Risen and Ascended

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Romans 8:34

We are considering the Lord’s resurrection and exaltation ‘at the right hand of God‘, a fact that underpins the Christian’s eternal security in Christ.

‘risen

Two questions arise when we look at the phrase ‘more than that’. Is Paul adding to Christ’s death in some way? Not at all, for in his death the Lord Jesus Christ took the condemnation which was hanging over us due to our sin and met all the demands of divine justice. On the cross, he paid fully, once and for all, the price of our salvation and security. ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30) was his cry from the cross as he finished bearing the wrath of God as our substitute. That cannot be added to.

Why then does Paul proceed immediately to talk about Christ’s resurrection?

One obvious reason is that it was historical. It is not a fairy story or a hoax. Just think of all the people who saw, touched, and heard Jesus after his resurrection. Thomas only finally believed when he was able to see the Lord’s wounds and nail prints (John 20:24-29). You are encouraged to read 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 where Paul marshals some of the convincing evidence for the Lord’s resurrection. Again, it was a physical resurrection for in his human nature he was raised to life on the third day and his body glorified. And when the Lord Jesus returns personally to this world he will also ‘transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body‘ (Philippians 3:21). That is what believers can look forward to.

The Lord’s resurrection also proved beyond all doubt the truth of all he taught during his ministry on earth. His claim to be ‘the resurrection and the life’ (John 11:25) was not an empty one for his own powerful resurrection and triumph over death vindicated it. Death has now lost its sting and terror for Christians! In addition, he was ‘declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead’ (Romans 1:4). This great victory over death, Satan and hell, was also God the Father’s seal and approval of Christ’s death on the cross for our sin.

Charles Spurgeon suggested that if a Christian is accused by the devil or anyone else of sins, then the response should be, ‘Jesus died for my sin and removed it far away from me’. If the same accusations are repeated, our response should be: ‘Jesus lives, and his life is the assurance that we are no longer guilty before God: for if our Saviour had not paid our debt, he would still be under the power of death’. Perhaps this helps you understand that into those six words, ‘more than that, who was raised, the apostle squeezes a vast amount of bible truth in affirming the Lord’s victory over death and the acceptance by the Father of the Saviour’s sacrifice for us.

‘who is at the right hand of God’

The Lord Jesus’s resurrection is the first stage in his exaltation and six weeks later, in front of the disciples, he ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-11) in triumph. It was necessary for him to ascend to God the Father to be rewarded as our mediator and enter into his glory. He is our forerunner (John 14:2). In session at the right hand of his Father, he rules over the entire universe for the benefit of the church (Hebrews 1:3, 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22). From his position of absolute and universal power, the Saviour builds, blesses, supports, protects and rules his church and sends the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33; John 16:7-15).

Almost entirely underground now, the church in Afghanistan is growing rapidly with the majority of believers being under the age of 25. They meet in pockets of small groups all over the country. The news is encouraging, despite the atrocities occurring there. Here is evidence that the Christ who died for us, and rose again, is now ‘at the right hand of God’ ruling both the world and his church. He is the absolute, universal ruler, even the Taliban and other enemies of the gospel are under his control.

Here in the UK we face immense pressures in a culture often hostile to Christian values and beliefs while Christians themselves have been reduced to a small minority. Only the Lord knows how the future will unfold but our Saviour and Lord is ‘even at the right hand of God’ with absolute authority and power. He rules and we can be confident in him. His purposes even in the UK will not fail, even in our local churches and evangelism.

Dr Eryl Davies (Heath Church Cardiff)

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