Dear Radio Friends,
Forty days after He arose from the dead, Jesus ascended bodily into heaven. The ascension of Jesus Christ is a source of great blessing to the church He has left behind on earth.
One of the great blessings of the ascension is that now Christ has sent His Holy Spirit into the church to regenerate His people and give them heavenly desires so that they seek the things that are above where Christ dwells.
Another blessing of the ascension is that it is a guarantee that our bodies will someday live in heaven. Christ is there in His real human nature as the first fruits, a promise to all who believe, that their vile bodies will be changed someday to be made like to His glorious body.
A third blessing of Christ’s ascension is that He is in heaven today as our advocate and intercessor, appearing in the presence of God as our representative, so that He can bring to us here on earth the blessings and the grace of God.
It is this third benefit of Christ’s ascension that we are going to consider in this radio message, from the point of view of Hebrews 7:25, where God’s Word says: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
The book of Hebrews compares in contrast the Levite priesthood of the Old Testament and the priesthood of Christ to show us that Christ is a superior high priest, that He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament priesthood. That comparison is here in the words “he ever liveth to make intercession.”
To make intercession for another is to offer prayers to God in their behalf. One of the important duties of the priest in the Old Testament was to make intercession for the people. On the great Day of Atonement, the high priest would make a sacrifice for the people. And then, with the coals of the sacrifice, he would go into the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle or temple, where the ark of the presence of God was, and there he would make intercession for the people of God by burning incense on the coals. The coals, which represented the sacrifice, were the foundation for the prayers that were represented in the incense. The incense was accepted by God because of the sacrifice.
This was a beautiful picture of our praying in Jesus’ name. Today, God receives our prayers because of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
There are four points of contrast between the intercession of Christ and that of the Old Testament high priest that show us that Christ is superior.
First, the foundation for the intercession of the Old Testament priests was a repeated animal sacrifice, whereas the foundation for Christ’s intercession is His death on the cross, which was an actual payment for sin made once for all times.
Second, the Old Testament high priest went only into an earthly building that represented the dwelling place of God, whereas Christ is gone into heaven, into the very presence of God Himself, as our intercessor.
Third, the Old Testament high priest himself was a sinner who needed a sacrifice to be made also for himself, whereas Christ is the sinlessly perfect Mediator.
And, fourth, the Old Testament high priests all died, passing their work on to the next priest in line, whereas Christ ever lives to make intercession for us.
The text before us highlights this last, that Christ ever liveth to make intercession for us. These words should make us think of the resurrection of Christ. When Christ arose from the dead, it was not like the resurrection of Lazarus, who came back to this life and one day had to die again. No, Christ arose as our Savior to a victorious and everlasting life. And in that life He ascended into the presence of God where, we are told, He is still alive today and makes intercession for us.
Think about that. When He ascended into heaven about 2,000 years ago, Christ began to make prayers for the early church. And He has continued to pray for His people from that time, all through history, and into the present. He prayed for the church in her early growth. He prayed for her through the dark Middle Ages. He prayed for her at the time of the Reformation. And still today, He is praying for her. He will continue to pray for her till the end of time, when the church is gathered with Him in glory.
Because we have Christ as our heavenly intercessor, we need not and we should not pray to saints or angels. Hebrews 4 tells us that we can come boldly to Christ Himself because He knows our situation. We should not think of Him as one beyond our reach but as one who is like us and who knows and understands us and so prays for us.
For whom does Christ make His heavenly intercession? The answer of the text is: “those who come unto God by him.” First, these words tell us that the intercession of Christ is not general but particular. His prayers are not for all men, but for those who come to God by Him, for believers only. In John 17:9 Jesus says, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” John 17 identifies those for whom Christ prays as the elect, those whom the Father has chosen and given to the Son. Here in Hebrews 7 this group is identified as those who come unto God by Christ. To come unto God by Him is to believe on Jesus Christ. No one can do this except those who are drawn of the Father through faith.
Second, these words describe Christ as the only way of salvation, the only way to come to God. The only Mediator between God and man is the Man Christ Jesus. In Acts 4:12 Peter preached: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Jesus is the way, the only way.
And, third, these words tell us what God commands sinners to do. God’s command to all is to repent and to come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ. Do you, today, recognize Christ as the only way to God? Do you come unto God by Him? This means renouncing yourself, recognizing your own sinful weakness, and trusting only in Christ for salvation. It means looking and praying to God through Jesus Christ for daily strength in the spiritual battles of life. Christ is the supreme, the only, the all-sufficient Savior. He is the only way to the Father. As He Himself declared: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.”
For all who come to God by Christ, there is in the text a beautiful truth, a wonderful promise. This: “That he is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by him.”
We want to spend the rest of this message unpacking the meaning of this. What does it mean that Christ is able to save to the uttermost all who believe?
The word “save” in the text refers to our salvation. There are two parts or two aspects to the saving work of Christ for His people. First, there is the salvation that Christ has completed for us in His death on the cross. By His death, He has paid the price for our sins and merited our salvation. We refer to this as justification. Second, there is the ongoing work of Christ in which He saves us daily from the struggles of life, particularly from being overcome by sin and its power. This is His work of sanctification and preservation.
The word “save” in the text refers to this second aspect of salvation. When it says “Christ is able to save us to the uttermost,” it means that He preserves and He sanctifies His people. By His continual intercession for us today, Christ continues to save us.
As our heavenly intercessor, Christ is praying for our sanctification and for our preservation. In His intercessory prayer in John 17, Jesus says, “Father, keep them,” and “Father, sanctify them.” Basically, His prayer is that God will continually pour out His blessing on His people in this world, that He will give them the grace that they need each day, that they will be filled with the life of Christ and be drawn more and more out of sin and death and into the light until they finally reach the glory of heaven. It is a prayer that God will keep us in this world.
Because of His intercession, Christ is able to save us to the uttermost. The words “he is able” are some of the most comforting words in Scripture for the true believer, because we recognize that we are not able. We are not able to save ourselves. We are not able to stand up against sin and temptation. We are not able to make ourselves holy. We are not able to persevere till the day of Christ. We are in the midst of a world of troubles and temptations. The enemies of Satan and the world and the flesh are very strong. And we are weak. In Romans 7 Paul looks at this and he says, “Oh, wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me [that is, save me] from the body of this death?” We are not able. But He is able. Because He lives, and because He prays for us, He is able. When I am struggling with sin and temptation; when a fellow believer is in the midst of deep trials or wanders in the way of sin—who then will save me, who will save that fellow Christian? He is able!
And He is able to do this to the uttermost. That means completely. It refers to the quantity and the duration of the work of salvation. Christ does all of it. And He will continue to do it. He does everything. He will do all of it till we are perfected and come to glory. He will not stop saving those whom He has begun to save. As Philippians 1:6 says, “he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” To the uttermost, till the end, till it is finished. Whatever obstacles come my way, Christ is able to save me from them, to overcome them, so that I am saved.
To the uttermost. What are some of those obstacles?
First, Christ is able to save me from the guilt of all of the sins of my past, which continue to rise up in my consciousness. Those sins of my past can be an obstacle to my salvation. They can make me think that my salvation is impossible, that I am unworthy. But Christ stands before God with the blood of His finished sacrifice and He says, “Father, forgive them. Give to My child the peace of forgiveness.” He is able to save to the uttermost.
A second obstacle is my present weakness, my sinful shortcomings. I John 2 says, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.” My sinful nature remains with me, and it is a cause for constant struggle and doubt. I need daily repentance and humility because of it. But Christ is able to save me from my sinfulness. He is able to save to the uttermost.
Third, He is able to save me through all the trials of my life. Every trial is a challenge to my faith and my salvation. Think of Job, who went through severe trial and was tempted by his wife to curse God and die. In all the trials of life Christ is able to save us because, as Paul says in II Timothy 1:12, “He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” So long as He lives and He prays for me, there is no trial, no poverty, not sickness, not grief, not anxiety, not loneliness, not death—nothing that can separate me from my salvation. He is able to save to the uttermost.
Fourth, He is able to save me from all of my persecutions. When a child of God is persecuted for his faith, when he is mocked and spoken evil of, Christ sees and He prays and He saves. He keeps us. Think of the death of Stephen the martyr by persecution. As he was being stoned, what did he see? He saw the living Jesus at the right hand of God, standing to receive him. He is able to save to the uttermost.
Fifth, because He lives as my heavenly intercessor, He is able to save me from every temptation. When we are tempted as believers, we may lose many things. But one thing we will not lose is our salvation. I know a man who, for a crime, went to prison. He lost everything, everything he had, including family and possessions. But through it all his faith has become stronger. Jesus says to Peter in his temptation, “Satan has desired to have you, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.” That was an effectual prayer. He is able to save to the uttermost.
Sixth, He is able to save us from the bitter enemy of death. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” We all must face death. Our loved ones must be taken from us in death. But Christ ever lives, making intercession for us. And because He never dies, the sting of death is gone. He will save us through death. He is able to save to the uttermost.
And, seventh, He will save us from the terrors of the Judgment Day. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?…Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33, 34). Because He makes intercession for us we need not fear any condemnation. There can be no judgment brought against God’s elect. He is able to save to the uttermost.
This means that Christ will save us to all eternity. He will always be our priest before God. We can live only by the grace of God. Christ will continually present Himself to God, so that God’s grace and God’s blessing come to us.
He ever lives to make intercession for us. And so we shall be saved to the uttermost. Every obstacle to our salvation He is able to overcome. Here you have the beautiful truth of the preservation of the saints. Christ today is actively living and working to save His people by interceding in their behalf.
This is one of the great blessings of the ascension of Jesus Christ. And what a comfort it is for all those who come unto God by Him.
Let us pray.
Father, what a Savior we have. Father, we thank Thee for giving Thy Son. We praise Thee that today He still lives for us, to keep us living for Him, and finally, to bring us to Him in glory. We pray, keep us from every obstacle to our salvation until that day comes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Dear Radio Friends,