This World, That World (7)
Luke 20:34-38 (34) And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: (35) But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: (36) Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. (37) Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. (38) For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him. We have been in our previous meditations noting various ways in which the children of God are equal unto the angels, both in this world and in that world, the world to come (LUK 18:30). The children of God (the regenerate elect) are in this world equal unto the angels in that both are sons of God. The angels are sons of God (JOB 1:6 c/w JOB 38:7) because God created them. God's regenerate elect are sons of God for the same reason: God begat them inwardly by His effectual call making them new creatures vitally (2CO 5:17; GAL 6:15; EPH 2:10), as well as adopting them legally as sons (ROM 8:14-16; GAL 4:4-6). God's elect and the holy angels are also alike now in that they are brethren (REV 22:8-9). They are moreover alike now in that both are subject to cursing for teaching contrary to Paul's gospel (GAL 1:8-9). In that world, the children of God will be like the angels in that they do not die or marry (our text) and will bask together in the same glorious light of God and together worship Him forever. But there are some distinctions between the angelic sons of God and the human sons of God that deserve some mention. In this world, God's elect are not equal unto the angels in that humans are ordained to die (HEB 9:27) and marry (MAT 19:4-6) and on the latter point, it is a devil that would teach otherwise (1TI 4:1-3). God's elect humans are by nature on a lower order of creation than the angels, “...Thou madest him a little lower than the angels...” (HEB 2:6-7); the angels are “...greater in power and might...” (2PE 2:11). But there are certain things in which elect men have benefits and advantages that put them over angels. Men, not angels, were made in the image of God (GEN 1:26; 1CO 11:7; JAM 3:9). And though the omniscient God had prescience that both men and angels would sin, He covenanted beforehand to save only men. When God manifested Himself for the purpose of redemption, it was in flesh: “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels...” (HEB 2:16); “...God was manifest in the flesh...” (1TI 3:16). Jesus Christ is “...the express [truly depicted; exactly resembling, per O.E.D.] image of his person...” (HEB 1:3). His sacrifice was for the salvation of sinful men only; there is no such provision for the angels that sinned who all await the judgment of the last day (JUDE 1:6; MAT 25:41). Those who chafe at the notion of a limited atonement should think on this. Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. He will have mercy on whom He will (ROM 9:14-16). In the person of the resurrected Jesus Christ, a Man reigns over angels: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour...” (HEB 2:9). He “...is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1PE 3:22). As for the purchased elect men, they share in this glorious estate, for God “...hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (EPH 2:6) and the mighty angels are “...all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (HEB 1:14). This glorious good news of salvation highlights another area in which God's elect have an advantage over angels: the gospel is God's communication to His beloved elect and angels are left to wonder at it. This was typified by the fashion of the ark of the covenant in the olden times: the covering of the ark had on it a mercy seat over which two cherubims (representations of angels) were crafted with their wings covering the seat and their faces looking at one another and down towards the mercy seat (EXO 25:18-20). That ark housed the holy law which God gave Israel (EXO 25:21; HEB 9:4-5) which condemns men as sinners because they have not adequate righteousness to satisfy it (GAL 3:10). Thus, the cherubims gazed at mercy covering judgment: the very substance of the gospel (TIT 3:5). As an aside here, it is interesting that the wings would have obscured the priest's view of the mercy seat and of a truth, until the law which was given by the disposition of angels (ACT 7:53; GAL 3:19) was taken away by Christ (COL 2:14), the church was “...shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed” (GAL 3:23), its prophets “Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1PE 1:11). But we have now “...a more sure word of prophecy...” (2PE 1:19). Now these cherubims over the ark therefore formed a picture of a basic trait of God's angels: they are witnesses to the gospel of His salvation of sinful men, but that is all: God's ministers who preach the gospel are said to do so “...with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1PE 1:12). The church's gospel work in this world is a ministry to the angels, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (EPH 3:10)! Paul wasn't kidding when he said, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us IN EVERY PLACE” (2CO 2:14), even heavenly places. But what of that world, the world to come? Gospel ministers like the Apostle Paul were often through their sufferings made “...a spectacle unto the world, and to angels...” (1CO 4:9) but because of Jesus Christ, man, not angels, shall hold sway in glory, “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come...” (HEB 2:5). “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him...” (2TI 2:12), not only through grace while on earth (ROM 5:17) but in glory we “...shall reign for ever and ever” (REV 22:5). And it should be marked that those angelic ministering spirits are specifically said to be “...sent forth to minister FOR them who shall be heirs of salvation” (HEB 1:14). Further, “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?...” (1CO 6:3). On Resurrection Day, Jesus Christ is coming with all His saints that sleep in Him (1TH 4:14), the “...spirits of just men made perfect” (HEB 12:23). “...Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all...” (JUDE 1:14-15). There is a sense in which the righteous judge the unrighteous by simply doing what is right. When Noah obeyed God and prepared the ark, “...he condemned the world...” (HEB 11:7). Condemn means, “To pronounce an adverse judgement on...” (O.E.D.). Similarly, Jesus said that the Ninevites would rise in judgment with the unrepentant Jews of His day and condemn them because the Ninevites had repented at the preaching of Jonah (MAT 12:41). The children of the resurrection on Judgment Day, being deemed righteous in Christ, will at the very least in this manner condemn the angels who rebelled against greater privileges and knowledge than men were given. Believers shall be at Christ's right hand consenting to the proceedings as He pronounces and executes judgment on wicked men and wicked angels (MAT 25:41 c/w REV 20:11-15) who will then be the spectacle. Such is the status of the children of the resurrection in this world and that world: equal unto angels in some ways, unequal in others, but all together reconciled in Christ (COL 1:13-20).