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Life of Jesus Christ in Its Historical Connexion and Historical Developement.
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§ 306. Connexion of the Ascension with the Resurrection.

WE come now to treat of the Ascension of Christ—a close of Christ’s ministry on earth corresponding to its beginning.

It must not be thought that the essential feature of the ascension is vouched for only by Luke. It would rest on firm grounds, even apart from the particular form in which it is represented in Luke; nay, even if there were not a word about it either in his Gospel or in the Acts. That essential feature is, that Christ did not pass from his earthly existence to a higher through natural death, but in a supernatural way; i. e., that he was removed from this globe, and from the conditions of earthly life, to a higher region of existence in a way not conformed to the ordinary laws of corporeal existence or to be explained by them. This fact is as certain as his resurrection; both must stand or fall together. Either the resurrection itself must be denied; or it must be considered as a mere natural recovery from a transitory suspension of the powers of life (both which hypotheses we have shown to be untenable); or such a termination of his life on earth as we have just defined, must be inevitably admitted.

Although obscurity rests,823823   We deem it better to acknowledge a problem unsolved than to give attempts at solution, on the one side or the other, which will not satisfy a clear thinker. Certainly we over-estimate our knowledge of the laws of the creation not a little, when we deem ourselves authorized to deny the reality of a phenomenon, simply because we cannot explain it satisfactorily. There are more things between heaven and earth than our philosophy may dream of. to a great extent, upon the nature of the existence of Christ on earth after his resurrection, and upon the nature if the corporeal organism with which he rose from the dead; still, this much is certain, that the fundamental conception, on which all the representations of the New Testament are founded, exhibits the resurrection only as the means of transition from the form of his earthly being, whose close was his death, to a higher form of personal existence superior to death; as the beginning of a new life which was not to be, as the former, subject to the laws of a corporeal, earthly organism, but was destined for an imperishable developement. When Paul declared (Rom., vi., 9, 10) that Christ, risen from the dead, should die no more, because death had no dominion over him; when he opposed this resurrection (2 Cor., xiii., 4) as the commencement of a life in Divine power, to his earlier life in human weakness through which he was made subject to death, he only gave utterance to a conviction that was common to all the eye-witnesses of the resurrection. The mode of Christ’s reappearance had made the same impression upon them all. And the resurrection had necessarily to be considered as the restoration from death, in a higher form, of his personal existence (consisting of the union of body and soul, not subject thereafter to death, but destined for an unbroken eternity of life), in order to become the foundation of belief in an eternal life of the glorified human personality, to spring out of death; in order to be the fact on which this faith (as a historically-grounded belief) could be established. The restoration of an earthly life from death, afterward to be developed according to ordinary laws, and to terminate in death, would, in this respect, have been of no value.


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