According to the Associated Press, Brian Kelly, of suburban Detroit, knew that he was dying. In July 1994 he had abdominal surgery, but there was no hope, and he knew it. So he went to his boss at the Independence Professional Fireworks and made special request. Based on the employee’s faithful service for more than twenty years, his request was granted. After his death, Kelly’s family took his ashes to Independence Fireworks, and they were packed them into a 12″ skyrocket. Then on August12 at a convention of fireworks technicians they shot Brian into the night sky. The rocket trailed two silvery comet tails and then exploded into red and green stars – along with the remains of Brian Kelly. He wanted to got out in blaze of glory, and everyone admitted that it was pretty spectacular. But ascending into THE Heavens is not exactly the same thing as ascending into Heaven.
I Timothy 3:16 is one of the pivotal verses in the Bible. The subject matter of the verse is very important and worthy of a series of sermons. I have preached from this verse several times. But there are 8 points in this verse and each of those points could be expounded for at least an hour. And then there is the fact that most people, when they turn to I Timothy 3:16 in their Bibles, they can’t find all of the words which I have read to you this morning. The verse is obviously speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ, who was miraculously manifested in the flesh. We call it the “incarnation.” Christ is the focus of the gospel which has been “preached unto the Gentiles” for millennia now. And Christ was miraculously received up into glory.
In Greek, the language in which this letter was originally written, Paul said, “GOD was manifest in the flesh.” But most modern translations refuse to use that word “God” in this verse, inserting instead, the pronoun “he.” But here is a copy of the Greek from which our Authorized Bible was translated. On page 386 under I Timothy 3:16 we do not find the honorable and sometimes useful pronoun “he.” Rather we can clearly read the greatest noun in any language – “theos” – which can mean nothing else but “God.” “GOD was manifest in the flesh.” To be honest, many people who do not use the King James Bible, still say that “he” refers to Christ, trying to mitigate the harm which their translation creates. But the fact remains that where the true Bible makes a positive declaration of the deity of our Lord, most modern Bibles refuse to follow Paul’s original intent. People may deny that they are personally attacking Christ’s deity, but they read from Bibles which history proves was the intent of those early edited and butchered manuscripts. When someone suggests that there is no different between Bible versions, this is the first verse I suggest that he use to see that he is wrong.
There is no argument, “Great is the revealed secret which has brought genuine godliness to this sinful world.” God took up human form, and angels meticulously examined that God/man with wonder and awe. And the Third Person of the God-head, the Holy Spirit approved in every way that incarnation of the Second Person. Then at the conclusion of His eternal commission, Heaven received Him again – our Lord, our Saviour, and our God.
On this special Resurrection Sunday, it is primarily the final point of the verse that I’d like us to emphasize. “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” Christ Jesus, after His sacrifice and burial, was “received up into glory.”
But what is this glory?
Is “glory” just another way to say “Heaven?” Perhaps that is not incorrect, but there is much more involved. Heaven is indeed a glorious place – an infinite and eternally glorious place. And those who enter its gates enjoy a glory unlike the momentary and limited fame of Mr. Brian Kelly. Its beauty involves descriptions which are so fantastic they make people’s eyes roll. Streets of gold, with sapphire, emerald and ruby construction material on the buildings lining them. Its gates are of pearl, with an encircling wall encrusted with diamonds and amethysts. Street lights? There is no need for that, because the glory of the Lord himself will somehow be radiated throughout. The light that blinded Saul will somehow be diffused so it can no longer harm the saints. Or they perhaps will have different and more perfect eyes.
Skeptics may snicker, declaring that this description is ludicrous. But I have no reason not to believe the clear declaration of the Word of God. The God, who created communication and languages, can certainly express His mind. Furthermore, Jehovah who is perfectly holy, cannot lie. Heaven will be glorious – SO glorious that it would not be incorrect to simply call the place – “Glory.” But this is probably not to what Paul refers in this verse.
I think that the Apostle was thinking more of the glory received by the conquering hero. Our great David, faced one greater than Goliath, bringing him down and returned to a glorious hero’s welcome. One greater than Samson met face to face with the roaring lion and walked away the victor. Billions of people had fallen into the black hole of death but the Saviour swallowed up that death through His own resurrection from the grave. There is a sense in which Hell itself was defeated by the rider on the white horse. And that doesn’t begin to describe the thousands of rebel hearts that have been overcome by the love and grace of the Saviour.
The Lord Jesus ascended to glorious honor and a new position as the believer’s mediator. There has always been only one God, but now there is also “one mediator between God and men.” He is now wearing the glorious garments of the Highest of the High priests. And like the breastplate of the first priest, Aaron, our Saviour wears the names of every one of His people over His heart and upon His shoulders. So we need not fear to come “boldly to the throne of grace to find grace and strength to help in time of need.” Sure we are talking about Heaven in this great verse, but there is much, much more.
Why is this verse so pivotal and important?
Because it teaches that Son of God, who Created all things, left Heaven to take up human flesh. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” And that “Word” was another name for Jesus of Nazareth – born in Bethlehem. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
We are talking about a God so holy He wouldn’t let Israel near the mountain from which He gave the law. He was so holy that Moses had to remove his shoes before approaching burning bush. He was so holy that touching a common desert lizard made people unfit to worship Him. This makes His incarnation, and eventually His resurrection and ascension even more remarkable. We have the Second Person of the Trinity leaving Heaven to be clothed with human skin and eventually carrying human sin. He went to the human gutter and bathed in the polluted waters of human iniquity. He allowed filthy Roman hands to beat and crucify Him. The foul spittle of blasphemers dripped from His beard. The Master of Universe hung there in naked shame for all the imps of Hell to gloat. And the life of the God-man was poured out onto the dust of Judea. YET – He was still permitted a glorious entry into the glory above – INCREDIBLE.
He was qualified to enter glory because He had been approved by angels and the Holy Spirit.
He had been thoroughly examined by angels from the moment of His birth and probably before that. God’s angels accompanied the Lord Jesus every where He went. But it was certainly unlike it had been from their creation until that time. Now they accompanied Him as watchers and students more than assistants and servants. Very seldom during Christ’s thirty-three years had those angels heard Him give orders. They cried out “Glory to God, glory to God” at His birth, but they had subsequently become confused. They listened with well-tuned ears to His teaching and His preaching for three years. They watched His miracles. They were likely amazed that He showed such kindness and patience toward the greedy and wicked men who wanted more and more from Him. They who had cried “Holy, holy, holy” in heaven had, for more than three decades, been whispering, “Lowly, lowly, lowly.”
But through it all they saw and testified that they found no fault in Him. “He did no sin neither was there any guile found in his mouth.” Throughout the Son’s incarnation, the Holy Spirit, was watching with approval. All that Jesus did was judged and justified in the Spirit. His miracles, His teaching and His works, were done in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. All those whom He healed, raised, fed, and calmed were blessed through the Holy Ghost. When the gave spiritual life to Matthew, Peter and the others it was through the Holy Spirit. “Except a a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Scripture says that Christ Jesus was filled with the Spirit beyond measure. There was found no reason for Christ NOT to ascend into glory.
And when did He ascend into Glory?
Through no fault of my own, I get invitations to read and participate in a couple of religious “blogs.” I’ve never pursued them, so I’m not really sure what a blog really is or does. But every few days, I am invited to read other men’s articles and to respond to them. Last week, I got three invitations to read articles questioning different aspects of my faith in Christ. One was entitled “Scholars disagree on Jesus’ path.” I assumed that it had something to do with the route which the Romans forced Christ to use from the Palace to Golgotha. Once again, I didn’t bother to read the article. Who cares what scholars, 2000 years after the fact, think about something so trivial. If the Bible doesn’t show a map of the path He took then speculation is moot. I’ve found that most of those kinds of scholars are more interested in fame than truth. And they try tell us from where Christ ascended into glory. Even if they were correct, which is unlikely, what is the need or the point? From where did He ascend into Heaven and when did it take place? What time of day; what day of the week? It doesn’t matter. All we need to know is that when His work on earth was completed – perfectly completed, He lifted from the earth and disappeared behind the clouds.
Every man, woman and child on this planet is headed to Hell – due to our innate wretchedness. By “innate” I refer to our native wickedness – the depravity which touches every child of Adam. The Messiah came to provide a way of escape; to redeem, to deliver. He did so by substituting Himself for the those who were going to die under the wrath of the Father. By the pain of Calvary, the shame of His nakedness, reproach of the guilty. “He bore our sin in his own body on the tree.” “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law being make a curse for us.” In the garden He said to the Father, “I have finished the work thou gavest me to do. ” On the cross He said, “It is finished” as he yielded up His life an atonement for sin. And he meant those words. No more need sinful mankind try to scrape and claw his way to heaven – attempt but utterly fail. No more must he buy indulgences and masses and sacrificial lambs through corrupt priests. Jesus paid it all, all to Him we owe. Christ ascended to glory to give gospel preaching and gospel believing a purpose.
Did I say that this was an important verse? In so many ways. The terribly strict Jewish Pharisees were offended by the Jewish Messiah ministering to the Gentiles. It took a couple of miracles and the revelation of the resurrection. It took careful arguments at the counsel of Jerusalem. But it means that you could hear the good news of death and resurrection of the Saviour.
But hearing is not enough, Christ must be trusted. The resurrection has been strengthening and supplying faith to believers for 2000 years. And the ascension is in some ways as important as the resurrection. “What must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He or she that believeth on the Saviour hath eternal life. He that heareth Christ’s words and believeth on Him who sent Him, hath eternal life. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the Life.” He might have added, “And don’t ignore My ascension.”
Have you trusted this Living, Reigning and Returning Messiah? Has Christ and His gospel become a mystery unto godliness in your life? Repent before God and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.