Seek The Things Above (Part Two)

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Last time we began to answer the question on many hearts these days: “Why isn’t God doing something about this?” That is, this pandemic now in its second year. Just as a few countries began to proclaim a tentative victory, it caused the medical system of India to collapse. A firsthand report from a friend there reveals that things in India are far worse than we’re hearing in the news, the number of deaths is far higher. And the worst is yet to come—this wave of the pandemic there still hasn’t reached its peak. Other countries, poor countries, some of which have received no vaccine whatsoever, are also finding it extremely difficult to cope with the increasing numbers infected. Here in Alberta, Canada, daily infections are higher than anywhere else in North America. The blame game is well underway, but it’s so short-sighted to blame earthly governments for all this; the problem goes far deeper than that.

But consider this. The pandemic has so dominated the news that scarcely any attention has been given to the fact that other evils—droughts, plagues of locusts, famines, brewings of wars… are taking place at the same time.

If you recall, we quoted Solomon of old who in Ecclesiastes gives his account of things “under the sun,” a phrase he used 29 times elaborating on the futility of it all. “Vanity of vanity, saith the Preacher, all is vanity.” That is, pointless, meaningless, futile. That is life “under the sun.” Solomon has no reputation as an optimist but he certainly was a realist. Here is what we quoted:

For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. (Ecc 9:11,12 KJV)

It has always pained my heart to hear of a suicide, a pain I’m feeling more often these days when I hear of people who have taken their own lives because life under the sun seemed so pointless to them, in fact had become unbearable—the mental and emotional oppression brought on by the lockdowns, the family breakdowns, the economic hardships… it all became too much to bear any longer, life was not worth living. That they have done so is unbearable to me, because, oh, life is not pointless, there is purpose, eternal purpose in Christ Jesus the Lord that will take ages and ages to unfold. God has not left mankind prey to evil nets and snares “under the sun.” He has made provision in Christ for life. Life above it all, as we showed last time, quoting from Colossians:

If, then, ye were raised with the Christ, the things above seek ye, where the Christ is, on the right hand of God seated,
the things above mind ye, not the things upon the earth,
for ye did die, and your life hath been hid with the Christ in God;
when the Christ–our life–may be manifested, then also we with him shall be manifested in glory.
(Col 3:1-4 Young’s Literal Translation)

What are the things above? Last time we showed that the pronoun ye is those who are in Christ, and mentioned from Ephesians that “all our spiritual blessings are above, our heritage is above, our warfare is above—in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.” That’s because we ourselves are above—that is, we who have been baptized into Christ—because “God, who is rich in mercy for His great love toward us even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7).

It is this last one—that we ourselves have been raised with Christ and are therefore seated with Him in the heavenlies—that we are emphasizing in the Colossians passage. Our very life is there. In Christ. In the heavenlies. If we then are above, says Paul, we ought to be seeking the things above, “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

So then, to ask what God is doing in this hour is answered by discovering what Christ is doing. For Jesus Christ the Son of God is seated at the right hand of God; the Father has committed all things unto Him (Jn. 3:35, 13;3). He has sealed Him, has given Him His signet ring, has given Him “all authority in Heaven and in earth” (Mt. 28:16). What then is the Christ doing at the right hand of God?

He is administering the Good News of a kingdom that when fully completed will mean all the works of man brought to naught and all enemies under His feet.

He is overseeing a building project. Jesus Christ at the right hand of God is building a church. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). Many of us are fond of reminding others that the church is not the building. I know I’m being a bit cheeky here but the church is the building. The church that Jesus is building is a house, “…the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). And so of course, by “house” I do not mean a house of wood and stone.

A priest upon His throne

Now there is an ancient prophecy we must read. Leading up to the passage, we are told of a crown that was to be set on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest at that time. Then follows the prophecy:

Then speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:
Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. (Zech 6:12,13)

The Branch—this is the Christ. The Anointed One. He sits and rules upon His throne. But there is something here we too often overlook. It is a priest who sits as king upon the throne. The counsel from this throne—the wonderful counsel of the Gospel of peace—proceeds from one who is both a king and a priest. Look one moment, and it is a crown on His head. Blink your eyes and it is a mitre on His head. In Christ at the right hand of God the scepter of the king and the censer of the priest are one.

And seated at the right hand of God this king/priest is building a Temple, a habitation, a dwelling place, a house for the living God. He is not using wood and stone. He is using “living stones,” as Peter the rock says, for He is building “a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5). The living stones built into the house are also its “holy priesthood,” who offer up “spiritual sacrifices [that is, themselves], well pleasing to God by Jesus Christ.” Peter also calls this priesthood “a royal priesthood” (1 Pt 2:5-9). This priesthood is not a separate clergy, and it is not confined to the ministries God has set in the church who are not a separate clergy; each and every living stone is involved in this priesthood, not just theoretically, but vitally, functionally. And so seekers of the things above, seekers whose minds and affections are set on things above, find themselves involved in what the great king/priest of this house is doing. He is building living stones into the house of God, and He is involving the living stones in the building of the house—always reminding them that “except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1). My old King James Version margin reads, “are builders of it in it.” Quite something, that the house is building, edifying, itself. Yet it is, and must always be, the king/priest Himself who is doing the building. “Except the Lord build the house…” All we do must be His doing, or we labour in vain.

Now I want to get to the heart of what has been in my heart concerning seeking the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede

There are in essence two ministries in the universe—one of intercession, the other of accusation. Dearly beloved, have nothing to do with the latter, leave it to the one who in his hatred of God and man loves to do that. It is intercession that is the heartbeat of Christ’s high priestly ministry at the right hand of God, intercession that is the pleading of His own blood, as Charles Wesley wrote in his immortal hymn:

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all-redeeming love, His precious blood to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Our great king/priest reigning at the right hand of God maintains continual intercession on behalf of the living stones of this house. Such were the saints in the church at Rome, whom Paul reminded that whatever the condemner might bring against them, “it is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:34). This is His occupation and His preoccupation—to make intercession for His own, and He will not fail in it, His intercession has the very power of the throne in it; it is effectual. “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Oh, the Lamb, the bleeding Lamb, the Lamb of Calvary,
The Lamb that was slain now liveth again to intercede for me.

Thus you and I offer up this perpetual prayer of gratitude:
Thank you, Jesus, thank you, thank you, that you intercede for… me.

“I pray not for the world…”

But what is this? Jesus not praying for the world? This is what Jesus said in what has been called His high priestly prayer of intercession. John Chapter 17. He is praying for those whom His Father has given Him “out of the world.”

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. (Jn. 17:9,10)

That used to trouble me a lot because I knew that God sent His Son into the world to reveal His love for the world—the multitudes under the sun. And here He is not praying for them? It’s not because He was a Calvinist; I finally learned to read Scripture in context. When we continue reading we come to this: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (Jn. 17:15 KJV) Or, “from the evil one” (NKJV). For the evil one is bent on resisting God’s plan for the world. And then this: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” And then this:

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Do we see this? In seeing it are we broken? “…That the world may believe… That the world may know…” And so the very question of God not caring for those under the sun is unthinkable. It is because of His great love for the world that His ministry of intercession is first of all on behalf of His own—that they may be kept from the devices of the Evil One, who, because he is bitterly set against all mankind, and hates and deceives them and robs and destroys them and divides them against one another, he makes Christ’s own the special objects of his hatred. It’s because he knows they are his downfall. And so Christ prays to His Father to “keep them from the evil.” The pits and snares and devices of “the evil one.” And He prays that they may be “perfected into one,” may be so one with Him and with one another that the world may see Him in His house, that through those in His house the world may come to know His great love for the world.

What Jesus prayed was entirely scriptural, actually. (No surprise, the Word of God knew His Bible.) “Out of Zion the perfection of beauty God hath shined” (Ps. 50:2). “Beautiful for situation [or elevation], the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great king” (Ps. 48:2). “Thou shalt arise and have mercy on Zion… So shall the heathen [the nations] fear the name of the Lord, and all kings thy glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion he shall appear in His glory…” Ps. 102:13-16). And so God’s burden is for His house because His burden is for the world. For when the love of God in Christ is resident in Zion, when Zion is beautified with the beauty of the Lord, others are drawn into His house; they come to know His salvation, His rescue operation from “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:3-5). This—salvation from sin, the one problem of this evil world—is God’s answer for the world. This is vehemently resisted by our arch-enemy the Devil. He is out to make war with the saints; he is out to defeat them. So in standing against him as part of our spiritual armour we are to be “praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph 6:18).

This is our great high priest’s primary concern. His own. The saints. It is the concern of a commander for his army. How can they win without his continual intercession on their behalf? But once armed and empowered by His might, He enjoins upon them that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men…” because He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1,4 NKJV). Are not you and I glad for this? How quickly some of us, now in the house of God, now God’s own, forget that “we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).

And so what Christ said—“I pray not for the world”—He said as a faithful “high priest over the house of God” (Heb. 10:21). It doesn’t mean that we in the house of God are not to pray for the world. Now provisioned as priests in His house, armed with His Spirit, His anointing, we are to pray and make intercession for our secular authorities, our neighbours near and far, our loved ones still lost, as the saints throughout the ages have done and still do, sometimes with burdens of intercession that press them into the very ground. It goes without saying that God cares for all mankind. He couldn’t care more, for in His love for the world He has given no less than His Son.

A kingdom of priests

 If this then is what God is doing, if this is what is happening “above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God,” what are you and I doing in this hour? Are we seeking the things above? We must, lest we remain earthly minded, blinded really, and cheated of what is ours in Christ at the right hand of God. Ours? But just what is it that is ours at the right hand of God? A crown? A throne? Yes, but is this something we have in mind for our own benefit alone—sitting with Christ as a king in His throne? Or… is the heart of a priest beating within us and it is the need of others we have in mind, the wayward, the lost? Are we compelled by the love of Christ, seeking that we might join our great High Priest upon the throne in His ministry of effectual intercession?

None will reign with Christ in His throne who are not priests in His kingdom of priests.

John the Revelator sees in the throne room of Heaven a throne, and One seated upon the throne, and “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (Rev. 4:4). In Scripture the white robe is the garment of the priest. So here are priests wearing crowns of gold and sitting on thrones. This then is the royal priesthood, 24 being a symbolic number (as are all the numbers in The Revelation). And—something to think about here—is John in this vision of the heavenly throne room seeing just the heaven-side? Or is this also inclusive of those in the earth who have apprehended their heavenly calling? This is my view. They may be in the earth scattered in churches here and there, but spiritually speaking, they are “round about the throne” in the heavenly throne room of God. They are one with Him who sits on the throne. And with one another.

This royal priesthood is our calling “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.” It is a calling from above—the “on-high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” It’s something that originated not in our own heart but in “Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…” so that we can go to Heaven after we die? That, beloved, is less than His love has washed us for. “…And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (Rev. 1:5,6). No less than this is what “the things above, where Christ is” means, and unto this honour we are called; this is our great privilege—to draw near to the throne of grace, draw near boldly as priests who have a great high priest over the house of God, draw near and join Him in His priestly intercession for others from the throne of God.

The whole creation “under the sun,” groaning and travailing in pain together until now, awaits the outcome of this.

6 responses »

  1. Thanks Allan for illuminating Christ’s/our priesthood so beautifully and in such a relevant way. I confess that Christ’s priesthood is something I need to meditate on much more than I have in the past.

    Greetings from a colder South Africa, our mountains have had some snow.

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    • Allan Halton

      Thank you, Erroll. I have been meditating on it as well, and seeking more earnestly to exercise boldly my participation in His priesthood. We are called to do so.
      I’d forgotten that your part of the world is upside down, and that you are heading into winter!

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  2. Yes the creation awaits the outcome! It seems the groaning is getting louder and cry louder for his kingdom to be manifest. I know we can’t do anything of ourselves in the kingdom realm for no flesh will glory in His presence! I am encouraged that he is the great priest of the highest order and helps us through. These scriptures in Romans 8 are a comfort:

    26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

    27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

    28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

    29 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.

    30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

    31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

    Praise God for His faithfulness!

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    • Allan Halton

      Hi Joe, thanks for this. I wanted to say something about that Romans passage– the Spirit making intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered– but my post was too long as it is. Indeed, that whole passage is a great comfort; we are given insight into the great hope of God Himself. If creation is groaning in the travail pains of birth, what will creation give birth to, but a new creation! This gives us an entirely different perspective on the grievous things taking place in our world. What wonders are yet before us!

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  3. I know He hears that groaning.

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    • Allan Halton

      Also the groaning of our prayers, Anna, when it seems we can’t articulate a prayer concerning the state of things near and far in our world. The Spirit is helping us “with groanings that cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26). God hears that groaning, and knows exactly what it is saying, and just how He will answer.

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