"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9).
This statement leads us back into eternity. The riches of which we read here are His eternal riches. He ever subsisted in the form of God as the only Begotten of the Father, absolutely one with Him. With the Father before the world ever came into existence, "He was rich." But who is able to penetrate the mysteries of eternity?
The wisdom of man, his reasoning, and imaginations are all folly in the presence of such a stupendous statement. We have to turn to revelation to receive glimpses of that which "eye has not seen, nor ear heard" (1 Cor. 2:9) to listen to what God in His Word has to say of the riches of the Son of His love. "No man knoweth who the Son is but the Father" (Luke 10:22). Thus He spoke Himself. But it is blessedly true that "God has revealed to us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God" (1 Cor. 2:10).
The Riches of the Lord Jesus
What, then, do the Scriptures say about the eternal riches of Him, who is our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ? The Word of God tells us that the Son of God was rich in all eternity in three things. He was rich in possessions, rich in love, and rich in glory. As far as we can learn from revelation, His eternal riches consisted in these three things. But how little we know what they all include! When at last Grace has brought us to the Father's house, where we shall behold His glory, when we shall know as we are known, then we shall understand His riches fully! And yet that which is made known about His riches is sufficient to fill our hearts with wonder and our lips with praises.
Rich in Possessions
Our conception of riches in possessions is limited. If we fill the hands of a child full of glittering pennies, that little one looks upon them as great riches. The great ones of the earth only count themselves rich when they can add millions to millions, houses to houses, and land to land. If the whole world were to belong at some time to one person and that one had possession of all the gold and silver, the precious pearls and costly stones, all the treasures of art, yea, all the treasures yet hidden in the mountains and hills of the earth, how rich that person would be! It would be impossible to make known the riches of such a man. Still in comparison with Him who was rich, this person would be only a poverty-stricken beggar.
What does it mean, "He was rich?" Let the Scripture give the answer: "For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him" (Col. 1:16). In this blessed Word we find the description of the riches of the Son of God. All things belong to Him, for He created them; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is the Creator of all things, and because He is, they belong to Him, they are His and consist by Him.
"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein" (Ps. 24:1). Jesus is one with the Father, who speaks in another Psalm: "Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills, I know all the fowls of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee, for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof" (Ps. 50:10-12). Again, He says through one of His prophets, "The silver is mine and the gold is mine" (Hag. 2:8). And then of the great sea with its fearful and mysterious depths, of the sea with its mighty waves, it is written, "The sea is His, and He made it" (Ps. 95:5). How great His possessions! This earth He created, with all its wonders and beauties belongs to Him.
But His riches are greater still. He created the things that are in heaven. What a wonderful world it is which is above! Well did the holy singer cry out, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork" (Ps. 19:1). But what are the things in heaven? What are these stars and suns? The human eye can get a few glimpses of that wonderful creation. There are stars and planets hundreds and thousands of times larger than our earth. The sun is over a million times larger than our planet. It is a marvelous, incomprehensible ocean of fire. And yet the star Sirius has, it has been calculated, a force of light equal to over 140 suns like ours. Stars there are in such wonderful distance from our planet that light, though traveling over 180,000 miles each second, 10,800,000 miles each minute, 648,000,000 miles each hour, takes several thousand years to reach our earth. And oh! The mysteries hid in the impenetrable depths of the universe, which no telescope can reach!
And in the heavens are the innumerable angels; their number is "ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands" (Rev. 5:11). And all He-who is the image of God-created, and by right of creation all is His; all belongs to Him. How rich He was in all eternity!
Rich in Love
God did not become love, but God is love and has always been love. Love needs an object. The object of the love of God in all eternity was He, who is called, "the Son of His love" (Col. 1:13). In that remarkable passage in the book of Proverbs, which can only refer to that One, we read how He declares, "I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him" (Prov. 8:30). In the Gospel of John, in which the Holy Spirit portrays the Lord as the Son of God, we learn of this eternal love relation between the Father and the Son. Here in the first chapter we read that "The Word was with God," and that He was "the only begotten Son, in the bosom of the Father" (John 1:1, 18).
But we have to listen to His own precious words as they came from His lips in His high priestly prayer to hear of that eternal love He enjoyed, a love without beginning.
"Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). What words these are! Who dares to add to them or attempt to describe that love? One hears almost the solemn caution of old given by the Lord, "Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, for the place where thou standest is holy" (Josh. 5:15). All attempts to describe that love or to illustrate it must fail. What that love was in all eternity, what riches of love He enjoyed in the bosom of the Father, what delight was His, no Saint has ever comprehended. It is enough to know that before the world was, He was "the Son of His Love" in the bosom of the Father, enjoying the riches of His love.
Rich in Glory
Love puts glory upon the beloved object. The Father's love and the Father's glory was His in all eternity. Again we have to turn to His own words to learn of His eternal glory. When He uttered that marvelous prayer in the presence of the Father, He made the following request, "andnow, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory, which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). How simple and definite this statement is! He had a glory with the Father before the world was; yea, He was the effulgence of the Father's glory.
But who can tell what that glory really was? What human eye could fully gaze upon that glory? Seers of old had visions of the glory of the Lord. They saw the heavens opened and got faint glimpses of the glory of the Lord. Whose glory was it they beheld? A passage in the Gospel of John gives us the answer. "These things said Esaias when he saw his glory and spoke of him" (John 12:41). The prophet Isaiah saw the Lord and he beheld His glory, and the New Testament tells us that it was the glory of the only begotten, the Son of God. What a glory place it must have been where He was in all eternity, which, while on earth, He called the Father's house! What scenes of joy and praise, when the morning stars sang together and the sons of God, the holy angels, clapped their hands for joy! And He was the center of that glory. To understand it all we must wait till we enter that place above, when we with all His redeemed people are with Him and when He will show us His glory.
We dare not add another word to that which we have written. Scripture gives us no other description of His eternal riches, than these three: riches in possessions, all is His; riches in love; riches in glory. But what a theme to meditate upon! What joy in believing in Him "who was rich!" Now He has "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" and in Him "we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Eph. 1:3,7). Full enjoyment of the blessed Gospel is an impossibility unless we have His eternal riches before the soul!
Arno Clemens Gaebelein (1861-1945), born in Germany, came to the United States at the age of 18. Converted at the age of 12, he never received any formal theological training but gained knowledge of the Scriptures through diligent, personal Bible Study. Gaebelein was ordained as a German Methodist preacher in 1885. As pastor of a German congregation in Baltimore, he became interested in Jewish evangelism. He became superintendant of Hope of Israel Mission and editor of the magazine Our Hope. In later years Gaebelein carried on an interdenominational ministry and authored numerous books on Bible Study, prophecy, and the Jews. His Annotated Bible, The Prophet Isaiah, Conflict of the Ages, and many other books are serving students of the Scriptures today.
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