On the third day He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
We saw in the previous article that Jesus, the Son of God, died on a cross and His lifeless body was laid in a tomb. His death paid the penalty for our sins. But there is more to this story.
Each of the Gospels (books about the life of Jesus), the teaching of the apostles (top church leaders) recorded in the book of Acts, and the testimony of the letters written by different apostles all declare that on the third day after His death, God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. He came out from the tomb and was seen by many of His followers—including 500 on one occasion—during a short time.
Scholars speak of his "bodily" resurrection, not his physical resurrection. We will see why this is important to believers in the article about Last Things. What we do understand is that Jesus' physical body did not remain in the tomb to decay. His resurrection body was physical (Luke 24:36-42). However, he was able to suddenly appear (John 20:19). Jesus's resurrection body was different than that of Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead (John 11:38-44) and others. They lived for a while and eventually died, just as all human beings do.
However, Jesus did not remain in bodily form upon the earth. After forty days, He went up from the earth into heaven in the sight of many of His followers.
Jesus Conquered Sin and Death
Jesus' work on the cross paid for the penalty for our sins. However, His resurrection from the dead indicated so much more. Not only are we free from sin's penalty, through Him we have new, abundant life here on earth. Paul wrote, We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4 ESV).
Each of our physical bodies will die. But there is life beyond that death. The resurrection of Jesus stands as a promise that we will be raised one day. Paul wrote, But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead (1Corinthians 15:20-21 ESV).
Therefore, it is not a tragedy when a believer dies. For he or she will be given new life and will be with God forever in heaven. Because God the Father raised Jesus the Son from the dead, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?... But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1Corinthians 15:54-57 ESV).
Jesus Is Still Alive
After forty days of appearing in a body to His disciples, Jesus was taken up into heaven in their sight (Acts 1:9-11). This event, called the Ascension, is important to us as believers. If Jesus had just stopped appearing to his followers, we might be left to wonder what was happening. Was He a ghost? Where is He now? What meaning does Jesus have for my life today? The Ascension answers those questions.
We have already seen that Jesus had a physical body that could be seen and touched. He was able to eat. Yet he was different. He suddenly appeared in locked rooms.
So, for those forty days, the Son of God continued to be located here on the earth, just as He was through more than thirty years of his human life. At the Ascension, however, he returned to his place with the Father in heaven. In this place, he was freed from the limitations of time and space and could resume His role as God of all the universe throughout all time. From heaven, Jesus is able to hear the prayers of everyone in any place and at all times.
Jesus is alive. And we have new life in Him.
Bob Caldwell, PhD, is Theologian-in-Residence at Network 211.