We Shall Be Like Him

In a recent Wednesday Bible study, there was some discussion over the meaning of “powers and authority” in Colossians 2:15.

13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Several in the class attempted to equate “powers and authorities” with such things as earthly rulers or unearthly powers such as satan or demons, etc.

I have a different view, beautifully illustrated by this piece that came to my computer in an e-mail today.

Soldier On! W/ Leroy Garrett
Occasional Essay 265 (4-12-09)
Easter: Why Was The Stone Rolled Back?

My thesis can be succinctly stated: The stone was not rolled back so that the risen Christ could get out of the tomb, but so that the witnesses could get into the tomb.

If I have this right it provides some insight into the nature of Christ’s resurrected body. There is an amusing story out of Harvard about this question. Professor Krister Stendahl, who was my PhD thesis professor, was discussing the resurrection in one of his classes when a student asked one of those devilish questions, “All right, professor, suppose I was there on Easter morning with a Brownie camera, what would I have in the picture?”

In his inimitable way the professor wryly replied, “I suppose you would have a picture of the resurrection.”

I have often pondered the student’s question, which I see as appropriate, and one deserving more attention than Stendahl gave it. I venture to answer the question, but let’s amend it slightly. Suppose the student had, not a Brownie, but a camera that takes moving pictures. What would he have on film?

First, what would he not see? He would not see Jesus suddenly sit up, loose himself from the burial wrappings, stretch himself, then stand up and walk out of the tomb. Almost certainly there was nothing akin to that. John 20:5-7 indicates that the “cloths” were not disheveled, but lying in an orderly way. In fact the cocoon-like wrappings lay on the slab in such a manner that verse 20:8 tells us that when the apostle John entered the tomb “he saw and believed.”  He had not believed until then. What did he see that convinced him that Jesus had risen?

That is our clue as to what would be on the film. One would see virtually nothing! If one watched carefully he would see the mummy-like wrappings that encompassed Jesus, with their one hundred pounds of spices, suddenly collapse, something like a balloon deflating. This is what John saw that blew his mind and elicited his faith. The body had simply disappeared, leaving the wrappings “folded,” as the record indicates.

John knew from what he saw that the body had not been stolen. The evidence before him demanded but one verdict. The Lord is risen!

In his resurrected body our Lord was immune to space-time limitations. He appeared and disappeared at will, as Luke 24:15-31 indicates. He appeared to his disciples behind locked doors, and disappeared just as quickly, as in Luke 24:36. So, on Easter morning a dark, enclosed tomb was irrelevant to the risen Christ. He suddenly disappeared from the wrappings, and began to appear, again and again, to his disciples in his resurrected body, which bore the similitude of his natural body. And he could both reveal and withhold his identity at will, as with the disciples on road to Emmaus (Luke 24 again). It must have been that way with Mary Magdalene who first took her risen Lord to be the gardener (John 20:15).

While our Lord was in his resurrected body during those forty days leading up to his ascension into heaven, he must not have yet been in his glorified (spiritual) body, for in Luke 24:39 the risen Jesus said to his doubting disciples, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and blood as you see Me have.”

The Scriptures teach that the risen Christ is now in heaven, and still a man (1 Timothy 2:5), a perfected human being with a spiritual body (Philippians 3:21). Jesus was a perfect man on earth, but is a perfected man in heaven. We are also told that there will not be “flesh and blood” in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:50), as our Lord still had in his risen body. We may infer, therefore, that our Lord was perfected, took on his spiritual body in his glorious ascension into heaven.

This is what Easter really means to us, not only that our blessed Lord was risen, but that we too, as believers, will experience what he experienced. We are heirs of God and “joint heirs” with Christ, as Romans 8:17 assures us. That verse also says, “if indeed we suffer with Him, , that we may also be glorified with Him.” This is what our baptism testifies to: “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:5).

This is “the hope of glory” that Colossians 1:27 refers to, the hope that we will share Christ’s glory as joint heirs with him. The glory that he inherits we inherit.  He will transform our lowly, earthly bodies into the body of his glory, according to Philippians 3:21, and as 1 Corinthians 15:49 puts it, “As we have borne the image of the man of dust (Adam), we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.”

I like the way 1 John 3:2 sums it up: We shall be like Him.

It is all related to what happened on Easter morning. The stone was rolled back so the witnesses could see the empty tomb for themselves, and so that they could hear the angels proclaim He is risen! And so his disciples could testify to the world, “We are witnesses to these things.”

And that Christ is but the firstfruits of those who will be raised, and “afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23).

04122009Gary Varvel

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