Chapter 2: The Idea Of Christ’s Resurrection (continued)

In the eternal counsel of God, the resurrected Christ, the first begotten of the dead, the glorified Son of God in the flesh, stands logically first. In the divine decree He is conceived first, and He “openeth the womb” for every creature. All the works of God are subservient to the glory of this “image of the invisible God.” They are conceived after Him, and unto Him, so as to be adapted to Him. And in the perfect, finished works of God, as conceived in the divine good pleasure, He has the preeminence, the firstborn among many brethren, their Lord; and the firstborn of every creature, their everlasting Head. Hence, it is “the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth. Eph. 1:10. And again, He revealed unto us “the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the: working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand’ in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” Eph. 1:19-21.

All things in time must serve the realization of this firstborn of every creature. They have their ultimate meaning in Him.

In the revelation of the risen Lord, we see the light of the wisdom of God.

He is the solution of all things.

In His light, in relation to Him, all things must be seen and interpreted. Only when perceived and evaluated in that relationship can we rightly understand the first creation, the first paradise, the first tree of life, the first man Adam; but also the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the probationary command, the temptation of the devil, the fall of our first parents, sin and death, the incarnation and the cross, the deep ways of God unto the realization of His everlasting covenant.

Apart from Him, the risen Lord, as the firstborn of every creature, we dare not attempt to explain them.

If we do, we only conceive of the first creation as a frustrated; attempt on the part of God to reveal Himself and attain to His glory in the works of His hands; then, sin and death, the devil and all the powers of darkness can only be seen as so many forces over against the Lord of heaven and earth, existing and operating, perhaps, by His permission, yet really standing in opposition to Him and, to an extent, successful though ultimately they are vanquished; Christ then becomes an afterthought, designed to repair the damage wrought by Satan and sin, to save whatever may be salvaged from the wreckage; and next to this line of salvation, there runs the line of “common grace” according to which the present history of the world is an interim, designed to realize the “original creation ordinance” of God in spite of the attempts of the devil to the contrary.

How different all this is, when, in the light of God’s own revelation, we behold all things in relation to the firstborn of every creature, the risen Lord!

Then we understand that, when God created the first world, good and finished though it was in itself, He had in mind the second world, in which all things concentrate in the glorified Son of God. Then we see that first world as an image of things to come, the first paradise as an image of the paradise of God in the new creation, the first man Adam as a figure of Him that was to come. Then we do not place the forces of darkness, the devil, sin, and death, dualistically in opposition to the Most High, but know that they are subservient to His purpose; and that God chose the deep way sin and grace because He had “provided some better thing for us.” Heb. 11:40. Then we begin to understand that “it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Heb. 1:10. For we see Jesus, the firstborn of every creature, and the first begotten of the dead, “crowned with glory and honour.”

Then the revelation of the risen Lord means that we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!

The resurrection of Christ is the revelation of the firstborn of every creature.

That is the idea of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!

Chapter 3: The Power of Christ’s Resurrection

The Heidelberg Catechism, as was remarked before, considers the resurrection of our Lord solely from the viewpoint expressed in the question: “What doth the resurrection of Christ profit us?” And it answers: “First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, that he might make us partakers of that righteousness which he has purchased for us by his death; secondly, we are also by his power raised up to a new life; and lastly, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.”

The dominating thought in this answer is that, through His resurrection, Christ is become the living Lord, and that, therefore, He is able to impart all the blessings of salvation which He merited for His Church unto all whom the Father gives unto Him.

This is, no doubt, the meaning of the words “by his resurrection he overcame death.” The thought is: He overcame death in Himself, and thus He is become the living Lord.

This might be understood in a more comprehensive sense: He overcame all death, the power of death itself, physical, spiritual, and eternal. Principally and centrally, this is true. In the resurrection of Christ, we may and do behold the resurrection. For it is not a man that arose, a mere individual among men, but the second man, the last Adam. By His death He removed the sting of death, sin; and His resurrection is, indeed, the revelation of the victory over death.

Yet, although this is true principally, the final accomplishment and revelation of this power of the resurrection of Christ must wait until the parousia, the second advent, for “the moment” of which the Word of God speaks in I Cor. 15:52, when: “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”

And although the more comprehensive sense is not excluded from the words of the Catechism, yet, it is the intention of our instructor to emphasize the truth that Christ overcame death in Himself, that thus He is the living Head of His body, the Church, and that, as the living Lord, He is able to make us partakers of the blessings of salvation.

We must remember that Christ is not only the mediator of our redemption, in the juridical sense of the word, but also the mediator of our deliverance, through whom righteousness and life actually are be- stowed upon and realized in us.

As the mediator of our redemption He “purchased” all things for us. He represented us in all His suffering and death. He took our place in the judgment of God. Our sins He took upon Himself. He assumed responsibility for our guilt. In that capacity, He became obedient unto death, yea, unto the death of the cross. And by His perfect obedience, He, the Son of God in the flesh, blotted out the guilt of our sin, and merited for us eternal righteousness and life. This part of the work of salvation is finished. All that are in Him have redemption in His blood, the forgiveness of sins, the right to eternal life, to all the blessings of salvation.

But how do we obtain this salvation?

Does the finished sacrifice and obedience of Christ mean that all His work is accomplished? Does God bestow the blessings of salvation upon His people without Christ’s mediation?

Indeed not. Christ is the mediator through whom God accomplishes His whole (purpose and counsel of salvation, not only with respect to our redemption, but also as regards our actual deliverance from all the power of sin and death, and our ultimate perfection. Just as, within the Holy Trinity, God’s eternal covenant life of friendship is of the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Ghost; and just as the work of creation is likewise of the triune God, but so that it is of the Father, through the Son as the eternal Logos, and in the Spirit; so the whole work of salvation is of the triune God, but again so that it is through the Son in the flesh, and in the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ. All the benefits of salvation are in Christ. From Him we must receive them. He must impart Himself to us, incorporate us into Himself, quicken us, make us partakers of His death and resurrection, bestow upon us His righteousness and life, preserve us unto the final redemption, and receive us into His glory.

Hence, He must be the living Lord.

Suppose it had been possible (which, of course, it is not!) that, by His perfect obedience in suffering and death, Christ had merited for us the foulness of salvation, but that, in doing so, He Himself had been swallowed up of death, then the purchased redemption could never have become ours. There would be no channel through which the blessings of grace could reach us.

But Christ is risen!

He overcame death! The bonds of death and hell could not hold Him. He broke through the gates of hell into the glory of His resurrection life. And as the risen one, He ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, that He might bestow all the gifts of salvation upon men. And unto the end that He, the glorious Lord, might impart Himself and all the benefits of grace to His people, the Church, He received the promise of the Holy Spirit, and in that Spirit He returned unto and into His Church, to dwell in her, quicken her, and abide with her forever. “The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit/’

This is the thought the Catechism means to emphasize when it teaches us that “by his resurrection he has overcome death.”

And thus the profit of Christ’s resurrection for us, as the Catechism sees it, is threefold.

First of all, He arose “that He might make us partakers of that righteousness which he has purchased for us by his death.”

This is first because the blessing of righteousness is fundamental, basic for all the other blessings of salvation. God loves the righteous, but His face is against them that do evil. His favor is upon them that are righteous in His sight, even as His wrath is upon the wicked. Righteousness, therefore, is our great and fundamental need. For we are by nature and in ourselves, sinful, corrupt and guilty, and for that very reason, children of wrath, worthy of damnation, that is, eternal death. We have no right to be set at liberty, to be delivered from the power of corruption and death, as long as our position before the tribunal of the righteous Judge of heaven and earth is that of guilt. Before all things we must have righteousness. Our position before God’s bar of justice, our legal status in God’s judgment must be changed from that of guilt and condemnation into that of righteousness and justification.

This righteousness Christ purchased for us. By His perfect sacrifice on the cross, by all His obedience as our Lord and Head1, He merited for us the forgiveness of sins, perfect justification in God’s judgment, the right also to be delivered from the dominion and corruption of sin and to be made ethically, spiritually righteous, and the right to eternal life. Let us note that this righteousness which Christ purchased for us is not the same as the righteousness of Adam in the state of rectitude. Adam’s righteousness was his own as long as he obeyed, the righteousness Christ bestows, upon us is never our own, it is always the righteousness of Christ, a gift of grace. It is not based on our obedience, but on Christ’s perfect work. It never rests in us, but always in Christ. The righteousness of Adam was amissible, liable to be lost; the righteousness which we have in Christ, having its ground and source only in Christ, the Son of God in the flesh, is established forever: it can never be lost. Adam was created in the state and condition of righteousness, and it was sufficient to sustain him in his earthly position and life; the righteousness of Christ is light out of darkness, justification out of condemnation, life from the dead, and it makes us worthy of that higher glory which Scripture calls eternal life. For it is a righteousness which the Son of God1 merited for us by descending into deepest death and lowest hell.

Of this righteousness the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is, first of all, the divine revelation, the testimony of God.

For Christ is risen, but He is also raised.

When the Scriptures declare that He is risen, it denotes the resurrection as an act of His own, of the divine Son, Who by and through His resurrection is powerfully set forth as the Son of God, the resurrection and the life.

When, however, the Bible teaches us that Christ is raised, it considers the resurrection of our Lord as an act of God with respect to Christ in His human nature. And as such it is the Word of God concerning our justification. For “he was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification”. He had assumed the responsibility for our sins, though He was personally without sin and guilt. According to that responsibility of our Mediator, He was worthy of death, though again, as far as His personal relation to God was concerned, He was the object of God’s favor. With the load of this responsibility for our sins upon His mighty shoulders, He stood before the tribunal of God in the hour of judgment, and willingly descended into the darkest depth of death, where He suffered all the pain and agony in body and soul that is caused by the wrath of God against the workers of iniquity. Out of that depth of death there was only one way: such perfect obedience that God could declare Him, as Mediator, and, therefore, with regard to our sins, perfectly justified. For just as sin and death, so also righteousness and life are inseparably connected in the judgment of God. When, therefore. God raised Him from the dead, He thereby declared Him, and that, too, as mediator, worthy of eternal life. God set His seal upon the perfect sacrifice of Christ, and declared that He, the mediator, had perfectly satisfied for all the sins He had borne upon the cross that is for our transgressions. He was raised for, on account of our justification. The resurrection of Jesus Chris^ from the dead is the gospel of God declaring us righteous, and worthy of eternal life!