Jonathan Edwards : Christ Exalted (Section 2)
How Jesus Christ, in the work of redemption, appears gloriously above all these evils.
It was not the will of the infinitely wise and holy Governor of the world that things should remain in this confusion, this reign of evil, which had prevailed and exalted itself to such a height. But he had a design of subduing it, and delivering an elect part of the world from it, and exalting them to the possession of the greatest good, and to reign in the highest glory, out of a state of subjection to all these evils. And he chose his Son as the person most fit for an undertaking that was infinitely too great for any mere creature. And he has undertaken the work of our redemption. And though these evils are so many and so great, and have prevailed to such a degree, and have risen to such a height, and have been, as it were, all combined together; yet wherein they have exalted themselves, Christ, in the work of redemption, appears above them. He has gloriously prevailed against them all, and brings them under his feet, and rides forth, in the chariots of salvation, over their heads, or leading them in triumph at his chariot wheels. He appears in this work infinitely higher and mightier than they, and sufficient to carry his people above them, and utterly to destroy them all.
I. Christ appears gloriously above all evil in what he did to procure redemption for us in his state of humiliation, by the righteousness he wrought out, and the atonement he made for sin. The evils mentioned, never seemed so much to prevail against him as in his sufferings. But in them, the foundation was laid for their overthrow. In them he appeared above Satan. Though Satan never exalted himself so high, as he did in procuring these sufferings of Christ; yet, then, Christ laid the foundation for the utter overthrow of his kingdom. He slew Satan, as it were, with his own weapon, the spiritual David cut off this Goliath’s head with his own sword, and he triumphed over him in his cross. “Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it,” (Col. 2:15) i.e. in his cross, mentioned in the preceding words. Then the wisdom of Christ appeared gloriously above the subtlety of Satan. Satan, that old serpent, used a great deal of subtlety to procure Christ’s death. And doubtless, when he had accomplished it, thought he had obtained a complete victory, being then ignorant of the contrivance of our redemption. But so did the wisdom of Christ order things that Satan’s subtlety and malice should be made the very means of undermining the foundations of his kingdom. And so he wisely led him into the pit that he had dug.
In this also Christ appeared gloriously above the guilt of men. For he offered a sacrifice that was sufficient to do away all the guilt of the whole world. Though the guilt of man was like the great mountains, whose heads are lifted up to the heavens; yet his dying love, and his merits, appeared as a mighty deluge that overflowed the highest mountains, or like a boundless ocean that swallows them up, or like an immense fountain of light that with the fullness and redundancy of its brightness, swallows up men’s greatest sins, as little motes are swallowed up and hidden in the disk of the sun.
In this Christ appeared above all the corruption of man, in that hereby he purchased holiness for the chief of sinners. And Christ in undergoing such extreme affliction, got the victory over all misery; and laid a foundation for its being utterly abolished, with respect to his elect. In dying he became the plague and destruction of death. When death slew him, it slew itself. For Christ, through death, destroyed him that had the power of death, even the devil (Heb. 2:14). By this he laid the foundation of the glorious resurrection of all his people to an immortal life.
II. Christ appears gloriously exalted above all evil, in his resurrection and ascension into heaven. When Christ rose from the dead, then it appeared that he was above death, which, though it had taken him captive, could not hold him.
Then he appeared above the devil. Then this Leviathan that had swallowed him was forced to vomit him up again, as the Philistines that had taken captive the ark were forced to return it, Dagon being fallen before it, with his head and hands broken off, and only the stumps left. — Then he appeared above our guilt. For he was justified in his resurrection (Rom. 4:4, 25; 1 Tim. 3:16). In his resurrection he appeared above all affliction. For though he had been subject to much affliction and overwhelmed in it, he then emerged out of it, as having gotten the victory, never to conflict with any more sorrow.
When he ascended up into heaven, he rose far above the reach of the devil and all his instruments, who had before had him in their hands. And now has he sat down at the right hand of God, as being made head over all things to the church, in order to a complete and perfect victory over sin, Satan, death, and all his enemies. It was then said to him, “Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” (Psa. 110:1). He entered into a state of glory, wherein he is exalted far above all these evils, as the forerunner of his people, and to make intercession for them, till they also are brought to be with him, in like manner exalted above all evil.
III. Christ appears gloriously above all evil, in his work in the hearts of the elect, in their conversion and sanctification. This is what the application of redemption, so far as it is applied in this world, consists in, which is done by the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of Christ. In this work of Christ in the hearts of his elect, he appears glorious above Satan. For the strong man armed is overcome, and all his armor, wherein he trusted, is taken from him, and his spoil divided. In this work, the lamb is, by the spiritual David taken out of the mouth of the lion and bear. The poor captive is delivered from his mighty and cruel enemies.
In this Christ appears gloriously above the corruption and wickedness of the heart, above its natural darkness in dispelling it, and letting in light, and above its enmity and opposition, by prevailing over it, drawing it powerfully and irresistibly to himself, and turning a heart of stone into a heart of flesh, above the obstinacy and perverseness of the will, by making them willing in the day of his power. In this he appears above all their lusts. For all sin is mortified in this work, and the soul is delivered from the power and dominion of it. — In this work the grace of Christ gloriously triumphs over men’s guilt. He comes over the mountains of their sins, and visits them with his salvation.
And God is wont often in their work, either in the beginning or progress of it, to give his people those spiritual comforts, in which he gloriously appears to be above all affliction and sorrow. And often gives them to triumph over the devil, and his powerful and cruel instruments. Many saints, by the influences of Christ’s Spirit on their hearts, have rejoiced and triumphed, when suffering the greatest torments and cruelties of their persecutors. And in this work Christ sometimes gloriously appears above death, in carrying his people far above the fears of it, and making them to say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
IV. Christ gloriously appears above all these aforementioned evils, in his glorifying the souls of departed saints in heaven. In this he gives a glorious victory over death. Death by it is turned from an enemy into a servant. And their death, by the glorious change that passes in the state of their souls, is become a resurrection, rather than a death. Now Christ exalts the soul to a state of glory, wherein it is perfectly delivered from Satan and all his temptations, and all his instrument, and from all remains of sin and corruption, and from all affliction. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat — and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes,” (Rev. 7:16, 17).
V. Christ appears gloriously above these evils, in what he does in his providence in the world, as head and redeemer of his church. He appears gloriously above Satan and all his instruments in upholding his church, even from its first establishment, through all the powerful attempts that have been made against it by earth and hell. Hereby fulfilling his promise, “That the gates of hell should never prevail against it,” (Mat. 16:18).
Christ gloriously triumphed over these his enemies, in a remarkable success of his gospel, soon after his ascension, when many thousands in Jerusalem, and all parts of the world, were so soon turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God, and in causing his word to go on and prosper, and his church to increase and prevail against all the opposition of the heathen world, when they united all their power to put a stop to it, and root it out. So that, in spite of all that the philosophers, and wise men, and emperors and princes could do, the gospel in a little time overthrew Satan’s old heathenish kingdom in the whole Roman empire, which was then the main part of the world. And so brought about the greatest and most glorious revolution. Instead of one single nation, now the greater part of the nations of the known world were become God’s people.
And Christ’s exaltation above all evil in his government of the world, in his providence, as the Redeemer of his people, has since gloriously appeared in reviving his church by the reformation from popery, after it had for many ages lain in a great measure hid, and dwelt in a wilderness, under antichristian persecution.
And he will yet far more gloriously triumph over Satan and all his instruments, in all the mighty kingdoms that have been set up in opposition to the kingdom of Christ, at the time of the fall of antichrist, and the beginning of those glorious times so much spoken of in Scripture prophecy. “Then shall the stone that has been cut out without hands smite all these kingdoms, and break them to pieces; and they shall become like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors, and the wind shall carry them away, that no place should be found for them: and the stone which smote them shall become a great mountain, and fill the whole earth,” (Dan. 2:34, 35). “Then shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and it shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever,” (Dan. 2:44). “And then the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever,” (Rev. 11:15). Though great and might empires have been set up one after another in the world, in opposition to the kingdom of Christ, during the succession of so many ages; yet, Christ’s kingdom shall be the last and the universal kingdom, which he has given him, as the heir of the world. Whatever great works Satan has wrought, the final issue and event of all, in the winding up of things in the last ages of the world, shall be the glorious kingdom of Christ through the world; a kingdom of righteousness and holiness, of love and peace, established everywhere. Agreeable to the ancient prediction, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man, came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him,” (Dan. 7:13, 14, 27).
Then shall Christ appear gloriously exalted indeed above all evil. And then shall all the saints in earth and heaven gloriously triumph in him, and sing, “Hallelujah, salvation, and glory, and honour, and power unto the Lord our God; for true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. Hallelujah: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” (Rev. 19:1, 2, 6).
VI. Christ will appear gloriously above all evil in the consummation of the redemption of his elect church at the end of the world. Then will be completed the whole work of redemption with respect to all that Christ died for, both in its interpretation and application; and not till then. And then will Christ’s exaltation above all evil be most perfectly and fully manifest. Then shall the conquest and triumph be completed with respect to all of them. Then shall all the devils, and all their instruments, be brought before Christ, to be judged and condemned. And then shall be completed their destruction in their consummate and everlasting misery; when they shall be all cast into the lake of fire, no more to range, and usurp dominion in the world, or have liberty to make opposition against God and Christ. They shall forever be shut up, thence forward only to suffer. Then shall death be totally destroyed. All the saints shall be delivered everlastingly from it. Even their bodies shall be taken from the power of death by a glorious resurrection.
Then shall all guilt, and all sin and corruption, and all affliction, all sighs and tears, be utterly and eternally abolished, concerning every one of the elect, they being all brought to one complete body, to their consummate and immutable glory. And all this as the fruit of Christ’s blood, and as an accomplishment of his redemption.
Then all that evil, which has so prevailed, and so exalted itself, and usurped and raged, and reigned, shall be perfectly and forever thrust down and destroyed, with respect to all the elect. And all will be exalted to a state wherein they will be forever immensely above all these things. “And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away,” (Rev. 21:4).