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The Exaltation of Christ

Taken from The Standard Bearer, v.44, Issue 9 - February 1, 1968

Written by Rev.Robert C. Harbach, now in glory.

Modernist religion has no place for the exaltation of Christ. A well known advocate of religious liberals and modernist "theology" was Professor George Burman Foster, of the University of Chicago, who later in life was pastor of a Unitarian church. In the preface to a certain volume he openly denied every one of the Christian fundamentals of the faith. On the exaltation of Christ he said, "According to orthodoxy, the Son of God laid aside his divine glory and then took it up again. He alienated from himself certain divine qualities, and then integrated them again. What is meant is at bottom good, viz., that the great and merciful God serves us, and is not too good for our daily human food. Perhaps the form of the orthodox doctrine was necessary' when the doctrine was excogitated, but that terrible being, the modern man, cannot do anything with it." (As quoted from "Christianity In Its Modern Expression," p. 144, inSystematic Theology, Berkhof, I, 348).

The reason the modern mind cannot do anything with this doctrine of Christ's exaltation is because of an overpowering natural aversion to it. "The Logos involved the central assertion that God can come into the world. . . and into man his child. . .Jesus was essentially the forth going of God himself into his world. This philosophical approach to the understanding of Jesus is less congenial with our modern minds . . .The modern mind often feels positive and indignant aversion against such theological construing of the Master." (Harry Emerson Fosdick, quoted in "The Leaven of the Sadducees," 224). The ascension is just as offensive to the modern mind. "On Ascension day it becomes difficult to refrain from satire. To speak of this event as one of actual occurrence is simply to affront educated people at this time. . ." (Strauss). "The farewell of Jesus to the earth could be imagined literally as a physical levitation until he was received into heaven a definite distance above the ground. . .The marvel is not that such a picture of the Master's going and return should arise (but) that after that old world had been so long outgrown. . .many. . .should still retain the old picture of our Lord's ascent (Fosdick, ibid., 223)." The final stage of His exaltation is regarded as "Jewish apocalypticism," and "the future judgment is only a rabbinical vision (ibid., 221)." 

This is to make the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments, an antiquated Jewish mythology, a product of Pharisaical dyspeptic fancies. But shall we listen to modern man's wisdom (I Cor. 2:4) with his nihilistic denials, or to the overwhelming testimony of irrefutable witnesses, that of holy men of God, who were not swept away with the wisdom of this world (I Cor. 1:20, 2:6), but were carried along by the Holy Spirit? Through them the infallible Word of God was given, which plainly states that the humiliation of Christ was followed by His exaltation. Mark states that after He had been crucified, buried and raised, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). Luke insists that of necessity He had to suffer and enter into His glory (Luke 24:26). John saw Him, handled Him in the days of His humiliation as One yet to be glorified (John 7:39). Paul kept the facts of history straight when he recorded that Christ came into the world (I Tim. 1:15), died, was raised, ascended and now intercedes for us (Rom. 8:34). 

But while the false church has always denied it, the true church has always confessed that the state of Christ's exaltation consists of the mighty victories of His resurrection, ascension, sitting at the right hand of the Father, and His coming again to judge the world. In His resurrection He was exalted in that His very same body which suffered on the cross was raised from the dead by His own power, and united to His soul; that He vanquished death and him that had the power of it; and did so as a public person, the Head of the Church, to assure His people of their resurrection from the dead at the last day. In His ascension He was exalted in that He, in our human nature, as our Head, visibly went up into the highest heavens, triumphing over all His and our enemies, there receiving gifts for men, there to prepare a place for us, till his second coming at the end of the world. In His sitting at the right hand of God He was exalted in the highest advancement to the divine favor, to the fullness of joy, glory and power over all things in heaven and earth. There He gathers, defends and preserves His Church, puts down their enemies, and ever lives to make intercession for them. In His coming again to judge the world He shall be exalted in great power and glory, to be visibly revealed to all the world of angels and men, as the King of glory, with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God. (Cp. Larger Catechism, 51-56 with Scripture proof texts). 

Roman Catholics teach that the exaltation of Christ began between His death and resurrection. Then occurred the descension into hell, by which is not meant that He went to hell in the modern, popular sense of the word, not the hell of the eternally lost, but to the limbus partum, which, like limbus infantum, is one of the compartments of hell. There the souls of the O.T. patriarchs and saints were held in reserve for their being taken to heaven at the ascension. But Hebrews 11:40 at once disposes of such a view. It is this view, if anything, which is "Jewish apocalypticism" and rabbinical mirage. For between His death and resurrection Christ's spirit was in the hands of His Father, absent from the body, which was then in the grave, and present in Paradise (Luke 23:46, 43). Nor care we a thing for the rationalization that "into Thy hands" can also include hell, since Scripture says, "If I made my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there (Ps. 139:8)." For it is plain that at death "the spirit shall return to God who gave it" (Eccl. 12:7), and "God is in heaven (Eccl. 5:2)." Whereas modern Arians and Socinians openly deny the Lord's exaltation, Romanists pretend to own it, but deny it with their goddess idol of a woman, self-confessed in need of a Savior (Luke 1:47), set up over Christ. They make a practical denial of Him to be God over all in denying Him to be sole sovereign over all worlds. The Arminian also denies the exaltation in making Him a pitiful, frustrated Savior who has done all He could to save all men from hell, including those now in hell and going there, but could not save them without their help or cooperation. 

Christ was officially as Redeemer exalted to the throne of God. There He applies the purchase of His redemption to those for whom the price was paid. The Romish promiscuous redeemer leaves many of the redeemed unredeemed after all. The Arminian disappointed redeemer loses, after all his pains and sufferings, what he had purchased. But the only Redeemer of God's elect paid the ransom price, which recovers and restores His clients. He paid no uncertain sum to purchase any merit or a righteousness which hangs in suspense until those for whom it was paid accept it. He paid a definite price for His covenant people, knowing exactly what, how much and for whom He paid. As exalted King He makes sovereign demand of the property His redemption purchased. Nor can it be that any He redeemed shall not be His purchased possession! 

Christ was also officially exalted as infallible Head of the Church. Infallible as Head He is, because He never delegates His headship or resigns His authority and sovereignty. The O.T. priests passed out of the tenure of their office on account of death, and were followed by a successor. On the contrary, Christ, being exalted, dieth no more, but ever liveth hence has no successor. There is but one covenant Head in heaven, one ruling Head, one mediatorial Head, so that all usurpers of this supremacy and dignity must be put to shame. Any influence or authority interposed between God and man other than the exalted Christ himself is insult to God, rejection of Christ and deceiving of the people. 

Christ exalted is, according to God's Word, described as having in glory head and hair white as wool giving off a blinding brightness as sunlight on snow; His eyes flashing as lightning are equally blinding; so His feet appearing as gold-bronze white-hot in the refiner's furnace and burning out all evil trod upon; His whole appearance is as the sun shining in full strength. It is therefore impossible to gaze upon His appearance as it is to gaze on the sun's incandescence. In fact, no one can look upon any one part of His whole appearance without being blinded by His glory. For every single aspect of His appearance bears the glory and intensity of light brighter than the sun (Rev. 1:13-16). His transcendent glory swallows up the majesty of kings, eclipses the splendor of empires, dims the gaudy pageantry of kingdoms, and crowns Him with many crowns. In the latter-day glory, kings, the nursing fathers of the kingdom shall bring gifts, while queens shall be nursing mothers of the church, when He shall possess the gold of Sheba and Ophir, when Arabians on dromedaries shall bring Him gold and incense and show forth the praises of the Lord.

Spurgeon well expressed God's point of view: "The world has not gone to confusion; chance is not God; God is still Master, let men do what they will, and hate the truth we now prize, they shall after all do what God wills, and their direst rebellion shall prove but a species of obedience, though they know it not. He is God—know that, ye inhabitants of the land! and all things, after all, shall serve Him. I like what Luther says in his bold hymn, where, notwithstanding all that those who are haters of predestination choose to affirm, he knew and boldly declared, 'He everywhere hath sway, and all things serve His might.'"

Last modified on 27 May 2014
Harbach, Robert

Rev. Robert C. Harbach (1914-1996) was born in Riverdale, MD on July 27, 1914. He graduated from the Protestant Reformed Seminary in 1955 and was ordained in October of that year.  He served congregations in Lynden, Washington (1955-1963), Kalamazoo, Michigan (1963-1974), and as Home Missionary (1974-1979).  He retired from the active ministry in 1979.  He passed to glory on December 14, 1996.