Knowing the Son as Redeemer in his Exaltation
By Drs. John Frame and Steve Childers
In the Applied Theology series of courses, you’ll learn a Trinitarian theology of faith, hope, and love by understanding and applying to your life what the Bible teaches about: 1) Faith found in the Apostles’ Creed, 2) Hope found in the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) Love found in the Ten Commandments. You’ll learn from God’s Word that:
A mind that is renewed by faith and a heart that is aflame with hope results in a life that honors God by loving him and others deeply and well.
In Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 4, you’ll learn how to know and worship God the Son as Lord of Redemption in his exaltation.
About the Applied Theology Project
The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level teaching designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life. Seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their almost 90 years of teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to life and ministry.
Read the transcript for Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 4 below!
Knowing the Son as Redeemer in his Exaltation
By John Frame and Steve Childers
Having examined the Son’s work of humiliation as our Redeemer in his birth, life, and death, we turn now to consider his work of exaltation in his resurrection, ascension, and return.
When describing Jesus’ resurrection, the Creed says, The third day he rose again from the dead. Luke writes:
On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (Luke 24:1-3)
Jesus’ tomb was empty and no one could produce his body. During the next forty days, the resurrected Jesus presented himself to the Apostles with “many proofs” as he was “speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, Luke 24:25-27). Paul describes several of Jesus’ appearances, which were usually to groups from 2 to 500, including his appearance to Paul after Jesus’ ascension (Acts 9:1-9). Paul writes:
He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive … Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Cor. 15:5-8)
At Pentecost, Peter proclaims the resurrection of Jesus as proof that Jesus is God’s promised Son of King David. (Psalm 16:8-11, Acts 2:14-32) The Scriptures give us several perspectives on the meaning and significance of Jesus’ resurrection. The resurrection:
• declares Jesus to be Lord and God’s Only Son (Acts 2:29-39, Acts 17:30-31, Rom. 1:4)
• proves Jesus’ atoning death is accepted by the Father (Rom. 4:24-25, Phil 2:8-9)
• declares Jesus as firstborn from the dead (Rom. 8:29, Col. 1:18)
• reveals Jesus as the firstfruits inauguration of God’s kingdom on earth (1 Cor. 15:20-28)
• demonstrates Jesus’ victory over Satan, sin, and death (Acts 2:24)
• guarantees us forgiveness and justification (1 Cor. 15:17, Rom. 4:25)
• provides us assurance that Jesus now lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25)
• brings us, by God’s Spirit, into resurrection life now (Rom. 6:3-5, Eph. 1:18-20, 1 Pet. 1:3)
• guarantees our future deliverance from death (1 Corinthians 15:18)
• promises our future resurrection body and everlasting life (Rom. 8:23, 1 Cor. 15:20, 23, 49)
Paul teaches that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is central to our faith. He writes, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:7) Because Jesus is risen, God promises all who repent and believe in the resurrected Christ: 1) a new standing before God by forgiving their sins, 2) a new heart from God by giving them his indwelling Holy Spirit, and 3) a new world with God when Jesus returns to raise them from the dead and give them resurrected bodies like his through which they will reign with him on a new earth forever.
The Creed’s next affirmation about Jesus Christ is that: He ascended into heaven, [and] he is seated at the right hand of the Father. In Jesus’ last meeting with his disciples, forty days after his resurrection, he tells them that they will receive power to be his witnesses when his promised Holy Spirit comes upon them. (Acts 1:8) After Jesus tells them these things, Luke records:
As they (the disciples) were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” (Acts 1:9-11)
The word heaven in Scripture has several meanings, including the sky with clouds, God’s presence (his dwelling place), and the state of angels and humans as they share God’s presence. In this account of Jesus’ ascension, heaven refers to both the sky and God’s invisible presence.
Heaven is glorious but it is not the ultimate destination of Jesus and his followers. The two men in white robes (presumed to be angels) at the scene after his ascension said, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11b). Heaven is a temporary, “intermediate state,” after the believer’s death, that awaits Jesus’ return and the final resurrection when we’ll have renewed bodies on a renewed earth forever.
Early in his ministry Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). As the eternal Son of God, Jesus’ divine nature always has all authority. But the Father did not give all authority to the person of Jesus Christ as the God-man (Greek: theanthropos) until after his resurrection. Before Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission, the resurrected God-man told them: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18).
In his ascension, Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father to complete the Father’s mission as his Redeemer-King to redeem and restore fallen humanity and creation. In his divine nature as the eternal Son of God, he always rules sovereignly over all things along with the Father and the Spirit. But now Jesus rules as the ascended God-man at the right hand of God the Father.
Jesus’ rule at the Father’s right hand reflects the model of kings and emperors in the ancient world where lesser kings would rule as vassals over various portions of a great kingdom, always rendering service and paying tribute to the one great high king. Therefore, at the end of time, when all things have been placed under his feet, Jesus will then subject himself and all things to the Father. (1 Cor. 15:28)
In Acts 2:33-36, Peter proclaims the good news of Jesus’ ascension to God’s right hand by reminding his hearers about Psalm 110 in which David’s promised Son (Jesus) is also David’s Lord who is now seated and ruling at the great high King’s right hand.
When Jesus ascended to the right hand of God the Father in Heaven, he and the Father poured out his promised Holy Spirit on his Church, to make God’s invisible kingdom visible on earth, not only in human hearts, but also in every sphere of life until it reflects the order of heaven. The outpouring of God’s Spirit is both for our personal salvation and for the empowerment of his Church to fulfill God’s mission on earth.
Peter explains that the miraculous outpouring of God’s Spirit which they all experienced at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13) was evidence that the resurrected, ascended Jesus is now seated (enthroned) and ruling at God’s right hand, by his Holy Spirit, to bring all God’s enemies under his feet.
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. (Acts 2:33)
Paul’s explanation of the gospel extends beyond Jesus’ death and resurrection in the past (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) to include Jesus’ present and future rule as the ascended King over all things by the Spirit. (1 Cor. 15:25-28) Jesus will continue his rule until he completes the mission that God the Father gave him to make all things new.
The good news is not only what Jesus did, but also who Jesus is because of what he did. Because of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, he is now reigning at the right hand of God as Lord and Savior of the world. In the New Testament this fundamental affirmation is that “Jesus is Lord!” (Rom. 10:9, Phil. 2:9-11)
The final section on Jesus’ exaltation in the Creed says, “He will come to judge the living and the dead.” The Nicene Creed later adds the biblical truths: “He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end.”
For forty days after his resurrection, Jesus continued “speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). So just before his ascension, his disciples asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). It was not yet the time for Jesus to restore the fullness of God’s kingdom on earth, so he answered them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7).
Jesus followers soon learned that they were living in a period between his ascension and return to restore the fullness of God’s kingdom on earth forever. During this interim period, Jesus told them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Earlier Jesus taught them, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).
As the enthroned Lord and Christ, Jesus is now continuing his Father’s mission of bringing God’s kingdom to earth by the power of his Holy Spirit and through his Church. Jesus will continue his rule until he completes the mission that God the Father gave him at the end of time. Paul writes:
Then comes the end, when he (Jesus) delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Cor. 15:24-26)
At the Father’s appointed time, when the work of his church is done, Jesus will return with glory to restore the Father’s kingdom on earth in all its fullness and his kingdom will never end. Paul describes this glory: “[W]hen the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7-8).
God’s final judgment will include both “the living and the dead,” meaning everyone who is alive on earth when Jesus returns, and everyone in all of history who has died. Prior to God’s final judgment, the Scriptures teach there will be a bodily resurrection of everyone. (1 Cor. 15:50-52)
Then comes God’s final judgment when all people, believers and unbelievers, will stand before Jesus Christ as their Judge. To his followers Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). But to the unbelievers Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).
Martin Luther beautifully summarizes the meaning of our belief in God the Son’s humiliation and exaltation as our Redeemer in these five statements:
• I believe that Jesus Christ—true God, Son of the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary—is my Lord.
• At great cost he has saved and redeemed me, a lost and condemned person.
• He has freed me from sin, death, and the power of the devil—not with silver or gold, but with his holy and precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.
• All this he has done that I may be his own, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally.
• This is most certainly true.
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