I think before I get started it is important for me to preface that I know I am a little weird. I get excited with things like theology, church history, word choices, church structure, and so on. Topics like these make me happy and if brought them up in a conversation you will quickly realize this. That being said, I also think it important to note that I get excited about them because they are highly important.
I was reading an article the other day and it was good. Nothing mind blowing but more of a comforting you can do it too type article. Nothing really jumped out at me except this line “After Jesus ascended into heaven, he was no longer human. He had been fully reconciled to the Father and wasn’t experiencing human emotions and doubts anymore.” At this, I slammed on the brakes. The brakes were hit because there are some large problems with this statement which is actually composed of multiple statements. I am going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and say they did not mean to express what I think this statement says and what it implies.
Here is the statement and some implications broken down:
- Jesus is no longer human. Statement
- Reconciliation to the Father removes humanity. Implication
- Jesus does not have human emotions. Statement
- God does not have human emotions. Implication
- God’s emotions and human emotions are different. Implication
- Jesus does not doubt. Statement
Of these statements and implications, only the last one has a biblical foundation. Jesus (i.e. God) does not doubt. That’s it. I have problems with every other statement and implication brought on by the sentence. I do not want to get long-winded here so I will try to be as succinct as possible while not doing damage to the importance of the problems brought on by these statements.
First, we have the question of the physical body of Christ post-resurrection and ascension but before we can get there we do have to look at the preincarnate and the incarnation of Christ. As Christians, we believe that before Christ walked on the earth He existed as the eternal Son. This is part of what we call the eternality of the Son. He was part of the Godhead along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. John chapter 1 speaks to this in detail. He had full rights as God. What happened at the incarnation was that Jesus came and was born of the Virgin Mary and became a man. He did not lose His deity but instead became a man as well. This is what we call the hyperstatic union of Christ. It means that the two natures (God and man) existed in Christ simultaneously but never mixing or diluting. He did not stop being God but as Philippians says He did not use that His advantage (Phil 2:6). Now there are many questions about this and not a whole lot of agreement on some of the questions brought on about this, but we have a phrase or word for it (hyperstatic union). That being said, it is a mystery. As a side note, a mystery is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you tell me you can explain or understand everything you believe you are a liar. If you could explain everything about God, you either have the wrong God or you are a little too big for your britches. Either way what we see in the incarnation is God becoming a man.
This was important for multiple reasons beyond substitutionary atonement (Christ died as a substitute for us). Jesus is called the King, Prophet, High Priest, and Apostle of the faith. For Him to be these things He had to have a physical body. If He did not, then, as an example, He could not be king in the line of David. A physical body was and is required for Him to be those things. If when we ascended into Heaven He somehow lost the body He would also lose the ability to be those things because those things require Him to be and remain human. More can be read on that here.
Additionally, to deny a continued physical body by Christ is dangerously close to Docetism which denied the physical body of Christ and said that Jesus only appeared to be human. Colossians 1:15 says “The Son is the image of the invisible God” and Colossians 2:9 says “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Docetism is a form of heresy that was denied at the Council of Nicaea in 325. Now please hear me, I am not saying the author is a heretic. My point is only that we have to be careful of the seeds we plant. I would not plan the seed for an oak tree in the garden that butts up against my house. The seed is small, but it grows into a great tree that would fracture my foundation. We have to follow seeds along their path to know what will grow from what we plant.
Moving on to the next point which is an implication. The author states that Jesus is reconciled to the Father and while I have trouble with this wording I am going to chalk it up to bad writing because reconciliation carries a very specific connotation in Christianity. For us, as Christians, it especially carries the idea of being separated by sin and no longer having free-flowing relationship or fellowship. Christ came to reconcile us to the Father and God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. To say that Christ became reconciled to God would imply He experienced a time when He was out of relationship with the Father which would imply disunity within the Godhead and the whole universe would collapse because Christ as God holds all things together (see Heb 1:3). I suppose I have a bigger problem with the wording than I thought.
Anyway, the other problem with this statement is that it implies that humanity or humanness cannot be connected or near God. That Jesus being reconciled to God meant He lost His humanity would imply the same thing for us. After all the Bible says that we will be raised like Him and while this speaks to union and eternal life I see no reason why a physical body would not be included especially because 2 Cor 5 talks about a new heavenly body which is one that does not see corruption or death. This again is Docetism and Gnosticism which says the physical is evil and only the spiritual is good. This means the flesh can never be good and leads to hedonism. There is a lot more than be said about this, but I think you get the picture.
We will stop here for now and split the rest up into another post. For now, we can summarize what we have. Jesus ascended to heaven and kept a human body. He was glorified (not reconciled) by the Father and then returned to heaven again. The physical or matter is not inherently evil and when we are united with Him in heaven or on the new Earth we too will have new, but still human, bodies. Next time we will talk about emotions. That will be a fun one…
Just a thought,