Joshua 10: 12-14 (to “man”)
Luke 23: 33, 34, 44-46
John 17: 24
Acts 26: 11-18
The period of time that we are in, dear friend, is like no other period of time that there ever has been, or ever shall be. I am not speaking literally of today, the 19th of August 2007, but a day as in a period of many years. This day that we are in is a period which began when the Lord Jesus had ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit came here, and which will end when Jesus comes again for those who love Him. This period of time is a day like no other day. It is sometimes referred to as a day of grace. It is different in its character to other periods of time, or dispensations, in which God has operated. It is different from the period of time before the incoming of Jesus, when God was then known only in a limited way and only by a few persons. God did not then offer full and free forgiveness to all men. One particular feature of the present time that I would like to occupy you with, dear friend, is that today there is a Man living in heaven, in glory, a Man who has actually been here on earth. He is a real man, but He is a Man who is now in glory. I think that is a feature of this dispensation that marks it out as different from any before. That living Man is available to all men as a Saviour in glory tonight, dear friend; therefore how favoured we are to live in this period of time.
I often think what it might have been like to live in a previous dispensation. Think of Adam in the garden, what wonder it would have been to see everything set up there in perfection! Think of Abraham and of the blessing that he came into, what it would have been like living in that time! Think of Moses, of God coming down and speaking with him, face to face! Think of God dwelling in the midst of the children of Israel! Think of king Solomon in his glory! What it would have been to be one of his servants, one of his men! These were all wonderful times, but they do not really compare to the present time because now you have an opportunity to know for yourself in a personal way the glorious Saviour, the Lord Jesus. We thank God that we have these persons all recorded for us in scripture because God teaches us about Christ through them. Mr F E Raven said that three prominent thoughts in the Old Testament are blessing, dwelling and ruling, vol 5: p29. Blessing is typified in Abraham (Gen 12: 2, 3) - all our blessings are in Christ, “every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ”, Eph 1: 3. Then dwelling, God dwelling there amongst the children of Israel (Exod 29: 45) - now Christ can dwell through faith in the hearts of believers, Eph 3: 17. And then think of rule, the glorious rule of king David, and Solomon too after him - now you can have Christ as your Lord and King. So Christ in this present day far supersedes everything and everyone that has gone before.
Then, there is a time coming after this dispensation, a period of a thousand years, the period of the millennium, and there will be blessing for men there too, but it will be earthly blessing. Tonight there is an opportunity for you to come to know a heavenly Man, to know heavenly blessings, and to know that your destiny will be heavenly with Him. Those persons who will be on the earth in the millennium will know blessings; but there is something special tonight. “There was no day like that before it or after it“.
How has this day come about? How is it a day in which God can preach forgiveness? How can that be? I would like to use this reference in the Old Testament about a man called Joshua. He did many wonderful things for God and His people and it is worth reading about because, like so many things in the Old Testament, it is there to help us learn and understand more about Jesus. It says, “And the sun stood still, and the moon remained where it was”, and then further down it says, “And the sun remained standing in the midst of heaven”. I think that is like Christ glorified. The Lord Jesus has been on this earth; He was a lowly and perfect Man; He perfectly fulfilled God’s will; but He is a glorious Man tonight. We were reminded in the reading of the Scriptures today that the glad tidings are not just to give you relief. They are to attract you and attach you to a Man who is living in glory, a Man who is in heaven. Accepting the glad tidings will save you from judgment. We rejoice that we can know the One in our Lord Jesus who is “our deliverer from the coming wrath“ (1 Thess. 1: 10), but that is not the end in the glad tidings. We might say carefully, the glad tidings are not an emergency exit. They are not preached only that you may escape the judgment you rightly deserve because of your sins and your sinful state. If you remain in that state away from God, you will go into eternal judgment. But the glad tidings are that the judgment has been poured out on Another - we will read about that - but they are really like a door into something, a door into a wonderful area of heavenly blessings, and it is available to you tonight.
There is no other day like this either before it or after it. I cannot tell you how long this day is going to last for. It says here, “And the sun remained standing in the midst of heaven,” - Christ is there; He is the centre of everything that God is doing; He is the centre of God’s interests - “and hasted not to go down”. I am using this reference to a day in which an enemy was overthrown. There is a touch of grace here for God’s people. God is making the day of salvation as long as possible so that as many persons as possible can come to know Jesus as their Saviour. I do not know how much longer it will be before the sun may go down, that is, until the opportunity to know Jesus as your Saviour is lost. I do not want to frighten anyone but there is a time coming when, typically speaking, the sun will go down. There is a time coming when persons will no longer be able to avail themselves of the Lord Jesus. What terror there will be in the hearts of men who perhaps had come under the sound of a preaching like this! I think something will dawn on them; think of the horror of their souls when they realise that they had missed an opportunity and there was no way of regaining it. Dear friend, there is no need for you to be like that. There is no need for you to end up in a situation like that. Simply accept the Saviour that God is presenting to you tonight! You cannot buy what He will give you. Simply repent before God and accept the Saviour that He has provided! I was just affected by that, “there was no day like that”. There is no day like the present day. There is a common saying, 'There is no time like the present', and how true that is in terms of laying hold of Jesus as your Saviour. There is no time like the present. There may not be any more time. There is nothing you can do about the past. Do not worry about that, but know that you can have all the sins you have committed in the past cleared completely before God by putting your trust in Jesus.
Well, I read in Luke because here we have the voice of a Man, God hearkening to the voice of a Man. The Lord Jesus says here, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”; they were about to put Him to death, they had nailed Him to a cross, dear friend, and still He said, “Father, forgive them”. I think God hearkened to the voice of a Man there. I think from that point forward the whole period of time that followed was going to be marked by forgiveness, grace, and mercy. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. It says, “they crucified him”. Well, that had to be. God could not forgive you otherwise. God could not just forgive you and pretend that what you have done in your sins has not happened and overlook it. God does not sweep anything under the carpet. Everything that God does is righteous and just. God is a holy God. It is good to remind ourselves of who it is we have to do with in the glad tidings, God, the One that is “from eternity and to eternity” (Ps 106: 48), the One that dwells “in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor is able to see”, 1 Tim. 6: 16. Yet, He is a God who has come out, a God who has come out in love. Do not overly concern yourself with the person next to you. Be concerned with your own self, your salvation. It is you that God is speaking to tonight. But Jesus had to die. There had to be a sacrifice. For God to be able to offer forgiveness, there had to be a sacrifice and, we might say carefully, no ordinary sacrifice. Anyone who had even a trace of sin upon them coming under the judgment of God would have been completely consumed but Christ was absolutely sinless and He bore the judgement.
It says further down, “And it was about the sixth hour, and there came darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour”. Before that the Lord Jesus had said, “Father, forgive them”. Communion with His Father is expressed. It says elsewhere, “Father … I knew that thou always hearest me“, John 11: 41, 42. We read in another gospel that, at the end of these three hours, He cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, Matt. 27: 46. The Lord Jesus knew that His Father always heard Him. But for a period of three hours, we would say reverently, God did not hear Him. God left Him alone whom He loved the most. He forsook Him. Why did He have to be left alone while the full wrath of God was poured out upon His perfect, sinless head? Not for anything that He had done - far be the thought! It was because of what I have done in my sins and what I am in my sinful condition that the Lord Jesus had to endure those three hours of unimaginable suffering. There is nothing in those hours that we can look into. There was darkness. No-one could even begin to comprehend what went on in those three hours, but you can have some appreciation of it by accepting that He went that way for you. I can say, 'He went that way for me'. If you say, 'Jesus died for me', He “bore our sins in his body on the tree“ (1 Pet 2: 24), God will offer you complete and immediate forgiveness of your sins. You will have nothing to fear, but, more than that, you will have a right to lay claim to the One who is in glory. You will have a right to claim Him as your Lord and your Saviour and you will have a right to be with Him for ever in glory.
“And it was about the sixth hour, and there came darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened,” - think of that! - “and the veil of the temple rent in the midst”. The whole new dispensation was being opened up. That veil had been a barrier, and limited access to God. God had come out in a limited way through that system because of what man was. But now, in Christ, God can come out in a full way, and we can go in in a full way. You do not have to hesitate. We can go before God with boldness, not because of anything we are but because of what Christ has done and what He is.
“Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit”. This is proof, if it were needed, that the communion that could not be enjoyed during the three hours of darkness was reinstated. He addresses His Father again, the work having been finished for God. What a work it is! Have you ever thought about the magnitude of what Christ has done? Have you ever thought about the millions and millions of souls that have been secured for eternity for God’s praise and pleasure and glory? You can be amongst them tonight. There is no day like this, this period of time when you can lay hold of Jesus as your Saviour.
“And having said this, he expired”. We must be clear that the Lord Jesus did actually die, a real Man who came into this scene. There was no room for Him in this world from the very beginning, laid in Bethlehem’s manger, no room in the inn, Luke 2: 7. The world still has no room for Him. Can you see anywhere in the world where Christ is made much of? There is that which holds His name, but how sorrowful it is to see what goes on, what attaches to His name! There is no room in this world for Him. Is there room in your heart for Him tonight? Just accept that you are a sinner, repent before God and accept, and put your faith in, the fact that the Lord Jesus died, that He died for you and that His blood was shed. John’s gospel tells us that once He had expired, once the Lord Jesus had died, a soldier came along and “pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water“, chap. 19: 34. The immediate answer in love, even in the presence of man’s utmost wickedness and cruelty there, what grace! God can then say typically, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you“ (Exod 12: 13), but more than that, there was the blood that was sprinkled before the mercy-seat. There is a way in. Christ has made it possible for us to go right into the presence of God because of what He has done. That is where He wants you to be. He does not just want you to escape from the coming wrath; He does not just want you to be delivered and then go on with all the poor, paltry things of the world. He wants you to be saved, yes, certainly, but then He wants you to be attached to Christ where He is in glory. That is wonderful, dear friend. I would that I knew more about it.
So then in John 17 here is another example of the voice of a man. We can be sure that the Father hearkened to this as well. “Father, as to those whom thou hast given me, I desire that where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold my glory”. Think of that! That is what the Lord Jesus desires for you, not only that you should be saved from the coming wrath, but that you should be with Him where He is to behold His glory. That is the full end in the glad tidings, not that I should simply say in a selfish way, 'I am saved and now I can do whatever I want'. You can be occupied with Someone else other than yourself, Someone that is worth being occupied with. There is nothing and no-one else of this world that is worth being occupied with. There is nothing in myself naturally or after the flesh that is worth being occupied with, but Christ is well worth being occupied with, “that where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold my glory”. Well, what a glorious One He is! It is worth spending any time that you have, any time that you make, to contemplate Christ in His glory. Get down on your knees in a private way, no-one else needs to know anything about it, in a secret way, and just contemplate Christ in His glory. He will give you satisfaction in your soul that nothing else can. I know a little of it but not enough. I would that I knew more of it! I would that you would know something of it too, dear friend.
Well, I read in Acts because here in Saul is an example of one who saw something of the glory of the Lord. Sometimes we think, 'I am such a poor and helpless sinner that God may not listen to me', but God was listening. We quite often say in the glad tidings that God is speaking to us and that is true, but I think God is listening in the glad tidings too. God is listening for you to come in repentance to Him. God is listening so that He is ready to hear you when you come to confess your sins and accept Christ as your Saviour. If something is said, no matter how weak, how feeble, how quiet, if something sincere is said in true repentance and acceptance of the Lord Jesus, there is no way that God will miss it. There is no way that God will not hear it. Do not think that you are too far gone. Do not think that anything you have done is too bad and that God will not be able to listen to you. God in that way will hearken to your voice. He will hearken to the voice of men who cry to Him. Think of the man in the gospel who said, “O God, have compassion on me, the sinner“, Luke 18: 13. That is all you have to do. There is no other claim you can make on your own behalf. Just simply accept that you are a sinner, and that Christ has died for you and saved you from your sins.
Well, Saul here was meting out terrible punishment on those who were believers, causing them to blaspheme. He was furious. It says elsewhere that he was “breathing out threatenings and slaughter“ (Acts 9: 1), but such a one as this came to say, “I saw, O king, a light above the brightness of the sun, shining from heaven round about me and those who were journeying with me. And, when we were all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” You know, there is proof if it were needed, recorded in the Scripture, of the fact that Christ was glorified. He died and He shed His blood and He went into the grave. He was there for three days and three nights, a full period. The fallen order of man that had offended God was completely put out of sight in the grave. And what followed was Christ raised, and not only raised, but then ascended, glorified, at God’s right hand. Think of God’s delight in Him! Think of Him being able to look on in anticipation and see that because of what Christ had done there was a basis for persons to come freely to God, persons that He could offer forgiveness to. Think of God’s delight in Christ! Is your delight in Him? I speak to us all. Do you actually delight in Christ? Think of one who could say, “For for me to live is Christ”, Phil. 1: 21. Is that you, is that me? That is very testing. Are we happy just to be saved from our sins and know that nothing can change that? That is wonderful to know, but do not stop there, dear friend! Be attracted, then be attached to Christ where He is in glory! He is a glorious Saviour.
So further down it says, “I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light” - such a one who was going about persecuting Christians became one of the greatest preachers - “and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive remission of sins”. Is that all? No, as we were reminded already today, “remission of sins and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me”. Think of the inheritance that is available to you, something for you to enjoy, something that will not end in time. A woman last week won an enormous sum of money, £35 million, I think it was. I trust that she is a believer in the Lord Jesus because nothing to do with our status, or what we have here, or what we own can secure our eternal salvation, only the fact that you are a believer in the Lord Jesus. When you die, you take nothing from this world with you. The things that we see with our eyes will all be left behind, but if you have a link with Jesus in your heart through faith, that will never be left behind. That link will remain until you are actually with Him in glory for eternity - no need for faith then! Well, He is coming again and if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus He will take you to be with Himself. I can say that with certainty. The scriptures state it: “we shall be always with the Lord”, 1 Thess. 4: 17. It says that quite clearly. Simply believe it in faith, dear friend.
And then “from the power of Satan to God”. There is a power in the world, the power of Satan. Satan is real, and he has many different ways and means to distract you and take away the joy of your salvation. I was reminded recently of ministry we had some time ago where the brother said how the devil would suppress, depress and oppress. He may come in in a direct way and try to cause you to fear, or bring in something that would cause you to turn away from God. Or perhaps, although you know the Lord as your Saviour, he would try to suppress any joy that you might have, so that God might be robbed. God loves to have the company of those who love Him, and the devil would love to suppress that. Then the devil would depress, he would have you look into yourself and think that circumstances are hopeless. Think of the woman who was bent double and all she could see were her own circumstances, Luke 12: 11-16. Dear friend, in the Holy Spirit there is a greater power than the power of Satan, and He is able to liberate you from all of these things, He is able to help you resist the oppression: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you“, Jas. 4: 7. He is able to lift you out of depression. He is able to give you liberty and joy. He is a wonderful Person to know. He is a glorious divine Person.
That is another unique feature, I think it is right to say, of this period of time in which we are, this dispensation: it is the Spirit’s dispensation. He is here. He is not here in the way that the Lord Jesus was here; we cannot see Him, but He is dwelling in believers. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, what a wonderful thing it is to have the Holy Spirit too, a divine Person dwelling within you. Well, He is able to help you overcome the difficulties of this world. I feel ashamed how often that is all I rely on the Spirit for, because His service is a glorious service attracting you to Christ where He is in glory. Let us rely more on the Holy Spirit! And let us know this One, the One who is in the midst of heaven, remaining standing, hastening not to go down. Perhaps that day, that full day - what a full dispensation it has been! - is about to end very quickly. Make sure you have a link with the One who is standing in the midst of heaven, the glorious risen Saviour! Christ is my Saviour; make sure He is your Saviour! And not only that, may you have the Holy Spirit so that you can be living here in liberty and joy and can give something to God! What He has given for you! Do you not feel that perhaps you should give something back to Him? There are those who love to remember the Lord Jesus, those who week by week reverse the world’s judgment. There are so many persons who say, 'I want nothing to do with Christ', but there are some who give Him a place in their hearts and desire to remember Him. That is available to you too, dear friend.
Well, I feel how feebly these words have been spoken, but let us be attracted to Christ where He is in glory! May it be so for His Name’s sake!
19th August 2007