The Glory to Follow

“Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” —I Peter 1:11

THE glorious hope that we have is centered around the kingdom and our privilege of having a part in its establishment and operation. All the blessings the prophets of old looked forward to were to come through that kingdom. They understood that it was to be an earthly kingdom but one that was to be established by the power and the authority of God. Abraham, for example, “looked for a city [government] which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.” (Heb. 11:10) Associated with this promise was the prospect of being among the earthly representatives in this kingdom arrangement; for the Apostle Paul stated of Moses: “By faith Moses, when he had come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ [the Anointed] greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”—Heb. 11:24-26

The prophets associated the establishment of the kingdom and its blessings with the advent of the Messiah. That is why there was so much searching and earnest beseeching the Lord to ascertain at “what manner of time” these things were to have their fulfillment. The Prophet Zacharias, at the time of the birth of his son, John the Baptist—just before the birth of Jesus—was inspired by God, through the Holy Spirit, to make this pronouncement concerning the imminent advent of Jesus: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world [age] began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.”—Luke 1:68-75

Before Pentecost, the apostles, having accepted Jesus as the Messiah, were of the firm belief that he would establish the kingdom then. The expectations were so high that there were disputations among them as to who would enjoy the preferred place in that kingdom. In Mark 10:35-41 is the account of James and John going to Jesus and requesting a preferred place in the kingdom. It is obvious that they had no concept of what was involved in gaining a place with Jesus in the kingdom. First, they did not realize that to be with Jesus in the kingdom they would have to die and be resurrected to the divine nature. And second, they did not realize that the dying process must take the form of a sacrificial death and that it must be a willing sacrifice, motivated by love for the Heavenly Father and his beneficent plans and purposes.

A knowledge of these things was to come later, after they were begotten by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and their minds were enlightened. But for the time, Jesus explained as well as he could under the circumstances, knowing that they could not fully comprehend. He said, “Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.”

After Pentecost James and John understood the words of Jesus, that the cup from which they were to drink was a symbolic cup, picturing all the experiences the Heavenly Father would permit them to have as they endeavored to follow in the footsteps of the Master. Their willingness to drink of it indicated their full and unreserved acceptance of the Heavenly Father’s will and providences in their lives. And they came to appreciate that it was by trials and experiences that the fruits and graces of the Spirit are developed in each footstep follower of the Lord and that without this character development it is impossible to be a partaker of the heavenly reward. The Apostle James wrote, many years later, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation [trials]: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”—James 1:12

The baptism that Jesus spoke of was not simply water immersion, although the thought of being immersed was there—that is, of being completely inundated in the Heavenly Father’s will. The symbol of baptism is a beautiful picture. As the immerser lowers the Christian into the water, it illustrates the death of the individual’s own will. It means the complete surrender of his mind, his body, his abilities, his personal possessions, and his earthly ambitions and desires; and as the immerser raises the Christian out of the water, it illustrates that the individual is being raised to a newness of life. In this new life he recognizes only the will of the Heavenly Father in all things. This means that all the Christian’s mind, strength, and worldly possessions will be channeled, or used, in the service of the Heavenly Father.

The Apostle Paul, in Romans 6:3-5, explains what the symbol of water baptism pictures: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”

To understand what is meant by being baptized into Christ’s death, we must go back to the baptism of Jesus at the river Jordan. When Jesus came to John he was holy, harmless, and undefiled (Heb. 7:26), a perfect man, and the exact equivalent of father Adam before he transgressed God’s law. He came to offer himself to God as a corresponding price to take Adam’s place in death so as to release Adam and all his offspring from the sentence of death. The Apostle Paul expresses the matter thus: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” And again: “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” And again: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (Rom. 5:12,18; I Cor. 15:22) Jesus himself said, “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for [the] many.”—Matt. 20:27,28

The attitude of Jesus at the time of his immersion at Jordan was beautifully prophesied in the 40th Psalm: “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” (vss. 7,8) Jesus realized that as a man he must go out of existence, that figuratively, at least, his flesh, like that of Adam’s, must return to the dust of the earth. Jesus said in John 6:51 that he was to give his flesh for the life of the world.

If this had been the end of the transaction and Jesus had died then, he would have gone out of existence. But this was not God’s arrangement, because, as recorded in Matthew 3:16,17, he was begotten of the Holy Spirit, and a new life was begun in him as a spirit-begotten Son of God. It was from this point forward—for the three and one-half years of his ministry—that the symbolic cup and the real baptism became the controlling factors in the life of Jesus. We are told that, because of Jesus’ faithfulness under trial, “God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.” (Phil. 2:9) He was resurrected from death and given the divine nature, and was seated on the right hand of the throne of God. When Jesus finally died on Calvary’s cross, his perfect life willingly surrendered, he atoned for adamic sin. This was the great offering for sin; but the merit of the sacrifice was not then, nor is it as yet, applied on behalf of Adam and his race. The merit is being used during the Gospel Age in a work that involves the apostles and those down through the age who believe on Jesus through their word—the footstep followers of the Master.

To be baptized into Christ’s death, then, means that as with Jesus, the consecrated Christian surrenders any hope of a life here on earth, that his hope is a heavenly hope. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”—Col. 3:1-4

Being baptized into Christ’s death also means that the human will is dead and that the new creation has only the will of the Heavenly Father. (II Cor. 5:17; Mark 3:35; Eph. 6:6; I John 2:15-17) This is pictured symbolically by his being raised out of the water to newness of life.

The Apostle Peter, who now appreciated these things, called to remembrance the bitter disappointment he and the other apostles experienced when, after they were so confident that Jesus was the Messiah and that his advent meant the imminent establishment of the kingdom, all came to such an abrupt and seemingly ignominious end. (I Pet. 1:3) All the hopes voiced by the Prophet Zacharias concerning the birth of Jesus—that it meant the deliverance from the oppressions and the beginning of the abundance of blessings foretold by all God’s holy prophets—all of this was dashed to destruction. There was nothing left but the emptiness and loneliness.

Apparently the apostles and their contemporaries, as well as those who had preceded them, were so enthralled and enthused over the blessings promised that they failed to note the prophecies that foretold the sufferings of Christ, which were to precede the glories of the established kingdom. It was this that Jesus explained to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus after his resurrection, when, beginning with Moses and by the testimony of all the prophets, he revealed to them that the glory promises must await fulfillment until the foretold sufferings of Christ were finished.—Luke 24:25-27

The apostles still were not aware that the sufferings of Christ did not refer to Jesus alone but also to them and all the footstep followers of the Master down through the Gospel Age. These, of course, were to comprise the body members of Christ. “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” (I Cor. 12:12) The prophecies concerning the sufferings of Christ included Christ the Head and the church his body. The fact that the disciples did not understand this as yet unrevealed mystery was indicated by the question they asked the Lord just prior to his ascension: “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) They apparently felt that since the sufferings of Jesus were ended, the kingdom could be established.

But after Pentecost the words of Jesus were recalled by the apostles and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, were then understood. (John 14:26) They realized that if they were to share his glory it was first necessary that they suffer, that they must drink of the Lord’s cup and be baptized into his death. In I Peter 2:21 the apostle states, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” And in the 3rd chapter, verses 21 and 22, the apostle likens the experience of Noah and his family to Christian baptism. Noah and his family were carried through the flood of waters and delivered to a new life. But the apostle makes certain he is understood as to what baptism he is talking about. He says, “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh.” Here, we believe, he was referring to John’s baptism, which was a baptism of repentance for sins. But he continues and indicates that the baptism he is referring to is “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” The thought is that after the Christian is enlightened and learns something of God’s glorious character and his plans and purposes for the world, and especially the unspeakable favor that has been offered to us, the natural reaction of the conscience is the desire to make a full and unreserved consecration to the Heavenly Father. This is properly symbolized by water immersion.

The Apostle Peter was deeply impressed by his experiences, and he felt the need to emphasize suffering as a prerequisite to glory. In I Peter 4:12,13 he states: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” The thought of “strange,” according to Young’s Concordance, is as a “stranger.” How is it possible to meet difficult and trying experiences joyfully as if greeting a welcome guest? We can have such an attitude only as we realize this is an evidence that we are partakers of the sufferings of Christ, which must be a prelude to our exaltation to glory.

It is well to note that suffering as a Christian means being submissive under any experience the Lord might permit us to have. To some this might mean physical pain, even death. This was certainly true of Christians in past ages. But with most of us, even as it was with our Lord, our trying experiences will result mainly from the agents of darkness opposing us as agents of the light. Again Peter’s words are so helpful: “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”—I Pet. 2:19,20

By “doing well” the apostle means serving the Heavenly Father and his interests. It is suffering as a Christian that leads us on the path to glory. (I Pet. 4:16) The Apostle Paul gives us an additional view of what is involved in partaking of Christ’s sufferings. In Colossians 1:24 he states, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” It is important to notice that nothing is said about Christ’s sufferings or Paul’s sufferings atoning for sin; and this is proper, because suffering does not atone for sin. In the typical sacrifices it was only the blood that atoned for sin. In the reality it was only Christ’s death on Calvary’s cross that was efficacious for the cancellation of sin.—Heb. 9:12,22

Christ suffered, and by this he learned obedience. (Heb. 5:8,9) And so each prospective member of the body must suffer in order to learn obedience and to develop the fruits and graces of the Spirit. (Heb. 12:5-11) This is the suffering that was left behind. In II Corinthians 11:23-28 the Apostle Paul enumerates some of the experiences he suffered on behalf of the Early Church. These were accounted as suffering for Christ, for they were brought about by his activity in serving the Lord, the truth, and the brethren. This is the kind of activity that will bring us opportunities to suffer and fill up our share of the sufferings of Christ that were left behind.

In concluding his first epistle, the Apostle Peter, in chapter 5, verse 10, states, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (emphasis ours) The expression “to make perfect” in the Greek means “to complete thoroughly”; that is, Peter’s prayer is that, by suffering, the fruits and graces of the Spirit will be perfected in us. The word “to stablish,” according to Strong’s Concordance, means “to set fast,” that is, “to turn resolutely in a certain direction.” By this, the apostle in his prayer is petitioning that we, as footstep followers of the Master, will, like him, set our faces like a flint, holding steadfast to the hope that is set before us. By “strengthen” the apostle is asking that we might be confirmed in spiritual knowledge and power. And finally, he asks that we be “settled.” The thought here is that these things will give a foundation, or base, upon which the Heavenly Father can grant us the divine nature.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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