Soteriology Lesson 18 - Jesus’ Resurrection, Ascension and Session

Thinking on Scripture with Dr. Steven R. Cook

Oct 1 2023 • 1 hr 5 mins

Jesus’ Resurrection

Jesus’ resurrection is an essential element in soteriology. In fact, every writer of the NT assumes that Jesus was resurrected from the grave and treat it as an event that took place in time and space. Paul wrote that Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:4), that He was “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor 15:20), and that “having been raised from the dead, is never to die again” (Rom 6:9). After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to numerous persons over a period of forty days (Acts 1:3), namely, Mary Magdalene and other women (Matt 28:1-10; John 20:10-18), two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32), the disciples without Thomas (John 20:19-25), the disciples with Thomas (John 20:26-29), the disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23), Peter, James, and more than 500 brethren at one time (1 Cor 15:5-7). After these appearances, Jesus ascended bodily into heaven (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11). It is recorded that God the Father “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:20). Ralph Earle notes the importance of Jesus’ resurrection as follows:

  • "Without the Resurrection the Crucifixion would have been in vain. It was the Resurrection which validated the atoning death of Jesus and gave it value. Paul describes it strikingly this way: “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom 4:25). The resurrection of Jesus proved that his sacrifice for sins had been accepted. The whole redemptive scheme would have fallen apart without it. For by his resurrection Jesus Christ became the first fruits of a new race, a new humanity."[1]

Charles Ryrie adds:

  • "In the classic passage, 1 Corinthians 15:3–8, Christ’s death and resurrection are said to be “of first importance.” The Gospel is based on two essential facts: a Savior died and He lives. The burial proves the reality of His death. He did not merely faint only to be revived later. He died. The list of witnesses proves the reality of His resurrection. He died and was buried; He rose and was seen. Paul wrote of that same twofold emphasis in Romans 4:25: He was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification. Without the Resurrection there is no Gospel…If Christ did not rise then our witness is false, our faith is without meaningful content, and our prospects for the future are hopeless (1 Cor 15:13–19). If Christ is not risen then believers who have died would be dead in the absolute sense without any hope of resurrection. And we who live could only be pitied for being deluded into thinking there is a future resurrection for them."[2]

The resurrection of Jesus is an essential element of the Christian gospel. Paul wrote, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you” (1 Cor 15:1). And the content of the gospel Paul preached was “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). Believing the gospel message means accepting this information as true, and then trusting in Christ as one’s Savior. According to R.B. Thieme Jr., “First Corinthians 15:3-4 defines the boundaries of the Gospel, beginning with the work of Christ and ending with His resurrection…Any Gospel message that strays from the cross or denies Jesus Christ’s resurrection from physical death is inaccurate and out of bounds.”[3]

Amazingly, there were some at the church in Corinth who taught “that there is no resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor 15:12). Paul addressed this issue head on, saying, “if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is useless…For if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor 15:13-14, 17). The clear teaching of Scripture is that “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor 15:20), and being “raised from the dead, is never to die again” (Rom 6:9). By His resurrection, Jesus proved that He overcame sin and death. Robert Mounce states:

  • "Having been raised from the dead, Christ cannot die again. His resurrection was unlike that of Lazarus, who had to meet death once again. But Christ’s resurrection broke forever the tyranny of death. That cruel master can no longer exercise any power over him. The cross was sin’s final move; the resurrection was God’s checkmate. The game is over. Sin is forever in defeat. Christ the victor died to sin “once for all” and lives now in unbroken fellowship with God."[4]

Jesus’ Ascension and Session

After Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared to many on several occasions. His final appearance was to His apostles. Luke wrote, “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51). And in Acts we’re told, “He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). It’s important to note that Jesus ascended bodily into heaven, and that He will return the same way. Jesus’ ascension into heaven was the beginning of His session at the right hand of God. Concerning Jesus’s session, R. B. Thieme Jr. notes, “At His session, the humanity of Christ was ‘crowned with glory and honor’ and exalted to a position far higher than the angels (Heb 2:9). The Father put all powers and authorities in subjection to His Son and confirmed the ultimate subjugation of all who oppose Him.”[5] Jesus is, right now, “at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Pet 3:22; cf., Eph 1:20), and He was “crowned with glory and honor” (Heb 2:9), and holds the title of “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16). According to Werner Foerster, “Session at the right hand of God means joint rule. It thus implies divine dignity, as does the very fact of sitting in God’s presence.”[6] And Ryrie notes, “By His resurrection and ascension our Lord was positioned in the place of honor at the right hand of the Father to be Head over the church, His body (Eph 1:20–23).”[7] Walvoord notes:

  • "In the ascension of the incarnate Christ to heaven, not only was the divine nature restored to its previous place of infinite glory, but the human nature was also exalted. It is now as the God-Man that He is at the right hand of God the Father. This demonstrates that infinite glory and humanity are compatible as illustrated in the person of Christ and assures the saint that though he is a sinner saved by grace he may anticipate the glory of God in eternity."[8]

Ryrie states, “The Ascension marked the end of the period of Christ’s humiliation and His entrance into the state of exaltation…The Ascension having taken place, Christ then was ready to begin other ministries in behalf of His own and of the world.”[9] Lewis Chafer notes seven aspects of Jesus’ current ministry in heaven.

  • "Seven aspects of His present ministry are to be recognized, namely: (1) exercise of universal authority. He said of Himself, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt 28:18); (2) Headship over all things to the Church (Eph 1:22–23); (3) bestowment and direction of the exercise of gifts (Rom 12:3–8; 1 Cor 12:4–31; Eph 4:7–11); (4) intercession, in which ministry Christ contemplates the weakness and immaturity of His own who are in the world (Psa 23:1; Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25); (5) advocacy, by which ministry He appears in defense of His own before the Father’s throne when they sin (Rom 8:34; Heb 9:24; 1 John 2:1); (6) building of the place He has gone to prepare (John 14:1-3); and (7) “expecting” or waiting until the moment when by the Father’s decree the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of the Messiah—not by human agencies but by the resistless, crushing power of the returning King (Heb 10:13)."[10]

Dr. Steven R. Cook

[1] Ralph Earle, “The Person of Christ: Death, Resurrection, Ascension,” in Basics of the Faith: An Evangelical Introduction to Christian Doctrine, ed. Carl F. H. Henry, Best of Christianity Today (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 184.

[2] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology, 308.

[3] Robert B. Thieme, Jr. “Gospel”, Thieme’s Bible Doctrine Dictionary, (Houston, TX., R. B. Thieme, Jr., Bible Ministries, 2022), 113

[4] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 152.

[5] Robert B. Thieme, Jr. “Session of Jesus Christ”, Thieme’s Bible Doctrine Dictionary, (Houston, TX., R. B. Thieme, Jr., Bible Ministries, 2022), 238.

[6] Werner Foerster and Gottfried Quell, “Κύριος, Κυρία, Κυριακός, Κυριότης, Κυριεύω, Κατακυριεύω,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 1089.

[7] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology, 313.

[8] John F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord (Galaxie Software, 2008), 121–122.

[9] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology, 312.

[10] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 82.