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to grasp these high themes. What is meant by preparing a place for us? Is not heaven already garnished with a glory that was from the foundation of the world? Is it not the perfection of beauty ? How, then, could it be prepared for us more gloriously than it always has been ? The answer to these queries is probably found in the fact that our place in heaven will be determined by our lives on earth. He whose pound has gained ten pounds shall have rule over ten cities ; he that has gained five, but five; he that has gained two, but over two cities. As is the cross, so shall be the crown. As is the burden and heat of the day on earth, so is the exceeding great and eternal weight of glory in heaven. Oh! it is a blessed thought to the toil. ing and faithful servant of Jesus, that though homeless and penniless below, without a place to lay his head, as he labours for his Master, that precisely as his place on earth is lonely and weary by reason of his faithful working for Christ, by the same, yea, an infinitely greater ratio is that blessed Saviour preparing a place of peopled loveliness and eternal glory for him above. Then we can see why he told his sorrowing disciples, who shrank from the toil and trial before them, that it became them rather to rejoice that he was about to leave them and ascend to his Father's house, with its many mansions; for there, as they were toiling in weariness and tears, he was preparing for them a warmer, brighter welcome, that they might be glad according to the years in which they had been made to see sorrow. For this work of preparation, it was needful that he should ascend.
7. Another reason given by Paul is, that as our forerunner and great example, it was needful that he should enter the rest of heaven after he had finished the labours of earth. We are prone, in dwelling on the character of our Lord, to overlook the fact that he was truly man, in contemplating the fact that he was truly God. As man, he had all the feelings of a sinless humanity. He could be touched with a feeling of all our infirmities that were without sin. He was weary, hungry, thirsty, faint, lonely, sorrowful, indignant, as he encountered the various trials of his earthly life. Hence, even without any specific assurances, we would have inferred that he felt the same longing for heaven that the lonely and weary often have on earth. But we have such assurances most explicitly given. Paul declares to us that he, "for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. xii. 2. Hence, this Ascension or return to heaven was a thing that cheered and sustained him in his sorrows on earth. To him the hope of heaven was something far more vivid and bright than to any other soul that has ever longed for it. We know not how
far the consciousness of the humanity shared the knowledge of the Divinity, but we know that there was some impartation of that knowledge. “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before ?" (John vi. 62) was a question that indicated this fact. But it was yet more touchingly declared in the intercessory prayer in the seventeenth chapter of John's Gospel. The whole prayer breathes the home-sick longing of a child for his Father's house, and a soul ripe for heaven yearning for its rest. Take, for exarnple, the unutterable tenderness of the heart-gushing words, "I have glorified thee on the earth : I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” John xvii. 4, 5. There is a wonderful depth of beauty and tenderness in these words. They are the longing of a weary heart that is conscious of having faithfully done its work, and now wistfully looks for its release and repose. We cannot doubt that to the lonely man of sorrows there came visions of the better land, memories of the sweet rest above, echoings of the minstrelsy of the heavenly harps, whisperings of angels, and thoughts of the city that hath foundations, and the home and the throne that awaited him, such as none other ever had, and such as none other ever needed. As he trod the dusty
streets of the cities of Palestine, laid his head be. neath the lowly roof of Bethlehem, spent the long cold night on the mountain-top and the sea-shore, we are assured by these words of Paul that his eye was often lifted to the everlasting hills, gazing on the throne that glittered there in reserve for him in the land that was afar off. These hopes cheered him in his toils and sorrows.
Now, to a holy being, toiling on earth, it was needful that when this work was done he should return to that holy city and holy company that awaited him above. Heaven is the great gathering-place of all that is holy, and lovely, and grand in the universe; and by its mighty magnetism is drawing to it all that is loveliest and purest in creation, and clustering it in a bright eternal harmony around the throne. Hence, had Jesus been only a mere and ordinary creature, it would have been a fitting thing for him to ascend to this glorious rest when his work was done. But he was not such a creature. He was the second Adam, the repre. sentative of redeemed humanity, and as such, it was needful for him to enter paradise regained, as our forerunner. And to show that heaven was a place as well as a state, and that he was the Saviour of the body as well as of the soul, it was needful that he should go up in his human body, and enter the heavenly city as our great Leader, take possession of it in our name, and thus give us assurance that the body as well as the soul should be saved ; and therefore that there should be hereafter a resurrection from the dead in glory of all who sleep in Jesus,
The great fact of instruction and comfort to us, then, in the Ascension of our Lord, is, that it is at once the pledge and the picture of our future glory as Christians. The fact that it was the same body which died that also arose and ascended to heaven, is an assurance to us that the same body that we carry about us in our earthly pilgrimage shall be taken hereafter to heaven, and that this vile body shall be made like to Christ's glorious body. As he ascended, so also shall we. As he lingered, after his new life, for forty days on earth, and then went up to heaven, so shall we, even after our new life, our spiritual resurrection, linger for a time on earth, and then ascend to heaven, first, in our disembodied spirits at death, and afterwards, in both body and spirit, hereafter, at the resurrection and second coming of Jesus. Hence, death is not a descent into the grave to the Christian, but an ascension to heaven. It is a going up to Jesus, an entrance into the heavenly city; and as our risen bodies shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air at the Resurrection, so at death we shall be conveyed by angels to our rest, and shall see the everlasting doors lifted up to welcome us home to the King of glory.