We are pleased to present an updated version of Thomas Goodwin's book, The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth
in modern, updated English for free. If you'd like to support our work, please subscribe or purchase the physical copy on Amazon
The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth by Thomas Goodwin is a sermon (turned into a book) that was written in 1651.
Goodwin argues that Christ’s heart is full of love and mercy for those who have sinned, even though they deserve to be condemned. He states that Christ is constantly pleading with God on their behalf, interceding for them, and seeking to save them from their sins. Goodwin emphasizes that Christ’s love and mercy for sinners is greater than their sins, and that God will forgive them if they repent.
Goodwin wraps up by saying that the Lord looks for opportunities to show mercy and that no sinner should despair of God’s mercy. Goodwin explains that the Lord is never weary of forgiving, and that his love and mercy should be embraced by all sinners. He provides several examples from the Bible to illustrate the Lord’s mercy, including the story of the prodigal son and the woman taken in adultery.
The Heart of Christ in Heaven
Purchase physical copy
Want to support our work? Purchase the Heart of Christ in Heaven in updated English on Amazon.
Table of Contents:
We’ve made all the book chapters available online for free. Click the links below to jump in!
- Examples from Jesus’ Final Farewell to His Disciples
- Examples from Passages and Expressions after His Resurrection
- Examples from Passages at and after His Ascension into Heaven
- Part II: The Evil of Suffering and the Evil of Sin
- A Second Example of Christ’s Compassion for Sinners
- Christ’s heart is moved by the understanding of our weaknesses
The generous attitude and loving care of Christ in his human form, now in heaven, for his followers in all their weaknesses, whether caused by sin or suffering, is remarkable.
By Thomas Goodwin, D.D.
Printed by J. G. for R. Dawlman, 1651
Having discussed the great and solemn actions of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—his obedience unto death, his resurrection, ascension into heaven, his sitting at God’s right hand, and intercession for us—I shall now move on to this discourse that follows. It reveals the heart of Christ in heaven, as he sits at God’s right hand and intercedes for us. It shows how graciously disposed he is towards sinners on earth who come to him, how willing he is to receive them, how ready to entertain them, and how tender he is to pity them in all their infirmities, both sins and miseries. The purpose and use of this is to give believers the courage and confidence to approach the throne of grace and our Saviour and High Priest. We want to show them how kindly and compassionately his heart is towards them, even though he is now in glory. We want to remove the huge stumbling block that people face when they think about faith: that Christ is now absent and so far away in glory that they don’t know how to talk to him about their salvation with the same hope of success that those who were here on earth with him had. If only we had been able to talk to him during his time on earth, like Mary, Peter, and the other disciples did. We would have felt comfortable enough to ask him for anything. He was a man just like us, full of humility and kindness, even though he was made to be sin and was aware of all kinds of suffering. But now he has gone to a distant place and has put on glory and immortality, and we don’t know how that might have changed him. The point of this discussion is to make it clear to those who are struggling that Jesus’ heart is still full of compassion and mercy in Heaven as it was on Earth. He still intercedes for us with the same loving heart, and is just as gentle, humble, and willing to listen to our pleas as He was when He was here. We can approach Him with the same confidence and trust that we would have if we were able to be with Him on Earth, and rely on Him for all our needs. This should bring great comfort and hope to those who have devoted their lives to faith and seek a deep connection with their Savior, Jesus Christ.
Now, I can provide two pieces of evidence to bolster our faith in this: the first is more external and outward, while the second is more internal and inward. The first shows that it is true, while the second explains why it must be true.
1. First, for those external demonstrations (as I refer to them), they are taken from several passages and events in his life, in all the different stages he went through; namely, his last goodbye before his death, his resurrection, ascension, and his current seat at God’s right hand. I will guide you through all the same topics I discussed in the previous treatise (though for a different purpose), and draw observations from his words and actions in all the stages he went through, which will directly support the point I am trying to make, namely that now he is in heaven, his heart remains as kindly disposed to sinners who come to him as it ever was on earth. To introduce these first set of demonstrations, I will use this Scripture: for the other, another Scripture, which is more appropriate for that part of this discussion.
When Jesus realized that His time had come and He would be leaving this world to return to the Father, He loved His own to the very end. (John 13:1).
Demonstrations from Christ’s Last Farewell to His Disciples
I. Christ had been keeping something from his disciples for a long time: he was going to leave them and go to heaven. John 16:4 says he hadn't told them from the beginning. But when he finally opened up to them, he poured out his heart, telling them how he felt about them now and what it would be like when he was in his glory. Let us take a closer look at Jesus' last actions and his sermon at the Last Supper, as it is written by the Gospel of John. I won't make any comments, but I will focus on the observations that are most relevant to this topic. From John chapters 13 to 18, we can see that this was the main point of Christ's long discourses.
1. Before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and return to the Father. He loved his disciples deeply, and even to the end. After supper, Jesus was aware that the Father had given him all authority, and that he had come from God and was going back to God. So, he washed his disciples' feet. Now the evangelist prefaced this to give us a glimpse into Christ's heart and show us what it was like at the time of his departure. The purpose of this is to demonstrate what his feelings would be for us in heaven. He tells us what Christ was thinking and how his heart was feeling, which led to all that follows.
(1.) Jesus was aware that he was about to leave this world and that he would soon be entering the glory that was rightfully his. The Bible says, "Jesus knew that he should depart unto the Father" (John 13:3). He was actively considering that the Father had given him authority over all things, that is, that Jesus had all power in heaven and on earth, he humbly went and washed his disciples' feet. He thought about where he was going and what he was to be before he did so.
(2.) But secondly, what was Christ's focus in the midst of all these profound reflections? Not so much on his own glory, though it is said that he thought of it to demonstrate his love for us, but rather his heart was filled with love for "his own" - as John 13:1 says, "having loved his own" - a term that conveys the greatest closeness, affection, and intimacy based on ownership. The elect are Christ's own, a part of himself, not as possessions, but as family. John 1:11 says, "He came to his own, and his own did not receive him." This shows that he considers them his own, but not as possessions, but as his own children, his own members, his own wife, his own flesh. He knew that even though he was leaving this world, they would remain in it, so it is specifically stated, "which were in the world," meaning they would stay in this world. He had others of his own who were in the world he was going to, as stated in Hebrews 12:23: "the spirits of just men made perfect". One would think that when he was reflecting on his departure from this world, his thoughts would be on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom he was going to meet. But no, he was more concerned for his own, who were to remain here in this world, a world full of evil (as he himself said in John 17:15), both of sin and suffering, and with which they, while in it, could not help but be tainted and troubled. This is what drives his compassion towards them, even when his heart was full of thoughts of his own glory: "having loved his own, he loved them to the end." This is said to demonstrate the steadfastness of his love, and what it would be like when Christ was in his glory. Chrysostom says, "To the end," meaning to the completion of it. Having started to love them, he will perfect and complete his love for them. And "to the end," meaning forever. So in the Greek, this phrase is used in a way that is fitting with the Scripture phrase in Psalm 103:9, "He will not always chide, nor reserve anger forever." In the original language, it is translated as "He reserves not anger unto the end." The point of this speech is to show how Christ's heart and love will remain with them forever, even after he has gone to his Father, just as it was here on earth when they were his own. He has loved them and he will not change, so he will love them forever.
(3.) And thirdly, to demonstrate the extent of his love for them, even in heaven, the Gospel writer records that, while Jesus was in the midst of his thoughts of glory and his impending kingship, he took a basin of water and a towel and washed his disciples' feet. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over all things, so even when his thoughts were full of his glory, he rose from supper, took off his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he filled a basin with water and began to wash his disciples' feet. This shows us that even when Christ was aware of his greatness, he still humbled himself to serve others. (John 13:4-5) And what was Christ's meaning in this? He wanted to show that even though He would not be able to do such visible demonstrations of His love for them when He was in Heaven, He was still willing to do such humble services for them while He was still in the midst of His glory. This is how great His love is for them.
Another expression of Christ's is found in Luke 12:36-37. He compares himself to a bridegroom who is going to a wedding feast in heaven. His servants on earth are waiting for him, and they may be wondering why it's taking so long. Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, when the bridegroom returns, he will be refreshed and joyful. He will put on an apron and serve them at the feast." The meaning is not that Christ is currently serving those who are in heaven, or that He will do so in the future. Rather, it is an expression of the immense love and joy that He has for us, and the happiness that we will experience when we are with Him. It is almost unimaginable that the Lord would serve His servants and wait on those who are waiting for Him. This is to show us the depths of His love and what He is willing to do for us. So that you can understand what was in his heart before he ascended to heaven, even when he was surrounded by thoughts of his glory; and you can understand what it is now that he has been in heaven and has been glorified even more, content to wash the feet of lowly sinners and to serve those who come to him and wait for him.
(4.) Now, fourthly, what was the mystery of this act of Jesus washing their feet? It was to give them an example of mutual love and humility, and to signify that he would wash away their sins. As John 13:8, 10 states, he cannot come to wash the feet of their bodies now that he is in heaven, but he would signify that those sinners who come to him in his glory, he will wash away all their sins. He deeply cared for his church, and sacrificed himself for it, so that he could purify and cleanse it through baptism, and present it to himself as a glorious church, without blemish or wrinkle,” as stated in Ephesians 5:25-27.
2. This statement of his intentions, we can see from his behavior at his last goodbye. Let's take a look at the main point of his long sermon at his goodbye, and we'll find that the main purpose was to further assure his disciples of his commitment to them; this will be a second proof. It was too much to go into every detail. But it's safe to say that no husband ever tried harder to make his wife happy while he was away than Christ does for his disciples and all believers. Remember this: whatever Christ said to them, he says to us too, as we can see in John 17:20, "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me because of their message." And whatever he prayed for them applies to all believers, and whatever he said to them applies to us too.
(1.) First, he lets them know what his heart would be towards them, and how mindful he would be of them when in heaven, by the mission he professed to go there to fulfill for them. It is noteworthy that he lovingly informs them of it beforehand, which speaks to his care and tenderness, as a husband would to a wife. I'm being completely honest with you, it's better for you if I go away, John 16:7. And it's all for your benefit, I'm going to send you a comforter while you're here on Earth, and I'm preparing a place for you in Heaven, John 14:2. There are plenty of rooms in my Father's house, and I'm getting them ready for you until you arrive. I'm being completely open and honest with you.
"If it had been any other way," he said, "I would have let you know. Believe me, I wouldn't lie to you for all the glory in heaven. Who wouldn't be convinced by this openness and sincerity? But then, thirdly, the matter itself is so important for us and our wellbeing, which makes it even more convincing. And Christ himself uses this as an argument for the permanence of his love for us." So, as John 14:3 says, "If I go to prepare a place for you," then you can be sure of my love when I'm there. No matter how glorious the place is, I won't forget why I'm there. When Jesus was on earth, He never forgot why He came into the world. He asked, "Shall I not do my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49), and He did it perfectly by fulfilling all righteousness. So, He won't forget any of the work He has to do in heaven, since it's even more enjoyable. As I discussed in my previous sermon, Hebrews 6:20 tells us that Jesus has gone ahead of us to take up places in Heaven for us. Our names are written in Heaven around Him, and He can never forget us. Hebrews 12:22-24 further confirms this, saying that we have come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the church of the firstborn, all of which are written in Heaven. Jesus' blood is a reminder of this, and He takes up a place in Heaven for each of us.Yes, Jesus carries their names written in his heart, just like the high priest did with the names of the ten tribes on his breast when he entered the holy of holies. He sits in heaven to make sure no one else takes their place. That's why 1 Peter 1:4 says that salvation is "reserved in heaven for them" - kept there on purpose for them by Jesus Christ. The evil angels had places there once, but they were taken away and given to others, just like the land of Canaan was taken away from the Canaanites. The reason for this is because they didn't have a Christ to intercede for them like we do.
(2.) Next, to demonstrate his care for them and all other believers, he tells them that once he has completed his work for them and prepared heaven for them and all the chosen ones to come, he intends to return to them. So John 14:3, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again," is a beautiful expression of love. He could have asked them to come to Him, but instead He chose to come to them. He will leave His glory in Heaven for a time to come back to His beloved. Why? [1.] To see them and make their hearts rejoice. [2.]To bring her to Himself, as John 14:3 says, "I will come again and take you to be with me." He is willing to follow the same customs as a bridegroom, even though He is so great. No lover can outdo Him in expressing true love. It is customary for a bridegroom to come himself to get his bride, rather than sending someone else, because it is a time of love. Love is better when it comes down than when it goes up, and that is what Christ does. He is love itself, and so He comes down to us; "I will come again and receive you unto myself" (says Christ), "so that we can be together where I am." This last part of his speech reveals his deep affection for us. It's almost as if he's saying, "I can't bear to be apart from you. I won't be content until I have you with me where I am. That's why I'm coming back. Heaven won't be enough for me, nor will my Father's company, if I don't have you with me. My heart is so set on you, and if I have any glory, you'll share in it." So, John 14:19 says, "Because I live, you shall live also." It's a promise, and it's also a solemn oath from God. As He lives, so will we. Christ is pledging His life to make sure it happens. He wants us to live and see our descendants, as Isaiah 53:10 says. And to show how much He desires it, He tells us it won't be long before He returns. John 16:16 states, "For a short time you won't see me, but then you will see me again." This does not refer to the brief period of time when he was dead and buried, but rather to the forty days after his resurrection when he ascended and was no longer visible on earth until the day of judgment. As Hebrews 10:37 says, "He will come soon and will not delay." It won't be long until he comes. Though it may seem like a long time to us, it is nothing compared to how eager He is to come. He will not delay in fulfilling our needs and then coming. The phrase "Coming he will come" emphasizes His desire to come and that He is always on His way. He is so eager to come that it is almost impossible to keep Him away. Thus the Hebrew phrase conveys a sense of urgency, intensity, and fervor in some action, such as "I have been expecting eagerly," "I have been desiring intensely," so when he comes, he will come. Not content with these expressions of desire, he adds "and will not delay;" all to signify the infinite passion of his heart for his chosen ones on earth and to have all his chosen ones in heaven with him. He won't stay any longer than necessary; He only lingers until He has, throughout all ages, through His intercession, prepared a place for each saint, so that He can welcome them all at once and have them all around Him.
(3.) Thirdly, he expresses his care for them in his absence by making careful provisions and taking steps to ensure their comfort. As John 14:18 says, "I will not leave you as orphans" (the original word conveys the idea of fatherless and friendless children, without direction).
My Father and I have only one friend, who is close to both of us and comes from both of us: the Holy Spirit. In the meantime, I will send Him to you, just like a loving husband would do when he is away from his wife: he would entrust her to his dearest friend. That is what Christ does too, as He says in John 14:16, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper." And in John 16:7, He says, "I will send Him to you." Who:
First, I am bound to be a better Comforter to you than I can be in this situation while I am on earth. As John 16:7 says, "It is best that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come." This Spirit, as the apostle says, is the "earnest of heaven" and the greatest sign of Christ's love that has ever been given, something that "the world cannot receive." And yet,
Secondly, all the comfort he will speak to you during this time will be from my heart towards you; for as he does not come of his own accord, but I must send him (John 16:7), so "he will not speak on his own, but will speak only what he hears" (John 16:13). And as John 16:14 says, "He will receive what is mine and will show it to you." I will send him to be my representative to you, my beloved, and he will tell you stories of my love if you will listen to him and not cause him distress. As it is written, "He shall glorify me," that is, to you; for I am already glorified in heaven. All his words will be to increase my worth and love for you, and it will be his joy to do so. He can come from heaven in an instant when He chooses, bringing us news of my thoughts and telling us what I'm thinking of at that very moment. This is why in 1 Corinthians 2:12, it says that by having the Spirit, we have the mind of Christ. The Spirit dwells in Christ's heart and ours, and passes on Christ's thoughts to us, and our prayers and faith to Him.
So that you can be sure of my love for you, just as if I were with you. He will keep your hearts full of love for me, or for you, or both. And even though you already have the Spirit in your hearts, John 14:17 says that He will be with you in an even greater way. And then, John 14:20 says, "that you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." "He will tell you, when I am in heaven, that there is a strong bond between us and a deep love in my heart for you, just as there is between my Father and me. It is impossible to break this connection, and to take away my love for you, just as it is impossible to take away my Father's love for me, or mine for my Father." And then,
Thirdly, you can be sure that what the Holy Spirit says about my love for you is true, for He is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). As you believe me when I tell you about my Father, because I come from Him, you can also believe the Holy Spirit in all that He says about me and my love for you, for He comes from me (John 14:16-17). Yes, they might ask, "Will He also leave us for a time, like you have?" But Christ answers in John 14:16, "The Father will give you another Comforter, and He will stay with you forever." Christ speaks this in contrast to Himself. He had been a Comforter to them, but He was now going away; but not the Spirit. "He will be with you forever;" and just as He is now "with you," He "will be in you," John 14:17.
In the fourth place, if this is not enough to assure them of his feelings towards them, he promises to give them daily proof of it. He says, "Just try me out when I'm gone. Send me word about what you need and I will have left my Spirit to be your secretary and to write down all your requests." Up until now, you haven't asked much of me - he blames them for not asking more of him - but now, ask and you will receive. If you don't believe me, just look and you will see your prayers answered right away. Believe me, he says, "for the works' sake," John 14:11. He's referring to the works he will do for them in response to their prayers after he's gone, which will be like letters from his heart in response to theirs. As it says in John 14:12, "Whoever believes in me will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father." So it's clear he's talking about the works done after his ascension. How were they to get their prayers answered? Jesus said in John 14:13, "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." He was speaking of the time after he was gone. And in John 14:14, he said, "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." If you keep praying, I will keep answering. As Psalm 81:10 says, "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it." Your prayers will be a sign of your love for me, and my answers will be a sign of my love for you. And because Christ instructs them to direct their prayers to the Father in His name, as John 16:23 states, they may not be aware that it is His heart that is behind the answer to them. Therefore, He adds twice in John 14, "I will do it, I will do it." He speaks as if He is as eager to do for them as His Father is, and He wants them to recognize His hand in it. It is as if He is saying, "Even though you ask the Father in my name, it all comes through my hands, and I will do it. Everything that is done must have my approval, and my heart will not be lacking."
In the fifth place, to further demonstrate his love, Jesus not only encourages them to pray to him and in his name, but he also assures them that he will pray for them. Notice the way he expresses this; it is in the most comforting and convincing terms that people use when they want to show their utmost concern and intention to do something. As John 16:26 says, "On that day (after his ascension) you will ask, and I will not say that I will pray to the Father for you;" no, not I. I mentioned it before and I'll add this illustration to it. It's like when someone expresses their love for another in the strongest way possible, saying "I don't love you, no, not I." It's like when we say someone has been hurt badly, even though they've been given the greatest good turn. It's like what Paul said to the Corinthians, "I converted your souls when you thought not of it; 'I caught you with guile; forgive me this wrong'"(2 Corinthians 12:16). So, Christ is saying here, "I'm not saying I'll pray for you," when the truth is that it's the most important thing he does in heaven. He lives forever to intercede; Hebrews 7:25—as he is alive forever, he will always intercede and never stop until sinners are saved. But the work of Christ in heaven is a topic that deserves its own discussion, so I won't say more about it now. Instead, I suggest you read the three chapters of John (14, 15, 16). In them you will find the longest sermon of his that is recorded; he spoke the longest on this topic than any other, because his heart was truly in it more than any other point he ever preached on.
Only if someone were to object and say that He spoke all this to His disciples to calm and comfort them, rather than what He would have said otherwise due to their distress, then that would be understandable.
In the sixth place, read the next chapter of John (17) and you will see that he went away to his Father and repeated to him what he had said to them. He said the same things behind their backs as he had said to their faces. Read it and you will find that he was just as devoted when he was not with them as when he was. He was passionate about what he said, and his heart was full of it. That chapter, as you know, contains a prayer put up just before his suffering, and there he makes his will and his last request, as it reads in John 17:24, "Father, I will." He has gone to ensure that his will is carried out in heaven. And Arminius was right in saying that this prayer is left to us by Christ as a summary of his intercession for us in heaven. He spoke as he intended to in heaven, and as one who had completed his task and was now asking for his reward; "I have finished the work you gave me to do," he said, as recorded in John 17:4. And while Jesus speaks a few words for himself (in the first five verses), he speaks five times as many for them, for the rest of the chapter is a prayer for them. He uses all kinds of arguments to plead with his Father for his children. "I have completed the work you gave me to do," he says, and saving them is your work, which remains to be done for me by you; and "they are yours, and you gave them to me," and I entrust them to you, your own. He said, "Everything I have is yours, and everything you have is mine." He was implying that he was not adding anyone to the Father's list, but was using all his influence for those the Father had already chosen. What a powerful motivation! He also declared that he would not plead for anyone doomed to destruction, but would use his blood, prayers, and all his power to help those the Father had given him. Even though the Father had given him a personal glory before the world existed, he said there was another glory he valued almost as much: the glory of seeing them saved. "I am glorified in them," Jesus says (John 17:10), "and they are my joy" (John 17:13). So, I must have them "with me wherever I am" (John 17:24). You have set my heart on them and have loved them as you have loved me. You have ordained them to be one with us, just as we are one. I cannot be apart from them for long; I have your company, but I need theirs too. "I want them to be where I am" (John 17:24). If I have any glory, they must share in it. As stated in the aforementioned verse, "That they may behold the glory which you have given me." He speaks of this as if he were already in heaven, and had already received all that glory; so this is an expression of his heart in heaven, which you can be sure is true.
Demonstrations from Passages and Expressions after His Resurrection
II. These demonstrations of his love and care for us were evident in his actions and words before his death, even when he first spoke to his disciples about his departure. Let us now look at how Jesus behaved after his resurrection; this will give us further insight into his heart and how he would treat sinners when he was in heaven. His resurrection was the first step towards his glory, and it marked the beginning of his immortal and glorious body. As our bodies are "sown in weakness," his was "raised in power." And "the days of his flesh," or his fragile state, as the author of the Hebrews puts it, were over at his resurrection; and his body was given new qualities and was made fit to bear and sustain heaven's glory; and so, what his heart will show us upon his first rising will be a sure sign of what it will remain in heaven. To illustrate this further, consider that if ever there was a test of whether his love for sinners would last, it was then at his resurrection; for all his disciples (especially Peter) had behaved in the most undeserving way towards him during that time, and this was when he was performing the greatest act of love for them ever, namely, dying for them. And, as is often the case, when God is about to bestow His greatest mercies upon us and bring about our greatest good, we are most likely to be sinning against Him. He does this to demonstrate His great love for us. You know how they all abandoned Him in His time of need, when He asked for their company in the Garden of Gethsemane to provide Him with some comfort in His sorrow. He asked, "Could you not watch with me one hour?" Then you know how Peter shamefully denied Jesus with oaths and curses; and after that, when Jesus was laid in the grave, they lost all their faith in him; "We thought it would have been him," said two of them, "who would have saved Israel." They questioned whether he was the Messiah or not, as recorded in Luke 24:21.
Now when Christ rose from the dead, clothed in the body and heart he would have in heaven, what was his first message to them? We would expect that, since they did not recognize him in his suffering, he would be a stranger to them in his glory; or at least, his first words would be to rebuke them for their lack of faith and dishonesty.
No need to worry; John 20:17 tells us that Jesus' first words to his disciples were, "Go tell my brothers." We can see how much love and humility Jesus had for them in Hebrews 2:11, which says, "He is not ashamed to call them brothers." Even when Jesus was entering into his glory, he still referred to them as his brothers. Just like Joseph did when he revealed his identity to his brothers in Genesis 45:4, Jesus said, "Tell them you have seen Jesus their brother; I still consider them my brothers." This was his first address to them; what was the message he wanted to deliver? "That I," he said, "am ascending to my Father, and your Father." This was a much kinder speech than Joseph's, even though Joseph's was full of compassion. After Joseph told them he was their brother, he added, "whom you sold into Egypt." But Christ didn't mention that at all. Poor sinners, who are so aware of their own sins, don't know how they will be able to look Christ in the face when they first meet him. Don't be afraid, for your sins will be forgotten. Christ's attitude towards his disciples, even after they had sinned against him, is a reminder that he is focused on doing more for them. He doesn't remind them of what he has already done, but instead looks forward to what he can do. His joy is in the future, not in the past, just like a woman who forgets the pain of childbirth when she sees her newborn child. Having now completed his work on earth for us, he is eager to ascend to heaven as soon as possible to do more. Even though he knew he had more to do on earth for the next forty days, he expresses his longing to be in heaven and work for us by saying "I ascend." He expresses his joy to be going to our Father to be our advocate, as I mentioned before. Can it be true that Jesus is alive and calls us his brothers? Does he speak to us with such love? This should overwhelm our hearts!
But this was a message sent to his disciples before he met them; let us now observe his behavior and words when they were reunited. When he first arrived, he greeted them with, "Peace be with you," John 20:19, which he repeated in John 20:21; it was the same as his parting words in his farewell sermon, "I leave my peace with you." After this, he "breathes on them," conveying the Holy Spirit in a greater measure. This was to show that he would do even more for them in heaven, and that his breathing on them was the ultimate expression of his love for them, demonstrating that the Holy Spirit comes from him as well as from the Father. So, why does he give them the Spirit? Not just for themselves, but so that they could use the gift and help of the Spirit to forgive people's sins by bringing them to Him. "Whoever's sins you forgive," that is, through your ministry, "they are forgiven." He was still thinking about sinners and caring for their conversion. In another gospel, Mark, His last words are recorded as: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone. Whoever believes will be saved," Mark 16:15. And in Luke 24:46-47, His last words on earth are recorded as: "It was necessary for Christ to suffer and rise from the dead…so that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in all nations, beginning in Jerusalem," where He had been crucified just a few days before. Of all places, one would have expected him to have spared them and asked them to pass by it. But instead, he tells them to start there. He wants them to benefit from his death, since they were the ones who caused it. To that end, he says, "Behold, I send you the promise of my Father," (Luke 24:49). On another occasion, he appears to two of them and rebukes them, saying, "O you fools and slow of heart!" But why? It's because they didn't believe in him. He wasn't mad at them for leaving him, as it says, "O you fools and slow of heart to believe," (Luke 24:25). He's happy when we believe, as in John 11:16. Later, he appears to all eleven of them and scolds them, but for what?
With their lack of faith and stubbornness of heart; still, because they did not believe, Mark 16:14. No sin of theirs troubled Jesus more than their lack of faith, which shows how much he desires for people to believe in him; even now that he is glorified. Later, he meets with Thomas and only gently scolds him for his extreme lack of faith, telling him it was good that he believed after seeing; but he pronounces those even more blessed who believe without seeing, John 20:29. Another time Jesus showed himself to his disciples, and he especially spoke to Peter, but he didn't say anything about his sins or his abandonment of him. Instead, he wanted to hear Peter's testimony of his love for him. "Peter," Jesus said, "do you love me?" Christ loves to hear those words; they sound so sweet to his ears when you tell him you love him, even though he already knows it. As Peter told him, "You know everything, you know that I love you," John 21:15, and Jesus asked him this three times. What was Christ's goal in getting Peter to profess his love for Him? He wanted Peter to demonstrate his love by "feeding his lambs" when He was in Heaven. This is a powerful testament to how much Christ cared for souls to be converted. His heart was focused on His lambs and their salvation. He had said before, "I have sheep that don't belong to this flock," John 10:16, "and I must bring them in," and he left his apostles to do it. But this was a more heartfelt expression, because sheep can take care of themselves, but little lambs can't. So Christ says to Peter, "Take care of my lambs," just like John, to show his love for those he was writing to and calling them "my little children." And why did the evangelist record these things about Jesus after his resurrection? One of the evangelists that recorded them gives us the answer. In John 20:30, it is said that "Jesus did many other signs," that is, after his resurrection. He mentions this in the middle of the story of the things he did after his resurrection, saying "which are not written in this book," but were recorded by other evangelists and some were kept secret; but these things are written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Most of the things recorded demonstrate Christ's compassion and care for sinners, so that we can have faith in him and receive life through his name.
Demonstrations from Passages at and after His Ascension into Heaven
III. Let us take a closer look at his ascension. His behavior will further strengthen our faith. Luke 24:50 says, "He raised his hands and blessed them." To emphasize this, as having a great mystery in it, Luke 24:51 adds, "As he blessed them, he was taken up to heaven." This benediction was Christ's final act; and what did it signify? As I have already explained, it was to bless them in the same way God blessed Adam and Eve, telling them to "be fruitful and multiply" and thus blessing all of humanity that would come from them. In this way, Christ blessed his disciples and all those who would believe in their message until the end of time. I just want to add this to the example; Peter explains this mystery in Acts 3:26. He said to the Jews, "God sent his Son Jesus to bless you by turning each of you away from your sins and forgiving them. Blessed is the person whose sins are forgiven." This shows us what happened when Jesus ascended.
Next, let's look at what Christ did when He ascended to Heaven and was exalted there. He certainly fulfilled all the promises He made in His final sermon!
For first, He immediately poured out His Spirit, as the apostle to Titus said, "richly" (Titus 3:6). Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father. This is what you now see and hear, as the apostle said in his first sermon after the ascension, Acts 2:33. He accepted it, and then distributed it. As Ephesians 4:8 says, "He ascended to the heights, and gave gifts to mankind…for the purpose of ministry" (Ephesians 4:15), "…and for the uniting of believers to the growth of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:16), that is, for the conversion of chosen sinners and making them holy. The gifts mentioned there (some of them) are still present today in pastors and teachers. The Spirit is still present in our preaching and in your hearts, prompting you to hear, pray, and understand Christ's love for you. Our sermons and your prayers are evidence that Christ's love for sinners is still the same as it ever was. The Spirit that helps us in all these things comes in Christ's name and works on his behalf. Do any of you feel your hearts moved when these things are preached, now and at other times? Who is it that guides you? It is the Holy Spirit who speaks in Christ's name from heaven, just as it is said that Christ himself "speaks from heaven," (Hebrews 12:25). When you pray, it is the Spirit that composes your prayers and "makes intercession for you" in your own heart (Romans 8:26). This intercession of His is the evidence and echo of Christ's intercession in heaven. The Spirit intercedes for us, because Christ intercedes for us in heaven. He takes the words of Christ and speaks them through us when we pray, as if they were coming from Christ's own mouth or heart. He also accompanies us to the sacrament, and in that glass shows us Christ's face and heart, and helping us to see Him. We leave rejoicing, knowing that we have seen our Savior that day.
Then, secondly, all the works of miracles and conversion of sinners in response to the apostles' prayers are proof of this. Peter's first sermon after Christ's ascension was incredibly successful, with three thousand people being converted by it! The apostles continued to preach about forgiveness through Christ and invited people to him; and there were many signs and wonders that accompanied them to confirm their preaching! And all of these were the results of Christ's intercession in heaven. So that what he promised (John 14:12) as a sign of his care for them in heaven was abundantly fulfilled. When they asked, they did "greater works than he;" as seen in Acts 4:29-30, when Peter prayed. And in Hebrews 2:3-4, the apostle makes an argument of it, asking, "How can we escape if we neglect such a great salvation, which was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, and God also bore witness to them with signs, wonders, and various miracles?" Yes, let me add this: take also the New Testament, and all the promises it contains, and expressions of Christ's love. It was written since Christ's ascension to heaven, by his Spirit, and with his permission. Therefore, you can trust that everything you find in it is from his very heart. And when you consider it, you can be sure that what he said on earth he has not changed now that he is in heaven—his mind remains the same. This should give us great confidence in our faith.
Thirdly, some of the apostles spoke with him afterwards, even many years after his ascension. For example, John and Paul both spoke of him, with Paul having been in heaven with him. They both shared the same message about him.
Paul had no knowledge of Jesus' teachings while he was on earth, and he did not receive the gospel from any human source, be it an apostle or otherwise. Instead, he was given the gospel directly from Jesus Christ himself, as stated in Galatians 1:11-12. Paul was converted by Christ himself, through direct communication and conversation with him, long after Jesus had ascended. And in that one instance, Christ demonstrated his desire to extend mercy to all kinds of sinners until the end of time. The great apostle Paul wrote about this in two places. The first is in 1 Timothy 1:13, "I was a persecutor, a blasphemer," he said, "but I received mercy, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ was exceedingly abundant." He then declared with great enthusiasm, as if it were coming directly from Christ himself, that this is "the most trustworthy statement" ever uttered: "Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I am chief," he said in 1 Timothy 1:15. And to demonstrate that this was the very purpose of Christ in converting Paul, and Paul's purpose in writing to Timothy, the following passage from 1 Timothy 1:16 is evidence: "For this reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display all his patience, as an example for those who would come to believe in him for eternal life." It is clear that this was Christ's intention: "For this very reason," Paul says.
The second piece of evidence I have to support this is the story of Paul's conversion. He includes the exact words that Jesus spoke to him from heaven (Acts 26:16-18): "I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness, to send you to the Gentiles, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Brothers and sisters, these are Jesus' words since he ascended to heaven, and he tells Paul that he appeared to him to testify this. This is what Paul's conversation with him was about.
Sixty years after his ascension, the apostle John received a revelation from Jesus Christ. Even though all the apostles had passed away, this book was still written. The Revelation is said to be "the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:1) in a more immediate manner than any other of the apostles' writings. You can read that Christ made an apparition of himself to John and said, "I am he that was dead, and am alive for evermore," (Revelation 1:18). Now let us take a moment to reflect on Christ's final words, as recorded in the last book of the Bible, Revelation 22:16-17. "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and descendant of David… And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let anyone who hears say, 'Come!' And let anyone who is thirsty come." And whoever desires it, let them take of the water of life freely." These are the words I am citing here. The context of these words was this: Christ had already ascended to heaven and had promised to come back and take us all with Him. Notice the mutual exchange of hearts and desires between Him in heaven and believers on earth. Earth is calling out to heaven, and heaven is calling out to earth, as the prophet said. The bride from earth calls out to Christ, "Come to me!" The Spirit in the hearts of the saints below also says, "Come!" Christ's response echoes from heaven, "Come!" Heaven and earth reverberate with His invitation. "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me; and let anyone who desires, come and drink freely from the waters of life." (Revelation 22:17) This is Christ's invitation to all people on earth. They summon him to come to Earth for judgment, and he invites sinners to come to Heaven to receive his mercy. They cannot want his coming as much as he wants them to come to him. What does this mean? It's almost as if he's saying, "I'm eager to come to you, but I need all of my chosen ones on Earth to come to me first." You want me to come down to you, but I must stay here until everyone the Father has given me comes to me. Then you'll be sure to have me with you soon. You can tell how much I'm longing to be with you by the words I add in Revelation 22:20: "He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming quickly.'" It's almost as if these words slipped out of my mouth, and that makes them even more meaningful to show how much I want to be with you. This book was intended to be a prophecy of the times of the gospel until Jesus' coming. When John had finished the prophetic story, the bride longingly said, "Come." In response, Jesus said the same, "Come," as if to emphasize the importance of his coming. This is similar to Revelation 21:6, but Jesus repeated the words again, as if they were his last. All of this demonstrates how deeply his heart was invested in this part of the gospel, inviting sinners to come to him. As we await the sound of judgment, let us remember his final words. Let them remain with you, as they should be your last thoughts when you come to the end of your life and are going to him.
He speaks something else after them, but what he says is only to confirm the truth of these words and the rest of the Scriptures, which this is the most important part of. To show that these words were meant to be his last, and that he would not speak again until the day of judgment, he also adds a curse to anyone who would "add to them, or take from them." He reiterates his eagerness to come quickly, as stated in Revelation 22:20, once all of his chosen have come to him. This should give us assurance that this is his true desire and that he will remain of the same mind until his return.
And to further emphasize the importance of these words, I'd like to point out that Jesus chose them as the conclusion of many days of preaching. For example, in John 7:37, it says, "On the last day of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted out, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink!'" These words were spoken on the final day of the feast, after which he would not preach to them for a while. He had preached on all the days of the feast, as was his custom, and it was the most important day of the feast, when he had the largest audience. You can see that he chose this as his last sentence of his last sermon then; and when he was giving them something to take with them as a blessing, he said, "If anyone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink." He was referring to believing in him, as stated in John 7:38. He spoke with great force and volume, so that everyone could hear this above all else. And so, in the same way, now too, he is not to speak anymore, but to hold his tongue forever until the day of judgment, and not to write any more Scriptures, He sends His angel to testify to these being His last words. This was done to show His heart in them. These were His last words then, and they will be mine to close this discourse. After all, what more can be said after such words?