C.H. Macintosh said “There are two grand facts which characterize Christianity, and mark it off from all that had gone before; and these are, first, man glorified in heaven; and secondly, God dwelling in man on the earth.”
One result of Christ Glorified is the truth of the forerunner, a word found only once in scripture, and attributed to our Lord Jesus after His ascension:
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:19-20).
Ascending to heaven (Lk. 24:51; Acts. 1:9) He entered as our Forerunner. Doing so He prepared our way, awaits to welcome us, and asks that we bear witness to His glory.
The Way of the Glorified Man
The word translated “forerunner” was a military term used to describe a soldier, scout or spy who ran ahead before the regular forces followed. At the same time it was also used to describe a small boat that went ahead with an anchor when the ship could not get past the sand bar at low tide. Rowing past the sand bar, this small vessel would drop the anchor, securing the ship until the tide arose allowing the ship to follow. Christ, our Forerunner has carried our anchor – hope – and fastened it behind the veil. He is our certainty that we will someday follow Him.
Considering our Forerunner we see a significant difference between Him and the Old Testament priesthood. The O.T. High Priest could only represent the Israelites. On the Day of Atonement none could follow him behind the veil. Our great High Priest sits in heaven not only representing believers from all nations, but is also our Pioneer having blazed a trail for us. Today we follow by faith (Heb. 4:16), but someday we will follow Him into God’s presence.
The Lord told Peter “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” (Jn. 13:36). These words carried a double significance. Peter could not follow the Lord to the cross because the Lord alone must bear the world’s sins. But after the Lord’s ascension Peter would not only take up his cross in service to his Master (Mt. 16:24; Lk. 22:31-32) but would also glorify God on a cross, dying a martyr’s death (Jn. 21:18-19). Dying to self, we also have the wonderful privilege of daily taking up our cross and following Him (Lk. 9:23; Gal. 2:20).
However the deeper and fuller significance is found in the fact that He has now prepared the way for us to follow Him to heaven (Jn. 14:1-6). When the Lord told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them (Jn. 14:3), it was still future. This preparation began at Calvary and was completed forty days after His resurrection when He ascended to His Father. He has fully prepared the way by His presence before the throne of God. Being the first man to enter heaven, He is our Pioneer.
Upon death, the Old Testament saints’ spirits were transported to a place called Abraham’s Bosom (Lk. 16:22) or paradise (Lk. 23:43). But when Christ ascended to heaven in His glorified body He emptied paradise of these saints (Eph. 4:8) and their spirits followed Him into glory. Since that day, when each believer dies, their body is placed in the ground but their spirit enters the very presence of God (2 Cor. 5:8). Further at the rapture all believers will be glorified (1 Cor. 15:51-57; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 5:23; 1 Jn. 3:2).
By returning to His Father, Christ said that the Spirit would convict the world of righteousness (Jn. 16:8, 10). God used this event to powerfully demonstrate Christ’s unchanged intrinsic righteousness. The Lord touched a leper without becoming ceremonially unclean (Mt. 8:3) and on the cross our Substitute bore our sins without becoming sinful. He became a holy sin offering yet remained untouched by iniquity. He suffered the law’s curse without defiling Himself. He took away our sin yet there is still no sin in Him (1 Jn. 3:5). From eternity to the cross and back to heaven He is “Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1 Jn. 2:1).
Showing satisfaction in His perfect work the Father raised the Righteous One from the dead, and welcomed Him back into His presence, not only as the eternal Son but now also as the glorified Man.
The Welcome of the Glorified Man
What a day that must have been when heaven received our Lord Jesus (Acts. 3:21). We have sometimes sat transfixed or even participated in standing ovations for heroic people who have performed courageous feats. However we cannot even begin to imagine the loving reception Christ received from His Father (Ps. 110:1). This joyful occasion must have also included poignant worship from heaven’s hosts and would have been thrilling to witness and partake. Now we worship by faith but someday we will see Him and worship with the angels.
Welcomed back to heaven, our Forerunner is waiting to welcome us. Shortly before Calvary Christ prayed to His Father, desiring that we be with Him (Jn. 17:24). We find it both touching and comforting that Christ is looking forward to our arrival. A time of great joy awaits us, a time of great joy awaits Him (Jude 24). He expects and anticipates us. We expect and anticipate Him. Let us serve Him wholeheartedly so that day will not be tempered by the sadness of our infidelity and disobedience.
We get a glimpse of this in the life of Stephen. Just before the authorities stoned him, heaven’s curtains opened so he could see Christ standing at the right hand of God (Acts. 7:55) – approving his testimony, sympathizing with his pain, and eagerly awaiting his arrival.
There may have been times when you have not felt very welcome, sadly maybe even ostracized by other believers. Beloved, let us show impartiality (Jas. 2:1-9), forbearance (Eph. 4:2), and forgiveness (Eph. 4:32) toward one another. For after all Christ does. Let us esteem our brothers and sisters highly (Phil. 2:3-5), for after all Christ does. Rest assured that the day you pass into glory Christ will welcome you with the most heartfelt, genuine, and loving reception you have ever received.
In His prayer to the Father Christ asked that we see His glory (Jn. 17:24). Someday we will (1 Jn. 3:2) but now by faith we have the privilege to testify to it.
The Witness to the Glorified Man
The underlying theme of Stephen’s sermon after his arrest was God’s glory. The Jewish people still revered the temple (Acts. 6:13-14) but God’s glory had left it long ago (Ezek. 10:4, 18-19; 11:23; Acts. 7:48). He described individuals such as Abraham and Moses who witnessed God’s glory. The Israelites witnessed the Shekinah (dwelling place) glory hovering over the ark and later filling the temple. Stephen explained that God does not dwell in things made with hands but in both his word and character he showed that God now dwells in individual believers (Acts. 7:48-49; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). Initially rejecting their saviours (Joseph, Moses), always persecuting the prophets, this privileged nation (Rom. 9:4-5) had ultimately rejected and crucified the Lord of glory (Acts. 7:52; 1 Cor. 2:8).
As he was speaking his face shone (Acts. 6:15) and learned witnesses such as Saul must have recalled reading how Moses’ face shone after being in God’s presence (Ex. 34:29-35; 2 Cor. 3:12-18). For the Christian, the Spirit’s ministry increasingly radiates out from within, manifesting the reality that we have spent time in Christ’s presence. As we commune with Him in His word and in prayer, we are gradually changed into His image. This transformation is greater than Moses’ temporary, reflecting glory (2 Cor. 3:6-11) and is a powerful witness to Christ.
Seeing Christ in us provides an unveiling ministry to a lost world that the god of this age has blinded – it helps take away the veil that hides the good news about Christ’s glory (2 Cor. 4:3-4, 6).
The gospel primarily concerns Christ’s glory. In eternity He shared the Godhead’s glory with the Father but stepping into time He veiled it: clothing Himself in human flesh, serving His God, dying for the sins of the world. Anticipating victory the Son asked the Father to fully return Him to His previous state of manifested glory (Jn. 17:5), now also in a glorified Man. We confidently preach salvation in Christ, His presence in glory affirming both that God has accepted His work and answered His prayer.
Our testimony for Christ in not only about a Saviour who died for our sins, but also about a Lord who is risen for our justification (Rom. 4:25), glorified in heaven with all things put under Him (Eph. 1:20-22). The gospel glorifies Christ who opened the way, awaits our arrival, and whom we unveil to a lost world.
Reprinted from the Fall, 2015 issue of Counsel Magazine