Condensed from a series of addresses by James Butler Stoney given in 1887. See Ministry of J B Stoney New Series Vol 1 page 1[i]
The word ‘Salvation’ is often 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.
There is a significant difference between the two: If I am occupied only with what I am saved from, all I enjoy is relief from misery and judgment. However, if I am occupied only with I am saved to, I have the hope of the gospel and the full joy of the Father’s house.
The Thief on the Cross
In 1 Thessalonians 5:10 it says of the Lord, ‘Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him’. Salvation places me in glory with Him. We see this from the thief on the cross. His eyes were opened, and he saw the just One suffering for the unjust. He saw Jesus as King and said, ‘Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom’, but the Lord said to him, ‘Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise(Luke 23:42-43).
Christ’s work transferred the thief from the lowest, deepest, darkest place of misery ever known to man – crucifixion for crimes for which he was condemned, into the brightest, holiest, most blessed place of unimaginable happiness with the Lord. His death did not entitle him to enter Paradise; Christ’s death obtained it for him. That is the completeness of transition – and Christ has done it!
God’s Presence and Heaven Experienced Now
Two great spheres of blessing are shown in type in Exodus. They are:
- The Tabernacle
We can say that hat the death of Christ procured them both, and they converge in the Father’s house. In the tabernacle we have a travelling companion (the presence of God) in the wilderness. This means that and we can approach Him now, accepted in Christ. This is the true tabernacle in Hebrews 9:24 – the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, 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 the very brightest place. I am ‘seated in the heavenlies in Christ’, ‘accepted in the beloved’(Ephesians 2:6 and 1:6 ).
Approach to God Now
Every Christian expects to go to heaven when they die, but many Christians do not understand that they have the right to God’s presence now[iii]. I can 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 enjoy all this blessedness while on the way to heaven because I am among those seated in the heavenlies in Christ (see Ephesians 2:6).
There are four aspects of the death of Christ from Egypt to Canaan.
- The Blood on the lintel – shelter from judgement.
- The Red Sea – the death and resurrection of Christ.
- The Brazen Serpent – freedom from the law of sin and death
- The Jordan – our death and resurrection with Christ
The death of Christ secured all of these at the same time. However, like the Children of Israel who learned them over a period of 40 years, I do not learn them together. The Holy Spirit makes my heart know what Christ has done one step at a time.
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: he was free because he died that day. We may have years to live, so are not free of the encumbrance as the thief was.
It is not necessary to have died though, to be free from such an encumbrance. Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 12:2 of a ‘man in Christ’. The Holy Spirit led him to the third heaven to show him what the work of Christ had accomplished. It was in a greater place than Paradise, and he was received there.
A man 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 admitted with acclamation. It is more than that with the man in Christ! The apostle Paul was taken at once into the very highest place, received in the most amazing way, and treated most intimately. However, could not tell anybody about it, because words could not describe it, they were forbidden to utter. Here was a man walking about this world with the secrets of God in his heart which he could not disclose to anyone.
The progress through these rooms is like ‘the light of the glorious gospel of Christ’( 2 Corinthians 4:4 ). The light shines from the place I am going to, though I see it from where I am: it leads me to the finish. My income for the journey comes from there; the Holy Spirit comes from there.
In this life we are outside of death, and while passing through this evil world, we are superior to it through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has been sent down from our glorified Saviour, making us superior to the power of evil, and filling our hearts with joy, the joys of heaven to which we belong.
The Prodigal’s Reception
The prodigal son would have been content with being a hired servant. Covered by the blood of Christ, but without the full appreciation of the Father’s heart and the Father’s house I become satisfied with human joys and relationships – an earthly Christianity. But this often disappoints. However, the Father’s thoughts were far greater. From the way he was received, I learn the full nature of my salvation: my presence in the Father’s house is not simply for my own benefit. It is to satisfy God’s desire: His delight is in having me there. We see the Father’s pleasure in the reception of the prodigal: ‘It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.’ (Luke 15:32). As the One who loves delights to have the one who is loved in His company, so the Father delights to have me, and His love is divine.
This salvation has been secured in the death of Christ. I have heaven even if I am not there yet. Christ’s work has placed me in two great blessings: the presence of God, heavenly joys. ‘They began to be merry’, (Luke 15:24)) – they began but did not cease[iv].
That is why the reception of the man in Christ was so cordial and so full. If it was the characteristic of the apostle Paul and the prodigal, it could be true of every believer. Every believer now has a home in the Father’s house[v].
The Christian’s Hope
Luke’s gospel shows me that I am not saved for earth but for heaven. The natural man connects joy with temporal things; even Christians are often disappointed because they look for joys in the wrong place: they are trying to derive their happiness from the earth. However, I am to derive everything from the place where joy never ends: I get my joy from heaven! I am not alone: we live together with Him (see 1 Thessalonians 5:10), as Peter says, ‘Joy unspeakable, and full of glory’. (1 Peter 1:8).
In John 7:37-38 I learn, not what I am saved from, but what I am saved to. ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water’. I have something in His life that is beyond death even though I am still in this scene of death. We have these joys in the power of the Holy Spirit, who has come down from the glorified Christ to acquaint us with the joys of the place from which He came.
There were for Israel three feasts in the year:
- The Passover – for us this represents the death of Christ
- The feast of Pentecost – the descent of the Holy Spirit, and
- The feast of Tabernacles – the millennium (not yet fulfilled).
What we have is even more than what the saints will have in the millennium. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit make us rejoice more than the earthly feast of Tabernacles. He enriches our hearts with Christ, causing us to know all the joys of the Father’s house. That is the great supper: I am not there yet, but I get my joys from there. I get jyy67home comforts before I get home; my income comes from there. God does not have an earthly people now[vi]; we are a heavenly people, with heavenly joys.
Christ has accomplished our salvation. He has obtained great blessedness for us, and we know it now.
[i]Obtainable from Kingston Bible Trust, Lancing, England or from Bibles etc. Wheaton IL, USA. Downloadable from Ministry Search Engine
[ii]Commentators have tried to put the comma after ‘today’, to make out that the blessing was future; but he received the blessing that day.
[iii]Not just by prayer
[iv]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 after his conversation with the woman in John 4, ‘I have meat to eat that ye know not of’, and ‘My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work’. (John 4:32-34)
[v]We have a great supper in Luke 14:16-24. That was in the Father’s house (as in chapter 15), not in the land of Israel. 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!
[vi]Jewish believers are in the assembly and are amongst the heavenly people.