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The alternative

Endless night is the alternative, knowledgeable perhaps, but without understanding, for the blindness obscures, and the night presses: Matthew 8:12, Mark 9:42-47. No wonder there shall be weeping for opportunities lost, sins unforgiven and insult to the Lord: to the Father - because His Son is dishonoured (John 5:19-23); to the Son, because His gift is despised, as if it were merely a created thing; and to the Holy Spirit, because He is resisted, despite the words which He inspired in the prophets and in the apostles on whom, in Christ, the Church is based (Ephesians 2:22) ... Acts 7:51 gives the sense of this awful phenomenon.

Better is the humbling of happy content in Christ, who having humbled Himself, may well expect us, mere men or women or children, sinners, to humble ourselves and be saved by the great I am, on whom history depends, including... our own.

For my part, I counted it a privilege to begin again and be born again, and those who remain blind will see neither this, nor any other thing truly, of God. So be it. As Revelation puts it, Let him who is righteous be righteous still. But as to the unrighteous: because unsaved, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, declares Isaiah (64:6). Let then the unrighteous be unrighteous still (Revelation 22:11); or let him drink of the water of life freely: "Let him who is thirsty come: let the one who wishes take the water of life freely" ( 22:17).

What is done, will be; and so will it be in the end, for on him who does not believe (John 20, cf. John 3), the wrath of God abides. It is "that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us" (1 John 1:2), Jesus Christ, as John 1:1-14 also puts it, who must be received; not some mental substitute, made by the mind of man. The height of what is rejected is index to the loss to be sustained, should He be rejected not as He is imagined, but as He is.

It is the Co-Creator of all things who is to be received, so that nothing that was made was made without Him (John l). He therefore is before all things, as Colossians 1 also states. Any created datum: He is before it. He is pre-creation, God in form; and indeed, Colossians 1 makes it clear that not only is He before all things, so that all creation depends on as well as derives from Him ("consists"), but it is this same totality to which, where relevant in sin, His salvation is offered (1:19-23). Both the creation and the salvatory offer are emphasised grandly in scale and in force of the heart: in regal co-ordination.

Further, He is first-born (or first begetter) over all creation and first-born from the dead (Colossians 1:18), both His entry into creation and His exit-resurrection constituting absolute priorities, as trail-blazing in the direct, immanent power of God; for Him the whole of creation was made, and to Him it is responsible (Colossians 1:16 b... ''for Him'').

As to creation, He co-operated in every single part of it, so that of nothing made, did He not participate in the making... this then is the Lord's Christ who is thus eternal before all things made! He who would teach otherwise is calling God a liar. The occupation may not be uncommon; nor the penalty; and as God is the truth, calling the truth a liar becomes quite absolutely fatal.  Flee therefore for refuge to the Creator of all things at once, for now is the day; and seek the Lord while you may (Isaiah 55:6-7, Hebrews 6:18). Eternity may not be put on hold. It is not a thing, but a personal Being, the God of truth.

19) Now we come to the need to consider the nature of what is revealed, its composure, for although it is crucial Biblically to receive the truth, it is also necessary to seek understanding in the interests of growth.

God is not three gods, in one being. That is contrary to the revelation that there is one God, and indeed the reason given. Revelation and reason are wholly in accord, though of course only revelation can deliver the internal reality, as we have shown, concerning God.

God is one God in three persons. We have a conversation, at times, within ourselves, musing, contemplating, or even exhorting ourselves, examining ourselves (sometimes appearing in dramas as soliloquies)... To discuss within oneself - to know one's own mind, and so on, this is part of the extraordinary rational, spiritual and moral reality we are.

Now that God is one Being is simple: How He consists within Himself, only He can say. He does say, as we have seen. There is a continual sharing which comports with a communing collaboration, which nevertheless does not have the force of a resultant, but rather that of a mutual permeation and penetration; with special features too.

Thus the Father has an express image, Hebrews 1 tells us; and that is an exact replica, an expression which omits nothing. The Son is also called the Word, by which what is to be expressed, is so. Now a son is an offspring, biologically, an intimately close collaborator socially, where there is (properly) affection and mutuality. Since then God is a Spirit (John 4:24), without internal biological function in the form of God, even the angels, as Jesus stated, neither marrying nor giving in marriage, the Son of God is here (John 8:42, 3:13, Hebrews 1:2) therefore, an expression which signifies what biology, in its limited analogy, exhibits. It requires the essence of the concept, the ultimate reality on which our created form is patterned, in sonship. On earth, a father and a son are both human, should be are both human, close, collaborators: Father and Son in heaven are both deity, intimate in and to infinity, since not divided in dispersed creation, but necessarily one being, as presented in Chapter 1, supra, and seen constantly in both the Old and the New Testament, as we find.

That is, He is one of the same quality - His own Father, John 8:58 - as the Father Himself. He is one indeed with an additional close affinity that relates directly to what the Father personally is, without being in every respect simply identical - thus it is He who shows the Father, a specific function and feature. 'Only begotten' singularises, clarifies, intensifies: we are in the realm of the intimate, not of vague generalities, such as a teacher's 'children', or adaptations such as adoption. The unique eternal expression of God, of equal honour is in view.

A family is a less close analogy at this point; but the concept of several making one is there. The oneness of God is however such that there are not even in principle separable or isolable entities, for there is an everlasting co-existence (John 8:58), such that eternal existence in an unchanging God (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17) is a functional reality: that is how you have only one God, but both Christ and the Father bearing the name; only one Creator, but both Christ and the Father explicitly doing the work; only one Saviour statedly the case, and that God Himself, while Christ declared the only name given among men by which they must be saved (Acts 4:12).

No beginning of anything that is per se God is possible, since He does not change, and from everlasting to everlasting is God (Psalm 90:2); and only one God is in view as noted in Isaiah 45:22 ff., where God using the name el and the name elohim alike, protests He is but one. Any interpretation of Psalm 82:6 which contradicts this is not merely unnecessary, and founded on contradiction of what is undoubtedly declared, but represents a case of blindness to the sardonism and irony, so great as not even to merit contempt. Because these 'gods' are not eternal, they are no challenge to God, are merely corrupt social powers. This word 'el' can be used that way, quite outside the domain of Creator and heaven; and the devastating satire is quite simply that they act as if they were virtual 'gods', but their pathetically creaturely status, chasms apart from God, will be all too simply exposed when they die... in the normal course of their kind, that is, as men. Their pretensions are ridiculed.

Let us then sum up, consider the conspectus as far as we may: God is one in Being, three in constitutive personalities, communing in correlation; eternal as to existence, almighty as to power; not fused, but functionally transcendent over parts, being neither synthesised nor scrutinised by His creation: but rather social in the internal extent of His relations, individual in the mutuality of His unity, not a trilogy but a trinity, a unity where not organs but personalities exist in a oneness so profound that space and time are irrelevant, indeed creations of His power.

The differentiation of His Persons in function, is not an isolation in state; and their concurrence is not simply co-ordination, for they transcend all system, an exterior imposition, or structural pre-condition; whereas God has no pre-conditions, being alpha and omega. Three harmonious persons in infinitely loving concord and identity of nature, fulfil the life of the Being whom they comprise, being intensely and perfectly intimate, each with the other, exhaustively mutually aware. The Being does not transcend them, as if they were federated (able to fail, like the Soviet Union).

God is, as this trinity, not severally computable, but dispositionally comprising His eternity in this form; the mutuality and inter-penetration - since God is a Spirit - being not spatially but dispositionally dynamic.

Three in personality, one in Being, God is different numerically in different respects, a situation which even on earth is not in the least provocative of concern, merely evocative of interest. When such oneness applies to three mutually consisting persons, it is in particular evocative of wonder at the immensity and intensity of the love, the basis of the human aspiration and force in diverse expressions, of this focus.

There is nothing upsetting to reason in this; indeed, it is superlatively interesting and fascinating; but naturally, as reason cannot even discern the thoughts of someone else with sure intuition, if they are not told, far less can we - rationally ought we to have power to - construe creatively what God is. He says. We can contemplate the beauty of His order and the immensely and profoundly reasonable nature of His ways; but by His nature as Creator, it is not possible for us to inspect Him and analyse Him, in the mechanistic manner appropriate to our dealings with our subordinate, matter. We merely consider the harmonious manner of His ontological specialness, that there is none like Him: an everlasting Being. The everlasting Being, entirely personal and so personal as to be three as to person while, diversity without divergence, He is one in nature, He is so functionally identifiable, a communion without beginning or synthesis, mutually comprehending and comprehensive.

Space-time being a mere creation of His, it is neither limiting to Him nor constitutive of Him (cf. Romans 8:30 ff.); hence He says, ''Before Abraham was, I am...''; for time per se began from Him; and hence again, He is alpha and omega, for beyond time to be alpha, is to be God. Hence God definitively reveals Himself to Israel in Isaiah 48:12 by stating that He is the first and the last. This name used of the Son 3 times, in Revelation (1:17-18, 2:8, 22:13), is specific (Isaiah 44:6) to the only God, the King of Israel and his Redeemer (cf. Hebrews 9:12,15): it includes features which exclude any other would-be gods: Thus Father and Son alike are the beginning and the end (Revelation 1:8, 22:13): "I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God."

Just as every knee must bow to the Lord (Isaiah 45:23), this being His stated singular and solemn specific as the Eternal Sovereign, so they will bow specifically to Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:9-10), who thereby bears the divine glory just as was predicted, this Messiah (Zechariah 2:8, cf. Isaiah 22:24-25). When they bow to the name of Jesus, it is to the glory of God the Father, that they do so (Philippians 2:11), even of Him who refuses to share His glory with any other. Thus God is gaining what He claimed He would gain for Himself, in that it is given to Christ, who is not another god (heaven knows but one) but another Person within the Godhead. God's name, functions and honour He shares; just as He shows (John 5:19-23) so clearly. This level is infinitely above that of creatures.

''All that the Father has is mine,'' says Jesus Christ (John 16:15); and this means not at all that there are ontological gaps, where His nature is not God. All bears no exception; and so they are - these things which the Father has - eternity, infinity, one and all within the Son, the praise and the honour and the glory, and the ground for it, all. Yet it is a trinity; and while the Son-on-earth has been vested with Messianic mission, and incarnate format, and as the power of God acts, when that role and plenipotentiary agency is over, He will resume in the blessed oneness of God, not bereft of the Lamb's worthiness (Revelation 5:13) or service, but without the singularity which of necessity appeared while He was on earth.

This, being by mission in character, ends with the consummation of that mission (I Corinthians 15:28), and the resumption of His eternal place as the Word, expressive of the Father, and in that sense proceeding from Him eternally. That role of outgoing mission becomes subordinate while God in His oneness continues; the Father delighting to honour the Son as Himself (John 5:19-23). This is witnessed in the sublimity of Revelation also:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing (5:12) ... and The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it (22:3). Indeed:
''The lamb is its Light" (21:23); and ''His servants'' - ''His name on their foreheads'' - ''shall reign for ever and ever'' (22:3-5).
Moreover, John there also tells us that he :
Beheld and lo in the midst of the throne ... stood a Lamb
(Revelation 5:6) and again,
For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them (7:17),
He having nothing peripheral but but standing even there, constitutively occupying sovereign place;
and John reveals the testimony:
Blessing and honour and glory and power be to Him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever (5:13 cf. Daniel 7:13-14).
He shows, suitably to One in the very midst of the ruling, sovereign power of God:
I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it (Revelation 21:22, it. added).
God is worshipped, the whole holiness of the Temple is enshrined in Father and Son, and the Son participates, thus receiving full worship, which God alone may do, as Jesus told the devil (Matthew 4:10).

Indeed, as He, the Lord Jesus Christ, is so placed in the throne and in glory and in honour, with the Father undivided, so is He as Judge named King of Kings and Lord of Lords, having:

On His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).
Just as there is none before Him who is alpha, there is none beyond Him who is Lord of Lords, in the midst of throne ruling, one God, triune. Unbelief can reject; but reason cannot contest the awe-ful clarity of this revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ as God.

Constitutive of the centre of worship are Lamb and Father, jointly praised, jointly ruling, jointly worshipped (cf. John 9:38-39). What He received on earth, continues in heaven. Executive at the centre of the throne is none other than the Son; eternally worthy and eternally joined, Father and Son, Alpha and Omega each (Revelation 1:8,17, 22:13): these to whom every knee shall bow, who share each other's domain for ever, each in the form of God by nature (Philippians 2:6, John 17:5) are now so beheld (John 17:24). For the Father and the Son - the Messianic humiliation being now past (Acts 3:13), but not its beauty - with the Spirit (Revelation 22:17), shall provide that eternal life which the Son is (1 John 1:1-4), in the beauty of holiness for ever. He is its expression, from whom is its impression; He is the source, from which multitudes of His creation drink, by the Spirit now, seeing Him face to face then, so that reality is expressly manifest, direct (1 Corinthians 13:12).

What the believing disciples had seen and handled (1 John 1), this was that eternal life which was with the Father. He does not merely have it; it is rather declared that He is it, and that life is endless, from everlasting to everlasting; for before all time (which He helped create, Romans 8:38-39), He is it. Eternity is without commencement, just as without end: this is the God who is worshipped, and of others, as He regularly emphasises, there is... not one!

More Marvels of the Trinity -

The Fourth Step: Life Inlet

The first-born: Christ is seen as The First and the Last, The Beginning and the End in Revelation 1:8,17, 2:8, 21:6, 22:7,12-16,20 (cf. Isaiah 41:4, 44:6 and note equivalents). Both Father and Son share this distinctive appellation of Deity. It occurs as such in Isaiah 44:6,8 in the context of no other rock, except the one God. As the First and the Last, He has nothing before Him, and nothing shall be after Him. He is definitively the "I AM" (John 8:58, Exodus 3:14).

It is He who is called in Colossians 1:15, the first-born. Normally the first-born was the first to be born, and had various hereditary privileges. In the case of Jacob, however, he was given this birthright of his brother in the famous pottage transaction. The result (though not the method) was something God had already decreed at the birth: the ''elder shall serve the younger''. Though Esau was the first of the twins to arrive, God reversed it in this aspect !

Now as in many other things, such terms can be used metaphorically; we can use something well-known as a kind of illustration. Thus when Jesus Christ arrived on this 

this world's scene as an uncreated Prince, poured into flesh, He (Colossians 1:15) is called the ''first-born of ('over') all creation''. Thus His birth, though virgin birth, was not the first human birth, or the first birth process leading to a male child, that had ever occurred in the history of the world. Notwithstanding this - though the incarnation of God, the 'I am' as we saw, as a man via a human birth was obviously not the chronological first event of birth: the prince and potentate whose birth it was, appeared on earth with the status of 'first-born'. It was naturally because of His eternal and internal eminence as God, that He took over the powers, as it were, of primogeniture, of being the first-born. Quality, and logically, pre-existence prevailed. Even if the prince arrives last on the scene, he is first in position. This is not a question of queue, but of quality.

Indeed, as we shall observe, He could not as created be said to be the first-born 'because' (Colossians 1:16) all things were created by Him: for then the ground declared in the text for His being first-born would contradict the name itself ... created because creator! That would be interpretation by contradiction, and deserves no thought.

'Because' He created 'all' things (and if a creature, He could not have created Himself if not there, for on that view, He would be one of the 'all things' still to come, which He was to create - the second logical impossibility for the 'creature' view!): because of this, on arrival He is the first-born. That is how the explicit logical sequence flows in Colossians 1. He is not a creature because total Creator! Since Creator, therefore on arrival in His own created field, as to form, His of course by pre-existence and glory is the first-born's position. That is the 'because' or 'for' which is statedly the ground for the place of 'first-born.'

As Creator, He is first-born on reaching the field He made, and this over all the creation. You get the same sort of imagery in the statement that He is the first-born from the dead, also arresting, made by Paul in Acts 13, where he quotes Psalm 2, saying: "As it is written in the second Psalm, Thou art My son, this day have I begotten Thee." This follows the statement: God fulfilled the same in that He raised up Jesus. The 'begetting' in this illustration is from the dead, as is explicitly stated. Does then death give birth ? Is it a womb ?

Now you would have to be rather obtuse not to see that what is meant is this. Christ was the first one thus to be resurrected direct from the dead by the Father, breaking the teeth, the force, the holding power of death (cf. Acts 2:24, where Peter declares of Christ, ''whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that He should be held by it''). In that sense, it was as if death were a womb and the corpse a babe held there, and He had come forth, and when He did, He is metaphorically called (image is necessary, since literally death has no womb...), the first-born from the dead (Colossians 1:18).

Thus imagery is used in some of these illustrations. But the fact is as Peter states, it was impossible for death to hold Him: the Creator is not subject to the creation. That is why. Christ's status as first-born from the dead may also refer, and is certainly parallel to the post as first-born of all creation. As Creator, He secures privileges of ingress and egress suitable to His position in name, though He bears the blame on behalf of reconciled sinners. Thus also He is "declared to be the Son of God with power", Romans 1:4. How ? BY the resurrection from the dead: His irruption into human life and eruption from the dead, these ruptures of nature and norm are those of the Creator assuming place as first-born in eminence over His creation, and confirming it with His breach of the power of death, due to all sinners.

When He came to earth, naturally He took precedence over all those who, though coming earlier in time, did not have the majestic distinction which Colossians 1:16 affirms, of having made without exception everything created - and of course, preceding everything created in order to do just this! No, being absent, because as yet 'uncreated', He did not create Himself while non-existent. We must use a little thought and seek to understand the reason given for the term used in Colossians 1:15 without actually contradicting both that reason, and reason itself in the process! You can do nothing if you do not exist, far less create everything that does. Finally, Dr Buswell in his famous work, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, (pp. 109-110, Book 1), notes that the Greek of the New Testament in its usage, here equally admits the translation, 'first-begetter of all creation', which of course fits perfectly with the next verse, Colossians 1:16, "For by Him were all things created."

Whether or not this usage be applied, there is in any case no slightest difficulty here, but rather grounds for exegesis, not eisegesis, intruding thought to the expulsion of the reasoning given in this scripture. Christ's participation in every act of creation before His own incarnation, declared emphatically and repeatedly, is clearly affirmed. There is nothing created at all that He did not act to create: He is the First not the Second, a and not b, of the order of creator therefore, not creature (Revelation 1:8,17, Isaiah 41:4 - sharing this explicit title of deity with His Father). He is not something He made! As to God Almighty, He alone creates (Isaiah 45:12,18, 44:24).

The role of creature is expressly excluded of the One who universally creates all there is. It follows of course clearly that the teaching here is this: Christ is not and could not be a creature: His order of being is creator, and in that setting, there is only one other, creature. They are reciprocals. Being the one, He cannot be the other. What He can be - and did become as we read, is a unique entrant into that created world, taking late in history a part more sympathetic, yes more than empathetic, rather peripatetic, and in the process, walking on earth, being treated... as an intruder on His own planet, which with all in it, He made. That of course is precisely the point John is making so forcibly in John 1:12.

His role is no mere creator's adventurism, however, but as 1:12 states, it made a channel for creatures to be adopted when rightly responding to the blazing light (1:14) of His incarnation.

The Fifth Step on the Trinity -

Life Outlet Deity: the resurrection of the salvation-format, and so, of the body of Christ

Death, however, is something that God made. How then did the God-as-man, the Saviour Jesus Christ handle, deal with that ? What distinctives accrued, unique to Himself ? As for death, said Peter, it was not possible for it to hold Christ (Acts 2:24). Was God to be doomed by the discipline of death which He Himself created ? Was He to be subjected to its final dynamic ? or bearing it, would He dispense with it, having achieved salvation for sinners who received Him ?

A crucial question, it is integral to His status, to determine how He answered it. As we note in its place, it was predicted of Him, He predicted it of Himself: that He would rise in such a way as to avoid the rotting of His body (e.g. Psalm 16, Acts 2:25 ff.). Doubly required to 'pay up' on this highly unpsychological matter of raising His body (John 2:29 ff.) on time, to fulfil what He so repeatedly emphasised: what did He do ? In this phase, we are seeing what is the teaching, so that none can misunderstand it.

If Christ were to be received as God, then, should He not only suffer death vicariously, but actually be beholden to it, subdued by it! Then where would His eternal counsel, not to say competence be ? (Acts 2:23, Ephesians 1:11).

If, on the other hand, He dispensed with it on time, planning, performing and perfecting, then death was His subject; and so it ought to be, since as God He made it. If Christ be deity, as is the case, the impossibility of death retaining Him (in any form He chose) is to be set against the natural impossibility (miracles by the Creator apart) of death being dispelled. Yet in the end, what God made, God can resurrect: miracles not apart. If however Jesus Christ were merely a biological being or an 'agin the government' fraud, he would find it decidedly difficult, being dead, to resurrect himself. Could He ? If so, surpassing all bodily limits, He would be ''declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead'' (Romans 1:4).

Would the Creator intervene, could the Christ continue His own power, minus living body ? That would validate as well as vindicate His claim that it was He Himself as the Expression, Son and Word, who was that man, Jesus Christ... the personal expression of God Himself. If He had the power, let Him then use it! Not at the Cross, as He might be tempted by jeering to do (Matthew 27:43). Would the Father, indeed, verify Christ's often repeated prediction that not only would death not hold Him, but that He would break it and rise on the third day, being arithmetically precise as well as irresistible in power ?

Indeed, as we saw, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days!" He said (John 2:29). Could He ? As man - if that were all He was - certainly not; or if fraud, truth would lend Him no support. It was clear, simple, refreshingly direct... But as God incarnate ? yes of course, no problem in the world.

God confirmed, authenticated, verified, in fact declared Christ's status by this act: the resurrection of the dead. It is now our task to check simply from the text that it meant what we say... the resurrection of the body, that delightfully non-metaphorical fact!

Let us consider it briefly i) in principle and ii) in practice.

l) In principle

In Acts 2:24-31, Peter's words are given on this topic. We find (v.23) that God predetermined the death, and the resurrection (vv. 24-31): this crucified Being, He 'raised up'. How did He raise Him up ? Raised in this, that "it was not possible that He should be held by it" - in context, by what ? by death. What are the criteria? These: that death had inflicted pains on Him (v.24) and temporarily 'held' Him (v.24); but this action was dissolved and what death did, was countermanded so that it became inoperative. Now what does death do to a person by way of pains and holding ? It divorces biological life from a person, and holds the person so that that individual cannot move the body, and the total bodily efficiency departs absolutely, terminating the association of spirit and action locale in the form of a body. What then is the teaching here in principle ?

It is this. What death is, brought pains; and it took hold on this person; but God intervened to ensure that what it had done was undone, what it had immobilised was so no longer; what it had pained, escaped from those pains through dismissal of the same. How then is this done ? only by


restoring the mobility


returning the efficiency and


cancelling the rigorous pain which brought discontinuance and imminent corruption of the former body.

What then did God raise ? clearly, the thing that was brought down in pain, and held immobile. And what is that ? It is without doubt normally called the body. This then is the bodily resurrection. Nature has to do a rearguard, because God countervails.

What principle is in view ? One for which we may pause is near at hand. Already we have seen that whatever else may suffer in death, have pain, the body is clearly part of this, the visible, obvious and clear part. It is disrupted in death, its organisation tending to be dispersed, its order grieved, its grip dispensed with by another grip, that of death. With Christ, this is expressly stated to have been removed in that He was raised. Nothing could be clearer.

Peter however is not satisfied with this as a total coverage of the theme. At once he presses on to the prediction (vv. 25 ff.) that the Christ was not to have His soul left in hell, or to see corruption. Let me, he continued, be frank. David the author of this predictive, Messianic psalm (we paraphrase) died, his body did rot, and it was not of himself he wrote: it was of course of the Messiah. It is of this predicted Messiah he wrote; it is of the same I speak . His body, that of this Jesus Christ who is the Messiah, it did not rot. That is the fulfilment of the prediction (v.31).

No other interpretation of the Greek is available, nor would the context admit it if it were. This body did not rot. But how is this a matter of principle ? It is so in this, that God declared in advance the tenacity of His purpose and the ambit of His operations which would satisfy Him, on the one hand, and testify to witnesses, on the other. This had to be and if it had not, then all would have been proved futile, fraudulent.

Houdini almost died in one of his escape acts, when beer was used as a fluid: it affected his responses even from outside his skin, during immersion! But Houdini, for all his skill, did not attempt resurrection. God used it as one of the criteria which in principle as well as practice, He set for the saving work of His Son. The saviour was to be set on a throne (v.30) and His body was to the point, His overcoming... relevant, His power indispensable.

Now we come to a further specifically focussed feature. It was the pained body which was loosed: not a substitute. It was, as Machen pointed out for 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 - The thing that was buried which is in point, and of this it is said that it was raised. Now what was the thing buried ? Beyond question, the body (that is what one normally buries...) of Jesus Christ. This: which was buried, of this is it said, the subject, that it was raised. This body did not fact achieve the power to rot: God prevented that. Now, says Peter:

He foreseeing this (i.e. David) spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that... His flesh did not rot - Acts 2:30.
To what, we may ask, did the non-rotting flesh of Jesus Christ relate ? Was it put in a case, without refrigeration, like an earlier Lenin ? is that to what it related ?

Peter's words state something very different. The non-rotting flesh related to the resurrection. The venue for non-rotting flesh ? the resurrection. The bearing on the case of non-rotting flesh, in particular, that of the Lord Jesus Christ: the resurrection. Thus non-rotting flesh has the resurrection for its terms of reference; resurrection is its destiny, its ambit, its focus, its place. That is what is being taught by the apostle Peter.

Very well, the flesh did not rot, says Peter, and it is this which is our concern in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "This Jesus God has raised up".  Not some other; not some invention: This non-rotting flesh is the one which relates to the flesh of the resurrection. That is... bodily resurrection.

Now we come to practice.

2) In practice

What does the Bible tell of the practical features of this resurrected body ? First, in Matthew 28:5-6, we read from the angel at the tomb:
Do not be afraid: for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen. Come and see the place where He was lying.
He is not here, for He is risen. Now note

a) they are told to stop looking.

b) they are invited to look at the place where He lay.

c) the reason why He was not there was simply this: That He had risen. This means, can mean only one thing: a crucified corpse sought by anointing women was not available for their purpose, owing to the fact that this same crucified and sought body was risen. Being risen, He was no longer in the place where in fact He had been; hence ("for") no longer available for the practical, physical purpose of anointing. Evacuated, the physical body was not there for this to happen to it.

It was because of these considerations that they were to tell others that He was risen from the dead. How ? Via the displacement of His corpse, not there because He was risen. What is this ? Once again, it is bodily resurrection.

Second for our review is this Scripture: Luke 24:4-6. The women, here, are being told that it is out of place to seek for the living among the dead. 24:1 shows their intention - to anoint the body. The angel insists that they are astray because what they seek is not there. As a demonstration of that fact, the women are advised that Jesus is risen. Now what bearing could the fact that He, Jesus, being dead, had risen, have on His body being unavailable for anointing, for the comment that seeking the living among the dead was inept ? Only this: that He had taken it with Him when He rose, so removing it from the precincts where otherwise it might confidently have been expected.

More, their error was not only that He was not there because He was risen; they were guilty of a categorical error: they were seeking on the assumed basis that their quarry was a corpse, dead. In reality, this was contrary to fact. Now what would be contrary to fact about the expectation that a body was dead ? Why only this, the reality that it was not dead. Now what is that ? It is called, once again, bodily resurrection.

The body in every case is re-animated, restored to mobility, and acts of will are at the disposal of the one whose it was, in this resurrected vehicle, called... the body. Jesus, then, is not available to their (otherwise) perfectly apt little proceeding of anointing, little service to the body, because, in a word, He (whose body it is), He is not there, owing to the supernaturally announced fact that HE IS RISEN.

Third in our review is Luke 24:39. Here, Luke records that Jesus said:

See my hands and feet, that it is I myself: Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.
Thus the physical mobility, physical carrying off of the body by Himself, is not all. No, the body is such that it may be handled; and in fact, Jesus Christ presents it for experimental verification. He adds a logical principle to their practical endeavours. He makes declaration with all the straightforwardness of someone who has just done what man might call impossible, of someone who exploded (in fact) the first atomic bomb, but with more directness still, since that is is a matter of degree, this is one of kind! What does He declare ? This: The reason why they are invited to handle His body is that spirits don't have any. See, He says, my hands and feet! Handle them. Spirits don't have them. In other words, He is making them realise that this is straightforward biological fare before them; whatever more, it is no less!

Thus the body which was not available because it was risen, is distinguished by the Master Himself from a spirit (admittedly, something that would be the position if He had not physically risen- cf. Ecclesiastes 12:7). It is asserted by Him to have features not found except in bodies (''flesh and bones''), as distinct from spirits. Thus this, His body, had not only risen, but it was still around, available and operative as a body in a studiously physical sense.

Fourth in our coverage, comes John 20. Here we notice the apostles investigating the tomb, and with respect to its noted emptiness, we read:

For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead (v.9).
Thus the emptiness of the tomb is, in order to be understood, dependent on the true fact that Jesus rose from the dead. This is its stated rationale, its basis. Now how could the rising of Jesus be said to be the fact that explained the empty tomb, as here, unless what made the tomb empty (and that is the absence of the formerly present body of Jesus Christ) was the evacuation-by-resurrection of Jesus, moving His body out of the place (rising being the stated event in view)! Thus the rising of Jesus, as explaining the empty tomb and making it empty, must of course be the rising of the body. A spirit does not empty a space on its removal!

Thus again in John 20, verse 17, we read (N.A.S.B.): ''Stop clinging to Me!'' This is addressed to a devoted Mary Magdalene. The Greek word here refers to adhesion to something and the dictionary meaning ( Thayer ) is provided in terms of 'stop handling me to verify' or a concept of that kind. The tense of the verb 'handle' is here 'present', meaning a continuing action: this and the word as such, together give just the dictionary's stated sense for this passage. An action of verificatory or devoted handling of His feet was in process, and He asked for its cessation. He did not say that it was irrelevant, but to stop! So far from not finding what it sought, the handling was to cease, thereby releasing the feet of the body. This coincides with what we see of Matthew 28:9:

Jesus met them and greeted them, and they came up and took hold of His feet and worshipped Him.
The devotion becomes worship in the manifest presence of this divine confirmation before their very eyes; and the act of worship occurs while they in fact are experiencing that miracle with their hands, which validates, as it does once and for all, the authenticity of Jesus Christ. In this, they are left overwhelmingly and simply assured; and that is precisely the hallmark - both in doctrine and practical implication, in fearlessness of death indeed, for those who perceived His victory over it on their behalf- which adorned that century ... for Christians. Having seen how the 'operation' went, and with whom it went, they are arrested into joy, and reinforced into courage.

What then ? Physical hands can hold and retain physical feet in their grip, so that the unhanding becomes a desirable result, and one required! Physical resistance or interaction is in view.

The physical feet are part of the physical structure of things. This not only categorically confirms that the body (which, we know, possesses feet as part of its structure and form) was in fact not destroyed, being risen, but capable of being grasped; it also relates to the articulation of the body's parts. Grasping of feet is not irrelevant to this body; it was His, and having arisen without rotting, because He did not allow death to commandeer it (Acts 2:24), He was not inclined to extend the privilege of doing so ... to others!

Fifth and finally at this level - for it is enough - we note two episodes. First, this body of Jesus Christ could ingest fish. He could have fish handed to Him and make it approach His mouth, then eat it. The correlations and functions are all there! That is seen in Luke 21:41-43, and relates to the "handle Me and see" area of action.

Now in line with this very physical side of things comes of course John 20. Here, Thomas, waxing scientific, decides that unless he has a physical test of a crucial and adequate kind for a tough mind (manual investigation, no less, of the holes made in Christ's body was in view - John 20:25), he declined to believe...

Believe what ? Believe the statement that they had seen the Lord. In what context? That of John 20:19 ff.; and what was that ? The case was that in which Christ showed them the physical condition of His hands and side. He was not dead but risen and there to show it. No ! said Thomas. Now you see the inference.

Believing for Thomas meant believing that the body was literally, physically, non-metaphorically a physical item, a non-corpse, and that of Jesus Christ, possessing continuity down to the marks of abuse at the Cross. Actually, that says everything about that aspect of the resurrection. On site terminology is as Thomas shows and Christ declares; on site examination for believing is physical.

Of course, Thomas was invited to make his tests, and repented and acknowledged this so open and testable Jesus Christ, saying to Him: My Lord and My God, we read ... very much as the women, holding his feet, worshipped Him. In John 20:29, we see a further principle concerning this intensely physical and practical and personal matter. Thomas saw and believed (and we now know what that means); others will be blessed, however, if without seeing, they too believe: That is Christ's open declaration. Why not see ? When He proceeds, as He stated He would do (John 20:17-18, John 16:7, Luke 24:26, John 6:60-63) and as Peter tells (Acts 3:21), to glory, then his body will not any more be available for on site testing. Then the principle of non-experimental testing will supervene. The case is closed; the things are done; the opportunities have been provided liberally. Now is the time not therefore of action (in these gospel basics, these are done), but of believing. This is the principle provided.

What it is that is required, relative to believing in this field, that of the resurrection, is as simple as it is clear; as clear as it is radical and as repeated as it is decisive; as decisive as it is indeed a matter of stated principle as well. What then is that ? It is ... the bodily resurrection.

As Jeremiah puts it so succinctly and tersely;

"The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens" (10:11); but as to that One who did make them, and who became in His time, flesh (John 1:14): He cannot perish from the earth and from under the heaven. This is a criterion of deity; and as God is much interested in man (Psalm 113:6), and has so acted on behalf of those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12, 1 Timothy 2:3 ff.), this has a close and illustrative connection with those who do receive Christ and so, as adopted children (Romans 8:15-16), "participate in the divine nature" (11 Peter 1:4, 1 John 3:1-3).

Their resurrection depends on that of the paragon and indeed paradigm, the crux and criterion - Jesus Christ. Hence we find that this, their resurrection, their rising, by His achievement and donation, is one (John 5:28 ff.,1 Corinthians 15:51 ff.) incorporating that divine power by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself (Philippians 3:2): that crux of deity. By this, for His people He will - "transform our lowly body so that it may be conformed to His glorious body".

In the special case of those who are still living when He comes (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), this power at once transforms those same bodies, evicting death by the overflowing of the Creator's irresistible vitality, so that mortality is "swallowed up in immortality" as He says (1 Corinthians 15:53-54), while the dead are "raisedincorruptible". Here the continuity, through 'transformation' is total, as with Elijah.

God must be understood in the terms of His expression: He crushed the crisis and confers the consequences: He is God over the living and the dead, and over death, His instrument.

Endnote for Section 4 (EN #)

*1 Facing the Trinity. The whole verse 12 of Psalm 2, following as it does the account, noted by Peter at Pentecost, of the lustful desire of men to be done with God, and to be finished with His Messiah (2:2), comprises a remarkable counsel in itself. Let us ponder it:
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
No wonder it precedes this in verse 11 with the remarkable exhortation:
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Here is a crux cruxorum, a pivot of pivots: the Son, the predicted Messiah, to whom David so often refers, even calling Him his Lord ( Psalm ll0 ), as Jesus Christ noted to His enemies.
First the relationship, seen right from this particular prophecy, with the Messiah is to be one of devotion ("Kiss the Son"). It is not mawkish sentimentality; for its omission rouses anger. It is the Eastern mark of affectionate consideration and recognition in greeting. A failure courts destruction. A failure, that is, to love the Lord your God with all your heart ... this is no option, but absolute, a requirement to be rendered to God only, with spiritual destruction the result of failure. We live by Him, and He is love; and to depart from Him is death.
Not only so. If this Son becomes only a little wrathful, perishing is in view. While the conditions of His pardon are not mitigated, this Psalm is dealing with direct and obvious rebellion, and is urging instead real and proper devotion, such as is the lot of the one who is forgiven much, who has no illusions about his /her sinfulness and the necessity of salvation. Such a one naturally loves (that is, in the setting of being born again, supernaturally, for then it is natural to so relate to the supernatural).
This area of direct rebellion is fraught with peril: danger arises when wrath comes only a little. The world is finding this out by stages, and its child poverty alone (Time September 1990) is enough to shock the angels. Man's rule and self-confidence appear to have no bounds; the impudence of the twentieth century rebellion seems to be as aspiring in deluded grandeur, as are its results subterranean almost to hell, in total abysmal failure. It is beginning to taste what Revelation 6:16 calls ''the wrath of the Lamb''.
In view of this necessity of His favour, and the peril of His wrath, and the (implicit) total jurisdictive power accorded to Him (as expressed in the New Testament also by Jesus Christ in John 5:26-27): we are advised how blessed are the people who put their trust in this Son, this Messiah (Psalm 2:12). This is the Old Testament's caution, advice, exhortation and warning. Though "cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength" (Jeremiah 17:5) , yet blessed, the exact opposite is he who puts his trust in the Messiah. His stature is that of God. It is in the same chapter of Jeremiah as that just quoted and two verses on that we learn: "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord". It is the Lord who is so to be trusted, who is the only Saviour (Isaiah 43:11), and thus alone may be so engaged by faith.
The majestic sovereignty, the devotion, discipleship and faith to be rendered to, or placed in the Son is that due to God alone. As God (Psalm 45, Hebrews 1, John 20), He receives it, even just the same honour (John 5:19-23) as that due to the Father, since in Him is all the fulness of the Godhead (Colossians 1:19-23, 2:9).
When you consider it, Psalm 2 is just as absolute a salute to the sovereign deity of the Son as is Psalm 45, Isaiah 48:16 and Micah 5:1-3.
At the verificatory level, it is timely here to note a rather special point. Different people write at God's command in the Bible, with deliciously different art or emphasis or exposures, but they all cohere like sultanas cooked in a particularly attractive and well integrated steam pudding, work of one cook . This verifies a legitimate expectation of the word of God; and it does it now subtly, now delicately, now with force.
Page 560 continued in the next section

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