PRESSING PAST PENTECOST: SEVEN
Copyright © 2013 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
“Pressing Past Pentecost: Seven” is taken from The Feasts of the Lord, copyright © 2011 Trumpet Ministries
Table of Contents
THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
Of the seven feasts of the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ is seen most clearly in the Passover lamb. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us.
In the Book of Revelation, Christ is presented as the slain Lamb and the Church is spoken of as the Wife of the Lamb. We partake of the Lamb in the Communion service, and we drink His blood, just as the Jewish family partakes of the lamb of Passover.
By faith we sprinkle the blood of the Lamb of God on ourselves and on our households. Therefore, God passes over us when judgment comes upon the sin in our land.
Christ is our Lamb of protection and also our atonement, our reconciliation to God. We are to partake of His body and drink His blood. The depth and intensity of our relationship to Christ and His relationship to us is revealed in the fact that we partake of Him to the extent of eating and drinking Him.
The Christian is related to Christ as student to teacher, as disciple to master, as redeemed to redeemer, as friend to friend, as sheep to shepherd. But our most significant relationship to Christ concerns our eating Him and drinking His blood—our receiving of Him into our spirit, into our soul, and into our body. We become one with Him in the truest, fullest sense of the word.
Because of this supremely profound relationship, the Church of Christ is referred to as the Wife of the Lamb, never as the wife or bride of Christ, of the Word, of the Lion of Judah, or of any other aspect of Christ.
The Church is the Wife of the Lamb because she becomes one with Him through the eating and drinking of Him. Christ is our Passover Lamb.
It was during the Passover meal that Jesus declared, “This is my body,” and, “This cup is the new testament in my blood.” By faith we eat the Body of Christ in the Communion bread, and by faith we drink His blood in the Communion cup.
While we are receiving the Communion elements our minds and hearts turn back two thousand years to that dark—and yet gloriously lighted—hour when the Lamb of God was slain for our sins. If it were not for the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood, no person on the earth could hope to escape the wrath of an angry God whose laws and ways have been violated and perverted on every side.
Let us eat of that flesh and drink of that blood, and praise the Lord for His everlasting mercy and His goodness to us.
The Passover lamb was slain in Egypt, typifying the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ was taken outside the city of Jerusalem and crucified at the hands of the Roman soldiers.
Revelation 11:8 mentions “the city, that spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Sodom represents the lust of the flesh. Egypt portrays the lust of the eyes. Jerusalem signifies the pride of life—the spiritual pride and envy that crucified Christ.
We Christians are to flee from the spirit of the world. The world is no friend of Christ. The spirit of the world crucified the Lord Jesus Christ and the same spirit will slay the testimony of the saints in the last days. But God finally will raise the saints in the fullness of the power of eternal, indestructible life, just as He raised His Lamb—Christ.
The feast of Passover was celebrated on the fourteenth day of the month Abib. Therefore God made Abib the chief of the months—the first month of the religious year. So it is that the Lord Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb, is the beginning of the redemption of the world. The calendar used by several nations is dated from His birth.
The Passover lamb was selected on the tenth of Abib, giving the family who chose it an opportunity to examine it for blemishes. It was not lawful to offer a Passover lamb that had any kind of blemish.
Christ, God’s Passover Lamb, was observed by the common people and by the priests. Yet they could find no fault in Him. Pilate, the Roman governor, could find no blemish in Him. Neither the priests of Israel nor the worldly judge could discover any blemish, any fault, any cause of blame in Him.
Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. (Luke 23:4)
The Passover lamb was not to be undercooked or boiled in water. The lamb was to be roasted with fire. The Lord Jesus went through the fire of God until there was nothing left in Him that had not been purified by the Divine judgment. Every desire, every ambition, every thought of self, every feeling of sentiment, of the need for vindication, was touched by the refining flame.
Personal desires, ambition, hopes, thoughts of self and so forth are not sin. Christ was not tempted by sin. These feelings and attitudes are not unrighteous, not unholy. Neither are they refined gold. Until they have been through death and resurrection they cannot abide in the fire with which God baptizes His choicest servants.
Every dimension and factor of Christ’s Person was “roast with fire.” Christ arose from the dead after He had been consumed in the fire of God. All our sins and sicknesses that He bore on Himself also were consumed in the burning flame of Divine judgment.
The bitter herbs of the Passover meal speak of the suffering of Christ in the world. Truly, He suffered more than any other man. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. The one righteous man who ever lived was treated the worst of all—so great is the wickedness of the world!
The only actual Passover was the Passover of the exodus. The Passover meals that have been celebrated each year since the exodus are memorials of the first Passover when Moses, the man of God, led Israel from Egypt. In another sense, the Passover is repeated each time God shields from judgment those who are under the protection of the blood of His Lamb.
Christ is our Passover Lamb and also our heavenly Moses. His blood was shed and sprinkled on each person who will receive Him by faith.
Just before Christ returns, the judgments of God will begin to fall on “Egypt,” on the world system. Christ will proceed to chastise the present world system with destructive plagues. Satan, the Pharaoh of the world, and his followers, will become increasingly hardened. The wrath of Christ will mount in fury until men begin to cry for the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them from the anger of the Lamb of God.
Then, in a spectacular demonstration of Divine glory and power, the heavenly Moses, Christ, will appear to remove His people from the slavery of Egypt. Pharaoh and his servants will fight and attempt to resist the departure of their slaves, of Christ’s people who have had to endure the cruel bondages of the present life.
The peoples of the world, and numerous believers along with them, labor in the fire for vanity, in the hopeless bondage in which Satan keeps his subjects. Human beings drive themselves into anxiety and nervous breakdowns, attempting to achieve goals that always are just out of reach. Satan is a cherub, not a human being, and an unbelievably cruel, harsh, wicked taskmaster.
The Lord Jesus will appear, and lead from their miserable servitude to the evil lords of darkness all who by faith will sprinkle His blood on their lives and on their households. In so doing, the Lord will leave the present world system in a shambles, in turmoil, in ruins, and the power of Pharaoh (Satan; Antichrist) destroyed.
The day of redemption from the hand of Satan is yet ahead of us. When the judgment falls, the true Church, the true saints, the holy remnant, will be protected just as Israel was protected in the land of Goshen. No matter how the plagues and curses fall on the world, every member of the true Israel of God, the Body of Christ, will be covered by the hand of God Almighty.
No part of God’s wrath will touch the believer who keeps himself and his loved ones under the blood of Christ.
What we have just described is the kingdom-wide fulfillment of the prophetic symbolism associated with the exodus from Egypt. Each of us as an individual has his or her own “exodus from Egypt” when we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Passover Lamb.
We come out of the malice and wickedness of the world, applying the blood of Christ by faith to our life and the lives of our household. We partake of the body and blood of the Lord, along with other Christians. We remember the death of the Lord on the cross of Calvary.
We look forward with thanksgiving and rejoicing to the Day of Redemption that is ahead of us when the Lamb of God, the heavenly Moses, will appear and bring His people out of Egypt, out from the bondages of sin and death of the present world spirit.
Then the God of the spirit of the age will be destroyed utterly and not a hand can save him. His end is written in God’s Word.
It is interesting to note the many instances in which the Book of Revelation refers to Christ as the Lamb. This is because His appearing will be the fullness of that which was begun so long ago in Egypt, and also because of His oneness with His Wife as she partakes of His body and His blood.
It pleases God to reveal His Son as the avenging Lamb because an avenging lamb is a paradox. A lamb is a meek animal, not an avenger. It is God alone who is able to exercise wrath and vengeance through a lamb.
“Behold the Lamb of God,” John the Baptist cried, “who takes away the sin of the world.”
In the days ahead, frightful curses and plagues will be poured out because of the wrath of God against those who are destroying His way on the earth. All who would be saved must be protected by the blood of God’s Lamb, Christ.
Let us be faithful in holding up Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Every man, woman, boy, and girl on the earth must be given the opportunity to be sprinkled with the blood of God’s Lamb. When the Divine destroyer comes through the earth he will pass over every person who is covered by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ is our unleavened Bread. Christ came down from the Father without inherited sin. There is no leaven of sin in His Divine nature. Of all the billions of people who have lived on the planet Earth, the only One who was born without the authority or power of sin over His life is Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus’ Father is God Almighty. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus lived a life on earth free from the leaven of sin. Then He was offered as a sacrifice to God.
If Christ had been guilty of one sin, of even the smallest transgression of Divine Law, He could not have qualified as our redeemer, our lamb.
If Christ had sinned even once He then would have had to die for His own sin and we would have to die for our many sins. If He had sinned He would need a redeemer. But Christ remained free from the leaven of sin. Therefore He is able to redeem every person who comes to God through Him.
Christ is the unleavened Bread from Heaven who gives life to the world. There is no leaven of sin in Him. He Himself is our feast of Unleavened Bread. During the Passover week there was to be no leaven at all seen among the families of Israel. Anyone found with leaven was to be cut off from among his people. The curse of God was on him if leaven was found in his home.
By this strict ordinance God was portraying His abhorrence of sin and His determination to cleanse all wickedness from His people. Christ came without sin, without leaven, so through Him we can become free from sin in our spirit, in our soul, and in our body.
In Christ there is no leaven of sin. When Christ is finished redeeming His Church, which is His Body, there will be no leaven of sin in it. The Body of Christ is the new Jerusalem, the holy city, the Wife of the Lamb. The Wife of the Lamb will be perfect, without spot, wrinkle, or blemish of any kind.
The first three acts of redemption performed by the Lord Jesus Christ took place over a short period of time. The feast of Passover, the feast of Unleavened Bread, and the feast of Firstfruits, were fulfilled when Jesus was crucified, descended into the realms of the dead, and then was reunited with His body in the cave of Joseph of Arimathea.
Christ appeared before the Father in Heaven, bringing His own blood to sprinkle upon and before the Cover of Reconciliation (Mercy Seat) in Heaven. As soon as the true tabernacle in Heaven had been cleansed (Hebrews 9:23), the fulfillment of the first three feasts in the Person and work of Christ was completed.
The departure of Christ into Heaven forty days after His resurrection is not, to our knowledge, portrayed in the feasts of the Lord. The lack of emphasis, in the typology of the feasts, on Christ’s departure into Heaven is due to the fact that His ascension merely was a temporary change in His location rather than an integral aspect of redemption.
Although the ascension of Christ into Heaven was a demonstration of Kingdom power, and He now is interceding for us in the Presence of God, it is helpful to realize this was a temporary return into the spirit realm and not part of His redemptive resurrection. The spirit realm is the area of preparation for the resurrection and the Battle of Armageddon.
Redemption is the act of freeing a person from the guilt, authority, power, and effects of Satan, sin, and death. Ascension is an act of Kingdom power in which an individual is lifted bodily from the earth and carried into the clouds, and possibly into Heaven, into the area of preparation for the subjugation of the earth.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9,10)
“We shall reign on the earth”!
Redemption has been completed when we have been reconciled to God in spirit, reconciled to God in soul, and reconciled to God in body. The fullness of redemption is possible apart from ascension into Heaven and has little or nothing to do with ascension into Heaven.
Sometimes it is useful to distinguish between resurrection, which is an act of redemption, and ascension, which is nothing more than a change in location.
When a person dies and his soul is carried to Heaven, he or she has not been fully redeemed. The individual passes into the spirit realm because the physical body, which is part of the personality of man, has succumbed to the power of sin and death, not because spiritual maturity has been attained.
In the resurrection day, at the last trumpet, the bodies of the saints will rise, from their places of burial in the fullness of redemption glory. This is the destruction of the last enemy and the climax of the Divine salvation that is in Christ. Then the saints will be caught up from the earth to meet the Lord in the air and to receive their rewards from Him. The ascension of the saints is one of the initial expressions of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
The resurrection of the physical body, which is an important part of redemption, signifies that the believer, having first been brought down to death by the judgment of God, has now been lifted into life—into eternal life. The new eternal life cannot die again. It has been sanctified and empowered by Divine Substance and Nature.
Bringing down to death is in fulfillment of the feast of Unleavened Bread. The purpose of our death with Christ is that the body of sin, the leaven that is in us, may be destroyed. In order to destroy the sin in our personality the Lord has condemned our entire adamic personality, the good and the bad of it, to the death of the cross. Our being raised from the dead is in fulfillment of the feast of Firstfruits, the feast that follows Unleavened Bread.
Do not be confused by the fact that there was one day, the fifteenth of Abib, that was termed “the feast of Unleavened Bread,” and that the seven days that commenced with the fifteenth of Abib also were referred to as the feast of Unleavened Bread. The day of Firstfruits, the sixteenth of Abib, was celebrated on one day during the week of Unleavened Bread that lasted from the fifteenth to the twenty-first of Abib.
Redemptive resurrection does not take place in us all at once. First Christ, the firstfruits, is born in us. Our new reborn inner man, which is of Christ and is Christ, ascends immediately in the spirit realm to be hidden with Christ in God. Resurrection and ascension, in the spirit realm, take place in us. Then the Spirit of God begins the work of bringing the remainder of our personality down to the death of Unleavened Bread and up again into the fullness of Firstfruits—into resurrection life as part of the Life of Christ.
There always is part of our personality that the Spirit of God is bringing down to death so He may bring it up again in newness of life. The working of death and life, death and life, takes place continually in us Christians. We continually are being pressed into Christ’s death on the cross and into the fullness of His resurrection Life.
Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits are major Scripture portrayals of death, judgment, and resurrection. Bodily ascension into the air appears to have no place among these major types because bodily ascension is a work of power of the Kingdom of God rather than a renewing of our personality in God.
We ascend in spirit to the Father in Heaven when we enter Christ’s resurrection because that is where Christ is, not because the ascension itself is an act of redemption. When Christ returns to earth we shall return to earth, for He Himself is our Life, our Resurrection.
The reason we are stressing this point is that Christian theologians have been drawn into the concept that the Christian redemption is a change of location from earth to Heaven. This is not true. The Christian redemption is a change from the life of Satan to the Life of Christ.
The eternal life is not in Heaven, it is in Christ. Our thoughts are heavenward in the present hour, not because residence in Heaven is the goal of salvation but because that is where our Life, Christ, is abiding. When Christ returns in His Kingdom, our Life will return to the earth. The types of the Old Testament do not portray the ascension of Christ or of the saints.
To emphasize the ascension of the saints rather than their resurrection from the dead is to put the wagon in front of the horse.
The harm in stressing the instant bodily ascension rather than the protracted resurrection, which is the bringing of each element of the personality down into death and then up again in union with the Life of Christ, is twofold:
- The believer proceeds in the delusion that the adoption of a set of beliefs will serve as a key that will admit him, when he dies, to an external Paradise, and that such residence in Paradise is the goal of the Christian redemption.
- The believer is looking for something to take place instantaneously that will make him acceptable to God. He is ignorant of the fact that resurrection, which is release from Satan and union with God through Christ, must take place in the human personality one step at a time.
The spirit must experience separation from Satan and union with Christ. The soul must experience separation from Satan and union with Christ. The body must experience separation from Satan and union with Christ. When these three separations and unions have been developed completely, the last separation and union being the overcoming of physical death, then the believer has been totally redeemed.
It can be understood, therefore, that those saints who ascend to meet Jesus when He next appears have been through the process of resurrection. They have come to know the power of Christ’s resurrection and have shared His suffering. They have been resurrected in spirit, in soul, and, at the appearing of the Lord, will be spiritually prepared for the resurrection of the body.
After their body has been redeemed from the hand of Satan and filled with the Life of Jesus they will be caught up to meet the Head—Christ. They are a firstfruits to the Lord. They are the holy remnant, the army of the Lord, the Body of Christ, the firstfruits of the Wife of the Lamb. They are judges, kings, and priests of God (Revelation 20:6).
The remainder of the dead will not be resurrected until a thousand years have passed.
To teach that the lukewarm believers of today, who have problems with any part of Christianity that is not pleasing to their flesh and self-will, will ascend to meet the Lord when He appears, is an invitation to chaos. They would be ascending into the consuming Fire and they, being arrogant, unbelieving flesh, would be consumed.
The churches are in a pitiful state of fleshly self-will. They are not prepared for the coming of the fiery Lord from Heaven.
We understand, therefore, that bodily ascension is not part of the program of redemption, of delivering human beings from the hand of Satan and bringing them into union with God. The bodily ascension described by the Apostle Paul in First Thessalonians is for those whom Jesus brings with Him, and also for the victorious saints who are alive on the earth when the Lord returns.
The resurrection and ascension of the saints at the next coming of the Lord is not part of the general resurrection of the dead. It is a special movement of resurrected saints from the earth to the Presence of Christ so they can descend with Him and destroy all sin and rebellion.
The rest of the dead will remain in the spirit realm until after the thousand-year Kingdom Age, at which time the nations will be raised: some individuals to life and some to the second death. The perfected Israel, the Wife of the lamb, will then descend from Heaven to the earth.
At the first resurrection, in full view of the world, the Body of Christ, God’s witnesses, will be caught up into the air. The Body of Christ will be caught up to the Head—Jesus, just as Jesus was caught up into the air while His Apostles watched.
We pass from Unleavened Bread, to Firstfruits, to Pentecost. This is to say, the feasts of the Lord portray our death with Jesus, our resurrection in Jesus, and then the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Not major scriptural type portrays the so-called “rapture,” the catching up of the believers that follows the first resurrection from the dead. No feast was observed forty days after the feast of Firstfruits, on the day when Christ ascended to Heaven (Acts 1:11). The angels bore witness of the temporary aspect of the ascension. They did not stress that the ascension of the Lord Jesus was a significant event. They pointed out to the disciples that Jesus will return in like manner. The emphasis is not on His going but on His returning.
It is important for us to keep in mind that the prize toward which we are pressing is not ascension but redemptive resurrection (compare Philippians 3:11). We cannot set the prisoners of the earth free by leaving the earth and ascending into Heaven. We will, however, set the prisoners of the earth free when we return to the earth with Jesus, having been redeemed in spirit, soul, and body.
God’s will already is being done in Heaven. The responsibility and task of the Body of Christ is to cause God’s will to be done in the earth.
We already possess ascension in the spirit realm. We already are at the right hand of the Father in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-7; Colossians 3:1-4).
What we are pursuing is the resurrection of our entire personality. The route to resurrection is through death and judgment. Only as we allow God to bring down our personality into death and judgment are we able to be raised again by God’s power and set free from all of our bondages.
The Lord Jesus entered the scene of history so He might fulfill the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits. He was selected by God, slain, and then “roasted” in the fires of judgment.
Then the Body of Christ was broken on the cross and His blood shed so we may eat and drink thereof and receive eternal life. Also, by the sprinkling of the blood we have protection from the wrath of God when God executes judgment against the gods of the world.
As soon as Christ had drunk the cup of suffering and death for every man, He died. It is appointed to men once to die and after this the judgment. At the moment Christ died the veil of the Temple was ripped open, the earth shook, the rocks were split. It was an awesome moment in history.
Just prior to this, from noon until three in the afternoon, darkness had fallen on the land.
The crucifixion of Christ was the method by which the Lord God of Heaven destroyed the authority of the God of the world and established the legal basis for the redemptive release of the peoples of the earth.
There was a period of three days and three nights, according to Jesus (Matthew 12:40), during which He was to be in the “heart of the earth.” Jonah, who was in the belly of the fish, was a type of the Lord while He was in the heart of the earth.
Jesus in the heart of the earth was the fulfillment of the feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits were on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth of Abib (Nisan), with the week of Unleavened Bread lasting for seven days (fifteenth through the twenty-first of Abib).
If these events in the life of Jesus followed the feasts precisely, He would have been slain in the evening of the fourteenth of Abib, would have been in the heart of the earth on the fifteenth of Abib, and would have risen from the dead on the sixteenth of Abib.
Christian church tradition holds that Christ was crucified on Friday afternoon, lay in the grave on Saturday, and rose from the dead early Sunday morning.
Scholars do not agree on the manner in which the type of Jonah was fulfilled—how Jesus spent three full days and three full nights in the heart of the earth or in the cave of Joseph of Arimathea. Friday to Sunday, or the fourteenth through the sixteenth Abib in accord with, does not allow for three full days and three full nights as people of Western civilization reckon time.
There are at least three possible explanations for the seeming discrepancy:
- Christ was crucified in the afternoon on Wednesday and rose from the dead at the beginning of Sunday, after sundown Saturday night. This would have given Him three full days (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday), and three full nights (Wednesday night, Thursday night, and Friday night), in the regions below the surface of the earth.
- In accordance with the Hebrew idiom and Jewish law, a fraction of a day is reckoned as a twenty-four hour day. A fraction of Friday, all Saturday, and a fraction of Sunday is reckoned as three twenty-four hour days—that is, three days and three nights.
- Christ’s descent into the heart of the earth commenced in the spirit realm prior to His actual death on the cross (compare John 17:11; Matthew 26:38).
Christ fulfilled the feast of Unleavened Bread during the time He was in the heart of the earth. It is appointed to men once to die, and after death comes the judgment. As soon as Christ died the judgment fell on Him. He had to drink the cup of Divine wrath. He was separated spiritually from the Father. He was mocked and scorned by evil men and by the hordes of Hell (Psalms 22:13).
Some are teaching today that Christ did not die spiritually, only physically. They point out that it is impossible for resurrection Life to perish.
If Christ did not taste of spiritual death He did not taste of the eternal fate of those who sin against God.
The agony of Gethsemane did not arise from the fact that the Lord was near to physical death but that He was facing becoming sin and the consequent removal of the Presence of the Father.
Bearing the unimaginable burden of the sins of the world, He—Christ, the Living Word—was cast down to Hell. He became sin for us.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (II Corinthians 5:21)
What a test of faith and obedience this was! Only the faithfulness of God’s Word stood between Christ and eternal separation from God.
We humans may understand something of the physical suffering of Christ because we know what it is to suffer in the flesh. But we understand little or nothing at all of the spiritual anguish that Christ endured at that time.
No other person who has ever lived could have sustained the smallest part of that load of spiritual darkness, oppression, and death. We never will be able to grasp what the Son of God experienced in Gethsemane because we are not as great as He.
Christ carried a burden known only to the Father and Himself. An angel was sent down from Heaven in order to strengthen Him in Gethsemane. The angel may recount to us one day the role he played in assisting the Son of God in His hour of terror.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. (Psalms 22:14,15)
The responsibility and task of the Son of God during His fulfillment of the feast of Unleavened Bread, during His hours in the heart of the earth (especially His time in Hell—see Acts 2:27), was to drink the cup of judgment on behalf of all who would put their trust in Him and be saved through Him. Christ had to remain steadfast in faith, keeping Himself as a whole burnt offering to the Father until the time came for the Holy Spirit to lift from Him the terrible weight of the sin and rebellion of the world.
If the Son of God (and Son of Man) had wavered in His faith and obedience all would have been lost. Christ Himself would have been saved but we surely would have been doomed forever. He had to bear the sentence imposed on every sinner; for the justice of God must be satisfied.
Christ carried away our sins into the spiritual areas in the earth. The leaven had to be removed from the camp. Christ Himself became the leaven and was led away from the city of Jerusalem, from the midst of Israel.
The concept of spiritual areas under the earth’s surface suggests a relationship between the material realm and the spirit realm. Our initial perception may be that there is no connection between the spirit realm and the material realm. The two, we imagine, are unrelated.
However, the facts that Jesus, like Jonah, was in the earth; that Heaven is “up” and Hell is “down”; appear to be more than symbolic or mythological concepts.
While we may not understand the relationship between the material realm and the spirit realm, there is no doubt the two realms will converge in the last days. Heaven will come to earth in the form of the new Jerusalem. People will be raised from the dead and will enter eternal life or eternal death while in their physical bodies.
If we study the prayer of Jonah we may notice that his supplication is a prophecy. It is the Spirit of Christ in Jonah describing the suffering of Christ in the spirit domain within the earth.
And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. (Jonah 2:2,3)
Notice that the second aspect of salvation often refers to water, which is symbolic of the death of the old creation. Do you remember the four major types of the second aspect (the dividing of the water by the firmament, crossing the Red Sea, the bronze Laver, and the feast of Unleavened Bread)?
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. (Jonah 2:4)
Now we come to the part where the almighty Christ attained the climax of His act of redemption, bearing on Himself the horrible burden of the leaven of the sin and disobedience of the peoples of the world:
The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. (Jonah 2:5)
What a picture of Christ descending into spiritual darkness under the load of sin! He was entering Sheol, the dread regions in the depths of the earth where the spirits of the dead were being held, awaiting the judgment of God: some to redemption and life, some to eternal separation from their Creator in the tormenting flames of the Lake of Fire.
The only assurance Christ had of ever returning from the darkness and terror of Sheol was the Word of the Father.
Going down into the heart of the earth (if we were not carrying the sin and rebellion of the world on our spirit) might be bearable to many of us because we live so much of the time in spiritual darkness and death.
The difference between the dens of lawlessness of the world and the chambers of the sinful dead may not be great. Whatever punishments there may be in Hell, one torment seems to stand out above the rest: never again shall we have the opportunity to dissociate ourselves from our foul companions and their vicious, filthy practices. Never again shall we be able to enjoy the Presence of the Spirit of God or of the saints. We have of our own will refused to serve God and have chosen the kind of environment and companions we prefer. It and they will be our possession forever—ages without end.
We of our own choice often live in the spiritual environment of Hell and are not bothered overmuch by the presence and actions of demons. The rebellious against God fear Hell, not because of the presence and actions of demons or because of the absence of God’s Spirit or the saints, but because they want to enjoy a pleasing material environment. (They are ready and willing to bring their hellish lusts into the most pleasing of environments!) However, the environment of Hell is more painful than the worst possible earthly setting. At least on earth we can lose consciousness, or sleep, or die.
The suffering that such a change of spiritual companions and environment, in particular the absence of the Presence of the Father, caused the Son of God we never shall understand.
As for us, the closer we draw to God the more the sin and darkness of the world depress us, pain us, and cause us to long to go home to be with Jesus and the saints in glory.
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. (Jonah 2:6)
It is written of Christ that He would not see corruption. This was true even to the extent His earthly flesh, which was in repose in the cave of Joseph of Arimathea, did not experience the ordinary processes of decay and death. The body of the Lord was preserved to the moment of resurrection.
As Jonah prayed in the whale so Christ continued to pray while He was in the earth’s interior.
When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. (Jonah 2:7)
At some point in the heart of the earth, as Christ went down to the bottoms of the mountains, as the floods of dread and terror smothered Him, as the earth with its bars closed about Him, as all the waves and billows of God’s judgment passed over Him, at the given moment, the fragrance of righteousness, holiness, and obedience that came up before the face of the Lord God Almighty attained the level of satisfaction required for the redemption of mankind.
God was satisfied. The cup of judgment had been drunk fully. Through His obedience Christ had made an atonement, a reconciliation for the disobedience of Adam and Eve and of all other human beings. The Father was pleased. Every Divine requirement had been met completely.
The Father’s heart of love and mercy cried out, “It is finished! My Son has wrought redemption in the earth.”
The elders and elect angels answered, “Amen. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed and is able to open the book of the hearts of men. Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor and glory and dominion forever.”
The Holy Spirit of God, observing the scene intently, awaiting the judgment of the Father, invaded the domain of darkness. There the Spirit found Jesus abiding in hope and trust, with the bars of the earth closed round about Him. The “weeds” of futility and loss of all things were “wrapped about” His head. Satan, other lords and dignitaries of the fallen angels, and the host of demon hordes, were breathing on Him the foul odors of their obscenities.
Christ is the brightest jewel of Heaven, the glory of the ivory palaces, the light and joy of the Father and of the holy angels. Now there was nothing left for Him but unending torture at the hand of fallen angels and filthy, disobedient spirits. Their tender mercies are sharper and more ugly than the most hideous of the nightmares that pierce men until they scream in the night.
In this most oppressive and blackest of darkness the fullness of the Glory of God Almighty entered the Lord Jesus and clothed Him in heavenly light. The legions of uncleanness fell back in dismay and terror. The nightmare was over for Jesus but just beginning for the wicked spirits. The Son of God—and of man too, let us remember—was filled with the unconquerable, indestructible resurrection Life of the Spirit of God.
The significance of the moment for Christ Himself, for all people past and present, and for the elect angels, will not be understood by us in its entirety until we have had a few thousand years in which to grow in spiritual wisdom and knowledge.
None of us ever has been brought so low, and none of us ever will be raised so high. No other person will be assigned so much glory, although Christ has invited us to sit with Himself on the supreme throne that governs the creation of God.
In that moment of all moments, that turning point of history, Christ was changed from the most crushed of all men to the one Person in the universe, under the Father, possessing all authority and all power in Heaven and on the earth. The sudden, dramatic ascent from prison to the throne of glory is typified by Joseph, who one day was in prison and the next day was lord over Egypt.
Christ possesses authority over all creatures—human and angelic, and over the heavens and the earth. He is Lord of all.
Satan and his followers were defeated at that point, and the subsequent history of the world—although it seems as though Satan still is in control—is the working out of the absolute victory that was performed in the interior of the earth.
The leaven has been removed from the loaf of the creation. The sting of death is sin, and the sin has been removed forever from each individual who walks in hope and trust in Christ. We understand the sin has not actually been removed as yet; but the legal basis for the removal has been established, and we who believe have been sealed by the Spirit to the great Day of Redemption—the time when the sin will be removed and cast into the Lake of Fire.
The Man of God, now in possession of all persons and things, moved out quickly, issuing commands to the legions of Heaven—the angels who excel in strength, doing the will of God.
Christ went to the place where a multitude of people had been confined since the time when God destroyed the earth in the days of Noah. Christ brought the good news of the Kingdom of God so those people might have the opportunity to hear and believe, being judged by the Lord as though they were alive in the flesh but living in the spirit domain in the earth.
The moment was now at hand. Christ heard the Word of the Father directing Him to take up His body, just as Christ had promised His disciples that He would do when the three days had been fulfilled.
Christ came to the cave of Joseph of Arimathea and stepped back into His body. Eternal life poured into the flesh that had been so weary, trudging faithfully along the dusty paths of the Holy Land. The earth and its peoples are Christ’s land of promise.
The whole Man now stood up, leaving the graveclothes neatly in place. He was returning the borrowed tomb of Joseph in the same condition in which he had found it—a tomb that can be visited today.
Christ walked to the massive stone, several tons in weight, that sealed off the tomb. An angel rolled the stone away. It is fitting that the servants of a king prepare the way before him. Christ could have passed through the stone, but it was rolled aside as a testimony. It was God’s will that the disciples go inside and bring back to us the report of what they saw.
The promise of the Father to Christ (Psalms 2:8) is that He will receive the nations for His inheritance and the farthest reaches of the earth for His possession.
Of all the earth, whom did God choose to be the person who would be the first to greet the Master of Heaven and earth? Mary. Why Mary?
What a moment this was for Christ! What a moment this was for Mary! Will there ever again be a similar event? In this scene is contained the wonderful story of redemption.
God did not choose one of the Apostles to be the first to behold Christ, as we would have done. God did not make this moment an institutional, ecclesiastical event in which the Apostles of the Church laid the cornerstone of the Kingdom of God.
We might have picked Peter or maybe John. Why Mary?
He who understands why God picked Mary has insight into the Kingdom of God.
Mary represented all that for which Christ died. The story of redemption is not one of institutionalism, ecclesiasticism, theology, church government, creeds. Redemption is a love story, a romance (we are not speaking in terms of physical love).
The story of redemption is a song, a love song, the winning of a bride. Christ loves people. He has friends. Christ is not the founder of a religion, an organization. He is our Creator. He is a Person who is interested in and loves other people.
Christ possesses so much power, so many resources, that His main interest is in us ourselves rather than in what we think we will accomplish for Him.
All the previous Divine workings, commandments, and revelations of God had been means to an end. The end was the Man, coming forth from death in the fullness of glory and victory, receiving the inheritance from His Father.
Do you know why God chose Mary to be the one to greet the resurrected Lord? The answer is simple: she loved Him. Mary did not see Christ as a means of obtaining the things she desired in life. She was content in Him Himself. God made certain His Son was met with love at the point of His greatest triumph. Mary represents all of us who love the Lord Jesus.
Isn’t it wonderful that God is this way? The story of Christ is the greatest story ever told, and it is a love story. After we journey through the miserable wilderness of the world, with its complications and endless problems, we shall find that the end of the matter is that Jesus loves us and is bringing us to the place where we can be with Him forever. It is because He loves us—nothing more, nothing less. It is just that!
When Christ stepped into His fleshly body and His body became eternally alive, the feast of Firstfruits was fulfilled in His Person. He is the firstborn from the dead, the beginning of the harvest of the earth. Because God has received Him, the harvest already is sanctified in Him and through Him—set apart to God as holy.
Many bodies of the saints who were asleep, arose and came forth from their graves after the resurrection of Jesus and appeared to many people. These also were a firstfruits to the Lord.
In three momentous days and nights the Lord Jesus fulfilled in His own Person the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits.
It is an interesting fact that Christ, after His resurrection from the dead and before He ascended to the Father, spent forty days somewhere, doing something. Where did He go and what did He do during those forty days? The Scripture describes a few incidents, but the greater part of the time is not accounted for.
Christ may have spent those days going through the earth and looking over His inheritance. It may be recalled that Satan had tempted Him by showing Him the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them. The obedient Christ would not partake of Satan’s disobedience and rebellion against God.
The Father may have given the resurrected Christ the opportunity to visit those same kingdoms, to observe their glory, in the realization now they all belong to Him to do with as He chooses. In the Father’s time, Christ will descend to claim the kingdoms of the world as His own. Meanwhile, the Body of Christ must be created so Jesus can be greatly enlarged in His Glory.
Perhaps those forty days were a vacation and rest for the Man who had been so faithful, so successful in pleasing His Father.
Can you imagine the Lord relaxing by the Mediterranean, enjoying the beauties of the snow at the poles of the earth without feeling the cold, looking at and enjoying the peoples of the remote areas of the earth, realizing that all this now is His?
Have you noticed that when the Lord brings us through particularly trying times He provides us with opportunities for rest and relaxation? Perhaps this took place for the Lord Jesus during those forty days. I hope so.
Christ Himself is the firstfruits of the creation of God:
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; these things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; (Revelation 3:14)
All things were made by Christ, and all things are being made new in Christ. All things begin and end in Christ and are of Him and through Him:
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (Revelation 1:8)
The Lord Jesus Christ is first in all things:
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:15-18)
The Christian Church is referred to as the “church of the firstborn”:
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23)
The Lord Jesus Christ is the firstborn of the sons of God:
And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. (Hebrews 1:6)
Christ is the firstborn among many brothers:
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)
Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. Christ is particularly preeminent in the resurrection, being the Firstborn from the dead:
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5)
Death, resurrection, and judgment constitute the program by which God is bringing to an end His first creation and constructing His new creation. At some point in ages past, sin came into being in Heaven. At that moment, God resolved to terminate His initial creation and to make all things new.
When the Lord Jesus walked from the borrowed tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea and spoke eternal words to the weeping Mary, He was the first Person of the new creation. What Mary beheld was something that never again can be witnessed in quite the same way—the emergence of the Alpha of the Kingdom of God.
The importance of the resurrection of Christ cannot be overstated.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (I Corinthians 15:20-23)
The concept of the firstfruits is that if God will accept the waving of the first sheaf of the barley harvest or the two loaves of Pentecost, the balance of the harvest is holy. The firstfruits represent before God the whole harvest. When the Lord God accepts the firstfruits He is signifying His acceptance of the whole.
For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. (Romans 11:16)
Because Christ has been accepted so completely by the Father, every person who abides in Him and becomes part of Him is accepted by the Father. He, the Firstfruits of the harvest, represents us before God. What He is we are, in the mind of God. God has received us in Christ.
Our resurrection is tied to His. He arose, and we arose in Him. He ascended, and we ascended in Him. He is the firstfruits and we are the balance of the harvest.
Christ fulfilled the Passover in His crucifixion. He fulfilled the feast of Unleavened Bread by bearing away the sins of the world into the spirit domains in the earth, removing the leaven of the world from the lives of those who will accept Him.
Then the Son of God fulfilled the feast of Firstfruits by returning to His body and coming forth from the tomb as the Firstfruits of those who sleep in physical death.
On the third day of creation the “dry land” appeared. Christ is the first appearance of “land” in the new creation of the Lord God. The “seas” (turbulence of life) were gathered together and Christ appeared in the midst as the foundation on which all men must build.
The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. (Psalms 24:1,2)
The material creation, including the nations, has been founded on nothing more stable than the seas and the floods. But there is a city that has foundations. The foundations of the city have been established for eternity, and they are Christ.
Also, on the third day of creation, vegetation and fruit trees appeared for the first time. We see in these first signs of life the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the beginning of all life. He also is the Tree of Life, the eating of whom brings eternal life to those who are dead in sin.
The third piece of the holy furnishings of the Tabernacle was the Table of Showbread. The Table of Showbread portrays the body and blood of Christ (wine was poured out in the Holy Place next to the Table of Showbread).
The body and blood of Christ enter us as the beginning of eternal life. The swirling waters of the turbulence of our adamic life part and the firm ground of Christ appears in us. We are born again by partaking of Him.
Christ is born in us. He, the firstfruits of God’s new work, becomes the firstfruits of our own new personality.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, …; (II Corinthians 5:17,18)
All things of the Kingdom of God are measured from the Lord Jesus.
Every structure, every institution, every military engagement or business venture, must have a point of reference. There must be a cornerstone, an anchor, a standard, a fixed point that is true and immovable.
Everything being constructed refers back to the point established originally. If it is not referred back, the builder can become confused in the undertaking because of lack of alignment and integrity in what has been put together. It is subject to malfunction and collapse.
Christ Himself is our Cornerstone. He is our anchor, our fixed point of reference, our standard. When we become confused or get into difficulties we draw back to our original position in Him.
God has set Christ first. He is the Word of God. Christ has overcome the world. Through His obedience we have been made righteous.
God has founded all His efforts on Christ. Christ is the beginning, the firstborn of every creature, the Alpha. He also is the ending, the Omega. All things originate in Him, refer back to Him, and will conclude in Him.
God’s re-creation of the heavens and the earth rests solidly on Christ as on a mountain of rock, an immovable foundation established so firmly and securely that no power in the heavens or on the earth can budge it in any manner.
Christ is perfect, true, faithful, without sin, righteous, holy, and obedient to the Father. The heart of the Father abides in undisturbed contentment in His beloved Son because the Son meets every requirement of the Father. No other person could ever begin to meet every requirement of the Father. Christ has met every standard and always pleases the Father.
Christ is the Firstfruits of the new creation. When Christ died on the cross He did not say, I am finished; He declared, “It is finished.” Every person and every thing in the universe of God died, in God’s mind, when Christ expired. Now the old creation is awaiting the Day of Judgment.
Then Christ rose from the dead, the firstfruits of the Church and of all saved peoples. From that point onward, every person and thing in Heaven and on the earth must be measured from Him and have Him as the Center. Christ is God’s Benchmark, God’s eternal Standard. What has not been measured from Christ and does not have Him as its center will be shaken and removed.
(“Pressing Past Pentecost: Seven”, 4049-1)