Friday, April 11, 2014

The Post-Resurrection State of Christ

In my writings much has been said about the nature of Jesus's humanity and deity from His birth to His death, but I've written very little about what the New Testament tells us of His nature after His triumph over death. Studying Jesus's nature and how it has changed after the Resurrection is just as important as studying His nature before the Resurrection. First let's begin by discussing the humanity and deity of Christ before He rose from the grave.

Prior to the incarnation, Jesus existed from eternity as YHWH, the God of Israel. John describes him specifically in the Aramaic versions as the Miltha, which means "manifestation", "word", "substance", "instance", and other things. The Greek versions use the word Logos, which describes both wisdom and expression. Logos is used by Hellenistic philosopher Philo to describe a manifestation of God that interacts with the world. The Aramaic Targums, which were the commonly used oral versions of the Scriptures in Aramaic used among 1st century Judeans and Galileans, replace "YHWH" with Memra ("Word").

Jesus Christ, the Son, is the revealed Person of God. The Messiah is the revelator, the manifestation, and the substance of God. The Word is truly God, but the Word also became flesh. The Word becoming flesh does not mean that the Word ceased to be God, but that the Word also became a man. Jesus is confirmed to be a human being in many places in the New Testament. The Gospel of Matthew opens with a genealogy from Abraham to Jesus the Messiah (1:1-16) and the Gospel of Luke traces Christ's genealogy from Himself back to Adam, the original man (Luke 3:23-38). Paul, opening the Epistle to the Romans, describes Jesus as being of the seed of David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3), making Him a descendant of King David (fulfilling many prophecies concerning the Messiah being a descendant of David, like Isaiah 11:1). In Galatians 4:4 (New Living Translation), says "But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law." All of these Scriptures testify of the clear humanity of Christ during the incarnation.

In order to prove that God remained God even after the incarnation, we need to remember that God is immutable (Numbers 23:19). While in the flesh, Jesus made many claims of deity. During a discussion with Jewish believers, Jesus stated that He was in existence before Abraham (John 8:58), and later in John 10:30, He claims to be one with the Father, leading the people to accuse Him of blasphemy in claiming to be God (10:33), and Jesus does not deny that He is claiming deity, but does deny that He is blaspheming (10:34-38). The Apostle Thomas, upon seeing the risen Messiah, declared Him to be his Lord and His God (John 20:28), and Thomas was not rebuked for this.

Now upon being risen from the dead, Jesus was clearly changed. Paul states that when we are resurrected, our bodies will be changed (I Corinthians 15:35-54). I John 3:2 affirms that our resurrected bodies will be just like Christ's. "Dear friends, we are already God's children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is."

Lest anyone believe that Jesus did not rise from the dead in a physical body, the Gospel writers put in details in order to show that Jesus did truly rise from the dead in the same body that He died in (albeit in a glorified form). In order to prove that He wasn't a ghost, Jesus ate in front of the disciples (Luke 24:36-43). Matthew describes women laying hold of Jesus's feet when seeing Him alive (28:9). Let's not forget that every one of the Gospels emphasizes that Jesus's tomb was empty.

Now, many people believe that Jesus ceased to be a physical being upon taking His position of prestige as God's right hand. This is clearly not the case upon examination of the Scriptural evidence. In Colossians 2:9, Paul states that Jesus is (present tense) the embodiment of God's nature. The resurrection would have been pointless if the incarnation was not permanent. If Jesus is not still a physical being, then He is not qualified anymore to function as our high priest (a position that Psalms 110:4 states is a permanent position for Christ).

Hebrews 5:14-18 tells us why Jesus is able to be our High Priest. "Because God's children are human beings- made of flesh and blood- the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested."

Hebrews 7:25-28, delving deeper into the subject Jesus Christ's Priesthood, says, "Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people's sins. The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made the perfect High Priest forever."

As seen in Hebrews 5:14-18, it is necessary for Jesus to still be human, because if He was not still human, He would no longer be able to intercede for sinners. Jesus only prays because of His humanity (both a physical and psychological humanity), as God does not need to pray. How has the humanity of Christ changed since the resurrection? I don't know, but we will know when we are transformed at His return. His knowledge and power was clearly enhanced, but this does not mean that He ceased to be human.

The most troubling Scripture I've seen on the subject of Jesus still being limited after the resurrection is John 21:17, where Peter says that Jesus knows everything. This does not necessarily mean that Jesus literally knows everything, as the disciples also state this in John 16:29-30 (prior to the resurrection). Jesus, due to the incarnation, is clearly limited in knowledge, because He does not know the time of His return (Matthew 24:36). Prior to the incarnation, Jesus tells us that He receives revelatory knowledge and instruction from the Father (John 5:19-20), and this continues to be true after the resurrection, as Jesus is stated to have received the Revelation of the events of the end times from God and in turn he gave this Revelation to John (Revelation 1:1). Jesus is stated to know all things because the Father shows Him everything (John 5:20).

Does this limited knowledge negate the fact that Jesus is God? We know that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Jesus is clearly only able to be in one place at a time, He states that He cannot do anything without the Father (John 5:19), and He (as established earlier) does not know everything. All of Jesus's limits are self-imposed (Philippians 2:6-8) so that He could become a genuine human being. God's unlimited mind is being channeled through a human brain. These basic properties of God are present in Christ, but are latent within Him.

I sincerely hope that this article has answered any questions you have had about the state of the incarnation after the resurrection and ascension. This has definitely been a fun one to write, as I have been wanting to write it for a while now. God bless!

All Scriptural quotations are from the New Living Translation (NLT).