As the eternal Son of God, Christ’s kingship begins in creation; but in redemption, Christ is shown to be Head and Mediator for the church as well. This is not another creation but a new creation—redeemed creation looking forward to the consummation. Although there is a certain order in Christ’s exercise of his offices, they are true of him at all times: he is never Prophet without being King, or King without being Priest. Nonetheless, we should distinguish Christ’s present reign in grace from his future reign, which will also manifest glory and power. The kingdom is currently like its King before his exaltation, appearing weak and foolish to the world. It is visible not in majesty but in Word and sacrament, discipline, discipleship, and fellowship. As in his other offices, Christ exercises kingship as both divine and human. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords not only as God but as the faithful and last Adam, David’s greater son, whose reign has begun even now and will be realized fully in the age to come.
The most direct account of Christ’s ascension is in Luke 24:13–51 (reiterated in Acts 1). In these passages, it becomes clear that Christ’s ascension and return in glory are part of the gospel itself. Christ continues to exercise all three offices in his heavenly exaltation, proclaiming and bringing about his Word, interceding for his people, and ruling all things for our good, by the Holy Spirit.
The ascension is not simply an exclamation point to the resurrection; it is a distinct event in redemptive history, grounding the significance of eschatology (we are already seated with Christ in the heavenly realms but do not yet see him face-to-face), pneumatology (Christ is now present to us by the Spirit’s activity through Word and sacrament), and ecclesiology (the church is a community between two ages, already belonging to the new creation but still on our pilgrimage). Christ’s ascension both grounds the church’s present struggle and guarantees our future triumph.
Since Pentecost, the Spirit has come to apply the benefits of Christ through the preaching of the gospel, ushering in the new creation, in and through the individual and corporate life of believers, their children, and those who are “far off” (Acts 2:39). This means that the Spirit’s application of redemption can never be separated from the history of redemption. Nor can the doctrine of salvation ever be separated from the doctrine of the church; the same King creates and sustains both by the same means: Word and sacrament.
Covenant and Kingdom
Unlike the covenant at Sinai, which Israel violated against her Great King, God’s covenant with Abraham and David depended on God’s own unwavering faithfulness despite the unfaithfulness of his human subjects. This covenant and all its promises are fulfilled in the new covenant in Christ, who fulfilled the Sinai covenant as well, since he is himself the faithful King and the faithful subject.
The Kingdom and Eschatology
The kingdom of God is “from above”; it is an inbreaking of the age to come rather than a developmental progression drawn from the resources of the present age. Since it is a kingdom we are receiving from God rather than building for ourselves, it cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:25–29). We must avoid both underrealized and overrealized eschatology. Underrealized eschatologies, like dispensationalism, fail to see the real presence of Christ’s kingdom breaking into the present age before his return; overrealized eschatologies, like liberation theology, expect Christ’s present reign to include blessings—such as a fully just and godly civil society—that he has promised to bring only at his return. As difficult as it is in practice, we must affirm that Christ’s kingdom is already truly present, but not yet in its consummated form.
Christ as Prophet
The prophetic vocation is not only to accurately predict future events, but more fundamentally, to speak God’s actual judgment and deliverance into history. Although Jesus is the “prophet like Moses” promised in Deuteronomy 18:15, he is not simply another Moses. He speaks on his own authority, which is the same as the Father’s; he forgives sins in his own person; he not only has stood in God’s counsel but has eternally and personally come from God. Jesus speaks God’s active word as the prophets did, but wholly unlike them, he is himself the hypostatic Word of God. He is the message as well as the messenger.
Christ as Priest
Christ’s priestly ministry is inseparable from his representation of the elect in the eternal covenant of redemption. Christ was “born under the law”—whether the covenant of creation or its recapitulation at Sinai—“to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4–5 ESV).
A. Christ’s Priestly Life
Jesus was appointed everlasting High Priest “after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:6, 10 ESV)—that is, according to the “better covenant” of God’s unchangeable oath to Abraham rather than the Mosaic covenant’s Levitical priesthood, which depended on the mediation of sinful human beings (Heb. 7:11–22).
Jesus is both the great High Priest and the spotless, once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin. Beginning with the incarnation, he continually accomplished his Father’s will on our behalf as the unsurpassable thank offering. This is his active obedience or law-keeping (Matt. 20:28; John 8:29; Heb. 10:7). Simultaneously, he bore our sins—especially the curse of sin and God’s wrath for sin—as the unrepeatable guilt offering. This is his passive obedience or suffering.
Christ’s Priestly Death: The Meaning of the Cross
While the event of the cross cannot be divorced from the accounts of Christ’s life, teaching, and ministry that precede it in the Gospels, none of the other important aspects of Christ’s saving work can be established unless his death is acknowledged as a vicarious substitution of himself in the place of sinners. Christ’s cross is a sacrifice and satisfaction for sin. Though God’s sinful, covenant-breaking people could do nothing to reconcile themselves to God or avoid his sentence of just condemnation for unfaithfulness, Jesus offered himself on our behalf to usher in the new covenant whose standing is dependent on his steadfastness rather than ours. Blood atonement lies at the heart of both the offense and the wonder of the Christian proclamation. God’s motive is not abstract or arbitrary (much less bloodthirsty); sacrifice for sin and loving gratitude to God are fundamental to the covenantal context of God’s holy and righteous law. The substitutional nature of sacrifice is clearly seen in the Mosaic law’s description of the transference of sin and guilt before God to sacrificial animals (e.g., Lev. 1:4; 4:20, 26, 31; 6:7), vicariously representing the worshipers and their need for atonement. In Christ’s life and death, we have a thank offering that restores what we owe to God and a guilt offering that propitiates God’s wrath.
Christ’s cross is also a military conquest—despite all appearances, Christ was the victorious King even when Satan and the powers of this evil age thought they had won their age-old war with God. The meaning of the cross is multifaceted. All of the following have been proposed as theories of the atonement, and while each by itself has significant problems, several identify something important about Christ’s work—although the truth in any of them hangs together only in light of the cross as a propitiatory sacrifice.
- Ransom theory—Because of human rebellion, Satan became our rightful lord; Christ triumphed over Satan by luring him into the trap of killing him at the cross (thinking Jesus was a mere man), though he would triumph in resurrection (through his deity).
- Recapitulation—Christ redeems by becoming the true Adam and representing in himself the true life of humanity before God on our behalf, even unto death.
- Christus Victor—Through the seeming defeat of the cross, Christ conquered all the demonic and sinful powers arrayed against God.
- Satisfaction theory—Christ’s crucifixion was his just payment for sin’s affront to God’s dignity and majesty.
- Moral influence theory—Peter Abelard’s view, taken up by Socinians and many Enlightenment thinkers, that the purpose of Christ’s death was to provide a powerful example of God’s love for sinners that would provoke our repentance and imitation.
- Governmental theory—Hugo Grotius’s view that Christ’s death is not substitutionary or atoning but rather the basis on which the righteous character of God’s will and his rule are exhibited.
In modern theologies, various versions of the moral influence and governmental theories have dominated, in principle or in practice. These views have gone hand in hand with a denial or downplaying of the doctrine of justification—forgiveness is necessary only in light of real personal transgression. In all of their iterations, they rest on three false premises.
- A denial of God’s wrath and the necessity of his justice being satisfied.
- A rejection of the possibility of vicarious substitution in the relationship between God and sinners.
- An emphasis on the exemplary, at the expense of the expiatory, character of Christ’s death.
We should therefore bear the following points in mind when defending the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. The cause of the atonement lies in God’s own pleasure and love; God’s free expression of his love and mercy, as well as his holiness, justice, and wrath, flow from his own character, and none can be pitted against the others. Sin is not merely a weakness that needs to be reformed but also a guilt that is incurred, invoking covenant sanctions. The atonement is grounded not only in God’s moral character and freedom but in the united determination of the persons of the Trinity; vicarious atonement is misunderstood as a vengeful Father taking out his rage on a passive Son. Christ’s sacrifice is both a guilt offering and a thank offering, a whole life of representative service.
Finally, the question of the extent of the atonement has been answered in three ways in the history of the church: universalism, hypothetical universalism, or definite (limited) atonement (defined above). The following are the two main arguments in favor of definite atonement. It emphasizes the relationship between the Trinity and redemption; those who are actually redeemed in time have been mercifully chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. It emphasizes the efficacy and objectivity of Christ’s saving work; Christ did not die for the abstract possibility of the redemption of sinners (although his death is sufficient to atone for all sin whatsoever); rather, he died for the concrete accomplishment of the redemption of everyone who belongs to him.
The past two weeks I have been taking an expositional and applicable look at Matthew 16 verses one through four, just one of Jesus’ encounters with the Pharisees. This week I am going to continue to do the same, taking a look specifically at verse four where it reads “An Evil and Adulterous Generation Seeks for a Sign.” Matthew 16:1-4 reads in its entirety;
“1 And the Pharisees, together with the Sadducees, came, and tempting desired that he would show them a sign from heaven. 2 But he answering said to them, About the commencement of the evening you say, It will be fine weather; for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, There will be a storm to-day; for the sky is red and lowring. Hypocrites, you can judge aright of the face of the sky; but can you not judge of the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous nation demands a sign, and no sign shall be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonah. And he left them, and departed.”
One question that comes to mind after reading, why would Christ call them an “evil and adulterous generation?” He did not accuse them of being guilty of physical adultery, but of spiritual adultery (Isa. 57; James 4:4). These men were worshiping a false god of their own manufacture, and this was spiritual adultery to Christ. Had they been worshiping the true God, they would have recognized the Sign, His Son when He came. The Pharisees and Sadducees were never satisfied with any signs, but continued their own wicked desires to tempted God. John Calvin writes about this matter saying,
“He (Christ) does not call them an adulterous nation merely because they demand some kind of sign, (for the Lord sometimes permitted his people to do this,) but because they deliberately provoke God.”
Jesus is telling them to read what is there in Scripture and is obvious that has been written in their Scriptures. The famous English writer C. S. Lewis wrote a famous essay on ‘Fern Seed and Elephants’, in which he talked about people claiming to see the significance of the smallest things while not seeing the elephants in front of them. Jesus is saying that the Pharisees are like that—unwilling to accept the clearest revelation from God, Himself, Jesus Christ.
Do we not see the same type of nation today here in America? One that is in ruin, one that does not accept to hear the truth, and one that does not accept to see the Great Sign given by God. We live today with two types of people, there is no in-between, those that are in Christ and those that are not. Here I must make two points of application. One for the unbeliever and one for the believer. For the unbeliever, do not continue to follow a path of those who seek after the signs of this world, and not that of Christ. Do you not foresee your own ruin coming for rejecting Christ because you seek the pleasures of this evil and adulterous generation like the Pharisees and Sadducees? For the believer, what are you seeking after today? Are you seeking the signs of this world or are you seeking the sings of being something or someone special – maybe a better person than you are now, maybe better finically, maybe a better worker at your job, or a better husband or father? Those are all good things, but if you seek them for the sake of this generation, for your own good and self righteousness you are no different from that what Christ calls an “evil and adulterous generation.” You have lost your focus upon God’s Great Sign, His Son. Not to please those here on earth, but to please an everlasting good and pure generation apart of this world.
For this is why Christ came, to save those in “an evil and adulterous generation.” Unbeliever may you come to know Christ, who He is, what He has done and what He is doing in His Church today. Believer, may you today take refuge in Christ, what Christ has already done and accomplished for you, and rejoice that you are apart of what He is doing today in His Church.
I happen to come across this video over the weekend and was blown away. The end of the child’s speech I have heard before which I believe was written by Dr. Lockridge, but I have never heard one expound upon the 66-books in one word or phrase showing Christ through the Scriptures. It was a great reminder of both Christ in and through the entire Bible and secondly, why I am not a fan of Dispensational hermeneutics.
Genesis 28: 10-22 – Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”
Christ the ladder: As he rests overnight, Jacob has a dream, which centers on a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. The Hebrew term translated “ladder” could possibly denote a stairway similar to those found on ancient ziggurats. What matters most is not the precise shape of this structure but its purpose; it provides a bridge between heaven and earth, revealing that God is still committed to making the earth his dwelling place. Jesus identifies himself as the ladder linking earth and heaven…
John 1:43-51 – The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Even more interesting is that while human beings want to ascend to heaven (as reflected in the Tower of Babel story, Genesis 11, God is interested in making the earth his temple-city. Verse 51 is an allusion or quotation of Genesis 28:12, and Jacob’s ladder is replaced in the verse by “the Son of Man.” The title “Son of Man” in John’s Gospel has the basic understanding of His origin in heaven (6:27, 33), that He will return again to His place of glory (6:62) by way of the cross (3:14; 8:28; 12:23, 34; 13:31). The divine origin and authority of Jesus is suggested by the title “Son of Man.” It was the Messianic title that Jesus chose for Himself. Here Christ does not make mention of the ladder and replaces it with Himself, because Christ is the only way to the Father, Christ is the ladder which Jacob looked forward to, and is the ladder which we the Church have today linking us on this earth to our Heavenly Father which art in the heavens.