By J.B. Stoney
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. - Luke 23:39-43
It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. - 2Corinthians 12:1-4.
THE subject I desire to occupy you with this evening is Salvation. The word is much misused, for it is looked at generally as only what I am saved from, while in Scripture it is also what I am saved to.
IT is interesting to observe how the word 'salvation' is used. In Ephesians, we have "the gospel of your salvation"; in Hebrews, "the captain of our salvation"; in Philippians, "Work out your own salvation."
There is a great difference between being occupied with what you are saved from, and what you are saved to. If you are occupied with the first, it is only relief that is before you; if with the second, you are occupied with the hope of the gospel. Our blessed Lord was not satisfied with getting us out of misery, but He obtained the Father's house for us.
I turn to 1Thessalonians 5:8-10: "But let us, t who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breast-plate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." Mark verse 10; I beg you to bear that especially in your hearts. What a comprehensive verse it is! "Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." He died that we might be with Him. How that touches the heart! And the word 'with ' here is remarkable; it means co-partnership, association. Well, that is most cheering, that whether I watch or sleep, I am to live with Him.
"Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." I ask, do you know what this salvation is? The first thing is that the work is completed, not merely to get me out of misery and judgement, but to place me in glory. That is the reason I have read about the thief on the cross. Directly his eyes are opened, and he sees the just One suffering for the unjust, he says, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." He saw Jesus as King; the Lord says to him, "Verily, I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise."
Commentators have tried to put a comma after "To-day," to make out that it did not happen then; but it did happen then; at that moment Paradise was opened, and it was not the Paradise of man, but the Paradise of God. The flaming sword and the cherubim guarded the Paradise of man. This was far more. It is the Lord's place. The Lord says to him, "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." The effect of Christ's work was to transfer that man from the deepest misery to the greatest happiness. See what he was transferred from, and what to! By the efficacy of the death of Christ, that man passed from the lowest, deepest, darkest place of misery ever known to man, into the brightest, holiest, most blessed place of ineffable bliss with the Lord. That is the transition. That is what Christ has done.
Now I must digress a little. There are two great spheres of blessing obtained for us; they combine in the Father's house. Both were procured by the death of Christ:in type they are -- Canaan, and while on the road to Canaan, the tabernacle. These two now converge. We are in the presence of God, and approach Him in all the acceptance of Christ; that is, the tabernacle; and we are seated in the heavenlies in Him, that is Canaan. They had in the tabernacle a travelling companion in the wilderness; we, too, have the presence of God with us, we approach Him now in all the acceptance of Christ; we have the true tabernacle in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has passed into "heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." I have entrance into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus, and I get there in all the perfection of the One who brought me there. The other sphere of blessing is Canaan -- Heaven -- that is, in the very brightest place. I am "seated in the heavenlies in Christ." "Accepted in the beloved." These two -- the greatest blessings -- converge in the Father's house, and both are obtained by the death of Christ. Both of them are obtained, and secured to me by His death. "He died that, whether we watch or sleep, we should live together with him."
I look at it now from another side. Every saint looks for escape, expecting to go to heaven by-and-by; but there is another thing, approach to God now; that is unknown to Christians in general; it is not only that I am going to heaven, but I have approach to God now, known along the road: that is Hebrews. I have right to enter the holiest of all, where all is suited to the holiness and righteousness of God, a scene of spotless purity and light. I can rejoice now in all this blessedness while on the way to heaven. I have entrance now into the holiest; and, besides, we are now seated in the heavenlies in Christ. In Luke 23 is established the great fact, that by the death of Christ you pass from the deepest darkness to the brightest place. People cavil at it, they say the thief died; very well, but his death did not entitle him to enter Paradise. It was Christ's death that obtained it for him.
There are four aspects of the death of Christ from Egypt to Canaan.
The Blood on the lintel, that is shelter from judgement.
The Red Sea, the death and resurrection of Christ.
The Brazen Serpent. You know the first two perhaps, but do you know what this is -- that you are free from the law of sin and death?
The Jordan -- you are dead and risen with Christ.
These are the four aspects of the death of Christ; they all happened together, but I do not say I learn them together. The Holy Spirit comes down to make known to my heart what Christ has done.
The thief on the cross entered into Paradise, and his own death had divested him of the encumbrance of the old man in a moment. We are not free of the encumbrance as he was; he was free because he died. So the apostle says, "Though the outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." Look at a saint dying and going to heaven; he gets brighter and brighter because the encumbrance is getting weaker. I say the thief went to Paradise, and that he was free from encumbrance, because he could not carry a bit of the old man into that place.
Now I turn to Corinthians, to show you a man in Christ free from encumbrance, who had not died. Christ's work entitles a man on the earth to enjoy this. Paul does not say an apostle, but "a man in Christ," who had no sense of encumbrance. The Holy Spirit from the glorified Christ led him up there to show him what the work of Christ had accomplished. I believe this man in Christ is in a greater position than the thief in Paradise. It shows the possibility of being taken into Paradise; and more than this, it shows also the nature of the reception vouchsafed there.
Of the thief on the cross we know that he died, and that from the lowest place he went to Paradise, but here, without getting rid of the encumbrance on this earth, the apostle was taken at once into the very highest place, received in the most cordial way, and treated most intimately. Often by favour people get into high places, but the question is, How are they received there? How was this man received? Nothing can convey the cordiality of his reception! He could tell no man about it. Here was a man walking about this world with the secrets of God in his heart which he could not disclose to anyone.
We have heard of the man who dreamed that he went to a great palace, and was received well at the door; then he went in, and at each successive room he was better received. At last he entered the presence chamber, and there he was received with acclamation. It is more than that with the man in Christ!
The prodigal son entering the Father's house shows out the nature of our salvation. It is not simply for my benefit that I am there, but God has a delight in having me there. The Lord here was working out the will of the Father; He says, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." We see in Luke 15 the delight of the Father in the reception of the prodigal. "It was meet that we should make merry and be glad." Love delights to have me in its company. If man's need were the measure of Christ's work, human joys would suffice; but, when divine love is the measure, the Father's house and the joys there are alone sufficient. It is the Father's pleasure that His house should be filled, therefore "It was meet that we should make merry and be glad." "This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." That is why the reception of the man in Christ was so cordial and so full. This is the characteristic, not of the apostle, but of the man in Christ. Every believer now has a home there. I am dwelling on the gain which we derive from being occupied with the finish; what we are saved to.
Do you accept that this is the main point? It is not like the man in the dream; he made good his footing as he went in; but in the gospel, the light that first comes to you is the light of the end, it is "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." The light comes from the finish, though it begins with you where you are, and conducts you to the finish. As you advance it becomes fuller and fuller, like the path of the just, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. If that end is mine, it is from that end I actually derive all the way. My income is from thence, the Holy Spirit comes from thence.
I turn now to Luke. Luke's gospel shows that you are not saved for earth, but saved for heaven. From whence, then, do you get your joys? From heaven! "Who died . . . that we should live together with him." That is the end, the proper hope of the Christian; and you are actually deriving your present enjoyments from that end. Many Christians are not happy. Why? Because they are not deriving their joys from the place where the joys never end; as Peter say's, "Joy unspeakable, and full of glory."
In John 14 is the great supper; it is not in the land, but in the Father's house. The prodigal is conducted to the Father's house; he is not restored to the land. That was lost, but he gets a greater thing, the Father's house, and finds joys that can never end. The natural man connects joy with temporal things; even Christians are often disappointed, because they look for joys in the wrong place. The feast is Wisdom's feast, and that is in the Father's house. How wonderful the present enjoyment that I derive from that which has been obtained for me by the death of Christ!
I have salvation as a secured thing by the death of Christ. I have heaven. I am not there yet, but the efficacy of Christ's work has placed me in two great blessings -- the presence of God, and the joys that come from heaven -- as in the case of the prodigal, "They began to be merry," and that joy will never cease.
I turn now to John 7:37. Well, beloved friends, what I learn here is, not what I am saved from, but what I am saved to; I am in the reality of the fact that I am outside of death in His life, and not only in His life, but in His power, too, here in this scene of death! The Holy Spirit had come down from the glorified Christ to acquaint us with the joys of the place whence He came. "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." Mark how it is stated, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." We should be exercised as to whether we have these joys in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let me explain. There were for Israel three feasts in the year the Passover, the feast of Pentecost, and the feast of Tabernacles. -- The first is the death of Christ, the second is the descent of the Holy Spirit, the third is not yet fulfilled:it will be in the millennium. Do you say, Then the millennial saints are better off than we are? No! For the presence and power of the Holy Spirit make us rejoice more than if we had the feast of Tabernacles. He is here to enrich our hearts with Christ. He has come down to make known to us all the joys of the Father's house. That is the great supper! I am riot there yet, but I get my joys from there. I get home comforts, before I get home; my income is derived from there. There is no such thing as an earthly people now; we are a heavenly people, with heavenly joys.
I now recapitulate. First, Christ has accomplished our salvation, this great blessedness He has obtained for us, and we know it now. Secondly, in His life we are outside of death, and while passing through this evil world, we are superior to it through His power; the Holy Spirit sent down from our glorified Saviour, at one and the same time making us superior to the power of evil, and filling our hearts with joy; the joys of heaven to which we belong.
May each of you join with me in asking the Lord that we may know the nature of divine grace.