Christ’s two natures after his resurrection

When he came to earth, the Son of God took upon himself our humanity. We speak of the two natures of Christ: he is both fully God and fully human, two natures perfectly united in one Person.

In his glorification, the Son of God did not push away his human nature. The risen Lord appeared to his disciples, not as a spirit or ghost, but as a man. The gospels put some emphasis on the bodily resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24:37-42). Likewise, Jesus was taken into heaven bodily as the God-Man.

The Heidelberg Catechism points at the importance of this fact in q&a 49: “We have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, our Head, will also take us, his members, up to himself.” The One who entered the glory heaven and now sits at the right hand of God, is truly one of us! This gives us the confidence that we, as human beings, will join the same glory one day, not as disembodied spirits, but as fully human beings.

Jesus’ humanity was glorified in his resurrection. From perishable to imperishable, from mortal to immortal, from “dust”-bound to “heaven”-bound (1 Cor. 15:42-49). Was a further change needed when he ascended into heaven? Heaven is also a place, but it is not of the same stuff as the earth; no doubt, Jesus’ glorified body is now perfectly adapted to the heavenly life.

Between the Reformed and the Lutherans there has been a discussion about the nature of the ascension. According to Lutheran theology, there is a “transfer” of divine perfections from Christ’s divinity to his humanity. This happened to some extent in his incarnation, they say, but is completed in his ascension. This means, for instance, that Christ’ human nature now shares in the divine perfection of omnipresence. Some Lutherans use this teaching of Christ’s ubiquity (“everywhereness”) to defend their view that in the Lord’s Supper, even the body of Jesus is somehow physically present.*

But the Reformed churches disagree with this. It is precisely this disagreement that explains why the Heidelberg Catechism goes into so much detail in q&a 47 and 48. Jesus Christ’s physical, human body is in heaven and not anywhere else. Christ is omnipresent as the Son of God, in his divine nature, but not in his human nature.

He is indeed present with us, in many ways. His Word, his Spirit, his church are ways in which Christ is very much present on earth. In the Lord’s Supper, he is also truly present in a sacramental and spiritual way. But until the Lord returns, there is still that distance. He is physically in heaven; we are still on earth. Therefore, we wait eagerly for the end, when our bodies will be like his glorified body, and heaven will join the earth.

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