This is part of my commentary series on The 39 Articles of Religion. Article 4 states:
- Of the Resurrection of Christ
Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.
It is universally professed among all true Christians without hesitation that Christ rose again from death, and after forty days ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father, from where he will return to judge the world on the Last Day. What often is not appreciated as clearly are the details this Article describes.
It first must be pointed out that the resurrection of Jesus was a bodily resurrection. Either unintentionally or purposefully, the idea creeps into the minds of some people that Christ’s resurrection was “spiritual” but not “bodily.” Part of this faulty mindset is related to a non-christian philosophy that proclaims spiritual matter as good and physical matter as evil, thus claiming that Christ’s resurrection gave him a perfected spiritual (and non-physical) body. But the Scriptures contain many clear corrections to this idea: Jesus showed Thomas his crucifixion wounds, Jesus ate fish on a beach with some other disciples, Paul and others wrote of his bodily resurrection and ascension.
It next must be understood that his resurrected body was a perfected human nature. When this article says that Christ rose with “all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature,” it’s affirming that the perfect human begin has a body. In the resurrected Christ, we see not a super-human, not a demi-god, but a perfect human. As he is in his resurrected state, so are we to become in our resurrected state. We will still have a body, we will still eat and drink, and walk and talk; and we will be filled with God’s divine glory as he perfectly dwells in us and we in him.
Finally, the doctrine of Christ’s ascension and session (being seated at God’s right hand) also frequently falls short of popular Christian attention. It is a matter of some mystery that he has ascended, in his human body, to the right hand of God the Father in heaven. Must there be an actual location where Jesus is right now, or is it in another dimension, or outside of time and space as we know it? There is much we can only speculate. What we do know is that Jesus, in his full perfected humanity as well as his divinity, is face to face with the invisible true and living God. And if one human being can sit next to God, so can the rest of us. Indeed, in Ephesians 2:6, Paul writes that we are already seated with Christ in heaven, by virtue of the fact that we are one body with Him.
So just as the death, burial, and descent of Christ into hell are sources of hope and encouragement for us as we contemplate our own deaths, so too are the resurrection of Christ and the ascension of Christ into heaven sources of hope and encouragement for us as we contemplate the promise of eternal life. And even though we “aren’t there yet,” we do know that Christ is King, already on the throne, at the right hand of God. All glory and honor and power is his, and for that we can (and must!) give thanks.