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3. The Glory of God and the Cross of Christ (Ephesians 1:6b-10)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, 8 which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

Introduction

As I begin this lesson, I am reminded of the words spoken by our Lord concerning marriage: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).

Of course, Jesus was speaking of marriage, not biblical exposition here. Nevertheless, I take His words seriously. The fact is that God has “joined together” verses 3-14 of Ephesians chapter 1 into but one sentence in the original text. It is with some reservation that I teach these verses in parts, rather than as a whole. Perhaps the problem is not entirely mine, however, for I doubt that many Christians are willing to sit through a sermon which is several hours in length.

The entire sentence/paragraph lays the foundation for Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. It sums up the blessings of God to the saints, in a span of time which begins before the creation (eternity past), includes all of human history, and eternity future. It is a very brief summary of the blessings of God which are the basis for our worship, praise, and obedience. These blessings are spiritual blessings, brought about in Christ, but involving the activity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The work of the Son is the emphasis of verses 6b-10, although the entire text deals with God’s blessings “in Christ.” In these verses Paul concentrates on two major dimensions of the work of Christ. The first is the work of Christ in relation to the salvation of lost sinners—the redemption which He accomplished through the shedding of His blood at Calvary. The second is the work of Christ in relation to the eternal purpose of God, that is the “summing up of all things in Christ.”

The second of these two themes is the most prominent. This is because God’s glory is the dominant theme of Ephesians. It is also because the “summing up of all things in Christ” is the main topic in chapters 2 and 3, which is first introduced in our text. While the work of Christ in saving lost sinners has been thoroughly expounded by Paul and the other apostles in other epistles, the theme of God’s summing up all things in Christ is expounded more fully here (and in Colossians) than anywhere else in the Bible.

The work of Christ, then, is described in verses 6b-10 as having two major roles: (1) accomplishing the redemption of lost sinners, and (2) accomplishing the purpose of God in “summing up all things in Christ.” In this lesson we will consider Christ’s word of redeeming lost sinners, and in the next we will pursue this great mystery of the “summing up of all things in Christ.”

Since we will be separating these two dimensions of Christ’s work, let us begin by taking note of the fact that God joined them together. All too often, we think of the work of our Lord at Calvary as only for us, for our salvation. It is more than this, much more. Christ’s death at Calvary encompasses far more than just our salvation, as important as our salvation is too us. The danger is that we will look upon Calvary in a self-centered way. In this text, Paul informs us that Christ’s work at Calvary accomplished our salvation, and that it achieved a purpose much greater in scope.

Let us not let the eternal purposes of God revolve around the “earth” of our salvation. Rather, let our salvation revolve around the “solar system” of God’s eternal, cosmic plan, which includes our salvation as just one small part of a much greater plan.

Redemption in the Old Testament

In our text, Paul speaks of the blessing of redemption, which God has bestowed on us through the death of Christ on the cross of Calvary: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.” Redemption is a kind of “stained glass term” for most people. It seems like a word that you find in church, but not elsewhere. It is not a new term in the New Testament. The Old Testament has laid an excellent foundation for us, so that when redemption is spoken of in the New Testament, we may quickly grasp what is meant. Consider the meaning of redemption as defined by its use in the Old Testament.

The first great act of redemption in the Old Testament is the exodus, the deliverance of the nation Israel from her bondage in Egypt. From the time of the exodus on this event epitomized redemption:

“Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments” (Exodus 6:6).

“And what one nation on the earth is like Thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself, and to do a great thing for Thee and awesome things for Thy land, before Thy people whom Thou hast redeemed for Thyself from Egypt, from nations and their gods?” (2 Samuel 7:23).

“And they are Thy servants and Thy people whom Thou didst redeem by Thy great power and by Thy strong hand” (Nehemiah 1:10).

Was it not Thou who dried up the sea, The waters of the great deep; Who made the depths of the sea a pathway For the redeemed to cross over? (Isaiah 51:10).

The exodus was accomplished by God through a series of plagues, all of which answered the Pharaoh’s question and challenge, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? (Exodus 5:2). The final plague was so devastating that Pharaoh could no longer stand the sight of the Israelites. It was the divinely dealt death blow to the first born males in the land of Egypt, both men and animals (see Exodus 11:1-8; 12:29-36).

God made one provision for escaping this death plague. A lamb was to be sacrificed, and eaten by those who gathered in one house. The blood of that lamb was to be applied to the two doorposts and on the lintel of the house in which the lamb was eaten. All the first-born of that household would thus be spared from death (see Exodus 12:1-14). This was the first of the Passover celebrations which Israel was commanded to observe in remembrance of the redemption of God at the exodus.

The exodus was a two-fold redemption, and also the basis for a whole series of “redemptions” that followed. The first-born were redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb, and the nation Israel was redeemed by the blood of the first-born who were slaughtered on that first Passover night. Because God spared the first-born of the believing Israelites (and any Egyptians who may also have believed and obeyed), He claimed the first-born as His own. From this point on the first-born males of the Israelites and their flocks had to be redeemed:

“Now it shall come about when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, that you shall devote to the LORD the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the LORD. But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every first-born of man among your sons you shall redeem” (Exodus 13:11-13).

When God gave the Law to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, He provided for the redemption of people and property. It was anticipated that some Hebrews would become so poor that they would have to sell their inheritance and perhaps even their own selves as slaves to another. God set down clear commands which provided for the redemption of such property and people:

“‘Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. If a fellow-countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property’” (Leviticus 25:24-28).18

The most dramatic illustration of the redemption of the land is found in the Book of Ruth, when Boaz served as the “kinsman redeemer” for Naomi and thus bought back her property and then took Ruth as his wife, to raise up descendants for Naomi’s oldest son, who had died.

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him” (Ruth 4:14-15).

Throughout the Old Testament, individuals expressed faith in God as their redeemer. Jacob confessed God as his redeemer: “The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; And may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” (Genesis 48:16).

Job, too, knew God as his Redeemer: “And as for me, I know that my redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth” (Job 19:25).

Even Job’s “friend” knew God was the One who redeemed men from death: “‘He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit, And my life shall see the light’” (Job 33:28).

David was a man who trusted in God as his Redeemer: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

And so it was that David called upon God in times of distress, that He would redeem him: “Redeem me from the oppression of man, That I may keep Thy precepts” (Psalm 119:134). “Plead my cause and redeem me; Revive me according to Thy word” (Psalm 119:154).

The exodus of the nation Israel from Egypt was not to be the greatest redemption of all time. In time, the prophecies of Deuteronomy 28-31 and of later prophets were fulfilled when the nation Israel was sent into captivity because of their rebellion and disobedience to God’s law. The northern kingdom of Israel was defeated and dispersed by the Assyrians, and the southern kingdom of Judah was later taken hostage by the Babylonians.

The Old Testament prophets foretold of a redemption even greater than the exodus. The first redemption concerned the release of the nation Israel from its foreign captivity, and its return to Israel, and particularly to Jerusalem. The second phase of her redemption was in the first coming of Messiah. The final phase of Israel’s redemption was the final redemption when God’s enemies are subdued once and for all, and when His eternal kingdom is established on the earth. It is not always easy to determine which of these aspects of Israel’s redemption was in view in every prophecy, as you can see for yourself:

The deliverance of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity was another act of redemption: “Writhe and labor to give birth, Daughter of Zion, Like a woman in childbirth, For now you will go out of the city, Dwell in the field, And go to Babylon. There you will be rescued; There the Lord will redeem you From the hand of your enemies” (Micah 4:10, see also Isaiah 44:24-28; 28:20, Jeremiah 50).

Thus says the Lord, “In a favorable time I have answered You, And in a day of salvation I have helped You; And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people, To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages; Saying to those who are bound, ‘Go forth,’ To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’ Along the roads they will feed, And their pasture will be on all bare heights. They will not hunger or thirst, Neither will the scorching heat or sun strike them down; For He who has compassion on them will lead them, And will guide them to springs of water. And I will make all My mountains a road, And My highways will be raised up. Behold, these shall come from afar; And lo, these will come from the north and from the west, And these from the land of Sinim.” Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people, And will have compassion on His afflicted” (Isaiah 49:8-13).

“For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the Lord your Redeemer. For this is like the days of Noah to Me; When I swore that the waters of Noah Should not flood the earth again, So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, Nor will I rebuke you. For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Says the Lord who has compassion on you. O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, And your foundations I will lay in sapphires. Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, And your gates of crystal, And your entire wall of precious stones (Isaiah 54:7-12; compare Revelation 21:10-21).

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising … . Whereas you have been forsaken and hated With no one passing through, I will make you an everlasting pride, A joy from generation to generation. You will also suck the milk of nations, And will suck the breast of kings; Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Instead of bronze I will bring gold, And instead of iron I will bring silver, And instead of wood, bronze, And instead of stones, iron. And I will make peace your administrators, And righteousness your overseers. Violence will not be heard again in your land, Nor devastation or destruction within your borders; But you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise. No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory. Your sun will set no more, Neither will your moon wane; For you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be finished. Then all your people will be righteous; They will possess the land forever, The branch of My planting, The work of My hands, That I may be glorified” (Isaiah 60:15-21; compare Revelation 21:22-26).

Thus, the nation Israel not only looked back in time, to see God’s redemption, but also to the future. They called upon God to redeem them:

Redeem Israel, O God, Out of all his troubles (Psalm 25:22).

O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption. And He will redeem Israel From all his iniquities (Psalm 130:7-8).

The Old Testament Scriptures speak often of redemption. A primary element in our understanding of redemption is that of deliverance. Redemption is the deliverance from bondage or distress or opposition, from which one cannot otherwise escape. In the Old Testament, men were delivered from:

  • Slavery, bondage, or captivity (Isaiah 48:20; Micah 4:10)
  • Adversity or distress (Job 6:23; 2 Samuel 4:9; 1 Kings 1:29; Psalm 107:2)
  • Trouble (Psalm 25:22)
  • Death, or one’s soul going to the pit (Job 5:20; 33:28; Psalm 49:15; 103:4)
  • Tyrants, oppressors, or one’s enemy (Job 6:23; Psalm 106:10; 119:34)
  • Sin (Isaiah 44:22)

Very often, redemption was accomplished through the shedding of blood. Thus it is that the writer to the Hebrews can say, “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

Redemption in the New Testament

From the time of the announcement of our Lord’s birth in the Gospels, men and women of God recognized that He was coming to redeem His people, as it was prophesied in the Old Testament:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people” (Luke 1:68).

And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38).

“But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened” (Luke 24:31).

The redemption which our Lord was to accomplish was to be through the shedding of His blood on the cross of Calvary. John the Baptist introduced the Lord Jesus as a sacrificial lamb: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b).

In what appears to be one of our Lord’s first confrontations with the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem, Jesus spoke figuratively of His death and resurrection:

Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews therefore said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken (John 2:19-22).

Jesus spoke of Himself as the brazen serpent of Numbers chapter 21, who, by being lifted up would save men: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

Later, after the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus told the crowd that they must partake of His body and blood, and this was the cause for many leaving Him, never again to follow (John 6:22-71). While these words of our Lord were not to be taken in a strictly literal sense, they were to be taken seriously. It was, from the beginning, God’s purpose that Jesus Christ would die on the cross of Calvary to redeem sinful men:

Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:18-21).

Even the disciples were slow to understand that the Lord Jesus must shed His blood for the redemption of lost sinners, and when they did they opposed it. The could not reconcile how a King could be crucified and fulfill the hopes of Israelites. Jesus not only rebuked Peter for resisting His suffering and death, but went further to inform them that discipleship meant a “cross” for every believer:

20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ. 21 From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it (Matthew 16:20-25).

After our Lord’s death, resurrection, and return to the Father, the gospel which the apostles preached was one of the redemption, of the forgiveness of sins by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ:

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:11-15).

4 And I began to weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it; 5 and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” 6 And I saw between the throne with the four living creatures and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. 7 And He came, and He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 8 And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 “And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” 11 And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:4-12).19

The redemption of lost sinners is, in this age, being offered to all mankind through the preaching of the gospel. As we saw from the Old Testament prophecies, there is a future dimension to the redemption which Christ will accomplish:

13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it (Romans 8:22-25).

This final redemption also involves the shedding of blood, but it is not the blood of the Savior, it is the blood of those who oppose Him:

1 Who is this who comes from Edom, With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, This One who is majestic in His apparel, Marching in the greatness of His strength? “It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” 2 Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? 3 “I have trodden the wine trough alone, And from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger, And trampled them in My wrath; And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, And I stained all My raiment. 4 “For the day of vengeance was in My heart, And My year of redemption has come. 5 “And I looked, and there was no one to help, And I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; So My own arm brought salvation to Me; And My wrath upheld Me. 6 “And I trod down the peoples in My anger, And made them drunk in My wrath, And I poured out their lifeblood on the earth” (Isaiah 63:1-6).

The conclusion of human history is a very bloody one for those who oppose God, as the Book of Revelation makes abundantly clear:

17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying,” Put in your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe. “ 19 And the angel swung his sickle to the earth, and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles (Revelation 14:17-20).

4 And the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous art Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One, because Thou didst judge these things; 6 for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it. “ 7 And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments” (Revelation 16:4-7).

The divine redemption of all things requires two bloody events for the Messiah. Likewise, there are two banquets or feasts which our Lord, the Messiah, prepares. The first is the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is a banquet which has been expected for many centuries:

5 Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows (Psalm 23:5).

16 But He said to him, “A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many … (Luke 14:16).

28 “And you are those who have stood by Me in My trials; 29 and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (NASB) Revelation 19:9 9 And he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God” (Luke 22:28-30).

There is another banquet, one which is not for those who love the Lord Jesus, but a banquet of those who hate Him. I call it the “buzzard banquet.” It is not a pretty scene:

11 And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems; and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God; 18 in order that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great. “

19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army. 20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat upon the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh (Revelation 19:11-21).

God’s redemption is a marvelous gift, a gift which brings about the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of eternal life in the presence of God. To receive this gift is the greatest blessing one can ever experience. To reject this gift is to turn from God’s only way of salvation. It is to choose the way of destruction, which God has prepared for the enemies of His Messiah. I challenge you to consider these two paths, the path of eternal blessing, and the path of eternal destruction. Which will you choose. As the Apostle Paul put it, “Behold then the kindness and the severity of God…” (Romans 11:22).

Which path will it be for you? Which destiny do you choose? Those who reject God’s goodness condemn themselves to God’s severity.

Conclusion

As we conclude, allow me to highlight several lines of thought for you to contemplate in relation to this passage of Scripture.

First, consider the fact that while God’s election and predestination plays a significant part in the eternal bliss or torment of men, it also purposed the eternal torment of our Lord and His beloved Son on the cross of Calvary. Many people agonize over the sovereignty of God in election. How could God allow anyone to suffer an eternity in hell? The gospel informs us that God purposed for His Son to suffer the agony of His eternal wrath. Not only was God’s choice of whom He would save made in eternity past, but also His plan as to how He would save. His plan of salvation, determined in eternity past, included the creation of men and angels, the fall of Satan and of man, the need for redemption, and the provision of a Redeemer in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

God planned for the suffering of His own son, His “beloved” Son. This is surely the meaning of Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:6, when he informs us that God poured out His grace freely in the Beloved. Jesus is the beloved Son of God (Matthew 3:17), and yet the Father purposed His agony, His death, on the cross. The question of how God can purpose for guilty sinners to suffer eternally is not nearly so difficult to fathom as the question of how God could purpose for His beloved, sinless, Son to die on the cross of Calvary.

Think of this. Both the Father and the Son, in their omniscience (knowledge of all things), knew the full measure of the suffering of the Savior. They knew it in eternity past, before the plan of salvation was ever decreed. And yet the Father made it His plan, and the Son was obedient to it.

Second, consider the fact that the cross of Calvary is the measure of God’s love and grace to all who believe. Notice how many times the love of God is either specifically mentioned or implied in Ephesians 1:3-14. The cross of Calvary is the measure of God’s love for man. The grace of God was not sparingly meted out to us, it was “lavished” on us (verse 8), freely bestowed by the Father through the sacrifice of His Son. The song writer put it this way: “Amazing love, how can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me”?

Third, consider the fact that if God’s provision for man’s redemption was through the agony of His beloved Son, God will not be impressed by any other means of salvation which men may devise, or in which men may put their trust. If Jesus Christ was God’s only means of salvation, a way which cost the Father His “Beloved Son” and the Son His life, what do you think God’s response will be to us for having some other basis for salvation? When men stand before the judgment seat of God, He will be interested in but one thing: What we have done with His Son. God’s Word is crystal clear, Jesus’ death on the cross of Calvary is God’s only means of salvation. To trust in anyone or anything else is to reject Him and to seal our doom.

The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son. And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life (1 John 5:10-12).

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).

Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day, For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him … It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:53-56, 63).

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).

Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30-31).

Fourth, consider the possibility that suffering is not the opposite of glory, and not just the means to glory, but glory itself. As the hour of our Lord’s death drew near, Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify Him:

These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee, even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life. And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:1-5).

The cross of Calvary was that in which Paul boasted: “But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

Does Paul not boast in the cross because it is glorious? And does not the Book of Revelation record all creation’s praise of the Lord as the One who shed His blood for the salvation of men inform us that His suffering was glorious?

And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came, and He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:6-14).

John Piper, in his excellent book, Desiring God, develops and defends the thesis that it is not wrong for Christians to have pleasure. It is only wrong for us to have pleasure in the wrong things. God’s eternal purpose is for us to have pleasure in Him. I think Piper makes an excellent point, and one which is much needed.

I would like to suggest that we think in a similar way about suffering. The unbelieving world thinks of suffering as evil. Some Christians think of suffering only as a punishment for evil. The scribes and Pharisees seem to have thought this way. Other Christians come closer to the truth by acknowledging that suffering can be a means to glory. But I would like to suggest that some suffering is glory.

To use Piper’s analogy, it is not wrong to suffer; it is only wrong to suffer for the wrong reasons. Conversely, it is “glory” for the Christian to suffer for the right reasons. Consider these texts:

Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory (Ephesians 3:13).

That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10).

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Colossians 1:24).

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this {finds} favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer {for it} you patiently endure it, this {finds} favor with God. 21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting {Himself} to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:18-25).

17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, {the} just for {the} unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:17-18).

1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient {for you} to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries (1 Peter 4:1-3).

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if {anyone suffers} as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God (1 Peter 4:12-15).

Just as God purposed for His Son to suffer and to die, to the praise of the glory of His grace, so He has also purposed our suffering, not only for His glory, but for our good and for our glory. It is the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ which enables every Christian to look at suffering in an entirely different light.

Finally, it is the glory of the cross of our Lord which is the basis for the frequent, continual remembrance of His suffering and death in communion. Those who cannot see the glory in the cross will surely wish to put the cross out of their minds. Those who glory in the cross will gratefully and eagerly look forward to the communion service. This is one of the reasons for our weekly observance of communion at “prime time.”

May God enable you to glory in the cross of Christ, because of the redemption which our Lord accomplished on your behalf. And may we bless God for what Paul has spoken of, this blessing of eternal redemption in Christ.


18 See also Leviticus 25:29-55

19 See also Acts 3:17-21; 20:28; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Colossians 1:18-20; 1 Peter 1:18-20.

Related Topics: Resurrection, Glory