Higher than the Angels

“Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” —Hebrews 1:4

COUNTLESS numbers of times in the history of humanity there have been miscarriages of justice due to the unwisdom and prejudice of those whose business it is to judge and punish violators of the law. In most cases these unfortunate experiences are little publicized, and soon forgotten by all except the individuals directly concerned. But it was different in the case of the Man of Galilee who was hung upon a cross till he died—not because he had violated any law of his day, but because of religious prejudice and intolerance. Here, indeed, was a black travesty of justice, but it was destined to mark the turning point of time, and to introduce the most highly civilizing concepts of religion ever known to man.

It was the beginning of the Christian era!

There were a few who did not lose faith in Jesus when the mob cried for his death. Among these was Mary Magdalene. She went to the tomb of her beloved Master early in the morning after the Sabbath, and found it empty. She notified Peter and John, who came to the tomb and confirmed her findings. They returned to their home, but Mary tarried. It was then that she saw two angels in white—one was at the head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain.—John 20:11,12

Mary was weeping bitterly, and in answer to questions put to her by these heaven-sent strangers, she explained that the body of her Lord had been taken away and that she knew not where to find it. Outside of the tomb another stranger spoke to her, and he also wanted to know the cause of her sadness. She thought this man was the gardener, and supposing that he had been in the general vicinity most of the time since Jesus died, thought he could give her some information as to who had taken away the body, and where it had been taken, so she asked him about it.

Yes, this ‘stranger’, who appeared as a gardener, did know what had become of Jesus’ body, for he was the resurrected Jesus himself! With the tone of voice and accent with which she was familiar, and which on many occasions, no doubt, had stirred her very soul, he now spoke to her, saying, “Mary.” He did not look like Jesus. He was not dressed as Jesus had always dressed. But it was the voice of Jesus, and Mary knew then that he was no longer dead.

Mary knew that she had seen Jesus, but she knew also that now he was different. Then he vanished from her sight. Later, he joined two of his disciples who were en route to Emmaus, and conversed with them. They did not recognize him until he offered thanks at the evening meal. Here again it was evidently the tone of his voice and his familiar way of expressing thanks that caused them to know that their guest was the Master. On another occasion he appeared in an upper room where his eleven apostles were conferring. They had locked the doors for fear of the Jews, but Jesus came into the room just the same. This time he appeared in such a manner that they recognized him by sight.

Mary had seen a ‘stranger’. Two of the disciples had seen and conversed with a ‘stranger’. The eleven in the upper room saw the Master as he formerly appeared. Later, a group of them saw him on the lakeshore, and thought he was a fisherman. He was with them forty days after his resurrection, but they saw him only on a few brief occasions. Yes, he was different, so different that they were puzzled to understand him, and to know just how they still could be his disciples.

Is the story of Jesus entering a room with the doors locked too fantastic to believe? We think not. It required great faith to believe it prior to our modern age, but today we are surrounded with miracles just as inexplicable as this, and we accept them as a matter of fact. Beautiful music, drama, lectures, motion and talking pictures come into our homes every day, and we do not have to open the doors to let them in. While we know how it is accomplished, it is mystifying to think how it penetrates walls and is ever-present with us, surrounding us on all sides and yet imperceptible to our sight and realization.

And even more wonderful than the fact that we can enjoy the blessings of these inventions right in our homes with the doors locked, is the knowledge that the programs of our choice sometimes travel through miles and miles of space in order to reach our homes. Furthermore, while we may be enjoying a lecture on science, and a million others may be enjoying the same lecture, other millions are being entertained or instructed in numerous other ways. All these many programs are riding the airwaves, so to speak, at the same time, but do not interfere with one another.

Although it appears altogether too fantastic to believe, it is true! We cannot explain it—of course not! Even the inventors and scientists cannot explain the invisible power which they have learned to harness and control to a limited extent. They speak of electricity, of wave lengths, etc., but these are just words by which they describe certain results they obtain by doing certain things.

Now this is just our way of saying that there are things all around us which we cannot see; invisible power which we cannot fully explain; an energy which cannot be stopped by brick, stone, or wooden walls. These things which the human eye cannot see and the human brain can but imperfectly understand are, however, just as real and tangible as the objects which we call material. It is just that our senses cannot clearly perceive nor completely explain them. And this brings us back to the fact that the little bit of reasoning ability we do possess should certainly enable us to see that there must be more intelligent and more powerful beings in this universe than ourselves, yet invisible.

Today our scientists are merely scratching the surface, as it were, in their efforts to harness and use the invisible forces of nature. And think of the marvelous results they are obtaining. But let us remember that these invisible forces have always been in existence. They were created and have been used by the Creator to control all the billions of worlds in his vast universe. He knows precisely what electricity and nuclear power are, for he created them. So it is with all the things we see and with which we work every day of our lives. We can plant a turnip seed and watch turnips grow from it into maturity. We can cook turnips and eat them; but we cannot make a turnip seed!

When Jesus was raised from the dead he announced to his disciples that all power had been given to him, in heaven and in earth. We accept this as a statement of fact. By doing so, there is no obstacle to our believing that one who possessed such power could come and go as the wind, and reveal himself to human eyes in any manner he chose—as a gardener, a stranger, in a locked room, or by the lakeshore. Or, if he preferred, he could be present with his disciples without their knowing of his presence. Jesus, who in coming to earth to die for the sin-cursed race, humbled himself and was made a little lower than the angels, had now been rewarded for his faithfulness. Now he was the exalted Jesus, having been made so much better than the angels.

We honor our heroes and reward those who risk death in order to save or benefit others. There is a righteous principle involved in this, a principle which had its origins with the Creator. He thus honored Jesus for his faithfulness; he ‘decorated’ his Son with glory, honor, and immortality. He exalted him above the angels—above every name that is named. He whose wisdom and power operated to create the universe now used that power to raise Jesus from the dead and give him a nature high above the human and the angelic, even the divine nature itself.

Mere man is able to unloose a fraction of the hidden energy created by God, but does it at the risk of committing suicide. God, who created that energy, and therefore is vastly superior to it, laid hold upon the dead Christ, restored him to life, and exalted him to his own right hand, giving him all power in heaven and in earth.

We are awe-inspired with the thought! Is it any wonder that divine intervention such as this on behalf of one who, while he died for the sins of the world, nevertheless was unjustly killed, should have such a profound effect upon the course of the world? If the partial discovery of how to use atomic energy has ushered the world into a new age, it is no wonder that the direct use of divine power by him who created atomic energy should also mark the beginning of a new age, even the Christian age!

But we should not labor under any misapprehensions concerning the Christian age. Many things have occurred during the Christian dispensation, and in the name of Christianity, which have not been Christian. It has not been Christian for one nation to go to war against another in the name of Christ. The “Holy” Crusades were unholy and unchristian; the “Holy” Inquisition was not Christian—these were the products of inhuman religious intolerance and hate, and among the most unholy of all the diabolical practices of the Dark Ages. Persecution of the Jews has not been Christian.

The fear-instilling teaching of eternal torture for the wicked is not Christian. Masses for the dead and the claim that such masses ease and shorten the sufferings of those alleged to have gone to purgatory, are wholly without authority by Christ or any of the inspired writers of the Scriptures. Selling indulgences, and “blessing” images and everything else that is blessed in consideration of a fee, is an unchristian and unholy practice, and not part of God’s work during the Christian age.

That for which the now nearly obsolete word ‘Christendom’ originally stood was not Christian. It had its inception in the claim that the church-state governments of Europe constituted the kingdom of Christ. But that was a false claim.

All these evils are but the work of selfish man. That they were practiced in the name of Christ has confused the true issues and principles of Christianity in the minds of millions. It is this confused conception of Christianity that is causing so many now to lose faith in the Bible. The enlightenment of our day is causing thinking minds to realize that a religion which has countenanced and still countenances and promotes such evils is not a good religion. The truth of this is readily apparent to the unbiased, unprejudiced, thoughtful person. But it is urged that the earnest truth-seeker look further, to search deeper, to push aside superstition, and discover the jewels of truth hidden away in the Bible. These truths, in the light of present-day events, reflect beams of light from the God of heaven which pierce the gloom ahead and reveal the remaining steps in the pathway to the human destiny of peace and everlasting life planned by the Creator.

What then has there been during this Christian age which has been truly Christian? To the extent that the moral and ethical teachings of Christ have been practiced, we have had a better world. Of this there can be no doubt. On the other hand, the failure of the nations and of individuals comprising the nations to practice Christian principles in all their dealings with one another, does not mean that Christianity has failed. For, strange though this may seem, Jesus did not commission his followers to convert the world to his way of life during this Christian or Gospel Age. To the extent that the world has been made better by the influence of his teachings in the lives of those who have been his true followers, it has thus far been a byproduct of true Christian faith and work.

Jesus commissioned his followers to go into all the world to preach the Gospel, and to make disciples of all nations. They were not to limit their field to one nation, but were to go to all. Those of any and all nationalities who believed and devoted themselves to the cause were to be accepted as disciples. That every individual in all nations would become a disciple was not expected. As for the world in general who heard the message, it was to be merely in the nature of a witness, a testimony. Instead of all the world being converted by this effort, the Scriptures explain that its purpose has been merely to “take out” of the world a people “for his name.”—Acts 15:14-17

A great deal is said in the New Testament about the calling of this class; and much of it has been misunderstood. The promise is given that those who suffer and die with Jesus will live and reign with him. They are to share his glory; they are to sit on his throne. Jesus promised to prepare a place for them, and to come again and receive them unto himself. All these marvelous promises add up to mean that the true disciples of Christ during this Christian age are justified in expecting to be exalted above angels to share the divine nature and glory which the Father gave to Jesus as a reward for his faithfulness. The apostle speaks of it as a “heavenly calling.”—Heb. 3:1

The calling and selection of these by God, based upon their acceptance of and loyalty to the Gospel as preached by Jesus’ disciples, has been the divine program for this age. It began at Pentecost. There the invisible power of God, the Holy Spirit, came upon the waiting disciples, enlightening their minds and giving them power of speech to declare the message of truth concerning the purposes of God. The response on that first day was tremendous; but the enthusiasm of the believers was commingled with the persecution of the intolerant and prejudiced. The fight between light and darkness was on, and the struggle has continued until this day. The truth and those who have believed in it have always been on what appeared to be the losing side.

It was thus with Jesus, who, although he was the “light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5), was crucified. He told his disciples that they also were to be the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:14), but their light, although they have let it shine as brightly as possible, has been but a glimmer in the world of darkness and sin. The light-bearers have been ostracized, persecuted, and killed. Jesus foretold this, saying, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) And his followers have overcome, too! Not by conquering the world, and ruling over it through the civil powers, but by overcoming its spirit of selfishness in their hearts, and, like Jesus, laying down their lives in sacrifice that others might be blessed.

Yes, it may have appeared that the truth and the truth people have always been on the scaffold. But it has not really been a scaffold—it has been an altar, God’s altar of sacrifice. His people have, like Jesus, been proving their love for his ways and principles by faithfulness in sacrifice. They have been demonstrating their unselfishness, their devotion to righteousness, their harmony with the divine principles of justice and love. They have loved their enemies as God has enjoined through Jesus. They have, in short, qualified to be associated with the highly exalted Jesus in the future work of restoring humanity to life upon the earth.

This, then, has been God’s work for his people during the Christian age. In it we see a further manifestation of divine wisdom and mercy. Paul speaks of Christians as “laborers together with God.” (I Cor. 3:9) Surely the Creator, with all his resources of wisdom and power, does not need help, especially the very limited aid that could be given to him by puny and dying human beings. But he has arranged it that way, and there must be a reason for it. One of the terms applied to Jesus in his relationship to God and men is that of Mediator. (I Tim. 2:5) His followers are designated ministers of reconciliation. (II Cor. 5:18-20) They are to be on the mediatorial board with Jesus, and will share in the work of reconciling the estranged world to God. Thus the fallen race will have representation on the board of mediatorship which will prepare the way for their return to favor with God and to life. Marvelous grace!

We said that these promises relating to the high calling of Jesus’ disciples have been misunderstood; and they have. From these promises that apply only to an elect few, the false theory has been deduced that the Creator never intended that man should remain a human being, and that his human existence is but the first stage in his life, that death is but the portal into the next phase, which is to be spiritual, or heavenly. The theory is that all who accept Christ as their Savior before they reach the portal of death, go to heaven, but that those who do not, go to hell, and there suffer all the excruciating tortures that deceived human brains have been able to imagine and describe.

Due to this misunderstanding, the real destiny of the human race has been overlooked. Few have noticed the many promises of God to restore the dead to life as human beings that they might live on the earth forever. They have failed to realize that the promises of God which speak of spiritual blessings and a heavenly home, and of glory, honor, and immortality, are intended only for the footstep followers of Jesus—given to encourage them to faithfulness in laying down their lives as Jesus did in order that they might live and reign with him in his future mediatorial kingdom here on this earth. The casual reader of the Bible has failed to see that the divine program in selecting the church of Christ is that the church, in heavenly glory with Christ, exalted high above angels and principalities and powers, should, together with him, be the channel of life-giving blessings for all mankind.

Back in the age before Christ came, God manifested his presence with his people, Israel, in connection with the Tabernacle and its services. On their Atonement Day the blood of a bullock and a goat was taken into the Most Holy of the Tabernacle and sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat. Paul indicates in his writings that this Most Holy was symbolic of heaven, and that the blood of Jesus actually did for the people what the blood of the bulls and goats did representatively and pictorially.

Now we are not to suppose that Jesus carried his human blood into heaven with him and sprinkled it upon a literal mercy seat. The illustration and the language of the Scriptures intend merely to convey to our finite minds the thought that the sacrifice of Jesus as the Lamb of God was well pleasing to his Father, and that upon his return to the heavenly courts following the completion of his earthly ministry, the way was prepared for another phase of the divine plan for restoring a lost world.

It was on the Day of Pentecost that Peter said Jesus had been raised from the dead and highly exalted, and, he added, “hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear”—referring to the miraculous manifestation of God’s power, the Holy Spirit, which came upon the waiting disciples at that time. Here the people of God were brought into contact with his power in a manner in which it had never before operated. It illuminated their minds to understand something of the glorious hope which was set before them in the Gospel. It gave them strength and courage to endure the suffering inflicted upon them by enemies of the truth. It nourished them and built them up in preparation for their exaltation with Jesus. It was a token of the power with which they would be imputed when, with Jesus, they would later be performing those greater works which he had promised as a result of his going to the Father.

Peter said of the true disciples of Jesus, “Unto us are given exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” (II Pet. 1:4) The divine nature is the nature of God. Jesus was exalted to this nature, and is now the “express image” of the Father’s person. (Heb. 1:3) John declares, “We know that … we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:2) All of this is quite beyond our comprehension, but to the extent that we can grasp the thought, it is not surprising to realize that if a company of imperfect, dying human beings are to be exalted above all the other creatures of the universe, and given the very nature of God and partake of his glory, we should not be surprised that it was essential first of all that Jesus should go to his Father about it, or as Paul expresses it, “appear in the presence of God for us.”—Heb. 9:24

Thus Jesus made it possible for God’s work of this age to begin, as it did, at Pentecost. That work has continued, unnoticed and unknown to the world. Its implications have been so far-reaching and its magnitude so great, that there is little wonder it should be misunderstood and misrepresented. The language and promises of the Bible have been lifted out of their setting and given crude, unreasonable meanings. Spurious works have been undertaken, and a counterfeit kingdom of Christ established through misunderstanding of the divine program for the Christian age. Meanwhile, the whole human creation of God has groaned and travailed together in pain, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God; that is, waiting, although unwittingly, for the work of this age to be completed, when all those called to be sons of God and joint-heirs with Jesus, shall be exalted above the angels to live and reign with him in the kingdom of blessing now near.—Rom. 8:19-22

And when we use that word ‘kingdom’, we are using one which is very prominent in the Bible. Jesus taught his followers to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) Yes, the Creator’s will is to be done in the earth. For this we are glad. This is the thought conveyed by the term kingdom. It is rulership, or control—in this case, divine control over the affairs of men. Jesus will be the supreme Ruler in that kingdom. His faithful followers, who died sacrificially as he died, will be associated with him. These mighty rulers will be invisible to men, even as God is invisible. But we are not to suppose that this kingdom will be indefinite and vague—a rulership consisting merely of an ideology which can be accepted or rejected by the people as they prefer.

Christ’s kingdom will have its human representatives. The Scriptures tell us who they will be, and in telling us, explain some of the texts of the Bible which have been so puzzling to many. For example, Peter said that David had not ascended into heaven. (Acts 2:34) Jesus also said that no man had ascended up to heaven. (John 3:13) On another occasion Jesus said that among those born of women there was none greater than John the Baptist, yet the very least one in the kingdom of heaven was greater than John. (Matt. 11:11) Now these statements all refer to men who served God prior to the Christian era. They reveal that, unlike the servants of God during this age, they were not given a heavenly hope.

Other promises of the Bible tell what their reward will be. They are the fathers in Israel, and the promise is that they shall be made “princes in all the earth.” (Ps. 45:16) Jesus refers to them—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets—and indicates that when his kingdom is ruling in the earth, these shall be the recognized representatives of it. (Luke 13:21) Yes, in this again, God’s power will operate to raise the dead, and will restore these well qualified men and women to be the earthly representatives of the spiritual Christ.

Man is misusing for destructive purposes the energy God created, and the only thing which will save the human race from the suicide it is certain to bring upon itself if left to its own devices is divine intervention. And God has promised to intervene by means of the kingdom of Christ for which we have been praying. He has already used his power to exalt Jesus far above the angels; and the church is to share that glory with him. Divine power will soon be used again to restore the Ancient Worthies to fullness of life, and these two companies selected from among the fallen race, will work together—one in heaven, and the other on earth—for a thousand years to reestablish divine control over the affairs of men, and to restore all the willing and obedient of mankind to their lost home and lost dominion.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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