Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
The Resurrection of Christ
whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
Acts 2:24 NKJV
Question 52 of the Larger Catechism, asks, “How was Christ exalted in his resurrection?” It gives the answer, “Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that not having seen corruption in death (of which it was not possible for him to be held), and having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof, (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life), really united to his soul, he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power; whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God, to have satisfied divine justice, to have vanquished death, and him that had the power of it, and to be Lord of quick and dead: all which he did as a public person, the head of his Church, for their justification, quickening in grace, support against enemies, and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day.” Last week we began to consider the exaltation of Christ. This week we look at the first stage of that exaltation: His glorious resurrection from the dead!
A few weeks ago we discussed death as “the final humiliation.” When we die, our bodies decay in the ground, though our souls go to be with the Lord to await the resurrection. For every believer who is not alive when the Lord returns, there will be a temporal period of being “unclothed” until the last day when our bodies are raised imperishable and we are glorified. Jesus, however, began to be exalted on the third day following His death, when He was resurrected from the dead never to die again. Paraphrasing Psalm 16:10 and Acts 2:24, the Catechism declares that Jesus’ body did not see corruption for it was impossible for death to hold Him. Death came into our world as God’s judgment on sin. All men die for all have sinned (Rom. 5:12). For this reason death could not hold our Lord, for He never sinned (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus laid down His life willingly in order to become a sin offering. He chose to be a substitute for all of God’s elect for the purpose of satisfying the righteous indignation of God that was due to fall upon them on account of all of their sins. Christ’s death was indeed due to God’s judgment, but that judgment was deserved by us, not by Him. Accordingly, once Jesus satisfied the judgment of God upon sin, death could not hold Him for it had no claim on Him whatsoever.
Thus, Christ rose in the same body in which He was crucified, for death was not able to continue to afflict His body with decomposition and decay. Jesus showed the disciples the nail prints in His hands, feet (Luke 24:40), and side (John 20:27). At His resurrection, Christ’s body retained its essential properties of physicality. He had flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). He ate a piece of fish to prove He was not a ghost (Luke 24:43). Christ rose with a real human body, never again to die or to be under the dominion of death (Rom. 6:9). Moreover, unlike the few others in Scripture who were revived after dying, Jesus raised Himself from the dead: “No one takes [my life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). It was in His resurrection that Jesus showed His divine power (Rom. 1:4).
The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, never to die again, is the greatest display of power in history. Regarding God’s creation, it is the most significant event that ever was or will be. The resurrection is the declaration and display that the God-man Jesus has won. He has defeated sin and death. He has taken all of God’s wrath for sin, and having fully satisfied it, He has emerged from the grave – alive forevermore! Furthermore, the resurrection is the proof of our faith. It is the undeniable fact that Jesus is the Son of God, that Christianity is the only true religion. “[God] 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” (Acts 17:31). The resurrection of Christ from the dead is God’s assurance and attestation that Jesus is His Son and that judgment day is coming! Every other religion has a dead founder rotting in the grave. Buddha is dead and in the grave, Confucius is dead and in the grave, Muhammad is dead and in the grave, but Jesus is alive and reigning at the Father’s right hand. And He will come again to judge the living and the dead, on the day when He exerts His resurrection power over all flesh!