Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article IV

Article IV.

Of the Resurrection of Christ.

CHRIST did truly rise again from death, and took again His body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, wherewith He ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until He return to judge all men at the last day.

De Resurrectione Christi.

CHRISTUS vere a mortuis resurrexit, suumque corpus cum carne, ossibus, omnibusque ad integritatem humanæ naturæ pertinentibus recepit: cum quibus in cœlum ascendit, ibique residet, quoad extremo die ad judicandos homines reversurus sit.

Section I. — History.

THE subjects treated of in this Article may be divided as follows: —

FIRST, We must consider Christ’s Resurrection with His human Body; SECONDLY, His Ascension, and Session at God’s Right Hand; THIRDLY, His Return to Judgment.

I‒II. The first and second of these divisions may historically be considered together.

Christ’s Resurrection forms a part of all the ancient Creeds, and is followed by the Ascension, Session, and Judgment, as in this Article.

The Sadducees, who denied all resurrection, of course would deny the resurrection of Christ. The Essenes also, though they believed the immortality of the soul, yet did not believe that the body would rise. We find, as early as Apostolic times, that some heretics had crept into the Christian Church, who said that “there was no resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. xv. 12), and that “the resurrection was past already” (2 Tim. ii. 18). Whoever these heretics may have been, not long after them the Docetæ, denying the reality of Christ’s flesh, and holding the doctrine of the general malignity of matter, of necessity disbelieved the truth of the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Augustine tells us that the Cerinthians held that Jesus, whom they took to be a mere man, had not risen, but was yet to rise.[1] Apelles, a disciple of Marcion’s, held that, when Christ came down from Heaven, He formed for Himself as He descended an airy and sidereal flesh, but when He arose and ascended into Heaven, He restored this body to its pristine elements, which being thus dispersed, His Spirit alone returned to Heaven.[2]

Some of the earlier heretics, though otherwise connected with the Gnostics, did not absolutely deny either a body or a resurrection to Christ, but invented strange fables concerning it. Thus, according to Theodoret, Hermogenes believed our Lord’s Body to be placed in the Sun.[3] And Tertullian mentions certain heretics who taught, “that the flesh of Christ was in the heavens devoid of sense, as a scabbard or sheath, Christ being withdrawn from it.”[4] The Manichees, like the Gnostics or Docetæ, denying the reality of Christ’s flesh, and believing matter to be evil, denied Christ’s resurrection; but as they seem to have identified Christ with Mithras (æthereal Light, the Sun), there may have been some connection between their belief and that of Hermogenes mentioned above.[5] The doctrine of Eutyches concerning the Person of Christ, as it was opposed to the verity of His Manhood, so it by implication opposed the verity of His resurrection; and so Theodoret accuses him of considering that the Godhead only rose from the grave.[6]

In later ages, when the controversies arose concerning the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, it has been thought that divines of the Roman and Lutheran communions were led to use language concerning the glorified Body of our blessed Lord, and its ubiquity, which almost savoured of Eutychianism; as though, after His ascension, His human nature had become so deified as to have lost the attributes of humanity, and have been transubstantiated into His Divinity. There is little doubt that the strong language of this Article was designed to oppose so exaggerated an opinion, if such really existed; which may be the better seen by comparing the words of the Article with the rubric at the end of the Communion Service.[7]

It is not to be concealed, that in later times some persons, of very sound opinions in the main, have been offended by the statement that our Lord took into Heaven “flesh, bones, and all things pertaining to man’s nature;” whereas they contend that our Lord’s Body at His ascension, if not before, became a spiritual body, and a spiritual body cannot be said to have “flesh and bones,” which pertain only to a natural body. This objection must be considered hereafter; and in the mean time we have only to add, that the language of the Article corresponds with that of the early fathers. Ignatius says that “he knew and believed Him to be in the flesh after His resurrection.”[8] Irenæus, in one of his creeds, confesses his belief in “the reception of Jesus Christ into Heaven in the flesh.”[9] In the Epistle of Damasus to Paulinus, the following anathema occurs amongst others, “If any one shall not acknowledge that Christ is set down at the right hand of the Father, in the same flesh which He took here, let him be anathema.”[10] Augustine meets the objection which may be made to this doctrine: “It offends some,” he says, “that we believe an earthly Body to have been taken into Heaven; they understand not how it is said in Scripture, It is sown a natural, it is raised a spiritual body.”[11] To the like purpose writes Epiphanius: “He ascended into Heaven, not divesting Himself of His holy Body, but uniting it to a spiritual one.”[12]

The fathers indeed held that Christ’s Body, after His resurrection, remained truly a human Body, and was not changed into a spirit, or absorbed into God.[13] Yet they held, that it was divested of all that was mortal, carnal, and corruptible, and became a spiritual Body, incorruptible, unchangeable, impassible. So Theophylact, “Did He lay aside His flesh? God forbid; for as He was taken up, so shall He come. But He was taken up in the flesh, and with a Body. Now Christ is said to have lived after the flesh, when He lived subject to natural and blameless affections and feelings, — hungering, thirsting, sleeping, working. But now He is no longer after the flesh, that is, He is freed from all such natural and blameless affections, having a body impassible and incorruptible.”[14]

III. The third head concerns our Lord’s return to Judgment.

The Marcionites and other Gnostics are supposed to have denied a future Judgment. Their creed was, that God was of infinite grace and mercy; that the Creator, whom they distinguished from God, was just; not so God, or His Son Jesus Christ. They were also accused of holding that the actions of men in the body were indifferent; and this tenet, by implication, is a denial of the Judgment.[15] The Manichees are charged, in like manner, with denying a Judgment, as they, no doubt, did deny a resurrection of the body.[16]

One of the peculiar views of Emmanuel Swedenborg in modern times, and of his followers, who call themselves the Church of the New Jerusalem, was that the passages of Scripture concerning the Judgment are not to be literally interpreted. Swedenborg taught that all men are subject to two opposite influences, one from God and good spirits, the other from evil angels; that according as they yield to one or the other influence, the soul rises or falls. Heaven and hell then are not the result of a Divine appointment, or of a future Judgment, but the necessary conditions of a man, according as he is good or evil. The passages of Scripture concerning the last Judgment are to be understood of the end and consummation of the Church which now is, and the establishment of a purer and better Church, which is called the descent “of the New Jerusalem from God out of Heaven.”

Section II. — Scriptural Proof.

I. AS regards the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, it requires very little argument to prove that Scripture teaches the fact. The truth of such teaching must be here, as usual, assumed; all argument on such subjects being referred to the head of evidence.

The concluding chapters of the four Gospels, and the fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, contain the fullest account of that miraculous event. They should be studied together, and with such aids as have been furnished by writers on the harmony of the Gospels.[17]

It is to be observed, however, that the Resurrection is in many respects the key-stone of the Christian Faith. On the truth of it depends the truth of the Gospel; for it was to this great fact especially that the Apostles bore witness, and on its veracity they rested their claims to be heard and believed. Our Lord Himself continually foretold it, and so its occurrence became essential to the establishment of His truth. Accordingly we find, both before and after the event, most numerous allusions to it in the writings of the new Testament. For example, Matt. xvii. 9, 23. Mark viii. 81; ix. 31. John ii. 19; x. 17, 18. Acts i. 22; ii. 24, 36; xiii. 30‒37. Rom. iv. 25; vi. 4. Eph. i. 20. Col. ii. 12; iii. 1, &c. &c.

Yet the historical is scarcely greater than the doctrinal importance of the Resurrection. In Scripture, the life of the Christian and of the Christian Church is represented as connected with, and depending on the life of Christ, who is the Head of the Church and the Saviour of the Body.[18] The Christian therefore is said to die with Christ, and to rise again with Him.[19] And this connection of the Redeemer and His redeemed is spiritual here, and bodily and spiritual both hereafter. For here the union of the Christian with Christ is the cause of spiritual life; hereafter the same union shall be the cause of resurrection to life eternal. The Apostle speaks of the power of Christ’s resurrection as having been shown already, thus: “God who is rich in mercy . . . when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” Eph. ii. 4, 5, 6; and again: “If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above,” Col. iii. 1. But he also speaks of the power of the same resurrection as to be shown hereafter, not only in raising the soul from sin, but the body also from corruption. “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit which dwelleth in you,” Rom. viii. 11. And again, “He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus,” 2 Cor. iv. 14. And thus it is that by virtue of His own resurrection, or, as St. Paul calls it, “the power of His resurrection” (Phil. iii. 10), the Lord Jesus is to His disciples “the Resurrection and the Life” (John xi. 25).

II. The second head of this article concerns the Ascension, and Session at God’s Right Hand.

1. The Ascension into Heaven is related in Mark xvi. 19. Luke xxiv. 51. Acts i. 1‒12.

It had been predicted in the old Testament (especially Ps. lxviii. 18, which is explained by the Apostle, Eph. iv. 8); it had been foretold by our Lord Himself (John vi. 62; xx. 17); and it finally took place in the presence of His chosen disciples.

The importance of it to us was typified on the great day of atonement, when the High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies once every year. The tabernacle, as is familiarly known, consisted of two principal parts. The first was called the Sanctuary or holy place, which typified the world, or more properly the Church on earth; where daily the priesthood ministered, offering sacrifices for the people, and sending up incense, the symbol of prayer and praise. But within the veil, whither no common priest had access, was the Holy of Holies, or the Holiest of all. Into this, once every year, on the tenth day of Tisri, the Fast, or day of atonement, the High Priest alone entered. He had made atonement for himself, for the sanctuary, and for the people, by sacrificing a bullock, a ram, and a goat; and dressed in the white robes common to the priesthood, he went with blood of the victims into the most holy place, and sprinkled seven times before the mercy-seat the blood of the bullock and the goat (Levit. xvi.) That this all prefigured the entrance of Christ “into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us,” we have the word of the Apostle in the ninth chapter of the Hebrews. As the High Priest was in the common white garments, not in the gorgeous robe of his high priesthood, so Christ went up in the likeness of sinful humanity, carrying our nature with Him, though pure from the sin of humanity, as the garment of the priest was holy and white (Lev. xvi. 4). As the priest took with him the blood of the sacrifice, so Christ offered His own Blood, and before the mercy-seat of God pleaded, and forever pleads, the merits of His Sacrifice, “seeing that He ever liveth to make intercession for us.”[20]

2. The Session at the Right Hand of God, foretold Ps. cx. 1 (comp. Luke xx. 42), and by our Lord, Matt. xxvi. 64, Mark xiv. 62, Luke xxii. 69, is recorded, Mark xvi. 19, Acts ii. 34, Rom. viii. 84, Eph. i. 20, Col. iii. 1, Heb. i. 3, 13, 1 Pet iii. 22. It is hardly necessary to observe, that, when the Scriptures speak of the Right Hand of God, they mean thereby, not that God has hands like a man, but that as the right hand among men is the place of honour, of power, and of joy,[21] so to be by the Right Hand of God is to have the place of highest glory, power, and pleasure in the presence of God in Heaven; and to sit has no reference to posture, but implies dignity, sovereignty, and judgment.

Christ has ascended into Heaven, and there He abides. He now occupies that Mediatorial throne, where He is to sit, till all enemies be made His footstool (Ps. cx. 1. 1 Cor. xv. 25). He had been anointed to His kingly office, when the Holy Ghost descended on Him at His baptism (Matt. iii. 16. Acts x. 38). He vindicated His title to the throne, when by “death He overcame him who had the power of death, even the devil.” He made a farther advance to the assumption of His dominion, when He rose victorious from the grave, and thereupon declared to His disciples, that “all power was given Him in Heaven and earth” (Matt. xxviii. 18). But it was not until His final exaltation, when God, having “raised Him from the dead, set Him at His own right hand in heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come,” that “all things having been put under His feet,” He was “given to be Head over all things to the Church” (Eph. i. 20, 21, 22); “set upon the throne of His father David” (Luke i. 32); and “there was given to Him dominion and glory and a kingdom,” “an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and a kingdom which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. vii. 14).

3. The next point for our consideration is, that Christ is said “to have taken again His Body, with flesh, bones, and all things belonging to the perfection of man’s nature, wherewith He ascended into Heaven.”

It has been seen, in the former Section, what the fathers appear to have taught on this subject. That our Lord arose from the grave in the same Body in which He was buried, that the same Body, with flesh and bones, which was laid in the sepulchre a lifeless corpse, was reanimated and rose again to life on the third day, is plainly and unquestionably the statement of the Evangelists. It was on this fact that their preaching and their faith rested. It was the assurance of this fact that convinced St. Thomas of the Divinity of Christ. He had declared that he would not believe the resurrection until he had seen in our Lord’s hands the print of the nails, and had thrust his hand into His side (John xx. 25). That is to say, he required proof that our Lord’s Body, which had risen, was the same Body which had been crucified; and when our Lord vouchsafed him this proof, then, and not till then, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John xx. 25‒28).

But farther, when, on one occasion, the disciples were assembled, and our Lord suddenly appeared among them, “they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit; but He said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle Me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have. And when He had thus spoken, He showed them His hands and His feet” (Luke xxiv. 36‒40). Thus it is clear that our Lord’s Body, after He rose from the grave, was that Body in which He was buried, having hands and feet, and flesh and bones, capable of being handled, and in which He spoke and ate and drank (Luke xxiv. 42, 43). Moreover, it appears that our Lord thus showed His hands and feet to His disciples at that very interview with them in which He was parted from them and received up into Heaven. This will be seen by reading the last chapter of St. Luke, from verse 36 to the end, and comparing it with the first chapter of the Acts, ver. 4‒9; especially comparing Luke xxiv. 49, 50, with Acts i. 4, 8, 9. In that Body, then, which the disciples felt and handled, and which was proved to them to have flesh and bones, these disciples saw our Lord ascend into Heaven; and immediately after His ascent, angels came and declared to them, that that “same Jesus whom they had seen taken up into Heaven, should so come in like manner as they had seen Him go into Heaven” (Acts i. 11). All this connected together seems to prove the identity of our Lord’s Body after His resurrection, at His ascension, and so on, even till His coming to Judgment, with the Body in which He suffered, and in which He was buried; and so fully justifies the language used in the Article of our Church.

But because we maintain that the Body of Christ, even after His resurrection and ascension, is a true human Body, with all things pertaining to the perfection of man’s nature (to deny which would be to deny the important truth that Christ is still perfect Man as well as perfect God); it by no means therefore follows that we should deny that His risen Body is now a glorified, and as St. Paul calls it, a spiritual Body. Nay! we have the strongest proofs that so it is.

Even before His ascension, He is said to have come and stood in the midst of His disciples, where the doors were shut for fear of the Jews (John xx. 19). On another occasion, He is said to have vanished out of their sight (Luke xxiv. 31). Again, His appearing to them “in another form” (Mark xvi. 12), and the disciples going to Emmaus not at once knowing Him (Luke xxiv. 16), seem to show that there was some change in the appearance, as well as in the properties of His Body. Though His Body had not ceased to be the same Body which it was before His death, it yet appears to have received some degree of glorification, and to have been invested with some supernatural qualities.

But, after His ascension, we have St. Paul’s distinct assurance that the Body of Christ is a glorious, is a spiritual Body. In 1 Cor. xv. we have St. Paul’s assertion, that, in the resurrection of all men, the body shall rise again, but that it shall no longer be a natural body, but a spiritual body; no longer a corruptible and vile, but an incorruptible and glorious body. “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. xv. 42‒53). And this change of our bodies, from natural to spiritual, is expressly stated to be bearing the image of our glorified Lord, — the image of that heavenly man, the Lord from Heaven (vv. 47‒49).

So again, the glorified state of the saints’ bodies after the Resurrection, which in 1 Cor. xv. had been called the receiving a spiritual body, is, in Phil. iii. 21, said to be a fashioning of their bodies to the likeness of Christ’s glorious Body; “who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious Body.”[22]

We must therefore conclude, that, though Christ rose with the same Body in which He died, and that Body neither did, nor shall cease to be a human Body, still it acquired, either at His Resurrection or at His Ascension, the qualities and attributes of a spiritual, as distinguished by the Apostle from a natural body, of an incorruptible as distinguished from a corruptible body.

It is not perhaps given us to know the exact meaning of the term “a spiritual body.” “We know not yet what we shall be;” and so we do not exactly know what He is, whom we shall be like. It may be better to leave in the obscurity in which Scripture has left it, this great and glorious mystery. And we shall err on neither side, if we maintain that our blessed Saviour still continues our Mediator in Heaven, perfect in His nature of God, and perfect in His nature of Man; but with His human nature, which on earth, though sinless, was mortal and corruptible, now raised to glory and immortality and incorruptibility; His natural having become a spiritual, His corruptible an incorruptible body.[23]

III. The third head of the Article is on the Judgment; in which we may consider, —

1. The Agent or Person who shall judge, Christ.

2. The object to be judged, namely, all men.

3. The action, judgment.

4. The time, the last day.

1. As regards the Agent; it is, in the first place, clear that God shall be “the Judge of all the earth” (Gen. xviii. 25. Ps. lviii. 11). Hence the day of Judgment is called “the day of God” (2 Peter iii. 12), — “the great day of Almighty God” (Rev. xvi. 14). Daniel saw “the thrones cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit” (Dan. vii. 9); and St. John saw “the dead great and small stand before God,” for judgment (Rev. xx. 12).

Now, when God is thus generally spoken of, we must either understand God the Father, or the whole blessed Trinity. And in the general, it is true to say that God shall judge the earth, or, that God the Father shall judge the earth. But then, as God made the worlds, but it was by God the Son; as God hath purchased the Church, but it was by the death of His Son; so the Father Himself “judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John v. 22). “He hath given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man” (John v. 27); “He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained” (Acts xvii. 31); “He will judge the secrets of all men by Jesus Christ” (Rom. ii. 16).

Accordingly, the Judgment, when fully described, is ever represented as the coming of the Lord Jesus. It is called the “day of Christ” (2 Thess. ii. 2). “We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ” (2 Cor. v. 10). “The Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels” (Matt. xvi. 27; xxiv. 37; xxv. 31; xxvi. 64). The “same Jesus which was taken up into Heaven, shall come again in like manner as he went into Heaven” (Acts i. 11). “He has been ordained of God to be Judge of quick and dead” (Acts x. 42). He says of Himself, “Behold! I come quickly, and my reward is with me” (Rev. xxii. 12).

2. The objects of the Judgment are all men, whether those living at the time of Christ’s coming, or those already fallen asleep, — “the quick and the dead.”

In the first Epistle to the Thessalonians (iv. 15‒17), the Apostle describes the awful scene of our Lord’s coming to save His people: “The Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain” (i. e. whoever of Christ’s servants may then remain alive on the earth) “shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” In the like manner, he says (1 Cor. xv. 51, 52), “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Accordingly it is said (2 Tim. iv. 1) that “the Lord Jesus Christ shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing;” that He “was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead” (Acts x. 42. Compare Matt, xxv. throughout, John v. 25, 28, &c.)

3. The Judgment itself, which is the action the great Judge is to perform, is fully described in several of the passages already quoted or referred to. The twenty-fifth chapter of St. Matthew especially, under a variety of images, sets forth the terrors of the great day of the Lord: the ten virgins that meet the Bridegroom — the servants with their various talents — the Lord with all nations brought before Him, dividing them as a Shepherd the sheep from the goats.

In all these passages, and many besides, it is expressly said that the Judgment itself shall be “according to works.” On this subject the following references may be consulted, and will be found full and express. Job xxxiv. 11. Ps. lxii. 12. Prov. xxiv. 12. Jer. xvii. 10; xxxii. 19. Matt. xvi. 27; xxv. 31‒46. John v. 29. Rom. ii. 6. 2 Cor. v. 10. Col. iii. 24, 25. Rev. xx. 12; xxii. 12.

It need only be added, that Judgment according to works is a doctrine of Scripture not opposed to justification by faith. That we cannot be justified by the merits of our own works is a plain statement of St. Paul (Rom. iii. 20; viii. 3. Gal. ii. 16. Eph. ii. 9, &c.) But if we be renewed by the Spirit of God, and transformed in the spirit of our minds; if Christ be in us, and the Spirit of God dwell in our hearts; then, being dead to sin, we can no longer live therein (Rom. vi. 2). Sin will not reign in our mortal bodies (Rom. vi. 12); but “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus will have made us free from that law of sin” (Rom. viii. 2) which would naturally reign in us; and so “the righteousness of the law will be fulfilled in all who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. viii. 4). We are specially warned not to be deceived on this head; for “he that doeth righteousness is righteous;” and “he who committeth sin is of the devil.” “He that doeth not righteousness is not of God” (1 John iii. 7‒10). Thus, then, the mark of distinction between the children of God and the children of the devil is this, — that righteousness is practised by the one party, sin by the other. And hence it is but likely that Judgment, which is to distinguish Christ’s servants from His enemies, should be conducted according to the works of every man, which shall “be brought to light, whether they be good or evil.” The just indeed shall be rewarded, not because of the merit of their works, but because of the atonement and righteousness of Christ. Yet still their own good works will be the test of their sanctification, and the proof before men and angels that they are living members of Christ and regenerated by His Spirit; whereas the wicked works of wicked men will justly consign them to death and damnation.

4. It remains but to speak of the time of Christ’s coming to Judgment, — the last day.

The general descriptions of the Judgment already referred to (e. g. Matt. xxv. Rev. xx. 11‒13, &c.) sufficiently show that it will not take place until the time when all present things shall pass away. All mankind, quick and dead, are represented as brought before the judgment-seat, and the just are sent to an everlasting reward, the wicked to an everlasting punishment. Accordingly, St. Paul says it shall be “at the last trump” (1 Cor. xv. 52), and St. Peter represents “the heavens and the earth which are now” as “reserved unto fire against the day of Judgment.” The heavens shall be dissolved, and the elements shall “melt with fervent heat;” yet there shall be for the redeemed “a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. iii. 7‒13)

But though the time is thus accurately marked, as “the last day,” the close and consummation of the present state of things, yet we are continually told that it is utterly impossible for us to know how soon that day may come or how long it may tarry. It was not for our Lord’s most favoured disciples “to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power” (Acts i. 7). They and we are bid to “watch, for we know not what hour our Lord cometh” (Matt. xxiv. 42: compare also Matt. xxv. 13. Mark xiii. 33. Luke xii. 40. 2 Pet. iii. 9‒10). The disciples were taught to be constantly expecting our Lord; and accordingly they spoke and wrote as though they thought that He might come at any time. (See Rom. xiii. 11. Phil. iv. 5. 1 Thess. iv. 15, 17. Heb. x. 25. James v. 7, 8, &c.) Yet still they were fully aware that He might delay His coming, they knew not how long; and the importance of this uncertainty St. Paul earnestly impresses on the Thessalonians (2 Thess. ii. 1‒3); and St. Peter still more fully inculcates on all men (2 Pet. iii. 4, 8‒10).

There is one passage, however, especially remarkable on this subject. After our Lord had foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, and assured His disciples that the generation then alive should not pass away till that His prediction was accomplished (Matt, xxiv. 34. Mark xiii. 30), He goes on to tell them that though He thus gave them to know the time when He would execute His judgment on Jerusalem, yet the day of His final judgment (which they had confounded with the destruction of Jerusalem, Matt, xxiv. 36), was unknown to men and angels. Nay, according to the record of St. Mark, our Lord said, “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in Heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark xiii. 32).

It has been seen that in His human nature our Lord was capable of knowledge and of ignorance. He was perfect Man, as well as perfect God, and He grew in wisdom, as well as in stature (Luke ii. 52). In that nature, then, in which He was capable of ignorance, He, when He was on earth, knew not the coming of the day of God. Though He is Himself to come, yet as Man He knew not the day of His own coming. This is indeed a great mystery, that that Manhood, which is taken into one Person with the Godhead of the Son, should be capable of not knowing everything, seeing that God the Son is omniscient. But it is scarcely more inexplicable than that God the Son in His Manhood should be weak, passible, and mortal, who in His Godhead is omnipotent, impassible, and immortal.[24] If we believe the one, we can admit the other.


  1. “Jesum hominem tantummodo fuisse, nec resurrexisse, sed resurrecturum asseverantes.” — August. Hæres. VIII. Tom. VIII. p. 7.
  2. Tertullian. De Præscript. adv. Hær. c. 33. De Resurr. Carnis, c. 5. Epiphan. Hær. XLIV. August. Hæres. XXIII. Pearson, On the Creed, p. 272. Lardner, Hist. of Heretics. Book II. chap. XII. sect. x. King, On Creed, p. 261.
  3. Theodoret, Hæret. Fab. Lib. I. c. 19. Pearson, On the Creed, p. 273. King, p. 263. Philaster and Augustine ascribe the same opinion to the followers of Seleucus and Hermias. See Lardner, Hist. of Heretics, Book II. ch. XVIII. sect. VIII.
  4. “Adfirmant carnem in cœlis vacuam sensu, ut vaginam, exempto Christo, sedere.” — De Carne Christi, c. 24. Pearson, p. 272. King, p. 269.
  5. Μέχρι σήμερον Μανιχαῖοι λέγουσι ϕαντασιώδη καὶ οὐκ ἀληθῆ τοῦ Σωτῆρος τὴν ἀνάστασιν γεγονέναι. — Cyril. Hierosol. Catech. XIV. Suicer, I. col. 311.
  6. Theodoret (Hæret. Fab. Lib. IV. cap. XIII.) says he asserted τὴν θεότητα τῷ τάϕῳ παραδοθεῖσαν τετυχηκέναι τῆς ἀναστά σεως. — See Suicer, I. col. 311.
  7. The rubric, after explaining that by kneeling at the Communion no adoration is intended either to the “Sacramental Bread and Wine, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood,” adds, “The natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.” This rubric was first inserted in the Second Service-Book of Edward VI. It was omitted in the Prayer-Book in Elizabeth’s reign, probably from a wish not to offend the many persons of Lutheran sentiments then in communion with the Church. It was restored in the last revision in the reign of Charles II., at the request of the Puritan Divines.
  8. γὼ γὰρ καὶ μετὰ τὴν ἀνάστασιν ἐν σαρκὶ αὐτὸν οἶδα, καὶ πιστεύω ὄντα. — Epist. ad Smyrn. c. 3. Pearson, p. 255. Suicer, I. col. 307.
  9. τὴν ἔνσαρκον εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς ἀνάληψιν τοῦ ἠγαπημένου Χριστοῦησοῦ. — Lib. I. c. 2.
  10. Theodoret, Eccl. Hist. Lib. v. c. xi. King, On Creed, p. 268.
  11. “Solet autem quosdam offendere, vel impios Gentiles vel hæreticos, quod credamus assumptum terrenum corpus in cœlum. Sed Gentiles plerumque philosophorum argumentis nobiscum agere student, ut dicant terrenum aliquid in cœlo esse non posse. Nostras enim Scripturas non noverunt, nec sciunt quomodo dictum sit, Seminatur corpus animale, surgit corpus spirituale.” — August. De Fide et Symbolo, c. VI. Tom. VI. p. 157.
  12. νελθὼν εἰς οὐρανοὺς, ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐν δόξῃ, οὐκ ἀποθέμενος τὸ ἅγιον σῶμα, ἀλλὰ συνενώσας εἰς πνευματικόν. — Anaceph. Tom. II. p. 156. Colon. King, p. 262.
  13. Οὐκοῦν οὐκ εις θεότητος μετεβλήθη ϕύσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ μετὰ τὴν ἀνάστασιν ἀθάνατον μένει καὶ ἄϕθαρτον, καὶ θείας δόξης μεστόν · σῶμα δὲ ὅμως, τὴν οἰκείαν ἔχον περιγραϕήν. — Theodoret. Demonstr. per Syllog. Ὅτι ἀσύγχυτος ἡ ἕνωσις, Syl. IX. Again: Οὐ μετεβλήθη εἰς πνεῦμα τὸ σῶμα · σὰρξ γὰρ ἦν, καὶ ὀστέα, καὶ χεῖρες, καὶ πόδες · τοιγαροῦν καὶ μετὰ τὴν ἀνάστασιν σῶμα τὸ σῶμα μεμένηκεν. — Ibid. Syl. x. See Suicer, I. coll. 307, 308.
  14. Theophyl. ad 2 Cor. v. 16. Τὴν σάρκα ἀπέθετο; μὴ γένοιτο · ὡς γὰρ ἀνελήϕθη, οὕτω καὶ ἐλεύσεται · ἀνελήϕθη δὲ ἐν σαρκὶ καὶ μετὰ τοῦ σώματος. . . . Ὁ δὲ Χριστὸς κατὰ σάρκα λέγεται ζησαι, ὅτε κατὰ τὰ ϕυσικὰ καὶ ἀδιάβλητα πάθη ἔζη, πεινῶν, διψῶν, ὑπνῶν, κοπιῶν · νὐν δὲ, οὐκέτι κατὰ σάρκα · τουτέστι, τούτων τῶν ϕυσικῶν καὶ ἀδιαβλήτων ἀπηλλάγη, ἀπαθὲς καὶ ἀκήρατον σῶμα ἔχων. So Theodoret on the same passage: Εἰ γὰρ καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ δεσπότης Χριστὸς παθητὸν εἶχε τὸ σῶμα, ἀλλὰ μετὰ τὸ πάθος ἄϕθαρτον τοῦτο πεποίηκε καὶ ἀθάνατον. — See Suicer as above.
  15. See King, On the Creed, p. 274.
  16. Hey’s Lectures, II. p. 390; and Lardner as referred to there.
  17. Those most approved of in our own language are Lightfoot, Macknight Greswell, &c. Greswell’s Harmonia Evangelica, and his five volumes of Dissertations on the subject, should be in every student’s library.
  18. John xv. 1‒7; xvii. 23. Rom. xii. 5. 1 Cor. vi. 15; xii. 27. Eph. 1. 22, 23; iv. 15, 16; v. 23. Col. i. 18, &c.
  19. Rom. vi. 8. Eph. ii. 5, 6. Col. ii. 12; iii. 1. 1 Pet. i. 3. 2 Cor. iv. 10, 11, 14. Rom. viii. 11. 1 Cor. vi. 14, &c.
  20. Heb. viii. ix. x. passim.
  21. 1 Kings ii. 19. Matt. xxvi. 64. Ps. xvi. 11.
  22. “Non ita dictum est, quasi corpus vertatur in spiritum, et spiritus fiat; quia et nunc corpus nostrum, quod animale dicitur, non in animam versum est et anima factum. Sed spirituale corpus intelligitur, quod ita spiritui subditum est, ut cœlesti habitationi conveniat, omni fragilitate ac labe terrena in cœlestem puritatem et stabilitatem mutata atque conversa.” — August. De Fide et Symbolo, c. VI. Tom. VI. p. 157.
  23. There may be a difficulty in reconciling this doctrine, which is the plain doctrine of Scripture and the primitive Christians, with the language of the rubric at the end of the Communion Service quoted above. If they be at variance, the language of a not very carefully worded rubric, adopted not without some hesitation by the reformers, ought not to be pressed; but it is plain, that the writers of the rubric did not mean by the words “natural body” to convey the same idea as St. Paul attaches to the term in 1 Cor. xv. The doctrine which they meant to teach was only, that we must not consider the manhood of Christ changed into His Godhead. So St. Augustine: “Noli itaque dubitare ibi nunc esse hominem Christum Jesum, unde venturus est; . . . . in eadem carnis forma atque substantia; cui profecto immortalitatem dedit, naturam non abstulit. Secundum hanc formam non est putandus ubique diffusus. Cavendum est enim, ne ita divinitatem astruamus hominis, ut veritatem corporis auferamus.” — Ad Dard. Epist. 187. Tom. II. p. 681.
  24. The explanation of Mark xiii. 32, given in the text, is both consonant with sound principles of interpretation and with sound theology, and has been the explanation of the most ancient Christian fathers. Ἀνθρωπίνως εἴρηκε · καὶ τὸ αἴτιον τοῦ οὕτως εἰοηκέναι ἔχει τὸ εὔλογον · ἐπειδὰν γὰρ ἀνθρωπος γέγονεν, ὡς γέγραπται, ἀνθρώπων δὲ ἴδιον τὸ ἀγνοεῖν, ὥσπερ καὶ τὸ πεινᾷν, καὶ τὰ ἄλλα· διὰ τοῦτο καὶ τὴν ἄγνοιαν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὡς ἄνθρωπος γεγονὼς, ἐπιδείκνυται · πρῶτον μὲν, ἵνα δείξῃ, ὅτι ἀληθῶς ἀνθρώπινον ἔχει σῶμα, κ. τ. λ. — Athanas. Epist. II. ad Serapion. Tom. I. p. 172. See Suicer, s. v. κρίσις. v. 4, f. [It seems desirable to add a few words concerning the difficulty spoken of in note 2, p. 113. The word used by St. Paul, in 1 Cor. xv. is ψυχικόν (soul-ish), and this can hardly be supposed to be the meaning of “natural,” in the rubric at the end of the Communion Service. Had this latter word been written in Greek, it would have been ϕυσικόν. It does so read in a Greek translation of the Book of Common Prayer, printed at Cambridge in 1665, and published with the Apocrypha and New Testament. The concluding words of the rubic are καὶ τὸ ϕυσικὸν τοῦ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Χριστοῦ σῶμα καὶ αἷμα ἐν τῶ οὖρανῷ καὶ οὐκ ἐνθάδε ἐισὶ · τῆ τõυ ϕυσικοῦ Χριστοῦ σώματος ἀληθείᾳ ἐνάντιον ὄν, ἐν ἑνὶ χρόνω ἐν πλειόσι τόποις πλὴν ἑνός ὑπάρχον. There can, therefore, be no contradiction between St. Paul’s words and the rubric, unless it can be proved that ψυχή and ϕυσίς are synonymes. I am indebted for the above extract to the Rev. Mr. Hart, of Trinity College. — J. W.] [It seems impossible to understand St. Luke xxiv. 36‒49, of any other time than the evening after the Resurrection, consequently not immediately before the Ascension. The argument on page 112, though becoming in consequence less striking, is not materially weakened. — J. W.]


E. Harold Browne

(Edward) Harold Browne was an English bishop, born at Aylesbury and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He was ordained in 1836, and two years later was elected senior tutor of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From 1843 to 1849 he was vice-principal of St David’s College, Lampeter, and in 1854 was appointed Norrisian professor of divinity at Cambridge. His best-known book is the Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles (vol. i., Cambridge, 1850; vol. ii., London, 1853), which remained for many years a standard work on the subject and is still beloved today. In 1864 he was consecrated bishop of Ely.

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