Quartz Hill School of Theology

Christology: The Offices of Christ


The Bible makes clear that Jesus, in addition to his role as sacrifice and the Son of God, is considered a prophet. In Deuteronomy 18:15-19 Moses tells the people to expect another prophet after him. The fulfillment of this prediction was in the numerous prophets who lived and ministered between the time of Moses and the time of Christ, but it had its final fulfillment in the appearance of Christ. Additionally, Matthew 3:13-17, Acts 3:22-26, and Acts 7:37 explicitly label Jesus as a prophet, and beyond that, we see him making predictions that were later fulfilled, as for instance in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, where he predicts the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem.

What does a prophet do? He speaks for God to the people. This involves more than simply predicting the future, though that is clearly part of the prophetic office. After all, when asked how to know a prophet is from God, the proof is that if what they say does not come true, then they are not a prophet from God (Deuteronomy 18:22). Other tasks included in the prophetic service were teaching and healing.


In addition to being a prophet, the Son of God was also a priest, standing as the ultimate and final mediator between God and humanity. Hebrew 5:6-10 and Hebrews 7:11-28 makes explicit that he was a priest after the order of Melchisedek. This Melchisedek priesthood shows up two other places in the Bible: Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4.

What is involved in this priesthood? First, reconciliation, which was accomplished at Christ's first coming when he was crucified. He became the sacrifice for our sins. Second, he intercedes for us; this is being accomplished in heaven now, between Christ's first and second comings. Finally, the ultimate redemption will be accomplished upon his return This might be likened to the final, priestly benediction (Genesis 14:19).

The Melchisedek priesthood is forever: "A priest forever after the order of Melchisedek" (Psalm 110:4). This fulfillment can only come through someone like Christ. What about the Aaronic priesthood? Hebrews 9:6 speaks of it being a pattern of what was to come. In ministry Jesus fulfills the Levitical pattern (cf. Heb. 5:6, 6:20, 7:1-10, 21).

But more than that, Jesus must be a Levite as much as he is the Son of David. Consider the following from Jeremiah:

    For this is what the LORD says: 'David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.'"
    The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:
    "This is what the LORD says: 'If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant--and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me--can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.'" (Jeremiah 33:17-22)

Yet Hebrews 7:11-17 makes it clear:

    If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come-one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared:
    "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

So Jesus would not seem to be descended from Levi at all, but solely from the tribe of Judah. But then that would seem to create problems with the prophesy of Jeremiah. What are we going to do? Consider an interesting point:

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. (Luke 1:5)

Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. (Luke 1:36)

The word translated "relative" was used to refer to someone of the same tribe. According to Luke, Elizabeth was descended from Aaron; she was also a "relative" of Mary. This would suggest, then, that Mary was a descendent of Aaron, also. Therefore, through his mother, Jesus was in the line of Aaron, and therefore can literally and physically fulfill the prophesy of Jeremiah!


Jesus is the King of Israel, descended from the house of David. This fulfills such Old Testament passages as Jeremiah 33:

    For this is what the LORD says: 'David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.'"
    The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:
    "This is what the LORD says: 'If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant-and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me-can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.'" (Jeremiah 33:17-22)

The reality of his relationship to David is made clear from the the genealogies preserved in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. If the Jesus is not the Messiah, and a physical descendent of David, and the Son of God raised to life the third day, then the prophesy of Jeremiah has failed, because there has not been a king of Israel, descended from David, since the destruction of the southern kingdom by Nebuchadnezzar in 586/5 BC.

The Baptism of Christ

If nothing else, Jesus' baptism should demonstrate that baptism has nothing to do with salvation since certainly Jesus did not need to be saved. The concept of baptismal regeneration would have serious difficulty handling the fact that Jesus was baptized, as recorded in Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:29-34.

So why did Jesus get baptized? The baptism had Jewish significance, for one thing. Jesus did lots of "Jewish" things because he was Jewish. He was circumcized the 8th day, he was presented at the temple as their first born son (Luke 2:21-22), he participated in Synagogue worship (Luke 4:16), and in the holidays (John 10:21-22; Matthew 26:17; Luke 22:7-8, John 2:23; 4:45). Likewise, baptism was a Jewish rite of passage. It was Christ's induction into his public ministry. The common idea is that he was anointed to his priestly or public ministry. (Cf. Exodus 24:4-7) Whether prophetic or priestly, it was certainly public (Matthew 3:16ff)

The specific statement in the Bible was that the baptism was to "fullfill all righteousness." How did it do this? Perhaps in the fact that it identified Christ with sinful humanity and spoke of his coming death (Mark. 1:9-15). Although its mode was immersion, the baptism of Christ was not the pattern for believer's baptism. We do not follow Jesus in baptism, we obey him in baptism.

Jesus' baptistm was obviously an important event in Jesus life - otherwise it wouldn't have been mentioned - but it is one of the least understood events.

The Temptation of Christ

Jesus experienced temptation according to several biblical references.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

The temptation episode is described in Matthew 4:1-11 (cf. Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13, and Hebrews 2:18)

    Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
    Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
    Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
        "'He will command his angels concerning you,
        and they will lift you up in their hands,
        so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
    Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
    Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
    Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
    Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

We have already pointed out that Jesus was God. Yet, James 1:13 makes the statement that "God cannot be tempted." Does this then contradict the biblical accounts that refer to Jesus being tempted? Does it mean, perhaps, that Jesus is not God?

Hardly. It must have been in an area of Jesus' humanity that he was tempted. According to Philippians 2:6-7 Jesus emptied himself. The Bible also indicates that God is not a man, yet Jesus clearly was a man. We also know that God can't die, yet that is precisely what Jesus did. Therefore, the temptation was possible precisely because he was a human being, and precisely in the same way that the first man was tempted. Jesus is called a second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), and in the same way the first Adam fell to temptation, so the second Adam resisted it.

Some ask the question: could Jesus have succumbed to the temptation and sinned? That is, to use technical terms was he peccable (able to sin) or impeccable (unable to sin)? It really doesn't matter, because the reality is, he did not sin; he successfully stood up under the temptation. Whether he could have or not, doesn't really matter.

Those who argue that he couldn't have sinned - couldn't have given in to the temptation, will make the following points:

a. He is immutable. Hebrews 13:8 states that he couldn't change
b. He is omnipotent. Therefore, how could the Devil ever overcomehim?
c. He is omniscient. Jesus already knew the Devil's strategy, and therefore would not be caught unawares or unprepared.
d. It seems inconceivable, based on Jesus nature as divine, that he could ever sin. If he was merely human, then it would make sense, but he was not merely human.

However, in answer to the above, it should be pointed out that in his divinity he was immutable, omnipotent, and omniscient, in his humanity he was none of those things. Otherwise, if he were immutable, then how did he grow from infant to adulthood, how did he die, and how did he become a man in the first place? If he were omniscient, then why does Luke speak of him growing in wisdom?

It also needs to be pointed out that one can be tempted to do only what one wishes to do. For instance, waving a plate full of liver in my face daily will never tempt me to eat it. I do not like liver. Likewise, showing me naked pictures of guys does not excite me. But wave a hamburger in front of me or naked women, and my reaction will be very different. Then there is genuine temptation.

It needs to be pointed out, too, that temptation is not the same as sin. There is no sin in being tempted - in wanting to do something you shouldn't do. The sin comes in actually giving in to the temptation. Jesus, after not eating for forty days in the wilderness was genuinely hungry. Therefore, he would have liked to have eaten. But he resisted the temptation by Satan to eat on Satan's conditions.

But again, whether he was able to sin or not, the bottom line is, he didn't - and that really is all that matters. Questions of a hypothetical nature or just that, and therefore of limited significance.

The Transfiguration of Christ

Matthew 16:28-17:9 presents an interesting and unique event (also recorded in Luke 9:28-36 and Mark 9:2-13):

    "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
    After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
    Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."
    While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
    When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
    As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

The mountain where this occured is traditionally identified as Mt. Tabor. It looks like an upside down bowl - perfectly smooth and round. So what happened here? There was obviously a literal physical change of some sort. Based on the placing of the episode, it obviously in some way fulfills the statement that "some here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

What does this mean? Is the transfiguration to be understood as the kingdom of God, revealed early to the disciples? Or are we to suggest that Christ made a mistake and the second coming and the eternal kingdom didn't arrive as planned - or can we make something of what John wrote?

    Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."
    Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" (John 21:22-23)

It is unlikely that John is still alive; or anyone else from that period. Since Jesus has yet to come back, the fulfillment of his words cannot refer to the still future second coming.

But, it may be an over simplification to suggest that this was merely a "lights and magic spectacular." Since God is not bound by space and time, it is a possibility that what happened on the mountain was not just a change in Jesus, but rather, a change in location for the disciples, both spatially and temporally. It might be easiest to understand what happened if we suggest that they were moved through time to the end of everything, where they experienced a glimpse of what that yet future day (for us) would be like. If we understand the transformation in this way, it makes the fulfillment of Christ's words in Matthew 16:28 more literal than they otherwise would be.

The "two men" were not disembodied spirits. The disciples recognized them, apparently without introduction. This may be remarkable, demonstrating that when we reach the eternal kingdom we will recognize each other, and perhaps people we don't know, too. Or it could be that as Jesus talked to them, he called them by name, or it could be simply that they were introduced and the passage just doesn't tell us, since that's a minor thing and we know that the Bible does not tell us everything that happened.

The Garden Struggle

Jesus' struggle in prayer just before his arrest and subsequent execution is described in Luke 22:39-46, Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, and John 18:11. Luke 22:42 records:

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

A question arrises with this particular verse. What is the "cup" that Jesus is talking about? There are at least three views on this verse:

1. Satan met Christ in the Garden and sought to kill him.

The idea here is that Satan was trying to get Jesus before he got to the cross. Luke 22:53 is used in support of the view:

"Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour-when darkness reigns."

Although Jesus speaks these words in the Garden, they seem severly stretched as a reference to Satan. The problem with thinking that Satan is the "cup" is quite obvious: there is no mention of Satan in the text, nor is there any obvious reason for thinking that he is a great concern to Jesus at this point. It also would seem contradictory to the statement in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8:

No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Rather than attempting to stop Jesus' crucifixion, the forces of Satan seemed to have been actively orchistrating it, seeing in that the frustration of God's plans, rather than their final fulfillment and triumph. Satan was getting Jesus through Judas (notice in Luke 22:3 and John 13:27 that Satan entered Judas just before he sold Jesus out - the only place in the Bible that describes Satan himself taking possession of an individual).

2. Christ was afraid to die and pled to be relieved from his proposed ministry.

Hebrews 5:7 makes the following statement:

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

His prayer was answered when he was resurrected, though it was the Father's will that he should first die. Being a human being, the chances seem good that the prospect of a painful death on the cross was not something that Jesus looked forward to. So it seems likely that this was probably part of what the "cup" signifies. There may have been a little more to it than simply a painful physical death that was bothering him, however.

3. Gethsemane afforded Christ a final picture of what was involved in Calvary - that is, the nature of the sacrifice.

Jesus became a sacrifice for sin - he took on the ultimate penalty, an infinite penalty, that was due the human race. That, in addition to the painful physical death itself, would have given Jesus pause (Cf. John 18:11, 1 Corinthians 11:25, Isaiah 53:10-11, John 8:29 and 2 Corinthians 5:21). Death, after all, is not the worst thing that can happen to a human being.

The Substitutionary Nature of the Death of Christ

Various words are used to describe what Jesus did for us on the cross. The Bible tells us that Jesus "atoned" for us - that is, he covered or pardoned our sin (Acts 3:25, Hebrews 2:17 and 1 John 2:2-4:10). Jesus "reconciled" us to God; that is, that which had kept us apart from God was eliminated, giving us free access to him. (Romans 5:11, Ephesians 2:16, 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 and Colossians 1:20-22). Jesus' death on the cross "liberated" us from sin - we are no longer enslaved to it. Our sin is "expiated" - God is satisfied with the blood of Christ (Romans 3:25).

Christ's death on the cross is the payment made which constitutes a ransom from sin (1 Timothy 2:6). Redemption is a vicarous ransom on behalf of all; that is, Jesus was our substitute - he took our place (Isa. 53:6, 11; Ex. 12:13; Zech. 13:7; Matthew 20:28; John 1:29; Gal 1:4; Gal 3:13).

The Old Testament gives several pictures of substitution, all of which are useful in trying to understand the nature of what Jesus did for us on the cross:

1. Genesis 3: the coats of skins instead of the fig leaves
2. Genesis 22: the ram in the thicket instead of Isaac
3. Genesis 44:33: Judah instead of Benjamin
4. Exodus 12:13: the Passover Lamb in place of the firstborn
5. Leviticus 16: The two goats instead of the sinful people.
6. Numbers 19: The red heifer instead of the defiled Israelite.
7. Zechariah 3: The rich apparel instead of Joshua's filthy garments.

The Necessity of the Atoning Death

Without the death of Jesus on the cross for us, we would have to die for our own sins; as finite creatures, we would suffer infinitely. Jesus, as an infinite being, could suffer finitely. The death of Jesus was necessitated by our sinful condition (Gen. 2:17; Romans 5:12; 2:15; 1 Corinthians 15:56; Ez. 18:4; Romans 6:23; Luk. 10:28; Jam. 2:10; Psa. 51:5; Ephesians 2:1-2 etc.).

The Extent of the Atoning Death

When Jesus died on the cross, he died for the "sins of the world". On the face of it, this would seem to suggest the universal sufficiency of the atonement, that he made provision for all humanity. The Bible also suggests that the efficiency or efficacy of the atonment is limited. That is, it has actual benefits only for those who accept it. Free will is not violated. That is, those who do not believe do not receive atonement.

There are some questions about the nature of Christ's atonement, however. Historically, two views on the extent of the atonement exist: what is called limited atonement and what is called unlimited atonement. Consider the following passages:

Universality of the atonement - that is, Unlimited Atonement

Heb. 2:9 "tasted death for every man."
1 Timothy 2:6 "gave Himself a ransom for all"
1 Timothy 4:10 "Savior of all men"
Titus 2:11 "appearing to all men"
1 John 2:2 "for the sins of the whole world"
2 Peter 2:1; 3:9
2 Corinthians 5:14, 15 "one died for all"
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world..."
John 8:24
Isa. 53:6 "All we like sheep..." Luke 19:10 "seek and to save that which was lost."
Colossians 1:19-23; Titus 2:11

Limitation of the atonement: what is called Limited Atonement

2 Timothy 1:9; 2:19 "Who has saved us...our Savior"
John 17:9 "I pray not for the world..."
John 17:20, 24 "These you have given me..."
John 15:13 "for his friends..."
Ephesians 5:25 "died for the church"
Ephesians 1:7 "we have our redemption"
Romans 4:25
Matthew 20:28

Limited or Unlimited Atonement?

What is the issue? Did Jesus come with the design of or for the purpose of saving only the elect or all humanity?

Limited Atonement:

The arguement for limited atonement may be put in the form of a syllogism:

The design of God is always efficacious
Only some of are saved.
Therefore, God's design must have been to save the elect.

It is clear, also, that Scripture sometimes qualifies those for whom Christ died, as for instance in John 10:15 and Ephesians 5:25.

The scope of intercession is the same as substitution (John 17:9). The scope of sacrifice equals the scope of intercession which is the same as the elect. If he prays only for the elect and the scope of the sacrifice and the scope of the intersession are equal, then the sacrifice is only for the elect.

Additionally, unlimited atonement would seem to require universalism. That is, if Jesus died for the entire world, then why can't the entire world be saved, especially since salvation is a matter of grace, not works, and even faith is a gift of God.

The word "world" sometimes means the "elect", and it is clear that the word "all" does not necessarily mean "universal" (so for instance see 2 Corinthians 5:15; Heb. 2:9; 1 Corinthians 15:33).

Some passages which seem universalistic, such as 2 Peter 2:1 and Hebrews 10:29 give merely the view of the people themselves, from their own perspective.

Unlimited Atonement

Those who believe that Jesus' death was for the whole world, and not just the elect or the church, will point to passages such as John 3:16-20; 3:36; 5:24-29; 20:3; 1 John 2:2; 4:14; Romans 10:17, and 2 Timothy 3:15.

The bearing of all sins is not equivalent to the saving of all people. The blood of Christ does not determine all blessing in any realm. The blood provides god with liberty to bless his forgiven people. That is, the forgiveness of sins and our position in Christ are secured through the cross. Freedom, under grace, apart from a merit system, access to God, heavenly citizenship, etc., are acts of benevolence expressed freely by God because of propitiation. Equivolence is not in view.

Election, as in Romans 8:30 does not diminish because of a parallel offer of salvation to all who believe.

Humans cannot reject what does not exist, nor can they be judged for what is not related to them. (John 3:18)

Human responsiblity is virtually nullified apart from a bona fide invitation to believe and be saved. Scripture continually puts responsibility on humans to believe on Christ and be saved. We dare not qualify this offer and say, that no provision for someone to be saved has been made (John 8:24; 5:34)


To some extent, the question of unlimited versus limited atonement is like the question of whether Jesus could actually sin. The results are the same in either case: that is, if Jesus' atonement was unlimited, it is still only effective for those who believe. And if he died only for the elect, then again, it is only effective for those who believe. In effect, either theological position results in the same outcome, and it is hard to say that one point of view is more or less simple than the other. Therefore, neither theory has obvious supperiority over the other and neither makes a prediction different from the other. From the standpoint of logic, however, limited atonement seems to have more going for it, and it does remove the problem of universalism (that is, the idea that everyone would be saved).

Theories of Atonement

What exactly was involved in Christ's atoning death on the cross? Several theories have arrisen over the centuries. Some of the major ones include:

    A. Recapitualation Theory

(Iraeneus) In his life and death, Christ was undergoing all the experiences of humanity.

    B. Commercial Theory

(Anselm) The suffering of Christ was to satisfy the honor of God.

    C. Payment to Satan Theory

(Origen) Jesus pays Satan the price due him.

    D. The Moral Influence Theory

(Abelard, Bushnell, Schliermacher, Ritschl, Origen) The death of Christ was designed to reveal how much God loved us.

    E. The Example Theory

(Socinian views; Taelius; Unitarians) Jesus death reveals the way of obedience.

    F. The Mystical Theory

(Schliermacher, Irving) Much like the moral influence theory. Christ has a sin nature, but triumphed over it, and therefore he changed humanity.

    G. The Governmental Theory

(Hugh Grotius, 1583-1645, Wardlaw, Miley) Christ died as a token of God's displeasure toward sin and it was accepted by God as sufficient; but actually God does not exact strict justice.

    H. Repentance Theory

(Macleod, Campbell) It assumes that a perfect repentance is sufficient to atone for sin. In his death, Christ entered into the Father's condemnation of sin, condemned sin, and by this, confessed it.

    I. Substituional or Vicarious Theory (Orthodox position)

Christ died as our substitute, taking our place on the cross. This is the most commonly held position and is considered the orthodox view.

The Burial of Christ

After his crucifixtion, Jesus was buried in the tomb of a rich man, fulfilling the prophesy in Isaiah 53. Each of the four gospel accounts speaks of his burial; the burial is significant because it gives that much added proof to the fact that Jesus actually died (Romans 6:2-4, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, and Colossians 2:11-12). We would be at a loss as to evidence if He had not been buried. The burial further attests to his death.

As to salvation, the burial of Christ is typified by the "scapegoat", the emphasis being that Christ "took away" our sins. The tomb obliterates the trace of sin, just as the wilderness obliterated the trace of the scapegoat.

The burial also appears to be the ground of experimental sanctification in that the power of such a nature was defeated.

The Resurrection of Christ


    Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
    But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
    But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:1-20)

If Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then the Christian message is without any value whatsoever. The doctrine, therefore, is prominent in apostolic teaching (Acts 4:33) and it is mentioned about 100 times in the New Testament. It is central to the truth of the Gospel message.


1. It fulfilled OT prophecy: Psalm 16:9-11; Isa. 53:10-12
2. It fulfilled Christ's prophecies: John 2:19-21; Matthew 12:40; 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:32. 3. It serves as proof of the propitiatory nature of Christ's death. Romans 4:25; Romans 6:4, Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1 3. It is the prerequisite to a fruitful life. Colossians 3:1-3; Galatians 3:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:10.


It was not just that Jesus fainted and then woke up. He was quite dead.

But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. (John 19:33-34)

It was not just a "vision" of the resurrected Lord.

    He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
    When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. (Luke 24:38-43)

It was not just a myth.

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16)
    "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:
    "'I saw the Lord always before me.
    Because he is at my right hand,
    I will not be shaken.
    Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will live in hope,
    because you will not abandon me to the grave,
    nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
    You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence.'
    "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
    "'The Lord said to my Lord:
    "Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." `
    "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
    When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
    Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call."
    With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." (Acts 2:22-40)

He appeared in the same body in which he was crucified.

    Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
    But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
    A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
    Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:24-28)

The apostles believed in his resurrection and it changed their lives forever.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)

See also Mark 14:50-52 and Acts 1:6.

Mode of the resurrection

1. Raised by the Father - 1 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 1:19-20; Acts. 2:24
2. He arose by his own power - John 10:18; John 2:19
3. He arose by the Holy Spirit - Romans 1:4; 8:11; 1 Pet. 3:18


Events and things that can only be accounted for by the actual resurrection of Christ:

1. Empty tomb. Luke 24:1-9, 12, 22-24; John 20:1-13; Mark 16:1-8
2. The change in the disciples (see John 20:19-20, Mark 14:50-52, Acts 1:6)
3. Change of the day of worship (Romans 14:4-5; Acts 4:33). It is unlikely that a Jewish person would start worshiping on Sunday, the first day of the week, unless some excellent rerason demanded it.
4. The existence of the NT scriptures.
5. The existence of the NT church (Cf. what Gamaliel says in Acts):

    But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."
    His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. (Acts 5:34-40)

The significance of the Resurrection

1. It declares Christ's deity - Act. 2:24, 27
2. It distributes resurrection life - Colossians 3:1-4
3. It distributes resurrection power - Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:19-21
4. It inaugurates Christ's headship - Ephesians 1:18-21
5. It proclaims justification - Romans 4:25
6. It recognizes Christ as firstfruits - with the harvest certain to follow 1 Corinthians 15:2-23


There is a view that Jesus ascended immediately after the resurrection, then descended back to Earth, had his further work on the Earth showing himself to people for forty days, and then ascended again.

The typical argument is based on Hebrews 9:6-24 (esp. vs. 12). On the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:15), the high priest took the blood of the sacrifice into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the mercy seat. So, according to type, Christ must have presented his blood in the holy place to the Father.

A second argument comes with John 20:17:

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."


This would mean the work of the cross was unfinished, contradicting Christ's words, "it is finished" (John 19:30)

The idea of presenting his blood in heaven supports the Roman Catholic view of perpetual offering. However, Protestantism generally doesn't share this concept. In contrast, in the shedding of blood the redemption is accomplished. There is no saving efficacy in the blood after it is shed. The eternal achievement is the blood shed while he was on the cross.

"Do not hold on to me" in John 20 means "stop clinging to me". She grabbed him out of her joy - an entirely normal human response - but it was not appropriate.

"For I have not yet returned..." This does not mean he went to heaven at this moment; instead, he is looking forward to the ascension recorded in Acts that occured forty days later. Upon his final ascension, a new intimacy of fellowship would be possible apart from all material aspects. He was with Mary again, true, but only temporarily - she should not cling as if he were never going to leave again, though that was certainly Mary's hope.

The view of the Ascension after 40 days, or the single Ascension theory, is the more prevalent and more likely, just from the standpoint of simplicity. That is, given the option of multiple ascensions or a single ascension, since the facts are compatible with a single ascension, that seems the more likely view based on Occam's razor.

It seems clear from scripture that Jesus anticipated only a single event, not two, in John 6:62, Luke 9:51, John 7:33, John 14:12-28, and John 16:4-28.

The historic record of the ascension seems to describe only a single event. Consider Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:6-12 (the account in Mark 16:19-20 is discounted since Mark 16:9ff are not part of the original manuscript), Hebrews 4:14, and 1 Peter 3:22.

Significance of the Ascension

What is the significance of the ascension? It was the end of the period of Jesus' self-limitation He hadn't always displayed his glory. He now makes it known (Cf. John 17:5; Hebrews 1:3-4, and Philippians 2:8-11).

After the ascension, the entrance of resurrected humanity into heaven was now possible (Hebrews 6:20). Jesus is presented as the forerunner, the firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:22. See also 1 Timothy 6:16).

The ascension begins Jesus' assumption of his new priestly work. Heb. 7:23-25.

From the theology book by R.P. Nettelhorst, Does God Have a Long Nose?

Contact Details

Telephone: (661) 722-0891
Email: info@theology.edu
Website: www.theology.edu

Quartz Hill School of Theology
43543 51st Street West
Quartz Hill, CA 93536

Join our Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter for all the
latest news and information