I am working on a message that I hope to preach soon. Here are the rough–really rough–notes so far.
I think I should begin by looking at the macro picture of how Jesus is bringing us all to heaven, and by heaven I mean this creation made new through union with heaven when heaven comes to earth.
Then, I should show in Ephesians 4 that Jesus could not take us to heaven without first going through hell.
Finally, I should look at the micro picture of how what is true in the larger sense is true in our lives as individuals. We have to go through hell to get to heaven.
What Jesus did in the deep when He confronted the powers of hell has to be reenacted in us. Only then can we ascend to rule with Christ. Or, to put it better, there are realms and areas of our life where this happens a dimension at a time. It is not necessary to have 100% victory in order to rule with Jesus, but our life is like regions of the promised land where strongholds remain. We may rule in certain areas and not in others. But each area of dominion that we gain, we gain as we confront the depths of the heart.
Look at the text:
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men. (In saying, He ascended, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:7-16)
This is an amazing picture of the purpose of God. When Jesus is finished, He will have built His church in every nation and subdued all of His enemies under His feet. And all of this shall occur prior to the Second Coming. (1 Corinthians 15) The destiny of the church is to share in the ascension of Jesus and the filling of “all things” in a new creation. When we talk about making it to heaven, this is the reality that we are talking about. Heaven is not a new reality detached from this present, material creation. Heaven and earth shall become one, unbroken reality flooded with the Spirit of God mediated through the glorified Christ and His body, the church. (Revelation 21, 22)
But before we can get to heaven, we have to go through hell. Jesus went through hell when He was buried in a borrowed tomb and descended into the deep and preached to the spirits in prison the gospel of His victory over all powers. We were created to share in the rule of Jesus, but before we can reign with Him we must suffer with Him.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 1:8-13)
We must be willing to descend into the deep, into the depth of the spiritual world around us and the depths of our own heart. We must be willing to engage in spiritual warfare with the powers of the deep, the powers that inflame the passions of men, that manipulate the human race through the deep, primal urges and instincts of the human race. We must fight these powers in prayer and fasting. But we must be willing to plunge into the heart of the earth, the heart of our own heart, as it were, and confront the powers that lurk in the deep of our own soul. The only way we can take dominion over the powers of the deep is to take dominion over the depths of our own heart.
This is why we are forced to endure times of great trial, because it is only in times of great trial that we are forced to confront the depths of our own heart. Jesus did not crucify Himself. He submitted to crucifixion, but He did not crucify Himself. And we cannot crucify ourselves. We must submit to crucifixion, but someone else must do it for us.
We must go through the depths of hell before we can arise with Jesus to ascend to heaven to rule over the heavenly powers, the Powers that govern the world in defiance of Christ’s rule. The powers of the deep must be confronted before we can exercise dominion over the powers of the heavenlies.
Too many battles are lost in our struggles with the heavenly Powers because we have not dealt with the powers that exploit our heart. This is why we must not avoid dealing with the emotional wounds that enslave us. We must allow Jesus to descend with us into the depths of our own heart and take the keys to death, hell and the grave within our soul. When He preaches the gospel of His rule over our heart, then we rise with Jesus to ascend into heaven and rule with Him.
We have to go through hell to get to heaven. I simply want to show that our trials are a matter of being forced by the Holy Spirit to confront the powers that lurk in the depths of our soul so that we may take the keys to our own heart. Jesus wants to give us the keys to the kingdom in our own life. But we cannot ascend with Him to rule–through we do already de jure, but not de facto–until we descend with Him to proclaim the victory of the gospel to our own soul.
What did Jesus do when He descended into hell? He preached the gospel! Then, He took the keys. Finally, He arose. This is what we must do. We must preach the gospel to the depths of our soul. Whatever primal passion may bind our soul can only be defeated through the power of the gospel. It is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the victory that God has given Christ, that defeats the powers of the deep. Psychology cannot help us. Therapy cannot help us. The real key to our victory is the gospel. We must be willing to preach and believe the gospel. It is faith in Jesus that brings victory.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Only the righteous. But we are not righteous and thus cannot ascend. However, the King of glory ascends for us, and we are seated in heaven in Him. This is the gospel! We are made righteous in Jesus. Thus, we must preach the righteousness of Christ to the demons of the deep. Preach the gospel to our fears, our guilt, our addictions, our habits, our emotions, our shame. Preach the gospel!
Then, after we have preached the gospel to the depths of our soul and the powers that dominate us, we are given the keys to our own soul. The keys represent authority, the power to bind and loose, to open and close. When God gives us the keys to the hell within our heart, we are then in control of our passions and our passions are not in control of us. After we have the keys, then we ascend with Jesus to rule over our life. “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)
Dominion in the heavenlies is really a result of dominion over our own spirit. There is a real battle within the heart that mirrors the battle in the heavenlies. The two realms are directly related. It seems in some way that the headquarters of the heavenlies is the deep, hell itself. So, if we plan to defeat the powers of the heavens, we must begin by descending into the deep. “He that ascended first descended.”
We preach the gospel to our soul and the demons that enslave our soul. Then, we take the keys as the King gives us dominion and authority over the deepest regions of our heart. Then, we ascend with Jesus to take dominion over the high places, the heavenly realms, the Powers that rule the world in defiance of Christ. But this dominion all begins by descending to the depths of the heart. You have to go through hell to get to heaven.