First “Verily, Verily”
The Home of the New Man
The first question of the Old Testament is, “Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:2). This is God’s question, addressed to fallen man, calling him to consider where he now is, whether his present state is right, and why he is not still with Him who made him. The first question of the New Testament is, “Where is He?” (Matthew 2: 2), asked by men who have just been awakened by heavenly light to feel they need a God and Saviour, and who desire to know where He may be found; the answer to which is immediately given by the Evangelist,–“Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is, God with us.” God’s question reveals man’s state, that he is not where God placed him. Man’s question draws forth the purpose of God’s heart, that “God is with us,” fallen as we are, and that our nature, spite of our fall, is His tabernacle.
The first of the reiterated Amens touches both these truths. Our Lord thus opens the series: “Verily, Verily, I say unto you, Henceforward ye shall see heaven opened, and angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man”; words which imply that heaven, man’s proper home, long shut, shall now be opened, and that all that man has lost shall be restored in and through his heir, that is, the “son of man.” Thus, the first “Verily, Verily” declares the proper Home of the New Man.
Heaven is his home: heaven again is opened to him. The old man by disobedience lost his home, the Paradise in which as God’s son he could converge with and see God; and is shut out and shut up in bondage in outward nature, because, having lost God’s life, he is unfit for heaven. The new man, formed by the indwelling of the Word of God, and “renewed in [knowledge-Strong’s Concordance #1922=EPIGNOSIS] after the image of Him that created him” (Col. 3:10), by a necessary law of His life, which is of God and heaven, through putting off and dying to the old and fleshly life, comes back again to opened heavens and to their angel hosts, as to his true home and proper dwelling place. This is the witness borne by the first reiterated Amen: “Verily, Verily, Henceforward (Footnote: The words here [Greek words] are rendered “hereafter” in our Authorized Version, and when our Version was made this was a correct translation. So we pray in the General Confession “that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life;” that is, not at some future time, but “from this time forward.”) ye shall see heaven opened, and angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
These words were spoken by One who had just had heaven opened to Him, who being found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself and became obedient, not only to death, even the death of the cross, but also to that mystic death in baptism, which showed to men the one only way by which as fallen creatures they could come back to God’s kingdom. Therefore, when in submission to the Baptist’s witness, all the people were baptized, so thus, though they understood it not, confessing man’s state, as by nature dead to God, and that only by death to this nature can any be delivered. and “it came to pass, that Jesus also was baptized, and as He came up out of the waters heaven was opened to Him, and a voice from heaven said unto Him, Thou art my beloved Son: in Thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21, 22).
Thus was heaven opened again to man. Then He to whom it was thus opened, comes forth to tell men of their true home, and how it may again be reached and entered: not by hiding from ourselves our present state or that we are dead to God and fallen from Him; but by confessing all this, first by a mystic death in the baptismal waters, when we are sacramentally buried with our Head, and then by dying and being buried with Him in that other greater baptism, which He spoke of when He said “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished” (Luke 12:50); in the assurance that when we thus take our true place, as dead to God, and subject to His judgment, He will take His place as Saviour, and say to us, as He said to Christ, when He took our place, “Thou art my beloved son.”
All this indeed, of the way of man’s return to his true home, from which he fell by disobedience, though set forth in type in Christ’s baptism, does not come out in word until the second “Verily, Verily,” which tells us that the way into the kingdom is only through those deep waters which Jordan typified. But the blessed fact that heaven is henceforth opened to man,–that he shall again see that world of light and love, for which he was formed, and from which he has so long been banished,–that he shall be made a new creature, fit to deal with spiritual things, not only man, but “Son of Man,” begotten again to a lively hope by Jesus Christ; and that in his way back to his true home he shall be conscious of heavenly companions, angels of God, ascending and descending on him,–all this is witnessed in this first “Amen, Amen,” thus showing the true home of the new man, that is, of man renewed through Christ Jesus. The old man is of the earth, and, akin and bound to the earth, he neither cares for, nor sees, the things of heaven. But the new man is of heaven; and, heavenly in his birth, even while on earth can walk in and show the life and light of heaven. This is the burden of the first reiterated Amen: “Ye shall see heaven opened, and angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”