A Scepter Or A Sword

A Scepter Or A Sword
By Terry R. Baughman

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.
Ephesians 1:4-6

It was not a meeting for casual conversation or of chance contact. She would not have been here if it were not vitally important. His mind quickly raced over the last things he had said to her and all the events of the past few weeks, searching for a clue. Why would she risk her life for an appearance before the throne?

Oh, the law was well noted, quite famous really. Actually, it was a source of pride, knowing there was a law so grand it could not be reversed or revoked. There was power in the permanence of that Persian law.

Esther stood in the doorway of the throne room, a bit timorous but resolute in her decision to approach King Ahasuerus. Through the conniving trickery of Haman, the edict was past that set the date of destiny for the Jews and determined their destruction.

Mordecai helped Esther to approach this moment of decisiveness when he reminded her of her ethnicity, the seriousness of the edict, and her date with the eternal purpose of God. “Who knows,” Mordecai had said, “But what you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). As Esther led her entourage in prayer and preparation for her appointment with destiny, her commitment was sure, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

Esther’s life and all Jewish destiny rested on the scepter nestled in the hand of the Monarch. Only the king could spare the life of an intruder into his presence. If he lifted the scepter, the unbidden visitor would be allowed to live and enter into the presence of the king. To destroy the offending intruder, the king only had to do nothing; the law had already passed sentence on the trespasser and such a one would be promptly executed!

Esther took a step into the throne room with bated breath, eyes transfixed on the scepter in the hand of Ahasuerus. After a moment of hesitation, the king, while curiosity concerning her motivation for such risk came racing through his mind, willed his hand to move, slowly, purposefully, to lift the scepter in a bold motion of grace. She was accepted into the presence of the king!

Relief washed through Esther’s body and tension eased. Now she could focus on the presentation of her plight and hopefully provide a reprieve for the sentence passed on her people when the opportunity arose. What seemed like an insignificant meeting between a king and his queen was, in reality, a crucial moment of eternal importance. It was a life or death decision for Esther, but also for substantial numbers of the Jewish race living in exile under the Persian authority. Their realm included Jerusalem and the area of modern-day Israel. This singular event threatened to eliminate the Jewish race.

Haman’s thwarted attempt to annihilate the Jews was the model for the atrocities committed by Hitler in Nazi Germany and has been mimicked by others in perverse efforts of ethnic cleansing. If Haman had been successful in his attempt, there likely would have been no holocaust. There would have been no Jews for Hitler’s gas chambers; but catastrophically, there would have been no Christ, no Savior, and no hope in the world. The burden of destiny depended on the resolve and obedience of one woman, Esther, and the favor she received from her King.

The scepter of the king represented the authority of the realm. This object became the icon of all that was embodied in the Regent of the vast Persian Empire. Men and women lived and died at the whim of the Monarch and his employment of the scepter. The ancient scepter of Ahasuerus was well known, but his was not the only scepter mentioned in Scripture.

The ancient prophecy of Balaam declared that a star would come out of Jacob and a scepter would arise in Israel to bring judgment on Moab (Numbers 24:17). This prophecy echoed the sentiment of Jacob’s blessing on his son Judah, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes” (Genesis 49:10).

Jesus was born as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” His ancestry was noted and his birthplace was destined for the city of David. A multitude of messianic prophecy was fulfilled in his advent.

In the teaching of Jesus in the synagogues, it was noted that he taught with authority. Luke recorded that “they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority” (Luke 4:32). Even the demons recognized his authority and departed without resistance when Jesus spoke. When the chief priests and Pharisees asked the officers why they had not arrested Jesus, they confessed that they had never heard a man speak like him (John 7:46). They too recognized his authority.

Others who knew nothing about prophecy or predictions readily recognized Jesus’ authority. The Roman centurion recognized him as a man of authority. As a military leader, that was something he understood. “Just speak the word,” he said, “and it will be done!”

Jesus asserted himself near the conclusion of his ministry saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). He has been exalted and given dominion and power. God has given him a name above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow (Philippians 2:9).

Pilate initially failed to recognize the authority in his prisoner and boasted, “Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” (John 19:10). Jesus reminded him that he had no power but what was given him from above (John 19:11).

From that moment on, Pilate sought to find a way to release Jesus. When all his efforts failed to appease the angry crowd, his final statement was recorded in three languages (Greek, Latin, & Hebrew) and affixed to the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Even the merciless hands of Pilate were bound to do only what God allowed concerning the body of Christ and the message that accompanied his death.

Jesus was a man, but he was more than just a man. He was made a little lower than the angels in the incarnation but exalted far above the angels in his authority. It was the grace of God that allowed him to suffer death for everyone.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death f or everyone.
Hebrews 2:9

John’s revelation unveiled the scene in eternity when Christ alone will sit on the throne of God. The Lamb of God is then the Lord of all. The sacrificial substitute is the King of Kings!

Who can stand before him? David asked, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?” (Psalm 24:3).

The knowledge that no man can look on him and live was the prevailing concept of God in antiquity. A fear of his awesome presence struck terror to the hearts of humanity. Those privileged to witness a heavenly visit frequently fell prostrate in fear sensing the inevitability of death should they look upon their angelic visitor.

The entrance of sin in Creation brought the edict of death upon all. James cautioned concerning the continuing consequence of sin’s effect, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15).

The sentence of death was passed upon all mankind. All one must do to suffer the condemnation of death is “nothing”! The verdict is already decided and the punishment prescribed.

The effect of sin is all-inclusive. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Who then, can stand in his holy place? The obvious answer is “none!” No one can arrogantly presume to stand in self-righteousness before the holy God.

There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.
Romans 3:10-12

The beauty of the incarnation was the objective desire of God to touch mankind, the purposeful mediation between God and man. The advent was to bridge the gap between divinity and humanity, to provide a way for man to see God and for God to touch man.

Christ’s coming was to provide access to his presence, the privilege of approaching a living God without the judgment of death. Jesus took our place in death that we might stand in his place in life. His is a “new and living way” consecrated in the flesh (Hebrews 10:20).

Symbolically, Jesus lived out the Tabernacle plan in the mission of his ministry. He was both high priest and the sacrifice. As our advocate he offered himself as the “lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The Cross was the brazen altar of sacrifice and burial was the laver. He was both the light of the world and the bread of heaven, identifying with the golden candlestick and the table of showbread. He passed through the veil by the power of his resurrection, and death could not prevent his departure.

Significantly, the veil separating the holy place from the Most Holy in the Temple at Jerusalem was torn in two at the moment of Christ’s death. The visual object lesson demonstrated that there would no longer be a need for priestly ritual or ‘the law’s requirement. The Most Holy is accessible to all.

Welcome in!

The Book of Hebrews affirmed this change in approach to God. The writer stressed the humanity, the flesh and blood feeling of our wonderful High Priest.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:15

No longer do you need a priest to offer your sacrifice, no longer are Gentiles barred in the outer court and banned from full access to the kingdom of God. All are welcomed to approach the living God through the sacrifice of Christ. All may have “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). Jesus has become our “high priest over the house of God” giving us an “assurance of faith” that we may be accepted in his presence (Hebrews 10:21).

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:22-23

The nature of God is to grant access, to allow reconciliation, to provide a way for humanity to contact deity, and to make available a meaningful relationship with the eternal Spirit. Through Jesus Christ we are given freedom from sin and entrance to all that God is doing in the world today. Jesus said, “I am the Way….” He is the door, the access, the corridor into the dimension of spiritual relationship with the Almighty God. You can have access into his presence and acceptance by his person.

You can approach God. The scepter has risen. You can stand in his holy place, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Acceptance is assured. You are “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

Because of our right standing and relationship with God, the writer of Hebrews declares, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Yet, it is not with arrogance or pride that one will stroll into the throne room of the Almighty; it is with a quiet confidence and full assurance of our position in him.

You may approach God without fear or intimidation, without anxiety or uncertainty. You may boldly present your petition in confident prayer. You may ask whatever you desire. In this day of grace there is no sword in his hand – it is a scepter – and it is lifted high!

The scepter is lifted – what is your request?

This article “A Scepter Or A Sword” written by Terry R. Baughman is excerpted from Grace Is A Pentecostal Message written by Terry R. Baughman.