Belgic Confession, Article 19: The Glorified Human Nature Really Human
by Rev. Martyn McGeown
We believe that by this conception, the person of the Son is inseparably united and connected with the human nature; so that there are not two Sons of God, nor two persons, but two natures united in one single person: yet, that each nature retains its own distinct properties. As then the divine nature hath always remained uncreated, without beginning of days or end of life, filling heaven and earth: so also hath the human nature not lost its properties, but remained a creature, having beginning of days, being a finite nature, and retaining all the properties of a real body. And though he hath by his resurrection given immortality to the same, nevertheless he hath not changed the reality of his human nature; forasmuch as our salvation and resurrection also depend on the reality of his body. But these two natures are so closely united in one person, that they were not separated even by his death. Therefore that which he, when dying, commended into the hands of his Father, was a real human spirit, departing from his body. But in the meantime the divine nature always remained united with the human, even when he lay in the grave. And the Godhead did not cease to be in him, any more than it did when he was an infant, though it did not so clearly manifest itself for a while. Wherefore we confess, that he is very God, and very Man: very God by his power to conquer death; and very man that he might die for us according to the infirmity of his flesh.
Philippians 3:21 “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
Belgic Confession Article 19 has its eye on the Lutherans. At the time of the Reformation there were three main groups in Christendom. The Roman Catholics were the persecuting majority. Guido de Brès, who wrote the Confession, died a martyr’s death at the hand of the Romish authorities. The Anabaptists were a radical group, some of whom espoused various heresies, such as Christ’s heavenly flesh, direct revelations of the Spirit, and rebellion against the state. They are condemned in several articles of the Belgic Confession. The third group, with whom the Reformers had very much in common, were the Lutherans. The tragic error of Luther and the Lutheran churches concerned Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper, an error which spawned a Christological error.
The question that exercised the minds of the Lutherans was this: How can Christ be bodily present in the Lord’s Supper? The Reformed denied such a bodily presence, while the Lutherans insisted upon it. The Lutherans concluded that the human nature of Christ became ubiquitous or immense at His Ascension. Ubiquitous means present in many places at once and is akin to the word omnipresent. But how is it possible for a real human nature to be ubiquitous? The answer of Lutheranism was that by virtue of the hypostatic union the divine nature communicated (or shared) some of its properties with the human nature. Lutheranism illustrated it thus: just as iron, when placed into a fire, becomes red hot and glows with the properties of fire, although the fire does not receive any of the properties of the iron, so the human nature, when united with the divine nature, glows with the divine attributes and thus becomes ubiquitous. Most Lutherans say that this communication of properties happened at the Ascension. Lutheranism also caricatured the Reformed view: the Reformed, said the Lutherans, view the two natures as two boards glued together, where neither board confers anything upon the other board (see the Formula of Concord, Article 8, paragraph 5). You can probably see that the Lutheran view is a form of Eutychianism—a blending of the two natures—and that the Lutherans accuse the Reformed of a form of Nestorianism—a separation of the two natures.
The divine nature does not share its attributes with the human nature. A ubiquitous or omnipresent human nature is impossible because a human nature, by definition, must be finite and limited by space. There was (and is), however, a close personal union between the two natures, such that the one person of the Son could sustain His human nature on the cross by the power of His divine nature. Similarly, the weight of glory and the fullness of the Spirit, with which the Son of God is glorified in His human nature, are only possible because the Son of God is both human and divine.
Nevertheless, the human nature of Christ remains human even after it is glorified and after it becomes immortal in the resurrection. “The human nature [hath] lost none of its properties.” “He hath not changed the reality of His human nature, forasmuch as our salvation and resurrection also depend on the reality of His body.” If our human nature—not a divinized nature, an immense or ubiquitous nature—is not in heaven, we have no hope of going there. But because Christ took our human nature, not to lay it aside at His resurrection but to glorify it, we have confidence that He will take us body and soul to heaven to be with Him.