Saturday, May 6, 2017
Backward to Forward, Down to Up: Even Jesus Descended to Ascend
As we saw last week, our Christian life is not static, but marked by ups and downs, often seeming like three steps backward for every two steps forward. But God allows and uses these setbacks for our instruction, growth, and ultimate spiritual victory.
In the Psalms, David not only thanked God for lifting him from the deep pit of his sin and despair (Psalm 9:15; 28:1; 30:3; 40:2), but further prophesied that even Jesus Himself would descend to the depths of hell, where God the Father would not allow Him to be corrupted (Psalms 16:10). Several of the ages, dispensations or pivot points of Biblical history are marked by the movement of Jesus downward to once again ascend upward.
In contrast, the path of Satan is always relentlessly downward. God created him as Lucifer, the most beautiful, wise and talented angel of light, the covering angel protecting God’s throne. But he fell to the sin of pride, wanting to exalt himself above God’s throne and Name, so God cast him out of His third Heaven to the skies and earth below, from there to be brought down to hell (Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:13-19).
Lucifer thus became Satan, prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and temporary ruler of this world (Ephesians 6:12; 1 John 4:4). After the revelation and second coming of Jesus Christ, Satan will be defeated at the battle of Armageddon and chained in the bottomless pit, under the earth, for one thousand years. Although he will be let loose briefly at the conclusion of the Millennial Kingdom, his ultimate destiny is to the even lower depths of the lake of fire (Revelation 19:11-21; 20:1-3,10).
Satan, as a created being, must answer to God despite his rebellion, whereas Jesus is Himself God and Creator. Christ willingly left His heavenly throne to descend to earth in human form (John 1:1,14), born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in the lowliest of circumstances (Luke 2:7), born to die as the perfect sacrifice to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (Hebrews 10:1-14), and to rise again so that all who trust Him will have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
Once Jesus had given up the ghost on Calvary’s cross, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy recorded by David in the Psalms by descending into the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40), or Hades, which at that time was divided into two compartments separated by an impenetrable barrier (Luke 16:19-31). Hell was the compartment designed for the devil and his angels, and the place of eternal torment for those who were doomed because they did not believe and trust God.
The other compartment, known as Paradise (Luke 16:19-31), which means garden of God, or Abraham’s bosom, was a place of peace, joy and comfort for those who were saved by faith. The thief on the cross who called Jesus Lord and asked Him to remember him when He came into His kingdom thus proved his submission to Christ and His faith that He was indeed the promised Messiah. Jesus answered him, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
After the death of their bodies, the soul and spirit of Jesus and of that thief then descended into Paradise. There Jesus gathered all the saved souls and elevated them with Him to the third heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10), which is now the abode of Paradise and of the souls of those who go home to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).
On the third day after His physical death, Jesus descended from Heaven to earth, then in His glorified body of flesh and bone (Luke 24:39), that had a visible (John 20:14), tangible, recognizable form; that could eat; and that could pass through walls (Luke 24:36-43).
Forty days later, after numerous appearances to His disciples and to other witnesses (Acts 1:3), He rose upward into Heaven, where He is now at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 16:19-20; Acts 2:33-34; 7:55; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; etc.). There He acts as our intercessor in prayer to the Father (Romans 8:34) and our advocate defending us from Satan’s accusations (1 John 2:1; Revelation 12:10).
Praise God, one day Jesus Christ will descend part of the way to earth, at the same time catching up all those who died in Him and all those believers who still remain alive, to meet with Him in the air! We will then all be in our glorified bodies and live with Him forever! (1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
After the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10) and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9) in Heaven, we will descend to earth as His armies, when He appears in the clouds in power and glory and descends to conquer death, sin and Satan (1 Corinthians 15: 24-28) with the Word of His mouth!
After renovation of the heavens and earth by fire (2 Peter 3:10), the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, will descend from Heaven like a radiant bride prepared for her Husband (Revelation 3:12; 21:2), Jesus Christ the Bridegroom, where we will rule and reign forever with Him!