|Crown Him with many crowns,
The King upon His Throne.|
When the time came for our Blessed Lord to return into Heaven again, He ascended in the presence of His Apostles, whilst in the act of blessing them; |and a cloud received Him out of their sight| (Acts i.9). And, we are told, they |returned to Jerusalem with great joy| (S. Luke xxiv.52), not sorrowing as before at His being taken from them. And when we consider what His Ascension implied, we can see that they had good reason for their joy. For the Ascension was the sign of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus to His Mediatorial Throne at God's right hand.
When He was before the Jewish Council He had declared to them, |Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power.| And the High Priest, hearing these words, cried out, |He hath spoken blasphemy| (S. Matt. xxvi.64, 65); because he understood that He was thus openly claiming to be Messiah -- the King -- of whom David had said, |The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool| (Ps. cx.1). And inasmuch as He had previously silenced the Pharisees with these same words, asking them to explain how David could speak of Messiah as |my Lord| (S. Matt. xxii.44; S. Mark xii.36; S. Luke xx.42), when He was to be the Son of David, we can see that the importance of this passage is very great. And that for two reasons. First, as testifying that Christ should be no mere human descendant of David, because David calls Him Lord; and, secondly, as foretelling the Ascension of Christ to the Throne at God's right hand. And not only do all the three first Gospels record the use which He made of this verse to silence the Jews; but we find also that S. Peter on the day of Pentecost, and also S. Paul in his Epistles to the Corinthians and to the Hebrews (Acts ii.34; 1 Cor. xv.25; Heb. i.13, x.13), quoted it in support of their arguments that our Lord was exalted to His Throne. The Apostles argued in this way; David had thus clearly foretold the Ascension of Christ, and that His Ascension would be to the Throne of power, at the right hand of God. Therefore, inasmuch as He had ascended into Heaven, His Ascension was clearly the fulfilment of the prophecy, in order that He might make His solemn entry upon His kingly office, and be seated on His Throne. The Ascension was the last crowning proof that Jesus was Messiah -- the King of the house of David -- the |Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek| (Ps. cx.4), that is, |King of Righteousness| and |King of Peace| (Heb. vii.2).
In other words, the Apostles maintained that the Ascension of our Lord was the act whereby He ascended the Throne of |The Kingdom of Heaven,| the Mediatorial Kingdom of Messiah. And this is the testimony which they have given under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. God |raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church| (Ephes. i.20-22). And we are assured that the Ascension of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, implied that He has won the right of sovereignty over all the world; and that all mankind are summoned to bow before Him, and accept Him as their King. For, because |He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross,| therefore |God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord| (Phil. ii.8-11).
But for the successful setting up of |The Kingdom of Heaven| two things were still needed. First, the overthrow of the enemies of Messiah's Kingdom; and secondly, the gift of the Holy Ghost, to induce men to be willing to submit themselves to the spiritual rule of our Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently when the King had ascended the Throne, and all mankind had been given Him as His subjects, He was |from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool| (Ps. cx.1; Heb. x.13). All who are set against |The Kingdom of Heaven| must in the end be subdued before Him. And no doubt the wicked amongst men who oppose His rule will, if they turn not, be included amongst these enemies. And yet we must never forget that these belong really to the number of those who were given to Him as His subjects. This is one of the mysteries of the Gospel, that |whilst we were yet sinners Christ died for us| (Rom. v.8), and |when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son| (Rom. v.10); so that we are assured that the King in His loving mercy would have the wicked not |under His footstool,| but amongst the sharers of His glory. But there are other enemies which will certainly be subdued in God's own time; and they are the spiritual powers of evil which are hindering men from being His subjects. He will |put down all rule and all authority and power| (1 Cor. xv.24) arrayed against Him; even |the principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this world| (Ephes. vi.12), by which His subjects are assailed. |For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet| (1 Cor. xv.25).
But the destruction of His foes is not the only, nor the chief result of His Ascension. When the King ascended the Throne of |The Kingdom of Heaven,| |He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men| (Eph. iv.8), even the gifts by which men might be brought to submit themselves to His spiritual rule, and be saved by Him. And inasmuch as only the Holy Ghost can change the heart, and make men such as He had described His subjects to be, He had previously explained to His Apostles that there was one gift on which all future success depended, the gift of |the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost| (S. John xiv.26). And He had assured them, |It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you| (S. John xvi.7).
They did not understand the words at the time when they were spoken; but at the time of the Ascension they knew that they were to |wait for the promise of the Father| (Acts i.4), of which He had told them; and to |tarry in the city of Jerusalem until| they were |endued with power from on high| (S. Luke xxiv.49). Ten days of watching, suspense, and prayer followed. At last, |when the day of Pentecost was fully come, suddenly there came a sound from Heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance| (Acts ii.1-4). Hitherto the little band of believers had numbered |about an hundred and twenty| (Acts i.15) in Jerusalem. But now that the Holy Ghost was given, who could move the hearts of men and change them, the Apostles found themselves endued with the promised |power from on high,| which should give weight to their testimony; and the vast multitude, who assembled to listen to S. Peter's sermon, were |pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?| (Acts ii.37).
The previous instructions which had been given them about |the things pertaining to the Kingdom| (Acts i.3) were now to be put into practice. The Apostles had the answer ready: |Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise| -- of the Holy Ghost, who alone can change the heart and make men to be born again as the children of God -- is not to us only, said the Apostle, but |is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words,| besides those which are recorded, |did he testify| to the truth about the Lord Jesus being Messiah, the King; and with such force did he |exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation,| that three thousand |gladly received his word and were baptized| (Acts ii.38-41), as subjects of |The Kingdom of Heaven.|
Thus the Kingdom was established amongst men by the power of the Holy Ghost. A spiritual Kingdom, but none the less a Kingdom upon earth. A spiritual Kingdom, not established by any power of man, and not belonging to this world; and yet a Kingdom of which men and women and little children were the subjects; |The Kingdom of Heaven| as described by our Lord in His parables and discourses.
And the Kingdom having been thus established amongst men, from this time we find a special name was given to it. Henceforth |The Kingdom of Heaven| becomes |the Church.| It was a word which our Lord Himself had occasionally used with reference to His Kingdom, as when He said, |Upon this rock I will build my Church| (S. Matt. xvi.18); but it now became the common expression. Thus when a persecution broke out against the Christians, it was thus described, |As for Saul, he made havoc of the Church| (Acts viii.3). So Herod |stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church| (Acts xii.1); and when S. Peter was imprisoned, |prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him| (Acts xii.5). And throughout the Book of the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles it is almost always used as the name of the body of believers or subjects of |The Kingdom of Heaven.|
At the same time, in order that there might be no doubt that the Apostles were simply carrying on their Lord's preaching of |the Gospel of the Kingdom| (S. Matt. iv.23), and that |The Church| which they founded was in very deed |The Kingdom of Heaven,| in certain passages describing the character of their preaching we still find a reference to the Kingdom. Thus, when Philip preached the Gospel to the Samaritans, his work is described in these words, |When they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the Kingdom of God, and the Name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women| (Acts viii.12). And a similar instance occurs respecting the preaching of the great Apostle to the Gentiles, S. Paul. The whole of the latter half of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles is filled with the record of the extension of the Church by the labour of S. Paul in the various lands he visited. And he himself continually uses the word |Church,| both in his addresses recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and in his Epistles to the Churches. Thus, for instance, to the Elders whom he had ordained to take charge of the Church at Ephesus, he says, |Feed the Church of God which He hath purchased with His own Blood| (Acts xx.28). And yet when the general character of his preaching is described, it is still spoken of as the good news of the Kingdom. For to these same Elders S. Paul says, |And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the Kingdom of God, shall see my face no more| (Acts xx.25). And the last record of him leaves him at Rome |preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, no man forbidding him| (Acts xxviii.31).
We may now briefly sum up the results of the Ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In ascending into heaven He was fulfilling the prophecy, to which special prominence had been given in His discourses with His opponents, |The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool| (Ps. cx.1). He was thus ascending the Throne of the Mediatorial Kingdom of Messiah -- |The Kingdom of Heaven| -- and having ascended in triumph, |He gave gifts unto men.| And upon receiving the great gift which He had promised -- even the Holy Ghost -- the Apostles became endued with the power, by which alone |The Kingdom of Heaven| could be founded upon earth, and be extended amongst men. And, from that day forward, |The Kingdom of Heaven| may be said to have been established. And as the Apostles went forth preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God, and believers were multiplied, we find that, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the word |Church| was used to express this body of the faithful. And the name thus used in those early days of |The Kingdom of Heaven,| has been generally applied to it ever since.
Thus we are brought face to face with the practical importance of the teaching of our Blessed Lord about |The Kingdom of Heaven.| |The Kingdom of Heaven| is |The Church of Christ.| The subjects are ourselves.
See Pearson on the Creed, pp.283, 285.
It is sometimes said that the Kingdom was founded by our Lord in the call of His Apostles. But inasmuch as He spoke of it as being still in the future, when He said to Peter, |Upon this rock I will build My Church| (S. Matt. xvi.18), and expressly declared that the Baptism of the Spirit was the appointed means of entering into it (S. John iii.5), it seems more accurate to say that our Lord founded His Kingdom on this day, through the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles. For thus His words which specially applied to their own cases were fulfilled, |Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost| (Acts i.5; S. Matt. iii.11); and the gift was then handed on to others in the appointed way, by which they also might be brought into the one Body (1 Cor. xii.13).