Jesus’ Resurrection And Ascension

Described

 

Jesus Christ was the first human to be resurrected from the dead by God. Others have been brought back from death by God, but each of these died later (see 1 Kings 17:17-24, 2 Kings 4:18-37, John 11:1-44, Acts 9:36-43 and 20:7-12). They died because their bodies had not been glorified and perfected but remained subject to weakness, sickness, aging and death. The effects of Adamic sin still remained in their bodies. But God resurrected Jesus Christ's body in an immortal perfect state.

 

Relevant Greek word

 

In the original Greek New Testament, the word “resurrection” is “anastasis” which means “a raising up, resurrection from the dead”. [1]

 

Biblical evidence for the resurrection

 

The four Gospel writers each record the historical event of Jesus’ resurrection (see Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-53 and John 20:1-21:25). The Book of Acts reveals the Apostles publicly declared often that Jesus’ physical body had been resurrected. The word “resurrection” is used in relation to Jesus’ resurrection in Acts 1:22, 2:31, 4:2, 4:33 and 17:18. The word “raised” is used 13 times in the Book of Acts in verses such as Acts 2:24, 2:32, 3:15, 5:30, 13:37 and 17:31 in relation to Jesus’ resurrection.

Christ's resurrection is also mentioned much by Paul in his Letters and a few times by Peter in his Letters. The New Testament Letters or Epistles are based on the assumption Jesus Christ is the resurrected Lord and Saviour who is reigning over His church, Who must be trusted, loved, worshipped and obeyed, and Who will one day return to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords of all.

In the Book of Revelation, John emphasises often that the resurrected Christ is reigning in heaven. Revelation 1:17-18 records: “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.’”

 

Historical evidence

 

There are many solid historical arguments for Jesus’ resurrection. Books such as Josh McDowell’s “Evidence that Demands a Verdict”, [2] Frank Morison’s “Who Moved the Stone?” [3] and William L. Craig’s “The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus”[4] are three which list many of these arguments.

 

The characteristics of Jesus’ resurrection body

 

After God raised Jesus’ physical body from death, it had the following features:

 

a)        It was still physical. It could be still touched and handled by others (see Matthew 28:9 and John 20:27). Luke 24:39 records Jesus’ words about Him not being solely a spirit in His resurrected form: “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

b)        It was no longer subject to any human weakness such as tiredness and being able to be killed. It became immortal and incorruptible (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-54). Jesus’ pre-resurrection body did not have Adamic sin in it, but was like Adam’s body was before his fall. If Jesus’ pre-resurrection body had Adamic sin in it, Christ would not have been able to die as an innocent substitute for others, but would have been under a sentence of death for His own sin. Jesus’ pre-resurrection body had human weakness in it as seen by the fact it was able to be killed by others. But when it was resurrected, God gave it new characteristics which rid it of all human weakness. Resurrected human bodies are called spiritual bodies in 1 Corinthians 15:44.

 

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit were involved in the resurrection

 

Romans 6:4, Galatians 1:1 and Ephesians 1:17-20 show God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead. But verses such as John 2:19-21, 10:17-18 and 11:25 reveal Jesus was also involved in His own resurrection. God the Son is the eternal resurrection life by which His own body was raised. John 11:25 says: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.’”

Romans 8:11 indicates the Holy Spirit was involved in the resurrection of the physical body of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus’ resurrection involved the whole Trinity.

 

What the resurrection signified about Jesus

 

1 Timothy 3:16 reveals God the Holy Spirit justified or vindicated Jesus Christ: “…God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit…” This does not mean Jesus was a sinner who needed to be justified by undeserved grace. If Jesus Christ was a sinner, He could not have acted as our innocent sinless substitute on the cross and would Himself have needed a Saviour. 1 Timothy 3:16 relates to Christ being justified or declared righteous because of His perfect nature, perfect character and perfect works, and not by undeserved grace.

By raising Jesus from the dead, the Holy Spirit revealed that God had perfectly justified or vindicated Christ. In the original Greek, the word “justified” in 1 Timothy 3:16 is “dikaioo” which means “declare or show to be righteous”. By raising Jesus from the dead, the Holy Spirit was declaring and/or showing that Jesus was perfectly righteous.

The Pharisees and other Jews had accused Jesus Christ of being a sinner (see John 9:24 and Matthew 26:65-68). The Pharisees also said Jesus was demon-possessed (see Matthew 9:34 and 12:24). The High Priest and the majority of the Sanhedrin – the Jewish ruling religious council – accused Jesus of being a blasphemer against God (see Matthew 26:65-68). By such comments, the Pharisees, High Priest and other leaders were saying Christ was cursed and condemned by the Law of Moses. Many Jews also rejected Jesus’ claim to being God – the great I AM (see John 8:58-59).

The Jewish chief priests, scribes and elders despised Jesus’ death, regarding it as a sign of God’s disapproval on a sinner who claimed to be the Son of God (see Matthew 27:41-43). 1 Timothy 3:16, however, reveals that by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, the Holy Spirit declared or showed:

 

a)        Jesus Christ had a perfectly righteous nature and character (see Acts 3:14 and 7:52).

b)        Jesus Christ was perfectly righteous in His life, living in perfect obedience to the Law of Moses (see Matthew 5:17 and Hebrews 5:8-9) and to what God the Father told Him to do in relation to His death (see Philippians 2:8-9).  Jesus’ death was a perfect expression of love for God and for all other people and therefore was a perfect fulfilment of the Law of Moses which according to Matthew 22:37-40 can be summarised in the two great love commands. As a result, Jesus deserved to be resurrected. He was resurrected out of merit and not undeserved grace like sinners are.

c)        Christ was not a sinner, demon-possessed or a blasphemer (see 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15 and 1 Peter 2:22).

d)        Jesus’ death was a perfectly effective substitutionary offering to God which paid the complete penalty owing to God’s justice and holiness in relation to the sin of every human who has ever lived.

e)        Jesus Christ is God the Son. Romans 1:4 states: “and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”

 

Verses similar to 1 Timothy 3:16 are Philippians 2:8-9. The latter says: “…He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.”

 

What the resurrection guarantees

 

We are not pardoned and forgiven of sin, declared righteous, regenerated and so on as a result of Jesus Christ's resurrection. These things are provided on the basis of the various aspects of His death. But His resurrection is a result of His death and was provided by God partly as a firmclad guarantee believers:

 

a)        have been justified by God through Christ. Romans 4:25 proves this when it says Jesus: “…was raised because of our justification.” Justification refers to being totally pardoned, forgiven all our sins and declared by God to be “not guilty” and “perfectly righteous in Christ”. The resurrection was a declaration by God that the full penalty for our sins had been paid by Jesus’ death. This penalty was physical death and living in a state of permanent spiritual death in hell. Also, because the resurrection was a sign of God declaring Jesus to be perfectly righteous, it was also a pronouncement by God that He regarded those in union with Christ to be perfectly righteous in legal standing before Him the Supreme Ruler and Judge. If Jesus Christ had not been resurrected, this would have been the sign God still regarded believers as condemned unsaved sinners. 1 Corinthians 15:17 states: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”

b)        have been totally accepted by God. The resurrection proved God perfectly accepted Jesus Christ. So because believers are in Him, God accepts them in the Beloved, the Beloved being Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:6 declares: “…His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.”

c)        have been regenerated or born again through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3 says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Refer also to Ephesians 2:5-6 and Colossians 3:1.

d)        are no longer under the rule or lordship of sin (see Romans 6:5-14). Believers have sin in them (see 1 John 1:8) and will sin (see James 3:2). But they are no longer under sin’s rule. Jesus Christ is their Ruler or Lord and Master.

e)        will have their bodies resurrected by the awesome power of God the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:12-58 and 2 Corinthians 4:14, Paul reveals Jesus’ resurrection provides a sure guarantee believers’ bodies will be resurrected. 1 Corinthians 6:14 states: “And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.”

 

Jesus’ resurrection assures the world of future judgement

 

Acts 17:31 declares Jesus’ resurrection is a sign to the world God has appointed Christ as the Judge of every human being in future: “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

It is little wonder so many unsaved religious people, atheists and agnostics try to disprove the historical truth of Jesus Christ's resurrection. This is the only way they can suppress the warnings of their conscience about their future judgement by Jesus Christ for having disobeyed God (see Romans 2:12-16).

 

Jesus Christ's ascension into heaven

 

Forty days after His resurrection from death, Jesus Christ ascended into heaven. Mark 16:19, Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1:9-11 record this remarkable event. Acts 1:9-11 says: “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven…’”

Here we see Jesus went to heaven. He did not dematerialise into the realm of pure spirit. Jesus Christ's ascension was different from that of Elijah’s because Elijah did not ascend in a resurrected body.

Key features of Jesus’ ascension

 

After Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, the Father gave Him a level of glory, authority and honour Christ did not previously have while on Earth. Philippians 2:9-11 relates to this: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Another aspect of Jesus’ ascension into heaven was His sitting down at the right hand of God the Father. Verses such as Acts 2:33, Ephesians 1:20-22, Hebrews 1:3 and 1 Peter 3:22 relate to this. Ephesians 1:20 says: “which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”

By sitting down next to God the Father, Jesus Christ showed He had completed the task God gave Him and is actively ruling and reigning in perfect justice, grace and love with the Father at present. Acts 5:31 reveals Jesus has ascended to the Father’s right hand as Prince or Lord and Saviour who can offer forgiveness of sins and associated repentance to others: “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

 

Practical applications of Jesus’ ascension to our lives

 

Jesus’ ascension into heaven assures us that:

 

a)        we have received the Holy Spirit. John 16:7 shows unless Jesus ascended, we would not have had the Holy Spirit come as our everpresent Divine Helper: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” Acts 2:33 relates to this also.

b)        on the right hand side of God the Father, Jesus our High Priest is continually obtaining manifestations of God’s mercy and grace for us through His perfect prayers. Hebrews 4:14-16 states: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 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 7:23-8:2 relates to similar things.

c)        we will ascend into heaven in future. John 14:2-3 states: “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were no so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Refer also the Hebrews 6:19-20.

d)        as Supreme Ruler and Judge, God has delegated to us the authority Christ has over all Satanic beings. Ephesians 2:6 states: “and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 1:20-21 shows part of Christ's being seated at God’s right hand, involves authority over all angelic beings, including fallen angels. Because we are in Christ, we have His authority. We have Jesus’ authority over every wicked spirit who may tempt us. Also, we can cast demons out of others in Jesus’ Name and by the power of His Holy Spirit (see Luke 10:18-20 and Matthew 12:28).

e)        in future, God will delegate to us part of Christ's authority in relation to the judgement of fallen angels (see 1 Corinthians 6:3) and a share in His future rule over all created things (see Revelation 2:26-27 and 3:21).

 

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1. What was the difference between Jesus’ resurrection and Lazarus being raised from the dead?

2. What Biblical evidence is there of Jesus’ resurrection?

3. What were the characteristics of Jesus’ resurrected body?

4. What things did the resurrection signify about Jesus Christ?

5. What does Jesus’ resurrection guarantee for believers?

6. What does Acts 17:31 teach us about Jesus’ resurrection and the Great Final Judgement?

7. Explain the features of Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

8. Of what things does Jesus’ ascension into heaven assure us?


 

[1] Vine, page 531.

[2] Josh McDowell, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict”, Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardino, 1979.

[3] Frank Morison, “Who Moved the Stone?”, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1958.

[4] William L. Craig, “The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus”, Moody, Chicago, 1981.

 

 


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