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The Three-Dimensional Ministry of the Lord Jesus

The Three-Dimensional Ministry of the Lord Jesus

By Roger Salter
April 23, 2017

The richness of Holy Scripture resides in all that is written about the Lord Jesus Christ as our Redeemer. All of Scripture - the combination of prophetic hope, apostolic witness, and apocalyptic portraiture - provides us with pictures of the Saviour in the three phases of his saving ministry to mankind. The Bible is comparable to a triptych depicting His pre-incarnate activity in the Old Testament, His incarnate mission among us on earth, and His glorified ministry from heaven.

The range of Jesus' salvific service to humanity is from eternity to eternity. We gasp with awe at the extent of His mercy that commits Him to our rescue from alienation from God to reclamation to God. The mind of the Triune God apart from all else was fixated on restoring fallen man to fellowship with Himself. In some hugely major way, this plan of deliverance was a means of God's disclosure of His excellence to the full assembly of creation, every citizen of earth of all time, every denizen of heaven, every corner of the cosmos. The Lord is not in need of our applause. He desires our delight in Him. His overflowing love wills us to experience perfect bliss in His adorable perfection. He reveals Himself for our enjoyment, exhilaration and wonder. The qualities and attributes of His lovely Being display themselves in His works as Maker, Redeemer and Governor. God's generosity is the origin and genesis of our existence, the comfortable completeness of our experience, the everlasting felicity of our eternity. His communication of life to all entities dependent upon Him as the source of their being is the effective declaration that God is good.

Sadly, sin and evil have originated in the creature - rebellious angels now demons, and the human race they have recruited to the service of disobedience and vice. Some angels and the sum of mankind are participants in revolt against the authority, wisdom and beneficence of heaven. In the conflict and chaos of hostility to the Lord, Jesus comes to restore peace and purity to the combined project of creation and divine preservation and rule. The Kingdom is coming.

The Promise

The promise comes in the era and economy of the Old Testament in its various administrations of the Covenant manifesting the grace of God. The Hope is intimated and expanded through the histories of Patriarchs and their descendants - the people of Israel. The combined history of these two chosen groups is selectively detailed and summarized in the inspired record of divine activity directed to them and through them over the generations. But it is not men or the events that occupied them that are at the core of the Old Testament narrative. It is God in Jesus Christ who occupies center stage. A survey of biblical writings will prove that the Son of God was intensely active in the former dispensation.

This is no bare or abstract claim concerning the pre-existence of Jesus as if He were a mere spectator of the saga of ancient saints. This to affirm that the pre-incarnate Messiah was involved in the very thick (business) of day to day drama of actual life in all its aspects. Jesus was not only forecast and pledged as Saviour of his chosen ones from Israel and the world; He worked and wrought wonders in Israel's multifarious situations of favor and ill fortune in Israel's own times, BC. The Old Testament not only referred to Jesus prophetically and prospectively, as Jesus so clearly intimated (Luke 24:44ff, etc,), but it yielded abundant evidence to His constant presence with Israel before His physical presence on earth through practically every department of the Canon.

Briefly, and for example, Jesus was the Lord who led His people out of the land of Egypt (Jude 4). Many authorities contend (some ancient, some modern) that the preferred reading should be "Jesus who led His people out of the land of Egypt". Noted New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce comments, "The textual evidence strongly supports the view that the original reading was "Jesus". It is much more probable that Jude's language reflects an identification of Jesus (the pre-incarnate Son of God) with the Rock which supplied Israel's need in the wilderness (so Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:4b) or with the Angel of the Divine Presence who guarded and guided them from Egypt to the promised land - the one of whom God said, 'My name is in him (Ex 23:21) and who was commissioned both to provide protection and mete out judgment ( The Epistle to the Hebrews, Eerdmans, Grand rapids, Michigan, 1977, page 63. For other discussions see commentaries on Jude by C.E.B Cranfield and J.N.D. Kelly).

Paul's teaching as to the presence and activity of Jesus as the constant contemporary of Israel is remarkably telling. Of Israel Paul writes, "For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ' - divine favor; and a little after he records the sinfulness of Israel that brought Christ's judgment - "Nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents . . ." (1 Corinthians 10: 4 & 9).

The Apostle Peter affirms the presence of Christ in, and His influence over, the Old Testament. Speaking of the one salvation subscribed by the ancient prophets of Israel Peter remarks, "Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching in what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when he testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow" (1 Peter 10-11).

In this sense, the Old Testament takes on the character of autobiography as far as Jesus is concerned. It informs us as to what He knew, was willing to do in obedience to the Father, and much of what He would subjectively feel as He carried out His painful assignment. This awareness makes His dedication to the cause of our rescue infinitely precious. His role was foreknown and His deep comprehension of the prophesies prepared Him for the ordering of His life and the enduring of His ordeal.

The first etchings of Christ are available to us in the Old Testament with His personal backing and ultimate authorship.

The Fulfillment

The apostolic memoirs and letters of the New Testament are replete with information and explanation about the great salvation wrought by Jesus. The gospels and epistles manifestly focus upon Jesus as the center of divine revelation in this dispensation as the One whom the Father sent for our "at-one-ment" with Him; the One whom the Spirit empowered and infilled for the making of human amendment to God for our offenses, and for the performance and procuring of a righteousness fit, infinite and worthy enough to qualify all believers for approval with God. We are justified by Jesus as perfect man on our behalf and He has provided us with the righteousness of God. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus, is both true man and true God in the holiest degree and through His virtue and compassion we gain communion with God and access to heaven by trust in His rectitude and competence.

St.Paul sums it up thus: Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which he promised before through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ" (Romans 1: 1-6).

Jesus Now - The One Who is Alive

The Apostle John leant his head upon the breast of the Lord at the Last Supper. Such a posture was symbolic of John's intimacy with the mind of Jesus, and accordingly in his gospel, John divulges so much of Jesus' consciousness of spiritual reality and his infinitely worthy role in the scheme of redemption. John was appointed to spell out the deepest secrets concerning the Savior. He was informed through conversation and companionship with Jesus and a keen perception caused by the Spirit of Christ during and after the Lord's sojourn in the flesh. John was highly reflective.

To John was granted the vision(s) related to us in the Apocalypse. The seer saw at even greater depth in the book Revelation the truth concerning the sublime natures and Person of Jesus and the vast compass of the task assigned to Him in heaven's sovereign decree.

At the Spirit's impulse, John moved from memoir (I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:25 cf 20:30) to mirroring for us the exalted status of Jesus and his absolute sway over all things as He establishes His Kingdom. On Patmos, the aged captive is taken captive by all the rich images that comprise The Revelation of Jesus Christ. His account of his vision is a literary companion to his gospel and the climax and completion of his witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants- things which must shortly take place. And he sent and signified it by his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ to all things that he saw" (Revelation 1:1-2)

John's dual message has this objective: "These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31).

[How impoverished is the limited insight and excessive influence of certain critics who fail to rejoice in the gospel and who minimize and suppress its reliability, message, and eternal benefit (suppression of truth is the state of fallen man). Shame on them and their arrogance. "Why do you not understand my speech? Because you are not able to listen to my word... He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God" (John 8:43 & 47). "But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" John 10: 26-27).

Having once been trapped and shackled for so long by skeptical critics who do not follow Jesus, it is a relief and freedom, purely by grace, to have escaped the grip of intellects untamed by the Spirit of God. How wonderful and beautifully composed is the Word of God. It is intricately (finely detailed) in all that apprises us of the wisdom and ways of God. How wicked of men to mangle the Holy Scriptures. Jesus' words of rebuke were addressed to admired and authorized scholars. Gaining a DD is absolutely fine, admirable, a benefit to the church in effective defense and advocacy of the gospel, but often it is indicative of a Doctor of Damnation through the delusion that is promulgated by certain highly regarded individuals, whose reputations stunt the spiritual growth of many and contribute to the condemnation of others].

John conveys to us the words of "Jesus Now" - as He is at present and forever in the glory of His majesty: "I am he who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and Death" (Revelation 1:18). We may endlessly ponder the supremacy of Jesus in this lofty claim. His is an "Amen" that we can heartily endorse, especially when we read John's description of the risen and ascended Jesus (Ch 1 vv 12-17).

The features of John's encounter can only be briefly alluded to, subject to space. Closer and contemplative inspection is necessary:

v12 Jesus is the voice of God, cf Jesus as the Word. He cannot be boxed in by human discernment and opinion. His speech is divinely "free" and sovereign and may only be heard when He deigns to give the hearing ear. We can only attend, assent, and obey.

vv13- 15 One like the Son of Man, cf Daniel 7: 13-14. Jesus fulfills the vocation intimated in his favorite self-designation, namely Son of Man, a human title transformed into a divine and royal title. Daniel depicts the Ancient of Days 7:9 to whom John likens Jesus (snow whiteness of hair)- the recognition of His divinity and eternality and hence His wisdom, power, and sovereignty. The long garment and gold band denote the dignity of deity that the Lord Jesus bears inherently and manifests in the splendor of His appearance. Fire, eyes like a flame, is illustrative of the holiness of God and the soul -searching, penetrating gaze of God exercised by Jesus as our eventual judge. The feet of brass evidence the overall blazing righteousness of God and his lustrous beauty that is still hidden from human eyes until the perfection of our nature in paradise. The "voice of the sound of many waters" is clearly an ascription of divinity to Jesus, and the power and irresistibility of the authority of his word cf Ezekiel 43:2 "And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with his glory." John continues in his reverence and deference toward the word to which he proffers characteristic humble and adoring acknowledgment both as evangelist and seer.

vv16 - 17 It is plausibly suggested that the seven stars held in Jesus' right hand are representative of the spirit and totality of the church which is his to rule, guide, protect and correct. The sharp two-edged sword protruding from His mouth is His word of mercy and judgment to which the church is to be utterly loyal. His countenance shining like the sun in its strength refers to the light, life, health, warmth, innumerable blessings He bestows upon His people from the beauteous smile of His innate and lustrous goodness. The imagery of the sun is inexhaustible in its meaning.

The gleaming glory of Jesus can only be acknowledged by our prostration before Him. But with what tenderness and reassurance He receives us. "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last (cf Ancient of Days). Everything begins and ends in Him and in all things His will prevails and the care of His chosen never fails.

v18 How stirring and amazing is the colossal affirmation of Jesus now repeated: "I am he who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death."

Here is stated the affectionate humility of Jesus who died in our stead for our recovery to God and avoidance of the agonizing second death. How powerful and beneficial is the glorious resurrection repeated in our regeneration. How everlastingly enduring the inheritance willed to us and won for us by the great Testator, Priest, and Victim in the transaction of Calvary. The immensity of the lavish liberality of God is guaranteed by the secure promise of Jesus Himself who says "Amen" to His accomplishment and commitment to the cause of our eternal welfare. Believers will never know death, for Jesus will never surrender his keys to the pit nor permit any of his people to descend into the abyss.

The One who is alive will preserve our life with and in Him. The three phases of Jesus' ministry are consummated in our arrival in Glory.

The Rev. Roger Salter is an ordained Church of England minister where he had parishes in the dioceses of Bristol and Portsmouth before coming to Birmingham, Alabama to serve as Rector of St. Matthew's Anglican Church.

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