The Mystery of Godliness

1 Timothy 3:16
Dr. David Harrell | Bio
December, 24 2006

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After examining the two-fold priority of the church and the seven mysteries revealed in the New Testament, this exposition examines the six stanzas contained in this ancient hymn which together summarize the essential elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Mystery of Godliness

Each transcript is a rough approximation of the message preached and may occasionally misstate certain portions of the sermon and even misspell certain words. It should in no way be considered an edited document ready for print. Moreover, as in any transcription of the spoken word, the full intention and passion of the speaker cannot be fully captured and will in no way reflect the same style of a written document.

It is my joy to open up the Word of God to you. We will go to a text that is not often associated with Christmas, but as you will see could be and should be. Turn to 1 Timothy 3:16. I’ve entitled my sermon “The Mystery of Godliness.” Let me read the text. “And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Beheld by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.” Whenever I ponder the incarnation of Christ I quickly find myself lost in the wonder of it all. To think that the infinite chasm between God and man was united through the God/Man Christ Jesus is a concept that is hard to fathom. To think that God became like us, to think that the Creator became like His creation, that is incomprehensible. And for what purpose? That is even more remarkable. The answer is to pay a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.

This of course is the gospel. It is a truth that is impossible for men to embrace by faith apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit of God, because it is the Spirit of God who causes men to see their sin, to see the need for a Savior, to repent of that sin, to walk in newness of life, and only then by the power of the Spirit of God will man believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Only then will he be able to grasp the reality that Jesus came in the flesh, fully God and fully man; that He lived a perfect life; that He died in our place and became the satisfaction of divine wrath, paying the penalty for our sin. And then to think that God raised Him from the dead, these are the glorious truths of the gospel. They tend to escape the vast majority of people, especially at Christmas which can be so clouded with all the festivities and materialism. It’s easy to forget the good tidings of great joy that we read about in Luke 2:11 when the angel appeared to the shepherds and said, “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people: for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

In my discourse I will invite you to join with me in meditating upon the marvels of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. But also to think about the implications of it that are summarized in the text that we have just read in 1 Timothy 3:16. I trust that our hearts will be lifted up to a new level of wisdom as well as worship, for indeed wisdom is meaningless unless it leads us to more worship. In the text, in an economy of words, the Holy Spirit has set forth a comprehensive summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, the essence of the entire New Testament is contained here in this one verse, what we believe to be a sacred song that was sung in the first century by the saints. You need to think of this text as the lyrics to a hymn. You’ll want to see this as concentrated truth, as all great hymns should be. Concentrated truths that require us to meditate upon them and as we do so, they unfold even more of the glories of God and the riches of salvation. Doctrine is to the soul what food is to the body. Certainly a Christian will never be sustained in the Christian life, nor will he or she ever grow in the Christian life apart from an ever increasing understanding of the life-giving Words of God. We see them in Bible doctrine. The Lord has said in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” And as you will recall, Peter has told us in 1 Peter 2:2 that we are to be, “Like newborn babies” longing for mother’s milk, we must “long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” So, to avoid leaving you in spiritual infancy, floundering around as many people do, I will once again invite you to meditate on these magnificent truths found in the Word of God.

Let me give you the context. Paul has just instructed Timothy in verse 15 concerning the twofold priority of the church. First the church is to be “the household of God…the church of the living God.” In other words, the church is an assembly or a family of people in which God is to dwell in honor and dignity. We should be a habitation like unto the holy of holies in the Old Testament where the resplendent glory of His presence and the power of His holiness is never diminished by our character nor by our conduct. We are to be a spiritual house that is set on a hill for all to see the glories of His mercy and the riches of His grace. We are to be a place where God abides, where He is always visible as owner, not as guest.

Also, Paul has instructed Timothy, and therefore all of us, regarding the church, to be “the pillar and support of the truth.” The church is to be a place where truth is protected and proclaimed. It is to be a spiritual structure whose foundation is the truth of the infallible record of holy writ, of the Bible. It is to be a pillar. The pillars in those days were often the honorary tributes to people, to various kings. Likewise the church should be a pillar that is an honorary tribute that holds up the lofty roof that would exalt the majesty and the glory and the splendor of the triune God. We are the Church. We are the ones who should proclaim the gospel. Together we are to fulfill this divine imagery. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can.

Now in order for there to be no doubt about the contents of the essentials of the truth that we are to proclaim, and that we are to protect, the Holy Spirit summarizes them in six small sentences, each carefully stated in the original language in poetic form. I believe, as do many others, that this particular text was written to be the lyrics of a hymn. It was a memory device designed to help us remember the substance, the essentials of our faith. I might remind you that in ancient days in oriental poetry, they were not concerned as we typically are, with thoughts that are organized around meter and rhyme. Rather, they focused on various thought patterns of parallel comparisons and/or contrasts that would be used to emphasize essential truths about a subject.

Bear with me as I get a bit technical, but I want you to see the riches of this text. Here for example we see, first of all, the uniformity of six verbs that are used, all third person singular aorist, or past tense verbs, all being a reference to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Notice he says, “He who was…revealed…vindicated…beheld…proclaimed…believed…taken up.” I also read it in Greek a number of times and I discovered there was an obvious rhythm to it. In fact, there was even a bit of a rhyme to it. But thirdly you can see in this text three marvelous parallels of comparison and contrast. First between the Christ being manifested in the flesh in line one and vindicated by the Spirit in line two. Secondly we see another parallel between the sight of angels in line three and the hearing of nations in line four. And thirdly we see where Christ in His humiliation is believed on in the world in line five and glorified in His ascension back into glory in line six, a comparison there between earth and heaven.

Fourthly, we can also see three pairs of truth revealed to us in this text. We can see that the first and the last lines contrast Christ’s descent to earth in line one, and His ascent to heaven in line six. The second and fifth lines exalt the Holy Spirit’s affirmation of Jesus Christ’s deity in line two where He is vindicated in the Spirit, but also the Spirit’s work of regeneration in line five where He is believed on in the world. Also lines three and four underscore the universal proclamation of God’s redemptive plan which is seen by angels in line three and it’s proclaimed among the nations in line four.

Beloved, I would submit to you that the uniformity found in these stanzas are not by accident, but revealed by God Himself. For this reason we should examine them with an attitude of reverence and a heart of unending praise. In fact, I would suggest that maybe next year we make a banner to hang that would have this text upon it. In fact, it would make a very nice banner to hang in your house all year long, but especially to have it hung around the nativity scene. My, what a conversation piece that would be, for people to come in and say, “What is this all about?” And you’d reply, “Oh, I’m so glad you asked. Let me tell you about my Savior and my Lord.”

Now, what does all of this mean? First there needs to be a bit further introduction before we examine these six essentials of the truth of our faith. Notice the beginning of verse 16, “and by common confession great is the mystery of godliness.” What is this concept of a mystery? Surely God is not speaking of some obscure, unintelligible, ethereal, philosophy that could only be understood by some initiated few, by some elite spiritual people. Of course not. This is a clear, concise summary of historical facts revealed by God. What you must understand is that when we read of a mystery in the New Testament, it is a reference to divine truth once hidden in previous ages, but now revealed in the New Testament. In other words, these are truths that people in the Old Testament did not understand, so it was a mystery in that sense to them. These are essential facts, essential truths in our understanding of God’s plan of redemption.

The great English theologian Matthew Henry said this about a mystery back in the seventeenth century. “Christianity is a mystery, a mystery that could not have been found out by reason or the light of nature, and which cannot be comprehended by reason, because it is above reason, though not contrary thereto. It is a mystery, not of philosophy or speculation; but of godliness, designed to promote godliness; and herein it exceeds all the mysteries of the Gentiles. It is also a revealed mystery, not shut up and sealed; and it does not cease to be a mystery because now in part revealed.”

I believe, as I’ve studied the Scriptures, that there are seven primary categories of mysteries described in the New Testament. Let me give them to you briefly before we focus more exclusively on this text. First of all, there is the mystery of the incarnation that we read about in 1 Timothy 3:16, and we will understand more about that in a moment. Secondly, it speaks of the mystery of the kingdom of God in Mark 4:11, also called “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” in Matthew 13:11. This is a reference to the sphere of God’s dominion over all the people who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. It includes both a spiritual kingdom where God rules in the hearts of believers, but it also is a reference to a future physical or earthly kingdom in which Christ will come and reign and establish Himself as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Thirdly there is the mystery of the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the Church, which is the body of Christ. We read about that in Ephesians 3:4-6. That’s also called “they mystery of the gospel” in Ephesians 6:19 and the mystery of Christ indwelling believers, called “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” in Colossians 1:26-27. Fourthly, in the New Testament, we read of the mystery of the intimate and permanent union between Christ and His Church that is reflected in the sacred bond of marriage. We read about that in Ephesians 5:32. Fifthly, there is the mystery of the partial hardening of Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in and so all Israel will be saved. We read about that in Romans 11:25-26.

There is also, sixthly, the mystery of lawlessness that is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:7. That is a reference to not only the satanic spirit of lawlessness that currently exists in the world today, but also a spirit of lawlessness that will cause what we see today to pale into utter insignificance in a future time when there will be an unprecedented explosion of opposition to God. A season when one man called the Antichrist will become the embodiment of lawlessness just before our Lord’s second coming. This is a mystery that has not yet fully been fulfilled. And finally there is the mystery of the rapture of the Church. We read about that in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. By the way, that was first mentioned by our Lord in John 14:1-3. He talks about how He has gone away to prepare a place for us and that He is going to come again and receive us unto Himself, that where He is there we may be also. The rapture then is explained much more in great detail in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.

As a footnote, it is crucial for us to remember that the mysteries of our faith revealed in Scripture are always spiritual truths, spiritual wisdom that has been given to us by the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 we read that this is not something that the world has conjured up but that God has revealed to us. There we read, “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.”

It’s amazing that God would reveal to us as sinful creatures the essentials of His plan to save those who would believe. To think that this great treasure of spiritual wisdom, of gospel truth, has been entrusted to us. Entrusted to us the Church, the “household of God…the pillar and support of the truth.” This is especially important for ministers of the gospel. And to those ministers that are now listening I would especially encourage you to listen very carefully, because this is an exceedingly weighty responsibility. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, the apostle Paul says, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” Mystery here is used in the broadest sense to refer to the divine truths of the New Testament entrusted to God-ordained messengers of that gospel. We now have the full disclosure of these once-hidden truths because the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.

The Word has been given to us in the New Testament. It is our responsibility to be dedicated to a clear, concise, bold proclamation of the mysteries of God—especially in the pulpit. The pulpit, this sacred desk, is no place for silly stories. It is no place for joking around. There are other places where we can do that, but not here. That is not the stewardship responsibility that God has entrusted to ministers of the gospel. We are messengers of the most high God. We are not to be entertainers. We are not hosts of musical extravaganzas. We are called to preach the Word. We are not entrepreneurs that are seeking to build some type of ministry empire, nor are we politicians that are trying to solve all the problems of the world. We are not to be peaceniks pontificating on themes of tolerance. Nor are we self-appointed prophets pretending to be purveyors of new revelation. We are to be stewards of the mysteries of God. God expects us to be found trustworthy. He expects us to be faithful. When we enter into a place that calls itself a church, it is reasonable to assume that we should hear a faithful messenger of the gospel, a faithful steward, proclaiming the mysteries of God to equip the saints for the work of service as Paul said in Ephesians 4:12-15, to build up the body of Christ “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…as a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness and deceitful scheming, but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ.”

Back to 1 Timothy 3:16. Paul here speaks of the mystery of godliness which is a parallel to the mystery of faith which we read in verse 9. This is a reference to the mystery of our salvation purchased by the godly one, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the merits of His life and His sacrificial death, provides all who believe in Him a means to likewise become godly. Of course these were truths not fully disclosed to Old Testament saints. In verse 16 he says, “and (this amazing mystery is) by common confession.” In other words, this is a unanimous belief by all who name the name of Christ. That is to say the saving truths of the gospel are exceedingly obvious to all who believe, who have read the Word, who have been transformed by the power of the Spirit of God. There’s no dispute here. There should be no question. And those who do quarrel with the essential truths of the gospel, those who contradict the principles of salvation, prove that they have no part of the church of Jesus Christ.

Let’s examine these glorious stanzas more closely. First the mystery of godliness. Notice that it is founded upon, “He who was revealed in the flesh.” This is obviously a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that He came to us in the flesh is not a mystery. That is an indisputable truth. Certainly that is the source of eternal rejoicing for all that love Christ. It’s a historical fact. But folks, how He came is still an inscrutable mystery. When you think how our eternal, self-existent God who is a Spirit, who is a consuming fire, who dwells in unapproachable light, how He could take on human flesh is an inscrutable mystery. It is worthy of only our humble adoration. To try to explain that is not only an exercise in futility, but it is an act of arrogance, assuming that somehow we have the mind of God. Here we have the foundation of our salvation, the wellspring of our redemption. This is what Christmas should be all about. The miracle of Christ’s condescension: coming in the flesh so that sinful man could be reconciled to God by trusting in Christ alone as Savior. Because He alone came to be the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sin, to die in our place, to blaze the way to glory, to defeat Satan and sin and death and to become our sympathetic high priest and on and on.

You must remember that nothing but perfect righteousness could possibly satisfy the penalty for violating perfect holiness. So no mere mortal conceived in sin could possibly appease the wrath of God. So God Himself had to furnish a substitute, and that was His Son, the Lord Jesus. In fact in Hebrews 10 we read that in eternity past the Father prepared a human body for the Son, a body that would never be tainted by sin. He would not have a sin nature, and would be therefore One who could become that perfect sacrifice to satisfy His holy justice. This of course was the will of the Father that Jesus would come to do that will, knowing perfectly well that when He came He was taking upon Himself, as Paul said in Philippians 2:7-8, “the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

We see more of this incredible reality in Hebrews 2:9 where we read that, “(He) has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” Again, to think that He came not just to die, but to die for us. To die in our stead, to die as a human being, as a man, He became our substitute. It is for this reason that the babe in the manger had to be born of a virgin, in order for Him to be both the Son of Man, and conceived by the Holy Spirit, to be the Son of God as well, Immanuel, God with us. The son of a virgin according to the flesh, but Immanuel, God with us according to the Spirit. So Jesus had to take upon Himself the nature of man in order to be punished for our sin, yet He also had to be God in order to endure the sufferings of all of the elect. The work of redemption therefore demanded a theanthropon, a God-man. One who could supernaturally fuse the human nature and the divine together to form an indissoluble bond.

That great Puritan theologian Francis Turretin said this back in the seventeenth century. “Both natures should be associated that in both conjoined, both the highest weakness of humanity might exert itself for suffering and the highest power and majesty of the divinity might exert itself for the victory.” The mystery of the incarnation was concealed in the Old Testament in ritual and in sacrifice. But it was revealed in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Because He lived and died as a man, He could therefore identify with all of our temptations, with all of our pain, all of our adversities. Therefore we read in Hebrews 4:15-16, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” Understanding these truths are utterly essential to salvation. Understanding that the veil of the Old Testament that separated sinful man from the holy presence of God in the holy of holies has now been rent. We now have access into the throne room of God. What comfort we can find, knowing the mystery of godliness. All who know the One who was revealed in the flesh rejoice in this incredible truth.

Secondly, we read of the One who “was vindicated in the Spirit.” Vindicated here means to justify, to declare righteous. The word Spirit could be either capitalized or not. Both would be correct. Spirit could be a reference to the Holy Spirit, which would be capitalized. Or to the righteous spirit or the spiritual nature of Jesus. Certainly the spiritual nature of Christ vindicated Him in that He was, according to Hebrews 7:26, “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens.” But also, Jesus lived out His life on earth, and in living out that perfect life, He was vindicated or declared righteous by the ongoing power or agency of the third member of the triune godhead, the Holy Spirit who sustained Him. Although Jesus of Nazareth was despised by men, the Holy Spirit declared His perfect righteousness in several ways as we look at the New Testament. We know that the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove out of heaven at His baptism and a voice cried out from heaven declaring, “This is my beloved Son!”

We also know that the Spirit of God led Him up into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. There we read how He sustained Him. We can also read in Scripture how the Holy Spirit has proclaimed the glory of Christ in His Word, especially with reference to the Lord’s transfiguration on the mount when the resplendent glory of God emanated from His person. We also see His ultimate declaration of perfect righteousness in His resurrection from the dead. In fact, in Romans 1:4 we read that “(Jesus) was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness.” And then again we see the Holy Spirit that came upon the saints at Pentecost. Remember how He descended upon them with a noise like a violent, rushing wind and caused them to speak the Word of God in languages they had not known before. Child of God, we do not worship an imposter. We do not worship some false Christ. We worship One who has been supernaturally vindicated, supernaturally declared righteous by the Holy Spirit Himself.

This takes us to the third stanza of the mystery of godliness. We also see that He was, “Beheld by angels.” This is a fascinating thought. The glorious angels that God created that hover around His throne have never been able to look fully at His glory. We know that they say, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” in Isaiah 6. We know also that they cover their faces with their wings. We don’t know fully what all of that means, but somehow there’s an indication that they are not allowed to see the glory of God. They are unable to look upon the consuming glory of the Lord that they serve, but to think that they are now, in Christ’s incarnation, suddenly allowed to get a small glimpse of the second member of the triune godhead the Lord Jesus Christ, who took upon Himself flesh. And to think that the first glimpse of that One whom they serve was that of Him being born of a virgin, wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger. What an inconceivable mystery that must have been to those angels who saw Him that first time.

Later we know that the angels would minister to Him in the wilderness of temptation. We know as we read the New Testament that the angels witness His perfect life, His selfless ministry, His zeal for His Father’s house, His compassion, His supernatural power over all that He has created. They witness His power over Satan and his minions. We know that these angels beheld Him in the garden of Gethsemane, and tended to Him there. We know that they watched in amazement while He hung upon a cross. We also know that they rolled away the stone from His tomb, not to let Jesus out but to let us in and to say to the women, “He is risen.” Indeed, the Lord Jesus who came in the flesh, who has been vindicated by the Spirit has been and continues to be, seen by the angels. We know also that the fallen angels even beheld His glory. You may remember in 1 Peter 3 Jesus pays a special visit to those demons that are bound in the pit in a special prison that He has for some exceedingly wicked demons. When He went there He announced His victory over Satan and sin and death. We read about that in Colossians 2:15 as well. We also know that the holy angels were even involved in Jesus’ ascension back into heaven. So what joy fills my heart to know that the angels still behold their Creator and continue to do His bidding and minister to us on His behalf.

Ah, but dear friends, the mystery of godliness does not stop here. The One who was revealed in the flesh, the One who was vindicated in the Spirit, the One who was beheld by angels, is also “proclaimed among the nations.” Indeed we know that we have all been commanded to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,” in Matthew 28, the great commission. We are to, according to Acts 1:8, be His “witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The mystery of godliness is not reserved for some select few, but it is a glorious gospel that is proclaimed across the world and is available to all. I was struck once again by the method that is mentioned here. It is to be proclaimed, literally it is to be preached. The mystery of godliness is to be preached. As I said earlier, preaching is not storytelling, it’s not joke telling, it’s not politicking, nor is it merely reading Scripture and discussing it, which is the new method employed by some of the misguided home church people. I have to say, whatever happened to preaching? Why can’t you turn on the television today and hear preaching? Why all the shows?

I think of that prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, who said this about this great mystery that is to be preached, over one hundred-fifty years ago. “The church is ever to maintain this great, uncontroverted mystery, that the setting forth of Christ to the Gentiles is to be by preaching, and not by any other means of man’s devising…Christ is to be preached among the Gentiles: the appointed way of manifesting the incarnate God to the sons of men is by preaching—the church must always maintain this. The strongest castle of the walls of Zion for offense and defense must ever be the pulpit. God is pleased by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe…The most prominent agency in the church of God is the preaching of Christ—this is the trumpet of heaven and the battering-ram of hell! By this door salvation comes, for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, and how shall they hear without a preacher?...O that preaching might once again be recognized to be God’s power unto salvation, and used everywhere—in the church, in the lecture hall, in the street—in foreign lands and at home; for the voice of truth in the preaching of Jesus is the great power of God.”

May God raise up men who will preach the Word. For men who will preach the mystery of godliness. That the mystery of godliness will fill the earth as the stars fill the heavens, proclaiming to the nations the One who was revealed in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, beheld by angels, and by God’s grace we see in this fifth stanza, “believed on in the world.” This is the staggering result of preaching. For indeed the gospel, when we preach it, when we’re not ashamed of it, Paul said it is “the power of God unto salvation.” May we never underestimate the power of the gospel of Christ that can be believed on in the world. As you think about it, though the message of sin and the cross will be foolishness to most, it will nonetheless save many. It saved me. It has saved many if not most of you, I pray all of you. Because of this, we should never be ashamed of the gospel. We should never try to soften its force. We should never try to blunt its edge. We should never try to compromise its truth to make it seeker friendly, or seeker sensitive as some people call it.

Rather we should proclaim it with all its purity and watch what it does! You will watch drunkards become preachers. You will watch fornicators and dope fiends and murderers become faithful servants of God. You will find at times whole nations of sinners becoming saints, worshiping the most high God. Oh the mystery of godliness. What a joy to know its truth. What a remarkable thing to witness its power to save those who believe in the One who was “taken up in glory.” We see this in the final stanza. Because Jesus had perfectly fulfilled the Father’s will, because He had obeyed His Father, because His work on earth was finished, because He had made purification for sins, we know that He ascended back into glory. We know according to Hebrews 1:3 that “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

In Acts 1:9-10 we have an historical account of His ascension. Here’s what the Spirit of God tells us in this text. “After Jesus had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky which He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’” Oh, dear child of God, what hope we have in Christ. I pray that this ancient hymn that summarizes the gospel that has saved us will be held in the very forefront of your heart and mind. That the glory of God will emanate from all that you do and all that you say. That people will see Christ in you, the hope of glory.

I want to close with the words of a hymn that has profound meaning regarding the beauty of heaven, the glory of God, and the fact that the great beauty of God’s glory is the Lamb who died for us and who now reigns in our hearts, and someday upon the earth and who will come again and take us unto Himself. It was a hymn written by Anne Cousin in 1857. It’s entitled, “The Sands of Time are Sinking.” Here’s how it goes.

The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of heaven breaks,
The summer morn I’ve sighed for, the fair sweet morn awakes;
Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land.

The king there in his beauty without a veil is seen;
It were a well-spent journey though sev’n deaths lay between:
The Lamb with his fair army doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land.

O Christ, he is the fountain, the deep sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted, more deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness his mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land.

The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory, but on my King of grace;
Not at the crown he giveth, but on his pierced hand:
The lamb is all the glory of Emmanuel’s land.