THE HEART OF CHRIST IN HEAVEN
TOWARDS SINNERS ON EARTH
Demonstrations from Passages at and after His Ascension into Heaven.
III. Let us view him next in his very ascending: his carriage then also will further assure our hearts of this. Luke 24:50, it is said, “He lifted up his hands and blessed them;” and to put the greater emphasis upon it, and that we might the more observe it, as having some great mystery in it, in Luke 24:51, it is added, “And while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” This benediction Christ reserved to be his last act; and what was the meaning of it, but (as I have before shown) to bless them, as God blessed Adam and Eve, bidding them “increase and multiply,” and so blessing all mankind that were to come of them. Thus does Christ, in blessing his disciples, bless all those that shall believe through their word unto the end of the world. I only add this to the illustration of it; this mystery is interpreted by Peter
in Acts 3:26, when speaking to the Jews, he says, “Unto you first, God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you,” (and how?) “in turning away every one of you from his iniquities,” and so forgiving of them; for “blessed is the man whose sin is forgiven.” Thus a demonstration at his ascending.
IV. In the next place, let us consider what Christ did when he was come to heaven and exalted there: how abundantly did he there make good all that he had promised in his last sermon!
For, first, he instantly poured out his Spirit, and that “richly” (as the apostle to Titus speaks), and he “being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which you now see and hear,” says the apostle in his first sermon after the ascension, Acts 2:33. He then received it, and visibly poured him out. So Ephesians 4:8, it is said, “He ascended up on high, and gave gifts unto men…for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:15), “…and for the jointing in of the saints to the increase of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:16), that is, for the converting of elect sinners, and making them saints. And the gifts there mentioned (some of
them) remain unto this day, in “pastors and teachers.” And this Spirit is still in our preaching and in your hearts, in hearing, in praying, and persuades you of Christ’s love to this very day; and is in all these the pledge of the continuance of Christ’s love still in heaven unto sinners. All our sermons and your prayers are evidences to you, that Christ’s heart is still the same towards sinners that ever it was, for the Spirit that assists in all these comes in his name, and in his stead, and works all by commission from him. And do none of you feel your hearts moved in the preaching of these things, at this and other times? And who is it that moves you? It is the Spirit who speaks in Christ’s name from heaven, even as himself is said to “speak from heaven,” Hebrews 12:25. And when you pray, it is the Spirit that indites [composes or dictates] your prayers, and that “makes
intercession for you” in your own hearts, Romans 8:26, which such intercession of his is but the evidence and echo of Christ’s intercession in heaven. The Spirit prays in you, because Christ prays for you. He is an intercessor on earth, because Christ is an intercessor in heaven. As he did take off Christ’s words, and used the same that he before had uttered, when he spoke in and to the disciples the words of life, so he takes off of Christ’s prayers also when he prays in us; he takes but the words as it were out of Christ’s mouth, or heart rather, and directs our hearts to offer them up to God. He also follows us to the sacrament, and in that glass shows us Christ’s face smiling on us, and through his face, his heart; and thus helping of us to a sight of him, we go away rejoicing that we saw our Saviour that day.
Then, secondly, all those works, both of miracles and conversion of sinners, in answer to the apostles’ prayers, are a demonstration of this. What a handful had Peter’s first sermon after Christ’s ascension, when three thousand souls were converted by it! The apostles (as you know) went on to preach forgiveness through Christ, and in his name, and to invite men to him; and what signs and wonders did accompany them, to confirm their preaching! And all were the fruits of Christ’s intercession in heaven. So that what he promised (John 14:12), as an evidence of his minding them in heaven, was abundantly fulfilled. They, upon their asking, did “greater works than he;” so in Acts 4:29-30, at the prayers of Peter. And Hebrews 2:3-4, the apostle makes an argument of it, “How shall we
escape,” says he, “if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him, God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders and with divers miracles?” Yea, let me add this, take also the New Testament, and all the promises in it, and expressions of Christ’s love; it was written all since Christ’s being in heaven, by his Spirit, and that by commission from Christ, and therefore all that you find therein you may build on as his very heart; and therein see, that what he once said on earth, he repeals not a word now he is in heaven—his mind continues the same. And the consideration of it here may add a great confirmation to our faith herein.
Thirdly, some of the apostles spoke with him since, even many years after his ascension. Thus John and Paul, of which the last was in heaven with him; they both do give out the same thing of him.
Paul heard not one sermon of Christ’s (that he knew of) while on earth, and received the gospel from no man, apostle or other, but by the immediate revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven, as he speaks, Galatians 1:11-12. But he was converted by Christ himself from heaven, by immediate speech and conference of Christ himself with him, and this long after his ascension. And in that one instance Christ abundantly showed his heart and purpose to continue to all sorts of sinners to the end of the world. Thus in two places that great apostle tells us; the first is in 1 Timothy 1:13, “I was a persecutor, a blasphemer,” says he, “but I obtained mercy, and the grace of our Lord,” namely, Jesus Christ, “was exceeding abundant;” and upon this he declares with open month, as it were, from Christ’s own self, who spoke to him from heaven, that this
is “the faithfullest saying” that ever was uttered, “that Christ came into the world to save sinners, whereof I am chief,” says he, 1 Timothy 1:15. And to testify that this was the very scope of Christ in thus converting of Paul himself, and Paul’s scope also in that place to Timothy. To show as much, appears by what follows: 1 Timothy 1:16, “For this cause I obtained this mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to all them that should hereafter believe on him unto life everlasting.” It is express, you see, to assure all sinners, unto the end of the world, of Christ’s heart towards them. This was his drift. “For this very cause…” says Paul.
The second place I allege in proof of this, is the story of Paul’s conversion, where he diligently inserts the very words that Christ spoke to him from heaven (Acts 26:16-18), which were these, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, …to send thee to the Gentiles, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Brethren, these are Christ’s words since he went to heaven, and he tells Paul he appeared unto him to testify thus much. Thus for Paul’s conference with him.
Then again, sixty years after his ascension, did the apostle John receive a revelation from him, even when all the apostles were dead, for after all their deaths was that book written, and the Revelation is said to be in a more immediate manner “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1), than any other of the apostles’ writings; and you read that Christ made an apparition of himself to him, and said, “I am he that was dead, and am alive for evermore,” Revelation 1:18. Now let us but consider Christ’s last words, in that his last book, the last that Christ has spoken since he went to heaven, or that he is to utter till the day of judgment; you have them in Revelation 22:16-17, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root
and the offspring of David. …And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” They are the latter words I cite this place for. The occasion of these words was this: Christ was now in heaven, and had before promised to come again, and fetch us all to heaven. And in the meantime, mark what an echoing and answering of hearts and of desires there is mutually, between him from heaven and believing sinners from below. Earth calls upon heaven, and heaven calls upon earth, as the prophet speaks. The bride from earth says unto Christ, “Come to me;” and the Spirit in the saints’ hearts below says “Come” unto him also; and Christ cries out as loud from heaven, “Come,” in answer unto this desire in them; so that heaven and earth ring again of it. “Let him that is athirst come to me; and let him that will come, come, and
take of the waters of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17) This is Christ speech unto men on earth. They call him to come unto earth, to judgment; and he calls sinners to come up to heaven unto him for mercy. They cannot desire his coming to them, so much as he desires their coming to him. Now what is the meaning of this, that upon their calling upon him to come, he should thus call upon them to come? It is in effect as if he had plainly uttered himself thus: I have a heart to come to you, but I must have all you my elect that are to be on earth, come to me first. You would have me come down to you, but I must stay here till all that the Father has given me come to me; and then you shall be sure quickly to have me with you. Hereby expressing how much his heart now longs after them. This to be his meaning is evident by the words which he adds, Revelation 22:20,
“He which testifies these things,” namely, Christ, “says, Surely I come quickly.” And if we observe how much by the by, as it were, these words of Christ’s do come in, it makes them the more remarkable to show his heart in uttering them. This book was intended merely as a prophecy of the times of the gospel until his coming; unto which period of it, when John had brought that prophetic story, he brings in the bride longing for that coming of Christ, “The bride says, Come.” And no sooner says she so, but Christ by way of retort does likewise say “Come” unto her also; yes, it puts the more observation upon it, that he had uttered the same words before, Revelation 21:6, but notwithstanding he will repeat them again, and have them to be his last words. All which shows how much his heart was in this part of the gospel, to invite sinners to him; that now when he is to speak but one
sentence more, till we hear the sound to judgment, he should especially make choice of these words. Let them therefore forever stick with you, as being worthy to be your last thoughts when you come to die, and when you are going to him. He speaks indeed something else after them; but that which he says afterwards is but to set a seal unto these words, and to the rest of the Scriptures, whereof this is the chief. And further to show that these words were singled out to be his last, and that he meant to speak no more till the day of judgment, therefore also he adds a curse to him, who should “add to them, or take from them.” He adds indeed after that another speech, but it is only to ingeminate [emphasize] his willingness to come quickly, were all his elect but once come in to him, so Revelation 22:20. And all this tends to assure us that this is his heart, and we shall find him of no other mind until his coming again.
And that you may yet the more consider them as thus purposely brought in by him as his last words, to make them stick with us, let me add another observation about them, and that is this, that at another time when he was upon earth, he in like manner singled out these very words (I mean the matter of them) as the conclusion of many days’ preaching. Thus John 7:37, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.” These words were spoken on the “last day of the feast,” after which he was to preach no more at that time, and for a good while after, unto them; and he had preached upon all the former days of that feast, as his manner was; and it was “the great day of the feast,” when he had the greatest audience; and you see he chooses this for his last sentence of that his last sermon then; and when he would give them something at
parting, as a viaticum, which he would have them carry home with them to feed upon above all the rest, these are his words, “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink;” which himself interprets to be believing on him, John 7:38, and he stands up to speak this; yea, “he cries,” says the text, with open mouth, with utmost vehemence, to the intent that all might hear this above all sayings else. And thus in like manner, at this time also, when he is to speak no more, but to hold his tongue forever till the day of judgment, nor is to write any more Scriptures, he then sends his angel to testify these to be his last words; and this although he had spoken them before. It was therefore assuredly done to show his heart in them. They were his last words then, and they shall be mine in the closure of this discourse, for what can there be added to them?