By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.
According to the Gospel of John, Jesus, the man, was raised and glorified the morning of his resurrection. John has no ascension scene at the end of his Gospel. I believe this simple proposition can be more than adequately deduced from his Gospel.
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come'” (John 13.33). This is repeated in John several times. “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (14.2). This is, perhaps, a reference to the Temple design in Ezekiel 40-48, but the point here is that Jesus is going to the Father. “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (14.28). “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?'” (16.5). Here it is made plain that his mission to the Father was an immediate action. “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 go, I will send him to you” (16.7). Finally, and most conclusively, “”A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me” (16.16). In other words, Jesus is going to die and they would not see him for three days time. But, after three days they will see him again.
Further, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (17.5). This is interesting in light of the statement, “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (John 6.62). With these verses it is plain that Jesus was going to be taken from them for a little while, and then return. During that interval before they would see him again Jesus went to the Father. He also stated, according to John, that he must go to the Father so that he could send the Holy Spirit. For John, we have a most explicit statement: “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (7.39). The glorification of Jesus has already been mentioned above, “now, Father, glorify me in your presence” (17.5). Jesus went away from them and died.
Now comes the morning of his resurrection, using the terminology of John, Jesus flatly says to Mary, “Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”(John 20.17). The Present Tense found in “I am ascending” is, in the light of what we have read above, conclusive. This is what Mary was told to tell the others, “Jesus said he was ascending to the Father, and your Father.” It had been three days since they have seen Jesus, for he told them that they would not see him “for a little while” but that “after a little while” they would see him – after he had gone to the Father!
When Jesus fulfills his words to them by seeing them that very day, he did an astonishing thing: “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (20.22). Remember, those who were “to receive” (lambano, Greek) the Spirit would do so after Jesus had been glorified. The glorification of Jesus, therefore, must take place before he saw them again. And, when they do see him again, he breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit” (lambano, Greek). To argue that the disciples did not receive the Spirit then and there is to argue against what is so plainly stated here. Jesus went away from them for a little while. He was going to the Father. When he was raised from the dead, he ascended to the Father, body and soul. He was raised in glory.
I bring this up because there are some that fail to see the parallel of Jesus’ resurrection and glorification as occurring at the same time. However, when we read the Apostle Paul, we find that the exact same description given for the resurrection of the dead exactly parallels the resurrection of Jesus.
“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15.42-45). If the dead are not raised, then neither is Jesus raised, for in the same fashion he was raised, so shall they be raised. Paul cannot make this any plainer, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8.11). “This mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15.53).
Was the body of Jesus made perishable? Absolutely. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” But he was speaking about the temple of his body’ (John 2.20,21). Was it raised imperishable? Absolutely. “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1.10). “Imperishable” and “immortality” are two English words for one Greek word. Paul stated that Jesus, having been raised, can “no more return to corruption” (Acts 13.34). If Jesus was raised immortal/imperishable, and by this act has shed light on what these things mean, then the death of his body meant that his body was given to the enduring corruption that is handed to all men. However, he was raised incorruptible/imperishable/immortal. If he was raised in immortality/imperishability, then that must mean that prior to his body being raised, it was undergoing the normal process of corruption and mortality. But, as both Paul and Peter declare: Jesus’ body did not remain in that state. It did not see the full process of corruption as, in contrast, David’s body did (and still does). Due to the fact that God laid upon Jesus our sin, Jesus suffered death, being “made sin” on our behalf, and experiencing the full blow – not as one who sinned, but as one on who sin was laid. Thus, like the believer, Jesus’ body died, and his soul immediately, absent from the body, was present with the Father. In three days the Father raised the son in an immortal body, glorifying him, and the son ascended to the Father in this glorified, immortal, imperishable body.
Paul said that the dead will be sown in weakness and raised in power. “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13.4). “…and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1.4). Not forty days later, but by his resurrection he was raised in power, having been sown in weakness.
Can we continue and say that Jesus suffered shame and humiliation on the cross in his death? That he died without honor? “Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me” (John 8.49). “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2.9). Jesus was crowned with glory and honor having suffered the dishonor of death. He tasted the same death we taste. He was raised in glory and honor. Jesus was not raised when he is seen in his final ascension to the Father in Acts 1. He was raised in glory and honor, immortal, imperishable, and in power the morning of his resurrection. The attestations of the the Apostles are clear.
Did Jesus have what is translated as a “natural body”? Most certainly. He was the son of ‘adam (“man” in Hebrew). When Paul considers the natural body of Adam, he quotes Genesis 2.7, “man became a living being” – made from the dust and the breath of God. This verse that Paul quotes is before Adam fell. Adam, in his natural state, before he transgressed the commandment of God, was a natural man, a natural body, without sin. And, so, Jesus’ body was made without corruption, and without sin. Where Adam faced temptation and broke God’s law, Jesus was tempted “in every way” to sin against God’s law, but did not in one jot or tittle. In fact, Jesus, prior to his bearing sin in his body, transfigured his body into a raiment of white glory, having the glory of God manifested in that body – the glory he had before. However, bearing the shame of sin, the weakness of the cross, and being humiliated in suffering, Jesus’ body died. It was made corrupt. It was without honor and power. It was made mortal. But, this is not the end of the story for because of his obedience to the Father, he was raised in power, with honor and glory, immortal and incorruptible, no longer to return to corruption, no longer to bear sin in death, and no longer able to die again. Jesus was raised in his adamic body as a life-giving spirit. The point here is that what’s good for the gander is good for the goose, and what’s good for the resurrection of the dead is good for the resurrection of Jesus.
To state that Jesus waited for forty days to then be glorified and then receive his immortal body, then receive an incorruptible body, is to go against the very statements of Paul and John. What is interesting even in the Hebrew Bible, is that Moses ascended into the glory cloud of God “on the third day” (Exodus 19.11-20). “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled…And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.” Now, in the Greek-Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint) guess what word for “went up” is used? It’s in our Bibles in John for “ascended.” And, how long did Moses stay on the mountain? Forty days. But he smashed the first tablets after forty days, and re-established the covenant with new tablets. I’ll let that sink in.
When Jesus ascended the morning of, on the third day, he sat at the right hand of the Father. Matthew makes this known when he said, “all power in heaven and earth have been given to me” (Matthew 28.18). He said this before he was taken up in Acts 1. As I have noted in past blogs, Daniel 7.13,14 reveals the son of man coming to the Ancient of Days upon the clouds of heaven and was “given” (same word) “power” (same word). He comes on the clouds of heaven at the right hand of the Father, before his Father, where he was “going”.
Luke, the author of Acts 1, actually confirms our witness. “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Luke 24.6,7). Then, just a few verses down, Luke wrote, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (24.26). We can see the clear implication: suffer these things, and on the third day rise/enter his glory. Luke does not say, and indeed none of the Gospels say that Jesus rose from the dead, hung around for forty days, and then entered his glory! He is not here! Well, where was he? In glory, to which he rose crowned with glory and honor!
All of these facts are brought out to demonstrate that Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, that he was raised in power, crowned with glory and honor, and raised immortal, imperishable and without corruption. He ascended to the Father the morning of his resurrection, on the third day, and he also was seen by his disciples, and 500 more according to Paul, for forty days, demonstrating that he indeed was the resurrected King of Glory. Notice in Paul’s statements that “he died, was buried and on the third day he was risen and seen”. There is no hint here whatsoever that he waited forty days after he was raised from the dead to enter his glory! He was seen for forty days. He was heard, handled and touched. He was risen in the same glory he had before when he demonstrated his incorruptible state on the Mount of Transfiguration. Adam sinned and became corruptible. Jesus bore our sin and became corruptible, but unlike Adam, was raised from the dead without corruption so that now nothing stands in the way of raising his saints to the full glory and honor given to Man in the beginning according to Psalm 8, which Paul and the author of Hebrews states. The fact that Jesus was raised immortal, raised from mortality, that he was raised incorruptible, raised from corruption, and raised in power, suffering our weakness, and raised in honor, suffering our humiliation, demonstrates that the dead in Christ, who have been baptized into Christ, have, therefore, been united in his actual, physical death due to sin, now also die in obedience to God in a corrupted body of sin, so that as we have been united in his death, so shall we also be like him in his resurrection. If Jesus was bodily raised, so shall also those in Christ be raised, quickening our mortal bodies as his mortal body was quickened.
In Part 2 we will cover the ramifications of this when we consider being baptized into the death of Christ.