The Veiled Glory of Jesus our Lord

by Bob Bradley

Texts: John 17: 3, 5; John 6: 62; Ephesians 1: 15-17; Colossians 1: 17, 18

The New Testament is simply the most radical book in the world. It is so simple that a fourth–grader can read it with pretty good understanding. But within its relative simplicity, it makes some revolutionary statements about the nature of reality.

Several years ago I bought a book by the famous British theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking. The book’s title is The Universe in a Nutshell. Although it is written in a non-mathematical format, I had to struggle to get the gist of much of it, and a good hunk of it went over my head. However, one thing came through indirectly, but loud and clear--Hawking is not going to become a Biblical believer just because he has to acknowledge that our universe began with a “big bang.” Hawking side-steps the implications of the big bang by speculating that there may be any number of big bang “bubble universes” like ours. The nature of the underlying cosmic structure, as currently understood, would prevent us from ever knowing if other universes existed. But, if there are possibly billions or trillions of other universes, we can (he implies) readily dismiss the evidence for God’s design in our own universe as just a one-in-a-trillion chance! The unbelieving scientist always provides himself with an escape hatch, even if that hatch is made of pure speculation and not even one speck of substance.

Questions about ultimate meaning are beyond the scope of science. We have to look elsewhere to answer questions about the purpose of life. And the “purpose question” is extremely important. There are people who commit suicide because they believe life has no purpose, and even larger numbers who live in depression and despair because they have no meaning--no purpose--in their lives. So the issue of purpose is not theoretical at all. It has a profound affect on our behavior, and on the quality of our inner life.

So, what is the ultimate purpose of the universe we live in? The typical conservative churchgoer of the last few decades would probably answer, “to make heaven and miss hell.” Today’s churchgoer would more likely say “To experience God’s love and find His purpose for our lives.” Of course, both statements are true, but as stand-alone statements they are woefully inadequate. Let’s take a look at what the Word of God says about ultimate purpose, which flows out of knowing the Ultimate Person! The following study is going to be a bit demanding, because I am covering a lot of ground in five pages. But please bear with me and read it thoughtfully, even if it takes two sessions.

The book of Isaiah in the Old Testament breathes with the Presence of an awesome God who created everything, who predicts the future precisely, and who reveals Himself to everyone who has a repentant, humble heart. Purpose in life flows out of knowing Him and doing His will (And this is eternal life, that they may know You, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3)

Regarding the greatness of God, Isaiah 40:17 states that the whole known world (all nations) are as nothing before Him, and they are counted by Him as less than nothing and worthless. Our modern understanding of the size of our universe leads us to the conclusion that Isaiah was engaging in understatement, rather than poetic exaggeration.

A few verses later, after noting that He has named all the stars, Almighty God gets down to business: His objective is not to impress His people with His greatness, but to persuade them to trust Him, because He is adequate to the task of watching over them. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God?’ We could summarize the essential message of the Old Testament with four statements:

  1. God is infinite and all-powerful
  2. God cares about the details of every person’s life
  3. God provides atonement for human sin, which results in forgiveness, changed behavior, and communion with God; and
  4. God will send an anointed One, the Messiah, who will be both God and man, and Who will in His own death provide the perfect atonement for human sin.

These statements can be supported with literally dozens of Old Testament scriptures.

Now, stay with me a little longer as we explore how the New Testament steps beyond the Old Testament in exploring the issue of actually knowing God and perceiving His glory.. In the New Testament, all the authority and tender mercies of God are embodied in the person of Jesus our Lord. The New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus is the flesh and blood manifestation of God. Paul sums up his teaching about the identity of Jesus by saying in Colossians 2:8 that in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Jesus Himself claimed to be the “Yahweh” of the Old Testament in John 8:58, when he said, Before Abraham was, I am.

In John chapter 5, Jesus claims full equality with the Father, and then states that the Father has granted Him life in Himself, just as the Father has life in Himself. This means that Jesus, in the essence of His being as the Eternal Son, is not dependent upon the Father for existence. Rather, He shares with the Father in eternal, uncaused existence. Most of the early church fathers and many modern theologians support the interpretation that Jesus is here speaking of His essential life with the Father before all time. Jesus is saying, in effect, “As dependent upon my Father as I am in these days of my flesh and blood manifestation, I am not dependent upon my Father for my essential, eternal existence. Instead, I share with the Father in uncaused, absolute existence.”

Simply put, the most important thing we can discover in the New Testament is who Jesus really is. We need to understand how much of His glory as God was veiled, so that men could not see it. Talking to some of His skeptical disciples, He said (in John 6: 62), “What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?” In other words, “If I tell you spiritual truth, and if offends you, what are you going to do when I ascend to my father and My true glory is revealed?” And in John 17:24 Jesus says “Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Here again Jesus is talking about hidden or veiled glory that will be revealed to those who love Him. It was a glory He possessed before His incarnation and it is a glory that he reassumed at the ascension.

Stop and think about it for a minute. The One who arranged your genes at the moment of conception is the One who called the universe into being something like 14 billion years ago. He is the One to whom a thousand years is as a day, and a day as a thousand years. He can spot a carpet mite or a virus from a distance of one billion light years, and he governs the galaxies without ever breaking into a sweat. He is the Infinite Mathematician, and He is also the Master Artist and the Writer of Magnificent Stories. His stories are filled with drama, and danger, and wonderful victories, and best of all, they are real stories that are worked out in the lives of men. We are not speaking of God the Father, but of God the Eternal Son. There is only one task that caused Him to sweat, to weep, and to pour out his blood, and that task was accomplished when He visited this corrupted earth, and assumed on His own shoulders the weight of every person’s sin.

His name is the Son of God. In the humility and simplicity of His manhood He claimed full equality with His Father. He walked the dusty roads of Judea and stooped to wash the feet of His disciples. He is the One who, on the morning of His resurrection, said to Mary Magdalene, “Go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God.’” His Aramaic name was, and is, Yeshua. The English equivalent of that name is Jesus, and in Arabic it is ‘Isa. However His name is transliterated, it is glorious, because it is the name of a Man who died as a blasphemer that He might save the human race, and that He might carry the weight of your sins--and mine.

The book of Colossians makes two astounding statements. It says that the whole universe was created by Him and for Him (Col. 1: 16) In other words, the Eternal Son is the One who spoke the universe into existence. When we think of the Creator, we tend to think of the Father. But Colossians 1:16 identifies the Creator as the Son. And so does Hebrews 1: 2: God….has in these last days spoken to us by His Son….through whom also He made the worlds (universe). This is not to suggest that the Father and the Spirit were not vitally involved in the creation process. But it is interesting that these two passages focus primarily on the creative activity and authority of the Son. Note also that the universe is not only created by Him but also for Him. The Son does not simply create the universe “on assignment” and then hand it back to the Father as a task accomplished. No, the universe, by the Father’s express purpose, is created by the Son and for the Son. Hebrews and Colossians agree on one more point. Not only has the Son created the universe, but it is the active power of the Son that holds the universe together. Colossians 1:17 says in Him all things consist, and Hebrews 1:3 says that the Son is upholding all things by the word of His power. No wonder there was a supernatural darkness during the last three hours Jesus hung on the cross. The One who holds the universe together was dying in terrible agony and separation from His Father. The result was that the universe itself was affected, and something happened to the normal transmission of light.

In view of His true identity, no wonder Jesus answered Pilate the way He did when Pilate asked him if he was a king:

You rightly say that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness of the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.

Yes, Jesus is a king. But He is much more than a king. He is simply the Maker and Sustainer of the universe. If Jesus had said, “I am the One who holds all things together” it would have been too much for Pilate to absorb. Instead, Jesus simply says, You are correct in thinking of me as a king. However, I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth. What an incredible statement! Jesus is the answer to every question. Truth emanates from Him, as light and heat from a fire. Truth is not something that He brings, as it were, to the table. He is truth. Pilate knew he was dealing with Someone phenomenal — Someone beyond his comprehension. After his ambiguous comment, What is truth? he went out and redoubled his efforts to get Jesus released. He was obviously immensely impressed with this Man.

Before I wrap this up, I want to make two points. First, not one of us can really believe that Jesus is fully equal to His Father unless the Holy Spirit reveals it to us. Jesus said in Matthew 11:27 that “all things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” This statement of Jesus is truly radical. If no one knows the Son except the Father, it is quite clear that we cannot truly know the Son (that is, know Who He really is, and worship Him) unless the Father reveals Him to us. Then Jesus goes on to explicitly say that no one can know the Father, unless the Son reveals the Father. In other words, one cannot have a true, saving knowledge of the Father unless the Son touches his or her soul with spiritual revelation. A proper understanding of this verse demolishes the claims of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons that Jesus is a created son who takes a secondary role next to God the Father. Jesus tells us that we can have no true knowledge of the Father unless He, Jesus, chooses to make this revelation to us. The Apostle John puts it this way in I John 2:23: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” The definition of the Son is spelled out in John chapter 5, where we earlier saw that the Son is fully equal to His Father, and that His existence before time is not dependent on the Father (“For as the Father his life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself”). So, denying the Son is denying the definition of the Son given in the gospel of John. And neither the Mormons nor the Witnesses accept that definition.

What is it that hinders so many people from knowing Jesus in this personal, intimate way? The simple answer is pride. To really perceive Jesus to be God in human flesh requires an act of submission to Him. In the light of His full divinity, we begin to see the corruption of our sin. Coming to Jesus and bowing before Him as Lord is really not a mental or an intellectual act. It is an act of the heart, an act of faith in which we submit to God. There are many people who believe in the doctrine of the Incarnation (that Jesus is both perfect man and Almighty God) but who have never submitted their hearts to Him. Sadly, mental faith alone is not saving faith. It is only first step toward saving faith.

But once we believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised Him from the dead, what are the next steps? In Colossians 2:6 Paul says “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” In other words, we received Him by believing the truth about Who He is and submitting our hearts to let Him be our Lord. We grow in him (or walk in Him, as Paul puts it) by continuing to focus our attention upon Him and the glory of Who He is, and continuing to yield our lives to His direction.

The second point in my wrap-up is this: In Ephesians chapter 1 Paul first prays that God will give the Ephesian believers the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. In other words, Paul is saying that they need, by the revelation of the Spirit, to know Him better. I am reminded of the words of Andrew Murray over a hundred years ago, when he wrote: I have not been afraid of continuously repeating this one thought: Our one need is, to know Jesus better; the one cure for all our feebleness, to look to Him on the throne of heaven, and really claim the heavenly life he waits to impart.

What do we do to know Jesus better? The primary avenue is to soak our hearts in the Word of God and ask the Spirit to give us more understanding of the person and glory of Jesus. As you engage in this “soaking” process, you will discover that you “see” Jesus in every Old Testament book, to say nothing of the New Testament. And, as you see more of Jesus, you will see more of the Father, because the Father and the Son are inseparable.

I can hear someone say, “Isn’t this terribly impractical? Wouldn’t I accomplish a lot more by just trying more diligently to serve the Lord? How far do we take this “beholding His glory?” To which I would respond, “Trying more diligently is not the Biblical way.” But something wonderful happens when we “receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” We are changed without trying to change. Paul talks about this wonderful process in II Corinthians 3: 18-- “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

I want you to fully understand that this revelation of the knowledge of Jesus does not take place in a vacuum. We must set aside time to pursue Him through the word and prayer. However, it’s not a matter of a new program for more Bible study and prayer. Programs are legalistic and burdensome. This is a matter of the heart, and only the Holy Spirit can show you what He is inviting you to do to have more time with Him. Remember that the focus of seeking him must always be to get to know Him better. As you hear His voice more clearly, there will be points of obedience that He orchestrates in your life. But even in the obedience He calls us to He does not leave us to obey in our own strength. He is always our Helper.

Now, having laid this foundation, in my next teaching I will move on to the topic of the Body of Christ, which is, next to the glory of Jesus (Who reveals the Godhead), the most important topic and the most wonderful truth in all the universe.

Much love in Him,

Pastor Bob
 
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