“Where the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.”
THE Jewish high priest went within the veil once a year and represented the people there, but he was never their forerunner, for no one followed him into the Most Holy Place. His entrance within the veil did not admit another human being–and when he came forth, the veil again concealed the secret glories of the Most Holy Place even from him for another year and from all others at all times–so that neither Aaron, nor any other high priest of his line could ever be called a forerunner within the veil. This is one of the many instances in which our Lord Jesus Christ, as the great Antitype, far excels all the types. They do, as it were, represent the hem of His garment, but the glorious majesty and fullness of His high priestly office, they are not able to set forth.
Moreover, this title of Forerunner is peculiar to the passage before us. The fact that Christ is the Forerunner of His people may be found in other words in the Scriptures and again and again in this Epistle. But it is only here that we have the exact expression that Jesus Christ within the veil has gone to be the Forerunner of His people.
Now, what is peculiar and unique usually excites curiosity and attention. And if it is something peculiar and unique with regard to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is Himself peculiar and unique, we should look at it as closely as we can and bend our whole minds and hearts to the consideration of it.
- I am going to speak, first, upon THE NAME WHICH IS USED CONCERNING JESUS CHRIST AS THE FORERUNNER. Our Lord is sometimes spoken of as the Master, the Messiah, the Son of Man and so on, but here He is simply called Jesus. “Where the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.”
I do not pretend to know why this title was selected, but at least it may be suggested that Jesus is the name which Hisenemies despise–Jesus of Nazareth, “the Nazarene,” as His fiercest foes cry to this day. About the name, Christ, there is always a measure of respect, for even those who do not believe Him to be the Christ, a Divinelyanointed One, a Messiah sent from God. But, “Jesus,” is the personal name of Him who was born at Bethlehem, the Son of Mary, to whom the angel said before His birth, “You shall call His name JESUS.” It is “the Nazarene” who is “the Forerunner, even Jesus,” and it is that name of Jesus that has caused His enemies to gnash their teeth and speak and act against Him, even as Paul confessed to king Agrippa, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” It is by that name which His enemies abhor that He is known within the veil! They speak of Him there as the Savior, the Joshua, the Jehovah-Jesus of His people–and by that name we know Him as our Forerunner.
Moreover, Jesus is not only the name which is hated by His foes, but it is the name which is dearest to His friends.How charming is its very sound! You know how our hymn writers have delighted to dwell upon it. Dr. Doddridge wrote–
“Jesus, I love Your charming name,
‘Tis music to my ear.
Gladly would I sound it out so loud
That earth and Heaven could hear!”
And Charles Wesley sang–
“Jesus, the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
'Tis life, and health, and peace!
Jesus, the name high over all,
In Hell, or earth, or sky,
Angels and men before it fall
And devils fear, and fly.”
Out of all our Savior’s names–and they are all precious to us and, at certain times each one has its own peculiar charm–there is not one which rings with such sweet music as this blessed name, “Jesus.” I suppose the reason of this is that it answers to our own name, the name of sinner. That name needs, to cover it, the names of Him who saves His people from their sins. The sound of this confession, “I have sinned,” is like that of a funeral knell. But the music of the sentence, “Jesus saves me,” is like that of a marriage peal! And, as long as I am a sinner, the name of Jesus will always be full of melody to my soul. To the Old Testament saints, it was comforting to read of Him who was to be born–“His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”–and we still delight to repeat those majestic sounds. But in our quiet and calm moments, and especially in times of despondency and depression of spirit, the music of the harp sounds most sweetly when this is the note which the minstrel evokes from it, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” And it is very pleasant to me to think that this is the name that we shall remember best even inHeaven. He has gone there, as Jesus, to be our Forerunner, so Dr. Watts was right when he sang–
“Jesus, the Lord, their harps employs–
Jesus, my Love, they sing!
Jesus, the life of both our joys,
Sounds sweet from every string.”
II. Now I want to show you IN WHAT SENSE JESUS IS OUR FORERUNNER.
The word used here means a person running before–a herald, a guide, one who precedes. Such terms would correctly interpret the Greek word used here, so it means, first, one who goes before to proclaim, or to declare. A battlehas been fought and the victory won. A swift young man, out of the ranks of the victors, runs with all speed to the city, rushes through the gate into the marketplace, and proclaims to the assembled people the welcome news, “Our country is victorious! Our commander is crowned with laurels.” That young man is the forerunner of the victorious host. The whole army will be back, by-and-by, the conquering legions will come marching through the streets and all eyes will gaze with admiration upon the returning heroes–but this is the first man to arrive from the field of conflict to report the victory! In that sense, Jesus Christ was the Forerunner to report in Heaven His own great victory. He did much more than that, as you well know, for He fought the fight alone and of the people there were none with Him. He was the first to report in Heaven His own victory. On the Cross He had met Satan and all the powers of darkness–and there had He fought and overcome them and shouted the victor’s cry–“It is finished!” Who shall report the victory in Heaven? Shall some swift-winged angel, one of the many that had hovered round the Cross and wondered what it all could mean, fly like a flame of fire, pass through the gates of pearl and say, “He has done it”? No, Jesus must Himself be the first to proclaim His own victory and the eternal safety of all for whom He died! They tell out this good news through the streets of Heaven to this day, but He it was who first certified it! When He ascended up on high leading captivity captive. When He entered within the veil and stood before His Father, the First-Begotten from the dead. When He declared by His majestic Presence that all was finished. When He proclaimed the justification of all His elect–in that proclamation He was our Forerunner–the first to proclaim that glorious Truth of God, “It is finished!”
A second meaning of the word, forerunner, will be found in this sense of possessing, for Christ has gone to Heaven not merely to proclaim that His people are saved, but to possess Heaven on their behalf. Representatively, He has takenpossession of the heavenly places in the name of those for whom He died. Christ had paid the purchase price of our eternal inheritance. We as yet have not entered upon possession of it, but He has and He has taken possession of it in our names. All the elect are summed up in Him who is their Covenant Head–and He being there, they are all there in Him. As the burgesses of a town sit in the House of Commons represented by their member, so we sit in the heavenly places represented by our Leader who sits there in our name. He has taken seizin, as they used to say of old–taken possession ofall the Glory of Heaven in the name of His people! Why is Heaven mine tonight? Because it is His–and all that is His is mine! Why is eternal life yours, Beloved? Why, because “your life is hid with Christ in God” and He has in Heaven for you, eternal life, and all its accompaniments of joy and blessedness! And He is sitting there enjoying them because they are His and yours. You are one with Him, so He is your Forerunner in that sense.
Christ is also our Forerunner in the sense of preceding us. The Forerunner goes first and others must comeafterwards. He is not a forerunner if there are not some to run behind him. When John the Baptist came, he was the forerunner of Christ. If Christ had not come after him, John the Baptist would have come for nothing. As Jesus is the Forerunner to Heaven, rest assured that those for whom He is the Forerunner will in due time follow Him there. The least pledge of the glories of the saints in Heaven is the Glory of Christ there. The surest proof that they shall be there is that HE is there, for where He is, there must also His people be. I delight to think of Jesus Christ as our Forerunner because I feel sure that the mighty Grace which worked so effectually in Him, and made Him run before, will also work in all His people and make them run behind till they enter into the same rest that He now enjoys!
And once again, Christ is our Forerunner within the veil in the sense that He has gone there to prepare a place for us.I do not know what was needed to make Heaven ready for us, but whatever was needed once is not needed now, for Heaven has been ready for us ever since Christ went to prepare it. We have sometimes arrived at a house when we were not expected–our friends have been glad to see us, but we could hear the bustle of preparations and we almost wished that we had not gone, so to put them into such a flutter in getting ready for us. But no unexpected guest shall ever await at Heaven’s gate! They are watching and waiting for us. They know just when we shall get there and Christ has gone to make everything ready for His long-expected and greatly-loved ones. “I go to prepare a place for you,” said Christ to His disciples–and that place He has prepared. We have not to go into an undiscovered country, for however glorious the new world might be, the first man to enter it would tread its soil with trembling feet, for he would not know what he might find there. It was a brave thing to be a Columbus to discover a new world, but it is a happier thing to go to a country that has been discovered many hundreds of years, where civilization has provided for the supply of all our needs. Christ was the Columbus of Heaven and He has made it ready for us who are to follow Him there when our turn shall come to emigrate to the better land!
III. Now I want to answer this question, INTO WHAT IS CHRIST OUR FORERUNNER? He is our forerunner within the veil. Where is that?
Well, first, it is where all our hope is fixed. Our hope is fixed on things invisible, mysterious, spiritual, sublime,immutable, Divine–which are where Christ is. Paul tells us that the anchor of our soul is “within the veil, where the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.”
Within the veil is, also, the place of the greatest possible nearness to God. Under the old dispensation, it was anawfully solemn thing for a man to be allowed to enter within the veil. Anyone who ventured in there uncalled would have been instantly destroyed. To stand within the veil was a joyous, blissful privilege, yet it involved enormous responsibility. But you and I, Beloved, stand there in the closest possible nearness to God because Christ has gone there as our Forerunner. He is not merely our Forerunner so that we may enter there in 20 or 30 years' time, or whenever we die, but that we may now boldly enter into the heavenlies where He has gone! Where He is, we are bound to go. Well then, as Christ is there, at His Father’s side–
“The Man of Love, the Crucified”–
let us not fear to enter where we have the right to go! It is very sad that when some of us pray, we do not dare to enter within the veil. Even the outer court seems to be too holy a place for us! If we do venture into the court of the priest, we are all in a tremble. But, Brothers and Sisters, we are permitted to enter into that which is within the veil, for Jesus is there and He bids us come to Him–therefore let us come boldly. There is a measure of holy familiarity which the devout man may enjoy in the Presence of God. It is a blessed privilege to know God as your Father and to be as bold with Him as a child is with a father–with the boldness of a love which does not dare because it deserves, but dares because God loves and which, while it humbles itself into the very dust, yet grasps the feet of God even there, clings to Him and delights in its nearness to Him! Is it not a cause of untold joy to us that Jesus Christ is within the veil now as our Forerunner, that we may daily go where He always is? This is the right position for a child of God in prayer! He must not stand at the foot of Sinai. He must not stand in any unclean place, but he must go where the blood has been sprinkled on the Mercy Seat–brought near by the precious blood of Jesus!
Let us also remember that this place of nearness to God, into which Christ has gone, will mean nearness to God in ahigher sense, by-and-by. You cannot conceive of anybody being nearer to God than Christ is “within the veil.” In that nearness He is our Forerunner if we are truly in Him by faith. Is not that a wonderful thought? We might have thought that in that wondrous nearness to God which the Mediator enjoys, He would be alone, for He is so very near, but it is not so. He has Himself said, “To Him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me on My Throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with My Father on His Throne.” It is not only true that we are to behold Christ’s Glory, but even while on earth He said, “Father, I will that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, that they may behold My Glory”–as if they would never fully see that Glory till they were with Him where He is. To whatever heights of Glory He has gone–to whatever raptures of joy He has ascended, He has gone there as the Forerunner of His people!
I may seem to be uttering truisms, but I cannot help it. These are the sort of Truths of God upon which one cannot give allegories, illustrations, or fine sentences. The Truths themselves are so glorious that it would be like painting the lily and gilding it with pure gold to try to adorn it. We must not attempt it, but just leave the Truths as they are for the Spirit of God to apply them to your souls–and so I mean to do after I have mentioned a few practical inferences from the Truth which I have been trying to set before you.
The first is, beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, this–let us each one endeavor by faith to realize our nearnesswith Christ. He has entered within the veil, but He has entered as our Forerunner. Remember that although you are imperfect, feeble, sorrowing, yet you are one with Jesus Christ! You believe that as a Doctrine, but I want you to realize it now as a fact. If you had a rich friend who had given you an equal share with himself of all that he possessed, even if you had not entered upon the possession of it, you would think, “I have not to depend upon charity for my daily bread, for my rich friend has made me as rich as he is, himself.” Now, whatever joy that might give you, it ought to give you far more to think that you are one with Christ and that Christ is one with you! When you suffer, Christ is suffering in one of the members of His mystical body. And when He rejoices, it is His desire that His joy may be in you, that your joy may be full. He has married you and He means you to take His riches as well as Himself and to reckon that all He is and all He has is yours. If the Holy Spirit would cause you to realize this, it would make your soul leap within you and bless the Lord and magnify His holy name! “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” No, more, I am a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. Our interests are one, for we are one and Christ up there, in the heavenlies, is but myself there, for I am in Him and I shall soon be actually and literally where He is, as I now am in the Person of Him who is there as my Representative and Forerunner.
That is the first practical thought. And the second is this–is He your Forerunner, Beloved? Then, run after Him.There can be no forerunner, as I have said before, unless somebody follows. Jesus is our Forerunner, so let us be His afterrunners. “Ah,” says one, “but He is so different from us.” The beauty of it is that He is not different from us, for He was aMan like ourselves. “Forasmuch then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same.” Though in Him was no sin, yet in all other respects He was just such as we are–and it cost Him as much to run as it will cost us to run–yes, more, for His race was more arduous than ours is. “You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin,” therefore “consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds.” Your road may be full of crosses, but they are not such crosses as the one He carried. You have suffered bereavements. Yes, and “Jesus wept.” You have to endure poverty. And He had not where to lay His head. You are often despised. And He is still “despised and rejected of men.” You are slandered. But as they called theMaster of the house, Beelzebub, what wonder is it that they speak ill of those who are the members of His household? Jesus Christ ran the very race that you have to run and He ran it perfectly! And that same power which worked in Him to run until He entered within the veil, and so passed the goal, will help you to run till you reach the same spot. If He is your Forerunner and He has run the race, it is essential that you should run it, too, and should also win the prize. Courage, Brothers and Sisters–nothing is too hard for our poor manhood to accomplish through the power of the everblessed Spirit! As Christ has conquered, so can we. Sin’s assaults can be repelled, for Christ repelled them. The Holy Spirit can lift up “poor human nature”–as we call it–into something nobler and better, transforming it into the likeness of the Human Nature of the Christ of God, till in that Human Nature, purity and holiness, shall dwell even to perfection!
Follow, Brothers and Sisters, the mighty Runner who has gone before you within the veil! And the best way to follow Him is to put your feet into His footprints. It may seem as if you might get to the goal either this way or that, but the best Christian is he who does not wish for any other path than that which his Master trod. I would like–oh, that I might realize it–to “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” Not to say, “This is not essential, and that might be dispensed with,” but, like the Master, Himself, to say, “Thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness.” Good writing, I think, depends very much upon the little letters. If you want to read a man’s letter easily at the first glance, he must write legibly, and mind his Ps and Qs, and all the other letters of the alphabet, especially those that are nearly alike, such as C and E, or I and L. O Christian, there may be very little difference, to the eye of man, between this letter and that of the Believer’s alphabet, but you will do best if you follow your Master exactly in all points! No hurt comes of doing that, but great hurt comes of even the least laxity. Follow closely your great Forerunner! Follow at His heels, as a dog follows his master. Just as Christ ran, so may the Holy Spirit help you to run with endurance the race set before you, “looking unto Jesus.”
The next thing I have to say is this–let us love our Lord intensely. He has gone to Heaven, but He has not gonethere for Himself alone. He has got so into the habit of sharing with His people all that He has that He has not left off that habit now that He has got into Glory! He says, “I am here for My people. I was on the Cross for them and I am on the Throne for them.” It is marvelous that even the reward that is given to Him, He shares with His own beloved ones, for there is nothing that He has that He keeps to Himself! It was a blessed marriage day for us, His people, when He took us to be His–for with all His heavenly gifts He did us endow and now He has nothing but what He holds in common with His people. We are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Then must we not love Him much who has loved us so much that He has given us Himself and all He has? Come, my cold heart, if there is anything that can warm you, surely it is the thought of such true, fond, constant, faithful love as this! Indulge a moment’s thought now. Indulge it quietly. Let your soul picture Him. Come to His feet and kiss them. And if you have an alabaster box of precious ointment, break it open and anoint Him, and fill the house with the perfume of your offering of love and gratitude.
Last of all, since Christ has gone to Heaven to be our Forerunner, let us trust Him. We could have trusted Him, Ihope, while He was running His race, so surely we can trust Him now that He has won it. The saints of God who lived before Christ came to dwell upon the earth, trusted Him before He started to run. His Apostles and other disciples, in their poor feeble way, trusted Him while He was running–so shall not we trust Him now that the race is finished and He has gone into Glory on our behalf? If a man says, “I will do a thing,” if he is a truthful man and he can do what he says, we depend upon him. But when he has done it, it would be a shame not to depend upon him. If Christ came here tonight, never having died, and He said to us, “You poor lost ones, I mean to save you,” ought we not to believe Him? If He said, “Dear children of Mine, I mean to come and run a race and win it for you,” would we not say, “Lord Jesus, we trust You”? Well, He is not here in bodily Presence–He is up yonder. Do you not see Him with the crown upon His head? There He sits in Glory–innumerable angels are bowing before Him and cherubim and seraphim are praising Him day without night–and the redeemed from among men are singing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us.” Can younot trust Him, Sinner? “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them.” Can you not trust Him? He is within the veil, pleading for us, and pleading for all who come unto God by Him–and setting His people the example of coming there to plead, too.
As He is there, can we not all trust Him? The dying thief trusted Him when His hands were nailed to the Cross. Can we not trust Him now that His hand grasps the scepter of Sovereignty? The dying thief trusted Him when men ridiculed Him and thrust out their tongues, and railed at Him–can we not trust Him now that Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of His Glory? Surely we must! Jesus, Master, if we never have relied upon You before, grant us the Grace to do so now! And as for those of us who have depended on You these many years, You dear, tried, precious, faithful Lover of our souls, surely we have done with doubting! We are in Your bosom–no, more–we are inside Your very heart and, therefore, we must be safe! Who can harm us there? You did say, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.”
With this assurance let us go our way, resolving to follow our Forerunner till we get where He is, “within the veil,” and then forever to follow Him “wherever He goes.” Amen.