Up, Up and Away

Bible Book: Psalms  24
Subject: Resurrection; Easter; Rapture
Introduction

A mother was telling her daughter that granddaddy had gone to be with Jesus. She shared that the Lord had prepared a nice place for granddaddy and that he had moved into his new place. She went on to tell her little girl that one day Jesus would come to get them too. The little girl inquired, "When will Jesus come to get us, mommy?" The mother explained that we do not know the hour or the day. The little girl looked quizzical. The mother asked if something was bothering her about all of this. The little girl said wisely, "Mom, I was just thinking. If Jesus is coming to get us, and we don't know when, don't you think we ought to get ready?"

Indeed, we ought to be ready. For the Savior who rose on that first Easter Sunday morning, and ascended into Heaven, is going to come again for His own. Jesus got up from the tomb, then He got up on a cloud. He was "Up, Up and Away". But He did leave His presence with those who receive Him. We know that presence as the Holy Spirit. But, one day, one glorious day, we are going to see Him! We, too, shall go "Up, Up and Away."

I want us to take a moment this morning to look at an Old Testament passage which will help us appreciate the significance of the resurrection, ascension and the return of our Lord. It may seem strange to turn to an Old Testament passage on Easter Sunday morning. Yet, the passage before us is brimming with blessings related to the resurrection of our Lord. So, turn with me to Psalm 24.

First, let’s get the background to this Psalm. In Old Testament days there was a time when the Ark of God was in the hands of idol worshiping pagans called Philistines. Remember, the Ark symbolized the very presence of God with His people. The Ark was a box covered with gold. Two angelic figures were on the top of the box. And some items were in the box. The Ark sat in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. It was viewed as the seat of God. It was more sacred to the people of God than I can describe to you today. So, I cannot explain to you the agony the people felt when the Ark was taken. It was just like God had removed Himself from His own people.

The day the Ark fell into the hands of the Philistines a baby boy was born among the people of God. The mother named the boy "Ichabod," which means, "The glory of God has departed from Israel." The glory of God was gone.

That is exactly how the disciples felt when Jesus was crucified and buried. They felt the glory of God was gone for good! They were forlorn and sad beyond words. Their dreams had been crushed and their hopes dashed when Jesus was crucified and laid in the tomb.

In those Old Testament days, all the people could do was dream of the day that the Ark could be recovered and brought back to its proper place. Finally, the Ark came into their hands again and a day was set to bring the Ark, the presence of Almighty God, into Jerusalem. A song was written for the occasion. That song was Psalm 24. This is the song they sung as the presence of the Lord returned, as it were, from the dead! Again, I do not have words to tell you the excitement the people felt that day. The Lord had returned to His people. Surely that is what the disciples felt the day they learned that Jesus had risen from the dead.

But other than these analogies, how does this Psalm figure into the special day we are celebrating today - this Easter Sunday? In essence, when Jesus died on the cross, it was as if the very presence of Almighty God had departed from the disciples. Their hearts sank within them. Sadness overwhelmed them. Fear gripped them. A host of negative emotions flooded their hearts.

Then Sunday morning came. He is risen! They heard the word and ran to Galilee to meet Him. When He came into their midst, it must have seemed like a dream. He was alive. From that time till this, those who believe on Him have been singing about it.

You see how the Old Testament event can be linked to the New Testament event of the resurrection. But Jesus did more than simply rise from the dead. He ascended back to heaven and promised to come back to get us one day. His Spirit dwells in all believers, but we are waiting for another day to come - the day we will see Him face-to-face.

"What a day that will be,

When my Jesus I shall see,

When I look into His face,

The One who saved me by His grace."

So lets turn today to Psalm 24 and look particularly at verses 7 and 8. These verses have provide a wonderful picture of the meaning of the resurrection of our Lord and its impact on our lives.

I. The Resurrection and Ascension Of Jesus

I want to imagine an Old Testament choir singing. The choir in those days was made up of two parts. Sometimes they sang together and sometimes they sang to each other. They begin to sing as recorded in Psalm 24. When they get to verses 7 and 8, they begin to sing antiphonally, that is, they sing back and forth to each other at times. They sing together the following words from verse 7:

"Lift up your heads, O you gates!

And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!

And the King of glory shall come in."

They might have sung those words several times and in different ways, building to a point of emotional and musical crescendo. Then, one of the two groups sang a question to the other group.

"Who is this King of glory?"

This might have been sung more than once as well. The question could have been sung several times for emphasis.

Then, in triumphant voice and resounding joy, the second group would sing the answer,

"The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle."

The Psalm expressed the victory of the Lord over His enemies. Remember, the Ark had been returned. The Lord had defeated the Philistines. Victory had come at last.

But be sure that this song of victory did not just apply to the Ark of God. In fact, the Jewish people continued to sing this Psalm in worship. In fact, it is believed they were still singing it every year in Jerusalem even during the days of Jesus. And when did they sing it? On the first day of the week, following Passover. Dear friends, do you know what day that was? It was on that first Easter Sunday. Even on that first Easter long ago, as the choir was gathering to sing at the Temple the words before us, our Lord was getting up from the grave! He was, indeed, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. He defeated sin. He defeated death. He defeated Satan. He defeated the grave. He did it without armies to help him. He did it alone!

Then, after forty days had passed and He had done what was necessary to prepare His disciples to take this message of love, power and salvation to the world, He ascended back into heaven. Look at Acts 1:9-10. Jesus ascended into heaven.

I want you to imagine Jesus arriving at the gates of glory. He shouts,

"Lift up your heads, O you gates,

Be lifted up, you everlasting doors.

And the King of glory shall come in!"

Then a call comes from the parapets around the Holy City, "Who is this King of glory?" I know what I am sharing with you is somewhat poetic in nature, but it is written that we may get a sense of the splendor and grandeur of the moment when Jesus arrived in Heaven after His resurrection. So the angelic hosts shout,

"Who is this King of glory?"

The answer is resounding. All of heaven breaks forth in a victory cry. They sing and they shout as the great Gates of Pearl open and the Lord Jesus, scarred from Calvary, walks down the streets of gold. They sing,

"The Lord strong and mighty,

The Lord mighty in battle."

There He is. He is back among the angels in glory. He is back in the presence of His Father. He is back where He belongs as the regent of the entire realm. The risen Lord, fresh from a fight with the devil and death, and He wears the champions belt. He looked like He was down and out, but He rose with a knockout punch. He is undefeated. Heaven is aglow with the presence of the King. Yes, the King of glory is in His Holy Temple!

That is what this Psalm is really all about. It is about the risen, ascended King, Jesus the Conqueror. The Old Testament return of the Ark was a minor precursor to the great moment when the crucified Savior would step forth from the tomb and a few days later step through the gates of the Holy City.

But, thank God, that is not all this Psalm is about. There is more. For there is yet another verse.

II. The Rapture and Presentation Of Jesus

The choir had not completed its singing. Last Sunday "Joy Song," a ladies singing group in our church, did a beautiful song in both the 8:30 and 11:00 A.M. Services. Something interesting happened during the 11:00 A.M. service. The ladies sang with musical accompaniment till near the end of the song. Then, the music stopped and they sang the closing words without the instruments. As they paused to begin the final words to the song, the congregation began to break into applause. They did not realize that there was more to come. When it was realized, the congregation hesitated, waited for the final words to end and then praised the Lord for the music, the meaning of the words and the singers.

It is wonderful today to praise God for the resurrection, but the song isn't over. The choir is clearing their throats to sing some more. Just what are they going to sing? In some ways it seems repetitive. Once again you see the words,

"Lift up your heads, O you gates,

be lifted up you everlasting doors.

And the King of glory will come in.

"Then comes that question,

"Who is this King of glory? "

But this time the song is different. Look at the response.

"The Lord of hosts,

He is the King of glory!"

There is a dramatic change. The first time the King came to the gate He was alone. But this time He has a host with Him. Who are these that make up the host? From whence do they come?

Before we can answer who these people are, we need to be reminded that a great time period has passed between the events described in verses 7 and 8 and the event described in verses 9 and 10. After our Lord ascended to heaven, the Church Age began. The Gospel has been preached from the day of Pentecost and and is still proclaimed around this entire world since then. For generations and generations, the message of salvation has been presented. Multitudes have believed on Jesus and been gloriously delivered from their sins. All those who are saved make up the family of God. All those who are saved become a great host, a magnificent multitude of the redeemed.

Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. Yes, one day He is coming for the multitudes who have believed. We shall be caught up in the clouds with Him. We shall come to the gates of the City of God. Christ shall shout,

"Lift up your heads, O ye gates;

even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in."

Then a shout and song shall come from inside the City,

"Who is this King of glory?"

Then, with arms outstretched over the great multitude of the Redeemed, our Savior shall exclaim,

"The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory."

He is the King of hosts. The King of all those redeemed through His blood. The redeemed who have been given life through His resurrection. Only a risen Lord can come for His people. Only a risen King can take us to the gates of the city and open the way.

Conclusion

I remember a story that Ed Thompson told me about his son. The family went on a trip some years ago to the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina. They told their young son that they were going to see a great castle. The boy was very excited about this trip. Finally they arrived and there before the lad was the great Vanderbilt mansion. Indeed, it is a castle. Then something unusual happened. Ed's son asked, "Where is the king?" He was told that there was no king at this castle. The lad said something like this, "Well, let's go home, you can't have a castle without a king."

Hallelujah! Jesus is King. He is alive. When we arrive at the castle, it will be with the King!

The song of Psalm 24 is completed with a single word - Selah. John Phillips, author of several wonderful books on the Bible, has spoken here in our church. He has, I believe, the best explanation for the meaning of this word of anyone I have every heard or read. He says it means, "Now, what do you think about that!"

Yes, the King arose and ascended. Yes, the King is coming and shall take us home. He is alive and full of love for sinners. He will save to the uttermost all who believe. He will one day deliver all those who are saved out of this present evil world. He will take us to His home in the sky. He will walk us through the gates of the city. We will shout and sing with the angels. Indeed, we can shout, "Selah, now, what do you think about that!"

The Old Testament contains the prophesy of His death, His resurrection, His glorious, triumphant reign as Lord.

Jesus clearly stated that He would die, He would be raised, and that He would rule and reign. The empty tomb declared that He was risen. The grave clothes were left behind, for our Lord was alive.

Many witnesses saw Him after His resurrection, fellowshiped with Him, ate with Him and went forth to give testimony to this fact.

The frightened disciples were transformed into mighty witnesses who were willing to stand before any authorities with their testimony. Once a frightened group of cowards, they became emboldened with courage once they had seen the risen Lord.

Though we are long separated from the day of His resurrection, yet it is real to those of us who have believed upon Him. The risen Lord has called us to follow Him. He has redeemed us, forgiven us, and will come to get us. One day we will go up to the gates of glory with Him. They will open and we will walk down those streets of gold with our risen Lord. Till then, we have the promise of His presence and the anticipation of His return.

All other religious leaders have died. Buddha is dead! Mohammed is dead! Confucius is dead! Every founder of every religion that has ever existed died and remained dead. There is only One who is alive forevermore. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!

Not only did the choir sing Psalm 24 on the first day of the week after Passover, but the priest led in the Wave Offering, as described in Leviticus 23:10-11. The priest would take some wheat and he would wave this before the Lord. This wheat spoke of the first fruits of which there would be much more to come. That very morning, that Sunday morning when Jesus had risen from the tomb, a priest waved wheat at the Temple in Jerusalem. He little understood what the act really meant. It was a sign that Jesus is the first fruit of all who will rise from the dead, who will ascend to Heaven, who will live in glory.

Rejoice, Christian, rejoice!

Come sinners, poor and needy, Jesus will save you and you can know the peace of salvation and the promise of life!

And, one day we will arrive at the gate in glory - and we will walk through with the King - the risen Lord.