The Power of His Resurrection: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 17

45. What benefit do we receive from the “resurrection” of Christ?
First, by His resurrection He has overcome death, that He might make us partakers of the righteousness which He has obtained for us by His death.1 Second, by His power we are also now raised up to a new life.2 Third, the resurrection of Christ is to us a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.3
[1] 1 Cor. 15:15,17, 54–55. Rom. 4:25; 1 Pet. 1:3–4, 21. [2] Rom. 6:4; Col. 3:1–4; Eph. 2:5. [3] 1 Cor. 15:12; Rom. 8:11; *1 Cor. 15:20–21.

46. What do you understand by the words “He ascended into heaven”?
That Christ, in the sight of His disciples, was taken up from the earth into heaven,1 and continues there in our behalf2 until He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.3
[1] Acts 1:9; Matt. 26:64; Mk. 16:19; Lk. 24:51. [2] Heb. 4:14; 7:24–25; 9:11; Rom. 8:34. Eph. 4:10. [3] Acts 1:11; Matt. 24:30; *Acts 3:20–21.

47. But is not Christ with us even unto the end of the world, as He has promised?1
Christ is true man and true God. According to His human nature He is now not on earth,2 but according to His Godhead, majesty, grace, and Spirit, He is at no time absent from us.3
[1] Matt. 28:20. [2] Matt. 26:11; Jn. 16:28; 17:11. [3] Jn. 14:17–18; 16:13; Eph. 4:8; Matt. 18:20; *Heb. 8:4.

48. But are not, in this way, the two natures in Christ separated from one another, if the manhood is not wherever the Godhead is?
Not at all, for since the Godhead is incomprehensible and everywhere present,1 it must follow that the same is not limited with the human nature He assumed, and yet remains personally united to it.2
[1] Acts 7:49; Jer. 23:24. [2] Col. 2:9; Jn. 3:13; 11:15; Matt. 28:6; *Jn. 1:48.

Lord’s Day 17
The Power of His Resurrection
There are some modern versions of Christianity that try to get along without a belief in the resurrection of Christ. This is usually portrayed as a nod to modern sensibilities, especially a skepticism about miracles. Such versions of Christianity usually die out fairly quickly, and rightly so, for without these historical events and the benefits we receive from them, Christianity, as we have said before, just becomes another set of pious ideas about how we ought to get along. It loses all its force and power.

The Catechism draws our mind to this truth by asking us what benefits we receive from the resurrection. It is always vital to remember that it is the historical event itself by which God achieved these gifts for His people. If the resurrection didn’t actually happen, then God’s people receive no benefits from it.

What are those benefits? The first that the Catechism mentions is that the power of death is broken. Death reigns over the human race because of the curse of God for sin, for the wages of sin is death. But Christ received those wages, drunk the cup in full, and did not remain under death’s power. Thus, death’s absolute claim on every human being is broken. Death has no more power over Jesus, or over any of those who are united to Him by faith.

Being united to Him means being joined to His glorious resurrected life, so that Jesus’ life is now at work in us, resurrecting us as it did Him. That principle of death which works so much evil and destruction in the human race is being replaced by new life in Christ in all those who believe in Him, so that we are being made like Him. And we know that as He is now in heaven in His perfected human body, so too we will one day be reunited to Him in a glorified state as well. That gives us courage and strength to endure the sufferings of the present time, because we know that all of this is just temporary. One day Christ will return, will purge this earth of all evil and suffering, and will bring the glories of heaven with Him for all of His people to enjoy forever. Once again, if Christ is not actually returning in the flesh, then Christians are just deluded fools. The belief in the event brings no benefits if the event itself is a lie.

But even though Christ is at the present time not with us in the flesh, the Catechism points out that by His Spirit He is never absent from us. He is God, and thus everywhere present. It is truly a mystery how Jesus can be physically limited to heaven and also everywhere present since He is God, but this is the mystery of the incarnation. We can affirm what the Scriptures tell us fairly simply- that “He is not here, for He is risen, just as He said!” and, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth.” We don’t need to know how that can be or to understand all the ins and outs of it to know that it is true. But it is true and is important, and not in the sort of vague “he’ll always be with you in your memories” kind of way. He is really and powerfully with us. His Spirit is a constant force in our own hearts and also in history and in the spread of the church. The Spirit of God is sent by the Son to implement the Son’s will, and the Spirit does so. The next Lord’s Day of the Catechism will explain in more detail how it is that Jesus works through His Spirit to achieve His will on earth. But by His Spirit, and in His Godhead, the power of His risen Humanity is at work throughout creation, bringing to fruition all the results and benefits of His resurrection.