The significance of the resurrection and ascension of Christ in our salvation
In this post, we'll continue looking at what Dick Eugenio (in Communion with the Triune God) says concerning Thomas F. (TF) Torrance's view of the "how" of salvation, now considering the role of the resurrection and the ascension of Christ. For the other posts in this series, click on a number: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.
[For TF] the cross definitely fulfills a unique and distinct significance that other redemptive experiences of Christ do not convey, but it is only a part of the whole, not an aspect that can stand on its own apart from the virgin birth, resurrection and ascension. This is why Torrance argues that the resurrection and ascension should also be viewed soteriologically.... Just as Christ embodied in himself humanity's predicament in his whole life and ministry, in his resurrection he embodied in himself humanity's final triumph over everything he had assumed. Sin and death were both dealt with through life....
Apart from the resurrection...the death of Jesus Christ on the cross could not take on any sacrificial or vicarious significance. It is precisely because Jesus Christ triumphed over that which he assumed that his life and death become meaningful. [Now quoting Torrance:] "The resurrection is the fulfillment of the incarnate mission of the Son of God who has taken up our worldly existance and history into himself" (loc 17660).
|The Ascension of Jesus by Rembrandt |
Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain
This reality was affirmed once and for all in Jesus' bodily ascension to heaven where the God-man Jesus (fully God who remains forever fully human) is in perfect, non-ending communion with the Father and the Spirit. Thus the ascension is "not an addendum, to Christ's incarnational redemption, but is an integral part of it" (loc 1780). Here we see salvation in terms of both the redemptive descent of the Son of God through the incarnation (including the virgin birth) and the redemptive ascent of the incarnate Son of God in the person of Jesus in the resurrection and ascension.
It's vital to understand that the bodily-human presence of Jesus in the incarnation and ascension establishes "the real meaning and interaction between God and humanity." Further, "the bodily ascension of Jesus Christ vindicates our humanity, rather than demolishing it." Jesus did not shed his humanity at the resurrection or the ascension. Indeed, there is now a human being (the man Jesus) seated in heaven at God's right hand ("right hand" being emblematic of authority and glory--see Romans 8:34). Our Mediator, Advocate and High Priest, as human and God, represents us in heaven. Therefore our future is not empty. "Jesus Christ has gone ahead of us, and our future is bound up with his" (loc 1792).
TF's view of the soteriological significance of the resurrection and ascension is thus tied to the biblical and patristic teaching of Jesus' continuing humanity. The atonement was not a mere "one time" transaction, which the human Jesus accomplished and then shed his humanity. No, Jesus remains human forever. His own person (as both God and human), constitutes the atonement (the "at-one-ment") of God with man, and man with God. In that sense, Jesus is the atonement. The atonement is fundamentally personal/relational, not transactional/forensic. As with the symbolism given in Israel's system of sacrifice...
...the real consummation of the atonement is the physical presence of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies sprinkling the blood of the sacrificial animal. The ascent of Christ, the sacrifice and the priest, to the presence of the Father actually constitutes an important aspect of the whole atoning process (loc 1804).As Eugenio goes on to note...
...Christ's vicarious work can be summed up in what Torrance calls the "atoning exchange..."' Through the incarnation, Christ took what was ours so that we may partake of what is his. In his entire atoning life, a reconciling exchange is taking place between the Triune God in Christ and humanity in Christ, [quoting TF] "between his obedience and our disobedience, his holiness and our sin, his life and our death, his strength and our weakness, his grace and our poverty, his light and our darkness, his wisdom and our ignorance, his joy and our misery, his peace and our dispeace, his immortality and our mortality" [see 2 Cor 8:9] (loc 1817).Some wonder if TF's incarnational, holistic view of soteriology constitutes universalism. We'll look at that next time along with TF's view of "participation in Christ" as fundamental to living out the salvation that is ours in and through Christ.