This is the greatest “rags-to-riches” story ever. From being disobedient gentiles, preoccupied with gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts, we’ve been adopted into the royal family of God, welcomed into His presence, and made joint heirs of His estate. How could it be?
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In this session we’re going to talk about the ultimate rags to riches story. We all love this kind of story, and we’re encouraged by the experience of an ordinary person, who due to personal drive and perseverance, rises from humble beginnings to become a leader of business or industry. But we’re especially fond of stories where an absolute nobody is plucked from the faceless crowd and instantly propelled to the pinnacle of success. But you know, by far the absolute best example of this comes from the Bible, and it’s about you.
Our story begins in the Old Testament, the Book of 1 Samuel, with David and Jonathan. We’ll begin by looking at 1 Samuel 18:3-4, where it says:
And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.
In ancient times, a covenant relationship was the strongest possible relationship, and the making of covenants was serious business, because it involved people’s lives. A covenant was the strongest bond known to men, and had both business and personal applications that extended even to the descendants of the two parties involved, and this business between David and Jonathan is a good example.
Sometime after David and Jonathan formed their covenant relationship, Jonathan was killed by the Philistines in the Battle of Beth Shan, while David went on to become the king of Israel. Now as I said, covenant agreements extended beyond the grave to the parties’ descendants.
And one day king David asked his advisers if there was anyone left of Jonathan’s family to whom he could show kindness for Jonathan’s sake. They brought him one of Saul’s former servants, who told him of a crippled boy named Mephibosheth. He was Jonathan’s son living in a place called Lo Debar, about as far from Jerusalem as he could get.
When David had become king of Israel, all of former king’s Saul’s family (and you know Jonathan was Saul’s son) had fled for their lives for fear that David would take revenge on them for the way Saul had treated him. In their haste to escape, a nurse had picked up the five year old Mephibosheth to carry him, but she tripped and they fell hard on the stone floor. It broke his legs and crippled him for life. You can read about this in 2 Samuel 4:4.
As he grew up, his family had convinced Mephibosheth that David was responsible for his condition, and still wanted to kill him.
But David remembered his covenant with Jonathan, and began to look for any members of his family that he might show kindness to.
We’ll pick the story up now in 2 Samuel 9:
David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They called him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”
At your service,” he replied.
The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is cripple in both feet.”
“Where is he?” the king asked.
Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”
So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.
When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.
David said, “Mephibosheth!”
“At your service,” he replied.
“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”
Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)
Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.
Boy, talk about rags to riches! This is a beautiful story of kindness and forgiveness that illustrates the depths of a covenant relationship like no other. And like many Old Testament stories, it’s a model of what the Lord had in store for us.
To get what I mean, just think of David as God the Father, Jonathan as the Lord Jesus, and Mephibosheth as you and I. Long before we were born, the Father and the Son entered into a covenant on our behalf.
In effect the Father said to Jesus, “Son, if You will die for them, I will forgive them.”
And Jesus replied, “Father, if You’ll forgive them, I’ll die for them.”
And so, the everlasting covenant was formed. According to 1 Peter 1:20, this happened before the foundation of the Earth was laid. They made this covenant because God knew that each time He entered into a covenant with man, man would prove untrustworthy and would soon break it.
For example, Adam ate the forbidden fruit, Noah’s descendants refused to scatter and resettle the Earth, and the Israelites broke the Commandments, and on and on. The salvation of God’s children was so important to Him that no mere man could be trusted to be faithful, so God Himself had to become a man to save mankind.
Psalm 2:7 says: “You are my Son;” He told Jesus, “Today I have become your Father.”
And so in the fullness of time, Jesus became a man to save mankind and stood before our Father as our covenant head.
Now even though God knew we would ultimately choose Him, He pursued us like an ardent lover. And at first many of us ran from Him. We’d heard the stories of His wrath, and some of us had even been told that He was responsible for our infirmities, and the other bad things that happen to us. They said if He ever got His hands on us, He would punish us severely for our sins. But finally one day He caught us, and as we trembled at His feet in fear, He reassured us and told us of the covenant He had made with His Son to forgive us. And then He restored the inheritance that Satan had stolen from us, invited us to dwell with Him to eat at the King’s table with His family, and to consider ourselves His children.
The New Testament tells us how He accomplished this.
Let’s turn to John 1:12:
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Having been born once in the flesh to our earthly parents, He gave us the right to be born again in the Spirit, so that He could become our Heavenly Father. He did this simply because we chose to believe in His Son. That’s the promise from John 3:16.
And now let’s turn to Romans 8:29, where it says:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
This tells us that before the foundation of the Earth when they made this covenant, God looked forward all the way down the length of time, and He saw the day when you and I would become believers. He knew in advance that this was going to happen, and so He predestined this to happen for us.
1 John 3:2 says:
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known to us. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him.
And so you see, first Jesus was made like us, and soon, because we believe, we’ll be made like Him. So we were born first to our earthly parents (that’s being born in the flesh) and then we were born again, born in the Spirit. And this, according to John 1:12, gave us the authority to become children of God.
Now we’ll turn to Galatians 4, and we’ll read verses 4-7 and we’ll see how God made our spiritual rebirth into a legal relationship as a member of His family.
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
Now this phrase that says “full rights of sons” in the Greek it means adoption; He has adopted us legally into the family. In Biblical times, even though a child was born into his father’s family, he had no rights until his father legally adopted him, which usually took place somewhere in his teenage years after the father could see that he was of sound mind and ready to take on the family’s responsibilities and business.
In this way, if the son was somehow not mentally or physically or intellectually able to assume the responsibility, the father didn’t have to adopt him, he wouldn’t receive those rights, and he wouldn’t have any legal position in the family.
But what Galatians 4:4 says is that because we believed in the Son, God gave us the authority to become His children. And at the proper time, He sent His Son into the world to die for us, so that we could legally be adopted into the family of God. And because He’s adopted us into His family we’re now one of His sons, and that means we are also an heir; we’re in an heir to God’s estate.
Let’s take a minute and look at Romans 8:16 and 17 which will confirm this for us.
Romans 8:16 and 17 says:
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,
Wow, have you ever thought of yourself as being one of God’s heirs? Heirs to His estate? This is what got me thinking about this study in the first place. We were in a study of Hebrews and we were going through chapter 2, and when we got to Hebrews 2:7 and 8 we read this. It said, speaking of Jesus, it said:
You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
and put everything under their feet.”
And so, this is talking about Jesus being made a little lower than the Angels, and if you look in the Greek the literal interpretation of that passage would say, “You made them for a little while lower than the angels.”
In other words, Jesus was there sitting on the throne; He’s God’s son, He’s agreed to come to Earth to die for us, and in order to do so He has to become a man. And so that means He has to be demoted from His throne as head of the universe, He has to be demoted down past the angelic ranks, all the way down to become a man. And as Philippians 2 says, not a royal or leader among men, but just an ordinary man. A man that Isaiah said would have no beauty or comeliness that would attract us to Him; just a plain, simple, ordinary man. He did that so that He could die for the sins of the people.
Having done that, and been successful in paying the full penalty for our sins, it says then Jesus was crowned with glory and honor and everything was put under His feet.
That gives you an idea now, if God’s sons are His heirs, and if we are one of His sons, and if we are co-heirs with the Lord Jesus, then we have to look and see what it means when He said “and you put everything under His feet.”
What is everything? Because whatever that is, part of it belongs to us. Paul gave us more detail on this when he wrote the Book of Ephesians, so we’re going to turn now to Ephesians 1:20-22 to see what this means. Actually this will make a little more sense to us if we start back at verse 18, that’s where the sentence starts, and so let’s start:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
So here we see that this inheritance that the Lord has is something that gives Him power, far above all rule and authority, power, and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but also in the age to come.
Now this is talking about angelic ranks. Paul is just clarifying the fact that after the resurrection, Jesus was raised back up to the place of His former glory, and was seated again at the right hand of the Father and given all power and authority, rule and dominion, and given every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the age to come.
And for one of the most astonishing verses in the Bible that will help tie this all together, let’s go over to Ephesians 2, and read with me verses 6 and 7, because this is so remarkable. Not only has Jesus been raised up and seated at the right hand of majesty and given all power and authority, but verse 6 says:
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
And so here Paul is saying not only was Jesus elevated back up beyond the angelic ranks to a position at the pinnacle of the Heavenly realms, but then God raised us up with Him and sat us there beside Him.
Now if you notice these verses, these are all in the past-perfect tense. What that means is although we’re sitting down here on Earth as humble humans trying our best just to live from day to day, in God’s mind it has already happened; He has already put us on the throne beside Jesus, we’ve already been elevated to that incredible height.
And in His eyes, when God looks at us, He sees us there. And we’re just down here waiting for time to catch up with it. The reality is we have already been seated in the Heavenly realms beside Jesus. This is what He means by sharing in His inheritance.
So even though at one time we were dead in our sins and by nature objects of God’s wrath; we were hopeless, helpless, worthless, and useless, He made us alive in Christ. He forgave all of our sins, He clothed us in robes of righteousness, and He seated us beside His Son in the Heavenly realm and made us kings and priests who will reign on Earth, co-heirs with Jesus of God’s estate.
Now I dare you to find a rags to riches story that compares with that one! Where we, who have nothing that God needs, and have nothing to commend ourselves—no good behavior, no meritorious deeds, nothing to commend ourselves—but simply because we have believed that when Jesus went to the cross He died for us and that His death has paid the price for all of our sins. Simply because of that, God has elevated us to the absolute pinnacle of Heavenly realms where we will be kings and priests who rule and reign with Christ.
In 1 Peter 2:9 we can see what this means from Peter’s perspective. Writing to the Church Peter said:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Isn’t that incredible? And that phrase “royal priesthood” confirms that fact that we’re kings and priests. Royal means that we’re royalty; kings are royalty. Priesthood means we are priests; we belong to a holy priesthood, a royal priesthood.
Now by the way, this lends enormous credibility to our view that the 24 elders of Revelation 4 represent the Church. Remember in Revelation 4:4 we read:
Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.
That’s Revelation 4:4.
These 24 elders confused some people, but you know they shouldn’t because their appearance gives them away. They have thrones, so they’re rulers. They surround the throne of God where Jesus is seated, so they’re reigning with Him. They are seated, which is another sign of royalty; no one ever sat in the throne room except the kings. All the other servants, all the officials, everybody who came to visit the king, they all had to stand. Only the king was seated.
These elders are also dressed in white so they are righteous, and they are wearing crowns. The Greek word there is stephanos, meaning the crown of the victor or, the overcomer. And they are called elders, which is a title long associated with the Church.
Now some try to explain the 24 thrones by saying they belong to an unknown group of ruling angels, but four prophets saw the throne of God and recorded their experience. They were Isaiah in Isaiah 6, Ezekiel in Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10, Daniel in Daniel 7, and John (the one we just read), and Revelation 4.
Neither Isaiah nor Ezekiel made any mention of the 24 elders, indicating they weren’t present in Old Testament times. Daniel’s vision in chapter 7 concerned the End Times, and in Daniel 7:9 he mentions multiple thrones, but he didn’t add any details as to the number or type of the occupants of those thrones. This is consistent with the fact that the Church was hidden to Old Testament prophets, even in visions of the future.
Only John made mention of the 24 elders. Note again, that these elders are wearing the crowns of overcomers. The Church won’t receive our crowns until the Bema Seat Judgment that takes place after the Rapture.
Now Jesus is seated at the right hand of majesty today. Paul wrote that we are seated there with Him, and when John was transported to the end of the age he saw us there, after the Rapture but before the End Times judgment begins.
You know in the Book of Revelation there are three groups of believers who come into view. In Revelation 5:9 and 10 the 24 elders are shown worshiping God and thanking Him for taking us from every tribe and language and people and nation, and making us to be kings and priests who will reign on Earth.
Now let’s take a look at Revelation 7:9-17 for another group that arrives in Heaven.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
This idea that they are from every nation, tribe, language, and people says that they are primarily Gentiles; they come from all over the world.
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
John asked the angel that was standing there, “Who are these people?”
And he said, in verse 14:
“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Now that phrase “have come out of” is the same Greek phrase as in Revelation 3:10 where it says:
I will keep you from the hour of trial
That means out of the time and the place of the event spoken of. And so when it says that “they’ve come out of the Great Tribulation,” that means they’ve come to Heaven before the time of the Great Tribulation actually beginning.
Some people are confused because, knowing that the Great Tribulation is actually the last half of Daniel’s 70th week and doesn’t really begin until chapter 12 and 13 of the Book of Revelation, how can this group of this great multitude of saints come out of the Great Tribulation if it hasn’t even begun yet?
Well, that’s where knowledge of the Greek is handy, because what it really is literally saying is they have arrived in Heaven before the Great Tribulation actually begins. And so sometime between the Rapture of the Church, which took place in Revelation 4 and 5, and the Great Tribulation, which begins in Revelation 12 and 13, this group has been martyred, that means they’ve been martyred during the first half of Daniel’s 70th week.
Now the important part here is in verse 15 where it says:
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will spread his tent over them.
That verse 15 tells you another reason why they cannot be the Church, because it says:
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
You see, they serve Him in His temple, but they’re never called priests, whereas the Church is called a royal priesthood; this group is never referred to as being priests.
And now there’s a third group we need to look at, and that’s over in Revelation 20, so let’s go there. In Revelation 20 starting in verse 4, John wrote:
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge.
This is referring to the disciples. In Matthew 19 Jesus said the disciples would sit on twelve thrones judging Israel at the time of restoration of all things. In other words during the time of the Second Coming, at the beginning of the Millennium. And then it goes on to say:
And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
So here you’ve got another group coming at the end of the Great Tribulation, just about the time of the Second Coming. They’re being resurrected and given physical bodies again, and it says that they will reign with Christ for one-thousand years. Now the interesting things you see here is that while it says they reign with Christ, it never calls them kings.
And so in Revelation 7 you have a group that serves in His temple but is never called priests, and in Revelation 20 you have a group that reigns with Christ, but they’re never called kings.
Only the Church is called by both name king and priest; only the Church is that royal priesthood that Peter referred to. Only the Church has that authority, has that great honor, of being seated at the right hand of majesty.
And so even though at one time we were dead in our sins and by nature objects of God’s wrath; we were hopeless, helpless, worthless, and useless, He made us alive in Christ. He forgave all of our sins, He clothed us in righteousness, and He seated us beside His Son in the Heavenly realm, and made us kings and priests who will reign on Earth, co-heirs with Jesus of God’s estate.
Now I dare you to find a more dramatic example of a rags to riches story! Here we are down here on Earth hopeless, helpless, worthless, and useless. We don’t have anything that God needs, we can’t help Him do anything He wants to do. In fact, by trying to help Him we’ve made His work immeasurably more difficult than it would have been otherwise, and yet He has taken us from this lowly state, He has raised us up past the angelic realm, and He’s seated us right beside of Jesus on His throne in the Heavenly realms and He has placed us there with Him.
We are members of the royal family, we’re co-heirs with Christ, and we are sons and daughters of the living God, the creator of the universe. I dare you to find any story that comes anywhere near being that dramatic an example of coming from rags to riches.
I hope you’ll take this to heart, I hope you’ll think about this every day, I hope you will ponder over this. I particularly hope that you will check out each of these passages that I have quoted here so that you can determine for yourself that what I am saying is true, and I hope you come away from here with an understanding that you’re part of God’s royal family.
It doesn’t matter what your situation is right now, it doesn’t matter how humble your estate today, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in your life, it doesn’t matter what kind of problems you’re having, it doesn’t matter what kind of difficulties you’re going through, it doesn’t matter how uncertain you feel about the future, because you know what the future is. You are a child of God, and in His eyes you are already seated on the throne of majesty at the pinnacle of the Heavenly realms, far above all power and authority.
You are there as a co-heir of Christ in the Heavenly realms. It’s already accomplished, all we’re waiting for is for time to catch up with the reality that God sees.
I hope you will think about this carefully, and I hope you will never forget it, and I pray this in Jesus’s name.