[This article appeared in the the Youth’s Instructor, August 11, 1898, under the title “The Risen Saviour—Part 2.”]
When Christ cried out while upon the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), there was a mighty earthquake, that rent open the graves of many who had been faithful and loyal, bearing their testimony against every evil work, and magnifying the Lord of hosts. As the Life-giver came forth from the sepulcher, proclaiming, “I am the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25), He summoned these saints from the grave. When alive, they had borne their testimony unflinchingly for the truth; now, they were to be witnesses to Him who had raised them from the dead. These, said Christ, are no longer the captives of Satan. I have redeemed them; I have brought them from the grave as the first fruits of My power, to be with Me where I am, nevermore to see death or experience sorrow.
During His ministry, Jesus raised the dead to life. He raised the son of the widow of Nain, the daughter of Jairus, and Lazarus; but these were not clothed with immortality. After they were raised, they continued to be subject to death. But those who came forth from the grave at Christ’s resurrection were raised to everlasting life. They were the multitude of captives that ascended with Him as trophies of His victory over death and the grave.
After His resurrection, Christ did not show Himself to any save His followers; but testimony in regard to His resurrection was not wanting. Those who were raised with Christ “appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:53), declaring, Christ has risen from the dead, and we are risen with Him. They bore testimony in the city to the fulfillment of the scripture, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19). These saints contradicted the lie which the Roman guard had been hired to circulate—that the disciples had come by night and stolen Him away. This testimony could not be silenced.
Christ was the first fruits of them that slept. It was to the glory of God that the Prince of life should be the first fruits, the antitype of the wave sheaf. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). This very scene, the resurrection of Christ from the dead, had been celebrated in type by the Jews. When the first heads of grain ripened in the field, they were carefully gathered; and when the people went up to Jerusalem, these were presented to the Lord as a thank offering. The people waved the ripened sheaf before God, acknowledging Him as the Lord of the harvest. After this ceremony the sickle could be put to the wheat, and the harvest gathered.
So those who had been raised were to be presented to the universe as a pledge of the resurrection of all who believe in Christ as their personal Saviour. The same power that raised Christ from the dead will raise His church, and glorify it with Christ, as His bride, above all principalities, above all powers, above every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in the heavenly courts, the world above. The victory of the sleeping saints will be glorious on the morning of the resurrection. Satan’s triumph will end, while Christ will triumph in glory and honor. The Life-giver will crown with immortality all who come forth from the grave.
The Ascension of Christ
The work of the Saviour on earth was finished. The time had come for Him to return to His heavenly home. “And he led them [the disciples] out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50, 51).
As Christ ascends while in the act of blessing His disciples, an army of angels encircle Him as a cloud. Christ takes with Him the multitude of captives. He will Himself bring to the Father the first fruits of them that slept, as an evidence that He is conqueror of death and the grave. At the portals of the city of God, an innumerable company of angels await His coming. As they approach, the escorting angels address the company at the gate in triumphant tones:—
“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; And the King of glory shall come in.”Psalm 24:7.
“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.”Psalm 24:8~9.
Again the waiting angels ask, “Who is this King of glory?” and the escorting angels reply, in melodious strains, “The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory” (Psalm 24:7-10). Then the portals of the city of God are opened wide, and the angelic throng sweep through.
There is the throne, and around it the rainbow of promise. There are seraphim and cherubim. The angels circle round Him, but Christ waves them back. He enters into the presence of His Father. He points to His triumph in this antitype of Himself—the wave sheaf—those raised with Him, the representatives of the captive dead who shall come forth from their graves when the trump shall sound. He approaches the Father, and if there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents, if the Father rejoices over one with singing, let the imagination take in this scene. Christ says: Father, it is finished. I have done Thy will, O My God. I have completed the work of redemption. If Thy justice is satisfied, “I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am” (John 17:24). And the voice of God is heard; justice is satisfied; Satan is vanquished. “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10). The arms of the Father encircle the Son, and His voice is heard, saying, “Let all the angels of God worship him” (Hebrews 1:6).