LIFE-STUDY OF HEBREWS
JESUS IN INCARNATION, CRUCIFIXION,
GLORIFICATION, AND EXALTATION
In this message we come to the matter of Jesus in incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, glorification, and exaltation. These are very significant terms and probably we are all familiar with them. My burden in this message is to show you how Hebrews chapter two puts all of these five items together. No other chapter or other portion of the Holy Word does this. In some chapters we see Christ’s crucifixion. In other chapters we see His resurrection, glorification, and exaltation. But in no portion as short as Hebrews 2 do we see incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, glorification, and exaltation put together. These five major points concerning what Christ has passed through and attained are presented in this chapter in a very particular way, not in the way as they are presented in the Gospels, the Acts, or in the other Epistles. Throughout so many years, the Lord has been showing me all of the items in this one chapter. We have already seen in message four how Hebrews 1 reveals Christ in so many stages: in eternity past, in creation, in incarnation for redemption by crucifixion, in resurrection for imparting life, in exaltation, in His second coming, in the kingdom, and in eternity future. No other chapter affords us such a revelation of Christ as the Son of God from eternity past to eternity future. The sequence in this chapter is more than wonderful. Chapter two of Hebrews is the same in principle. No other chapter gives us all of these five major aspects of Christ. But in Hebrews 2 these items are particularly and even peculiarly revealed. We all must be impressed with these major points of our Christ.
I. IN INCARNATION
A. Sharing in the Children’s Blood and Flesh
From my youth, I heard from the pastors that Christ was incarnated simply because God loved us and sent His Son to this evil earth to die for our sins on the cross that we might be saved from hell. That was all I saw concerning the incarnation of Christ. Although this is correct, it is rather shallow. Some of the learned, high-class people will not accept this kind of preaching. They will say that it is low and that it has no purpose or goal. Only low-class people will accept such a low preaching of the gospel. Although the gospel is not low, it has been preached on a low level. I have never heard a preacher who said that Christ became a man in order to partake of our blood and flesh. This thought is much higher. The purpose of Christ’s incarnation was that He might share in the children’s blood and flesh (2:14). Using human words, we may say that this is very philosophical. This type of high preaching will convince the people who have philosophical minds. They will think that such preaching is very thoughtful.
In the 1920’s, in answer to the prayers of so many dear missionaries, the Lord did a marvelous work in the colleges and universities throughout China. Many thoughtful young college students were saved. I also was saved during that time. After we were saved, we began to preach Christ in a higher way. We, the Chinese young people of that time, knew the Chinese philosophical thought. As a result, we knew how to convince people. We preached the higher gospel not according to our human thought but according to the “divine philosophy.” God is more than philosophical. What does it mean to say “philosophical”? It simply means thoughtful. God is not simple, superficial, or low. He is deep, thoughtful, purposeful, and meaningful. Our God is a God of purpose. Who could be more philosophical than He? As a result of that higher preaching of the gospel, many doctors, nurses, professors, and learned people were brought to the Lord.
The book of Hebrews is not shallow. It is both deep and high. It is in the highest bracket. This book does not say that because we were fallen and sinful Christ came to save us. It says that all the children are partakers of blood and flesh and that Christ came to share in our nature. This thought is deeper and higher. One day, the Son of God, our Savior and our God, became exactly the same in nature as we are. He became a human being, sharing in our blood and flesh. This is wonderful. We do not have a Savior who is different in nature from us. No, our God and Savior became exactly the same as we are. I can testify to you that a good number of scholars in China were convinced just by this one thought. They began to think about it, finding it most thoughtful. They saw that God came in the flesh not to command us to do something, but to be one with us. He did not come as God to rescue us, for that would have terrified us. He did not come as an angel to embrace us, for we could not have accepted that. He came, in reality, just as we are. He partook of our nature, of our blood and flesh. This thought will certainly convince the learned people. They will admire it, saying, “This truly is a high thought. The very God became the same in nature as we are, partaking of blood and flesh.” This is the incarnation, and this is the deepest thought and the highest “philosophy.”
The incarnation should not be associated with Christmas. You need to burn everything related to Christmas. If you would go to China and preach the gospel to the learned people and mention Christmas, they would not listen to you. They would say that things such as Christmas trees, stockings full of candies, and Santa Claus are too low, shallow, and childish. That is not the gospel from the Word of God. That is the paganism, the leaven mentioned by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 13:33, brought into Catholicism by the “woman” as the Lord prophesied. How could the learned people be convinced with this kind of preaching? You may convince the poor children in the street, but you will not convince the thoughtful people.
Christianity has preached the Lord’s highest salvation in a low way. We need those who have experienced the high salvation to go to the thoughtful people. Immediately they will be convinced. They also are seeking after truth, for they too were made by God. In their nature there is a seeking after God. But Christianity has superficially and inaccurately presented the gospel to them. The incarnation is not a matter of Christmas. Incarnation means that the very God, the Almighty God, has become flesh. As John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh.” Who is the Word? The God who created everything. This Word, God the Creator, has become flesh. This is thoughtful and meaningful. Why did He become flesh? Simply that He might be the same as we are. We are men of blood and flesh, and Christ partook of the same. Through incarnation He came as a man to our level. Although Christ is God, He came to our level and shared in our nature. This is the kind of gospel preaching that university students need to hear. They will listen to this. You can hold them night after night with this kind of gospel. The learned people and students do not want to hear the low preaching of the gospel. They regard that as low and selfish. It lacks purpose. We must tell them of God’s purpose—that God came as man in order to establish His corporation of Christ and the church.
I am not speaking about a gospel preaching that I myself have not experienced. In China we did preach the gospel in this way. When we preached about God’s purpose regarding Christ and the church, some of the professors and students said, “We must get into this. For years we have been seeking the answers to the questions of what is the meaning of man, what is the real meaning of human life, and what the universe was created for.” So we gave them a message telling them of God’s purpose. This is the higher preaching of the highest gospel.
B. Being Made
Like His Brothers in All Things
It is also a matter of sympathy that Christ shared in our nature, partaking of blood and flesh. He is the Firstborn Son of God and we are His many brothers. Yet, we all are weak and fragile in the flesh. So He became a man in the flesh, the same as we are. Because we are weak and fragile, we need Him to sympathize with us. If you want to sympathize with another person, you need to be the same as he is. If I am not on the same level and in the same situation as you are, I could never sympathize with you. However, if I become the same as you are, I shall be able to sympathize with you. The Lord’s sympathizing with us is also an aspect of His incarnation. Hebrews 2:17 indicates this. The Lord was made like His brothers in all things in order that He might sympathize with them.
II. IN CRUCIFIXION
A. Tasting Death on Behalf of Everything
Although, as a youth, I was told again and again that Christ died on the cross for our sins, I was never told that He tasted death on behalf of everything (2:9). Christ tasted death not only for human beings but for everything, every creature. Have you ever heard this? Have you ever heard that Christ tasted death for the animals? Although this may sound quite harsh to your reasoning, if you consult the Greek text of Hebrews 2:9, you will see that the word everything is there. If Christ did not taste death for everything, how could God have reconciled everything to Himself? Colossians 1:20 says that God has reconciled everything to Himself through the death of Christ. Noah’s ark is a clear type of this, for in the ark there were not only people but also living creatures. The ark not only saved the people in it; it also saved the creatures. The ark was a picture, a type, of Christ in this respect. The meaning of this is exceedingly deep and it would take us much time to cover it adequately. This is a profound revelation. Be impressed that Christ not only tasted death for man but also for all other things. This is the reason that we say that Christ’s death was an all-inclusive death.
B. Making Propitiation
for the Sins of God’s People
In His death Christ made propitiation for the sins of God’s people (2:17). The Greek word for propitiation here is hilaskomai which means to appease, to reconcile one by satisfying the other’s demand, that is, to propitiate. The Lord Jesus made propitiation for our sins to reconcile us to God by satisfying God’s righteous demands on us. Thus, He has appeased God for us.
Christ died on the cross to taste death for us and to appease God for us. By His tasting of death, death has been abolished (2 Tim. 1:10). By His propitiation, He has fully appeased God for us. Now we are neither under death nor sin. Although there are death and sin in the universe, because of Christ’s death, His all-inclusive crucifixion, we are through with death and sin. Do not care for your feelings. Do not say that you lack the feeling that death and sin are over. Your feelings are a lie. God says that it is so. Are you going to trust your feelings or God’s Word? I do not care about how I feel. I only care for God’s Word. The Bible says that death has been abolished and that Christ has made propitiation for our sins.
C. Destroying the Devil
Beside death and sin, we have another problem—the devil. In His crucifixion Christ also destroyed the devil (2:14).
The Greek word translated destroy may also be rendered as “bring to nought, make of none effect, do away with, abolish, annul, discard.” After the devil, the serpent, seduced man into the fall, God promised that the seed of woman would come to bruise the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). In the fullness of time, the Son of God came to become flesh (John 1:14; Rom. 8:3), by being born of a virgin (Gal. 4:4), that He might destroy the devil in man’s flesh through His death in the flesh on the cross. This was to abolish Satan, to bring him to nought. Hallelujah, Satan has been abolished and done away with!
Perhaps you will say, “How could the devil have been destroyed when he is still so prevailing?” It is a lie to say that the devil is prevailing. The Bible never says this. Do not believe in this lie. The Bible says that the devil has been bruised, destroyed. His head has been crushed. Are you going to believe your feelings or God’s Word? God’s Word tells us that through His death on the cross Christ has destroyed the devil. This is an accomplished fact, a fact that is included in the Holy Word as the testament bequeathed to us. We need to take this bequest by faith according to the Holy Word.
D. Releasing Us from the Slavery
under the Fear of Death
Christ’s death has also released us from the slavery under the fear of death (2:15). Since through His death Christ has tasted death for us and has destroyed the devil who has the might of death, His death has released us from the slavery in which we were held through the fear of death. We have been released from this slavery. Because of the all-inclusive crucifixion of Christ, there is no more death, no more sin, no more devil, no more fear of death, and no more slavery. By His mercy, the Lord has opened our eyes and has shown us the all-inclusiveness of His death. And through experience we do realize that death, sin, the devil, the fear of death, and slavery were all truly crossed out in Christ’s crucifixion.
III. IN RESURRECTION
Following His death, Christ was resurrected. This is the most meaningful matter in life. But it has never been adequately realized, even by genuine regenerated Christians. Because the thoughtful people were not given the adequate teaching regarding Christ’s resurrection, Satan filled their minds with the modernistic thought that resurrection is superstitious. In 1936 I was invited to preach to the students in the leading university in China. One night, in a professor’s home, an intelligent student who had been born in a Christian family asked me a question. He said that, according to the scientific view, he could not believe in resurrection in a superstitious way and he asked me to explain it to him. The Lord was with me and I pointed out that this matter of resurrection is commonly found in nature. That professor’s residence had many windows through which we could see wheat fields. I said to that student, “Look at the fields. Do you see the wheat that is growing there? Can’t you see resurrection in that wheat field? The seed is sown into the soil, dies, and eventually the wheat comes forth. This is resurrection. Every day and everywhere you can see resurrection. A hen sits upon a chicken egg, the shell breaks, and a baby chicken comes out. Does not this point to death and resurrection? Do not consider that this is my philosophical mind, for my mind is not that intelligent. This is the teaching of the Bible.” When he asked me where, I said that in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul tells us that the seed which dies and grows again is a picture of resurrection. That night this young man was saved and today he is a leading co-worker on the island of Taiwan. The low preaching of the gospel would have been unable to convince such a thoughtful university student.
A. To Bring Forth Many Brothers
Hebrews 2:11-12 indicates that in resurrection Christ has brought forth many brothers. Through His resurrection we were regenerated (1 Pet. 1:3). His death released the divine life from within Him and His resurrection imparted the life of God into us in order that we might become the many sons of God and His many brothers. He was the one grain of wheat falling into the ground, dying, and growing up to bring forth many grains, which are we (John 12:24). He was the one grain and we are now the many grains, His many brothers, brought forth by Him in His resurrection. So immediately after His resurrection He called us His brothers (John 20:17).
B. To Declare the Father’s Name
to His Brothers
In His resurrection Christ not only brought forth many brothers, but He came to His brothers and declared to them the Father’s name (2:12). What is the Father’s name? This is a great matter. The Father’s name is simply the Father. The Father is His name.
The Father means the source of life and the source of being. From where did you receive your life? You received it from your father. From where did you receive your being? Also from your father. The Father is the source. We are all out of Him. The Sanctifier, the Firstborn Son, and all the sanctified ones, the many sons, are all out of the one Father. On the day of His resurrection, the Lord declared the Father’s name to the disciples. From that day on Peter came to realize that he had the divine nature. So, in his second Epistle, Peter said that we are “partakers of the divine nature,” having received “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:4, 3). How is it that we have received the divine nature and that all things pertaining to life have been given to us? Because we were all born of the Father. The name Father means a great deal to us.
C. To Praise the Father in the Church
In resurrection, Christ not only declared the Father’s name to His brothers, but also praised the Father in the church (2:11-12). When the Lord declared the Father’s name to His brothers, He praised the Father’s name in the church. The brothers are the church. Individually speaking, they are His brothers and collectively speaking, they are the church brought forth in His resurrection. In the evening of the day of His resurrection His brothers gathered together, and He came to meet with them. That was the first church meeting. The first church meeting was not on the day of Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost the church was enlarged, but the first church meeting was in the evening of the day of the Lord’s resurrection. In the church meeting the Lord not only declared the Father’s name to His brothers, but also praised the Father in the midst of the church.
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