Reading Systematic Theology with Wayne Grudem – What was Christ’s resurrection body like? What is its significance for us? What happened to Christ when he ascended into heaven? What is meant by the states of Jesus Christ?

This post is part of a 50+ post series from the classic work by Wayne Grudem (PhD, Cambridge), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. The aim of each post is to provide an overview of each chapter in the book and related resources for each topic.

Synopsis of Chapter

In this chapter of Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem reviews the resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ and its significance to believers today. For the resurrection, it starts with Jesus’ resurrection and then he covers the doctrinal ramifications of his resurrection. For Christ’s ascension, we see what happened with Jesus after his resurrection and how it affects Christians now. Finally, Grudem covers the states of Jesus Christ. 

The Resurrection of Jesus

Jesus rose from the dead. The Gospels contain abundant evidence to demonstrate Jesus’ resurrection in Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-53 and John 20:1-21:25. In addition, the rest of the New Testament depends on Jesus rising from the dead. 

But Jesus resurrection was not a mere resuscitation. Unlike what happened to Lazarus (John 11:1-44), Jesus rose from the dead with a new kind of life. For instance, Jesus was not immediately recognized by his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-22). And Mary Magdalene failed to recognize Jesus at first at the tomb on Sunday morning (John 20:1). 

On the other hand, there was continuity between Jesus’ resurrected body and his other body. Though they may have been initially startled at meeting Jesus again, they were convinced he had risen from the dead (Luke 24:33,37). There are some important aspects of Jesus’ resurrected body:

  • Jesus had a physical body (Matthew 28:9). 
  • Jesus ate food (John 20:15, Acts 10:41).
  • Jesus said he was not a spirit, but flesh and bones (Luke 24:39).

The Significance of Jesus’ Resurrection

There are several doctrinal implications to Jesus’ resurrection. For one, Christians are born again through Jesus’ resurrection: “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). In another place, Paul tells us God “raised us up with him” (Ephesians 2:6). So the resurrection ensured our spiritual regeneration.

In addition, the resurrection ensured our justification. Paul wrote to the Romans, Jesus was “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). That means our approval before God is contingent upon Jesus rising from the dead. All the penalties we deserved were counted toward Jesus because of his resurrection, at least partially.

Finally, Jesus’ resurrection points to our eventual resurrection. Paul tells us, “and God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Corinthians 6:14). In another place, Paul calls the resurrection of Jesus the “firstfruits” or first taste of a ripening crop. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so also Christians will be raised from the dead according to the Scripture. 

The Ascension of Jesus

After Jesus was resurrected, he stayed on earth an additional 40 days and then ascended into heaven. We read about the ascension of Jesus in Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1:9-11. Jesus did not merely disappear, nor did he stay on earth. Jesus was lifted up into heaven. And he will come again in the same way as he left earth just as the angel 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 1:11).

In his ascension, Jesus rose to a greater place of honor than before his earthly ministry. Paul said “God has highly exalted him” (Philippians 2:9) and Peter tells us that Jesus is “exalted at the right hand of God” (Acts 2:33). This sitting at the right hand of God is sometimes called “Christ’s Session”.

States of Jesus Christ

Some theologians have spoken about the “states of Jesus Christ.” Generally, there are two states: “humiliation and exaltation.” Within the humiliation of Jesus, there is the incarnation, suffering, death, and burial – and sometimes the descent into hell. In the exaltation of Christ, there are his resurrection, ascension into heaven, session at the right hand of God, and return in glory and power. 

Application: Christ’s Ascension Applied to Christians

Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. But how does that affect our lives from a practical perspective?

Jesus ascension points to our future ascension. In our day to day lives, we may forget about our ultimate destination. Work, life, and grocery shopping tend to crowd out theological truths from our daily consciousness. However, we should be encouraged about our future ascension into heaven. Paul said, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” 

We will not always live on a sin-sick planet with cancer, corruption, and heartache. Instead, as Christians we look forward to a new heavens and new earth where we will be miraculously transported to live with Christ forever. In that, we should find encouragement, especially in times of trial and temptation.  

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

Special Terms

  • ascension
  • exaltation of Christ
  • humiliation of Christ
  • incorruptible
  • raised in glory
  • raised in power
  • resurrection
  • session
  • spiritual body
  • states of Jesus Christ

Resources: Wayne Grudem

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