The Importance of a Vital Link with the Ascended Christ – A Reading with Charles A. Coates

 

2 Kings 2:15 – 25

C.A.C. On the moral road marked out in the early part of the chapter there was one who was prepared to go all the way. It suggests that in days of darkness and idolatry and apostasy the Lord will work and is working that there may be in us a readiness not to stop short of the divine end; but that requires that we are preserved in true exercise of heart, that we do not come to be numbered among the sons of the prophets. They were numerically the larger company; Elisha was one and the sons of the prophets many. They represent people who have come into things in a successional way, those whose fathers have had communications from God and have had, according to their measure, the mind of God. The sons of the prophets had a certain distinction in being their successors, but not having acquired things for themselves from God, one feels that they have a particular place in the exercises these chapters suggest to us. They are repeatedly mentioned. We ought to be exercised by what is said of them, for in a certain way we are in their position now. We have all benefited by the prophets who have been raised up, particularly during the last century, and the question arises whether we have come into these precious things through personal exercise and travail of soul and desire of heart or in a successional way. A hundred years ago the thought of the coming of the Lord became very precious and powerfully laid hold of many hearts. Now we have easily come into the truth of it; we can get it from books, that is, in a successional way; and this applies to all truth.

Rem. The sons of the prophets stood afar off, verse 7 says, not “by the Jordan” as Elijah and Elisha did.

C.A.C. Yes, we do not want to be mere lookers-on, do we? The sons of the prophets have a measure of light, a good deal that looks like piety and divine light, but they are not moving with it. They are not those who have taken the journey from Gilgal to Bethel, from Bethel to Jericho, from Jericho to Jordan. That is the spiritual journey which the Lord intends us to take so that we may arrive at the truth of Christ in ascension. Those who have really reached Christ as ascended are ready for His coming: no one else is. None of us need remain merely sons of the prophets. Why were they not prophets themselves? Why not come near to God themselves? That is what He desires for us all. We are all encouraged to desire to prophesy, that is, to have the knowledge of the mind of God and of what is suitable to the moment. All that is now connected with Christ gone into heaven; that is the truth of the moment.

The teachers and leaders of the religious world have lost sight of that truth; they have followed after those who had light from God in former days. I suppose some of the sects began by the work of God in the consciences of some saints desiring to be pleasing to God, but the sons are giving up what the fathers suffered for. I doubt if there is much preaching anywhere of Christ ascended up and glorified, but that is the distinctive truth concerning Christ at the present moment. We hear Christ spoken of in a personal way as dying, and even as risen to give assurance to the believer but the distinctive truth of the moment is Christ ascended and in heaven. We ought to preach that more than we do. The whole truth of the present time hangs upon it, the gift of the Spirit and all He would bring us into. There is no gift of the Spirit from a risen Christ but from an ascended Christ. It should be prominently set forth. There is great infidelity as to it in the christian profession.I believe thousands of believers are exceedingly vague as to the present position of Christ, and what result can be expected other than was seen in Israel when they said, “For this Moses … we do not know what is become of him!” A great many believers do not think of Him at all as an ascended Man, but rather as having gone back into Deity.

Rem. There are many extensive ‘Advent movements’ today.

C.A.C. Yes, but they leave those who take them up perfectly free to remain identified with what is iniquity; they are not movements of separation. If we are not practically a heavenly people there is not much in our speaking about the coming of the Lord.

Rem. In Philippians a good deal is said about the calling on high, and in contrast, of those who mind earthly things. In christendom generally the ascension is accepted as a doctrine but the import of it is not attended to.

C.A.C. O yes! People observe Ascension Day just as we all hold precious truths, but the question is whether we have been affected spiritually by them, or are we, like the sons of the prophets, merely taking them up as what has come down to us?

Ques. The sons of the prophets came and bowed themselves to the ground before Elisha. What is the bearing of that?

C.A.C. They had a form of piety but they were virtually denying the power of it.

Rem. Elisha went back over the whole ground that he had trodden with his master, with the double portion of his spirit upon him. It is significant that as they two stood by Jordan, the sons of the prophets had stood afar off.

C.A.C. The fifty were out of it; they had neither part nor lot in it.

Ques. Is it not strange that Elisha did not endeavour to help the sons of the prophets to a better understanding? He offers no help.

C.A.C. We get the divine help in the section from verse 19. It is very important that we should be available for the service of God in relation to the conditions that are present. The way that works out we find in verses 19 – 22. Here are men who are in genuine exercise as to the prevailing conditions. They are much more in the spiritual line than the sons of the prophets; they were truly concerned about the condition of death and barrenness that was there.

Ques. They are men of the city. Does this suggest to us an exercise about conditions in our several localities?

C.A.C. Yes, it is an important question for us how we can help locally. The Lord has set us where He has so that we may be a blessing there.

Ques. What are the moral conditions suggested in verse 19? Lifelessness, fruitlessness?

C.A.C. Yes. It is suggestive that these men understood that the situation was good, but that it was the water which was bad and the land that was barren.

Ques. Was that the result of the curse?

C.A.C. I daresay it was, but in this section we are not reminded of that. In its application to ourselves it is that we understand that in virtue of the burnt-offering accepted and Christ in heaven there are acceptable conditions even in what lies under the curse.

Rem. All that cannot be understood apart from the assembly. The thoughts of God never came into effect until Christ had gone into heaven.

C.A.C. The position was that the burnt-offering had been accepted for all Israel and in this chapter typically Christ had gone into heaven, so that there was favour for what was under the curse. The world is at present in a favoured position but its springs of satisfaction are defective. Elisha understood the divine remedy for the condition.

Rem. And he goes to the source of the defect.

Ques. What is the thought of the new cruse of salt?

C.A.C. I think it indicates the divine thought of a vessel which is able to contain a preservative element. The new cruse containing salt is the divine way of meeting death and barrenness. God would show men His way of counteracting the impoverished condition by the bringing in of this new vessel. It is a very important part of God’s ways with the world. It has an important bearing on His attitude towards men.

Rem. The epistle to Timothy tells us that there is a vessel here which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth.

C.A.C. Yes, it takes the character of salt.

Rem. It reminds one of “Ye are the salt of the earth”, Matthew 5:13.

C.A.C. Yes, the Lord said that. In principle the Lord introduced in His disciples this preservative principle which preserves in an incorruptible way all that is of God.

Rem. The exercise of these men brings to light the way of divine healing.

C.A.C. They represent a work of God in man which looks for divine healing, life and fruitfulness instead of death and barrenness. There are those around us in whom God has so worked. The question for us is what can we show them, not what can we preach to them. Can we show them elements which God has introduced which are able to counteract all the death and barrenness of this world? We can if we have reached Christ as ascended.

Ques. What is the source of the waters (verse 21)?

C.A.C. Is not that exactly what has to be reached with every one of us? Did not the Lord go to the source of the waters with the woman in John 4? She had been drinking of water that was bad, but He got down to the source and put a new spring there so that the men of the city got an entirely new impression from the woman, different from anything they had had before. In the same way with Nicodemus the Lord traces things back to their source: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness …” John 3:14. That was the source of the trouble, the poison of the serpent.

There is a new vessel on earth which can contain all the influences which are preservative so that the things of God can be preserved in their true value.

Rem. And the things which are preserved in the assembly are going to extend and extend till all the universe is filled with what is for the pleasure of God. The epistle to the Ephesians tells us that principalities and authorities in the heavenlies are to learn in the assembly the all-various wisdom of God.

C.A.C. We get a wonderful thought of the assembly if we look at it from the divine side. It is profitable to look at God’s thought in introducing the assembly — a company of persons filled with divine satisfaction, not admitting anything of corruption. What an influence in a world of evil!

God does not give up His thought. Having introduced the assembly He does not change His mind: He does not allow things to be corrupted: that is His side; our side is to have this principle of salt. The church as a public witness has failed to have this character of the new cruse of salt but it is for us to return in mind and practice to what is of God.

Rem. There is a beautiful picture in Ezekiel 47 of the life-bringing stream beginning at the house of God and increasing steadily in volume as it flows; but the assembly, the house of God, is the starting point for God.

C.A.C. And is there anything which is going to affect people in the world to come which is not in the assembly now?

Rem. Elisha does not credit himself with this act of healing. He says, “Thus saith Jehovah: I have healed these waters”.

C.A.C. Yes, it was a divine operation. The assembly as the new cruse is entirely the work of God, really a new creation.

Rem. Elisha says, “Bring me a new cruse”. I wondered if it suggested a subjective state, not merely something passive.

C.A.C. Yes, in considering all this we are to see that what is suggested to us typically is something very different from what the sons of the prophets were going on with. They were infidel to the operations of God, and the closing verses are a solemn warning of what will be the result. That principle produces a generation who mock and that generation is rapidly increasing; it is a generation which will be the just subjects of cursing. The teaching which is current now by those who are in the position of the sons of the prophets is bringing evil influences to bear so that a generation is rising up prepared to scoff at everything connected with the revelation of God.

Elisha had been with Elijah at both Jericho and Bethel and he knew how to act at both places. To have a correct understanding of a position we need to have been with the Lord there so as to know how to act under different circumstances. We need to view all from the point of view of His ascension.

Rem. Coming from Bethel these children should have known better. They were the more responsible.

C.A.C. So it is today. A christendom full of bibles is a serious place in which to live.

Rem. Peter tells us that in the last days shall come scoffers. It is the moral result of things being taken up in a successional way without faith and without exercise.

Ques. What have you to say about the prophet returning to Samaria?

C.A.C. I suppose it shows that God had not altogether given up Samaria. It is striking that God is patiently going on with so much that is abhorrent to Him, continuing His testimony through His prophet; and that not in Judah, but in Israel even in that part of it which had departed from Him; but He had not yet departed from them. The prophetic testimony was still being continued in apostate conditions. It very much answers to the present time. God is bearing testimony to His own thoughts in presence of all that is idolatrous and apostate.

Ques. I suppose we must see that even in a dispensation of grace curse has place under certain circumstances? “If any one love not the Lord Jesus Christ let him be Anathema Maranatha”, 1 Corinthians 16:22.

C.A.C. The brightest light casts the darkest shadow. We have here a picture of the doom of apostasy, a generation only fit to be cursed. If people mock at all that is of God, at all that is connected with translation or ascension, it is the climax of evil. No people that ever lived on the earth have ever had such an opportunity before of being so wicked as they have today. One can hardly conceive of anything more horrible than to scoff against Christ as ascended. There is nothing so wicked as to make that a subject of scoffing. It will bring down the deserved judgment of God. Apostasy is departure from what is known; that is what makes it so terrible.

29 March 1939

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