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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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 reubenbredenhof.com
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Christ in His glory is Preparing our Future Glory
Text:LD 19 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's return
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-01-16
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 118:1,4                                                                                    

Hy 2:1,2,3

Reading – Psalm 110; Acts 1:1-11

Ps 110:1,2,3,5

Sermon – Lord’s Day 19

Ps 121:1,2,3,4

Hy 41:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, do we really need Lord’s Day 19? I ask that, because when you place this Lord’s Day next to the previous one, you see a lot of repetition. For Lord’s Day 18 speaks about the ascension of Christ—so does Lord’s Day 19. Lord’s Day 18 explains how Christ in heaven blesses and cares for us—so does Lord’s Day 19. And both Lord’s Day 18 and 19 mention that Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead.

Between these two Lord’s Days there is definitely some repetition. So maybe we could drop this one, and give the Catechism students one less Lord’s Day to learn?

But there’s a good reason for this overlap. Let’s say that Lord’s Day 18 deals with the basic fact of Christ’s ascension, but Lord’s Day 19 sets out the purpose. That is, this Lord’s Day is very clear about the destination to which everything is moving forward, the end-goal. In other words, Christ isn’t going to stay in heaven indefinitely, but He’s going to return to this earth. Everything that He does today is about getting ready for the day of his second coming.

Christ isn’t physically near, yet in a very real way his presence with us continues, even in all his “divinity, majesty, grace and Spirit.” And He’ll come back for a beautiful reunion with his people! Christ left earth in order to receive glory in heaven, and while He’s away He’s working hard to bring us into glory. I preach to you God’s Word as it is summarized in Lord’s Day 19,

Christ in His glory is preparing our future glory:

  1. today He rules from heaven
  2. while we live on earth
  3. and soon we shall be with Him

 

1) today he rules from heaven: So what sets these two Lord’s Days apart? Getting down to specifics, we can begin to answer this question with a comparison. Think of how the prophet Elijah also ascended into heaven. At the end of his earthly ministry, he was taken up in a whirlwind, accompanied by chariots and horses of fire (2 Kgs 2:11-12).

Elijah ascended, and Christ ascended—but of Christ alone it says that He went up and sat down at the right hand of God. He ascended into heaven to take his position beside the Father. So this is one way in which Lord’s Day 19 fills out the picture of Christ’s ascension. Without Christ ‘sitting down,’ we would miss something important.

Now, sitting down is one of the most ordinary activities we can do. Whenever we are doing something that requires us to stay in one place for a while, we tend to sit down: eating a meal, reading a book, working on the computer—we sit. Look at what you’re all doing right now: sitting and listening. But for Christ, sitting isn’t something ordinary or passive.

Our Lord is seated in heaven, having finished his redeeming work on earth. He had been ‘on his feet,’ busily leading his life of obedience. He had worked very hard: teaching, leading, healing, and finally, bearing the Father’s heavy punishment against sin. He worked hard, and now He was done—and He sat down.

And yet this sitting down isn’t like you or I will sit down to rest. We vacuum the whole house or mow the lawn or preach a sermon, and then we sit down to rest, to catch a breather and drink a glass of water. But Christ sat down to keep on working.   

For Christ sat down at the right hand of the Father. Today we speak of someone’s ‘right hand man,’ and we mean a skilled apprentice, a trusted deputy, a helper who can always be counted on to do a good job. But Christ is more than a ‘right-hand man.’

Back in ancient times, kings and queens often had a person of talent and unquestioned loyalty sitting on their right side. They’d be on their throne, and just beside them sat this top official. To him they could turn directly and give the word: “Go and get my armies ready for war.” Or, “Make sure that those people suffering famine get enough food to eat.” Through the person at the right hand, they put their decisions into effect. What such person said and did was the will of the king himself.

In a similar way, the Old Testament speaks about the great privilege of being at God’s right hand. Nowhere is that more obvious than in Psalm 110. We read this psalm earlier; it’s one of several royal songs in the Psalter. The Israelites probably sang it when a new king was crowned in Jerusalem. They praised God, for it was a gift to have someone faithful in charge, someone to lead them into battle and to do justice in the land.

The psalm is certainly about the kings in David’s line, those ‘at God’s right hand’ and who represented the LORD on earth. But there’s another level to Psalm 110, a much deeper meaning. And that becomes clear when we get to the New Testament. It’s a short psalm, but there is none that is more important to the New Testament than this one. Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted of all the psalms—quoted directly at least eight times, and alluded to several more times. Verse 4 gets almost an entire chapter’s worth of commentary in Hebrews 7!

Psalm 110 is loaded to the brim with theology—or more accurately, loaded with Christology, the doctrine of our Saviour. The New Testament relates this Psalm to several key parts of Jesus’s work: his priestly office, his resurrection, his ascension, and his sitting down at God’s right hand.

Focusing for now on verse 1, we know how Christ fulfilled these words, “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand.’” For when Christ came into the heavenly places after his resurrection and ascension, God granted him this position of authority and honour.

Jesus was the great Son of David, the true King of Israel, the Prince of peace, and He received a position of supreme power. Christ is at the Father’s right hand not merely as a main helper or top apprentice. He’s equal to the Father in power and glory!

“My Son, you’ve proven yourself, so sit down here,” the Father said to Jesus, “to rule, to be the instrument of my will on earth. Rule over everyone—every tech billionaire, every mighty president, every powerbroker in this world. Have dominion over those who hate you, and those who love you. Be king over all the angels, all the demons, and Lord of all creation. For I give you all authority in heaven and on earth.”

Christ sat down at the Father’s side. But that doesn’t mean his work is done. For if you have great authority, you also have a lot of responsibility. As the Catechism says, “Christ ascended into heaven to manifest himself there as Head of his church, through whom the Father governs all things” (Q&A 50). Right now Christ governs all creation for the good his people, the church.

And this is work that He does best from heaven. Just before He ascended, Jesus told his disciples that He had received the supreme position in the universe. But like any of us, his disciples were forgetful. They still thought of things in an earthly way. So they asked him in Acts 1, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel” (v 6). In other words, ‘Now that you’ve been given unlimited power, and you’ve defeated Satan and conquered death, then why not rebuild the kingdom now? Why leave, just when you have all the momentum?’

But from that day onwards, Christ will supervise the kingdom-building work from his throne in heaven. Why do it from heaven? Why govern remotely? Surely one main reason is because sinners will be saved only by faith in his name—faith, the assurance of things ‘not seen.’ If Christ the King was still physically present on earth, He might have a great following, because everyone could see him in person and be impressed by him. He might be immensely popular, but maybe have few true believers.

Christ wants sinners to accept him by faith, and He wants his church to live by faith—to depend on him, even though we cannot see him now. Since his departure the church has had much work to do, and we do it with abundant help from heaven.   

 

2) while we live on earth: It’s not the most profound observation, that today we live on earth. But we are here, and Christ is in heaven—so if He’s our Head and we’re his Body, shouldn’t we be together? But for now, Christ and we live apart.     

He has a purpose in heaven, and so do we here on earth. In Acts 1 the disciples stood staring into the blue yonder after Christ ascended. As we said, his disciples didn’t fully get what their Lord’s purpose was, so there was anxiety. Their master was gone! Now what? But they had no reason to stand there. They had a job to do, making the gospel known to the ends of the earth. Their Master commanded it.

Listen to what Psalm 110 says of the Lord, “Your people shall be volunteers in the day of your power” (v 3). Or like our rhymed version of this psalm puts it, “Your people will be wholly glad and willing.” Redeemed sinners should line up to give to God, to worship, to sacrifice, for it’s a great honour to serve someone great. With Jesus seated at God’s right hand in heaven, his people should be eager volunteers and ready servants. Psalm 110 speaks of how God’s people give their very best, the peak and prime of their energy and talent—because it’s for the Lord!     

What’s our Christ-given task while we live on the earth? Psalm 110 clearly reminds us of at least two of our jobs: kings and priests. Because Christ is the glorious king, and we share in his anointing, He calls us to the royal task of fighting against evil, resisting the devil, putting on God’s armour and going to battle. And because Christ is the great high priest, He makes us priests, those called to present ourselves and everything we are in grateful worship to God.

And certainly we can’t forget the central task that Christ gave to his church just before He ascended. What was his final charge? Go and make disciples of all nations! As Jesus said in Acts 1, “You shall be witnesses to me” (1:8). And that sets before us our prophetic task. Not everyone is a missionary or evangelist, of course not. But everyone must be willing to speak the name of Jesus into this world. A prophet speaks, by definition.

We are witnesses of what Christ can do, we are witnesses to how He has changed us and saved us. And He wants many more people to know. In fact, He won’t come back until his gospel has gone into all the world—so that gives us a job to do.

As we think about our earthly task and how to carry it out, we might hesitate. It seems like too big a job, and too hard. Who is brave enough to speak up in this world? How can we confess him when there’s so much hostility? Or is it even possible to deny yourself, with all the pleasures we can access? It’s all well and good to talk about presenting your life as a sacrifice to God, but what if I don’t like giving things up? What if I like my comfort and ease too much?

But Christ assures us of his ready help. Listen again to his words to the disciples just before He left, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). The mighty Spirit of Christ will always enable the church to do her work.

We know how Jesus very soon fulfilled his promise. Just a few short days after his ascension, He sent them his Holy Spirit. The rest of the book of Acts tells the story of how the apostles (and many others) were enabled by Christ to testify to what they had seen and heard, how He empowered them to bring this saving message to the world.

Christ supplies us too, for our lives of service here on earth. Christ from heaven pours out his Spirit, and through him we continually receive “heavenly gifts” (Q&A 51). Notice how it says, “He pours out gifts.” That’s a term of generosity, purposely chosen. If you pour something out, you’re not holding back. It’s not a slow trickle of iced-tea that you serve your guests on the back patio, but it’s plenty that you pour out. As much as they ask for, they can have. You’ll make more, if you need to! Like that, Christ pours out his gifts on those who ask.

He gives all the material things you need, and the physical abilities, and the blessings of family and church. These good things come from him, poured out generously. And most importantly, He gives the fullness of his Holy Spirit.

Through his Holy Spirit, Christ saturates you with love and joy and peace. So you can ask him for wisdom to make sense of this perplexing life. You can ask him for patience to endure hardship (or for patience to deal graciously with hard people), and Christ will give these gifts to you. Christ gives contentment with our earthly situation. He gives cleansing from sin. He gives faith by which we can stand fast in him. Our Saviour loves us so much that He’ll give all that we need to persevere while we wait for his return.

And the fact is, there is much to endure. I appreciate how realistic the Catechism is with the first line of Answer 52, “In all my sorrow and persecution…” Notice how it assumes that both of these things will be true for us. It assumes that each of us will have occasion to speak about sorrow and to speak about persecution.

This is because the Bible tells us to expect both realities. Says Paul in Acts 14:22, “We must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations.” That’s the kind of road that lies ahead of us. Or as Peter says, “Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12). Sorrow and persecution for God’s people are not unusual. Expect it. Prepare for it. Before He comes again, Jesus says, wickedness will be multiplied on the earth, the man of lawlessness will come, and many anti-Christs will appear.

Here too, Psalm 110 is a great help. It gives us eyes to properly see this hostility and to know where it comes from. There are enemies, there are hostile peoples, and those who are dead-set against the LORD. In fact, Psalm 110 paints a brutal picture of wrath, dead bodies heaped up, and executions, because this is war—and this is the life we live on earth. The devil won’t relent with his attacks, the world won’t suddenly become more welcoming of Christians, and our own sinful flesh will stubbornly hold onto its wrong desires.

But before we get discouraged, remember the glorious theme of Psalm 110, which is amplified a hundred times in the New Testament: Christ is King! He is at God’s right hand, and He makes enemies a footstool for his feet. Christ never fled from battle, but He rushed forward, won the victory, and now sits enthroned at God’s right hand!  

Today we live on earth with its sorrows and persecutions, living as exiles, looking forward to home. In Christ we already have so much, and we know that He is working in heaven to give us even more. For He has promised that one day we’ll be with him in glory.      

 

3) and soon we shall be with him: Going back to Acts 1 for a final time, we see the disciples staring into heaven, dismayed and uncertain. And the angels said to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). He was gone, but He’d certainly be back! That promise gives great joy for the future.

He will return, coming “in like manner” as He left. Ponder what that means: His return will be the perfect counterpart to his departure. One day Jesus will return in his resurrection body, just like when He left. He will return with the clouds, just like when He left, “and every eye will see him.” And He will return as the loving Saviour—remember, the one who departed from his church with hands outstretched in blessing.

“In like manner” He will return. And this means that when we see him on that day, we will not fear—not if we’ve believed in him. Yes, He is coming in judgment. He is coming with power and authority, to judge every sin and to restore justice to this earth. That’s a scary prospect if your sins are still on your own account, if you haven’t been wholly glad and willing to serve the Lord.  

But the believer’s comfort is that we belong to Christ in life and in death and in judgment. The great Lord that we’ll face on the last day, says the Catechism, is the “very same person” who already bore the punishment that was to fall on us (Q&A 52). We await as Judge the one who was judged in our place. He’ll return in the same way that He departed: with amazing love for those whom He washed in his blood.

This is why the Catechism says this about Christ’s return: “In all my sorrow and persecution I lift up my head and eagerly await” (Q&A 52). This ‘lifting up the head’ is not like the disciples’ fretful gazing into the sky in Acts 1. No, this is a confident expectation of grace.

It’s like what Psalm 121 says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” In days of trouble, we look up in the full assurance that our Lord is coming again soon. We lift up our eyes, and why should we be afraid? For it is our Saviour whom we’ll meet at the last day!

This means we should we keep working. We keep up our spirits. We stay faithful and we stay hopeful. We’re exhorted in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” We keep working, and we keep our eyes on the eternal harvest.

So we lift our eyes and pray for the Saviour’s return. He has left us, but we know that soon the Lord of glory will take us to himself in heavenly joy and glory. As Jesus said in Acts 1, it’s not for us to know times or seasons, regarding when exactly the Lord will return. But He will return—that much is sure.

Don’t forget that just as surely as Jesus went to heaven, so certainly will He return. ‘We lift up our head and eagerly wait.’ Don’t let this heavenly perspective be blurred by anything here on earth, whether by many hardships or by many blessings. But keep your vision clear. These are meant to be times of expectation, preparation, longing and waiting.

So what are you waiting for? What are you preparing for? Are you getting ready for Christ? Don’t hang back, hold out, or hesitate. But let us be ‘wholly glad and willing’ to live for the Lord, now and always!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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