The Unsearchable Riches

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy bath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who we kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. …
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 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 3-5,10,11

THE APOSTLE PETER tells us that the prophets of old wrote concerning the sufferings of Christ, and that they also wrote of the glory which would follow as a result of his life, death, and resurrection. And in the twelfth verse the apostle concludes, “Unto whom it was revealed that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”

Although the prophets were mightily blessed of the Lord, being used of him to record information concerning the Messiah and his messianic reign, they were not privileged to understand “what manner of time” was signified. Instead, their words have come down the corridors of time, having been preserved by God, not for the benefit of the ancient prophets, but to minister to those who would walk in Jesus’ footsteps during the Gospel Age. The Apostle Peter indicates that even the angels did not understand the significance of the prophetic Word until after it was fulfilled. What a privilege we have to understand some of these deep things of God, and to see into the future, since the Gospel has reached our ears through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We read in Ephesians 3:7-10, “I [Paul] was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world bath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”

We will use an illustration to visualize the situation of the prophets from their vantage point in history. As we travel through mountainous country we might pull into an area designated as a scenic overlook. As we scan the aspect we might try to pick out a prominent mountain as a landmark from among the many high peaks in the range before us. And we see one or two, rather close to us, which are quite impressive. But then we turn our eyes a little to the left and right, and suddenly, beyond and above the others we see a magnificent peak, far grander, more majestic and lovely than any of the other nearby mountains. This is the one we wished to view and to admire.

Perhaps this can illustrate how the prophets viewed the future scene: the nearby ranges could signify the sufferings of Christ, but further off in the distance, in a kind of haze of beauty, would be the highest peak—the glory which would follow! They did not understand very much about the words they wrote; their vision was impaired by a haze of intervening time. The Prophet Daniel asked, “I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?” And the Lord told him, “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are dosed up and sealed till the time of the end.”—Dan. 12:8,9

But today, we are between the mountain ranges of Christ’s suffering and death which was in the past, and are drawing closer to the time of his glory which is promised. We are privileged to see more clearly! The hidden secrets have been made known to the members of the true church of God—“Christ in you, the hope of glory.”—Col. 1:27

Even at our Lord’s First Advent, his disciples did not understand that he must lay down his life in death as a ransom price for Adam, and, of course, this pathway entailed suffering. After the close of his earthly ministry—after his crucifixion and resurrection—he appeared in the guise of a stranger to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They questioned why Christ had to suffer and to die. And he said to them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”—Luke 24:25-27

How often the ideas of ‘suffering’ and of ‘glory’ are linked in the Scriptures. Peter has much to say on this subject. For instance, he said, “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. … Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”—I Pet. 3:18,22

And again, he wrote, “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.” (I Pet. 4:13) In his first epistle, fifth chapter, he said, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.”—vs. 1

The prophets of the Old Testament also dealt with the suffering and the glory in an associated manner. We will notice that often the glory of God, of Messiah, and of the kingdom to come is mentioned and enlarged upon without any reference to the sufferings, but we never find the sufferings foretold without the glory to follow described immediately afterward. This is so, because God’s glory and Messiah’s glory will be endless, throughout eternity! But the sufferings are only alluded to, followed by a reference to the glory resulting, because the sufferings come to an end when the glory begins!

Just a few examples of this will be examined in the Psalms, and in Isaiah’s prophecy. For instance, we read in Isaiah 53:10, “It pleased the Lord [Jehovah] to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.”

It ‘pleased’ God to allow his beloved Son, Jesus, to be made a sin-offering, through his suffering and death, only because of what it would accomplish. The end would be glorious! Mankind would be raised up out of the miry clay of degradation and sin, and have their feet set upon a solid rock—Christ Jesus. They would be returned to perfection, holiness, righteousness, and placed in a position where they would have the ability to render to God all the praise and glory which is due his name.

Another example is in Psalm 22. This chapter is a prophetic statement of the excruciating suffering which Christ endured while hanging upon the cross: “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. … I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” (vss. 7,8,14,15) But the conclusion of the chapter indicates the results which were obtained by means of his suffering and death: “My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live forever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations.”—vss. 24-28

The same connection is seen in Psalm 102, which again is a prediction of how greatly our Lord, Christ Jesus, suffered for us upon the cross. “Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call, answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin. … Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me. … My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.”—vss. 2-6,8,11

And then we read of the glorious time to follow: “But thou, O Lord, shalt endure forever; and thy remembrance unto all generations. Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favor her, yea, the set time, is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof. So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory, when the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.”—vss. 12-16

Our Lord spoke to his disciples concerning the afflictions he would be called upon to endure in Jerusalem. (Matt. 16:21) And immediately, he followed up this statement with the words, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” (vs. 27) In order to impress them with this lesson, he then told them, “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”—vs. 28

We read in the very next chapter (Matt. 17) a delineation of what Jesus meant by this latter statement. The transfiguration scene is described in verses 1 through 9. This was the occasion when Peter, James, and John were taken up into a high mountain with the Lord. There, in a vision, they were caused to see the coming glory of Christ’s kingdom. Peter later described himself and James and John as “eyewitnesses” of Christ’s majesty!—II Pet. 1:17-18

He said, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him, from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”

Even though they did not fully perceive the lesson until after they were begotten by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, still they were not left to conclude that his sufferings would have no results. They were given this most wonderful exhibition of Christ’s glory in the kingdom, and his standing of favor and honor with the Heavenly Father, to help establish their faith in that future hope.

The Scriptures assure us that in God’s great plan of the ages, not only Jesus is to be exalted to the throne as the world’s Messiah, but with him is to be a company of brethren—prospective sharers of that same glory, honor and immortality. These, we are told, are required to pass through similar hazards to those of their Master. But just because they pass through similar sufferings, they are not on an equal level with Jesus. Jesus is the Head, the Chief Captain of our salvation. (Heb. 2:10; I John 4:17) No, indeed, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.” (Matt. 10:23,25) He is the Master; we are his servants.

Why has it ‘pleased’ God that Christ should suffer? Why did he ordain that all who would follow in his footsteps must share in his ignominy, shame, and reproach? We realize that in our Lord’s case, the Father used these trying experiences to test the love and loyalty of his Son under the most severe conditions which could be contrived, to demonstrate his obedience to angels and to men. With God’s intention to confer upon Jesus the very greatest of glory and honor, he wished to prove to all creatures the worthiness of his Son to be exalted to his position in the Father’s throne.

In a symbolic picture we hear the heavenly hosts acknowledge the right of Jesus to be exalted to his high position because of his faithfulness unto death, when they are represented as saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.”—Rev. 5:12,13

If such a demonstration of the worthiness of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus, was necessary, how much more necessary it would seem that the elect church, gathered out from the fallen human race, should be proven loyal to God—yes, even unto death. There is a difference, however, between the Master and his servants. In the case of our Master, it was declared that he was perfect before he left his heavenly home; and of course he was perfect when he became the man, Christ Jesus. We read that he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” (Heb. 7:26) “In him was no sin.”—I John 3:5

On the other hand, in the case of his followers the imperfections of the flesh still remain. We come under the robe of Christ’s righteousness in a reckoned sense only. In this way we are judged by God not according to the weaknesses of our fallen flesh, but according to the love and zeal in our hearts. Our desire to walk perfectly is witnessed to by our endeavors to faithfully follow in the footsteps of our Head, Jesus, in the pathway of self-sacrifice and chastity, overcoming to the best of our abilities the weaknesses of the flesh, and showing forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.

The trials and testings which are the daily experience of the footstep followers of the Lord are designed to develop a character acceptable to God. Our Heavenly Father overrules each of these for our own good. Sometimes they take the form of chastening, as we read: “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”—Heb. 12:7

Ordinarily we think of the word ‘chastisement’ as signifying correction for wrongdoing. But in the Bible it is especially used to convey the idea of education, or instruction in righteousness. In Strong’s Concordance, the word chastening is explained as meaning, ‘to train, as a child—that is to educate, instruct, to teach, to learn’. The church needs to have practical lessons in character development—but lessons of a very high order. Consequently we receive chastening such as no other creatures in the universe have been subject to, aside from our Lord. They must receive the training necessary to make them fully conformed to the Heavenly Father’s will in every instance and under every circumstance.—Col. 1:24

What was true of Christ, is also true of his body. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” (Heb. 5:8) And Philippians 2:8 tells us, “He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Let us remember that unless we are willing to learn now the lessons of love, humility, obedience—to endure hardness under every trying situation—we shall not be prepared to enter into his eternal glory.

But when we do reach this condition of perfection, by his grace, what will be our portion? Paul, writing to his beloved ‘son’, Timothy, said, “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.” We will be made actually perfect when we attain our resurrection change! “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him.”—II Tim. 2:11,12

When the Apostle Paul endeavored to contrast his sufferings with what he expected to receive in the kingdom as his reward for faithfulness, he discovered that it was impossible to compare them. He wrote: “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!” (Rom. 8:18) In this same chapter, he continued, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together!”—vss. 16,17

Let us take every opportunity to prove bur love, loyalty and devotion to our gracious Heavenly Father who has offered us an inheritance of unsearchable riches if we are kept by his power through faith unto salvation!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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