer and his angels [Isaiah 14:12-14], and heaven fell, and the whole created universe fell with it [Romans 8:22]. And the world became waste, and our paradise turned into a fierce jungle. And this earth became a house of woe and an immeasurable cemetery in which we bury our dead. It travails in bondage and in groaning to this present day.
In the days of that fall, there was given to the human and fallen race a protevangelium, a gospel before the gospel: the Seed of the woman should bruise, should crush, Satan’s head [Genesis 3:15]. And the Holy Scriptures follow that primeval promise: it is in Seth that the Seed will be born; it is in Noah; it is in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; it is in Judah; it is in David and his house. And in the prophecies, the delineation of His coming into the earth is beautifully and marvelously and movingly foretold.
Then the day came when the Lord was born; He was born to be Savior and deliverer of the world [Luke 2:11-16]. Then follows His majestic ministry, His wonderful life, His atoning death [Matthew 27:32-50], His resurrection from among the dead [Matthew 28:5-7], and finally, in the passage we read this morning, His ascent into heaven [Ephesians 4:8-10]. And from our earth, the eyes of the apostles watched Him when a cloud – not one of mist; the shekinah glory of God – swept Him up to the throne of heaven [Acts 1: 9-11]. And in the third chapter of Acts the apostle Peter preaches that heaven must receive Him until the time of restitution of all things [Acts 3:21]. So our Lord, as we view Him from earth, is now in session in heaven seated at the right throne of God, waiting until His enemies be made His footstool [Hebrews 10:12-13].
Second: the ascension of our Lord as the angels watched it in heaven. In that primeval beginning, in the beginning of the ages of the ages, Christ our Lord, whom we know as Jesus our Savior, the pre-existent God, was the Captain and the Prince of the host of heaven. And the angels there in glory watched the rise and the fall of Lucifer, "the son of the morning" [Isaiah 14:12]. And in his rebellion, one-third of the myriads and myriads of angels chose to follow Lucifer, and when he fell they fell with him, but the two-thirds of the myriads, of the uncounted thousands and thousands times ten thousands of angels, remained true to our pre-existent Lord [Revelation 12:4].
When the earth fell and the Lord announced that Christ should be the Savior of the fallen race, one of the most unusual passages in the Bible is in the first chapter of 1 Peter that describes the angels desiring to look into this marvelous plan of salvation [1 Peter 1:12]. They just knew that God purposed to do it through Jesus and His incarnation and His death, but how? They couldn’t understand. And when our Lord descended into the earth and into the womb of the virgin Mary and was made like unto a man, the angels watched it in amazement and they followed His life with intensest interest. Such is the meaning of 1 Timothy 3:16: "Great is the musterion the mystery of godliness. God was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the Spirit, was seen of angels."
They watched Him all His life, and they were present in vast numbers when He was born. All heaven rang with their song and shout of glory [Luke 2:13-15]. They were present in His temptation [Matthew 4:11]. They were present in the days of His ministry. They stood by Him in Gethsemane [Luke 22:43]. They were there at the grave, at the foot and at the head [John 20:12], and they received Him back up into glory. And when that marvelous and triumphant day arrived, and our Savior, the Prince of the hosts of heaven, came back into the glory He once knew, the marvelous indescribable ecstasy of the angels is beyond what mind could think for. Then came to pass the glorious twenty-fourth Psalm:
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory will come in.
Who is this King of glory? The Lord mighty in battle,
The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.
Or as Colossians 2:15 says, when our Lord ascended into heaven He had made an open spoiling of the principalities and powers of evil, triumphing over them! And as this glorious passage in Ephesians 4:8 avows, "He ascended on high, taking captivity captive."
He is Lord, and He came as a victor from the battle, nd the angels received their rightful Prince and their glorious, pre-existent God with ecstasy indescribable. And at His chariot wheels is chained Lucifer, Satan, whom they had seen lead the rebellion in heaven. He is now a toothless and stingless dragon. He is now a defeated foe. He is vanquished forever. And when the Scripture says He has taken captivity captive, they who held our Lord captive are now captive now. Sin: "He became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" [2 Corinthians 5:21]. He went down into the grave and burst its fetters asunder, and our Lord entered into heaven, in the presence of the myriads and myriads of angels, a conqueror; the rightful host and Captain of our salvation [Hebrews 2:10].
Now as the saints of the Old Testament waited in promise, in the ninth chapter of the Book of Luke, in verse 30 and 31, "Behold, there talked with Him two men"; Luke 9:30-31. When He was transfigured before them, the fashion of His countenance altered, his raiment white and glistering [Luke 9:29].
Behold, there talked with Him two men, who were Moses and Elijah:
Who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.
There’s far more in that passage than you realize it when you read it in this English translation. Moses and Elijah talked with Him and spake of His exodus. We’re familiar with that word exodus. One of the books of the Old Testament in the Pentateuch is called Exodus. When Moses led the children of God out of Egypt, God calls it an exodus. That’s the word here, the exact word. It’s the same in Greek as it is in English.
Moses and Elijah are speaking to Jesus about the exodus which He should – and you have it translated "accomplish," pleroo – which He should bring to pass, according to prophecy, in Jerusalem. Moses and Elijah are speaking to our transfigured Lord about the exodus, the great deliverance, which He should pleroo – which He should accomplish according to prophecy – which He should fulfill according to the Word of God, in the protevangelium, that we should be delivered, saved. They’re talking to Jesus about the exodus; the deliverance into heaven which He should pleroo, which He should fulfill according to prophecy in His death and resurrection in Jerusalem.
And it came to pass, this thing that Moses and Elijah were speaking to Jesus about. "Lord Jesus," Moses says, "I am in heaven just because of the hope of the atoning grace in Your death." And Elijah says to Jesus, "Lord, I have been translated to heaven and received into glory because of the promise that You will die for my sins." And Moses, who represents those who die and are resurrected and Elijah, who represents those who are raptured and translated in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye; those two represent all of the saints of the Old Testament. "Lord Jesus," they say, "we have our home and our hope in heaven because of Your deliverance on the cross, dying for our sins."
Can you imagine, therefore, the truth of the Revelation when it says those twenty-four elders – twelve represents the saints of the Old Testament – they bowed down before the Lord and received Him with unexampled praise and glory? [Revelation 11:16]. Think of the saints of the Old Testament, as they receive our Lord Jesus back into heaven, there where they have waited for the great exodus, the deliverance. In the Old Testament always, when an Old Testament saint dies, he’s gathered to his fathers. There’s no exception to that.
Abraham dies and is gathered to his fathers [Genesis 24:8]. Isaac dies and is gathered to his fathers. Jacob dies, David dies, Solomon dies; always they’re gathered to their fathers. But they are justified and received into the glory of heaven when Christ led the great exodus of the Old Testament saints in the presence of the myriads of the angels of glory [Ephesians 4:8].
No wonder they bowed down and praised Him who liveth forever and ever [Revelation 4:10]. Abel comes with his righteous offering. Noah comes with his sermon on repentance. Abraham comes with his heart centered on the Promised Land. David comes with his harp. Isaiah comes with his prophecies of hope and comfort. Ezekiel comes with his four cherubim. Daniel comes with his lions eating straw like an ox. Zechariah comes with his quietness and confidence. And Malachi comes bowing before "the Sun of Righteousness who has healing in His wings" [Malachi 4:2]. Can you conceive of the ecstasy of heaven when the Old Testament saints received their atoning Lord?
And last: the ascension, as the New Testament church rejoiced in it. That is the opening of the Revelation, "Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood,to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" [Revelation 1:5-6]. And the church, the bride of Christ, receives their Bridegroom into heaven, the ascension of our Lord when He returned to glory. No wonder the Revelation in chapter 4 and chapter 5 strains under the burden of language to describe the glory of that moment when Jesus appears in the presence of His saints and of His church and of the hosts of heaven.
In the second chapter of the Book of Philippians:
Wherefore (God) hath also highly exalted Him, and given Him a name above every name:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, things in heaven, things in earth, and things in the netherworld under the earth;
And that every tongue should confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
All the marvelous wondrous tributes to our Lord when He ascended into heaven, everything above Him is His; the heaven of heavens. Everything around Him is His; the saints and the angelic hosts of glory. Everything of His redeemed are now His; washed blood-bought, purchased, atoned for, cleansed, purified, without spot or blemish. And even the damned in the infernal world beneath us, the demons and these who are lost, shall acknowledge Him. "Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess Jesus is Lord" [Philippians 2:10-11].
There was a great city in America and someone had an unusual idea. For a series of nights there were to be invited able men to present the faith of the living religions of the world; two to be presented each night. For example, one night there would be a representative of Shinto and Hindu. Shintoism and Hinduism were to be presented that night; the next night, someone to present Islam, the faith of the Mohammedans, and Judaism, the faith of the Jew; and the last night, a representative of Buddhism and a representative of the Christian faith.
When the night came, the last one, the representative of the Buddhist religion was a brilliant and able man, and he swayed that vast throng of thousands that had gathered in the city auditorium as he spoke of the laws of nirvana and the quiet contemplative life of the Buddha. And when the representative of the Christian faith arose to speak in behalf of our Lord, somehow he stammered and stumbled, and the faith of our Lord began to wither in his hands and in his voice. And in the midst of the stammering and the stumbling of the representative of the Christian faith, when it seemed that Christ was bemeaned and belittled, somebody – and nobody knew who – somebody, way up in the top of the balcony began to sing:
All hail the power of Jesus’ name.
Let angels prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all.
And another picked up the stanza:
Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
Ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him who saves you by His grace
And crown Him Lord of all.
And others picked it up until finally there was the chorus of thousands singing:
Let every kindred and every tribe
On this terrestrial ball
To Him all majesty ascribe
And crown Him Lord of all.
["All Hail the Power"; Edward Perronet, 1779]
And when they finished their song the representative of the Buddhist religion bowed his head and left the platform in defeat. Jesus is Lord, Lord of all in heaven, someday to be Lord of all in earth and triumphant over God’s creation, the Great Restorer, the manifest and eternal God. That’s Jesus our Lord, who, as He reigns in heaven, shall someday reign in earth [Isaiah 2:4]. May we stand?
Our Lord, before these mighty truths our souls tremble. Ah! The wonder, and the majesty, and the glory, and the power of our pre-existent Christ, who became one of us, who died for our sins according to the promise [1 Corinthians 15:3], who ascended into heaven to be our faithful High Priest [Hebrews 2:17], who is coming again with ten thousands and thousands of His saints [Jude 14], and with whom we shall live and reign forever and ever [Revelation 20:6]. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And in the quietness of this morning’s moment, you, receiving our Lord Jesus as your personal Savior, waiting for His coming from heaven, asking His blessing upon your life and heart and work; a family, a couple, one somebody you, while we pray, while we wait, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles: "Pastor, we have decided for God and here we come."
And our Lord, thank Thee for the sweet harvest You give us. In Thy glorious and saving and redeeming name, amen.
While we sing this song, come, and welcome, welcome.
OUR LORD’S ENTRANCE INTO HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Eight great epochs in the life of Jesus
B. The ascension like a Jacob’s ladder(Genesis 28:12-13, Luke 24:50-51, Acts 1:9)
II. As we view our Lord’s ascension from earth
A. The Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth(1 Peter 1:20, Revelation 13:8, Hebrews 10:5, 7)
B. The rebellion in heaven and desecration of God’s beautiful creation
D. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ(Galatians 4:4-5)
E. The ascension (Acts 1:9-11, 3:21)
III. As the angels watched from heaven
A. One-third followed Lucifer; two-thirds loyal to their Prince(Revelation 12:4)
B. The angels desired to look into the plan of salvation (1 Peter 1:12)
C. They watched Him through His life(Matthew 1:23-25, 4:11, 1 Timothy 3:16, Luke 2:13-14, 22:43, John 20:12)
D. Finally received Him back into heaven (Acts 1:10-11)
1. The triumph amid myriads of angels(Psalm 24:7-10, Colossians 2:14, Ephesians 4:8, Revelation 5:11-12, 20:10, 2 Corinthians 5:21)
IV. As the Old Testament saints waited in promise
A. Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration speak of an exodus(Luke 9:29-31, Deuteronomy 34:5, 2 Kings 2:11)
B. Old Testament saints – gathered to their fathers, awaiting the redemption(Genesis 25:8, 17, 35:29, :33, 1 Kings 2:10, 2 Chronicles 9:31, Luke 16:22)
C. They rise to greet Him in glory
V. As the New Testament church received their Lord
A. Twelve elders of the New Testament(Revelation 1:5-6, 5:6-14, 10:7, 11:5, 15:2-4)
B. His eternal destiny(Philippians 2:9-11)
1. Presentation of the world’s living religionsin auditorium
C. The wonder of Christ our Savior(1 Timothy 3:16, 6:15-16, 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, Ephesians 1:20, Hebrews 1:3, 9:28, Titus 2:13, Matthew 27:28-50, Luke 24:1-12, 50-51, Acts 1:9, 3:21)