The millennium is specifically mentioned in Rev. 20. In fact, it is the only place were it is explicitly stated. Its theme, however, seems to run throughout scripture. There are three primary views held regarding the millennium. These views deal with its timing in relation to Christ’s second coming and its nature; is it literal or figurative.
The three most common understandings of the millennium may be defined a little different depending on who you talk to, but can be broken down into three categories; premillennialism, postmillennialism or amillennialism.
Today, the most predominant view is premillennialism. This view holds to the idea that Christ’s second coming will precede the millennium. According to Henry Virkler in his book Hermeneutics, premillennialists believe that “He (Christ) will descend to earth and set up a literal 1000-year earthly kingdom with its headquarters in Jerusalem” (Virkler, 201). It is important to understand that not all premillennialists agree on all the details. There are two major camps of premillennialists; traditional premillennialists and dispensational premillennialists. When it comes to the actual details of the millenium, there will be a lot of disagreement on its nature and purpose, but to be a premillenialist, a person must believe that Christ’s second coming will take place before the millennium (pre-millennium).
Postmillennialism, according to Virkler, “is the view that through evangelism, the world eventually will be reached for Christ. There will be a period in which the world will experience joy and peace because of its obedience to God. Christ will return to earth at the end of the millennium” (post-millennium) (201). It must be clarified that postmillennialists do not believe that everyone will be a Christian during this time, but that society as a whole will be Christian.
Amillennialism, according to Virkler, “is conceptually a form of postmillennialism. The millennium, in this theory, is symbolic and refers to the time between Christ’s first and second coming. During this time, Christ rules symbolically in men’s hearts. Christ’s second coming will mark the end of the period.” Amillennialists believe the Christ will never have an earthly rule (a- or no-millennium)” (201).
The terms postmillennial and amillennial are sometimes used interchangeably depending on who is speaking. I will use the definition provided by Virkler. The major difference between the two is that postmillennialists believe that Christianity will spread across the globe and usher in a time of peace. Amillennialists do not believe that Christianity will usher in this time of peace universally, except in the hearts of believers. In the history of the Church, variant forms of these two positions have been the dominant view. Charles Hodge in his Systematic Theology explains the most basic understanding of postmillennialism: “The common doctrine of the Church stated above, is that the conversion of the world, the restoration of the Jews, and the destruction of Antichrist are to precede the second coming of Christ, which event will be attended by the general resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, the end of the world, and the consummation of the Church” (Hodge, 861).
This was the view of many of the reformers, the puritans, and some suggest that even though the terms were not used, the bare bones of this doctrine shows through in Augustine’s famous work City of God. Postmillennialism seems to carry the worst stigma because of the fact that the liberals had hijacked this doctrine early in the twentieth century and turned it into a naturalistic and modernist’s doctrine. For a while, if you were a postmillennialist, you were considered to be on your way to becoming a liberal—if you were not already. Though this was an actual concern, it was based on a misrepresentation of what postmillennialist’s actually believe. In fact, the puritans were postmillennial, but not commonly considered liberal. Consequently, postmillennialism cannot automatically be linked with liberalism.
Premillennialism, being the less commonly held view, began to gain momentum about 300 years ago. This was around the time that dispensationalism came onto the scene, but it did not find its origins at this time. In fact, Charles Hodge states, “In opposition to this view (postmillennialism) the doctrine of a premillennial advent of Christ has been extensively held from the days of the Apostles to the present time.” Two world wars also led many people to reconsider the idea that the world was getting better, which helped premillennialism become the new majority view.
And while [Lot] lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. -Genesis. 19:16
If what we love keeps us from growing in Christ, He will take our loves from us. In the verse above, we find Lot in the final moments before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The warnings had been clear, and Lot had not doubted the truthfulness of the threats. Yet in the final moments before the destruction, as Lot is told to escape with his life, he lingers as if unable to move. John Calvin says this regarding Lot’s lingering, “His tardiness is truly wonderful, since, though he was certainly persuaded that the angels did not threaten in vain, he could yet be moved by no force of words until he is dragged by their hands out of the city.”
What caused him to linger? Matthew Poole estimates that “He lingered, either through an aversion to part with all his estate, or to lose his sons-in-law; or through astonishment and distraction of mind, which made him both listless and impotent.” Whatever it was, Lot was powerless to move on his own, and this seems to be the experience of us all from time to time when the Lord, through his Word, has told us to move. Whether it is a sin with which we hate to part, or a comfortable career the Lord has told us to leave behind, many times we are spiritually sluggish.
God has told us in His word to press on and be conformed to his image. He has told us to do all He has commanded us. The thunderous warnings of the destruction of everything contrary to Him and His ways have rung in our ears; He warns us to flee the wrath to come. Along with the thundering of destruction that pressures us from behind, we also have the beauty of Christ and our promised joy in Him before us, bidding us come. Yet, even with all of this, we often sit motionless in a steadfast stupor.
As Matthew Henry so aptly put it, “Thus many that are under some convictions about the misery of their spiritual state, and the necessity of a change, yet defer that needful work, and foolishly linger.” Praise God Lot’s story does not end there, and neither does ours. God was merciful to him, and the angels grabbed him by the hand and pulled him out of the city to safety.
Are there areas in your life that hinder your growth in the things of the God? Do you know the Lord has called you to remedy a certain aspect of your life, yet you sit idle, making no progress in spiritual things? If so, be prepared, for if you are a true child of God who is unmoved even though you have heard His word, He will use other means to get you to advance. Whatever inordinate loves keep you motionless may be forcefully removed, requiring you to make steps onward in your journey to the Celestial City. Calvin makes the point clear when he says,
“For so it is often necessary for us to be forcibly drawn away from scenes which we do not willingly leave. If riches, or honors, or any other things of that kind, prove an obstacle to anyone, to render him less free and disengaged from the service of God, when it happens that he is abridged of his fortune, or reduced to a lower rank, let him know that the Lord has laid hold of his hand; because words and exhortations had not sufficiently profited him.”
Let us never forget that when the Lord takes what we love, it is His love for us that is at work. It is His mercy in action because it would have been no injustice on His part if He had left us in our impotent state to partake in the destruction that we refused to flee.
Has the Lord been calling you to surrender some sin? Has he been prompting you by His Holy Spirit to live a life in greater service to Him than the worldly pleasure you now serve? Or is he simply calling you to spend more time in the prayerful study of His Word, which we so often neglect? Whatever it may be, we all have enough sluggishness in us that we should, with all earnestness, strive against it. May the words of this devotion be the means God uses to move us on, for if mere words are not enough, in His mercy and love, He will lay his hands on His child.
In the cross of Christ, God’s hatred to sin is manifested in the most striking light! The evil of sin is exposed in the most dreadful colors! Now it appears, that such is the divine hatred against all sin, that God can by no means forgive sin, without punishment; and that all the infinite benevolence of His nature towards His creatures cannot prevail upon Him to pardon the least sin without an adequate satisfaction.
More than that, now it appears that when so malignant and abominable a thing is but imputed to His dear Son, His co-equal, His darling, His favorite, that even He could not escape unpunished, but was made a monument of vindictive justice, to all worlds!
What can more strongly expose the evil of sin than the cross of Christ? Sin is such an intolerably malignant and abominable thing, that even a God of infinite mercy and grace cannot let the least instance of it pass unpunished!
It was not a small thing that could arm God’s justice against the Son of His love. Though He was perfectly innocent in Himself—yet when He was made sin for us, God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up unto death; the shameful, tormenting, and accursed death of the cross!
Go, you fools, who make a mock at sin! Go and learn its malignity and demerit at the cross of Jesus!
Who is it that hangs there writhing in the agonies of death—His hands and feet pierced with nails, His side with a spear, His face bruised with blows, and drenched with tears and blood, His heart melting like wax, His whole frame racked and disjointed; forsaken by His friends, and even by His Father; tempted by devils, and insulted by men? Who is this amazing spectacle of woe and torture? It is Jesus, the eternal Word of God; His Elect, in whom His soul delights; His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased!
And what has He done? He did no wickedness; He knew no sin but was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. And why then, all these dreadful sufferings from heaven, earth, and hell? Why, He only stood in the law-place of sinners; He only received their sin by imputation. And you see what it has brought upon Him! You see how low it has reduced Him! What a horrid evil must that be—which has such tremendous consequences, even upon the Darling of heaven!
Oh! what still more dreadful havoc would sin have made, if it had been punished upon the sinner himself in his own person! Surely all the various miseries which have been inflicted upon our guilty world in all ages, and even all the punishments of hell do not so loudly proclaim the terrible desert and malignity of sin as the cross of Christ!
The infinite malignity of sin, and God’s hatred to it, appear nowhere in so striking and dreadful a light as in the cross of Christ! Let a reasonable creature take but one serious view of that cross, and surely he must ever after tremble at the thought of the least sin!
The following is a challenging thought from J.C. Ryle for those who profess to be Christians but reject the doctrine of hell.
There is but one point to be settled, “What does the Word of God teach?” Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell is real and true. Hell is as true as Heaven, as true as the fact that Christ died upon the cross.
Disbelieve Hell, and you unscrew, unsettle, and unpin everything in the Scripture. Disbelieve Hell, and you may as well throw your Bible away at once! From “no Hell” to “no God” is but a series of steps!
Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell will have inhabitants. If I never spoke of Hell, I would think I had kept back something that was profitable, and would look on myself as an accomplice of the devil!
A flood of false doctrine has lately broken in upon us. Men everywhere are telling us, “that God is too merciful to punish souls forever–that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly will sooner or later be saved.” We are to embrace what is called “kinder theology,” and treat Hell as a pagan fable.
This question lies at the very foundation of the whole Gospel. The moral attributes of God–His justice, His holiness, His purity, are all involved in it. The Scripture has spoken plainly and fully on the subject of Hell. If words mean anything, there is such a place as Hell. If texts are to be interpreted fairly, then most people will be cast into it. The same Bible which teaches that God in mercy and compassion sent Christ to die for sinners–also teaches that God hates sin, and must from His very nature punish all who cleave to sin and refuse the salvation He has provided.
Why did Jesus have to die? Many object to the fact that Christ had to be put to death and that blood had to be shed for the remission of sins (Matt 26:28). They believe this is unbecoming of God. Others believe that if we as humans can forgive each other without punishment and God cannot, then humans are more kind and forgiving than God.*
We hear these arguments coming from people who think they need to protect God from the doctrine of penal substitution. Besides their lack of understanding scripture, these arguments escape reason. They escape reason because the same people who make these arguments then go on to make distinctions between good and evil and preach moral living.
Why should man be moral? Why is it wrong to be immoral? These are the questions Anselm raised when dealing with the necessity of Christ’s death. He then went on to lay out the following argument:
To remit sin without satisfaction or adjustment is not to punish it.
And if sin needs no adjustment or punishment, then the one who sins is no different before God than the one who does not sin.
And if there is no adjustment that needs to be made before God, then what needs to be forgiven?
Following this logic there is no reason for forgiveness at all because to be unrighteous or righteous makes no difference before God.
Therefore, it is unbecoming of God not to punish sin because it would make evil and good equal in His sight.
Since this cannot be the case, then God must punish sin.
The idea that God can forgive sin without requiring its just punishment leads us to another conundrum. If it is true that God does not need to justly punish sin, then anyone He sends to hell would be sent there arbitrarily and not out of necessity. Of course, that would be reprehensible which is why many who reject penal substitution eventually become universalists (the idea, contrary to scripture, that no one will go to hell).
The wages of sin is death according to scripture (Rom. 6:23). For God to offer forgiveness, the satisfaction of these wages must be met. This is what the cross is all about. Christ bore upon Himself the sins of all those who come to Him through faith. It necessarily had to happen in order for God to be both just and the justifier of those who believe in Him (Rom. 3:26).
Every sin will receive its just recompense. Either we will pay for it ourselves, or, through faith, we will accept His payment upon the cross on our behalf.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:4
*Even we cannot forgive each other without a cost being paid. If you break my lamp on purpose, and I say, “I forgive you,” some one has to pay for the new lamp. If I slander your good name, and you say, “I forgive you,” there is still a cost. Either you will bear the damage I have done to your reputation, or, if I go to all your friends and tell them I slandered, I will bear a loss of my own reputation. More importantly, even those sins against each other are sins against God for which either we will pay or Christ will bear in our place. Even among each other, sin always has a cost.
I recently had the privilege of preaching at First Artesia Christian Reformed Church. In this clip from the sermon, we take a look at how Christ’s righteousness imputed to us is better than the guiltlessness that Adam lost. Below is the transcript of the video with a few edits to better fit this format.
When we talk about justification, the biblical and theological term of justification, we are talking about two imputations. First, as I already mentioned, our sins are imputed to Jesus. He bears our punishment on the cross, but the second part is that his righteousness is imputed to us and, we are counted righteous in Jesus.
Now some may say, “Well, isn’t guiltlessness the same as righteousness? I mean, if I haven’t sinned, am I not righteous? Well, it is much deeper than that. Let me give you an analogy.
Let us say a mom walks into her son’s room, and her son’s room is a mess. It’s been a mess for a week, and she is kind of getting tired of it. It is morning time, and she says, “Son, you will clean this room by five o’clock today. If you have it clean by five o’clock today, I am going to give you movie tickets for you and your two friends so you can go see that movie you have been wanting to see. If you do not have it cleaned, you’ll be grounded for a week.
Get the analogy here. Here is the law. There are blessings if you do it, and cursings if you do not. Now, imagine the mom comes back at five o’clock, and he hasn’t even started on it. The room is still a mess. She would say, “Okay, you are grounded for a week.”
Now imagine a week goes by, and he has paid his penalty. The son comes back to the mom and says, “Mom, I have paid my penalty. You can no longer punish me for this act.” The mom would say, “That is correct, that was the agreement. Imagine the son then saying, “Now give me my movie tickets.” You would say, “Wait a minute, you never did what was required to get the reward. I cannot punish you anymore, but you do not get the reward.”
Now think about Christ on the cross. We are not just in a place where we cannot be punished anymore. Christ lived the perfect life. He fulfilled all the requirements of the law. He has justly received the reward, and his righteousness is now counted as ours. We are co-heirs with him. That is the beauty of the holiness and the righteousness of Christ. Take that to heart. We are declared righteous in Christ as if we have fulfilled the law.
Thomas Brooks, a great Puritan, said this, “Christ provides a better righteousness than Adam lost.
He is gone! Jesus is no longer here because He has ascended. There are tensions in the Christian life we are meant to feel, and the ascension presents us with one of them. It is true that Jesus said He would be with us always, even to the end of the age, but He did not mean that He would always be with us bodily. Though He is with us in one sense, His absence is something with which every believer must wrestle.
We feel His absence daily as we look at this world. He has left us with His word which speaks authoritatively to everything we need to know regarding faith and practice, but if we could see Him, some of our concerns would begin to fade. Though there are those who claim to have taken His place while He is gone, their fraudulent claims are evident by how far they fall short.
While we are left to wrestle with the truth of His absence, we begin to get a glimpse of how important the ascension is to Christian life and doctrine, and while His absence is painful, we must also remember that it is good. Jesus Himself said it was to our benefit that He go away.
Why is the ascension important, and how does it benefit us? Here are four reasons it is good that Jesus has left us.
1.) We receive the Holy Spirit.
After the ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Though we are consciously aware of the absence of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comforts us in our distress. The Spirit continually points us to Jesus and His word. He guides, convicts, and keeps us at all times. It is the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our salvation. He never leaves us. In this way, we are never truly alone, even while we long for Christ’s return.
2.) We see Jesus properly crowned as king.
When He took on flesh and came to walk among us, He emptied Himself of His rightful glory to do so. The ascension returns Him to His glorious state, seated at His Father’s right hand. From there He rules and reigns over all things until His enemies are made his footstool (Hebrews 10:12-13). We live during the time when the Kingdom has been established but not yet fulfilled, and we are to march on with the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, and as we march as citizens of His kingdom, the gates of hell will not prevail. Our King is on His throne and will reign forever.
3.) We see our acceptance with the Father.
We long to be with the Father, and through the ascension, Jesus enters the presence of His Father on our behalf. We see this in the fact that Jesus is seated with the Father. His sitting down shows us that the atonement He made for our sins is complete, for no other high-priest in the old covenant was ever allowed to sit in the holy place. Since we are in Christ, we see our acceptance before the Father as well.
4.) He is preparing a place for us.
He has gone to prepare a place for us, and He will come back for us as well. At that point all things will be set right, the kingdom will reach its full expression, and we will spend eternity with our Savior. Though His absence has its difficulties, those difficulties find their comfort in the Holy spirit and they cannot outweigh the glory that awaits. As believers, this tension should move us to worship. We glory in His ascension while longing for His return.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:6-11
The covenant of redemption is the theological term for the agreement that was made between the God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in how they were going to redeem for themselves the elect. This covenant is not mentioned by name in scripture but it is clearly implied that an agreement had been made between the Godhead. Much like the term Trinity does not appear in scripture but the concept is clearly seen. Here is a quote by Charles Hodge explaining where this idea can be seen in scripture…
“In Psalm 40, expounded by the Apostle as referring to the Messiah, it is said, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will,” i.e., to execute thy purpose, to carry out thy plan. “By the which will,” says the Apostle (Heb.10.10), ”we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Christ came, therefore, in execution of a purpose of God, to fulfil a work which had been assigned Him. He, therefore, in John 17.4, says, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” This was said at the close of his earthly course. At its beginning, when yet a child, He said to his parents, ” Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2.49.) Our lord speaks of Himself, and is spoken of as sent into the world. He says that as the Father had sent Him into the world, even so had He sent his disciples into the world. (John 17.18). “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.” (Gal. 4.4). “God sent his only begotten Son into the world.” (1 John 4.9). God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Verse 10.) -Charles Hodge-
Below is a transcript from a Spurgeon sermon where he describes this covenant and then wonders what it would have been like to be to hear this covenant being made.
“Now, in this covenant of grace, we must first of all observe the high contracting parties between whom it was made. The covenant of grace was made before the foundation of the world between God the Father, and God the Son; or to put it in a yet more scriptural light, it was made mutually between the three divine persons of the adorable Trinity.”
“I cannot tell you it in the glorious celestial tongue in which it was written: I am fain to bring it down to the speech which suits the ear of flesh, and to the heart of the mortal. Thus, I say, run the covenant, in ones like these:”
“I, the Most High Jehovah, do hereby give unto my only begotten and well-beloved Son, a people, countless beyond the number of stars, who shall be by him washed from sin, by him preserved, and kept, and led, and by him, at last, presented before my throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. I covenant by oath, and swear by myself, because I can swear by no greater, that these whom I now give to Christ shall be for ever the objects of my eternal love. Them I will forgive through the merit of the blood. To these will I give a perfect righteousness; these will I adopt and make my sons and daughters, and these shall reign with me through Christ eternally.” Thus run that glorious side of the covenant. The Holy Spirit also, as one of the high contracting parties on this side of the covenant, gave his declaration, “I hereby covenant,” saith he, “that all whom the Father giveth to the Son, I will in due time quicken. I will show them their need of redemption; I will cut off from them all groundless hope, and destroy their refuges of lies. I will bring them to the blood of sprinkling; I will give them faith whereby this blood shall be applied to them, I will work in them every grace; I will keep their faith alive; I will cleanse them and drive out all depravity from them, and they shall be presented at last spotless and faultless.” This was the one side of the covenant, which is at this very day being fulfilled and scrupulously kept. As for the other side of the covenant this was the part of it, engaged and covenanted by Christ. He thus declared, and covenanted with his Father: “My Father, on my part I covenant that in the fullness of time I will become man. I will take upon myself the form and nature of the fallen race. I will live in their wretched world, and for my people I will keep the law perfectly. I will work out a spotless righteousness, which shall be acceptable to the demands of thy just and holy law. In due time I will bear the sins of all my people. Thou shalt exact their debts on me; the chastisement of their peace I will endure, and by my stripes they shall be healed. My Father, I covenant and promise that I will be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. I will magnify thy law, and make it honourable. I will suffer all they ought to have suffered.I will endure the curse of thy law, and all the vials of thy wrath shall be emptied and spent upon my head. I will then rise again; I will ascend into heaven; I will intercede for them at thy right hand; and I will make myself responsible for every one of them, that not one of those whom thou hast given me shall ever be lost, but I will bring all my sheep of whom, by thy blood, thou hast constituted me the shepherd—I will bring every one safe to thee at last.”
Imagine, that for all who believe, our names were written in the Lamb’s book of life since before the foundations of the world. The Triune God has covenanted to save us, and who can stay His hand. This is eternal security.
Rejoice greatly, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—even on a donkey’s colt. -Zech. 9:9
It is the loveliest season in the Palestine year, when, the rain “over and gone;” the Mount of Olives is carpeted with green, and fresh foliage is clothing its varied groves. Multitudes, as we found in the preceding chapter, were congregated within Jerusalem and its suburbs, from every corner of the Hebrew territory, to keep the great national feast. Many of these, we further noted, attracted by the fame of the Prophet of Galilee, and more especially by His crowning miracle in the resurrection of Lazarus, poured in an enthusiastic stream to Bethany; some, after sunset, on the Jewish Sabbath–others early on the following morning.
Then, as now, two main roads conducted from the city to this sequestered mountain-hamlet. The one, the shorter of the two, leads straight up the hill, crossing the hollow between its two principal summits. This is the way which we have already found, in a former ‘Memory of Olivet,’ was selected by David in his flight; the one which, naturally, all foot-travelers would follow. The other, longer and more winding, but adapting itself to a similar depression on the southern slope of the Mount, was (and still is, in a more limited sense) the great public way, traversed by horsemen and caravans from Jericho and the Jordan. It continues a wild mountain track at this day. But though it must have been always steep, it has traces here and there, by the cuttings in the limestone rock, of a road formerly more befitting the great eastern approach (and the only truly grand and impressive approach) to “the city of the great King.” The Evangelical narratives leave us little room to doubt, that it was along this magnificent highway the Redeemer was to make His public and triumphal entry.
The disciples have returned from their errand to the villager of Bethphage, to the spot where the procession had paused–the crowd increasing every moment by fresh additions from Jerusalem on the one side, and from Perea and Galilee on the other. The commingled streams have met, and loud “as the noise of many waters” the air is vocal with festive song. The central object of attraction and homage in this enthusiastic crowd, is a lowly Pilgrim of Galilee; undistinguished by any outward badge of dignity. The mighty Victor over Hades, who had encountered and vanquished Death on his pale horse, was outwardly, as we have seen in the preceding chapter, an uncrowned hero–no purple dress–no warrior’s sword–no conquering chariot, as we then remarked, had He.
And, so far as He Himself was concerned, He sought none. Easily might He have converted that hour of popular acclamation into an hour of triumph–easily could He have worked on the passions of those thousands now around Him. “Master, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” was the muffled thought of many an impatient heart–a spark was all that was needed to kindle the conflagration, and the appropriate moment might seem to have arrived. Not a few in that crowd, as they stood, at the outset of the march, on the ridge overlooking the scene of wild desolation stretching down to the Jordan valley, must have remembered the trumpet-tones of one, who, by the severe sanctity of his life, had won their deepest reverence. Had not the Baptist said of this very Prophet of Nazareth, “He must increase, but I must decrease”? Might not the hour now be come for the prophetic fulfillment of “the voice crying in the wilderness”?–might not the kingdom spoken of by the faithful Herald be indeed at hand? What a favoring juncture, at least, to strike the blow! By the concurrent voices of that vast concourse–on the breath of their hosannas–how easily might the acknowledged Messiah-King have marched directly to the Palace, wrested the Roman standards from the walls of Antonia, and ascending as the Shiloh the throne of his father David, have restored to the people their lost prerogatives as a nation! He was, however, no political aspirant–no ambitious adventurer. Had He willed it, they would, before this, have “taken Him by force to make Him a king.” But He declines the offered crown–He will “save others”–not glorify or “save Himself.”
It was needful, nevertheless, at this solemn crisis, for reasons to which we shall immediately advert, to enter the metropolis, accompanied with some unmistakable badges of royalty. Though oftener He had not where to lay His head–though in a few days, stripped of robe and mantle, He was to hang naked on the cross, it behooved Him now to make a public proclamation and manifesto of His theocratic rights. The homage therefore which would, in other circumstances and on other occasions, have, been rejected, is now accepted. Suddenly, and without premeditation, Olivet is converted into a highway for a conqueror’s triumph. An ovation is improvised befitting the occasion, and the “children of Zion are joyful in their KING.”
The procession moves on. The donkey’s colt, on which He rode, was, in one sense, as we have seen, a symbol of His lowliness–meekness–humiliation–and yet, in another, it gave a traditional significance to the doings of the hour. For it was the animal that had been rode, on more than one occasion of historic interest, by kings and judges, lawgivers and prophets. In present circumstances, its employment was still further suggestive. The words of one of their old seers could scarcely fail to seize the popular mind, and stimulate the ardor of the moment–“Rejoice greatly, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—even on a donkey’s colt.” (Zech. 9:9.)
All strove to respond to this call from a prophetic past. Some of the more devoted threw their garmentsas saddle-cloths on the back of the colt; others spread them, as a tribute of loyalty and homage, along the rough road; others, from the groves and gardens of palm which have since perished, cut down branches of these, along with other green boughs, similar to what we found, in a previous chapter, was the used at the Feast of Tabernacles. Along this leafy carpet, composed of these symbols of rejoicing, rides Zion’s King–for once, at least, not “despised nor rejected.” Shouts of victory and welcome wake every echo of the Mount, which is so soon, alas! to listen to other and sadder exclamations from the lips of that fickle populace, before the palm branches have yet withered which they had just strewn on His path.
No traveler who has visited the actual scene, can fail to be struck with the remarkable accordance of the locality and its outer framework, with the description in the Evangelical narratives. Shortly after leaving the town of Mary and Martha, a turn in the road would bring the procession to the Valley of Bethany–at present, as has been previously noted, a wild, picturesque, and (notwithstanding its proximity to the city) a sequestered ravine; to avoid the deep depression of which, the path turns abruptly now, as it must have done then, to the right, skirting the southern slope of Olivet. At this point, before descending to the sharp and steep angle, the crowd would suddenly catch the first glimpse of Jerusalem. It would, however, be but a glimpse, as Zion alone is here visible. The intervening flank of Olivet would screen the Temple, with all the northern portions of the city, from view, and reveal no more than “the citadel” and what was once the Palace of David. But that glimpse is suggestive.
“Zion!” “Zion’s King!” “David’s Son!” It is the “Daughter of Zion” (the city of David) that is first to “rejoice,” and she therefore must intone the first strophe of the song. The very song, also, is selected from David’s minstrelsy–“for,” we read, (mark the allusions,) “when Jesus was come near even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice, and to praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, Blessed be the kingdom of our father David,” (Mark 11:10.) “Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord–peace in heaven, and glory in the highest–Hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna in the highest.” Nor was it merely as a Prophet–a worthy successor of the now martyred Baptist–that He is hailed with these loud acclaims. For it is deserving of note, that this was the scripture which every Jew had been taught specially to connect with the advent of Messiah. It was the verse–the note–dearest to them in the great Hallel sung at their Paschal feasts. It was the nation’s prayer for its coming King!
Full, doubtless, many a bosom is, with high-wrought expectation. As the crowd swells and the fervor every moment increases, may not the sanguine hope to which we have alluded, grow in intensity also, that the hour of emancipation has come? May they not hear in these thunder-shouts the doom of the Roman? Already may they not see in imagination the hated eagles driven from their perch in the most Holy Place–the invader and his armies dispersed and broken–“the Lord” whom they had long “sought” and longed for, suddenly “coming to His Temple,” as the avenger and emancipator of the nation, the avenger of her cruel wrongs? (Mal. 3:1.)
But let us follow still onward the jubilant multitude. Owing to the rapid descent in the road just referred to, the view of the city is, for the time, lost. The aspect would be limited by the Valley of Bethany on the one hand, and by the top of the mount, crowned by David’s old altar, on the other–which possibly also may have lent its silent voice in intensifying the ascription of the hour. Many lips, in these moments of transient enthusiasm, may have caught up, in spirit at least, the song of a more faithful worshiper. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he has visited and redeemed his people, and has raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,” (Luke 1:68, 69.)
And now, we may imagine, they have begun the ascent of the opposite side of the valley. New palm branches are cut from the groves abounding in this most sheltered hollow on the Mount, and increasing shouts are ascending–hymns from David’s Psalter, mingling with more recent angelic strains, (Luke 19:38.) The jealous Pharisees, the alone exceptions to the universal joy, ask of Christ to rebuke these mistaken acclamations. His reply is, that no voice dare be silenced; that the very stones of Olivet would resent the attempted suppression–“I tell you, that if these should hold their peace, the very stones would cry out!”
At last they have reached the height–the height which, at a future Paschal feast, was sprinkled with the tents of the Roman army. Even now, there is no such vision of any earthly city, if we may except perhaps the one famous view of Damascus from ‘The Dome of Victory.’If so impressive to travelers at this day, when they can only look across to the widowed Queen as she sits in the ashes of her desolation, what must it have been in the day of her regal splendor, enthroned on her four hills, of Acra, Moriah, Bezetha, and Zion, “a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of her God”! (Isa. 62:3.)
Not now, as in the earlier part of the procession, (the fragmental glimpse of Zion and the city of David,) but the whole metropolis–fortresses, walls, Temple, towers–rose in transcendent and surpassing loveliness, set in the blue azure Heaven–so “near” in that clear atmosphere, that, to the unpracticed eye, the existence of the intervening Kedron gorge can scarce be credited. That “Mountain of holiness” seems, from this height, like its sterner elder sister, “a mount that might be touched”–who that has ever seen the spot, can fail, in a moment, to recognize it; and identify it with the words, “And when He was come near, He beheld the city.”
Touching and impressive procession! How different from the triumph of earthly conquerors! How different from those proud ovations up the steeps of the Roman capitol, or to the Temple of Victory on the Athenian Acropolis, when the wail of the captive and the bereaved, blended with the notes of Fame’s bronze trumpets, and the wheels of the war-chariots were soiled with the blood and dust of battle! Every tongue here, has to tell only of mercy, compassion, and tenderest sympathy. The restored blind, with eyes unsealed, are there to lead the way. The restored dumb, with tongues unloosed, are there, to shout the cry of welcome. The restored cripple is there, to strip the palm-tree for his mute tribute of gratitude. The healed leper is there, to spread his now untainted garment on the road. The ‘clothed’ demoniac is there, to proclaim, “The Lord has done great things for me, whereof I am glad.” The widow and the orphan are there to tell, “He has taken off our sackcloth, and girded us with gladness.” The very children are there, with their little palm-branches, to take up the refrain, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” (Matt. 21:15) Yes, the restored dead are there–their once silenced tongues now set in glad music to the glory of their great Restorer–“The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence–but we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore,” (Ps. 115:17, 18.)
Let us now proceed, in a few, sentences, to state the main object of this remarkable incident in the closing chapters of our Lord’s earthly history, and, in its outer accompaniments, the most imposing and impressive of all the “Memories” of the Mount.
We must recur for a moment to the point on which we have already incidentally touched, that is, its PUBLICITY–and this too a purposed publicity. It was a thing of Christ’s own deliberate choosing and arrangement. In this respect, we noted in the former chapter, how unlike all the other deeds of our Lord. It was prophesied regarding Him, “He shall not strive nor cry, neither shall he lift up his voice in the streets;” and all the previous incidents of His life serve only to illustrate and confirm this prophetical description. At other times, He seems to desire and to court, no, He enjoins, the utmost privacy. He goes forth all alone to the Temptation in the wilderness–no human eye witnesses that stupendous struggle. On another occasion, He charges “to tell no man.”
He retires to the northern shore of Gennesaret, when the proposal, we have already referred to, is whispered, to make Him a King. He meets again and again His disciples alone. The glories of Tabor were witnessed by no multitude. The treading of the sea was at midnight, and when His apostles were by themselves. It was after He had “put all out of the house,” and amid the hush of impressive silence, He raised the daughter of Jairus. The last rite of His dying love was instituted in the strict privacy of the “upper chamber.” He meets the disciples at early morn by the shores of Tiberias!
Why, then, this startling exception? Why on the present occasion “cry and lift up His voice”? Why, for once, contradict His own assertion, “The kingdom of God comes not with observation”?
It does not seem enough to say, that this entrance into Jerusalem was intended, as we have just been regarding it, as a manifestation of His Kingly glory–a foreshadowing of the future, when He would be hailed as King of Zion and Prince of peace, (though this doubtless was one end contemplated.) Nor, as others have held, that it was specially designed to brace and nerve His disciples for the scenes of humiliation and suffering which were at hand. Had this been all, He might, in conformity with previous instances, have given them in private and separate from the world, some such equivalent regal manifestation. A little while before, He had been in the region of Caesarea-Philippi, where first He began to discourse of His death and passion. He might there, among the sublime solitudes of Hermon, have summoned legions of angels to do Him homage; and instead of sending to borrow, from a Judean villager, two lowly animals, every lordly tenant that roamed these northern forests, “from Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens and the mountains of the leopards,” might have graced His triumph, and ten thousands of rivers of oil, as consecrated ointment, flowed at His feet. There, He might have appeared, as He did at a future time to John, with “His eyes as a flame of fire; His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters.”
What then, we again ask, seems to have been the chief reason, on the present occasion, of this unprecedented publicity? We answer, It was in order to draw public attention to the great crowning act of His Incarnation–(and which in two days was to be consummated)–His death for the life of the world. It was of the greatest importance, that the eyes of the whole Jewish nation (the representative of the world’s nations) should be directed towards a crucified Savior. While, as we have seen, in other incidents of His earthly existence, He courted retirement–it was necessary to surround His death with every possible notoriety. Hence Augustine truly says, in his comment on this episode in a life of unobtrusive humility and self-abnegation, “It is not so much the triumph of a king, as the procession of a victim to the sacrifice.”
It was remarkable, (the coincidence could not be by Him undesigned,) that this jubilant day was the 10th of Nisan–a day pre-eminently sacred to the whole Jewish people, and specially to the congregated worshipers–as that upon which the Paschal Lamb was set apart. Jesus, the great Antitype, in presence of the assembled nation, and by a voluntary act, sets Himself apart, on this same day, for His own sacrifice. As a KING, claiming solitary spiritual sovereignty–He enters the Temple as His royal Palace. But He enters it, too–PRIEST and VICTIM combined–as the place of sacrifice; “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”–“Christ our Passover sacrificed for us.”
It would have been indeed sufficient, (so far as the virtue and efficaciousness of His atonement was concerned, as the surety-Savior,) had He died in solitude. There would have been even something perhaps grand and impressive, and also more in keeping with His antecedents, if, instead of the crude shouts of Calvary, and the ignominy of open crucifixion, He had closed His eyes in their death-sleep, like Moses, all alone, on the heights of another Pisgah–or, as with a still earlier type, been offered up, like Isaac, on the summit of some kindred lonely mount.
But it was needful for the Church, in all future ages, that His death be attested, without a shadow of doubt. And never could season be better selected, to attract universal attention, than when Jews and proselytes were assembled from all the neighboring countries in the Hebrew capital. This very mountain, which witnessed the procession, was itself studded over, in its green hollows, with the black and white tents of the assembled pilgrims, who, owing to the scanty room in the city, were driven to erect their temporary booths in the public Park. Doubtless, on that day, this Triumphal entrance formed the talk of Jerusalem. It would be the topic on every tongue; and, weeks after these startling events, when the Jews now assembled at the Paschal feast returned to their several distant homes, they would, more strikingly still, connect the two prophecies of Zechariah–“Behold your King comes;” and the “sword awaking” from its scabbard–the “wounds in the hands”–“wounded in the house of his friends,” (Zech. 13:6-7.)
Behold, then, in the Triumphal entry, the public presentation of the priceless Sacrifice. It was, if we might be allowed the expression, the bleating of the true Paschal Lamb; as He was led to the slaughter. It was the sounding of silver trumpets summoning to the great festival–the Sabbath-bell of the world’s long week of expectation, tolling on the heights of Olivet, to gather the multitudes around the Altar of offering. That bell rang the chimes of another Evangelical Prophet, “O Zion, that bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah–Behold your God!” (Isa. 40:9.)
Although, however, we have now indicated what formed the principal object of Messiah’s public entrance, there was doubtless what was prophetic in it also. It was a foreshadowing of future glory–that Christ (soon to suffer) would one day come to reign; having His dominion, according to the words embraced in Zechariah’s prediction, “from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth”–when the Alleluia of the children of Abraham would mingle with the Hosanna of the Gentile, “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”
That day, at Jerusalem, was doubtless a joyful one to the disciples, when they saw their beloved Lord and Master so worthily honored. But if they had been able, in any measure, to understand the mysterious intimations which had recently fallen from His lips, there must have been also sadder thoughts intermingled with the glad acclaims. These shouts of triumph must have been marred with dark forebodings, which were only too truthfully realized! Not so, is it, regarding His second coming. No shadow of death darkens “that blessed hope”–no traitor will lurk in that triumphal path–no sorrow cloud that hour of joy.
Reader, are you ready to glorify Christ? Are you ready to strew the palm-branch on His path, and to greet Him with the Hosanna? Remember if you will not glorify Him, He will get others to do so. “If these hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” ‘Attempt not,’ He says still, as He said of old, ‘to rob me of my Hosannas. The rocks around–dumb nature–would enter her protest–the stones would become vocal, and shout my praise.’ I repeat, if we refuse to honor Christ, and to join the willing multitude who do Him homage, He will get others more loyal to take our place. His glory will not suffer–out of the mouth of babes and sucklings He will perfect praise–yes, from the mute creation, He will raise up a special seed–He will put a tongue and a song into the insensate stone.
“Tell the daughter of Zion,” so ran the prophecy, “Behold, your King comes.” This is a concluding but most solemn view of the Triumphal entrance. It was a last–a closing offer of the Redeemer to the “daughter of Zion.” This slow procession wending across Olivet, was a final, long-rejected overture of kindness–one other opportunity to hear His voice and turn at His reproof.
Christ makes His entrance, Sabbath after Sabbath, to the courts of the earthly Zion, and in the case of some, as with Jerusalem of old, with the last message of His mercy–a closing appeal–a final remonstrance–a farewell knock at the door of the heart, before His offers of love pass forever away. Let us meet Him now–meet Him joyfully as Christ the Savior; that when the advent cry shall be heard–when the world shall be startled by the summons, “Behold, your King comes!” we may be able–each with the prepared palm-branch of victory, to line the royal path–and to say, “Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”
Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed behind cried out, saying; Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!Matt. 21:9
Why is Palm Sunday important? When we celebrate the Triumphal Entry, we are celebrating a monumental occasion. As we see Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey and allow the people to praise Him as king, there are many things that stand out. Here are three of the most significant things we should keep in mind.
1. Jesus was setting his crucifixion in motion
It is important to realize that the Triumphal Entry is the first time Jesus allowed the people to praise him as King. Every time before this he had forbidden them to do so because his time had not yet come. In allowing the people to praise him, he was bringing the wrath of both the Jewish and Roman leaders upon himself. He was not being pushed around by the principalities and powers; he was orchestrating them and setting things in motion for the passion week. He was coming to save us as prophesied by Zechariah.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. – Zechariah 9:9
2. Jesus was being selected as the Passover lamb according to Old Testament law
Jesus said he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it, and he does this in many ways. One fascinating detail he fulfilled has to do with Passover. Matthew Henry points out, “The Passover was on the fourteenth day of the month, and this [the triumphal entry] was the tenth.” The tenth day of the month was significant concerning Passover. We read this in Exodus 12:3,5-6
“Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house….Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.”
As Jesus was riding in and the people were crying “Hosanna in the highest,” unbeknownst to them they were selecting the paschal lamb for sacrifice; the one and only sacrifice that can take away sin and cause death to pass over us.
3. Jesus was marching to his death, and he knew it
Jesus was not merely riding into the city, but riding towards his death on the cross. He knew by the end of the week he would be spit upon, beaten, and crucified, but the thought of this torturous death was not the most grueling image he would have foreseen. It would have been thoughts of that final moment when he was to take on the sins of us who call him Lord, and his Father, whom he had obeyed perfectly, would turn his face away from his Son and pour out the justice and wrath for our sins upon him. In anguish, Jesus knew, he would cry out “Father why have you forsaken me.”
On the way to the cross, the entry must have been bittersweet. As we consider this moment, we know that nothing could have hindered him from reaching his goal because he had set his face like flint toward Jerusalem. As he rode, his mind would have first and foremost been focused on glorifying his Father. Secondarily his thoughts would have been directed to those he came to save. Maybe he saw our faces, knowing that without his death, he would have to watch us die. For we were born sinners, hopeless, and condemned already. Maybe he looked at us as a man who would look into the eyes of a child as disease steals her away. Whatever he was thinking, he was not going to let anything stand between him and his children
His desire to see his Father glorified and his love for us drove him forward, and when the time of the crucifixion arrived, he had reached his destination. Upright, between two thieves, nailed to the cross, and having a spear thrust into his side, the cleansing blood and water flowed. His final cry was “It is finished.” The purchase had been made, and the powers of hell had been broken. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “No sin of the believer can now be an arrow to mortally wound him.” All of us who have faith in Jesus and have been cleansed by his precious blood have every reason to sing,
Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed Be the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!