Ellet J. Waggoner
The Present Truth : August 19, 1897
Our last lesson was upon “the world to come,” and its relation to the preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel is not committed to angels, because unto them God has not put in subjection the world to come. The Gospel is the power of God to salvation, to every one who believes; the power of God is seen in the things that He has made, for creation is the measure of God’s power; the object of the Gospel is to restore what has been lost;—to create anew;—therefore its power is the same as that which created the world in the beginning. The earth was given to man in the beginning, and therefore to man is committed the work that will restore it; but as the power that restores it is the same power that was given man over it in the beginning, it follows that its power is the power of the world to come; for the world to come is the world that was in the beginning.
We considered the extent of the dominion that God gave men when He created him. All the power of God, so far as it concerned this earth, was to be exhibited through man. The birds, the beasts, the fishes, the very earth itself, all were subject to man. The dominion was complete.
“For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2.8, 9
When certain Greeks ones came to Philip, saying, “Sir, we would see Jesus,” and Philip brought them to Him, Jesus said, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” John 12.23, 24. This is the subject that we have before us in our present lesson, for in few words it shows us Jesus giving all and gaining all.
Our attention has been directed to man in his original glory and honor, with all things under him. But as we look at his estate we suddenly see the dominion lost.
The Dominion Lost.—For “now we see not yet all things put under him.” As we look, we see him fall, and instead of having the world under him, he has it all upon him. Instead of ruling the world, the world rules him. From the highest place, he sinks to the lowest place. We are now talking of man; whatever low place any person has been known to be in, and whatever baseness an individual descended to, is only an exhibition of how low man has fallen. It is only lack of opportunity, or better circumstances that, aside from the grace of God, hold any individuals in the world back from exhibiting the same disgusting vileness that is seen in the lowest specimens. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3.23. The dominion was one of glory and honor, because man was “crowned with glory and honor.” Therefore it is plain to see that the loss of the glory, on account of sin, was in itself the loss of the dominion. From being above all, man has fallen lower than all, for men have fallen lower than the beasts.
Not Now Under Him.—The common idea is that man began with no dominion, and that he has gradually been acquiring dominion, until he has now nearly come to the fulfillment of the promise, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” But this is directly contrary to the plain teaching of the Bible. The perfect dominion was in the beginning, but has been lost, and there was never a time in the history of the world when men had so little of the original dominion as now. “See how vast territories have been opened up by explorers, and how the wild beasts have been exterminated so that the people can dwell there in safety, says one, as proof that man is gaining dominion. Ah, but the fact that the beasts are wild, and that man must arm himself against them, and destroy them before he can live in a land, shows that he has not dominion. The king who is obliged to be always on the defense against those whom he calls his subjects, and who can rule them only by killing them off, has not much to boast of in the matter of authority. Even the domestic animals must be tied, or held in with bit and bridle. They are not obedient to the word of man, as they are to God’s rule as was the case in the beginning. The few wonderful instances of the obedience of animals to the word of man only serve to indicate how far man is from the first dominion.
Where We See Jesus.—Our attention has been directed to man in his first dominion, crowned with glory and honor. As we look, we see him fall, and as we continue to gaze, with our eyes fixed on the place where he fell, “we see Jesus.” Where do we see Him? —Just where man fell. Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19.10), and the only way to find a thing that is lost, is to go where it is; the only way to pick up one who he has fallen, and who cannot help himself, is to go to the very place where he fell. This is what the text tells us. If we would see Jesus, we must go where there are fallen men. In this there is an exhortation, an indication of how we should labor; but there is also comfort, and the comfort comes first. Wherever there are fallen men, there we may see Jesus; but we are fallen men; therefore we may see Jesus in us. “The Word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart; that is, the Word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10.8, 9. The knowledge that Christ dwells in us, sinful men, is the only thing that can enable us to carry the blessed assurance of the Gospel to others.
The Curse and the Cross.—Because of sin came the curse, and the curse is death. But inasmuch as man has not life in himself, it is impossible that of himself he could endure the curse, for once having received it, that is, having died, he would have no more existence. It is not possible for man to endure death. But Christ has life in Himself (John 5.26), and can lay His life down and take it again; therefore He hath redeemed us from the curse, being made a curse for us; as it is written, cursed is every one that hangs on a tree. Galatians 3.13. On the cross Christ bears the curse; not only man’s curse, but the curse of the earth as well; for He bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2.24), and He also bore the thorns, with which the earth was cursed. Compare John 19.2; Genesis 3.17, 18. But man lives, and the earth yields fruit, notwithstanding the curse; nothing is perfect, yet there is existence. Why? —Because Christ bears the curse, and has borne it from the beginning. If the curse had come upon man, apart from Christ, he would have died instantly, and there would have been no second generation. But the Word, which was made flesh in the beginning, continued man when he fell. When man went down to the lowest depths, the Lord went with him. The fact that men live, proves the presence of the life of Christ. Nothing in nature is perfect; yet the fact that there is growth in spite of the curse, shows the presence of Him who alone is able to bear the curse. Wherever there is any curse, any sin, or any of the effects of sin, there is the Lord Jesus, for He hears the sins of the world. But it is Christ crucified that bears the curse; therefore we find the cross of Christ just where man fell. “We see Jesus”—where?—where man fell. How do we see Him?—Crucified, enduring fallen man’s suffering. We see Him suffering death for every man. And wherever we see sin and the curse, there, if we have our eyes open, we see Jesus Christ crucified. The curse is upon all creation; Christ bears all of the curse upon the cross; therefore it is true that “the cross of Christ is stamped upon every leaf of the forest.” Everything proclaims the Gospel of Christ. Even ungodly men, who use their God-given strength to fight against God, and who even deny His existence, are in spite of themselves witnesses to His mercy and longsuffering.
Casting the Burden on the Lord.—In this thought there is blessed hope and courage. “How can I lay my sin, on the Lord?” Ah, that is already done; for “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53.6. Because Christ “is come in the flesh” (1 John 4.3), He bears the sins of all flesh. Not that He will take them, but He has them. They are on Him as soon as they are committed. Our part is simply to confess Him,—to confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus,—that is, confess that He is come in the flesh—in our flesh. Thus He bears our sins. But He bears the curse on the cross; therefore when we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus, we confess Him crucified in the flesh,—in our flesh,—and so that we are crucified with Him. And then we have only to believe in our heart—and to continue believing—that God hath raised Him from the dead, to know that He dwells in us with the resurrection power. What a blessed Gospel to believe unto salvation, and how blessed to be permitted to proclaim it to fallen men!
“A Little Lower than the Angels.”—It is true that the text says that we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor, but we must not forget that it was “because of the suffering of death” (R.V.) that He was crowned with glory and honor. So that before we see Him crowned with glory and honor we must see Him “a little lower than the angels,” that is, as a man, for man was made a little lower than the angels. It is as “the Son of man” that we are to see Jesus. That is the name by which He always designated Himself. Christ has identified Himself with humanity, never to be separated. It was as the Son of man that He was crucified and buried; it was the Son of man who arose from the grave and ascended to heaven and the Son of man, now at the right hand of the Father is He whom we expect to see coming in the clouds of heaven.
“For Every Man.”—By the grace of God Jesus tasted death for every man. It was not necessary that He should come to earth for His own sake. He died, not for His own sins,—for He “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5.21),—but for the sins of others. Whatever He suffered was for every man, and whatever He has gained is for every man, or, more strictly, for every one. Christ’s sacrifice has to do with the individual, even as Christianity is an individual matter. “God so loved the world,” it is true, but He loved them as individuals, because He gave His Son that whosoever believeth in Him should be saved.
“Crowned with Glory and Honor.”—Note the suggestion. When God made man, He crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of His hands. As already seen, the glory and the dominion were inseparable. Remember that it was man—mankind—that was thus crowned king over what God had made. But he lost the glory and the dominion. Is everything therefore eternally lost? —Not by any means. Now we see Jesus, not standing afar off, not standing where man was, and not looking down at the place where he fell, and not giving him counsel as to how to get up, —but we see Jesus right down where man fell, bearing him and his sin. And it is as the Son of man that we see Him crowned with glory and honor. Satan thought to overthrow God’s work. He thought he would demonstrate that God could not rule His dominion through man, even when the man was free from all taint of sin and the curse; but Satan’s onslaught simply gave God all opportunity to show His power in still greater measure, in that now He takes man in the lowest possible position, and exalts him to glory and honor.
How Highly Exalted.—Because Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant,” and became obedient unto death, even “the death of the cross;” therefore “God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the name which is above every name.” Philippians 2.7-9, R.V. Yea, when God raised Him from the dead, He “seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” Ephesians 1.20, 21. Think of the highest power, not merely in this world, but also in that which is to come, and Jesus as the Son of man is far above them all. Notice that God “hath put all things under His feet.” Ephesians 1.22. So as the Son of man He has all that Adam had. The second Adam has all the dominion that the first Adam had. But as where sin abounds God’s grace superabounds, and Satan’s attack called out a greater manifestation of God’s love and power, so the second Adam, in that He began the struggle from a lower plane than that on which the first Adam stood, has won a much higher place. Christ, the Son of man, has the highest place in the universe, next to God the Father. See 1 Corinthians 15.27, 28
And We Also.—When Christ was raised from the dead, He was raised to the right hand of God in the heavenly places, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion,” “not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” “And you hath He quickened” made alive. Ephesians 2.1. For if we are “buried with Him in baptism,” we are also “risen with Him through faith in the operation of God who hath raised Him from the dead.” Colossians 2.13. “So many of its as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death.” Romans 6.3. So being raised with Him, is to share the power and glory of His resurrection. So we read that God has quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ, “and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2.5, 6. That is, as we see Christ in the flesh, suffering our curse, so we see Him crowned with glory, and ourselves with Him, provided we really see Him. For Christ said of His disciples, “The glory which You gave Me I have given them.” John 17.22. So as Christ is set over the world to come, we in Him also have in subjection to us the world to come. How much more, then, this present world. To be a Christian, although the poorest and most insignificant person in the world, is to occupy a position higher than any earthly king. The true Christian, no matter how humble and despised, is raised in Christ “far above all principality and power and might and dominion.” Earthly rulers can add nothing to him, they cannot confer any favors on him, for they have nothing that he needs, and therefore he has no requests to make of them. On the contrary he is sent with a message to them, and can offer them riches of which the world has no knowledge, even “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”